Settling The Spartan Race vs Tough Mudder Debate From a Guy Who Did Both Events.

spartan race vs tough mudder

Being that the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder are considered among the most difficult races in the obstacle racing topic, there is often debate between which of them is harder and more fun.

Fortunately, now that I have completed both, I can help you figure this out if you’re considering these events.

Here’s my resume of the OCR’s I’ve done:

  • 2 Tough Mudders, each 10-12 miles long.
  • 3 Spartan Races (Spring, Super & Beast).
  • Numerous other OCR’s like MudmanX and Survival Challenge.

And by the way, if you’ve done these too or are planning to, please share your questions/experiences with them below! I’d love to know 🙂

Let’s compare which event is harder!

To begin, I’d like to note that there’s different levels of each event so what I’ve done is balance out which each levels from one course are similar in terms of difficulty and length in the other and I will explain which are more difficult:

spartan race and tough mudder list of events

There are 4 main levels to the Spartan Race and also 4 in Tough Mudder (there’s a 5th one, but it’s for kids and I won’t count it).

  • First is the 5k. It is comparable to the Half event which is 5 miles long. I’ve done the 5k but not the 5 mile one (I did the full event) and I personally believe that the 5k is more difficult despite being a bit shorter.
  • Second is the Super, which is 8 miles long. I’m going to compare this to the FULL Tough Mudder event which is 10-12 miles. Again, I feel that the first event is more difficult as I’ve completed these and felt a lot more tired and sore from the Spartan Race.
  • Third is the BEAST (which I also did), which is 12 miles. I’m going to compare that to the same full event in the other course because both can be 12 miles long. Well if the 8 mile level was more difficult than it’s also likely the 12 mile event is too.
  • Then we have the Ultra beast which is 26 miles long. We will compare that to a 24 hour Tough Mudder event. In this case, I will say that Tough Mudder is more difficult simply because the length of the event drags on longer, although if you cross the same 26 miles in both courses, you’ll probably feel more tired from the Spartan Race. The only reason the other course gets the win here is because of the time length and the fact that overall in 24 hours, you can probably cross a lot more than 26 miles.

What are the biggest similarities and differences between both events?

First we’ll see how both courses are similar:

  • Both events obviously have a lot of dirt…
  • Obstacle wise, there are a few of them I noticed which were similar. Both have a log carrying challenge.
  • Both also have similar wall climbing areas, meaning walls you have to go over.
  • Both have similar dirt mounds with deep/shallow water in between them.
  • Both have water stations each mile you cross.

And surprisingly that’s about it. I though there would be more until I actually did the events and saw there were many differences:

  • The Spartan Race is more focused on individual completion of each obstacle, you can have people cheer you on, but they can’t really help you. Tough Mudder has at least half of it’s obstacles focus on teamwork where doing it yourself is almost impossible.
  • In my experience doing both events, I found there is much more focus on strength, endurance and stamina in the Spartan Race vs Tough Mudder. For example, with that log carrying challenge which is in both events, in the Spartan Race, it involved us carrying it individually for a longer amount of time and up and down a cliff. In the other one, you could opt to do it with a team and for the length it took to finish that challenge, we didn’t carry it for as long but had a few walls we had to get the log over. So based on that, I feel you need to have way more strength and endurance to handle the obstacles on the first event.
  • In terms of uniqueness of the obstacles, I found Tough Mudder to be way more fun and creative. When I did the other event, I didn’t really enjoy going through the obstacles and found myself going into the next one with a feeling of desperation and wanting to get it over with. On Tough Mudder on the other hand, some obstacles gave me an adrenaline rush and involved myself and the team I was with to use our heads to get through the challenges. In that event, I actually found myself enjoying the obstacles more and looking forward to the next ones.
  • With prices to try them out, for me Tough Mudder was more expensive.
  • Prize wise, you get more from the Spartan Race. I received a free shirt, a medal and some energy drinks/bars. In the other event, I only really got a free shirt, a head band and deodorant (hah).

Another big difference in comparing the events:

The location of each event you do plays a big role in how difficult it’ll be. Both events can be held in locations where the terrain is either more or less flat and places where it’s on mountains or hills where basically you have to climb.

If you do any event on a flat area like a stadium or where my last event was held which was in a dirt bike park, it’ll likely be flat so you’ll get less tired from running.

However, if you do one or both events in places where there’s mountains (many events are held on ski resorts and that means uphill hiking), the level and difficulty increases by a lot so when I did the comparisons of both events, I actually looked at it from if both were held in flat areas and if they would held in steep mountainous areas.

I still believe should both events would be held on the same terrain, the Spartan would still be more difficult.

