Yesterday was the Three Forts Marathon, my 3rd marathon of the year. It's known as 'The Tough One' because of the course profile which is very hilly and it's actually 27.2 miles so a mile longer than the standard marathon.
The start wasn't until 10am so I didn't have to leave at the crack of dawn for a change. The weather forecast was changeable so I had a dilemma of what to wear so had an assortment of running stuff in the boot just in case.
When I arrived at 9am there were already plenty of people milling around and it didn't take long before I spotted One Blue Leg (seen here stuffing her face with pasta) -sorry, I couldn't resist! I had to register and get my number, 81, then headed off to find the toilets (an essential pre-race ritual).
Having been around the downland marathon circuit for a while now there were lots of faces I recognised and several forumites to say hello to - Plum, Tall Mark, WackyRacer, HilllyLaneStrider. I also met Sherpa Sheep for the first time and her children were out on the course handing out jelly babies.
Here's UltraCas (Claire) and her hubby Sergeant Wilson
And here we have Mr Finknottle (Pete) who has appeared on my blog before wearing bright red tights. Here he shows that he does actually have legs underneath!
Claire and I positioned ourselves at the back of the field at the start so that we didn't impede the faster runners. I must explain what Claire is about to do - run an ultra called the Grand Union Canal Race which is 145 miles long and runs from Birmingham down to London. It is an amazing feat and I know that she will do it. There is a time limit of 45 hours and she will be running/walking continuously throughout with just stops for refuelling on pasta etc. Amazing stuff. Anyway, the reason I mention that is because she was using this marathon as a training run and wasn't bothered about a time. Nor was I so we decided to team up and chatted our way round which really helped pass the miles.
Although the weather forecast had been for rain at times it turned out to be rather hot and humid and I was quite surprised to see how sunburnt I was at the end. The temperature caught a lot of people out and they suffered from terrible cramps and dehydration.
My old groin injury started playing up at around mile 11 and was really very uncomfortable. However, our strategy of walking the uphills and running the downhills (plus ibuprofen to numb the pain!) helped get me round relatively unscathed.
As always, the views up on the Downs were fantastic but I didn't take as many photos as usual because I was having difficulty getting the camera in and out of my belt pocket! Once out, I couldn't get my car keys back in and it became easier not to bother. I did manage a few though as it wouldn't be the same without them.
This has to be the biggest quarry I've seen on the Downs. It was massive and looked like a giant scar on the hillside. That's the River Adur snaking it's way through the valley.
Here's a view of part of Devil's Dyke from which you can get a feel for how high up we were. I remember Mike and I visiting here about 15 years ago and we saw a man running up the slope. He told us he was training for a fell race (like the 3 Forts) and I remember that we both thought he was completely mad. Little did I think that many years later I'd be doing exactly the same thing! Somewhere around there we went past Captain Wonderpants who shouted hello to us and showed us that he was a very cheeky boy without his pants!
I'm not sure where this was but it was definitely after mile 15 or so. The marathon is called the '3 forts' because it passes by the 3 ancient hill forts of Cissbury, Chanctonbury (showing the very path we took) and Devil's Dyke, mentioned above.
Although the weather was challenging we had a lovely time and it was really nice to have company all the way round. I did tell Claire to go on ahead when I slowed down because of my groin problems but she was happy to stay and chat. I had planned a finish time of 6:15 as I knew there would be a fair bit of walking up the tougher inclines and I was more than happy to complete it in 6:25. An added bonus was the wonderful welcome we got at the finish line and One Blue Leg (who had finished an hour earlier) had waited around just to see me finish which was very touching indeed. The medal was a good heavyweight one with a special ribbon (I love getting medals much more than a tee shirt or other memento) and this one has gone to join the others in my collection. It was my 14th marathon.
The 2 ladies haven't made an appearance on my blog for a while so I snapped this earlier today as they dozed in the sun. Awwwh. Esther is wearing a bandage on her leg as she pulled a tendon last week and her lower leg was quite puffy and she was limping badly. It's getting much better now but I'm leaving the compression bandage on just to help keep the swelling at bay.