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Running the South Downs half marathon

South Downs Half Marathon Saturday 25 November 2023 - UK Running Trail series

After weeks of rain, there had been a couple of days when it ceased and coupled with winds picking up, I had high hopes the ground would have dried out at least a bit. I need not have worried as on the day the temperatures plummeted to below freezing overnight and a maximum of 2°C feels like – 1°C for the 9am start of the race. Fortunately, the wind had eased, even up on the downs.

So despite the cold we set off in sunshine as the starter announced "you have the first day in November without any rain!"

South Downs Half Marathon Start

Of we go!  South Downs Half Marathon

My other concern was that the 12.5km (7.7m) and 18.5km (11.5m) both had Caincross entries, that is people running with dogs! At least we half marathon runners had a 15 minute head start on the 18.5km and a half hour start on the 12.5km runners. The 18.5km splitting at 10km and 12.4km splitting at around 6km in particular, never likely to catch up with me.

Despite the gentle rising hill close to the start, my aim was to put some distance and time between potential dogs and myself. However, it is fair to say that everyone under estimated the extent and duration of the uphill section, which seemed to me to be one continuous rising hill for the first 8 miles, with a fairly gentle downhill section of three miles, followed by a short level section through the woods and then more hills, steeper hills with longer gradual downhill sections.

Long sections of uphill running

Nice photos, but not worth paying £22 for or £10 each!

Overall, the elevation gain was stated at 375m (1,230ft) some 46% greater than the last "hilly half" I had run, Chichester half marathon elevation gain of 257m (843ft). This didn’t bode well for the Kingley Vale half marathon which I had signed up for on 24 February 2024 with an elevation gain of 491m (1,611ft) a further 31% increase. RunRebel/UK Running Events had placed signs near the top of the steepest hills stating "Pain is temporary, results on the internet are forever" quite amusing as we all gasped what felt like it could be our last breath. In fact we were so high (and it was still very cold out of the sun) the water in cups at the aid stations had ice in it having frozen!

So lovely in the quiet of the wooded sections with the sunlight.

A runner who I had spoken with half way up the first steep hill finally caught up with me after I had I sped away on the downhill sections then slowing to a stagger on the next steepest hill.

Another nice medal for my growing collectionMy time was my slowest for a half marathon. A combination of very cold air temperatures, perhaps a slight chest infection, perhaps asthma, but mainly those bloody hills – all part and parcel of trail running.

That said my time was better than 66 others, many much younger than me:

19 were at least 15 years younger, 8 were aged 25 years or more younger and 9 being 35 or more years younger!

The finish gate was a welcome sight and I was pleased to be presented with a rather nice finisher’s medal and collect a UK Running Events neck buff and pair of running socks.

Not my best time, but I did finsih ahead of 66 others over 15 years younger than me!

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