Inspired by Daren’s recent ascent of the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which rises 933m in a distance of 2.9km, I [stupidly] decided to replicate his feat right here in Blighty.
I scoured the map for likely candidates and the only hill that I could find with that gradient was Wolstonbury, which I stormed back in April (archive post). Remembering how treacherous it was descending the grassy north face, I looked for an alternative, settling on the tank tracks that lead to the top of the hill above Jack & Jill.
The track is 1km long and rises about 140m, so I figured that if I did the climb 7 times, I would have a vaguely comparable height gain to challenge Daren with… he claims to have finished the Grouse Grind in less than one hour… and was going back with his trainers to try to beat that… so I had my work cut out!
I parked at Jack & Jill and warmed up on the gentle hill, giving me an initial 60m tally. At the top I found some radio masts and a bunch of cars and a sign warning of vehicles using the track.
I ran down ‘the hill’ encountering one of the vehicles coming slowly up the incline… the driver kindly informed me that it was the Mid Sussex Amateur Radio Society who were camped out for an annual worldwide competition to see who can reach the furthest distance. Apparently they had been talking to someone in Trinidad & Tobago last night, which is pretty impressive.
His eyes widened when I said what I was planning to do.
I ran on down to the gate at the bottom and turned round and started grinding up the hill myself. Ten minutes later, I knew Daren had beaten me… I would have needed to have beaten 9 minutes to stand a chance. I thought I would do a second loop before I headed for home and off I went.
The second climb was way harder than the first, but I managed it in about the same time. Unfortunately, the guys at the top were now rooting for me, which meant that I couldn’t really give up after only two climbs. The third was really painful, but I thought I had better do four… for some reason that completely escapes me now. The guys said they would have a cup of tea waiting for me.
I had passed some youngsters who were doing a dry run for their Duke of Edinburgh Silver award a couple of times up and down the hill and I chatted to them while I supped my mug of tea. They were really impressed with what I was doing and so I felt I had to complete at least one more circuit… by which time they would be gone and I could head for home.
As I neared the top so the MSARS guys cheered me and said only two more to go and I then I knew I was going to have to finish it, somehow. Coming up for the 6th time, I was barely moving in places, although I was still (I think) technically running. Going down for the last time, I took this video to show you the view and the path. Alas it is once again very jerky… and worse still, it looks flat! WAAAAAAH!
May I just say… it is NOT FLAT!
And then I was on to my 7th climb and I rather think it took me about 15 minutes, so slow and painful was it. I even had to stop momentarily, twice, on the final hill… just because. There was a big cheer from the guys at the top and I would like to say a hearty thank you to them, as I wouldn’t have made it without them. Although I wouldn’t have had to have finished it if they hadn’t been there!
I stretched out as best I could back down the gentle hill to the windmills, getting back to the car at 2 hours 33 minutes. 980m plus the 60m to the top from the car park gives 1040m in total height gain (WAY more than Daren, you’ll note) and 16.7km / 10.5miles… well the gradient doesn’t compare either!
I estimate that the downhills were completed at an average speed of 6.1mph, while I managed only 3mph on the uphills. At an average speed of less than 4.1mph though, it would take me about 6 and a half hours to complete a marathon… furrgeddit!