The Longman Marathon promised an all trail route and plenty of hills, and it delivered in fine style. We were also blessed with some great weather. It was certainly cold and very windy on the more exposed hills, but the sun was shining and when off the ridge and running in the sun it was fantastic.
I had entered this race as a training event, so that meant no taper, and very little scheduled recovery. A day off, and then back into the routine of more hills and interval sessions. As a result I had set myself three goals:
- Complete the event in 4 hrs
- Finish strong i.e. run an even or negative split
- Don’t get injured
The race was well organised, and after a short briefing we walked across the main road to the start. With three races (10k, 10 mi, 26 mi) all starting at the same time and sharing the course for the first few miles it was a little hard to manage pacing, and I probably started a little too fast, but soon settled down to a comfortable speed as we looped around and over some hills south of Falmer.
As I reached a marshall at 9 miles, I was told to turn right, while the other runners around me were directed off to the left. I was enjoying the run and still feeling good, so felt happy to have more running ahead of me. I ran down a hill and recognised the SDW trail markers – familiar territory from last year. The route then crossed the A27 at Housedeam Farm where I grabbed a flapjack at the checkpoint, and headed up a steep hill. I walked this section, while eating my flapjack in true ultra runner style, and watched a couple of people running up, but not really gaining much ground. There was then a steep downhill through the woods, before a long but runnable 4 mile climb to Ditchling Beacon. I had got into a conversation with another couple of runners at this stage, and that always helps the miles pass quickly, so it wasn’t long before we hit the last muddy track down to the Clayton Windmills. At the checkpoint here, we simply turned around and headed back the way we had come. 17 miles done, and unless I’d mis-counted, we had only seen two runners heading back towards the finish!
At this point I decided third place was much better than fourth, and so consciously picked up the pace a little to try a pull clear of the other guys. The runners in first and second place were too far ahead to try and catch for the win, so I didn’t go too crazy.
I really enjoyed the next few miles, as the sun was shining and the view from the ridge that the South Downs Way follows is fantastic. Running on my own also let me dwell on the last time I ran this route – very pleasant memories of running the Centurion SDW 100. I’d run up to Ditchling Beacon with Sarah and then carried on from there with Rebekah, and had a great time.
The other great thing was the support from other runners. I like routes with an out and back section as you get to see all the other runners and everyone waved, smiled or said something encouraging.
Back over the A27, and there was one final climb, before a fast downhill finish. Although I knew there was no-one immediately behind me, I still ran hard down the last mile to the line.
Third place, and a cup of Apres hot chocolate at the finish!
- 3:48:34 finish
- 4 minute negative split
- Tired but no injuries