What a morning! Torrential rain, mud and brutal hills in an amazing country park for a 10k cross country race, yes it’s the Portsmouth Joggers Chilly Hilly 10k.
Today was a first for me on a couple of fronts;
- First time running the Chilly Hilly
- First race as a Portsmouth Jogger
What is the Chilly Hilly I hear you ask, well it’s name should give some of it away really, it’s a Hilly trail race in January so it tends to be Chilly, oh and there is also a bowl of Chilli for all finishers. It’s in its 2nd year of running and the race details from the website are very understated.
A 10K route through the hills and woods of QE Country Park. There will also be some mud, maybe even some snow!
Entry fee includes a bowl of chilli and a medal for all finishers.
The event is held at the stunning Queen Elizabeth Country Park and is a sell out event with 259 finishers this year. It’s a tough and challenging course with some brutal hills served up with a large side order of mud. The weather is inclement this time of year which can provide its own challenges for runners, but who cares about that though when the scenery is as pictured below. Just look at that, taken prior to the start by one of the marshals, Ros Clarke, before it was churned up by a couple of hundred runners.
The morning started off clear but shortly after 8am it was chucking it down which didn’t bode well for the day ahead. I’ve been running up at QECP quite a lot of late and it’s not been too bad of late, but this rain coupled with all the logging activity going on in the park could only mean this mornings race was going to be a mud bath! Fortunately the rain abated before the generous and sociable 11am start time but it had been enough to soften the course up considerably. Number collection started from 9am in the bottom field at the finish area with runners advised to make their way up to the start at Gravel Hill by 10:45 to get prepared and listen to the race brief.
The brief was given by the race director, Kiernan Easton of Portsmouth Joggers, who ran through the details and safety instructions in fine form. To paraphrase slightly, the course has changed due to the logging work going on, it is slightly longer than 10k as a result, there are hills, there is mud, a lot of it, you might fall over, don’t complain about it, get up and keep going. Sage advice, it is what it is, it’s a hilly muddy cross country race, if you came here not wanting to get your trainers dirty then you’re in the wrong place! With the brief delivered and expectations set we were released a few minutes after 11.00, the rain still holding off. The multi coloured procession of runners trooped off up Gravel Hill to the first turn off onto the muddy goat track. From here in on its pretty much mud all the way and boy was it slippy!
Once you get up the goat track there’s a reasonable descent before having to run back up the switchbacks pictured above, which were just brutal. They were hard but offered up stunning views down to where you had just come from, with other runners visible way down below. The problem with pretty much all the descents today was building any sort of speed and trying to remain upright. I’d gone with the wrong footwear today, I should have gone for the chunkier soled Scott Supertracs over the Hoka Speed Goats I opted for, never mind, it was too late to do anything about that!
Cornering was certainly interesting and I’m happy to say I remained upright throughout the duration of the race though I had more than a handful of sketchy moments. Given that there were last minute changes to the course, cutting out what is known as the banana path, the route worked well. There was a bit of out and back which was really sociable, lots of high fives and shouts of encouragement as runners passed each other. This really makes it for me, everyone’s in it together regardless of club, it’s a great supportive vibe. Likewise with the marshals, there were representatives from all the local clubs today which was lovely and called out at the end during prizegiving. Hats off to everyone involved, not the nicest of days to be stood in one place for a couple of hours!
The course was really well marked out, even if the earlier downpour had washed away a lot of the markings on the ground. There were vocal and supportive marshals at every turn and signs everywhere, so no chance of taking a wrong turn. There were however plenty of chances to overshoot on corners like the one pictured below given the mud and difficulties in attempting to slow down, but that made it even more fun. The marshals were brilliant at these points, trying to keep everyone upright and going in the right direction!
It was my first run as a Portsmouth Jogger and the support I received was fantastic, fellow Jogger, Del Roberts, ran the course with me. He waited patiently at tops of hills for me and was a trooper throughout, we had a good old natter all the way round. A lovely welcome to club running with the Joggers, he could have finished long before me but chose not to. We had a brilliant sprint finish at the end too!
Having finished we were awarded with a rather splendid themed medal, a much needed bottle of water, raffle ticket and space blanket. Once sufficiently recovered from the sprint finish and water consumed it was time to go get a nice hot bowl of chilli and a hot drink to warm up a bit, coffee for me! The chilli was served up with rice, bread and sour cream, there was a vegetarian option as well as meat and it was quite simply amazing. The sour cream with it totally made it for me, so so nice. What a top reward for a tough old run.
There was a nice award ceremony at the end, along with a prize draw for a couple of Garmin’s and some vouchers. I liked the fact that this was only done once the last runner had finished, that sits well with me. I’m at best a middle of the pack runner, it’s nice to be able to see the awards being given out to the speedier guys and applaud them on their efforts.
All in all a well organised great value for money event, certainly tough but most definitely open to runners of all abilities. Thank you to Kiernan, the Langley brothers (who were instrumental in the course set up and changes), all the marshals, the timekeepers, the aid station crew (thank you Coke family), the sponsors, the providers of chilli, the other runners and everyone else involved. I highly enjoyed myself, this is definitely one for next years race calendar.