Whichever you decide to do, make sure you have these 3 things:

1) Physical endurance, in the cardio and strength department, especially for the Spartan Race.

2) Don’t go alone, especially if you’re doing Tough Mudder since it is more team oriented. You can get help and WILL get encouragement from other fellow contenders there, but it pales in comparison to having close friends next to you rooting you on and everyone help one another during the obstacles. There’s going to be comedy, there’s going to be bonding, difficulties and overall, there will be great memories if you go with friends. 

3) Wear good clothing, and most importantly, GREAT, reliable sneaker/shoes:

Which event suits you more? 

It depends entirely on your personality and physical level. 

If you are the type of person who really enjoys individual challenges and doesn’t like getting help like I do, then the Spartan Race is going to test you.

However, there are also very difficult challenges in the other course that even I had trouble doing because as I said before, there is more technical ability needed to complete the challenges vs brute strength and will power.

If you enjoy something with a team element involved, like to try out fun obstacles that don’t just challenge strength, but your brain and can give you a little bit of an adrenaline rush, then you should definitely try this one instead.

Ideally, you should do both events if you enjoy the whole element of outdoor challenges and obstacles so you can decide which event you like better.

Which event do I prefer?

Neither, both are fun! Like I said before, the Spartan Race challenged me way more, but Tough Mudder was the one where I had a lot more fun, even though it challenged me less. So it depends on how I feel.

I’ll be updating this comparison in the future when I do more of each race, so I can literally compare the obstacles side by side and even do video comparisons as well. But no matter what new updates come, I’m still going to have the same opinion of both of them 🙂

Update: My specific reviews of Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race…

So I did 3 Spartans, but finished 2 of them due to the third getting cancelled:

Here is my review of the Spartan Super I completed.

Here is my review of the Spartan Beast I also finished.

And as for Tough Mudder…

Here is the first 10-12 mile one I completed.

And in 2017, I also successfully another one in the same location, but the first one was more fun.

 

tmsr

94 thoughts on “Settling The Spartan Race vs Tough Mudder Debate From a Guy Who Did Both Events.”

  1. Thank you so much your review. I have friends who do the Tough Mudder challenge every year and they say it’s a really good time. I’ve never done it myself though. Maybe one of these days I’ll have to give one of those events a shot!

    Do you think you’ll do them again?

  2. I liked your review. I personally have done the Battlefrog (Navy SEALS) and the tough mudder. I liked the teamwork aspect of the tough mudder, especially since I did it with my kids.

    The battlefrog definitely had more difficult obstacles, and although shorter, was more difficult than the full mudder. I enjoy the shorter distances with tougher obstacles.

    I noticed that the Battle Frog had some really serious atheletes competing for time. Everyone wore a timer and you were able to see how you ranked compared to the entire field.

    Both races were a blast. Next on my list is the Spartan!

    • I wish I could try Battlefrog Dave, but I found out they cancelled all their events for this year and the next! That was the only hard race I didn’t do yet. Good luck on the Spartan Race!

  3. I have friends who have done the tough mudder, they liked it, though were rather shocked at the ice in the mud puddles, and dangling electrodes. I expected it to be physically very tough but some of the guys taking part weren’t exactly athletes! I run half marathons, which distance would you recommend for me?

    • You’d be fine on the regular 10 mile run here Billy. You should do some strength training because this isn’t just a long run, it’s a series of strength focused obstacles too.

  4. Great website I was thinking of doing the Spartan race last year on oahu but work prevented me from going. I workout a lot so it’d be fun to one day do one of these races. I’m not sure I’m in good enough shape to do the spartan race but feel like i can do very well.

  5. Great review, Tough Mudder looks even more like something I should get involved in, especially when I’ve heard a few people close to me mention positive things.

    The Spartan race is very popular here in the UK, even though I’ve never taken part. Would be great to hear if you’ll do it again.

  6. Great comparison, thanks for the info. I have done a few similar events in Scotland – my favourite was the Beast up in Banchory, it’s a stunning backdrop to a fairly challenging event. A bit like tough mudder, the atmosphere is what makes it really great.

    I love reading stuff like this becuase it always gets me in the mood to enter an event and start training – thank you!

  7. I haven’t had a chance to do one of the races yet, but I have been considering it. I was very interested to see the comparison you’ve provided and it’s helping me develop more of an idea of what I’d like to do.

    Definitely interested in more of a team aspect and will be looking further into the races you’ve suggested. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us!

  8. As a fitness enthusiast, I have always been interested in doing one of these races, or maybe even both! I always thought they were basically the same, just branded differently. You have definitely made me more aware of what to expect from the different races and I really appreciate that.

