3 Forts Half Marathon

This was my first 3 Forts Half Marathon.  In fact it was my first hilly trail half.  I have done the 3 Forts Marathon twice, so knew what it was all about and this year just fancied doing the Half.

That was a pretty good choice, given the recent illness, as I would not have enjoyed the extra 14 miles.

They call this event ‘The Tough One’ and there is no doubt why.  This is the elevation graph for the Half.  The 27 mile race is certainly no less up and down.


So, 3 Forts.  It’s low key.  Around 400 doing the Marathon (well 27 miles actually) and the same number doing the Half.  The Marathon starts 30 minutes before the Half, which works perfectly with the narrow paths in the first 2 miles.


They send you your chip timing race number in the post or you pick it up on the day.  It’s easy.  Bag drop takes 30 seconds and they ask for a donation to their charity.  There is hot food and drink available.  Toilets, shelter, a group warm up.  You know, pretty much everything that you need.

The race heads out of the field at Hill Barn Rec in Worthing, up a road for 200 yards (this is the only section of road that you see – you come down the same section on the way back) and then you’re on trails.  Oh yeah.  Trails.  Thank god for that.  Bye-bye tarmac.  A summer of trails, grass and hills beckon.


It is 3.2km straight up to Cissbury Ring.  It flattens out in a couple of places, but it is nothing more than a small respite.  Anyone at my pace will walk up here (if they have any sense).



What goes up must come down.  That’s what happens from 3.2k to 5.3k.  You pass the first aid station and enjoy the freedom to stretch your legs.




This section is very empowering and great fun.  Best make the most of it.  What goes down must go up, especially when the high point of the race is Chanctonbury Ring.

From 5.3km to 10.8km the elevation varies from steep uphill to slightly uphill, with the odd short section of rolling ups and downs.


And this is the view back down the hill.


The views are just fantastic.  One of the good things about walking up the hills is that you get the chance to take in the countryside.




And the hills keep coming until you reach the highest point of the race at Chanctonbury Ring.  By the way, don’t expect that to be the end of the hills.


From there, you have 3k of decent.  It’s lovely.  It can be a little tough on the knees and quads, but most of it has a gradient that is gentle enough for you to run it comfortably.



And then comes the first sting in the tail.  Well to be honest, it’s the first of 2 stings in the tail.

There are 2km of ascent and it’s pretty steep in places.  I was wondering if I’d be able to run sections of it, given that I was only doing the Half and I’d had to walk it on the Marathon.  No chance.  I had to walk most of it.

You then have around 2km of descent and flat until you meet Cissbury Ring again.  Once you have walked over it (no way at this stage am I thinking about running up here) it’s downhill all the way.  You are now retracing your steps to the start.

So that’s it.  The 3 Forts Half.  My race was good.  I wasn’t ill.  That’s the most important part.  I had a time of 2 hours 10 in my head and went just under 2 hours 13.  That’s good.  Time is almost an irrelevance on events like this.

I pride myself on being able to pace myself well.  This can apply to hilly events as well as flat road races.  It’s just a different way of doing it.  I was as quick on the downhill sections at the end as I was at the start.  There was still something left in the tank.  For someone with my ability, walking up the hills and running the flat and downhill works perfectly.

If anyone wants to run this race next year, I’d highly recommend it.  It’s very well organised.  The timing is done by chip.  They have cake at the end.  The marshals are lovely.  The course is tremendous.  Not easy at all, but flat is dull.  For the medal hunters out there, the lump of metal is nice as well.


That’s it, I think I’ll search out some similar Half Marathons in the future.

Take care, Green Belt Relay, here we come.


3 Forts Challenge 2015

Be careful what you wish for.

This is the phrase that currently springs to mind. For the 3 Forts Challenge last year I really struggled in the heat, so was really hoping for cooler weather. Well that exactly what we got. There was the promise of rain at the start with a bit of wind, but it was a lot more unpleasant than that.

