TL;DR: Such a well-organized race! Would absolutely do it again 🙂
TIME TO READ: 5mins
- Date: August 25-26, 2018
- Venue: South Downs National Park, UK
- Elapsed time: 18h 17min
- Distance: 62mi / 100km
- Elevation: 6742ft
- Obstacles: The cold, the dark, the mind.
What I wore:
- Cap (i.e. sun hat)
- Salomon buff
- 2xu compression vest (my favourite wonder woman top)
- Compression sleeves
- Night time:
- Gore running wear long sleeve top
- 2xu Compression leggings
- Kalenji running socks
- Home made race bib belt
- Hoka One One Speedgoat 2
- Garmin Forerunner 935
- Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta
In my pack:
- Salomon windbreaker
- Reusable silicone cup (save the planet!)
- 2x water bottles; water and electrolytes
- Some food
- Electrolyte tablets
- Black Diamond running poles
- Layer (shirt)
- First aid kit
- OMM Kamleika 2 waterproof race jacket
- Anker phone battery charger
- Night time:
- North Face Thermoball gilet
- Petzl Reactik 3 (This got the forest all litttt!)
- Spare head torch
I left most of my running food in my overnight bag in the end, as the challengers from the year before said there were lots of food at the checkpoints. It was good to run with less weight!
There was definitely enough food to feed an army, and we were absolutely spoiled for choice. I picked up crisps, fresh fruit, energy gels (admittedly) and sweets whenever I could. There was even a Pick n’ Mix at the third checkpoint! YES!
I will not lie, I still kept my cookie dough in my pack. Some things you just cannot leave behind.
At the 55km checkpoint, they served hot food. Again, I ate to my heart’s content, and to my delight they had Nutella doughnuts. Brought my legs back from the dead, ready to tackle the 2nd half.
At the last big checkpoint at 80km, there were pizzas and fajitas. Admittedly I barely had an appetite by this checkpoint for various reasons, but I managed to wolf down two slices of pizza regardless.
- Pacing was difficult. I realized I was running too fast when I started lapping the quarter challenge and the half challenge runners.
- 30km-40km checkpoint: Death zone. Long stretch of concrete in Falmer that gets pretty disorienting. Prepare gummy bears.
- 40km-55km: Stress is real running through Brighton and crowds. Random bag of good people and people who should know better. Got the best high fives from a couple of kids cheering us on with “not far now!”. I don’t think they knew how far I was going.
- Nutella doughnut. That is all.
- Night time running was a different and difficult run altogether. It was cold and everything spooked me.
- Cows eyes are like cat’s eyes in the dark. This would have been useful to know before I ran this race. Not when I’m in a field of about 30 of them, in pitch black darkness by myself… in a livestock enclosure.
- I ran 81km-83km as a human burrito. Will explain below.
- Massage at 80km and finish. Yes.
- “The roots” which everyone kept talking about at the finish.
- The blinky light runway to the finish. It was beautiful and I had a little cry.
- Managed to bag top 15th female finisher!
- I got in a day early to collect my bib, so had time to be cute:
The week leading up to the race, I barely got enough sleep. I was too excited, was itching for a long run, and also incredibly nervous as this was my first 100km event.
I arrived in Eastbourne a day early; as I collected my bib, it started hailing. Not exactly how I wanted to start the weekend, but there we go. I stayed at a B&B near the coast, and managed to fall asleep eventually.
Everything that could have gone wrong the morning of the race, did (to my utter amusement later). I booked the wrong time for the taxi, miscalculated when I should have gone down for breakfast, forgot to fill my water bottles before I left the B&B and almost had a taxi mix up. Joined the wrong wave and started 30mins earlier but that’s all irrelevant because I started running anyway.
It was a gorgeous day out at the South Coast, and I couldn’t help but take photos along the way.
I managed to get to the first checkpoint at Birling gap and shake off race day nerves. I trained here, and this was a familiar area; eventually, I calmed down enough to switch off a little bit and enjoy the run.
The second checkpoint was at Alfriston, where I usually take my running group for an ice cream stop before we melted for the rest of the run. My friend Ali joined me not too far after Alfriston after having her own morning mishaps. We ran together for the next 30km~35km, parting in Hove.
