We do so love an international jaunt. That's why we're grateful to have Steve Platt take us through his Getting Tough experience, and an experience it certainly was!
The town of Rudolstadt is nestled in the heart of the German countryside, about half way between Frankfurt and Leipzig, and it was here that I found myself on a bitterly cold December morning walking into the event village of Getting Tough – The Race. Picking up the race pack from the heated marquee/changing area was simplicity itself as was the free bag drop, so all that was left was to wait for the start... Or so I thought. It turned out that the start line was about a kilometer from the village and right on cue the Getting Tough team lead us out of the village accompanied by bagpipes, medieval armoured knights and several fly pasts from the local flying club. Once at the start there was some token stretching and I thought I saw fire engines through the clouds of red smoke, but before that could sink in there was one more fly past, a crack of fireworks and we were off!
Three thousand runners, all starting together, charged across fifty metres of frozen earth and blasting fire hoses to immediately dive under a barbed wire crawl. While you might think that this was a choke point, the 150m wide start line ensured everyone managed to get down and dirty pretty quickly. Breaking out of the crawl we barely had time to draw breath before being plunged into a wide water filled trench (did I mention it was -2 degrees?), backed up by a mound of the excavated earth, then another water trench then another mound. This was followed by another mercifully shorter crawl and some hay bales, and then with the first three hundred metres out of the way, we were on to the run.
Once past the mad scramble at the start, the Getting Tough course is split into two main sections. The first of these is a long run of about 20k, lightly peppered with staples of the OCR trade. Switchbacks up and down the sides of a decent gully are followed about a kilometer later by a lengthy tyre carry after which the path leads into the forest and the proper trail running begins. Before I go on, kudos go out to the cyclist with the musical backpack who kept pace with the main pack for the first few kilometers. While nothing on him suggested he was part of the race team, hearing Bonnie Tyler blast out "I need a hero" was a welcome surprise and I hope he got something for his efforts.
Back to the trail run... I love running through woodland. The slightly uneven nature of the ground, the perpetually swerving trails and the closeness of nature are everything I enjoy about running and this course had them all. The trail had two long gradual ascents to water stations followed by gloriously long and swooping downhills where it was possible to get up some decent speed, if you didn't mind going off the beaten track and trusted the grip on your trainers in the icy conditions. The ascents were also broken up by a couple of six foot walls and a cargo net to crawl under, but mainly it was all about the run. The last few kilometres were on tarmacked roads and took us around the edge of a small village where the locals had set up a stand with free water and hot squash for runners. I thought I smelled gluhwein (mulled wine) too but thought better of trying some at this stage of the race, although I'm sure some of the other runners were lapping it up. A little later we passed the tyre carry and knew we weren't far from home, however were a long way from finished.
The second part of the Getting Tough course is where you'll find all the obstacles. There's no denying that while plentiful, the majority are basic: walls, carries, crawls and climbs. You won't find a rig here, but what you will find are some evil water sections that sap you to the core. Full immersions under floating logs, a scramble over tyres in a spray filled cage, roped climbing walls with waterfall like cascades crashing down on you - you get the picture. These would be fun in the summer but with winter temperatures they are each a challenge in their own right.
Finally we reached the "Walk of Fame", the most obstacle dense six hundred metres I've ever encountered at a race. With tractor tyre walls, low crawls, big wooden structures, a quarter pipe, cargo nets and more, it wasn't possible to walk thirty metres before hitting your next obstacle, and by that point I was definitely walking. Thankfully I eventually clambered over a couple of amoured vehicles and crossed the finish line cold, tired and deliriously happy to have conquered Getting Tough – The Race.
Although a little more effort is required to attend some overseas races, I found browser (ahem, G****e) translate worked perfectly well on their site and the payment from a UK bank was flawless. Tickets for The Race 2018 are available from http://gettingtough-race.com/the-race
Photo credits: Getting Tough & Clare Wend-Hansen