The Hoka Highland Fling: Training week two

Originally posted on Runner’s World

Can an average runner take on 53-miles in the Scottish highlands? Our Online News Ed Rhalou starts the second week of her training.

Box Hill

Week two of my official training for the Hoka Highland Fling and I am suddenly (painfully) aware of the challenge that lies ahead. My training plan stipulated a 35-minute easy run, an interval session, an eight-mile run (six of which needed to be at long run pace), some strength and conditioning work and then a ten miler at the weekend.

The week started off well and I combined my mid week run with friends at the Camden Run Club. Having already entered the Box Hill Fell Race, read my review here, this also seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my long run with an event. At 7.5 miles the race was short of my training plan, but the hills were so mammoth that I figured they counted for extra miles, and it was a rare opportunity to replicate the Scottish highlands.

I was persuaded to run The Box Hill Fell Race last year with friends and I came last, setting a course record in the process. With multiple enormous ascents and descents, sticky mud that sucks you under and scree sections that literally rock your socks off, you might wonder why I chose to run it again. But despite its numerous challenges and difficult terrain, Box Hill is my favourite race and I absolutely love it.

Even though I hold a deep affection for the event, I was still grossly unprepared for another round. As my friends and I hopped on a train on a chilly Saturday morning in mid January, surrounded by track-pant-clad club runners in woolly hats, I did wonder what I was letting myself in for. The first mile headed directly up a steep muddy stairwell hacked into the hillside, so the majority of us didn’t actually start running until ten minutes into the race. When the ground finally leveled off we emerged weak-kneed and sweating into the light, only to be thrust downwards into a horrific muddy descent before we had a chance to find our feet.

Pretending to run uphill may be tricky, but as an inexperienced fell runner, forcing myself to run downhill on a gradient not far off a sheer rock face was actually harder and I tottered down the hill with the words ‘Highland Fling’ ringing in my ears. Note to self: Get better at running up and down hills before April.

Fortunately I wasn’t alone and got to play a fun game of catch up with a Serpentine Runner who was definitely old enough to be my grandpa. We battled it out over various undulating muddy paths (while politely holding gates open to let one another pass) before he finally lost me in the wooded section.

Completely alone in the woods with dappled sunshine sneaking in between lush green foliage, I finally got to do some proper running. But it was around this point when it suddenly dawned on me that The Box Hill Fell Race was only one seventh of The Fling. In four months’ time I’m going to have to run that crazy race seven times in a row. I have some serious training to do. But I am delighted to say I didn’t come last in the race this year, so there’s hope for me yet! Follow my progress here and find me on Twitter @Rhalou.





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