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In the Picture: Obstacle Races, the Battle of the Somme, and Donkey Befriending

In every issue, we fix our gaze on an everyday photograph and chase down facts about details in the frame.
(Photo: Espen Rasmussen)

(Photo: Espen Rasmussen)

  • The Tough Guy obstacle challenge, held each winter in Staffordshire, England, started in 1987. In 2014, some 3,600 entrants traversed fields of dangling electrical wires, low-hung barbed wire, pits of fire, and icy mud ponds.
  • Recent Tough Guy events have included obstacles named after the Somme and other World War I battles. Said Billy Wilson, the run's founder, to the Birmingham Mail: "The Tough Guy is a very serious event, and a very serious taste of what it was like in the war."
  • In a single day during the battle of the Somme, nearly 20,000 British soldiers were killed—making it the bloodiest day in the country's military history.
  • Fifty-six people were treated for injuries during this year's Tough Guy.
  • The modern military obstacle course dates roughly to World War II. Previously, military physical training in the West leaned heavily toward gymnastics.
  • After a Congressional ban on women in combat was lifted in 2012, the U.S. Marine Corps began allowing women to enter its obstacle-heavy Infantry Officer Course. As of this January, 14 women had attempted the course, but none had completed it.
  • In the roughly 40 years since Title IX outlawed sex discrimination in education, the number of women participating in American college sports has increased almost sevenfold, from 30,000 in 1972 to 200,000 in 2013.
  • Women typically make up about 10 percent of Tough Guy race rosters.
  • According to a 2000 survey of college students, men overestimate how much muscle women find attractive. Muscle dissatisfaction in men strongly correlates with higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction.
  • In the U.S., according to Outside magazine, the number of participants in obstacle runs increased from 41,000 in 2010 to 1.5 million in 2012. A race called Tough Mudder is the booming industry leader; it generated $115 million in revenue in 2013.
  • Tough Guy exists in part to raise money for a horse and donkey sanctuary, which puts animals in the care of "unfortunate and street kids." The Tough Guy website reads: "Help us Get Kids off Streets into Sports and Donkey Befriending."

*Compiled by Paul Bisceglio and Michael Fitzgerald.

This post originally appeared in the May/June 2014 issue ofPacific Standardas “In the Picture.” For more, subscribe to our print magazine.