Tough Guy Challenge. The Pioneer Mud Run That Started it All.

As much as I know about mud runs, one question that I wondered about from time to time was where this whole idea of obstacle course racing came from and the answer is Tough Guy Challenge.

Even though one can draw the conclusion that is originated from military type courses that became more mainstream, after watching the documentary called Rise of The Sufferfests, I discovered it may have actually originated from a man named Mr.Mouse who designed the Tough Guy challenge course, which may arguably by the most difficult (and original) OCR.

At a usual length of about 12 kilometers (around 9-10) miles, the race is always held in the same place: Perton Staffordshire, which is located in England. If you can’t make it there and want to do an OCR, here’s a list of other types around the world.

Ever since the first race took place in 1987, LONG before Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race became mainstream OCR’s, the Tough Guy challenge existed and Mr. Mouse, originally known as Billy Wilson was the man behind the idea.

He kept this race and it’s location to himself, didn’t really market it well (it didn’t even seem like he wanted to), and just opened it to anyone who would come, which originally started with locals, which today has grown to 1,000’s of competitors worldwide, even though the popularity of this race is much higher.

Though there is a limit to the amount of competitors who can participate which I believe is 2,500 people per race, there is a long line of people wanting to challenge themselves.

What sort of obstacles are inside the Tough Guy challenge?

Honestly, if you’ve done any sort of OCR, the challenges you will see here aren’t that different, you will get dirty, muddy and wet and the obstacles themselves will stem from going into muddy waters, to climbing ladders, net like props, swinging and climbing ropes, among other things.

What I think makes this challenge so popular is a few things:

1) The fact that Rise of The Sufferfest mentioned it which brought more attention to it.

2) The “raw” element of this OCR. Things aren’t “professionally” made in this race, Mr. Mouse made a lot of these obstacles and courses on his own so when you people go through the props and challenges, it feels less professional and more natural in that the objects and obstacles used fit the surrounding environment, which is raw.

3) This event takes place usually during the cold seasons in that location, which makes the possibility of issues like hypothermia more likely. There have been people, including the man who made the documentary about this place that I talked about earlier that went through this course and really had a difficult time recovering after the race due to the cold.

Though hot showers are provided, the fact that people in openly cold weather go through freezing water and other raw like obstacles really can take it’s toll on you and that sort of challenge is what is probably most appealing to OCR participants, as well as the masochism that goes with it.

As someone who has done quite a few of these OCR’s, the idea of going through Tough Guy sounds very challenging and appealing. I have always had the belief that a lot of the mud runs I’ve done were done with too much safety in mind and appealed to a general audience in how easy they were (except the Spartan Race, that was actually VERY difficult).

And when I hear about one man creating what turns out to be an OCR race before this topic even became popular and how it’s still considered to be one of the most difficult of it’s kind, its attractive to me to try it. 

Now going back real quick to the documentary, there is this belief that the whole OCR industry took off with Tough Mudder and that race’s creator was believed to have taken the idea created by Mr.Mouse and apply it to his own business. I did say in my review of this documentary that some people believe the idea was stolen, however, I would have to disagree as many inventions these days, including OCR’s are just existing ideas being taken and evolved.

If nothing else, Tough Mudder brought to the world the idea of racing through mud and if anything, the attention that race got led people to seek other challenges which gave rise to the Spartan Race and right back around to this original OCR. I would even guess that the popularity of Tough Guy itself rose with the rise of popularity with the mainstream OCR’s that exist today. 

Who should do this OCR?

Without a doubt, this challenge is something that experienced competitors should do. People who have completed things like the Spartan Beast at least and who are used to cold weather, freezing water and being able to handle the muggy, cold environment.

After seeing what people are like after they finish the race (or don’t finish it), this is NOT an OCR that anyone can do, you should not participate in this thing unless you are physically and mentally prepared because it absolutely WILL challenge you.

