I recently finished my first Tough Mudder in Houston. This had been a goal of mine since I read about the first “Tough Guy” races in the UK. For those not familiar with the Tough Mudder events, they’re a series of races designed by British SAS/Special Forces that include 20 obstacles over 12-13 miles. The courses are designed to test you, and require teamwork to successfully navigate. As I look back on the race, here are four lessons during the event.
Any time you sign up for any sort of race, you expect there to be preparation involved. I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘race junkie’ by any stretch. I’ve completed a marathon, done a few triathlons, and a handful of 5K’s, but never tackled anything quite like this. Fortunately I had a few friends who’ve run Tough Mudders and gave me an idea of what to expect, and how to prepare. That advice, particularly the emphasis on strength/circuit training, got me through the race.
Until you’ve done a Tough Mudder, you can’t really know what’s in store for you. You’ve trained, you’re rested, you’re hydrated; you think you’re ready and will cruise through it – you won’t. Our team was pretty cocky about getting through it. We made it through the first half pretty well, but little did we know the most challenging obstacles were saved for the back half. Let’s just say any thoughts we had of ‘running’ the full race were dashed a few miles in.
This was my favorite aspect of the Tough Mudder. A sense of brotherhood is instilled throughout the race. From the pre-race pep talk honoring lost heroes from our military and services, to the oath you recite before starting. You can’t get through Tough Mudder by yourself. You need help to overcome several of the obstacles. The camaraderie on the course was inspiring. Strangers lending strangers a muddy hand, a muddy knee, a muddy arm (yes, mud is a constant). It wasn’t just the physical assistance; it was the strangers cheering on other strangers. Helping random brothers and sisters dig deep and overcome. This picture from the Ramp pretty much sums it up.
The Tough Mudder is fun, but it is grueling. The rabid enthusiasm tends to fade around mile 8. The Houston race was 90 degrees. The heat was unrelenting. Many runners succumbed to it. You have to dig deep at times. Lose a shoe? Keep going. Mud in your eye? Keep going. Fellow Mudder falls on you and tweaks your back? Keep going. They say roughly 25% of participants don’t complete the Tough Mudder. You have to accept the fact you’ll be hot/wet/muddy/sore/exhausted, and just keep going.