I just had to see for myself what all the hype was about with this race brand. How have I done OCR this long and still not done a TM? And why is it such a household name?
I took along Rich Enderby to go and check this bad boy out at the second weekend of the London SW event.
Even prior to arrival, it was clear to see this was going to be epic. Who else gets runners in their hoards, (literally by the thousands) to go and ruin the very clothing and footwear they save their pennies each month to splash out on. All too recently we’ve seen races drop by the way side and struggle for numbers so what is it about TM that makes this name so popular. For lots of us, when we talk about OCR, often we are asked “ooh is that like Tough Mudder?” It is the name that everyone knows. Why?
Well, this was my experience...
Prior to race day I was starting to picture together what I thought the event would be like. I had the all important parking, camping, how to find us, booking confirmation info efficiently emailed prior to the day of reckoning.
Race day, I was up and at ‘em early, I was excited for the day ahead. A short half hour drive and the fluorescent glow of orange safety jackets shone like a beacon out from the car park confirming we’d found the destination.
Parked up and off we go in search of the registration tent. Quickly checked in, loo stop and we were ready. We had some time to kill so spent that milling around, taking in the atmosphere, admiring the smiles, the nervousness of those first timers, the fancy dressers, the charity runners, the family support. The positive vibes were just everywhere.
We were soon called forward. Lucky enough to be setting off in the first wave (after the competitive) we pretty much had a free run all the way round the course. Rather than give you the usual “first we did this, then we did that” usual type of review, I’m just going to tell you about those obstacles! For those who have done a TM will relate to everything I say, for those who haven’t, I’m sure you’d look good in an orange headband. This has to be on everyone’s bucket list to complete at least once in their life time, whether you’re a serious racer or a fun mud runner, this is something you have to experience.
A very thorough warm up, a commendable applause on bended knee for those running their 50+ Tough Mudder, quite possibly the most thorough safety brief I’ve ever experienced, well wishes, a “good luck” to fellow team mate Rich and a “I’ll see you on the other side” mention and that’s it. We were off.
First up... Bale bonds eased us in nice and gently, a quick hop over the top of these industrial sized hay bales. Then on to the……hang on, I said I wasn’t going to do that.
Here you go, read and enjoy...
Skidmarked (an incline wall to us TM unknowns). A good jump up and heel hook needed here.
Kiss of mud onto our tummies we go and crawl under the barbed wire. A perfectly poised photographer at the end to see me haul my backside back up on to my feet - thank you.
Hero walls OMG, 2 almighty walls in quick succession, and I mean almighty! If you’re not competent on completing these, you definitely need a helping hand, or a friend or 2 to stand on.
Arctic enema a steep drop through a short tunnel into a container of ice and cold water, a full head and body submersion under a beam and then out as quickly as possible the other side. Wow, that took my breath away for sure. It took a few moments for my head to adjust to that sudden brain freeze and I was a little disorientated after emerging from the depths of the cold. “Just run” I told myself, get warm and you’ll be fine. I was.
Devil’s beard a sandbag carry under a cargo net, over a hay bale, under more cargo net and return the bag.
Hold your wood kind of self explanatory. A log carry. Not as heavy as it first looked and a nice short loop.
Classic tunes of YMCA pumping out – no this isn’t the obstacle. It was the “mud mile” Don’t worry, it wasn’t quite that long. Ditch after ditch after ditch of the glorious mud stuff though.
Bath time after all that mud - Blockness monster. A floating block which rotates but you have to use your body weight to do so. You basically have to sacrifice someone to go over the top and then they pull it down with them the other side, the remaining bodies floating this side hang on to the edge in the hope they will be dragged over and so on and so forth. It really is about team work here.
Once out, at least you’re clean for Everest right? A ¼ pipe with rope to assist if needed. Safely flagged off to prevent running and face planting. This is to be taken steadily to avoid injury. If, like me you were running solo, it’s best to use the rope and grab hold of the top. Perhaps, like me also, someone will soon spot you trying to heel hook the slippery peak, take pity, grab your ankle and hoist you, feet first over the top!