Now if you are someone who feels ready to take on Tough Guy, know that if you wear proper clothing, that you will minimize the issue of hypothermia when you go and you should get used to the cold environment by taking cold showers leading up to the event to help the body become more used to the cold.

At the same time, know that when you go through this course that the likelihood of cramps and injuries may be very likely due to the constricting cold affecting your muscle’s elasticity and that if you wear one of more of the clothes I recommend you do, that it will keep your body warmer and reduce that risk.

Never the less, be prepared to stop and stretch often to avoid the cramp issue from potentially hindering your motion and risking your odds of finishing the race safely. Remember, I did say that a lot of people don’t make it through this race and experience things like hypothermia.

While the race is certainly attractive to active OCR competitors, know that it will require that you travel to that location, be prepared to face the cold (and obstacles) and be able to handle all of that. Keep these things in mind if you decide to do Tough Guy and again, know that it is without a doubt one of the most difficult and fun races you’ll ever do!

How to Get Through The Z Wall on The Spartan Race.

Of the 3 times now I’ve done the Spartan Race, 2 of those times, I’ve had to “cheat my way” through the Z wall. But on the third, I figured it out, and I’ll show you how.

The first time, it was so slippery due to the rain, on the next, I was just too tired to bother with it, so I cheated by grabbing onto the top of the it, but on the last race, I finally decided to do it right, and surprisingly, I did, and to be honest, it’s not that difficult as long as you focus on the right approach to getting through it!

So what is the Z wall? 

z wall spartan race

Well it’s literally a tall wall, about 7-8 feet high that is shape in the form of a Z. Each side of it has 2 levels of wood pieces sticking out of it, about an inch each.  There’s 3 sides you have to cross.

The first 2 are generally easy if you follow a few easy steps below, but the last part, the switch to the third side is where even the most experienced people can fall off. You can’t see the third side from this picture, but it’s there. 

Now the pieces of wood that are sticking out of this thing are important. One level of these wooden pieces is meant to have you hold onto with your hands and feet. And the obstacle itself is meant for you to go across without stepping on the ground or the top of the actual wall. 

Think of yourself trying to scale the side of the building with a short short area to hold onto, that’s how this obstacle is designed, only (thankfully) it’s less than a foot of the ground. 

The basic idea of getting through it:

The main thing I had figured out pretty early is that the closer you place your body to the wall and by that I mean basically stick your entire body to it, the less chances you’ll have that you’ll slip off it. At the same time though, you may feel as though you’re falling back while this is happening.

The wooden pieces that stick out are easy to grab though, but very hard to hold onto since they are very slippery, so you really have to rely on this sticky body position as your main source of support. 

Step 1: Begin the obstacle by stepping onto the first part of the wall. But don’t rush through it, just base yourself against the obstacle and feel what it’s like to have the balance.

Step 2: Now this is key…obviously you have to scale the obstacle, but to do that, you have to move across and grab the wooden pieces sticking out. Now depending on your preference, you can either pass onto the next wooden piece using your legs first or your hands. 

Personally, I found using my legs first really helped me save a lot of energy and put all my body weight as I was scaling this.

But whatever you choose that’s comfortable, make sure that’s exactly what you keep doing when you keep moving across. Don’t switch it up, because your body will very quickly get used to the way you’re passing through it, so you’re basically going to get into a “flow”. Just don’t ruin that flow is the main point of step 2.

Step 3: So that’s what I did, I established a good base, then used one of my feet to get onto the next wooden piece, then transferred my hand over the next wooden piece as well, then moved my body farther across the wall. 

Then I repeated the same leg first, followed by the hand, then move my body over approach.

Step 4: Now if you can get into this flow, it’s going to feel very easy, until you reach the LAST part of this obstacle which is the last wall before you get to hit the bell and officially finish it.

In the picture below, my uncle is the person who attempted to cross this but failed. When I did it, I passed it because I took my time with it. Remember in step 1, I said basing yourself is really the hardest part of this obstacle and if you can master it quickly, it’ll make it easy. 