    They both sound awesome, but I would be more interested to try the Spartan Race to test my physical abilities. Although I would probably enjoy the team aspect and fun obstacles of the Tough Mudder more.

  9. This is great! I’ve always wanted to compare the two myself, but haven’t had the chance to. It’s awesome to get that perspective.

    I’m definitely more into challenging myself, and the individual aspect of the Spartan race that you mentioned, you definitely swayed me into wanting to do that race more.

  10. I’ve never done a mud run yet, but it’s on my bucket list. My 15-year old son is a runner and I really think as a way to train harder that mud runs would be something to add to his training schedule. Both of these events sound great and really challenging, but I really like the idea of the team run. Hopefully, we will be able to do this as a family some day. 🙂

  11. It’s very interesting to see the extremes that people put themselves through these days in the name of fitness and fun haha!!
    What ever happened to going for a stroll down the beach with a beer in your hand. Just joking!
    Very interesting and engaging post. I have a number of friends who’ve done the mudder but I’ve not heard much about the Spartan. Good read!

  12. From where I am, I heard about the Spartan Race a lot but I did not hear about Tough Mudder before. I have yet to participate in such races, however I have joined a few marathons and even an ultra-marathon several years back.

    How difficult is such a race compared to marathons (you do not need to think that much and the only thing you’ll need to do is run!)?

    Any take on how such activities compared with one another?

    • Regular marathons are just long stretches of flat road running, mud runs are up and down and there is frequent stopping to do obstacles, the only thing that’s comparable is distance, but it’s a whole different type of activity overall.

    • I’ve done both a Spartan Super and full marathon. My Spartan Super was on ski slope and extremely difficult terrain. I was way more sore after a Super than after my marathon, probably because I did a lot more training for the marathon and only 10 days training for the Spartan race. Also I did the Super only 15 days after a marathon (a bad mistake). There is nothing “intermediate” about the Super if it’s on mountainous terrain. I’d say Super tested me more than a marathon but both almost broke me lol. Both VERY difficult.

      • Yes I agree, most Spartan Races are on ski slopes like the one you did and they all involve hiking. To be honest, I don’t think you were sore because you did it shortly after a marathon, I think it’s because the terrain and training is VERY different. A marathon is one long, horizontal terrain run, the Spartan Super is up and down constantly and a huge test on muscles more than cardio. It’s just a different type of race that requires a different kind of preparation. Glad you finished it though.

  13. Very informative! I have done some Spartan Races. My goal this year is to do the trifecta for Spartan race. I have not tried Tough Mudder but my friends said it is really good too. What other fitness method would you suggest to prepare for these 2 types of runs? I am into Crossfit and weightlifting and it helps me alot on the obstacles and the running.

    • If you already did these races more than once, you already know what you need to do to prepare and I’d say both crossfit and weight lifting will definitely help you Marc. I am also aiming to complete a “trifeca” this year by doing the Spartan Beast!

  14. I have noticed the Ultra Beast is the longest run at 26 miles. I believe with lots of training, there wont be any obstacle or barriers that cannot be removed. I have many friends who frequently join marathons races, some races were 42 miles which were held in Thailand. At the end of it, they took many hours to complete the run with no injury on the legs.

    • It’s good they didn’t get injured. I’d attribute that to the hot weather and maybe an environment where they didn’t run on hard concrete all the time, but in mud runs, it’s different. You’ll need way more than long distance running to get through these races Andy.

  15. Love the article. Great in-depth analysis and review of the different obstacle course franchises. I for one have wanted to try the Spartan races. I’ve been waiting for them to comet to my area. I think I’m going to check the Tough Mudder and see how to get involved. It appears this may be more readily available than the Spartan races. Great site as well.

    • Depending on which region it is, you may find one race to be more commonly hosted than the other Robert, check each website seperately and see which event is closest held to your area.

  16. Awesome post, i love the sound of all of these options for a serious workout course. I’ve done a ninja warriors course before which was cool and pretty difficult.

    So im wondering from the Spartan 5k race to the Ultra spartan beast race, which one would you say would be most similar to the Ninja warriors course? If you are familiar with that event?

    • Are you referring to the American Ninja Warrior? If so, then there’s no real comparison other than the actual ninja warrior has more intense obstacles but is short, whereas the Spartan Race also has obstacles, that are tough, but it’s the length and altitude of the race that makes it harder than ninja warrior and the longer the race, the harder it’ll be. In short, you need a lot more cardio for a Spartan Race than the Ninja Warrior obstacles.

