How to Run a Mud Run: the beginner's guide to getting muddy

Mud runs are getting very popular. These days, however, it isn’t just mud you need to worry about–it is paint, foam, live electrical wires, etc.  What’s next, shark tanks? There is something refreshing about a good old fashioned mud run (although extreme obstacles are pretty darn FUN). I will be running the original mud run (again) in a few weeks-the World Famous Camp Pendleton Mud Run.

I remember when I ran my first mud run. We had no idea what we were doing. Four of us signed up for a mud run in San Diego and were ready for a great time. I learned a lot. Since then I have done six other mud runs. I think that makes me an unofficial expert in running them. I was talking to a mom at my kids’ school the other day who is running Camp Pendleton as her first. As she was asking questions, I realized that it would be helpful to post some of my experiences.  So, without further ado, here are some ideas for making your mud run a lot of fun!

You will get muddy.  Duh…of course.  But you may find mud in places that surprise you.  My brother couldn’t put his Bluetooth in his ear after our last mud run because of mud. If you are one of those people who hates being dirty, skip the mud run and sign up for a local 5K or 10K.

Run with friends. Most mud runs have a team option. Often, the team must start and end at the same time in order to be counted. In my opinion, this is the way to go. Why go out there and try to run super fast for a time when you can giggle and get muddy with your friends? Part of the fun is coming up with a clever team name and costumes.

Wear a costume. I ran two mud runs in regular dark clothing that wouldn’t show mud stains. The first time I ran Camp Pendleton, however, I realized we were missing out on some of the fun. Our before and after pictures weren’t nearly as impressive with our dark clothing. The most fun I have had is when I have dressed up. Last year, I ran in a wedding dress and never had so much fun. Last weekend, I ran as a bridesmaid while my friend donned the wedding dress (and actually got married). Those are the moments that make me so thankful to be a runner. I have seen Oompa Loompas, Teletubbies, Ghostbusters, men in skirts….you name it, all in the name of fun.

After shot


Tie your shoes nice and tight. Some people might tell you to use duct tape. Don’t. My first mud run provided duct tape at the starting line, so we assumed it was the best thing to do. All of us ended up ripping it off by the end of the race. It works well for a while and then the end starts peeling off and dragging or flopping about. Very annoying.  Yes, sometimes mud can pull your shoe right off, but not often. When I ran The Gladiator Rock ‘N Run last weekend, we saw discarded duct tap everywhere on the course.

Wear socks that go at least to your ankles. I wore low cut no-show socks for my first mud run. They ended up underneath my foot at the bottom of my shoe. Since I had used the old duct tape trick and it was before I peeled off in a sticky mess, I couldn’t stop and adjust my sock.  It just annoyed me the entire race.

Wear old shoes. You won’t want to wear them again.  I just use some old running shoes that I don’t wear any more. Luckily, with as much running as I do, I have plenty of old shoes.  Some races have a special place to leave the shoes for donation. If you don’t have old shoes, don’t worry…they will come clean. I know plenty of people who throw them in the washer or hose them off. A couple of my friends hose their shoes off and save them for the next mud run.

Gladiator Run Shoe Donation

Shoe Donation

Be willing to throw away any item of clothing that you wear.  I have been able to wash just about anything from these races, but you never know.  Sometimes it is more trouble to get them clean.

Bring a garbage sack (or two) to bring your muddy stuff home. For the stuff that you don’t want to throw away, you will want something to carry them home in. Your clothes will be muddy and wet.

Wear tight fitting clothing. Baggy or ill-fitting clothing will drag you down. Pants or shorts that are too big will fall down. This is not the time for those comfy fleece sweats.  But, be aware that you will get wet.  This is not the time for a nice tight white shirt, unless you are entering a wet t-shirt contest. My friends and I did wear white last year, but we made sure we had plenty of layers to ensure we weren’t exposing too much.

Keep your mouth shut. This is tough, because you will probably be laughing a lot. The mud doesn’t taste so good.

Bring a waterproof camera. The photo ops are great. I have always bought a disposable waterproof camera and had it developed afterwards.

Duck walk instead of crawl.  During the race, if you are small enough, go through tunnels etc. on your feet instead of your knees. Those obstacles are usually corrugated metal or they have gravel and they can be murder on your knees. No matter what, these obstacles are awkward and difficult to get through. Try to make it as unscathed as possible.

Be prepared to wait.  Sometimes you have to wait to go through mud pits or obstacles. As a runner, used to going for PR’s, this was hard to get used to. Realize that this happens during most of these races and it is part of the experience. It is fine if you aren’t running at a sprint the entire time. If you don’t want to wait, start at the very front of the pack.  It is actually a good idea to start near the front in order to minimize the backups.

Bring a change of clothes. You do not want to ride home in your muddy clothing. I like to change into a pair of sweats and the race t-shirt.  Don’t forget clean underwear!

Skip the shower. I know this sounds gross, but there is usually a very long line for COLD showers. Bring towels in your car and wait until you get home to take a nice long, hot shower. A great tip is to put a jug of water in your car.  When you get done, it should have warmed up nicely and you can give yourself a little sponge bath–enough to get you by until you get home. An empty, rinsed out laundry detergent bottle works great.  Note: this tip also works well for trips to the beach.

Have fun!  Isn’t that the reason to do these races? There was a girl in last weekend’s race that was complaining the entire time through the first mud pit. Her socks got wet/muddy, it was slimy, she got splashed with mud. I wanted to turn to her and tell her to turn back and quit then (we were still very early in the 4+ mile race). Go into the race ready for anything and embrace the fun.

All smiles after getting muddy. The two on the left were first-time mud runners! Photo courtesy of AllanaRene Photography ( or

Here are some mud run race reports.

Do you have a mud run race report?  Leave the link!

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Lisa Roehm-Gensel

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • just ran tough mudder april 28th, as my first mud run I will have to a. i am addicted and b. these tips are highly valuable!

  • These are very useful mud run tips, thanks for sharing! I especially like the idea to store a jug of water in your car and use it to wash the mud off after the race.

  • omg!!thanks for all the great tips you gave!!
    What kind of socks do you recommend? I heard not to wear cotton socks, don’t want to go buy really expensive socks just to throw away.

  • So glad I came across your advice. My daughter will be participating in the Pendleton mud run this coming June for the first time and your advice will be put to work! THANK YOU!