Will Thames

swim, bike, run, tech

Hellrunner 2008

I booked Hellrunner months ago now, having seen pictures of friends do it previously and it sounding like an event where you need a bit of fitness but most of all a sense of humour. And I fancied doing something muddy and offroad as a bit of a winter change.

I got up at 7:30, for coffee, muesli and toast, leisurely taking my time with breakfast, finally leaving the house at 8:15. Which wasn’t too much of a concern, I was supposed to be at Longmoor Camp by 10am, and the AA reckoned on a 1:15 journey time.

I picked up the Mini I’d hired from Zipcar from around the corner, and made very good headway, until late in the journey, where I hit roadworks. Not only did the roadworks go down to one lane, it then had only one lane open at all, so we had to wait our turn with those coming from the other direction.

Once I’d got through the Headmine Tunnel Roadworks, it was all pretty smooth going, heading into Hampshire (“Jane Austen Country”, not sure how much of what I’ve seen today she’d recognise). The track into Longmoor Camp itself was potted and slow, but I found a space easily enough.

I put on the remainder of my running gear (I was already wearing top, trousers, watch and socks, so it was just shoes and HRM), and headed to the start. I had a quick warmup jog and stretch, and then awaited the slightly delayed start (apparently there was an accident on the M3). I decided to start at the middle of the back of the field, so that I wouldn’t start off too fast.

Once the fireworks went off (yes, fireworks, in the middle of the day, a bit silly, but just visible) to announce the start, we trudged past the start line and then we were off, running along a decent trail, pretty wide and solid. From here on in the terrain was either: decent trail (probably a reasonable proportion of distance, but not time, was spent on these), muddy trail (lots of people avoiding puddles, lots of other people splashing through them and booing anyone who wasn’t getting wet. I figured I’d stay as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, which wasn’t long, and then once my feet were wet, I tended not to care too much), sandy hills, or bogs.

Because this was a reasonable size race (approx 2400 supposed to start, not sure how many did), and the hills tended to be cuttings, wide enough for two or three people to go up, they were effectively bottlenecks throughout the course. I didn’t mind too much, as I was unable to run up many of them anyway, but the faster runners must have found it frustrating! I had a really enjoyable run, I kept up a good pace on the flat and on the downhills where not too crazily steep, and overtook loads of people en route - I really must think about starting nearer the front in future races, it’s getting a bit silly.

After lots of ups and downs (there really were enough hills), and the first bog (only about knee deep to one side, which most people kept to), and then a bit more running, I saw the car park again. At this point we were only about 11km in, and I felt quite disappointed, as I knew the Bog of Doom was coming up. It wasn’t that that disappointed me, I thought the BoD was near the end, so thought I might be being shortchanged distance wise! I knew I must be having a good time if that was a concern!

On to the Bog of Doom, a chest deep wade through muddy water (apparently it was clear when the first runner got to it, and he just swam front crawl through, I don’t think many others could!). Here I had the bizarre experience of bumping into a friend. ‘Oh hi Mike, how are you, fancy seeing you here!’. I didn’t even know he was running, so we had a quick chat, apparently it was quite surreal to see from a distance, to see two people meet there! Chest deep water is pretty unpleasant, but when you leave the water, it seems to get even worse as it drains. The effects of cold on the male anatomy are interesting when combined with running, it was pretty grim!

There was, thankfully (?), plenty more that Hellrunner had to throw at us. More hills, and then down to what might be described as a lake, muddy, again chest deep, cold water. So another unpleasant experience on the way back out, but then it was another reasonable bit of trail before the Hills of Hell. Now I wasn’t sure before I got there that I hadn’t already done enough hills that I considered to be sufficiently hellish, but sandy hills really aren’t the easiest of things, and there were about six or so in quick succession, so it was run (well, walk really) up, then run down, then short flat and then the next. Pretty tiring by the end, but once through the sand, it was a short run to a manure smelling knee deep bog, then decent trail again. Knowing that we must be close to the end there, I decided to pick up the pace, and finish strong, and I crossed the line head held high, smiling for the photographer, after 1hr50 mins, for a 15.5km run, a very pleasing result.

After collecting the race tshirt and goodie bag, and not collecting my Goodness Shakes milkshake (they’d ran out of every flavour but banana, and I saw them give out the last vanilla, which doesn’t surprise me, as strawberry and chocolate milkshakes are always going to win that popularity contest), and headed back to the car, with Mike and one of his travelling companions, Tess. We went our separate ways after deciding on a pub for lunch. At this point I discovered I’d forgotten a change of trousers! Disaster! Unfortunately my initial attempts to get hold of Mike to see if anyone in his car had a spare pair were unsuccessful, so I trudged the 15 min walk back to the event to see if the Puma stall selling clothes was still there, but it had packed up. Frustrated, it was back to the car park, and I did get a hold of Mike, who did have a spare pair.

The queue to get out of the car park was long, and dull, but I suspect I missed a bit with my journey back to the event, and eventually did manage to catch up with Mike, and Tess and John, in the pub for a pretty decent, and deserved, roast sunday lunch. Again, I think this rest to our journey probably meant that the queues in the roadworks had died down by the time I was going through - while there were queues, it was never too bad.

After showering my kit in the bath, and showering me afterwards, I felt human, tired, but accomplished. A great day out (although next time I’ll remember trousers!)