Vertically Challenged by Richard Moore

On initial reading of the “Not The Club Championship” events there was one in particular that stood out to me – the Vertical 100m Dash. As anyone who trains regularly with the club will know, Corsham is “blessed” with a range of hills for the Hill Sessions. In fact, it is impossible to plan even a 5k without encountering one. However, a hill with a 100m ascent is another matter.

Some folks, such as the fell runners Messrs Mackie & Wood, or the hill-lovin’ Stewart, clearly encounter such ascents frequently, often several in the course of a single run. But for me this is more of a rarity and the descriptive text stating that is just over 2 Stings-worth added to the intrigue. The challenge was on, to find single course 100m ascents in and around Corsham.

One question is whether the course should be short and brutal, or gentler but longer. Therefore, a bit of research was needed which led me to an article in Runner’s World (2015):

“There is an obscure, but cool-sounding, type of race called a “vertical kilometer,” where the idea is to race uphill as fast as possible until you gain 1,000 meters of elevation. The current men’s record is 29:42, set on a course in Switzerland that is 1,920 meters long with an average slope of 27.5 degrees; the women’s record is 36:04.

The question is: what type of course is best for such races (or, more generally, for gaining elevation as quickly as possible)? Should you find a relatively gentle slope where you can go fast? Or a steep slope where your progress will be slow and difficult, but you’ll gain lots of elevation with each step? Where is the sweet spot?

That’s what researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder wanted to find out in a study just published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The team … jerry-rigged a treadmill to be able to reach a slope of 45 degrees. For context, a typical gym treadmill can reach about 9 degrees, while a black diamond ski run is about 25 degrees. (In practice, runners had a hard time balancing at 45 degrees, so the study only went up to 39.2 degrees.)”

That brings a whole new dimension to the Dreadmill – 45⁰ – strewth!!

The basic upshot/conclusion is:
“But for all angles above 15 degrees, walking was actually more efficient than running. The sweet spot with the lowest energy expenditure was between about 20 and 35 degrees—which puts the 27.5-degree angle of the course where the record was set perfectly in the middle.”

Time for some caveats here. The trials involved quality athletes and to say that I am nowhere near that level is somewhat of an understatement. There are many runners in the club better than me at hills so I reckoned that slopes less than 20 degrees would be best. However, anyone who has run the Slaughterford 9 can take some reassurance that the most efficient way to ascend The Sting is to walk. I know that I have never got up it in a single run and am feeling slightly smug that I was right!

Now to find some local hills to test the theory. After some checking for routes using I started with Quarry Hill out of Box. Running from the lowest point on the A4, starting towards Corsham then turning right into Bulls Lane and then continuing up Quarry Lane, and up, and up some more, it is possible to just achieve a 100m ascent past Woodland Adventures and White Ennox Lane (average gradient of 7.6% with some tasty bits).

Second Route – bit serendipitous as the Solstice Run takes in Solsbury Hill which has the initial ascent of more than 100m (average gradient of 13.6 degrees).

And lastly – of course the route suggested in the NTCC blurb…The Sting (twice and a bit)…gradient of 25%…gulp…

Comparative Gradients of the 3 Courses

First attempt – Quarry Hill. Warm up, short pause at the bottom of the A4 then go! Up the easy starting gradient then into the steep bit which always takes my breath (not in a good way). Onwards and upwards, round the bend past the entrance to Hazelbury and the run out past White Ennox Lane. This really felt like a huge effort and I needed a good recovery to say the least. Still, managed to get in the Strava top 10 so some consolation there.

Next the Solstice Run and the attempt on Solsbury Hill. Setting off in a small group with Jane C, Matt, Jake and Gary was great and set me up nicely. It was then a case of gritting my teeth, setting a good rhythm and keeping going. One advantage was having Jake running alongside, playing “Solsbury Hill” on his phone and it really distracted from the effort. Felt as good as is possible for such a climb and what a view as a reward!

