Race to the King’s 53 miles are now 7 weeks away so Paul and I decided to catch up on some homework by running a section towards the end of the route. We started in the bottom right hand corner of the map at Meonstoke and joined the RTTK route at about 40.5 just off the old railway line and under the bridge that’s no longer there !! (That link and the remaining links are from Google Maps street view). We followed the undulating South Downs Way path to the A31 which will be about 49.5 miles on the day and was our 9 mile turn around point.
On arrival it was a cold and windy morning so we both started with a long sleeve and short sleeve tops plus jacket. This might sound excessive but kit choice will be key on the day due to the fact that we could be out there for twelve hours, the weather on top of the Downs can be markedly different to the bottom of the valleys and our British Summer time is so unpredictable.
Running through sleepy Exton we soon approached the narrow lanes that take you to the top of Beacon Hill and its trig point. On the RTTK day this will be at about 41.5 miles so the 1.5 mile tarmac lane with its 450 feet elevation will be the last “big” climb to test your physical and mental fortitude. The Beacon itself can be seen just before you take a right hand turn onto the narrow track up to the trig. If you are brave enough to look, here , is the google maps street view as you leave Beacon Hill Lane and start to ascent.
The view back towards Old Winchester Hill where you will have come from is amazing and well worth savouring, I say that because the vast majority of us will be walking towards the trig !!
The trail takes you through a farmyard and along a tree lined section which may be useful if it’s windy but we were lucky today as the wind had dropped and the sun had come out. Now, as we’ve all experienced your mind can play tricks on you when you are running because I mentioned to Paul we must be near Milbury pub about a mile later on, “there’s no pubs around here” was Paul’s reply, just as the path opened out onto the car park and pub. So the Milbury’s pub is now affectionately called the invisible pub.
With the sun getting stronger we stopped for a quick food and drink break in the shade.
Our next noticeable point of reference was Holden Farm but before that we were presented with a classic South Downs photo opportunity with trees, crops, a hill and a trail. This beautiful view is only spoiled be me being in the way !!
As I’m writing this my friend Alison has posted a photo of exactly this location with the caption, “stole your route” which made me laugh !! The South Downs Way ought to be a compulsory trip for everyone to take in the sights.
Did I mention the undulations, well there isn’t anything huge but they do come quite regularly and at this point when we are in the 40 odd miles done stage then I’m sure they will all seem bigger. We crossed the A272, ran around the edge of a field, past yet another barn and then we could see in the distance the A31 traffic at the bottom of the wonderfully named Cheesefoot head. By now we’d clocked 9 miles and the sign that I was next to showed a reassuring 3 miles to Winchester so this will be about 50 of the 53 Race to the King miles. What we also noticed here, were in a couple of tanks in the nearby fields. This turned out to be Juniper Leisure Tank driving !! How cool is that 🙂
**Update**, after another look at the map we should have turned left instead of heading down towards the A31 where the Winchester sign was. So that’s at about the “V” of Temple Valley on the map at the top of my blog, “ha ho”, the live and learn !!
As you can see behind me our return leg would start with a hill so Paul played his trump card, a pepperoni pizza pasty. Easy to digest, lots of salt and quite tasty (he let me have some). Our return 9 miles were spent discussing RTTK strategy and all in all the 18 miles were the furthest I’ve run the weekend following a marathon so I was very pleased.
We leant some valuable course knowledge today as I’m sure that the last 13 miles of our 53 will be much more mental that physical, preparation is the key !! I hope this has helped to give other RTTK runners a flavour (not the pepperoni one) of what’s in store (not Sainsburys) 🙂 We returned to Meonstoke village hall were my request to the lady at the desk of “can we borrow some water on a long term basis please” was met with a “yes certainly”, the hot day had meant we’d both run out.
I will end my blog here but as we speak I am working on a video of snippets that Paul took on our way so watch this space for the final instalment.
That’s a lovely route. I’ve walked many of those paths but not run them yet.
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Yes I’ll be back too !!