Gaddesden Estate, Hemel Hempstead was the venue for Tough Mudder’s latest edition to the UK calendar – Tough Mudder North London. Tackling the elephant in the room, Luton (nearest city) isn’t really London but neither is Crawley for Tough Mudder South London… I mean, Tough Mudder North London isn’t even within the M25 boundary and could very much be called “South Midlands”. All that aside – how did the newest course and venue stack up?
For some reason, the venue would not allow any digging down across the course, making a number of obstacles either impossible to build or made in a different way. Planning permission issues were made known to “those in the know” before the race weekend – I think this was to help temper the fact that BlockNess (everyone’s favourite obstacle) and Mud Mile (A Tough Mudder staple) would not be making an appearance. Whilst other obstacles – Cage Crawl (ingenious use of a farmer’s pool) and Funky Monkey (no water below) were modified to negate the need for digging.
Bobby took the “warm up” but as we were already in the high teens temperature wise, it was more of a stretching session and with multiple warnings about the heat and the sun. TMHQUK put out extra water stations (4 along the looped course) to ensure everyone remained hydrated. Gil repeated the warnings, took the pledge and we were off into the Hertfordshire countryside.
- Kiss of mud (mud crawl underneath barbed wire) – started the obstacles and strangely enough for a Tough Mudder course, was the only muddy obstacle.
- A run around a field took us to Skidmarked (angled walls)
- Next on to Bale Bonds (just after the first water stop at mile 1)
- Hero Carry (piggy back ride) – quite a long one this time! A short run through the forest took us to
- Everest (quarter pipe run to the top) – a photographer was at this obstacle – kudos to Epic Action or TMHQUK for picking this spot, I think it makes for a great action picture. Water stop and trek goodies here!
- Boa Constrictor (pipe crawl down into water and then anther pipe crawl up)
- Hydrophobia (water dunks!) – A new obstacle to Tough Mudder, a large pool of water in which participants dunk under 3 consecutive pipes. Very refreshing!
- Hold your Wood – Log carry
- Lumberjacked – (Sternum Checker) led to quite a long run (and uphill) towards
- Devil’s Beard (cargo net crawl) – Not sure why, but there is no longer a hay bale stuck in the middle of Devil’s Beard which at least made it a little interesting. Now it’s “just” a cargo net and has been nick named “Devil’s boredom” by some. At least it was placed on a hill which made it more challenging. Another longish trek towards the third water stop and
- Hero Walls (10ft high walls x 2)
- Another run downhill towards
- The Next Level – a new obstacle only seen at the 5km courses so far (and given a different name. But it’s a huge climbing frame in a shape of an A. The first loop you go over, whilst in the second loop you go through it with swinging rings.
- If you were doing the “Half” then you then run towards the village and Pyramid Scheme. If you were then on to the Full (like me) you ran towards the next loop. Fortunately you didnt have to do the first boring lap of the field and skipped the first few obstacles but instead started the lap with
- Cage Crawl (pool of water covered with fencing, you lay on your back, face to the sky and use the fence to pull yourself along) – This obstacle is usually dug out. TMHQUK used the farmer’s pool technique to create the large pool.
- Arctic Enema (Ice water dunk) – very refreshing in 20C+
- Electric Eel (water crawl with electric wires) – Not seen in the UK for a few years, this really divides the TM community. Many of my friends skipped this, I did it Saturday, but not Sunday. The shocks aren’t as bad as Electro Shock Therapy in my opinion, but crawling through the shallow pool makes it very difficult to dodge.
- Hydrophobia again
- Funky Monkey (Monkey bars) – with gymnast cushions below the build rather than the pool of water.
- Kinky tunnels – (tunnel crawl) I think this was another “new obstacle”. I think the real obstacle here was to get out before you sweated 2kgs of water out of your system! Another very long run up the only bit of elevation the course had towards
- Birth Canal (tunnel crawl with water crushing you down) – One of those obstacles I love to hate. So simple, but pick the wrong tunnel and you will be crushed down and need help to be pulled out.
- Irish Table (hero walls with a ledge) – real Irish tables are more challenging that normal tall walls, but the way TMHQUK make these walls, it actually makes it easier to climb. A long run down towards
- Kong Infinity (hamster wheel transition to monkey bars) – A legionnaires only obstacle. One of my favourites very close behind BlockNess
- Hanging Out (rings) – Going through “the next level” using 15 or so hanging rings. The final run back towards the village with
- Electro Shock Therapy (gauntlet through electric wires hanging down) – I love that this obstacle is back in the village for people to watch. This time it was next to the TM Bar for people to hang out and watch.
- Pyramid Scheme is the final obstacle – a classic TM obstacle that requires teamwork and camaraderie to get the team to the top.
The course was shorter than the usual 10 official miles (I did clock just over 12km) with the 8 mile marker showing just before the end. It was also relatively flat, with only the one notable hill (total elevation over the two laps was 220m).
Verdict – A-
For me, this was the most enjoyable Tough Mudder course. Almost zero mud (yes, I know it’s called “Tough Mudder”) and as they weren’t allowed to dig down, TMHQUK had to be creative in the obstacles they used and the course lay out. It’s all too easy for them to bring BlockNess, MudMile, Shawshanked et al but here they had to really dig deep (pun intended). In came Hydrophobia (fantastically refreshing in the heat) and the vault obstacle Electric Eel, which I had never done in the UK.
It may have been the great weather, but the village was buzzing too – with the bar I am sure doing some swift business, whilst Kingstone Press, Brew Dog and Black Tower I am sure giving out all of their samples. It was also great to see other supports giving away goodies to visitors and participants. Shout out to Ember Biltong and Walkers Max Strong
The only ink stain on the report would be the 10/15 minute walk from the car park to Mudder Village. However, the walk to and from the car park would make up for the short mileage on course! I wouldn’t want to walk that in the rain!
If Tough Mudder North London returns to the Gaddesden estate, I really hope they don’t change a thing.
Photo Credit – Epic Action Imagery