The obstacle course racing scene has boomed in the past few years.
Even here in Ireland, we have well over a dozen regulars now. Runamuck, Turf Warrior, Hell & Back and BST — all of these and more give Irish folks a taste for OCR. On the global end of things then, there are two big brands — Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. These two are the Coca-Cola and Pepsi of OCR — the indisputable global leaders who help drive the industry. While Ireland is only getting its first Spartan event this year, we have been very lucky to have had Tough Mudder here since 2014.
Here I’ll go into some of the reasons Tough Mudder stands out from its competitors on the Irish scene. Of course, you should support your local obstacle race, even when it just involves jumping a few equestrian props in a field. There are just a few added benefits a bigger event like Tough Mudder can offer you.
The Tough Mudder Community
The Tough Mudder community is probably the most famous community in all of the OCR scene, and for good reason. They are an extended family and all look after one another. If you’re travelling to an overseas event and need a lift, a Mudder will probably be there to help out. If you’re a lone runner who wants to do an event abroad, there’s probably no better option than Tough Mudder. A simple post in one of their groups, and you’ll find a crew that’ll adopt you for the event.
If you’re at the Irish event this July, keep an eye out for groups of people who are mostly from the same country. If you stay on the course long enough you’ll see groups of Scots, Germans, Americans and many more. These folks aren’t just here on a holiday where they decided to do a Tough Mudder. They came here as a family of Mudders. Some of them may never have even met in person before, but they share many common values. I’ve described my personal experience with the community before and how it moved me.
The importance of volunteering is one of the things that sets OCR, mountain and adventure racing apart from many other activities. Complex events like these need more marshals and helpers than the average road race. Having volunteers too who usually participate in these types of events also enriches the whole experience. The volunteers and the runners both understand each other. Some race leagues even mandate that you must volunteer a number of times for your final league score to count. I think that’s a great idea, to be honest. If you really care about something, you should help out if you can.
As someone who’s volunteered at a variety of other events, I found volunteering at Tough Mudder to be the most fun of all. It might sound like a bit of a chore from the outset, but I assure you it’s not. The runners you’ll be watching over after are all having the time of their lives. Their feelings are then contagious. Your enthusiasm could be the difference between someone getting over an obstacle or not. The volunteer-runner relationship provides a seemingly endless source of positive energy. Experiencing each side of that relationship only makes the other side more enjoyable.
When it comes to obstacle course events in Ireland, Tough Mudder certainly comes out on top in terms of size. The course itself was almost ten miles long in 2017, which is much longer than any other comparable course in the country. Throw in a few retries on Everest and you’ll easily hit the ten-mile mark! Ten miles is quite a distance, especially when you add the obstacles. A very fit individual would do well to break the 90-minute mark, so most folks will be out on the course for three or four hours.
Of course, if you really don’t think you can do that, there’s always the Tough Mudder Half option. The reality is that you probably can. One thing for sure though is that you won’t get left behind at a Tough Mudder. If you want some obstacle course training tips that’ll help you get through a Tough Mudder, check out my advice here.
The obstacles then are what really sets Tough Mudder apart, and for a variety of reasons. First, it’s the quality of the obstacles. Due to their size as an organisation, Tough Mudder has the advantage of being able to extensively test all of their obstacles. This ensures they can innovate that bit more to come up with new ideas for obstacles. It also means that their obstacles are of a very high safety standard. Having the time and resources to test obstacles thoroughly really helps to iron out safety issues. Tough Mudder’s safety record is absolutely outstanding.
Another side to Tough Mudder’s obstacles is their size and visual impact. Obstacles like Block Ness and Everest have a real aura about them. When you round a corner to be met by a sea of people battling one of these obstacles, you’ll feel it. Being a big visual spectacle doesn’t necessarily make an obstacle more difficult, but it does add to the satisfaction when you conquer it. Oh you know it does!
So if you’ve tried some of Ireland’s native obstacle courses, but not Tough Mudder, you need to give it a try. It’s bigger in almost every way and its community and volunteers are probably something you’ve never experienced anywhere else before. This year’s event is on the 21st and 22nd of July in County Meath. Feel free to use my discount code: TM18PAUL