All the latest news & views from the HellRunner team

3 unique ways to mix up your HellRunner training

Wild SwimmingWeiswampach_triathlon_2007_men_swimming_start

Wild swimming is, as the name suggests, swimming in the wild – in the abundance of rivers and lakes that our country has to offer. Just like our very own Bog of Doom.

Swimming in rivers and lakes offers a little more aerobic workout than conventional indoor swimming, not only will it be colder but you’ll need to fight against currents as well as possible branches and other Mother Nature obstacles. If you’re looking for an authentic Bog of Doom workout than look no further.

For safe and accessible wild swim locations near you, visit Climbing

Rock Climbing

Remember how hard the Hills of Hell are? Some were indeed vertical.  Rock climbing is an amazing activity in building upper body strength as well as building speed in doing so.

Not only will building your strength by using your own body weight help you up the Hills of Hell but it will

Visit to find a climbing wall near you.


Many people may be confused as to thinking boxing is just about strength, try three minutes on a punching bag, you’ll be annihilated. mindset-of-a-champion

Boxing provides a full-body workout, while greatly improving speed, agility and foot speed. Aside from skipping, the core work involved in sparring and bag work will work wonders for your running posture and efficiency.

With HellRunner courses being unpredictable and fairly up and down, this type of sport will give you a deft touch on the route.

To get started with boxing, visit here:

4 of the best breakfasts to eat before HellRunner

If you’re taking on the UK’s toughest half marathon, you’re going to need a decent breakfast to fuel up before the race. Your pre HellRunner breakfast should be rich in complex carbohydrates (your body’s preferred energy source) and contain a good dose of high-quality protein. Aim for a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. This will top up your body’s glycogen stores efficiently and get you up those Hills of Hell.

Punchy Porridge













Warm-up before the Bog Of Doom with a warming bowl of porridge. Oats provide slow-releasing carbohydrate to fuel longer runs and will keep you fuller for longer. An easy-to-digest carbohydrate, bananas are a great porridge topper for a fast boost of energy. Dried fruit such as berries will also provide quick-release instant energy, as will a good drizzle of honey.

Recipe: 50g porridge oats, 350ml semi-skimmed milk, one chopped banana, two teaspoons of honey

Mighty muesli













Combining wholegrains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit, muesli provides a great source of slow-burning energy – just what you need when you’re five miles in, drenched in bog water, and have a hellish incline to tackle. Combine with milk or probiotic-rich yoghurt as an easy-to-digest, liquid carbohydrate.

Recipe: 60g Rude Health Super Fruity Organic Muesli served with a tablespoon of 2% Total Greek Yogurt and a handful of fresh berries.

Bad-ass bagel

bagel 2












Whether you’re a sweet tooth or a savoury lover, you can’t go wrong with a bagel. Top it with peanut butter for a slow sustained release of energy or smother in low-fat soft cheese for a good dose of protein. Choose a white bagel as an easy-to-digest carbohydrate.

Recipe: 1 white bagel with 1 tbsp of low-fat soft cream cheese and top with 1 thinly sliced apple and 1 tbsp of raisins.

Efficient eggs

scrambled eggs 2












Scrambled eggs on toast offer the perfect balance of carbohydrate and protein. Not only a great source of protein, eggs also provide plenty of B vitamins. While whole-grain bread is a healthier option, it is worth sticking to white bread the morning before a race to avoid an upset stomach! Refined carbohydrates will provide your body with quickly absorbed energy needed to fuel your muscles!

Recipe: 2 scrambled eggs, a handful of spinach leaves, 1 teaspoon butter, 2 slices white toast and a 250ml glass of orange juice.

5 of the best recovery snacks

After an extreme OCR event such as HellRunner, refuelling your body with nutritional snacks is vital to recovery. In the first hour after a race, a nutritious snack will kick start the muscle repair process, replace fluids lost during the race, and boost your energy levels. Sports nutritionists advise grabbing a snack which contains a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein in the first hour after a race to speed up muscle recovery. It is also worth choosing a snack that is easy to digest and contains a good balance of high-glycameic-index carbohydrates and slower-release carbohydrates. Here’s five of the best post-run recovery snacks.

1. Flavoured milk

Milk’s high protein and carbohydrate  content helps refuel exhausted muscles. A 2009 study from James Madison University in the US found that chocolate milk promoted better
muscle recovery than a commercial sports drink.


choc milk




2. Yogurt

Fruit yogurt contains carbohydrate (lactose and sucrose) and protein in a 4:1 ratio. According to University of Texas studies, this nutrient ratio accelerates post exercise refuelling,
which means faster recovery and muscles that feel less sore the next day. Yogurt is also rich in bone-building calcium – one 150g pot delivers around one third of your
daily needs.








