The Hellrunner is an extreme crosscountry running event, about 10-12 miles distance. A “friend” (I now use the term advisedly) convinced me to give it a go. In training, I was regularly running 6 miles twice a week, and had done a few 9 mile runs on the road. The reality was so much more. The first big excitement of the day was to pull into the carpark, look up and see Gordon Ramsey getting ready to run - celebrities, cool. The weather in our part of the UK has been miserable over the past few days, but today was cool, late autumn sunny, and no wind. But all the rain had bogged up the trails.
We set off at 10:30, a slow start with 2000 runners hitting the line (chip timing). I settled into my own pace, a bit behind my friend and his workmates. A couple of miles was road, allowing the runners to space out, then we hit the first challenge - a narrow gully up a hill. Since everyone was bunched up, I took a leak and didn’t really lose much time. From then on, pace was often dictated by the slowest person on an obstacle (steep hills up and down, big puddles etc). Running through my first big puddle, I put my foot in a 2 foot rut and almost faceplanted.
Not too far after the approx halfway drinks station, we could hear bangs from the finish line, but we never seemed to get any closed. By this time I was pacing John, one of my friends workmates (and much younger than me). We stuck together most of the rest of the race - I was just a bit ahead (pretty good for someone pushing 43). We hit the Bog of Doom, a fouls smelling chest deep 50 m wade. Then up a big hill, down and across another lake, through the Hills of Hell (a long snaking series of sand dunes). I was pretty blown by this point, but the marshals were telling us it wasn’t far to go. I kept running, hit the last surprise (another water-filled trap), on the road and round the corner to the finish. And the clock read 1:57 - I really could not believe it. I thought I would be lucky to come in under 3 hours. The distance must have been closer to 10 than to 12 miles (I could only just make a 12 mile run in 2 hours on the road), but I was really, really chuffed. I never expected to maintain that pace for that distance - we had walking breaks when things slowed down, but I ran all the way, and felt really good about it.
I can’t wait to see how the others from my gym got on - they were mostly in the afternoon race, after we had churned the track up. Hah. And I want to see the photos.
I’m going back again, next year.