Getting muddy in the Island of Gods: Toughmudder in Bali


I was no stranger to Bali. But I knew this trip was going to be different. It was for the Toughmudder in Bali.

Oh yeah. Waaaayyyy different!

As I sat on the window seat of the Airasia flight, on a turbulent Friday night, it slowly dawned on me that the turbulence was more inside me, than outside. This was probably the 4th time that I was visiting Bali. I have rode a motorbike through the entire island in the past, and even stopped here on the way to my epic trip in East Timor. I had seen pretty much every single side of Bali, and the island of the gods, was almost my island too.

But this time around, I wasn’t flying to Bali to ‘see’ things. I was flying for Asia’s first toughmudder.

Tough what? If you are wondering, Toughmudder is one of the toughest obstacle runs in the world. Designed by British special forces, the run takes place through anything between 20 to 20 kms, and through some really difficult obstacles – the kind that involved climbing, hanging, rowing, pulling, pushing, and a lot of other upper body activities. It didn’t matter if you were a marathon runner, but if you did not have the upper-body strength to do a few pull-ups, toughmudder would swallow you up. And then, spit you out.

Was I prepared for it? Hmm… kinda. So, I had started doing obstacle runs already for the past year. I had done the Viper challenge and Spartan sprint in Singapore. The viper challenge was a 10K obstacle run through the Sentosa beach, and the Spartan was a 7K run. Which was tougher? The 7K Spartan sprint! Because for every obstacle that you miss, you have to a penalty – 30 burpees! Just so you know how tough it was, I missed 4 out of the 24 obstacles. Do your math, that’s 120 burpees! I nearly died at the finish line.

And now?

I was at toughmudder. An entirely different animal, but incrementally bigger and badder. And worst of all, it was happening in the sweltering heat of Bali., and with copious amounts mud coming into play.

So – once again – was I prepared enough?

I had to find out on the day of the run. I had arrived late night on Friday, and checked into my hotel around 2 am. Getting whatever sleep I could, and waking up at 8 am to get ready for the run. It was a good thing that the off-season was looming around the horizon, because the prices for the hotels in Bali were droping like hotcakes. I was running with an Italian friend from Singapore, with whom I play beach volleyball every saturday in Sentosa beach. We had scored a really awesome villa in Bali, which cost only 30 SGD for a night, but came along with an awesome pool and gym. Bali Le’mare was just a 5 minute drive away from the event venue in Jimbaran. It was too good to be true!

Well, maybe it was really too good. Because we slept in quite late on Saturday morning. Our running wave was at 9.45 am, but the laidback nature of our Saturday morning ensured that we missed the starting slot, and would have to join the next – and last – wave at 10.30. The first sight I saw at the tough mudder camp, was the sight of a guy being hauled in on an ambulance. He had broken his feet, while doing god-knows-which obstacle. I had ran the viper and Spartan, and did not come across any injury in both. But seeing the sight of this guy, covered in mud, limping on a broken feet, had dashed my hopes even before the run had started.

Against all common sense, I smoked a cigarette before the run. Just to calm my nerves down. And then, we ran.

tough mudder bali indonesia

Me and Andrea before the run. Posing is an art, I gotta say. One which I am yet to master.

The running itself was through a lot of mountainous trails, which we managed to cover pretty smoothly. Due to the heat in Bali, the course was shortened to about 14Km, instead of the originally planned 20. This was both a blessing and a disappointment. Only when there were uphills, my muscles gave up a little bit, and I tended to walk. And as we reached closer to every obstacle, I would slow down my run, or start walking. Just so I could gather enough energy to do the obstacle itself!


Now, to the obstacles.

There were about 15-20 obstacles. And unlike the spartan race, there were no penalties for missing any of them. Which actually meant that if I missed an obstacle, I could go back and try it again.


It all started with the infamous kiss of mud.

Note that this is not my video. It was taken from Toughmudder’s official website, but gives you a very muddy idea about how it all begins. From the word go, I was thrown into the mud – face-first! And asked to crawl through it. From that point on, I knew that I was going to run with the weight of mud in my trail-shoes. And I knew how the rest of the obstacles were going to be.

