Sunday Run: Cheesefoot Head to Exton

On Sunday we headed out for a little recce of the South Downs Way, to find out what the course will be like for Race to the King. The full route for the race starts at Arundel and covers 52 miles of the national park, ending in Winchester. We started at Cheesefoot Head, just outside Winchester and headed towards Exton before heading back – around 15.5 miles.

I’m not taking part in Race to the King, but Dan is signed up as part of his first substantial Ultra. I’ve been running with him over the last month and we’ve been running (almost) everyday with a variety of distances. This is to get him comfortable with running on tired legs and working through the mental challenges that are certain to take place on the day. The other reason for this run was to try out some new food bars and energy drinks we had made, based on recipes from Alan Murchison.

The start at Cheesefoot Head Car Park

The start at Cheesefoot Head Car Park

There is a free car park at Cheesefoot Head that allows you to get quickly on to the South Downs Way. Starting from here is quite nice as the course is mostly downhill, until around 4 miles in then the incline starts. By that time you’ve warmed up nicely and are ready to take on the hills!

South Downs Way Views

South Downs Way Views

South Downs Way

South Downs Way

South Downs Way 04

South Downs Way Signposting

South Downs Way Signposting

We took a map but the entire route is very well signposted. It crosses a few other paths like the Wayfarers Walk and is used by walkers, runners and cyclists.

South Downs Way

South Downs Way – small incline

South Downs Way with Holden Farm in the distance

South Downs Way with Holden Farm in the distance

South Downs Way 09

South Downs Way – On our way to Beacon Hill

Bottom of Beacon Hill - South Downs Way

Bottom of Beacon Hill – South Downs Way

Before we turned back, we made it to Beacon Hill National Nature Reserve. From here you get some spectacular views and the run up (from this side) isn’t too extreme. We headed over the other side, towards Exton. A nice bit of steep downhill to practice before turning around and running straight back up! When leaving Exton and heading back up Beacon Hill, the route is much steeper but still manageable to run.

Beacon Hill - South Downs Way

Beacon Hill – South Downs Way

Top of Beacon Hill

Top of Beacon Hill

View from Beacon HIll

View from Beacon HIll

The top of Beacon Hill

The top of Beacon Hill

As we left it late in the day to get our run in, it wasn’t too hot and we got to run back as the sun started to set. We had a quick stop off at Holden Farm (to say hi to a friend) before running the final stretch back up to the carpark. Dan then refuelled and headed off into Winchester, to make up his distance to 21 miles.

The new food bars worked well. These are a homemade version of the nakd bars you can buy in the supermarket. I still stuck to a couple of my favourite nakd bars, but topped up with our version on the final stretch. The homemade energy drink also worked well –  1/2 teaspoon of salt, small quantity of orange juice and tap water. It was not so salty that it was undrinkable and not sickly sweet as the orange juice was watered down. A bottle of this and a bottle of water worked well for a warm afternoon.

Off for his final distance - Cheesefoot Hill to Winchester

Off for his final distance – Cheesefoot Head to Winchester

All finished and ready for my shake

All finished and ready for my shake

As I would be waiting around for Dan to finish, I packed a shake for afterwards. I’m a bit terrible at trying to eat within that important 20 minute period afterwards.  It hit the spot so I’ll certainly be making it again!

Post run almond shake

This was all whizzed up in a Nutri Ninja Slim and kept in a cool bag. Yum.

Perfect sunset to end the 15.5 miles - South Downs Way

Perfect sunset to end the 15.5 miles – South Downs Way

Course elevation. Cheesefoot Head to Exton

Course elevation. Cheesefoot Head to Exton

It was a great run, nice and slow and my legs felt really good. If you are doing Race to the King – best of luck, it looks like it will be a fantastic course to run.

2 Comments

  1. 31st May 2016 / 20:42

    SDW is the only Way 🙂 I am 95% committed to signing up for the full 52 miles just need to find the other 5% 🙂

    • 6th June 2016 / 08:57

      Did you find the 5%? 😀

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