London to Brighton
I’m going to try not to ramble too much about this – trying to describe the whole 58.3 miles might be a bit much!
Anyway.. Saturday – down to LB’s house in Brighton in the afternoon to drop off some goodies and a 5 liter bottle made up with my High5 mix and then off on the train to London. I got to my hotel a little before 7, checked in and found my room – nothing special but fine, although with the smallest telly ever. Kit ready, a bit of room service and I went to bed after the X-Factor.
Sunday – up at 4:20am, showered and ready and a quick bowl of weetabix and coffee at the minimalist brekky laid on at the hotel for the runners. Checking out was funny – clearly the night duty bloke wasn’t too happy about have to check so many people out at 5am. It must have been way more work than he was used to . Then a short walk across Blackheath to the TA building where the start/HQ was located.
Number on, bag stowed and soon enough it was time to go. After a quick briefing we all set off on the dot at 6am. The first 9 miles or so were uneventful, on roads through Bromley, Hayes and Keston and CP1. LB was there as promised and after a quick chat off I went again. After this was the first off-road section and still mostly fairly quick, heading past Downe, with Biggin Hill airfield off to the right over a ridge.
At around 15 miles we emerged from some woods to be presented with a stunning view. Down the hill, past a farm and then we crossed the M25 at around 16.5 miles. Not long after I met LB again in Limpsfield Chart and topped up my hydration pack. CP2 was a mile or so down the road from this and then at around 22 miles we got to Edenbridge golf course, one of the areas where I’d done a recce in the last few weeks. I think I took my first dose of ibuprofen at around this time due to sore feet – the ground was pretty hard and lots of people chose to wear road shoes but I stuck to my trail shoes which probably have slightly more cushioning than my road shoes. The extra grip came in handy at times too.
Through Marsh Green (25 miles) and then CP3 at around 27 miles. i think some runners were expecting their supporters to meet them here but the organisers wouldn’t let supporters meet there so there were a few people sitting down at the CP looking a bit worse for wear. I texted LB and found that she was at Forest Row – about 4 miles on. No worries there..
I’d had my usual slump between about 22 and 25/26 miles during which I was feeling like I just wanted to lie down for a kip, but I’m used to that now – I know that if I can get through that, I’ll be ok. After that I felt ok again and was starting to believe I could finish this.
The stretch down to Forest Row included some pretty narrow woodland paths and I got stung loads by nettles. By now I’d reached the halfway mark, and in around 5:15, so in theory plenty of time to finish before the 13 hour cut-off. West out of Forest Row and another stretch I’d recce’d previously so was familiar with the route – just as well as I saved a few people from wrong turns around here. It was so easy to miss a turn or go the wrong way at times, particularly if chatting to another runner. Sometimes it’s too easy just to carry along the most obvious path and miss a turn onto a smaller path.
I met LB again at CP4 in Horsted Keynes (37m).. was ok for drink but had a some orange quarters (yum), a banana and some of my butties and carried on. At around 40m (about 8 hours) I met KB again outside the Sloop pub, topped my drink up again and grabbed some more food. I knew at this point that I have around 5 hours in which to do the remaining 17 miles or so before the cut-off and I was feeling confident, although I had a suspicion that I’d need most of that time with the hills to come.
CP5 was at around 47 miles – quick banana and off again. LB was stationed a mile or so after the CP at Chitlington so it was time to fill up my hydration pack again – I think the last of my 5 liter bottle went in here (plus the 2 I had at the start) and possibly some more nurofen. By this time my left IT band was really tight and I was in some pain when descending so it was very much needed.
Blackcap was just ahead – the biggest hill on the route – about 130 metres of climb in under a mile. I managed to catch a few people on the climb and getting to the top was well worth it though as we were rewarded with our first glimpse of Brighton and the sea, about 7-8 miles away. Off along the South Downs way for a bit and then another runner and I missed a turning and had to descend about 40 metres into a valley and climb back up the other side to get back onto the route. Not far down the road was Falmer village, and the welcome sight of LB again. I didn’t need anything here but the bloke I was running with needed water which LB provided.
Coming out of Falmer there was a bit of a hairy stretch along a busy B road with no pavement or even much of a verge to run on, before getting to a bit with a grass path adjacent to the road. Everyone was walking by this stage but I knew this was the last climb and I did as much running as I could manage. At the top, LB was waiting once again and then I set off running SW along a track behind some houses and then onto a path next to a golf course. This path wound round a bit and lead steadily downhill towards Brighton – I ran all of this last 2.5 miles or so, feeling sore but strong with the finish so close.
Then it was down onto the Marine road, to the finish.. There was a decent crowd at the finish and as I turned onto the short straight towards the finish line a little lad started running with me. What went through my mind here was “you’re not mine, why would I want you in my finish line photo?” so I dropped him and put on a sprint – the crowd went wild! The finish line was on the beach, just after some steps down, which I didn’t notice until I was running at full pelt.. I nearly fell down them but found my footing just in time and stumbled, laughing, to the finish line.
12 hours and 3 minutes or thereabouts and absolutely made up with the achievement, and getting there well within the cut-off. And I recorded 58.3 miles – some of that is just Garmin inaccuracy, but there’s probably a good mile in there of bits of going wrong and backtracking.
Massive thanks to LB for giving up a long day to support me brilliantly throughout, and to everyone’s comments on FB throughout. My wife and kids couldn’t make it due to her car breaking down on Friday but their texts and phonecalls were a boost too.