Trek and Run were supported during this event by;
First up, hereâ€™s a short video we shot during the event, to give you an idea of the course and atmosphere.
Part 1:Â Steve Kimberley:
In the days leading up to the BrooksÂ HellrunnerÂ 2016 race, I wasÂ filled with a quiet confidence that this race would be just another one for the medal cabinet. With claims of being â€œtougher than ToughÂ Mudderâ€, yet having absolutely no obstacles that arenâ€™t part of the trail itself, I assumed that these were just hollow marketing words. Surely, after countless obstacle races and trail runs under my belt, this trail run would most likely be thoroughly enjoyable, but would not really put me out of my comfort zone.
Oh how I was wrong.
Now whilst BrooksÂ HellrunnerÂ is entirely a trail run offering only natural obstacles, the sheer size and severe inclines of some of the hills made climbing them a mammoth effort. The water crossings, in -2 degrees, were absolute agony that brought about all sorts of cramping and fatigue, and the general air in the freezing winter morning made even catching your breath a task of its own.
I know that the organisation of large-scale races such as these must be a nightmare, and factors like parking alone could be seemingly impossible to arrange to the point where it runs entirely smoothly. I have however, attended countless races of varying distance and location, yet never come across a parking experience like this one.
Totally isolated by the A3, even participants from the local area would have found it difficult to make their way to the race village without a car, yet the car park was a seemingly endless narrow road on which cars took their turn reversing into a straight line. We had arrived 45 minutes early for our wave, yet waited in a mammoth queue of traffic for close to an hour before we were able to park, but worse still we were now well over a mile from the race village, so had to practically run to the start amidst the many others who were now late for their wave.
Luckily, the organisers realised the problem occurring in the car park, so delayed the start of the second wave and even added a third wave so that everyone would get a chance to run the course.
On a more positive note, with the really disappointing parking debacle out of the way, it was otherwise a well-organised event with genuinely outstanding marshals. There was none of this â€œone mile to go!â€ nonsense that you get every time you pass a checkpoint-Â just a smile, a word of support, and sometimes a helping hand.
Throughout the entire route of the BrooksÂ Hellrunner, the scenery was absolutely stunning. The deep woods andÂ picturesqueÂ views gave you absolutely no clues to suggest a nearby motorway, making it genuinely hard to believe just how close we were to London. As if some crazy juxtaposition withÂ this awesome sense ofÂ naturalÂ solitude, theÂ final surprises in store for us towards theÂ endÂ of the raceÂ really brought us back to reality in a crushing and agonising sense.
As weÂ knew that we must have been edging into the final kilometres of the route, the sound of approaching dance music pulsing through the woods and into your very core filled me with a short lived sense of hope. Usually signalling the approach to the finishing line, this music was far from conventional. As this evil trance beat became imminent, you could now hear the accompanying screams of agony.
There, waiting for us upon a huge steel scaffolding was the devil himself dropping the foulest beats on the wheels of steel, towering above the most agonising water crossing that I have ever laid eyes upon.
Submerging myself in the aptly named â€˜Bog of Doomâ€™ up to my chest in -2 degree temperatures was a chill like Iâ€™ve never felt before. Cutting me to my very core, I have never rushed through an obstacle quite like I did this one.
My biggest word of advice to anyone considering the BrooksÂ HellrunnerÂ would be, under any circumstances, do not let your hands go under the water. I tried my very best to keep them above the water level, but after tripping on a sneaky bog log the momentary submersion was all it took. For the remaining kilometres of the race, my hands were in agony. Totally numb and completely useless for helping me climb, they did not actually regain their feeling until about 20 minutes after finishing the race.
While I hate to moan, this pain that I found my hands in really put a bit of a dampener on the closing stage of the race. We passed through a final tent playing dance music, occupied by female marshals dressed as angels and handing out energy blocks. I really would have liked to have had a bit more of a laugh in the â€˜Heavenâ€™ tent, but my thoughts were well and truly focused on just finishing and wrapping my hands up in anything dry.
Overall, a very tough and immensely challenging race. One which I would strongly not recommend for the inexperienced trail runner. You get a cracking finishers medal and technical t-shirt in black, along with the knowledge that you faced the very elements, and refused to give up.
