#BeatBoxHill

Last Sunday I thought it would be a good idea to run up Box Hill.  Twice.  When my alarm went off on Sunday morning I wondered whether this was a horrible mistake.
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If you’re not familiar with Box Hill, it’s part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that offers stunning views for miles across Dorking.  I’ve cycled up it a few times and always been rewarded for my efforts.  But I’ve never run up it.  At least not the zig zag road bit that feels like it won’t end.  Because, why would you do such a thing?
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RunThrough debuted their Beat Box Hill 5k and 10k to offer a pretty unique opportunity to run up and down 2.5k long road that zig zags to the top and, if you’re in for the 10k, you get to do it twice! I know, what a treat!  I love me a unique opportunity and obviously I wasn’t going to get out of bed and go all that way for the 5k…so twice up the hill it was.
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The car park is at the bottom so the first task is to trek 1k to the start at the top, it’s steep, really steep, but the amuzing signs in typical RunThrough style made me chuckle.  It was a sunny but crisp morning so it was worth a bit of hanging around at the start, there was even a choir belting out a bit of Don’t Stop Believing so I had a little dance (obvs).

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The race starts at the top of Box Hill, which means the hard bit comes later.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.  OK, I am sure.  Angry, confused and hurt is how I felt.  I mean, what the hell?!!  They tried to organise people in order of speed but that didn’t work because I overtook a lot of people on the first descent and I certainly wasn’t running particularly fast.  It was pretty annoying as it’s fairly narrow if you stick to the assigned half of the road but, as there was no one coming the other way I ignored the cones (soz).

Other people aside, the first 2.5k was fun!  Although you know it wont last, there’s something liberating about starting a race, on fresh legs, with a solid downhill section.  In other words…wwwweeeeeeeeeeee.

At the bottom, you run round a cone and start the 2.5k back up again.  It was tough but I took my time and Box Hill isn’t actually that steep, it just goes on a bit and you know walking isn’t an option because once you start walking up a hill it’s game over…that and the voice in your head won’t let you…or is that just me…?

Photo Credit: RunThrough
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I didn’t hate it, 2.5k isn’t that far and once you’re at the top you know you get to fly back down again.  The second loop was much quieter because I think the majority of people opted for the 5k so I preferred the second time down.  It was still really sunny and it was warm when there was no shade.  The marshals were fab, they yelled encouragement and asked for smiles and banged their tambourines.

The second time back up the hill wasn’t as bad as I expected, I think the marathon fitness is finally kicking in and, although I was by no means fast, I was consistent and didn’t have any intention of giving in to the burning legs.  Finally I was at the top and at the finish line.  I think my face says it all…

 

Photo Credit: RunThrough
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I loved the Box Hill 10k.  I really did. I came so close to staying in bed that morning and I’m so glad I didn’t, it was a lovely run, tough, but lovely.  Sunshine, green hills and running, what more could you want on a Sunday morning (apart from poached eggs and smashed avo but there’s always time for that after).  Genuinely, the worst bit was climbing back down the steep grassy hill to the car park, I hated that bit!

Word of warning though, hills will give you aches in places you forgot about…like your core and your glutes…it hurt to walk for a couple of days.  Doesn’t matter though, I’ve now beaten Box Hill both on wheels and on foot.
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Facing my Cross Country Demons…

When I was younger I hated running.  HATED it.  My brother would go and win races outright that he was technically too young to compete in, whilst I would take 15 odd minutes just to run a mile.  It really wasn’t my thing, English was my thing, Maths was my thing, not sport.

As you can imagine, school cross country was my worst nightmare.  Some of the girls would sneak off in the early stages and join back in when the group came back around but I don’t remember doing that, I was too goody goody.  So I would struggle round and come last, or nearly last. Cold, muddy and last, I bloody hated it.

When the Chasers stared talking about cross country season and encouraging everyone to get involved I knew I didn’t want to be a part of it.  A few hills and mud don’t bother me anymore, Hellrunner is one of my faves, but XC?  No way. What if I came last?  In a Chasers vest?!  I had the fear.

 

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After volunteering at the Men’s fixture on Mitcham Common (Ruth and I were in charge of making sure everyone’s finishing position was recorded correctly…a big responsibility!) I started to re-think.  Maybe I should face my fears and give it a go?  How bad could it really be…?

The 2nd women’s fixture was at Farthing Downs (the first one wasn’t an option, it was just before Frankfurt and I don’t have the best track record running off road).  There hadn’t been much rain, and it was a nice day considering it was December, so conditions were as favorable as they could be.

I found the Chasesr area near the flag, registered and got my race number as well as a number ‘1’ for my back.  Didn’t even know what that was for.  Ruth was as worried as I was, even more so after she had seen the course and spotted some ugly hills.  Were we having fun yet?

I was still stressing about coming last and being rubbish when Nathan told me that the number 1 on my back meant I was in a division 1 team so I couldn’t come last, look at all the division 2’s!  I was quick to point out that I was in no way responsible for the clubs division 1 status and the number 1 did not necessarily make me a worthy player!  But there was no more time to worry about that, it was 11.55 and we needed to line up.

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Finding a warm spot in the middle surrounded by my friendly Chasers my stomach churned.  At lot of these girls looked like ‘proper runners’, they were Surrey’s best, what the hell was I doing here?  Sharing worried glances at Ruth, the man shouted ‘Go!’ and we were off.

These days my pre race nerves tend to be limited to big races, or PB worthy courses, and they subside pretty quickly after the gun.  But not today, 1km in and my stomach was still churning.  It was going to be a long 6k (yep, just 6k and I was still worried) .

The ground was pretty solid but muddy and slippy in places, I didn’t have spikes, just trail shoes, so I was hoping they would give me enough grip.  The ground was slanted so I was constantly leaning one way which didn’t help with the balance issue and then we got to some slippy stone type surface, it didn’t last, but I didn’t like it!

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After about 2 miles we got to a flat solid grassy path where I felt much more comfortable and picked up the pace…then I got a stitch, not a bad one but I haven’t had a stitch for years, great!  I can only assume it was from holding my breath whilst negotiating the slippy slopes and tree roots rather than breathing like a normal human being. Idiot.

Trusty support crew cheering us on.  I didn’t see any other clubs with big flags…just saying…

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We came to a steep uphill, which I didn’t mind, but it was narrow and I was stuck behind someone slower.  Coming through! I vowed not to let her overtake me again!  There was more support on course by now, people with eyes who were watching.  Then there was an even steeper hill, a total energy zapping lung buster of a hill…I guess this was the one Ruth was talking about.  I briefly walked then realised there was quite a few supporters and this wasn’t acceptable.  Get up the hill.  Now!

People cheering my name helped and then there was the finish!  3.92 miles and I was done.  It hurt.  I was however far from last, all of the Chasers were far from last (ahem…division 1…) so that was a success right?!  Back in the Chaser camp I was offered a piece of James’ homemade marble cake.  Thank you, please, I feel better already!

I woke up on Sunday only slightly achey so Ruth and I ran to Wimbledon Common, did 10 hill sprints (sort of sprints….we ran as fast as we could on post XC legs…) had a cheeky cuppa in the cafe and ran home.   I only clocked up 8 miles yesterday but my legs weren’t going to take me any further, I felt like I had run 18!  I still ache a bit today but I’ve got the club run tonight and track tomorrow… I can’t wait for Wednesday!

 

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