Ranging from about 3 miles up to 10, mud runs are a non-traditional event consisting of military-style obstacles and — you guessed it — plenty of muddy water.
Whether you’re a seasoned runner needing to shake up your training or a beginner looking for a new and exciting way to spend your Saturdays, use these seven tips to get through your first muddy adventure unscathed while having fun:
1. WATCH OTHERS TACKLE OBSTACLES FIRST
Mud pits, rope ladders and rock walls are just a few of the obstacles you’ll face on the course. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few steps back and watching how some of the other, more seasoned competitors go about it. In fact, the time you waste standing around will likely be shorter than the time you’ll lose struggling through an obstacle.
Watching others before your attempt helps you determine what isn’t working so you can avoid making the same mistakes. If you see a group of competitors using the same technique to clear an obstacle safely, it’s a good bet it’ll work for you, too.
2. BRING PLENTY OF WATER
Yes, staying hydrated is a big part of any race. While hydration is always a good idea, this advice is for the end of the race where the line for the showers will likely have you standing around for more than 30 minutes caked in mud.
For many competitors, this is the worst part of the race. Instead of waiting for an ice-cold opportunity to wash the mud off, bring a couple gallons of water, a wash rag and towels so you can make your own cleaning station at your car. It’ll be quicker and a much less painful experience.
3. TRAIN TO RUN FURTHER THAN THE RACE DISTANCE
A 5K mud run is not the same as a 5K road race. Since crawling through mud and tumbling over and under obstacles requires more energy and effort, one way to make up the difference is to train for a distance greater than your race. For instance, if your mud run is 3 miles long, training to run a 5-mile race ensures you’re in good enough shape to reach the finish.
Trail running and other cross-training activities that focus on full-body strength instead of relying only on running to get in shape can be a good idea, too and also improves your speed and endurance when you return to running on the road.
4. RACE WITH A FRIEND OR TWO
Other than making the event more fun, a running buddy or two can be a big help during a mud run. Losing a shoe, getting stuck in a mud pit and struggling to make it over the top of an obstacle are all challenges you’ll face during the race. Having a partner to help clean up your mistakes (and vice versa) makes things much easier than going the course alone.
It also helps to have someone to laugh with you and offer a helping hand should you happen to trip or face plant in the middle of a mud pit.
5. CHOOSE YOUR CLOTHING WISELY
Wearing your $100 running sneakers and nice pair of shades is never a good idea at a mud run. Besides getting destroyed on the course, you may lose or damage whatever you have on you. Here are a few considerations to make when choosing your race-day outfit:
- The more clothes you wear the more mud you’ll be carrying along with you. Wear as little clothing as possible and choose items you won’t mind tossing afterward.
- Don’t wear shorts with pockets unless you want to carry a lot of extra weight.
- Wear cheap sunglasses you won’t mourn if they get damaged or broken.
- Wear a visor instead of cap, which will retain much less mud.
- Avoid cotton materials that absorb water.
- Tight clothing like compression tights are a better choice than anything baggy, which will retain water and mud and make it harder to keep up once it’s weighed down.
6. DON’T CRAWL ON YOUR KNEES
There will likely be obstacles you’ll have to get low to pass under. While your first instinct will be to crawl, this isn’t the best choice. Rocks and other objects on the ground can hurt your knees and legs and cause unnecessary injury.
Instead, get your duck walking or bear crawling down before the race. This keeps your knees off the ground so you can pass safely to the next obstacle. If you have to get really low, try an army crawl.
READ MORE > 4 TRAINING TIPS FOR OBSTACLE COURSE RACING
7. SKIP OBSTACLES WHEN NEEDED
Most mud runs are created by the organizer as a fun event rather than a race. While there will be some competitors taking it more seriously than others, your goal the first time around should be to finish without injury.
This means skipping any of the obstacles you don’t feel comfortable trying. Just because you planned on giving the rope ladder your best shot doesn’t mean you have to go through with it once it’s in front of you. Know your limitations and always choose the safe route if you’re unsure whether you can complete any sections of the course.
One way you can gain comfort prior to a race is to practice as many of the obstacles as you can. If you find out that the course has a rock wall, go to a climbing gym before the race and practice basic techniques. This also gives you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses so you can work on improving your agility, strength and endurance prior to the event.