After each mud run or obstacle race I compete in, you'll get my review and grades for each event to help you decide which ones you might want to sign up for. The following categories will be discussed:

1. COURSE- the design, venue, and setup of the race itself- how creative/ adventurous/ difficult the obstacles were, and obviously... how was the MUD?!?

2. FESTIVAL- all the fun beyond the actual race- the social atmosphere which usually includes food, beer garden, dj/ music/ concert, contests, vendors, and more during the after-party

3. SWAG- the included goodie bag and prizes up for grabs- all the "free" stuff that comes with price of entry and the quality of awards, shirts, and other giveaways

Feel free to use the search box to read up on any past topics you might be looking for.

TOUGHER MUDDER, Englishtown NJ, 10/6/18

My first ever Tough Mudder in 2011 was here at Raceway Park in Englishtown NJ, a venue I've since visited a number of times for other OCRs that have rented out this site- including 2014 and 2015 BattleFrog, 2016 Terrain Race, and 2017 BoneFrog.  Every year since then I've only done one Mudder annually, in a different location each time, until they came to Long Island in 2015 and then I've made that my yearly (and convenient local) headband collection run. I did their Full, Half, and 5k versions (which they will be eliminating the middle one next year), but was disappointed in the shorter distances because of how few obstacles were used.  Seeing that the Full is really the most worthy event in my eyes, I went for the new ToughER version- a timed heat, the day's first wave of the Full distance course, with ALL the obstacles they'd bring.

1. COURSE-  Right after putting on my neon yellow crossing guard looking bib, I found out that this course would not be quite like the last one I did here at Raceway Park- instead of a true "Full" 10 mile course, they have gone to a double lap of the 5 mile Half recently.  However, thankfully lap 2 was not the exact path of the first, and also featured different (and better) obstacles the final lap. The Raceway Park venue is a mixed bag of different terrains- some single track forest running, some winding motocross mud hill tracks, and (unfortunately) also some unavoidable pavement, as they need to use that to connect areas of the park as well as utilize the namesake asphalt racecar track section.  The format of Tougher, besides being competitive and timed, included penalty runs for failed obstacles.  I was lucky to not face those this day, but they looked really minimal and painless (compared to that other big race series who fines in the amount of 30 burpees each time).  Among the best obstacles were my favorite Blockness Monster, and then Happy Ending, which both were only seen once. We were also given the task of "preparing" the Arctic Enema by carrying our own ice bag and then dumping it into the tub before taking that memorable dip.  GRADE = A

2. FESTIVAL-  Using a big field section, there was a true festival feel to the wide area and offerings.  Lots of vendors with samples (I like the Jack Links jerky and Kill Cliff drinks) , and also some fun games including a version of the ninja salmon ladder.  Main sponsor Merrell had a big tent with shoes to try on (no free samples there lol) as well.  GRADE = B

3. SWAG-  My biggest Mudder haul yet, since the Tougher race comes with this fashionable race jersey bib and different headband. And then building on Long Island's Repeat Offender pickups, this brought me to my third distance TM completed in the last two years, scoring yet another headband plus a mini kettlebell souvenir. The finisher shirt is same Merrell tech material they've had for a few years, so this was only the slightly different logo design from the other distance events.  GRADE = A


TOUGH MUDDER 5k, Old Bethpage NY, 7/22/18

This is the now fourth year that Mudder has come to visit my home on Long Island, but a new shorter 5k distance has been added to the list of courses along with their "Full" (which I did their first year in 2015) and "Half" (ran in 2016 and 2017).  The appeal for me with the new 5k was NOT because of the difficulty of this course, haha, which is almost entirely flat and generally unexciting, but due to another new feature called the Repeat Offender program- by doing at least two different course lengths in a two year span, you enter that club and receive extra swag, which I'll describe in that final section below.

1.  COURSE-   Having done the longer versions in past years, and realizing that less distance usually also equates to fewer obstacles, I wasn't expecting much from the 5k.  But I can tell you that the consensus for this years event in general (all lengths) was a decline in quality from the few years prior.  And that was certainly more true about the new 5k, having very little to even live up to other race series 5k distances.  I want to say that they claimed around 10 obstacles for this short course, but at least three of these obstacles (actual, listed, "named" on map) were nothing more than a foot deep puddle of water- nothing else to it!  Now we're down to maybe 7 obstacles, which is barely worth calling it an OCR.  But also, those still considered 5k obstacles were NOT the big scale exciting ones that you might possible be getting in the Half or probably getting in the Full.  Thankfully, one of my faves, the Blockness Monster, was accessible by just a quick detour off the 5k to share that Half course obstacle.  GRADE = C

