Every couple of years I get really into something athletic. For a while it was Crossfit, before that it was horseback riding. Other hobbies have included ballet and tap. But for about three years I was really into running races and Tough Mudder was the one that I had dreaded the most.
These races are typically a series of obstacles with varying distances that range from 5k races to marathons or more. Many you need to train for, others are fun, and some are for charity. Since I’ve done a slew of them now, I have a good perspective on which ones were the best.
I’ve put the winners into a series of race articles. This includes the Warrior Dash, the Color Run, the Spartan Sprint, the Tunnel to Towers Run, and the formidable Tough Mudder.
Tough Mudder Review
As the Tough Mudder site says, “Tough Mudder is 10 miles of mud and 20+ obstacles designed to drag you out of your comfort zone. The ordinary will always be there. Why not try for something extra? With no podiums, winners, or clocks to race against, Tough Mudder isn’t about how fast you can cross the finish line. It’s about pushing yourself. It’s about teamwork, camaraderie, and accomplishing something extraordinary.”
Well, that was certainly true. Tough Mudder was all about endurance. Endurance is something that I’m randomly okay at in life. I go through waves of being in shape to not being in shape depending on how busy I am at work. Guess which wave I happened to be in when I did Tough Mudder.
Running the Tough Mudder Race
On an early Saturday morning, my friend Paulie and I had gotten up early and headed to Englishtown, New Jersey to compete in this very nutty event. We specifically signed up in order to challenge ourselves. For months leading up to it I had promised myself that I would train and really prepare. But life got in the way, as well as a three hour commute to the city for work, so at best I was simply not out of shape. That wasn’t enough for this event.
The minute we got our bibs and were lining up for our heat to start I had this feeling of doom. It was early October so I was already cold, I wasn’t nearly as in shape as those around me, I hadn’t ran more than two miles in two years, and I knew my pesky knee was going to act up. Worst of all, I would have to get wet. Being wet and cold was what I knew I’d hate the most in the race. All these “mud races” have water challenges and I immediately regretted that I hadn’t signed up in the summer instead!
Soon enough the horn blew, signaling the start of a four to seven hour nightmare in athleticism. Tough Mudder’s obstacles were designed to test human fears, such as fire, water, electricity and heights. When I had signed up for this thing (cozily on my bed at home) that had sounded like a great challenge. When I was in the moment at the actual race all I could think of was oh Lord.
We ran two miles and finally approached the first major obstacle; swimming across a chilly lake. Of course that was the first challenge. Wet and cold. Why do I do this to myself, I thought. I should’ve known better because the guy who had co-founded Tough Mudder was a a former British counter terrorism officer! That’s never a sign that something is going to be easy.
So it went on challenge after challenge. Some were solo obstacles, others involved pairing up. A few Paulie and I aced, others we floundered. It was all over the place.
Signature Tough Mudder Obstacles
These obstacles are the most famous at Tough Mudder. I’m not ashamed to say that I was only able to complete one out of the four.
- Arctic Enema – plunge into a dumpster filled with ice water and swim to the other side. I ran around this one. Eff that.
- Electroshock Therapy – run among active wires that are hanging over a field of mud. I crawled on my knees and elbows underneath it so that, like a snake, I was able to slither below untouched.
- Funky Monkey – traverse incline and decline monkey bars over a pit of cold water greased with butter and mud. Like a loser, I fell off immediately.
- Everest – spring up a quarter pipe slicked with grease and mud. It took me several attempts, but I made it!
The best part about Tough Mudder was that it was collaborative. Paulie had pretty much helped me throughout the entire event. He even stayed walking with me after my knee began to hurt around mile seven. I had to stop running at that point.
Strangers helped too if they saw someone struggling. For example, people aren’t meant to be able to make it over Everest without working together.
Finishing Tough Mudder
By the end of the race we were hyped. It was an AMAZING feeling to cross that finish line. I had been so anxious the days leading up to Tough Mudder because I hadn’t prepared well enough for it. Despite that, I made it through. Even though I had literally ran around the Arctic Enema challenge and my knee stopped me from running halfway through, I still felt like I achieved a personal milestone. It tested my endurance, both mentally and physically. It wasn’t an easy race to run by any means, so it was something to be proud of.
Tough Mudder Orange Headband
At the end of of the race we were given the coveted orange sweatband. That represented hours worth of fortitude to finish the race. For others, who had actually trained intensely, it signified a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Putting it on was a great feeling.
Was “the toughest event on the planet” physically demanding? Yes. Was Tough Mudder worth it? Yes. Can anyone do Tough Mudder? Honestly, not really. You have to be physically fit enough for the challenge so that you don’t hurt yourself. Despite that, I think that an average people can do it. Like me, it just won’t be done gracefully.
For anyone whose not quite ready for Tough Mudder but doing it anyway – good for you. You can do it!