Tough Guy Challenge Experience

orange square So there we were, sat enjoying a few beers in a warm summer beer garden when we got on to the subject of challenging ourselves and giving us something to train and aim for over the Winter months. Coming from a background of rugby, mountain biking and various other adventurous activities, I wasn't keen on the idea of running 26.2 miles on the road so a marathon was out of the window, and another of the group doesn't like heights so the 3 Peaks challenge was soon rejected. Then we came across the idea of registering for the Tough Guy Challenge which sounded perfect for a group of seasoned rugby players...little did we know that 6 months later on a sub zero morning in Wolverhampton, tears would be shed.

Tough Guy claims to be the world's most demanding one-day survival ordeal. Based on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, it takes place at the end of January (conveniently when it's usually freezing) and consists of an 8 mile cross-country run followed by a brutal assault course claimed to be tougher than any other in the world featuring leads of obstacles including a slalom run up and down a hill, ditches, jumps, freezing water pools, fire pits and so on. The organizers claim that running the course involves risking barbed wire, cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, claustrophobia, electric shocks, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones. Nice!

We woke on the Sunday with glorious sunshine, unfortunately the air temperature was -4 and it wouldn't get above freezing all day. As we arrived at the site and registered we noticed course organisers struggling to break the ice on the lakes with big sticks and rocks but failing miserably so it was left to the front runners to smash their way through. It's fair to say we were pretty apprehensive but the start came round soon enough and before we knew it we were off, sprinting down the hill with 5000 other runners. We soon settled in to the cross country run which in total is about 6 or 7 miles but with plenty of obstacles and mud pits to get through. Half way round you reach the slalom which consists of 12 runs up and down a 45 degree hill which gradually gets steeper. This for me was the toughest part of the whole event because I strained my groin playing rugby the day before which in hindsight was a mistake.

Eventually you make it in to the 'killing fields' made up of endless climbing frames, rope crossings, burning piles of straw, barbed wire crawls, and lots and lots of water including a 3 metre jump in to the lake and a section where you're dunked several times leading to bad brain freeze! And then we get to the tears! As you approach what's called 'the Torture Chamber', all you can hear is grown men screaming with pain. You enter an underground series of tunnels and rooms that you have to crawl through in complete darkness, echoing with screams....then you get your first electric shock which knocks you clean off your feet. This is followed by more shocks as you try and clamber your way through, legs cramping which just adds to the pain. Eventually you make it to the large concrete pipes which are just wide enough to squeeze through before making it out of the hell hole! Tough Guys were coming out of there smiling and laughing, but with tears filling their eyes!

Crossing the line was a great feeling and we were pretty pleased to make it into the top 800. I would recommend the event to anyone, it's pretty hard but the atmosphere throughout is fantastic. People help each other climb out of water pits and encourage those that are struggling. There's a good mix of men and women, young and old and it doesn't matter how quickly you do it, it's just about getting round. Make sure you train and prepare well if you are interested in taking part, do plenty of cross country and hill running and maybe a bit of cold water submersion because it can be a shock if you're not used to it, but give it a go and enjoy it.

More details about this race can be found on their website: toughguy.co.uk


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