If you’re looking for a race with a bit of difference, then the Tough Guy might be right up your alley. First run in the UK over 25 years ago, the race has inspired a number of similar events around the world – including the Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder.
The Tough Guy starts with a relatively short cross country run which at one point includes zig-zagging up and down a steep hill. But this is just the warm up – then you enter the obstacle course. Think scrambling & climbing, crawling under barbed wire, running through fire and being up to your neck in mud (although that could just be me – at 5’7 I’m relatively short), and then think about doing it all again as the race requires you to go around twice. The total distance, according to the organisers, works out to around “8 country miles”.
These events are a lot of fun, but they are also incredibly exhausting – both mentally and physically. In fact I strongly recommend running with a buddy and sticking with each other throughout the race – not just for the motivation and encouragement, but also to physically give a push when the body starts to fail.
Training for an event like this is a little bit different to training for a regular flat race, and pounding pavement alone isn’t going to cut it. To get yourself adequately prepared, you’re going to need to get in the gym or find some other way of working your upper body.
Strength is an important factor as you will be pulling yourself up and over obstacles, but so is endurance. Keeping the reps high (in the 8 – 12 range) and the rest between sets short is a good idea – and I would recommend including plenty of pull ups, push ups and dips. And ditch the gloves when you train, because you’re going to need those calluses come race day.
If you have a partner in crime who is going to be running with you, it is advisable to get together to train on a regular basis. Hill sprints are a great way of preparing for the event – simply find a steep hill and race each other to the top. Jog back down and then do it again. As well as pushing each other, you can find out if you’re evenly matched and suited to race together.
There is another element you need to consider, and that is the discomfort. Often races such as the Tough Guy involve running through nettles or other flora, and you’re going to get stung. All of the events also include water and mud, so you’re going to be wet and probably cold. Preparing for these kind of things is pretty obvious – if you notice it starts raining outside, go for a run. And if it’s snowing, well that’s even better!
On the race day itself, you’re going to want to be wearing tight clothing – think lycra on both the top and the bottom, or risk getting snagged on the barbed wire. You’ll also appreciate it when you get out of the water!
One final thing to consider is race strategy. Obstacle course based races will have numerous bottle necks where you will find yourself stuck behind other competitors, unable to get passed. Contrary to your best instincts, the most effective method is to sprint like a bat out of hell when the starting gun goes. The faster you run, the less people you will have in front of you.