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12 types of people you see at Tough Guy

by editor
Monday 22nd February 2016
 
 
Every year since 1986 the obstacle-racing calendar has opened with a bang - the trump event, the hardest challenge, coming right as the first main race of the year, on the last Sunday in January. Come ice, rain, snow or storms - this race has never been called off due to "inclement weather" - indeed, that's actually pretty much the whole point of it. As a six-time veteran of the notorious Tough Guy challenge, I've suffered through the 10-mile water-ridden, electrified, phobia-inducing course enough to give me nightmares about it. 2015 in particular was exceptionally bad - as I wrote about here.
 
Sadly for me, this year also opened with a bang, when on New Year's Eve, after one celebratory jaegerbomb too many, I managed a clean snap of a bone in my hand. So, unable to participate this year, I went along to document the carnage from the other side of the fence. Tough Guy is also one of the most photogenic events out there - and the range of characters and personalities that turn up each year to have a go at the course is no small part of that. It's epic to take part in, but it's also epic to watch. 
 
With that in mind, here are my ’12 types of person you see at Tough Guy’ 
    
 

charity case

1) The Charity Case. This guy signed up in good humour, told all his mates and raised a good deal of cash towards the Tough Guy Horse Sanctuary, and his own worthwhile cause. But everything just changed. He's halfway through the underwater tunnels, and the man's now in need of a charity of his own. He doesn't know what his name is, he doesn't know why he's here, and if he catches a look in the mirror he'll probably genuinely think he's turned into a cow. PTSD looms in his near future...
     
 

the cramper

2) The Cramper. Things aren't looking good for this young chap. He probably signed up to this at his University's Fresher's fair, and forgot to actually do any training for it. Now he's deep into the main section of the Killing Fields, but his body's failing on him, and he's cramping up. Chances are this might be his race over and done for, but it's fine because he'll come back to finish it next year. In the meantime, no reason not to take advantage of a free massage...
     
 

the finisher

3) The Finisher. This guy has done it - he's survived the Killing Fields, he's survived the notorious Tough Guy. But he still has to survive getting changed out of his freezing wet kit without the use of his frozen hands - he's not out of the woods yet. If you see anyone like this, with a horse-brass draped around their neck - give them a pat on the back and check they're still mentally capable. They deserve your respect, but they might also need your help... 
    
 

front runner

4) The Front Runner. This guy is hard as nails. That's ice he's breaking through, and he's the only one who has to do it. By the end of this race his legs will look like they've been attacked with a chainsaw, but if he can stand he'll be able to walk away with the pride of having crossed the line first. To be fair though, with practically zero body fat, he needs to be fast. Any longer out there on the course and it wouldn't matter how many British Military Fitness sessions he's been to - he'd be going down and out with hypothermia. 
    
 

germans

5) The Germans. No-one really knows why, but for years now the biggest international contingent every year is the Germans, by a mile. They seem to love the mud and the cold, and recently have brought along not only some of the burliest competitors, but also some of the fastest. They've even set up their own warm-up event in Germany itself, called "Getting Tough" the race. Always a cheerful and great addition to the international field! 
   
 

the hopeless

6) The Hopeless. If this was a video, someone would have stuck R.Kelly's "I believe I can fly" ironically over a slow-motion version of this. Taking off with the greatest of intentions, and the self-belief of Donald Trump, this isn't going to end well. Expect to see this guy in the first-aid station before long...
    
 

the nutjob

7) The Nutjob. That pun is entirely intentional. Every year there are a few crazy individuals who think that dressing up in either a thong or a man-kini is a good idea. Thankfully, the resulting exposure to freezing-cold water and rope-burn is probably going to stop them from ever having kids, so they're a dying breed. But look at this guy - magnificent. With his bright red cape, pink hat and Union Jack emblazoned support, he's having the time of his life. Just don't get stuck behind him climbing any of the cargo-nets later on. It won't be a pretty view. 
     
 

the real tough guy

8) The Real Tough Guy. After three or so hours, most of the competitors have now finished and are in some stage of trying to reheat themselves back to sanity. There are, however, still many more out on the course. They've jogged round, had a laugh with their mates, been treated for cramp a few times, and patiently helped other, colder, competitors to pass them over obstacles. And somehow, after maybe more than four hours in the numbing cold, they're still smiling. I take my hat off to these individuals - they are the real "Tough Guys" of this event. 
    
 

the spiritualist

9) The Spiritualist. This chap with his arms in the air isn't here for fun. He's here for some greater cause. Whether a mid-life crisis, inner demons that need conquering, or a sense to prove himself a man, this guy isn't messing about. Offering his soul to whichever Gods he believes in, this race is going to change him. Not even a Nutjob in a Union Jack thong and cape can take that away from him. After today, he'll never be the same again. 
    
 

tough guy

10) The Tough Gal. Common consensus is that women tend to feel the cold a little more sharply than men. However, they're also equipped with a higher pain threshold than us guys. This means that when it comes to an event like Tough Guy, it feels worse to them, but they can deal with it better. Look at this group of badass women - they've got their rope-crossing technique down like champs, and the nearest one is grinning like she's actually enjoying herself - more than can be said than for the guy behind her!
    
 

the zombie

11) The Zombie. It's probably game over for these guys sadly - possibly wearing a polo shirt and shorts to an arctic-style challenge wasn't the best idea. If you wander around the course after a couple of hours you'll come across pockets of these zombified characters. They don't know why they're here, they can't remember if they brought anyone to look after them, and they just really really want to go home. We've all been there, so take pity and help them find someone that can remind them what their name is...
   
 

mr mouse

12) THE Mr Mouse. This is Billy Wilson. Billy invented the sport of Obstacle-Course Racing when he first started running Tough Guy back in 1986. He's been adding to the course ever since, and it now stands as one of the ultimate tests, a sort of Mecca for competitors from around the world. Mr Mouse is one of the most colourful characters you will ever have the privilege of meeting, and has sometimes been seen driving around the course in some sort of armoured tank. If you see this man, shake his hand and consider yourself lucky - they don't make them like this anymore. 

Photos and words by James Appleton
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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