Tough Mudder: More Team Than Tough

August 14, 2014

Tough Mudder: More Team Than Tough

by Stacey A. 

Tough Mudder, a ten to twelve mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces, returns to Lake Tahoe for its fifth area event with heats both Saturday and Sunday at Northstar CaliforniaWhen it started at Bear Creek Ski Resort in 2010, only 500 participants were initially expected to attend; 4,500 showed up. Now in its fourth year, Tough Mudder is hosting more than sixty events worldwide, with 20,000 people expected to attend at Northstar alone. 

Courtesy of Northstar California Resort

Tough Mudder was created to test mental and physical grit, but the focus is on teamwork. The course isn't designed as a race. Tough Mudder Media Director Rebecca Friedman explains that the event is about pushing yourself to the limits and helping others to do the same. 

"Since they're not races, Tough Mudder events have a different appeal to them. Running in a straight line for hours on end gets you busted knees and a medal you’ll never wear again. We know that everyone has challenges they’d like to overcome, and whether it’s in life or on the course, Tough Mudder is able to help participants tackle challenges head on, and do it with the help of their fellow Mudder."

An example of teamwork, courtesy of Northstar California Resort

While neither teams nor costumes are mandatory at Tough Mudder, both are strongly encouraged. With thousands of participants in each heat, lines tend to form at obstacles, so it's nice to have a fun team to hang out with while waiting your turn. Often teams pick a theme or design their own matching t-shirts for the event. Some take it a step further with wigs, tutus, facepaint, props, etc. These costumes tend to end up torn, burnt, wet, and of course-muddy, but that's all part of the fun in the Mudder culture.

The mudder culture also involves "après Mudder" festivities. Dos Equis sponsors the event and offers a complimentary beer with each ticket. I've personally worked three Tough Mudders at Northstar, and the celebration usually continues well into nighttime in the Northstar Village. Mudders tend to be more of the "work hard, play hard" mentality. Some are serious athletes, but most are just looking to get into a little bit better shape and have a fun time with their friends. 

An example of elaborate costuming, courtesy of Northstar California Resort 

Team "uniform", courtesy of Northstar California Resort

That's not to say that the event isn't physically demanding. Each Tough Mudder endurance challenge tests participants’ toughness, fitness, strength, stamina, mental grit and teamwork. In fact, the 2014 obstacles are considered some of the most ambitious ever. Northstar has completely revamped the course this year, even closing lifts to the public since Monday to make sure no one gets a sneak peak at the new course. 

Participants getting shocked, courtesy of Northstar California Resort

Tickets may sell out but are available here for Saturday and here for Sunday, $185 in advance and $220 this weekend. Parking can be purchased from the same website and costs $10-$25, depending on the day. There is also a shuttle on Saturday running from Boreal Resort to Northstar for $10 in advance or $15 the day of the event.

Northstar has made Tough Mudder more spectator-friendly this year by bringing several of the obstacles down to the base area so that spectators can cheer on their friends and family. Spectator tickets are $20 until Friday and then $40 onsite. 

Tough Mudder tickets may come with a high pricetag, but at least part of the ticket cost goes to a good cause. Tough Mudder has already raised over $6.5 million to support the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonproft designed to honor and empower veterans and help them adjust to life after injury.


Our intern, Stacey Alonzo, is an outdoor enthusiast, yoga instructor, aspiring journalist, Burner, and lover of food, drinks, live music, and travel.

Posted in: Sports + Recreation