Cheers to the Marshals!

You’ve been running for hours,…it’s hot…you’re tired..there’s no shade and the sun is beating down on you…you’re desperate for a gentle breeze…you’re thirsty, so thirsty your mouth feels like sandpaper…


…then, like an oasis in the desert you see a water station up ahead. WATER!!!! The marshal hands you a cup of the best water you’ve ever tasted in your life, gives you a big smile and tells you how well you’re doing. What do you do?  THANK THE MARSHAL!



On Saturday I marshaled an event called HellRider.  It’s a non-stop 8 hour off road duathalon where participants complete as many laps as they can alternating between a 5k run and 7k cycle. – you can participate alone or as part of a team.

As a marshal, I had to be in Henley on Thames for 8.30am and wouldn’t finish until 7pm.  I was paid a nominal fee, and I’m aware a lot of marshals aren’t, but, having left my house at 7 and got back at 9pm it was a very long and tiring day!

I arrived on site to heavy rain and lightning – it didn’t look like the best day to be outside with no shelter but I remembered the huge brolly I kept in the boot – knew I put it there for a reason!

Pre-race briefing and piles of goody bags


When the event was set off (still in very heavy rain) 5 people were taken to marshal different points on the course whilst a couple of us stayed at headquarters.  I was stationed on the run/bike finish line to make sure people were OK, went over the correct chip mat and went through transition smoothly.  Other marshals were out on the course on their own with people zooming past them so I was quite lucky.

As a marshal the events of the day included, but were not limited, to the following:

  • I got lost on the way there…yes, with a satnav
  • I helped pack over 200 goody bags
  • I wore a fetching neon yellow marshal jacket
  • I got wet
  • I got sunburnt
  • I got hungry
  • I ate too many Cliff bars and Drumstick Squashies to curb the hunger (plus came home with another 13 packets left over from the goody bags…)
  • I shouted over and over again at people that were coming towards me on the wrong side of the chip mat after ignoring the neon signs
  • I used portaloos all day
  • I clapped, cheered and shouted ‘good running’, ‘well done’, ‘awesome work’ etc to everyone coming over the run/bike finish line
  • I was thanked at least 337 times
  • I got jealous that I was’t participating
  • I danced to the same songs that were played round and round on a loop…
  • I took a mans wet/sweaty/muddy running shoes back to transition and swapped them for the equally wet/sweaty/muddy cycling shoes after he went over the chip mat and forgot to change them
  • I ran the buff (used as a baton in the teams) over to a guy’s team who could barely walk at the end of a run leg (shusshhhh)
  • I sort some first aid for a man with a chunk of skin missing off his arm after coming off the bike (he soldiered on)
  • I was told I was one of the real heroes of the day (I really wasn’t)
  • I reassured a woman in a pink top with a bad back and walked with her to the finish line
  • My feet hurt
  • I was offered jelly beans by a man that had spent 8 hours running & cycling…I thought he needed them more than me
  • I witnessed some true strength, grit and determination
  • I was a designated ‘Gate Angel’ who had to stop people starting another lap when the 8 hours on the clock reached zero
  • I didn’t get to use my Gate Angel powers
  • I helped clear up all the crap at the end
  • I have a car boot full of bottled water
  • I was given a pretty awesome purple Buff
  • I got a goody bag (yayyyyy!)
  • I got stuck in traffic on the way home because apparently no one has anything better to do on a Saturday night than drive around London
  • I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow

I know what it’s like to be out there racing, running as hard as you can, and when I was new to races I didn’t always thank the marshals because I didn’t quite appreciate the role they play.  But marshals do a bloody brilliant job making sure the event runs smoothly, water is readily available, and people get the help they need.

So, next time you’re in a race, remember there wouldn’t be a race at all without the marshals and give them a smile or a nod, they really do appreciate it!



HellRider is organised by Trail Plus, the same company that organise HellRunner, and it looks like a lot of fun!




A Date With The Devil…

“Brooks HellRunner offers trail running at its toughest and most enjoyable. 10 -12 miles of challenging off-road running… tough, twisting trails… including the famed Hills of Hell and the Bog of Doom!

The Finish will bring redemption… but only to successful HellRunners.


Shivering uncontrollably, covered in mud, and with my fingers so cold I couldn’t even bend them to untie my shoelaces, I swore I would never ever do HellRunner ever, ever again…

…yesterday I completed the insane course for the 4th time.  I have honestly never been so cold in my life.

