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November 11, 2016 Comments (0) All Posts, Athlete Stories

How Tough Is World’s Toughest Mudder?

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World’s Toughest Mudder is an extreme 24-hour obstacle course challenge. This year’s event will be held outside Las Vegas on November 12-13. The eyes of the obstacle course racing world will be firmly fixed on seeing which man, woman and team are able to complete the most laps of a five-mile course in 24 hours. Last year Nickademus Hollon reached 85 miles and placed 4th man in the individual category. Now, 12 months on, he is fired up to try and go 100+ miles.

But Nickademus is not only an elite obstacle course racer. He is also renowned as one of the world’s best when ultra running races are at their most fierce. The 26-year-old remains the youngest person in history to complete both the notorious Badwater and Barkley ultra-marathons. Given his experiences in both obstacle racing and ultra running, we asked Nickademus to tell us just how tough Tough Mudder really is, and how it stacks up against running-specific races of a similar distance. His blog post follows.

Over the past eight years I’ve been an avid seeker of the ‘difficult’. Pursuing a concept of ‘World’s Most Difficult’ has led me to the start line of physical challenges well beyond the boundaries of just running. Among those challenges were the Death Race in 2011, the Fuego y Agua Survival Race in 2014 and the Furnace Creek 508-mile bike race in 2009 and 2010.

My most recent obsession outside the boundaries of ultraunning has been a man-made monster of an event known as the World’s Toughest Mudder. Many people ask me how tough this event is and how it compares to 100-mile ultra running races. What follows are the differences and similarities between the two sports. I will start with the differences. Who knows, it may even encourage a few more ultra runners to stray to the dark side!

The unknown

World’s Toughest Mudder: You don’t know what the obstacles are until a few days before the event. This makes training particularly tricky. Specific obstacle training is nearly impossible and must be reduced to its essential components. For example, I practice running in a wetsuit and work on both my grip strength and upper body endurance.

100-miler ultra running race: Barkley is the only ultra which shares this element of the unknown. 99.99% of other ultra race organisers reveal almost all course details a year or more in advance. This means participants can use their local hills, trails, saunas or other means to replicate the course and acclimatise their bodies to the exact conditions they’ll face on race day.

Terrain and race features

World’s Toughest Mudder: There are obstacles that require participants to swim and use a lot of upper body strength. Due to the water and the height of some obstacles, carrying a running backpack or running vest is tricky. You have to run a large portion of the race in a wetsuit.

100-miler ultra running races: There are often massive ascents, descents and technical terrains to be navigated. Nutrition can normally be carried in a backpack / running vest and, of course, there is no need to run in a wetsuit… that would be weird!

Community and spectators

World’s Toughest Mudder: There are upwards of 1,200 participants rounding a five-mile loop. There is a constant community helping you up and over obstacles – and in return you help them. People seem to like watching other people fall off cliffs and hurt themselves. On-course spectatorship is huge.

100-miler ultra running races: Only UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc), UTMF (Ultra-Tail Mt Fuji) and a small handful of other races globally can match World’s Toughest Mudder in terms of attendance. I once passed out for three hours in the middle of a trail during an ultra. No-one passed me during that time. Very few people like hanging out for hours at aid stations on cold, remote mountain tops waiting to cheer on runners for a few seconds. On-course spectatorship is relatively low.


World’s Toughest Mudder: First thought on the World’s Toughest Mudder start line: “cliff.. cliff… cliff… cliff… frickin cliff… I hate the stupid cliff…” Fear and acute pain numb your mind and body. What do I most fear at World’s Toughest Mudder? Competition, losing sight of my own race, the unknown.

100-mile ultra running race: First thought on the start line of UTMF (Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji): “Jeez, these people look fast!” A seemingly endless climb or fire-road during an ultra can leave you thinking about everything and nothing all at once. What I most fear during an ultra? Competition, losing sight of my own race, nutritional issues.

And so what about the similarities?

* Efficiency is king in both types of event.
* Nerves. I get equally nervous for both events.
* inov-8’s TERRACLAW 220 is my go-to shoe for both. I wore it at last year’s World’s Toughest Mudder and again this year at the Cruel Jewel 100 and UTMF. It’s lightweight, fast and gives me fantastic grip over both obstacle race and ultra running courses.

Nickademus putting his favourite Terraclaw 220 shoes to the test in training

Nickademus putting his favourite Terraclaw 220 shoes to the test in training

Follow Nickademus on Instagram for updates from the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder. Also make sure to check out the CBS Sports Documentary on this year’s race, which will air on Christmas Day.

Best inov-8 shoes for mud running

The World’s Toughest Mudder course Nickademus faces in the desert of Las Vegas, although obviously featuring pools of water, is largely over hard, dry ground. This makes it perfect for the TERRACLAW. Were it seriously muddy, he would benefit from wearing running shoes with a more aggressive outsole. Shoes such as the MUDCLAW are extremely popular in all variations of races that are run over really muddy terrain.

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