Did I actually enjoy that?

Before Hell Down South

For the first time I left a run and asked the question…

Did I actually enjoy that?

Now, to be fair, the race I’m talking about wasn’t your run of the mill 10km road race. It was Hell Down South, part of the Brooks Hellrunner series, a 10mile(ish) race based in Longmoor Camp Hampshire. This military training ground includes natural features that the course organisers gleefully take full advantage of and describe as the ‘Hills of Hell & ‘The Bog of Doom’ ensuring it lives up to its billing of the toughest 10miler.

I didn’t have a great race. On the very first hill, a steady drag up I realised I had nothing in my legs. Following several weeks of lurgy & injury I hadn’t run regularly since the middle of December and was paying for that now. I was in trouble & this race was going to hurt. A lot.

The route takes you on a rollercoaster of steep descents followed by hard climbs & through numerous water crossings before reaching one of the ‘highlights’ of the race – The Hills of Hell. These are essentially multiple ascents of the same steep bank as you zig-zag your way along it, zapping what little energy I had left. Then with a couple miles left to go the ‘star attraction’ is reached – The Bog of Doom. This is basically a muddy ditch, full of brackish and literally ice cold water which you have to swim through much to the delight of the sadistic baying crowds and is followed by several more water crossings while still cold & wet before the finish line is finally reached.

Finish Line of the Brooks Hellrunner Hell Down South Run

Finish Line of the Brooks Hellrunner Hell Down South Run

Did I actually enjoy that?

I am a fairly experienced but, self-confessed, rubbish runner. I understand the mental toughness required to run 10 miles up & down hills or trudge 69miles in 2 days. I know that I can keep going despite crippling cramps during a marathon. I have been capable of digging in to chase that PB & beat the old guy in hi-viz despite the feeling that I’m about to spew up my lungs. I have continued on to the finish line despite intense pain from severe ITB syndrome & carried on regardless of how hot it was & how close I got to passing out in 26degrees whilst wrapped in fur. That stubborn unwillingness to stop, that ability to grind it out despite the pain IS my strength when it comes to running. I am well aware that during the event when you’re putting everything you have out there it isn’t necessarily an enjoyable experience, however I have never actually felt the need to question it before. That suffering IS part of racing & the greater the suffering the greater the sense of satisfaction when you have achieved your goal.

Did I actually enjoy that?

Maybe because I was unprepared, I found it harder than expected. Possibly it was because my heart wasn’t in it, I couldn’t push & I didn’t race well. But as I asked myself this burning question, sat in my car, desperately trying to raise my core temperature and avoid hypothermia I, it wasn’t these factors that I was considering. However challenging a route I feel it should be fun and I doubted that I enjoyed having to repeatedly dive into ice cold water mid run to feel like I earned a medal. Leaving me questioning whether I wanted to take part in a run featuring this kind of obstacle again.

Did I actually enjoy that?

No.

Will I be back on that starting line again next year, to resolve unfinished business with this course?

 

Probably, after all… I am a runner.

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