Hero carry the most technical of all. (wink wink) This is the piggy back carry. ☺ Swapping carrier for piggy backer half way. Or, like myself with no one in sight, I imitated the piggy back and galloped like a horse.
One for me as a first timer birth canal. Never have I been in such a tight space trying to squeeze my body through such a situation. I literally wished I’d had someone to help squeeze me out. I turned to my back so my knees were either side and wiggled my way as best I could to the end. I can’t say it was a particularly pleasant experience but it was certainly a new and innovative one.
The Liberator not sure why it is called this, it didn’t feel very liberating. A decline makeshift ladder with wedges cut out as the footholds and a pegboard for the hands to stabilise and crawl your way up. Upon reaching the peak, there’s an easy descent down the other side.
Then my favourite Funky Monkey. Uphill monkey bars to the halfway point then on to 3 different sized wheels to manoeuvre your way over the water pit below. I managed to remain dry and get across first time with much excitement!
Lumberjacked to the lay man, it’s a sternum checker. A tricky height, so use a friend if you can. Or, like I did, scramble your way in elephant fashion.
The Reacharound for first timers it’s an incline climb up using the rails, reach over the top and haul yourself over to climb down the other side. For seasoned TM’s it’s more of a leap of faith, grab the top rail and then repeat the up and over process minus the luxury of poles to climb up.
Augustus Gloop into the water pit and climb inside an almost vertical tube. Climb your way up the inside with water pouring over your head the whole time. (it’ll be fun they said, it actually was.)
Pyramid scheme The idea is that you use your team mates to form a pyramid and climb up each other until you reach the top.
Finally, for first timers it’s the Electroshock therapy – a not particularly pleasant but not painful short sharp shock treatment or 2 or 6 or 10, depending upon your running speed and style. I slowly and carefully sidestepped the first two rows then decided to just run for it! I think I got zapped about 6 or 7 times but the finish line is right there and the atmosphere is brilliant!
Kong The elevated hang tough rings for all you seasoned, loyal Tough Mudders’, not for the faint of heart if you have height issues. There is however, a nice soft landing, should you fall to your doom.
So, there you have it. Your TM obstacles. Most requiring a truly brilliant display of team work. It’s clear to see why TM has runners arrive by the car load. It’s not really an event to do alone, unless of course you’re in it to win it. There’s prize money for top 3 in the competitive wave, in which case it’s each to their own on the obstacles. I would describe it as a brilliant day to spend with friends….. But wait, it doesn’t stop even once you cross the finish line. The event village had all sorts of challenges going on, so much more to do and no need to rush off at all. Food and drink vendors galore, plenty for all the family so no need to leave them at home either. Plus, with so many great obstacles easily accessible by foot in and around the event village, why not go and cheer on your fellow runners.
The terrain itself was challenging underfoot and really quite beautiful, particularly in the wooded areas which is my most favourite part of running, perimeters of fields that seem to go on for eternity are not my idea of a good time so this suited me down to the ground. (no pun intended) Tunes were pumping, adrenaline was rushing, EVERYONE was smiling, myself included.
The sponsors were plentiful in the way of Trek bars, Lucozade Sport and Cider - supplied by Kingstone Press and very generous they were too at the finish.
FINALLY - the all important TM headband. The only medal TM’s really need.
A truly memorable day out for me and an absolute no brainer to do again, however, I think you have to enter this event with the right mind set for what it is. This is not a serious, qualifying, elitist, best of the best runner event. (ok, a small percentage are after that prize pot.) This event says FUN, TEAMWORK, FRIENDS, MUD, LAUGHTER, SPEND TIME ON COURSE, IT’S NOT TIMED SO DON’T RUSH, MUD FIGHTS, MUD ANGELS, IT JUST SCREAMS ENJOY IT to me. There are different rules for first timers and those coming back for more, whatever the reasoning behind that, just have fun. If you want to do something that isn’t on your designated route because it’s your “first time”, you’ll just have to come back again won’t you?
Take advantage of the early bird rates to get the best possible prices and don’t forget to rope in a carload while you’re at it.