Race Review: Hellrunner Hell Up North 2013

Lucifer's Lido- Hellrunner 2013

Men in wetsuits prepare the course for Hell Up North 2013. No, really…

There’s a bit of a trend for naming today’s adventure races as excitingly as possible, to give them a rugged grandeur and implicit machismo that is slightly exaggerated; and I must admit that while it’s my favourite race on earth by a factor
far too high to compute, I’ve always thought that Hellrunner fell into this category. After all, it’s no Marathon des Sables: it’s a 12 mile trail run amidst the verdant beauty of Delamere Forest, with a few small hillls and a couple of peat bogs to wade through en route. However, two days after Hell Up North 2013, I’m having some cause to reconsider that view, as my broken and bleeding body feels pretty much like it ran a marathon through the seventh circle of hell on Saturday.

The weather seems to have been the biggest culprit here, as it rained in Mid-Cheshire for most of last week, turning the ‘Lucifer’s Lido’ section of the course into an icy swim rather than a refreshing splash, and transforming the ‘Hills of Hill’ from pleasantly sandy scrambles to sheer, slippery and nigh-on insurmountable mudslides.

So while I was looking forward to striding along springy woodland paths strewn with pine needles, I actually spent most of the race slip-sliding away through ankle-deep mud and either queuing for 20 minutes to get into the scarier water-based obstacles, or standing waist deep in freezing water while waiting for other people to get the finger out and move on. In fact, I actually ended up swimming a fair portion of ‘Lucifer’s Lido’ after one of the slightly anxious Search & Rescue guys (who was actually in a kayak and full immersion suit) started beseeching people to get the hell out of the water before they could succumb to hypothermia.

And so, while the hellrunner.co.uk website has been underpinned by these words for many years:  ‘IT IS NOT NECESSARY THAT YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO SWIM BUT PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THE COURSE MAY WELL BE UNEVEN, SLIPPERY, STONY AND WET’, I must now beg to differ.

While I’m almost certainly going to be back for more mud and madness next year, as this is still the best trail race on earth for my money, I think that Trail Plus should update the health warning slightly, to read as follows:

NOT ONLY MUST YOU BE ABLE TO SWIM IN ORDER TO PASS THE TERMINALLY DITHERY IN LUCIFER’S LIDO, PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT ENTERING WAVE 2 MEANS YOU WILL BE FOLLOWING 1500 PEOPLE WHO HAVE CHURNED UP THE TRACKS TO A QUITE UNHOLY DEGREE, AND WHO WILL MAKE YOU QUEUE ETERNALLY, THEREFORE ADDING OVER AN HOUR TO YOUR PREVIOUS PERSONAL WORST. AND YOU’LL LOOK LIKE AN OLD NAG THAT’S BEEN RIDDEN HARD AND PUT AWAY WET IN THE RACE PHOTOS. MEN OF YOUR AGE REALLY SHOULD KNOW BETTER…

5 jelly baby ratingHaving said all that, if 12 miles of muddy mayhem in the company of loads of really fabulous people is your thing, make sure you enter this 5 Jelly Baby trail race in plenty of in time to avoid a place in Wave 2…

If anyone from Trail Plus is reading this, may I also add a plea for a  return to satanically majestic T-shirts next year, as this year’s ‘I Ran Happy’ T-shirt is in no way macho (or honest) enough to sum up the race, as the R & R race photos show that I anyway ran with my trembling bottom lip out for the last few miles. And if you’ve got any size XL ‘666’ T-shirts left over from last year, please let me know…

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