In short: Needs to be better organised for ultra runners In full: I opted to do the whole distance as an ultra runner entry as this is only something the organisers have been allowing for the last couple of years as previously its always been a 4 stage relay event, which it is still too. It was a lovely day as the sun was bright but boy was it cold. We started out at 8am from just outside Peterborough Cathedral and it was apparently -7c, cold enough I feel. In fact it was so cold that my water bottles froze up so I couldn't drink from them. This was made worse by the fact that there didn't seem to be any drinks stations on route just for the ultra runners so staying hydrated became a problem as the cold air bit. I can understand that there may have only been 30 ultras entered but we shouldn't have been forgotten about either as this seemed to be the feeling I got. It wouldn't have taken much to have a single table set up at the hand over points just for the ultra entries with a bowl of jelly babies and squash, maybe a pointer for the future if they want to continue to attract ultra runners. Also these hand over points (for the relay teams) were at 6, 17, 28 & 38 (finish) appox which is a long time to go without drinking when doing the whole distance. The terrain was mostly very flat and featureless but was also very tough underfoot as we ran mostly on tracks and across fields and by river edge which because of the snow and frozen ground made it feel like we were running on razor blades at times. There were a couple of guys who started at the same time as me who were wearing those bear feet type running shoes, I don't know if they finished as they must have found it really hard going on some of that ground. My only other gripe was the fact the finish is so far from the start, not so good for people who have travelled from outside the area by themselves. Could be so much better. Date of review: November 29, 2010
In short: If you only do one marathon? In full: What a day out. Once again fantastic in every way, hard to fault. The best thing about this years event was the fact that the sun came out (unlike last year)albeit it was very windy, to the point of being knocked over. This marathon has it all, one of the best that in my opinion gets better and better, I'll be back, again. Date of review: October 23, 2010
In short: Fantastic off road marathon hard to fault In full: This will go down as one of my favourites for many reasons. First of all it had a very respectable start time of 10 am, secondly it was close to where I live (bonus as most always need a very early alarm call to make the start) and thirdly it had all the qualities I look for in a off road marathon. Also its worth mentioning the fact that it was very very cheap to enter, value for money big time. The start was a bit of a trek, nearly 1.5 miles from where you had to pick up your race number up from but just so long as you got there with plenty of time this wasn't too much of a problem and some may have used this as a warm up. The checkpoints were set out about 5-6 miles apart but were well stocked with good drinks and jelly babies etc. The people manning them were also in good form. This marathon needed total self navigation to get round and as there were only 36 people apparently doing the full marathon this made it a little hard to follow others that knew the way when things thinned out so I downloaded the garmin course off their website and it worked a treat to use without too many mishaps. No medal at the end but that was ok as I still finished with a smile on my face due to the experience of taking part in a great event that could be bigger and better in the future. I'll be back. Date of review: September 13, 2010
In short: A great marathon or should I say ultra In full: Back to the South Downs once more. I love this area and never get tired of the different ways it can challenge long distance running. I've never done this event before but found it to be well managed, very friendly and the course to be well thought out. I would have to say it was one of the easiest marathons I've done in the South Downs due to the fact that there was more tarmac involved than I would've liked but saying that the hills were just as brutal as ever. I was in the group of people that also detoured on the way to the 6 mile checkpoint so done, we reckon, an additional 3-4 miles as we did the route around the river, not like some, naughty. This was due to us missing an arrow marker in heavy mist up on the Downs (although my mate says he saw it) and continued to follow another group of people also going the wrong way, never mind. Getting the golden shoe at the end was a little different and the goodie bag was very good, the sort you may find at bigger events in fact. Overall this event was good value for money and when there is plenty of members of the 100 club present you know its worth turning up for. Date of review: August 23, 2010
In short: Roughest, toughest race so far! In full: Where do you start on reviewing an event that had it all. This will go down as one of my favourites of all time.
I only (say only) did the fun run, the 50 miler as oppossed to the 100 but it gave me an idea of just what it must take to complete the 100.
We, thats me and Mr Henwood (already reviewed here earlier) got to the campsite later than expected on Friday night and had to put the tents up, get registered and make sure we got some grub down our necks to fuel up before the big start. This was to no avail as we tried and tried again but ended up with 2 pints and a bag of crisps and salted nuts. Not as bad as it sounds as the beer in those parts is absolutely lovely. We then got our heads down nearer to midnight with dreams of getting to the finish line in record time (well that was me anyway, nothing wrong with dreaming).