Part 2:Â Dave Sherman:
I completed â€˜BrooksÂ Hellrunner: Hell Down Southâ€™ back in January 2014 and in our event reviewÂ -Â http://yoursay.trekandrun.com/2014/09/01/hellrunner-hell-down-south-2014/Â -Â I described the event as â€œa great change from my usual road races and an event Iâ€™d definitely recommend to anyone looking for a new challengeâ€.Â However one thingÂ I didnâ€™t say was that I was looking forward to doingÂ the eventÂ againÂ because,Â in all honestly, I wasnâ€™t!Â That year heavy rainfallÂ hadÂ floodedÂ the Bog of Doom so weâ€™dÂ ended up swimming through freezing cold water and as we exited theÂ bogÂ Iâ€™dÂ found I just couldnâ€™t warm up againÂ makingÂ the last few miles pure hell â€“ the Devil had well and truly defeated me! But of course, the part of my brainÂ whichÂ keeps signing up for hilly trail marathons, long-course obstacle races and long distance triathlons is always looking for a new way to challenge myself,Â soÂ what better wayÂ toÂ face my fearsÂ thanÂ face the beast again… Hell Down South 2016 was on!
The sign-up process for the event was nice and simpleÂ with regular pre-event emails keeping us informed,Â and getting to site was easyÂ (especially if youâ€™ve actually read the site directions rather than relying on your Sat-nav, as we did in 2014!)Â withÂ LongmoorÂ Training Camp located just off the A3. Unfortunately, our arrival on-site wasnâ€™t quite as simple asÂ despiteÂ arrivingÂ almost an hour before our start timeÂ we ended upÂ stuckÂ in aÂ longÂ queueÂ of cars eventuallyÂ parkingÂ over a mile from the start area! This wasÂ due to a terrible parking layoutÂ involving cars parked either side of a long road leading away from the event village, and when we eventually arrived in theÂ start areaÂ we watched as our wave departed and ended upÂ having to run through the start line to catch up withÂ everyone else -Â andÂ weÂ definitelyÂ werenâ€™t the only ones having to do this!
This issue aside,Â the fact I went into this event prepared and knowing what to expect madeÂ for a much better experience which leads me to stress to anyone worried about this event; watch ourÂ HellrunnerÂ event videos (including theÂ one from 2014) and read through all the event advice postedÂ on the website and sent by email.Â Most importantly, be aware thatÂ althoughÂ the Bog of Doom really is hellÂ (well… if you replacedÂ the fires of hell withÂ bone-chillingÂ ice coldÂ water…), atÂ the same time itâ€™s do-able andÂ thereâ€™s a great feeling of reliefÂ andÂ prideÂ once youâ€™ve conquered it. Itâ€™s tough, but worth it for the bragging rights of being able to say youâ€™ve done it!Â More on that later…
In the weeks leading up to the eventÂ the temperature had dropped and Iâ€™d completed a fewÂ sub-zeroÂ training runs which left me worrying just how cold Hell Down South was going to be! I mean, a training run is fine as you can layer up then dump layers if the weatherÂ improves, but my rule with eventsÂ involving water is to wear as little as possible so less water is retainedÂ (whichÂ willÂ inevitably weigh you down), however when the temperature is sub-zero less clothes is a bad idea, and this is where Iâ€™m eternally grateful for the awesomeÂ HellyÂ Hansen technical gear I was wearing!Â I also chose to wear running tightsÂ despite a reluctance to wearing them in general,Â andÂ besides the fact my event photos have required some severe cropping to make them decent enough to use on this site,Â Iâ€™m sure theÂ tightsÂ prevented my legs from falling off with frostbite! One regret was that I didnâ€™t wear gloves as towards the end of the race my hands were absolutely freezing andÂ just couldnâ€™t seem to warm up (IÂ overheard a number of other people complainÂ about similar problems including Steve whoÂ mentioned it a good few times in the final miles!) so one piece of advice is to remember gloves,Â butÂ make sure you keep them out of the water!
