I landed in London on Thursday, September 9 and checked into the Best Western Victoria Palace, a hotel that was less than half a mile from Victoria Station. After taking a shower I walked to Piccadilly Circus and from there to Woodlands, an Indian restaurants. The food was awesome. After picking up some water from a Tesco I took the Tube to near my hotel and walked the half mile back.
I made my way back to the hotel and checked in. After an hour or so I went to a Chinese accupuncture place for a really nice massage. The relaxed feeling persisted all evening. I came back to the hotel and laid out my race stuff for the next morning. While doing so I realized that I must have forgotten my lube spray back in the US (I had not - I found the spray many days later when in Barcelona). I set out again to look for Vaseline. I finally found a couple of small containers in a store. It really came in handy during the race and after in Barcelona.
I soon found the SDW starting area. Javed Bhatti was there as was Keith Godden. I recorded their interview on my portable video recorder. I took a few pictures of the start area.
(L to R: Javed Bhatti, who finished in 29:45, and Keith Godden before the Start)
(In the race Start area)
At 9:45 a.m. we were given a race briefing. The heavens finally opened up. I made the wise choice of putting on my Dick Collins rain shell. That truly, like in the GUCR back in May, was a good choice. I had my camera out when the race started.
I was one of the last people running towards the SDW trail since I was too busy taking pictures.
The trail started at a pretty steep angle. It soon levelled off and then changed to rolling up and down. It must have been a couple of miles later, probably going over Beachy Head, that the SDW trail REALLY changed into long and steep rollers that went down for ever and up for equally long. This lasted for almost 5 miles before we got to a long, long downhill. This downhill eventually led to a small climb and then to a road crossing which was around the 8 or 9 mile point in the race. I had caught up with Keith Godden somewhere after the long descent and we crossed the road together.
It was here that I decided to readjust my backpack. I stopped for almost 5 minutes and then continued alone. Keith had continued on. I was alone once again and had a great time running on a small downhill trail. I soon spotted Keith up ahead along with 2 other women we would end up playing tag with on and off for the next 40 miles.
Keith had come up with an ingenious way to carry the plastic, foldable map of the SOuth Downs Way trail - he had put it into a shoulder loop (picture below) of his hydration pack.
Around 10 miles we came into a little village. Javed had told us about a pub close to the SDW and I decided to go in to have my water bottles topped up. I also downed a beer (carbs!) in the process.
We started up SDW once again. It was a bit of a climb to the ridge. The views were gorgeous! The race was, like the Coyote Two Moon 100M, on a ridge (the SDW) and the Aid Stations were off ridge i.e. a descent to get to one and then an ascent out of it. Keith and I were constantly fighting cutoffs! The first AS, at 19 miles, had a cutoff of 3 p.m. or 5 hours into the race. We made it out of there at 2:22 p.m. or 4:22 into the race.
It had been raining all day and the rain started up once again once we were out of the AS. We were getting used to the rain, the wind and the occasional fog banks on the ridge which mysteriously disappeared at lower elevations!
I felt so much gratitude that Life had given me this opportunity to run in a beautiful part of the world (actually every part of our planet is gorgeous!) .
So onwards we trudged, Keith and I. The next cutoff was 8.5 hours at 34 miles in Pyecombe i.e. by 6:30 p.m. We had 4 hours and 8 minutes to cover that distance. We did fill up our bottles midway through that stretch and (I can't remember all that much bout the course today) made it there and were out 8h and 12 minutes into the race i.e. at 6:12 p.m. An 18 minute buffer to help us in the next section.
I remember walking out of that AS, crossing a road and walking a flat section past a farm before which we started a long uphill section designed to get us back on the ridge. It was starting to cool down now so I got into my jacket again. Keith and I looked back and we spotted the 2 ladies we had been playing tag with all race long. Before long they caught up with us and the fours of us ran pretty much together along the ridge to the next section where we had to get off the ridge. It was at the bottom of a long hill, after crossing a "busy" road, that I asked Keith if I could make a quick foray into the bushes to answer Mother Nature's call. That probably took me 5 minutes or so and we were soon on our way.
We made it into the next checkpoint, in the Washington Car Park (49 miles), 12 hours and 6 minutes into the race (10:06 p.m.). They had some pretty good soup there and I helped myself to a couple of cups of it.We left around 10:15 p.m., crossed a busy road and were on the other side along the SDW. We soon saw a sign that told us that we had 6 miles to go and about 100 minutes to cover them in. Since the section was supposed to be flat and runnable were looking forward to making the 56 mile cutoff before 12 midnight. The cutoffs after the 56 mile checkpoint (The Bridge Inn in Amberley) were a bit more lenient. The initial section climbed a tiny bit before becoming flat. Very soon a couple of runners, who said that they had been sitting for a long time in the 49M AS, passed us going at a pretty good clip. Soon after that we came upon a person who was waiting by the side of the trail for his runner to come through.
(Javed and Stephen yards from the Finish)
(Talking to Javed and Stephen after their finish)
I have a lot of respect for Javed's abilities and mental strength and I had no doubt that he would finish in under 30 hours. Congratulations to him, Stephen and all the others who reached Winchester.