We had a quick compulsory briefing just before we had to be coached off to the half way point on the course at Dalemain for the start of the 50. The coach journey is one I care not to remember as there was a problem with the heating and we all baked for an hour or so until we reached our drop off point. When we got to the start many 100 milers whom had started at 5.30pm the previous evening had already made it to this point (60 miles into the course) and were lancing blisters and fixing feet etc. We started promptly at noon on the Saturday and made our way around a 4 mile loop of the estate (100 milers didn't have to do this part) which was fantastic and gave us all an easy entry into what was to come. There was one too many stiles for my liking but it broke things up nicely just to get us into the spirit. After this we then set out on our quest to get back to Coniston and the many checkpoints in between. The terrain and course was to become more tough and rugged as we entered the fells, cols and peaks of the beautiful landscape and didn't disappoint. I only ran this in what can only be discribed as normal road running shoes (Asics 2150's). Some would say this was suicidal for the terrain and they'd be right to a degree but my shoes seemed to grip the rocky slippery surfaces that so many have already mentioned much better and for that I didn't do too badly on those surfaces. The other stuff i.e the grass and bogs and everything else was a nightmare and my feet were completey soaked even after the first mile. This didn't stop me as running with water logged trainers wasn't anything new to me. Getting to the first checkpoint was a relief as we were about 11 miles in and the reward was lovely ginger cake and other nice stuff and the feeling that we were well on the way to finishing, bizzare thought process as we still had 38 or so miles to do. Feeling well charged we then carried on to the next checkpoint which was a mere 8 miles further on. This included some substantial climbs and designed to knock the wind out of our sails but we knew we were made of harder stuff and looked forward to making the next checkpoint as we knew soup awaited us and as the weather closed in at this point it was a welcome site when we got there. Whilst at this point and drinking our lovely soup and bread rolls it became more noticable that the weather had deteriated to such a degree that the rain jackets had to make their apprearances and warm us up even though we could see the climb involved straight out of where we were. Looking up the fell was covered in a shroud of mist and driving rain and that was where we were heading. Fueled up again with warm soup we set off knowing we only had about 6 miles to get to our next checkpoint which would be Kentmere. This will go down forever in my memory for the fact that when we finally made it (25 miles in) we were welcomed with, would you like rice pudding or pasta, oh and help yourself to smoothies, and would you like a hot cup of tea or coffee? You don't get this kind of waiter service on your average road marathon or even on most cross country ones and its something you've got to bear witness to to understand. We also met some fine people during this event and some that were unfortunate enough to have to drop out at this point. It was at this point we realised that we were roughtly a marathon distance into the event and for some reason didn't feel as tired as I would've expected. Knowing we still had the same to do made me feel even more determined to finish, and knowing we only had roughly 7 miles to get to the next checkpoint in Ambleside was even more reason to carry on. Even though my feet were soaked through my feet were bearing up well and I only had a few hotspots to note, all was well. We passed many 100 milers during this phase and it was like the film the dawn of the dead (or should I say Shawn of the dead). Some just made it look a breeze and others that we passed looked like death, but all we could say was well done and give them a cheer as we were finding it very tough and we only had half the distance to do. It was also during this section that it got dark and as we approached the lights of Ambleside we entered a different world to what we had just been going through as all the local Saturday night revellers were out in force. This was funny when passing people on the streets asking how far we had come and then seeing them choke on their beers, I'd have been the same. Ambleside saw the checkpoint in the Lakes Runner shop and once again was a welcome sight with warm drinks and sweets and just a great resting up place. I was adament not to sit down at any point during this stop as I was beginning to feel more tired. We then carried on for another 5 miles in the dark and navigating had become much more of an issue at this point to what would be another fine checkpoint with hot beef stew on offer. We hitched up with some other runners at this point as we felt much safer in numbers and deciding on the right direction in the pitch dark was a sight to behold. The ground hadn't eased up at any stage during the night either and we all had to still negotiate the rough and slippery rocks particularly on the decents and this made the hot spots on the base of my feet feel worse. After leaving the last checkpoint we only had just under 8 miles to get to the final checkpoint. This took us just over 3 and a half hours to complete and we thought would never finish. Once at this point we knew we only had 3.5 miles to get back to the finish at Coniston. This last stage took us up a steep climb towards the Old Man of Coniston and what would become the steepest decent of the whole run. For anyone that had nothing left in their kness then this decent would be straw that broke the camels back as abseiling down might have been more appropriate. Crossing the finish line at 5.45am on the Sunday morning felt quite amazing and made me feel a little overcome. I had thought all along of doing the 100 next year and as I was doing so thought no way cause of the effort involved, but once looking back at the finish had immediate thoughts of when the entries open again for next year and maybe just maybe.
