“The original (and best?) mud challenge. Set on the farm of the eccentric and hilarious Mr Mouse it’s a 6 mile assault course that’s cold, muddy, wet, tiring and brilliantly fun.”
Where: Staffordshire, Central England
When: January or February and another race in the summer.
Size: Approx 5,000 runners
Difficulty: Challenging | Tough | Rock Hard
Official event website here.
Completed January 2008
- Wear old clothes that you won’t miss! The best way to keep warm is to wear lots of layers and discard them as they get wet
- Make sure your base layer of shorts and T-Shirt are waterproof
- Wear a bin-liner for the long, and sometimes rainy wait at the start. Plus you’ll look REALLY cool
- Gaffa-tape your trainers to your socks. The mud claims many a shoe and you don’t want to be climbing obstacles in bare feet
- Try to get in front as quickly as you can – the farther back you are – the more churned up the course becomes
- Take your time on the climbs. People break bones every year and that’s not fun
- Don’t be a wimp and wear shin pads/ gloves/ armour – yes people do!
- Help eachother out. Some of the obstacles like high-walls are meant to be attacked as a group
- Be patient and wait your turn on the obstacles – huddles up with the people around you stay cold!..as long as they don’t mind
- Dress up and enjoy the banter!
What’s the set up?
This race is famous the world over and prides itself on being a bit rough around the edges but it is superbly organised. The man in charge is called Mr Mouse and his massive team of stewards are on hand to make sure you get through it as safely as possible. When you arrive you get your race number written on you in permanent marker and then you have to sign your waver etc before you get ready on the start line. There’s a massive amount of people all running out onto the field at once so there is a bit of a wait but Mr Mouse is on hand with his mega-phone and colourful vocabulary to get everyone pumped up.
What’s the course like?
If you like your challenges muddy, wet and full of climbing, crawling and electrocution you can’t beat this. It is the number one assault course race in the world (as far as we know) and although there are copycat events popping up everywhere (Spartan Sprint, Tough Mudder) this is the one to beat. It starts with a 6 mile run (it doesn’t feel this long) but you have to slalom up and down a steep hill. Then you enter the assault course and navigate large cargo nets, climbing frames, tall walls, barb-wire crawls, potholing etc. Hardest bit – dunking underneath logs into ice-cold, muddy water!
Click here for more details on the course as they change the layout and add new sections every year to keep it fresh and each year is given a different name and theme.
How’s the atmosphere?
With many sections of the race out of sight of spectators, the atmosphere is all thanks to the racers. The nervous excitement that Mr Mouse builds up at the start line with his megaphone and foul language doesn’t go away! Every time a new obstacle rears its ugly head it’s cause for some hilarious banter amongst runners. Some of the costumes people wear are pretty imaginative and ridiculous as well. This is without a doubt one of the most fun endurance races you could do.
How difficult is Tough Guy?
Don’t believe the hype. This is billed as the hardest thing in the world but a hilly triathlon or marathon will be far more physically demanding. Its the cold that gives this race its name and reputation. It takes place at the end of January and it is very very cold out there. Some years (2009) it’s so cold that ice has to be broken on lakes before runners can wade through. It’s true that a runner has died of hypothermia on the course as well so it’s not to be taken lightly. See advice above for tips on overcoming the extreme cold.
Much to do afterwards?
Once you get your medal it’s pretty much game over. The farm is in the middle of nowhere and besides a few burger vans there’s nothing to do after the race. Saying that – all you’ll want to do is get dry and change into warm clothes!
Click here for a brilliant video report of the event in 2008.
Here’s the official race video
My Race Diary
Race no. 1st attempt
I spent this event doing three things: racing, cowering from the cold or laughing. The run was fine and then the assault course started which was exquisitely evil. The worst bits for me were the water obstacles. The most horrible being three dunks underneath logs in the ice cold water. Other ‘highlights’ were the tyre tunnels through ankle high water and the field of electric strips. Ouch.
By the time I reached the finish with my race partner we were absolutely freezing and could barely grip onto ropes to climb up obstacles. At the end they give you a tin foil blanket along with your medal and I was very grateful!