Saturday, 26 November 2011

Lifting the Curse of the Hellrunner

On no less than my third entry to a Hellrunner race, I was very pleased to actually make it to the start line. Having had such bad luck in the past every time I have entered this race, I couldn't help thinking that maybe the universe was trying to warn me off somehow. I probably should have felt a bit edgy at the start line with the curse hanging over my head, but I didn't feel anything except for utter excitement, mostly due to the fact that the Clif Bar stand had samples galore and I had a perfect opportunity to ensure I was fully fed and energised before the race began.

Debbie, one of my running buddies for the day, had enough nervous anticipation for all of us and was contemplating formally introducing herself to the paramedics "just in case". Meanwhile Ruth, the other running buddy, was making herself extremely unpopular by jumping wildly in puddles and splashing random members of the public (some who clearly were just spectators) all in the name of 'getting her money's worth'. I distracted them both by suggesting we squeeze in another quick trip to the Clif Bar stand.

Daytime fireworks and a demon on stilts saw the race begin and we quickly settled into a nice steady pace along the very un-hellish first section of the course. At the start, the course wasn't too demanding. Some good weather leading up to the weekend had left all the paths fairly dry and easy to run on. As we hadn't started near the front, we got stuck in bottlenecks and couldn't even run up the hills.

However, after the first few miles the runners spread out a bit further and we started to come across some lovely big puddles to run through. I was surprised to see many a fellow runner pussy-footing around the edges of the wet stuff, which I think sort of defeats the object of the whole event. We definitely got in the spirit of things by stamping in all the mud we could find, racing each other up the steep bits and terrifying ourselves (and everyone around us) by letting our legs get out of control on the down sections.

The course - if you are a fan of hills - is genius. They send you down a crazy steep bit just to turn you around at the bottom and make you run back up. Even with the big hills and the occasional very large puddle though, I couldn't help thinking that it was more 'very enjoyable if not slightly challenging offroad-runner' rather than 'Hellrunner'. That was until we hit the 'Bog of Doom': a filthy dirty, chest-high bog that goes on for about 20 metres. I saw the girls in front of us sliding in cautiously and standing as tall as possible to keep themselves as warm and dry as possible, they've obviously done this before. I tried a slightly different approach and launched myself off the bank, favouring total immersion over any of this warm and dry nonsense. I can confirm that the bog definitely does taste of doom.

Once we emerged from the bog, the run did become considerably more hellish. With everybody being wet and stinky, the paths got muddier and more slippery. A little further along and a near vertical sand bank lead into another bog, which we very cleverly decided to swim through instead of wading. We clambered up the other side and were directed immediately back down cross it again. 

After sending you through all that, they then veer you across a big sand duney section and eventually into one more bog with a very sneaky super deep bit at the end that catches you out. We hit the road again and the last half mile of the race, but instead of feeling cold, tired and miserable, we were absolutely buzzing. By the time we got to the finish line I was about ready to go again! Instead though, I made a beeline for the Clif Bar stand and scoffed so many bits of bar that the only body part that ached was my jaw.

The curse has definitely been lifted, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and can't wait to try it again. Hopefully after all those hills the legs will still function tomorrow at the Downton Half!

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