Surprising ways (like flesh-eating bacteria) you can get hurt doing a mud run

Brittany Williams was blind in one eye a day after doing a mud run.
Brittany Williams was blind in one eye a day after doing a mud run. CBS

TORONTO — There’s no shortage of ways to get injured while racing through mounds of mud and plunging into pools of ice water — with electroshock and tear gas obstacles in between.

Aside from injuries like rope burn, lower back and hip injuries, tendinitis, broken bones and fractures, here’s a look at some of the more serious situations that have happened at the extreme fitness races known as “mud runs.”


The number of mud run participants who became “violently ill” following a race in France on June 20 has risen to more than 1,000.

The regional health agency blames Norovirus, which the Mayo Clinic describes as “highly contagious and commonly spread through food or water that is contaminated by fecal matter.”An infectious disease expert once told us with Norovius, “you literally turn into an explosion.” It can take between two to 10 days for the infection to develop. And once it does, the toilet bowl dependency can last for about 24 to 72 hours.

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Many of the runners have posted comments on Facebook about how they’d been plagued by diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. One runner apparently wrote that some muddy passages had the distinct smell of horse manure.

An investigation into the incident is still underway, but it’s not the only time mud runners have been plagued by severe stomach problems following a race.

A report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “22 people likely fell ill after an extreme obstacle course challenge in 2012 because they accidentally ingested muddy water that was contaminated with animal feces.”


It’s believed Brittany Williams caught a flesh-eating bacteria during a mud run in Dallas earlier this month. Within 24 hours of the race, she was blind in one eye.

“My eye started hurting, like maybe I’ve got mud or some debris in there,” she told a CBS affiliate. “When I opened my eye, it was just like white. The whole room was white.”

The debris reportedly cut her eye, allowing flesh-eating bacteria to destroy her cornea.

“It just completely melted off of my eye.”

WATCH: As Andrea Lucia reports, the loss of vision is just the beginning of the Texas woman’s nightmare.

She’s now trying to raise money for her $100,000 medical bill.

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One study warned about the electrical injuries that can happen when you’re shocked with 10,000 volts, “an obstacle distinctive to the Tough Mudder experience.”

An NBC report stated that “of the 38 racers treated in the emergency department” following a Tough Mudder event in Philadelphia in June 2013, “about half suffered electrical injuries.”

Patricia Wooldridge, meanwhile, suffered major burns after losing her footing in the middle of a fiery obstacle course. She reportedly landed on her hands and knees, with the heat piercing her skin.

“Today, vestiges of the race remain,” Women’s Health Magazine wrote. “Burn specialists were able to save Patricia’s face from disfigurement, but taut, painful welts run in streaks down her arms. Her right wrist retains the smooth, white imprint of her wet headband, which she had wrapped around her arm after wading through the creek.”

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There are reports of mud run participants being paralyzed at various obstacle courses.

For instance, one man was allegedly paralyzed in South Carolina after he tripped in a cargo net and fell 15 feet to the ground, another after jumping headfirst into a pit.


There have also been reports of two drownings at mud runs, one in 2013 and 2012.

“You have to understand—if you’re wearing pants and boots, pretty much all your swimming ability is diminished,” Lance Westlake, who took part in the 2012 race, told Men’s Health.

It should be noted, though, that there have also been deaths during marathons as well as bike races.

WATCH: With names like “Tough Mudder,” “Spartan Sprint” and “Mud Hero,” extreme fitness events are becoming more common. But so are the injuries that can come with them. Su-Ling Goh reports.

Health organizations Global News reached out to were unable to comment on the safety of mud runs.

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Race organizers have said that “the number of participants who’ve been seriously hurt is relatively tiny when the hundreds of thousands who compete annually are taken into account.”

On its site, Tough Mudder has the following response to the question of whether its race is dangerous:

“Challenging? Intense? Tough? Yes, we are all those things and more. However, we hold safety at a premium and do not create any obstacles or courses that will truly put you in danger of serious injury or death. Tough Mudder is meant to be an experience that you get to tell your grandchildren about someday. We will have a medical team onsite at every event to assist anyone who is in need of medical assistance.

We also require all participant to purchase our Tough Mudder Insurance, that helps provide coverage to participants who get injured on the course.”

On its website, it also says that participants are able to skip obstacles “without penalty or shame.”

WATCH: The Spartan Death Race is unlike any athletic competition you’ve seen before. And for months, 16×9 followed three Canadians as they trained to compete – both physically and emotionally – in it

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Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 30, after the number of infected mud run participants in France had risen.

With files from Carmen Chai, Global News