Here I was just minding my own business in North Wales, when suddenly up pops a message on Twitter saying:
The winner of our 2nd race entry give away into Hell Down South is….. me!
Now I never grumble at winning anything, the last two things I won were Super Bike Weekend Tickets and Family Tickets to the Cinema, which I gave away to family and friends. This time it was a running event so I was delighted to have won entry to Hell Down South, it seems like, well, hell! First things first I better see when and where it is before accepting.
The good news is that I am free on that date and it’s just around the corner in a place I know and have been to before. The bad news is that it is in 9 days time and having been ill for the last 2 weeks, my fitness has declined a little. I can still push out 10km with no problems, but this race is 10 miles.
Come to think of it 10 miles is not too bad, I used to run further than that every weekend. But this race has the added bonus of being cross country, up and down hills, through mud, sand and rivers… rivers!!! The bog of doom as it is delightfully called.
The more I read the more I know this is right up my alley! We just love getting wet and muddy, but then we are islanders.
I was filled with some trepidation as I was driving to the event and the snow began to fall, how cold was it going to be? But I arrived at the staging area just as the tannoy announced that we had 10 mins before the start of the race. I had not time to think as I needed to find the baggage area and make sure I had my gloves and hat on.
We were off. This wasn’t too bad at all the first km was along a gravel track, but then, we turned off and were going cross country and within seconds we were crossing a knee deep stream. This would be the last time my feet were going to be warm.
As I was in Wave 2, the kind runners in the first wave had broken all the ice!
I felt fully of energy and even though there were a couple of muddy hills to climb, before I realised it we were greeted at the half way point by the army cadets and a water station.
Quite frankly the second half of the race is incredibly difficult compared to the first. The hill climbs are relentless and at one point I had to stop and help the person behind me climb up a 4ft ledge created by a tree route. The only way you were getting up this was to help the person next to you when you reached it. I also realised that the only way I was going to finish this was to use my energy efficiently. This meant walking and scrambling up the hills, then hop, skip or slide down the other side and when you reach a flat section to jog and get your energy back. This is not easy when you have just scrambled up a 100m muddy slope and your jelly legs feel like balloons. Push on I keep telling myself and it helped to have my Garmin watch on to keep track of the distance.
Then it was time for the legendary ‘Bog of Doom’ and even though I had seen the pictures I still wasn’t quite prepared for this. Walking into the bog, then there was a sudden drop and you were up to your chest. As you start wading through the submerged mud it is a surreal sight. Wading through this bog, with high banks on either side were spectators had gathered to cheer us on. Flamethrowers going off on either side and smoke machines enhancing the eeriness of it all. The odd scream would ring out as another competitor drops into the bog, but you have to keep moving forward as you start to lose all feeling in your legs and torso as the ice cold starts to set in and sap your strength.
Through the smoke you can see the end, but then it drops down further and I find myself neck deep in this smelly, muddy bog. Someone is actually doing the breast stroke next to me as they can’t touch the bottom! The water level starts to subside and next thing I know I am being cheered as I exit the water, covered in mud and freezing. It takes mental will power to get your limbs back into action again, but the only way you are going to warm them is to run again.
Angels appear in front of me! Yes I am still running but we arrive at the Heaven from Hell tent with people dressed as angels handing out water and jelly babies. These were well needed jelly babies as I was starting to feel quite drained at the this point. I actually think it was this brief 2 min stop that helped me recover enough to get to the end of the race.
Considering you were already drenched, cold and tired and were hoping the end was coming and you could hear the tannoy in the distance. No such luck. Turn a corner drop down a muddy slope on your backside and land straight into a river. Wading chest deep across the river, up the steep banking the other side, traverse along the ridge line and then back down to the river again!
Then hell was really starting to set in as you reach the sand pit! Running about a km along sand really started to take what energy I had left in my legs. Just keep moving on, a glance at my Garmin said we were almost at 15km!
Next thing we were on a gravel track, which I vaguely recognised. This was it the end was coming. I picked up my pace, I saw the barriers lining the track I was at the end, but…..
You were never going to finish this race without one last dunking and literally 15m from the finish line you leave the track and wade knee deep through a stream before coming out the other side and sprint the 10 meters to the finish line!
That was it, Hell Down South had been conquered. Considering I only found out I was running this race 10 days ago and I had done no training at all for it, I was really happy finishing 597 with a time of 2 hours 10 mins.
Would I do it again? You bet I would!
Due to the fact that you will be submerged in water up to your neck, I was unable to take any photos during this race. All photos attached to this blog have been appropriately credited. If the original authors wish them to be removed, contact me and I shall immediately delete them.