"NO Hazelnut NO! I will not enter Tough Guy with you or anyone else. I just don't hate myself enough!" - Sam512, upon my exhorting him at a nodermeat c. 2009 to enter this singular contest on the grounds that he was a mathematician and mathematicians are surprisingly good at The Krypton Factor which has an obstacle course as one of its rounds and therefore was a prime candidate for an E2 team for this.
I don't hate myself enough either, and also, although my doctor says I have the heart of an athlete (long story), I have the body of a fat bastard and suck at running. However, I do know people who have attempted this event.
Tough Guy was started in the late 1980s by an ex-Grenadier Guards officer named Billy Wilson or, as he calls himself, Mister Mouse, somewhere near the town of Perton in Staffordshire. It is described as the world's most demanding one day survival ordeal. It consists of a six-mile run (in winter, natch) followed by an extremely extreme obstacle course. In the freezing cold. With obstacles including barbed wire, electric fences, and marshals dressed as commandos throwing flashbangs at everyone. It's kinda like real life I Wanna Be The Guy, including the fact that it's genuinely, genuinely difficult, reportedly up to a third of all entrants fail to finish it, and there have been at least two fatalities while engaging in it.
"Remember - YOU have signed the Death Warrant." - Sign plastered round the beginning of the obstacle course.
All entrants have to sign a waiver, known as the Death Warrant, that absolves them of any liability for injuries or death caused while on the course. This is probably for the best. Every obstacle is designed to be as annoyingly difficult as you can possibly imagine. That innocuous looking tunnel made of concrete sewer pipes? It's got bare electrical wiring (albeit with a non-lethal current) in it! How shocking! The easy looking muddy patch? Cunningly buried are a load of ankle-wrecking car tyres just waiting for you to stumble over them and fall face down! Oh, and that barbed wire fence? There's no way around it. Hope you packed your gloves! Whoops!
It should also be noted that it takes place in January. That mud (all of it, for there is much) is scrotum-tighteningly cold. In 2009 Wikipedo tells me that over 600 entrants got hypothermia.
Then there's also the fact that people sometimes (but not always) do it in costume. There's a loosely enforced costume theme each year. One year it was Vandals (as in the folks who sacked Rome but I'm sure some eedjit came in a trackie and baseball cap and truculent expression), and another year it was "Oirish Tigers." Whatever that is. Of course, some people wear other things to do it just for shiggles. It's not uncommon that there's one or two squaddies doing it in full bergen and webbing. Another person was sighted by a chap I knew doing it dressed as Jesus with a life-sized crucifix. And then there is this gem from that same person:
"I like to think I am pretty fit, but the year I did it, there was this fat bloke who came pretty near the front who completed it wearing just a lime-green thong."
I suppose this is kinda the equivalent of doing a vegan tourist ascension on NetHack. *run run trip* Ack! Broken ankle! Do you want your possessions identified? y. 1: normal thong (lime green). Restart, Restore, Quit?
In short, it's basically like an unholy alliance of It's A Knockout and The Krypton Factor. With elements of Sasuke in that the marshals listen in to peoples' conversations on the bus home and on the web fora and on "ToughTube" and whenever someone says something was horrible or nasty or unenjoyable or difficult, they make that bit longer next year. I personally think they should simply sell the TV rights to BBC2 and draft in cameras and a motormouthed commentator like John Sachs or Stuart Hall to film things as they're going along. After all, isn't that basically what Sasuke and Unbeatable Banzuke and Takeshi's Castle are, hm?
If you really, really, really, are sufficiently masochistic to do this, here is where you enter. Entry fees for Tough Guy 2012 are £99.00. If, however, the idea of falling off ropes into freezing mud doesn't appeal to you, there's a summer version called Nettle Warrior which is much the same but in summer.
Maybe one day, if I wasn't such a fat bastard, I would enter this just for the bragging factor. However until then I think I'll give it a miss.
(IRON NODER 2011, 15/30)