Well, admittedly these reports are a little belated. I have neglected the blog this year for one reason or another and I wanted to update it with memories of two great races from April and June, respectively, of this year.
This was my second go at the SDW50 and I was returning two years after my (still) PB at the 50 mile distance of 8:47 back in 2014. Considering it has 5,700ft (1,750m) of climb I always knew that was going to be tough to get close to and I was no way near as fit as 2014 this year.
It was a pretty average spring day and had elements of sun, wind and rain. The second half of the South Downs are pretty exposed and so when the wind blows, you always know about it.
I had no idea what to expect coming into this race, but finished just under an hour off my PB in 9:42, which- all things considered- I was delighted with.
The 100 mile version came two months later and was something I had wanted to run for a while. I have used the North Downs Way 100 (2014) and Thames Path 100 (2015) races as Western States qualifiers in previous years and wanted to extend this to the South Downs 100 in 2016.
The 50 mile event follows the second half of the route- which was useful as I would be “running” a good chunk of this in the dark- and the first 25 miles I had marked with Chris Mills in 2015, so I felt confident I knew what to expect going into the race, bar the 25-50 mile section.
Held in mid-June, it is one of the longest days of the year and starts at 6am. It doesn’t properly get ‘headtorch’ dark until almost 10pm so I had a good 16 hours of daylight ahead of me, which is always attractive. On the flip side, we also had an oppressively humid day which accounted for the vast majority of the drops, I gather. Even an hour into the race at 7am if I had fallen into a lake I couldn’t have got any wetter.
This was my 4th 100 mile race at the time and the last two prior to this had been sub-24 hour times, but I knew my fitness would make this a long shot this time around. Nevertheless, it was in the back of my mind.
I ran well to mile 40, had a rough go of things in the oppressive afternoon heat to mile 50 and then somehow had an incredible section to mile 60 where I picked up my pacer and good friend, Paul Reader. It was one of those 10 mile sections that you dream about and only happen oh so rarely where everything just flowed. It’s these memories that always drag me back to another race when the pain and ‘never, ever again’ fade.
But what goes up and all that…when I met Paul, and it wasn’t his fault whatsoever, I literally instantly felt awful. We walked the first hill together after he joined me, and I waited for that feeling to pass…and waited….and waited….fuck it, lets jog a bit….nope, still feel like dogmince….try again….’ks sake….
And we repeated that through the night. I was pretty run down going into this race and where as tiredness is always there overnight in races, in this one it hit me hard. I couldn’t eat and Paul kindly ran to a petrol station to get me the only thing that appealed- lemonade.
At this stage, early evening I was well on for a sub 24 hour finish by quite some margin, but in the end I would estimate of those 40 miles Paul selflessly joined me for, I walked for 30 of them and slept for over an hour. I felt awful- literally and for Paul, but in the end slunk in for just over 26 hours. Not a bad time, not what I wanted but with hindsight I couldn’t have asked for anything better.