Mouth 2 Mouth Marathon 2016

It’s December, it’s a bright frosty Saturday morning and it’s time for the Mouth to Mouth Marathon.

This is the last Sussex Trail Events race of the year, the inaugural Mouth to Mouth race and the 4th and final in the river marathon series for 2016.

The concept and the route are pretty simple. 6 flat kilomemtres up the river Adur from Shoreham by Sea, a 7.5km climb up to the top of the South Downs, a 4km descent back down, a 2.5km climb back up, 5.5km of undulations on the South Downs Way, a 3.5km descent to join the river Adur, then all the way to Littlehampton Marina following the river via Arundel on the flat.

The start time is 9am, so we arrived at 8.15, giving us plenty of time to check in, which is a quick, easy and well organised as with all Sussex Trail Events races and get the final preparations over with before heading outside for the customary informal and amusing race brief.


The race starts on the west side of the river before you cross the wooden bridge after ¾ of a mile and head north along the Downslink path before crossing back over Botolph’s Bridge, through Botolph’s village, where the climb up onto the South Downs begins. For anyone who has run the Downslink Ultra, I can assure you that the uneven paving slabs are easier after 2 minutes than after 38 miles.


The start of the climb marks the start of my first long walk and is the location for the first well laden aid station. I love this part of the Downs. The first section goes through a tree lined path and at this time of the year, the path is covered with leaves.


The climb continues past the pig farm to the top of the Downs. I obviously have mixed feelings about seeing the pigs. I love seeing them playing and messing around in the mud. Knowing their fate makes it a sadder place to be. I guess that if we’re going to insist on killing them, they do have a good time in the open while they’re alive and at least they’re not in a factory farm.


The views as we head over to Chantonbury Ring are beautiful and the sun kept shining.  Chanctonbury Ring marks the top of the first long climb, giving us the chance to make up some time on the way down to Washington.


At 16.5km you pass through Washington village, get a top up from the 2nd aid station and then head up on the long climb back to the top of the South Downs Way.  Oh yeah, and there were 2 donkeys. Donkeys are brilliant.  Just look at them.  Aaahhhhhh donkeys.


It is a long old walk (or run if you’re not human).


For anyone who has done the Steyning Stinger, this is one of the lovely climbs on that event too.

The climb and the walk are well worth it to get back onto the SDW and the lovely isolation that awaits.


Apart from the odd runner and a few walkers, the only other person I saw was the remarkable Jon Lavis, who yet again was out of the course, providing us with some outstanding photos.  Thanks again.


At 25k you get another aid station and a long descent to meet the Arun River, which is our guide back to Littlehampton.


As the legs started to feel the strain a little (I think I probably enjoyed the downhill section a little too much), the temperature dropped, the clouds rolled in and the wind increased.  As the river meandered towards the coast, the wind became more and more of an annoyance and things weren’t quite so pleasant.


At around 34.5km Arundel Castle came into view and about 10 minutes later, you could see it in all its glory.


After a quick road section through Arundel you join back on the river bank for the 7km to the finish line in Littlehampton Marina.

After the ups and downs earlier in the race, you’d expect the flat last section to be easy.  Never underestimate a flat rutted river bank.

And there you are, that is the Mouth to Mouth Marathon.  And this is me with my medal.  It’s a cracker as well.


I had no idea what to aim for with this race.  In reality, it is part of the build up to the Country to Capital in January.  As the race developed, I decided upon a target of 5 hours to keep me on task.  Given that I crossed the line in 4.59.26, that wasn’t a bad estimate.  It is 27/5 miles by the way, not actual marathon distance.

My race went very well.  I paced it well apart from being slightly too quick around the 17-18 mile downhill section.  I fuelled on Tailwind (2 sachets) and a bag of mini Nakd bites with raisins and sultanas, as well as the sweet and savoury offerings at the aid stations (mainly bananas and tortilla chips).

There is still a lot of work to do, but with experience comes more knowledge.  That knowledge now includes knowing how tough some of the hills will be between miles 45 and 50 on the South Downs Way 100.

On days like yesterday, I am reminded of one of the reasons why we run.  There has been some pretty rubbish news out there recently and I have been feeling the walls closing in at times.  The freedom of running and spending time with the trail running crowd is a fantastic way to release the pressure valve and remember how good it is to be alive, fit and healthy.

