The Tough Mudder is an awesome race and experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a fitness challenge and to have an amazing time. The best part is the cool obstacles. Before I discuss the articles, if you’re interested, here are my other posts on the Mudder:
Tough Mudder Tips – Includes general tips related to training, diet, race day info, parking, clothing, etc.
How to Train for a Mud Run– more extensive diet and fitness advice for running races like the Mudder.
Now, onto the Tough Mudder obstacles. The list below represents six different Mudders I’ve completed (Kentucky 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, and Pittsburgh 2013 and 2014).
The order is based on the map of Kentucky 2017 and is up to date. However, I’ve left all of the old obstacles too (at the end). Do a control+F to search a particular obstacle for quick access.
This isn’t really an official obstacle, but it was by far the most difficult part of the course. If your event has big hills, I recommend training your core and practice running hills to master the Mudder. My strong core kept me stable as I went up and down the slick, muddy hills. Some of the hills were so muddy, we literally got on our butts and slid down them since walking safely was impossible.
Some of the uphill parts will definitely require teamwork as well. They’re simply too slick. Hold onto trees or roots and help others. Take your time going down too.
Kiss of Mud
This is basically crawling in mud. Prepare to get low or get cut by barbed wire. If you’re tall or on the larger side, they could be a challenge. Upper body strength is a plus to pull yourself forward so you can keep your lower body low.
This was a small gap you’ll have to jump over. I’m not gorilla sized and it didn’t kill me. Get a running jump.
This is climbing up an angled wall. Have your friends boost you from below and/or someone help you from the top. Upper body strength is important so you don’t wear your friends out!
Hero Carry (aka Warrior Carry)
This is where you take turns carrying a teammate for about fifty yards. It’s not my favorite obstacle, but I see why they do it (military and all). Basically, pick a position that is comfortable for you. The traditional “Fireman’s Carry” is probably one of the easier methods on the body. Also, pair up with someone of similar weight/strength.
This obstacle can differ depending on the spot. However, it typically is a fairly long stretch of deep, clay type mud. Sometimes it’s a pit. Other times it’s a long, drawn out hike. Either way, lots of people were losing shoes and some people were knee deep. I simply picked the route with the least mud and finished it pretty quickly. Don’t be a hero unless you want to be shoeless. If there is a pit, help each other in and out since the walls get slick.
This obstacle involves climbing up a series of muddy hills underneath giant netting. At the top, a group holds the net while the other participants climb upward beneath it. The best method is to get low with one hand on the ground and hold up the net with your other arm, pushing the net out of your way while it brushes against your body. Use teamwork to hold the net and pull up/push up fellow mudders if needed.
These are both straight wooden walls with one very tiny step. Oh, and there’s two of them.
Upper body strength and teamwork are a must. I had two people boost me, I put my leg over, hung down from the top, then dropped a few feet. It is really high (about ten feet). The drop was jarring. An accidental fall would’ve hurt or broken something. Make sure you have good help and “dangle and land.” Don’t jump.
This involved, at least at my event, going down a steep slope into a pit then climbing back up. It was a little jarring. I simply slid, but be careful. The slope was steep and the pit was fairly deep. The best bet is to stake out your sliding path in advance. Find the one with the fewest bumps and rocks. Going up, help each other and look for natural holes or ones made by shoes. You can put your hands, feet, and knees there to get traction.
Block Ness Monster
This a series of two large blocks in water that you have to climb, then roll over on top of to reach the other side. It’s confusing, but makes sense when you see it. The best way to conquer this obstacle is to have several people hang on the block, then have people from behind push the block over. At that point, the people hanging on the block shift their weight and use their momentum to topple over the block. Again, this will make total sense when you try it!
This is climbing up a hay bale wall. It wasn’t hard, but some shorter people might require a little help from someone on top (or below). At my recent event, we got a running start and climbed over it. Use your momentum on this one. People who didn’t clear the top failed because they didn’t get enough momentum built.