I would just like to say that this event has to be one of the most amazing events anyone could undertake (and for some it may lead to the undertakers) but I would recommend it to anyone seeking a challenge that goes beyond the normal marathon. The organisation was simply the best and a big thanks goes out to all the organisers, helpers and people involved stuck out at some of the more remore checkpoints. Thank you. Date of review: July 31, 2010
In short: A warm day and hills to boot In full: I've done the 3 forts, Beachy Head, Doyen of the Downs and Salisbury 54321 marathons and thought I'd seen it all as far as what the South Downs and hills had to offer, but I was wrong. Some people have already said they think this was easier than say Beachy Head. This race felt relentless as far as going upward was concerned and I thought it was harder than say the 3 forts which I did last month. I had a bad fall quite early on and a bad tummy later on so feel this may have contributed to me finding it rather harder. Saying all that though I was surprised to find my time wasn't as bad as I was expecting considering I had to make a few longish stops along the way, so maybe it was all in my head. As for the organisation, well you won't find much better. This was an event all others, particularly the more expensive ones, should try and emulate. The water stations were well placed, although I think they should've had a few more as it was a warm day and the supply of SIS drinks and gels was also a major plus point. The medal and goody bag including the Salomon tech shirt at the end was also fantastic and made the entry fee look very reasonable, others take note. Overall this will go down as one of my favourite races in the calendar and I will defo be back next year, hopefully with some immodium. Date of review: June 13, 2010
In short: Pretty and horrendous In full: Every time I come to the South Downs for these sort of events I'm always won over by the glorious scenery that you get from the high points round the course and yeterday despite the rain, wind and even sleet at one point found the whole experience totally uplifting. This was my first time on the 3 Forts marathon and I was very happy overall with the organisation and found all the marshalls to be encouraging even though they all had to stand out in what was awful weather. The drink stations were plentiful and as one other reviwer has already mentioned I hardly hard to use my drinks bottle all the way round. I also would like to see more in the way of jelly babies or something similar as opposed to biscuits, which don't go down so well. Also a nice cup of hot tea at the end would have been welcoming to finish with. Overall brilliant race and I for one will be back again next year. Date of review: May 3, 2010
In short: Well worth getting out of bed for!! In full: Great race and scenery, doing the hills didn't seem as bad this year. Always feels like a pleasure after finishing. I would've prefered the sports drink to be handed out in cups as opposed to bottles, a big waste. Once again I would also prefer a medal, t-shirt was very naff this year. Date of review: February 7, 2010
In short: Knee deep in mud and hills, but worth every painful moment In full: This has to go down as one of the muddiest runs i've ever been lucky enough to take part in. It felt like i completed a 50 miler never mind a 30 after finishing. There was hardly a moment without your feet almost being taken away from under you as there was nil traction in some places. On a plus point once the sun came out it revealed some spectacular scenery on the way around this challenging course and helped to take my mind off the pain of it all. As for the finish it did seem a little anti climatic to only get a shot glass and t-shirt but the feeling i got was the sense of achievement in finishing this SAS selection of cross country marathons was enough. The hot showers provided by Arundel football club at the end was a welcoming finish to hard run. I'll probably be back next year in the hope that the preceding weather is more favorable. Date of review: December 7, 2009
In short: What a day!! In full: Got up at 5am to get down to Beachy Head for this one and boy was it worth it. This marathon has to go down as one of the most enjoyable races i've ever been previliged to take part in. The weather was awfull but at the same time also made it even more of a challenge. It did get as bit dangerous at times as going down hill was very slipery and i saw a few people who'd fallen and injured themselves. Afterwards we all got a jacket spud beans and sausage which was very welcoming. I for one will be back next year and part of me hopes the weather will be as challenging. Grade A event and well done to all the marshalls for standing out in that weather. Date of review: October 25, 2009