When I found out that the “Haytor Heller”, a 6 mile race organised by Teignbridge Trotters, was taking place close to where we were staying on holiday, I couldn’t resist signing up. However, after reading a few reviews of previous years’ races, I was slightly anxious about what lay waiting for me. Warnings of “Heller by name for a reason” and “my slowest 6 miles EVER” did make me wonder if this was an ideal holiday activity! Last year’s event also involved an air ambulance rescuing a runner overcome by heatstroke on Dartmoor. I did a couple of weeks of concerted hill training prior to the race in preparation and was also kept keenly trained by the hilly terrain round Finlake holiday park where we were staying in Devon. My morning runs in the Devon countryside were punitive to say the least as I trudged up hill after hill.
This race has been voted “the most scenic in the UK” and I would find it difficult to argue. The run started at Haytor Rocks which looks really cool and is fun for wee ones to climb on. Also, what is more fantastic than being surrounded by Dartmoor’s wild ponies? The run started at 6.30 so most of the day’s heat had passed and I was running in very pleasant conditions. After the steep ascent up to Haytor rocks we then snaked our way down a steep downhill and made our way across the moorland. This was a race where I could never switch off. I had to keep focused on the path to dodge various boulders and holes while the path was often so tight that overtaking was no option.
The woodland section was fairly pleasant, but very tight with jaggy bushes. We also had some stream crossing. The real tough bit followed with hills that the tops of which could not be seen as I slugged my weary way up. Some sections involved crawling using my hands to pull myself up and much grunting and sarcastic wheezes of “this is fun, isn’t it?” from other runners. The race was exceptionally well marshalled with marshals who warned of impending obstacles. I also learned a little about trail running etiquette. Runners warn each other with cries such as “Boulder”, “Sharp right turn” etc. The downhills, while welcome to some extent, were treacherous and hard work on the quadriceps.
The finish was certainly a welcome sight and we finished with a lovely downward slope which allowed for a really fast finish. My finishing time was not impressive – 1hour 6 mins which is my slowest 6 miles ever. However, to be fair, this wasn’t quite just a run and the fastest lady finished in 55 mins which would also be a good bit slower than my usual 6 mile speed.
Overall, a fun race to do, but I am looking forward to running on the flat for a while!