This obstacle requires getting to the top of a tall angled (and slick) wall. The best way is to have people lie down against the wall, then others lie down on top of them (like a pyramid). At that point, the other participants can climb the bodies up to the top. It’s best to have bigger, stronger people forming the human pyramid, especially at the bottom. I’m not a huge fan of this obstacle, because it slows down the event a lot. This was the only obstacle with a long wait.
It absolutely requires help and some good tread. Rub the mud off your shoes and get a running start. Use your momentum to keep going. It is very helpful to actually jump a little at the end, into the waiting arms of your team. Romantic, I know.
Mud Mile 2.0
This is a series of about ten small mud hills and water filled valleys that you must scale over. It sounds easy, but can be very difficult due to the slickness of the hills and inability to get your grip.
My best strategy was staking out each hill, then finding holes and grooves where I could plant a hand or a knee, then pull myself up. If needed, someone would then lend a hand. My method got me through (literally) 10x quicker than people who relied on their teammates to push or pull them without regard to the terrain. Their method wasted valuable energy.
Stage 5 Clinger
Here you climb up a ladder on the side of a structure, then have to pull yourself up and over a small platform to get yourself on top of the obstacle. Legionnaire’s had a slightly different set-up. Instead of a ladder on the side, we had to use monkey bars!
Either way, the key is upper body strength. Use that to pull yourself up. Grip hard, then swing your legs over at the end. For the monkey bars, I found it helpful to climb them backwards. That way, I was facing the platform, which made it easier.
Hold Your Wood 2.0
It sounds sexual, but this half mile walk carrying a log actually killed my upper body. Grab a giant piece at your own risk! It helps to shift the wood around various positions so one muscle isn’t overly exhausted. For example, you can curl it for a few hundred yards, and then hold it down by your side for another hundred. I put mine over my shoulder and kind of rested it against my head. Halfway, I shifted sides to even out the load (sorry for this awful pun).
Ladder to Hell
This was a giant “ladder” made of tree trunks that was hugely spaced out. The only advice here is to keep your grip, watch for slick spots, and keep your focus. It’s a little on the high side, so be careful!
Arctic Enema: The Rebirth
It’s a dumpster filled with water and ice. Yes, it sucks horribly in the colder months (and even in the summer). In the new version, you slide down a plastic pipe, go a couple of feet, go under a 4 foot piece of fencing and climb out.
The cold is such a shock to the body, you literally lose some control of your movements. Your body just reacts with shock. The only “tricks” are to stay mentally focused and get the hell out of there! You may have to muster up a lot of strength to get out. Focus on getting out on the first try, because your body is stressing and every time you fail, it becomes that much harder on the other attempts.
In the warmer months, this obstacle is easier because the water simply isn’t as cold. Also, when you go under the fencing, try not to panic and take in muddy water.
Birth Canal or Black Hole
This is a somewhat bizarre obstacle where you crawl under or around heavy tarps filled with water. It’s pretty uncomfortable and I’d imagine even harder if you’re a bigger person. Instead of just trying to squeeze through the tarp, I’d recommend trying to actually push away the tarp as best you can. It takes a little strength. It’s much, much easier at one of the far sides. Get in that line.
The Black Hole is the Legionnaire version, which, as far as I can tell, is the same obstacle, just covered with tarp so it’s dark inside.
This is a monkey bar obstacle starting with bars, followed by a horizontal “wheel” (like a steering wheel), then two vertical wheels. It ends with a straight bar. Below you is water.
Try to swing like a monkey using one arm per bar. The key here is both upper body strength and momentum. If you lose momentum, it’s much harder. Swing, don’t hang on one bar or wheel for too long, otherwise you’ll lose strength and fall.
I was able to finish this obstacle, but many were not. Prepare by doing pull-ups and push-ups. Practice on monkey bars if possible.
Augustus Gloop or Snot Rocket
This is a fascinating obstacle. It involves climbing up a plastic tube using only wooden holes on the side for a ladder. The catch? Water is rushing down the tube. Legionnaires start in water and have to climb out of that.
Be careful. A friend of mine slipped and fell down the tube. The key is to get good footing in the “ladder” holes and go slowly. Also, avoid the temptation to look up into the rushing water. Look forward and feel around with your hands. Once you’re at the top, then you can use your vision and climb on the platform.