  17. Looks great! I know plenty of people who have done the ‘normal’ Mudder events, but not heard much about the Spartan race version. I’ve done a few marathons over the years, so I am still hopeful I get round to actually completing one soon. Training must be tough in itself though!

  18. I’ve never done either to be honest with you, I have a lot of friends that did the tough mudder and it looks like a lot of fun, I want to try it out, but since you did both I want to ask you, since my cardio and stamina aren’t the best right now which one can someone who hasn’t hit the gym in a week do and have an easier time with doing?

    • Tough Mudder will be easier Bassam. It will require you work with a team so if you can’t perform a challenge, their assistance will help you get through it. In the Spartan Race, it is literally a test of individual will power and help, aside from rooting your friends on is not really part of the game.

  19. You have some very good information on your subjects. I enjoy spectating these kinds of events. Just the thought of that rain man makes me feel claustrophobic. Will you be adding pictures on your page. It would help me visualize what I am getting myself into if I was to participate in these events. Also where would I apply for these events?

    • Hi Scott, yeah I’ve got a BUNCH of pictures on my Tough Mudder review as well as some individual obstacle challenges I’ve posted recently. As for registration, you literally just have to go on Google, type Spartan Race or Tough Mudder to get their main websites and then you’ll see locations of where they host these races.

  20. For outdoor fun-loving masochists everywhere these two events are the events to join. Having run several marathons and half marathons and been over many Army obstacle courses in my lifetime these both appeal to me. It’s very useful to have a direct comparison from someone who’s done both however as I now know how different they are. Having read this post I think I’m more inclined to the co-operative enjoyment of the Tough Mudder.

  21. I think that I would probably pick the Tough Mudder which sounds like more fun. Also working as a team vs struggling on my own would be more up my alley. Thank you for explaining differences and similarities of the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. Your article really spiked my curiosity.

    Grace

  22. This sure sounds like it is really tough to do. You obviously have to be physically fit and have intestinal fortitude. I can’t even imagine doing these races and making it through. What kind of training do you have to do for preparation? To me it just seems that you have to be some kind of superman. I’m trying to think of how you could climb all these obstacles. I give you credit for sure.

    • Well for these particular races you do need to be in shape Rob, but there are much less difficult events like these you can train for and do relatively well in. The most important components of finishing these events are stamina, and being able to endure weight lifting.

  23. Wow, I have always heard of these 2 different mud races but never have seen a comparison!

    Which race do you think is the easiest and the most family friendly? Maybe one day I will consider going with my father.

    Also, which is your favourite race?

    Thanks and a really nice review!

    • Tough Mudder is easier, and I would say I like it more than the other mud runs I’ve done, I don’t really have a personal favorite.

  24. Great review! I’m considering doing the Tough Mudder in Seattle this year. I’m not super hard core and it seems like the more fun option. I didn’t realize there were actually 4 levels. I thought it was just a half and full.

    I’m nervous about it but I think I’m going to try for the full. What types of training do you do to prepare? I’m a dancer and do lots of yoga. I also hike long distances and do some running.

    • With those things you do, I think you will definitely be able to complete a half mudder Katie. I posted a bunch of exercises here you can try, but if you’re in decent shape now which it sounds like you are, you should at least consider the half mudder and if you have a good, in shape team, the full one.

  25. My brother and I have been kicking around the idea of doing one of theses events. I did do one Tough Mudder a few years back and found myself really disappointed by how easy the course was. Granted I am in really good condition so I am sure it was much harder for some of the other people. The hardest part was keeping up with my friend who was a faster runner than me!

    • I agree with you there Rhett, I was also disappointed by the lack of hardship I encountered on Tough Mudder, but in your case, you will definitely be tested on the Spartan Race. I recommend you do a Super or Beast for a real challenge.

      Now although I was disappointed by the difficulty of Tough Mudder, I was actually more intrigued by it’s creativity and I found to be a good reason to do it again in the future.

  26. Being someone who has been interested in trying the spartan, I found your review helpful. I have only heard of the tough mudder and never considered doing one until now.

    I have run a relay race called Ragnar several times now and find that running long distances can be mind numbing but still enjoyable. I do workouts much like cross fit every day and and find that these two races may be more my style.

    For a first timer on something like the spartan and the tough mudder, what would you recommend?

    • Wow Craig, I looked over Ragnar and I was NOT expecting to see what I saw, you are most definitely in my opinion ready to do the top tier versions of either the Spartan/Tough Mudder races in my opinion. I would recommend the Super for Spartan and a regular 10-12 Tough Mudder for starters just to see how you like it.

