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