So, my verdict on the race.  The Sussex Trail Events team get the big things right.  By this I mean safety, having a nice route, making a challenging course, marking the course well, providing the right food at aid stations.  But it’s also the little things.  Knowing your name when you’ve done a few of their events, giving you a big smile when they see you, making you feel at ease and welcome before the race starts and having cups at the end with a little message on them.


While chatting to a lady on the way to Chantonbury, Andrew and I were asked why they don’t really advertise these races.  The answer was there’s no need, they always fill up anyway and I think that says it all.

Thank you Jay, Chris, Danny and all of the volunteers.  If the other runners had half as much fun as I did, they’ll be back for more of the river marathon series next year.

For me it’s on to the Bovington Marathon next Sunday and that’s it for 2016.

Take care and stay healthy, Neil.

The Lunar-tic Marathon 2016

Another week and another race that starts in the light goes into the night.  That’s the Lunar-tic marathon from Sussex Trail Events.

The course is flat, but don’t let that make you think that this is easy.  Maybe the fact that the Endure 1250 was only a week earlier made my legs a little heavier, but this race is not to be underestimated.

The race starts at 8pm.  Registration is quick and easy, as it always is with STE.  Plenty of time for a photo with the rest of the Burgess Hill Runners team before kick off.


The race starts with a couple of laps of the field at the Adur Outdoor Activities Centre before you head out onto the course itself for 3 laps before returning to the finish which is near by the start line.


My plan was to hang back for a while and keep running for as long as possible.  Waling was going to be inevitable at some stage.

We have done a lot of events around this part of Sussex.  The Downslink Ultra, The Darkstar Marathon and the BHR Downslink relay all take in this area of the River Adur.  It is easy to become bored and blasé about it, but it really is lovely.


This river has a place in my heart as it is a tidal river with mud flats, which reminds me so much of home.

It was important to make the most of being able to see the sights on the first lap, as the second and third were in darkness.

The laps were up the east side of the river, over the bridge at Bramber, down the west side of the river and then over the wooden bridge in Shoreham, which was the sight of the floral memorial for the air crash victims.


I had planned to go round in around 4.45, but this was very ambitious, given the tired legs, the terrain, which I found tough again and the fact that it was at night.  I began to slow down at around 16 miles, when it became obvious that 5 hours + was on the cards.

This was good for 2 reasons.  First of all, with longer distances on the horizon, I’m happy to get used to run/walking and secondly for the first time ever, I finished a race with Nick.


I was slightly in front at the last checkpoint when I heard her voice, so I decided to wait.  We kept each other going over the last 7km.

This could, should or might have been the race for Nick to come home in front of me (she did by a couple of seconds to be fair).  Who knows what would have happened if we’d actually raced for the last hour.  I thought that she was dragging me along, but it seems that the feeling was mutual.  It’s only a matter of time though.  She was so stubborn towards the end, she kept going and going.  So impressed to see it first hand.


And this is one of my favourite racing photos ever.  I’m so lucky to be able to do this and to share it with Nick.  Happy days.

A huge thank you to Jon for the wonderful photos and to Jay, Danny and Chris for another lovely race.

Next on the list is the Hard Half (also from Sussex Trail Events) and the East Farm Frolic on the same weekend.

Have fun and keep moving.  One foot in front of the other.








Velothon by Sussex Trail Events

The Velothon was the 2015 version of the track marathon organised by Sussex Trail Events.

I had done the Lemmings Track Marathon in 2014, so knew what lay ahead.  However, the Velothon had less laps.  Hurray.  Each lap was longer.  Boo.  Each lap of this 19th century cycling track was 579m, meaning the race was just over 72 laps.



Running a marathon is about preparation and this was the worst preparation that I have ever had for a race.  In fact, my participation was in some serious doubt in the lead up to race day.  Over the past month or so my anxiety levels have increased day by day.  I have regularly been skipping meals and taking more and more refuge in sleep, which becomes the safest place to be during these periods.  Getting out of bed each morning has been more and more difficult each day.  A corner seemed to be turned a couple of days before the race with a huge amount of help from Nick and a good few tears later I decided that I would give it a go.

So there were 4 of us Burgess Hill Runners at the race.  I was in very good company.  Philippe has completed so many marathons this year, he’s lost count.  Debbie was fresh from a cracking run at Beachy Head and Jamie is, well……..a machine.