  27. Epic reviews!

    My aim is to get myself in good enough condition to do the 24 hour tough mudder challenge. I do feel like I’m quite a bit away but your review has inspired me even more to do it.

    I didn’t know much about the spartan challenge but after reading this I might just look into doing this one as well. Do you know how often they do this race?

    All the best,

    Stephen.

    • The Spartan Race is held many times throughout the year and around the world, just visit their main website, enter your country and they’ll display where events are happening 🙂

      As for the Toughest Mudder…well I would hope you’re in incredible shape to do this one, because it may be the most difficult out of all these choices!

  28. I didn’t really realize there were such differences between these types of mud runs. While I haven’t done a mud run yet I would like to. Which do you think would be better for a beginner. It sounds like the Tough Mudder might be better for a beginner as you aren’t doing individual obstacles. Is there a completely different type that beginners should look into first? Thanks for sharing!

    • My recommendations here would be:

      A half mudder. The Survival Race. Or MudmanX. Even the Zombie Run would be good, all of these options are easier than both the classic Tough Mudder and Spartan Race (and shorter).

  29. Great article! My husband had tons of fun when he did the tough mudder run. He tied his drink token to his shoe! It looked like a blast! Thanks for putting everything in perspective and keep up the blog!. We want to see more pictures! Especially what you looked like AFTER the race, some women like me may want to ensure we do not get our nails done the day before =)

    • Oh trust me, I would not recommend any sort of beauty work be done before a mud run. Great to hear your husband did Tough Mudder! Perhaps you guys can go as a couple next time 🙂

    • The quads without a doubt Charlie. There’s SO much up hill climbing in the Spartan Race that the muscle group most affected is the quad and surrounding areas (Knees and possibly hip). Here is a whole article I did about how I was getting ready for the Beast this year (12 miles) and how I dealt with that issue.

  30. Hi,

    just saw this post. I was wondering about the burpee -penalty on Spartan race, you didn’t mention it at all?

    I’ve done Tough Mudder (Austin) and in that it was okay for ppl to skip obstacles which they didn’t feel like doing.

    • Hi, I have had several posts on the Spartan Race and the burpee punishment, but yeah it does exist, and they make you do 30 of them if you can’t complete an obstacle. Although to be honest, this penalty is only really enforced if you are doing the Spartan Ultra Beast which is the hardest version there is, in that you really do have staff standing by watching you pass by and recording your time/activity.

      In my case, I went as far as the Spartan Beast and in those cases, whenever I couldn’t finish an obstacle, I skipped the burpee line. To be honest, I don’t like the idea of having to pay $200 for a ticket, then run a grueling race like that and have to do burpees on top of everything, I’d be putting my body in danger so I prioritized my health. I never had anyone complain to me about that and if they did, I’d ignore them and keep moving.

  31. This was a wonderful comparison. I have been thinking about going to one of them, but I could not make up my mind between the two. It sounds like both of them are wonderful.

    I do have a question though. Out of all the Spartan Races and Tough Mudders you have done, which do you think is the best for a beginner? I look forward to hearing your answer. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    • It depends on what kind of beginner we’re talking about here Alex:

      1) If you’re in good shape but new to mud runs, do either a half mudder or Spartan Sprint.

      2) If you’re not in good shape and are also new to mud runs, a half mudder is an OK race, but I would not suggest any Spartan Races for this category, it’ll be too difficult.

  32. From someone who has only done the Spartan race once this gave me a great idea of what to expect! I like the perspective look on it and am definitely interested in giving Tough Mudder a try for fun! Those shoes don’t only look efficient they look great too! Got to be able to your trek in style!

    Cheers!

    Kat

  33. Thanks for the article. I have also done a few full mudders and a spartan sprint. I like the spartan more for a personal challenge, and the mudder for more social reasons. I too try to up the ante each time I sign up for one of these, increasing the difficulty (just did the tahoe mudder). My next stint is a spartan trifecta (all 3 races) in 1 weekend. I wondered if you’d ever done that and any advice for taking on the 3 races in 2 days.

    • Hi John, that’s quite a challenge to put on yourself! I would honestly not recommend doing a trifecta in 2 days, it would be too much on your body. The only logical way to go about it would be to do a sprint and super on day 1 and a beast on day 2, but that’s still just too much. You’re going to be too sore from the first day and then to take it even further the next is just asking for an accident. I wouldn’t do it. If you wanted to do the trifecta, do it in a period of a month and let your body recover.

  34. Hey, thanks for this article! I’ve always loved the idea of completing a tough mudder run, but never quite got round to it. I run often with a local running group, be we generally cap our sessions at 10k. Will a tough mudder be too much of a jump from 10k road running, and if so, what would you recommend doing to make the transition?

