Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2018

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Mucking it up as they go along: World’s Toughest Mudder comes to Las Vegas

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Courtesy of Tough Mudder

A competitor in the 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder, held in Englishtown, N.J., slogs through mud on his belly. The 2014 World’s Toughest Mudder, the culminating event for the obstacle course series, will be held at Lake Las Vegas Nov. 15-16.

2014 Tough Mudder

A mud splattered participant is seen during the Tough Mudder event at Lake Las Vegas Saturday, April 26, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Crawl through mud below barbed-wire, jump off cliffs into frigid water and pick up a few rope burns along the way. When you’re done with the first lap, keep doing it for the next 24 hours.

For the 1,500 competitors in the World’s Toughest Mudder event, coming to Southern Nevada for the first time this year, that’s what a good time in Las Vegas sounds like.

Tough Mudder, the obstacle course race, is holding its season-ending, super event Saturday and Sunday at Lake Las Vegas. At Tough Mudder teamwork is stressed — it’s not a race but a “personal challenge” — and runners are encouraged to aid one another. Standard courses are 10-12 miles. There are no clocks or prizes.

At World’s Toughest Mudder teamwork is still encouraged, but there are winners and there are prizes. The course is 5 miles long with 20 to 25 obstacles along the way, including ones debuting before the 2015 season. The number of obstacles per mile will be twice that of a standard course. The male, female and team with the most laps in 24 hours win.

The World’s Toughest Mudder course was previously 10 miles, but was shortened this year to keep better track of participants as they go all night. The change was prompted by safety concerns at other Tough Mudder events and similar obstacle course races.

In 2012, after a Tough Mudder at a cattle ranch in Beatty, several of the participants came down with stomach problems, including diarrhea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated and found that inadvertent ingestion of muddy water contaminated with fecal matter was the probable cause.

Tough Mudder responded to the report, saying mud would remain part of the event but directors were working with the CDC and local authorities to keep the courses safe.

In May 2013 a Tough Mudder competitor died in a water obstacle in West Virginia, the first death since the series started in 2010.

“We’re constantly looking at all of our procedures,” Tough Mudder spokeswoman Ashley Pinakiewicz told the Baltimore Sun shortly after the tragedy. “There’s an inherent risk in any of our events and everything is geared toward minimizing risk, as possible … The entire company is deeply saddened by the accident.”

In planning the fourth annual World's Toughest Mudder, organizers decided a fresh location was in order after holding the first three years of the event in Englishtown, N.J. Having previously held a standard Tough Mudder race at Lake Las Vegas, they picked Southern Nevada for a variety of reasons.

About 75 of the 1,500 competitors hailing from 16 different countries come from Las Vegas and will try to win the $10,000 top prize on their home turf.

To get the lowdown on the endurance race The Sun spoke with Tough Mudder vice president of brand, Alex Patterson.

Why Vegas?

It was in New Jersey the last three years and it was great, but it gets cold in November. It’s also flat, and on the East Coast. We wanted to change things up, and we decided to move out west so California mudders wouldn’t have an excuse not to come.

This will be a great course, cold at night but then warm during the day. We’ve done a Tough Mudder at this venue, and when we assessed other venues we chose Vegas. No other place had the 700-foot elevation gain in a five-mile loop, with the lake right there so we can put people in and out of the water as much as we want. It’s an epic backdrop for a one-of-a-kind event. Plus, everyone wants to go to Vegas and there are tons of cheap flights in and out.

The general ethos of Tough Mudder stresses teamwork and helping each other out. Why hold a competitive race?

We wanted to find the world’s toughest mudder. Basically, we wanted to create an event that people could use regular Tough Mudders to train for. We didn’t want people to say, "I’ve done a few Tough Mudders, and now I’ll climb Everest or swim the Atlantic." We wanted something in the Tough Mudder ecosystem for people to make their goal. And this way, you don’t graduate from it. If you do 25 miles in 24 hours one year, you shoot for 40, then 50.

And even for the people who aren’t the fastest, we have distinctions for completing 25 miles, 50 miles and so on.

We are pushing people to their limits, and we thought in doing so it would be appropriate to anoint a male, female and team as winners.

There is still the spirit of teamwork and camaraderie. You’ll see in the photos from the previous years, the guy in first stops and helps people up the walls.

What are the toughest obstacles — mental and physical?

We have a new obstacle debuting at World’s Toughest Mudder, a 30-foot cliff jump. I think that will be the most mentally tough one. In terms of physically tough, we have one where you hold rings in your hand and then traverse an angled wall by putting the rings over pegs in the wall and climbing up and down.

What else sets this course apart?

In New Jersey, a lot of the race was about how well you can you withstand the cold. This year, I don’t think enduring the cold will be such a deciding factor. We’ve also added hills, including one huge hill they have to run every five miles. I’ll be surprised if anyone makes it to 100 miles like the guy last year did.

What direction do you want to move in with the sport?

I think we’re trying move the sport away from other competitive elements, and we want to continue to create obstacles that are really tough and create the need for teamwork. This isn’t about testing people on stuff that they can learn in a boot camp class. We want people to use teamwork and confront fears.

We want to continue to produce fun events that test your physical and mental grit while being a social gathering for committed hard-core people.

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