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Race report: Frieth Hilly 10k

October 18, 2009
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18 October 2009
Overcast, around 12°C

It’s hard to believe that this is only the second running of the Frieth Hilly 10k. The publicity in the build-up to the race has been excellent (there are few races I’ve run in the last few months where I’ve not received a flyer for the run), the organisation was good (well sign-posted and with supportive marshalling) and the atmosphere was second to none.

The race started with a good-humoured blessing from the local vicar, which set the tone for the event – a strong community spirit and a sense of fun. The comment about the shadow of the valley of death lying between kilometers 4 and 5 was a particular highlight – and, it transpired, not a million miles from the truth.

The course itself earns the race’s name. Course profiles were posted around the school (which benefits from proceeds of the race and acts as race HQ), and showed several kilometers of downhill followed by a steep ascent split into two steps between kilometers 5 and 6. Once this was over, the course looked as it if flattened with a comparatively small climb to the finish. I’d received some insider information from Steve Taylor, the race co-organiser though:

If you would like a tip for the race – leave a bit in the tank for the final 400m – it is an uphill stretch back into the village and can be painful for those not expecting it! Many places are won and lost on that hill.


The challenging hill at the end of the race – with a fantastically supportive crowd.

The challenging hill at the end of the race – with a fantastically supportive crowd.

Knowing the course was going to be tough, I tried to avoid my usual mistake of belting out the first few kilometers and struggling through the last 20 per cent of the distance. With about half the course being off-road (a combination of paths, grass, etc.) trying to run conservatively was the order of the day. At the same time, trying to use gravity to best effect without literally throwing myself down some of the steeper ascents became part of my race strategy – at times feeling less like running and more like controlled(ish) falling.

The race was remarkably spread out once I reached the 7km marker; I could see the runner in front of me taking corners about 100m away and occasionally caught the cheers at a distance as the marshals provided their ever-supportive and much-needed cheers for runners behind me. From looking at the early results as the marshals compiled them, the winner was something like 1:30 in front of the nearest competitor. Perhaps it’s no so surprising because challenging courses often emphasise the difference between experience and inexperience.

At the end of the race, runners were welcomed by a packed goodie bag and a selection of refreshments (the proceeds of which all went to the school). I now think that a good cup of tea and hefty wedge of chocolate cake is far better for recovering from a race than any energy drink!

Tips for running the Frieth Hilly 10k

  1. Run conservatively and try to use the down-hill sections to recharge in preparation for the next climb. This isn’t the race to go belting out, and you might do better by employing a vulture running technique – sticking with runners until they start to tire on the hills, then overtaking.
  2. Watch your footing. There are quite a few uneven paths, tree roots and different surfaces to contend with. If it had been raining in the previous days, it might have been necessary to wear trail shoes rather than road running shoes.
  3. Make the most of the down-hill sections – they’re mostly early in the race, not necessarily on even ground, and sometimes brutally steep. A shuffling technique seemed to work best for me.
  4. Learn to drink water while running… I managed fine with the first water station, but at the second station I wound up breathing water rather than drinking it (and pouring it on my knees, randomly). Add that to the long list of things to improve.
  5. Keep something back for the end. As I ran up the final hill, I noticed a group of cyclists get off their bikes to go up the hill – that says something about the kind of hill it is. It isn’t long (the long hills are around the half-way point), but elements of it are very steep. Fortunately, I think I did okay on the hill, and managed to maintain some speed by using my arms and digging a bit deeper. I’m sure I was helped by the level of support provided by the onlookers and marshals at this point – with one shouting encouragement to runners with a loud hailer.


Finish time: 42:19 (42:12 stopwatch)
Position: 24 out of 390 (tbc)

1km: 4:05
2km: 3:53
3km: 3:46
4km: 4:24
5km: 4:52
6km: 4:54
7km: 4:03
8km: 3:47
9km: 4:16
10km: 4:07

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