I heard about the Events To Live Three Molehills running race a few months ago and thought it might make a change from the regular 5/10/13.1 running race distances that I often get involved in. I’m trying to avoid cross country races at the moment as I don’t want to risk injury so close to my next Ironman distance triathlon (in late January) so the idea of a tough run to get some miles in the legs sounded like fun. So much fun that I decided to cycle the 19 or so miles to get to the start in the morning as a warm-up!
The race is a three leg event that can be run as an individual or as a relay team. Individual all the way I say :)
Leg 1 – ‘The Box’
A fast start saw me get to the bottom of this Box Hill in probably 15th position or so. Although I’d raced off at just slower than 6 minute miling pace I knew that this wouldn’t last – and Box Hill would take care of that! The first obstacle was some stepping stones across a river. Well I wasn’t expecting those. Straight after the stepping stones came the steps – around 270 steps that take you up to the top of Box Hill. These were tough. You couldn’t run up them – it was just a quick powerful walk/climb up the hill with many other runners all around you. There was no real room to overtake and everyone around me was going at a speed I was happy with.
Once at the top you run to a turnaround point (a lovely viewpoint which has great views of much of Surrey) and then down Box Hill. With a severe lack of any kind of hill training (for months if not years) I knew I’d not be prepared for some of the downhills – which I find much harder than going up. I restrained myself a bit coming down as I didn’t want to completely destroy my quads and because of this I was caught up and passed by a few people on the downhill section. Once we got onto the flat parts I could keep up a good pace but going down I didn’t want to risk things too much – as this race was more for fun than a position and is just part of the grand race plans for the next few weeks/months.
After 3.63 miles of running and 27 minutes 11 seconds, most of it up and down, you return to the start/finish to start the second leg. There was stacks of support from spectators and other runners who were running the event as part of relay teams. I like this style of race as you get plenty of support and as there’s a lot of ‘out and back’ you see other runners who encourage you and you can encourage/support back. I was very surprised to see an average of 7:23 miling. Surely I couldn’t keep that up…
Leg 2 – ‘Norbury Manor’
The second leg headed off in the direction of Westhumble and then up yet another incline! This was a much gentler climb – still hard work but not one that you had to walk up! It did go on for quite a while but that’s the nature of this event. Near the top there was a water station with PowerBar gels (the only time I’ve been given gels in a race before I think is in an Ironman triathlon – so top marks to the organisers for sorting this). I took a gel and some water and continued on. During the downhill a couple of runners flew past me. Whenever anyone came past I’d try and see from their race number if they were an individual or relay entrant. Unfortunately these were individuals.
Two more runners then closed in on me and I decided to try my best and hang on with them. At the bottom of the descent the three of us were all together and we pushed on as best we could (around 7 minute miling pace) alongside the A24 on the way back to the start of leg three. My GPS measured leg two as 6.04 miles and it took me 42:31 (7:02 miling).
Leg 3 – ‘Ranmore Ramble’
Leg 3 began in a different direction and headed straight uphill. A steep incline took us up, up and up and it was just a constant climb all the way up to the top of Ranmore Common. At the start of the leg I heard one of the chaps right behind me say, “I think he’s overcooked it!” about one of the runners ahead who overtook us a couple of miles ago and was now walking. The three of us ran past him and didn’t see him again.
Once at the top of the hill you run along a quiet road and then through a muddy wooded area which was rather energy sapping. Another water station at the turnaround point (where I walked for a couple of seconds just to get some water in) and then it was time for the race back down to the finish. I was still with the two other chaps at this point and we’d helped each other on the climb up. If it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would have made it up there so quickly. During the final descent to the finish I couldn’t quite keep up with the other two and they moved off up ahead. I kept pushing and was really happy to cross the finish line in 1:41:22. The 4.37 miles that I measured for this leg took me 31:40 (7:14 miling).
In the overall results I was 21st out of 106 individuals (the winner finished in 1:30:50). Looking at the team relay entries I was beaten by 7 teams (out of 46 overall relay teams). My overall miling pace for the 14 or so miles was 7:12 miling – which is what I need to be running a marathon in – although I have no plans to run a marathon that hilly!
So, two longish runs in a week – on Tuesday I ran a half marathon in La Santa in Lanzarote. That I thought was a hilly course – altitude wise that run had a total elevation gain of 620 ft. I thought that was pretty hilly for a 1 hour 37 run.
As for this run, well, the elevation gain was 1,697 feet! That’s probably more hill climbing that I’ve run in a whole year!! As I write this the following evening my legs are truly screwed and I feel like I’ve almost run a marathon. A couple of hours easy riding on the bike today surely must help. Only time will tell…
Finally I have to say the course marking was excellent, the water/gel stations fantastic and the marshalls superb. They were everywhere! Top marks to Events To Live for a really well organised event. It was also a nice touch to be greeted by Alan (the race director) as you cross the finish line. Oh, and I made my best effort with my big hair to get onto the blog of the race photographers for the event – I think I did a good enough job :)