Arriving at Steyning School in good time, myself and fellow Bosh Runner Andy make our way to the registration desk inside. After a small queue we collect numbers 150 and 151 for Andy. No chip tags today, just old fashioned write down our numbers at the aid stations. I spot a familiar face from the Thames Trot race, Lucinda run along side me for some of the way. We chat races and like me she has never done the Stinger before but heard many things of how tough it is. Andy did the half marathon last year.
We get ourselves ready and last minute toilet stop. I spot Andy talking to Bill and Ian, from our Bosh Run group, so make my way over to wish them both best of luck. Heading outside, it is a brisk 4c with light winds today. The start is staggered with walkers at 8am, the marathon at 8:30 then the half at 9am. We can start when ready but we wait for the mass start at 8:30 to run with everyone else.
Miles 1-5 (pace)
7:18 7:22 7:34 7:38 8:05
Watches set and we are off down the country track. I run for a few minutes with Andy, then wish him the best before heading off finding my pace and rhythm. The route goes around fields and then up into the woods, a steep incline under the trees for a good few miles. I take it easier but feel comfortable enough to stay steady under 8:00min/mile. There is a runner in black compression gear and beany hat who is either just on my back or a few seconds in front of me. He is tearing down the track so fast and misses the arrow sign. I yell back ‘this way’ and he soon stops to switch back. He thanks me once catching up, and then speeds ahead. Reaching 3.5miles and through a brief boggy bit of mud, (there goes my clean gaiters) then 460ft up, the track heads down sharp before going back up again to 650ft. At 4 miles in Washington we reach the first water station, lots of goodies on the table, I have a cup of water and the team jot my number down. I thank them and carry on down the steep track.
9:38 6:59 6:49 8:32 9:10
The path leads out into a field, fenced on either side. Going up again, a terrain of chalk and rock so most of the group march, jog and walk up the steep incline. I trot then eventually start to march to reach the top, saving some of my energy for the hills later. The path meets a road briefly and then over the A24 on the bridge to North Farm, where another water stop is set up. I sip a cup of water and head on my way around the gate back onto the track. Marshals here jot down our numbers.
Climbing up yet another brutal hill under the sheltered trees, I keep my head down and rarely look up, I find this helps the blow of the daunting sight above. Another runner who I passed before over takes and jokes about another hill, he is wearing a distinctive racing shirt that says Zoom club on the back. A few start to walk and march uphill eventually. I see some more of the early starters dotted up the hill who are walking/running the route. Since the last water stop the route has just climbed up the chalky track, high into the downs until reaching 730ft at mile 10. The temperature has dropped this high above and the wind is strong, hitting my face, I pull my buff up over my nose and mouth to shelter from the cold.
7:03 7:05 6:29 7:51 6:22
Shortly after 10 miles I can see the support team at a water station at the top of the hill. The track levels out and this last stretch I can pick up my pace. As this route has plenty of elevation I am aware to keep in an aerobic (endurance/cardio training) level throughout and to not reach anerobic (hardcore training) where the heart rate is elevated so much it takes longer to recover. Approaching I think I can see my parents, it is them and they walk over saying well done and how steep it looks. They only just arrived in time to catch me, as it is rather out in the middle of nowhere up here. We are on the Lions Bank at Chanctonbury. I have another cup of water and the team jot down my number. My parents ask what Andy is wearing so to spot him. ‘Take care, see you soon’ my mum calls back.
The track is more soft with grass here and runs along side the hill going right around it to the other side. I start to pick up my pace now it is flat. After a gate it reaches an open field but is so rounded you cannot see over, I just head straight on. Eventually I can see an arrow sign at the next gate and the runner all in black again, looks like he missed the arrow sign. Oppps. The route starts heading downhill. At Cissbury Ring carpark just after 12 miles we reach another water stop. My parents are here again, how nice. I tell them I shall see them at the finish and head onwards.
