Tough Mudder started off the 2018 season in New Orleans this past weekend with some visible changes. The biggest difference between the 2017 and the 2018 season was the five mile, two loop course format instead of one ten mile loop for anyone doing the Tough Mudder Full. On paper, it didn’t seem like that big of a difference, but on the course, it became clear that it had a very different feeling.

Tough Mudder's New 2018 Race Format

Last year, the course was ten miles for anyone doing the Full. For anyone doing the Half, they took an early exit to the finish line about five miles in. This year, both Half and Full racers shared the six-mile course, with anyone doing the Full completing two laps, while those doing the Half, completed just one lap. The majority of the obstacles on both laps were the same, with just a handful of obstacles different for people doing their second lap. Five unique obstacles for anyone on their second lap to be exact.

I tried to stay positive about it and for about the first half of the first loop, I didn’t have any complaints. Then I started to see issues. Minor things really, but compared to the previous year, it wasn’t the same experience.

Tough Mudder New Orleans 2017 Course Map – click on image for full size.

My favorite part of the 2017 race was the second half of the race, after the masses racing the Half exited the course, crossed the finish line and drank their celebratory beer. The second half of the race course was wide open, there weren’t lines at the obstacles and I felt part of an elite group with enough grit to complete that many obstacles and that distance.

My least favorite part of the 2018 race was doing the same obstacles a second time. Crawling through the mud under barb wire is my kind of Saturday morning activity, but it’s not as much fun a second time around. I felt ripped off, especially since by the second time around the crowds had increased.

Other drawbacks included a feeling like I was about the get stampeded by fresh racers a mile into the course. Not to mention running the same stretches through the woods a second time. I love running through the woods, but half of the fun of running off roads is seeing new views and terrain, not counting down the turns until the next obstacle.

I ran in the 8:30-time slot, one of the first waves after the elite/Tougher Mudder wave. About a mile in, I started getting passed by the competitive racers and at times I felt like I was in their way on the course and at obstacles.

A very small sample size of feedback from some of the people that ran in the Tougher Mudder was that it wasn’t a big deal, there was a little bit of a backup at some of the obstacles the second time around, but for the most part it wasn’t an issue. A friend of mine even said that he liked the second time around because it allowed himself to pace himself because he knew what to expect.

Talking to other open athletes that had run Tough Mudder Full’s in the previous years feel mostly into the negative realm. Again a small sample size.

Starting line emcee Sean Corvelle mentioned the new two loops format in his motivation speech. He said something along the lines of people don’t always like change. I don’t mind change, but to me, it seems like this change isn’t benefiting the racers. I think it's a change designed to make it easier to build a course, say there’s more obstacles and save a few bucks.

Final Thoughts

I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud to wear my Tough Mudder finisher shirt to the gym, I enjoyed the obstacles, I liked the course, I just wish that I didn’t have to do it twice. At this point, I’ll probably run another Tough Mudder Full, but I’d say it’s not guaranteed. After my first Tough Mudder last year, I couldn’t wait to sign up for my next one. I hope they go back to the old course format.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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