Tough Mudder

Toughest Event On The Planet?

So what is Tough Mudder?

“Tough Mudder events are hardcore 20 km-long obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.”

If you caught any of the media coverage leading up to this event, you would likely have figured that this was one hell of a crazy, lucky-to-come-out-alive elitist event, complete with Death Waiver to obtain entry to the field. A large number of people were put off attempting the event based on this sort of hype but, as it turned out, that didn’t stop the 20,000 or so entrants paying out up to $150 dollars from throwing themselves at it. You should definitely not enter this event if you don’t like getting your hands dirty or your hair messed up. In saying that, you don’t “need” to be superfit or strong to make it through the course but will need to be determined and prepared to work with those around you to stick it out over the 3-5 hours that you’ll be out there. Every obstacle does allow you the option of skipping it or moving on if you are unable to complete it for any reason. Part of the spiel at the start “…if you can’t swim, don’t jump in the lake.”

From a spectator point of view, Tough Mudder is fantastic. They allow access to every part of the course as long as they don’t interfere with the event in any way and that they “must wear their wristbands at all times or else……….”. Compare this to a regular running event, you wave goodbye, pick a vantage spot on course, wave goodbye again and see them at the end.

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Is it “The Toughest Event On The Planet”?

So, my run through from the inside out…..short version.

Thoroughly enjoyed the day with a good mix of running, strength, agility and MUDDY obstacles to work through. Over walls, mud and hay bales; through water, mud and ice; under barbed wire, mud and nets, and did I mention MUD? Lots of MUD! On a few occasions, wait times were a bit long for certain obstacles meaning you cooled down and had to ward off cramping legs. This just became part of the challenge though and would be reduced if you snagged an early start time.

Alright, now for the long version……..

Well before arriving, we got a feel for the scale of this event. The crawl of traffic making it’s way to the Grand Prix track on the island stretched for as far as you could see. Glad we had allowed plenty of time to get there. Once there, we organised check in, and food. I was running the event solo but was lucky to have my support crew of wife, Nikki and youngest three kids so had to make sure they were all sorted for the day as well. That done, had some time to kill before my start time. What better way of filling it in then getting an onsite haircut? Mohawk it is! Now I’m ready to start.

Once boxed into the starting pen, we were given a pep talk from the sidelines to build the adrenaline “…help your fellow mudders” and a repeat-after-me run through the Tough Mudder Creed. A blast of AC/DC and we were off to the sound of Eye of the Tiger. Yes, corny and cheesy but, against my better judgment, it worked… Pumped!

  • Hot Lap

The first challenge, a run down pit straight of the GP track then following the circuit for the next few turns. Roughly 1km of this to get us warmed up and onto the first obstacle.

  • Berlin Walls

These walls were the first wake up that this was not your standard road race. These walls were always in pairs and this set stood at 4m high. Each wall had a foot hold bolted a little way off the ground. The plan then, was to get a run up and launch upwards from there to grab the top of the wall then drag to the top and clamber over. Thankfully all went to plan and I headed on. A bit more running ahead to get us back where we started, but facing the other way, for a repeat performance of a pair of walls.

  • Devil’s Beard

Just on from the last walls, a large net lay across the “kitty litter”. Gravel that is great for stopping high-speed vehicles, not so great for crawling on. Slotting in with a nearby group and walking backwards, head down bum up, proved the best strategy.

  • Arctic Enema

Up next, two refrigerated trucks flanked the 2 metre high esky. Chest deep, thick, chunky ice. Faced with a jump in and wade across, hindered by crossbars forcing you to submerge yourself completely in ice, this one was certainly out of the comfort zone and took my breath away.

  • Electric Eel

This was our “Mystery Obstacle”. Thankfully, there was a bit of running before the next obstacle giving us a chance to warm a little from the ice before reaching the sprinkler soaked mat with overhanging electric wires. I’m not sure there was much of a spark going on at this point and didn’t cop any sort of jolt on the way through.

  • Walk The Plank

 

A signature obstacle for any Tough Mudder course, a 5metre high platform overlooking a 50m wide lake. These type of things always look easier from the sidelines than they do from the top. I must admit, looking down to the murky water gave me that butterflies-in-the stomach sensation. I decided on the don’t think just jump approach. From in the water, the fully-clothed swim started to test me out as I approached the other side, and I’m sure, if it had been much further across, I may have been in the same trouble as many other people that required assistance from the lifeguards that really earned their money for the day.

  • Kiss of Mud

Starting to move along on the circuit, you could be starting to wonder where all the mud is. Ohhhh….that mud! The mud began with a clamber up an incredibly slippery muddy slope that turned rocky by the top. Near impossible to get a foothold and the help from those nearby was a great help. At the top, the slope leveled but was now covered by low-lying barbed wire over a bed of sloppy mud. Only way through was belly down and crawling. Helllooooo Mud!

  • Greased Lightning

“What goes up, must come down.” Who played on a Slip ‘n Slide as a kid? The quickest way downhill into the muddy lake at the bottom. Not as smooth as it looked. Underneath the mat was rough and rocky with no chance of slowing before the bottom. The guys in front of me weren’t paying attention and get cleaned up as I reached the bottom.

  • Cliffhanger

From the bottom of the hill, the course did a u-turn and faced uphill with a muddy slope to the top. The start of this climb was a slippery ledge that was impossible to manage on your own. This was the first of the hold ups along the way but really worked on the camaraderie side of the event with everyone helping each other out to make it through.

