Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hell Up North

Today I ventured out to a very autumnal Delamere Forest for my annual dose of killer hills, shoulder deep freezing water and bogs oozing with energy sapping stinking brown mud; yes, it's Hellrunner time again! There were plenty of hardy souls (crazed runners if you like) milling around the start area when I arrived. A whole gaggle of Elvis lookalikes were mingling with superheroes, devils, demons and even a few serious runners. At 10 am the first wave of Hellrunners charged across the start line and sped up the first of many hills. There then followed many miles of muddy forest trails and short sharp hills interspersed with ankle deep streams and gullies, as well as logs and fallen trees that had to be negotiated with care; or, if you were flying along, it was just a case of launching yourself at them and hoping for the best!
At around the halfway point the first of the seriously deep bogs had to be tackled. This waist deep mud had hidden logs, branches and areas of deeper mud to catch the unwary. A few more miles of beautiful forest trails and a short run along a shallow stream lulled the runners into a sense of false security. Because the next set of obstacles were steep hills and climbs that had everyone scrambling on hands and knees in a vain attempt to get some form of grip on the slippery slopes; and running down the hills was even more hazardous! There was to be no respite; after a mile of gentle climbing what was probably the most feared obstacle loomed into partial view through a dense stand of willows; the freezing lake. To say it was cold is a gross understatement; to say it was treacherous would be no exaggeration. The calm level surface hid undulations, dips and downright potholes that caught out many runners. But, hey, this is Hell after all, but I think it had frozen over! Many couldn't feel their legs after exiting the water but maybe that was a good thing. The cold must have gone to my head because next thing I knew I was running past a bevy of cheerleaders dressed as fairies!
A quick circuit of Black Lake and I was by the infamous Bog of Doom where I was welcomed with loud cheers from the fantastic crowd of supporters. This stream contains many hidden dangers in the form of sunken logs, dense soggy vegetation and thick glutinous mud that acts like quicksand. At one point I was being sucked back into the bog as I struggled to haul myself out of the gloopy mud. Once out of the bog it was a short mud-encrusted jog around the final field before crossing the finish line in a fabulous seventh place. A welcome hose down was kindly provided by the local fire brigade; the water felt warm in comparison to the lakes and bogs! After changing into dry clothes I purchased a coffee, most of which I spilled due to the shaking of my cold hands! I watched the fabulous drum band for a few minutes before retracing the race route to cheer on the other Hellrunners and take some photos and video. One Hell of a race!

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