One of the biggest players in the Euro OCR Industry brought its Race to the UK for the first time this year. Nordic based company Toughest decided
to pick Pippingford Park London to be the location for their first UK Race. There was a lot of hype around this race with some huge signature obstacles promised such as the big slide
and the dragons back. Toughest Obstacle Races differ from the majority of OCR’s in the UK in that they tend to focus on making sure their Obstacles are challenging both mentally and physically, with less of a focus on running.
They also make use of fast and slow lanes to ensure that the race is accessible to both competitive and fun-runners.
We filmed our attempt at the race with our trusty go-pro camera. Here’s the edited video in all it’s glory, followed by our full race review:
At Toughest there are two lanes at most of the bigger obstacles, a fast lane and a slow lane. The fast lane features a more challenging obstacle than the slow lane. However if you choose the slow lane, you also have to do an extra
obstacle shortly after. For example, at the monkey bars the fast lane is the flying monkey (much bigger gaps between bars). At London we had to crawl for about 20 metres if we chose the slow lane.
You also only get one attempt at each obstacle. If you fail you have to do a penalty, usually a crawl or a short run. Toughest carefully planned the penalties so that they would take at least as long to complete as the obstacle itself.
Most races don’t require too much thought when it comes to obstacles. This again is where Toughest stand out. You have to engage the brain and think carefully which option to take at each obstacle. Go for the fast lane if you are feeling confident
and get rewarded with a smooth transition to the next obstacle (though risk a penalty). Or choose the lesser riskier slow lane option but face an extra crawl.
During the actual race, it’s interesting to see which option the Elites go for. Jon Albon for example, in an interview afterwards mentioned that he chose the slow lane at a few obstacles simply because he had a decent lead and didnt want to
take too many risks. Those in second or third place may be more likely to go for the riskier fast lane if it means there is a possibility of overtaking and gaining a position.
You have to engage the brain and think carefully which option to take at each obstacle
Me & Mike made a decision at the beginning of the race to attempt the fast lane at every obstacle, simply because many of the obstacles we had never tried before. It was definately going to be challenging
but then that’s why we entered the race in the first place, we wanted a challenge!
There was a £5 charge to park. Personally i’d prefer that this was included in the entry fee rather than face a surprise charge on the day, but then i’m getting used to it as it seems most of the other races are doing the same.
When we walked into the Race Village there was an instant buzz about the place. The atmosphere was electric. There was so much going on. Also Toughest had carefully planned the race in a flower like layout so that each obstacle
was placed in or close to the race village itself. For spectators it gave them something to watch and enjoy. The big ramp complete with a commentator at the finish line, right in the middle of the race village was already drawing some big crowds.
There were plenty of vendors here such as a Toughest Merch Store, KitBrix, MuddyRace, Mudstacle, OCRA plus a few food and drink outlets.
There was a £5 charge to park. Personally i’d prefer that this was included in the entry fee rather than face a surprise charge on the day
The Obstacles were challenging to say the least. We were particularly looking forward to the Flying Monkey, the Dragons Back and the Salmon Ladder.
One of the first challenging obstacles that we came across was basically an angled wall along which we had to traverse using limited climbing hand holds. Then we had to shimmy across a horizontal scaffold, straight onto another traverse wall. This time with nylon hand holds and no footholds.
This one was surprisingly tougher than it looked actually – there was no fast/slow lane option here. It kind of hit home at that point that this race was going to be tough, and pretty much set the tone for the rest of the race. Awesome 😀
I’ve listed most of the major obstacles here, the one’s that stood out for us.
You also only get one attempt at each obstacle. If you fail you have to do a penalty, usually a crawl or a short run
The Dragons Back is a signature Obstacle of Toughest, also seen at last years OCR World Champs. It consists of a series of high angled platforms which you have to jump across. Sounds easy and phsyically, it is. Mentally however a lot of people struggle with this one.
Its a combination of the height of the obstacle and the gap that you need to jump across that scares a lot of people. Jumping the gap is not as difficult as it looks, the bit that people struggle with is starting the jump in the first place. Lots of worried people were stood on the top of the platforms trying
to persuade themselves to go for it. Our strategy for this one, don’t think about it, don’t look down. After the first jump is out of the way, the rest are easy.
Mikey once he’d got over his fit of laughter at watching me fail on a major scale decided to go for the conservative approach.
Almost right after the dragons back was the flying monkey, the fast lane option next to the regular monkey bars. Monkey bars with a difference; An 8-10ft gap between each bar! Full of confidence after smashing the dragons back I decided to take a run up and jump for the second bar. EPIC FAIL! My hands touched the bar but didn’t quite manage to grip it so proceeded to fall backwards
onto the ground below with a crunch. Man that hurt. Mikey once he’d got over his fit of laughter at watching me fail on a major scale decided to go for the conservative approach. He grabbed the first bar and tried to swing and generate momentum to reach the second, again EPIC FAIL. Not quite as dramatic as mine but nevertheless, we’ve definately found our nemesis
in the flying monkey! The penalty crawl awaited.
