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From the bottom of an unreasonably high, sloping wall, getting up there seemed like an impossible feat. About two thirds of the way up was a small ledge. Tough mudders were standing on shoulders and hoisting each other up to reach the ledge. At the top, more competitors hung precariously over to grab hold of wrists and shoulders and haul people from the ledge. I looked around at my team and willed one of them to suggest missing this obstacle. They didn’t. Asking for help isn’t my forte, but neither is letting people down. I was going up the pyramid scheme, whether I liked it or not.
About Tough Mudder
Obstacle races are becoming increasingly popular these days, and I can see why. Running is great exercise. Going to the gym is a necessary evil if you want to build muscle. But all that can become a little dull. Physical activity for me is all about being challenged. Training hard because I know I’ve got an event coming up. Even then though, running can be tedious if you don’t love it.
There are numerous obstacle races that take place around the world but Tough Mudder is one of the most iconic. Each obstacle is a challenge, and above all else you need to work as a team. Runs vary in distance from 5k to continuous laps all through the night. At all but the urban mudders, you will get wet and muddy. Organisers insist that you don’t need to train for this, although it can be great motivation to get fit.
If any obstacles seem a bit too challenging, it’s fine to go round. Nobody is keeping an eye on you, there’s no time keeper. Volunteers at the start make it very clear that this is a challenge, not a race. This attitude makes Tough Mudder much more achievable. I wouldn’t go on my own because it’s definitely a team sport. Having said that, all the competitors help each other. I was hauled over walls by perfect strangers, as well as receiving immeasurable amounts of help from my team of Donna, Tim and Lauren.
Why are Urban Tough Mudders different?
An Urban Tough Mudder has the teamwork, atmosphere and obstacles you’ll find on a regular 5k Tough Mudder, but none of the mud or water. They’re set in a relatively central location, in this case it was Clapham Common in South London. These are 5k events only, with no option of extending it to a 10k or overnight run.
Parking won’t necessarily be available but the locations are easily accessible via public transport from the city centre. I took the train to London the night before to stay with my sister, then took the tube to Clapham South underground station. It was about a five minute walk from there to the start. Others in our group paid to park at a nearby ASDA, so it was possible to drive there and park nearby if you needed to.
My experience at Tough Mudder Clapham Common
As someone who is by no means a team player, I knew that the teamwork aspect of this was going to be the hardest thing. I have no problem helping people out when they need it. Asking for help is a completely different matter though.
The ethos of Tough Mudder is that you complete it as a team, rather than racing against each other. So, I knew from the start that Donna, Tim and Lauren would be with me all the way round. What I didn’t realise is how much I’d rely on them. Some of the obstacles are individual, such as hanging from bars or crawling across straps suspended above ground. I felt completely comfortable with these.
However, as soon as we approached the first obstacle, I knew there was no way I was doing this alone. We hoisted our team mates up and over walls, talked each other through the scary bits, did wheelbarrow races and even carried Donna on the Clean and Jerk stretcher. I surprised myself at my ability to accept help. The biggest surprise was how enjoyable it was doing this as a team. Whilst other competitors were incredibly supportive, our successful completion of the course was entirely down to working together and I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without them.
What you need to know about completing an obstacle run
- Training for an obstacle run is very different from training for a normal run. Have a rough idea of the obstacles, identify your weaknesses and work on that.
- Obstacle runs can theoretically be completed without training, but you will need a basic level of fitness – and a team you can trust and rely on.
- Tough Mudder don’t release start times until a week before the race, so you’ll need to keep the whole day free and possibly the day before and / or the day after if you have a long way to travel.
- There will be bruises. I didn’t ache from the physical exertion afterwards, but I did throw myself around on the obstacles and end up with some very angry bruises on my arms and legs.
- The event organisers want you to complete it safely. They will help you as much as possible with information on their website. This includes training guides if you need them. Tough Mudder information is available here.
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