3. Bananas

Bananas supply easily digestible carbohydrate – around 15g per banana – from a mixture of sugars (fructose, glucose and sucrose) and starch – perfect for replenishing muscle fuel. Bananas also deliver potassium, which is essential for balancing fluid levels in cells after running, and magnesium formaking new body cells.

4. Rice cakes with peanut butter

Plain rice cakes can provide a quick energy boost after a run, but eating them with a little peanut butter is even better. This combination provides the perfect ratio of carbs to protein (4:1) for speedy glycogen refuelling and muscle repair.
peanut butter





5. Clif Shot Protein Recovery drink

With protein, carbohydrates, and sodium, CLIF SHOT Protein Recovery helps you bounce back quickly from tough workouts and races.


cliff bar


Top 4 at-home exercises for HellRunner

See below for your top 5 exercises which will you help you become a HellRunner success, and achieve a faster time.

Squat jumpsJump_Squat1

You know those Hills of Hell? Yeah, this will help. Squat jumps will really work your quads and when put into practice, you won’t believe how much easier you’ll find those ‘ruddy hills. You’ll be able to really feel the lactic acid in your legs after only a few jumps, this should remind you of what getting to the top of a hill is like.

To perform a squat jump

1. Place your hands on your head like you would for a crunch.

2. Bend your knees, keeping your back straight, till your bum is nearly level with your knees.

3. Spring up from this position, with your toes pointing down, so that there is air between you and the ground.

4. As you land, slowly repeat the process.

Nordic Curls

nordic-curlThis exercise is one of the best hamstring exercises around. It involves eccentrically loading the hamstrings, meaning tension and force is applied whilst the muscle is lengthening. This has been shown to result in significantly more muscle growth and strength compared to traditional concentric (or muscle shortening) exercises. HellRunner will put serious stress on your hamstrings, so it’s important they’re strong.

To perform a Nordic curl

1. Kneel on your knees and wedge your ankles under a stable surface that is able to support your Bodyweight. 

2. Stick your hips back and lock the spine flat

3. Begin to slowly fall towards the floor contracting your hamstrings and Glutes as hard as you can throughout

4. The goal is to fall as slowly as possible using your hamstrings to resist

5. Have your hands out in front of you and when you get close to the floor push yourself back to the start position and repeat

Back raisesback-extensions-exercise-illustration-1024x682

The use of your lower back is key while running alone, bring in rough terrain and various gradients it becomes even more essential. Back raises will really strengthen the lumber part of your back.

To perform a Back raise:

1. Lay on your front with your hands on your head, like you would for a crunch.

2. Slowly lift your head and legs into the air

3. Hold for a second and bring down again

4. Repeat this process

Plank Variations

front_plankPoor core strength and stability has been shown to negatively impact running efficiency and increase the risk of injury. Core training is essential for any runner looking to improve their performance. The most important exercises to focus on are isometric holds, which target the deep core muscles that help with trunk stability and posture.

To perform a Plank and its variations:

1. Rest on your toes and your elbows on the floor

2. Position the feet just outside hip width

3. Keep the pelvis tucked under and the spine flat

4. To perform a suicide plank, move from the elbows to the hands one at a time, making sure that the hips stay square and the abs remain tensed

5. To perform a superman plank maintain plank position and raise one arm out in front of you. Aim to keep the hips square and do not let the torso rotate

6. Transition from one version into another without rest

For an improvement in strength to be seen the weight must be challenging enough to force the body to adapt but not too heavy that technique falls down or that you start to use momentum to cheat the weight up. Keep reps in the 5-8 range for 3-4 working sets (not including warm up sets) and rest for 1.5-2 minutes between sets. I’d suggest maybe adding two to three strength and conditioning sessions a week into your running schedule. 

Six reasons to run HellRunner with your mates

  1. Motivation

spuronWhile it may be slightly irritating hearing your best mate (who you were convinced you were fitter than), encouraging you to ‘pick up the pace’, while crawling up Hell Down South’s Hills of Hell, it can be hugely motivational too. In fact, studies have shown that exercising with your friends can improve performance. A study of 1,000 women by Virgin Active Health Clubs found that 64 per cent of those who run with friends pushed themselves harder than if they were alone.

