The Tough Mann Adventure Challenge in association with Manx Telecom celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Since it began in 2013 it has grown steadily to become a major fixture on the Island’s sporting calendar – but it’s a year round task to organise it. To find out what’s involved we asked organiser Kez Wardell to give us a glimpse behind the scenes.
Q1: When did you start planning for this year’s Tough Mann?
KW1: As soon as the 2016 race finished! It sounds like a cliché to say that about any annual event, but it’s true. It’s a round the year task because each year we listen to feedback from our Tough Men and Tough Women, and we use that to make improvements to the event the following year. For example, building and dismantling the obstacles is always a major focus in terms of looking at how we can streamline this process because it takes up so much time – so as soon as we finish one event, we are already thinking ahead to improvements we can make for the following year. Meeting with sponsors and paper chasing permissions is the next important task, plus the set-up of online registration and updating the website, and liaising with the fantastic team at Ballamoar Farm. It’s a great help that the guys at the farm now factor in Tough Mann to their management schedule. The next phase in the winter and spring is to focus on marketing and media coverage to promote the event, and looking at commemorative tee-shirt design. And then it’s on to all of the preparations for race day, so it’s a year round commitment.
Q2: The obstacles change from year to year, where do you get your ideas from and when do you have to start building them?
KW2: The obstacles evolve more than change completely from year to year. We watch the competitors challenge themselves on the obstacles, and if people seem to have the most fun with a particular obstacle, or have to really rally around and help one another to get through it, then that is good enough for us. So, we build on that and try to develop the obstacles further to maximise the experience. We are extremely lucky to be able to get onto the land used for the event from about Easter onwards and start prepping the course, depending on the weather.
Q3: How much does it cost to stage the event?
KW3: This year’s Tough Mann will cost between £25,000 and £30,000 to run. It is a not for profit event, but first and foremost we aim to be a quality Obstacle Course Race (OCR) company providing an opportunity for Isle of Man residents to take part in this type of event right on their doorstep, rather than having to go off-Island. In the longer term, we aim to see Tough Mann included in the UK National OCR League (http://ukocrleague.com/) which would allow Isle of Man competitors to compete in selected events around the UK and get a national ranking, and maybe even compete in the OCR World Championships.
Every year we aim to build on the success of the previous year and improve the Tough Mann experience. It is organised by a relatively small team -– which we call ‘The Crew’ – who give massive amounts of their time, and they are backed up by a great team of volunteers. After covering the significant costs of organising the race, if there is a surplus it goes towards the cost of next year’s event to make it even better. It’s much more complex than organising a conventional running race, there’s the cost of building the obstacles, insurance, transport and logistics, timing commission fees, third party contractors, commemorative tee-shirts, equipment hire, maintenance fees and so on. Without the amazing support from our sponsors and competitors the entry fees would be more comparable to UK events. As with most things, costs increase year on year, but we do our best to keep the entry fees as low as possible. Looking at the entry fees of comparable events in the UK, and considering the extra travel and accommodation costs which Isle of Man residents face if they go to those events, I think that Tough Mann offers good value.
Q4: A lot of hard work goes in to the event, but it must be rewarding too?
KW4: Yes, it’s great to see so many people enjoying the event, whether they are among the elite competitors, achieving personal fitness goals, or raising funds for charity. It’s especially rewarding to see charities benefitting from funds that have been raised from Tough Mann – especially for Tabitha’s Trust which is our charity partner again this year. There is a lot of work involved in organising Tough Mann, it’s a real team effort from the organising committee through to every volunteer who helps out during the year or on race day – but it’s all worth it.
• The 2017 Tough Mann Adventure Challenge in association with Manx Telecom takes place at Ballamoar Farm, Ballaugh, starting at 1pm on Saturday, August 5th.
• For the first time there is a choice to do one or two laps of the course (10km or 20km). The entry fee is £59 for individuals, and £171 for teams (the fees are the same for both distances). Closing date for entries is midnight on July 9th.
• Tabitha’s Trust (www.TabithasTrust.com) – Tough Mann’s official charity partner – helps families affected by child bereavement. Competitors who want to support the charity can download sponsor forms from the Tough Mann website.
• To enter, or for more information, go to www.toughmann.com – news about this year’s event is also on the official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ToughMannIOM
• Want to get involved, but don’t want to take part? Why not volunteer to help the organising team set-up and take down the obstacles, or be a marshal on the day? Contact the Tough Mann team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo - An image from the 2016 Tough Mann Adventure Challenge in association with Manx Telecom. The 2017 event offers the chance to do two laps of the 10km obstacle course.