Tough Mudder races are filthy, and we're not talking about mud

Aug 14, 2013

The norovirus is the latest obstacle that participants in Tough Mudder races have to fight.

In June, participants in Brooklyn, Michigan's Tough Mudder race got more than a mouthful of mud. 22,000 participants and supporters were at the event.

Afterward, the Michigan Department of Community Health received "many reports of gastrointestinal illnesses." With some investigation by the MDCH Bureau of Laboratories, that bug turned out to be a norovirus.

The MDCH press release said reports from event attendees show that the majority of ill individuals were likely exposed on the course itself, as illness was highly associated with reports of mud or muddy water in the mouth:

The frequency of reported illness increased dramatically in participants starting in the first several hours on Saturday and remained steady through the rest of the weekend.  This indicates that contamination was likely introduced onto the course by an ill participant early in the event and persisted for the duration of the weekend.

Symptoms of norovirus infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, typically lasting one to two days.

According to the Center for Disease Control, a norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S. Noroviruses can cause food poisoning. It's not the flu, which is caused by the respiratory influenza virus.

The Tough Mudder is essentially a 10-12 mile obstacle course that involves a lot of jumping into muddy pits, leaping over fires, running through 10,000 volts of live electrical wires, and doing lots of other "tough" stuff that incredibly fit (read: crazy) people can do.

Their slogan is, humbly, "probably the toughest event on the planet." Honestly, if a runner can get through ten miles of mud after simultaneously contracting a virus, it probably is the toughest event on the planet. 

These races were created by British Special Forces units to test your physical strength and "mental grit."

--Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

H/T: Rebecca Williams