19 Nov

Entry Of The Gladiators

Fire at Tough Mudder

Mud, sweat and tears. At one time, it was something to be avoided. These days it seems you're a complete and utter wus if you haven't suffered, bled and preferably injured yourself whilst taking part in one of the hundreds of off-road challenges now splattered across the race calendar (writes Chris Broadbent).

In 2012 alone, an estimated 1900 trail or multi-terrain events are taking place in the UK. It's around a 20% increase on similar events four years prior. But that's just bare statistics. It's among friends and colleagues where I have noticed the most significant change.

The guys down the pub seem genuinely excited about running through fire, wading through thigh-deep mud and possibly even facing minor electrocution. It's not regular runners either. It's those who have never really expressed a serious interest in tackling a 10k whose interest has been piqued by the new wave of adventure racing.

Why? One of the most successful type of these events is the Tough Mudder events which launched in 2010 in Pennsylvania, USA and crossed the Atlantic in 2012 with four events taking place in the UK in 2012. There are six Tough Mudder races planned in the UK for 2013.

Alex Patterson is the Chief Creative Officer of Tough Mudder, he explains why the the concept holds broad appeal: "A Tough Mudder challenge is a test of physical stamina and mental grit, so most participants have enough endurance to get through the rigorous course. Though it's challenging - only 78% of participants actually finish - the aura of camaraderie and sense of personal accomplishment appeals to a wide range of people."

Alex also makes a robust argument for the rising interest in these type of events: "Traditional marathons and triathlons are boring. They test your cardio strength or how fast you can run in a straight line. People are fed up with normal running; they want to push their bodies and minds to the extreme in new and different ways.

"Obstacles and natural terrain are never boring. They not only challenge cardiovascular strength, but also upper-body, lower-body and abdominal strength, as well as flexibility.

"Tough Mudder challenges also provide the chance to be part of a team environment, whereas traditional running races are solitary and focused on the end result, not the journey. Tough Mudder has the most innovative and boundary-pushing obstacles out there. The course challenges people's fear of heights, tight spaces, fire and, of course, electric shocks.

"We're constantly coming up with new ideas to keep the courses fresh. Participants also love the feeling of being part of a team; runners pledge to help each other along the course, and they do. That strong sense of camaraderie, coupled with the orange headband that tells the world 'I'm a Tough Mudder,' is what keeps people coming back.

"We also have a partnership with Help for Heroes in the UK, for which our participants have helped raise more than £100,000 in just two events. Tough Mudder challenges provide people with an opportunity to support a great cause."

Chest-thumping stuff. Which is probably why these type of challenges are resonating with so many people, who are putting down their pints and heading for the muddy trails for their kicks.