This article was taken from the June 2014 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired’s articles in print before they’re posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online
For super-fit thrill-seekers, cardio is not enough. They want to be electrocuted and battered while dragging themselves around a filthy assault course. Events such as Tough Mudder, founded by Brits Will Dean and Guy Livingstone, are part of a global market in obstacle-running worth £300m. Thinking of trying it? Here are three classic Tough Mudder traps designed to — almost — break you.
These monkey bars go up, then down. “It’s harder to get up, but a different skill set to swing down,” says Dean. Using competitors of various body shapes and fitness levels, Tough Mudders’ New Jersey-based R&D team works out bar width and slipperiness. Each obstacle should have a 78 per cent success rate — the mathematics of masochism.
In beta testing, obstacles are debuted on course and then stress-tested until queues start to form. “Then we put a tarpaulin over it, and know exactly what we need to fix later.” With Berlin Walls — a series of three-metre, mud-slicked barriers — that fix was a descent platform to counter runners’ fear of spraining ankles as they leapt down.
Submerged participants have only a few centimetres of breathing space as they drag themselves along a metal fence laid over a water channel. The trick is to ensure it will challenge the petite without trapping the bulky; testers used ten different body shapes in various lane widths and water depths to balance struggle with safety.