This weekend I went 45 minutes south from London for the Box Hill Fell Race. Having turned up at the wrong Clapham train station (there are five it turns out) I got a healthy warm-up sprinting up and down the escalators on the tube before making a mad dash for the train to Dorking. After all that exertion I was glad of the 45 minutes of respite. The headlines had informed me that the South East had been hit by !Snow Chaos!, but from where I was sitting it looked like a pleasant dusting on a pretty countryside making for a picturesque journey.


I followed some runner-looking types of the train to the registration and got all my paperwork in order. While lacing them up I made the unpleasant discovery that my shoes were still soaked from the Greenmantle Dash (they’d been sitting in a rucksack since then) so my feet were wet and freezing from the get go; a cheeky gift from the Broughton. That done I made my way to the start.


The race starts and finishes on a gentle slope on the side of Box Hill. This slope is ideal for sledging, a fact that had not escaped the couple hundred people that were already on the thing and the organisers stressed the importance of not running in to any tobogganists. I started out determined to stay at the very front of the pack, but soon tired of this and, reminding myself that I had no idea who I was against, decided it would be best to run my own race and soon found a comfortable position in about 10th place.


The course followed a mixture of fields, paths and forest trails. There were a couple of shortish steep climbs, a few gnarly steep descents (at one point myself and the runner just in front of me slipped at exactly the same time on a narrow trail and slid down 20 ft together), some terrifying descents down frozen stairs (the recent injuries amongst the Westies leadership team always at the back of my mind) and quite a lot of branch dodging in the forest. The forest trails were the best bit; the snow had given the whole place a magical, Christmas-card feel. Later, I overheard someone loudly exclaim: “It was like being in Narnia!”


The organisers hadn’t provided a map of the route and I hadn’t been able to find one online. Coupled with the facts that I’d left my watch on my bedside table meant I was pretty disorientated for most of the race in terms of distance covered. Luckily when Nicola Barberis of Serpentine caught me with one descent and one ascent to go, he was kind enough to tell me that there was one descent and one ascent to go, allowing me to pick up the pace confidently. The final descent was heaving with locals taking advantage of the atmospheric conditions and I had the unexpected pleasure of overtaking over sledgers, two snowboarders and one skier to finish in 15th place.


Well done to the organisers for a slick operation and for carrying on with the snow fall. With a bit more knowledge of the course I’m sure I could’ve pushed it a bit more, but all in all I was pretty pleased with my result and happy to contribute towards the Serpie team victory. A great way to escape the Big Smoke on a Saturday.

[Note – Some of you may have noticed that I am sporting what would normally be considered an unseemly amount of red in the photo below. For those that are concerned let me assure you that this is a mere geographical convenience and does not speak to my long-term affections. My heart will always be gold and black. To any Serpies who reading this – Loves Ya Really!]

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