It was on an enchanting Pennsylvania site that the 12h version of Toughest Mudder was held for the first time. The first Toughest edition in Eastern America was also held on this site (Plantation Field) two years ago before moving to the Boston area last year. For those of you who do not know what I'm talking about, Toughest Mudder is a "special" edition of the Tough Mudder obstacle course series, which consists in completing the most lap on a 5-mile (8km) circuit overnight. The event seeks to simulate and reproduce the most difficult portion of its flagship event (World's Toughest Mudder) that occurs during the night known as Black Ops. The original edition of the last two years was held over a period of 8 hours while this year is a 12 hours of pleasure (or suffering) that awaited the racers.
Crédit photo: Tough Mudder
First of all, it is important to mention that the race takes place in the middle of a regular race weekend. Because, yes, there are organized races during the day of Saturday and Sunday. Which means that the organization must redo the race route between events, ensure that the obstacles and the logistics are not lacking and also spend long hours without sleep. Another change from the 8-hour version is that the site now includes a WTM-style camp space where participants can use a 10-by-10-foot space to put what they need to get though the night. The location was ideal because the race route ran directly into the middle of the area and provided quick access to the pit. The start was at 8pm on Saturday night. The racers were invited thirty minutes before in the starting area to hear the rules and the long-awaited speech by Sean Corvelle. It was also a great opportunity to thank Eli Hutchinson and Nolan Kombol who wore the black jersey of the TM production team for the last time. Those two architects were part of Tough Mudder's transformation to make it what it is today and the racers were able to show their appreciation.
Finally, the countdown is launched and the 500 or so runners begin their adventure that will keep them awake all night. For a rare occasion during this kind of event, the temperature is perfect. Runners enjoy a beautiful sunset and a light that will allow them to make a first lap a little faster. In addition, the obstacles are practically not open during that first lap. In fact they open in turns over a period of two hours. The course included a total of 18 obstacles: Kiss of Mud, Pitfall, Mud Mile, Black Widow, Funky Monkey, Skidmarked, Crawl Cage, Augustus Gloop, Hydrophobia, Everest, Block Ness Monster, Pyramid Scheme, Berlin Walls, Leap of Faith, Gauntlet, Arctic Enema, Mudderhorn and Electroshock Therapy. The last two were positioned after the camp area. Which means you could refuel before completing the obstacles and finish your lap. Of the 18 obstacles in the course, 5 included penalties (loop) in case of failure: Funky Monkey, Everest, Leap of Faith, Gauntlet and Electroshock Therapy. All the others were mandatory, but could be successfully completed by all since as always the mutual aid is strongly recommended.
A small novelty was introduced following the WTM 2018 experience. After completing 20 miles (4 laps), the runners obtained an orange wristband that allowed them to skip an obstacle of their choice at any time in the race. In addition, the racers were getting another wristband for each lap completed after the fourth. These bracelets have mostly been used at Funky Monkey, Gauntlet and Arctic Enema. Some have also used the latter strategically to avoid Mudderhorn which takes a considerable time to complete. We saw a racer using this strategy a few seconds from the end of the race to complete his lap in time. If in previous editions, the organization granted the racers a grace period of 30 minutes to complete their last lap, this was not the case this time. The last lap had to be completed before 8am on Sunday morning.
The course was very easy to follow and there was no possibility of getting lost. Obviously, having thousands of people running the same course during the day makes the way a little clearer, but still all was thought about. There were even stripes of light in the wooded section to be sure no one took a wrong path. This made the path definition even more obvious and added an almost magical element to the thing. Even though the terrain had been put to the test during the day, it was not too muddy or damaged. There were, of course, some sections following the obstacles including water like Pitfall or Cage Crawl which quickly became big muck, but the rest of the course was practically dry. I noticed 4 differences on obstacles that were also present in Atlanta last November. Mudderhorn now had wooden bars to allow climbing to reach the net. The water in the Cage crawl was quite low, but a "level up" version with structure in the water was available. The distance from the net of "Leap of Faith" was closer to the edge and more easily attainable. And finally the Gauntlet was a little different in its configuration, but still respected the concept that had been seen at WTM.
Crédit photo: Tough Mudder
During the night, many experienced cold episodes. Nothing extreme given the relatively warm temperature, but some still put on their wetsuit or added a windbreaker on their back to keep their heat. The repeated passages in the water and the drop in temperature are certainly the biggest challenge to overcome with the fatigue that accumulates with each lap. Those who have managed to keep moving at a good pace did not seem to have had too much trouble.
In the end, Norway's Johan Ingemarsson finished first in the men's race, completing a total of eleven laps for 55 miles in 10h46 minutes, ahead of Mark Gaudet and Evan Perperis who travelled the same distance, but in 11h03min and 11h09min respectively. Same situation for the women, who all completed 9 laps (45 miles), but Erin Rost managed to complete the last lap faster than her pursuers finishing with a time of 10h53min. Kera Pezzuti and Isabella Crane delivered a hot fight finishing just two minutes apart (11h55min for Kera and 11h57min for Isabella). In terms of individual qualifications, 73 men will have reached the mark of 40 miles and 8 women the mark of 35 miles.
On the team side, two categories were available: 2 or 4 people. It was interesting to see the racers' imagination for team names. In the duets, Chub Cactus and The Occasional Helmet (Javier Escobar and Joshua Riedinger) finished first with 65 miles in 11h51min. Muddy Canucks (Morgan Henderson and Andrey Rebrov) took second place (55 miles in 11h35min) ahead Bro-Storm (Nick Hallman and Ronald Tortola) who ran no less than 50 miles in 11h27min. For the quartet, Pour Judgment (Michael Knill, Ryan Kaczmark, Tim Kelly, Richard Myers) finish first with 45 miles ahead of Poon Slayerz (Kyle Heyblom, Alex McKay, Phillip Pavlich, Francesco Vito) with 40 miles and Run with Mike (Jorge Estevez, Donald Benjamin, Anthony Coluccio, Michael Coluccio) with 35 miles. As you surely know, no cash purse was awarded to the winners this year, but the traditional bottle of champagne was still there! There was also a cake out of nowhere for solo runners. Other Toughest editions are still available this year. Check out the Tough Mudder website for more details!