6 mile cross country run followed by a large assault course.
Where: Stafforshire, Central England
Size: Approx 5,000 runners
Official event website here.
Completed January 2008
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.
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. Click here for more details on this. They change the layout and add new sections every year to keep it fresh and each year is given a different name and theme.
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 doesn’t go away and everytime a new obstacle rears its ugly head it’s cause for some hilarious banter. Some of the costumes people wear are pretty imaginative and ridiculous as well.
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.
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.
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!