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How to beat the Mud Run obstacles

From Purple Crayon:

I made the grave error of signing up for the Chicago Marathon this year, so I will not be doing the Mud Run this time, but April was my sixth running of the Marine Corps Mud Run, the fifth on this course.  I’ve done road races and other obstacle races, but the team component of this race makes it one of my favorite.  The first two times I did the race were Pre F3 pursuits on coed teams with my wife.  My last four have been with Team Shortcut (although we did not earn that moniker until our second go round).

My best advice is to do what earned Team Shortcut our name and try to skip as much of the course as possible.  Short of that, you need to remember this is a TEAM RACE.  That means that you have to stick together during the race and finish together.  More importantly, it means you need to work as a team if you want to perform at the highest level.  As you will see below, the rules for this race change from year to year and are to a large degree dependent upon the mood of the volunteer that is policing each obstacle when you get to it.  Some volunteers like to be hard-asses and make the obstacles as difficult as possible.  Others appreciate the team component of this race and allow some leeway as long as it involves team work.

I’ve never served in the military, but I know that the best soldiers are all about taking care of their brothers and I believe that a race endorsed by the US Marine Corps would favor an approach that emphasizes teamwork.   I also know that the most successful military operations are planned using the best intelligence available.  With that in mind I offer the following intelligence regarding the best way to tackle each obstacle on the course.

Note:  They like to change the course from year to year, so actual conditions may differ from those shown below; however, I have carefully reviewed information presented on the website http://www.usmcmudrun.org and Facebook  page so what you find out there Saturday should be pretty close to what you see here.


0.15 mi of flat, open terrain – Based on the map on the Mud Run website it looks like the race starts about where the registration tents have been in past years.  What happens between the start and the first obstacle is an unknown at this point.  While it is important to stay together during the race, it is also a good idea to send an advance man ahead to scope out each obstacle and identify any problems that may need to be addressed.  For instance, some obstacles get pretty crowded and it helps to have someone scout out the best line of attack.

#1 — Leatherneck Welcome

3 — 5′ Walls — Each team member must navigate over.  Pretty simple, up and over, but be careful on the landing because you are not warmed up yet.

#2 — The Perfume River

Wall Climb with Rope – each team member must navigate creek and use ropes provided to scale the wall at the creek exit .  Until Oct. 2012, you had to pull yourself out of a dirt walled pit with ropes.  In Oct. 2012 they added slick plywood to the side of the wall making it more difficult.  Try to find a dry spot and pull yourself up as you walk up the wall.  Boosting each other up is allowed.  A helping hand from the top is also a good idea.

#3 — Under Bar Slide

15′ length X 8′ high — Each team member jumps up and grabs the bar and slides down the bar feet first;

Wrap ankles around bar and push yourself down hand over hand.  Not real tricky, but expect ankle abrasions as you slide your sandy ankles down the metal bars.

#4 — Culverts

Each team member crawls through the tunnel on hands and knees .  Pretty simple

#5 — Rope Swing

Each team member runs up jumps to grab a rope and swings across the mud pit to the other side.  First team member needs to get the rope and hand to second team member.   May need to enter pit to get rope.  Keep your momentum up and time your release properly so momentum keeps you on from falling back into pit.  Once over, throw rope back and grab others as they swing across.

#6 — Low Crawl Under Logs

Each team member crawls on their chest underneath Logs.  Pretty simple.  Keep your head low.

#7 — Wall Climb

15′ height – Each team member climbs to the top of the wall and up and over then down the other side.  Just like climbing a ladder.  Careful on the way down cause it’s a long fall.

#8 — Log Crossing

Each team member walks the length of the log across the top of the pit to the other side without falling.  If you have balance challenged teammates, first team member across can enter water and help others cross

#9 — Mud Hole

Over under logs, each team member crawls through the logs alternating between going over and under the logs.  Pretty simple, but be careful.  I almost lost a piece of my scrotum on a large splinter last year.

#10 — Rope Bridge

Each team member crosses the pit by walking across the steel cable and not falling in.  First team members across should apply tension to top rope to help teammates cross more quickly.  Try to keep the top rope in front of you.

#11 — Mud Hole Crawl

Each team member crawls through the logs alternating between going over and under the logs Nuff said.

#12 — Parallel Bars

Each team member grabs the bottom bar, pulls themselves up to the top bar, 8′ high, then they must go over the top bar and lower themselves back down to the ground.  All F3 guys should be able to do this without help.  Grab bar with both hands, swing feet up and over bar.  Pull yourself up to bottom bar, climb over top bar and jump down.

#13— HeartBreak Ridge

Each team member runs the path along the ridge.  This is a zigzag path through the woods.  Last year it was poorly marked, but try to stay in path delineated by surveyors tape.  If guys in front of you are cutting corners, then by all means you should follow them.

#14 — Monkey Bars

Each team member grabs each bar in their hands and swings from bar to bar without falling in the pit. The rules for this one seem to change each year.  This is one where it helps to have an advance man scout out what the volunteers are allowing.  Most years, team members were allowed to assist each other.  Stand behind teammate grab around waist and lift. Walk through obstacle while teammate touches each bar.

One year, the first team member had to go through with no help before they could return to help others.  If this is the case, make sure best monkey bar man goes first.  Last year the first team member had to navigate obstacle before helping others, but we were allowed to go over the top, which is a lot faster than going through by hanging.

