In short: Loved it, only made 41 miles in the end but it was brilliant! In full: Will be back next year, Mark and Denis organise a great race, had lots of fun - very hard! Date of review: October 11, 2012
In short: Great fun, but learn to map-read In full: A fantastic run, and really well organised.
Scenery was great, and conditions perfect, but what really took my mind off the aching legs was the difficulty of the navigation. If you're thinking of doing this run, I'd say you MUST either have recce'd the course, or run with someone who has. I frequently came unstuck and took wrong turnings, and often saw runners / groups of runners heading in several different directions. The maps simply aren't detailed enough to show all the pathways in the forests etc - this isn't a criticism of the organisers, simply saying that OS maps don't contain the necessary detail. Often a path would appear on the map as being straight with no turn-offs, but we would encounter a fork in the path, leading to a mental coin-toss.
Having said that, the run itself was great, hilly in parts without being horrendous, Check Points perfectly adequate and staffed with friendly volunteers. Organisation was excellent, with the TA Centre being a great place to get ready, and they did well to get permission to run across the privately-owned land, but I still think £100 entry is pretty pricey - though perhaps there are costs I am unaware about. However, on the grounds that I certainly wouldn't be running an ultra several times a year, it's not the end of the world.
I'm saying "maybe" I'd do it again - that's more because I'm wondering if I have the time to devote to training for an Ultra again, but for anyone who fancies having a go at a race of this length - go for it, just make sure your navigation is up to it. Date of review: October 2, 2012
In short: Hell of a challenge, well-organised and friendly but way too pricey In full: This was my first Ultra but I had put the training in and was very excited to get started. I paid £100 to participate in this event and since it was my first Ultra I assumed that this was the going rate for such a mammoth run. The course booklet was only sent out a couple of weeks before the race, which was disappointing for those intending on some recce runs, but seeing as I live 150 miles away I wasn't going to have the opportunity to run any of it before the race.
The start at Blackheath was great fun, with excellent use of a large (and warm) TA centre which was perfect for the pre-race gather and a good chance to meet and chat to other runners. There were some serious looking people there and a variety of kit from the worn an faded to the Uber-Gucci! The excitement built in the last few minutes in the dark of Blackheath before we were finally underway.
The weather was just perfect - dry all day but warm enough and with a cool breeze (albeit a cool gale over Black Cap later). But we were also treated to some beautiful early morning sunshine as dawn broke.
The scenery on this run was beautiful and breath-taking at times. I was amazed how soon out of London we were on the trails and clearly a lot of time and trouble has been taken by the organisers to find the best route and to secure the necessary permissions from private landowners.
Navigation is a real challenge and I struggled at times but despite the small and well-spread field it wasn't long before you made contact with others. The navigation was a welcome distraction from the pain and discomfort and was a real feature of the race for me.
Checkpoints were roughly every ten miles but I have to say that I was disappointed by what was on offer considering the cost of the race. But they were staffed by friendly folk who did their best to get us up and running again.
The last 20 were a struggle as the climbs got worse and fatigue was taking its toll on the navigation. I was lucky to tag along with a local guide who saved us a bucket load of heartache and led us 6 miles or so through open fields. The climb up to Black Cap was tough (particularly as you have to cross a few hundred metres of ploughed field to get there) and the exposed ups and downs of those last few miles were the most testing, but suddenly it was all downhill to the sea. Shame that in the last 100 metres some travellers had decided to take over the road and exhausted runners had to weave their way through a couple of dozen caravans, transits, kids, dogs ... out of the organisers' hands though.
And suddenly there was the finish, and a good sized group of warmly supportive people. Great medal and T shirt which I will wear with pride. My garmin tells me that in the end I ran 61.75 miles and finished in 12:07:50. Made it back just as it was getting dark.
