So, another LDWA Surrey event for me and one I have done a few times. The intention was, for this 40th anniversary event, to do the 40 mile route with my mate Leon, but he had dropped out with a cold. Then just two days earlier, my wife’s mother had died. Obviously I wasn’t going to run, but actually her death was expected (she had motor neuron disease), just not quite so soon. In the end we came to terms quickly with the fact the she was desperate to end her life before she was completely incapacitated and that she passed away without having to suffer for weeks and months more. My wife insisted that she was fine, was actually going to take our daughter to a birthday party that was planned for Sunday and I would just be home alone anyway. So, I thought I would get up onto the North Downs Way and have a moment’s silence to remember some of the good times we had.
I knew from the previous year that it would be a mudfest with the weather we were going to get, so I told the folks at race reception that I was going to drop to the 30 mile. I wasn’t feeling on top form either as was going to be doing this by myself and I had a hint of a throat tickle as well. I didn’t fancy adding 2 or 3 hours of rain and mud in darkness to an already long day.
I got to the allotted car park in Leatherhead at 7am and was ready to go at 7:30 when it was just getting light.
This was a challenge event so we had to follow written route instructions to make our way between check points. I had decided that there was going to be not much running on this event and went for keeping warm and dry instead by wearing hiking boots, waterproof trousers and jacket with just base layers underneath. For most of the day this was a good choice, but for the first 2 hours I was too hot and ran without the jacket until the snow started to come down heavily.
Navigation was fairly straightforward and I never got lost – I have developed a simple technique for running/walking and not losing my way on the instructions; just keep my thumb firmly held at the last point I passed on the route instructions and it works nicely. The first section to checkpoint 1 brought us up on to the North Downs Way where we should have had nice views, but by an hour in it was just low cloud and sleet that we could see.
This was followed by what must have been the worst section of trail run that I have ever had to endure. Two miles of thick mud, slippy mud and slurry with no view and just the roaring noise of the nearby M25 for company. I hope the route stays away from that next year!
After coming off the NDW I knew the lower lying land was going to be wet and that is exactly what we got, fields and fields of cow pasture pock marked with water filled hoof prints. However, I did manage to catch up with a couple of familiar faces including Kat McVicar (100 Marathon Club) and decided to spend a few hours with her chatting and keeping spirits up while not getting lost.
We split up after checkpoint 4 while I tried to make it back to the finish in daylight. The approach to Box Hill was arduous again, with 7 straight fields of mud to get us to the foot of the last big hill. Unfortunately, there was to be no good view from the top as it was shrouded in low cloud.
It was an epic climb up with a route that just got steeper and steeper, first on tarmac, then gravel trail and finally straight up the steepest side of the hill on slick grass. I was expecting a checkpoint at the top, but in fact it was down a treacherous descent nestled for shelter near a hairpin bend.
I paused here for a cup of tea before tackling the 128 steps up the next climb and on to the last few miles to the end. It took me a total of 9 hours 22 minutes probably only a third of it done jogging, the rest sliding around in mud. 30 miles felt like 40 or more on this route, but at least my feet were dry and free of blisters. Marathon/ultra #62.
Some event stats: There were 494 entrants. Of the 366 who actually started 358 finished. 76 people finished the 40 mile, 149 the 30 mile and 133 the 20 mile route. Here’s another stat – It was actually great value at about £0.33/mile compared to say Brighton Marathon at £2.29/mile. Maybe the fact it was such a low cost event meant people were more likely to drop out and have a lie in instead?