The part where you switch to the last part of the wall is where this base will be tested. When you reach the part where you have to cross over to the other side of the obstacle, make sure to again, either pick out your foot or hand.

Step with your foot to the other side and try to feel out where the next wooden piece is. OR use your hand to feel it out. Personally, I think you get more range with the foot so I found it easier to do that.

But when you feel it out, do not lean over or place the weight on the “scouting foot or hand” that’s trying to find the wooden piece, otherwise, you’ll slip and fall. Instead, tread carefully with either your hand or foot, until you find it, then put your foot’s weight on it or hand.

In any case, do NOT move your body over to the other side until you have 3 things:

  • A firm foot in place on the wooden piece.
  • A firm hand grip on a wooden piece as well.
  • And finally, as you move across to the other side, stay glued to the obstacle.

I’m telling you, odds are you will not feel very well balanced if you JUST rely on your hands and feet and if you angle away from the wall too much, that’s it, you’re falling off. Here’s a good illustration of how to get over to the next side correctly:

how to complete the z wall obstacle

The 2 things you really need to complete this obstacle:

1) Technique. That is explained in the steps. The technique is what will make this thing much easier. In fact, for many of the obstacles in the Spartan Races, you’ll need techniques.

But with this obstacle, take your time, the faster you try to do it, the more likely you’ll fall over. Remember that base I talked about, it’s huge to alleviating the next thing you’ll need to have…

2) Upper body resilience, not necessarily strength. You’re going to be holding onto the wooden pieces for quite sometime and most of your weight is going to be placed on your feet so the only thing you’ll need to do is be able to maintain as much of a firm grip as possible with your hands for as long as possible.

For that upper body strength isn’t as big as hand resilience here. 

Need to practice it? Here’s something you can try:

It is very difficult to reenact this obstacle anywhere, so one thing I can suggest, and it’ll sound ridiculous is standing on your tiptoes against a wall at your home, preferably in a hallway. Then raise your hands and go across a few feet just to feel what it’s like to hold that base I mentioned so many times.

You’re going to see and feel very quickly how difficult that is. Well that’s the feeling you’re going to experience on the Z wall come race day. If you can get used to that feeling, and can manage to base your body against the obstacle comfortably, consider most of the obstacle’s difficult handled! 

I really hope these tips are going to help you on this obstacle if you decide to try the Spartan Race because trust me, it will show up, generally after the second part of the event, when you’re tired.

Another good tip: Wear decent shoes so even if it’s wet, something with decent traction should help your feet avoid slipping. Here are the shoes I wear for every mud run I do now.

What The Spartan Race’s New Obstacles Look Like!

So after doing the Beast a week ago, I found that the Spartan Race had put up several new obstacles that I want to take you through because I had the “pleasure” of testing a bunch of them. So here they are:

1) Monkey bar (advanced):

Normally this challenge is either a normal monkey bar, or in my last big race, it was in mixed levels meaning the bars themselves were either elevated high or higher and you had to go up and down as you swung across the bars.

The new one on the Spartan Beast I did had 3 different levels of height and distance between them. So in addition to them being in different levels of height, the distance between the bars was at time either short or longer so sometimes I had to swing twice before reaching for the next bar:

spartan race monkey bar obstacle

If you’re used to doing regular monkey bars, this challenge shouldn’t be too difficult for you!

2) There’s this new obstacle called “Olympus”.

I liked the creativity of this one but man, it’s a tough one. Basically, it’s a slanted wall with 3 different props to hold onto: A chain, a hole and a red prop you can hand onto:

spartan race olympus

The wall itself is far too slippery to use for balance so you’re relying on nothing but your upper body and grip to get through this.

However, the catch is that these 3 different props are in different levels of the wall so you have to grab onto them and sometimes either swing up or down, but doing this each time makes it risky to touch the ground, which if you do, you lose.

My first attempt at doing Olympus didn’t end well as I only used the red prop and chain, but this proved wrong. My friend on the other hand went after me and decided to use the holes and that proved to be the right decision as he made it through, with a lot of difficulty, but it worked.

