Are You Man Enough to Enter a Tough Mudder? 7 Signs You’ve Got What It Takes

Tough Mudder
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It’s punishment in the grittiest sense.

Whether you run 10 miles per day, you’re a triathlete, or P90X is just your warm-up, a Tough Mudder—arguably the world’s best known obstacle course and adventure event—whips you raw, mentally and physically. The layout is simple: each 10-12 mile obstacle course contains hills, mud, water, ropes, walls, electric shocks, and fire—25 obstacles (2-3 of which are a mystery) designed by engineers to test the stamina of participants. The main goal? Finish.

But it’s not easy—most people take 2-4 hours. And despite the physical thumping from the electric shock gauntlet, buttered up monkey bars, and a frigid cold ice dumpster, a Tough Mudder obstacle course pushes your gumption, perseverance and teamwork to the edge. Entry is not for wimps.

If you want a trophy, Tough Mudder isn’t for you. It’s not a “race” by the common definition. No winners. No losers. No prizes. Tough Mudder is an adventure challenge, and a success to beat. But be warned: this is no fun-run free-for-all either.

The Tough Mudder Pledge recited by all participants before every challenge, demands a “no man left behind” attitude and forbids whining, among other things.

Tough Mudder finishers don’t leave wearing cheaply made finisher medals around their necks, or the knowledge they came in 4,657 out of 10,000 racers. Instead, they pocket a sweat-wicking Under Armour shirt, a Tough Mudder orange headband, Dos Equis beer bearing the Tough Mudder pledge—and the satisfaction of facing (and crushing) their fears. 

If you qualify—and are ready to train for an adventure race, check out our training guide.

Not sure you want to get so filthy? Our 2012 Take it Outside Guide offers even more incredible adventure racing options across the country.

1. You’re not a whiner or a whimp, and you stick to the pledge

“You have to have a positive attitude and be able to smile in the midst of adversity,” said Alex Patterson, Tough Mudder’s chief marketing officer. Before every event, all Tough Mudders raise their right hand and repeat together: “As a Tough Mudder I pledge that…I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine—kids whine. I help my fellow Mudders complete the course. I overcome all fears.” The last of which, is crucial when you’re so tired, and moving forward seems impossible. “It’s the essence of being a Tough Mudder,” said Patterson.

2. You can run 3-5 miles

Ok, let’s be real: you need a basic level of fitness to do a mud run. But that’s about it. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, and no worries if you’ve never run 10 miles straight in your life. Tough Mudder does offer a boot camp, but if you can run 3-5 miles without stopping you’re in fine shape. “We make every single Tough Mudder a real challenge,” said Patterson. “If it’s a flat course we try to add more obstacles that will gas you.” The trick, Patterson said, is selecting a Tough Mudder that gives first-timers at least two-three months to train. “And then, it’s simple,” he said. “Train. Come out and do it.”

3. Your competitive edge takes a backseat to your team spirit

It’s good to have a competitive edge, but Tough Mudder teammates come first. “Physical and mental grit are important, but you also need to have good, trustworthy teammates,” said Patterson. “Many of the obstacles cannot be completed alone.” You must shelve the urge to push ahead and make sure no teammate is left behind, much in the military mindset.  Teams come in all sizes (no cap on members), and a 75/25 male to female ratio, which is balancing out over time. “We’ve had whole law firms, entire military units, couples, and even one cyberspace team of hundreds that met for New Jersey’s 2011 Tough Mudder wearing green armbands,” said Patterson. “We’ve seen it all.”

4. You can bust down mental blocks

While basic physical fitness is essential, it’s not the most crucial. Mental toughness prevails. “We see all types of participants,” said Patterson. “People who you see before the event and you don’t expect them to complete it, but because of mental grit, they do. And vice versa—big guys, people who you’d think would complete it, lack the mindset and don’t finish.”

5. You Have $95

Tough Mudders cost between $95-$200 depending when you register. But, if you raise $150 or more for the Wounded Warrior Project—an organization that raises awareness and helps injured service members—Tough Mudder gives a $25 discount off the ticket price. “We really believe in helping veterans when they come back,” said Patterson. “It’s a really good cause.” And today, Tough Mudder has already raised over three million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project, making it one of the organization’s single largest benefactors.

6. You’re an injured service person, or have ties to the military

Just as Tough Mudder gives over three million dollars a year to the Wounded Warrior Project, the wounded warriors themselves get $15 discounted from their entry fee. But it’s about much more than money. “Tough Mudder itself, a bit unbelievably, is a goal for a lot of injured service men and women to come out and do. A lot of vets with one arm, one leg, or PTSD train hard from registration to the starting line,” said Patterson. “It’s inspirational and a challenge to everyone who looks at Tough Mudders like ‘I don’t think I can do that,’ but then they see service people do it, and get over the fear.”

Bryan Wagner, 26, was operating a gun on a lead truck near Baghdad, Irag, when an IED went off on December 17, 2007. He was seriously injured, and 13 days later doctors amputated Wagner’s right leg just below the knee. Wagner now wears a prosthetic leg, is a Tough Mudder finisher, and plans to sign up for Jacksonville’s Tough Mudder next year. “I love how Tough Mudder looks at itself as a challenge. It’s not just your team out there helping you, but a bunch of random strangers too,” said Wagner. “With one leg I might need a hand on the balance beam, and people are always there. It was really cool; people would run by saying, ‘You pump me up bro!’ I remember laying in my hospital bed thinking I was a cripple, and I couldn’t do anything anymore, but it’s my actions that show people it’s all about your state of mind.”

7. You’re Older than Justin Beiber and Live in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia

Tough Mudders now offer dozens of challenges annually across the U.S., three events in the U.K., two events in Canada, and two events in Australia.  And as long as you’re 18 years old, you can participate. If you’re over 80, you run for free. “Once, an 81-year-old guy ran the Bever Creek Tough Mudder, which has a 10,000 feet elevation gain,” said Patterson. “He was an absolute badass. But you have to be at least 18 years old, sorry Justin Beiber (and wash your hair).”

Plus, it’s one of the fastest growing challenges in the nation. Only started in 2010, Tough Mudder officials anticipate selling half a million spots just in 2012. Participants sign a tongue-in-cheek waiver referred to as the Death Waiver, but the worst injuries have been hypothermia or broken bones, and the most common are scrapes and bruises. “We don’t take any chances—we’ve got course marshals, medical tents, and EMTs circling the course on ATVs,” said Patterson. 

Thing you got what it takes? Check out Tough Mudder’s 10-question quiz that analyses whether or not you’re Tough-Mudder-ready, and suggests events to register for. If you don’t the to participate in a Tough Mudder, or you’re a previous finisher who simply wants to watch, you can buy spectator tickets online for $20 and $40 at the event gate.  

If you qualify—and are ready to train for an adventure race, check out our training guide.

This race not seem enough for you? Want to get even more brutal on your body? Check out 8 ridiculously tough alternatives to the Tough Mudder.

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