Getting ready for Hellrunner.

I’ve had a few emails this week from Hellrunner virgins who are getting all hot and bothered about their first time at the event this weekend. So I thought that today I’d cover off a few things about the event, as no longer has a forum where you can ask questions.

First off, it seems there’s a rumour going around that you have to gaffa tape your running shoes to your ankles, in order to avoid losing them in the Bogs of Doom. Well, It’s true that one guy did lose a shoe last year, pretty early on, and had to complete the last 8 miles or so with just the one shoe. Which makes him as brave as two short planks, IMHO, but I suppose you’ve got to respect that kind of commitment.

None of which means that gaffa tape is required, however. You just need to make sure that you’re wearing shoes you can tie on fairly tightly, as there is a certain amount of suction coming into play in some of the deeper bogs. It’ll also help if those shoes are fairly grippy and have a reasonably solid sole.

I’d also recommend wearing running kit that you don’t really care about, as the peat bogs seem to ingrain every fibre of your being, never mind your clothing, with mud; and the shorts, vest, socks and shoes I wore last year will probably bear the scars for evermore. Especially after I wear them again next Sunday…

Yes folks, this is just about as wet, muddy and tiring as it’s possible to get outside of a mud-wrestling festival.

In fact, last year, I actually had to be jet-washed at the mountain bike hire place in Delamere Forest before my long-suffering wife would allow me to get back in her car. Even then, we had to call in on family who live nearby in order for me to rid myself of the lingering smell of the bogs. Fortunately, with teenage girls in the family, their shower featured a plethora of shampoos and assorted unguents, allowing me the opportunity to clean, scrub, tone, moisturise, exfoliate, depilate (bit of a mix-up reading the bottle, if I’m honest), and generally make myself fit for human contact again.

Having said that, it was another couple of baths later before I was fully clean again. So don’t say that you haven’t been warned.

You should also be aware that a full immersion in a peat bog is possible, though not obligatory. So if you were thinking of bringing an iPod, please do so only if you’re pretty sure that your case is water- and mud-proof. And if you do lose your footing in a bog, for goodness sake, close your eyes and mouth as you fall. I saw a girl go under last year who didn’t do this, and to say that she wasn’t a happy camper afterwards would be something of an understatement.

Apart from that, the only other main point to note is that there are no mile-markers on this one, and only one water station, which is at about half way. The lack of mile-markers really threw me for a loop the first time I did Hellrunner, especially as the organisers are fairly non-specific about the total distance anyway.

This year they’re calling it at about 10-12 miles. So I shall be working out my position by adding 10% to my half marathon pb (to account for the Hills of Hell, Bogs of Doom and the occasional queue) and dividing the total by 12, which should, if last year is anything to go by, allow me to assume an average 9 minute mile pace, or 1 hour 50 to get to the finish.

It’s not a perfect system by any means, but trust me, it’s better than staggering up and down the Hills of Hell with no idea if there’s ever going to be an end to it all. Anyhoo, I think that’s probably everything you need to know that isn’t covered in the race notes. So, if you’re going: I’ll see you in hell.


It’s cold. It’s wet. Time for the OMM.

As I may have mentioned a couple or ten times in these pages, I’m not a hot weather kind of guy. Sunny days may be fine for going to the beach, but they make my summer runs pretty unpleasant. And so, my regular Sunday cross-country run was an absolute pleasure today, as it featured high winds, driving rain and a spot of hail at one point.

Naturally, I was wearing just shorts and a wicking top, to go with my iPod and Camelbak. So the few people I saw walking their endlessly pooing pooches through the dunes and along the beach made it even plainer than usual that they thought I was an oddball for being out running in such ‘treacherous’ conditions.

An attitude that was probably enhanced quite a lot by the media hysteria surrounding the Original Mountain Marathon that was held in the UK yesterday.

Obviously, the weather was wetter and windier than usual, for this 49 mile yomp through some of Lakeland’s most stunning mini-mountains. So the organisers duly cancelled it at mid day yesterday, and advised those who hadn’t finished yet to get the hell out of there.

And then came the really strange thing. BBC News, so often a rare beacon of sanity in a world gone mad, sent a North West News crew up there to report on the situation. Well, when I say ‘report’, what I actually mean is ‘sensationalise.’ Well, I say ‘sensationalise’, but I think that ‘over-react and cause a completely unnecessary panic, frightening the nearest and dearest of those out on the hills to death and contriving to raise the spectre of thousands consigned to a watery grave, when actually, what we got was a few sprains and a couple of cases of hypothermia’ is nearer to the truth.

FGS BBC. The OMM is not a race for the faint-hearted or the inexperienced. It may be called a marathon, but there the resemblance to the London Marathon ends, as there are no matronly first-timers or fell-running virgins in attendance.

Instead, the competitors are highly experienced fell-walkers and -runners. They’ve got more Gore-Tex between them than the entire Blacks chain. They’re buddied up, clued-up and are sporting tents, food and Sat Nav in their packs.

So, predictably, when the day dawned, out of 2,500 people, there were less than 20 who’d experienced even a shred more discomfort than they had bargained for. And I’m prepared to bet that at least that many people have some sort of problem every year at this event.

Naturally, the Police will make a fuss and the Mountain Rescue people will collect a lot of entirely appropriate donations. And just as naturally, there’s going to be a queue like an execution next year, for an event that used to be little-known, but is going to be more over-subscribed than the FLM next year. Well, good lady wife permitting, I certainly fancy it.