When you’re running alone, particularly in an extreme endurance event such as HellRunner, it’s easy to stop, feel sorry for yourself and question your ability to go any further. A few motivational words from a friend, telling you that your shaky legs WILL make it to the top of the next gruelling incline, will never be more welcome than when running HellRunner. And let’s be honest, when you throw a bunch of mates together in a field with a few bogs and hills, what better space for a contest? Clowns will fall, devils will laugh and competition will never be so fun.


  1. Training is more fun

Getting up for a 6am training session when every inch of your body wants to snuggle beneath the covers is one hell of an effort. But when your mate is waiting for you outside, craving a cuppa’ and their bed, it’s hard to leave them hanging. Plus, training with a friend will stop you swapping out your long run for a recovery run when you’re feeling lazy and encourage you to keep up the pace.


  1. You’ve got a helping hand through the Bog of Doom, Lucifer’s Lido and Hills of HellHellrunner 2

If you’ve run HellRunner before, you’ll know that when wading through a sub-zero bog after seven miles of mud running, nothing is more comforting than seeing your best mate going through the exact same pain as you are. A friend is also welcome when staggering down HellRunner’s devilish descents ― picture a drunken walk home from the pub, throw in a vertical drop and accelerate the pace by 80% and you’ll understand why you’ll be glad to have mate by your side running HellRunner.


  1. Welcomed assistance pulling off your wet clothes

When you’re wet, freezing cold and covered in mud, all bodily inhibitions are abolished. All you want to do is get out of your wet clothes and into your dry ones, but when you’re too shattered to take your own tights off, there’s nothing nicer than having your mate do it for you.


  1. A pint always tastes better with a friend

200278039-001If you’ve just taken on the UK’s toughest ten-miler, you deserve a pint (or at least a hot chocolate to warm you up). Grab it with your mates and it’ll taste even better. A post HellRun high is always better with a mate.


  1. Discounted group entry

And with up to a fiver off entry when you sign up with your mates, what’s not to love? Check out entry prices here.

Which aspect of HellRunner do you find most brutal?


Which aspect of HellRunner do you find most brutal?

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Exclusive interview with Hell Down South winner Ross Macdonald

So Ross, congratulations on winning this year’s Hell Down South! What time did you do it in?IMG_1244

Thanks. I completed Hell Down South in 1:18:04 this year, which was 26 seconds faster than I had completed it in 2014. I moved from third place to first place during the beautifully named ‘Bog of Doom’ and just managed to hold onto this position for the remaining few miles. 

What other running do you do?

I compete most weekends in Obstacle Course Races across the UK, and sometimes further afield. My race team, inov-8 OCR, are often placed in the top few places in these events. I also compete at Ironman and 70.3 distance in triathlon, which may have helped me get through the Bog of Doom slightly faster than others!?

Did you train specifically for HellRunner?

My weekly training involves a lot of cycling, swimming and running. For HellRunner it is the running intervals, hill repetitions and circuit training which really help over a course such as this. My training with British Military Fitness, which involves a lot of squats and core work, really helps. 

For a first time participant HellRunner, what would you advise them to expect? 

Although it is a tough course, everything at HellRunner is manageable. Expect a lot of hills, many of which are technical. It is a tough course but it is also a lot of fun and the marshals are always brilliant at HellRunner.

And what clothes & shoes are appropriate?

Much of the course at HellRunner is loose stone, mud or sand and so a decent pair of footwear is needed. I wear the inov-8 x-talon 200’s which were great. As you are also crossing two (sometimes frozen) lakes make sure you have some decent compression and thermal wear on. I opt for 2XU compression wear, a merino wool top and then my race vest.

What would be the best way they could get in shape for an event such as HellRunner?

HellRunner has a lot of short, steep climbs on mud and loose gravel. Get yourself running off road and practice running up some hills!

For someone who has run it before, what advice would you give them to beat their previous time? 

HellRunner hills sap a lot of energy so just pace yourself, save some energy for the last few miles, and that will help you beat your previous times. In addition, work the hills and have confidence running downhill.

What did you have to eat the morning before Hell Down South?IMG_0998

Providing I am awake three hours before running I always have a bowl of porridge with banana and cinnamon. It is like a pre-race ritual now, that I don’t like to change. 

How was your recovery?

I actually bruised my knee quite badly at the race this year as I jumped into the frozen lake. The ice took a chunk of my knee off and this stopped me running for a week. This shouldn’t put anyone off though as apart from for the leader, there is a clear path through the ice for everyone to follow. I was actually handed a stick as I jumped into the lake which I soon discovered was really needed!

