Tough Guy v Tough Mudder V Total Warrior

Just over week since Tough Mudder North West 2012, the bruises have just about faded and the team is looking forward to our 5th Grim Challenge and the inaugural Gaffney Mince Pie Bake Off Challenge*, so it’s about time for the obligatory comparison of tough events for future searchers of advice on such matters.

A brief reminder, Total Warrior is the new kid on the block. Based in the Lake District in the UK, it first ran in August in 2011 and claims to be the Toughest 10k and 10m events on earth. The 10k is run on the Saturday, the 10m on the Sunday, apparently less than 4% of competitors chose to do both, I guess that makes us special as we’ve done both distances both years and we’re booked in for the same in 2013.  in 2012 both distances featured 25 obstacles, the 10m has an additional four mile fell run. It’s the cheapest of the three events, starting at £47 for the 10 mile and rising to £90 for last minute entry, parking is a fiver, spectators are free. For your efforts you get a t-shirt, a buff, a beer and some other schizzle, like kendal mint cake.

Tough Mudder, probably the Toughest event on the planet, is also pretty new, first running in 2009. Having stormed its homeland of the States, it’s expanding overseas, including three UK events this year, which will double in  2013. Events are between 10 and 12 miles, and feature between 20 and 30 obstacles. There are no prices up for the North West event yet but the London North started at £55 and late entrants will pa £120, plus a £10 for insurance and another ten for parking. You get the iconic orange headband, a t-shirt, an energy drink and a beer.

Tough GuyThe safest most dangerous mental / physical 4 hours of pain in the world, first ran in 1987, is roughly eight miles long and god knows how many obstacles, the Tough Guy site claims over 100. It only runs twice a year. Nettle Warrior in Summer and the original Tough Guy at the end of January. Like Total Warrior, it is based in one location, Mr Mouse’s farm by Wolverhampton. Giving anywhere near an exact price for Tough Guy is difficult, I believe it started at £35 this year and goes up by £35 for every 300 competitors to enter. Currently standard entry for a wet neck, ie never entered before, is £100.22 I have heard tales of people paying £1,000 plus to enter on race day. There are also various options to get free parking and spectator passes. You get a quality medal, a basically a horse brass unique to the race you ran, and hot chocolate/tea and biscuits on completion.

It does seem that Total Warrior is based on Tough Mudder, which in turn has taken a lot from Tough Guy, don’t take my word on the latter, have a read of a recent expose from Outside magazine on the mud race phenomena. The question is how do they stack up against each other as challenges.

And as is usual, the best way to answer that question is with another question, which is it depends what you want out of the experience. However as they all bill themselves as being the toughest thing you could possibly do, let’s assume you really want to challenge yourself. Then the question is what do you want to be challenged on and what are weaknesses and fears?

First up there is the physical challenge of completing the course, the distances are not small and all feature obstacles that can be physically demanding. That said, I completed Tough Guy in winter 2011 with minimal training, like none. So if you have a basic level of fitness, i.e. can run three miles without too much bother, can put up with being cold, and are pretty stubborn, then no there is no need to worry about the physical side too much.

Of course the point of these courses isn’t just the physical challenge, it’s a mental challenge too. All of them use a variety of obstacles that force you to face your fears, should you have any. Such as claustrophobia, hydrophobia, fear of heights or of being electrocuted or a tendency to think, sod this for a game of soldiers, I’m heading for an early shower, or of getting mud in places you didn’t think possible, then all of these courses will challenge you to some degree.

The one that will challenge you the most, without a doubt, is Tough Guy. The permanent nature of the course just allows for more lunacy, plus 25 years of experience in challenging competitors shows. After that, I’d say it would be Total Warrior. The organisers are limited by not owning the land and the first year was a bit pony, the second year was a great improvement and we can’t wait to see what additions year three brings, which leaves Tough Mudder.

As per the caveat in the previous post,  Tough Mudder runs multiple events around the world, with the terrain and toughness seeming to vary from place to place. Tough Mudder North West event, for us, was disappointing and over priced. Although if you major fear is electrocution, you don’t half get a belt off the elecroshock and the electric eel. The latter forces you to be grounded at all times and therefore far more likely to get a belt, which is nicely sneaky.

So the recommendation would be if you really want to challenge yourself, do Tough Guy. If you want to work your way up to that level of insanity, do the Total Warrior 10 mile. If you can’t make it to the Lakes, then try a Tough Mudder, I’d recommend surveying the terrain and trying to find out how many obstacles are going to be at that particular event.


*I traditionally make mince pies for the post-Grim refreshments. Sean has recently started baking again, mainly as a way of avoiding doing uni assignments, something you’d never find me doing**

**I write pointless blog posts instead ;-)

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