Voluntarily receiving 10,000 volt shocks to the head is not everyone’s idea of a good weekend. And the electrocution at the end of Tough Mudder is certainly no laughing matter. My teammates and I had joked earlier in the race that we should have been training by licking batteries at home, but in reality, nothing could have prepared us for the last ‘obstacle’ of the otherwise fantastic race.
Most of the other obstacles, the ‘punishment’ can be avoided or minimised by being fitter or smarter – you don’t end up dunked mucky water if you can complete the monkey bars, or you climb a rope quicker with a bit of upper body strength (or so I imagine…). Even the pretty daft challenge in which you shuffle on your belly through a choking, eye-streaming cloud of concentrated Vick’s Vaporub can be made easier by improving your commando-crawling technique. Whereas there is no skill involved in dashing through dangling wires, attached to car batteries, anticipating the next head-splitting jolt to the body. I received a couple of shocks to the legs – like being slapped hard – and another two blows to my head, which left my ears ringing and my teeth on edge. No wonder they let anyone who has done a previous Tough Mudder skip it – nobody would ever come back for a second go.
Obstacle Tough Rating: 10/10 – Stupidly, unnecessarily tough.
The best obstacles at Tough Mudder London South were the ones involved skill and teamwork – especially the very very many that required working together to get over high walls and awkwardly-angled overhangs. It sounds so simple, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. By the end, the eight of us on my team had a well-oiled routine, like a little troupe of gymnasts – we knew who needed the first boost up, and was then strong enough to pull the littler ones overs, then who could take a running jump at the very end. We each had our role, and there was something completely heart-warming in the camaraderie that this created.
Obstacle Tough Rating: 4/10 – Once your team have got into the groove, they’re satisfyingly easy peasy. Especially if, like me, you happen to be the little one who keeps getting chucked over the wall first.
My absolute favourite ‘obstacle’ was the challenge in which a team mate gave me a piggy back for 20 meters, then I had to return the favour, carrying him the rest of the way. The momentum of an extra body on my back meant I ran in little weeble-wobble fits and starts, which made me giggle like mad, and by the time I dropped my friend at the finish line, I had an enormous grin on my face. My teammates pointed out that I could just carry them anytime I fancied, without the steep race fee…
Obstacle Tough Rating: 1/10 – Not tough at all. Seven year olds literally do this every day. Lucky buggers. Why don’t I do it every day? Does anyone want a piggyback?
This will sound silly coming from me, but I was a bit surprised by how much bloomin’ running was involved in the experience. It was all in little bits, but it was pretty hilly and often really dull – running up and down paths cut out of fallow dusty fields. My lovely friends and I had to do quite a bit of “we’ll make it to that pile of logs, then we can have a walk” as the running parts were a bit dispiriting. And I like running (as you may have noticed).
Obstacle Tough Rating: 6/10 – Harder on the head than the legs
Swimming through a skip full of ice, I completely lost my composure – all I knew was I have to get out of here by any means possible – if you had asked me my name, I wouldn’t have known it. If someone had been in the way of me getting out, I probably would have dunked them and left them for dead. The horrendously named “Arctic Enema” obstacle left me 100% sympathetic nervous system, existing solely to fight or flight. I spend so much time in my head, contemplating, worrying, weighing up, that it was like a holiday to spend the time so completely in my body during the race, and in the primeval part of myself. Like running a marathon, I had no idea how I would react under pressure, and it was intriguing and pleasing to find out once I got there.
Obstacle Tough Rating: 9/10 – Dehumanisingly tough. But in a weirdly good way…
And that was the true beauty of the race – learning about myself and my friends at a level I never would be able to anywhere else (besides, like, on the front line or during a natural disaster). I saw steely nerve where I wouldn’t have expected it, both in myself and others. And squealing like a baby, too. Even the toughest bits were not so tough with a good group beside you, fighting your corner. It is hard to separate the doing of the event from the ginormous corporate price tag, but I’d argue, for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for self discovery and testing your mettle, it’s worth it. Just as long as they flip the switch on the stupid electrocuting…
Overall Tough Rating: 7/10 – Totally manageable with average fitness, as long as you’ve got a great team and you’re all ready to learn a truth or two about yourselves.