Sussex Trail Events host the third edition Downslink Ultra today. Starting at St Martha's Hill, North Downs Way near Guildford and finishing 38 miles south in Shoreham along River Adur. 

The link route uses mostly the disused railway line passing through, Cranleigh, Fudgwick, Southwater, West Grinstead, Partridge Green, Henfield, Steyning and Bramber. Once meeting the South Downs Way at the river it follows this to the finish at the scout hut. 

-Sussex Trail Events

No line yet at race check in

A sunny but chilly morning is the setting in Shoreham as I arrive at the Scout Hut and meet the other runners. 

Three mini buses have been booked from the finish to take us up to the start in Guildford. This was an extra bonus added by Jay, Danny and Chris.

I catch up with running friends John, Lee, Nick and Marina before we head over to meet the other runners for the transfer to the start. 

Jay is here and issues our race numbers as he checks everyone off his list...

Selfie with Sharon, our first Downslink 

The mini buses are right on time and I get to catch up with Mark Johnson, Tom Sawyer, Thomas and Trefor before we board. 

Soon enough we are on the road and the hour journey passes by quickly. 

I started my day with my usual race fuel of an avocado and bulletproof coffee (coffee with cream, coconut oil and butter). 

But after plenty of water in the car I am really ready to reach Guildford as soon as...

Walk up the hill to the start

After catching up with Chris Ette and the race registration I spot running friend Sharon and Maria. Sharon, like Lee have not yet run over the 50k distance, so they are rather nervous but still very excited all the same...

I missed the Downslink last year with injury problems. Plantar Fasciitis on my heel and tendon troubles on my ankles was not a good indication to run a flat 38 miler. 

I feel stronger this year and although I have still had the ankles issues, I can control it with cross training and rest. 

St Martha's 

Danny briefs us just before the start and advises that at Southwater there is another running event taking place so to just be aware the route maybe crowded some here. 

After just a few minutes to spare before the go, I wish everyone the best of luck and make my way through the crowd to the front pack runners. The start is on the sand dunes and has a wide area to run on, but looks to narrow as we head down to the woods. 

With the Ultra club, the new and old school ones

A smooth, yet fast start heading downhill over sand dunes of the North Downs Way. I follow the fast front pack runners and already Paul Sargent is tearing ahead in the lead. 

The track meets the Downslink footpath at the Sussex Border Path divide. 

The route becomes rutted, uneven and with plenty of tree roots to navigate. It is impossible to run too fast and I stay close behind others while it is so narrow. 

Heading down hill along North Downs Way (Jon Lavis)

I keep an eye on my pace and stay to an average of 7:45-8:00min/mile, but get more relaxed once into a rhythm. The first couple of miles have the most climbs, through woods and on trails. It gives my legs a chance to relax and take it easy before putting my foot on the gas.

After five miles the route picks up the gravel bridle track and remains flat from here onwards...

The track leads parallel through Wonersh, Shamley Green, Cucknell Wood, Rowly and then heads toward Cranleigh.

Just before 10 miles I reach Cranleigh Leisure centre for the first checkpoint. I spot Chris who records my number and asks how I am doing. I just stop for a few cups of water then thank the team before making my way forward again. 

I feel warmed up and the sun is increasing the air temperate. I am in the zone and feeling good. I keep to my pacing plan and enjoy the scenery and route.

Race face on the smooth flat (Jon Lavis)

Many Sunday strollers, cyclists, dog walkers and horse riders pass in both directions, enjoying the warm sunshine and dry day. The temperature has risen and I roll down my arm sleeves for some air. I take my first Salt Stick capsule. 

At 14 miles I pass through Rudgwick and across the Guildford Road, 16 miles passing Slinfold and then heading on to Itchingfield. 

John Fitz and Mark Johnson

Reaching 19 miles and the half way point, just approaching Christ Hospital on Weston's Hill. A few miles of road section then back onto the Downslink trail throiugh Two Mile Ash and onto Southwater.

The next checkpoint is in Southwater and I arrive to a large crowd of cheering spectators and see a running friend, Ash and Poppy the dog taking a photo. I drink two cups of water and the team check my pack that I am carrying enough to the next stop. I am not ready for any fuel as yet and still feel strong enough running on my fat stores alone.

All smiles still...

Lee staying strong (Jon Lavis)

I take another Salt Stick capsule and sip on some olive oil I always carry on me. I am not yet overly needing the fuel but take some to just keep my stores up. 

I run through Copsale, Furzefield Wood and then come to the disused station  of West Grinstead. Plenty of spectators and cupport are cheering us along here. 

A mile or so further down I hear someone call my name from behinf me. It os running friend Rachael from Worthing, she has come along to support on her push bike and is waiting for other running friends of ours to pass through. 

