Tough Mudder Tips can only help you go so far. Every weekend, thousands of people line up on the start lines of Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Nuclear Race, Nuts Challenge or one of the many other obstacle races that have become hugely popular in the UK in recent years.
And, contrary to what you might think, the majority of those people don’t have a clue what they’re doing. That's mainly because they haven't read our Tough Mudder Tips article, so you're one step ahead!
The unknown is half the fun. However, I would like to share seven quick obstacle race tips with you that'll make your introduction to the wonderful world of OCR (obstacle-course racing) a little more pleasurable.
Tough Mudder Tips 1: Wear appropriate footwear!
Several event organisers will tell you to “just wear an old pair of trainers", which is terrible advice. It’s about as useful as telling somebody to use tissue as a rain hat.
You’re likely to spend the majority of your time on trails, grassland, hills and mud. Regular flat-soled trainers are literally the worst footwear for that kind of terrain. Honestly, you’d get on better in a pair of stilettos.
You’ll survive in regular trainers, but you’ll make life extremely hard for yourself
I’m sure you’ll survive in regular trainers, but you’ll make life extremely hard for yourself. As soon as the ground is the slightest bit wet or muddy it’ll feel like you’re taking one step forwards and two steps back – making the event twice as hard as it should be.
Even if you’re not intending to take part in obstacle races regularly, consider investing in a pair of trail shoes, which have deep “lugs" designed to dig into natural terrain. You can pick them up new for as little as £25, if you shop around a bit.
Tough Mudder Tips 2: Be prepared to be cold and wet
For the mathematicians out there, I’ve created a simple formula: The amount of fun you have on an obstacle course is inversely proportional to how cold you are.
Rule number one for staying warm when wet is DON’T WEAR COTTON
Here’s hoping that it’ll be a dry, sunny day for your first obstacle race, in which case clothing won't really be an issue. However, do be prepared to get in and out of water, and get soaked-through in the process. Even in the summer, a brisk wind on wet clothes can feel like an arctic gale.
Rule number one for staying warm when wet is DON’T WEAR COTTON. Not ever, for any reason, at any race, at any time of year... EVER!
Instead, wear a running shirt or vest, made of a moisture-wicking synthetic fabric. Take a judgment call on the morning of the race and if the weather’s looking nippy, also wear a technical base layer; the kind of thing you’d wear for skiing, hiking or running. They’re generally as light as a feather and don’t hold water, so if you do overheat you can always tie them around your waist.
Also, your core temperature is likely to drop within minutes of you crossing the finish line, so make sure you get your wet clothes off as soon as possible, and have a complete change of dry clothes within easy reach, either at the bag drop or with a friend.
Tough Mudder Tips 3: Have somewhere to dump your wet clothes
After your race your clothes are likely to be dripping with rank, muddy water, and the last thing you’ll want to do is have that leaking through your Armani sports bag onto the back seat of your brand new S-Class Mercedes. Am I right?
The simple solution is to bring some binbags with you and shove everything straight in there before putting the whole messy lot in the boot (double-bagged for extra protection). Alternatively, the pro choice is to shove everything into a plastic tub, bought from a DIY or homeware store.
Tough Mudder Tips 4: Don’t worry about anything (and don’t be afraid to ask for help)
I know how you’re feeling right now. You've probably got thoughts such as these running through your head:
“How do they expect me to get over those huge walls?"
“Am I fit enough to complete that distance?"
“Will I get trampled on and left to die on the side of the course?"
With obstacle racing, always remember the wise words of Michael Jackson: You are not alone. I had those exact same thoughts long ago and I can assure you that, having now taken part in hundreds of events, alongside hundreds of thousands of people, I have never once seen somebody trampled on, or struggle with anything unaided.
As soon as you look like you’re struggling, I guarantee there'll be a smiling face and helping hand nearby
An incredible sense of camaraderie is ingrained in obstacle racing. As soon as you look like you’re struggling, I can guarantee there will be a smiling face and helping hand nearby.
In terms of fitness to make the distance, if you’re really struggling to keep your pace up, don’t be afraid to walk for a bit. There's no shame in it, you’ll be going faster than everyone sat at home on their couch and, again, you won’t be alone.
Tough Mudder Tips 5: Don’t be intimidated by other people
At least 95% of people at any obstacle race will be there to have fun and take their time, but don’t be intimidated by the people who look like they know what they’re doing, particularly if you find yourself in the first wave.
Obstacle racing isn’t like triathlon; you’re not going to get trampled over by people fighting for position. That sense of camaraderie I mentioned before runs through from the top athletes right down to Joe/Joanne Average.
If in any doubt, just pause a moment and let the speedy-looking runners through. They’re likely to be out of your way and on the horizon in a matter of seconds, allowing you to hang out with a more like-minded collection of runners.
Tough Mudder Tips 6: Think about covering up
Depending on which event you choose, you’re likely to spend a lot of time crawling and clawing your way around on the ground. Some people will choose to deal with that scenario by wearing little more than a pair of pants, which means they'll either have great strength and technique that'll allow them to keep their knees off the ground, or they’ll be walking away covered in scrapes and bruises.
War wounds will boost your ego more than a medal around your neck
There’s a chance that any war wounds will boost your ego more than a medal around your neck, but if the thought of a bloody knee doesn’t appeal to you, maybe consider covering up a little.
It’s not a good idea to slip on your best compression base-layers (unless you don’t mind the odd hole) but leggings will help a little. If you want to feel fully protected, though, neoprene knee supports will do the trick, or you can invest in some specialist obstacle-racing protection (XTR Gear, for example, make knee and elbow guards).
Tough Mudder Tips 7: Wear a smile
What’s not to love? This is your opportunity to live out your childhood dreams! You’ll get to roll around in mud and climb over cool stuff, and all without your mum moaning about getting your blazer dirty.
Again, you won’t be alone!