Tough Guy Original is a classic event in the UK OCR scene, the event has its own status and aura due to its brutal nature and the fact its one of the first events in the UK obstacle racing calendar. This race is where tough mudder has its roots and you can certainly see the similarities in the event pricing structure and format.
Overall getting to the event was pretty easy and parking was a doddle. Once I got my car into place I had a 5 minute walk to the farm area to have a look at registration and to see what the central area had in terms of amenities and layout. I found the layout was a bit confusing and I also found the documentation for the event wasn’t clearly printed as they were going for a old look and feel.
Make sure you have your pre-race docuemtation on you as this has your car parking badge as well as some information on the race itself and the layout of where to stand when the race starts as this correlates to whether you are new or a returning eventer. I was in the wetnecks area as i was a Ghoon, others were wetnecks and dickheads which are latecomers.
Arriving at the farm area you had the food stalls standing in various areas, this makes better for spectators but when cold and bothered and finished I am not going to go hunting for a food stall of my choice. The toilet and changing area was on your left as you walk up to the main farm area with more barns on the right where the finish area is and where complementary massages are pre race.
There were some stall with merchandise and this included OCR magazine and a couple of other vendors. When you get to the end you turn left and walk further up to the registration area. This was easily done and I got my race number with the presentation of my paper work. You walk through the registration area into the t-shirt area of the barn where you grab your race day t-shirt and then if you want to can buy additional Tough Guy merch like hoodies etc.
Once I had a mooch around the barn area and made sure I knew where the showers where I got down to business about tagging myself up with my race day number and change into final race clothing. Once I did that I found a spot and left my bag in the barn. I made sure to start my warm up early as it was cold and to make sure I was flexible and ready to go. This helped as it was still very cold due to freeing temperatures
I was wearing underarmour coldgear compression leggings and over the leggings GU 2mm neoprene shorts. My top consisted of a 1mm neoprene surfing rash vest, Underarmour coldgear long sleeve top and on top of that a black Spartan beast t-shirt
I met up with James Ruckley, Tom Nash, Phil Harris and Nathan Davies. It was good to find out I wasn’t the only first timer in the race. It was easy to find them in the happy yellow mudstacle livery and James’s ginger hair makes him easy to spot! We chatted happily about hte event and had a general catch up.
I started off and watched as they sped off due to the big surge of people. We got to the first part of the killing fields mud section and I lost them in the press of people. It took a bit of time to get over the logs and through the mud sections with so many people and you couldn’t get any decent clearance to increase speed. The first 8 miles were mostly running with a couple of nets to crawl under and some wooden log obstacles. We also had the equivalent of the mudmile crawling in and out of water and over mud heaps to make sure you don’t get too bored with just running.
Certain sections along the edge of the field became cramped as we were all running along the hedge on a narrow path. This prevented any pace increase as you had to hedge it or wait until you got to the slalom hill section.
The next stage was the slalom area which was a up and down zigzag of the hills. I was warming up nicely and my hip was starting to work better now I was in the flow of things. Although my legs were working it wasn’t anywhere as painful as FanDance and I was able to work up the hill with relative comfort compared to Jacob’s Ladder. I also didn’t carry a backpack which made things easier.
The good thing is the Inov8 X-talons saved my butt up and down the hills as the grip on them was amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling that I had loads of grip and had confidence to run up and down not worrying about grip or slipping.
The final downhill ended up in going into a crawl under some netting and the next stage was getting back to the main farm area where the final twisting sections and serious mud and water and large obstacles were setup to challenge you.
The next stage was a zigzag in and out of a canal which was fenced. A lot of people ducked under the fencing as it wasnt completely closed off. For those that opted going the complete route there was always a helping hand to pull you out or you to return a favour to someone else.
After the canal in and out you came to a reed and water area which you then climbed over a large fence. The next stage was the kiliing fields where you were running through large sections of water which was muddy and icy. You then had a return to the mud mile which was run over when I first started. It was slow going as my legs were a bit cold from the muddy water section.
Going into the final section of the obstacles you were climbing over large frames with netting and then also had various areas where you had rope walks to do as some more high obstacle pyramids to get over. I was struggling with cold as there was a lot of hold up due to the amount of people that were going over the obstacles.
I also had an issue with my feet being numb from cold as I had no thermal socks and was just running in my shoes. My hands were protected but I was only wearing some darkfin gloves for grip. They did provide some protection but not a lot of warmth.
The in and out design of the obstacles I did find a bit confusing with the latter part of the course as the markings weren’t as clear and although there were martials in place i found this lack of good course control affected my enjoyment of the event. I also felt that with such a big permanent course if was showing signs of wear. This was more apparent when I lost my way in the zigzag under one of the large overhead obstacles where the rope guides had fallen over and I ended up going the wrong way.
The final stages where you had to go in and out and around the main farm area to do the obstacles felt a bit piece meal and it was almost like these were put in place as an afterthought to ensure a large spectator area. The way the course outlay was done is what I didn’t quite enjoy with Tough Guy.
The tunnel obstacles and the tyre sections and various rope challenges were worthy of your endurance levels and from a physical perspective I felt well and truly tested. From an experience point of view I felt the outlay let the event down. I also witnessed an event which made me question safety on the farm area. There was a viewing platform that collapsed with people on it and this added another layer of unease to the whole Tough Guy experience. The last thing you want is to witness friends or family get injured watching their loved ones participating and being challenged.
The changing area post race was very crowded and although the hot showers sounds appealing this is not good for the body when exposed to extensive cold and when you are struggling with hypothermia from being exposed to bitterly cold conditions. This causes the blood vessels to dilate very quickly and a drop in blood pressure to the vital organs and can potentially lead to cardiac arrest.
When struggling with frost nip and hypothermic conditions the body has to rewarm naturally from the core to control the blood pressure and for the body to recover correctly. The most important thing with recovery is consuming water to aid re-hydration and to eat something which is easily digestible to help the body warm up and recover.
Massaging the area is a big no no and making sure you get out of cold wet clothing is critically important. There are recommendation that taking painkillers with ibuprofen as the anti-inflammatory properties help recovery.
- Pro’s Cons
Challenging Obstacle build dated – Dirty Dozen Races is now the benchmark for build quality
Big Obstacles Netting looks a bit worn and some of the course looks old
Iconic event Course layout confusing in places
Its Winter.. Hot Showers the showers were that hot they were burning
Good communication Language a bit quirky and tricky to understand
Classic event Organisation seemed confusing
I love the idea of TG original. It is where tough mudder and all other events started. But I feel like it is dated and needs some attention. I like the experience of Tough guy in their comms and the presentation and the fac that there is a charity component attached to it. Overall I think the layout and design can be improved to make course flow better and more seamless.
Would I do TG again? Yes to see how I can improve and to see if I am being fair in my assessment of the event. Is this on my biggest to do list going forward, not really. I would rather do Fan Dance than Tough Guy, granted they are 2 completely different events but I found Fan Dance was a better experience. The one thought that kept on going through my head when I was doing TG was this is just an obstacle course and it didn’t have the magic I was expecting from the original.