After a DNF the last time out, my seventh DNF of all-time and second of the year, I needed a win. And if I could combine that win with closure on a race I have run in the past but not to marathon distance then all the better. Enter the Hell on the Humber, aka HOTH, a 12 hour race across the Humber Bridge.
I ran this back in 2018 with Rachel as part of our marathon prep for that year, and we took it very easy, ambling along for 20 miles (or 5 laps) in the 6 hour window. Ordinarily there is a 6, 12, 24, and 36 hour race at which if you tap out before the last 30 minutes of your race it is classed as a DNF. Harsh, I know. It means you literally need to keep waiting about to the end to do it. It does stop people turning up, running the distance they want, then going home. It is called Hell for a reason. This year, the first year the race has been put on since COVID, there is just a 6 hour and a 12 hour race. Given my mishap at the Round Reading Ultra I needed to guarantee at least 28 miles were covered and so signed up for the 12 hour race, only for the rules to change.
The change in the rules was to keep people out there. To complete the race a runner, walker, jogger, or plodder needed to complete a 4 mile lap within each of the 3 hour blocks. For me this meant I needed to complete a lap between 6pm and 9pm, one between 9pm and midnight, one between midnight and 3am and one between 3am and 6am. That’s just 16 miles though. Oh, and did you notice? Yup, this is an overnight race, starting at 6pm, so it needed layers and for everyone else (it seems) a tent.
I didn’t quite get the tent thing personally. At most it is a 12 hour race, it is a warm August night, humid and dry. Did you need to wrap up in a sleeping bag and nap at any time? I didn’t think so and so as a shanty town of pup tents sprung up around me I sat on my backpack with a cooler bag of drinks. Again, it was a 12 hour race, but this year already I have run races over 11 hours, as well as multi-day races so I don’t think I needed to sleep between laps.
Additionally, to make it more hellish, no music. So now you have to be out there long enough to complete a lap between each of the four 3 hour times slots, and there is no music.
Still, it is infinitely better than the SVN Gravesend Cyclopark race. Well, on the face the race is, but a race weekend isn’t just the race is it?
On this particular weekend in August the RMT decided to strike yet again. And it meant I had to head up to sunny Hull, and it was sunny, on the Friday for a 6pm Saturday race. A pain, but the anguish didn’t end there. I had booked two nights at the Humber View hotel. Unfortunately when I arrived, or maybe fortunately, as you will discover, they broke the booked up into two nights and two different rooms.
The first room, the night before the race, was in a grotty basement level, next door to a very, very group who didn’t stop their screaming and shouting until close to 4.30am. I was not happy, so unhappy that the hotel would then force me to check out at 11 and then wait until 3 to check in, that I said foxtrot Oscar, took the financial hit, and booked myself into the local Premier Inn, a hotel with a carvery attached, that was a darned sight closer to the race and the bridge.
Thank you Lenny Henry.
Lesson learned one – don’t simply book the nearest hotel to the race on Booking.com. Some chains are not on there, like Premier Inn, and you know what you are going to get with a Premier Inn. In fact what I got this time was an early check-in, something they say they don’t do, so I could get a couple of hours rest before the race.
And so to the race.
After the same chat from Karl the RD as I received four years earlier, including the long list of DQ offences. I was not interested in nudity, toilet breaks away from the portaloos provided, or music, so I was good and at 6pm, on a warm, humid August night, we were off.
My plan was to take it very easy, applying different run/walk strategies per lap and to just keep going. By the end of the first 3 hour times lot I was onto my 4th lap, after a few tea and rest breaks, by the end of the second 3 hour timeslot I had completed 5.
And now came the tactics. I could have spent the time going for more and more laps, but with no sleep that didn’t see sensible. Also my train was before 9. So keeping going until 6am when I had a car booked for 8 would be a disaster.
And so I walked out my 6th lap and timed it. I wanted to see how long an exhausted lap was. It was slap bang in the middle of the 3rd 3 hour timeslot so counted for that and, after a chat with race HQ, it became apparent that to count within a timeslot I needed to finish it then. So I could finish at 3:01am and it would count in the final slot.
Incredible, Jeff. Having timed the penultimate lap I was not ready, and headed out after 2am to complete the final lap just after 3.
A final lap that included me panicking thinking the bridge was swaying. But hey! Bosh! Done!
I could have run 44miles, I could have kept going, despite the monotony, I felt physically strong, even though I was mentally tired. Next time maybe. But if not, I do now have closure on HOTH, it is 100 Marathon Club number 72 and my 7th of the year despite two DNFs (Copenhagen and RRUM). I didn’t fill me with confidence for the road marathons coming up (Berlin, Loch Ness and Yorkshire) but it was an endurance race more than anything where you needed to be on your feet, overnight, for at least 9 hours and 1 minute. It is just a lap race, but it is head and shoulders above any SVN, Saturn, Big Bear and Phoenix event. The Merchandise is choice! People still comment on my t-shirt from 2018 but now I have a new tee, vest and hoodie, that I wore on the last lap when the temperature dropped.
My issue isn’t really with the race at all, especially on race day. Karl does a great job. I would say the comms is a bit spotty. He is the only point of contact and doesn’t always get back to you. The website isn’t updated. The facebook groups are not updates. So where are my results? We did have an email but I wasn’t on it. Where are the photos? Who knows? But ultimately, who cares? I completed the race in the new format, regardless of how little sleep I had. And I should be proud of that. 100 Marathon Club number 72 in 6 years and 11 months. Over 10 a year, so not too shabby, esp with 2 years of just running 6 races and then years of COVID cancellations and postponements.
WOULD I RUN THE HOTH AGAIN? Maybe
WOULD I RECOMMEND HOTH? Definitely