This year has been exciting for the endurance OCR community with the expansion of BFX, the first BFX24, the promotion of Spartan Endurance, the beginning of the Spartan Agoge, and now Tough Mudder’s new event type that was just announced: Toughest! (Not to be confused with the European Obstacle Race Series) So what is this new thing and when can you get involved? Well, that’s what I’m here for.
Toughest is a new addition to the Tough Mudder series of events. This now includes, in order of increasing distance: Half (5+ miles), Full (10-12 miles), Toughest (8h), World’s Toughest (24h). We don’t yet have all of the details about the event, but this is what we know so far.
Your task: As many laps as possible.
Where: 6 undisclosed locations in the US and UK
When: Sometime in 2017
Unlike other Tough Mudder events, Toughest will be a competition with prizes. They will serve as regional qualifying event for World’s Toughest Mudder. Just like WTM, there will be men’s, women’s and team division. Certain performance standards will qualify you for “contender” status at WTM, which earns you premium pit locations and potentially other perks.
My guess is that you’ll need “contender” status to earn the cash prizes at WTM, but I don’t think that you’ll ever need to quality for WTM again. WTM is Tough Mudder’s signature event and some of their greatest fans are made through the WTM Community. The WTM event takes a lot of time, effort and cash to put on, so having more participants makes it a more attractive business venture for Tough Mudder.
The other exciting new announcement is that Toughest will include cash prizes totaling $3,000 and will be televised on CBS. Given the mixed success of Spartan’s entrance into television, as well as Battlefrog’s new ESPN coverage, this will give the television-watching public more access to OCRs. This is great for the OCR community because increased visibility could mean more attendance at events and support for the sport.
There also are rumors started by TMHQ’s Nolan that if you run 40 miles or more during a Toughest, you might earn a free entry to World’s Toughest Mudder, and 50 miles will get you big prizes. This threshold reminds me of Tough Mudder’s carrot that anyone who runs 125 miles at WTM wins lifetime passes to Tough Mudder and WTM. The farthest any person has run at WTM is 100 miles. That person is Ryan Atkins. He’s only done it once. (While there’s a debate as to if Ryan is a human, I expect many more people and TEAMS will reach 100 miles this year. I’m attempting to join that club.) But, unlike the almost-impossible 125 mile mark, I think the 50 mile mark could be achievable.
Tough Mudder’s obstacles are built on teamwork and aren’t based on huge feats of strength (think Spartan’s Hercules Hoist) or grip acrobatics (Battlefrog’s rigs). They’re focused on challenging your mental grit, getting you wet, and making you embrace the suck. Every person can do every obstacle with a little help from his or her friends (sometimes more than a little). That means the elites can usually make it through the obstacles quickly and efficiently, and usually solo. Personally, I can’t make it up Pyramid Scheme or Everest 2.0 solo, but I don’t need much help to get up. (Yes, I can do Blockness Monster on my own. It’s not bad.)
This means that 50 miles in 8 hours is achievable for a select few. I predict that it won’t be reached at every Toughest, but it will be hit at least once in 2017. Considering how BFX winners are routinely hitting 7-8 laps of a 5-mile course in 6-7 hours, the 40-mile mark will be hit at every event. The 50-mile effort requires a 9:40 min/mile for 50 miles including obstacles. That corresponds to running five successive full Tough Mudders in 1:40. In my experience, the first finisher of most events comes in around 1:40-1:50 on most courses that exceed 10 miles. Repeating that effort five times in a row will be difficult, but not impossible. Personally, I ran 2 laps of the difficult San Bernadino course in just over 3 hours early this year. Kris Mendoza and I also ran 3 laps of one of the hardest courses, Tahoe, in 6:30, and we ran slowly on the last lap.
This new event has great potential to expand the Tough Mudder Community while also increasing the quality of endurance competition in the OCR world. The cash prizes increase the ability for people to become full-time professional OCR athletes. Only time will tell how Toughest will compete with BFX and what caliber of athletes it will attract.
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