    • Hi Danny, I don’t know if the current running thing you do is a regular jog on the streets or trail running. If its jogging then it will be a different experience on Tough Mudder, whereas if you do trail running, you may already be more than fit enough to do a tough mudder without issue. 

      Should you feel unprepared, just know that you need more than just cardio from running to do these races, you also need physical endurance to complete the obstacles and those generally require good upper body strength, great grip in your hands and wearing good, protective clothing to shelter your from the dirt. 

  35. Great review and comparison! I’ve always wanted to do a Spartan Race myself, but actually never got around to doing it due to schedules and $$ at the time. I’d still like to be able to do one with my wife sometime. Do you typically attend the races alone or with a large group? It definitely would be more fun with a whole group of friends.

    • Yeah do it with a group of people, but people who are in good shape and positive, it’ll make the experience more fun, I promise Tobin.

  36. Neither of these kinds of races are things I’ve entered, but I will be next summer and your information here has given me everything I need. I was considering the Spartan 5k, but now after reading I think I will do the 8 and I have the winter to get where I need to be. Everything here is well laid out and there is a ton of detail that I have written down. I think it’s awesome!

  37. Great comparison. Interesting that the Spartan Race always seems to come out more challenging even though some of the courses are shorter. Good point about the teamwork aspect of Tough Mudder, and to go with friends to share the fun with! I have a friend who did a Tough Mudder and would do it again, not sure I’m ready. What kind of training do you do on a daily basis?

    • You could do a Half Mudder Lucy, with the same friend and being that she’s been through it before, she’ll let you know what to expect specifically from it. Regarding my training, I don’t train every day like I used to, but most of my training regiment today involves a mix of hard cardio, weight lifting and biking. 

  38. Thanks for your comparison between these 2 events. They both look like fun but I am thinking about doing a Tough Mudder. I have done a few triathlons and marathons in the past but never a tough mudder. As far as endurance I think that I will be fine. My question is about the strength training. Would you consider Tough Mudder to be more of a strength or endurance event?

    • Endurance 100%, the strength challenges there can get hard, but they are usually done through a team effort so even if you lack the strength to do the obstacle alone, you will have help, otherwise, the distance is where you’re only reliant on yourself and being that you already have so much experience with long distance runs, you’ll be fine there Micah 🙂

  39. I have just completed the Scotland Spartan Beast last weekend and having done the full Tough Mudder a few years ago again in Scotland, I found the Spartan to be much more focused on upper body endurance.

    I would agree that there was less of a ‘fun’ element to Spartan and more of a personal physical challenge. Some of the obstacles in the Spartan race were just brutal such as the bucket walk – must have been a 25-30kg bucket with no handle and not allowed to carry on the shoulders. I don’t know exactly how long the walk was, but it felt like about 1 km.

    After that my arms and shoulders were like jelly for the rest of the race and I failed lots of obstacles and racked up about 200 burpee penalties (which by themselves practically killed me). I can’t remember anything remotely as tough in the Tough Mudder.

    Anyway, I completed the Tough Mudder in about 3 hours and Spartan in 3.5 hours. Both were an experience but I don’t think I’ll put my body through that again.

    • Yeah this sounds familiar to me. I had a similar experience with the Spartan Super when I did for the first time and in my case, I did very little prep work which added to the horrible ordeal. And yeah, that bucket obstacle is one of the most annoying aspects of the Spartan Race.

      But I think the reason why this was so hard for you was because you didn’t do these types of races before. Perhaps this new experience led to challenging surprises, which then added to the difficultly, like it did in my case (with the Spartan Super). I’ll tell you this much: After that ordeal, I made sure to be as prepared as possible, when I did the Spartan Beast a few years later and in doing so, the race felt A LOT easier.

  40. Awesome review, I just did the spartan sprint and I absolutely loved it. It was my first ever race of that kind and I am definitely going back. I heard about the tough mudder and now I know what to expect. 

    The spartan sprint was in a ski resort and it was a good challenge. I felt like I was competing against myself but it had an overall very familiar feeling to it. I’m gonna read through your page and hope to learn even more about it. Thanks for the info. Aroo 🙂

    • Aroo right back at you Hendrick! Glad you enjoyed the Sprint, and I know you’re going to enjoy Tough Mudder. Yeah, most of these events are held on ski resorts because of the terrain.

  41. I have done numerous Spartan races (2 Spartan supers and 4 Spartan 5k’s) and love every bit of them. I have always had a fascination of doing a Tough Mudder, but didn’t know where to start. 

