To keep some enthusiasm in training over the winter, I have, over the past 2-3 years, entered winter running races. They don’t tend to be your normal plod down the road mind you. I like to mix it up and enter some off-road obstacle type races too, which always seem to include an unnecessary amount of cold water to wade through. I find it does a great job of keeping your enthusiasm for training in check over the dark months and kick start the next year’s training. So here is my look back at three races that I competed in from December 2014 until February 2015.
The Grim Challenge
After a troublesome car journey involving my car breaking down only 5 miles from the event, myself and Emma made it to the car park of The Grim Challenge in Aldershot. Temperatures were hovering at around 3deg, and taking our warm tracksuits off wasn’t particularly appealing. We walked over to the start area and kept a close eye out for the first signs of movement to the start line, which would signify the first (and possibly most competitive) part of the race – the dash to get a good starting position!
After an obligatory pointless warm up involving high knees and bum kicks, as instructed by the guy on the mic’, whilst in a congested starting area, the gun went and we started our 8mile off-road race. The route takes a scenic tour around an army training ground and includes visits to plenty of frozen ponds, cargo nets, sticky clay pits and the (not so) “alpine” section.
I found myself in a small group of three competing for third place, with the two leaders disappearing after about 5minutes into the run. Unfortunately for me, one of the guys I was running with decided it was warm enough to wear a mankini. Needless to say, I made it my mission to stay in front of him for as long as I could to protect my eyes from any future damage.
The finishing loop goes past the finish gantry and includes a further 800m until you reach the final lake before a quick 20m dash to the line. I finished in 4th position, with Emma coming in 11th place in the female race.
Info and photos from the the event can be found here:
HellRunner – Hell Down South
The second of my planned races was the one which I was least looking forward to, only because I knew it was immensely tiring and was home to some competitive runners. Also racing from Westcroft was Phil GC and Kevin Lusignea, with Emma Davis pulling out having sustained a damaged finger nail after falling from here bike earlier that week (actually it was slightly worse but we all saw the bruised hip at swimming).
HellRunner is roughly a 10-11 miles off road race, which takes into account every hill in the south of England (or it seemed like it anyway). The relentless nature of the hills means that all the very fittest had to resort to walking up many of the final hills. And, for all those budding swim-runners out there, you also get the opportunity to take a mid race dip in the BOG OF DOOM!!! whilst being played some top class tunes from Beelzebub himself on the DJ decks and getting blinded by atmospheric smoke. Having overcome the chest tightening cold water, some further hills greet you before the final energy sapping sand section and the “sprint” to the finish line (oh, and not before squelching through another pond only 5metres from the line).
I have to say, the race pack at the end is top draw. Not only did the medal double up as a bottle opener, but you get a full array of sweets, chocolate, samples, a t-shirt and drinks. There are also numerous stalls in the finishing area which offer free energy bar tasters, coffee, and kit.
A very well organised event, and a challenging but very enjoyable run, which I would recommend anyone to enter.
Info and photos from the the event can be found here: http://hellrunner.co.uk/hell-down-south/
Wokingham Half Marathon
Sold to me by my brother as a flat and fast course, I entered this race in 2014 only for it to be cancelled after flooding along the route. So my entry was pushed to this year, and the weather came up trumps as it was a glorious day for racing with sunny clear skies, minimal wind and a pleasant temperature.
The course is a lollipop shape taking you over two motorway bridges (twice), which are the only real “hills” to speak of on the course. I found myself starting near the front (by accident really) and got a personal mention as I strolled across the line from the announcer “Sam Robinson looking good crossing the line” – errr I would hope I didn’t look to tired by that point, I hadn’t even had time to start my stopwatch let alone feel fatigued!
Without really knowing how I was going to run, I set off and found myself running well and tucked in behind a club runner who matched my speed quite well. I kept with him until about 10miles when he upped the paced, so I quickly latched onto someone else.
I crossed the line in a new pb of 78:30mins and finishing in 60th position, so was dead chuffed, although my legs started to tell me soon after that I wasn’t quite ready for that by quickly stiffening up.
I hope to better that time in my next half marathon in March at the Reading Half, in preparation for the Half Ironman races later in the year. Race report to follow for that one…
Info and photos from the the event can be found here: http://www.wokinghamhalfmarathon.co.uk/