In addition to this, the field of 30+ runners had many seasoned marathon runners, including several 100 Marathon Club members.  Well it is a bit of a crazy event and the weather was not looking good.

We gathered at Preston Park at around 8.20am to get ready and check out the course.  I really was not expecting the course to have such a climb on each lap.  The overall climb (and fall) for the whole race was 534m.  In addition, on 2 of the corners, there was quite a camber.  In my head I was thinking Olympic velodrome.  That would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

So, after a quick race brief (no need for a long one – just run round and round for a while) we were off.



One of my main mottos in my sport of choice is that I don’t really worry about what other people are doing.  It’s not about them, it’s about me.  Never is that more so than on a track marathon.  I think that the winner probably lapped me 20+ times.  If that troubles you, this probably isn’t the type of event for you.

So the mental and physical battle begins.  And as the event unfolds quite a few spectators come to watch.  This is a really welcome relief.  Some of the parkrunners from the event in Preston Park hung around to watch for a while and more and more Burgess Hill Runners kept appearing.  Amazing people.  It was wet, windy and the weekend and they gave up their time to give us a helping hand.  Amazing.  Especially being able to high five this young lady, who shouted my name lap after lap.


So what is there to say about the race.  Well, I wanted to do the first half in 2 hours.  Part of the prep for pacing for the Brighton Marathon.  Well, I got there in 1 hour 59 minutes and 15 seconds.  Mission accomplished.  It went downhill from there on.  A mixture of fatigue and the rubbish build up saw to that.  Also, the fact that I’m not ready for a 4 hour marathon yet.  All of my races this year have been off road and hilly and not about times, so this wasn’t a bad attempt.  I walked bit of the last 3 miles, but that’s not of any real importance at the moment.  This pace graph below sums it up really.


One of the big positives about a track marathon is that you get to visit the aid station and your own personalised drinks and food every lap, or every 579m in this case.


You also get the encouragement of the race organisers and the spectators each time you pass.  Hats off to the organisers.  It’s obviously easier to organise this event that is trail marathon, but it must be excruciating to watch the runners suffer lap by lap.  I look pretty miserable a lot of the time when I’ve got my race face on.  I can’t imagine what I must have looked like by the end.


22851841305_cc42fe36ae_k 22431775827_9e835018de_k22431533887_b034e8b9ab_k

So the end came round and the last few laps were knocked off slowly.  There were only half a dozen runners left on the track when I finished, but it was great to cheer them in, especially this chap who is a constant source of inspiration (and sweaty hugs).

22433954038_f4fbf9dbdd_kSo that’s my running finished for this year.  8 marathons, lots of fun and hard work.  Lots of great countryside, many wonderful new people met and a huge sense of pride and achievement.

The running diary is almost full for next year.  I think that I will be spectating on the Sussex Trail Events races next year rather than running.  If you are thinking of doing any of their races you will not be disappointed.  I promise.

Now to carry out the Brighton Sub 4 plan and to work on getting properly healthy.

Take care and once again a huge thank you to Jon Lavis for these photos.



Downslink Ultra 2015 by Sussex Trail Events

I’m starting to think that the Sussex Trail Events people have friends in high places.  Nick and I had the week off before the Downslink Ultra this year and it was glorious all week including the day of the race, with the forecast predicting a downturn immediately after the race finished.

This wasn’t all positive, however.  After 2 lovely days out celebrating our wedding anniversary in Brighton and Hove on Monday and Tuesday, I decided to hack away at the out of control hedge at the front of our house on Wednesday.  This is a cardinal sin during the week before a race, resulting in a shooting pain down my back and left leg and a couple of days on the sofa trying to make it better.

So, race day comes.  I’m pretty excited and managed a proper sleep the night before. Nick’s nervous, as it’s the longest she’s been and she’s concerned about spending so much time out running without any hills.  Some people will do anything for an excuse to walk, even if it means finding some hills.

We packed everything the night before, so there was no panic on Sunday morning, just a nice relaxed breakfast before the Lavis family arrived to take us to the start (Jon, Jan and Claire were the tail runners for the day).

It was cold, but sunny and it was nice to be in lovely surroundings and with some familiar faces at St Martha’s Church in the Surrey hills near Guildford.

Registration is quick, easy, organised and relaxed.

