I'd been looking forward to this race for ages as I lived in West Sussex for nine years and this race is largely on the South Downs Way, which I ran last year. It was going to be a glorious adventure! But then Storm Jorge came along, and I knew from Iz's Scout hikes that the area was frequently a mud pit in March, especially after a fortnight of perpetual rain. On the way down on the train, I saw this:
... basically saying "it's going to be horrific". Oh deep joy. Ian and I had booked a couple of nights at super-fancy hotel South Lodge first so we had a lovely meal, a good night's sleep in a comfy bed and a morning jaunt around the muddiest bit of Sussex as a precursor:
The next morning I got up early, reluctantly checked out and made my way to Steyning Grammar School. Organisation was good and the event was sponsored by Clif bars, which I liked. What I didn't like was the prospect of spending many hours running up and down hills in the mud in the rain. Trying to fake enthusiasm:
(Many thanks to Iz Green for the photoshop skills!)
The race had a somewhat quirky start in that it didn't have an official start time. You could basically rock up anytime between 07:30 and 09:00 and just start running. This was weird as it felt like you were running by yourself. Also, normally during a race, you naturally end up with a group of people who are around your pace who you overtake/they overtake you all the way through the race. This didn't happen, as there could be someone who was your exact pace but who started 20 minutes later than you and your paths wouldn't cross all day.
The day was much nicer than predicted and within the first mile or two there were already hints of Sussex countryside loveliness:
The weather forecast was much worse than the reality and I was a bit warm from the get go. Blue skies and pretty countryside - I felt my mood lifting pretty early on.
I took this at face value and duly brought along my cup. To my surprise, when I arrived at the first aid station, I was very surprised that they had loads of plastic cups. I was literally the only person I saw all day who'd brought a reusable cup. I'm afraid I'm quite draconian on this one - there is no such thing as TRY to reduce plastic - you just have to DO it. Tell racers there will be no cups and to bring their own. Sell your own branded one at the start for anyone who forgets. They'll remember next time. The end.
This chap was probably regretting the decision to wear white shorts:
The race organisers had photographers out on the course who provided free photos, always a nice touch - thank you! Here I am not looking too miserable as it was on a flat bit!
There was mud, but nothing unexpected. In fact one chap told me he'd run a big chunk of this route 2 weeks ago and it was loads worse then. Immediately after I took this picture I spotted a lady I'd been running with earlier, Sharon, who tripped on this mud and fell over. We ran together for the next 10k or so.
Here's another one of the race photos. I had a hat at the start but it was too hot, so I took it off and then my hair kept getting in my face, so I used my buff to hold it back. I do look a bit strange though...
Race conditions were ideal by now, this is around the 37k mark. I was feeling strangely comfortable, I'd been taking it easy all day and was feeling fine and cheerful.
Probably about a mile from the end there is a horrifically muddy and totally impassable section without going straight through it. Oh well! Crack on!
Here I am crossing the finish line. Today's was a pretty slow, sluggish one, but with 991m of ascent and a significant amount of mud, plus having spent yesterday doing very little, I felt it was OK.