Name - Tough Mudder London West
Date - 26th April 2014
Course Length - 12 miles + 20 obstacles
Approximate cost - £110
Location - Culden Faw, Henley-on-Thames
Website - https://toughmudder.com/
What's a Tough Mudder?
Tough Mudder has historically referred to itself as "probably the toughest event on the planet".
It's a team-oriented 10-12 mile obstacle race, usually, as the name suggests, across very muddy terrain.
It even goes so far to embed these into "The Mudder Pledge" pictured although if you can get past the cheesy mantras played throughout the day, it really is a fantastic atmosphere to be a part of.
It's also worth mentioning that Tough Mudder has a charity partner Help for Heroes, where a proportion of each participants entrance fee goes towards providing support for wounded soldiers and their families.
Pre Race - Training
As part of my own training I gave up drinking for 7 weeks prior to the event and implemented a low carbohydrate diet in order to slim down and make myself as light as possible.
Knowing that we'd be running across muddy terrain, myself and my teammates also ensured "SundayRunday" consisted of a run down to hyde park with a couple of laps of the horse trail to help stabilise our ankles and get ourselves used to running in muddy terrain (putting a saddle on your back to fit in with the locals is optional).
If you don't live in London, any cross country running will do the trick!
The runs on Sundays probably consisted of about 10 miles, with a couple of water breaks spread out in between in the hope this would cover the endurnace element of the event. In order to tackle the obstacles, I stuck with my 1 Hour Gauntlet on Saturdays to continue to build the upper and lower body strength to throw myself over obstacles.
A few times me and my friends also found some local monkey bars to swing off, in preparation for one of the tougher obstacles on the up-coming course: Funky Monkey, which is essentially an adult size set of monkey bars, which is definitely harder than it was when you were a child at the playground...Looking back, slotting in some rock climbing to improve my grip would have been handy!
If you're really looking to boost your lungpower as part of your training, check out these 7 quick workouts to supercharge your fitness.
During Race - Hoo-rah Obstacles
Although I suppose "Tough Mudder - In A Big Field Outside of Greater London But Quite Close to Henley-On-Thames" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
Upon arriving and sorting out the general admin that needs to be done (registration, signing of a "death waiver" etc) we walked over the to starting arena.
It's a pretty lively area lined with various company stalls handing out free stuff (don't stock up yet though, there'll still be there after you finish).
Groups were released in waves, with the obligatory war chant being played before each wave starts.
Before that, there seemed to be a wall before you even get to hear the motivational speech, more of an inconvenience before standing around if you ask me.
Having heard the same chant repeated whilst we were waiting for our own wave to begin, we decided to chill out in the starting area before just hopping on the end of the wave once the chanting was done. For some reason the speakers kept on telling us that we were taking out "A-Game" to "A-Town", which left us all confused as we thought we'd never heard of B-Town or C-Town before, nevertheless it featured as a "running" joke throughout the day.
The rest of the course was much better at meeting expectations though, containing a mix of crawling, climbing and mildly painful tasks.
A list of which can be seen in the gallery below. The first noteworthy obstacle was the famed "Arctic Enema", which is essentially a skip filled with water and ice.
It was probably the coldest I've ever been to date, imagine your body being aggressively cuddled by a group of snowmen and that's the kind of shock and confusion you're likely to experience from this obstacle.
This was maybe 4 miles in when we were faced with the next obstacle entitled "hold your wood", which was essentially carrying around a small wooden log for a couple of hundred metres, not overly taking but does require a small element of strength to do comfortably.
This was up next for us with "Electric Eel", despite being told somewhere in the initial "death waiver" that it would be 10,000 volts, the shock itself felt little more than a strong static charge from a few cables hanging over you as you crawl through mud to the other side of the obstacle.
Not one to stop your heart in its tracks put it that way.
After another couple of miles we came to the obstacle, which despite being fairly healthy, was unsure I'd be able to do, Funky Monkey.
Funky monkey was a set of monkey bars with an added twist. Not only was it significantly harder to do as an adult, as the bars were set on an incline for the first half of the challenge, but for us, the bars did not only spin when you grabbed them but were greased up and slippery as you tried to move forward.
The only person who made it through who I must have had the back strength and grip of the great eagles from Lord of the Rings.
That being said, for all of us who didn't make it through, there was no real penalty, just another dip in the water before carrying on.
Unfortunately, this is the first point at which the day's organisation could have been better, upon reaching the obstacle we were told there would be a 20 minute wait to actually attempt it, with queues being filled with half tired, half adrenaline fueled participants.
It looked something like the picture featured, but with probably a queue 4 times bigger.
After having ran more than 8 miles by this point, we decided to skip this obstacle rather than have our legs stiffen up as we queue in the cold.
One of the next obstacles worth mentioning was "walk the plank". You walk up to a plank, then you jump off into water, not that much to explain really but fun nonetheless!
After maybe 10 miles or so we finally came to the final set of obstacles, including an obstacle called "Hanging Tough", which was probably inspired by the crazy ringed arena from Gladiators in 1992.
At this point, having not only slipped off the previous monkey bars, but also having ran an extra 6 miles or so littered with obstacles, I struggled to see how I was going to get through the rings (as you might see from my perplexed expression).
Regardless, I jumped at the first ring, grabbed the second, before plunging into the watery depths and swimming to the other side.
The final stretch of obstacles included the famous "Everest". Everest is a half pipe that you sprint up to try to get over, well that's as much as I can tell from passing it.
Unfortunately again, the queue was huge, with an excess of 30 minutes to even attempt the obstacle, myself and my team decided to move on to the final challenge: "Electroshock Therapy".
Similarly with Electric Eel, the shocks themselves were mild at best, after all the build up I was kind of hoping to have an electric shock similar to that experienced by cartoon characters.
Naturally, we breezed through without so much as a whimper.
Post Race - Goodies!
Having not drank for 7 week prior to the event as part of my training (I'd thought it was going to be much more difficult that it actually was) the beer was very well received.
It was also here where they made every attempt to bleed any spare notes you brought with you from your feeble and slightly tipsy body.
As part of completing the course, we received:
- An famed orange headband
- An under armour t-shirt (great for working out in actually!)
- A pint
- A Met-Rx protein bar (approximately 400 calories)
Having begun to get a bit chilly once I stopped running round topless, the t-shirt was also a welcome gift. It's also particularly high quality, being both fitted and cool during exercise, nearly 1 year on and I still wear it for the occasional gym workout to this day.
Amidst the free-stuff, we were again surrounded by all of Tough Mudder's corporate sponsors such as Bic, Volvic, Under Armour and Ginger Grouse, in addition to a variety of Tough Mudder staff encouraging you to spend silly amounts of money on Tough Mudder memorabilia / souvenirs (if of course, the t-shirt, photos and headband weren't enough!).
However all the marketing hype did help give me that extra push to get into fairly good shape.
In addition the teamwork based atmosphere was actually quite refreshing, the only thing that disappointed me was the organisation around the obstacles.
With queues for most obstacles it gave the day an element of feeling somewhat "stop-start", in addition to this, waiting times for certain obstacles made them not worth waiting for.
If you can get past the repeated war chants at the start and don't mind competition being taken right out of the equation and fancy a fun day out with a team, I'd highly recommend trying Tough Mudder.
Would I do it again personally?
It was probably one of the most fun days I'd had in the past couple of years, so from that point of view I'd certainly do it again in the future providing I was with the right team, would I pay £100 for the pleasure? Unlikely.
However if you're looking for a real challenge, try an obstacle course in the Arctic Circle instead...
Or maybe just curious to see what the fuss is about?
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