This past weekend, I took part in the Tough Mudder event at Dalkeith. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it’s basically a mud run with ‘military designed’ obstacles littered throughout. Take a look at the event website if you’re interesting in signing up next year.
It’s a heavily marketed event (just look at the site), and it’s tempting to believe that the marketing is exaggerating things. I’ll admit I had a feeling it would be relatively tame considering the usual health and safety constraints.
Anyway, I’d been warned by a few friends not to take it lightly, as it took them by surprise. Bearing this in mind, I showed up with the rest of the team on Sunday morning ready to rock and roll.
After registering, leaving my bag in the bag drop area, and taking an energy gel, we proceeded to the start line, which itself involved climbing over a short wall. There’s a fairly energetic announcer who basically gets everyone jumping and shouting just before we set off.
What followed was a 12 mile run over fields and countryside, with about 20 obstacles involving icy water, high walls, and electrocution…
I’m not going to go through each and every one of them, but any notion of the course being tame was quickly washed away so to speak. Mainly because after only about 20 minutes of running, there was a lovely vat full of muddy, icy water to swim through, including a section where you need to swim underneath a beam crossing your path. It knocks the air out of your lungs and makes running straight afterwards a lot harder…
After this, different obstacles were placed at intervals throughout the course, which was mapped through many forest tracks and open fields; lots of uphill and downhill areas, etc.
The ‘Mud Mile’ obstacle was particularly interesting; basically a long traipse through avery muddy forest track where I was trying very hard not to lose my trainers in the mud.
I was genuinely concerned about getting over the Hero Walls also. 12 foot walls are surprisingly high when standing directly beneath them, although my height certainly helped on the way down the other side.
Aside from this, there were a good few obstacles that involved crawling through tight constraints, such as the ‘Boa Constrictor’, which was pretty enjoyable really.
Just before the end, there’s an obstacle called ‘Everest’ which is basically a dash up a half-pipe slope. You sprint up as far as you can before it becomes too steep to run, then reach up a try to grab the top, or hope someone at the top catches you. Anyway, I managed to pull a leg muscle badly on my second attempt so I pretty much hobbled on to the final obstacle on one foot. The final challenge before the finish line was a run through electrical wires. Needless to say, I got shocked about ten times, and I recall the commentator shouting something along the lines of “This guy thinks he’s a horse!” to coincide with my galloping along… Good times!
I did feel that being 6’4” and 19 stone let me down a little. Obstacles such as monkey bars or ‘Human Gecko’ where you move across a wall with very small protruding handles and footholds never will be suited to someone of my size.
I’m exceptionally strong and my cardio fitness and speed is good for my size, but no matter what I’m never going to be small. As a result I’m well-nigh allergic to running uphill, and in general not built for long distance running. Although my own mistake I admit was practicing road running too much and not cross country running, as I did tire a lot quicker than I should have…
Seriously though, it was superb. You do get a great sense of achievement at the end as you’re met with a headband, t-shirt and a pint of cider.
Camaraderie is the theme of the event, and it’s very prominent throughout. There’s always someone there to offer a helping hand with the more difficult obstacles. I’ve never experienced more people offering help and words of encouragement. It helps you push yourself and a lot of physical challenges are firmly rooted as mental challenges. You can push yourself through them, after all, pain is just weakness leaving the body, right?