Todays 20 miles were with Fareham Crusaders James Yeardley (first timer with us) and Rod Nairn (an old friend). We set off in the lovely early morning sunshine and were looking forward to seeing the South Downs Way 100 mile (SDW100) runners on our return leg. The runners started at 6am from Winchester and even allowing for the 14 hour course record pace we had figured we’d see them once we’d turned around at our half way mark of 10 miles. Today promised to be scenic with a capital “S” for us all.
James completed the MDS earlier in the year and Rod the London marathon, Rod was using today as a training run for the South Downs marathon next week and James was looking for his longest run since returning from Morocco and a gradual increase in his mileage. It’s always good to run with different people so chatting with Rod and James added a different twist to our training. Paul and I are 2 weeks away from RTTK so this would be my last long run.
As we ran out of Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) Paul and James immediately looked the keenest, so Rod and I would be on catch up for most of the day !! We all had questions for James and his epic MDS experience while, to be fair, James was also interested in what we’d been up to. Paul commented that James has a few years yet before he joins Fareham Crusaders Saga splinter group (us) … ha ha !!
As we made our way along the South Downs trail I was wondering whether James was going to be too fast for us but he looped back with Paul on a few occasions. After some steady miles and quite a bit of banter we ran up through the trees towards Harting Down where we had our first sight of the Centurion Running 100 mile feed station and Ian from Chichester that we know was one of the volunteers. We pressed on down the chalky steep path near Beacon Hill, over the cattle grid and down the other side of the hill. Paul gave us a moment of amusement when he lost his footing on some slippy mud but skilfully managed to stay on his feet. We passed the WW2 German pilot’s memorial and took advantage of the cooler wooded trail but it’s worth noting there’s still puddles and mud out here.
4.5 miles of the RTTK with 3 hills you need to know about !!
Our half way turning point was on the open Downs that come up from Cocking. From a RTTK point of view this would be at about 18 miles. We had a quick pit stop and James impressed us with his nuts !! Quite an assortment of protein packed goodness. Once you leave the wooded section and take a sharp left and right you will come across a narrow flat section that then winds back up hill. There are tree roots to avoid and a sharp left hand turn brings you out into the sunshine and onto the first main hill. This was the point that we saw the leading SDW100 runner. He looked strong and had a healthy lead.
As you can see we decided to walk some of this hill !! We didn’t see the second and third placed runners until the shorter but steeper next hill that’s just down from Beacon Hill (which you skirt around). This photo was from earlier in the year as we were all concentrating on getting to the top !! The chalk path is quite rutted with loose stones and flint so care is needed both down and up it, once you’ve negotiated the cattle grid 🙂
Needless to say today was considerably hotter than this photo. The first ten runners had passed us before we made the third climb of this section of hills towards Harting Down car park and the Centurion feed station. This hill needed some walking too 🙂
By now we had lots of runners passing us in the opposite direction but we made a point of encouraging them all as they continued their epic journey. Ian very kindly gave us some water and after a quick chat we were off again. We stayed at the back of the tent keeping out of the way of the race runners.
Not long after crossing the B2146 we bumped into Film My Run Stephen and Richard. We wished them well and it was noticeable they didn’t seem to be filming !! James also met another MDS runner (it’s a small world). Soon after this we reached the signpost that will take everyone South for a few miles off the South Downs Way before we re join it at QECP and the 30 mile marker. Paul is doing his best “flight steward” pose. RTTK wise this would be 22.5 miles.
Our final miles were “steady” as the heat was starting to take its toll but with a constant flow of SDW100 runners to cheer on, the time passed quite quickly !! For anyone that knows the route into QECP there are quite a few cheeky hills but the last one is short, sharp and very rough with stones and bricks. Rod and I caught up with James and Paul at the top just in time for this team selfie 🙂 p.s “Yes” I will be getting my haircut as part of the double marathon preparation !!
20 miles of sun and smiles, that’s what trail running does for you …. love it. James treated us to tea & coffee in the café so thank you for that and we look forward to future runs. It was also great to catch up with Rod as he’s run with us many times but not for a while.
Sunshine wise on the day of the RTTK we will be running East to West so the rising sun will be behind us until midday then for the remainder of the time we will be running towards it. White T shirt and white cap will definitely be my choice for the day.
I hope all the 100 milers had a safe journey towards Eastbourne.