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After a few last minute preparations, we headed up the hill from the car park to the very picturesque start area where we received last minute instructions before we head off down the steep hill on the sand, careful not to get any sand in our shoes.







The plan is not to start off too quickly.  As it happens, it wasn’t possible given the steep downhill and the inevitable bunching caused by the fact that we met a horse on the way down the narrow section about 500 metres in.

The first section is the only part of this course that you could really consider as having any hills, but they are more like inclines.  As planned, I did walk up them though.

After about 4 miles you get onto the Downslink itself and from then on you just follow the signs.  It’s either completely flat, slightly up or slightly down (with the odd proper bit of hill thrown in).

I soon got into a really good rhythm which would get me to the end close to my target time. I completed the first half marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes.  I split this race into thirds. That’s 2 half marathons and then 12 miles and given the inevitable slow down towards the end, the aim is to get the 3 sections to be pretty equal.

Jon was at Rudgwick Station at the half marathon point and I was still looking calm and at this stage well in control.  To be fair, if I wasn’t, there was still a hell of a long way to go and I’d be in trouble.


So, the second half marathon starts.  The route is more of the same.  The Downslink path doesn’t change much.  It’s punctuated in certain places, especially near Christ’s Hospital on this section where so spend 15 minutes on the road and there is a climb to get back onto the Downlink path.

I had been on my own for some time now.  I had been with a large group up to around the 10 mile mark, but apart from overtaking a few people, it was pretty solitary.  I like that.  It’s just me and the little things ticking round inside me head.

Once back on the path after Christ’s Hospital at the 19 mile mark, there is a lot of downhill. That’s probably how Jon managed to take this picture of me still smiling and looking good at 20 miles.


Yes, this is a smile.  It’s as close as I get to a smile when me and running meet. I am incredibly joyous on the inside though.

This is where Jon was due to take over from Jan and Claire as tail runner, as they did the first 20 miles.

The second half marathon was a little slower.  I got there in 4 hours 34 minutes.  I must admit, I’m slightly disappointed by that.  I had hoped to run the first 2 half marathons in similar times, but the second one for 4 minutes slower.  Mind you, there was an extra aid station in the second half marathon, so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

I am now back on very familiar territory.  I have run a lot of the last section on many occasions in training and other races.

The next big goal is to get the the aid station at the Cat and Canary at Henfield.  This is a big boost as it is manned by my club, but it was a bit mad when I got there.  It is around the 46 km mark and apart from Jon, I hadn’t really spoken to anyone for about 2 hours.  To be greeted by around 20 people, all so encouraging, helpful and happy to see you was a bit weird.




I was so grateful for their support and was aware that I wanted to thank everyone for being there, but the main things on my mind were to get the water refilled, Zero tablets in the water, salt tablet down, a bit of food and off again before my legs stopped and the target time disappeared.

There was obviously enough time to pull a stupid face.


So, just ten or so miles left.  I still felt OK.  Tired, but OK.  My km times were slowing. Whereas up to marathon distance they started with a 6, they now started with a 7.

This is what I was expecting, but I’m so pleased with how the last section went.  I overtook quite a few people.  I didn’t walk (apart from the uphill bits).  Many of the km splits were down towards 7 minutes and one even went below 7 minutes.  It’s amazing what a bit of grit and determination can do, along with the desire to get under the time from last year.

I went through the last aid station very rapidly, just a quick drink and a bite to eat and off for the last 6 km.  This is were the course PB went out of the window.  There was a change to the course from last year, which added over 5 minutes.  The change made total sense in order to avoid crossing a really busy road.  Legs with well over 30 miles in them and a busy road are a recipe for potential disaster.

I kept pushing.  The third and second from last km’s were almost bang on 7 minutes.

I crossed the wooden bridge in Shoreham to get across the River Adur.  Until last week this had been the location of the floral memorial to the victims of the air disaster.  As I crossed the bridge, my thoughts turned to them.  On many occasions during runs like this I remind myself how lucky I am, especially when it’s tough.  I’m fit, healthy, surrounded by loving supportive people and I get the chance to be out in the countryside doing something that I love.  This really came home crossing that bridge.

So, there’s about a kilometer left and I tried to get home under the time from last year, but the uneven flagstones along that stretch made it too tough and I was 40 seconds out.  But there you go, what’s 40 seconds between me and my friend, the Downslink Ultra (especially given that there was an extra loop)?

