“OMG we’ve GOT to do this!” I enthused, simultaneously holding a glass of wine and shoving the screen of my phone in my husband’s direction.
I’d just shown Andrew this … the Red Bull 400.
It may “only” be 400-metres, but the Red Bull 400 involves running UP a ski jump. Yes, you read that right, UP a ski jump.
Oh, and some of the competitors are professional athletes.
At this point, most people would’ve muttered something less polite than, “are you having a laugh?” but not Andrew. To be fair, his infectious enthusiasm for giving things a go is one of the many reasons I married him …
Which Red Bull 400 ski jump should we run up?
As the 2018 dates for the Red Bull 400 were released, we eagerly (nervously) scanned the various European venues, with our all-important “criteria” in mind, namely:
- Holiday potential – the most important factor, surely?!
- Ease of getting there for a long weekend – direct flights, not in the middle of nowhere.
- Relatively low altitude – running up a ski jump would be hard enough without having to battle 3000-metre altitude.
That last point narrowed the options somewhat, what with ski jumps generally being in the mountains 😉 All of which led us to …
Finland … a weekend in Helsinki and a day out to the nearby city of Lahti, home to one rather large ski jump.
How to train for the Red Bull 400
Three months of vigorous training ensued. We even hired a trainer to help us – Gavin of Fitness Framework in York. To say he pushed us hard was an understatement:
Glutes were strengthened, legs lunged, arms pumped and our cores crunched within an inch of their lives.
The Red Bull 400 reality hits home
The weekend finally arrived. Following a direct flight from Manchester and a lovely day or so exploring Helsinki, the Saturday dawned with blazing hot sunshine. After feasting on a carb-and-protein-tastic breakfast of eggs on toast, we crammed some bananas, water and sunscreen into a rucksack, and caught the tram to the station for our one-hour train journey to Lahti.
[box type=”info”]We used the Whim App for city transport within Helsinki itself. An 80 minute Zone 1 journey mobile ticket was 2.20 Euro. Mobile tickets are cheaper than those bought from ticket machines. Disclosure: Whim provided us with App travel credit for this trip.[/box]
The nerves were already kicking in by this point. We knew there were about 700 runners, which meant the chances of us being in the top 160 (80 women and 80 men) to reach the finals were fairly small.
We’d like to say our nerves were steadied after reaching the venue, but … er … they weren’t!
The heats are 300-metres rather than the full 400. I was in the last of the women’s heats, and Andrew in the first of the men’s, which gave us a chance to watch and see what we were in for!
What we were in for was pain, a whole lot of pain! My speed was pretty good until the steepest part of the hill kicked in; and after then it was a serious but steady scramble to the top.
My calves were burning, and my respiratory system was at full tilt – even drawing breath was difficult. The lactic acid was so bad that when the slope levelled out again, it was practically impossible to move my legs again, never mind run.
My result: 101st out of 205 ladies in the heats, in a time of 4:33.
Then it was Andrew’s turn. Andrew’s heat was straight after mine, which meant I was slowly recovering my breath and coughing my way back down (using a staircase this time!), whilst he was bounding up.
Andrew managed an impressive time of 3:29, coming 182nd out of 328 men.
We were both a bit disappointed not to make the finals, although our bodies were pretty happy not to have to do it again!
What kind of people win?
We weren’t kidding about the athletic competition: podium winners included the women’s world indoor marathon record holder, a men’s Gold Olympic medalist in cross-country ski-ing and a professional ice hockey player!!
Does the Red Bull 400 hurt?
Er, yes! It’s honestly the hardest my respiratory system has EVER worked, and we had to walk backwards up hills the following day and take more buses, our calves hurt that much. Fortunately our glutes, core and arms came through unscathed, so the training definitely paid off (thanks Gavin!)
The pain was worth it though, as with the help of friends, family and colleagues we raised £600 for The Prince’s Trust, a charity that supports disadvantaged young people in jobs, education and training.
[box type=”info”]We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in the Kallio neighbourhood of Helsinki (££ discount off your first Airbnb stay with this link). Help the site by using this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]
My top Red Bull 400 tips
- Train some more.
- Be proud of your slightly crazy British reverse-Eddie the Eagle endeavours 🙂
Have you ever planned a holiday around a sporting event, a crazy one or otherwise? Share your stories below!