According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average male in the UK is white, 38yrs old with another 41 years left, 5ft 8 and 80kgs. I am therefore a perfect representation of Mr Average.

If the ONS went further and broke down what Mr Average was like in terms of his approach to fitness, it would probably read; buys all the magazines, follows fads, has a gym membership and doesn’t use it, can run (walk) 5km and buys all the gear but has no idea. At least, this is a short but fair run down of how I have approached fitness for all my adult life.

This Mr Average, however, had a very “not average” thing happen to his son late last year and due to this, I decided I needed to change and hopefully in doing so I could raise a bit of cash for some charities (more about that in a later blog). So, what could I do that would challenge me to go from a couch loving, beer drinking generally inactive 38yr old to some fitter version of myself over the next year? How about one Obstacle Course Race (OCR) each month, every month through the whole of 2018?

It seemed like a good idea after a few beers in late October, not quite so sure now. This blog series is following my journey with a short review of each race I complete every month, giving the rookie the necessities (I learn the hard way so you don’t have to). I will also write about any advice I receive along the way that helped me or indeed impart any of my own “wisdom”. So, without further ado, onto my first experience of an OCR, MacTuff.

If I had to sum up MacTuff in one word, that word would be Brutal. They market themselves as “Scotland’s Toughest OCR / European OCR/ OCRWC Qualifier”. They have three lengths, 7k, 15k and 22k, I went for the middle distance of 15k. The race is a mast start, you are lined up on the pit straight (the race is held on the Knockhill Race circuit in Scotland) where you have a face off with a full Scottish pipe band playing the Scottish anthem. As they finish, there are fireworks and 3 ground shuddering explosions that are set off in the distance on the hills you are about to run up. A start that I reckon others are going to be hard-pressed to beat.

The race itself is definitely one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I have willingly put myself through. The obstacles are relentless, even when you are purely “running” you are not doing so on what I would consider a normal trail, but through peaty, boggy woods or snaking up and down a hillside for what feels like an eternity.

The split between lower body lactic acid build up and upper body explosive work makes for a complete body experience. Throw in the -6c temperature and the constant knowledge that 1km from the end is a 10ft water drop into a quarry and the mind likes to join in on the party.

The race organisers weren’t holding up in the number of obstacles that they throw at you either, in total there were 39 obstacles over the 15km distance, the list is below. As it was a World and European Qualifier, those that were in the running had some rules around completing obstacles, as this blog is really aimed at us amateurs, those details are not too important. What is, however, is that the Race Director makes it clear from the start, this is not an event with Burpee penalties should you fail an obstacle. This is “your race” and up to you to put the effort in.

I am a week post-race now and the only injuries I have sustained are the bruises I have on my shins. These bruises are not from falling over, but rather from wading through kilometres of water with 1” thick ice slabs crashing into them and I think this sums up the race quite well. MacTuff is not about the length, it is not about the obstacles or the temperature. It is a race where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is brutal.

And with that my first blog comes to a close. Next month is going to be my review of Muscle Acre in Guildford plus more stats and top tips.

Alistair MarsdenTime Stats

Runners in the 15km race – 374
DNF – 5
Fastest time – 01:28:17
Slowest time – 04:18:04
Average time – 02:55:04
My Time – 02:53:01


1-Wall of kings ( American football team )
2- dead leg ditches
3- sandbag carry (1 mike)
4- container scramble
5- car pull
6- 8ft wall
7 – 8ft slanted wall
8- MacTuff stairway
9 – mangle
10- tyre wall
11-10ft overhang
12- ladder wall
13- traverse
14- cargo net
15- crawl net
16- slide and crawl
17- anaconda
18- claustrophobia
19- barb wire crawl
20- torture chamber
21- long ditch and 5ft walls
22- sternum checker
23- mud madness
24- spiders web
25- highland reel
26- rolling monkey bars
27- shimmy
28- tyre tunnel
29- slaloms
30- reverse wall
31- Nevis
32- funky bars
33- the trail
34- block carry
35-dragons back
36- Water slaloms
37- leap of faith
38- last climb
39- rope climb

My top tip.

Invest in good OCR specific shoes – I have Salming Elements. Not only will your abductor muscles be glad you got the extra grip meaning you didn’t spend 3hrs ice skating round muddy fields in your Reebok classics, but their bright neon green colour makes it easy to find if you lose one in a muddy bog.


Just Giving:

Written by Alistair Marsden