5 things that are different when you run a Tough Mudder solo

Tough Mudder London South for a number of reasons, meant I ran the 8am wave as a solo runner, usually I run Tough Mudder as part of a group of OCRSoloMudders.

However, I didn’t shy away from running solo, I relished it. There were people in that wave I knew and could have run with, indeed, solo mudders in later waves I could have run with too. But I wanted to test myself properly. The London South course was a pretty fast and relatively flat course and I knew I could gun it at my own pace.

Tough Mudder is a obstacle race set up as a team challenge. You support and help your team-mates to get over obstacles and finish strong as a group. The Tougher Mudder wave brings a competitive element where runners compete for top prizes and an official course time. Of course there are still the ethos of Tough Mudder where you can help your fellow competitors but no one would be hanging around Blockness or Everest for 15 minutes like we usually would.

I wanted to take on the first wave (non competitive) as I had already done a Tougher Mudder and wasn’t interested in paying another £25 for the privilege or another headband and t shirt. I just to see what I could do out on course, by myself. Here are the things I learned:

  • Encouragement from others – Fellow participants, volunteers and spectators seem to offer more encouragement (if that’s possible). In fact I even got a round of applause from spectators when I went in and out of Arctic Enema. Running past competitors they always gave an encouraging “Go on!”.
  • More help is offered – Well if you want it. Again participants are aware you are running alone and willing to give you a hand as if you were part of their team. I was happy to go it alone – the only obstacle I was wary of was BlockNess.
  • Obstacles take on a different perspective – As just mentioned above, a lot of the obstacles are meant to challenge a team, however veteran runners could complete the course alone. For some runners, Hero Walls (10ft wooden walls) or Skidmarked (angle walls) are obstacles that require a “leg up”. Fortunately I’m able to use the ledges to get up and over the walls myself. The only other obstacle which may cause an issue was BlockNess, ironically my favourite obstacle – 2 spinning blocks sunk into a pit of water, usually at least 5ft deep – at the South West course, the water was much deeper and I was stuck treading water rather than helping the team get over the blocks. If the water was that deep again, I had no chance in getting over BlockNess solo. Fortunately the water was it’s normal depth – with the encouragement of the water safety team and marshals, I jumped up  to grab the top of the Block and managed to get enough grip to haul my ass over it. The second block seemed to be a little more difficult, but I managed to get over after a couple of attempts. Taking away the fact of spinning blocks in water, the technique is just like scaling any wall – grab on to the top, use a bit of arm strength to hook the ankle and then use the power of the thighs to get the rest of your body up and over.
  • You’re able to set your own pace – Running in a group is challenging if the runners all have different paces. Team members either have to slow down (possibly getting cold) or speed up (and tiring out) to keep a consistent pace with each other. Running solo meant I could just keep pushing myself forward at my own pace, hit the obstacles and not wait for a whole group to get up and over the obstacle before moving on.
  • Epic photos – Group photos are great – but running solo means you can do your own thing!

Running solo is a totally different experience and one I would definitely recommend to runners who are looking for a different challenge. Tough Mudder London South was a great course – short at just under 15km and relatively flat (as compared to other Tough Mudders) and one which is ripe for going solo.

2018 I will be running some more courses solo. However, the fun, as always with Tough Mudder is running in a group and helping your fellow mudders around the course.

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Wil Chung