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.
The 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
So there you go. That’s the 3 Forts Challenge. It’s tough, beautiful and totally brilliant.
Have fun and happy running.
Nice write up Neil. I’ve spoke to a few people that agree that the couple of miles up to Chanctonbury is the Road to Hell! I don’t know what they put in the squash up there but it works like magic.
Thank you Sally. That section certainly tested my spirit. That aid station was one of the most welcome I have ever seen. Have you done it before?
I did the 11 mile last leg of the relay last year so was familiar with that part except I was on fresh legs at the time – speeding past very weary marathoners. Still, these things are like childbirth – they never put you off!
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