So, the last (and first) course. Managing to pick the day after Storm Bella was perhaps not such a good move as I have never seen the Bybrook valley so sodden and muddy. After the initial warm-up, sloshing through mud and surface water, I stood at the bottom of The Sting which is intimidating enough when you have to do it just the once. Remembering the bit about walking being most efficient I set off at as best a pace as I could muster, knowing that I would have to do it again. First time up, not too bad but the psychology of turning left down the green lane back to the bottom, which was a fast-flowing cataract, was not great. Starting off the second time at least I had some recovery and knew where the slippery zones were, and so cresting the top was very satisfying.

The results – which course was best/worst? Strava shows the following times for me:

  • Quarry Hill – 8:26
  • Solsbury Hill – 5:53
  • The Sting (twice, ignoring the recovery descent) – 5:11

Ok, so if I had to do the Sting twice without any recovery it would have taken longer but the results do bear out the theory of a sweet spot at 27.5 degrees. Quarry Hill also rated highest on the vom-meter due to the long run out at the top to gain those final few metres.

In summary, hills close to 15% for running do seem to be the best option around here. Walking The Sting was surprisingly quick in comparison as well. But the main conclusion is that I have had enough of the 100m Vertical Challenge for 2020/21 and will leave it to others to push on and take up the mantle. Now to dry out my shoes, get back on the trails, and enjoy all the mud glorious mud that Corsham has to offer.

The “Not the Club Championship” Championship

To provide a bit of fun, and incentive to get out running over the next few months, members are invited to complete as many of the challenges listed below before the 22 Jan 21.

Super-duper prizes of some form will be awarded based on qualitative and quantitative assessment by the organising committee/cabal. The criteria for prizes will be complex, controversial, ambiguous and, to be honest, have not yet been determined; they will however recognise enthusiasm, endeavour, humour and originality as much as, if not more than, running ability. If clarity, certainty and transparency are what you are after, then please look elsewhere! In sum, anyone could top the “league”. The judges decisions will be final and probably wrong; there will be no route for appeal though.

When completing the challenges apply and follow whatever Covid-19 restrictions are in place on the date you complete them. For now the challenges will have to be done solo, with a running buddy or a family bubble. Hopefully restrictions will ease and permit more social outings at some point before 22 Jan.

Information of the challenges is provided below. They do not have to be done discreetly; some could be combined and done in a single outing. Please address any questions about the challenges, routes etc to:

Record the challenges as you go and when done complete the form here by 22 Jan 21. Do as few or as many as you like, or are able to. If you are on Facebook please post and share your progress with other folk via the club’s FB page.

Challenge Description

  1. 5km Handicap (see below for details)
  2. Participate in one of Andrew Wood’s virtual Strength and Conditioning Sessions
  3. Run under a Full Moon*
  4. 100m Dash (vertical)**
  5. Carl’s Corsham 10km Lottery Run (see below for details)
  6. Visit a trig point on a run***
  7. Go for a run on New Years Day
  8. Canter round the Castle Combe away run route
  9. Complete Jane Clarke’s CRC Christmas Lights Challenge – details to follow separately
  10. Slaughterford 9 Prediction Run (see below for details)
  11. Do one minute of squats every day for seven days
  12. Become a Strava Local Legend
  13. Complete a sunrise (and/or sunset) run on the Winter Solstice, Mon 21 Dec 20
  14. Do a run in your favourite and/or oldest event vest/t-shirt/top
  15. Write an article about one of the above challenges, or anything else running related that takes your fancy, for Carl Zalek to publish on the club website
  16. In lieu of an “entry/admin fee” make a donation to a charity of your choice

* Full Moon dates are: 30th November; 30th December; 28th January
**Accumulate 100m of vertical ascent in the shortest distance. For example, ”The Sting” / aka “The Steep Bit (Stile to Stile)” on Strava is 49m of vertical ascent; you would need to complete it twice with a little bit extra to bag a 100m. Other hills are available
***There are a number of “trig points” in the local area: Wadswick; Castle Combe; Little Solsbury Hill; and, Bannerdown. If you are unsure what a trig point is and/or need specific location information contact

