Tough Mudder is the creation of Will Dean, Tough Mudder’s CEO based in Brooklyn, New York, USA. His ambition is for Tough Mudder to oust Ironman as “the ultimate endurance event on the planet.”
There are numerous corporate competitors to this title as the ultimate physical endurance event: Red Bull Steeplechase, Tough Guy, Wolf Run, Barkley Marathon, You May Die Death Race, Extreme Wolverine Challenge, Warrior Dash, 5K Run for your Lives, Muddy Buddy Race, and Spartan Race. There are probably others, but these are the biggest.
Designed by British Special Forces, Tough Mudder is a series of 27 fiendish obstacles over a 12 mile course. Participation has gone through the roof worldwide. In 2010 around 50,000 took part, a year later it was 140,000. To date, over a million people have jumped, crawled, swam and run around this gruelling assult course from hell.
It is not a timed race: the emphasis is on completing the course while helping your fellow Mudders when they need it, and receiving the help of those stronger than you. Camaraderie is key.
An army of volunteers and safety officers guide you, motivate you, and watch over you as you progress through fire, mud, freezing water, over high obstacles, under barbed wire, and through tunnels.
One in five don’t complete the course. The average completion rate in the UK is 78%. Most participants are men (75%) and the average age is 29. There have been over 100 Tough Mudder events in the UK alone, raising over £5m for charity. This October 25-26 there are two London South events coming up, and next year it’s the turn of London West (2-3 May 2015).
As the small print makes clear, participation is not risk-free, and worldwide there have been injuries including sprained ankles, cuts and bruises, torn muscles, hypothermia and heatstroke (depending on the prevailing temperatures in each location). Tragically there was one death: in the April 2013 Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder in West Virginia USA, 28 year old male Avi Sengupta drowned after jumping into the deep water of the Walk the Plank obstacle.
Here are the first ten of the 27 obstacles that await you:
1. Sewage Outlet
You climb through an upward incline tube before a downward slide into muddy water. Mud and water await you in copious amounts as you’ll see.
2. Hero Walls
Teamwork is required to scale this series of 9 foot walls, a typical Royal Marine Commando style obstacle.
3. Underwater Tunnels
You swim under a series of barrels, and yes, the water is cold and murky.
4. Boa Constrictor
Scared of confined spaces? You must now crawl through a series of narrow pipes. If you’re obese, don’t enter this event.
5. Ladder to Hell
Tired yet? It’s time to climb up a 5 metre giant ladder, swing over the top, and climb down the other side. Weeds out anyone scared of heights.
6. Hanging Tough
Arguably the toughest obstacle due to the upper body strength required, particularly grip strength. You must swing across a series of hanging rings, and only 30% of Mudders make it. A lot of it comes down to technique.
7. Balls to the Wall
Remember climbing a rope in the gym at school? All those memories come flooding back when you scale this 3.5 metre rope up the side of a wall, and descend the other side.
A bit of light relief here, more like It’s a Knockout (or the more recent TV show Total Wipeout), where you leap across a lake by way of a series of floating islands, which wobble murderously as you try to keep your balance.
9. Trench Warfare
Ever wondered what it was like to fight in the First World War? This obstacle gives you a brief (and comparatively tame) flavour: you now have to crawl through dark and muddy trenches.
10. Log Jamming
Tired yet? Pull yourself together! A series of giant logs await you, to climb over and crawl under. It’s so refreshing to be in the great outdoors though, isn’t it?
You’ll meet the next 17 obstacles in tomorrow’s blog post.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London.