Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Darkstar River Marathon 26/01/2014



The Darkstar River Marathon 26/1/2014

The Darkstar River Marathon was the second organized event offered by Sussex Trail Events it was 28.2 trail run up one side of The River Adur and back down the other side. It also took in some of The Downslink. I had previously ran The Downslink Ultra and was very impressed with the price of the event. Organization and communication before the event was very professional. The guys from Sussex Trail events had tried to organize a pier to pier Marathon in Brighton. But they ran in to some problems with local authorities saying no. So they set about looking for something else and came up with a marathon running up The River Adur in January  starting in old fishing town of Shoreham – by – Sea.


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At front left in Black Courtesy of Jon Lavis


I had run 16 miles of the course the previous week end and knew what to expect. As you know we have had a couple months of continuous rain. On some of the route it was like a mud bath where cattle had been as well as people and horses. The river bank and path was sodden and parts of the river had bursts its banks and flooded near - by fields. I was glad I had looked at the course I hoped over the coming week we would not get any more rain.

Race day, I was feeling good and really looking forward to my first race of the year. I traveled over form Brighton with some friends. We arrived at Shoreham Sea Cadets early.

As we had arrived early and we had plenty of time to get prepared for the race and have a hot drink. There was free tea and coffee  available for the runners and a small charge for non runners.I also had chance to catch up with other runners I know.  I was feeling good and looking forward to the run.As I signed the race waiver I read part of it. Basically it said that you need to be physically fit and suffer from no mental problem! This made me smile later in the race when I did question what was I doing!   The weather forecast was not good and we were to expect rain and very strong winds. The rain was predicted to start at 10 am. 

Having run the course I new that the first 4 miles where on firm ground I wanted to head off quick so not get caught up in the mud that was going to be churned up even more. As the 54 of us lined up at the start it felt cold but good to be on the starting line.


We headed off over the Norfolk Bridge and turned left going through Ropetackle. We were soon on the old railway track that used to run up to the old cement works that we would be passing around 3 miles in. My pace was a little faster than normal for a start. my average pace was 8min/mi for the first 3 then I settled down to 8.30 - 9.00 min/mi for the next 3. I was enjoying the run and feeling quite comfortable and finding the going good. I think everyone was of the same mind. To get it done before the weather hit. There was not much conversation. Especially once we hit the mud!

3 Miles and the going was good. Photo courtesy of Jon Lavis.

Just after 3 1/2 miles it started to spit with rain and we was into the mud. I was working to effort and was avg 9 min/mi now. We came to the first check point at Upper Beeding next to The Old Bridge Pub this was at about 5 miles. I ran straight through shouting my number. As we got onto the path the other side it really started to get muddy and the rain started to get harder. I did not want to stop, but I did to put my minimus smock. A great bit of kit for keeping dry. I also took the time to eat some flap jack. I was fueling on gels flapjack and seasme seed snacks today.


My Trainer was in there somewhere!
The river starts to wind it way around and as I got to about 6 1/4 miles there is a stile you go over. Both sides where ankle deep in mud. As I jumped off the stile and went to run off the mud sucked my trainer off. My foot when straight into the mud. I had to wrench my trainer out of the mud and spent valuable minutes scraping mud off my sock and trying to get it back into my trainer. I had to sit in the wet mud! I lost 3 places at this point.I wanted to run off and get those places back. I resisted that temptation and kept going at a good manageable pace.

Even though it was raining hard it was not to bad, I have gotten used to running in all weathers. I had settled into a nice pace, plenty of mud and puddles. I had long given up trying to avoid getting my feet wet. it was not going to happen today. Coming up to mile 10 I was making good time and was happy. At this point around 10 1/2  miles we turned onto The Downslink. It felt good to be on firm ground although very odd after having run on soft ground for so long. My joints and legs felt this change.  After 11 miles we took a turn onto a main Road B2135 heading into Partridge Green. There was a Check point at The Darkstar brewery. I did not stop as I had enough water to keep going.

We got back onto The Downlink after a 100 yards or so. We was still on firm ground and I was enjoying the run. I was pretty much on my own. the field was well spread out. I would guess at around 13 miles I saw the race leader and winner Paul Sargent coming back looking very comfortable. The turn around was not to far off now. I made it to be 14 1/2 miles. The water had run out I just turned and head back saying hello to people I knew and some I didn't. The run was pretty much the same but the wind had started to pick up and the rain was getting heavier.

I stopped for a top up of water at Partridge Green. I was feeling good still and more than able to finish in good time. It was hard not to calculate my finish time, but at this point I was thinking a 4.20 - 4.30. I continued back on The Downslink, at mile 18 I got back onto the river. It was like turning into a different world from the shelter of The Downslink  the  weather had turned really difficult at this point. As I got 19.50 miles I checked my garmin and I was at 3 hrs run time. It was very hard going since I got back on The Adur River the wind was pushing into me and what with the rain and mud the race suddenly became unfunny. I kept running despite the temptation to walk. 

Rain had even started to penetrate my Minimus Smock. I knew if I stopped to walk I would be at risk of hypothermia and the best I could do was to make it back as quick as I could. But in these conditions. Getting anywhere fast was not happening. The race had now become about finishing and not making a good time. The only good thing was just before mile 20 we headed over a bridge and started to run down the opposite side of the river. What was good about this was it was less sodden as it was up on a bank. Secondly it had not been walked over so much or had cattle or horses running all over it. The downside was as it was on a bank it was more exposed. I could see a couple of guys ahead. I knew how they was feeling! One kept coming of the bank to run by the river. Which was ok in places but muddy in others. 

I was getting nowhere fast and just stuck my head down and kept going. I just wanted to get back to Beeding then I knew I did not have not much further to go after that. The wind was blowing and the mud was thick in places. Moments like this I get the odd thought of. What I am doing. The bit about having a mental health problem in the waiver came to mind. It made me smile and helped me to carry on.

I was soon heading towards Beeding some of the race organizer's were out on the trail warning of slippery conditions up ahead and to congratulate the runners for sticking with it. I crossed over the bridge at Beeding and was at the last CP. I want to thank all the volunteers at this point. Stood out in that wind and rain could not of been fun. I took a little time to have a few sips of coke and headed off on the last 5 miles. 

It was a long 5 miles, I felt happy when I could see the Shoreham flyover. It did not look to far away. But of course the river was winding in and out and it seem to take forever to get there. I had overtaken one runner that had been ahead of me and as I ran down the path by Shoreham airport where the old gun battlements are I passed another who kindly clapped and said well done. I was glad to finish. I was soaked and just wanted to get warm. Luckily there was a warm shower and hot food on hand. A race I enjoyed and I hope for better conditions next year! I would like to thank Jon Lavis for the photos.


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