Yesterday was my first time in the Surrey countryside since moving to London and if you’re going to go anywhere for a challenge, Box Hill is the place to go!

A couple of months ago I heard murmurings about a new race series by Cancer Research called Tough10. There were several races all across the UK, rated as Tough to Toughest. I contemplated which to go for but in my……adventurous spirit… decided I would go for one of the Toughest rated races, because that was obviously the sensible thing to do!

The race is now in less that two weeks time, I haven’t been running due to therapy on my Achilles and so mostly cross-training. I wanted to get an idea of the terrain and basically what I’d let myself in for. Nic (Twitter: @niccombe & Blog: <-well worth a read, very inspiring), offered to come on a recce with me and show me round Box Hill as she had recently done a trek around there herself.

Sunday morning came with a earlish start and contemplations on what to wear, decided to go for as many layers as I could fit on my top half and base layer leggings and a pair of shorts for the bottom half, plus my HokaOneOne Rapa Nui trail shoes which hadn’t really been put to the test yet, apart from one muddy club run. to be honest I was cold when I stepped out of my flat so I wondered what Box Hill was going to be like – I did have extras plus woollies in the back pack just in case.

We met in Starbucks for a pre trek coffee at 8.20 and headed off to Box Hill. I got the train times wrong so we got there via a mix of train and cab. As we jumped out of the cab, my eyes were drawn to a huge giant standing behind me and my eyes were going up and up before they reached the head of the giant. I took a gulp and asked Nic if that was it – “yep”. In my head I was suddenly a bit nervous, I expected undulating hills not one big, huge one like that, asking myself a rhetorical question “are we going up there?”.

We walked up the road to a steadier and less muddy incline than the first one offered and started the never ending climb, dodging some very fluffy cows (and their deposits) on the way up. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a walk in the park but it wasn’t as bad as expected, we took the hill at a fairly easy pace and managed to chat all the way up to the top.

A quick stop at the café for a snack and a drink and onwards we went – this is the part where I fell in love with the area. The trails were beautiful, helped that we’d chosen a really nice, crisp morning to head out. The canopy covering the trails, the coloured leaves and horse chestnut on the ground made it all rather magical and the conditions underfoot were great mix of squidgy leaves and a splattering of mud to make it look like we were trying – plus my Hoka’s were comfy and holding up well.

Which route did we follow? Well, mostly the Happy Valley Trail, but our technique was more “it looks pretty down there shall we go that way” approach and it worked really well – thanks to Nic’s internal navigation system which always seemed to know exactly where we were in relation to the main sights. 

We got to the memorial at the top of the hill where we joined the North Downs Way and stopped for a few selfies and to admire the view (so nice, I even forgot to stop the Garmin). I could’ve stayed there forever, the views were stunning and it was fun trying to spot the towns and villages and other hills in the distance.

Until that point we had pretty much chatted all the way, literally. However, on leaving the memorial and heading down towards the Stepping Stones I realised we’d both gone dead silent. It was obvious we were both trying to concentrate on where we were going and making certain that each footstep was planted perfectly. It really worked my glutes and knees taking tiny baby steps down the muddy path and steep steps.

Eventually, things flattened out and we reached the Stepping Stones, I was so relieved to give my thighs a rest. We stood waiting for a family to make their way across, watching the little four year olds jumping across and convincing myself that if they could do it, so could I – and even seeing a woman come across clinging onto her partner in what must have been four-inch high heels – yes really! I felt a bit sorry for her as that was probably the easiest part of the walk!

Next it was out turn. Nic went first with me following – concentrating so hard on not falling it. We stopped half way across for pictures, both clinging on to our phones so not to drop them in the freezing and fast flowing water. We made it across and I got something akin to a runners high, a minor achievement as if I’d have been on my own I might have chickened out and headed to the bridge, I even checked my heart rate on my Garmin – 89bpm!.

After that it was a steady walk back to Dorking station for a cup of tea and Haribo! Perfect way to end a great morning trek!

All in all I had a fantastic day, I loved the route we took & I’ll be honest I could’ve gone back again today if it wasn’t for work! 

Thanks a lot to Nic too for being my guide for the day & the chat!

So, #Tough10.

It’s going to be a case of get round, try to enjoy the scenery and don’t fall flat on my face. If I can do that, I’ll be pretty chuffed!

It will be my first trail race after all and I know it’s going to take me ages, tempted to give myself a 2-hour estimate as seeing the route, I’ve noticed that we’ll be going up and back down the treaded stairs and muddy path – dodging the stepping stones for the bridge however.

I am looking forward to it, it’s going to be something very different and something I can be proud to finish rather than just another road race around the streets of London.

FYI – I’ve just checked and there are places available & it’s only £20 to enter so why don’t you come and have a challenge and 10k like no other? I have a feeling it’ll be lots of fun!!

By the way, throw me some other ideas of challenges, races or treks you think I’d enjoy or if you want to tag along on another trek!