After an abortive attempt in May to run the inaugural Tough Mudder UK, Team
Tough Gaffs made it to the North West version yesterday and had a decidedly average time traipsing around the grounds of Cholmondeley Castle*. I’ll do a more detailed review of all the obstacles later in the week and just stick with the general impressions for this post.
Let’s start off the with price, it’s a bit ouchy, the cheapest entry price was £70, we were late so paid £80, plus the cheeky £10 admin fee that appears once you’re already well into the process. On top of that, you need to pay for parking (£10 unless you have at least 4 people in the car) and then £10 per spectator.
Tough Guy has been accused in the past few years of getting too expensive and has made moves to reduce its pricing. It also has options to get free parking and spectator passes by fundraising. Plus you do get over 100 obstacles and has one of the best medals out there. Total Warrior, for which the Sunday 10 mile race is the most similar to the Tough Mudder Course, is a mere £47 for the cheapest entry and £90 at its most expensive, parking is a £5 and there’s no sneaky admin or spectator charges. For that you get 25 obstacles, plus awesome scenery.
So to the race day itself, we had a fairly early start time of 9.40am and having read a review of Tough Mudder Scotland, I nagged for us to get there for when registration opened. Good job, we had to queue for about five minutes in traffic but we heard tales of people with later starts getting caught in 12 mile tailbacks and having to abandon their cars and run in.
Registration was easy enough, the event village was good. We missed people doing the keg toss or getting tattooed but saw a fair few people getting their head shaved and/or sprayed orange. Fiona and I got a couple of face stripes put on, which Sean eschewed. There was a fairly vigorous warm-up being led from the stage, which we all eschewed while we had a coffee, and then it was time to get to the start.
Getting to the start entailed climbing an 8ft wall and then we had another five minutes or so to wait while the start line MC did the obligatory excitement building and conducted the wave through the Tough Mudder pledge before we trotted off.
As mentioned above, I’ll do a more detailed review of the course soon but for an event that bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet’, it as, well, just a bit dull.
Actually it was a lot dull.
Billed as 12 miles, which the course signage certainly tried to back up, the team Garmins however it more about 10, just (and thank god for that, because another two miles might have sent people into a coma). 22 obstacles just wasn’t enough for the length of the course. The obstacles, when you hit them, were mostly OK, with a couple of standouts like the ice enema and the mud maze, but they were just too far apart and mainly not challenging enough when you did get there.
The most challenging part of the course was the queue for the inverted wall, after being out on the course for over three hours, we had to wait for 10 – 15 minutes to have a crack at Everest. Which meant we froze and seized up. I’m not sure why Tough Mudder actively wanted to try and give participants hypothermia but if the poor management of this obstacle didn’t lead to some people coming down with it, I’d be shocked.
Everest attempted, the last obstacle is the 10,000 volt Electroshock, which packs enough wallop to knock people unconscious and then we were done. The orange head band was handed over plus a t-shirt. I must admit I wasn’t expecting the t-shirt, so I was pleasantly surprised that we got one, especially as it’s by Under Amour even if it is 100% pure polyester.
We also got a free can of Black Sheep, which was nice to sup as we got changed and headed to the pub. We were tempted to stick around in the village as the live band sounded pretty good but even after changing we were pretty cold and it was a bit of a hike to and from the car park.
It’s a little bit galling to have to post such a negative review, there are lots of positive posts on the Tough Mudder UK facebook page and it’s great that people enjoyed it and found it challenging. Also as Tough Mudder holds events in different locations, I’m sure each race is different and others might well be more interesting/less dull. The generic on-site description is the events are 10 – 12 miles long and up to 30 obstacles, so perhaps we just lucked out with a particularly poor course where the emphasis was more on the mud and less on the tough.
To finish, I’d just like to highlight something Tough Mudder says about itself on it’s about page, namely that marathon running is boring. I’ve not done a marathon, I’ve done a half and found it far more challenging and interesting than Tough Mudder North West 2012.
*Pronounced Chum-ley** Car-stle***
** We suspect the pronunciation was a time saving move by Lord Cholmondley back in the middle ages
***Only peasants go to castles