So this weekend saw the first running of the Tough Mudder series in the UK. Tough Mudder put themselves out there as ‘The Premier Obstacle Course Series In The World’. That’s some boast! There’s a whole host of these runs popping up all over the place, so I entered the UK version as a team of 4 with some anticipation…
“Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by the Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. As the leading company in the booming obstacle course industry, Tough Mudder has already challenged half a million inspiring participants worldwide. But Tough Mudder is more than an event, it’s a way of thinking. By running Tough Mudder, you’ll unlock a true sense of accomplishment, have a great time, and discover a camaraderie with your fellow participants that’s experienced all too rarely these days.”
Having spent numerous weekends over the last few years searching these things out, I might be accused of being a bit blasé when it came to this event. Ok, so I might be fairly fit from my running to work programme, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the assault on my body and senses that was Saturday morning!
Having driven up as a team of 4 to the Midlands at 6am, I needn’t have worried about being bleary eyed at the start line! Tough Mudder differentiate themselves as they don’t time the run; instead it’s there as a challenge to get to the finish. Not a challenge necessarily to run as fast as you can. Although clearly some did. We lined up in our wave of about 600 ‘Mudders’ at 09:40 am and gave our Tough Mudder pledge (being British I slightly grimace at these Americanised chunterings..):-
And then we were off. 12 miles of tracks and forest paths ahead of us, interspersed with 20+ obstacles of varying levels of pain. A rude awakening was ahead of us as within 200 yards of the start klaxon we were plunged through an icy stream with gasps and groans being the general theme. Cue more icy challenges ahead of us as we were quickly confronted by another crossing followed by a muddy crawl under a barbed wire number and then back into the ice. Again. A skip full of nipple hardening icy water was next, complete with buckets of ice cubes. And due to a strategic placement of a barbed wire fence in the skip, we were forced to tackle this one fully submerged.
We were into the race proper, and this was all within the first mile. On we went facing muddy ravines, heavy log carries, more beastly river crossings, high wall climbs, but by now we were getting into our stride. Only then to be confronted by ‘Electro Therapy’. This is when we knew this was no ordinary mud run in the mould of Hellrunner or countless others. Electro Therapy was a 20 metre crawl over a plastic sheet and under a cargo net with electric wires hanging off! I had heard about this in advance and dismissed it as a bit of hype. Completely wrong! Aided by the assistance of an eager steward spraying water over the Mudders as they made their way under the electric net to encourage the electric charge, we convulsed and yelped as some pretty intense electric shocks made their way through us! This was 2/3 of the way through and the 4 of us looked at each other with a mix of amusement, pain and confusion.
The home stretch saw a run between burning hay bales, ‘the mud mile’ which can only be described as a 200 metre wade through a river of mud soup (which incidentally is no fun when drying out in the sun, leaving you feeling as if caked in clay!). Then back to the river near the start for an attempt at walking a 20 yard plank of wood 10 ft over the river with legs like jelly. Well this proved not possible, so back into the river we (unfortunately) went. The same for the monkey bars over the river: more submerging. And then onto ‘Walk the Plank’, a serious nerve jangling
jump back into the icy river from proper height. Reminded me of coast-steering on a Newquay stag weekend!
Next up was a tall, muddy, half pipe which you ran up at full tilt and hope jump high enough for some of the Mudders on top to grab your arms and haul you to the half pipe lip. And then back through one more round of ‘Electro Therapy. This time a run through a field of electric wires and straight from there to the finish line. Perhaps the organisers were being kind to us or perhaps by then our senses were frazzled, but these (thankfully!) felt tame in comparison to the Hornet like stings of the first Electro Therapy obstacle.
We were presented at the finish with a welcoming can of beer (not a Goodness Shake drink as can be the norm..) and our orange Tough Mudder headband for completing the event. Well I’m not sure outside that field I could bring myself to wearing it, and the scrapes up my shins and the bruises on my ribs are enough of a souvenir for this week at least! Well done Tough Mudder. A real, proper, full on, well judged, superbly organised event, mixed with just the right levels of humour and challenge. Hats off to you! what would the world be like without us