“The Tough Mudder is not a race, it’s a challenge,” say the organizers. And it most certainly is, given the grueling nature of what is perhaps the toughest event in the world. Consisting of 10 to 12 mile ‘hardcore’ obstacle courses, the event designed by British Special Forces is meant to test stamina, strength, grit, and camaraderie. Tough Mudder is the brainchild of former counter-terrorism agent Will Dean. During his MBA course at Harvard, he was frustrated with the monotony of marathons, triathlons and mud runs. Wanting to participate in an event that truly challenged the core of his personality, he came up with the idea of Tough Mudder.
According to their official website, Tough Mudder is much more than just a race because it gives participants the opportunity to a personal challenge. Simply completing the course is an achievement in itself. The participants are not timed, and there are no winners as this is no contest. In fact, one of the rules of the event is to help your fellow mudders whenever they seem to be struggling with themselves. Men and women are strongly encouraged to participate, but the event is open only to those above 18 years of age. So far, over half a million people have participated worldwide. And 25% of them have been women. The events are currently being held in USA, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
So you must be curious to know what exactly happens during a Tough Mudder event. The truth is, participants aren’t informed about what they are going to be up against until the day before the race. I suppose this adds to the test of ‘mental grit’ – meeting challenges head on. The course for each event is finalized only a couple of days in advance. I snooped around their website for a bit, and found a few videos of past courses. Let me tell you, this is certainly not something for the faint hearted. What starts off as a simple run, quickly transforms into the toughest of tasks. The Arctic Enema – one of the worst – is where people jump headlong into a dumpster filled with ice water. Marketing Chief Alex Patterson calls it, “the mother of all ice cream headaches.” Other tasks include crawling in the mud under electrified barbed wire, climbing a quarter pipe slicked with mud and scaling a mud hill. The final one is the Electric Shock Therapy, which involves electrocution with a 10,000-volt charge. Before they begin, participants take a pledge that includes statements like: ‘I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge’, ‘I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time’, and ‘I do not whine – kids whine’.
The beauty of Tough Mudder events lies in the fact that no one takes themselves seriously. Unlike marathons and other such events, people turn up at Tough Mudders dressed in the silliest of costumes – tuxedos, superheroes, and even kilts. At the end of the event, participants are rewarded with some cold beer, orange head bands and live music. Sounds like a world of pain and fun. Would you pay a fee of between $90 and $200 for this?
This reminds me of the Tough Guy Race, another grueling challenge where people push themselves to the limit in order to cross the finish line. Only in this race contestants actually compete for first place, so I don’t know how much help you’re going to get from competitors. I wonder which one of the two is tougher, though, but I’m not going to participate in them just to find out. If you do, please, let us know.
Photos copyright of Tough Mudder