LDWA South Downs Marathon
I have wanted to do this event for several years but didn't have the confidence to self-navigate, especially as my eyesight seems to have taken yet another downwards turn (I'm not going to write about that right now as it's scaring the heck out of me). Anyway, this year I decided to just go for it and I am so glad I did as it was a wonderful and very challenging route on a par with the Beachy Head marathon but 2 miles longer.
It was a beautiful day and I took my camera with me so there are lots of photos (I took 80 so I've tried to cull them somewhat).
The start was in the sweet village of East Dean and we registered at the village hall. Parking was in a field nearby.
When I went inside to register I was greeted by my birthday twin, Claire (same birthday but about 20 years younger!) who does the event each year with her speedy running husband Jono. She gave me 2 very useful bit of advice: i) start right at the front ahead of the walkers (I'll explain why later), ii) take extra care if following anyone as the route had been changed slightly from previous years.
There was a real mix of participants the majority carrying walking poles, as indeed I did too and I was glad I did. The walkers/slower runners started at 9am and the faster runners started at 10am. I'd originally registered as a runner until I realised that the first checkpoint opened at 10:30am and was 10 miles away and given that you started by going over 4 of the Seven Sisters there's no way I'd get there any sooner. The Race Director allowed me to start with the walkers.
After registration I wandered outside to look around:
Just before the start I headed outside and heeded Claire's advice to start at the front. We went up the gentle slope seen below, around the village green and then across the lane to climb a set of steep steps which were only wide enough for one person, hence Claire's advice as she said you could get stuck behind the walkers there.
Crikey they were steep! Then we trekked across a grassy slope, down then up, then down and we joined the South Downs Way for 4 of the Seven Sisters.
As this was a self-navigated route (ie there were no route markings) I'd been anxious about getting lost, especially in the latter stages when I might have been alone. I'd printed out the instructions and put them in a plastic folder in case it rained. At first it was fine because you could just follow everyone else but I made myself read the instructions rather than look where others were going. I have to say that they were the best instructions I've used for a LDWA event! There was only 1 slightly ambiguous instruction towards the end but I soon worked it out together with a fellow runner.
It was interesting doing the Sisters in reverse and it gave a whole new perspective to the glorious views.
To give some idea of how tough this route was, I started at 9am and the runners started an hour later but only 1 runner caught up with me by the halfway checkpoint. After another 30 minutes 2 more went past but it wasn't until much later that more runners went past. They had a snazzy new system whereby you carried a tracker card which was scanned at the checkpoints (Norton, Firle, Plonk Barn, Finish) and so Mike was able to log on to see where I was. He especially liked the one named 'Plonk Barn'!
I'll let the photos do the talking:
|You can just spot Claire and Jono in the distance at the top!|
|Heading through West Dean village|
|Our route took us through lots of farmland with a variety of livestock. I think these are Sussex Red cattle.|
|We passed through so many villages I can't remember which this was but I suspect it could be Alfriston?|
At one point we passed alongside the huge Rathfinny vineyard:
|The grass was full of a mixture of Buttercups and Cowslips|
|The variety of terrain was interesting. Here we're going along a chalk path through a field of winter wheat.|
|I kept recognising some of the views from other events (this is seen in the 3 Forts Challenge)|
|All the views were so expansive|
|This huge basin is popular with hang-gliders|
Then we passed through Firle village, famous for its annual bonfires where they burn effigies of characters known as the 'Enemies of Bonfire' which has caused outrage and sometimes offence in the past.
|What an appropriate name!|
Then there was that feeling of heading towards the bottom of a hill and thinking, are we really going up there? It looks quite innocuous in this photo but believe me Bo Peep Hill is a killer! I don't think my photos show just how tough it was but it was worth it for the views from the top.
|Looking over towards Eastbourne and the 3 huge Wind Turbines|
|The Oil-Seed Rape was shoulder-high|
|That's the Arlington Reservoir in the middle distance|
|This was a rather tough descent on tired legs and it was quite steep with lots of loose flints so plenty of trip potential!|
|As always, after a downhill there's always an uphill! Here's a clearer view of the wind turbines.|
|This patch of blue was a welcome surprise - Bluebells growing in the open so high up were unexpected!|
|I love these windswept trees|
After this is was a gentle downhill section, across a main road and then back to the village hall to get my certificate.
These LDWA events are such good value and they really do look after you well. At the checkpoints there was always water available but at the halfway, or thereabouts, point you could have tea/coffee and cake/teacakes all provided by the lovely friendly volunteers. At the finish they offered beans on toast followed by fruit salad and rice pudding and I opted for the latter with a cup of coffee before my journey home which was only and hour and a bit which made a pleasant change.
Would I do it again - you bet!
Traviss and Rachel are moving their events around a bit and so this time the Spring Cakeathon took place at Jeskyns which is a lovely place to visit and is popular with dog-walkers/horse-riders/families. They'd already had a double marathon weekend but I just opted for the Bank Holiday event which was another cakeathon.
The weather had been very hot and humid over the weekend and I was not looking forward to running for many hours so hoped it might be cooler on the Monday. It wasn't! Thankfully they planned an early start but even at 7:30am it was hot and it just got hotter and hotter throughout the morning.
I'd baked my usual Banana cake, which is always popular, and created a vegan version of my Coconut and raspberry cake which tasted amazing and I thought it was even better than my traditional version. Sorry but I forgot to take a photo but it got the thumbs up from everyone who tried it and I got another trophy.
No photos as it was just about putting one foot in front of the other and grinding out the miles. I'd slathered myself in sun-cream but within 30 minutes it was unpleasant and sweaty - nice! I set my pace to reach halfway in 2.5 hours with a view to slowing down in the second half as the heat intensified. I thought the route was easier than the one we've done there before as the uphill sections weren't as steep so I managed to maintain my chosen pace throughout.
As the morning wore on it got busier and busier with hoards of dog-walkers about together with families out for a stroll. There was a small pond on our route and the dogs were having a wonderful time splashing around in the water. We were fortunate to have about .75 mile of shade heading into a breeze on each of the 8 laps for marathon distance and during that time I took off my cap to cool down my head!
I chatted with several chums en-route but my favourite bit was on my penultimate lap when Sue was handing out mini icepops which really hit the spot.
Mike phoned me at what would usually be the halfway point but I was actually 15 minutes from the finish as he'd forgotten the early start. I finished in just under 5.5 hours but can't be precise as I forgot to stop my watch and the results are't in yet!
That was marathon 148 with 149 coming up next weekend.
Part ii) to follow soon.......