Hellrunner – Hell Down South 2017
Forward thinking for something fun to brighten the post-Christmas blues for some, an event to kick start the new racing season for a few, and just because they can’t say no to a challenge for one – a group of ten Wight Tri members assembled and entered the Hellrunner Event – Hell Down South.
Hellrunner is the original of the new crop of ‘extreme’ running events such as the Tough Mudder series and the IW’s new Abominable Snowman. The course is over army training ground at the Longmoor Camp about 40 minutes off the ferry. The race has developed over the years and all of us who have done it in previous years agreed its current mixture of natural and enhanced hills, rivers, ponds and bogs that all need to be tackled over the 10 mile race made it the hardest Hellrunner yet.
We had long ago decided that we would theme up for the race and dress as devils. Leaving it as close as we could before the start of the race due to the extreme cold, we eventually changed and started applying our face paints and sticking on our devil horns – a very entertaining experience. There were lots of teams entered and a few others in devil and other themed dress but we were by far and away the largest and best dressed group.
We started as a team but soon broke into smaller groups once everyone settled into their pace. The first few miles were ‘easy’ compared to what was to come and Steve, Joe, Mary, Grant and Ian moved ahead of the rest early on. Alec started steady just behind and Jan, Kevin and Richard found their pace as a group not far behind him. Helen, running her 4th Hellrunner, had a better idea of what was to come and settled in at the back of the team.
It wasn’t long before we began to understand just why it was called ‘Hell Down South’. The hills got steeper and more frequent, the earth underfoot got softer and slippier and the bounce in our legs was replaced with growls. Steve had a bad landing jumping a stream and twisted his ankle which slowed him down letting Joe move ahead. Grant, Mary and Ian were within sight of each other still and Alec having a great race after a long absence not too far behind them. The Jan/Kev/Richard trio followed and Helen was making new mates behind them.
The first drink station was coming up and Joe had developed a sizable advantage which was soon to disappear as the calf injury that had threatened him starting the race came back. Grant, Mary and Ian had already moved past the injured Steve and were now closing on the limping Joe.
The middle section of the race was highlighted by two wide river crossings and ‘The Bog of Doom’ a 25m long waist deep wade through the sloppiest mud ever, oh, and more steep hills.
Steve recovered slightly and was able to run through his injury and caught up with person after person to eventually catch and overtake Joe for the lead. Mary caught Grant just before the bog and they in turn both passed Joe in the mud.
The last section of the race was just plain suffering – hill after hill, some hands on knees some hands and knees. Steve pushed on, Joe caught Grant and then Mary.
The end was in sight and we could hear the crowd and tannoy at the finish – But first we had to endure the chest deep (neck deep for Mary), murky, freezing pond. About 30m long with spectators ether side cheering everyone on and smoke and flames for added effect. Steve finished first then Joe, Mary and Grant finished together with Ian not far behind. Alex impressed to finish next and then Jan and Kev. Richard was next and then Helen brought the team home.
The entry fee of £32 was actually excellent value. The set up was good with lots of hot food and drinks available at reasonable prices, chip timing, baggage storage, the most toilets I have ever seen at any event that size – never a queue. Two water stations during the race and a finisher’s bag with a medal, t-shirt and water, recovery drink and bar plus various other samples.
Wet, cold and tired isn’t a good mix but we were well prepared with lots of warm clothes and then hot coffee and flapjacks. Further down the A3 at Petersfield we treated ourselves to hot meals, a few beers and the odd pudding or two.
It was hard, no doubt about that – but it was fun and despite the injuries and aches and pains everyone who took part is already looking forward to next year.
Steve Goodier 1:41:13
Joe Norman 1:44:38
Mary Norman 1:44:38
Grant Philbrick 1:44:38
Ian Cullingworth 1:46:58
Alec Broome 1:56:45
Kev Winchcombe 2:03:52
Jan Fletcher 2:03:53
Richard Bulmer 2:05:56
Helen Symes 2:16:17