Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mud Run Do's and Don'ts

Summer is finally here in the Mid-Atlantic! Along with warmer temperatures and sunny skies, summer means the season of obstacle races and mud runs. If you've never participated in one before, then you might be wondering, what exactly is a "mud run?" A mud run is an umbrella term for a race that usually involves mud, water, and obstacles. There are many different types and distances depending on the type of adventure you are looking for. Matthew and I have completed a variety of mud run races including Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Savage Race, Cereb Run, Run for Your Lives, Spartan Race, Beast of the East, Rugged Maniac, and Merrell Down & Dirty. With that in mind, here are some tips to make your mud run an experience you won't forget!

DO research the event you'd like to participate in. 
I can't stress this one enough! Each event is different and some you may want to avoid based on the specifics of the course. For example, a Tough Mudder is between 10 and 12 miles and includes electric shocks, a greased-up half pipe, and lots of enclosed spaces and barbed wire. The Merrell Down & Dirty has two options (a 5k or 10k) and includes an inflatable slide, shallow mud pits, and tire flipping. One of these races is significantly more challenging than the other. Read race reviews, watch videos on You Tube, and look up previous year's courses online to get an idea of what the race may be like.

Matthew (in yellow) clamoring up the greased half pipe at Tough Mudder.

Super fun (and shallow!) mud pits at Merrell Down & Dirty Philadelphia.

DO wear something fun!
Disney isn't the only place runners like to dress up. Most mud runs will have many participants dressed in costumes, team shirts, or other attention-getting outfits. Join in the fun with a unique racing ensemble. Check out blogs, Pinterest, or previous events' pictures for ideas.

Tutu at Warrior Dash, Superman at Merrell, "Goonies Forever" at Warrior Dash

DON'T wear anything you don't mind getting muddy, wet, destroyed OR anything that will be uncomfortable when wet.
Remember, you'll be in water, mud, grass, sand, etc. and your race day outfit needs to work with you, not against you. You'll want to stick with technical fabrics- cotton holds onto water and tends to get very heavy when loaded down with mud. Also, loose-fitting clothing will inevitably stick to you and could hold you back as you are trying to navigate the obstacles. Form-fitting, technical fabrics have been the best thing I've found to race in. However, don't spend too much on these items- you may destroy or lose them. That tutu was ridiculously heavy in the Warrior Dash mud pit- I ended up throwing it away once I got out.

Lots of mud and lots of cotton- no bueno! 

DO get comfortable doing scary things.
All mud runs and obstacle races- regardless of distance or intensity- have some elements that are meant to "help" participants face their fears. Heights, enclosed spaces, electricity, water, fire- you name it and I'm sure there is an obstacle that features it. I never even knew I was afraid of heights until I had to scale 15 foot cargo nets! Most of these obstacles are relatively safe and good races have EMS, lifeguards, or other medical personnel at each obstacle just in case. If you're thinking about a mud run, be ready to conquer some of your greatest fears!

Cargo nets at Rugged Maniac.

 Matthew getting shocked by live wires at Tough Mudder.

Jumping over fire at Rugged Maniac.

Monkey bars over a five foot pit of muddy water at Savage Race.

Trust me, looking down this slide at Savage Race is crazy terrifying!

DON'T worry about failing to complete an obstacle.
There are just some obstacles that you won't be able to complete. For me, it's anything with monkey bars- I literally fall the minute I grab the second bar. But don't worry- lots of people struggle! The important part is to try- you'll never know what you're capable of if you don't at least give it a shot. There are some races where an alternative activity must be performed if you fail or want to skip an obstacle. At Spartan Race and Savage Race, you must complete 30 burpees if you don't complete an obstacle. Ugh. I try to avoid those races :-)

I fell about 3 seconds after Matthew took this picture (Beast of the East).

These walls are crazy impossible to finish! (Spartan Race)

DO bring a camera and/or spectators!
Most mud runs position the biggest obstacles next to the best spectator viewing spots so encourage your friends and family to watch you compete- as a spectator, it's really fun to watch people conquer them. And usually spectators can get some great pictures. Also, if you can, bring a waterproof camera- we usually use the disposable ones- you can get some great shots of the obstacles and the course.

I took this one while I was above Matthew on the cargo net- you can see the corner of my tutu!

Matthew looking like a BAMF on the Tough Mudder course.

Another great shot of Matthew at Tough Mudder.

Matthew got this great picture with a disposable camera at Warrior Dash.

