On Saturday I took part in the HellRunner Hell Up North race in Delamere Forest as part of the Brooks team. It was a competition I won – the lovely Brooks people gave me some ace kit to wear, including very good trail shoes, and free entry to the race. I also had to wear a head cam on the day to record everything.
Luckily I made friends with another competition winner via Twitter who also happens to be from Leeds, and two of my friends from running club signed up too, so we travelled down together.
Brooks HellRunner offers trail running at its toughest and most enjoyable. 10 -12 miles of challenging off-road running… tough, twisting trails… including the famed Hills of Hell and the Bog of Doom! The Finish will bring redemption… but only to successful HellRunners.
That’s what it says about the race on the website. I must admit to a little apprehension – until the previous weekend it had been a while since I ran that distance, and it seemed an awful long way. Especially as with these types of races there are no mile markers and not really any way to escape!
We got to Delamere and met with the Brooks people for some filming and to get GoPros fitted.
The race started with a killer hill loop, which was slow going but offered some very pretty views. Then we headed into the forest to seek out some mud. And there was plenty of it. I loved tramping through the really sticky stuff, wading through streams and muddy bogs, and clambering up hills (with the odd shove from behind to get me going).
It was slow going but good fun, and Delamere is the perfect setting for a trail race.
But there was one bit I really did not like and it nearly finished me off. The lake (of Lucifer, or something) was a seemingly never-ending body of water that we simply had to walk through. Sounds straightforward enough, but after queuing for a good 20 minutes to even get in it, and then being plunged waist-deep into freezing cold water, I was far too cold to function anywhere near normally. At several points I was close to tears and I just wanted it to be over. Some kind people did help me out and warn me about the deep bits, and I got through eventually, but it really was hell.
After that there were more muddy trails, but even though I had already forgotten much of the pain I was so cold I couldn’t muster any more enthusiasm. I plodded on, picking up a pair of socks in the Heaven from Hell tent (there were angel cheerleaders) and thinking about a hot brew at the end.
As one parting dig though the course finally finished me off in the very last boggy bit. I was stepping through slowly and crashed shin-first into a submerged log. There was a lot of swearing. I think this photo was taken just before that happened.
With the end in sight I ran like my life depended on it. The whole thing had taken me 3:37:49. According to the official result page the course was 10miles, but there is talk that the first hill loop was not included and we weren’t timed until after that part. That was about another 1.5miles.
With a hose down by the fire cadets and a cup of tea and some chocolate pretzels (my absolute favourite) from the Brooks people I managed to stay upright. But by the time we got back to my dad’s I was a little worse for wear.
A hot shower and a big bowl of soup with crusty bread sorted me out, although the bumps and bruises on the shins were already starting to take their toll.
Overall I did enjoy the race. In essence it was just a long, beautiful trail race, with the odd annoying watery part thrown in to piss me off. But one thing I did notice was the lack of camaraderie and support among runners. There were very few people willing to help me when I was so obviously in distress in the lake. At Total Warrior or Spartan Sprint someone would simply have picked me up and carried me through. At HellRunner I just got sworn at. I noticed this lack of team mentality the whole way round – there was very little chatting, cajoling, joking, supporting among people. And that’s a real shame, as when I try to persuade people to do these things the point I always make is that total strangers will always be there to help. Not so at Hell Up North.
It was a fun, and very tiring, day out. And we got a fab tee, medal and goody bag. Thanks again to the Brooks people. I’ll post again when the video footage is released.