Wow, what a race and what a different a year makes. For Hell Down South this year, the sun was shining and it was not raining! It was great to start dry…not that we stayed that way for long.
Hell Runner is not an obstacle race. There are no tyre walls or electric fences. Just good old fashioned mud and a lot of hills! We were in the first wave which meant a start time of 10:30am. It was good to set the alarm clock at a reasonable hour and not worry about rushing to start.
On arrival, the car park is a little walk from the start so you need to allow about 15 minutes to get there. There is also a bit of a queue for the toilets and bag drop so it pays to give a bit of extra time.
The course starts flat and solid, plenty of time to warm up and mingle with the crowds. There is usually a photographer early on, just on the bridge – probably your last opportunity to look clean for a snap!
It isn’t long until the first water feature appears, a stream-crossing that was about thigh high this year. It certainly wakes you up for what is ahead! The next few miles are hills, but not the bigs ones, more a gentle up and down with a few wet patches in between.
At about 4 miles, the inclines start and it doesn’t take long until you are faced with your first proper hill. There is usually a bit of a wait at the top whilst everyone negotiates the best way of getting down. This is where great trail shoes are a blessing! At this point the hills were getting tough but I was pleased I managed to run up them (mostly).
The weather held out and we got glimpses of sunshine through the trees, perfect for keeping spirits high.
At around 5 miles you get a water stop. Bottled, Hell Runner labelled water. We hit this point at around an hour. It was needed. It was warm enough to need some hydration this year. After this, you then head into the forest area and the hills really begin!
This is when the hills start to get tough, it is a mixture of running and scrambling up the hills. I didn’t feel strong enough to run up them all but I did give them all a go, usually not quite making it to the top. The really steep hills are a leg burner!
It is important to keep running after the hills, with the wetness and leg burning it would be easy to stop and walk but it is important to keep warm and get the blood flowing. Apparently, at this point, I was still smiling.
In the distance I could hear it, the sound of the Bog of Doom calling.
The Bog of Doom
Thankfully, you can see the flames from the bog of doom for a distance and this is your time to run! Get warm, mentally prepare because it is going to be a cold one. This year the bog was horrid! Because it was warmer, the water felt that much colder. I really struggled with it this year. The water felt so cold I could barely swim.
Swimming was required again this year. At 5’2’’, I can’t touch the bottom!
Here the crowds gather to cheer you on and the music is blaring. A good thing too, you need all the encouragement you can get. As soon as you are out of the bog just RUN. There is a hill, but it doesn’t matter. My body was numb so I just ran until I could feel things again. At the top of the hill Dan was waiting for me, ready to keep me going.
Just as you start to thaw out, Hell Runner has another watery treat for you. Straight down a bank to chest-height water. Up the other side and back down into it again. Once you get out? Another hill of course!
It is easier to make it through this part but I was struggling. I was still numb from the Bog of Doom.
The End is Near
From this point, it is about 1.5 – 2 miles until the end. There is a bit of forest and a chance to reset and get ready for the next bit.
The forest trails are fun. Not too hard and a chance to prepare for the sand dunes.
Before the sand, there is a chance to get Jelly Babies and water from Angels. Yes, Angels. After this it is the home straight.
The sand surface is tough going. By the time we reached it, it had thawed out BUT you just need to remember that as soon as you are clear of these then you are on the flat surface for the finish line.
Right at the end of the sand is another water feature, a much easier paddle – just to numb your feet before the final few hundred metres.
As soon as you can see the finish there is just one more water feature – be warned it is deeper than it looks – get through this and you’ve done it.
I was really happy with my efforts this year. I felt much stronger on the hills and my legs didn’t really burn too much. I had a couple of issues with getting my breathing under control – especially after the Bog!
Looking at the details, the course was a bit longer this year and came in at 10.2 miles. It took me 2:25 which was the same as last year but a bit further. Not bad!
The goody bag this year was brilliant – packed with lots of stuff. Nature Valley, Cadburys chocolate, Drumsticks, Cliff Bars, Ritz Biscuits… it goes on. The medal was the same as last year but with the addition of a bottle opener!
Brilliant. I loved it. I enjoyed everything, apart from the bog. I was smiling and laughing on the way around but also got to challenge myself. The hardest part for me is keeping my mind positive. Thankfully, I had a good sleep the night before and I was trying to put into practice and a article I had read about downhills and the tips I’ve been getting from the WADAC coaches.
This was only down as a training run for me so I never intended to push myself too hard. I’m looking forward to Hell Down South 2016 already.