I attempted to complete Olympus again and managed to get through 80% of it, but ended up falling down at the end.

So the tip is: use the holes, they are the EASIEST to hold onto. Also you should try and maintain a steady motion from one end of the wall to the other, to keep a momentum going, while your stamina and grip is still there.

3) Slippery wall.

spartan race wall climb with rope

Nothing crazy about this. It’s just a diagonal wall that’s wet and has a rope you use to climb up and over. If you have good shoes like these, then all you have to do is grab onto the rope, pull back your body so you’re basically “standing” in a vertical angle to the wall. This helps you have a good, strong grip with your feet on the wall and allows you to easily move upwards on the rope and over the wall.

4) Spartan Ladder. 

Ok so this particular obstacle was NOT on the event I did, however I discovered this was a possible one to encounter in the future when I looked at the list of challenges the official site put up.

Now I have to pause for a second on this topic and mention that one of the things I absolutely do not like about this event is that they do NOT label all of their obstacles. I think in my last event, I managed to read the names of less than half of them and the site above I linked that shows them, only shows a few, not all of them, which is a huge let down for me…

But anyway, back to the “ladder”, this is actually a pretty innovative challenge, you have to climb up a triangular metallic pole, but backwards, using your hands and feet. At the top, you have to smack a cow bell, then go down the other side of this thing and ring a second cow bell with your feet. I’m disappointed I didn’t see this, but really hope to try it out in the future.

5) The “Bender”. 

Well I have no idea what the name of this thing was (back to that lack of naming), but I looked at a bunch of places and finally found out it’s called Bender. I also like to call this the half ladder because it does look like the #4 obstacle, but only 1 part of it.

Here’s what THIS one looks like:

spartan race the bender

As long as you can pull up pretty well, this isn’t a big deal. When you get to the second or third pole, you can use your feet to help you move up farther if you’re struggling or if you’re good with your upper body, just get to the top pole, then pull yourself up, then over. 

6) Twister. spartan race the twister

Alright, monkey bar people will either love or hate this. It’s a single pole with handles surrounding it and the catch is that the pole turns downward or whichever way you’re hanging and pulling on it which re-arranges the bars and forces you to hold on as tight as you can while also turning the pole such that you can reach the bars.

I didn’t make it through this obstacle but it left me with a good lesson.

While my grip was actually quite prepared for this challenge, both my resilience and stamina were drained as this was one of the last challenges we had to pass and we’re talking 13 miles in!

It’s not an excuse though, I honestly think even if I was fresh, I still wouldn’t make it because there is a technique to doing it.

I was looking at some videos and apparently one of the better ways of going about this thing is to go sideways like I did, but with each new bar you’re reaching for to pull it towards you so you don’t have to reach too far for it.

When it’s hanging at the bottom, it takes less energy to reach for it and makes it easier to continue forward, but be warned, even at a fast pace, this thing will require you hang on for at least 40 seconds!

7) Ape Hanger. 

Another look alike to the monkey bars, but much more creative. This is a challenge I didn’t see on my event BUT it’s also a new one.

So there’s several ropes representing lanes, at the start of the challenge are ropes, you jump, reach for, and grab the rope, pull yourself up, then either backwards, or forwards, scale a monkey ladder the same way you’d scale monkey bars, which is basically the type of ladder that people use to climb up helicopters and make your way to the other end. 

8) Multi-Rig. 

spartan race multi rig

So this is another highly challenging upper body test.

In this one, you first have to scale a pole with nothing but your hands, and it swings while you try this, then you have a ring to grab onto, followed by a rope that has a tennis ball hanging at the bottom of it, then from there, a rope, and if you can manage to pass that, then you have 3 more rings to get across before hitting the bell. 

I tried this twice and failed twice, both times around the halfway area when I had to grab onto the rope. 

Now technically multi rig isn’t a new challenge, BUT they keep changing it up and in my case, it had new things on it. 

