I survived Tough Mudder

Just completed Mud Mile

Earlier this year I was going through the usual weekly routine. Get a flight, work, check in to a hotel, work, eat, drink, drink, back to hotel, work, get a flight, then home, repeat. This weekly slog is familiar to some and certainly is for me and some of my work colleagues. After a few months (in my case years) you begin to see the steady decline into laziness and fat. At 45 I am not getting fitter by sitting on my ass eating fine food and drinking an ocean of Sauvignon Blanc. Something had to change, so one evening sitting in London fuelled by the ever present Sauvignon I stupidly agreed to do a Tough Mudder.

A Tough Mudder is a gruelling 12 mile obstacle course over rough ground, 14ft jumps, crawling under barbwire, dragging yourself through mud, slithering through pipes and ultimately getting electrocuted.

According to Tough Mudder it is “a 10–12 mile mud and obstacle course designed to drag you out of your comfort zone by testing your physical strength, stamina, and mental grit.“

With the support of 6 friends from Kainos we committed to this with childish optimism… ‘of course I will train every week’, ‘of course I will get superhero fit’, ‘of course I will….oh look, wine!’. Some of the group were amazing — Rory Hanratty training 6 days a week with commitment and fervour of a fat kid at an all-u-can-eat buffet, davey.mcglade going from zero to a half marathon in a few weeks. Sadly I was not one of them. Started well — step 1. Join a gym, step 2. buy new training gear, step 3. go to… oh look, wine!

I had a somewhat sporadic start, but here’s the thing — I did start. I loved the gym. I hated running on the treadmill, but I persevered. I gradually saw a change, recovery rate was better and I could actually manage 5k (tip: start with the Couch-2–5k app — it is guilt free running, when the app says ‘please walk’ you can obey without feeling like you failed). That is the thing with training — the feedback loop is quite quick and once you can see and feel results it encourages you.

I admit I found it hard to get training on a consistent level — I lacked Rory’s commitment, and work, travel and family always seemed a higher priority. But the day loomed close and I was determined to give it my best (such as it was).

Tough Mudder London South 24th Sept 2016.

I was not ready. I was not near fit enough. I had picked up an injury the week before. I was terrified I would let my team down…. and basically look like a prat.

But I did it! We did it! 3 hours, battered and bruised and feeling on top of the world!

The Finish

5 Key Lessons from Tough Mudder

1. Be Prepared

Sounds obvious, but you need to train for this. You can skip the obstacles and you can choose to walk the course — but what’s the bloody point of doing it in that case? This is a 12 mile course with 20 obstacles. Each obstacle is doable — on its own, but over that distance and back to back you need to get training. Cardio, legs, upper body and core all need some attention. There are loads of training programmes out there so just grab one and get started.

2. You CAN do it

If you step up for a mud run/ Tough Mudder you will have to get (sort of) fit. But you can do it, I did and I am coming for a long way back in the fitness queue. I am still overweight, never really ran more than 5 miles (at a slow jog), and too old to be doing this stuff… but I did. You should not lose confidence, small steps and keep pushing. Remember on the day that it is an endurance event, not a race — so pace yourself, takes loads of water and even pack a few gels along the road. On the course I passed a guy who is a double amputee — that is inspiration!

3. It’s all about Team

Ra, ra, ra, go team….I know it sounds bollocks, but it isn’t. You will read loads about the team work on the day — it is essential to complete the course. The mudders will be all queueing up to help each other. I have honestly never seen anything like it. But (IMHO) you will need a team to get you to the start line.

misplaced optimism

I had a fantastic bunch to keep me motivated, encourage me to try, and help me get ready — without them I would have dropped out ages ago. So grab a few friends and sign up — do it publicly and this will encourage you not to drop out. Nothing like the fear of a bit of public humiliation to keep you on the right track.

4. Be positive

I am not talking about smelling flowers and hugging trees. But this can be great fun, if you approach it the right way. Get your team together, have a bit of craic, support each other and don’t take it too serious. If you approach this with a positive attitude you will rattle past the obstacles and love every moment. The whole event is brilliantly geared up to make you part of the ‘mudder family’, you will get sucked in and love the experience even more — as long as you dump the ‘cynical git’ in you at the start.

5. The early bird and all that…

Start as early as you can in the day. The course will be less churned up, the obstacles will not have massive queues, you might actually be able to run without crowds blocking your way, and best of all you don’t have to queue for an hour to get to the start line. We kicked off at 8:30 and it was perfect.

The Tough Mudder Obstacles — highlights

I read a fair bit about the Tough Mudder before the event and think that it is only fair that I share my thoughts on some of the obstacles. I am no expert but you never know, it might help someone foolish enough to do what I did.

Pyramid Scheme

This was great. There is only one way to tackle this — run like hell and grab on for dear life. Later in the day I saw lots of people building human pyramids. From what I could see this was an easy way to burn loads of energy early…. and you will need it later.

Kiss of Mud

Not hard to complete. Just stay low and crawl. But…

TOP TIP: Wear leggings…if you don’t your legs will be shredded!

Artic Enema

This is awful. You basically slide into a large shipping container filled with ice. It is hard to describe the horror of sliding into darkness and paralysing effect of the ice. So my advice is:

Deep breath before you hit the water, kick hard for the surface and grab another breath before ducking under the barrier, move fast (as much as frozen limbs will allow) and get the feck out.

Block Ness Monster

I loved this. You need a fair bit of upper body strength to hold on and push the blocks. But this was one of the best obstacles. Remember to try and flip once you get the turn…and don’t forget to help those on the other side uoiproewo(after all, they helped you).

Mud Mile

Love. Love. Love. This was energy saping stuff and you will need help to get over the mud mountains. For me — this was the most enjoyable (crap, did I just say that) obstacle. You need the team here to get through this, but there will be loads of people willing to help.

Birth Canal

This is not difficult but can sap your energy. My advice is stay low and stick to the sides. You should be able to pick a lane without the pipes along the sides — then you can also use the supports for the wood structure to propel yourself forward.


This is hard. There is only one way to defeat this monster, run like you’re a gazelle with Simba on your ass. If you are lucky you will reach the top and some friendly face will help you the rest of the way.

Electroshock Therapy

Why? I mean, for God’s sake why? This is bloody pointless. I can’t really explain it but you can see from the vid that I kept getting floored. I was running, blinked and ended up a few feet further eating mud. This happened 3 times. I am 3rd from the right, Darren McIlveen (Denny) was beside me and he got hit bad. Both legs spasmed and he cramped up — you can see him calling out in agony at the end.

To be clear — I will NOT do this obstacle again. No real achievement and no real purpose.

The end

So how did we do? A pretty respectable 3 hours and we all finished together.

This is NOT a race. This is a challenge. This is team work.

It was gruelling but a great sense of achievement after the event….so much so that I have signed up for another one in Dublin next year! As I said at the start — I am stupid.