The Toughest Race on Earth

Tough Mudders emerging from the Electric Eel

The toughest race on Earth isn’t really a race: no timers, no records, no winners, no podium. Just 12  miles, cross-country, over 22 sadistic obstacles designed by the British Special Forces. The objective? To finish and to help your fellow Tough Mudders finish too.

This past weekend my boyfriend Drew finished his third Tough Mudder, along with his brother Nate and a few of their friends. Me — I stuck to the sidelines as team photographer. You won’t catch me crawling through electrified mud for fun!

A wave of 250 runners get pumped up at the starting line. Waves went off every 20 minutes all morning. I haven’t seen the stats yet, but easily more than a thousand runners signed up for this crazy event.

Obstacle #1: Arctic Enema. Yeah those are ice cubes floating in there and you have to duck your head under to get under that plank. Brrrrr.

After Obstacle #2: Kiss of Mud.

Obstacle #4: The Berlin Walls. One of the many of the Tough Mudder obstacles designed to require teamwork.

Obstacle #5: Hold Your Wood. Half-mile log carry around and through a lake.

Obstacle #6: Dirty Ballerina

Obstacle #7: Electric Eel. Those wires are live!

Thumbs Up after the Electric Eel

Drew gets low through the very slimy Electric Eel

Electric Eel Aftermath

Army Heckler at the Electric Eel. This woman was awesome.

Obstacle #8: Walk the Plank!

Mid-course Banana Break!

Some people go through the Tough Mudder course carrying everything but the…

While other people run the course with next to nothing.

The next time we saw the boys they were on Obstacle #20: Boa Constrictor

Obstacle #21: Everest! My favorite obstacle to watch.

To get up Everest you have to run full tilt up that slippery slope and launch yourself into the arms of somebody at the top. At this point, the mudders had run over 11 miles over 20 obstacles. People were beat and Everest took everything they had left. The drama and comraderie of Everest was incredible. I could have watched this all day!

The demographics of Tough Mudder were also amazing. Yes, there were a lot of fine physical specimens who made mud look good and the race look easy (I’m looking at you, Marines!) but there were also a lot of regular folks out there, people who you never would expect to sign up for such suffering. But suffer they did, usually with a big muddy grin on their filthy faces. I haven’t seen stats on how many people finished the course this weekend, but I didn’t see anybody quit. It’s true what they say: You are tougher than you think.

Last but certainly not least. Obstacle #22: Electroshock Therapy. Those wires pack 10,000 volts. Ouch.

Drew and Nate demonstrate two techniques through Electroshock Therapy: flail and tuck. Neither works.

Brotherly Love at the Finish Line.

Tough Mudder Aftermath: Headbands, t-shirts and beers all around!

Victory Meal!

Victory Beers!

If this looks like your idea of fun, sign up at Read about my idea of a proper Suffer Fest here.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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10 Responses to The Toughest Race on Earth

  1. Katie says:

    Great post! I was there (I can identify which race this was because I followed behind the scantily clad pink thongs for a mile or two) on Saturday. Hardest race I have ever run, but also the most fun by far!

  2. Such marvelous fun ! I hope one day I do a tough mudder just to say I did one.

  3. Had no idea these things included “obstacles” like electrified mud fields! ~ Kat

  4. Gunta says:

    I think Stephane Daury summed it up for me!

  5. Dan Beideck says:

    The organizers of the Spartan Death Race might take issue with your title, but no doubt are kindred spirits with the tough mudders. Only about 15% of participants finish the 48 hour death race. I have a friend that has run marathons and was happy to be able to complete just one stage of the death race. More info at

  6. Joni says:

    Maybe coulda done it 30 years ago…… So cool.

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