Blood, Sweat And Tears: The Science Behind Tough Mudder

25/04/2017 13:24 BST | Updated 25/04/2017 13:24 BST

Nothing epic is easy. There will be sweat and mud. There may well be tears, and even blood. Tough Mudder is without question one of the best and most brutal obstacle course events around. But what do participants put themselves through, and how can we make it more manageable for ourselves?




Participants, known as Tough Mudders, gather all over the world to take on a 10-12 mile long course. To put that into perspective, the distance is almost that of a half-marathon, but no ordinary half-marathon. Military-style obstacles demand you crawl, vault, or even swim your way forward, often with the assistance of fellow Mudders. You are not alone, amongst the thousands on course, there is always someone to push, pull, and support you to the finish. Bonds are established quickly.

In addition to the distance, and the athleticism required, your senses will be challenged to the edge, and beyond your comfort zone. The Arctic Enema plunges you into icy water, snatching your breath, and demanding you push forward. For those scared of heights, the Wall requires the encouragement of colleagues, and two spoons of 'get on with it'. But most of all, you need a smile for the finish. A picture of myself and my friends emerging from hay bales and spotting the photographer sits on my desktop.



Friends and memories are made. It is an experience not to be missed. But what can increase your chances of success on the day? What can heighten your confidence heading to the start line? A few simple tips can help you secure the warm glow of a successful finish.


  1. Do it with friends. Buy them a beer. Offer them a lift. Show them last year's photos, or the website. Whilst this will NEVER make Tough Mudder easy, an obstacle shared, will be another one closer to the finish. You will make friends on the course, but whether it is climbing in the Himalayas, running through a desert, or taking on Tough Mudder, all my best experiences have been shared with friends. And they get you through.
  2. Run far. Tough Mudder is almost a half-marathon but feels much further. I recommend running 13 miles 2 or 3 weeks prior to Tough Mudder, so your legs are used to the distance. Don't hit the wall. This will help you over the Wall.
  3. You can't go wrong, getting strong. This is where I had to get to work. I've ran over 100 miles in a day before, so was comfortable with the distance. But the obstacles taught me a lesson. Doing some circuits, sit ups, press ups, running in muddy terrain- all these things will help you get used to the conditions you'll face on the day. And it's a great reason to go and get some exercise outdoors even if it's raining.
  4. Get some great kit. Put away your 10 pin bowling shoes, and make sure you have the real deal. Tough Mudder is hard enough without handicapping yourself. What is required is a tough, grippy shoe, that will gain traction as you run up the notorious Pyramid Scheme, or push through the mud. I swear by the official Tough Mudder Shoes- the Merrell All Out Crush Tough Mudder. These guys are great for the trail and hill running also.
  5. Fuel up. It doesn't matter how good the car is, if there is no fuel in the tank it is going no-where. Have a hearty carbohydrate meal the night before. Something like pasta/ rice with chicken. This will load up your energy stores. I then top up with two bananas or something light two hours before Tough Mudder. For extra go-forward a strong coffee has a nice kick of caffeine, which has been shown to get you going and improve performance, while I also eat small amounts of carbohydrate on the way round (jelly babies, or a gel or two).



Most of all Tough Mudder is a challenge- that people from all kinds of backgrounds complete. See you on the start line

Andrew Murray is a Merrell UK ambassador.