Everyone comes to Tough Mudder through unique experiences and choices. Why you are under the starting arches is completely different than your brother or sister standing next to you. No matter what has ignited your Mudder spirit, everyone needs to hold onto their personal motivation if they want to make it to the finish line.
Though some come for fun, some for fitness, and others for friends, all share one thing: We all come to embrace challenge. Challenge is the mental or physical barrier that we show up to knock down, and Tough Mudder never fails to provide it.
Designing a challenge appropriate for every fitness level is where the team at Tough Mudder really excels. There are a host of challenges that lie in the aptly named Challenger Series of non-competitive events, like the Tough Mudder Classic and 5k. And there is a whole other world that lies in front of you at the start line of a competitive Race Series event, like the Tougher or Toughest Mudders.
So which type of course is right for you? Here are three things to consider.
1. The terrain is part of the adventure.
It is no secret that Tough Mudder chooses its course locations for their tricky terrain and natural beauty. Speaking as someone who has run over 50 Tough Mudders, it’s a good idea to stop focusing on your muddy shoes and look around occasionally. When you realize you are running through a beautiful forest or along an amazing lakefront, a lot of the discomfort you feel quickly washes away.
The Tough Mudder Challenger Series courses, the 5k and Classic, are all about enjoying the natural terrain with your friends, carefully negotiating the mud pits, sharing smiles on the hill climbs, and wading through some muddy ponds while soaking up the sun. It’s a bonding, not competitive environment, where Mudders push their own personal fitness limits.
Race Series Tough Mudders are a bit different, however. While there is ample time to enjoy the terrain pre- and post-course, in a Tougher, Toughest, World’s Toughest, and Mudder X you also want to do your best against the running clock. While you may not get to stop and do snow angels in the mud pits (mud angels!), if you’re into displaying your athleticism against a course that Mother Nature has specifically designed for you (with the help of extreme obstacle designers) then the competitive series is for you.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of Mudder Nation camaraderie on the competitive courses, too, but racers are pushing themselves to a new level.
2. Obstacles may be bigger than they appear.
The team at Tough Mudder is well equipped with devious minds. The Obstacle Design Team works tirelessly, year round, to come up with unique ways to challenge you and your teammates. Did you know that some obstacles are literally designed so you can't accomplish them without the help of teammates? Of course, every obstacle on course is made easier when someone lends a hand.
In the Challenger Series, for example, the Tough Mudder Classic has upwards of 23 obstacles on course. Over the 8 to 10 miles you will get wet, dirty, climb up, crawl under … you name it, you’ll do it. The coolest thing is that even when you come across something where you say, ‘There is no way in hell I'm making it through this’ there is always someone there to lend a hand or an encouraging word. You leave feeling accomplished, and probably with a few new friends as well.
In the Tough Mudder Race Series, however, the courses put your athleticism and grit to the test. Though the teamwork aspect of Tough Mudder is still at the heart of all obstacles, you may find less people there to help you navigate them. This is both a challenge and an opportunity: Self-reliance and problem-solving are skills that build our confidence and can have lasting impact across our lives.
Want to step up to the challenge of a competitive race, but not sure you’re ready to attack obstacles solo? Don’t lose sleep over it; somebody from Mudder Nation will always show up to help because that’s what we do. The team at Tough Mudder has even specifically created fun ways to overcome obstacles with only one or two helping hands.
3. Camaraderie is guaranteed.
This year marks the fifth year that I have been running Tough Mudder courses. I have seen just about every obstacle out there, climbed the steepest hills, even splashed through the muckiest water. I will tell you that it is not the courses that keep me coming back, it's the people.
No matter your challenge, whether running with friends or running against the clock, camaraderie is baked into the Tough Mudder DNA. When you are at mile 7.5 and you look to the person running beside you, who is smiling back at you and encouraging you to finish, you realize the true magic of Tough Mudder.
Unlike other competitive races where there is no one to greet you at the finish line, Tough Mudder is different. It is common to see racers in the Tougher and Toughest Mudders turn around and hug each other at the finish line. These are racers who have, only moments before, been chasing each other.
Tough Mudder is in the business of creating life-changing events. A big ingredient in this is you. We can add race clocks, friends, hills, and obstacles but the real challenge is, What will you bring to the start line?
Like I have said for years before each wave, all we care about is that you finish. The experience between the start and finish lines is an adventure you get to create for yourself.
Eric “ERock” Botsford is the Creative Director of Tough Mudder Bootcamp.