Tough Guy. Pass the Fire, Water and Dirty Pipes

Does the word “fuck” have a censored synonym, why the organizers do not assume responsibility for participants’ lifes, and the most important thing: when begins NE-VER?

Everything started when I first read about the toughest competitions in the world. Among them is the Tough Guy competition.

We found out a censored synonym for the word “fuck”- Tough Guy.
It is really the riskiest competition, I’ve ever participated at. But this is the coolest thing! That’s the best part.

What is this? Tough Guy is the most extreme race with obstacles in the world. The oldest and the toughest among all other similar races. Its description often says: “The toughest of legalized trials”.
You will sign your “death sentence” anyway, removing all the responsibility for your life from the organizers and you will toe the starting line. You will bury on the Tough Guy’s field all of your corpses – fears and phobias that tormented you all your life.You will crawl only on your willpower to the finish line and you will swear to yourself never… NE-VER to agree to participate in Tough Guy. But only till the moment you drink something strong and get warm.

Here come only girls and guys, who are not afraid of “barbed wire, cuts, scratches, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, electrical shocks, luxations, sprains and bone fractures”. Yes. They might not be afraid of them, but most likely they don’t even suspect what kind of challenge the Tough Guy is preparing for them. It’s the cold.

And, believe me, all those challenges that are waiting on the way to the finish line are trivial issues in comparison with the cold that becomes your constant companion from the moment you step on the start line.

Tough Guy is held in the middle of winter in the UK. The average temperature of the air during the competition is +3 – +5ºC. The average water temperature is +2ºC. Muscle cramps, faints, permanent jim-jams and loss of muscle control are probably among the worst things that Tough Guy can grant you, and not the cuts and scratches. To enhance the effect, each participant signs a paper which is called a “Death Warrant”before the competition; by and large, if you came here , it’s your own fault. No one dragged you by your hand, and no one paid the entry fee behalf of you.

The Tough Guy is being organized since 1987, and throughout its entire history there were two death cases during competitions. But… The organizers take no responsibility for your life. If something happens – it’s your own problem.

What does the winner get? Well, absolutely nothing Only a medal and the right to call himself “a tough guy”. In the end, you’re earning this title for yourself, not for somebody else. To know what you’re capable of.

The money from entry fees goes to charity. The entry fee costs between 50 and 120 pounds. Every year, there are around 5000 people from all over the world coming to this competition. Most of them from Great Britain and Germany. This year Moldova participated for the first time at this competition.

The most valuable thing the winner gets from this competition is the feeling that now you can do anything. You see an obstacle,you think you won’t overcome it, throw yourself into it and beat the odds. Then you look back, smile contentedly and realize you’re crazy, but in a good way. Tough guy is the killer of your fears. All participants leave their personal “corpses” on this field.

So, by the time I had planned to participate at TG, six of my friends decided to join me: Roman Fyodorovich, Andrej Matcovski, Vadim Zheljaskov, Victor Perjan, Iulian Bercu and Igor Stirbu.

And with this team we went to Great Britain at the end of January.
We took everything that was necessary with us: excellent mood, morale – everything was ok. For several days we only talked about how each of us will face this challenge. We’ve watched a lot of videos on this subject on the internet and prepared morally.

Everything was perfect till the moment we arrived at the start line at 7 in the morning.


Everything is ready for the race – the sun is about to rise, the stables are clean, the meshes are stretched, the mud is filled up, the ice is collected in stacks.

We were really lucky from the very beginning – we took a photo with the legendary Mr. Mouse, the permanent organizer of the race. He wished us good luck and smiled slyly…

It is cold. Cold as f*ck. The middle of winter, +3ºC, and in this brass-monkey weather we are supposed to get changed and run the race. And we have our jackets on already tremble. The most difficult thing at this stage was to bring ourselves to get out of the car and undress, take everything off and put the duffle on.

