A few years ago, if someone told you that you’d be paying upward of $80 to run, crawl through the mud, and get electrocuted, you probably would have backed away … slowly. Admittedly, the premise of a mud run—a 3- to 10-mile relay race that sends runners through obstacles like mud pits and barbed-wire cages—sounds crazy, but that special combination of dirt, sweat, costumes, comradery, and free beer has led to a major boom in the industry in the last five years.
So 2012? Think again—mud runs are still going strong. So whether you’re considering signing up for the Savage, the Spartan, the Warrior, or the Tough Mudder, we asked some seasoned racers for their worst mud-run faux pas so you can bypass their mistakes come race day.
DO dress a little skimpy. Every square inch of clothing is going to get weighed down by mud, so the more you have on, the more weight you’ll be carrying around. Bypass the technical running shirts for something small, sleek, and that you won’t mind throwing away. The best way to ensure you have the perfect mud-run ensemble? Jump in a lake or swimming pool wearing everything, then try going for a 3-mile run. Notice what chafes, what feels heavy, and what falls off, then exchange that item for something else.
DO tie your shoelaces tight enough that your shoes can’t slip off easily, but not so tight that they cut off your circulation. And on that note …
DON’T duct tape your shoes on. It’s unnecessary and unhelpful, and most courses get littered with the sticky stuff in the first mile.
DO wear old throwaway shoes. There’s often a donation bin at the end of the race for retired sneakers; you don’t have to worry about washing them and it’s all for a good cause. Win-win.
DON’T wear your wedding ring—or any valuable jewelry, for that matter. Rings slip off easily in the mud.
DO wear snug-fitting sunglasses to protect your eyes from mud, but leave loose glasses and contact lenses behind. Test your eyewear out ahead of time by looking down quickly: If they fall off easily, leave them at home.
DON’T plan on sprinting from the start line. There are going to be a lot of people ready to jump the gun, so unless you are seriously competing for time, hang back and start off slow and steady until you find a comfortable space to run in.
DO practice your bear crawl. Avoid using your knees in tunnels and under wire obstacles; they can become injured on sharp rocks or roots.
DON’T jump feet-first into the mud pit. The top layer of the pit is usually thin and liquid-y, but under the surface lurks a glue-like substance that will suck your shoes off in an instant. Slow your pace and navigate with caution.
DO hydrate. Drink at least 16 ounces of water two hours before your run, and repeat for every hour you’re running. Stop to drink the water along your race route, too. Chug some additional H20 before celebrating at the beer tent.
DO plan on getting muddy. (Captain Obvious, reporting for duty.) But when we say muddy, we mean plan on having the brown stuff caked onto your scalp, hiding under your toenails, and wedged into the crevices of your ears for days.
DON’T forget a change of shoes, a towel, and a plastic garbage bag. You don’t want to be walking around in soggy threads and tracking mud into your car post-race, and the towel comes in handy for the group shower; there aren’t many sheltered places to change your underwear.
DO bring your own beer. Sometimes the beer at the end of the race gets flat and watery, so if that’s a highly anticipated part of your day, do some additional celebrating back at the car instead (with a designated driver at the ready, please).
DON’T forget to have fun. Take pictures. Wear a tutu. Seriously, it’s a rare few that compete in mud runs for time. Most people are there just to have a good time, get dirty, and revel in a day spent crawling through the mud instead of paying bills or cleaning the kitchen. Enjoy it!