This morning, Tough Mudder unveiled new details about the upcoming 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder, including a new 2-person team format that is sure to be a game-changer at this year’s event.
Among the details released was a noon start time (last year was 2 p.m. and previous years had been 10 a.m.) and a new prize structure that includes $10,000 for both the male and female winners and $20,000 for the first-place team. Tough Mudder also announced they will once again offer a $100,000 prize to the first team that reaches 100 miles.
But it is the new 2-person team format that is likely to have a deep impact on how the field stacks up in November.
In previous years, teams were comprised of four racers. Under the new rules, teams can now have as few as two people. Having two people instead of four will likely make it easier for a team to hit the 100-mile mark this year.
With a team of just two racers, it becomes easier for an elite talent to find and rely on another racer of similar talent. It also becomes easier to perform. With four racers, you have to deal with wider range of abilities. There is also an increased chance for a member of your team to get injured, suffer hypothermia or have some other problem. With four racers there is also much more coordinating required, from gear to nutrition to game-planning.
Given that, you are likely to see several elite teams of two vying for that $100K, which should make for an exciting race.
But the 2-person team format is also likely to have a significant impact on this year’s individual competition.
After last year’s event, it seemed the 2016 WTM would be primed for an individual showdown for the ages. Two-time WTM champ Ryan Atkins, lured by the $100K challenge, put together a team that included OCR World Championship winner and former Spartan champ Jon Albon. But while they won the team competition, they came up 20 miles short of their goal. Another elite, world-class ultrarunner Nickademus Hollon, also chased the $100K as part of a team before they disbanded and he made a late effort for the individual win that came up short. It seemed likely that both might go back to chasing the individual title this year and battle last year’s winner Chad Trammell and close runner-up Trevor Cichosz.
Now, with the team requirements cut in half, it is likely some of those elites will forego individual glory and opt to team up with another racer to chase that $100K prize.
Personally, I would love to see Tough Mudder split World’s Toughest Mudder up into two separate events for individual and team competitions. The team concept is an integral part of Tough Mudder’s identity. And teams working together is a unique dynamic at World’s Toughest Mudder that sets the event apart from other endurance obstacle events.
But mashing together team racing and individual racing at WTM deprives the sport of truly elite competition. If all of the best endurance obstacle racers in the world were able to go head-to-head at WTM, it would provide fascinating theater for the sport. The same could be said for a team-only event that frees-up all of the sport’s elites to team with one another.
Perhaps a team event in April or May to kick-off the OCR season and an individual event in November to close it. Or vice versa. An obstacle racer can dream, anyway.