I’ve just arrived back in Cork after yesterday’s assault. We were a bit apprehensive that our lack of training since Christmas was going to make Tough Guy a painful ordeal, but we were both in flying form. Even after a chilly night spent trying to sleep on straw bales in the drafty barn laid on by the Tough Guy organisers. Admittedly, every muscle in my body aches, and both my knees and elbows are grazed. But overall, myself and Si put in a pretty decent performance yesterday.
Shivering, out of breathe, and dripping from head to toe with fetid, icy, swamp water, we fell across the line in a respectable 1hr 59mins.
The Tough Guy experience was as much fun as you’d imagine 5,000 people throwing themselves 15kms around a military assault course might be. There was great team spirit and camaraderie among all of the participants. On several occasions total strangers reached out a shivering mucky hand to haul me up a slippery bank, or pushed me the last few inches over a 10 f00t wall, a favour I reciprocated as many times as it was needed.
Its the spirit of togetherness that really is the essence of the whole Tough Guy experience, it wasn’t a competition so much as a group challenge. As we become increasingly reserved and Urbanised. As rules of hygiene begin to border on sterility, and chatting to a stranger tantamount to madness. When we can go a whole day without actually going outside for more than the time it takes to run from the office to the car, and then from the car to spar. Spending two hours covered in muck on the verge of hypothermia together with 5,000 like minded individuals seems more necessary every day.
Contrary to what you’d expect with an event styled with military paraphernalia, and promoted with overtones of machismo, Tough Guy is not in the slightest bit macho, nor is it a place for big ego’s. Such is the nature of the event that, there is little talk of places or times in the post race banter, only slaps on the back and a mutual respect for having put oneself through the mill on a cold Sunday morning. There was no feeling of heirachy or one -upmanship, as “Ultra” athletes lined up alongside first timers. Back in the barn that doubled up as a changing room the atmosphere was that of the locker room of a team that had just won the cup. As we all were high on the elation that comes from having done something very hard and demanding, and given our all.
Some people say it’s the toughest assault course in the world. True, it has a very high drop out rate, around a third of those who start don’t finish, and we did see several people in the early stages of Hypothermia, and several people being carted of by paramedics. Somebody also died during a Tough Guy a few years back. But the fact that over 5,000 people take part each year indicates that it is well in the reach of ordinary lads or lassies of modest fitness, like myself and Si.
The next Tough Guy is in July and as we’ll be doing our next leg of training ascending Mont Blanc we won’t be able to make it. But we’ll definitely be giving it another go some time in the future.
We’re currently getting our photos sorted. For the moment, The Guardian has some decent snaps here