The Tough Mudder was a Different Sort of Endurance Race

Sorry I didn’t post on Friday. Not only was I busy getting ready for my first high school football game as an official, but I was also getting everything ready to run the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder on Saturday. For those unfamiliar, Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile long race with about 20 different obstacles along the course. These obstacles involve ice, water, fire, electricity, and lots of mud. Unfortunately, due to a number of screw ups, the Tough Mudder was a diaster for many of the runners.

Runners were instructed to arrive two hours before the race began. My teammate and I had 11:40 start times, so we left DC at 8:00am. Our route (using the preferred directions provided by Tough Mudder) should have taken us about 1.5 hours at the most, giving us plenty of time to park, check in, drop our bags, and get our bearings. I should have known better when I started receiving texts from Tough Mudder reminding people about the driving directions at 7am.

We started driving toward Maryland, and before we even exited the highway, we got stuck in standstill, bumper-to-bumper traffic. People were pulling into whatever restaurant or coffeeshop they could find to use the restrooms. We even received a second text saying that runners would be allowed to start later than scheduled if they were stuck in traffic. At this point, my teammate and I had memorized several cars around us and their passengers (many Tough Mudder runners wear colorful costumes).

Eventually we were able to exit the highway, but then we were stuck on smaller, rural roads which made the traffic even worse. I feel bad for the residents of Frederick, Maryland. They would have been unable to leave their homes or return due to a solid line of cars. Even worse, due to the lack of commercial property, people were now using whatever tree, bush, or corn field as a restroom–another reason to feel bad for the residents of Frederick.

But that was just the beginning. While we were moving along at a blistering pace of 200 yards per hour (not an exaggeration, sadly), we could see a storm blowing in. And not just any storm, but one that (I found out later) had resulted in tornado warnings, wind damage warnings, and even hail advisories.

By 2pm (that’s right, 6 hours later, or enough time to drive from DC to NYC), we still had yet to reach the parking lot. Once the storm began, we watched the parking attendants and volunteers pack up and leave without any explanation or advice for people waiting in line. We had to ask people leaving the course for information.

It turns out that race officials had closed a number of obstacles, and they weren’t even letting runners start anymore. This would be confirmed through yet another text message that we received only after miles away from the race site due to the fact that it was a giant dead zone.

Sadly, due to the traffic and the rain, there was no way to turn around. The only way out was through. Oh, and did I mention the mud? Although normally a dirty race, the storm had turned the course and the parking lot into a disaster area. Take a look–this was the parking lot at around 3pm:

TM Parking Lot

Woodstock ’94? Nope, just a completely filled parking lot that was so waterlogged and muddy that even SUVs were sliding around. Even if I had been able to park, I don’t know how I would have gotten out. But we drove home (following the storm the entire way).

I got home around 6pm (I could have driven from DC well past Boston in that time), low on gas, starving, with a sore ass, and having not run a race. It was a very frustrating, annoying day.

I had a friend who was supposed to run it on Sunday, so I called him to give him a heads up: to leave SUPER early and to bring a car with 4-wheel drive. Turns out that was unnecessary. The Sunday running of the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder was cancelled.

All in all, this was a disaster. Tough Mudder sets up races all over the world. Yes, this was a new location, but they should have picked a location that was easier to get in and out of. They should have controlled the number of entries (Sunday had 1/4 the number of runners than Saturday). They knew the storm was coming, and should have planned for that. And even worse, when the cancellation announcement posted on Facebook received hundreds of negative comments, the post was deleted off Facebook. Tough Mudder also posted a short apology video, referring to the situation in an almost hilariously understated way as a “dropped the ball.” That doesn’t begin to cover it. This was a failure of planning, a failure of execution, and a failure of communication.

But look, some credit goes to Tough Mudder. They are offering transfers and refunds (they don’t normally do that). But I wonder how many people will want a transfer after an experience like mine on Saturday?

And yes, I know I’m complaining and whining and venting. Sitting around all day Saturday isn’t the end of the world–a friend of mine was in the middle of 36 hours of labor that later culminated in a c-section. But, c’mon, what else is a blog for, really?

Hope your weekend was better than mine.

11 thoughts on “The Tough Mudder was a Different Sort of Endurance Race

  1. I was lucky enough to run on saturday and finished the race in 2.5 hours. But it took me 3 hours to get out of the parking lot and 4 hours to get home (I live 20 miles away). I was so annoyed and pissed off I couldnt see straight and vowed never to do another tough mudder again!! Then I remembered how this race honors our the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for freedoms that most of us take for granted on a daily basis. I can not speak from experience, but I am sure my 4 hours of “traffic” plaes drastically in comparison to a year long (or more) tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iraq – and I was fortunate enough to return home in one piece!! Thank you to our “Soldiers of Freedom”.

    1. Fair point. Sitting on my rear in an air-conditioned car is a minimal hardship. I’m glad Tough Mudder is offering transfers (and I took advantage of their offer), when I was driving home, my silver lining was at least the money I paid for my spot went to a good cause.

      Congrats on running the Tough Mudder. If you do decide to run it again, I’ve registered for the April 2013 Mid Atlantic Tough Mudder. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.

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