Tough Mudder kicked off their endurance event series in the US last weekend with Infinity in Philadelphia. This was my 2nd Infinity event and more than 50th Tough Mudder event. Here’s a rundown of how it went and where Tough Mudder Headquarters (TMHQ) fell short of their normal high standard:
Parking: Parking was offsite, which usually means getting to the start line is going to be a rocky experience. However, having raced at this venue a couple of times, I actually liked the offsite parking better. Parking on site in previous years requires trekking up a large hill with a substantial walk to the check in area. The offsite parking was handled well with lots of buses, a constant stream of round trips and staff coordinating the transportation. Overall, it was very smooth.
Terrain: The terrain was lots of hard packed trail covered in grass on rolling hills. Previous years I don’t remember the course being that hilly but when you stretch out five miles into a 15km (9.3 mi) route, you end up a hitting a lot more hills. There was only one section of really muddy terrain through a marshy area but the rest was very “runnable”.
Obstacles: Tough Mudder brought their usual mix of classic obstacles like Electroshock Therapy (hanging electrical wires), Electric Eel (crawl through electrical wires), Pitfall (mud pits randomly placed in a mud lake) and Arctic Enema (ice bath). My favorite were the upper body obstacles included Funky Monkey, Just the Tip and Hanging Tough (which had the same setup as World’s Toughest Mudder 2022). Cry Baby (their “tear gas” obstacle) was harder than normal with extra thick smoke. Augustus Gloop (a climb upwards with water pouring down) was also harder than normal now consisting of a net instead of the standard half a pipe that many of us have become used to (see picture two up from this paragraph).
Two mud obstacles were much harder than normal. Mud Mile was exceptionally tough with deeper mud pits and the 15k requiring going down/back through the pits. Son of a Ditch, a mud pit obstacle is normally something not worth mentioning but it was so slick that getting out required the use of ropes and people pulling you up. I’ve never seen anything like it at the 50x other events I’ve done.
Two newer obstacles of note were Minshafted (a steep descent into a ditch below the tarp in darkness and climb in the dark, see below picture) and Tipping Point. Tipping Point was a drainage tube setup like a seesaw that became rather difficult when muddy (see final picture in the article).
Infinity on Course with Open Wave Participants: The part I thought was going to be the biggest problem was actually very smooth. Sean Corvelle and TMHQ did a great job briefing the 15k and 5k participants about the Infinity event going on. Last year I had to ask to move to the front of lines at obstacles, this year people cleared a path for me and other competitive racers.
Mileage and Results: Let me start off by saying, if this was my first experience at a Tough Mudder competitive event, I would not be back…that being said, I’ve done 50x Tough Mudders and plan to do more. Let me also caveat the below with the next couple of sentences concern such a small percentage of the field, chances are you won’t care what I’m about to say and it won’t negatively affect your experience, so I encourage you to sign up still.
Normally, their timing system is spot on and occasionally the laps aren’t quite the same distance as advertised but we’ve all learned to just deal with it, if TMHQ says a lap is 5 miles, it is 5 miles even if your GPS says something else, which happens frequently. Usually, it’s only a little over but in WTM 2015 it was almost a quarter mile too long.
Long story short, one of the 15k timing mats got moved, honestly not sure who is to blame for that, but stuff happens sometimes (that is the challenge of doing events with thousands of people). This led to many people’s final 15k lap not registering as a full lap. Add in their 5k laps were longer than 5k (a normal error on most courses, including the one infinity I did in 2022). What wasn’t normal was TMHQ deciding to count the 5k laps as 6k. Long story short, these two things combined meant towards the end of the race, if you were running for a top spot the leader board wasn’t accurate and was confusing on course if you talked to someone that was “behind” you, he might actually be “ahead of you” because his laps were counting as 6k. Although the leader board was updated about 24 hours after the event, I’m still not sure it is accurate. Again, not a concern for most, as someone who races competitively though…this is why I show up.
Overall: Overall, the experience was great for 99% of participants and was up to or exceeded the Tough Mudder standard. For me the festival could be non-existent and the check in process could be a disaster., as long as you have the course clearly marked, the rules are clear and the results are accurate I’ll deal with everything else. While this event did leave a sour taste in my mouth, it doesn’t leave a sour taste for the brand. I’ll be back at other Infinity events, Toughest Mudder and World’s Toughest Mudder, chalking the inaccurate leader board as a fluke.
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