Hell in the Middle: Race Report

BBC Radio Newcastle presenter Simon Pryde is a busy man, presenting the Total Sport programme 5 evenings a week, he also runs for Tyne Bridge Harriers. In February, Simon took part in one of the Brooks Hellrunner series of races; Hell In The Middle. Here is his report from that ‘hellish’ day.

Hell in the Middle, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire 11/2/12

The queue for the Portaloos wasn’t long, and, though shivering, I was quite happy sitting, doing what I had to do, contemplating the task ahead. “There’s 4 inches of ice on the Bog of Doom”, roared a diabolic voice from outside, and as I left the cubicle I glimpsed the flicking tail of the Devil on stilts (or, “an idiot in a costume”, as he’d have been if my mood was darker).

This race is one of a series of three in the Brooks Hellrunner series (Hell Up North is actually in Cheshire, Hell Down South is, er, somewhere down south), and the organisers like to liven things up with Satanic gimmicks.

It was a 15 minute walk from the car park to the start area, which was a little congested and the start was delayed by a few minutes. People on the whole were pretty laid back, though, as perhaps you would be at the Gates of Hell. Who knows? Myself and Dave Antill were the TBH representatives in a field of around 1200. The temperature had dipped to -12 overnight. The Cannock Chase landscape had a bluish hue to it, and there were runny noses aplenty.

The course (“between 10 and 12 miles” is all we were told) consisted of various trails, from large tracks to narrow paths through forested areas. An icy stretch at the foot of one steep descent provided one or two casualties, the communal spirit an equal measure of helping hands. On the whole, the terrain was far from dangerous (we were denied one plunge into a frozen marsh, because the ice was too thick), but nonetheless challenging. There were hills aplenty, including a strength-sapping Big Dipper series of seemingly endless undulations.

The scenery was interesting, with views over the Chase to enjoy for those allowing themselves the luxury of sightseeing – most eyes were fixed in deep concentration on the route ahead. Some of the forest sections were eerily quiet – thankfully the route was pretty well marked. There were 3 or 4 drinks stations, and the marshalling was fine, though some of the orange-coated assistants had frozen solid, and you could tip them over like sleeping cows.

Towards the route’s conclusion we encountered the much-anticipated Bog of Doom. It had frozen over. The Devil was right about his four inches (so to speak), but the organisers had thoughtfully smashed the ice along the 100 yard stretch of waist-high water, so it was navigable. I nearly slipped under, Leonardo di Caprio style, on more than one occasion but ploughed on, punching polar bears in the face and yelling ancient Inuit battle cries as I went. Most people suffered cuts from the ice – but I didn’t see anyone complaining(in fact it made us look far more impressive and brave than we actually were).

Another little climb and a descent through the forest later and there was the finishing line. Around ten miles, I’d say. I recorded 1:19:24 (the winner clocked an astounding 1:03:34) which placed me 38th. Dave came home in 1:27:40. Decent goodie bag, and a speeding fine on the way home (over-zealous Staffordshire policing) and all in all great fun, and definitely suitable for inexperienced and seasoned trail runners alike.

Simon Pryde

Permanent link to this article: https://www.tynebridgeharriers.com/2012/03/09/hell-in-the-middle-race-report/


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  1. Should have had a speeding fine for the times you guys posted, good job on such a tough course!

    • kenny mac on 9th March 2012 at 18:52
    • Reply

    Hilarious report Simon, if its any consolation I too got captured by Dumfries and Galloway Polis coming back on the M74 from a race in Glasgow last year.

    Hoping you can make the last cross country of the season in Prudhoe.

    • Diane Pringle on 9th March 2012 at 19:48
    • Reply

    Sounds like you had a fun time.

    • John Tollitt on 9th March 2012 at 19:52
    • Reply

    ‘Freezing over the Bog of Doom’ sounds like it could be a lyric from a Prog Rock band of the early 70’s.

    • The Chair on 9th March 2012 at 21:47
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    Listen – I love the random comments and feedback from members on the website, but please, let’s keep some things free from sarcasm and mickey-taking… prog-rock bands of the early 70’s should not be mocked; long live flares, desert boots and the artwork of Roger Dean!

    • Dave Antill on 9th March 2012 at 21:53
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    Great report Simon, I will definitely be up for it again next year! If we can survive that frozen Bog of Doom we can survive anything!!!

    • Simon Pryde on 11th March 2012 at 21:16
    • Reply

    Thanks for the comments! Sorry it took 4 weeks to get it done! Definitely up for the next one – would be good to get a few TBHs going to Hell Up North…

    • Brother Louis on 12th March 2012 at 10:36
    • Reply

    Hardy souls indeed!

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