Tough Mudder. If you’re an adventure athlete then you’ve heard of it by now. And even if you haven’t, at least one of your friends has a Facebook profile picture of themselves running through fire, jumping off a ledge or ducking under some barbed wire in a mud pit. Make no mistake about it; the Tough Mudder Event series is popular and growing rapidly. If you had a chance to read our review of their inaugural event at Bear Mountain in Pennsylvania, you probably know that we didn’t really care for it. Being a new event, it was chock full of logistical snafus, on-course issues, broken obstacles and perhaps most evident, a missing sense of identity.
However, it’s been six months since that springtime misstep and let me be the first to say: WOW, what a difference a little time and a lot of effort can make! It seems that after their May premiere, the folks at TM did something that every good company does: they listened to their consumer. Bear Mountain was too easy? Fine, here’s a longer course and a healthy dose of PEDs for our obstacles. Logistical issues abound? Forget about it, parking’s aplenty when you hold your race at a racetrack. Poor on-course support? No sweat, we’ll staff our aide stations with members of the military. Basically, every gripe we had with TM, from the parking to the finish line was corrected, and it was evident that this was a very different beast than before, and that beast is now one magnificent Liger.
For starters, let’s take a look at the course. Now stretching roughly 12 miles and boasting 19 obstacles, the course was a Rambo wannabe’s dream come true. Set in Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the folks at TM had a virtual sandbox in which to build anything they wanted. By taking advantage of the terrain’s waterways, racetracks, motocross tracks and trails, designers put together a course spread out enough to avoid major traffic jams, while still keeping us wondering what was around the next corner (or next mud mountain). It’s hard to pick which obstacles made our highlights list as many of those we conquered had their own sadistic charm to them. From walking the plank into frigid water to climbing a mud mountain only achievable via a human chain, each obstacle gave “mudders” (what TM calls participants) a shot of adrenaline with a bad-ass chaser . My personal fav, the mystery obstacle of live electrical wires dangling overhead while you surge (pun very much intended) your way through some mud. A word of caution, wet winter hats and live electrical wires don’t mix, as I found myself on the end of a zap that left me feeling like I took a Pacquiao left hook. If I’m nit-picking (which I have to do, it’s my job), the only thing missing was the “Insane Bolt”, which was to be a last minute timed sprint to the finish. Though I had little left for it, I think it would have been the perfect touch to an already spectacular course. Plus, I’m a racer at heart, and who doesn’t love trying to outrun a few folks over the last few meters?
Organizationally, things were smooth all around. Registration was a breeze, as was packet pick-up. Volunteers were friendly and announcements kept mudders in the loop regarding their wave start time. Worth noting though were the spectator tickets which had to be purchased prior to the event for anyone who wanted to head out on-course without racing. Our Sherpa/support crew (thanks Erin!) did indeed purchase a ticket, but intentional or not, it remained unchecked throughout the day. The only other concerns from people I spoke to were regarding on-course staff. Though I understand it goes completely against the theme of the event, a few people said they would have liked to see a few more friendly faces (other than those of fellow mudders), just in case things went terribly wrong. I should be clear that this wasn’t and shouldn’t be a major concern. After all, a big focus here is on camaraderie and helping your fellow mudders along the way.
Which brings us to atmosphere. TM makes it clear that it isn’t a race. In fact, any references to racing were nowhere to be found in any TM propaganda, save for one elite wave that goes off first. For the other 95% of participants, it’s a challenge that requires teamwork. Whether it was helping someone get up a steep and muddy hill or over a 10 foot wall, mudders helped each other up, over, under and through every obstacle. It’s an oddly enjoyable feeling, forming a human ladder with your teammate, only to have someone jump up and grasp your ankles in a last ditch effort to reach the top of a peak. All other concerns were, well, not concerns. Englishtown was about an hour outside of New York City and as mentioned, parking was a breeze (and free), and overnight travel wasn’t needed. But being an hour outside of the city, and closer to many retails outlets, hotels and motels were available for anyone in need.
Course: A+ It was spectacular. The raceway was a perfect venue for an event like this and TM took full advantage of all it had to offer. The longer course made for less crowding and the obstacles were significantly beefed up since their last go around in PA.
Organization: A- No major complaints here. Maybe a few more course direction markings and a few more staffers on course would be nice. Modifying the spectator tickets program would help as well. How about spectator tickets in exchange for an extra donation to the Wounded Warrior Project?
Atmosphere: A+ Camaraderie is the name of the game. If you don’t feel like helping others while doing this, then you must be dead inside.
Logistics: A+ Getting to and fro was the easiest part of the day and there were zero complaints from our camp as well as others.
Overall: A+ It’s our first A+, so that should tell you something. Tough Mudder was an extraordinary event which made for an extraordinary experience. After a rough start back in May, TM has addressed every concern we had and is highly recommended for anyone looking for to ditch the clock in favor of a full day of adventure.