The 3 Forts Challenge is a tough course at the best of times, but there was an added sting yesterday.


The rain stopped before we started, as predicted by the forecasters, so we set off for the 27 hilly miles in the dry.

The first 2 miles are all uphill.  Some of it you can run, some you can’t.  Walking is sometimes the only option, especially as the chalky path is pretty narrow.

20150503_101450_Richtone(HDR)20150503_101231_Richtone(HDR)20150503_100936From these photos, you get an idea of what was waiting for us at the top of the hill, as the mist is there for all to see.

At the top of the first hill, you turn right, past the first check point and from there to the River Adur crossing, it’s either downhill, flat or short inclines that on the whole are not too challenging.


20150503_102618_Richtone(HDR) 20150503_103326_Richtone(HDR) 20150503_105229_Richtone(HDR)

The aid station at Botolphs Bridge, the Adur crossing marks the start of the real pain.

The first climb to the aid station at the Youth Hostel is 200m of elevation gain in 2 miles.

At first it’s impossible to run, but it does level out with just over a mile of gradual incline.  It is at this stage that the sea mist and the wind really seemed to increase and it felt pretty uncomfortable.  Although mainly a side wind, it was slightly behind us at that stage.


Once on the top and half way over to Devil’s Dyke, the visibility dropped and my thoughts started to turn to the fact that we had to turn round and head back into the wind.

20150503_121600_Richtone(HDR) 20150503_113015_Richtone(HDR)

The section from the Youth Hostel to the Dyke and back didn’t actually seem so bad this year.  There were probably a couple of reason for this.  I set off more slowly than last year and I knew what was coming at mile 16, which makes this section seem a little less of a worry.

I was around 50 metres away from the aid station at the turn around point when it actually came into view, such was the mist. The wind was blowing it around in front of us as well, making it pretty unpleasant.

So, we turn around, back to the River Adur, with all of the ups and downs in reverse.

Mile 16 is where it starts to get interesting. I say interesting, I mean really really tough. It is more or less 5 miles to Chanctonbury Ring.  It’s mainly uphill.  Some of it steep, some not so steep, but at this stage and with the wind, everything felt pretty steep.

20150503_131228_Richtone(HDR) 20150503_132006_Richtone(HDR)

At this stage lots of people were either walking or walk/running. I had a target time in my head and knew the pace I needed to get to Chanctonbury at to make the time. So it was walk/run for me for 5 miles.


Loved seeing the little piglets roaming free at the pig farm on the way up.  It was the only positive of the bad weather.  No flies and no smell, which made this section unpleasant last year.

So, the end of the climb was near, but I couldn’t see the top.  This is why.


I was about 30m from the aid station and the trees when they popped into view.

So it was downhill from here. Apart from the uphill bit.  There were 2 uphill bits.  1 was much longer than I remember it.  It was a mile long with 100m elevation gain at 23 miles.  Ouch.  Everyone was walking.

17167955438_90126671c7_o 17168184330_160c64567b_o

 Although I look a little worse for wear in these photos, I was still running most of it and actually felt better than last year.

After the last short sharp hill at 25 miles, it’s downhill all the way on the slippery rutted chalk path that we had gone up about 5 hours earlier.

I got home in 5 hours 5 minutes and 35 seconds, which is 6 and a half minutes off my time from last year.


This event is brilliant.  Small enough to be the type of event that attracts me. Big enough to offer good aid stations and excellent organisation. A course that is tough enough to push you as far as you can go, but not enough to totally break you.

That’s 2 years running that I’ve completed the event and will probably look for a different challenge this time next year.  However, this is one that I’d encourage anyone to do. It is also available in half marathon format, for those not wanting to do the full 27 miles.

The Achilles held up pretty well and all in all it was a very successful day.

A huge thank you to Jon Lavis for being out on the course taking photos on such a horrible day.

A massive thank you to all of the organisers and volunteers for making this event what it is.

Have fun and take care. Green Belt Relay is next for me.


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.