I got home in 6 hours 55 minutes, which means that the last section of the race was 2 hours 22 minutes.  Slower than the first 2 sections, but very pleasing non the less.


I am happy to be getting near to the finish line.  Honest.  I’m just very good at not showing it.  Thanks for this picture Sarah and for handing me my medal.

12088068_10153164766118870_4755192543771400870_nThis medal is so precious.  It’s the smallest one I’ve got and I now have 2 of them.

So, I have done a few of these off road marathons now, so I’m getting used to them and learning from previous mistakes.

The positive things to come out of this one are that the feeding and watering worked well. I carried Nakd bar bite size pieces, which I ate regularly and tucked into a bit of savory and sugar at each aid station.  I drink sugary drinks at each aid station and filled up my water bottles including a Zero tablet in each bottle.  I also took a salt tablet at each aid station and I didn’t cramp once.

My pacing was pretty much spot on.  OK, I slowed down towards the end, but that was always going to happen.

The only thing that went wrong was screwing up my back the week before.  Don’t do gardening the week before a race kids.  It’s not the way forward.

My post race thoughts are mixed.  I was looking to build to a 50 mile race, probably in 2017.  I am currently very unsure about whether this is the way forward.  Going over marathon distance is very tough.  However, my thoughts on this race are incredibly positive.  The events organised by Sussex Trail Events are fantastic.  Whether it’s your first or your 100th marathon, it doesn’t matter.  These events are relaxed, welcoming and the organisers are great fun to be with.

If you are thinking of stepping up from marathon distance to a real ultra distance, this is perfect for you.

Sadly, I don’t have any of the photos that I took out on the course, as my phone has decided that it’s not happy with the world and the photos have been lost.

If you want to see a little more of the course, check out this video from Stephen Cousins

All of his videos are brilliant and this is no exception.

All of the photos of the event on this blog are supplied by Jon Lavis and Paula Ridley.  Thank you both very very much.  Thank you to the Lavis family for everything, not just the lift to the start and thank you to all of the Burgess Hill Runners out there on the course and at the aid station.  Being able to give Wayne some cockney abuse at a low point really picked me up.  Thank you to Sussex Trail Event and all of the volunteers for making this happen.

Take care all, Neil.

Dark Star Ultra – 2015

It is impossible to complete a race report for the 2015 Dark Star Ultra Marathon without referring back to 2014.  For those of us who were there it is something that we will probably never forget and we experienced conditions that we hope never to experience ever again.

The end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 have certainly been less ‘floody’ than the previous winter, leaving ground conditions easier than the first running of this event.  More importantly, the weather on the day was almost perfect.  No torrential rain, no 30 mph winds for the 14 miles on the home leg.

Having said this, it doesn’t make this event easy. Far from it. I would rank it as second on my list of toughest events behind the same event last year. The ground on the river bank on the way out was lumpy and frozen solid, making life tough at times. On the way back the inconsiderate 70 of so runners in front of me decided not to levitate. Instead, they churned up the now soft ground that had warmed up as the temperatures moved above zero.

So, this is the Dark Star event.  Low key (as all Sussex Trail Events are), 95 runners, very friendly and full of runners who prefer off road, mud and the countryside to tarmac and supporters cheering you on.  There is a big range of running abilities.  You certainly don’t have to be quick to take part in any Sussex Trail Events race (although there are cut off times).


This event is 14 miles north along the banks of the river Adur (over the stiles that they so helpfully put in your way) and up the Downslink path to the old West Grinstead railway station.  This is where we were met by the wonderful Burgess Hill Runners aid station and where we turned around and head back to where we came from.


My race prep had been rubbish.  I was ill over the majority of Christmas and New Year and my longest run since October had been 13 miles. Far from ideal, but there you go.  I put my positive head on, set some realistic targets and set off.

My club, Burgess Hill Runners was the best represented club and 4 of us were pretty close to begin with.

10410642_10152649534613870_5957705292945416421_n1549449_10152649364628870_1218185757399585996_n10682227_10152649535288870_3172371489338042745_oI was being dragged along too quickly and even though the company was excellent, I decided to slow down. The plan was to get to half way, stop, chat, re-fuel and leave the aid station after 2 and a half hours.  I left the aid station 2 minutes ahead of schedule.  Not bad really.