5km Handicap Run

  1. Plan your 5K running route. You can do this anywhere at any time. Run on the street, across the fields, around the garden, up and down your hallway or on the dreadmill, As long as it is 5k (3.1 miles in old money) and starts & finishes at the same point it counts. Not sure how to measure your route? There are multiple sites for doing this; eg Sports route planner UK. Runners, walkers, cyclists – map your routes.
  2. Run and Time your 5k. Run your chosen route and time it. Don’t need a fancy watch or app, but these help, an old fashioned stopwatch is fine, as long as you know it was definitely 5k and was timed accurately.
  3. Go to this form and fill in your details.
  4. Repeat 1-3. Yep do it all again but this time push harder and try and improve your time. When submitting the form again please use the same name and email address as you did for your previous runs so we can match them up.
  5. It is as simple as that. We will then keep track of your improvement by comparing your first run to your last and give you a percentage increase. Biggest percentage increase is the winner. Don’t cheat; Father Christmas (and the cabal) will know and penalise you accordingly.

Slaughterford 9 Prediction Run

Predict in advance your time to get round the Slaughterford 9 course (as slow or as fast as you like) and enter it in the form here before you run it. Then run the course, without looking at your watch at any time (this is important) and upload your finishing time via this form. The winner is the person who runs closest to their predicted time. Remember Father Christmas/the cabal is always watching so don’t cheat yourself; it’s just some running fun.

Carl’s Corsham 10km Lottery Run

Run the Corsham 10km route and forward your finish time to Carl Zalek,, along with a number of your choice between 1 and 100. That number will align to a “randomly” allocated 10km finish time. Whoevers’ actual time ends up closest to their randomly allocated time wins (with a “wooden spoon” to the furthest away).

Hilly Helmet Update

Please see below the message from Race Director Robin.

We would still love to support this event so we encourage you to enter and get working on your helmets.

I’m very sad I’ve had to make the difficult decision to cancel Hilly Helmet as a mass participation event this year due to the Covid-19 situation.
With 40 sign ups ready and looking forward to this years’ event and to give us a good chance to continue to make a good donation to Brain Tumour Support, the charity benefitting from the annual event, we have converted to a virtual event for this year only.
So far the response to this is really encouraging and I’m writing to let you know in the hope you may also join in this year and maybe get the whole family involved.
The format is simple. Decide on how you want your helmet to look then get designing! Enter our virtual event and then run a 4.25 mile route in your neighbourhood, around the distance of Hilly Helmet and wear your helmet while doing so. If you can find a hill to incorporate even better, but we recognise you may not be able to so depending on where you live. When you’re done, please send us your proof you’ve done it, a photo of your watch or fitness app will be great and also send us pics of you doing your workout in your helmet.
This year there will be 4, yes FOUR prizes for the best helmet, one for each category, male, female, junior male and junior female, so we look forward to seeing who can stretch their imagination to impress us.
We’ve priced the event entry as follows with EVERY PENNY of your entry fee going to Brain Tumour Support as usual.
Adults £12
Juniors £5
Family ticket £30 (2 adults and 2 juniors)
To ensure everybody stays safe, please follow government advice with regard to social distancing and your daily exercise quota. Please also ensure any juniors you sign up are accompanied where appropriate and capable of taking part without over exerting themselves. Everyone can walk or run, it’s your choice, it’s not a race just a fun event the whole family can do together or a run you may usually do that you can now do and help a charity at the same time.
All entrants will receive one of our legendary pottery mementos with artwork to reflect the unusual nature of this years’ event and the first 200 entries will also receive a drinks bottle courtesy of Wessex Water.
Remember, once you’ve entered you’re good to go and do your run any time up until 12th August 2020. Please let us know when you’ve completed it by emailing your pics and proof to
As mementos are ordered for a delivery in August, it’s likely it’ll be around the same time we receive them this year but we’ll do what we can to get them earlier. As soon as we do, we’ll arrange distribution to get yours to you as soon as we can.
We hope you do choose to join in and we look forward to seeing your entries and pictures on completion of Hilly Helmet – The Lock Down!

