This is probably the best known obstacle run event out there, arguably as a result of them being the most marketed event. My friend Rene signed up to it two years ago and this was the first I heard of obstacle runs. At the time I thought he was crazy. Now I am crazy too, with a whole blog to go with it!
So how did I end up signing to this? I got my taste for mud after the Survival of the Fittest in 2013. That was only 5k. My friend Theresa kept bugging me to register onto her Tough Mudder team. While most of the obstacles looked like fun it was the electric shocks that scared me the most, it just seems wrong. She told me I can bypass any obstacle, so there goes that excuse. I was unsure about the twelve mile distance so I decided to run for a solid hour and see how I felt and how far I could cover. Six and a half miles in just over an hour I did. I felt good to continue so I paid my money.
Theresa had already created a team, so we just used her group user name and password. Everything was confirmed via Eventbrite. Two friends I met on a ski trip had already signed up so we got them to transfer to our team too so they could benefit from our group discount, which was fairly straight forward as well.
Our discounts are only refunded to us after the event. We had to fill in another form online and wait another 28 days to be credited. (At the time of writing I’m still waiting)… Really this should be automatic but I guess this is their cheeky way of catching people out as we only have a week to do this.
Seventeen of us signed up together. Unfortunately four of the girls we did not see at the start of the race so did not actually manage to race together. The rest of us were mainly people from the skate scene, or friends of. The thirteen of us stuck together for our muddy adventure.
Event day and Registration.
I first started to really understand the scale of this event as we drove the last couple of miles to the event location. Lots of big official yellow signs made it clear we were heading the right direction.
The car park fee was £10. (Another cheeky steel for TM). Plenty of space was available.
It wasn’t far to walk to the registration point. However we weren’t aware it was another mile or so walk to the main Mudder event and facilities, which made us just a little bit rushed as we waiting for a few others.
The bag store cost £3. (Ouch again TM). It was such a mess in there as there was not enough room for everybody’s belongings. So when I came to collect my rucksack it was no longer on the same table but under the next table. It was 15 minutes of hassle I didn’t need after the run but the staff on hand helped me find it relatively quickly when I asked for their assistance.
Security checked that the bag tags matched your wrist tag on exit of the bag tent. However even though they said strictly no bag opening inside the tent, plenty of people were doing so. Just be aware that anything locked up isn’t that secure at any of these events.
I like how they have an obstacle wall to climb to get into the warm up pen before the wave kick off. As we were rushed to drop our belongings off we missed the actual warm up but got there in time for their motivational speech and the trademark Tough Mudder Pledge. It did get us all fired up and everybody was eager to get going.
Orange smoke canons went off to signal the start. We began running up the hill, the first of many.
I did find it hard going constantly running around the hill at the same slanted angle. The course was incredibly muddy, probably more so that we expected despite the name of the event. Sometimes we had to navigate slowly to ensure we did not lose our footing. I think this was one of the factors which tired us out as we ran.
The main thing that tired me out was the constant acclimatisation of the body after being completely submerged in water. Just as you dry out you were in the water again. I think the key thing to learn from this is to keep moving, especially when you’re waiting for your teammates to come through the obstacles.
We did have a course diversion so we missed out on an obstacle because of an accident. It was good to know they had these procedures in place though. As we rejoined the main course we could see paramedics in the distance.
The quality of the obstacles were very good. Each one did look like they could take some pounding and weren’t just made out of scaffolding or things that just so happen to be there.
Just a couple of hay bales to jump over. A nice little thing to get us moving.
Kiss of Mud.
A low set of barbed wire to crawl under, introducing us to the mud. I see how those ‘Spiderman,’ press ups can come in handy. Most people lost their Bib numbers on this. Somehow Emily came out completely clean.
A ship container to jump in filled with water and ice. There are strategically placed tires which forced you to be completely submerged to get through. I guess they top up the ice every now and again as we didn’t see any ice cubes. The water was still cold and made for some entertaining expressions.
Angled walls to climb. We helped each other across but most of us found it was easy enough to get over on your own. Sliding down the other side was fun.
Just the tip.
A narrow ledge to hang off, with little platform for your feet. So at one point it’s all arms. The penalty for failing is the pool of water beneath. Most people who tried managed this okay though. Disappointingly I think they’ve simplified this obstacle from previous events, with much less distance to traverse on just your arms.
A really narrow tube to slide down. This led you down into a pool of water. In order to exit there was another tube to climb up which was tricky once you’re wet. I enjoyed this but if you are claustrophobic or a little chunky this would definitely be a nightmare.
Hold your wood.
Pick up your log of wood and carry it around for about a hundred metres up and down this hill. You could also opt for a longer log to carry with your teammate. This could have been quite nasty if one person dropped their log down the hill!
The first electric obstacle of the day. You have to crawl through a load of mud but navigate through all the hanging wires which had current running through it. I was so apprehensive about this even though I know it’s not going to kill me. The build up to this was same feeling I get when I’m waiting for my jabs in the doctor’s surgery. As I was midway through I could feel the blood drain from my face when I looked up to see how much further I was yet to go. I was so relieved when my teammate Edmar pulled me out.
