Tough Mudder has been on my bucket list for a while, especially after watching and supporting my friend Sophie who took part in the World’s Toughest Mudder, going for 24 hours in Las Vegas. You can read about her experience here . Although it did take me 18 months from watching her do this brutal challenge to actually get to the start line myself!
I was invited to take part in the London West event (which happens to be round the corner from my house in Henley) by Black Tower, the official Tough Mudder wine sponsor. Tough Mudder is about team work, so I roped some friends into joining me to make up our Black Tower Tribe; Cara, Emma and Rosh. Love having running mad pals that are all willing to get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to run through mud!
Driving through the mud into the race car park, I was really glad we’d decided to take Emma’s car rather than mine – I think we would still be in the field, sliding around in mine! We were lucky to skip the rather long check-in queue, and head straight through the Media tent.
The only similar race I’ve done before was the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest so I was grateful for the advice to wear long sleeves to protect my arms and hands, and tight clothing to avoid it becoming heavy when waterlogged, or catching on obstacles.
Black Tower had arranged to have Sonia, a 50 x Tough Mudder, to go round with us and help us tackle all of the obstacles. She was so great at passing on tips, throwing us up onto the high wall and sharing the TM love. It was invaluable having her with us – not sure we’d have done as well without her.
We opted for the TM half, a 5 mile route with 13 obstacles to tackle, it also meant we didn’t have to do the two obstacles we were most dreading… the electric shock and the ice bath. (I mean, if it had been last weekend and over 20 degrees, this might have been a little more appealing, but we were freezing before even starting!)
The event begins with a warm up, which turned into the five of us having to do a ‘sexy catwalk’ through our wave. Honestly, I think that was the worst bit of the whole day, I hate things like that and was totally mortified!
Ours was the third wave of the day, I think, and I was given the task of leading us out with an orange flare…
The mud started almost immediately, and we felt very girly screaming and trying to keep our balance with the slippery underfoot within the first half mile. I can only imagine what it looked like later in the day after thousands of runners had churned up the path.
I can’t remember the exact order of the obstacles, but some of my favourites were the Block Ness Monster, Pyramid Scheme and Everest.
The best tip we received from Sonia was to roll under the Black Tower ‘Kiss the Mud’ obstacle. That was your hair doesn’t get caught in the barbed wire and you don’t cut your arms on the stones in the mud. It definitely sped things up although we emerged from it a little dizzy.
The obstacle I liked least were the high walls, they were just had such a narrow ledge to perch on, and I didn’t want to break an ankle/leg falling off. The other tough obstacle, mentally, was the Shawshank – tunnels that lead you up over a water pit that you have to drop into backwards. I really didn’t want to drop in, but the guy told me to ‘hurry up and get on with it’. So rather than looking like a wimp, I just let go. Not so bad in the end! Somehow Cara managed to climb out feet first and jump down into the water.
The thing I loved most about the event, was the level of camaraderie amongst the runners. I was hoisted, pulled, lifted and high fived by total strangers. Everyone works together to make sure people finish the course, and do so safely with a big smile. When someone fell over, there would be five people there to pick them up. People chatted as we walked/ran the course, which isn’t something often seen in races.
I did struggle a bit with the cold, everytime you warmed up, you were plunged back into frigid water – in particular my hands were freezing. I think doing a race later in the summer might help a little with the weather. Infact, I’m doing TM again next weekend and the forecast is looking to be 20 degrees C, much more appealing for a dip in the arctic enema!
I was impressed with my strength at pulling myself up onto obstacles, as well as helping other people up, although my upper body strength does still need working on. And I certainly have the obstacles to prove how hard we worked.
I have to say I was a little disappointed that there is no medal. We did get a t-shirt and a headband, although for doing the half you get a white headband rather than the synonymous orange Tough Mudder headband – worth going back to do the full just for that!
We were lucky that TM’s photographers were with us at points on the course, but I was a little surprised that there was only one photographer out there that I saw, and none stationed at the obstacles. Worth taking a GoPro if you want hilarious snaps of you and your team tackling Tough Mudder!
None of us wore a watch, and pace definitely wasn’t a consideration at all. It was about having fun, working together and celebrating together at the end…with a glass of Black Tower wine, obviously (and then a hot bath and bowl of soup as soon as I got home!). Personally my fave was the Black Tower Smooth Red, but they also had their Limited Edition Tough Mudder Fruity White Wine (you can try it from all major supermarkets).
Celebrating each other, and ourselves, having achieved something awesome on a Saturday morning… #CheerstoMe
Huge thanks to Black Tower for hosting my friends and I for an epic day at Tough Mudder West London. This post is in collaboration with Black Tower but all opinions, and bruises, are my own.