Beauts Do The Tough Guy
Jacky Fellows writes:-
Today I had the hottest, longest, most refreshing shower I’ve ever had.
Dear reader, you have no idea how satisfying it was watching the mud slide
from me into the bath and down the plughole. It seemed to take an age
before the water eventually ran clear and as I washed my hair for the third
time, I reflected on what I and my long-time friend, Amy May Butler had put
ourselves through just a few hours earlier.
Perhaps if I’d been drunk at the time I may, like so many others, have
had an excuse for entering Tough Guy, billed incidentally as the hardest
assault course in the world! But if the truth be known, I just missed my
tree climbing, rope swinging, canal swimming days (I accidentally fell in
actually and my dad was not best pleased as the cowboy outfit I was wearing
was new on that morning) and as soon as I read Farah’s race report of a
previous event on the DL site I knew I just had to do it.
I filled out an entry form as soon as they became available in March and
contented myself over the next few months with getting fit for the event. I
had been quite prepared to do this on my own but as fate would have it; Amy
agreed to do it with me (I have absolutely no idea why...you’ll just have to
Race day duly arrived and I picked Amy up on the way to the venue, Mr
Mouse Farm for Unfortunates. She seemed rather nervous and explained that
she’d only managed a banana for her breakfast that morning. I on the other
hand had eaten a bowl of porridge and a piece of toast. I was surprisingly
calm, I didn’t feel nervous at all or even that excited.
We arrived early and put our bag in the designated barn, went to register
our entry which involved signing a ‘death warrant’ and having our number
stamped on our forehead with a permanent marker) I declined to agree to be
buried in the ‘Killing Fields’ if I should perish en route explaining that I
had no intention of dying that day thankyouverymuch! And besides, I didn’t
want to tempt fate!
We hung around for a while and soaked up the atmosphere. I even checked
out the bacon sandwiches on offer but the prices were extortionate and so I
went without. Amy’s husband turned up to support us. He took some photos and
wished us both the best for the race. It seemed an age before we were called
to our starting pen but the moment arrived and a few minutes later we were
The initial run was ideal terrain for me. Forest tracks and beautiful
English countryside coupled with clean fresh air and a beautiful summer’s
day made for a perfect start to the race. We hit a little mud through the
woods but nothing too drastic
We tackled the slalom which consisted of running up a hillside to a ridge of trees and
back down again. We completing 8 successive climbs and descents and although
they were tough, the scenery made up for the effort.
I felt calm and confident and was enjoying myself as we moved on to the
first obstacle. A series of water filled ditches didn’t pose too many
problems, they were a little steep to get out of for my 5’1” height but
there were plenty of willing hands offering help.
My friends appeared just as we entered the ‘Killing Fields’ waving like
mad to get our attention. Deb was entrusted with the still camera and Sue
recorded proceedings with the video camera. Darren, Debs bloke, was just
there to keep them both in check!
The ‘Killing Fields’ are a notorious series of obstacles consisting of
40’ A-frames, high rope crossings and tyre crawls to name but a few. We
spent a total of 3.5 hours crawling in and out of mud filled ditches, under
barbed wire, through 25’ long sewage pipes. We climbed and clambered over
walls, A-frames and wooden towers covered in netting. We swam through lakes
and crawled through water filled tunnels; waded through countless mud-filled
ponds and pools and plummeted down sheer slides at break neck speed into
lakes of filthy water. We inched our way over high rope walks, through a
long tyre-graveyard and clambered over concrete pipes. We ran through
rancid smoke and jumped over burning bales of hay.
The race demanded not one lap of the killing fields but two. I felt ok
the first time around and met high obstacles and pits of water with
confidence. Amy had problems with ‘The Tiger’ and we got separated. Her
husband told me she was about 15 minutes behind me and I waited for a while
but felt myself start to stiffen up so I carried on slowly. My friends and
Amy’s husband were brilliant. They followed us around the course encouraging
us all the way...well except for one bit where I went past and they were
busy filming their own little private docudrama...but apart from that, they
never got bored with telling us how well we were doing.
Doubt about the safety of the course crept in when I saw one man fall
backwards from an A-frame hitting his head before coming to rest on the
safety netting. He lay still for a while obviously dazed but eventually he
recovered and carried on. A real scare came when a rope supporting four men
snapped next to me.
The swamp was a particularly harmless looking obstacle but proved very
deceiving. This wasn’t just any mud; this was the SAS of mud; Mud that felt
like quicksand mixed with superglue and required a monumental effort just to
lift each foot. And as I pulled and tugged, the ligaments and tendons in my
ankles complained as they were stretched and twisted with every step. Things
got worse as the mud got deeper. At one point I was up to my waist and two
men had to ease me out. And this mud seemed to go on forever...I began to
have the weirdest sensation in my feet. As I went on, the sucking mud
created a vacuum within my trainers and it felt like they were imploding
around my feet. The pressure increased until it became painful and the end
of my trainers started to curl up crushing my toes! Relief eventually came at the next
water feature and the ventilation holes in my shoes were washed clean of the clogging mud. By this time though,
wads of mud had congregated under the balls and heels of my feet and
migrated to the end of my socks making running uncomfortable. I did
contemplate stopping to empty them but I had become very cynical at this
point and figured that this mud probably knew its squatters rights and so I
just soldiered on.
Fatigue set in on the second lap and I started to lose the strength in my
arms. I began having problems holding on to ropes and at one point I had a
serious bout of vertigo. I panicked at the top of a particularly high
climbing frame. I didn’t think I could hold on and felt sure I was going to
fall. I took a few deep breaths and managed to claw myself onto the top and
down the other side.
I had become sick of the mud and water by this time but the end was in
sight. My spirits were lifted though when Amy’s husband told me that she was
only a few minutes behind me. Sue made me laugh when she told me that Amy
was shouting “I’m coming Jack”. I waited for her and we ran the last of the
course together. We crossed the finish line four hours and thirty minutes
after we’d started.
There were special things about today... not just the fact that we’d
successfully completed a course that is reputed to strike fear into the
hardest of men but having friends there to experience it with us and to
support us (and to take some excellent photos!), it really made the whole
day for me.