We pulled our shorts and T-shirts with coat of arms of Moldova over the suit, put the war paint on and headed to the start line. We drawed our participant numbers anywhere possible: on foreheads, shoulders, T-shirts. But it proved to be useless – the numbers were either erased, smeared with mud, washed off, or ripped off.

No matter how good you were equipped, the lowest layer is the layer of goosebumps. Whether you like it or not, you’re constantly trembling. And right at the beginning you don’t notice this shiver, but the longer way, the more persistent these goosebumps become and not only their size grows, but their amplitude also increases.

We weren’t the only numerous team; the “girls” particularly impressed us: they came in a team of five and were singing something all the time. Maybe,to warm up. But I noticed, that no one passed this race silently: people were either singing, or swearing, or yelling from the cold.

The prelaunch minutes were the craziest. The adrenaline in the air streched to its limits; there was so much of it, you could bite a piece off, if you didn’t have enough. Everyone is shouting, cheering up each other. The outraged participants looked more like mad buffalos, ready to rush any second, smashing everything around.

So, the shot, let’s run.

10 seconds after the start I slipped on a package and rolled head over heels. I fly and think – this is probably the fastest finish at Tough Guy. Suddenly, I roll one more time,get back on my feet and run. The leg is fine, huuu, thanks to the Gods of Mud for my intact limb.

The fun began – holes with liquid mud. It was great! Several holes, filled with this goop, the organizers prepared purposely to stretch the crazy crowd. And this is probably the only place where you can outrun someone.

Jams started to come up, people were getting stuck in the holes, we pulled each other out. Vadim tried to jump over the first holes – he didn’t want to get dirty By that moment (thanks to the package thrown by someone!), I was already up to my ears in mud. In general, we had a lot of fun, and these were the most pleasant impressions.

It was still warm. No, not this way. It wasn’t cold yet.

The next 3-4 km we ran on cross-country. We almost got disappointed by the race. Are you serious? Just running? This is not interesting at all. But we didn’t have much time to get disappointed. 15 minutes later, we came across electrified hanging wires.

While running, someone (hello to you!) insisted that the organizers are adequate people and that it was unlikely they connected those wires to high voltage, and that either way everyone experienced an electrical shock during childhood; not scary, anyway. And this someone briskly launched forward through the wires. One second later, and a wild scream made it clear that the organizers weren’t joking and connected those cables to an appreciable charge – around 100 volts.

The interesting thing is that you’ve already taken a dirt bath, ran in the January frost afterwards, had no time to get dry (moreover to warm up), and here comes the electric current. It hits you in the face, but you feel the discharge in your heel.

We run further.

In front of us is a mountain, better to say a hairpin turn down the mountainside. You run up, and get down on your bottom. Run up again, and again slide down on your butt. And going so for 2 km. We remembered nostalgically our Sporter Run trainings on the stairs.

A lyrical digression. Besides the physical fitness check, the TG athletes also undergo a mental health test. The obstacles are scattered along the 12 kilometers route in such a way, so you can fully enjoy all the alphabet of pain and suffering. A sort of “50 Shades of Mud”. Well, you are a tough guy, right? Then, go ahead!

Ahead is the forest. And in the forest, specially dug upon our arrival ditches, were waiting for us.

Width – two meters, depth – a meter and a half, water (or rather a muddy slush) – up to the knees. But the most interesting thing was the sound accompaniment. Organizers thought it would be funnier if you could hear on the left and on the right constant gunfires. And even if you want to run through the ditches, the sound of bullets will make you instinctively fall on your knees and crawl in this mud. And here you are – crawling on your knees with shots all around. By that time we were still dry (so to speak).

As it turned out (and it’s logical, in principle) the obstacle’s difficulty was increasing. If we’re talking about a hole with mud, then during the first stage there were only few centimeters of mud, at the next stage – the mud was up to your knees, even further – over your head. Logical, but in the moment of falling under mud – very surprisingly. But can a puddle of mud be an obstacle for tough guys?

