Training for Tough Mudder with Trail Running in the Mountains

Tough Mudder logoEver hear of Tough Mudder? It’s an intense teamwork-focused endurance race designed by the British Special Forces. Maybe I’m crazy, but I just signed up for the Tough Mudder event in NorCal with a team. At least I have 7 more months to prepare for it. But, after looking at the videos and reviewing the course map, I’m not sure how to prepare myself for running through fire and 10,000 volt electrical wires!

More about it

Tough Mudder is not your average lame mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man, and it is coming to a city near you. Our 7-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor. All Tough Mudder sponsorship proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.

WARNING: A Tough Mudder is 3-4 times longer and much tougher than a typical mud run such as Warrior Dash. Only 78% of participants at our last event in New Jersey finished. Only those in reasonable physical condition should enter.

Training for Tough Mudder

So, how do you train for something like this? They have actually put together a training page that helps you prepare for the different obstacles. I feel like doing CrossFit for the last 6+ months and the next 7 months before the event will prepare me pretty well for a lot of the obstacles. But, given that the NorCal event is going to require quite a bit of running (approximately 10 miles) in the Sierra mountains of Squaw Valley CA (elevation 8000 ft), I think I need to up my cardio game a bit.

So, I’ve started trail running again in the Santa Cruz mountains nearby. The elevation is nowhere near the Sierras, but I’m hoping that the 700 feet of elevation change will be good practice in steep trail running. It certainly is different than flatland running. You work your quads and glutes a lot as you run up hills and scramble up and over rocks and trees. It also requires running more on your forefoot than landing on your heel, as you tend to do with typical running shoes. That, plus the crazy mix of Tough Mudder obstacles that involve lots of water and mud, has made me rethink my footwear for the event. Typical running shoes just won’t do well when diving into water, swimming, and slogging through mud.

Equipment for Tough Mudder

After doing a bit of research, I’ve decided to give the Vibram FiveFingers a try. I bought the Treks, since I think the more durable upper and slightly thicker sole (4 mm) will give a bit more protection from rocky trails and the myriad obstacles that we will be climbing, sliding down, and scrambling through. They do take some getting used to, if you’re not used to barefoot running. You have to break your feet in over a period of time and build up the muscles in your calves and feet. I do keep reading about all of the benefits of barefoot running, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels as I increase my running mileage.


  1. […] continue preparing for the Tough Mudder event, I am still doing CrossFit during the week. But I’ve also added a trail run each […]

  2. More Training for Tough Mudder | Kill Fat Me on March 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    […] still ramping up my training for the Tough Mudder event in NorCal this September. I’m wearing my Vibram FiveFingers much more regularly and did […]

  3. […] if you’ve read my Tough Mudder training posts before, you know that I have been wearing the Vibram (VFF) FiveFingers Treksport shoes for my trail running. I still love my VFF and now I actually have 3 different pairs (KSO, […]

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