Toughest Mudder was launched in 2017 to act as a bridge between a regular non-competitive Tough Mudder Full and Worlds Toughest Mudder which is a competitive 24 hour race that has been ran by Tough Mudder HQ (TMHQ) since 2011.
A Toughest Mudder is an 8 hour overnight competitive race. Competitors run from midnight until 8 am on the Sunday with the aim to complete as many 5(plus) mile laps as possible within the time limit. There are cash prizes for the top five male and female athletes ranging from £4,000.00 for first place to £200.00 for fifth. There is also a special patch and recognition if you complete five laps.
In 2017 there were six of these events. Four in the USA, one in Canada and one right here in the UK in Belvoir Castle in Grantham, Leicestershire. I attended the UK event with a large team of Solo Mudders and had an amazing night.
At the moment TMHQ has announced two events for Europe in 2018 and there are rumours of more, most likely in mainland Europe. The first event is again at Belvoir Castle on May 12th and the second event is 5 weeks later on June 16th at Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, Scotland. I am planning on running both events, again with the Solo Mudders. Here are 11 reasons why you must add a Europes Toughest Mudder (ETM) to your race calendar for 2018.
1) It’s a race except when it’s not
This is a Tough Mudder but not as you know it. Make no mistake, this is a competitive event. There is prize money at stake and you have to follow the rules as presented by TMHQ otherwise you will be disqualified. However the Tough Mudder spirit is still present throughout the night. There are still obstacles that are tough to complete on your own and your fellow Mudders will help you through. In turn you will help the through, just like a Tough Mudder Full this is an event that is hard to complete alone even if all you need is a kind word at 6 am in the morning. I can’t envision another race in which the race leader will turn around and help fellow competitors through the course.
2) Gil Kolirin
If you have ever run a Tough Mudder event in the UK you will have come across Gil. Gil is the hype guy just before the start who leads us in the pledge (for any US readers he is our Sean Corvelle). Gil is very good at his job although as he only has around 5-10 minutes in which to convey everything including the safety briefs he doesn’t always have the time to show how good he is. At ETM Gil had around 30 minutes, a live microphone and was a real highlight. Every single one of us was nervous but he was able to both calm us down and hype us up at the same time. Further you could tell that he was having fun. If you can, track down his speech from this year which will be on Facebook. It still gives me goosebumps, makes me laugh and makes me want to run straight away.
3) The Lightshow and Lights up
Two reasons for the price of one. One of the unintended consequences of ETM is the lightshow at the start of the race. You start in the dark and for safety reasons needs a head torch with a safety strobe on the back. When you all start then unless you are at the very front you will be treated to the sight of darkness with 200 plus blinking lights in a row, it’s truly breath taking. This is complemented at around 6am when the sun starts to rise. After six hours of running it is hard to describe how magnificent that sunrise is regardless of the weather. You need to see it for yourself to understand how much energy you can gain simply by the sky going light.
4) Unique Obstacles
A big selling point of ETM is that you get the opportunity to try obstacles that are unique to that race. At ETM we had Operation which is similar to what you would expect if you have played the game as a kid. We also had T-boned hero walls which were regular hero walls with a shelf (imagine an irish table type obstacle) and Hang time which was King of the Swingers with a rope climb. Unknown at the time but ETM was the only opportunity this year to complete King of the Swingers.
5) Your own race
This sounds odd but it is rare to come across a competitive race were practically everyone leaves it feeling like a winner. Providing you are within the rules it is up to you how you run the race. Only care about finishing, fine do as many laps as you feel up to. If you stop early then you will still finish providing you are onsite at 8am. Want to go for that prize money then great, aim high and prepare for it. Prize money out of reach, then aim for the 25 mile achievement to get contender status. Also due to the lapped nature of the event it is not obvious what place you are unless you check, there is no worry about being lonely at the back of the field.
6) Party in the pit
Now if I was to write about mistakes I made this year then “over-pitting” would be one of them. However I cannot deny how much the presence of the pit makes for a different experience. We were lucky to have an awesome team of five Solo Mudders helping us throughout the night; these angels definitely saved my race and a fair few others. Again even if you have experienced a pit at other events, I can guarantee you that ETM’s pit just has a different feel to it. Plus the pit crew themselves had a great time which was a bonus.
7) Failing an obstacle does not make you a failure
It’s an old issue in OCR, what do you do if someone fails an obstacle? Some races DQ you and others make you do burpees neither one is particularly pleasant. At TM they make it simple, there are two types of obstacle “must complete” which are those that pretty much anyone can complete and “penalty obstacles” which are all of the obstacles that may be difficult. Fail a penalty obstacle and you run a loop. The exact distance and type of loop will vary based on how hard the obstacle itself is. It is simple but it works so well and does not make you feel like a failure.
8) Alternative reality MVPs
If you have attended a Tough Mudder before you will be aware of the volunteers (known as MVPs) and how friendly they are. Well at ETM they are under strict instructions to not be too friendly to avoid any potential for accusations of bias. They are polite but that’s where it ends, no constant banter and definitely no hugs. This makes for a different atmosphere on course. However the mask will occasionally slip which leads to memorable moments. I probably will never forget a (now) Solo Mudder MVP telling me on Artic Enema “don’t worry mate, you are dressed like a giant condom, you won’t feel a thing”. Even more memorable was at hero walls at around 7.55am, by this time I was taking a penalty on anything that could end my race such a hero walls. I touched the first wall (officially “attempting” it) and then walked past the MVP advising I was doing the penalty. She smiled, patted me on the back (well the camel back) and said “well done mate, you’ve done great”. It was only a small gesture but at that point it meant the world because I knew I would finish that lap and the race no matter what.
As stated in the introduction, this is a race with prize money and to be honest a nice chunk of change to most people. As a result it does attract those who are professional OCR athletes. You may never get to play with or against your favourite football team in a competitive match but at ETM this year you got to run the same course as the reigning OCR world champion Jon Albon amongst others. Even more impressive is how nice they are. Speak to anyone who attended ETM this year, they will all have a “nice guy” Jon Albon story.
10) Relatively cheap
Cost is always a subjective thing; however in respect of cost vs experience you get I would argue that ETM is cheap providing you buy early. At the time of writing the cost of the ETM’s is around £125.00. I’m sure that someone can make a 50 items cheaper than ETM list however in the world of OCR I have paid more than half of that price for a truly forgettable experience. In fact some races charge around £80 for a 5k run. In the grand scheme of things £125.00 for what is likely to be close to a marathon distance OCR for most people is a bargain.
11) It is a target race that will make memories
Too often in OCR we are guilty of running a race for the sake of running the race. We do whatever training we would do anyway; complete the race and then move on to the next one. Whilst you could treat ETM in this way, I would suggest that the vast majority of people will use ETM as a race to aim for. Yes their goals may change depending on their individual abilities but they will have goals nevertheless. It is nice to have this motivation which you may not have had since you first got involved in OCR. Plus I can guarantee you that the motivation will lead to memories forever. I will probably tell my younger relatives stories about ETM to my dying day, will I tell them about some of my other races, probably not.
So there you have it 11 reasons why you must do ETM in 2018. You may not agree with all of them, however even if just one of them resonates with you then do yourself a favour, open up another tab go to the Tough Mudder website and book on ETM today. You will not regret it.
Once you are booked up then don’t forget to let us know in the comments or on the Solo Mudders Facebook group. There will be a lot of us going to both events and we would love for you to join us.