 But next…

After the forest, we came to water obstacles. These were 3×3 pits with water. Gentle slopes and climbs and, obviously, with no pavement

 Everything around is wet, dirty, cold, and thousands of feet before you mixed all this chacha. And, if there were some kind of stairs previously, to climb and descend, until we came there was noth-ing left.

By now, the mud became a commonplace, but to get used to the cold seemed impossible… The cold is not making you tremble anymore, it’s causing you spasms. You see the pit with water, understand that you have to jump, bully your brain into silence and jump. Voluntarily.

The level of water in the pit can be from ankle to chest , you walk three meters and get out with someone’s help and repeat this 30 times.

This this is where the crowds began. We started to help each other, other participants – getting out of these pits by yourself was simply unreal.

At one point, a girl in front of me jumped in the mud. Jumped “bomb” style, there was nothing to speak about any “entry into the water without a splash” – all the splashed mud flew into my eyes. There was nothing to help me to scrub the dirt – I was entirely covered by it. I asked Vadim to give me something, and he offered me a T-shirt… all full of dirt. For a while, I went blind. Literally got mud in my eye ????

After the pits, climbs expected us – a wooden construction made of logs, something like a giant stepladder. Stepladder – is a very good word. Those who are afraid of height, begin to worry about making a false step.

You have to climb up the logs, and then go down. You look at other people struggling to get their bodies up, cursing to themselves and moving on. All of this happens under the continuous sound of chattering teeth – your teeth, your neighbor’s teeth and the teeth of that guy 30 meters away are collectively chattering from cold. You don’t see it, but you’re damn sure of it – it’s so cold that even the teeth of those who had the foresight to put on a wetsuit are chattering. At this point, some of the participants begin to drop out. The ranks are thinning. In our team no one took it off.

Thereafter, obstacles occured every 100 meters, so we didn’t have to run anymore, we were challenged by the number now. Ropes, suspended bridges, a web of barbed wire that we had to crawl under.

A few kilometers later, oscillating on the edge of patience, I decided to check with the organizers when will this end. Fortunately, a couple of volunteers watched every obstacle. We’ve already covered 10 kilometers of the declared 15. It took us 2 hours and we were sure we had one more hour to go and – the finish!!!

A sweet volunteer girl smiled nicely to me and replied: “This is only a half”. I remembered the joke about “a half”. This meant that the toughest obstacles were on the following 5 kilometers, and that we’ll spend another 2 hours passing them. Nightmare. What’s there?

That’s it. Everything was going down the tube. Literally, a tube through which we had to crawl. And, if you have long legs, you aren’t lucky. You can not bend them and push yourself. That’s why “traffic jams” occured here. I crawled on my side, others were crawling on their knees, plenty of techniques, and the best of all was the one that worked.

The concrete pipeline we were climbing through was so curved that we couldn’t see the light while crawling. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for you. And, if you suffer from claustrophobia – it’s no fun. Meanwhile, some kind soul is pouring water on you, and you slip, and fall, and start climbing again.

The next obstacle on the route was the fire. Hurray! Fire! Warm! No such luck. By the time we got to the fire, it was already low-burning. The volunteers, of course, maintained it by throwing up some hay, but these were not those flames that so spectacularly adorn the video.

And then there were ropes at a height of three meters, and water below. We had to climb. And we also had to cling well with those ten things that BEFORE the race we called “fingers”. The fingers were already barely moving, so cold it was. If internal organs still received some warmth, the limbs were under shock.

But it turned out that we didn’t have to pass the ropes Andrei said ropes were not included in the program, turned around and went at full lick to the next obstacle.

If at the beginning of the race everyone joked ,cheered the others up and screamed because of the adrenaline, by the end of the race everyone walked silently. Everyone started to hear his own intimate dialogue. “Why did you come here? What on earth do you need this for? Turn around! Go away from here! Surrender! Tell the volunteers you’re feeling bad and need help.