This was an epic event for me, the memory of which will last for a very long time. The only criticisms I have were the poor quality of the checkpoint supplies(just water, bananas, biscuits and cold, soggy potatoes) and the overall cost which I don't think gave value for money. Apart from that, a massive thank you to the marshalls and organisers for making this a fantastic day. Back next year?... well maybe; I'm in a world of pain today but by the end of the week it'll be forgotten... Date of review: October 1, 2012
In short: Fabulous challenge leaves you exhausted and euphoric! In full: Not for the faint hearted! But a really well organised magnificent challenge.
Self navigating, and its not always easy, so be prepared for more than 56 miles - you'll make a few mistakes. And recce what you can (I couldn't recce it and came a bit unstuck at Edenbridge golf course and in Jules wood near CP3 but managed the rest ok).
Plenty of water at the checkpoints even for one of the last finishers like me, as well as bananas, biscuits and salty baked potatoes. And muffins and squash from the family whose garden we were being allowed to cut through!
Its not a cheap event, but its quite a small event (200 runners entered I think), the coated map book was robust, and the organisation and check points perfect so I felt it was worth every penny.
Do I want to do it again? Definately. Can I persuade my legs to go through it again? Lets see...
In short: Many thanks to the organisers for putting on a great event. This is good ultra challenge through beautiful scenery. It was well organised and the support at the checkpoints was fantastic. In full: Anyone wanting a challenge and enjoys having to use their naviagational skills will love this race. The weather this year was excellent apart from the strong breezy conditions. The countryside between Blackheath and Brighton is stunning and a lot hillier than you would think. I would recommend this event as a must for anyone looking for a good ultra Date of review: September 14, 2011
In short: Great race will defianatley be back next year In full: Would recce the course first if you can some parts are quite tricky and you can easily take a wrong path in the wrong direction. There were quite few places where runners were coming from all directions including the finish. It was a brilliant day with great people and Liam if your on here I forgot to get your number after running with for over 12 hours thanks for sharing your water after my bladder burst :-)
In short: Fantastic event I want to do again the day after! In full: What an outstanding day! Everything about it was totally amazing and definitely the best day I have had for a long time made the entire better by top organisation and check point crew as well as the runners and their lovely supporters.
At 05:00 the rain was hammering the TA centre before the start only to stop respectfully for the brief and 2 minutes silence for the victims of 9/11. Rain didn’t return for the rest of the day which was a welcome stroke of luck!
The ice was shattered during the brief when, after a heads-up of what to look out for and do along various stages of the 90KM route, the pensive silence was then broken by a guy saying “ So this isn’t the Balckheath 5k Fun Run then?” Very funny! So off we go ahead of the sunrise through the London suburbs to the first checkpoint and into the countryside where your map reading needs to be on the ball from here on in! Mine is average but being local to the finish line I used the training to recce the last 26 miles as well as train that bit harder to make up for any ‘miss-calculations’. Old school map and compass is defiantly the way ahead here as a few of the guys with GPS were frequently been told they were off course when map, compass and knowledge of the route said otherwise. But the race must be known to the locals now as they gave us regular pointers from Biggin Hill right down to Chailey which was heart-warming!
Checkpoints along the way were fantastic – really supportive and helpful throughout so massive thanks for that! The tables were stocked with practical foods that would stay down once you took off again and I personally could feel the fatigue melt as the stuff went in.
I’m not a great advocate of walking every hill in a running race but some of the hills here demand just that and they can be quite long so you need to remind yourself at the top that you are in a race on not on a stroll. My head was happy as Larry but my legs were no longer on speaking terms with me so this I found a right battle!
Just before the last big hill the farmer had dutifully ploughed about 300 meters of the fieled which appealed to the sadist in me seeing the runners in front almost stationary in this soft energy sapping dirt before I got a load of it! With no time to recover we were at the foot of Black Cap hill, the second highest point of the race and an eternal climb for 50+ mile legs.
I could safely say I was officially spent by then but the view of the sea and predominately downhill run not to mention great company of other runners and their supporters was a real motivator and the finish was a welcome sight indeed.
Overall, a great day made all the better by everyone involved and met some wonderful people along the way! Until next year :o)