2.  FESTIVAL-  I'll assume that numbers must be growing for this location, and with the same size festival area each year, it just seemed pretty chaotic.  Very overcrowded, even for this overcast Sunday morning, it felt like a carnival with your mind spinning just even trying to find key landmarks like bag check, showers, or even the start line.   That being said, if you wanted to spend the time to navigate around, there were no shortage of vendors and activities to keep busy post run.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-   Merrell is back making their great quality t-shirts for finishers, thought the 5k edition looks exactly like last year's heather gray Half shirt (the one from this year's Half was blue instead).  I got to pick up a new design headband for the 5k distance, and then also the multicolor 2x "Repeat Offender" version for doing the two races between 2017 and 2018.  And in a few months when I do the Tougher Mudder (Full) Tri-State in a few months, I should then also get that extra swag for the 3x level.  GRADE = B


Previous year events:




RUGGED MANIAC, Calverton NY, 7/21/18

I havent even been near a Rugged Maniac in years due to disappointing experiences at the handful of previous ones I've run (at Aviator Park in Brooklyn).  Much of the poor quality of those events has been due to that venue, which I've never been shy in saying is likely the worst OCR site in the whole world!  All my earlier Rugged Maniacs (plus a Terrain Race, Civilian Military Combine, and even my first ever Spartan Race in 2010) have been held at this converted airstrip location- a totally flat mostly pavement course, which is just plain underwhelming.  So this time at another frequently rented out venue on the east end of Long Island, I figured I'd see what was new as they visit my home turf.

1.  COURSE-  The struggle of Long Island OCR life is that we have nothing of the mountain range inclines of the nearby upstate Catskills or parts of northern NJ, so we have to race and train with what we have.  In Calverton NY, which has also hosted Survival Race and a number of other events, of course we're essentially dealing with flat farmland terrain.  So racing here is fast, where the pace of the top racers is around twice as speedy compared to a typical mountain course.  This race clocked in right around 3 miles distance, and since most of the obstacles (some were inflatable type) also cater to the beginner to mid level athlete, there was not much to slow anyone down.  They didn't really get too adventurous until about the last quarter mile, where a gauntlet of about 5 larger scale obstacles were the most fun and challenging.  My favorite, Off The Rails, was a rope hold zip line to hit a bell over water, which felt great to drop into with the hot sun we had here on race day.  GRADE = B

2.  FESTIVAL-  Rugged definitely gets points for the interactive picnic style games (corn hole etc)  that kept a lot of kids entertained in front of the grand stage.  There looked to be at least 3 different pullup contests going on- maybe a little overkill- as several branches of armed forces had vendor booths with that, plus the official on stage contest too.  And unfortunately, or maybe fortunately (?), I missed the most interesting festival challenge of all as they had a state fair type pie eating contest! Hope the flavor wasn't mud pie haha.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-  The finisher shirt was a comfortable soft cotton feel, with a decent logo design (this was the back), not specific to the date or venue though.  I remember when Rugged Maniac didnt even have medals, but now their finish line prize is at least up to par with most other race series.  GRADE = B


BONEFROG CHALLENGE, Charlemont MA, 5/19/18

This New England ski resort has now become what I'd call my favorite race venue of the year- the "Beast of the East" in the Berkshire Mountains of MA, where Bonefrog has held their original race series every year since 2013.  I made it here for the 2014 and 2017 Sprint events, but decided to step up to the Challenge (pun intended- that's actually the name of their mid distance race) as I did also for last July's NJ course.

1.  COURSE-  While last year featured the sadistic trail blazing skills of Norm Koch, his absence in 2018 didn't make this course any easier, as the steep hills are almost hard to avoid on this mountain, especially when trying to pack in 6 miles (note- previous year Bonefrog Challenge races had been slightly longer at 8 miles).  Throw in a solid 40 obstacles along the way and you're in for a legit race well worth my 4 hour drive.  The best of their lineup were mostly featured around the main festival area, where an upgraded Chopper rig foiled a lot of racers, and the late morning rain made their Strong Hold rig that much tougher.  The new caving ladder ascent called Ship Boarding was a final vertical climb test right before their famous ending Black Ops monkey bar traverse at the finish.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  The setup has remained the same year after year except for moving the registration and bag check tents back outside, rather than in the base lodge like last year.  Vendors are placed perfectly to meet race finishers and their spectators all in the small, but central area right in front of the lodge.  Always one of the best setups for parking as well, directly adjacent to the course only a minute's walk away, making it easy to go back for a change of clothes or to drop stuff off at the car.  GRADE = A

3.  SWAG-  Lots of new stuff this year, including totally redesigned medals, now in hexagon shape but varying size depending on the race distance you complete.  The ribbon also corresponds to that race.  Shirts are all shades of gray, but slightly different based on those four race options.  But as in many mandatory completion OCRs, the top swag to leave with is the one they issue you from the start- the elite wristband- which is yours to lose unless you successfully pass every obstacle on course.  GRADE = A