It is always good to see a friendly face along the way and it is a shame she didnt decide to come run wioth us this year. I thank her for coming to see me and she wishes me well before heading in the other direction...

Here comes Ultra Nick

At 29 miles and reaching Henfield checkpoint, there is a big group of supporters and families waiting for runners to arrive. I drink some water and suck on a jelly baby. I chat to the team and they ask how I sm feeling. They check my water and decide I have enough until the nest stop at Bramber just 4 miles away. 

I spot another runner here who knows me but I cannot remember where I know him from... It will play on my mind now until the finish....

Number recored I thank everyone and keep moving forward across the road and back onto the route through the sheltered trees. My legs are starting to ache from all the flat but I still feel strong and focused to kepp up the pace. 

Few miles later the route passes through Steyning and I take in the enjoyable views of fields and countryside. The sun is strong now and it feels like a warm spring day out here! I text Sunday that I am less than ten miles to reach the finish. 

soon enough the trail leads out into a housing estate and back onto road. I remeber this section from last year where I came out to meet John. I wonder how he is getting along at the moment...


The last check point at Bramber Castle is just around the corner and I am running next to the leading lady. We have been cat and mouse for most of the duration today and she is holding a very strong pace with little give...

I can see a small group of supporters through the trees at the roundabout up ahead. I can then hear the clapping and cheers from them and the team at the checkpoint.

Steve and Tina are here and it is good to see my friends doing a great job. Steve helps to undo my water pack whilst on my back still. Tina logs my number and tells me 'Well done you are in fifth position'. The other team member is giving the first lady directions for the next section as she is leaving already. 

Steve is just about finished topping me up when he tries to tighten the lid but without realising it is loose, Tina sees my surprised reaction and laughs, the water just leaks and floods my back and buttocks... 

It is very cold but cooling all the same. Atleast half is left and with just over 5 miles to the finish I am good until I reach. Steve cheekily slaps my bum and jokes will I forgive him?!

I hug them both and thank them for their support. Few cups of water and a jelly bean for my sugar hit, I am on my way. The route is slightly different this year, following the path under the road and back along to the river on the other side. 

I am now at the River Adur and can see three front pack runners on the banks over the other side. A sip of my olive oil, music cranked up. I push harder in 5th gear and quicken my pace. 

The last stretch into the finish (Shawn Timmons)

Just as I approach the South Downs Way footpath I have already caught up with two male runners ahead, who look to be fading and fatigued. Their gait is tired and with a shuffle to the feet. 

At this stage in a long distance event like a 50 miler or 100, I tend to find my strong and feel nicely warmed up to push on quicker, especially when the terrain is flat and smoother trail. My energy is constant without any dips to worry about so I still have the mental focus to get my head down and push on hard...

Stop that Garmin (Shawn Timmons)

The trail crossed the bridge then stays on the cycle path side until the Shoreham footbridge. This section is very quiet, long, winding and sheltered from the river and landscape. I find it a struggle and the last few miles feel forever. 

I see the first lady walking and catch up with her once again. Following the markers and over the bridge to the otherside of the river. Just me and nobody else to be seen up ahead...

This last mile leg is probably the most difficult part of the entire route. The paving slabs are uneven, slanted, with holes and gaps of grass in-between. It s impossible to run fast with all the wobbling sides and gaps. It is also very narrow and passing walkers is difficult. I can spot the finishing flags and Scout Hut up ahead.

Finishing 3rd Place in 5:12:10

Once back onto smooth grass and reaching the playground, already supporters and families are eagerly waiting and cheering as I pass them. I can see familiar faces as I approach the end. Shawn, Sarah Sawyer, Lucy and Mark are there to greet me...

I try for a sprint finish but not much power is left in my legs for this. It is done. Finished. It is good to see everyone and I catch up with Chris and Jadon about how the event unfolded. 

Paul came in first position this year followed by Tom Saywer a few minutes before me. 

The yummy vegetable chilli 

I get changed and have some of the delightful vegetable chilli that is served. 

Eventually we cheer on Thomas, John and Marina who make it into the finish top 50, still looking fresh and strong. Sharon is not far behind, sprinting along still, for Sharon's first Downslink she did superb and is elated with her result and race. 

Mark, Trefor and Lee are not so far behind and had a great race too. 

John and Marina finishing

Sharon finishing and now an ultra runner

Lee still holding on strong for the last mile

Steve and Tina come by after the final checkpoint has closed ready for Nick to come into the finish. 

In true Nick stlye he makes it in strong but worn out, greeted by all his friends, Carin and Ruby (that bloody dog). He didn't have the best race but always seems to soldier along and get the job done! 

Everyone performed so well today and it has been great to eventually run this event and watch the day unfold. I am happy with my result and didn't want to race as hard as possible as I still have another utra coming up, so will need my strong and rested legs for this...



The medal bling 

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