The aptly named sternum checker is basically a horizontal log at sternum smashing height over which you’ve got to get yourself. We got some nice scrapes and bruises (OCR Kisses) going over this one!
Double Distance Rings vs Rings
There were two options again at the rings obstacle. Regular Rings or Double Distance Rings (rings a lot wider apart). Feeling pretty confident again after some success at some of the fast lanes so far we chose the double distance rings here. This was more difficult than it looked,
the gap between the rings varied. We were doing well when we reached the middle stretch and came across a massive gap. We both just missed the second ring here and had to take the penalty, that damn crawl again.
The Spinning Wheels was a fast lane option alongside a regular traverse set of rings If my memory serves correctly. About 4 possibly 5 giant wheels which spin when you grab them. The technique that worked for us was to use a monkey bar style swing. Grab a wheel
with one hand, use the momentum generated by the spin of the wheel to reach the next wheel. This could be tricky for people with short arms 😀
We had already decided pre-race we were definately going to try the Salmon Ladder vs the Rope Climb since the salmon ladder was something neither of us had tried before.
Salmon Ladder vs Rope Climb
We had already decided pre-race we were definately going to try the Salmon Ladder vs the Rope Climb since the salmon ladder was something neither of us had tried before. I’ve seen it on TV on Ninja Warrior and always thought i’d love to have a crack of that!
It’s basically a horizontal pole which you have to use to traverse your entire body up a set of hooks. A bit difficult to explain this one, take a look at the pic to see what I’m banging on about! You have to do about 5 explosive pullups to master this one. I managed to get to the top – not gracefully I might add but chuffed I managed it as this was something that always looked pretty tough on ninja warrior.
Mike flew up this one with ease as much as I hate to admit it. Brotherly competition will never die 😉
Hang Free vs Peg Board
Towards the end of the race we came across ‘Hang Free’ the fast lane option vs the slow lane ‘Peg Board’.
Man we underestimated this one. It was a hanging peg board with 2 sets of peg holes travelling upwards. You had to use two pegs to traverse up the board. We tried but with fatigued grip and trashed forearms at such a late stage in the race it was pretty much impossible. To the crawl we went…
On watching the elite race footage after the race I noticed that most of the elites took the much easier peg board option here so I don’t feel too bad 😀
Right at the end of the race next to the finish, a stable in all of Toughest Races is the Ramp. The ramp, effectively a giant quarter pipe is pretty intimidating standing at the bottom of it.
We had watched so many people fail despite several attempts at it, plus with a huge crowd lining the sides and a commentator we were definately feeling the pressure here! So many thoughts go through the head, should I take a big run up or a short run up?
Should I take small or big steps? What if I slip??
We calculated that the best strategy here would be to run as fast as possible and keep taking steps all the way up the ramp. A lot of people were failing because they were trying to jump for the top when they were halfway up the ramp. This rarely works because a jump at this point will just propel the body backwards of a vertical
wall rather than upwards!
I put my head down and sprinted as fast as I could, next thing I knew my hands were at the top and so was I. Mike closely followed behind. What were we worried about!?
Something that did Marr the race for some was the fact that many of the obstacles that were promised were out of order on the day. In particular the big slide this was something I know a lot of people were looking forward to. There are various rumours circulating that
obstacles were damaged the night before by vandals. Also that the slide lining was ripped during the elite wave by someone wearing studs. Whether any of these rumours are true I have no idea, hopefully Toughest will make a statement explaining.
Personally, despite the damaged obstacles, for us it did not take away from the experience. There were plenty of new/challenging obstacles to keep us more than entertained throughout!
The challenging aspect of the fast lane obstacles really made this race stand out for us
All that was left was a pretty high firemans pole then an obligatory sprint across the finish line to receive our chunky Toughest Models and bottle of water. No goodie bags here. Gotta be honest I do look forward to the randomness of a goody bag at the end of the race as sad as it sounds. But the actual race more than made up for it, this
was definately one of the best races we have ever done. We queued for about 10 mins for our cheesy podium photo, grabbed our bags from the bag drop and made a quick exit to change out of our wet clothes in the car.
In summary we were extremely impressed by Toughest Race. Especially considering this was their first visit to the UK we feel they put on an excellent race. The challenging aspect of the obstacles really made this race stand out for us
compared to some of the other races on offer in the UK. We are more than happy that they have just announced a rebooking of Pippingford Park for 2017 which you can Pre-Register for now, plus there are rumours of another race in the UK this year in Manchester, fingers crossed!