Finish Strong

Some races aren’t about time, but rather proving you have the heart to compete and finish. Tough Mudder is one such sport, which isn’t a timed competition, but a test of character over a series of obstacles. Those who participate in the event are showing up to prove to themselves that they can endure the physical and mental tests on the course, regardless of the time it takes.

Tough Mudder was established a little over 10 years ago and has been holding its signature obstacle course events all over the world. The event comes to Laughlin for the first time Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 20-21.

“Tough Mudder is a global company — we’ve got races in over 20 countries,” CEO Kyle McLaughlin said. “We have many customers who will travel and follow us around throughout the U.S. or other countries and try to hit as many events as they can throughout the course of the year. We have over 20 customers who have done 100 or more Tough Mudders in their lifetime. Given that we’ve only been around 10 years, that amounts to quite a few events under your belt.”

The challenge is alluring to many. This isn’t any ordinary race, and it isn’t just about running. Tough Mudder has curated a signature set of obstacles to test an athlete’s full-body strength, as well as their mental fortitude.

“The obstacles are going to push their mental fears, their physical abilities and their abilities to work together as a team,” McLaughlin said. “There will be designed experiences so that people can’t do them individually, you have to do it as part of a larger group, and you need to sometimes rely on strangers to help you get through things. So it’s really unlike any half marathon or triathlon, or other endurance experience.”

Some of the possible obstacles include Funky Monkey, which is a set of monkey bars with spinning horizontal and vertical wheels to navigate. Another feat is the Mudderhorn, the tallest obstacle to ever be erected on an obstacle course, standing at almost three stories tall. Participants must scramble up one side and then back down the other. The Cage Crawl puts mudders in a watery trench under a 60-foot steel fence with only a few inches of air to breathe as they slide on their backs and pull themselves out the other side.

Not to worry, since a regular Tough Mudder is not a competition, participants can pass by any obstacle that exceeds their limits.

“At a regular Tough Mudder weekend, everything is optional,” McLaughlin said. “Anybody that is running can skip anything they don’t feel comfortable doing. There’s plenty of people who come to Tough Mudder who don’t know how to swim and will go around the water obstacles.”

There are two different options for adults to complete — a 10-mile course and a 3-mile course, which will be set up at the Laughlin Events Park.

“There’s 13 obstacles on the 5K course and 25 obstacles on the 10-mile course,” McLaughlin said. “We run both of them at the same time, so if you want to do one and your friend wants to do the other, you can start together, go on your separate ways and meet back at the festival afterward. We have plenty of people who take on the 5K without any training or preparation and they come out and have a great time.”

Upon completion, participants earn a coveted Tough Mudder headband.

“On a regular Tough Mudder weekend, our finishers get our signature headband,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t do medals — you get a really cool Tough Mudder headband which our customers collect with pride. The different headbands show how many Tough Mudders you’ve accomplished. Everybody also gets a finisher T-shirt, and those 21 and over get a free beer.”

Kids also can get in on the fun in the mud with a mini half-mile course or a mighty 1-mile course.

“Kids ages 5-12 can come out and do our Mini Mudder or Mighty Mudder course, which has miniature versions of the adult obstacles for a family fun weekend,” McLaughlin said.

Registration is open online at toughmudder.com for Saturday or Sunday start times.

“You book a time when you register,” McLaughlin said. “We start everybody at different times through the course of the morning, so we encourage people to sign up ahead of time to get the time that they want.”

Spectators are welcome and can also register online. There is a $15 fee for spectators to access the festival and it includes a free beer or seltzer.

The festival runs all day Saturday and Sunday and includes live music, food, beer and all sorts of games and fun activities for participants and spectators to enjoy throughout the weekend.

Last weekend wrapped the World’s Toughest Mudder event in Laughlin, which is the competitive side of the sport. Elite athletes from all over the world came to compete in the 24-hour challenge — completing as many laps on the 5-mile course as possible in that time. To compete for the cash prizes at World’s Toughest Mudder, participants must qualify at another event earlier that year.

“Tough Mudder has three different types of competitive events. One is called Tougher Mudder, and that’s a 10-mile distance that’s run on every regular Tough Mudder weekend. It’s the first wave on Saturday,” McLaughlin said. “We have another one called Toughest Mudder, that is a 12-hour overnight race, that we’ve run three of this year. Then World’s Toughest Mudder is the crown jewel of that. So if a runner can complete all three of those in the course of a year they earn what’s called the holy grail. They’ll get three medals that correspond to each of those races and those medals will interlock into this larger holy grail chalace, which is a point of pride among our Tough Mudder racers.”

There is a qualifying Tougher Mudder round at this weekend’s Tough Mudder event which will be the first wave of runners off at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. The regular event will start at 8 a.m. Saturday.