Barbed wire, gas trenches, electrocution, monkey bars, chest-deep rivers of mud, ice baths and brilliant comradeship. Tough Mudder is a blast.
Tough Mudder is an endurance event started in 2010 with obstacle courses that play on fears such as fire, height, water, barbed wire and electricity. Yes, they electrocute you, but we'll come to that later.
And as the name implies it all takes place in a vast amount of mud at a wide variety of locations, though our event took place at Holmbush Farm, set in a picturesque valley with lovely trees and rolling hills.
We took advice and dressed in long-sleeved wicking tops and leggings, which provide some protection against scratches and bumps. However, many people were in shorts and T-shirts.
There is a secure tent for your bags so you can leave everything behind, because anything you take with you, will get left behind somewhere. Do not risk your mobile phone on this one.
I took a GoPro which was ideal as it is small enough to hide in my leggings back pocket where it's safe. Your back is probably the only part of you that does not get battered.
The atmosphere from the start is electric (pun intended). A DJ plays power songs while he takes you through a series of probably necessary warmups. Dancing during the day in leggings is not my thing, nor Simon's, so we half-heartedly lifted a leg occasionally. But everyone was there to have fun, so the convivial atmosphere was palpable.
Then we were off, running through beautiful woods along admittedly muddy paths. There were three other groups who ran with us, they staggered it so everyone got some space. These teams were awesome, a mix of ages, nationalities and fitness levels. The one thing they all shared is a fantastic friendly nature. Everyone helped us, each other and the other teams out whenever the course required a lift-up, which was frequent.
The first obstacle was a ten-foot-high vertical wooden wall, you just had to leap, grab the top and pull yourself up. Then more running up slippery paths, you are literally sliding about. It's hilarious. Next was a gas-filled tunnel, called Cry Baby! It was a wake-up call to the body, which is shocked that you are suddenly climbing walls, dropping into tunnels and crawling along on your belly.
The barbed wire trench came as a surprise. A little bit lethal. The balancing blocks were cool. Two of you had to hold each other on either side and shuffle along an angled wall. Let go and you were both face down in the mud.
I loved the various monkey bar challenges across mud and water. The numerous water courses were exciting and challenging too. Diving underwater to navigate wooden logs, swimming under electrically charged wires, leaping 5 metres into a muddy hole, and rotating huge blocks in a pool to carry people over to the next stage.
My absolute favourite was the muddy river course strewn with various obstacles such as logs and deep dips. You are up to your waist in mud and just power though. I lost my right shoe a few times on that one but managed to pull it back out.
And of course, there's a wall to run up, just like Ninja Warrior. Simon and I both made that too. In fact, we did it all, apart from the ice challenge, as it came too early and we would have frozen, which would have made the last five obstacles a lot less fun.
I don't want to give the game away, but if you do want to see what the obstacles are have a look here: https://toughmudder.co.uk/obstacles/
I recommend keeping it a surprise, it's much more fun that way.
Tough Mudder is superbly hosted and organised. The location was stunning and the obstacles were well thought out and varied. All are predicated on challenging you in different ways.
I commend the Tough Mudder staff very highly too. They are an essential part of the experience, cheering you on, encouraging and in some cases, laying themselves down in the mud so that you can reach a high ramp.
Unfortunately, I was scuppered by this communal enthusiasm at the last obstacle, which my colleague simply avoided by walking past the crowd. I had stopped to take more pictures of everyone getting electrocuted until I realised there was no one else, just me, as the crowd spotted a sucker and started chanting for me to go through. This last obstacle is a patch of mud with hundreds of electrified wires hanging down. You are supposed to run straight through the wires which go live at random times.
I indicated to the crowd that I was not that keen to get electrocuted but that only spurred them on more. Well, in for a penny in for 10,000 volts. Actually, it’s 7 volts in each wire. That may not sound like much, but It's like being punched with a finger on steroids. The first shock literally threw me to the ground. Weirdly, it does not hurt, it just knocks you sideways in a genuinely surprising way. I finished the course on my knees through the deep mud while the crowd roared with mirth.
We had completed the 15K Tough Mudder, the longest distance available at this event. Would I do another? Absolutely. The mix of obstacles was a huge boost to my fitness, the next day I was slightly sore, but in a good way. No pain, no gain, no mud, no fun. I am definitely doing another. Plus the collaboration and teamwork were impressive. The other three teams who we ran with were mates by the end.
The Tough Mudder is all about teamwork and particularly about helping everyone out, collaboration is key. It's not a race, but a joint achievement—a mixture of Its A Knockout, SAS training and a giant fantasy assault course. I cannot recommend it highly enough, just go with a mate, or take the whole office. You can do as much or as little as you like. It is tremendous muddy fun, and utterly brilliant.
I was grateful to slip into the heated massage seats of the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid as we left, still buzzing from the event. And the pint of cider at the nearest pub went down a treat too, well earned.
Tough Mudder also offers a more competitive Endurance Series, consisting of Tough Mudder Infinity, Toughest Mudder and World’s Toughest Mudder. They are on my list.