For the uninitiated, or those of you who haven’t heard, Tough Mudder is one of the forerunners of the now fully entrenched obstacle course challenges and race phenomenon. The brain child of former British Army Officer Will Dean, Tough Mudder combines military style obstacle course components with an 8-12 mile trail run. In the last year Tough Mudder has exploded with hoards of self-castigators signing up and training to take on the hellacious courses. With 25% of starters never making it to the finish line, Tough Mudder is not for the faint of heart. Naturally, we signed ourselves up.
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Earlier this Spring we decided it was time to stop looking at photos and sign up for the challenge ourselves. In Tough Mudder teamwork fashion we rounded up a group of friends to run (and crawl) the New England Tough Mudder at Mt. Snowe in Vermont. We spent over 4 hours on the 10 mile course as we covered 13,000 feet of elevation change, while battling snow, live electrical wires, 12 ft high walls, water hazards of 36-47 deg F, and an obscene amount of mud. All in 50 degree weather. While the inevitable highs and lows of the race were discovered as members of the team struggled with everything from injuries to the after effects of frigid water and cool temps, the general attitude from everyone on the mountain was a shared. The attitude: not one of concession but instead a struggle to persevere. Strangers motivated and cheered each other on, passed off survival blankets, and helped boost random racers over 12 ft walls. Stuff you won’t see at any local 10k. Tough Mudder truly is a challenge and not a race.
The scene at the finish line: racers engulfed in smoke, shivering so badly that more of the complimentary beer lies on the ground than in the cup and a soundtrack of people vowing never to undertake something so stupid again. A thorough hosing down and drying though, you’d be hard pressed to find one person beaming with pride of their orange head band, the mark of completion. Fast forward a day or two later, and our group (and we’re betting a good portion of the others) were already checking the Tough Mudder event schedule and discussing how better to train for it. Vows forgotten and the siren song of a challenge ringing in their ears.
Author’s Note: Finishing Tough Mudder is all mental, but the right gear can certainly make it easier. Here’s our recommendations after running the New England Tough Mudder.
- Tight fitting synthetic or merino wool tops, bottoms, and socks: You’re going to get wet so the quicker you dry the happier and lighter you’ll be. A long sleeve top for cold weather events is key. Under Armour or Ice Breaker are great places to start.
- Minimal footwear: The lighter and less water retention the better. A big shoe is just a big heavy clump of mud by mile 2.
- Gloves: We suggest Ironclad mechanics gloves which are durable and give you great grip.
- Head Gear: A Buff or regular baseball cap are ideal. Helps keep the mud out of your eyes and the sun from burning your face.
Entry Admission: $60-$180
Photos by Jon Gaffney