I’m really grateful she came out and ran this segment with me, as I feel like this was one of the tougher parts of the race. There’s a stretch of concrete and mowed down crops somewhere in Falmer before 40km, and it was mind-numbingly painful. It just went on forever! And no matter where you looked, it all looked the same. The other tough bit was running in Brighton, just because it was super crowded and we were running on concrete for a while. Not my cup of tea.
I mean, come on:
And then we made it to Hove, which is where the first big checkpoint was. I had a lovely hot meal, changed into fresh socks and re-packed my bag. One very useful thing they did for the full day challengers was they transported our bags from the start to Hove, so we didn’t have to carry all of the evening kit from the start.
I left Hove feeling fresh and like a new person (okay, a new person that ran at least 10mi). I had a glow stick and a reflector that they sent us off with, ready to face the sunset.
This is where things started to go wrong. First, it’s been a while since I last ran in the dark, and an even a longer time when I last ran in the dark by myself. I could have probably done a couple of things to prepare myself for this, but it didn’t occur to me before the race. I had to run a bit slower because I couldn’t see far ahead enough, and the darkness spooked me more than I anticipated. Anything that moved made me jumpy and it stressed me out.
The second mistake, and the more severe of the two, was that I piled on layers; it’s been so long since I ran in the cold that I’d forgotten the number one rule: don’t sweat. At around 75km or so, the sun finally set, it was completely dark, the temperature had dropped and I was running slower. The worst part, I was drenched in sweat. Every breeze made me shiver and I couldn’t stay warm enough to be comfortable.
So there I was, really stressed by the darkness and the cold, so I decided I’d try and stay with the next person I find along the route. I found Jaz, who was my race angel in the end, and we chatted up until the 80km checkpoint. While I wasn’t able to get warm, I at least had company to help me cope with the darkness.
At 80km, I contemplated DNF. I was worried I’d freeze over before the next checkpoint, and I wanted to tap out by choice, not by hypothermia. I was cold, tired, stressed, and I couldn’t eat. Luckily, the checkpoint had all the things I needed to fix all of it. The tent was heated, the food was hot and they had pizza. I managed to eat a couple of small slices. They also offered a massage and there was an area with blow up mattresses. At this point, I didn’t care about my time. I wanted to carry on, but I wanted to enjoy the last 20km, not suffer through it. It wasn’t busy when I got there, so I signed up for a massage and took a nap. I woke up still cold, but I felt so much better. I stayed by the heater until my clothes were dry.
And then bam, second wind! The massage therapist helped me wrap my core in a foil blanket to keep warm so I ran out of there looking like a human burrito. Not too far from the checkpoint, I shed all my layers down to my base layer; I wasn’t going to start sweating again. Eventually, I caught up with the first group that I met at the 80km checkpoint, and I kept running.
The last section of the race is what everyone at the finish line kept talking about. We ran along a riverbank, in a forest with ample trees….and tree roots. I’m not sure how I ran over them and I’m surprised my ankles survived what I now dub, ‘Broken Ankle Avenue’. Again, I found this part of the race a bit spooky, only because it was dark. But there were plenty others along the route, and I was just trying to catch one group and the next.
I had very mixed feelings when I finally saw the 99km mark. It had been such a big adventure, and now it was about to end. On the other hand, YES I DON’T HAVE TO RUN IN THE DARK ANYMORE. I sprinted towards the finish, as my Garmin decided it had had enough.
As a little bonus content, just wanted to share that there were no taxis in the end so I got stranded at the finish line for another 3 hours haha. I managed to take a nap (I’d have fallen asleep anywhere at this point), a massage, a bit of food and lots of hot drinks.
I eventually made it to my hotel (Jaz kindly dropped me off), where I checked in at 7am and checked out at 11… worth it, for probably the best sleep I’ve had all week.
The volunteers and race marshals were really lovely. Every time we got into a checkpoint it was like a celebration. “Yay, I’m still alive!”
I ran by myself most of the time.
1 medal, 1 buff, 1 very bright shirt.
Thank you for reading!