Gareth Bird Investigates: Herbert’s Hole

Herbert’s Hole Challenge 2017

by Gareth Bird


What an odd name for an event – ‘Herbert’s Hole Challenge’. It’s actually named after a place and lane named Herbert’s Hole between Great Missenden and Chesham.


Sunday 19 November was a good day for a multi terrain 10km. It had rained so there would be thick slippery mud and the temperature was comfortably low. Luckily for me, Jason Newland from On the Run (Aylesbury) was also running so he picked me up on route.  You may see Jason at some of the Chiltern League events which he enters as a guest. Make him welcome as he’s a fast V40 and would fit in well at LBAC!


Also running Herbert’s Hole was Alexandra Killick who we met at the start and amongst other things chatted about the Wendover 50 mile ultra she will run a week after this event. Alex hasn’t been running long and has worked so hard to take on an ultra run – super impressive.


So back to this event and that Hole.  Well generally, you drop down into a hole and have to make your way out. It was clear this was going to be hilly, but would it be a challenge?


Free of charge parking, right across the road from the start in Lowndes Park in Chesham certainly wasn’t a challenge. Number quickly collected and ‘start’ and ‘finish’ clearly marked out. I’m sure they had got the start sign the wrong way round as it meant heading up hill. Oh no, it was correct, which we soon discovered after the Town Mayor blasted her air horn. We had been warned it was very slippery out, and yes it was, especially given multi terrain meant no spikes.

A sight to behold!

I’d forgotten how useless trail shoes can be, I felt like I was on running on marbles. The ground firmed slightly heading out the Park, but then it was a job of dodging rabbit holes and dealing with the course looping on itself on a steep incline; ankles and knees got a good work out.


It was then onto a wooded section and more mud. Tree roots had been sprayed bright orange to prevent trips, personally I found it more distracting and the roots were a minor challenge as we dropped down the hill with more mud. At this stage I got overtaken by a runner who apologised as he almost slid into me, and then, yes you guessed it, straight down on his bum! Unhurt he recomposed and went on to finish just ahead of me, well done to that chap.


We were now in proper Buckinghamshire countryside, simply beautiful and a good reminder of why we run. The sense of freedom and natural environment takes some beating, but hey this is a race, concentrate! Soon we were on a surfaced road, which was a nice break from the mud, it was then onto another muddy path in a valley. The steepness of the land either side of us was impressive, but I couldn’t help thinking about the hill we faced to get out! There it was the dreaded left turn up the hill, it was one of those hills where you run head down and just try to keep going. The person in front was getting closer, don’t walk, you’re catching him, don’t walk, keep running! I did it! I overtook the person in front and didn’t walk, but wow, my legs were dead.

Birdy battles against the masses

From there on I just pushed on all I could. Soon I was trying to hold my position as we looped back via the valley and Lowndes Park. Unfortunately I lost a couple of places in the Park as again I struggled for grip. Thankfully the ground improved sufficiently for a blast to the finish, which again was about keeping my place given the cheering for people behind me.


Over the finish I picked up a well earned tech t-shirt and unfortunately needed to head off urgently so missed seeing Alex finish. Jason summarised this event up nicely, “I now know why they call it a challenge”! Given muddy conditions then this is a great challenge on a technical course, and well worth the effort for the gorgeous countryside and decent t-shirt for training runs.


I will enter this event again and encourage others to give it a go. Just like our Leighton 10, this event supports a running club and has the same great friendly and local atmosphere.


Ed – It’s also part of the Off-Road Series, so join Gareth and get involved next year for those points!