Run through live wires up to ten thousand volts surrounded by mud. That’s pretty much it. It sounds horrific, but it’s actually not bad. The electric shocks cause involuntary muscle contraction, which means you might go down (I did in Pittsburgh). Just get back up…and then get ready to go down again!
Pull your arms up close to your face (so you don’t get shocked there) and go, making sure to dodge the hay bales they put in your way. This method is quick and involves less bodily exposure. Go through as a group, to spread the juice around.
Also, since this obstacle is always last and easily observed from the starting line, spend a few minutes before you start the race observing people run through the wires. Get a general idea where the “safer” routes are.
Again, the key is quickness. You don’t want to go slowly, fall down, get up, and endure the extra shocking.
These were not on the most recent Tough Mudder. They might bring them back or you just might want to go down memory lane. I’ve left them here for that reason.
This involves jumping over water filled pits. Only one was too far for me to make the jump. It’s hard to get your footing when jumping and landing because of the mud. You don’t want to overextend a groin muscle, so keep your core tight and stable. If you can’t make the jump safely, just go in the water.
Use your arms to “walk” across water using only two iron poles that angle upward. It does require some upper body strength, especially in the triceps. The key is to keep your arms stiff and use your legs to build momentum as you move (almost like a monkey).
Just climbing over and under a Lincoln Log type of structure. Stick close to the joints and it’s simple. For the under part, get low.
This was an unusual obstacle that involved one person holding a rope tight while another person climbed up a tube (using the rope) while lying on his or her back. It’s not hard. Just pull yourself up and slide up the plastic tube. Getting out of the hole backwards was a little different but not hard.
Climb up a very steep hill with a lot of mud. Use teamwork and roots/trees/other items to pull yourself if necessary. Find grooves and rocks to plant your feet.
It’s crawling through a muddy pit with live wires hanging down. I got jolted a couple times. It felt like someone flicking me with their fingers followed by a tingle. Some people got a running start and slid most of the way through. That appeared to be the best strategy. But, the way they’re retooled it, this isn’t usually possible. Otherwise, just crawl and try to avoid the wires as much as possible. You will get shocked. You’ll just have to deal with it.
Balls to the Wall
This involves climbing up a huge wall using only a rope and occasional planks. This obstacle might be tough for those who hate heights. It’s kind of like scaling a wall, but not as hard because they add planks to get your footing. You’ll need upper body strength. Pull yourself up to each plank and work your way up the wall’s face. Be very, very careful at the top transitioning from rope to rope. They give you a bar to hang onto at least. On the way down hold tight and be careful.
You slide down a tube into some water, then climb back up a tube. It involves going under the water for a second on the way up, which is a little unnerving. Otherwise, it’s an easy obstacle. Still, you may have to grip a little to avoid sliding backwards during the up portion.
Blades of Glory
This involves climbing up slanted walls that are nearly 7 feet tall. It might require teamwork depending on your strength. I just did it myself by staying near the edge planks. I used those to climb up and over.
Walk the Plank
Climb a wall, then jump around twenty feet into a fifteen feet deep pool. If you hate heights, it’ll be tough. Going down was awesome, though, like a roller coaster. One word of safety advice: be very careful when jumping. Make sure the person in front of you has already emerged from the water and has swum far enough away that you won’t land on them. Look out for your teammates and other Mudders to make sure everyone emerges from the water.
In this obstacle, you float in water underneath chain link fencing on your back. It’s not difficult, but it’s a little unnerving, especially since in places you have about four inches from the top of the water to the fence (my ears were underwater at this point). I advise holding onto the cage and pulling yourself along as you float on your back. If you have an irrational fear of drowning, avoid this one.
Fire In Your Hole
This is a special obstacle for legionnaires (a giant water slide basically). Be careful climbing to the top on the netting. By this point most people will be exhausted and it is high. When going down lie flat. I would advise holding your nose. I got water up my nose and the water around my ears hurt like hell. It’s a fun ride though.
I hope these tips are helpful. I highly recommend doing the Tough Mudder. The obstacles are challenging, but, in the end, very fun.