    You mention the similarities in water stations, dirt mounds and climbing areas, but I didn’t realize the main difference you mentioned – individuality versus teamwork. I love the drive to be able to say ‘I did this’, and what better way than to upgrade that to ‘we did this’. I am all for doing a mudder – but do you think it will be beneficial as a team building exercise for a Half Mudder? We are all relatively fit, and I think the team aspect and goal of accomplishment is far more appealing than individual based Spartan races. 

    • I would do the full mudder instead Craven (the half mudder would be too short and boring), especially if your teammates have as much or close to the experience you have with mud runs (you did say they were in good shape). And yeah you guys would definitely get a fulfillment from doing this event.

  42. I have always wanted to do some sort of mud run, but honestly it’s kind of intimidating.  The Ultra Beast sounds just insane to me. I would have to start out with a smaller run to sort of test the waters.  

    One question I have is about just how brutal these races are on your body. I have some back problems, and I am curious as to which event would be less impact for me? I realize it’s climbing over walls, carrying logs, etc, but is it doable for a guy with some back issues?  

    Also, what do you think makes the 5K more difficult that the 5 miler? I am very interested, and I love the idea of pushing and testing yourself, but I just have to get my head around whether or not I can actually do it.  

    • Hi Steve, I wouldn’t do a Spartan Race in this case. You have to do A LOT of lifting and explosive motions to complete certain obstacles and that can take it’s tole on your body and especially the back. Sure you can skip certain parts of the race, but as a whole, the Spartan Race is not recommended for anyone with ANY health issues.

      I wouldn’t even recommend doing the 5K with them, do a Tough Mudder instead with a dependable team and skip any obstacles that require carrying stuff. Regarding 5K’s vs 5 mile courses, it depends on the difficulty of the actual mud run.

      For example, my first mud run was a MudManX which despite being 5K felt like easy to complete, vs a Spartan 5K which was 10x more difficult because of the terrain and requirements. 

      If you want to start with an easy course, see the list of mud runs I’ve provided here, each of which has it’s own category of difficulty, then choose according to what you believe you can complete.

  43. I really admire you for doing all these mud runs, and I love reading your personal accounts of the races. I have a health issue that stops me from lifting heavy, so I have to settle for color runs and the Insane Inflatable 5K, which I really look forward to each year. 

    If you want to have some fun and feel like a kid again, I highly recommend the Insane Inflatable race. I do it with my kids, who are now teenagers, and some of the inflated obstacles are challenging for me even though they are nothing like what you’re used to doing! It is a great way to have fun with friends or family though. Keep sharing your experiences so I can live through you 🙂

    • Nothing wrong with doing those runs Theresa! Less chances of injuries, more fun stuff there and you don’t get as dirty, plus it’s a great event for the family to do together 🙂

  44. Good on you! Thank you for sharing your experience and now I have a clear idea of what are the difference! My friends joined the Spartan and they really enjoyed it. One of them had bad blisters after that, so I agree with you that better pair of shoes is really helpful. Do you keep building up your physical/cardio strength or you just train up before the race? 

    • I try to maintain a certain medium level of fitness at all times and if a race is coming up, then I ramp up the training to meet the demands of the race. As for your friend, he got blisters not because of the shoes he wore, but because he didn’t wear the right socks, probably cotton ones, he should have worn polyester ones, those are perfect for these races.

  45. Wow…it always amazes me what strong physical challenges people are engaged in…it’s really admirable to see. I can see a huge sense of achievement from having undertaken the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be fit enough to take part in either but when reading your review, I wish I was!  Are there ‘baby’ versions for the likes of me who actually would relish the thrill of running through mud, climbing wall (tackling the obstacles part) … but without the long punishing miles?

  46. Question, Spartan Ultra Beast or is it too much for a first try? How do you prepare?

    I’m a 16 year old girl who is growing up in the mountains. I’ve done mud runs, obstacle courses and 10k runs before with no prior training. Took me an hour to run a cross country 10k with no training at all. I don’t jog or work out.

    I’m considering the rocky mountain Spartan Ultra next July in Canada. There are other runs that weekend but I’m willing to train for this one. This would be my first not small town event. Is that too much?

    I carried 50 lbs 12 miles the other day up a mountain just because. There were rocks, creeks, steep inclines and wind. I have a huge desire to push myself past limits and to see how far I can go but I’d hate to sign up and make a mistake thinking I can do it. How do you get in shape for a long distance run with obstacles and mud?

