Tough Guy
3rd February 2015

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Categories: Obstacle Race

It was 5 years ago that I took part in my first ever obstacle race, Tough Guy. I‘ve completed many races since but had never returned to what is the original obstacle race – until now. Not only was I coming back to complete this iconic race (which is an achievement in itself) but also to compete and hopefully get the fastest time around the course.

Being the first race of the season I was unsure as to how I would fare and whether I could continue from the form I had found in 2014. It was also reported that the field assembled would be the strongest Tough Guy had ever seen. As well as competing against my fellow countrymen, Tough Guy attracts people from all over the world, particularly from Germany. The fastest finishers for the past three years running have been from Germany and it was clear they were back in force this year.


Tough Guy is described in two parts, the first – a cross-country run, the second – the obstacle heavy Killing Fields. As it turns out the ‘cross-country run’ has as many obstacles (if not more) than the majority of other obstacle races. You then have to conquer the Killing Fields which is unlike anything else around.

Before you can even think about any obstacles at Tough Guy the first battle is answering the golden question: what should I wear? Inevitably if dressed for the water heavy Killing Fields you will be too warm on the more running based first half and if dressed for the running section you would suffer with the cold in the Killing Fields. It is a fine art and made difficult by specific weather conditions or for each person by different running speeds, body fat or resilience to the cold.  I left it until the morning of the race to finally decide what I would wear but had a fair idea what works having dunked myself in a lake a few times in the weeks before. It didn’t look cold on the day as there was no ice around but it was only 1 degree celsius and there was a wicked wind that would chill everyone to the bone.

Having been given meticulous instructions on how to complete certain obstacles and which line to follow through the course to make it the toughest it could be we were all lined up at the start ready to face one of the toughest obstacle courses in the world.


I don’t usually have a plan when I race but for this one I wanted to go out guns blazing and get a decent lead in the first half so I could take my time through the Killing Fields and do everything properly.

One kilometer into the race and I was already building on a lead, whether I was being reckless or ballsy setting of at such a pace would be shown later but at the time I was just enjoying the feeling of running. I crushed the first half and had a 4 minute lead on James Appelton and Connor Hanckok heading into the obstacle heavy Killing Fields. I could feel my lips getting cold which is a sure sign that body temperature was in danger of dropping but there wasn’t much to do about it but plough on.

Taking my time doing everything properly gave me a heightened exposure to the cold but it was necessary to even be considered as the winner. The rules stated that, in order to complete the course in the ‘correct’ way, you had to do things like the double rope traverses with a single rope and follow the correct route though the high rise structures of obstacles. Making one blunder I went the wrong way in one of the biggest structures – however, I quickly received directions from a marshal so that I was able to go through the ‘correct’ way.


Towards the end of the race, the cold definitely started to get to me and suddenly processing what to do on obstacles was becoming more difficult and things like balancing on a large plank was getting far harder than it should be. Thankfully there was a familiar voice giving me instructions on what to do here and there which helped a lot – thank you Pete from Mudstacle.

Running into a barn I was suddenly in front of a friendly face offering me a medal, still running it turns out I had gone straight through the finish line without realizing. After asking the girl if I am done and her saying yes I relaxed – and that’s when I got really cold. Rushed to the showers I stripped of as quickly as possible in an attempt to get warm.

To hear Mr Mouse say “30 years and first man to ever to beat the bloody course” is a real compliment and means a hell of a lot to me. Over 4000 people started Tough Guy and over a quarter failed to finish the challenge, this shows what an achievement it is even just to finish.


I have had many enquiries as to my choice of footwear for the day. The trainers I wore were absolutely superb and it really goes to show that orienteers know best when it comes to shoes with great grip, I wore the VJ Sport Irock.

My next race will be somewhat warmer, I am fortunate enough to be traveling to Australia for the Sydney Spartan Stadium Race, let’s see how I do under a warm sun as apposed the freezing water of the killing fields.


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