Now that the dust has settled, and I can move without it hurting I thought I would put pen to paper and report on The Race to the King 2018.
This race is organised by Threshold and is part of their trail series. Race to the King is 53.5 miles along the South Downs Way and basically involves running from Arundel to Winchester. It can be run as a straight through Ultra or there is the option to complete it in two sections camping overnight at approximately half way. There is also the option to complete just Day 1 or Day 2. It is open to runners and walkers.
I decided to enter having run Dorchester Marathon in May 2017 in sub 4 hours and knowing I didn’t want to train that hard again for another marathon and never being able to reconcile myself with just getting around a road marathon. I wanted a different challenge, and this looked like it! I decided to camp overnight and break it into 2 marathons rather than 53 miles in one go. (Having completed it, I am still not sure which is the easier option). Not to be outdone, Phillip, my husband decided to do it too. Camping overnight is the more expensive option and my entry cost £192. I then paid £10 to park my van at the start and leave it for the weekend and £25 for the coach from the finish back to the start. Many people were dropped off at the start, so I can see why these were extras and not included in the package. Whilst this all might seem expensive; the organisation was excellent, and I certainly didn’t feel short changed.
We drove down on Friday 22nd June and camped about 15 minutes’ drive from the start. The campsite was locked overnight, and our early start on Saturday meant we stayed in the car park of the adjacent pub but had access to all the facilities and as we were in the van this presented no difficulties. In fact, we weren’t alone, two other vehicles did the same. Our start time was 8:30am so we arrived at the start for 7:30am and the parking was efficiently organised. We already had our race numbers which also included a wristband with your race number to be worn all weekend and a baggage label. The instructions were sent out in plenty of time and advised us we could have 10kg of baggage in an airline hand baggage size bag for the overnight stay which needed to include a sleeping bag. The baggage lorries were clearly labelled and there were plenty of marshals around to guide you. There was an information tent and food could be bought too. There is always a queue for loos but they were set out in sections so the queues for each section were never too long.
I saw that the man behind me in the loo queue had a tattoo on his arm of a race profile. I asked what it was, and he told me it was this race! Mmm hilly then! (My Garmin indicated that the first day had 5.2% flat and the second day 12.7% flat) I went and got my own temporary tattoo (which is what his was) and it was actually very useful, knowing where I was and what lay between me and the next pit stop. We had checked the pit stop closing times a few days before the race and discovered we weren’t doing back to back marathons but 23.5 on day 1 and 30 miles on day 2. I would have trained the same so knew it just had to be done.
With a few nerves and an understanding that I was about to face the inevitable, we joined the back of Wave B (the waves had become confused due to an error in printing the Waves on the numbers) and we were off. Philip went on ahead, we were never going to run together. After about 2 miles, people had spread out and found their pace. I fell in step with another runner and we chatted away until the first Pit Stop where, as he was running all 53.5 miles in one go we separated as he wanted to stop for longer.
The pit stops were amazing. 5 or 6 portaloos so after the first stop, I never saw a queue. Also, they were kept very clean and well stocked so despite the heat and being in position for 2 days remained ok to use. Each pit stop had stand alone hand sanitiser and a medical team to treat any injuries. There was water, squash and in the later stages of the first day and the second day flat coke. There were also mountains of food! Snack bars, sweets, gels, fruit and sandwiches to name some of the options. The marshals were friendly, encouraging and happy to chat despite on the second day having been there for a while in the hot sun! In the latter stages on the second day they offered to spray you with a plant sprayer, giving you a gently misting rather than a titanic soaking.
We had been told to carry a minimum of 750ml of water and you could top up your bottles or water bladder at each pit stop. There were no cups or bottles available to minimise waste and litter, so you had to carry a collapsible cup too. Each pit stop told you how far to the next one .
After 23.5 miles I arrived at Base Camp. The running had been hard. Lots of ups which I walked and then hard baked chalk paths with lumps of flint. Not easy on the ankles and at mile 6 and again at mile 18 I took a tumble, grazing and bruising my knee. I was certainly not alone in falling. It felt very warm and being on the top of ridges, you got no shelter from the sun. Still it was downhill through a wood for the last mile or so and then al