Weald Marathon and Ultra

This week has been a bit of a recovery week after the Green Belt Relay.

I ran the Trundle Hill 10k on Wednesday as part of the West Sussex Fun Run League. This type of race isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it. It’s pretty much 3 miles up and 3 miles down with the odd flattish bit added in.

This is one of the flattish bits


This is one of the midweek races that is difficult to get to after work, so I just wanted to turn up and score some points for the team.

It turns out that I ran pretty well.  The course is just over 10k and I went round in just over 54 minutes.  There’s a competitor in there that won’t let me ‘just take part’.

10362574_10152188783877983_3873742148220295954_nI managed to muster a half decent finish as well.

1798591_10152188797882983_5328042181750729330_nSo it was a volunteering and supporting weekend really.  Clair parkrun on Saturday (116 runners, keeping up our 100+ streak) and then to support friends on the Weald Marathon and Ultra.

This event is a half marathon, full marathon and 50km Ultra.  It takes in a long section of the Vanguard Way.

10262160_10152135892788870_5615551402701127217_nIt’s lovely.  It’s a tough one, on trails and there is still quite a bit of mud out there.

10373834_10152135911778870_1410388809736187525_n10403240_10152136058093870_8404685102683323312_nWe ended up running about 12 miles accompanying Jay and Caz on their first ever marathon.

1966843_10152136049083870_3420061827188769755_nThis event is definitely on the calendar for next year.

Another nail in the coffin of doing another road marathon.

Not only did we get to run a section of the course, but while waiting for the BHR runners to come in, we got some timely and sage advice from Coach Lavis, our Ultra specialist.

It’s 20 weeks until the Downslink Ultra.  I need a training plan with no races added in for no reason.  This is now the only goal and everything else must be done with that in mind.

So today has been spent researching a training plan, which I have got to the bottom of.  There’s going to be a lot of long Saturday and Sunday runs over the next 4 months, starting from now…….

Have fun and take care.  Happy running.


The Green Belt Relay 2014

For those of you who don’t know what the Green Belt Relay is, here is a quick synopsis.

It is a race around the Green Belt that surrounds London with teams of 11 runners, each running 2 stages over 2 days, with a total distance travelled of 220 miles.  This year there were 33 teams.

10353582_10202698102188086_19016499223464344_nWe set off from Burgess Hill in 3 vans at 6.30 on Saturday morning.  I was seriously nervous.  I’d done all of the planning to get the 3 vans and 11 runners, plus support crew to each of the stages on time.  As this was the first year we had taken part, I had no idea if it would work. My nerves were not helped by the fact that I put a quarter of a tank of unleaded into a diesel van on the way to the start and I then proceeded to drive for a couple of minutes with the hand brake on.  I only realised when we saw the black smoke and the van filled with a horrible burning smell.

Anyway, we got the Hampton Court Palace on time.  The grandest place I have ever begun a race by some distance.  It was already getting hot and I had 12.7 miles ahead of me.  I don’t do well in the heat.

10310978_10202698109988281_6310574872973060717_n10390919_10152226440037655_7723856900896655611_nThat’s me on the far side.  It’s the closest to winning the event that we got 😉

10339766_10202698035746425_5337830567801192565_nSo, we gathered round for the pre-race brief and before I knew it, we were off.  A guide runner escorted us across Hampton Court Bridge and then the race begin on the tow path on the other side.

stage 1This should have been a lot easier than it was.  It suddenly dawned on me that I was one of the slowest runners.  By a distance as well.  Stupidly I set off too quickly as I was concerned about getting lost.  This was one of the easier stages though.  It was flat and simple to navigate.  The only difficulty was the heat, the length, my preparations and the fact that I set off way too quickly.

The tow path was amazing.  So may great views.  No photos sadly.  There were 4 runners in my van and I didn’t want to hold the team up by taking photos, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say how lovely it was (or check it out on the Green Belt Way website).

The heat really got to me and I struggled and my pace dropped.  I finished towards the back of the field in 1 hour 56 minutes for 12.4 miles.  I didn’t cover myself in glory with the speed of my run, but it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

As I was running, stages 2 and 3 also got under way.  Our other 2 vans took those runners to the start of the relevant stages.  There were several occasions over the weekend on the longer stages where we had 3 runners on the course at the same time.

Here are some nice pictures of the other members of the team strutting their stuff.

20140517_15272610407012_10202697976784951_5368449167174159554_n10378529_10202698004745650_5016063969116671230_n10363266_10202697827101209_8812061909930037236_n10341644_10202697950584296_5256523599015358387_n10292537_10202697910063283_8602180346329766628_nThe rest of my day was spent getting the other 3 runners in my van to the start of their stages.

