Beacon Hill Trail HalfIf you like trail running, hills, cross-country-esque shoe-sucking mud and great bling then the Beacon Hill Trail Half should be for you! OK, I appreciate that that is probably a bit of a niche market – I, myself, am not a fan of cross country mud, and hills are OK in training runs, but in races? I’d rather not – but it really was a great event.

This annual trail half on Beacon Hill just south of Loughborough is put on by Jack Rabbit Events. This year the start/finish line area suffered a bit due to the storm. They lost a marque during the night before and in interest of safety the start and finish arch and another marque weren’t put out. But otherwise the organisation was fantastic! It’s chipped timed, there are three water stations that also offer gels, and the marshals were so supportive.

The route is a two-lap course comprised of mainly hard-packed trail with a mile of alternating trail and sloppy muddy stuff at the end of each lap. But the trail section is wonderful; it’s wide and smooth although there were a few steeplechase moments due to twigs other debris that had blown down from the trees.

However, there is no getting away from it this is a challenging event. There is nearly 1,900ft of elevation over the half marathon but as you start and finish in the same place what goes up must come down. There are two long, but not particularly steep, hills on each lap, which are supplemented with some shorter, steeper climbs. I found it more of a mental challenge to keep going on the long climbs rather than anything else, particularly on the second lap.

And you don’t need to be fast to run the Beacon Hill Trail Half, yes the winners might finish in about 1:23 (male) and 1:30 (female) but there were also some 3-hour finishers as well. At 2:04 I was firmly in the middle of the pack.

And then there’s the goody bag. I mentioned at the start of this report that if you like bling you’ll like this race. We all have different ideas of what makes good bling; well this was a custom medal that was fairly weighty to hold with a customised ribbon. That’ll do me. The goody bag contained the medal, a bottle of water, a bag of crisps, an oat bar thingy, a caramel wafer biscuit and a bottle of beer! There were also some spot prizes of chocolate handed out, unfortunately I missed out on these.

And finally as an added bonus, because Beacon Hill is the hill where those athletes based at Loughborough train there’s a good chance you might get cheered on by those pushing for a place on Team GB. A group of about 10 were running in the opposite direction to the racers, and it felt strange but good to be cheered on twice by such fast runners.

So if you like trail running, can cope with hills and mud, and love good bling and a great atmosphere then give the Beacon Hill Trail Half a go in 2016.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner