First things first. I took part in this Tough Mudder at the end of September which was, I’m sure you’ll agree, some time ago. However, it being the New Year and a time when everyone is looking to get fit I’ve found an excuse – I was saving it to inspire you to signup and stay fit!
Yes. That will do.
If you didn’t read any of my training blogs, Tough Mudder is a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by the British Special Forces. It tests all-round strength, stamina and determination by throwing ridiculous obstacles at you on your way round. It is so tough, they make you sign a death waiver. Yes. A death waiver.
Regardless of the thought of myself drowning in a pool of mud I braved it – and completed it!
It wasn’t quite as brutal as they make out. It is still the toughest, muddiest thing I’ve ever had to do and I had plenty of scratches and bruises to prove it, but it wasn’t the death-facing experience they market it as. All of the obstacles were a challenge, but some stick in the mind more than others. Here are my “top” 5:
5: Funky Monkey (aka Monkey Bars)
These were surprisingly hard and probably the toughest from an endurance point of view. They went up and then went down. Going up was a struggle, but the strength it takes to keep yourself steady on the way down was draining. The first lot of bars were wet and muddy, making it harder but grip became less of an issue as you progressed as fewer people had reached the further bars to sully them!
4. Berlin Walls
They were rather hard, especially considering I helped my team over, giving everyone a free pass to stand on my hands and shoulders to get them safely over… and then everyone vanished. I had to then haul myself over a 12 foot high wall all by myself. And then do it a second time.
3: Cage Crawl
The most mentally tough obstacle. Lie on your back, head semi-submerged in cold, muddy water and pull yourself along using the cage that is only about 6 inches away from your face. It was a little claustrophobic, but I was doing ok after the first third. Then a marshal told me to put my head back more. “They know what they’re talking about” I thought, so I lifted my chin and put my head back only to smash my nose on the cage. My reaction was to pull my head away from the point of impact. Meaning I went under. Emerging, spluttering, I then had to power through to get out the other side. Urgh.
2. Electric Eel
This is the one that takes all your bravery to tackle. Crawling over rocks and mud while a huge number of volts dangle menacingly around you. You know you’re going to get shocked. You can’t avoid the wires. But you foolishly hope. When the shocks arrive they don’t hurt as much as you thought they would, but the jolt certainly wakes you up. Once you get shocked your body is uncontrollable. I managed to get a shock on my backside which went down my leg and make me kick out like an irate donkey. As an added bonus, the rocks cut your knees and elbows to shreds.
1. Arctic Enema
I knew this would easily be the worst obstacle – and I wasn’t wrong. It is as every bit as cold as it sounds, but worse. You think you can just jump in, brave the cold and get out with nothing more than a “golly that was nippy”. Wrong. You jump in and your body seizes up almost instantly. You swim under the barrier in the middle and emerge yelling because you’re so bloody cold. You’re sluggish, slow and disorientated – all because of a little ice. You then have to lift yourself out, but you now feel three times heavier than normal. For me this was the hardest part. The person in front of me couldn’t pull themselves out, so I had to shove their frozen backside out of the ice before I could even begin my struggle. Brr.
Once you’ve ran through some more electric wires you get to the end. You get an awesome sense of achievement that you’ve overcome the obstacles and did it all together. The odd thing is the “I really need to do that again… soon” feeling you get once you’ve crossed the finish line. Rather than doing a second lap you have to contend with an orange headband, a finisher t-shirt and a pint of cider, which is a great start to your recovery.
Overall, as long as you are doing Tough Mudder with a team, it is a really really enjoyable experience. You get a mini lecture when you start about the importance of looking out for your fellow Mudders and you can see people lending a hand all over the course and you find yourself looking for opportunities to help. Being a Tough Mudder is about being part of a group that are sludging through not matter what, rather than trying to do it in the fastest time possible. One team who took part on the same day as me had a member in a wheelchair who they practically carried around the course. That’s Tough Mudder.
If you’re looking for a challenge for 2014 and want something a bit different to the regular 10Ks and half marathons on offer, I would wholeheartedly recommend throwing yourself head first into a Tough Mudder. Not only do you train for something (meaning you keep it up) you get to sound like a badass when you tell people what you’re doing. “Oh, just a 12 mile course full of barbed wire, electric shocks and 12 foot high walls. No big deal”
The cost can be a little steep (entry typically costs between £55-£120) but the earlier you grab a spot, the less expensive it is. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the price on the way round!
If you want to take part in a Tough Mudder, take a look at the 2014 calendar. They happen all over the county. If you’re in my neck of the woods, the South West Tough Mudder is on 16th and 17th August. I might see you there…
I am took part in the Tough Mudder South West on Saturday 21st September in an effort to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I was awarded a media participant place by Tough Mudder’s PR agency, Frank. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.