25th January 2020 – Amberley Museum
It seems a millennium has past since the start of the New Year. What is it that makes January go so slow? Whilst dark mornings and evenings are still with us, there was a glimmer of light on the horizon as I arrived for my 31st trail running adventure with the Maverick Race family.
Upon arrival (Yes I was one of the first to arrive again) I decided to have a quick drive up to the top of the first hill that we would all be running up later on in the day and see what the ground conditions were going to be like under foot once we all hit the trails.
I was greeted with a mixture of compact stone / gravel and grass tracks with plenty of mud and squelch adding to the mix. Along with a combination of low cloud cover and zero wind, making it a pleasant 6°c.
Race conditions were near on perfect.
Heading back down to the race village, there was the usual hype of activity as things were being set up to welcome over 600 runners for an epic day out on the South Downs. This event always draws in a large crowd and sells out weeks if not months in advance.
Parking was close to the race village and literally a two minute walk to the start line.
After normal protocol had taken place with meeting and greeting the gang. I decided to give a helping hand in putting the beer and medals out on display.
A word of advice. Don’t place a case of beer over the edge of a table and expect it to balance. It doesn’t. In a split second, crash, smash and the smell of cold beer filled the air. This was then swiftly met by an almighty cheer.
What a plonker!
Fortunately for me, luck was on my side. Can you believe it, only four bottles broke. I hoped this was not going to be a starter for how the rest of the day would unfold.
Once the mess I had created was cleared and my chores were complete, it was time for a coffee and to start preparing for race start. Normally I would run with limited kit, maybe a couple of gels and a foldable cup for topping up at the outposts. However I need to start getting some practice in with running with all the mandatory kit that is required for the much longer race adventures that I have planned in the future. Therefore I thought today would be a good day to start on that journey and carry extra kit. So with race vest packed, I headed over to the start line.
As per the norm, three race distances were on offer to suit all abilities of runner. 8km, 15km & 23km.
The first spilt of the race being at approximately 3.5km for the short route and the second split for the middle distance runners at around the 8.5 km point. There were two feed stations out on the course. The first at 6km replenishing both the middle and long distance runners and the second at around 14.5km replenishing only those running the long.
For all that follow my Insta feed, you will have picked up that this event and location holds a special place in my heart, as it was my first trail event that I ran with maverick race back in 2017. Therefore having run both the short and middle routes previously. It was time to run the long distance.
The announcement for everyone to move forward, towards the start was given by the race director and the race brief was given. All that was now required was the all clear on the traffic being stopped and we were off.
We pealed right out of the entrance to the museum and along the road for a short distance before turning right up a country lane and onto the first climb of the day. This climb would last approximately 1km with a gain in height of around 100m before dropping back down. So it was wise just to take it steady. There was no sprint off the starting blocks for me today.
As we all pushed up towards the top and onto the South Downs Way. The faster runners began to disappear into the distance and the pack began to thin out.
The second hill appeared in sight. This would be another 100m climb in height over a much shorter distance of around 300m. This was where those running the short route turned off to the right. For the remainder the hill continued with a more gradual climb over the next 2km, reaching a height of around 190m. This was the highest point of the race.
It was then down hill towards the first feed station, a quick intake of watermelon and a few chunks of banana, grabbing a couple of gels to see me through Until the next feed station and I was off once more. The next 8km was a more relax run. The big climbs were complete and all that was in front of me were some short sharp sections of undulating ground to negotiate every so often. However the terrain underfoot was now wet and muddy as we past through the woodlands.
Upon reaching the second feed station, I loaded up with some more banana and set off for the final leg. Clearing the forests, passing through the villages of Wepham and Burpham. It was out into the open and time to negotiate the infamous BOG!
For all those that had dodged and weaved through the puddles before hand. There was no way out of his one. It was time for everyone to get wet and dirty.
Whilst others were negotiating the edges of the prominent path. I decided to go straight down the middle. A distance of around 600 metres needed to be conquered.
Tactics paid off and I managed to gain a dozen or so places by the time I got to the end. Feet now frozen and numb, I made my way up the final climb of the route and then down through the railway station car park and into the finish line.
23km in just over 2:16mins.
All that was left now was to collect the race bling, beer and eat some pizza.