Toughest London - Ross Macdonald
23rd April 2016, Pippingford Park
Photos by James Appleton
Ross Macdonald, dryrobe ambassador and member of the British Military Fitness Race Team, gives us his thoughts on Toughest London - one of the most eagerly anticipated obstacle-course races of 2016.
"Toughest Races have built a reputation up in Scandinavia for putting together hard, fast, innovative, obstacle-heavy races which attract the top athletes from around Europe. I had attended Toughest Oslo in 2015 and experienced just how good their courses are… as well as how great the Scandinavians at racing around them! After months of build-up, Toughest arrived in London to put the UK to the test.
Toughest brought with them obstacles such as ‘Dragon’s Back’, ‘Sternum Checker’ and ‘Platinum Rig’. These are obstacles which can test the nerve of experienced athlete’s, so for those attempting their first OCR, they had really jumped in at the deep-end. However, Toughest have hard and easy lanes- which is a concept I am a big fan of. Completing a hard lane means you can get straight back into working your way around the 8km course. However, fail the hard lane and you are straight into a penalty run which can often add a minute to your time. Alternatively, take the easy lane (which are still normally quite challenging) and upon completion, you have an extra net-crawl or walls to conquer before you can continue. Again, fail and you are off on the penalty run.
The obstacles which Toughest are already renowned for are their Dragon’s Back obstacle, the Ramp and the Super Slide. Dragon’s Back involves jumping several feet from one platform to another. This would be easy at ground level, but at 10 feet in the air it brings a mental element into play which causes havoc. Unfortunately the Super Slide had to be closed for safety reasons at Toughest London after the elite heat, meaning I was one of the lucky few who got to go down. The lip at the bottom created some great air and this is reason enough to enter next year (check out Toughest events abroad for even bigger slides and ski slopes!). Finally The Ramp is fantastic as it requires more technique than you would expect. When I ran the course for a second time this was much more challenging as it was covered in mud! Jon Albon has it easy.
The mud at Pippingford was new territory for Toughest. The events in Scandinavia largely take place on tarmac, with some events on sand and only small sections on trail or mud. Toughest London being at Pippingford was always going mean mud. However, everyone in the UK is used to getting splattered in mud and cold water so this wasn’t a problem.
In 2015 Jon Albon, OCR World Champion in 2014 and 2015, dominated the Toughest Race Series (as well as almost everything else he entered). This was the same result at Toughest London as Jon showed that if anything, he has gone up yet another gear. It is getting scary to think about how many gears Jon has got! What made this even better was Henriette Albon, Jon’s wife and teammate at Team Santander, crossed the line first in the women’s elite race. They may be living and training in Norway now, but Jon is still a Brit! Conor Hancock, of Team MuddyRace, made a great late surge to claim second place in the men’s. Freya Martin, my teammate at British Military Fitness, had a great race and claimed fourth in the women’s despite some obstacle controversy and I managed 17th, which given I had a semi-decent race shows just how strong this field was!
The event village had a great atmosphere, helped by several obstacles being in or around the same area. Thanks to dryrobe, everyone was kept warm pre and post-race.
Toughest Races take place throughout the year in Malmo, Stockholm, Oslo, Umea, Copenhagen and Gothenburg. They are well worth travelling to and making a nice weekend break out of it!"
Be sure to follow Ross and the British Military Fitness Race Team on social media to stay up to date with their activities!
Stay tuned as we have some official team kit in the pipeline for these guys coming very soon!