Since its inception in 1987, a farm in Perton, Staffordshire, near Wolverhampton, England has been the home to a one-day survival ordeal that describes itself as: “a window of opportunity to test oneself, on every discipline in life, in one day.” The race’s website even says: “When suddenly God says, ‘Who the fookin-in-hell sent 5,000 souls together into death?’ We in our humble sublimeness shout Tough Guy.”
Before the event, anyone wishing to take part must sign a “death warrant”, which highlights the dangers involved. This warrant ensures the event organisers can’t be held responsible if there are any serious injuries, or worse. And for good reason. In the 2000 race, Michael Green, a 44-year-old competitor collapsed midway through the course and later died in hospital. Green had suffered a heart attack as a result of severe hypothermia. Broken bones are commonplace, whether they be ribs, arms, or in some instances, necks. After 27 stagings of the winter event, creator Billy Wilson claimed nobody had ever finished the winter version of the course according to his own rules.
Tough Guy is an obstacle course of brutal proportions – the obstacles themselves are collectively known as ‘The Killing Fields’, each with their own terrifying moniker. ‘The Torture Chamber’ is made up of a dark tunnel, partially flooded and filled with hanging batons and electric cables, there’s a 40 ft A-frame, crossing through hanging electrified cables and another 40ft called ‘The Tiger’ and ‘The Battle of the Somme’ combines fire, barbed wire and deep, murky water. Altogether, the course has over 250 different individual obstacles over 15km. Thousands of competitors will experience cuts, scrapes, dehydration, burns, electric shocks, claustrophobia and more.
The 2017 version of the race looks set to be the last with Wilson wanting to hand the race to a non-profit charity for them to run instead. As the event has gained noterietay it has attracted competitors from all over the world, with people travelling from as far as New Zealand, Mexico and Costa Rica.