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Jun 302015


(from July/August 2015 issue, photos courtesy Tough Mudder)

Tough Mudder promotes itself as “Probably The Toughest Event On The Planet,” and their videos and marketing do a good job to project that message. They depict shirtless super fit athletes struggling through miles of various obstacles. They often don’t show the slews of everyday people that take on the same challenges.

Many obstacle course events I’ve run have websites that magnify the difficulty and can make the event seem daunting. Because of that buildup, I was terrified going into my first obstacle course event. Yes, they are challenging, but you don’t need a six pack to participate – and, yes, you can wear your shirt if you want. I personally cannot complete some obstacles, and that’s okay. I give it my all; I love playing in the mud.

Everyone running has to overcome some kind of obstacle. Sometimes, it’s the challenge of running the long distance, sometimes, it’s the obstacles being beyond your physical ability, but often it’s our own mental roadblocks.

This past May, Tough Mudder came to Oklahoma for the first time. I have known people that have done it, but they traveled to do the event – and that just wasn’t an option for me. With the event finally on my stomping grounds, I was anxious to experience my first Tough Mudder.

The week before the event, we had rain – LOTS of rain, including rampant flash flood warnings. Parking at the venue had to change because the original lot had flooded. So instead of having an obstacle be “push this guy’s car out of a mud rut,” we had to park a few miles away and get shuttled to the ranch. This should have given me a clue of what was to come.  MUD.  LOTS OF MUD.

Before starting the race, you are corralled and given pre-workout drinks (a nice perk from one of the sponsors), while an amped-up starting line emcee distracts and helps ease participants’ tension before the start. All participants recite the Tough Mudder pledge before being released to the trails.

“As a Tough Mudder I pledge that:I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race

but a challenge. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine, kids whine. I help my fellow Mudders complete the course. I overcome all fears.”

At most Tough Mudder events, they have an obstacle called “The Mud Mile.” Tough Mudder Oklahoma probably had 10 miles of “Mud Mile.”  Through most of the race, I was in ankle deep mud: sticky, slippery, stinky, and sometimes outrageously deep mud. The total race distance was around eleven miles, but moving on an unstable surface for most of it was like running through sand, and was exhausting.  At this event, we learned a valuable lesson: double tie your shoes – TIGHT.


Obstacles have names such as “Beached Whale,” “The Liberator,” “The Birth Canal,” “Everest,” and “Hold Your Wood,” Some are challenging, and some are just flat out fun.  Sliding down “Artic Enema” woke me up! It’s a slide under a chain-link fence and into freezing ice water. Due to the angle and speed of the slide, and the fact that you must lay down to fit under the fencing, forces your head under the water. The chilly ice bath wakes you up.

Some obstacles you cannot do on your own, and you must depend on others; and in return, be ready to help others. On an obstacle called “Balls to the Wall,” you climb over a 12-foot wall with a rope. The rope has knots in it to help you, but you are holding your bodyweight up and climbing vertically; this isn’t something that everyone can do. But mudders gave encouragement and helped, and I didn’t see anyone fail or skip the obstacle. When someone really struggled to get over the wall, the crowd waiting to climb helped them over and then cheered. It was perfect beautiful camaraderie among total strangers.

A challenging obstacle for me was “Walk the Plank.”  I failed at jumping off the platform that was 15 feet in the air into the water below, as my angst for heights got the best of me. I climbed up to the top with ease, walked to the edge and when the guy said “3…2…1…Jump!” I turned around and climbed back down.  Had that countdown guy just shoved me when I hesitated, I would have been fine, but I’m sure that’s frowned upon.


The best things about Tough Mudder:  

• A portion of your entry goes to the Wounded Warrior Project. To date, Mudder Nation has raised over $6 million for the cause,  supporting service members who have returned home with the mental and physical wounds of war.

•  The race has corporate sponsors so there are freebies and actual swag in your race packet.

•  The obstacles are well-made and withstand thousands of people. Nothing was rickety, falling apart, or shut down for safety. I have done races where this was not the case.

•  Tough Mudder works to add new obstacles every year, so the race will be a little bit different year-to-year and at various locations.

•  Photographers on the course and at the finish capture moments for you! This is especially nice when your hands are mud-caked and taking a selfie would be a challenge. Plus, the  photos they take are free!

For me, the best part about finishing these events is the feeling that I am truly living life. I’ve gone through long periods of time without living or stepping out of my comfort zone. Whatever that wall of fear is that keeps you from reaching your full potential, it can be torn down. It can be painful and risky getting over that wall, but it is worth it. Exhilaration and gratification await on the other side.


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