I spent 6 months anticipating an 11 mile run broken up with 24 obstacles with nerves and anxiety, but as the day drew closer I felt an overwhelming feeling of excitement. I had spent months preparing for an event that previous Mudders have described as ‘painful yet enjoyable’ and I couldn’t wait to witness the world famous obstacles.
Saturday 6th May, 2017: When the mudder gets tough, the tough get muddy….
5:30am: Wake up. Get shit together. Dressed. Shove carbs down neck
6:30am: Leave home and drive to Henley
8am: Registration and bag drop
8:45am: Warm up and start
Obstacle 1: SKIDMARKED
They really didn’t waste any time for you to start putting that training to good use. After almost a mile of up-hill running we were greeted with an angled wall. Teamwork proved an absolute necessity from the first obstacle: a leg-up from the bottom and a pull up at the top – unless, of course, you were one of the people with Hulk-like upper body strength that just jumped and pulled themselves over. KUDOS TO YOU!
Run, jump, pull-up, repeat.
Obstacle 2: KISS OF MUD 2.0
This was actually a lot of fun, if you overlook the gravel (yep, gravel and stones) and barbed wire. Really what I did enjoy, was crawling on the floor believing I was part of those Army Training TV programmes. In reality, I was yelping in pain as the gravel cut up my forearms and elbows, as my hair and clothes continually got caught in the wire.
Obstacle 3: BALE BONDS
Another up again down again hill run lead us to piles of hay that we had to climb. Around 10 storeys high, this was quite a relaxed obstacle and definitely one of the easier tasks which actually turned out to be a chance to catch our breath.
Obstacle 4: KILLER GORILLA #1
I hope whoever invented this obstacle has to complete them everyday for the rest of their sadistic lives. We had to walk (or run) up extremely steep hills which made your calves feel like they were on fire and about to burn through your skin.
Not enjoyable. NEXT.
Obstacle 5: LUMBER JACKED
Team work back in motion for this quick obstacle – a simple push up over a horizontal tree trunk.
Obstacle 6: ARCTIC ENEMA 3.0: THE REBIRTH
If ever you were in doubt that plunging into a pool of ice cold water would be a nice experience, I am here to confirm that it most definitely is not. Without any queues for the obstacles, I’m glad I didn’t have time to stop and think before getting this one out of the way. It was the most physically challenging obstacle of the day BY FAR and I’m glad we got it out of the way quite early on.
If you ever want to experience your entire body shutting down for a few milliseconds and your brain get so discombobulated you forget who/where you are for a brief moment, then this is one for you!
Obstacle 7: KILLA GORILLA #2
Again? Really? UGH fine.
Burn baby, burn.
Obstacle 8: BIRTH CANAL 3.0
A dark tunnel with water filled rubber on top of you leaving little wiggle room for you to crawl through on your front. Easy you say? Remember when I said we cut up our forearms on the second obstacle? Yeah. That. A couple of big pushes later and I was out.
Obstacle 9: HERO WALLS
I have never been more admirable of tall muscular men. Two, yes TWO, 12 ft high flat walls. With no place to grip on to, the only way up is through getting a leg-up. There were so many guys with their backs to the wall and sat at a 90 degree angle letting others step on their laps, and then their shoulders, to allow them to reach the top of the wall. Others leaning over the top were there to pull you up. Camaraderie at it’s finest. A slight ledge on the other side helped you to get halfway and then jump to the floor.
Obstacle 10: THE BLOCK NESS MONSTER
Cold sewage water, this was doomed to be bad. But my initial guess was wrong, I really enjoyed this one. Triangular shaped rollers had to be manually rotated by those in the waist height water while others jumped and clung on to dear life to get over the obstacle. Repeated a second time, the team spirit was so clear to see.
Obstacle 11: HERO CARRY
As 3 women we were stopped by 3 guys who offered for us to jump on their backs. This obstacle was a straight piggy back. What we didn’t realise was that halfway through we had to switch. As a 6ft 5in tall guy, built like the hulk, jumped on my back I immediately thought I’d made a mistake. My training had paid off those as I made it through the walk with ease.
Another obstacle down, and almost halfway through!
Obstacle 12: SEWER RAT
Another front crawl through a tube and I could basically smell the Savlon I would be using on my forearms later on. At the end of the tube was more smelly water that, if you were tactical, you could avoid by turning and coming out feet first.
Obstacle 13: MUD MILE
This. This was my favourite. BY FAR. It encompassed everything that this event was about: being tough, getting covered in mud, having fun and working as a team. Starting out as watery mud and gradually getting thicker, by the end it felt as though you were standing in quicksand. There were mud walls to climb over, and mud slides to go down, all with a little help from your fellow mudders. The sound of loud music and laughter was adding to the atmosphere; I’ve never seen so many people happy to be covered in wet, thick mud.
The next obstacle was already in sight and looked to be just as fun.
