Completing Tough Mudder was one of the lowlights and highlights of my 2015. Low because of the mental and physical strain the 20km obstacle course put on me and my bones. High because I found strength I didn’t know I had and managed to endure and attempt/complete all but 2 of the obstacles. This is the guide I wish I had had before I embarked on this...activity.
The Tough Mudder I did was on a farm up north somewhere in the middle of nowhere. My city girl sensibilities were totally out of place. If you’re planning to give it a go in 2016, here’s are a bunch of things I wish I’d known.
Be able to comfortably run 10km/6 miles. Outdoors.
The course has around 30+ obstacles stretched out across the 20km and you run from one obstacle to the next. I naively thought my being able to run 3 agonising treadmill KM would be enough to see me through. I was wrong. Running on a treadmill is very different to running outside on country lanes and muddy terrains. I ended up running the first 2km and walking the rest of the way when my shins gave out.
You will get filthy.
These bastards like to ease you into it. You manage the first 2-3 obstacles tip toeing through them relatively unscathed and think “oo maybe this won’t be so bad after all”. Don’t be fooled. You WILL get disgusting, you will be up to your neck in swampy smelly water trying to get from one place to another, you’ll have the chance to rinse off at various points only to get covered pretty much straight away. Chances are, this will be the dirtiest you’ve ever been and the longest you’ve ever remained dirty. I had to abandon my trainers at the end and got the train home in a bubble of STANK.
Pack swimwear, shower gel, and a change of clothes.
The showers are outside fully exposed in the middle of the spectator area and the water is FREEZING. I cannot express the devastation in my heart when I realised that because I couldn’t take my kit off due to being in public, I was not going to get a proper clean. All around me, the Tough Mudder veterans stripped down to their swimwear and soaped up all their nooks and crannies as the crowd looked on. I hosed off what I could and made the 5 hour journey back to London still covered in mud and STINKING of animal bowels.
The electro shock therapy obstacle is REAL.
I thought it would feel like static when it hit but nope. It was like sticking your finger in the plug socket (which I have done before – long story). That sh*t is no joke. One of the wires smacked me in the back of my head and I blacked out and woke up on the floor. Woke up to hands reaching for me as the MC went “can someone clear the path and get her out of there”. Not quite the power finish I had in mind (geddit??). Anyway, the key is to not stop running halfway through with your eyes closed like I did. Get your mind right, take a breathe, brace yourself and don’t stop. Warcrys are also acceptable.
Eat a proper breakfast.
We travelled north for the event and didn’t plan properly for breakfast. You cannot get breakfast onsite so our only option at 7am was an ill-advised McDonalds breakfast. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
It’s not a race. The key is to finish, not to finish first.
The vibe at Tough Mudder is very much one of comraderie. When you finish an obstacle, it’s expected that you’ll stick around and help the next few people finish before moving on to the next one. It’s not about finishing first, it’s about finishing.
Tough Mudder was the hardest thing I’ve ever intentionally put myself through. I hated every single minute of it – the filth, the running, the fear, the stress, the challenge. But I do not for a second regret any of it. Completing it taught me that my mind is stronger that I ever thought it could be and that my body is actually not as fragile as I imagined.
Once in a lifetime is plenty for me but if you’re giving it a go, godspeed! But maybe share this with your team so hopefully you guys will do a better job at crushing it. Godspeed!