I had been avoiding drinking the Tough Mudder Kool-Aid for quite some time now. In 2014, I volunteered at one of their events in Tennessee. It was hot, it was muggy, but a lot of fun. Tough Mudder has a great volunteer organization so if you want to check out a race before you run one I highly suggest getting out there and cheering the Mudder Nation on.
That being said, Tough Mudder isn’t known for having difficult obstacles. Being a lone racer for most of my career I avoided the high registration cost and Electro-Shock Therapy like the plague. My partner in crime, Dave and I made the trek out to Vermont one early morning to try out our first Tough Mudder together. We both had fairly low expectation of the event, but this isn’t due to the marketing of the organization. We’ve seen other big race companies hype their races prior to the event, and we’d find lackluster results on race day.
Tough Mudder didn’t disappoint, however. The location at Mt. Snow in Vermont gave us an extra obstacle with the terrain and the 4,000 ft elevation gain and 10+ miles of black diamond trails. The race starts you out in a ‘hype’ corral with Coach pumping you up. After you start, it’s up and over a wall to find… Another starting corral? This was different. You didn’t actually start the race yet. The second starting line was MC’d by an Aussie, I believe his name was Kangaroo, but isn’t everyone from Down Under called that? No? He started each heat by singing the National Anthem. Very cool Kangaroo, I like you.
The race was incredibly hilly but then again we were on a ski slope. Tough Mudder has done a great job in the last couple of years coming up with new and innovative obstacles. There were several that I’ve never seen before on any course, and you can tell that they are marketing their race to be the team building exercise rather than an individual competition. Heck, even Coach tells you in the Warm Up Corral that this isn’t a race. When you look around at the participants you can tell that this race is different than any other OCR out there. Many of them are wearing their headbands from previous races, and a lot of people are out there with many of their friends.
This race was FUN. From the first obstacle to the last I would say that Tough Mudder has done a great job at providing their Nation with an experience that they want to come back to time and time again. Hydration stations were placed about every mile and a half. Each station had water plus an Amino blend. A couple of them had protein bars and bananas and for a 10-mile race this was a welcome site. This brand isn’t marketed towards the elite racer, and you can see that they take care of the average Joe’s that have decided to get up off the couch and try out this crazy industry for the first time. Many obstacles had bottleneck issues, but this isn’t exactly a bad thing for the brand. They had THOUSANDS of participants each day.
Highlights of the race included the Block Ness Monster, Backstabber, and Pyramid Scheme. Both Block Ness and Pyramid Scheme require you to use the help of your fellow Mudders. For a moment in time you create a relationship with another human being, and you help each other out on the course. Several obstacles were individual, but there was never a lack of a crowd cheering you on as you completed it. My favorite one to watch was King of Swingers. For me, it was a whole lot of NOPE and I walked around it. I’m a great swimmer, but I personally hate the feeling of falling. If a T-Rex is chasing me down the mountain and my only option is to jump- I would. But in my everyday life I believe it’s better than I don’t jump off high objects unless my life is on the line. This obstacle had about 500 people ooooing and awwing over each person who attempted to reach the bell. Some people were actually really good at it. I saw flips off the swing, kicking the bell as they went down.
If you are looking for a great experience and you want to try an obstacle course for the first time, consider Tough Mudder. Yes, it’s a long course, but consider it 10, 1 mile runs or walks, based on your athletic ability. I saw many people out there walking the whole course and it isn’t a timed event. Take your time and enjoy whatever view is in front of you. You can skip any obstacle you aren’t comfortable with, but I highly suggest you try each one.
We pushed ourselves and finished right at 3 hrs. Most Mudders finish in 4.5-6 hours so plan on spending the whole day enjoying the scenery. Mt. Snow was a wonderful host. They had multiple food vendors, warm showers (for a charge) and cold showers (FREE!) to rinse off at, great DJ, awesome shuttle service, and a breeze checking in and out. I am excited for the next event in New Hampshire later this racing season. Kool-Aid drank and I’ll wear my headband at my next race.