BEN’S ZONE: What Is Tough Guy & Why Am I Running It Today?

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Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness.  You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂

What Is Tough Guy & Why Am I Running It Today?

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So, when this blog post goes up I’ll most likely be out on a windswept horse farm in the West Midlands running what is (to me) the biggest, most prestigious, most frightening and hardest obstacle course race in the world, the immense experience that is Winter Tough Guy. Started in the 80s by a hardcore runner known under the moniker Mr. Mouse it was the genesis of obstacle racing, everything that has come since owes its existence to what Mr Mouse started on his aptly named ‘Home For Unfortunates’.

Year round it’s a horse sanctuary, but at certain times Mr. Mouse opens his land for an obstacle race which then funds his work with horses for the rest of the year. It’s hard to say why I feel such an attachment to this race. Even as I write I am feeling an uneasy fear at having to go out there on Sunday morning at 11 O clock (ish). It’s not the fire, it’s not the heights, it’s not the claustrophobia, the hypothermia or the electrics. It’s not even the 15km obstacle laden course you complete *before* hitting the mighty killing fields.

It’s the knowledge that Tough Guy is a testing ground of mental, not physical mettle. Last year when I ran it for the first time, I was carrying 20kg of fat I didn’t need and had not managed to do a full pull up, though I had tried. I had trained hard but I was still terrified. This year I have trained harder, I’m fitter, more experienced and I can certainly do a pull up, but I am still scared. I’m not alone, even OCR champions state in interviews that Tough Guy is the one race that frightens them.

But this is also the attraction, in Tough Guy we find a crucible to test who and what we really are. 25 years ago Mr. Mouse found a way to do something that Tough Mudder, Spartan etc have been trying to ape ever since. He has managed to devise a way of pushing us to the very limit of what we are prepared to tolerate and in to do it in complete safety. He’s de-coupled it from being a giant of physical fitness (though the elite front runners most certainly are) and allowed everyone the opportunity to take part. Most of all he’s made it fun, somehow. Yes, it’s hard, yes it is definitely painful and yes it is frightening but it’s also deeply wonderful. The camaraderie in the field, the simple satisfaction you feel on completing an obstacle and the awesome sense of pride that fills you when the air cadets cut off your timing chip and put the famed horse brass medal around your shivering neck make this an utterly seductive experience.

I don’t remember a lot of the killing fields last year, I was pretty messy by then if I am honest. But, what I do remember is that on finishing all I wanted to do was to sign up for next year. There is no better way to spend the last Sunday in January than in the company of Mr. Mouse and 7000 crazies and find out exactly what you’re made of.

Watch this space to see how I do!

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