• Sun27November 2016
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  • Run Strong: Tough 10 Box Hill

    “Without taking risks, we never know where life can take us” is what people say (or something like that) and Tough 10 at Box Hill was going to be one of those types of races. Not least because it also happened to be the day of the London Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill, a race that I was itching to run.

    Box Hill - Tough 10 before the race

    Box Hill – Tough 10 before the race

    Tough 10 started at 10am, the Cross Country started at 1:15pm, which looks do-able on paper but factor in that I had to also get from south of the river (Dorking – which is out of zone 6 as I discovered as some ungodly hour on that Saturday morning) to Parliament Hill, and timing-wise it looks a little tight timing. So my plan from the off was to run it hard but steady. I just didn’t realise how tough, “Tough 10” actually was.

    Granted, it was no Marathon des Sables or Peddars Way Ultra in the snow but there were a few shockers thrown in just to get the heart-rate going. And when I say shockers, I’m referring to the maximum elevation being around 205m. So what does that translate as in terms of running? Two massive hills and a few hundred steps to climb. Then there’s the fact that you were running along woodland trails. The narrowness of these pathways meant that there was not much room to manoeuvre during the first part of the race while everyone tries to find their pace. If you’ve ever run cross-country, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You simply have to wait until there’s room to pass or ensure you’re up front from the word go. I started relatively far back and spent much of the first half trying to safely pass people and work those hills (the legs may not be as strong but I can still manage hills).

    Then there’s the fact that you were running along woodland trails. The narrowness of these pathways meant that there was not much room to manoeuvre during the first part of the race while everyone tries to find their pace. If you’ve ever run cross-country, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You simply have to wait until there’s room to pass or ensure you’re up front from the word go. I started relatively far back and spent much of the first half trying to safely pass people and work those hills  – the legs may not be as strong but I can still manage the climb uphill.

    It was the descent downhill that I really struggled with. What goes up, must come down and we did do an equal amount of downhill running. Much to my surprise, I found it relatively difficult to manage my pace. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been out of the game for a while and there were plenty of slippy leaves underfoot but I did not feel 100% comfortable throwing myself into some downhill action. I could see how exhilarating it was though for my fellow runners as they relaxed into it and flew past me at a great pace.

    As for the route itself, Tough 10 was absolutely stunning with some beautiful views of the countryside along the way. I was tempted a number of times to stop and take it all in but the clock was against me so there are no running selfies of me or Instastories (follow me at Becsinter on Instagram) of me panting halfway up a hill. The route was also well-marshaled, signposted and supported (thanks to Claudia and James from Advent Running for their encouragement along the way). In fact, it was a fantastic re-entry back into racing for me.

    Once I crossed the finish line and collected my medal, I was back on my bike and heading to Parliament Hill for my next race of the day (which I made by the way).

    My verdict

    Great course, a worthy cause and a brilliant race for anyone who wants to get into off-road running. I wouldn’t say it was entry-level as those hills may put some people off but the views at the top are worth the effort. I’d definitely sign up again next year.

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