The muddy obstacle race returns to Scotland â€“ so Neil Braidwood has a trial run.
What is it about the Tough Mudder that makes it so popular? The mud shouldnâ€™t be an attraction, but seems to be. The burning obstacles and electric shocks might put some people off. So it must be the sheer exhilaration of surviving the 10 mile course and the warm fuzzy feeling of raising some cash for charity in the process. Thereâ€™s a pint waiting for you at the end, and some people (10,000 of them to date apparently) even have a tattoo to remember the day by.
This year, the fun returns to Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway on 25 June 2016, with a slightly shorter version of the race â€“ the Tough Mudder Half (8k + 14 obstacles) held the day after.
Itâ€™s a given that you need to be physically fit, but it helps to have the right kit too â€“ enter Merrellâ€™s All Out Tough Mudder training shoe â€“ developed very much with the race in mind. I already love Merrellâ€™s All Out Charge trail shoe, so I wondered how they could improve on that.
The shoe has the same UniFly midsole but with a 7mm heel to toe drop. Strangely, when on, they feel more barefoot than the All Out Charge which has a 6mm drop. They both felt the same weight â€“ but the main difference that is instantly noticeable is the deep (5mm) â€˜pin wheelâ€™ shaped lugs on the two-tone sole. These look like they will get you through anything. The thermoplastic polyurethane mesh uppers are highly elastic, and allow water to get out quickly, through the mesh and added drainage holes â€“ quite important for a race like this. They have reflective details too on the shoe and the laces, and of course the all important Tough Mudder branding â€“ so they look pretty cool. But how will they perform?
I tested these out on a cani-cross version of the Tough Mudder â€“ the Ruff Dugger. Okay, itâ€™s nothing to do with the Tough Mudder but it does involve a lot of mud.
If being dragged around approximately 3.5k of muddy fields and rivers attached to a crazy springer spaniel sounds like a good test for these shoes, I can reveal that they passed with flying colours.
I waded through knee deep burns (small rivers in Scotland), fell up to my waist in mud and had to be corkscrewed out by a race marshall, negotiated slippery stones and coarse heather in pursuit of the finishing line. My feet did get wet (how could they not) â€“ and I did lose my footing some of the time, but I really did feel that my feet were more in control wearing these shoes. I seemed to be able to take turns a bit more confidently, and on uphill stretches I seemed faster.
Perhaps it was the adrenalin, or maybe my dog Ruby just pulling me along that made me feel I performed well â€“ Iâ€™ll leave it to you to decide. I donâ€™t think I am quite ready for the full Tough Mudder event, but think I could give the Half a try. How about you?