Jay’s leg was a long tough one and the sun was blazing down by that stage.  Sun block was definitely the order of the day.

1010076_10152120713823870_8812153680425254078_n10255278_10152124462463870_7062844774972783544_nNick was next.  It was a struggle for her and she was just happy to get over the line, which she did in a pretty creditable time as well.  Here she is at the finish line.  She definitely is a legend, who makes her husband very proud of her.

10366299_10152124462718870_9125473157249461584_n10366019_10152121109428870_111449975160846336_nThe final runner of the day from our van was Steph.  She had a tough leg through Epping Forest.  This is her at the end.  She was pretty keen to speak to whoever chose her for stage 10.

10307244_10152124463068870_6876096411499867330_n10307183_10152226456182655_2555637662073432650_nIt was a long day. The last leg didn’t finish until around 8.30 and we then had to get to Romford, check into the Travelodge and get to the restaurant that we had booked.

We didn’t sit down to eat until 10.30, but it was a great way to round off the day.  A couple of beers and a curry and an insight into the nightlife of Romford.

Day 2 started early.  The first leg of the second day began at 8am, so the first van left the hotel at 7am.

Jay ran the first leg in my van on day 2.

10363610_10152124465513870_1039295697001475293_nMy leg on day 2 (stage 16) could not have been more different from day 1.  The map and instructions describe this leg as ‘not only the toughest leg, but also a complex one, and runners in the past have gone a long, long way wrong.’  Also, there are 360 metres of climbs, a huge climb at half way and it felt hotter than the previous day.  I also had over 12 miles in my legs from the previous day and 3 nights of 5 hours sleep.

Is there any wonder I looked terrified at the pre-race brief?

10325332_10152226459382655_3482985161696893327_nThere was a huge difference on this day.  I was going to run my own race, enjoy the countryside and tackle the map reading.

As expected, straight from the start, everyone ran away from me.  After 2 miles, the only time I saw other runners was when they’d gone wrong and had temporarily promoted me from last place.  It didn’t matter.  This was my race for me to enjoy.

Again, there are no photos.  It was too tough for that and I did want to do myself justice, which I did.  13.3 very hilly miles in 2 hours 20 minutes.

10320567_10152124531478870_2518803791539814284_nstage 2This is one of my best performances ever.  It may not seem like it from the outside, but after a pretty emotional week, lots of driving and little sleep, I think I stormed it, even though I finished some distance behind the rest of the field.

The marshals were amazing.  Just incredible.  When there was a marshal station at the top of a hill, the marshals walked to the bottom to give me a drink to help me up the hill, before giving me another drink at the top to help me on my way.

The race ajudicator, David Clarke followed me on his bike for a lot of the road section, advising me on the route and giving me encouragement.

On one of the road sections the Accenture team were going to the finish to collect one of their runners when they stopped to give me a bottle of water.

That sums up the level of camaraderie and support at the whole event.

The difficulties that everyone faced with the heat are summed up perfectly by Karen’s means of cooling down at the end of her stage on day 2.

10361969_10202698113988381_5448446266724305864_nWe also had to marshal a stage on each day.  Many of the marshalling points were manned by the other teams.  It’s a great way to get the marshalling done and a lovely way to give something back to the event.

10363840_10202698105588171_457132791717122768_n10176176_10152122387758870_5933165096338083585_nIt wasn’t all about the running either.  We all had chance to sit down, take in some of the lovely sunshine and relax, while waiting for runners to arrive at the end of their stage.

10402832_10202697855021907_4619345121550202122_n10329012_10202697997225462_1137165301886653503_n1964777_10202697881742575_575907504359134641_nAnd here are some of the lovely sights that we saw

1782068_10202697841341565_1430761811150564112_n10380769_10153254127428306_8570800317559472485_n10389666_10202698103308114_6094368874014937412_n20140518_144634So after 2 days and 220 miles and a total of 36 hours 31 minutes and 20 seconds of running, Linda, our runner on the last leg arrived at the finish on the banks of the Thames in Kingston.

10295785_10152124466458870_6051735378543856311_n10329289_10152124466668870_378032525721490237_nWe’d finished.  Not only had we managed to complete the distance, with every runner completing their leg, we’d managed to get every runner to the start each leg on time (or nearly on time).

10156009_10202698404075633_7068467517217346913_nThis is all of us under the finish line.  Smiles all round.

What an amazing event.  I’m so proud of what we achieved.  We’re not the quickest, but we gave it everything we had, certainly went outside our comfort zones and came out the other side with some great memories and a great sense of satisfaction.

