Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tough Mudder: advice for first-timers

Battered and bruised, I have just returned from my first Tough Mudder event. Last year, I ran the Spartan Race and the Warrior Dash, both of which were fun introductions to obstacle racing. I also trained at The O Course, which in my opinion is tougher than your standard 5K mud/obstacle run.

Tough Mudder is a couple of levels up, because it is 3+ times longer and has some pretty challenging obstacles, including those involving ice water and electricity. Whereas shorter obstacle courses take me about an hour, Tough Mudder was four hours of pain and exertion.

The Tough Mudder website includes details of the various obstacles and forums for exchanging tips and strategies, so this post will focus on what I learned as a first-timer, in hopes that it may be useful for some. (Or that it will remind me how insane it is to do something like this voluntarily!)

What to bring

  • Signed I-won’t-sue-you-if-the-course-maims-or-kills-me waivers and photo ID
  • Sunscreen, water, energy bar or two, cash
  • Complete change of clothes & shoes
  • Towels that you don’t mind getting really filthy
  • Wet Wipes if you don’t plan to take advantage of the outdoor shower area (e.g., if you’re way too cold at the end)
  • Garbage bags for shoes (unless you donate them) and muddy clothing


  • Shorts with tights underneath
  • T-shirt with light, tight long-sleeved shirt underneath
  • NOTHING COTTON (it does not dry quickly and you will get wet on multiple occasions)
  • I recommend a bikini instead of underwear, since you end up in the water so often (my bikini top isn’t very sturdy, so I wore bikini bottoms and a sports bra)
  • Shoes that have good grip, are nicely broken in but still supportive, and are breathable (I bought shoes specifically for running in wet environments–they do exist!)
  • If you wear glasses, buy one of those adjustable cords that attaches to the arms of your frames: this $6 accessory allowed me to jump into water and submerge myself without worrying about my glasses falling off (and if you lose your glasses in any of the water obstacles, you probably won’t find them again!)


  • How should I know, it was around 7C (45F) when I ran! (It did get a little warmer later, though)
  • Probably all of the above, minus the tights/long-sleeved shirt–although those can come in handy for protecting you against scrapes when you’re crawling on your knees or scaling a wall
  • Sunscreen, although keep in mind that you’ll be in and out of water, so it needs to be heavy-duty and waterproof


  • Many of the Tough Mudder events involve uphill terrain: they will make you go uphill and downhill multiple times (and downhill is worse!), so make sure your knees (or whatever else hates steep inclines) are up to it
  • A lot of the obstacles involve cold water: prepare to be fully submerged on multiple occasions (Keep moving to stay warm!)
  • There is no shame in not attempting an obstacle: each one has a bypass lane, and no one will mock you for skipping an obstacle. Yes, the point is to challenge yourself–but if you really fear injuring yourself, put your safety before your pride
  • Make sure you’re hydrated before the event and take advantage of the water stations en route. There are also a few stations offering food (bananas and Cliff bars, in my case)–you’ll need the energy
  • If you’re running with a team (which you should!) or have friends and/or family attending as spectators, set a meeting point before the race starts–thousands of people will be there, and the last thing you need after a race of this magnitude is to be stumbling around hoping you run into your ride home

That’s all I can think of for now. Oh, and after your glorious post-race shower (the real one, not the cold one at the race venue), remember to clean your ears, too–you’re sure to find mud!