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Race to the King – Andy Yates tells of this epic Ultra along the South Downs Way

Hot & Hilly!!!! Really just about sums up this monster! I signed up last September and set about an Ultra training plan downloaded from Runners World aimed at getting me through a 50 mile event, I stuck to this religiously and also completed 2 half marathons, The Pilgrims Challenge in February along the North Downs Way and the Paris Marathon so felt more than ready to take on the big one!!!

The race started just outside Arundel in bright warm sunshine and from there progressed around a gentle loop for the first 8-10 miles which included the first big hill and this struck the tone for the rest of the day.  On towards Queen Elizabeth Country Park and the massive Butser Hill which had loomed large in my thoughts for months as I pass it every time I go to my mother in laws, but had no idea how I would feel when going over it with 30+ miles already on the clock.

The first Marathon passed quite serenely, in the by now roasting sunshine, and my best friend and I passed this in 4 hrs 39 mins both feeling ok.  Into the Overnight basecamp for the 2 day runners and a quick pasta boost later and we were off again, him into unknown territory and me towards my personal distance best of 33 miles….This was soon out of the way and I forgot how many of the whopping hills we had done and we both started to suffer a little, dehydration and just fatigue kicking in.  My Garmin ran out of battery as I’d forgotten to charge it the night before which really affected me for a few miles and I found the mental challenge really starting to be problematic but a change of socks did wonders at Pitstop 5 and picked me up!

Our deliberate strategy to run the flats and downhill parts and hike the hills got us to QE Park and to the Pitstop at the top of Butser Hill where we saw many drop outs and lots of tired faces.

We got back on it and walked/jogged onwards and before we knew we were another half marathon down and at the Last Pitstop, 7.3 miles to go but it seemed a bloody long way at that point with 46 behind us.

One final effort and were on the outskirts of Winchester, an area we both knew well as we were at Uni there together so we knew how far we had to go but it was just a question of toughing it out. We rounded the corner to the finish shute on the Cathedral Green, the spot where we graduated some 18 years before as beer drinking, cigarette smoking rugby players!!!


My family were there to cheer us in and my 3 daughters ran over the line with us in great excitement and it was done, 12 hours 45 minutes after we set off!!! A day of epic views, brilliant camaraderie from everyone we met and a massive sense of achievement.

Andy yates Race to the king finish with family

A great event put on by the Threshold Trail Series team fully supported with 7 excellent pit stops staffed by some of the friendliest volunteers.  Nothing was too much trouble and all the stops were equipped with tempting and much needed sustenance. Medical help was also on hand but luckily we never needed it.  Would I do it again, yes, even as I sit here with aching feet, leg muscles that feel like mincemeat and lost toenails.  I’ve even been looking at Race to the Stones in 3 weeks……..

Andy yates & friend Race to the king




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