It’s 7am on a chilly Saturday morning in Dallas and the sun is just rising behind the distant clouds. While some lay asleep in their beds, several thousand excited people descend on a residential estate in Arlington, Texas, ready to get down and dirty. This can only mean one thing – it’s Tough Mudder time!
After a two-year hiatus from Tough Mudder, it was time for me to return and see how the American Tough Mudders compare to Australia’s.
The energy was electric as 500 people followed Coach’s warm up routine in the warm up zone before climbing the walls to get into the start corral. I was disappointed at the lack of Tough Mudder pledge but Sean (Tough Mudder Emcee) still managed to get us all pumped up and ready for 5 or 12 miles of fun.
As a Tough Mudder I pledge that:
I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
I put teamwork and comradery before my course time.
I do not whine. Kids whine.
I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
I overcome all fears.
On Sean’s “Go” everyone ran along the banks of Lake Viridian towards the first of 20 obstacles (10 obstacles for the Tough Mudder Half folks). The first few obstacles were old Tough Mudder staples – an inverted wall, cargo crawl, kiss of mud (barbed wire mud crawl), berlin walls and hero carry.
The first wave of the day is often the least muddy as thousands of people haven’t yet had a chance to turn the dirt into epic amounts of sludge. After Kiss of Mud, we were all still clean, but that all changed as people approached the mud mile. Teamwork was key as we pulled and pushed our fellow Mudders up and over the mounds before rinsing off in the lake.
Pyramid Scheme turned Mudders into human chains as people leaned against the slip wall and others climbed over their backs to get to the top. Some people got up successfully the first time while others slid back down into the water. Shawshank saw people crawl through mud and under barbed wire before pulling themselves up a tube and finally dropping down into water below.
The Blockness Monster (a new obstacle for 2016) required plenty of teamwork as two people held on to the block while their fellow Mudders pushed and pulled them over. The volunteers were offering advice on how to complete the obstacle along with yelling support at all the muddy people.
Those who went through the middle of Birth Canal found it challenging to crawl through dry dirt with the weight of hundreds of litres of water pushing on their back, but eventually everyone made it through. After conquering Tough Mudder’s oldest obstacle, Everest, the full Mudders said farewell to the Half Mudders as we continued on for another seven miles of fun.
King of Swingers was the first obstacle that only the full Mudders got to conquer. I watched as people stood atop a 15’ platform and jumped onto a swinging bar and attempted to hit a bell before dropping into the water below. I may have been a bit chicken initially, but after doing it once I wanted to go again and again.
The first half of the course had taken us around Lake Viridian and involved running along footpaths, wide trails and grass before getting back to the festival area. The second half of the course led us past new houses which were being built, then along the back of the housing development area before going into the bush and along some fun trails.
We were all thankful for the sunlight after sliding into the coldest Arctic Enema I’ve ever encountered. Luckily there were no kids around as there were some profanities coming from people’s mouths at that obstacle!
Legionnaires (those who have run a Tough Mudder before) were in for a treat when arriving at the Backstabber and Rain Man. Both obstacles had two similar lanes, one with an easier version of the obstacle for first time Mudders, and one for Legionnaires. The Backstabber was a peg board and required some assistance from the ground, whilst Rain Man sprayed water in your face as you dragged yourself backwards through muddy water.
I was glad to see the monkey bars changed up at Funky Monkey 2.0. First Mudders had to go up ascending monkey bars, reach for a bar and swing to a long pole which would take them safely to the other side of the water.
After receiving a new Legionnaire’s headband, we were directed to High Flyers Club whilst first-time Mudders were directed to Electroshock therapy. High Flyers club involves jumping off a high platform, hitting a bar that matches the colour of your headband, and landing on an inflatable pillow. I could hear the zaps from Electroshock therapy as I jumped off Frequent Flyers Club and was thankful that I no longer have to get zapped!
The location was definitely an odd choice for Tough Mudder as it was at a residential development. This meant that a lot of muddy obstacles were followed closely by a water-based obstacle to get people clean again. They hit the nail on the head with the toughness, but there was a distinct lack of the ‘mudder’. I was happy to see so many water stations and bananas available out on course. Overall it was a great event and the sunny weather meant everyone stayed back and enjoyed a cold Shocktop beer after the event.
Photo credit: Vanessa Letts