Tough Mudder was held in Rockford for the first time in 2016. Out of pure curiosity, I went to watch the event that first year and was completely entertained and mesmerized by all of the participants. So much so that I signed up for the next year. Gulp. Here are the 5 things I learned from participating in Tough Mudder in 2017.

1. The running portion is no joke.

There are the people who breeze through the running portions of Tough Mudder, or at least jog most of the time. And then there's me. Although, I didn't train at all prior to the event (I was planning my wedding, cut me some slack), and my legs were feeling it by the time we finished the course. Leading up to the event, I was most nervous about the obstacles, but I overlooked how tiresome the 10 miles were going to be. Luckily, I did discover that there are “rest stops” at certain points in the course where you can rest a minute, have a snack and drink some water. But do yourself a favor if you’re planning on participating in Tough Mudder and train even a little bit. Jogging the Rock River Recreation Path is a great start!

2. Teamwork is key.

Tough Mudder is definitely a team effort. Even if you sign up by yourself, you’ll always find a team of people waiting and willing to help you at each and every obstacle. One of the obstacles, Pyramid Scheme, involved participants climbing up a large, flat incline…so the only way to get to the top really was to literally climb on other people. Our whole team climbed up a human ladder of complete strangers, so without them, we wouldn’t have made it! (Don’t worry, we helped pull them up when we all reached the top.)

Tough Mudder Pyramid Scheme

Teams not only help each other through the obstacles, but also through the long stretches of just running. There were plenty of groans during these long stretches (mostly coming from me), but there was also a lot of laughter among my team members. Although it’s not just the other participants that are the only cheerleaders. There are certain obstacles spectators can go watch and cheer on the participants. My mom and older sister were watching as my team participated last year and it always put a little pep in our step to have a few extra people rooting for us.

3. Facing your fears is just something that has to happen.

I was nervous going into Tough Mudder because of a few particular obstacles. I’m afraid of open water and jumping off of high heights…and I had to deal with both of those fears on the course. Particularly with the King of the Swingers obstacle. It literally involved jumping off a tall platform to (hopefully) grab onto a swinging bar only to let go of that bar and fall into the water below. My advice for something like this that makes you face your fears is to not take the time to think about it and just jump right in. Also, don’t underestimate the power of counting (as silly as that sounds). Tough Mudder staff at the obstacle would count down from 3 and everyone in the front of the lines would jump to grab the bar at the same time. I didn’t want to be the only one left on my platform at the end of the countdown, and jumping alongside a group of people made it less scary if you’re all doing it at once.

Plus, there are certain obstacles that are so fun they make you forget about the scary ones. If you have a chance to participate in Tough Mudder, get excited for the Block Ness Monster. SO FUN.

Tough Mudder King of the Swingers

4. Take the time to celebrate the accomplishment!

Tough Mudder is long and grueling and I couldn’t really walk normally for 3 days after because my calves hurt so much, but crossing that finish line at the end of the course and getting that headband was completely worth it. Take the time to celebrate with your team or the participants you’ve been cheering on! All Mudder finishers get a headband, t-shirt and complimentary beer at the end of the course. Plus, there are plenty of vendors in the vendor area to purchase more items, or even win some freebies! I hear even the RACVB will have a tent on hand with some fun prizes…stop by to see us!!

Tough Mudder team

5. Tough Mudder is not only fun to participate, but also fun to watch.

Tough Mudder is not for everyone, but if you think you might like to give it a whirl, go for it! Trust me, if I can complete the course, anyone can. But if Tough Mudder isn’t your thing, I encourage you to still go out and watch! There is a certain spectator course along the route where people can go and watch a select number of obstacles. The spectator course isn’t the full 10 miles, but you do get to see some of the best obstacles. When I watched Tough Mudder in 2016, we walked the spectator course and were entertained by the King of the Swingers obstacle for about a half hour in itself! You find yourself cheering for complete strangers. Like the person who had trouble getting over the Everest wall and then finally makes it, or the participant who effortlessly made their way across the Funky Monkey obstacle. Some participants are just fun to watch, too. I’ve seen men in full business suits with briefcases in tow on the course, as well as someone dressed up in a full Captain America suit. You never know what you’re going to see!

Tough Mudder will be held at the Chicago Rockford International Airport on August 25 - 26, 2018. If you go, you might even see me out there! I’ll be the one cheering for my husband, sister and brothers in law…safely from the spectator course this year. But who knows, maybe I’ll participate next year!

To learn more about Tough Mudder in Rockford, visit gorockford.com/toughmudder