1010077_10202698405515669_1265122446434787656_nThank you to all of the Burgess Hill Runners for sharing this with me.  Thank you to the Stragglers and everyone who organised and marshalled this event.  It really does put getting 130 people around Clair parkrun into perspective.

This is a very tough event.  Don’t ever doubt that.  It’s tough to run and it’s tough to get your team around the course.  It is definitely worth every bit of the effort it took.

Have fun and take care,


10378004_10152123484878870_6652970454268006511_nPhotos courtesy of Paula Ridley and Helen Pratt.

The 3 Forts Challenge 2014

Well I’m sitting here, pretty sun burnt and with slightly aching thighs and all I can say is that this event is tremendous.

If you like long distances, trail running, beautiful countryside and meeting nice people, then add this event to your calendar for next year.  Don’t wait until race day though, as it sells out.


It’s tough.  It’s really tough.  It’s 27.2 miles with 3,165 feet of climbs.  Unless you are of a certain standard, I’d saying 3.30 hour marathon standard, then you’ll be walking some, if not all, of the hills.

elevationThe start is near Worthing, at the recreation ground on Hill Barn Lane.  The facilities are excellent, parking is at the local college and I had no problems arriving an hour before kick off.

20140504_095144_Richtone(HDR)The race started at 10am and we headed out of the park, along a small country lane and quickly off road, up the side of Hill Barn Golf Course.  It is either uphill or flat all of the way as far as Cissbury Ring.  That’s around 2 miles.  I ran some of it.  I found some of it impossible to run.  There were sections that I could have run, but walked, as I wanted to save energy even at this early stage.

The picture below is the chalky rutted section of this climb at its most difficult.

20140504_101439_Richtone(HDR) After your first visit to Cissbury Ring, you head east for around 4 miles, mainly downhill, but with several short sharp climbs (all of which I walked up).

20140504_103430_Richtone(HDR)At 7 miles you cross the River Adur and come to the road crossing before the ascent up Truleigh Hill.  It’s tough at this point.  A 700ft climb in 2 miles.  To begin with it is really steep, as you can see in the photo below.

20140504_111256_Richtone(HDR)It does level out a quite considerably and after about a 10 minute walk, I started to run again.

There is a check point and aid station at the YHA hostel at the top and after you pass through there you continue east over the undulating trails (severely undulating at times) to Devil’s Dyke.  At the turn round point Devil’s Dyke, there is another aid station.

10253978_10152773461764018_7972978474782237900_nI do seem much happier than everyone else at this stage.  I was very pleased to see Darren (thank you for the photo and support Darren).

After refuelling, you turn round and head back over the same paths back to the River Adur.  The downs on the way out, are now the ups on the way back.

20140504_114228_Richtone(HDR)This is the last of the photos that I took out on the course.  I was just too knackered to bother getting my camera out of my bag.  All my energy was concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.

Having walked back down Truleigh Hill as it was too steep for me to run, we headed over the River Adur and up towards Chanctonbury Ring.

This was the killer section for me.  4 and a half miles of climbs totalling around 770ft.  It is pretty relentless, almost all uphill and the flat sections just seemed uphill.  I walked all of the steep sections and jog/walked the less steep.

I had a target time of 5 hours 15 minutes in my head and knew that jog/walking this whole section would enable me to get there.

Having got to Chanctonbury (21 miles), surely that was it done and dusted.  All downhill from there.  Oh no.  The downhill section was tough.  Quicker, obviously.  It’s downhill.  However, it was tough on my quads and they had started to hurt now.

There are also 2 more climbs just to test you that little bit further.  The climb at 23 miles is around 300ft and then after the last aid station you climb back over Truleigh Hill at 25 miles.  This one is just 150ft.  Hardly worth mentioning really.

So that’s it.  It is officially downhill from here.  Well yes, all downhill, but down the really rutted chalk path I had walked up nearly 5 hours earlier, only this time with burning achy quads.

Looking at my watch, the 5 hour 15 minutes I was looking for was well within my grasp.

It was total concentration on not going over on an ankle and avoiding the ruts.  There was a group of us all trying to get under 5.15.

As the path widened, 5 or 6 people overtook me, as I was fighting not to cramp up.

The last marshals were in sight.  One right turn, 200 yards down the road, a left turn back into the park and the finish line was there.

5 hours 13 minutes and 5 seconds.  Mission accomplished.


Time to see the rest of the Burgess Hill Runners home and then off to the pub to replace some liquids, salt and to show off the medal.

20140504_171427_Richtone(HDR)So there you go.  That’s the 3 Forts Challenge.  It’s tough, beautiful and totally brilliant.

Have fun and happy running.