It was -6 on a cold November morning in 2010, (that’s 6 whole degrees below freezing) and myself and 3 friends had just run a 10 mile trail race around Longmoor Military Camp.  When I say ran, we scrambled up and down the never ending ‘Hills of Hell’, splashed through the ‘Bog of Doom’ and shuffled through the ‘River Wade’ then, as if that wasn’t tough enough, about a mile towards the end they hit you with energy zapping sand dunes, if you have any energy left of course.

They say a picture paints a thousand words – I genuinely had no idea this was being taken during the River Wade…


I think I finished in around 2 hours.  I spent the journey home shivering quietly, I just shivered and shivered and I decided I had hated every second of it.  In hindsight I might of even had a mild case of hypothermia, I didn’t even want to eat Percy Pigs!  I had a shower…and I went back to bed.  The next day I could barely move.


Around 9 months later Kate suggested we enter again…ermm, no, no, absolutely NO.  But it was August, it was a warm sunny day, and it was difficult to remember just how painfully cold I had been.  So I signed up!  The Devil had beat me once, it was time for a re-match.

But as the Summer passed, it got colder, race day got nearer and I started to experience mild to moderate panic as I realised what I had committed to.  I was driving this year so there was no getting out of it.  I decided to go a bit nuts on layering, the the year before I had foolishly worn one top so this time I wore 3, and took a post race flask of hot tea.  It would all be OK…

Luckily when the day came it was about 10 degrees warmer than the year before so we took Laura with us as photographer and headed back to the Bog of Doom.  The increase in temperature made a huge difference (in fact I got too hot) and it was actually fun!

I’m not very confident going down the hills and much better at scrambling up them, a man cheekily said to me ‘you run down hills like a girl!’, I remember thinking, ‘I’m still beating you though aren’t I?!’  It was all in jest so I didn’t mind.  I was much quicker this time and finished in 1 hour 37 and 32nd female, screw you Devil!

Much happier this time!


When I entered for the 3rd time in 2012 I was supposed to be running with some friends but they all pulled out.  I was running solo!  It was still fun, and much better than the 1st time but it would have been better with some buddies.  It was a gloriously crisp sunny day so conditions were favourable and I really enjoyed it.  I decided it would probably be my last.


The 2013 event was postponed from November to January this year due to military training but I had no intention of doing it.  On a whim, I entered a Brooks competition and I won!  The prize was VIP entry to Hell Up North, Brooks Cascadia Trail Shoes, some funky capris, a t-shirt and a cosy hoody!

The only problem was that I live in London and the North event is in Chester (about 1 million miles away) and it was just 6 days after the Frankfurt Marathon (I clearly didn’t read the details when I entered).  Even if I did get there it would have been pretty risky so soon after that.  I was gutted.

I emailed the Brooks lady and asked her if I could transfer my entry to the South event (including pictures of previous participation so she could see I was a committed HellRunner!)  To my surprise she said yes and sent me all the goodies!  And so I was entered for a 4th time.

Awesome Brooks kit


Over the last 2 weeks we’ve had torrential rain in the UK, it pretty much hasn’t stopped and caused some serious flooding.  Combined with post Christmas blues and my desire not to get injured I decided I wasn’t going to run, I was adamant.

By Friday evening I had a sore throat, I knew I was getting ill, and it was still raining but I found myself packing my bag for the morning, just in case.  I didn’t sleep much and woke up with a raging sore throat and even more heavy rain.  But could I really be a DNS on my first race of 2014?  OOooohhhhh!!

I got up, ate my porridge and went through the motions.  It was absolutely pouring with rain and, knowing the course, I really didn’t want to go. But I did.

The rain slashed down the whole way there, to the point where I couldn’t see the road, and I genuinely wondered why I wasn’t still in bed.  Why was I so inconceivably off-my-face mental???  The forecast for Longmoor was 100% chance of rain all morning.  This really would be hell this time.

It was a relief to see other people when I got there, people who were as mental as me. I wasn’t going to be running alone!  I wrapped everything in plastic bags, pulled my hood up and went to the start area.  To be honest it did seem much quieter this year.

Previously I don’t remember getting properly dirty until the Bog of Doom around 6-7 miles in but this year I had mud in my eye after the first 1.5 miles and had already jumped into a waist deep ‘puddle’.  The course, although different from other years (not sure if this was deliberate or due to the weather) was horrendous.  Thick, sludgey, 6 inch deep clay mud type stuff and blocks of water to jump in every few meters.  Whilst I don’t mind this, and it was actually quite fun, it was near on impossible to run for most of it (unless you were willing to risk life & limb which I was not!).  It was slow going, and that made you cold.  There was also a lot more bottlenecking than I remember and some waiting around in places but people were friendly.

