Mud Run Tips
I recently ran my very first mud run. I am in reasonably good shape -- I jog a few times a week, I'm not overweight, and I have passable upper body strength -- but the mud run was way harder than I expected. Three days later I'm still a little sore and beat up.
If you're curious about what to expect from a mud run, here are some tips from both my own personal experience and from others who have done this before. It's certainly not a comprehensive checklist of suggestions (I am no mud run connoisseur and have no plans to become one), but if you've never participated in something like this it might be helpful to you.
- It is a mud RUN, not a mud RACE. Put all those thoughts of competitive running and personal-best-times behind you. Don't try to jockey for position and squeeze ahead early. This is not a race for time, it is more like a multi-station workout at the gym where you finish when you finish.
I didn't realize this immediately and my brain was in "5k race mode" at the start of the run, trying to find a spot where I could get around people who seemed to be slower than me so I could settle into a pace. About 90 seconds later when we were all waiting in a long line for the first obstacle, I felt like a total jerk and realized that the slower people might have simply been polite and patient (unlike me, apparently).
You will have to wait your turn at the obstacles, and that's fine because by the 3rd or 4th obstacle you will be GLAD to have an excuse to rest. Besides, the pack thins out pretty quickly after 5 minutes or so. Relax and take it easy in the beginning. There's no rush.
- Sign up and run with at least one other person. I didn't do this, and I really wish I had. Doing a mud run with a friend (or even a team) would be SO much better than doing it alone. You can help each other over walls, encourage each other to keep going, laugh at/with each other when one of you falls down, and keep each other company when you have to wait at an obstacle.
Plus you can drink beer and share war stories and compare bruises afterwards. It can be a real bonding experience. Couple this with the previous advice that it's not a race, so you don't have to worry if your buddy is faster or slower than you. That totally doesn't matter. By the last half mile you'll be taking turns dragging each other closer to the finish.
- Respect other people's space. This is another "in retrospect" tip from me. At one point in the race I offered to help someone who (as it turned out) didn't want my help. I wasn't trying to be creepy or weird, but she seemed kind of put off that I asked if I should help her get past an obstacle that she was obviously struggling with.
It could be that I was indeed being creepy and weird somehow, end of story. Sorry lady. Didn't mean to do that. But I also realized as the race went on that all the people in the run are out there to do it themselves. It's a personal accomplishment to finish one of these things, and for some people it's important to know that they did it all on their own. Or with the help of a trusted buddy who came with them for that explicit purpose. Not with assistance from a random stranger.
As I said before, be patient at the obstacles. Don't be pushy. You'll get your turn.
- Wear tight(ish) clothes. When clothes get wet and muddy, they start hanging off your body in all sorts of uncomfortable (and potentially unflattering) ways. Tie your shorts nice and tight. Don't wear a loose t-shirt. I'm not suggesting a spandex bodysuit or anything -- although hey, if that's your thing you should go for it -- but you might want something a bit more close-fitting than what you'd wear for a game of flag football with your friends.
Without going into any detail, just realize that mud will get everywhere. I found that tight "performance" boxer briefs were an excellent investment.
Also, you might be tempted to wear really dark clothes so the mud doesn't stain anything. That's really no fun. You're supposed to look muddy. You should have at least one after-race photo where you are very obviously covered in filth. Light colored clothes that are smeared with dirt and have chunks of the course hanging off them make for much better pictures.
- Consider wearing long(ish) socks. I realize that no-show socks are in style right now, but they will do nothing to protect your shins while running through the woods. I had crew socks that were pulled high and my legs still got pretty torn up. Then again, if my legs got torn up anyway maybe it wasn't worth looking like a dork in pulled-up crew socks. I dunno. Your call.
- Your shoes will become unimaginably dirty. Many mud runs have a donation pile where you can discard your shoes after you're done. I wore a really old pair of running shoes and that's what I did. Then I threw away my socks (they weren't stylish anyway). If you plan to keep your shoes, they will likely only be good for either [A] another mud run, or [B] mowing the lawn. And they'll weigh about 5 pounds more than they used to even after you hose them off.
Either way you'll want to bring a clean pair of shoes to drive home in.
Speaking of shoes, some people might recommend that you duct tape your shoes to your legs so they won't get sucked off your feet in the mud. I didn't do this and I didn't have a problem. Just tie your shoes nice and tight.
- Make sure you drink lots of fluids after the run. Granted, any respectable run will have drinks available for you after the finish line, but make sure you have Gatorade or something with plenty of electrolytes in the car too. I was insanely thirsty after I was done. If you tend to get hungry after running, bring snacks.
There are a few other things like "bring several towels" and "bring a garbage bag and a change of clothes"; however, those are obvious enough that I won't put them on a list. You should also get plenty of sleep the night before, wear clean underwear, don't eat yellow snow, etc.
A non-obvious tip that someone gave me was to bring a cooler full of water to dump over my head in case the shower area was too crowded. That sounded good, but for me there was plenty of opportunity to rinse off and the towels got me de-mudded enough to go home. Your mileage may vary.
Regarding the obstacles and what kind of physical shape you need to be in to do one of these things in the first place: this is not like a 5k or a 10k race. You don't have to be a svelte and speedy runner-type who can hold a steady pace for miles on end. Ideally you should be able to maintain a slow jog for the distance that the event covers -- not that you'll necessarily be jogging the whole way, but because there is so much non-running exertion that you'll be dipping into your reserves by the end. Again, you're not running for time, you are just pushing through a really long and arduous workout.
There will also be some amount of upper-body strength involved. Nothing superhuman, but you might have to climb a wall or two. I thought that the obstacles were just going to be a bunch of mud pits; however, it turned out that there was quite a bit of climbing on the course I was on. You can always skip an obstacle if you can't make it (no one will eject you from the course if you do). Simply be aware that you have to use your arms if you plan to conquer every single wall and hill.
If you want to see some of the obstacles I faced, here are several photos that my wife took (she was excellent enough to cut through the course and snap a bunch of action shots). Just click on one of the pictures below and that will take you to the gallery:
So, would I do it again? Not sure, it's not really my thing. I pseudo-enjoy running, but I don't like mud so I'm probably not a good person to ask. I can definitely see how other people like it, especially if you do it with a friend. It makes for a good story.
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