    • For 16, you’ve got some insanely amazing feats Madison. Based on the things you listed, in my personal opinion, you are at least ready for a regular Super or just the regular Beast (half an ultra) and I would probably do one of those first. Of course, to be able to do these particular races, I believe you will need a guardian or parent to attend this with you.

      -You sound you definitely have the experience with the other mud runs.
      -You definitely sound like you have excellent endurance with the carrying of the 50 lbs for so long.
      -You certainly sound like you can run long distances in these races and not get tired.

      But you need to know that there’s a lot more required, like being able to have excellent upper body strength for pulling yourself up in many obstacles and having awesome grip strength. Mix that in with climbing much steeper mountains than on normal mud runs or trail runs, plus include that in Ultra Beast race, you’ll be monitored in each obstacle to ensure you do it right, and it’s quite a difficult challenge.

      Doing a Super or Beast will not include the overseeing issue, so you’ll be able to do any obstacle however comfortably you want to and even omit if you wish. This is why in my opinion, I suggest one of those races given your experience (sorry it took me this long to respond).

  47. I just completed a Spartan Super at the San Jose, CA 3/16/19. I was still curious between Spartan and Tough Mudder races and this article helps clarify it.

    I have a decent fitness backup. I’ve been Crossfitting for the last 6 years and can do the rope climb, muscle ups, lifting, etc… but the combination of hiking, jogging, and obstacles throws a wrench into that narrow focus fitness routine.

    As you are moving between obstacles, your legs and muscles are consistently moving in a rhythm. Then when you hit an obstacle like a simple wall climb or monkey bar you throw this new movement in like getting your legs over a wall or swinging the legs between the bars that can cause a sudden cramp. I saw this with a lot of people after the intense hill climb down to the flats.

    It was fun and exhausting. I had already committed to the Spartan Trifecta last December so I got my first wedge of three. Next is the Sprint at Monterey. Then the Beast at Lake Tahoe.

    As far as recovery, I felt tight and heavy the next day but was fine overall. I contribute this to regularly working out and trail hiking/running 5 Saturdays prior to the event. My ‘Go Ruck’ challenge on the other hand took a good week to recover from.

    ***My lessons learn/tip***

    -Get a some kind of grip gloves. With so many people passing through the obstacles, the bars get slippery. I slipped off the first two but after I started to use my buddy’s glove I became an American Ninja Warrior according to him. I remove the gloves after each obstacle.

    -Get mustard packets. I saved numerous people who were hit with muscle cramps. For whatever reason, mustard works wonders and quickly.

    -Don’t bother jogging the steep up hills unless you are an elite. Save the calves. They are the first to go if you burn the legs out. If your calves cramp up then the rest of the way will turn into a mental struggle. On uphill climbs you should focus on using the hamstrings/gluts as they are the biggest muscles. Train on this before the events on known steep trails.

    • Jack, awesome tips and you surprised me with the mustard one. I assume it has salt, which is why it helps with cramps, but keeping salt tablets around takes up more space and weight, so a mustard packet can definitely save you a lot of weight and space! Well done on completing the Spartan Races and pushing onto the next ones. I’d love to hear what you think about the Tough Mudder race if you get a chance to do it too.

  48. Enjoyed this comparison! Great points and I totally agree. Also going to check out those shoes.

    I completed the Tough Mudder Classic near LA in April, and just did the Spartan Super at Fort Carson this weekend.

    Hands down the Spartan was tougher. At least twice as hard, maybe even harder. Looking at the stats on my FitBit…well, it was pretty obvious based on heart rate throughout.

    The Tough Mudder was a lot more fun though, but still super challenging.

    I think the biggest differences I saw were the overall vibe as you said.

    Now that I’ve survived the Spartan Super, I seriously doubt I’d try it again…at least not without some really intentional training beforehand and with a friend to keep pace with and cheer each other on. I did it on my own and it was brutal. I’ll likely try the Sprint though.

    Tough Mudder on the other hand, I’ve already signed up for another, and I’d totally do the Classic longer one again. I’m even considering the Toughest Mudder in Vegas.

    I think which people prefer really depends on personality and style. If you’re into the competition and proving yourself – you’ll love the Spartan. If you’re in it for fun and comradery, or you love mud runs, try a Tough Mudder.

    Context: I’ve only discovered OCR in the last 6 months and I’ve done a Spartan Super, Tough Mudder Classic and two local 5k Mud Runs.

    • That’s an awesome mud run resume you’ve built up Michelle and I think we both agree on the main differences between Tough Mudder races and Spartan Races. While there is a part of which wishes to do a Spartan Ultra Beast, I think about having more fun and enjoying the obstacles, which puts me onto Tough Mudder way more.

      Keep us posted on your future mud runs!

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