If you’re not yet aware of the mud run craze, you’re going to need a pretty big piece of machinery to get you out from under the boulder you’ve been hiding under. Within the last few years, a new category of competition known as mud runs has evolved into a billion dollar industry attracting millions of participants worldwide.
Mud runs aka mudruns & mudventures, are adventure style races incorporating military style obstacles, running, crawling, climbing, dodging, sleuthing and slithering. In the states, the big three duking it out for market share are Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Warrior Dash, together attracting over 2 million participants this year. While these three companies own the market, and collectively put on events in nearly 50 states, there are tons of smaller, tougher, more unique niche events as well, from the no boys allowed Dirty Girl, sponsored by Paul Mitchell, to the Post Apocalyptic Zombie Run. You can even get your dog in on the action with events like the Miller Lite Filthy 5k Mud Run.
Whether you need some motivation to get in shape, or are at the top of your game and looking for a daunting new challenge, here are ten tips to prepare yourself for what likely to be the dirtiest fun you’ve ever had.
10 Tips for your 1st Mud Run
1. Select Your Event
While many mudventures are the most grueling and challenging physical activities that many people will ever undertake, others are run more like giant dirt parties with food, booze and live music. Most are some combination of the above. Choose an event that is attractive to you. After all, mud runs are all about you, having a good time and the spirit of competition, whether against a field of top athletes or yourself. Check out the Adventure Race section here on Kompster or the MudRun Guide to help find your first race.
2. Study the Geography
Yes, that’s right, study. Every mud run is different. Consider geography, terrain, weather, location and season in selecting your first event. What may sound like a great time in 75 degrees and sunshine could be a frozen hell in 35 degrees and freezing rain. With climate change, the weather is unpredictable these days but you can stack the odds in your favor by selecting an event in your favorite season. A great resource is Weatherbase, a site that maintains a record of monthly average temperatures around the world.
Check out the location of the event on National Geographic’s Map or Google Maps, not only to figure out how to get to the event but more importantly to get a sense of the terrain. If you’re a flatlander, its probably not a good idea to attempt your first event at 10,000 feet elevation. If the location is loaded with variable terrain, swamps and forests, it will likely require different preparation than an event held in the dry high desert. If you’re traveling to a place you’ve never been before, read up on the location. You will be getting intimate with the land.
3. Train, train and train some more.
Then, when you’re tired, keep training. Training for a mud run requires a combination of strength, cardiovascular fitness, endurance and technique. Entire businesses have developed with training plans exclusively for the mud run and adventure race crowd. There are even private trainers specializing in mud runs.
Strength training should involve creating overall foundation strength with high intensity bodyweight exercises since you will need to be strong enough to drag yourself up, over, and through the slew of barricades. Explosive movements with burpees, jump squats, box jumps will certainly payoff. High intensity interval training (HIITT) workouts have become quite popular and are proven to be tremendously effective. Bodyrock.tv and XHIT Daily have some great free HIIT videos and are also awesome for just getting ripped.
Cardiovascular stamina should be developed with interval training that will help the variations in speed required between obstacles. Train for a distance slightly longer than your chosen race and you will be in great shape come race day.
4. Friend or No Friend
Decide whether you want to go at it alone or with a friend. Many newbies hit their first race with a friend, team or family member. Benefits include a shared experience, camaraderie, friendship building, and a sense of companionship not to mention someone to tell you how great you look with a muddy a** crack. However, if your the extremely competitive type, you may want to think twice. The field will be full of others just like you and deciding whether to stick with a friend who may be a bit slower than you or to push yourself to put some hotshot in their place can be difficult. In the heat of the moment, you might put off your friend and change the spirit of your adventure. Thus, give some serious thought to your style before inviting your best friend along.
5. What to wear?
Mud runs draw people from all walks of life and oddly enough, many cross dressers. At the same event you could see the chiseled & intimidating military-type she-beast in spandex right next to a group of beer bellied men wearing pink tutus and tiaras. The bottom line is typically anything goes, including wedding gowns. That said, you’re best bet is to be comfortable in whatever attire you choose and remember that compression shorts, form fitting tops, going shirtless and sports bras, are popular for a reason. If you plan to wear some outrageous costume, be sure to test your attire in a similar setting before race day. You wouldn’t want to end up with a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction on your first obstacle, unless maybe your an editor looking for a great story. Whatever you wear, expect to get some chafing so plan accordingly.
Leave your electronics, wallets, and other valuables in a secure location. They will get ruined so unless you’re writing a blog about the latest LifeProof phone case, have all your data backed up and carry a great insurance policy, you don’t want to bring them.
Shoes are one of the more important aspects of your wardrobe or should we say mudrobe. You’ll need a great running shoe with decent traction and drainage. Cleats aren’t typically allowed. You shouldn’t be spending your training time on the streets anyway but if your among those who insist that a trail shoe is a gimmick, your first mud run may make you rethink your stance. Slick hills, wet logs, slimy tires and other challenging obstacles will challenge the most aggressive and stickiest shoes out there. Each to their own but we’d also recommend against the barefoot style shoes, at least for your first race. Also know that many people simply throw their shoes out after the race. Some events even have shoe donation piles to collect the shoes and ship off to some less fortunate people elsewhere.
As far as socks go, cotton socks tend to be worthless when wet. A good synthetic sock will go a long way in helping you through your first event. Some people swear by gaiters but they are expensive. Another option is an old pair of socks (cotton ok in this case) with the toes cut off. Slip these over your shoes and ankles to help keep the grimy grit from getting between your shoes and feet. It may or may not work for you but won’t hurt to try.
If your obstacle course entails carrying logs and climbing ropes, you may want to wear a pair of gloves for those parts of the race. Make sure to figure out a way to carry them securely when not wearing them though, a tight pocket or tucked into some spandex are good options.
Eyes & ears. Sunglasses or goggles. If you wear them, bring a cheap pair as they are likely to get ruined. Leave the good ones with the electronics so you can have them after the race. For your ears, disposable foam ear plugs can go along way in saving the Q-Tip budget.
6. Support Team
Similar to deciding if you’re flying solo, you’ll want to consider a support team. This can be family or friends there to cheer you on and help out if you get hurt. Wait, get hurt? Yup. This is a mud run with dangerous obstacles. People do get hurt. This is the harsh reality of the sport. While any legitimate race will have experienced medical staff on site, it never hurts to have a support team, friend or family member there to help bail you out. In addition to being there if something catastrophic happens they can also support you by fetching your change of clothes, driving the car home, and snapping that all important shot of you crossing the finish line.
Remember this is a growing billion dollar industry. That means most events will have photographers on site shouting out numbers as you hit up obstacles. These numbers help you later find that great picture of you belly flopping in the snake pit. Look for the photographer’s tent when you finish to get your photo. Some events allow you to purchase these later online based on your muddy race number – if they can still read it.
Race photographers are usually professionals set up in great locations that they’ve scouted for a particular reason. If you bring a support crew with a decent camera, ask around about where the best photo opportunities are. All courses are different and your crew may only be able to get to one or two obstacles in time to catch you pass through. Then have them practice on others so that when you come through they are able to snap that perfect shot. Use high speed settings to grab that mud dripping off of your eyeballs or a slower setting to create a sense of blurred movement. Tell them to keep snapping so you can pick the best shot.
People often say the hardest thing about ultra marathons is learning to walk and not run. Likewise, one of the unexpected things at mud runs are the lines. Even races with multiple starting heats tend to have bottlenecks at challenging obstacles. There may or may not be an etiquette to wait your turn depending on the event. Many of the inexperienced head straight into an obstacle the first time they see it while others might stop, breathe and get a plan of attack together before their attempt. If you’re so inclined, we’d suggest a watch what works approach for your level of fitness.
9. Post Race Clothes
Don’t forget the all important change of clothes. And this means underwear too. You’ll likely hang around after the race in your muddy and shredded clothes yet you’ll probably want to clean up a bit before your ride home or head to the bar. This means brings some towels, wet wipes, eye wash and trash bags too. Most events have a hose for a quick cleanup but its always good to have some water on hand or better yet a garden sprayer full of water to polish up at the car. Also, no matter how warm you think it is the day of your race, bring some layers of post race clothing including a hoody or jacket. You’re likely to be depleted after the race and adrenaline wears off, which can easily cause a case of the post race chills.
You’ve done it. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you finished. You’ve attempted your first mud run and it’s time to celebrate. Take a moment and contemplate what you’ve done. Whether you make the whole way to the finish line or only over the first obstacle, take some time to really celebrate yourself and your courage for getting off your ass and attempting a serious physical challenge that most people would never dream of. Raise a glass to yourself. Smile and drink in the scene. It may be your first and last race or it could be your new passion. We’re betting its the later. Now pay it forward.