They closed it briefly after my turn because apparently the obstacle wasn’t actually working properly. Having said that it still did the job of being a massive psychological obstacle. A few people were disappointed having not experienced Electric Eel to full effect and ran back around to try it again when they opened it!
(I however got my video proof, I’m done)!
Not so much an obstacle but a task. Carry your teammate for 50 metres. We had to cross a particularly muddy and slippery path. I think this made it more fun.
Crawl through a trench. It wasn’t difficult but again a problem if you’re claustrophobic or large.
A set of inclining and declining monkey bars over a pool of water. There were a lot of splashes. As you went across my friend Simon noticed the bars got drier as you progressed because hardly anyone got all the way across. Really chuffed to say Simon and myself were two of them!
A long pool of muddy water with only a few inches to breath because of the cage above you. Physically it’s not too demanding but another psychological test. I was fine but had a brief moment of panic on the last cage when I realised it wasn’t the exit. Also a thing to watch out for is the wooden plank between cages which are very low. A few people got minor head bumps.
Ball to the Walls.
A twelve foot wall to scale with the aid of a rope with a few knots in them. I think the main problem with this was that it was so slippery. Everyone was soaked from the Cage Crawl and the rain didn’t help either. People had to take their time which led to a massive queue. On my turn I lost grip from the rope, (even with my gloves) so slid all the way back down getting rope burn on my finger tips. Thankfully landing on my feet though. Given the conditions I decided it wasn’t worth another attempt. All my other team mates managed to get over, some with the aid of a boost from below or using the side frame of the structure.
Walk the Plank.
A plank twelve foot in the air above a pool of water. Marshals were at the top indicating when it was safe to jump down. It took me by surprise the first time they shouted ‘go,’ so I stalled. Second time I jumped. The height is quite something up there. My teammate Theresa took a few minutes to find the courage to leap, after everyone rooting for her.
Nine foot walls to scale. A few of my teammates managed to scale this on their own using a slight lip at the bottom. I was feeling somewhat fatigued so was more than happy to accept a boost from my other teammates. Especially after slipping down the rope on the previous obstacle.
Hoops to swing across like in the classic TV show Gladiators, but with another pool of water beneath you. I was a little disappointed to have completely missed the third ring, more so the fact I had successfully completed this in another event a month ago. Perhaps being much later on in the course made it more difficult. I’ll need to study the video of my other teammates who got across successfully!
A massive skate quarter pipe to scale. Sound simple enough but it is slippery and one of the last obstacles. Despite the big queue for this, Everest is my favourite obstacles as it really has the best camaraderie experience and was exciting to watch. Everyone was cheering and helping each other up, both friends and strangers alike. Some were using whatever spare garments they have to extend their arm reach for people. Most people ran up the ramp which requires a certain amount of burst energy to get part way up the slope. Or some try the human pyramid approach. My first attempt at the sprint was a success much to my surprise, but I couldn’t have been done without my teammate Dan’s great grab of my hand. I do wonder if it was earlier on during the event if I could scale it on my own though…. Once at the top it was just as fun helping others up. I caught a few people which was a great feeling in itself. Some guy passed a tee-shirt to me as he left the top, cheers to whoever this belonged to.
Similar to the Electric Eel, but you can also run through the electric cables. My nerves got to me and I stalled quite a few times. It didn’t help seeing my friends screaming and falling to the floor. Everything was telling me that this is such a stupid thing to do. I ended up running behind my friend Andy. From what I remember my arm did touch a cable. I fell but not sure if it really shocked me or if I just tripped. Everything happened really fast. What I do remember is when I was on the floor I got really bad cramp in one of my calf muscles so I crawled the rest of the way out. Someone said Edmar pulled me out at the end again. Thank you!
After passing the finish lilne I was presented with my orange headband. The distinctive Tough Mudder badge of honour. We were also given a rubberband to exchange at their rewards tent for a finishers tshirt which seems to be of a pretty good quality.
I then threw back the bottle of water and demolished the free protein bar before claiming my alcoholic ginger beer pint. The beer was really good and hit the spot. However at that point I was shivering more violently than a washing machine on full cycle so I think I lost a fair bit of my beverage. My friends David and Eliza lent me their jacket as I was just stupidly cold, my body was so exhausted and couldn’t warm up fast enough.
Finishing Tough Mudder was brilliant. It was great to have conquered all those obstacles as well as the distance. What really made the event was experiencing it with a good group of friends.
However at that point I was in doubts whether I wanted to do another Tough Mudder event as it wasn’t cheap. Five minutes later a volunteer girl came around with a computer tablet offering another event for half the price. Tough Mudder 2015 here I come!
Thanks to Edmar Gwiazda, David Whitehead and Chidi Chukwu for the extra photos and videos.
Below is an additional clip, unedited POV of the Funky Monkey obstacle.
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen