Although I enjoy the longer mountain races I am equally excited to take on an 8km Toughest obstacle course. I missed the Stockholm event as I was at the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira but was definitely not going to miss a home turf event in London.
Toughest have two UK events this year, one in Pipingford park and the other in Milton Keynes. The two will be very different mainly due to the terrain, Milton Keynes being more fast and grassy and Pippingford featuring more forests and hills. It was for this reason I was especially looking forward to Pippingford, a bit muddy I thought, a bit of a battle. As it were, it was a battle but not with the mud, more like with the sun.
Some 30 degree Celsius heat dried up just about every bit of mud possible, leaving years worth of muddy footprints as ankle twisting mini obstacles. Still though, with some near hyperthermic memories from Pippingford I wasn’t complaining.
Toughest had brought their usual ninjary style obstacles which I have grown to know over the past events and I would need to pass each one with the addition of some fast lanes in order to win, this and run my socks of. David Nordstrom had won in Stockholm and he looked hungry as we stood on the start line. Him and many of the other Scandinavians had flown down for the race to join brits like myself, Ross Brackley and Conor Hancock.
There also seemed to be a strong contingent from France. One of which proceeded to try and constantly push past me as the gun went of. After about 20m and one big elbow later I had exercised my right to be running at the front and gave chase to David, Ross and Conor.
The first obstacle being water was a welcome sight and we splashed through momentarily cooled down. The second obstacle however was where things get real. Probably one of the hardest fast lanes in the race and after just 1km of running makes the Swing Walk especially important. Myself and David arriving first had completely still nunchucks making is easier to go through. Ross and Connor up second didn’t do quite as well and both failed making their race one of manic chasing under a beating sun.
Skipping the following obstacle (because I took the fast lane) I now preceded to try and run hard but not too hard. I was aware what the heat can do to you in such a short time and I also had a little voice in the back of my head that wanted to hold something back for the Redbull Steeplechase the next day.
Building a small lead, I could at least now take obstacles and carries alone so as not to be flustered but was well aware that David was never too far behind.
Heading back into the event village at the half-way mark I took the rope climb instead on the salmon ladder and the easy lane of the rig. As both had uphill running into them I was sure to slow down enough to do the hard lanes would equal the time saved and by taking the easy lane I could relax about the possibility of failing.
Over the Dragons Back and completing one more loop I slowly swung my way through the flying monkey, this too was after an uphill running section but looking back I was happy to see in the distance that the hills and heat were affecting David too.
The final loop had all the water obstacles which was refreshing and I started to ease up, there was no point risking failure at the ramp by running too hard and I was sure my legs would thank me the next day.
I finally crossed the line in 41 minutes 15 seconds which was surprisingly fast considering the terrain, heat, hills and what turned out to be 8.5km or running. David came over in a strong second with Krister Sellman in third. Another great race from Toughest and another step closer to starting the chasing start final in first. Starting to relax I enjoyed watching my wife take third place and my sister beating every obstacle on the course.
I would now embark on a 5 hour drive down to the South West of England to take part in the near marathon Redbull Steeplechase the next day. Check back to see how I got on…