10690132_10204351281076525_8463328908636640905_n 10952589_10204351674286355_574479322224837426_nThe journey home is much tougher than the journey out.  Obviously, you have 14 miles in your legs already.  The wind, although not too strong, was in your face and there are a lot more stiles on the way back compared to the way out.


Apart from the plan about my speed, I also stopped at each aid station to eat and drink, as well as doing the same between stations. This may sound obvious, but I have been a culprit of not doing this properly in the past.

I got home in 5 hours 9 minutes and 35 seconds.  That’s 54 minutes quicker than last year.  I think that this is mainly down to the conditions, but also my race plan and determination helped to shave such a huge chunk off my time.  Very pleased with my first outing of the year.


I can’t recommend these Sussex Trail Events enough.  Organised by runners for runners. They’re great fun, very friendly and a real challenge.

Happy running, Neil.

A huge thank you to Jon Lavis and Helen Pratt for the brilliant photos.

Here is a brilliant video of the day from a fellow runner –

Downslink Ultra 2014

When the alarm goes off at 5.30 on a Sunday morning, you know that something special is about to happen.

To be fair, there was no real need for the alarm clock as I’d been awake for a while in anticipation for my longest race so far, the Downslink Ultra, which totals 38 miles from Guildford to Shoreham by Sea on the coast near Brighton.


The weather forecast had promised near perfect conditions, although I hadn’t expected to have to scrape thick ice off the car before setting off.

The race starts at the church on St Martha’s Hill near Guildford.

We were met by the organisers at the car park, before heading up the hill for registration and then further up the hill to the start.



The 10 minute uphill walk to the start was well worth it.  This is definitely the most spectacular start to an event I have seen.





Burgess Hill Runners were the most represented club at the event with 7 of us starting (and finishing) the challenge.



So, pre-race brief over and photos taken, we set off bang on 9am.


As you can see from these photos, the start is on sand, as is the first mile or so.

Luckily it is almost impossible to set off too quickly as the downhill section is steep and tricky.

Once you are onto the relatively flat section, and, to be fair, most of the course is either flat or downhill, you can find your rhythm and settle in.

There is a forest section for about 4 miles.  This was really enjoyable as I hadn’t run this section before.  It was very similar terrain to sections of the Farnham Pilgrim.


From there on, it is almost all flat or downhill.


The Downslink path is lovely.  For the most part, all you can hear is bird song, the sound of your own trainers and the greetings of the passers by.  The course provides very pleasant surroundings and lots of people out walking their dogs and riding their bikes.  Pretty much perfect if this is your first Marathon plus distance event.




As you would expect from the Sussex Trail Event team, the aid stations, which were at regular intervals, are very well manned, well stocked and very well organised.  You couldn’t ask for more really.

I am obviously slightly (very) biased, but no aid station was better than the one at the Cat and Canary pub in Henfield at just over 28 miles, which was run by Burgess Hill Runners.  The welcome was warm, the encouragement in abundance and the food excellent.  There were even roast potatoes.  This is just the boost that you need, as many people were entering into unknown territory at that stage.


10262089_10152464600202983_8072978537025873843_n1545149_10152464599027983_4513946326087148363_n The end of the event is by the Adur Outdoor Activity Centre in Shoreham.

One of the beauties of the Sussex Trail Events races is the fact that they are very low key.  They are organised by runners for runners.  The finish personifies this.


Along with the supporters waiting for their loved ones to arrive, there are just 2 ladies recording the finishing details and the Sussex Trail Events flags.  At least the timers had better conditions than they did for the Dark Star Ultra in January.  Inside the building, however, there are excellent facilities to shower, get changed and a free veggie chilli is provided.

20141005_160307As for my race, it couldn’t have gone better.  I had a target finish time range of between 7 hours 10 minutes and 7 and a half hours.

For the first half marathon I had the company of Philippe, who was competing in his first Ultra event.  We had discussed the absolute necessity to set off slowly.



We were a little quicker than hoped, but it pretty much worked.  Only 2 of my quickest kilometre splits were in the first 20 kilometres.

Being with someone desperate to slow down and constantly using your watch to achieve this was hugely important.

There was a long downhill section just after the first half marathon and this is where I left Philippe to his own devices.

