Over the past decade, interactive and adventure sports have been steadily gaining popularity. With people of all ages signing up for boot camps and trying fitness regimens like CrossFit, it only makes sense that obstacle course racing would make it on people’s radars next. Tough Mudder is one OCR with the added appeal that it’s pretty beginner-friendly.
Will Dean of the British Special Forces thought up Tough Mudder when he was studying business at Harvard. He partnered with attorney Guy Livingston to bring his idea to life, and in 2010, they held the first ever Tough Mudder race. They wanted the obstacles to be almost impossible – but easier with the support of some teammates. On top of promoting physical fitness and camaraderie, Dean and Livingston also support a noble cause: part of the profits from Tough Mudder races go toward helping wounded veterans.
Tough Mudder is less competitive than some of its counterparts like Spartan Race, but is challenging in its own way. You can expect 20-25 obstacles spread over 10-12 miles of terrain. Tough Mudder races are not timed – the goal is not to finish quickly, but to finish as a team. On your journey to the finish line, you’ll come across mud, walls, barbed wire, water, and maybe even fire. It’s ideal for people who are into teamwork activities, since you’ll be required to work with others on the course.
If you meet an obstacle that you can’t overcome, even with help from your team, there’s no need to worry. Always do your best, but know that if you really need to skip an obstacle, it’s alright. There won’t be a penalty of Burpees like in Spartan. Just head on to the next one.
No matter what OCR you sign up for, you’re going to have to do at least a little bit of running. For Tough Mudder participants, the running part is more difficult because like the obstacles, most of the ground you’ll be running on will be covered in mud. And the more people are running the race ahead of you, the muddier the ground and literally everything else will be. This is why good hand grip and good grip on the soles of your shoes are both vital in Tough Mudder.
The mud everywhere is the main distinguishing factor when it comes to running. Compare Tough Mudder with Spartan Race: There’s less mud, but you’ll be running on hills, and the incline can cause a strain in your leg muscles. While it’s less slippery, it can also be more tiring. There’s no easy out, so it’s good to just try to prepare accordingly depending on which race you signed up for.
One of the factors that makes Tough Mudder beginner-friendly and kid-friendly is it not technically being a race. Tough Mudder participants aren’t timed, so there’s no need to feel pressured to tackle the obstacles in a hurry or get ahead of other teams. If you and your friends fall behind, don’t feel pressured. It won’t count against you at all in the end.
Friends also make Tough Mudder more manageable – and a lot more fun! Whenever you need a boost, a helping hand, a quick tip, or just a cheer to refresh your motivation, your teammates will be right there with you to provide all that and more. You just can’t do Tough Mudder solo. That’s why if you sign up without a team, you’ll be sorted into one with other singles or too-small teams right before the race proper.
Spartan Race, on the other hand, can be done alone, but often has more intense obstacles. You can still get some help from other participants if you need it, but don’t necessarily expect to be part of a group and stick with them from start to finish if you choose Spartan. Just a few of the obstacles you might be faced with at a Spartan event are spear throwing, rope or net climbing, and dodging gladiators. According to Nantucket-based OCR buff Jami Lower who has already completed both, Tough Mudder obstacles are “more creative” while Spartan Race obstacles are more physically demanding and “formulaic”.
No OCR event is any better and worse than the next one. It’s just a matter of personal preference. When deciding, think about what goals you want to achieve – are you looking to score some medals or just have some casual, high-energy fun? Do you want to take the journey alone or do you already have some friends in mind to share the experience with? Don’t worry about which one will be easier for you. After all, you can prepare well with a strong commitment to training, diet, and a healthy sleep schedule in the time leading up to the big day.