The hills come thick and fast and hit you hard. If you’re lucky there’s a tree or branch or barbed fence to desperately cling to as you slip and slide all over the place.  If not you just clamber around the best you can hoping you don’t get wiped out by someone slipping over behind you.  The hills are relentless, nature at it’s worst (or best..?), if you’re not used to them you’re in for a shock!

The Bog of Doom was deeper than usual.  It’s only ever been chest high before, allowing you to wade through with a smile, but this year it was straight up to my neck and a few steps later I couldn’t feel the bottom, I was swimming through the bloody Bog of Doom and my god it was COLD!!

The cold literally took your breath away and I very almost panicked, why wasn’t I moving forwards?!  The atmosphere is fantastic and spectators line either side to cheer you on but the devil is there to spray thick mist over the bog so you can barely see as you move under the arches of fire.  The Bog of Doom lived up to its name.

Coming out of the bog you’re heavy from all the water and numb from the cold, it’s difficult just to get moving again let alone tackle the next mammoth hill which is even more slippy when you’re soaking wet, but you just have to get on with it, there were still 2 miles to go!  The hills seem to get worse after this point, steeper, longer, muddier.  It might be my imagination but I’m sure they save the ‘best’ for last!

Amazingly the rain stopped just before the start and held off for the whole race, except some light spitting.  My new trail shoes proved to be grippy in all the right places and I was glad I had decided to wear them despite the mud.  The hills were steep and I had to learn to trust them on the declines although some were still much more appropriate to slide down on your bum than attempt upright!

I’m not going to lie, it was the toughest year I’ve run it.  Yesterday I finished the 9.7 mile (according to my Garmin) course in 2 hours 45.  That’s well over an hour slower than my best time.  We won’t mention that again!

I’m not sure I really enjoyed it yesterday, I got very cold and I would have preferred it if I could of run a lot more, but I knew what the course would be like after all that rain.  It was as fantastically organised as ever though with extra marshals at the Bog of Doom to help those in difficulty, however I did miss my For Goodness Shakes drink at the end!

I finished my first race of the year and got a new medal and t-shirt…and bragging rights, I definitely earned those!


HellRunner isn’t an obstacle course like the man-made Tough Mudder, it’s real trail running, in a natural environment, on a military camp, and it’s tough out there.  If you fancy a date with the devil check it out –  they hold 3 events, Hell Up North, Hell in the Middle and Hell Down South.

As for me, I think after 4 dates the devil is dumped!

….although I might change my mind come August…

This years medal and t-shirt are definitely the best!


Race Review: Down Tow Up Flow Half

Yesterday I swapped the busy, polluted, noisey streets of London for the quiet and scenic trails of Marlow & Windsor.  What a great idea that was!

With 13 weeks left until the Frankfurt Marathon the weekly long runs have picked up and I had my eyes on the Purple Patch Down Tow Up Flow Half Marathon.  It’s a point to point race which changes direction each year, this year it was Down Tow starting in Marlow and finishing in Windsor.  Windsor only took 40 minutes to get to then I got one of the organised coaches to the start so my car would be waiting for me at the end, that’s a quicker journey than my last 2 London races!

The course was described as ‘multi-terrain’, I quickly learnt that meant it was 95% off road, not that that was a problem but there would be no PB’s today!  There was also a bit on congestion at the start where the paths narrowed but the organisers had set us off in 3 waves to make it less disruptive.  It was, however, flat and a beautiful course, we ran from Marlow through Maidenhead, Cookham & Bourne End to Windsor and it looked a bit like this…



and this…



There were boats on the river with people clapping and waving at us and there were a couple of areas with pedestrians lining the street to give us a cheer and a smile, everyone was lovely!

There were several shady areas through the trees but the sun was out and the heat was rising, together with the trail underneath my feet, I was starting to find it tough but I still felt fairly strong and found the power to overtake several people in the last couple of miles.  The finish came around and a couple of people shouted ‘go Clapham’ in the final stretch.  I finished in 1.50 and was tired & thirsty (sooooo thirsty!) but still felt pretty good which makes me less nervous about my impending 15 miler on Saturday.



I highly recommend this race – fantastic organisation, a beautiful course and a lovely medal, what more could you want?!  I had forgotten how much trail races take it out of you though…I’m back to the penguin walk today…

Look at my really cool medal!