What a day! 53.5 miles from Arundel to Winchester, a new utramarathon challenge from Threshold Sports across the South Downs Way. I wasn’t running the entire thing but was supporting Dan with a section of it cheering people on.
Starting at Arundel in the very early hours of the morning, the runners were presented with blue skies and sunshine as they got ready to take on the South Downs Way from 8am. The weather was pretty toasty for the first 20 miles until the heavens decided to open! Downpours, thunder, lightening – they had it all over the course of the race.
Our first checkpoint was to meet Dan at 27 miles, this was just after the pit stop at the school. We were both amazed at how fresh everyone was looking, considering they’ve all just completed one marathon and were about to take on another. Dan was in high spirits when we saw him – even though he was a bit soggy! As spectators, we were also prepared – chocolate, waterproofs and an umbrella!
Most of the runners we saw were in high spirits and appeared to be really enjoying the course so far.
Once we’d seen Dan, we headed off to our next checkpoint at the Sustainability Centre – this was around the 34/35 mile point of the race. The weather had cleared up at this point, but a message from Holden Farm let us know that the hail and rain was heading over our way soon. Boo!
Lots of runners were still smiling and looking far to fresh to be 34 miles into a race, the crowds had tinned out a lot more with runners coming past in very small groups of threes and fours. As we were waiting for Dan, it started to pour again. Not great as this was the point I was planning on joining him for 10 miles. We got a few funny looks from runners heading pass as they heard the two of us shouting “Well done’ from the cover of a tree!
Once he arrived, I could tell Dan wasn’t that happy – he was clearly feeling sore and wet. A quick change of raincoat and some painkillers and we set off. It didn’t take long for his spirits to lift – I decided to talk to him until he started smiling again!
Having a good natter for a the next half an hour seemed to make Dan forget about the pain, he perked up and was enjoying the run again.
This part of the course, although very wet, was beautiful. It was a bit hillier than I was expecting, but the trails were gorgeous. The terrain was hugely mixed but very muddy and wet in places. Parts of it reminded me of the nicer sections of Hell Runner! At one point, the rain had stopped, the ground was wet and the sun was just beaming – it looked so beautiful, even splashing through the puddles. I think this was the first time I’ve run in such a big thunderstorm, as we approached the top of one hill I caught sight of a fork of lightening on the horizon.
It got a little technical on this part – lots of tree roots, slippery downhills and puddles of unknown depth!
As I hadn’t just run 34 miles, it was easy for me to spot these sort of hazards but you could see the concentration on the faces of those who had been running for hours. They were taking these parts with caution. As we ran round we met an American lady who had come down from London for the day. This was her second ultra and she had a friend support her on the first half with a bit of running. Quickly the conversation turned to food (mostly pizza) and the mindset to being closer to the finish. Chats like these are so important – just giving you a bit of distraction for 20 minutes helps the mileage to pass.
It was a real advantage knowing the next part of the course. Our friends at Holden Farm were hosting the final pit stop and I knew we didn’t have long to go. Dan was starting to struggle a bit more at this point, my bad jokes no longer appeared to be doing the trick! It was fantastic to be greeted by smiling faces when we got there. Dan changed into his WADAC vest for the final stretch and I decided to carry on with him until Cheesefoot Head as I knew it was mostly uphill until then!
We had a bit of company from Neil on his bike, the last gel had kicked in a bit for Dan and there was a bit of a stomp on up the hill to Cheesefoot head! Once Neil had peeled off, Dan went a little quiet. I could see he was feeling in pain – especially his quads and feet. We walked up the final stretch to Cheesefoot Head which took us to around 49.5 miles.
With only 4 miles left to go, we left Dan and headed down to the finish by Winchester Cathedral.
The finish was positioned right outside the Cathedral and there was a small group of spectators waiting to cheer runners in. Expecting finish lines full of people, music and stalls it was a little odd to have such a silent and low-key finish. Especially given the distance, but I guess thats the nature of these longer runs.
We didn’t have to wait long until Dan came round the corner. He gave us a big smile when he saw us and made the final push along the funnel, waiting to get his medal!
Dan finished in 11 hours and 40 minutes. An amazing achievement, we’re all super proud of him!
We had to spend a bit of time in the chill out area afterwards, Dan was clearly exhausted and needed fluids, food and some rest. We saw a lot of runners finish and the general mood was a positive one – most appeared to really enjoy the course and some didn’t even look tired! As the race allows both walkers and runners to take part, the support crew were working all through the night. The support team and medics did a brilliant job post race and there was plenty of space for runners to relax afterwards.
There were clearly some great achievements from the day too…
— Joasia Zakrzewski (@jozakruns) June 25, 2016
The first people ever have crossed the Race to the King finish line!
An immense 8:15 from Michael Robinson, followed by
Lee Sydenham 8:24
— Race to the King (@RaceToTheKing) June 25, 2016
Today – an adventure filled barrel of laughs w/ a 5th place for the gals. Good friends, good places & freak weather. pic.twitter.com/TDLX40X6P8
— Sorrell Walsh (@sorrellwalsh) June 25, 2016
A huge congratulations to everyone who took part and to those who continue to be out there walking and running it today. #RTTK2016
A selection of photos from the day can be found on my Flickr Account.