When you do the multi rig, odds are, it’ll have different props hanging off it for you to grab onto, or the order might be different, but it still counts as the basic multi rig challenge, although there’s nothing basic about it in terms of how difficult it is…

Insane upper body and grip strength required, you’ve been warned!

Is this all?

No, as I found out, there’s other challenges happening in different venues where these events happen and sometimes they just mix it around. These 7 are not all of the new ones and if you know of one I didn’t include, do let me know! 

Overall, the 3 big things you really need to have for just about all of these obstacles is upper body strength, great grip strength and stamina to maintain those 2 things for as long as possible. One cool way of practicing this if you live in a city is just using the playground that kids play on, they make for great simulators to these things and you don’t even have to go to a gym! 

But, don’t focus too much on these, there’s bigger parts of this event you need to prepare for!

There’s a bunch of other traditional obstacles you’ll run into on this event that you need to prepare for and here they are. And they include things like:

Spartan Beast Review: How to Own it’s Obstacles And Survive it.

For a race like the Spartan Beast to exist, there have to be sadists who design this thing and masochists such as myself who want to go through it.

Let that be a little preview of what I’m about to tell you about this event. And yes, I did go through it. Never again I dare say!

spartan beast review

Last Saturday, April 29th, I did the second hardest version of this event, the Beast (here are the other versions of it) and I will share with you what transpired. Now this event is 12+ miles long and in my case, it ended up being close to or exactly 14 miles. 

This would be my 6th mud run I’ve ever done and without a doubt, the hardest one yet. Of the previous 5 events I’ve done, 2 of them were actually Spartan Race events, just not as long. One was the Sprint (5K) which ended miserably as it was cancelled due to torrential rain, thus I couldn’t get myself the nice red medal or cool t-shirt and the other was the Super, which I did finish in a manner of 5 hours and change. 

These 2 events, plus the other 3 I did helped give me a TON of experience to prepare myself for the Beast. And I really did prepare a lot. 

For example, here is my training regiment that I used to prep for it. 

Was my preparation enough? Post event analysis and lessons:

Let me explain it this way:

1) Uphill climbing.spartan race uphill climb

The main thing I feared about the Spartan Beast was the overwhelming amount of up hill climbing that I would have to endure.

Frankly, if I may be bold, this is really what makes up a majority of the hardships and length of the event and honestly, it’s one of the things I don’t like about this event because it lacks creativity. Something like Tough Mudder does a better job at this.

Anyway, with every mud run I’ve done, the ones which involved up hill climbing ended up being so tough, that even though I endured them, that afterwards, my legs and thighs in particular were shot and in excruciating pain for days.

I would not be able to literally walk up and down the stairs. Nothing short of rest and rolling my legs on a foam roller helped heal me so going through that experience again was something I was not looking forward to…

So in anticipation of the Beast, I really worked on my uphill climbing game, but living in the city, I didn’t exactly have many places to do this, so I improvised and rode a bicycle any chance I could, as well as lifted it up to my 7th floor apartment whenever I wasn’t too tired. I also would walk up to my floor as often as I could.

Let me tell you guys…

These exercise SAVED my legs. Not only were they better prepped this time around, but I felt much more comfortable climbing up those annoying cliffs. Now even though my legs still hurt the days after, at least now I can actually walk and the healing time is much faster.

So was it right to do what I did? Absolutely. And I do recommend you do something like this if not the exact same thing. 

2) Lifting.

Some of the obstacles in the race involve lifting heavy things. 4 in particular are:

  • The Atlas Carry. 
  • The Sandbag carry.
  • Carrying very heavy pieces of wood (log carry).
  • And finally…the one carry obstacle I hate above all else…the damn bucket full of gravel. Whoever though of this obstacle should really think of something more original because not only does this challenge suck, it also sucks in the sense that it’s just very excruciating to go through.

spartan race bucket brigade

But anyway, these 4 main challenges were also things that worried me, but I’ll tell you what…carrying that bike up the floors over and over really made me BLAZE through these 4 challenges. 

