Sunday, 8 July 2012

Chichester Challenge marathon

The British Summer of 2012 continues to provide torrential rain and brilliant sunshine in the same day.  After much rain over the previous week and on the drive down to Sussex for the Chichester Challenge, I was expecting the course to be muddy, and I wasn't disappointed.

This one didn't seem the best organised, with a wait for the registration desk to open and a 20 minute delay to the start, announced at the last minute (something to do with finding someone to unlock a gate I think).  The delay was however useful, as I tripped over a railing 5 minutes before the scheduled start, leaving blood pouring from my shin.  Some pressure and a few plasters later and it was good as new, just a bit sore.

How not to start a marathon!
At 8:20am we were off and it wasn't raining, although that didn't last long.  I set off quickly, too quickly but its hard to slow yourself down once you're going, in 15th out of about 60 runners.  There were also lots of walkers and there would later be 25km and 15km runs and walks along part of the marathon route.

The first mile was across long wet grass, then we headed alongside the Goodwood motor racing circuit as the rain started.  Around the fourth mile, a long climb took me by surprise and I was already struggling.  Past checkpoint 1 and alongside the Goodwood horse racing course then into the woods.  Past checkpoint 2, in heavy rain and for the second hour I felt terrible as I made my way up onto the South Downs.  Some of the course had been cut here as it was apparently too waterlogged.  It must have been terrible given some of what I had to run through!

Cloud was moving across the Downs as the course now levelled off heading out towards checkpoint 3 just past halfway.  The checkpoints had excellent 250ml water pouches where you just rip the top off and squeeze to let water out.  Easy to drink from and they fit the shape of your hand without being too heavy.  I hadn't seen them before.  Great in the first half but not quite enough between checkpoints in the second half when the sun came out and I was baked by the sun.

There was now a long, fast downhill followed by the inevitable slog uphill.  I was walking the climbs by this point.  At the top, two runners in front of me decided to take a right at an ambiguous arrow, while I followed the map straight on.  I saw another arrow a minute later, confirming I had gone the right way.  A reminder that in trail races you should never rely only on course marking, but always have the map and/or directions as backup.  I was beginning to feel better on the long downhill out of the woods and into a field.  I could see a big arrow at the bottom pointing left instead of right to match the map.  I had already decided to ignore the arrow when around ten runners who had been ahead of me appeared from the left, having decided they had gone the wrong way by following the arrow.  One passed me, sounding pretty grumpy.  A couple of the other passed me later on, but I think their detour kept me ahead of most of them after that.

Checkpoint 4 for more water, no pouches here unfortunately as I was feeling thirsty now, then another tough climb, passing some of the walkers from the shorter courses, before a very boggy section back to the race course.  There had been so much mud up to this point, mostly slippery - the sticky mud was yet to come!

Back past checkpoint 1 for more water, passing lots of walkers now.  The arrows were confusing again on the approach to checkpoint 1, then another hill with stunning views.  I was focused on looking at the last few miles of the route down below, that I missed seeing the sea on the horizon.  Now just two miles downhill, chatting to another runner then two miles flat to the finish.  Those flat miles were so tough on sticky mud.  After crossing the finish line with my watch reading 41.0km I ran another 1.3km to ensure I got up to marathon distance.

At the finish
This one was exhausting but a good way to complete my 40th marathon.  The route could have been better marked in a handful of places, but that is what trail running is about.  I finished with a well earned bacon roll!

What was left of the map.

Claire ran the 15km route and somehow was first woman home!

Here is a link to the route.  There is a little wiggle after the finish as the course was short at 41km so I ran an extra 1.3km to ensure I got up to marathon distance in 4:35:24.