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Tough Mudder adds tear gas to obstacle race


-By Scott Leitch

Tough Mudder, one of the major players in obstacle course racing, is upping the ante this year with a new challenge designed to simulate chemical weapons. The new Cry Baby obstacle is described as a “tear gas-like substance.” Competitors will have to crawl through an enclosed space, breathing in the “countless harmless chemicals and compounds” which “combine to simulate mild tear gas,” reads the company’s website.

The noxious fumes will simulate the effects of tear gas, a chemical agent generally used in riot control, though Tough Mudder stresses their gas is safe and has no lasting effects.

Two-time World’s Toughest Mudder champion, Ryan Atkins of Caledon, Ont., applauds the company for staying innovative and coming up with interesting and exciting new obstacles, though notes he does hope safety is the foremost concern.

“I think that if they get this concentrations wrong, people could get seriously injured,” said Atkins in an email. “Hopefully the device that they use to disperse the gas is fool-proof, and errs on the safe side [of] the concentration.”

Tough Mudder has been in the press before for unsafe conditions, notably after a contestant died in 2013 due to drowning at their Walk the Plank obstacle. When asked about training, Atkins — who himself has never been exposed to tear gas, though his fiance once had an unpleasant encounter while mixing pool chemicals — is unsure how he would prepare for the obstacle.

“Maybe running while holding your breath? Or trying to take a look ahead at the terrain and memorize it for five to 10 seconds, close your eyes, and run it blind.”

The company will host 55 events in 2015, which cost upwards of $130, and the Cry Baby obstacle is expected to be present at all of them. The first event of 2015 is March 7 in Pensacola, Fla.

“If you are able to endure a Tough Mudder course, you are definitely training yourself to be more resistant to different forms of discomfort […] and therefore, you would be more durable in the face of riot control tactics,” said Atkins about if the new obstacle is in line with others in the races.

The Cry Baby is one of eight new obstacles introduced in 2015.