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.