[\ˌper-ə-pə-ˈte-tik\]: wandering from place to place
It is not that I have a problem with the Tough Mudder, per se, but ever since hearing about this “race” I have had a major problem with the proclaimed philosophy. In some cases this irritation filters down to the Tough Mudders, themselves. I know (and have met) a good number of really great people that have participated in this event, and I have also read a good deal of blogs from like-minded individuals. Over the past year I have found that it really comes down to a flip of the coin regarding whether any given race participant will have a balanced perspective of the event or whether he or she will have surrendered to the dogmatism and accepted his or her neophyte role in the new religion.
On the one hand, the Tough Mudder is a pretty incredible event: a 10-12 mile course featuring 20-30 obstacles designed by a former member of the British Special Forces. As the course is focused more on teamwork and camaraderie, there is no official time kept––a fact that originally worried race sponsors. After all, who would show up to a “race” that one couldn’t technically win? Well, the answer came back quickly: tens of thousands. Now running websites are filled with images of individuals jumping over flames, climbing rope walls, swimming across rivers, and running through a field of live wires (some carrying 10,000 volts of electric shock).
The above almost makes it difficult to disparage the event. In my book, anything that gets people off of the couch and out of the house is already doing a great thing. It is even better when this entails 2 or more hours of physical exertion during the event, itself, and, ideally, a good deal of prior training in preparation for the course. So if you were to tell me that you are planning on participating, my honest reaction would be, “More power to you!”
Yet on the other hand, I click through to the Tough Mudder “About" page and find a series of just ridiculous assertions:
Fact #1 - Marathon Running is Boring
And the only thing more boring than doing a marathon is watching a marathon. Road-running may give you a healthy set of lungs, but will leave you with as much upper body strength as Keira Knightley. At Tough Mudder, we want to test your all-around mettle, not just your ability to run in a straight line, on your own, for hours on end, getting bored out of your mind. Our obstacle courses are designed by British Speical Forces to test you in every way and are meant only for truly exceptional all-around people, not for people who have enough time and money to train their knees to run 26 miles.
Now let’s just consider, briefly, that part about training one’s knees to run 26 miles. The Tough Mudder organizers are clearly hinting at the view that running is bad for one’s knees and, thus, demonstrating just how out of touch they are with current running research (as detailed here, here, and here). Granted, this is something you would expect race organizers would know when they, presumably, expect participants in the Tough Mudder to run in-between obstacles. But we’ll chalk this up to wide spread ignorance and say nothing more of it except that it is a popular running myth, usually used as an excuse by people who are comfortable on the couch.
The main problem with this philosophy is that it reveals that the event organizers just don’t understand running. In fact, I think that the whole notion that long distance running is boring is an utterly alien notion to most long distance runners. I, for one, quite enjoy and look forward to the 2.5 hours of solitude every Sunday. And surely I am not alone. For most runners this is a time in which one is able to be left alone to one’s thoughts, to deal with one’s troubles, to plan out one’s weeks, or to simply experience and take in one’s surroundings. In fact, I would wager that those who get bored on a long run are just boring individuals.
And boring for race onlookers? Run a marathon and witness the incredible people that show up to represent their neighborhood by cheering you on, and then talk to me about the boredom experienced when watching such an event. Tell me that the time when all 5 boroughs united to cheer on NYC participants was not one of the most significant moments in sport history. Was watching Patrick Makau cross the finish line in Berlin (2011) boring? I mean, there wasn’t a band playing and he wasn’t greeted with a beer, but he did break the world record––running 26.2 miles at a faster time than the overall times of an overwhelming majority of runners completing a 10–12 mile Tough Mudder.
As a runner, these types of comments make it difficult to take the Tough Mudder seriously. But perhaps that is what is entailed by “Fact #2”. Just as “Mudders do not take themselves too seriously”, so we runners shouldn’t take the Tough Mudder seriously. But it really makes one wonder about the marketing strategy of this company and just who they are targeting. After all, if you start by insulting runners, why would a real runner want to run your “race”?
(Photo Credit: Mr Muddy Suitman)