Are you entering any other HellRunner events with a view of winning them?

I like the sound of Hell in the Chilts, which is in September. Of course, if I am entered, I will plan to win them!

What’s next in your running life?

Triathlon or obstacle-course races pretty much every weekend! I have London Marathon to prepare for where I am hoping to break the 2:35 hr mark and I am also training for the OCR World Championships, which are in the US in October.

Many thanks, Ross, and good luck!

Meet the mad man who has run HellRunner nine consecutive times


=big k

Fifty-one-year-old Kieth Duffy-Penny is a Financial Trader, living in Hayes, Kent. He has been a fitness fanatic for the past 30 years: running, road cycling and even kite surfing. As a runner, Kieth has taken on every distance possible, from 5Ks to marathons, turning his hand to every event he can, his favourite annual event being HellRunner.

For the last nine years, Kieth has taken part in Hell Down South – home of the original HellRunner event. Kieth fell head over ‘hills’ with HellRunner after reading a running magazine back in 2006. Motivated by the article and also inspired by his experience in the military, Kieth set his sights on HellRunner as his next big endeavour. He said:

‘I was encouraged by both my love of running and the fact that I had spent several years in the Reserve Forces. In fact, I spent a lot of time training on the Army Training Area where Hell Down South is based.’

No sooner had Kieth read the feature, his HellRunning career had begun, and so had the annual HellRunner family outing. ‘I was always supported by my young children, who were always there to laugh at dad,’ he said. ‘However, come 2009, the tables were turned when I was joined by my eldest daughter Alix, then in 2010 by my youngest daughter Ellie and in 2011 by my son Lewis.’

2015 gang post run

The annual event amongst the Duffy-Penny family now includes Kieth’s brothers and nieces and also some of his work colleagues. ‘Most families have outings to go bowling or to the cinema, we run Hellrunner,’ he joked. ‘It is now a firm annual tradition.’

‘Hellrunner is a very well organised event, which I have seen grow and improve over the years,’ says Keith. He added:

‘It is a lot of fun especially as it is not really a personal best type of run, but essentially a physical and mental challenge – never quite knowing how deep or how cold the Bog of Doom will be year on year!

‘We always try our best to make sure we keep the date free each year.’

Your next HellRunner obstacle

On Thursday we asked: “If you could add another natural obstacle to our already devilish course (Bog of Doom, Hills of Hell etc) what would it be?”.

You came back in splendid fashion as normal, this is what you had to say:


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Prepare for the Hills of Hell

Our best advice for hill training in preparation for HellRunner

If you’ve signed up to a HellRunner event, expect to climb. If you’ve signed up to Hell in the Chilts, expect to climb England’s highest mountain – Scafell Pike. HellRunner events all encompass Hills of Hell, designed to push your endurance to its very limits. Hill training for HellRunner will not only prepare you to take on HellRunner’s climbs but will help to increase your overall fitness and build muscle in IMG_5580preparation for running HellRunner’s lengthy distances. Here’s how best to train.

Long hills

Running over hilly terrain for a lengthy distance is a great way of working your cardiovascular system and developing leg strength. Practice running a hilly circuit of around four to eight miles at a 10K pace to build up endurance.

According to Hazel Silver, off-road runner and fitness expert, hill running is essentially ‘weight training in disguise’. Long hill sessions will develop the muscle and fatigue-resistance of your leg muscles.

Hill intervals

Hill intervals will not only help you develop a quicker stride running up hill but will quickly develop anaerobic capacity. Find a hill that takes around one minute to run up and try to run this at a 5K pace over eight reps. Jog down the hill at a recovery pace in-between.

Practice postureIMG_1504

When running up hill, many people make the mistake of bending over and drooping their heads – a common cause of back pain. To prevent strain on the lower back, practice leaning forward from the ankles rather than the waistline to keep your body in a straight line.

Treadmill inclines

If you do most of your training in the gym, the treadmill is a great way to practice running at an incline. Start by setting your treadmill to a four per cent incline, building this to 10 per cent and gradually extending the distance with each session.

Don’t underestimate the downhillIMG_1537

Perfecting the art of running downhill requires serious practice. Many runners have the tendency to lean back when running downhill due to fear of falling over. As with running uphill, leaning forward from the ankles will help to alleviate pain when running downhill.

Step it up

Steps provide a great platform for a quality interval workout. Find a set of steps that will take around one minute to run up and tackle them over five reps. This will not only offer a great cardio workout but will strengthen your hamstrings and your glues too.