The Jimbaran Hill

As if all the obstacles were not enough, Toughmudder Bali also added in the location as an obstacle. The Jimbaran hill may not be an everest, but it ran pretty steep uphill. Traversing through rocks, mud -and at one point – beaches, was an interesting experience to say the least. Well, not so interesting for my quads, but I had already decided that today was ‘quad-torture day’. Too late to back out now.

Berlin walls and mud miles

I have no idea why these are called Berlin walls, but they are freakishly difficult. Well, it helps if you are able to do pull-ups or muscle-ups in the gym, but that fact is not too helpful if you face the berlin wall after running for a couple of kilometres in the Bali sun. Me and Andrea scaled these, but not after some struggling and using a lot of shoulder strength. And it doesn’t help that the wall is extremely muddy and slippery, thanks to the many who scaled it before us.

Below is a video of what a Berlin wall looks like.

The mud-mile 2.0, is not actually a mud-mile. Its roughly about 100 metres, or less, but purely through a lot of thick mud. So thick, that I could feel myself heavier by a couple of kilos, after completing this round. And mind you, it looks fun, but it is exhausting trying to pull your feet out of such deep mud. But then, this was what we came for. The experience of being covered in mud. We slipped, we fell, but we made it through.

Arctic Enema

The one obstacle that I had been looking forward to, turned out to be unexpectedly the most tortuous one! The Arctic Enema is a pool filled with water and ice, and there is nothing else that looks more inviting on a hot Bali day. Right? Wrong!!

You see, the water is frigid. Fricking frigid! When Andrea jumped in – the hardcore Italian that he is – I heard him scream like a little girl. I should have taken a hint, but I didn’t. I followed bravely. After falling into the ice-pool, my brain literally froze for a few moments. I couldn’t think clearly. I knew I had to get out, but I was disoriented enough to think where to go. There is a wall in the middle of the pool, and I had to go under the wall, but I tried desperately to climb on top of it. Finally, when I made it out of the pool, and got my body out of the ice, my muscles started to feel themselves again. Slowly. And it took a good 2 minutes for me to recover from the shock of the Arctic enema.

This was an obstacle that I was sure I would try a second time. But after almost freezing my balls off, I didn’t.

The Everest

One of the last obstacles of the course, is also one of the most difficult. The everest is a steep curved slope, and one has to run up the slope and climb it. Sound simple, but that is a bait. The slope is slippery, thanks to all the mud that was left on it by the previous folks to scaled it. This was the first obstacle that I could not clear in the first go. I had to try 3 times!

And the 3rd time, it was not my athleticism or technique that made me clear it. It was the help of some good samaritans who waited at the top to help out the other participants. After a quick run, I had to try and leap for the top, but my leap could only reach the hands of some of these waiting participants. Lucky for me, they managed to hold and drag my 90K body on the roof. I had made it!

It gave me some consolation, that I did not see anybody doing the everest on their own, for the next 5 minutes where I helped out other get on top.

The Electroshock Therapy

Good heavens! I have seen nasty obstacles at Spartan and Viper Challenge. But this was the nastiest of all!

We were just 30 metres away from the finish line. All we had to do was clear a small field, with haystacks and mud along the ground. Would have been a cakewalk, if not for the fact that there were live wires hanging above you, delivering an electric jolt at 10K Volts! There was no way you were not going to get a jolt, or a few. The challenge was to keep running, without getting jolted so bad that you fell to the ground.

The only way to clear this final obstacle, is to run quick, and to run in a group. A group can distribute the load of the electricity much better, than one person can. So me and Andrea joined a group of 3 folks, and went for it. Dang. Dang. Dang. I was jolted thrice. Twice on the legs, and once in the neck. I didn’t fall, but almost felt like being shot for each jolt. From the side of my eye, I could see Andrea getting jolted so badly that he actually took a major fall. He had barely got up, when he was jolted again!

I survived the jolts, and came out panting. The first thing they pushed at me after the finish line, was a beer. (The event was sponsored by Prost beers). I had not drank a beer in a couple of months.

But this one, I definitely deserved it.

After tough mudder Bali

Me and Andrea, after the run. Well, he showered, but I couldn’t even lift my self to get to the shower for nearly 30 minutes after the run.



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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.

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