I actually speeded up in the second half marathon.  I did the first one in 2 hours 23 minutes and the second in 2 hours 19 minutes.  This was almost certainly a little too quick, as the last 10km proved, but I was full of confidence and was fuelling and hydrating really well.

Hydration and fuelling is something that I have always struggled with.  This hit home at the Track Marathon in May.  Even though I passed the aid station every 400m on the Track Marathon, I didn’t eat or drink enough.  On the Downslink, I was encouraged to take my time at the aid stations by the fact that lots of other runners were doing the same thing.  Without a doubt, taking the time to fuel will help later in the race and is essential.


If I describe the last 10km as having the wheels fall off, I would be doing myself an injustice.  However, they were tough. Only once did I drop below my initial target pace though and that we due stopping at the aid station at Bramber.

I managed to re-assess the situation at the aid station.  I was feeling a bit sick and cramp was trying to get me.  I tried to eat some salty crisps, but had to ditch them and get on with it.

Pretty quickly I hatched a new plan as I could see that I may go below 7 hours.  For every km from Bramber to the end I ran 800m and walked 200m.  The 200m was a treat and this helped to get me through the first 800m and I knew that this would guarantee me getting under 7 hours.

It worked.  I can’t believe it.  I went into the event with a lot of confidence and more self belief that I have had for some time, but I didn’t expect to go sub-7.

20141005_160126So there we go then.  Mission accomplished and some more.


On the day, it was incredible to have Burgess Hill Runners out on the course and at the aid stations to support.  You have once again proved what an awesome club and an amazing group of people you are.

Finally, the support of Nick on the day and throughout the training has been the best xx.

I hope that this proves that Ultra distance events are definitely within the range of average runners like me.  The sense of achievement is amazing and will never go away.

Finally, to the boys at Sussex Trail Events, you are brilliant.

Thank you.

And finally, this event is so good, it makes you do this…………

10659309_10152461623687983_7575716678715018175_nThe photos are either mine or stolen from Caz Wadey (thank you).

The Lemmings Track Marathon 2014

26 miles, 106 laps of a 400 metre track.  That’s the Lemmings Marathon in a nut shell.


Rubbish idea, don’t you think?  It’ll be as dull as dishwater.

Well that’s where you’re wrong. 

As runners, we’re always out for a new challenge and that’s exactly what the Lemmings marathon is.

Mentally it’s very tough.  Apart from the fact that the scenery is repeated over and over again, I found counting down from 106 to be draining.  I measure my runs in kilometres, but mentally counting down from 106 seemed much more daunting than 42 kilometres.


Apart from the usual strains that a marathon puts on the body, this one uses the same muscles all of the time.  As there are no hills, there is no respite of going up or downhill.

That’s what makes this so tough.

There are many things that make this event as good as it is.

First of all, the majority of the runners are in the same boat as you.  They have never done a track marathon before and are doing this out of curiosity.  I did look up a few times at the start and think that it must have looked a bit crazy if you didn’t know what was going on.

There is more of a chance of mixing with fellow runners, as you pass and are passed on so many occasions.  You actually get the chance to share the event with the front runners, as they are never more than 100m or so away from you.

You are also never more than 400m of running away from the aid station or your kit bag.  In true Sussex Trail Events style, the aid station was stocked with the usual goodies.

20140816_084119The Sussex Trail Events team also came up with a fantastic idea for the end of the race.  As the runners approached the start of the last lap, they sounded a cow bell and the runner finishing turned around and ran the last lap in the opposite direction.  Not only did this give the runners the chance to say well done, it seemed like a huge boost for those still out on the course.

10609259_10152358665462983_1892393021_nFor the spectators and the organisers, it was also a pretty unique experience.  You only usually see the runners at the start, the end and maybe at one stage during the marathon.  Seeing the runners every 400m throws up its own challenges.  You need to work out when people need encouragement and when they really don’t want to hear from you.  You also get to see them going through the bad patches which are normally hidden from view out on the course.

So, if you’re looking for a challenge this really is something that you should look at when it makes a re-appearance in 2015.  Ideas have been floated for a 6 or 12 hour challenge.  Whatever it is, I will certainly give it serious consideration.

Thank you to the supporters, the runners that I met and the organisers for all of the support and encouragement.

2013Perfect timing in the Downslink training cycle and this has certainly given me the confidence that I can achieve that goal.

Enjoy yourselves. Neil.