Tough Mudder v Spartan Races – Which Is Better?

What is better Tough Mudder or Spartan Race? There is no better and it is a useless question to ask. to find out more lets break things down a bit to look at the approach and ethos behind both events.

Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder is presented as an experience and yes it is a challenge for different reasons to Spartan Races. The format is the same which is an obstacle course but it is more of an event and an occasion. The Tm’s I have done have been very well organised and they have a well structured process when dealing with the amount of people they deal with on a weekend.

The ethos driving Tough Mudder is also sharing it with friends or doing something for yourself. It is to test yourself to get over fears and challenges which you think you will never be able to. When you do this on the day the vibe and excitement of doing it is soemthing that helps you push yourself and gets you to try things when under normal circumstances it wouldn’t happen.

All of the obstacles and course will require a significant amount of effort. You will have to be prepared to leave whatever dignity or “coolness” that you think you have at the starting gate. Once you have crawled under the first barbed wire and ran through the first batch of mud you realise that you are dirty, will get wet, and will get cold.

You are also there to have fun, you cannot be serious when knee deep in mud and you tend to revert to a kid and have fun. Its an experience you wll not forget and depending on the trainign and goals you have set yourself it can very quickly become addictive.

The exhileration of jumping of a high platform, running through slippery all encompassing mud and climbing walls, ropes and whatever challenge is put before you tests you on a psychological level. Overall what it does is make people realise what they can do. This realisation is something which is what makes it an experience it is also an equalising factor for the majority of people.

Regardless of how fit or strong you think you are that perception will change when you are on the course as you will realise there are other people worse off or better off than you doing the same thing. It is like being in the army but paying for it for a day and not being shouted at. Granted the military to date don’t shock the arse out of you at the end of the course as far as I know.

What I have learned doing tough mudder is that I am a lot more capable than I thought I would ever be, I have also made some fantastic friends in the UK and overseas and all have realised the same thing. We love this, it is addictive being able to achieve things which no one else thinks is normal. Most people think you are mentally deranged to run through mud, jump into ice containers and over fires and get shocked for fun. Saying it like that seems I am being matter of fact which in a way I am as this has become my norm.

I now expect the unexpected when doing an event. I want more as the challenge is what brings me back to mud runs. Normal running and events are fine but none of them challenge you in this way where some days you will think what am I doing, this will normally be the case when running around in winter and fighting off the bitter cold or when doing a high altitude event which challenges your physical capability to breath.

My conclusion on Tough Mudder is that regardless of the price it is the best thing I have done and it is a long standing fulfilment of a dream to challenge myself without getting shot at. Granted my wife doesnt like the dirty gear but that is another story alltogehter

Spartan Races

I did my first Spartan race in late August and I was not sure what to expect in this regard. My goal for the year was to do as many Tough Mudders as I could and then do a Spartan tri-fecta. A tri-fecta is when you do all 3 Spartan race distances in 12 months. I did my sprint which was the 5+ km distance.

This was a nice introduction in the term “spartanup” they changed the distance to 7km and man did I feel it. For some reason my legs took a hammering. I ran these with my trustee Vibram KSO treksports. These stood me in good stead for my Tough Mudder’s but what I soon realised was that I was lacking in grip. I loved the minimal sole and feedback I got but I was losing grip and slid arond a bit which caused me to work harder during the run.

If I remember correctly I did this in about 2 hours. I wasnt the fastes but this was my first Spartan race and the course was very hilly and quite challenging but I loved the edgy nature of the event and that I was challenging myself to perform better. I made a mistake of forgetting my chip which meant registering my time at the finish but overall I was happy with my first result.

For the Super I changed my tactic. I wanted to increase my leg strength and then get a better result. My utlimate goal was to be in the top 10% of the elite’s. I good goal to aim for and one I could have achieved for the Sprint but my training was wrong. I ran more with a weighted bag. although this improved leg strength I didn’t have the speed I needed to run faster. I really struggled through the 14km course and had a awful time getting up to speed. By the time I felt I could leverage it I the race was finished.

This was the most frustrating event that I ever did. The reason I did weighted runs was becuase I did the Para10 event in March with 35lbs backpack and finished that in 1;56 for 10km which for my first long run was good. This event review will be written and uploaded bear with me.

My last and final event was the Spartan Beast, I increased my running dramatically and dropped the weighted bag runs. I added in more hill work and spent at least an hour of running every weekday morning before some weight training. I could have spent more time doing hill work but work and other commitments also had to be fulfilled.

Race for the beast started wet and not too cold. I was kitted out in some new Inov-8 X-Talon 190. I got these specifically for the grip on recommendation by a tri-athlete friend. This was one of the best decisions I could have made, these shoes are light and soo much grip and confidence it made a huge difference to my run.

I could control my run better and expended less energy controlling my legs recovering from slips. I could also increase my speed due to better grip and confidence in my footing. I did quite well overall but realised I needed to spend some more time doing longer distances as this was to my detriment in the latter part of the race as I needed more endurance performance. I am not sure if the lack of sleep was also affecting me, I was quite nervous in anticipation of this race and wanted a good result which unusually for me meant a lack of restful sleep.

My final result for the beast was 3:00:51 second. Could I have broken the 3 hour barrier? Yes with a watch and had I timed it probably. I was also fatigued at the end and failed at the final rope climb which meant 30 burpees. All lessons learnt.

The conclusion is that Tough Mudder and Spartan are 2 completely differnet approaches. TM is more a event and a experience. No denying there are some challenging courses but due to it not being timed means a wider audience appeal is apparent hence it s popularity. Spartan races are for peopple who have the OCR bug and love a challenge and want to get to the next stage. Its about testing yourself and finding your limits and this is a smaller more hardcore audience.

Of the 2 I think TM is better organised, I would love to see Spartan take some of their ideas on race days but still this is a fantastic community and the amount of home grown UK races have exploded and this will bring up some fantastic local competition.

I am looking forward to finding out more about the ice-hotel frozen OCR event and this is something I am looking forward to learning more about.

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