Race Review: Tough Mudder London South 2015
Last weekend, we popped our Tough Mudder cherry!
If you have not heard of Tough Mudder yet, let me quickly explain: it is an obstacle course race created to test your physical and mental strength. Set in a rural location, the course is usually around 10-12miles (18-20km) and features about 25 obstacles designed to complete as a team – it isn’t a timed race, but mostly focuses on camaraderie and teamwork. Tough Mudder races are held all over the world and attract a bit of a cult following – in just 5 years over 2million people have participated in this race.
So when we were invited by Sony a few months ago to experience a Tough Mudder for ourselves, we thought “hey, why not?”. This quickly turned into “WHY OH WHY?!” as we arrived at the London South event absolutely terrified and underprepared, totally unsure what we were about to walk into. But from the moment we arrived at the location, it felt more like a festival than a really serious race. People were dressed up, music was blaring from the speakers in the village and the atmosphere was elated and friendly. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so awful after all?
Being short, my main fear before even arriving at the event was being unable to climbing over The Wall (and there are many, many walls to climb in this race)… and as some kind of a cruel joke, in order to even get to the start line, there was a wall to climb over first. I had visions of me trying to get over that wall for hours and never even making it to the start, but I immediately learned this wasn’t just a normal event – complete strangers go out of their way to make sure you make it across, and no man is ever left behind. Teamwork really is the name of the game, which was a truly refreshing, novel experience.
Possibly the best part about being a newbie was not knowing what obstacles we would be dealing with, leaving you with no time to get scared and worked up about them. Some are easier than others, some are pretty awful, some are to be completed as individuals, others require teamwork in order to make it to the other side. But throughout the entire experience, we hardly ever stopped laughing. Nobody is racing, so if you’re not a great runner, that’s not a problem at all. If you don’t feel like doing an obstacle, you can skip it – nobody is judging you, nobody will think any less of you – you just do what you feel is right. Getting to the finish line felt like one of the biggest achievements of our lives – both physically and mentally. We did learn that it is better to do as part of a team, so if you are thinking of doing it, get a bunch of friends or colleagues together, as it will make it a lot easier! If those friends happen to be super strong, tall men, even better!
Highlights & low points
The moment we completed the ominously named Arctic Enema was the moment we felt like we had become real Mudders. Going down the slide into the ice bath is so overwhelming it leaves you almost unable to breathe, then having to go under again for a second time to get to the exit was even worse. But once we got out we felt like we were on top of the world, a truly exhilarating feeling!
By the time we reached the Mud Mile, we had fully surrendered to the mud, so diving in, sliding on your stomach and just going for it was by far one of the best parts of the day. Mud goes in places you can’t even imagine, and we couldn’t care less. We laughed our way through it – and the best part was getting to do it all over again a bit later in the race.
Our least favourite obstacle has to be the Birth Canal. Looking deceptively simple, this one was one of the only times we panicked. You have to crawl your way out from under a water-filled tarp, which moves around as you do, making it that much harder. Imagine a couple of people sitting on top of you as you have to crawl out of a dark hole. This one was a real challenge, both physically and mentally.
Last but not least there is the infamous Electroshock Therapy. Standing between you and the finish line is an obstacle featuring 10.000 volt electric shocks. By the time we reached that point, our bodies had been put through so much that we simply didn’t care that much anymore, but part of me did think “they can’t really do that, can they?“. With an ice cold cider waiting on the other side of the obstacle, we decided to run through it as fast as we could and here’s the answer: YES THEY CAN. I got 2 whammies of electric shocks – Cam got lucky and got none – and as a way to finish it was probably perfect: facing your fears one last time and coming through it victorious on the other side.
This was – hands down – one of our favourite challenges yet. The course was daunting at first, but the jovial atmosphere and happy, friendly crowd made it so much easier to complete. The initial fears we had about not being able to do an obstacle quickly disappeared – everyone seems to do it at a relaxed pace and is happy to help you get across each of the obstacles. And if you can’t or don’t want to do one, you can always skip it. Yes it is muddy, and it is hard, and it is challenging on every level, but if you come armed with a positive attitude, it is an absolutely brilliant experience (and if you’re scared of getting dirty or cold, you might want to skip this one…)
Getting the Tough Mudder orange headband at the finish felt like being inducted into this special little club. And it really is a club: serial Mudders become part of the Mudder Legion, with the colour of your headband showing off how many events you have completed. And we’ll be joining that club soon… yes, we’ve just agreed to do another one next May! Who’s joining us?
Images ©Gameface Media for Tough Mudder