How to Conquer Your Mud Pit Run Obstacle

By Rick Morris

Many mud run races don’t have a true mud run, opting instead for the more in demanding and dirty mud crawl. While a mud crawl is dirtier and probably more enjoyable, a true mud run presents more of a challenge. A true mud run usually has no obstacles other than the mud itself. And that is enough. There are few obstacles that present a physical challenge as tough as running through deep mud. Here is how to conquer your mud pit obstacle.

A mud run places a significant amount of stress on your lower body strength, endurance, power, balanced and coordination. You may see a very short mud dashes of 10 to 20 meters or longer mud runs of up to 800 meters or more.

Mud Run Training

There are three fun and dirty phases to a mud pit run;  the entry, run and exit.

Mud Pit Entry

Entry into a mud run pit is fairly straight forward. This isn’t a crawl, so you hopefully aren’t going to be diving in, just a simple run into the mud pit. The one thing you will need to prepare for is the change of terrain from solid ground to soft, sticky mud.

Change of Terrain

It can be a real shock making the transition from solid ground to deep, sticky mud. So much so that you could end up going head or tea kettles. Avoid that by doing some change of terrain training. A basic level change of terrain training involves placing a deep, soft surface of some sort on a field. You can use a layer of several towels, an exercise mat, a strong bag filled with grass clippings or anything similar. If you have a school track nearby, the long jump pit is a great place to perform this drill. Place the mat at least 20 meters in front of you and begin running. If you are using a long jump pit, use a run up of at least 20 meters. Time your steps so that you hit the mat at full stride. Focus on maintaining proper running mechanics as you hit the mat or sand. Practice  using each foot as the lead striking foot. Repeat this about 10 times with each foot.

Mud Pit Run

The sticky mud really grabs onto your feet and legs with a death grip. Pulling your feet out of that muck presents a challenge you should prepare for. An ideal exercise is running through an actual mud field. That isn’t a viable option for many of us, so good alternatives  include sand running and tire drills.

Sand Running

Sand running, while not as perfect for training as actual mud, is a very good alternative. If you have access to a beach, do some 800 meter repeats on the sand. Start with 4 repeats and build up to 8 or more. For us beachless runners, some good alternatives are playgrounds with sand or sand volley ball courts. If no sand is available, head to your local park and run on the grass, the deeper the grass, the better the workout.

Tire Drills

No pre season track workouts or football camps are complete without a high knee tire or rope ladder dash. This workout will prepare you for those agility challenging high knee components where you must run through a field of tires or through raised rope nets or ladders. If you are able to set up a number of tires or a rope obstacle to train with, that would be great. If  not, run using the high knee drill at a hard pace. The high knee drill is a common track exercise in which you move slowly but steadily forward with a very exaggerated high and powerful knee drive. You focus driving your knee straight up, rather than forward and run with very dynamic or bouncy strides. If you have a tire field to use, run through the tires using two techniques. First run through them, planting your feet in the hole in the tires. Then run through them landing on the sidewalls of the tires. This will do a great job of improving your focus, agility and balance.

The Exit

You’re going to be running with heavy feet after this one. Don’t be surprised if you are carrying a pound or more of mud on each foot. This requires both hip flexor strength and coordination. A good way to prepare is with heavy foot training. The tire drill and dynamic leg raises also helps with hip flexor strength.

Heavy Foot Training

The best solutions is to run with mud caked shoes. Alternatives are to run using ankle weights or heavy boots. Run 2 to 4 repetitions of about 100 meters with 30 seconds of rest between each rep. When running with ankle weights, concentrate on pulling your feet up with a high knee drive. When running in boots focus strongly on maintaining a proper flat footed or ball of foot first foot strike as the boots will tend to encourage an improper over stride with a heavy heel strike.

Dynamic Leg Raises

  • Lie on your back in a supine position on the ground or on a soft mat.
  • With your arms at your side slowly raise your legs about 24 inches off the ground by flexing your hips. Keep your feet dorsi-flexed (toes pulled up toward your leg) and your toes straight up.
  • Begin to rapidly lower and raise your legs from about 2 inches above the ground to 24 inches off the ground. Keep performing this pattern for about 30 seconds.
  • Now with your feet still dorsi-flexed repeat this with your toes pointed to the outside and then repeat again with your toes pointed to the inside.
  • Do two sets of 15 to 30 repetitions

Mud Run Pit Strategy

Mud Pit Entry

When you get within about 15 meters of the edge of the mud pit, pick an entry spot and focus on it. Keep up your speed as you approach the pit. In your final two strides before the pit begin to prepare yourself both mentally and physically for the drastic change of terrain. As you take your first steps into the mud pit, keep your stride very light, compact and efficient. Keep your lead leg soft. Don’t fully extend your leg.

Mud Pit Run

Proper running stride goes right out the window in the mud pit. It’s impossible to run with your normal running mechanics when the mud is doing its best to pull you down and keep you in the pit. Focus on pulling your feet and legs out of the muck with high knee strides and keep moving forward as quickly as possible

The Exit

Try to focus on two things when exiting the mud run pit. Concentrate on your footing as your shoes will be muddy and slippery. Also, even though it’s really bad running mechanics, try to knock some of the mud off your feet with stomping and scraping motions in the first 25 meters or so after your mud pit exit. Then try to resume your normal, efficient running stride and mechanics.

I hope these tips help you conquer your mud pit obstacle.