All Guts No Glory Don't believe anyone who tells you that the Tough Guy Challenge is a piece of cake

July 12, 1999
July 12, 1999

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July 12, 1999

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All Guts No Glory Don't believe anyone who tells you that the Tough Guy Challenge is a piece of cake

In the world of extreme fitness, there are Iron Men and there
are Tough Guys. The former compete in Hawaii. The latter go to
an unkempt part of central England, where they claw their way
through eight bramble-choked, mud-caked miles on one of the
world's most grueling assault courses--all in hopes of earning a
hot shower, a cup of tea and a souvenir T-shirt.

This is an article from the July 12, 1999 issue Original Layout

On July 25, about 2,500 people--having paid the [pound]50 entry
fee and signed a "death warrant" stating that a fatal injury to
any contestant is his "own bloody fault"--will converge upon the
Wolverhampton countryside to compete in the second annual summer
version of the 14-year-old Tough Guy Challenge, a winter event
that is expected to draw 7,000 entrants on Jan. 30, 2000. Event
founder Billy Wilson, a former Grenadier Guard in the British
army, devised the summer Challenge as a way to test new
obstacles on his 700-acre property. Though fair-weather racers
will not have to endure the Polar Ice Cap obstacle (overcome by
climbing with the aid of only a pocketknife or by swimming
through a tunnel of near-freezing water), they will encounter
such typical Tough Guy venues as the Viet Cong Tunnels of Terror
(a pitch-black underground maze), the Tiger (a rope ladder laced
with live electrical wires) and the Fire Zone (flame-filled
passageways), not to mention a crocodile-and-piranha pool (over
which they must shinny on a rope bridge) and beds of stinging

By Wilson's definition, Tough Guys are not only physically but
also emotionally superior to their fellow man. "It is only after
your mind has passed through the portal of death," says Wilson,
"that you are suddenly faced with a better world." According to
Tough Gal Zelah Morrall, 30, who has been the first woman
finisher three times, the only sensation she feels upon rising
from the ice-capped underwater tunnels is "the worst ice-cream
headache imaginable." Women--"the pretties," Wilson calls
them--make up 10% of the field. That's a far cry from 1986, when
the first Challenge was run by only a handful of men. Today,
Wilson says, "magistrates, prison guards, criminals,
Oxford-versus-Cambridge-boat-race people and City of London
financial people" help make up the field. The course record is
one hour, 42 minutes.

While Tough Guys from the U.S. must travel to England to
challenge themselves, Wilson says that he is negotiating to
build assault courses "in every one of the United States,"
starting with California, where his daughter, Tracie, the wife
of ex-Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, once lived. "From what
I understand, Americans are fat, flabby and full of hamburgers,"
says Wilson, who (insisting his age is between 21 and 70) claims
he runs on his course every morning. "A challenge is just what
they need." --Kelley King

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIKE HEWITT/ALLSPORT TORTURE CHAMBER Racers dash past flames in the Fire Zone (above) and slither through mud to avoid low-strung barbed wire. TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIKE HEWITT/ALLSPORT
Ex-Grenadier Guard Wilson believes tough guys--and gals--are
physically and emotionally superior specimens.