You didn’t pay to kill yourself. Take a step to the side and go have a warm tea!” But, judging by the fact that everyone continued to go ahead – internal dialogues were powerless.

After the ropes, diving under logs expected us. Andrei, whose skin colour turned to blue, was waiting for us on the other side. After saying “Guys, this is fu**ing hell” he disappeared somewhere ahead. Oh, I wish you didn’t say that.

Diving! Under the logs. You have to duck and to soak the only part of your body that could have been dry – your head. So, everything we experienced so far were small inconveniences. If to this moment we might have suffered from leg, hands, buttocks and other parts spasms, now we had to experience a brain spasm. The difference of temperature between our heads and the water was around 30-40 degrees. The blood vessels narrow rapidly, and the brain doesn’t get enough blood and oxygen. This is why you stop thinking clearly and start hallucinating. You’re a zombie.

This was the most difficult test. A lot of participants didn’t dare to dive again, others were pulled out by the volunteers. Each tenth leaves the race at this stage.

Kind of disappointing, because there is so little left to the finish line. But no one condemns the others, everybody cheer each other up (or maybe it seems so because of the teeth chattering).

Well, I don’t clearly remember anything that happened after. Thanks to the photographers! Wet, dirty, and exhausted we almost reached the finish line. “Ahoy! Everything that came before is no big deal!”

The closer the finish line, the more people were lying along the route: some with spasms, others – attended by the doctors due to hypothermia. We were probably very lucky. Our entire team got to the finish.

But to cross the finish line, you had to pass a 30 meters channel, dug by our kind organizers The water is up to your neck, you get in from your last forces, that have already left you when you were divingunder the logs.

The water is not icy. +2 is not ice yet 30 meters. 30 endless meters. Everyone is going with their hands up. No one wants to voluntarily lower his hands in this dirty ice. Or maybe everyone is giving up The finish, after all, is very close.

Done. Finish.

 We are tough Dirty and happy. We have trouble thinking because of the cold, the abundance of cramps and the other light injuries obtained during the race,, but we already hold the medals in our hands. I spilled the first cup of coffee I was offered, so strong was the shaking of my hands.

A crowd of people all around, some are laying, other sitting, some are attended by doctors. Later we found out that 1500 of 5000 participants haven’t reached the finish line. In that precise moment, the only thing we were interested in was to get warm. And we were offered to take a shower, a shower right on the territory – in a stable. We entered the shower with our clothes on, the organizers forced us to undress. But we didn’t want to do this –we were standing on our last legs.

As it turned out, the end of the race wasn’t at the finish line, but here – in the shower, because undressing after all of this without fainting was the most difficult thing. People were bathing, naked men and women hugging under a small jet of warm water, in a desperate need to warm up.

Some of us weren’t that lucky: there were people who blanked out in the showers; doctors were on duty till the last participant. When I was dressing up, I haven’t seen or heard anybody – I was still shocked. Even the scratches and bruises didn’t hurt – I could not feel them. I felt like chunk of shaking ice. And so I was dressing up, and there was only one thought in my mind – I’ve never frozen like this. And one more… Where are my primary sexual characteristics??

To entrench the results (completely warm up), we went to drink tequila. But my favorite cap didn’t go with us and didn’t return home – it was lost at the bottom of one of the Tough Guy’s mud holes.

Thanks to my son for sacrificing his favorite toy – he gave it to me and made me promise that it will ran with me through the mud. Well, a promise fulfilled!

After all, Tough Guy is not only a competition that tests your endurance and will, but first of all your human qualities.

As in the mountains, here you understand who you are, and who your friends are. Do you help other people to get out of the mud hole, or do you jump over their heads – everything becomes clear with no masks and embellishments.

That’s why –
If a friend turned out in the end
Not a friend inasmuch as such
If you can’t tell what’s his deal
Is he fake or for real?
By Tough Guy you try
This guy go with him hand in hand
Till the end,
ТThen you’ll see who and why.

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