MY facial expression in the photo pretty much sums up what it’s like to run a Tough Mudder.
This was the final obstacle just before the finish line, called Electroshock Therapy. I tried to avoid running in to one of those electric-shock-inducing orange wires hanging down, but I must have caught one. The next thing I knew I was face down in the mud not quite knowing why I was there. It had knocked me unconcious. I can only guess that the metal rod in my left tibia (result of a motorcycle accident in 2013) had something to do with it. I was completely caked in thick clay-like mud as I crossed the finish line…
Tough Runner isn’t about getting the fastest time, but for me, seeing that I had got round 13-miles (a half marathon) in 1hr 45min gave me huge satisfaction and proved that 21 months on from near life-changing injuries, I could get myself through something properly tough.
I have avoided taking part in a Tough Mudder until now. Mainly because I didn’t want to follow the crowd. So what changed my mind to have a go? Well, I was intrigued by the sheer number of people now entering the event and a Tough Mudder was taking place locally near my birthtown of Kettering. I had no excuse not too. The event was held in the grounds of Boughton House, a place I used to visit as a child. I used to play on an incredible wooden assault course in the trees there – and it was just as joyful to turn up again some 25 years on to have a go on Tough Mudder’s course.
Another reason I entered Tough Mudder is because I wanted to see how my injured leg would cope with a 13-mile trail run and the obstacles; if my body could get through this Tough Mudder, then it could get through pretty much any other activity.
And so I set out, on a Sunday morning, by myself to run it. Going alone is pretty intimidating. Lots of people enter as a group, some camp at the event, so when I arrived I could immediately see the camaraderie. I even felt a pang of jealously that I had no one there to share the amazing atmosphere with. If you are going to enter, get a team together. This event is about sharing the experience. I was given a wristband and a chest number to pin on to my T-shirt (note, do NOT wear your best kit as it will get trashed. I ruined my favourite North Face T-Shirt).
I walk under the inflatable entrance archway and into a base camp area full of food outlets, trade stands and fun things to have look at. Music blasts out from a warm up area led by a compere who is geeing everyone up. The event runs in waves and you simply choose when you want to go. I had been told to write my race number on my forehead and arms so that I can be identified in photos afterwards. I soon spot the facemarking area; it’s where all the laughter is coming from as teams of people write on each other’s foreheads with black marker pens. I ask a random racegoer if he can write my number on forehead. I worry he might be drawing something rude. “Don’t draw a cock on me,” I joke.
I now feel ready. I make my way in to the warm up area and realise I’ve timed it perfectly to join in the next wave. I now start to understand what all the fuss is about. It’s like being at a concert or garden party, music is blaring out, the DJ is making everyone laugh and I start to feel like I’m really part of something.
The compere sends us through to the start line, but its not as easy as that. There’s a huge fence to get over before we can get to the start line – a teaser for what’s to come. There’s another compere and ‘The Final Countdown’ is blasting from towering speakers either side of the start line. Everyone around me is running on the spot, stretching, retying shoe laces or simply staring out quietly in deep thought. This compere really does get everyone fired up. By the time he’s chanted us through the Tough Mudder pledge, we are all itching to get going. We start shouting down from 10 and we’re away! I’m not one for running out front but I find some space and spend the first few hundred metres wondering what the first obstacle will be. I soon see it. A simple set of stepped hay bales. I almost come a cropper on the second step up. And I’m out of breath already. Twenty minutes in I get past the initial lactic build up and start to feel really, really good. Why have I waited this long to run a Tough Mudder! I find myself feeling excited about the next obstacle each time I get through one. Sometimes you can see them coming up, other times you just come across them as you turn a corner or run through woodland. I love how you go from being completely plastered in mud to freshly cleaned and dripping wet from one of the many water obstacles. You then run though the next patch of mud, get filthy again and then have it all washed off. This happens four or five times throughout the course – rinse, get dirty, rinse, get dirty – and I absolutely love it.
A highlight for me was the ‘Arctic Enema 2.0’ obstacle. You slide down bottom first in to a tub of water filled up with ice cubes. The cold shock was the most severe sensation of the entire 13 miles and something that I’ll always remember.
The obstacle Everest 2.0 very nearly beat me – and others. This is a huge skateboard-like quarter-pipe. It’s fine in the dry but in a bit of drizzle it becomes nigh on impossible. Here I really did get a feel for the camaraderie that this event brings out, as ten or 12 other ‘Mudders’ I’ve never ever met in my life before all band together to stretch down their hands to pull/carry me up. The joy I felt after finally getting up was on par with other success moments I have had in my life.
I chug down the cold bottle of Kingstone Press cider I’m given at the finish line and demolish a 9-bar. I’m given an orange headband (everyone gets one when they complete their first Tough Mudder) and I grin for the photographer.
I’m then directed off to hose myself down. I have bruises and scratches and feel beaten up, but I’ve done it.
And that blue North Face T-shirt I’ve ripped? Well it’s now been set aside as my “kit for Tough Mudder”.
The next Tough Mudder event takes place in Yorkshire in August – and there’s plenty more planned all over the UK – more than one a month in some cases.https://toughmudder.co.uk/events/find-an-event