Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why I'm Retiring the Orange Headband


Earlier this summer I participated in my second Tough Mudder event.  In my recap post, I wrote that I didn't think I'd be doing another one and I'd elaborate further in another post.  This is that post.  

Before I go on, let me say that I do not mean to offend anyone who enjoys Tough Mudder, deems it challenging, or finds it worthwhile to travel the country to face the Arctic Enema in Colorado and the Funky Monkey in Vermont.  Or even just do it when it comes to your city.  No, that is not my intention.  If you follow my blog you know I was all about Tough Mudder myself until very recently.  The reason I got into TM in the first place is that I was looking to challenge myself in a different way.  I love boot camp and strength training in unique ways, so this seemed perfect.  

After doing TM Michigan, however, I decided it was time to retire the orange headband.  

Here are my reasons why:


Depending on when you register, TM can cost up to $150 just to run the event.  On top of that you need to pay an additional $10 parking fee and $5 gear check fee.  What does all that money get you?  The chance to participate in the event, a tee shirt (which may or may not be a tech shirt - my first year it was cotton), an orange headband, and a Dos Equis beer (which I don't even drink).  Think your money is going to Wounded Warrior Project?  Nope.  That's separate fundraising.  So you are totally paying all this money just for the event.  Yes, it costs a lot to put on the event but it's still a lot of money.  Especially if you've done it more than once.   

Lack of Challenge

When I did my first TM in Indiana, it was really tough.  It truly did challenge my physical strength and mental grit, as promised.  When I competed in the event this June in Michigan, however, I hardly felt challenged at all.  Of course, having done it before you could say I knew what to expect, which is true.  

I hadn't, however, trained for the obstacles like I did last year.  But that didn't matter because they were easier.  I think they are making the newer obstacles easier for the masses and therefore they aren't challenging.  My guess is that they are trying to lure people into World's Toughest Mudder - a 24-hour endurance event that has you paying up to $450 bucks.  Uh, no thanks.

The running parts were also very easy - mostly flat, muddy grass and gravel.  Last year's event had swamps with waist-high muddy water to wade through.  There was quicksand that had people losing shoes left and right!  We were pulling ourselves up steep hills with tree branches.  At one point I felt like we were running through a desert.  Not this year.  Again, this year was WAY too easy.

Injury/Health Risk 

I always come out of TM with scrapes and bruises, but it's never anything that doesn't heal after a few days.  And I've never injured myself seriously in one of these events.  But the risk is there.  How stupid would it be if I hurt my foot jumping off a Berlin Wall?  Now that I'm in marathon training mode (and will likely be next year as well) I need to consider this.

In addition to the risk of injury, you also come into contact with a lot of standing water and mud which undoubtedly contains a sh*tload (pun intended) of bodily fluids.  This year over 200 people contracted norovirus from TM Michigan.  Thankfully I was not among them but it can very easily happen at one of these events.  I'd like to think I take precautions - mouth and eyes closed, don't eat with dirty hands - but really, it can happen to anyone at an event like this.  I'm just lucky it didn't happen to me.

So there you have it.  Although this post was geared specifically toward Tough Mudder, there are a lot of other mud runs and gimmicky races out there (Warrior Dash, Color Run, Foam Fest).  I look at those as more of "fun runs" where I wouldn't expect to be challenged like TM.  Because of that I think there is less risk of injury and barring any important upcoming races, I don't see the harm in participating in them with friends for fun.  As long as you don't mind shelling out $50 for a 5K, that is.

Me?  I think I'm going to stick to road races - and do my monkey-bar work at the local playground for free! 

Do you participate in Tough Mudder or mud runs/obstacle races?

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