  • Berlin Walls #3

After the climb, the course dodged and weaved along the coastline providing awesome views of the ocean and leading us to another set of walls. These walls were not the fresh looking pine that we saw before. I discovered here that my legs were not responding quite as well as they had done earlier as a bounced off the wall back to the ground after a failed attempt to reach the top. A rethink, then second attempt, and I cleared the top, pausing at the top of the second wall to look back at the view.

  • Boa Constrictor

If you’re claustrophobic this one might throw you off a little. Crawling through these above ground pipes and finding pools of mud in between left the forearms a little bruised and scuffed.

  • King of The Mountain

Not those typical rectangular bales, but the huge round ones in a pyramid stack. Nikki and the kids were patiently waiting here as they had done at several spots so far through the day. Was good to have a quick chat and breather before going over the top.

  • Firewalker

A big deal was made about running through fire and extreme heat in the lead up. Smoke coming off the controlled burn tended by bored looking firefighters was the bigger concern. For an asthmatic though, still a bit of a problem. Handy to have the support crew with ventolin on standby. (Bit of a Tough Guy image breaker….but, gotta breath right?)

  • Hold Your Wood

Grab a fence post, carry it, walk it through a lake, over a hill and dump it back where you found it. Pretty much as easy as that sounds. The posts were not heavy and, once in the lake, the wood floated so a few of us were playing around with various ways of using the log as a flotation device and having a bit of a laugh.

  • Ball Shrinker

I know what they were getting at here with the name but, was more of the same water we had seen before. The rope bridge crossing, by this stage of the day, was a little saggy and out of shape so a hand-over-hand drag through the water was an easy trip to the other side. (Some people were still managing to make this look like hard work though.)

  • Trench Warfare

Claustrophobia, again, would shake your nerves here. Like the tunnels earlier but this time underground flat on the ground and dragging through. At the end………mud. A big sloshy pool of it.

 

  • Mud Mile

Award here for least imaginative obstacle and maybe least thought out. The biggest problem, with this 1.5km trench walk through waist deep water was that it required single file to get through. A lot of waiting and shuffling forward while avoiding cold and cramps but it did allow for some bonding time with others in the same situation. For example, I learnt from the guy in the remarkably clean pink tutu, that while in it’s rinsed and clean state it was very light. However, when it was muddy it become extremely heavy and cumbersome.

 

  • Twinkle Toes

A series of 10m long timber planks over the top of a muddy tank of water. I was keen to do well here, I’d put in some practice. Of course, different on the day with cold and fatigue also playing a increasing role. About 2/3 of the way across I’d been looking at my feet way too long instead of straight ahead as planned and went swimming instead. I did have plenty of company though and, with a few curse words, found the ladder and moved on.

  • Monkey Bars

Another Tough Mudder signature obstacle and another that I was keen to give a really good shot. I’d made a point of spending some time on monkey bars beforehand. The biggest problem was not that they were wet, muddy and slippery, but that they were not fixed and were able to rotate once you had hold of them. I don’t remember that from primary school. A third of the way over and I went swimming again. I did only see one person cross successfully to much applause. This one was tough. Way more training needed before returning.

  • Turds Nest

Colourful choice of name for a cargo net crossing over the Mud Mile walkers beneath. Nothing too tricky here although the woman that was calling for “Anyone that’s shaking this thing, can they please stop it!” might tell you otherwise. Whereas the guys in business suits were barrel rolling across.

 

A variety of mud filled runs from boggy to sloppy to shoe-stealing lay ahead. I got hit by some serious cramp at some point through here and was impressed by the concern showed by complete strangers before moving on as I was stretching out to find relief. The cramp served as a reminder of the carb-gel I had in my pocket. Wish I had thought of it earlier. Glad it was a chocolate one so I couldn’t see how much mud I had mixed with it as I squeezed it. Mmmmm…

 

  • Everest

Are you still reading? Awesome job, we’re nearly done. The skate ramp quarter pipe. The last of the holdups here. Must have been about 45mins of waiting for this one. I’ve heard a lot of talk of people skipping this one for that reason. At least, while shuffling towards the front, there was constant entertainment provided by the variety of techniques being used to get over the top of the ramp with the swelling crowd providing oohhhs and ahhhhs and suitable chanting and cheering. With my turn to go, an acknowledging nod between me and a guy at the top holding out a knotted shirt and I took a running leap towards the top. I found momentum was the key factor here. From starting my run up, through the two-handed grab of the shirt, to the pull over the top, until standing at the top, it was as close to one continuous move as I could manage.

 

 

 

  • Electroshock

The final obstacle. The much talked about electric shock run through to the end. Electric wires hanging over hay bale obstacles and a guy with a hose as you run in. I got hit a couple of times through here. A heavy thud that you’d rather not have, but nothing to knock you over, sideways or otherwise. I did here that they cranked it up for the Sunday runners though.

  • The End

After crossing the line, 4 hours after starting, an orange headband was shoved on your head, a t-shirt passed over and a VB, that went down like drinking water, thrust forward.

  • Toughest event on the planet?

Tough Mudder is by far the most fun I’ve had while being challenged in an event. The emphasis on camaraderie, team building and it’s “leave no man behind” attitude make it a future most-do on my calendar from here on. I entered this event on my own but didn’t run it that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view a complete photo gallery of my Tough Mudder experience, click here to check it out.

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