Shortly after I can see a marshal on the track and a sign for ‘Half’ next to him, he arrows to the right where the marathon route leads off. For another 2 miles the track heads down steep 300ft, I am following right behind the guy in black all the way, jumping and dodging tree roots and rocks, it is dangerous but I have a huge grin on my face, racing downhill at speed. At one point my pace is 5:00min/mile.
7:58 9:31 7:03 9:34 7:09 8:42
After completing a lap it is slowly back up the steep incline to Cissbury Ring but from the other side. Stopping at the water station, I have a cup of water and my number is taken down. The views from here are amazing. I can see Worthing and Shoreham on the horizon. Thanking the team I head back on and up.
In the space of 1.5 miles it is a 400ft climb. I trot and march the best I can in places. I have only just felt the need for fuel reaching 16 miles, so have some nuts, dried dates with some eletrolyte water (Nuun tablets) I am carrying in my Camelbak. The route heads down steep then climbs back up again, undulating most of the way. I can see the runner in black in the lead, heading back up a sharp right towards the way we came down, but on the otherside of the hills. This is a great way to see some of the downs from every direction. I have been out on my own for some time and passed most of the early starters already.
I have some chocolate coffee beans at 20 miles for a little lift. My leg muscles feel very worked but not too sore. Still feeling strong. Last week I trained for 3 days long back to back so have not tapered for today. After the circuit back up I reach the water station. Two cups of water this time. I carry on, there should be only one more climb before the finish.
8:33 9:41 7:49 7:17 6:46 6:23
Going back through woods and trail, I meet up with other runners coming from the other direction, running the half distance. Over a style and then back up a steep chalked track out onto the fields again towards Chanctonbury Ring. The route will then take us back downhill to the route we started. The climb seems to feel like eternity on my now tired legs. Although my pacing is strong for uphill it doesn’t feel so right now.
Once the top is reached it is flat all the way to the last water station just after 23 miles. The marshal takes down my number and I have a quick cup of water. I stop very briefly as it is so close now to the finish. I thank the team and hear ‘well done’ call out once I move forwards. I can still spot the runner all in black just 30 seconds or so ahead.
More runners pass from the other direction until the arrows take me right back over a field and then skirting downhill around the woods. It is grassed here but still lots of rocks to navigate around. I pick up speed the best I can, seeing the runner infront getting closer. Over a style then heading into the woods back onto the uneven trail from the beginning. The descent is so steep it is very hard to tip toe around tree stumps and rocks. I try to slow but it seems impossible on this gradient. I just follow in the foot steps of the runner infront. We pass two more runners who move aside as they hear us both approaching fast. I shout back ‘cheers’ to them.
Once out of the wooded area I can see the open fields of where we started and run as fast as my legs can carry me, until around the bend I can see the finish area. I smile and thumbs up to the photographer once reaching the finish, the runner infront was some seconds ahead of me.
I check my Garmin and see I ran 3:24:39
This is a personal best for a trail marathon to date and 3 minutes faster than Salisbury last summer with similar elevation. Very pleased with my performance today and I felt great out there, I hit no wall and felt strong right the way through. I think my love of trail running really shined through today.
Walking back up to the School I meet my parents who congratulate me. I change clothes, drink my greeny vegan protein shake made with coconut water, then head inside to collect my Stinger mug and free hot food and drink. My parents stay in the warm and I head back out to meet Andy for his finish. I spot him from the distance. He looks really chuffed and didn’t let those Stinger hills beat him.
One of the first things he says is ‘I need to train more hills’. His ankles got pretty trashed on the hard surface but nothing he cannot handle. He is pleased with his result.
We head back inside, saying good bye to my parents and then catch up with Bosh runners Bill and Ian. We talk upcoming races and training. They all had a great time and did so well out there today.
Steyning Stinger has been BOSHED!
Nuun electrolyte tablets
Dirty Girl Gaitors