It seems like a long time ago that I took part in my first Toughest race in Malmo. This is where the race series began and it’s certainly a special event for the calendar. Some 7000 people were scheduled to take part and the weather gods were to provide a glorious day for what is usually the fastest obstacle race of the year. A dead flat course would mean that only some sand running and obstacles would be slowing us down.
Fast legs would be a necessity and on the Friday before I was doubting my own. In fact, they felt like crap. Arriving at the course and jogging around they felt heavy and were peppered with niggles and pains…not great. I decided to take some 30 second sprints with minute rests to wake them up, I then went and took a sauna before stretching, mobilising, rolling and sticking my legs up.
This and a good night sleep seemed to do the trick and my legs felt noticeably better the morning of the race.
All the best racers were present and I was focused to make this the third time I had won here. As always it would take a clean run and a good number of fast lanes in the obstacles. Many of these fast lane obstacles were located in the second half of the 8km course, so it would be mainly fast running and agility obstacles to begin with. This, I thought, would make it difficult to put much time into the faster runner like Linus but I turned out to be wrong.
Being extra focused on efficiency and speed in and out of obstacles, coupled with uncharacteristically jumping the big drop from the first bridge saw me with some 20-30 seconds lead at the half way mark.
Things were going well but I would need that lead if I were to fail any obstacles and take the rope climb (easy lane) over the salmon ladder (faster harder lane). The penalty obstacle for the rope climb was three net pyramids that took some time, maybe soon I will have to grow some balls and do the salmon ladder. Still running hard I completed the flying monkey and hard land of the rig, I was getting closer and still felt in control.
Flying of the big slide the water was a welcome shock on the warm day and meant just two obstacles left, the spinning wheels with a fast lane that would be crucial to the females race and the ramp. Taking the hard lane I was through in seconds, skipping the crawl I then powered up the ramp still leading.
The spinning wheels also turned out to be crucial in the men’s race and saw Linus fail the hard lane, fellow Brit Ross Brackley took advantage of this and took second.
I am pleased with my performance but still face questions of why it is apparently so easy for me…well its not, I am pushing everything I can in a race like this and have been preparing to do so for months. I am now in my 3rd year of competing in obstacle races full time and need all of this experience to be able to run a course like Malmo and come out on top against the other racers. I am working on trying to push boundaries to see how fast you can go in a race like this but my competition is catching up quicker than I can improve. So far I am two for two this year in the Toughest series but it will take more hard work to keep this clean sheet.
With that being said it is soon time to see if I have what it takes to perform in the mountains, I am looking forward to the Skyrunning season but some luck I will definitely need!
Great photos as always by Jacques Holstand and Mateusz Szulakowski.