Don’t get me wrong, I love playing in mud, but three days after completing the 12-mile, 21-obstacle Tough Mudder event in the Poconos, I’m still scooping mud out of my ears. Then there’s the enormous black and blue covering my entire thigh from shimmying over logs and 12-ft.-high walls, and the cuts up my forearms from doing military crawls in mud, rocks and under barbed wire. (No wonder people were wearing long sleeves!) I’m wearing these battle scars as a badge of honor — but I can forget about wearing a dress or a short sleeve shirt for the rest of the spring. It was worth it!
Labeled one of the hardest obstacle course events out there — the Tough Mudder was created by British Special Forces to challenge your strength and stamina. It isn’t a race against time. It’s a test of your physical and mental toughness, and encourages teamwork rather than competitiveness.
The part I like best about this event is that it gets people who hate the gym and find no satisfaction in working out off the couch and active. If you want to learn more about the history of Tough Mudder, visit its website at ToughMudder.com. I’m writing this story to tell you what I learned from my experience. Don’t forget to check out the slideshow at the end of this post!
Get psyched, it’s fun!
Being surrounded by people who are as pumped up about something, and maybe a little off their rocker as you are, is always an amazing feeling. Couple this with crazy costumes, free beer at the finish line (best victory sip of beer I’ve ever had!), and good ol’ fashion fitness makes it even better. Just remember, stay focused. Mental grit is needed. It came in handy when I was submerged in the Artic Enema. And no whining, it’s in the pledge.
Protect your feet
I found Louis Romano, 31, of New York hobbling through the course. He told me his socks were disintegrated and his poor choice in sneakers — he tried to keep it real with Michael Jordan basketball shoes — made it almost unbearable to walk. You will be running/walking with wet feet for 12 miles, so plan accordingly.
“I’m in it to finish, not win it. I am giving it my all and I will not give up,” he said at around the mile seven mark. Good for him!
You need to be in shape to do this.
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, but muscles and stamina are needed if you want to finish with dignity and without injury. Prepare to cover a lot of ground. There were people running, jogging, walking or doing a combination of all three, like me. If you never run or jog, start ASAP. It can make or break you.
“I love all the obstacles so far; there’s just too much running, and running on un-even terrain,” Louis said. (Since he couldn’t run away from me, I decided to ask him some more questions.)
Because of the uneven terrain, trail running will help/prevent injuries. I came across a girl who dislocated her knee while running on a rocky wooded path — don’t be this person! Check out the Tough Mudder’s training section for tips. Runner’s World has a great guide to trail running. Check it out.
Please stretch. A foam roller afterward wouldn’t hurt either. Running up ski slopes did a number on my quads!
There’s no “I” in Tough Mudder
Teamwork always leaves a warm fuzzy feeling in my tummy. The Tough Mudder encourages teamwork — it’s even in the pledge … twice! If it weren’t for my fellow mudders letting me use their hands as a stepladder, I would’ve never been able to get over those 12-ft.-high Berlin Walls. I was saved again when I was having trouble in the Boa Constrictor — I kept slipping near the top of the pipe so I asked the guy behind me to push my feet up; then someone (bless his heart) took my hands and pulled me out. I returned the favor to the mystery man behind me when I took his hands and pulled him out next. Go team!
Learn from the experience
I’m bruised and battered but feel good knowing I completed this challenge. I face-planted the half pipe twice (go ahead, laugh. I did.), but I made up for it by overcoming my fear of being shocked at the Electric Eel — yep, I was zapped more times than I can recall.
This course helped me identify which areas of my body are not as strong as I thought they were — namely, my arms! I can’t wait to do it again — next time with a stronger upper body and a wacky team and costume of my own.
Want to play in the mud, too? Check out our guide to some of the most popular mud runs in the country!
Slideshow: Check out some photos from the Tough Mudder Pennsylvania