At Tough Mudder, we specialize in helping people overcome obstacles—and we’ve repeatedly heard one that keeps some people from signing up for a Tough Mudder Half: “I’m not sure I can run 5 miles.” If the fear of the 5 mile run is what’s holding you back from committing to this challenge and crushing the course, we’re here to tell you: Yes, you CAN run 5 miles. Here’s how.
Tough Mudder Half: The Basics
The number one thing new Mudders should know is that you aren’t required to actually run the entire 5 miles of a Tough Mudder Half course. Tough Mudder Half is not a competition, and it’s not a timed race. You and your teammates are free to move at whatever pace you choose. If you want to push your limits and run your fastest, that’s cool. If you want to stop and rest or walk parts of the course, that’s cool too. No one is judging. You do you.
Plus, we’ve built automatic stopping points into the course—they’re called obstacles, and you’ll be slowing down to complete 13 of them.
But back to the actual running part…we get it. Doing a 5 mile run can be intimidating when you’re not regularly busting out miles. Keep reading to find out how to go from out of breath to cruising smoothly in just a few weeks.
Tough Mudder Half Training: Building Up to 3 Miles
Here’s one reason many aspiring Mudders think they don’t know how to run five miles: they’ve never tried. If you’ve capped your distance at 1-3 miles, pushing for the extra two miles might require some extra motivation. (Also, going from running on the treadmill to running outside can be a big step for novice runners.) Either way, the best way to make progress in terms of distance completed is just to take it one lap at a time. Go to your local running track and aim for four laps—which is 1 mile. If you’re spent after this, that’s OK. Come back the next week and try six laps, then the next week try eight laps (2 miles.).
Once you’ve done eight laps, you know the extra four laps will bring you to 3 miles (just under 5 kilometers). And knowing you’re just four laps away from a 5K will get you from 2 to 3 miles.
No access to a track? Download an app like Runkeeper, which lets you easily track your mileage.
Tough Mudder Half Training: Going Past 3 Miles
Going from 3 to 5 miles might call for specific training (check out our Tough Mudder Half Training Guide), a workout partner for motivation or just straight grit. For the training, it shouldn’t take more than eight weeks to go from being able to run 3 miles to being comfortable completing 6 miles. Aerobic fitness is transient, meaning it’s easily gained and can be lost quickly, too. That’s why it’s especially important to stay consistent with aerobic training.
When training for a Tough Mudder Half, it’s good practice to not increase your running distance or time by more than 15% each week. For example, if you have two months until your first Tough Mudder Half, start with 8 miles of running spread out over three days. The next week, increase your weekly mileage to 9 in the same number of sessions. At week 3, increase to 10 miles ran in three sessions. One month into training, try for 11 miles, split into two 4-mile sessions and one 3-mile run. Week 5 will call for 12 miles, but here you can increase to four sessions with two 4-mile runs, and two 2-mile runs (shorter but faster). By Week 6, you may be getting fatigued. If so, decrease your volume and go back to what you did on week one. If you’re still fresh, then it’s time to practice the course distance.
One Month Out: MImic the Course
Once or twice during the four weeks prior to your Tough Mudder Half, you’ll try to run 5-7 miles. This doesn’t have to be straight without stopping. You can stop, walk and then start jogging again. The myth that jog-walking a race doesn’t count is false. If you cross the finish line, you did it. You may want to enlist the help of an experienced Legionnaire, running coach or fitness professional in your area to “pace” you through your first 5 mile run, meaning they’ll try to keep you moving at times when it may seem like you want to quit or just walk the entire time. Even if you fall short of your 5 mile run goal during training (highly unlikely if you’re reading this), the support from fellow Mudders will boost your adrenaline and help you grind through what you couldn’t during training.
Incorporating inclines, hills, stairs, burpees, push-ups, squats, pull-ups, lunges and crawls will help you mimic the demands of a Tough Mudder Half. But for most curious Mudders, being confident in their mileage is key. So even if you’re starting with “anti-runner” or “I can’t run that far” feelings, we’re confident you’ll get hooked on miles, mud, glory and headbands. You can do a 5 mile run…all it takes is one lap at a time.