DO realize the risk involved.
Despite all the effort put in by race directors to keep the runners safe, there is still inherent risk involved in participating. All the races we have participated in have required signing a release of liability form that states possible serious injury or death could occur as a result of participation. While we have walked away relatively unscathed- despite bumps, bruises, minor cuts, and a slight ankle sprain- there have been deaths at some of these events. Serious injuries and deaths aside, even a minor injury can hamper your ability to train for future competitive races. When training for the Dopey Challenge, I made the choice to not participate in any obstacle races simply because the risk of injury was too high and I was not willing to jeopardize my training for a mud run.  

DON'T leave a mudder behind!
One of the things that I LOVE about mud runs is the idea that they are not a race- they are a challenge. Runners are meant to help each other over the obstacles; not try to be the first one through them. I can't tell you how many times a fellow mudder has helped me scale a wall or helped pull me up when I'm too tired. It's always amazing to watch as someone scales a wall and then turns around to wait for someone that needs help. These events are absolutely team-oriented- even if you didn't start with a group, you will have teammates you've never met before at each obstacle. Likewise, it's your duty to assist anyone that needs help in any way that you can. Embrace a culture of cooperation; not competition :-)

Matthew (in yellow) helping a fellow runner up the half pipe at Tough Mudder.

DO celebrate your accomplishment!
Most mud runs have awesome after-parties with free beer, bands, and copious amounts of good food. Take full advantage of everything offered and revel in your newly-crowned, fear-conquering, bad ass status!

Warrior Dash 2013 finisher shirts.

2012 Finisher.

Enjoying a craft beer after Rugged Maniac.

While challenging, mud runs and obstacle courses are a great way to shake up your usual race routine. With a little planning, you can have a fun adventure while conquering your fears and earning lots of beer rewards!

QOTD: Have you ever run a mud run or obstacle course? If so, what are your do's and don'ts? If not, what's holding you back?


  1. I am so impressed that you and Matthew take on these race challenges. Last year, i was supposed to do a color run, but due to an issue with my eye, it was a no go from my eye doctor. I will leave the crazy mud runs to others and should one come to town, I would definitely volunteer at the race!

    1. They are really entertaining to watch! And dare I say that the costumes there are just as creative as the ones I see in Disney?! I think volunteering sounds like a great alternative!!

  2. What a wonderful post. This has convinced me that I definitely don't want to do a tough mudder. I don't have the strength for the bars and the wire scares me...haha. I work for a Running Newspaper and we are looking for content for the facebook page. Would you give us permission to share this? It would be a link to your blog and could bring you more traffic to your site. On a side note, I did answer your blogging questions on our blog. I didn't know if you saw the response. If you still can't figure it out, let me know and I can try to walk you through it via email. BTW, do you live in the Philly area? My sister (whom I blog with) just moved there and is looking for running buddies.

    1. Thank you! You can absolutely share this on the facebook page! I hear you on the Tough Mudder- I've watched Matthew complete four of them and they scare me way to much to want to attempt on. I'm perfectly content with the smaller distance mud runs :-) And thanks for the help- I really loved all the tips you posted- some I hadn't even thought of. I live in south central PA, about 2.5 hours east of Philadelphia. But my boyfriend lived there for 10 years- it's a great city to run in. There are tons of races and running groups in the city :-)

  3. I'd add, do cover your legs! I did one in an oh-so-cute skirt, only to find the run involved crawling on the ground inside an old airplane hangar and through a mud pit. It hurt, and I ended up with rocks in my knees and a whole lot of scratches!

    1. Yes! I forgot to mention this! My knees are always scraped up after a mud run which makes them look awful in shorts or a skirt!

  4. My question is about footwear - do you just wear an old pair of running shoes? I assume you don't want to wear a current pair of running shoes (unless you don't care that they will be brown whenever you're done).

    I hear you on the monkey bars! I facilitated at a leadership institute a few weeks ago and one morning we volunteered with kids at a park and they all wanted to climb on the jungle gym and the adults all did one monkey bar before jumping off! :)

    I have been curious about mud runs - definitely gonna do some more research to find one I'm not totally intimidated by!

    1. I wear old running shoes :-) They actually come out pretty clean once you wash them. I usually use them for one or two mud runs and then throw them out.

      I'm convinced that your ability to succeed on the monkey bars disappears after age 11 :-)

      I would suggest looking into the Merrell Down & Dirty series. I absolutely LOVED their events and found them to be fun and challenging without making me cry. Savage Race definitely scared me to death and made me cry a few times :-) Good luck!!