The day before the last tough guy race the sun was shining through the trees periodically as the clouds broke away and the rain dissipated. The weather was a bit chilling but nothing to deter any true racer from wanting to conquer the course the next day. Five of us racers hopped into the Range Rover for a private tour of the course from the beginning to the end. We looked at the magnificent giant obstacles created over the past 30 years in an attempt to create a strong willed and determined mind out of the common every day man. The giant logs covered in cargo net climbing upwards of 30 feet bring awe to anyone who is seeing the course for the first time. It is in stark contrast to the steel obstacles that are used in the traveling races we see across America.
There are no real technical skill based obstacles on the Tough Guy course but then again it wasn’t athleticism Mr. Mouse was aimed at creating. It was true grit and a mental toughness. Are you willing to run to the end of the fields up and down the slaloms down again jumping over hay bales and then into the trenches through the woods which was a muddy madness clogged with people. Slogging over the bridge back into the open biting cold air just to find more trenches to chill you with icy cold mud. This isn’t even the halfway point before you hit the waist deep waters and climb the first monstrous cargo net. 5000 people were all released over the start line on the hill at the same time as the cannons boomed. Never once would you find yourself alone on the course as a massive amount of bodies were climbing over every obstacle at any given time during the mere five hours the course was open for.
It’s not until you hit the killing fields that people start shivering uncontrollably and finding themselves become dazed with snot running down their noses and some so utterly drained from the freezing temps they were drooling and could barely walk. Others became cripple by tremendous cramps that would give way. Their fellow comrades racing along the course with them never let them quit but instead pulled them along and told them to keep moving to stay warm. One man was held up by three friends as he told the medic, “He just has a little brain freeze. He can keep going.” How that guy climbed the next cargo net I have no clue and it was scary to watch.
The torture chambers or the rather more politically correct interrogation chambers were actually the warmest most comfy part of the course. As I was approaching the electric shock chamber I was a little excited due to the previous electric shock being turned off. The men in front of me kept shouting and I was a little worried about the level of voltage. Despite not wanting to feel the pain I reached out to touch one of the wires. Nothing happened. I passed through and was a tad disappointed. No worries there was plenty of freezing waters that would possibly defeat me.
I was a running marshal and was required to assist as needed while on the course. I came upon the next obstacle which was the portion you had to fully submerge yourself three times and swim out. Bodies were lined up to enter and steam was rising from the line of men and women as the temperature was dropping as the rain started to come down. It was surreal. At that point I joined Beecake in the medic tent for a cup of tea. He thought I was shivering too much. As I entered the medic tent it was filled with about ten people all bundled up in blankets in front of heaters as the medics comforted them in their misery.
The tea was so good. It had just the right amount of sugar and milk. It hit the spot. I warmed my toes for a bit before getting restless and wanting to head back out to the killing fields. There is nothing worse than being on a course and not running around and playing. It just kills me. Not long after we heard the cannon warning that time was running out. They would be cutting out obstacles soon to get the last runners off the course. The course is only open from noon to five.
I was no longer needed as a marshal and could run the course as I pleased due to most of the water obstacles being closed down. I joined the remaining masses and headed out to the finish line. Hordes of men and a few of us women just kept going and there was one more pond of water to pass through before headed to the finish line. It was almost bitter sweet and felt a bit warm at that point. The sun was beginning to set and just one hill away the first every obstacle course would close forever. No more Tough Guy as we know it. Was it everything I thought it would be? No, it wasn’t.
There hasn’t been ice on the course in the last couple years because the weather has been warmer. They turned off the electric shock a couple years ago as well after it almost took someone’s life. They felt it just wasn’t worth it. I agree with that decision. A man had to be pulled from the torture chambers and resuscitated. The course was tough and freezing cold and most definitely felt like a step back in time which made the whole thing so surreal. It truly was a different world running that course. The obstacles are always the same just a tab bit modified and you can look at each obstacle and see the changes that it had underwent throughout the years. It was something out of a storybook. It was so much more than I ever thought it would be. The history and stories are just fascinating. It wasn’t just the course that made this event so different. It was also the people running the event and the behind the scenes action that most never get to experience. The heart and passion that has been poured into the event over the years in unmatchable by any other race.
It is completely ran by volunteers who have been coming out to help for 26 years, 14 years, 4 years and they don’t expect anything in return. They don’t even race. They just want to be a part of it. Drinks and food shared around the tables and massive fireplace languages from all over the world floating around the room. But one this day there was a bit of sadness as Mr. Mouse came into the room took off his coat and sat down for he wouldn’t be making anymore appearances in the festival area.
He sat down and started asking around the room where I was. I was falling asleep on the other side of the fireplace in a chair holding a glass of wine. I heard him ask for me and really didn’t want to get up because I was exhausted. I walked around the fireplace and said, “I’m right here.” He looked at me and laughed “I thought you were still lost on the course.”
“Nope, I made it out alive.” As I looked at him I noticed he was starting to cry.
“Samantha, I want you to tell all these people here what you asked me when we first met. Go on, tell them.”
The room was full of about thirty people including his sister, wife and other close friends. I was a bit taken back.
“Everyone, this is Samantha and she is writing my biography! Go on, tell them what you asked me.”
I said, “Last spring when I interviewed Mr. Wilson I wanted to know what type of person creates a race that electrocutes people in an attempt to make them a stronger person. I asked him what his childhood was like.”
At this point tears were streaming down his face and I knew this was a very sad moment for him. He has been putting on this race for 30 years and it was now over. We sat and he told me storiesas the evening went on. After meeting his best friend from his teenage years I decided it was time to turn in. I went to bed before anyone else and they all stayed up late reminiscing and drinking all night.
The course isn’t going anywhere. It’ll still be there next year. There just won’t be a Tough Guy.