I was actually surprised at how quickly and dare I say, nearly effortlessly I was going past the other competitors and finishing these challenges rather quickly. 

So again, reenacting that challenge by carrying something heavy up and down, getting used to it REALLY helped. 

3) Crazy grip strength required…

Many of the challenges on this event absolutely require that you have an excellent grip.

For the wall scaling, for the rope climb, monkey bars (which there were 2 of in this event), you will need to really work on this.

Now in my training regiment I linked above, I had definitely been working on this as well and I was amazed at how strong my grip was, come race day. 

Unfortunately though the creativity of some of the obstacles and slipperiness of the walls was too much for just my grip alone and I ended up not completing some of them.

However, I can attest that whatever I recommended you do to prepare your grip for this race WORKS.

Here are the tips and you will have insane grip, trust me.

4) The best clothing to wear for the Spartan Race ever…

Oh boy, I nailed this. Now unlike the other mud runs I have done, this was the first where we were advised to bring tick spray.

Because this particular event was held in Mount Vernon, NJ, it would be highly risky to attend it wearing very little, and not having any tick spray.

In case you didn’t know, ticks can be HIGHLY dangerous in transmitting a near deadly disease known as lyme disease, one which I have first hand experience with. Trust me, it is not worth showing of your incredible body and risking getting bitten by one of these things.

Instead, everything I had recommended you wear didn’t just help protect me against the ticks, but it also helped protect me from injuries and kept my muscles warm, warm enough to continue progressing through the course.

5 things in particular helped:

A) Rash guards. Shirts and pants. Here is a list of the 10 things I ALWAYS put on for mud runs. Consider this list a near perfect insurance from injuries, infections and other bad stuff that can happen.

B) Hat. Great for protecting me from the sun, although in our case, we were lucky to experience a cool, cloudy day.

C) Shoes. Without a doubt, make SURE you have the right shoes for this. Get these, they absolutely OWNED this race. I still can’t believe how good they are, and this was the second time I used them. They are still good to go for my next one by the way!

D) Hydration pack. Oh wow, if I could tell you how many people I saw wear these on the race…you wouldn’t believe me. I would estimate 8 or even 9 out of every 10 competitors wore these. Even the official Spartan Race newsletter advised we get these. Here is the one I used

E) Get yourself a GoPro. It’s great for documenting your experience and learning your lessons, plus enjoying the footage after the event! I actually own 2 of them, the Hero 4 Black and Hero 5 Black. My Hero 5 Black was being fixed at the time, so I took my 4 and just for the record, for this event, you will need to have 3 batteries, one for the camera and an extra 2 just in case.

What about food? Did you bring any?

I had team members bring the following things:

Energy gels and a few energy bars. These were absolute gold on the race and helped us re-energize. Furthermore, the water station at the halfway point was also giving these out in droves so we took as many as we could carry (a hydration pack helped keep it all stored). 

Were there new obstacles on the Beast?

Yes quite a few! They actually made a few modifications to existing ones as well. I have a list of the new ones here.

But also just know the main part of the race is the uphill climbing, a bunch of walls, those 4 lifting challenges and for specifics, see this obstacle list, generally 80% of them on that list are always going to be on this event.

Where I totally owned this race:

The uphill climbs, the 4 main lifting stations, were surprisingly a lot easier than any of the previous times I did it. This was actually about 85% of the whole race if you add their lengths together.

There was a memorization obstacle where based on the last 2 digits of your “bib” number, you were given a name and number to remember, only to have to say it later on when asked by the staff. Getting it wrong would require you do 30 burpees, the central punishment of this race. I still remember mine by heart: Alpha-368-2700, YES!

The spear throw was also easily completed. I actually threw it twice this time. The first time, it hit the target and slipped off because I threw it too lightly, but the second time, I got it straight through. For people who are worried they’ll struggled with this, here is my best tip for completing the spear throw. 

spartan beast spear throw photo

Where I could have done better…

Man some of those new obstacles really surprised me. There was an advanced monkey bar climb I couldn’t even get 10% through. I will have to work on my monkey bar climbing more and really try to mix it up.