Club Championship Parkruns and 2018

2017 is already our most successful year for entrants in club championship races with over 200 to date and a few races to go. 

The ladies championship is wide open with a decent number of possible victors and the gents appears to be coming down to a battle of our speedy veterans Pete Allen and Alan ‘Rex’ Kember. Pete has been leading the whole year but Alan is tracking his prey like a mighty Tyrannosaurus. 

Just to note: The club championship tables on the website will not be updated after Over the Hills. We’ll leave Bromham, 2x Parkrun, Half and Full Marathon off and the winners will be announced at the AGM. 

2 of the races remaining are the best of 3 Parkruns. One will be the graduation of our current Beginners section around the end of November. 

The 2nd one, I am pleased to announce is going to be the inaugural Melksham Parkrun. It has been over a year since the local council gave approval for a Parkrun in Melksham and the final hurdle has been overcome so the first one is imminent. We will let you know the date when it has been confirmed.

The committee have started looking at races for 2018, Slaughterford 9 will definitely be on there so make sure you sign up when it becomes available.  

It has been decided to drop Bromham from the 2018 schedule due to difficulty to get in for some, the rising cost and we have 4 Road 10k races. It was nearly removed from 2017 but hung on and its time is up. 

So does anyone have a suggestion for a race to end the year with? It probably needs to be within about 20 miles. Please email me or message me through Facebook or speak to me on a club night and I’ll collate responses. 

And finally, if there are any other races you’ve done which you think should be considered, we’re always looking to keep the championship fresh so let me know. 

Committee will sign off at their November meeting so please let me know by the end of this month. 

Thanks all,


Club Championship Table – River Run and CRC Bonus Points

The Club Championship Tables have been updated following the River Run and the various events eligible for the 5 CRC Bonus points for doing some description of team event.

We had an incredible 32 runners at the River Run on Wednesday evening, although some of you aren’t on my latest members list so don’t show up in the championship tables.

If you aren’t yet a member but wish to be then please see our Joining Pages and I’ll update the championship table to reflect.

Club Championship – Bowood 10k

The Club Championship Tables have been updated following the Bowood 10k this morning.

In the ladies Debra Kearsey has taken the lead on 40 points with Lauren Edwards (39) and Shelley Genery (38) just behind.

In the gents Pete Allen has maintained his tight grip on top place although he lost out to Alan ‘T-Rex’ Kember on the maximum points today. He did extend his overall lead to Danny Clenaghan (who has done all 4 races so far) with their totals at 79 and 59. Chris Hunt is in 3rd place presently on 54 points having run 3 races.

Please note that Half Marathons don’t get added on until the end of the year so that’s why all the Bath halfers are still showing the previous scores.

Our next club championship race is only 1 week away and is the Calne Clock Change Challenge 10k which starts at 11. The name is a giveaway that the clocks change next weekend; going forward unfortunately; so make sure you don’t arrive late!

Club Championship – SMaRRT Smasher

The latest Championship Tables have been uploaded following the SMaRRT Smasher today.

In the ladies Lauren Edwards has maintained her lead on 39 points, while Alison Graham has run her first championship event of the year to take equal second with Debra Kearsey on 20 points.

In the gents side Pete Allen got another maximum score taking him to 60 points, Danny Clenaghan has moved into second place on 44 points and Jon Morrell has held onto third place with 37 points.

The next Championship race is the Bowood 10k on Sunday 19th March.

Club Kit at Championship Races

In the club championship rules it states that Club Kit should be worn at club championship races; and in the constitution it says that you should wear club colours (gold and black) at any race.

With this is mind the committee has made the decision that from this date forward (starting with SMaRRT Smasher) anyone not wearing club kit will not receive any points in the championship for that race.

The club kit is either the t-shirt or vest with the large Corsham Running Club logo emblazoned across the front.

There are 2 exceptions.

  1. If you’re doing a specific race for a charity and are wearing that charity’s shirt.
  2. If it is agreed by committee that something different is allowed. e.g. Christmas fancy dress at Bromham last year.