The Hogs Back Road Race is an unusual distance, advertised as 11.7km. This race review looks at the event in its 56th year. The run starts and finishes at Loseley House in Guilford, and the course takes in the “Hogs Back” in Surrey.
This is the 1st time I have taken part in this event. I was originally going to run it as a 2017 closing event, but then was asked if I wanted to Pace it. Of course I was going to Pace it if I had the opportunity, but decided to take a slightly slower spot than I usually would for a 10k. I did this thinking about the hills, and wanted to end the year not having to push too hard. This was the 40th official event I have paced, in fact it was my 18th this year, it’s been a busy year.
As always I laid out my kit the night before. I went for the blue look, but I really did not factor in how cold it would be. I tend to like running with as little on as possible (oh behave).
I’ve ran 100k in the pouring rain with just a short sleeved top. But it was cold, so cold, I immediately regretted my decision to not wear long sleeves and layers.
Although it hadn’t snowed in Guildford it was bloody cold. It was also pouring down with rain for most of the day. I woke up early and had seen that a couple of events had cancelled because of the snow. I have to be honest, as I looked to check that #hogsbackroadrace was still running there was a part of me that wished I didn’t have to go out in the horrible weather.
When I arrived I was aware that the early bird parking was from 07:00 to 07:30. I later realised this was for a car park near the start. We had been warned that we should be prepared to queue if later, and arriving at 07:45 we didn’t have to queue at all. You drive up and are directed to park either side on the grass. This would normally not be much of an issue, but I witnessed lots of issues on the way out with cars having to get pushed out as they were stuck. It is not the right weather to park on a grassy slope. As we walked to the start area I looked back and a huge queue had formed, if we were only 5 minutes later it would have cost us maybe 25 minutes. Be aware of this if doing this event, allow plenty of time to park, or get there early.
When I got to the race village it had music but the rain somewhat takes away from the atmosphere. Registration was quick and easy, and after a little dance Kirsty and the kids went back to the car. It was just to cold and wet for them to stay and wait for me.
I saw a lot of familiar faces at the start and Lee was there who decided he would run with me at 8 min miles. The only issue I had with the village was the bag drop. Because of the rain everyone stood in the bag drop so it was a real struggle to get in to put my bag in. It frustrates me when people aren’t considerate towards others.
I went to stand by my flag early so people could come find me. It took a while for anyone else to come because they were staying in their cars or sheltered from the rain. It was great being one of the first pacers at this event, but there is learning to take from it. Like with other events I have taken part in there was not anything to identify us as pacers. They gave us a cap but that doesn’t set us apart. I knew what would happen, that people wouldn’t know I’m pacing, but still I made sure everyone at the start knew what I was doing. As always I described the pace I would be running, and let everyone know I would be delivering 8 min miles.
I set off with a good little group behind me and hit the first two miles perfectly at 7:58 and 7:59 respectfully. Then it got tough, really tough. The course is narrow and hilly, so as everyone slowed down it became impossible to keep the pace, there was just no room. I overtook people as I could, but there is no point pushing through and leaving people behind. Knowing the course I described to people around me that we were slower but would make it up down hill.
When I did get space I found that I was constantly overtaking people, even when I was significantly off pace myself, people could just not keep up because of the hills. I made the decision myself to slow slightly to try and keep within sight of some people. When we got to the down hill sections I sped up slightly, to make up the time and lots of people ran past me, but I controlled my pace to not go off too much, and just make up the loss from the uphill, but I did this gradually.
Not having anything to mark me out as a Pacer meant that I wasn’t really that effective. Those that started around me knew what I was doing. I shouted out to people as I went past, but most people would have no idea. Even if people could see I was a Pacer it was a really hard course for people to stay with pacers.
There was a long trail section that was really muddy because of the rain. This slowed me down. There were also some issues with a couple of the markers, the 9k marker said I was ahead of schedule, but I knew I was behind as I was gradually making it up. The 10k marker said I was behind but by this time I knew I was on perfect time. Then the course finished shorter than the advertised 11.7k in my opinion as I finished bang on 8 min miles according to my watch, but I show as 90 seconds fast.
On a course like this it really does not matter. It would be hard to measure perfectly, and people aren’t going for a set time, other than improving on their past performances on the same course. Because I couldn’t rely on markers and there was no particular finish time, I just stuck with my watch and I’m happy I came in bang on time.
I actually really enjoyed the event. It was a nice route that was a real challenge. One to give a go to challenge yourself, but don’t expect a good performance. I would definitely run the event again. I would only be keen on pacing again if we had something to identify us properly.
One highlight was that for the first time, after many events, Lee actually started and finished with me. I left him behind in Limassol Marathon, then in other events I have paced he always runs off ahead. It was nice to have the company.
My blog has been nominated for the Running Awards, I would appreciate your vote. If you have already voted you can now vote a second time. If you haven’t already voted it is nice and quick. Follow the link and go to online community, blog, then pick up the Pace paul.
I have just found out that my blog has been shortlisted for the RunUltra blog awards too. This is quick and you don’t need to register. Just find my name Paul Addicott, scroll down and put email address in and hit enter, job done.
Thank you all.