The rope climb was ridiculous this year. Last time I did this event, the rope climb was in water and the rope itself was very wet, yet that time, I almost made it to the top, this time around, there was no water, the rope was on dry land and we stood on these soft pads in case we fell, yet this time around it was MUCH harder. In fact, NOBODY on my team managed to complete this obstacle. I will definitely be trying to climb ropes more often from now on…

Some of the walls that I managed to scale relevantly quickly weren’t as simple this time…the 7 and 9 foot walls were the hardest. They were very slippery to land on and grab onto the top, which I always advised doing through these tips, yet here, I lost my confidence. I will have to re-learn how to scale walls

And these 3 areas, despite making up LESS than 20% of the event were still enough to have me be disappointed a little bit.

5 essential tips for completing the beast:

1) Wear that good clothing

2) Stretch after EACH up hill climb. This is another MAJOR factor that helped prolong my legs resilience and continue the race. Basically after each climb, my legs would get stiff and taking a minute to stretch them out really reignited them and at times, even well into the event, I felt like I was flying, something which feels heavenly on something as difficult as the Spartan Race, so PLEASE stretch, often if you have to. 

3) Wear those good shoes.

4) If you feel like an obstacle is giving you too much trouble and/or you feel as though you are about to pull a muscle, STOP and relax. Worst case, restart the obstacle again. They don’t penalize you for trying. Also to add to this, do NOT do the beast if you’re a first time mud runner or aren’t in great shape. At worst, do the Sprint. 

5) Do my recommend training exercises above, either the classic ones or the specific ones I did for this one. They helped me complete nearly the entire race without a hitch and we are talking 14 miles people…

What’s next? Think this one isn’t enough for you? 2 even crazier races to consider:

Well I admit, I’m a crazy guy to do this and I cursed this race several times throughout doing it. However, as the days go past this event, I feel as though I want to go further and try to hit that next level. And if you’re like me, there are 2 known events in the mud run world tougher than this:

1) The Ultra Beast. Ladies and gentlemen, imagine everything I just told you about my 14 mile “adventure”, but multiply it by 2 and you have yourself the Ultra Beast. It is “just” 2 laps of the one I ran.

We actually had a bunch of these “Ultras” running past us in the race. They wore a light green sleeve to indicate that there were ultras and by the rules of this event, you have to give them passage. 

Generally the length of the Ultra Beast varies but it’s 26 miles up and up.

2) The World’s Toughest Mudder. Ever heard of Tough Mudder? Well imagine that basic race, which is typically 10+ miles, but done lap after lap for a period of 24 hours.

And there you go, 2 challenges that are on the next level above the beast. 

Overall opinion of the race:

While doing it, I hated it. After I finished it, I kind of wanted to go further with it. Like I said, the T-Shirts and medals really look and feel nice so that’s an incentive, plus the experience is pretty cool too.

I honestly enjoy Tough Mudder more (why) than this event because it’s more action based, where as this one is just a masochist’s dream come true.

If you’ve done any of these events, man would I love to hear what you think! 

Rise of The Sufferfests. A Review From an Avid Mud Runner.

For a short period of time, I was seeing ads on Facebook promoting a documentary which examined the world ofrise of the sufferfests review mud running. It was called “Rise of The Sufferfests” and it examined why people are so interested in obstacle course racing (OCR) and why this is a growing sport.

To be honest, even though I would see ads for it multiple times, I felt I didn’t need to watch it because, what could I possibly learn from it?

But it had a lot of fans and a lot of positive feedback, so recently, I purchased a digital copy of it from Amazon and I just finished viewing the 1 hour 30 minute+ documentary.

Here is my review of the documentary…

For the most part, the core of the documentary centers around the creator of it, a journalist named Scott Keneally whose aiming to find out why the sport of obstacle racing is so popular.

