I spot a familiar face from the Thames Trot race, Lucinda who ran alongside me for some of the way. We chat about races and like me she has never done the Stinger before but heard many things about how tough it is. Andy did the half marathon last year.
Miles 1-5 (pace 7:18 7:22 7:34 7:38 8:05)
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.
Miles 11-15 (pace 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 as this is the last stretch I can pick up my pace. As this route has plenty of elevation I am aware of the need 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 comment on how steep it looks. They only just arrive 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 they can spot him. ‘Take care, see you soon’ my mum calls back.
The track is softer with grass here and runs alongside 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, so I just head straight on.
Eventually I can see an arrow sign at the next gate and spot the runner who is dressed all in black again. It looks like he missed the arrow sign, oops. The route starts heading downhill. At Cissbury Ring car park, 12 miles in, 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.
10:04: Shortly afterwards I can see a marshall on the track and a sign for ‘Half’ next to him, showing where the marathon route leads off. For another two miles the track heads down at a 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.
Mile 16-21 (pace 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 the elevation is 400ft. I trot and march the best I can. I have only just felt the need for fuel as I reach 16 miles, so have some nuts, dried dates with some eletrolyte water (Nuun tablets), which I am carrying in my Camelbak.
The route heads down steeply 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 other side of the hills. This is a great way to see some of the South Downs from every direction. I have been out on my own for some time and have 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 and I am still feeling strong. Last week I trained for three days back to back so have not tapered for today. After the circuit back up I reach the water station and have two cups of water this time. I carry on and estimate that there should be only one more climb before the finish.
Miles 22-27 (pace 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 and we are 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 an 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 at 23 miles. The marshall takes down my number and I have a quick cup of water. I stop very briefly as it is now so close 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 grassy here but there are still lots of rocks to navigate around. I pick up speed the best I can, seeing the runner in front getting closer.
I climb over a style then head into the woods and 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 down, but it seems impossible on this gradient, so I just follow in the footsteps of the runner in front. 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 where we started and run as fast as my legs can carry me, until around the bend where I can see the finish area. I smile and give a ‘thumbs up’ to the photographer once reaching the finish, the runner in front was some seconds ahead of me.
11:54: I check my Garmin and see I ran 3:24:39, which is a personal best for a trail marathon and three minutes faster than Salisbury Trail Marathon last summer with similar elevation. I am very pleased with my performance today and felt great out there; I didn’t hit a 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 ‘greenie’ 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 either. One of the first things he says is ‘I need to train for more hills!’ His ankles got pretty trashed on the hard surface but nothing he cannot handle. He is pleased with his result too.
We head back inside, saying goodbye to my parents and then catch up with fellow Bosh runners Bill and Ian. We talk about 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 from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com
3:24:38 Personal Best for trail marathon
7th / 208