27.2 mile trail marathon, with climbs of over 3,000ft into the south downs

Feeling like spring with top temperates of 14c, light winds and scattered clouds forecast.

I am with fellow Brightonian Andy.B today, and a 2nd attempt of the 'Tough One' in the hope of personal best after the very wet course last year. The start is on Hill Barn Lane recreation ground, near Worthing.

We collect our timing chips and numbers.

One by one other Bosh-Run members arrive. It's always nice to see familiar faces at local races and gives the chance to catch up and ease the nerves.

Andy.N, John.P, Mike, Rob, Andy.B, John.F and Me 
(Joanne missed the picture)

With only 5 minutes to go, we head over to the start, wishing everyone the best. I spot mum and dad looking for me. I feel a nudge and see James Elson (Centurion Running Team). A quick hand shake then we are off...

Miles 1-10 (min per mile)
7:29 8:06 6:18 7:18 6:49 6:20 6:59 9:28 8:32 7:31
Speeding off down the field, straight up the lane onto a track, rising steep above the golf course and into the South Downs. The stones and mud, hard and dry below, already a mission to navigate. With short heavy breaths, I choke and cough on a fly, just lovely.... warm weather brings bugs!

I chat to Edwina up the track, we ran at a previous race and the Stinger last month.

As this is an off road marathon, I wanted to carry my water with Nuun electrolytes on me. So I opted for the UltrAspire Surge vest. This is light enough for a fast race, with handy secure pockets to hold my phone, snacks and keys. It is also the most comfortable pack I have used, that fits snug and close to my body. The contouring is so soft, it feels like part of my clothing.

Once out at the top, admiring the great views. Following the arrows, then a sharp turn down a rocky track, before another climb. Already I have doubts wearing Vibram Five Fingers today, as I feel every sharp stone underfoot.

I can see the second hill in view and already the front pack are half way up... A speedy chap over takes and asks what pace I am running at. The clouds break and the sun shines through, it warms up quickly and I need to remove my buff from my neck. 

I drink water at every aid station, and sip on my electrolytes. Climbing the second hill, I already feel fatigued and worry I have pushed off too quickly at the start. My pace slows. 

700ft up and looking towards Brighton, the view is breath taking. Lots of hikers and cyclists are out on route enjoying the sunshine. Eventually the track meets the south downs way. Undulating up and down over rocky terrain then onto a tarmac road towards Devils Dyke.

Top of Chanctonbury Hill

Miles 11-20
8:13 7:17 7:47 8:36 6:53 7:10 10:02 9:14 9:59 8:52
Heading up on steep grass closer to the Dyke, already the front group of runners are heading back down hill. I count 6 in total. Reaching the top, watered and number recorded, I head on back down the hill following the front runners. 

I eat a Nakd bar then pick up pace for the descents. I thumbs up to James when passing, then see John and both Andy's. Slowly more and more runners start to pass. Further down I see Joanne in good spirits. 

Once at 16 miles the route heads on up to Chanctonbury Hill, which is the longest climb, cutting across fields on the very stoned, dry track. My feet start to feel very sore and every step becomes painful. I have to carefully land and run on the grass edges where possible. 

After 18 miles, Edwina and other runners have over took already. I start to slow then walk to rest my sore feet. I have some fruit and chocolate coffee beans with plenty more electrolytes. Through the next gate, passing the giant pigs in their troft. 

Finally I can see an oasis of trees and the aid station in view at the top of the hill. I stop to take some pictures. Thanking the team, I plod on, staying to the grass edges until the track is just rocky again.  

Miles 21-28
10:26 7:59 8:59 10:20 9:44 8:46 7:51 7:30
By now I have given up any hope of a super quick time like at the Steyning stinger marathon, I just plan on finishing the best I can without any more discomfort to my feet. I really did forget how intense this was from last year, and really question my recent lack of hill training...

After a steep downhill it is back up again, winding through the woods and past farms and cattle. I start to pass walkers and slower runners from the half marathon. Exchanging words of encouragement. Another water stop, then finally the last aid station at 26 miles. I hobble on around to the last climb, before heading steep down the uneven dirt track, towards the finish. A speedy runner over takes to claim his victory finish. 

Grateful to see the marshals at the bottom, clapping as I approach, it is down the lane the way we came up at the start and onto the field for the finish. I hear my name called out and spot mum and dad.... at last I can stop to rest my poor feet....

Finally at the finish 13:44

Collecting my medal and reflecting on how difficult that really was. I stock up on bananas and coconut water, before taking advantage of the free massage on offer.

A personal best from 63rd place in 2012 to 11th place this year in 3:43:59

I catch up with Mum and Dad then wait for Andy and the other Bosh runners to come to the finish. All in all a great day out racing in the spring sunshine, and very pleased with my result considering I was wearing incorrect footwear for the tough terrain.

Next year, third time lucky....

£7,500 was raised for Ferring Country Centre at last years event, and a similar amount is expected from today. 

Well done to first lady Edwina Sutton and all 164 runners who finished the race

Three Forts Challenge 



  1. Good read mate. Saw a few of the BOSH guys and wondered what that was about... Also can't imagine running it in VFF's. Nuts!


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