#15 — The Passage

Each team member is passed through the center of the tire by their teamates without touching the tire or obstacle.  This was new in October.  First team member should go to other side of tire to receive first person through.  Two people lift the fourth person and pass them through.  First person through becomes the receiver while first team member to obstacle goes back around to help others through.  It’s a lot easier if two people pass one person through.  Last year I had to pick Caesar up “honeymooners over the threshold” style because Gris forgot to come back to other side. (Glad it was Caesar and not Gris)

#16 — Parris Island Grinder

Each team member must pass over the top of each log.  If you have vertically challenged teammates, it helps for fastest man to go all the way through obstacle and them come back to give shorter guys a boost over the high logs

#17 — Parallel logs

Each team member must pass over the top of each log – 3′ high  Similar to above, but logs are not as high.

#18 — Hamburger Hill

Triple Hills (10′, 15′, 20′) – each team member runs over the top of each hill.  Pretty simple

#19 — Slide for Life (New Obstacle)



This is the first time they have had this obstacle so this is only a guess, but it looks like you have to traverse across a water hole on a rope that is stretched across the hole.  You start on the high end and go down to the low end.  Similar to the Under Bar Slide, but longer and with a rope.

#20 — Trench low crawl

Each team member crawls under the camo net from one end to the other.  Some years they have camo netting suspended over the pits, some years they just have the net laying on the ground in the pits and some years they have no camo netting.  Biggest challenge here is making sure you do not get stuck behind a slow poke.

#21 — Z trench (2 lanes of mud)

Each team member runs through the water filled trench from one end to the other and climbs the hill at the end of the trench.  Get through as fast as possible, but beware of depth changes.  Pay attention to person in front of you.  If they fall it likely means they hit a deep spot.

#22 — Parallel Logs

Each team member must pass over the top of each log, 5′ high See #16

#23 — Cargo Net

Each team member must climb the net to the top and over climbing back down the other side, 12′ high.  First team member should grab bottom of net and pull down to tighten net so it is easier to climb.  Second person to obstacle goes to other side to pull net tight.  Keep switching until all members are over.  If you can get over while someone from another team is pulling net tight, go for it.

#24 Mud Pit

Each team member must run through the waist deep pit .  Waist deep is about right.  You can run full speed and jump as far across as possible.



You must “weave” yourself over and under a series of horizontal telephone poles without touching the ground.  In the past they have allowed team members to help each other

#25 — The Team Wall

Each team member must get all members over the top of the 10′ wall and down the other side.  Team member 1- Fastest, Team member 2- tallest, Team member 3-Heaviest, Team member 4-whoever is left .

1 and 2 boost 3 over wall.  While 1 and 2 boost 4 over wall, 3 climbs down other side and runs around wall to front to help 2 boost 1 over.  4 and 1 remain on top of wall to grab 4’s hands as 3 boosts him up.  While 1,2 and 4 climb down back of wall, 3 runs back around the wall.  Note: If SixMike is near you he will ask for help.  You can decide whether to help him or not.

#26 —Mud Pit

This was new in Oct. ’12.  Go through the mud.

#27 Euphrates River

Each team member negotiates the creek from one end to the other. I hate this part.  Even though it offers some time to rest, it is frustratingly slow to make your way through the stream without tripping over fallen trees or falling in deep spots.

#28 —Mud Pit

Each team member crawls under the logs from one end to the other.  Simple enough

#29 —Tarzan

Swing from rope to rope Tarzan style across a pit. A couple of F3 badasses made it across last year the “correct” way. How you get through this depends a great deal on what the Marines on duty allow.  The first year they had this obstacle, all team members had to swing across the pit rope to rope.  If one team member failed, the whole team got a penalty.  If they are doing that this year, you should just get across the pit as quickly as possible and take your penalty because it is unlikely that all 4 team members will make it across.

One year, they allowed one teammate to carry another on his shoulders across the pit while the man on the shoulders touched each rope.  Then run back to beginning, switch places and go through again.  Last spring, if one member of the team made it across going rope to rope then the whole team got a pass.

#30 — Back Blast

Each team member must climb up the bars, then climb down the ladder on the back side.  This was new in the spring. Not that difficult. \

#31 — The Sands of Iwo Jima

Each team member crawls from one end to the other.  This is a deep pit full of thick black mud.  If you try to walk through this, you will get stuck and probably lose a shoe.  Basically you just “swim” through trying not to swallow any mud.

#32 —Mt. Suribachi

Stairway to Heaven

Each team member climbs to the top of the 15′ wall, goes over and then down the other side Simple enough

#33 — Island Hopping

Each team must move through the water and over the Islands the entire length of the obstacle.  You are basically climbing in and out of pits.  Sometimes they have water in them, other they are dry.

#34 — Arm Walk

Each team member must walk the length of the obstacle on their hands without falling or touching the ground.  How you do this also depends on what the Marines on duty allow.  One year we were allowed to carry each other through on shoulders.  One year ever team member had to arm walk across on their own without touching the ground or bars with feet.  If any team member failed the team did a penalty.  In April ’13 you were allowed to put feet on bars and push yourself across and carry teammates on shoulders.

#35 — Switch Backs

Each team member must run the length of the obstacle back and forth across the top of the hill.  Zigzag across a ridge about 8 feet high.  Try not to get behind a slowpoke.

#36 — Sandy Run

Firemans Carry your team member s 100 yards.  Piggy back or fireman’s  carry each other 100 yds.  Probably faster if you switch half way.  Since you have to finish as a team, if one couple is way behind the lead couple, it probably makes sense for the lead couple to go back to help slow couple.

Run through woods to finish.  Remember to finish as a team.

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