I ended up doing Tough Guy as a result of a happy accident, whereby a fellow Mudd Queen couldn’t use her ticket. It hadn’t really crossed my mind to enter the iconic race this year, as I didn’t think I would be up to it. As it happened, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had to date in OCR.
The course is in the Midlands, in the specific region of backend of nowehere, and I wasn’t relishing the idea of a three hour drive by myself to do a hard race, then take myself home at the mercy of my jelly legs. Thankfully two blokes I had never met offered to lift-share with me, and I discovered, courtesy of my teammates that they were definitely not murderers, so that was that.
I met up with the two gents at my workplace, and rather amusingly, found they run for another team. Cue threats to leave me in the nearest service station car park, but it was all in jest, right? RIGHT?
Turning up at the event village basically turned me into a jibbering wreck. I was terrified of the course, of keeping the boys waiting for me as I trundled over the line two days after they had finished, of not having the right kit on and of achieving a DNF. I have no idea where my confidence went that week, perhaps it was on annual leave.
It all began simply enough – warm up, get excited, go to the toilet repeatedly, weep when you shed your DryRobe and line up at the start. Trot down a hill and into a gentle warming jog, trying to vye for the first half of the pack to avoid bottle necks at obstacles…and then there was a bastarding hill slalom. Seriously, it was insane. We ran, jogged, walked, tripped and cried our way around 20 sections of steep hill running and I cant decide whether it would have been preferable to die on the spot or try to poop out a hedgehog. I actually can’t believe I survived it. I will say something for it though- I was very warm afterwards, and had to shed a layer whilst running (which is as dignified and graceful as it sounds). The run then settled, terrain wise, and we passed through the elephant graveyard, complete with some electric wires, some muddy trenches and undulating, natural terrain.
Willing myself to run as fast as I could, I made up a lot of ground and positions in the Gurkha Grand National, where you had to plop in and out of a deep stream/mud pool up steep banks, much like on hell river at NUTS except without the kind addition of cargo nets. I said some swear words when I put my hands on a thistle, but other than that, it was pretty fun. I assumed by this point that I was probably about half way, but a marshall laughed at me when I asked if we were ‘nearly there yet’, so I guess we weren’t.
The race was peppered with tough obstacles, which, although not terribly technical, were legitimately dangerous and difficult to complete without occasionally falling into water (thankfully not from great height). The obstacles are permanent fixtures, and trees have started to make friends with them, making the landscape look quite post-apocalyptic in places.
Pushing through, we encountered underground bunkers, concrete tunnels, stagnant water, climbing frames and spider nets and unconscionably spritely children on a 7k ‘Tough Kids’ run that put most of us to shame.
I caught up with my ‘mark’ – the woman that I had (rather optimistically) tried to keep in my sights throughout the race, during a stint of water wading, and managed to keep up a decent pace over the last few KM. I was actually really enjoying myself, so got a bit of a shock when I found that the run was nearly over. The last obstacle was to climb up a steep bank with overhanging electrical wires – thankfully I was channelling Kimmy Schmidt, and telling myself that you can endure almost anything for ten seconds, so I could certainly endure an electric shock. I only had two shocks, and of those two, one of them managed to take my arm out from under me as I crawled desperately up the hill. Bewildered, I stood around at the top before realising that the finish line was about ten metres from me, which resulted in a delighted skip down the bank to receive my medal and hot chocolate, which I promptly burned myself with.
Tee shirt, hot chocolate, amazing medal and HOT BLOODY SHOWERS, MAN.
- Salomon Fellraisers
- More Mile trainer socks
- Nike Pro 3/4 length tights
- Nike Pro hyperwarm top (mistake)
- Inov8 Merino baselayer
- Wrag and headband
Seriously regretted that second top about ten minutes in to the run. Had to tie it around my waist and let it flap around like a sad, muddy butt-flag for the whole race. It’s a wonder it wasn’t left hanging on a barbed wire fence, if I’m honest.
Tough Guy is inimitable. It’s iconic. I’m so proud to call myself a Tough Guy. As fifth ovary-bearer over the line, I qualified for the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS here, which made me feel absolutely fantastic. I can’t decide what made me more happy: this, or finding out that I’d beaten the boys I’d travelled with.
Best go with the former, or next time they really will leave me in a service station car park.