Mud Run Tips: What I Learned During Mud Runs

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Mud runs and other obstacle course races (OCRs) have soared in popularity over the last several years. I was late to the game, as I completed my first mud run in November 2014. However, thousands of people all over the country (and world) are participating in mud runs every week, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

When I signed up for Tough Mudder, I was completely out of shape. I hadn’t done a real workout in close to five years. But I signed up anyway because I knew that without signing up for something, I’d never have the motivation to get my butt into shape. I spent four months training (which really isn’t that much time), and when the day finally came, I was beyond terrified. After completing the course and getting my headband, I felt a sense of pride, but I also didn’t feel worthy. I looked around and saw people who completed every obstacle, who ran the whole time, who were in shape, etc. Looking back, I realized that none of those things should have mattered. What really mattered that day was that I did it. I went from Couch to Tough Mudder in a little over four months. How many people can say that?

As of today, I’ve completed three mud runs – Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Savage Race. There are some others I’d like to tackle as well, such as Spartan Race, Battle Frog, Mudderella, and Rugged Maniac. I’m still fairly new to all of this, but there are some things I’ve learned during my training and races that may be valuable to someone who is new to the world of mud runs. Here are my mud run tips for all of you new mud runners out there:

You can’t avoid the mud

I think this should go without saying, but not everyone fully understands this. Even if you skip the main mud obstacles, there’s mud pits all over the course. And no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to avoid them. If you don’t like getting muddy and having mud in your underwear but still want the pride of completing a race, sign up for a 5k or 10k instead.

Wear a costume (or something fun)

During Tough Mudder, I wore black capris and a black tank top. My whole team was dressing as superheroes, and yet I chose to wear all black. I thought I was being practical, but when I saw everyone else out there with their costumes and fun outfits, I felt like I was missing out. Plus, do you know how hard it is to find yourself in pictures when you’re wearing all black? At Warrior Dash, I stuck with the black capris but opted for a Spider-Man shirt instead. Not only was I able to spot myself in pictures, but I had a lot of fun connecting with the other super heroes on the course. Plus, it kind of made me feel like a badass.

No matter what you wear, it’s going to get dirty. So if you’re not comfortable with that $50 Halloween costume getting muddy and possibly ruined, wear something else instead. However, it’s really fun to dress up, and I think it’s worth ruining a costume. Go with the same costume for every mud run or change it up each time. Regardless, have fun with it!

Wear old shoes or dedicate a pair to mud runs

Before I did Tough Mudder, I went to the Nike Outlet and bought a pair of Nike Free 5.0 specifically for mud runs. If you don’t want to buy a new pair of shoes, consider wearing an old pair of sneakers or do what I did and dedicate a pair of sneakers to mud runs. After a run, you’ll be able to throw your sneakers into the washer to clean them, but they’ll never really be the same. They’ll be full of leaves, twigs, and dirt. The best thing you can do is dedicate a pair of sneakers to these runs.

It’s a mental game

Sure, physical strength matters in a mud run, but what it really comes down to is your attitude. If you get to an obstacle and have the attitude that you can’t do it, then you don’t have a fighting chance of completing that obstacle. For example, if you get to the 9-foot walls and think to yourself, “there’s no way in hell I can do this,” you’re never going to get over that well – even if someone tries to help you over. But, if you go in with the mindset that you CAN do it, you’ll have the inner fight in you to get over that wall – no matter what it takes.

You may not complete all of the obstacles – and that’s okay

No matter how much you want to do something, there are times when it’s just not possible. Maybe you can’t pull yourself over that wall or you panic when you’re standing 12-feet above the water ready to jump in. It happens. Regardless, you have to go in with the mindset that you can do this and that you will complete the obstacles. It’s easy to beat yourself up when you see other people getting over an obstacle so easily while you struggle. Just remember – you’re not them. You’re you. Do what you can, and be proud of what you accomplish. Next time, come back for revenge and fight harder than you did before.

Don’t worry about your time

Up until Savage Race, I never timed myself on a course. I simply didn’t care, and truthfully, I still don’t. I may be hard not to care if you’re not uber-competitive, but mud runs are mostly about having fun. Plus, there’s only so much you can do about your time. Even if you sprint the whole way, you may still get stuck waiting in lines for obstacle, or you may end up behind someone going slow through an obstacle. You may even stop to help someone (we ALL should be doing this). Instead of getting frustrated, just go with the flow and enjoy the moment, and don’t make time your main focus.

I could write a novel of all the things I’ve learned during mud runs, and maybe that’s just a sign that I need to do a follow up for this blog. Whether you’re getting ready to do your first mud run or you’ve been doing this for years, there’s always something new to be learned. Each mud run comes with its own unique set of challenges, but there’s one thing that never changes: the feeling you get when you cross the finish line.

Sound off: Have you completed a mud run? If so, what’s your advice for newbies? Post your tips in the comments!

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