Obstacle 14: PYRAMID SCHEME
Covered in layers of mud, this obstacle was the epitome of team work. Physically impossible to complete this alone, we were all pushed up by some extremely kind guys who were lined up, back against the pyramid, levering people up as they stood on their shoulders. Gripping on to the next person for dear life as he lifted me up to the slim edge, I raised both my arms and was pulled up to the top by my wonderfully badass team mates. Reaching the top was a huge sense of achievement in itself.
It was time to run off the mud with another mile-long run.
Obstacle 15: KILLA GORILLA #3
Oh my goodness. A third time?! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME.
Obstacle 16: FUNKY MONKEY 3.0: THE REVOLUTION
The one obstacle I had spent a lot of time training for. I knew monkey bars were going to be a part of this event and specifically tried so hard to build upper body strength to be able to complete this. Naively, I didn’t realise the handle bars would be soaking wet and covered in mud. I gave it a go and slipped off straight away. Making the most of the huge chunks of chalk the obstacle was built on top of, I rubbed it between my palms in the hope it would help. It didn’t and second time around, I instantly fell straight into the water below.
There were many people that had done exactly the same, and others that made the whole thing look so easy. Most gave it a bloody good shot though so good job to them all!
Obstacle 17: SHAWSHANKED
Climbing up an inclined tube, on your back, while using a rope above you – this seemed easy. What you couldn’t see before you went into the tube was the drop on the other side. The volunteer on top of my tube was instructing me when it was safe to go. My fear of falling was called upon here and I hesitated at the end of his multiple “3..2..1” countdowns. Eventually I tilted back, let go of the rope and fell backwards into the cold water 7 ft below. The sound of backs slapping against the water could be heard alongside some painful yelps.
Running to the next obstacle was one of the lowest points of the event: very high up in open fields we were exposed to the wind and the chill was going through to our bones. It took a while to warm up after this one!
Obstacle 18: HOLD YOUR WOOD 2.0
In teams of 3 or 4, the task was to take a log of wood off of the previous team, walk to a wall, pass the log through it and then walk back. One of the easier obstacles of the day and happy we had checked another off the list.
*SECOND WIND KLAXON*
It was as though we’d be given fresh legs! My twisted ankle from around mile 4 was completely overshadowed with adrenaline and our legs from this point onwards were letting us run faster than we had been throughout.
Obstacle 19: DEVILS BEARD
I think we had a bit too much help with this one. It was netting laid over grass and hay stacks that we had to crawl under but some fellow Mudders were holding up the netting make an easy obstacle a little bit easier. The grass was a nice welcome changed to the gravel of obstacle 2, it was like crawling on carpet.
Obstacle 20: MINE SHAFTED
A downward tilted tube to crawl (slide) down and land on a rough carpet floor. A little wall to climb up and the obstacle was completed.
Obstacle 21: AUGUSTUS GLOOP
One of my top 3 of the day, this obstacle was a backwards climb up a shoot with a shower of water above our head. It was a really enjoyable task and so unique. I would have loved to have done this one again… maybe it the water wasn’t so cold though.
Obstacle 22: THE REACH AROUND
A 45degree inverted wall to climb seemed a hard feat. When I realised it was actually metal bars and my upper body strength I had been training for could be put to good use, I relaxed a little and climbed it with ease.
Obstacle 23: EVEREST 2.0
I stood watching people attempt this obstacle for a good 5 minutes before I even thought about how I was going to tackle it. All I seemed to see was people running at this wall, reaching up, missing peoples hands and falling straight back down. The guy next to me said the best thing to do is run as far as you can and just cling on to the hands that find you. With that advice in mind, my little legs were running as fast as they could before I could even think about it. First time lucky, I grabbed on to fellow Mudders who were waiting at the top to pull up anyone they could and did a celebratory dance at the top.
Done. Dusted. Everest Completed.
Obstacle 24: ELECTROSHOCK THERAPY
10,000 volts of electricity running through hanging cables and yes, it was just as horrible as it sounds. This, along with the Arctic Enema obstacle, was something I couldn’t have trained for in the gym, nor have I ever experienced before. As a result both were equally physically demanding and the worst obstacles of the day.
12:00pm: Crossed the finish line
12:01pm: Sigh with relief and down cider
The camaraderie shown by ALL of the Tough Mudder participants was really incredible. Everyone was willing to stop and help others that needed it; be it a leg-up over a muddy wall, or offering to stretch muscles when cramp set in. This wasn’t an individual race event focussing on completion time and individual success, this was a demonstration of what can be achieved with the power of kindness and patience, and I think the world would be a much better place if everyone had a bit more Mudder spirit in them.
Give it a go; it wasn’t a walk in the park (well, strictly speaking it was a run) but I PROMISE you it won’t just be some bruises you’ll take away with you from the day.
PSSSTTTT. I made a video, too! Check it out here: https://youtu.be/rMrXedT03xc