The 3 most common reasons throughout the documentary discovered that people do this stuff for are:

1) Because most of the people who do these races live normal mundane lives…

There isn’t really anything being experienced that is primal or challenging and these obstacle races make up for that. 

A lot of people aren’t able to compete or travel and do physical challenges outside their normal lives and possibly the gym, so having access to these events makes them live out this “subconscious” need to live and put themselves in danger to feel alive basically.

2) There is an element of narcissism for a lot of people who do this stuff.

People want others (on social media usually) to see what they’ve done and get appreciation for it basically. This explains a lot about why the Tough Mudder page on Facebook for example has so many fans and likes.

The same goes for Spartan Races and these other mud runs too.

In the documentary, the person who points out this theory of narcissism is actually one of the highest tier athletes in this sport whose name is Amelia Boon. I’ve never heard of her until this documentary but she is an amazing athlete who does this for her own fun but basically doesn’t seem to be a fan of people who like to show of that they do this.

3) And finally, the reason I most resonate with:

People just want to challenge themselves. They want to explore new things and see what they can take. That’s basically me in a nutshell when it comes to obstacle races. 

I don’t care about being filmed, nor do I prefer it, to me I just want to have skills that stand tests like being able to pass rough terrain and challenges. It makes me feel more alive, and frankly, as one of the interviewees in the documentary said (Laird Hamilton, tsunami surfer), we appreciate life more from doing this type of stuff.

Now after the documentary asks about this main question, there’s pieces where I found some very interesting information, such as the history and facts of it and some stuff I found quite surprising. For example:

1) The supposed original creator of these races was a guy whose nicknamed “The Mouse” and he is quite a character (to say the least). He basically started making these obstacles in his “large” backyard which slowly attracted a bunch of people overtime and this led him to make it an event, called the Tough Guy which until the documentary I had never heard of, but based on what I saw, it may be more difficult the more mainstream OCR’s out there.

But the man who made it, wasn’t so much interested in taking it mainstream as much as he had a passion for putting people through the ordeals he set up to test them.

Now through this idea supposedly, the creator of Tough Mudder was the one who took the concept, mixed with the challenges British Special Forces go through and created the event which would then become arguably the most popular OCR in the world.

2) There were 1,000’s of OCR’s held last year and the sport is growing.

3) Speaking of sports, the creator of the Spartan Race, one of the most popular OCR’s wants to see the event held in the Olympics. 

4) There was a part towards the second half of the documentary which talked about injuries and deaths in these things, and with the exception of one unfortunate death taking place during Tough Mudder, when it comes to stats, OCR’s are actually safer than marathons and triathlons and when you think about it, it makes sense.  

5) About 30% or more of the contestants are women. Speaking from experience, I do see a lot of women on every OCR I do. 

6) This industry has grossed half a billion dollars in sales. Now I don’t remember if it was for a year or overall since their beginning. 

7) OCR’s are growing and I can attest to that. 

8) There is even some talks about how many of the fans who follow this “sport” are quite fanatical about it and downright go with it in a cult like behavior. I do admit, I have seen “clubs” of people dressed the same way who act a bit over the top when doing these things. 

Overall, is it a documentary worth watching?

I have to say, I enjoyed Rise of The Sufferfests. It is from what I know it is the first documentary of it’s kind which talks about this industry. 

It doesn’t make fun of it, nor does it endorse it, but rather gives several points of views from people who enjoy doing them and ties it into the heart of the reason that people are so enthralled to try these events. 

These OCR’s have been a bit of an acquired taste for me. The first 4 I did, were not to my liking because they didn’t seem creative or challenging enough, but once I did the Spartan Super, I became pretty fascinated with challenging myself further which is why in about a month, I will be doing the 12 mile Spartan Beast.

There is indeed a popular market for OCR’s and frankly, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. If stats show right, these races are only getting more and more popular. 

Perhaps one day, Rise of the Sufferfests will be seen as a pioneer documentary that was the first to truly explore the world of OCR’s.

Now I have 2 questions for you all!