Only for Tough Guys

Translated from the original text: A version from this text was published at Piauí Magazine 64 (Brazil, april/2012).

Mud, hypothermia and electrical shocks in the world’s toughest race

It was a typical winter Sunday, in Perton, Staffordshire, a place about 20 minutes from Wolverhampton, England. A thin layer of ice was covering many points from the lakes that are part of the Tough Guy’s course – a race that is considered by many (and self-proclaimed) the toughest race in the world. It was about 1ºC that january morning, when a cannon shot the starting signal, releasing a rabble of 3.4 thousand people, from many ages, coming from all around the world, some of them in costumes. There were a good percentage of women and maybe a dozen men in ballet skirts. From those people that started the race – according with statistics from the organization – at least one third will not finish the route of about 13km.

The mastermind of the race is Billy Wilson, most known as “Mr. Mouse”, a pleasant 73 years old man, porting an emblematic moustache. Mr. Mouse was walking around, nattily dressed with his kilt, inspecting closely all details for the beginning of the race. He is experienced in races organization. Tough guy evolved from some cross country trails that he used to organize and dispute. There are no official register, but this winter obstacle marathon happens every year since at least 1987.

“Every year we try to add something for a more difficult race. Sometimes we make some change in the route or we add new turns at the Slaloms… some change to make an obstacle a little bigger or tougher. Anything for a different race every time someone does it. I raced it eleven times in the winter and eight times in the summer and it was different each one from another”, said Paul Gossy, 46, who, further on the organization, is one of the marshals around the place, helping the competitors that fail in keep going. “We used to have some electrical wires at the Tiger, and now we put some at Interrogation Pit, some at Viagra Falls. This year we have electrical wires everywhere.”