Down and dirty preparedness: Staying safe from disease at a mud race

Are you tough enough to run a mud race? Events like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Battlefrog show the popularity of mud races. The challenges include a lot of running and obstacles and require a dose of mental grit. Hazards include mud, fire, ice, walls, heights and electricity. And recently, that list of hazards includes infectious disease.
 A Tough Mudder in the "Kiss of Mud" obstacle.
Image credit // Hartmut Goldmann

For example, 1,000 people recently got sick from norovirus, a virus spread in animal and human feces, at a mud race in France.  Participants at mud races in the U.S. have also come down with norovirus and other infections, causing diarrhea, rash, vomiting and other unpleasant symptoms.

Bacteria and viruses don’t really care how big your muscles are. A lot of mud races are held on farms or in the woods. And since they’re in rural areas, there may be wild animals and livestock. Feces and urine can get mixed into the dirt and mud. When participants get in the mud or when they touch their faces after, microorganisms can be transmitted and make them sick.

Still think you’re tough enough?  Alright. Here are some tips to stay safe.

First off, know what you’re up against. Ask race officials about safety and what’s being done to keep it (relatively) clean out there. Know where to go for medical help if you need it. There’s more to worry about than bacteria. Sprains, cuts and more might be in store for you.

"Funkey Monkey."
Image credit // Tough Mudder
Second, keep your head up if you can. Don’t touch your face with your muddy hands if you can avoid it. Try to keep your mouth away from the mud. We know it’s tempting to get a face-full and take a really cool photo. But is it worth the risk?

Third, hold on tight. On obstacles like Tough Mudder’s Funkey Monkey, where you’ll be crossing monkey bars over a pool of muddy water, your best bet is not to fall off. Sound too tough for you? Keep your hands close to the edges of the bars, right where they meet the wood or metal frame. You’ll get a better grip that way.

Fourth, if you don’t feel safe, skip the obstacle. There’s no shame in staying safe. Some races like Battlefrog require you to complete all obstacles, but most are fairly chill. Do some research beforehand and make sure you’re up to the challenge.

Lastly, help each other out! Giving your course mates a hand, even if they are complete strangers, helps everyone stay safe and builds community.

Have a blast, and push yourself to overcome all fear!

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