BrooksÂ HellrunnerÂ describeÂ this event as â€˜Tougher Than ToughÂ Mudderâ€™ andÂ IÂ have to agree, itÂ seriouslyÂ livesÂ up to this claim.Â WhileÂ theyâ€™re not technically in the same categoryÂ (Hell Down South is more of a mud-run rather than an obstacle course),Â theÂ eventÂ organisers haveÂ chosen some seriously tough terrain and youâ€™ll find yourself constantly struggling up and down hills, climbing through thick mud,Â and of course wading throughÂ streams, lakes and rivers.Â Marshalls were in abundance throughout the route offering shouts of encouragement and even a hand up on particularly tough climbs, butÂ some parts of the courseÂ reallyÂ were hellÂ withÂ tight pathsÂ usuallyÂ congested by walkersÂ (generally people whoâ€™ve given up hope and decided theyâ€™re just going to walk to the end!)Â but thankfully the majority of the course involves open paths and wide open grasslands youâ€™re generally free to run at your own pace without any hold-ups.
ThenÂ of course, thereâ€™s the infamous Bog of Doom… AsÂ mentioned earlier, on race day the temperature was sub-zero and we ran past so muchÂ thickÂ ice I was mentally panicking just how cold the bog would be!Â Back in 2014Â Iâ€™d jumped into the bog and received a nasty calf cramp in return,Â so this time IÂ wadedÂ inÂ carefullyÂ and planned toÂ get through it and out as quick as possible, but Iâ€™d forgotten just how awesome the atmosphere was when we finally arrived there! Techno was blasting from the Devil DJ as we approached the bog and spectators surrounded both banks yelling encouragement over the blaring music.Â The water only came up to my chest this time (althoughÂ I sawÂ shorter people who had to swim as I had the previous year!) and despite the chill, once in theÂ bogÂ I was still smiling and even made a grab for one of the beach-balls floating in the water. But of courseÂ the Bog is only part of the challenge and there were still a few miles left to goÂ until theÂ end of the race…
I donâ€™t want to reveal too many secrets about theÂ final stages of theÂ event,Â but as youâ€™ll see in our event videoÂ itâ€™s deceptive just how much there is leftÂ after youâ€™ve crossed the Bog! A small moment of respite isÂ offered as you pass throughÂ â€˜HeavenÂ from Hellâ€™Â complete with its own rave-in-a-tent andÂ staffed byÂ AngelsÂ offeringÂ ClifÂ Bar ShotÂ BloxÂ and bottles of water,Â but as you leave this small piece of sanctuary youâ€™re soon back onto the trail and plunging into waist deep freezing cold water again… No rest for the wicked!
Eventually weÂ passed through one finalÂ icy stream toÂ re-join the main path back to the event village,Â andÂ as the crowds of supporters grew alongside the finishing straight, anÂ announcer called out our namesÂ and finishing times and congratulated usÂ as we crossed the lineÂ â€“ Hell Down South, done.Â Weâ€™d defeated the beast!Â As we passed though the finish areaÂ a troupe of drummers provided an excellentÂ finish line atmosphere and weÂ passed throughÂ aÂ huge hangerÂ whereÂ local army cadetsÂ handedÂ usÂ a finishersÂ t-shirt, space blanket,Â aÂ goody bagÂ packed to the brim with goodiesÂ (rather than the usual trick of a cereal bar and loads of leaflets!) and of course that all important race medal.Â A few times in the past Iâ€™ve feltÂ disappointedÂ whenÂ an event medal doesnâ€™t do justice to the difficulty ofÂ theÂ course,Â butÂ I was pleasedÂ to seeÂ just how chunky and heavy the medal for this event was â€“ seriously impressive race bling for a seriously tough challenge!
This time 2 years ago I vowed never to take part in something as tough asÂ BrooksÂ HellrunnerÂ again,Â but despite the fact the weatherÂ hadÂ made the course even tougher thanÂ backÂ in 2014, Iâ€™dÂ had an awesome time and loved the experience.Â Brooks describe their slogan â€˜Run Happyâ€™ as the â€˜emotional core of the running experienceâ€™Â and IÂ had such a great time Iâ€™mÂ even considering upping the ante and tacklingÂ Hell up NorthÂ in Cheshire later thisÂ yearÂ (www.hellrunner.co.uk/hellupnorth) . Have you got what it takes to defeat the Devil himself?
To find out more aboutÂ Trailplusâ€™ BrooksÂ HellrunnerÂ series,Â visitÂ www.hellrunner.co.ukÂ