Steyning Stinger Trail Marathon: 2,500ft Elevation

07:45: Arriving at Steyning School in good time, myself and fellow Bosh Runner Andy make our way to the registration desk inside. After a small queue we collect numbers 150 for me and 151 for Andy. No chip tags today, just old fashioned writing down our numbers at the aid stations. 

I spot a familiar face from the Thames Trot race, Lucinda who ran alongside me for some of the way. We chat about races and like me she has never done the Stinger before but heard many things about how tough it is. Andy did the half marathon last year.

We get ourselves ready and last minute toilet stop. I spot Andy talking to Bill and Ian, from our Bosh Run group, so I make my way over to wish them both the best of luck. Heading outside, it is a brisk 4C with light winds today. The start is staggered with walkers at 8am, the marathon at 8:30 then the half at 9am. We can start when ready but we wait for the mass start at 8:30 to run with everyone else.

Miles 1-5 (pace 7:18 7:22 7:34 7:38 8:05)

08:30: Watches set and we are off down the country track. I run for a few minutes with Andy, then wish him the best before heading off to find my pace and rhythm. The route goes around fields and then up into the woods, then a steep incline under the trees for a good few miles. I take it easier but feel comfortable enough to stay steady under 

8:00min/mile. There is a runner in black compression gear and beany hat who is either just on my back or a few seconds in front of me.

He is tearing down the track so fast and misses the arrow sign. I yell back ‘this way’ and he soon stops to switch back. He thanks me after catching up and then speeds ahead. Reaching 3.5miles and through a brief boggy bit of mud, (there goes my clean gaiters) then 460ft up, the track heads down sharp before going back up again to 650ft.

At 4 miles in at Washington we reach the first water station. There are lots of goodies on the table, I have a cup of water and the team jot my number down. I thank them and carry on down the steep track.

Miles 6-10 (pace 9:38 6:59 6:49 8:32 9:10)

The path leads out into a field, fenced on either side. Going up again, the terrain is chalk and rock so most of the group march, jog and walk up the steep incline. I trot then eventually start to march to reach the top, saving some of my energy for the hills later. The path meets a road briefly and then over the A24 on the bridge to North Farm, where another water stop is set up. I sip a cup of water and head on my way around the gate back onto the track. Marshalls here jot down our numbers.

Climbing up yet another brutal hill under the sheltered trees, I keep my head down and rarely look up, I find this helps the blow of the daunting sight above. Another runner who I passed before overtakes and jokes about another hill, he is wearing a distinctive racing shirt that says Zoom Club on the back.

A few start to walk and march uphill eventually. I see some more of the early starters dotted up the hill who are walking/running the route. Since the last water stop the route has just climbed up the chalky track, high into the downs until reaching 730ft at mile 10. The temperature has dropped at this height and the wind is strong, hitting my face, I pull my buff up over my nose and mouth to shelter from the cold.

Miles 11-15 (pace 7:03 7:05 6:29 7:51 6:22)
Shortly after 10 miles I can see the support team at a water station at the top of the hill. The track levels out and as this is the last stretch I can pick up my pace. As this route has plenty of elevation I am aware of the need to keep in an aerobic (endurance/cardio training) level throughout and to not reach anerobic (hardcore training) where the heart rate is elevated so much it takes longer to recover.

Approaching I think I can see my parents, it is them and they walk over saying well done and comment on how steep it looks. They only just arrive in time to catch me, as it is rather out in the middle of nowhere up here. We are on the Lions Bank at Chanctonbury.  I have another cup of water and the team jot down my number. My parents ask what Andy is wearing so they can spot him. ‘Take care, see you soon’ my mum calls back.

The track is softer with grass here and runs alongside the hill going right around it to the other side. I start to pick up my pace now it is flat. After a gate it reaches an open field but is so rounded you cannot see over, so I just head straight on. 

Eventually I can see an arrow sign at the next gate and spot the runner who is dressed all in black again.  It looks like he missed the arrow sign, oops. The route starts heading downhill. At Cissbury Ring car park, 12 miles in, we reach another water stop. My parents are here again, how nice. I tell them I shall see them at the finish and head onwards.

10:04: Shortly afterwards I can see a marshall on the track and a sign for ‘Half’ next to him, showing where the marathon route leads off. For another two miles the track heads down at a steep 300ft.  I am following right behind the guy in black all the way, jumping and dodging tree roots and rocks, it is dangerous but I have a huge grin on my face, racing downhill at speed. At one point my pace is 5:00min/mile.

Mile 16-21 (pace 7:58 9:31 7:03 9:34 7:09 8:42)
After completing a lap it is slowly back up the steep incline to Cissbury Ring but from the other side. Stopping at the water station, I have a cup of water and my number is taken down. The views from here are amazing; I can see Worthing and Shoreham on the horizon. Thanking the team I head back on and up. 

In the space of 1.5 miles the elevation is 400ft.  I trot and march the best I can. I have only just felt the need for fuel as I reach 16 miles, so have some nuts, dried dates with some eletrolyte water (Nuun tablets), which I am carrying in my Camelbak. 

The route heads down steeply then climbs back up again, undulating most of the way. I can see the runner in black in the lead, heading back up a sharp right towards the way we came down, but on the other side of the hills. This is a great way to see some of the South Downs from every direction. I have been out on my own for some time and have passed most of the early starters already.

I have some chocolate coffee beans at 20 miles for a little lift. My leg muscles feel very worked but not too sore and I am still feeling strong.  Last week I trained for three days back to back so have not tapered for today. After the circuit back up I reach the water station and have two cups of water this time. I carry on and estimate that there should be only one more climb before the finish.

Miles 22-27 (pace 8:33 9:41 7:49 7:17 6:46 6:23)

Going back through woods and trail, I meet up with other runners coming from the other direction, running the half distance. Over a style and then back up a steep chalked track and we are out onto the fields again towards Chanctonbury Ring. The route will then take us back downhill to the route we started. The climb seems to feel like an eternity on my now tired legs. Although my pacing is strong for uphill it doesn’t feel so right now.

Once the top is reached it is flat all the way to the last water station at 23 miles. The marshall takes down my number and I have a quick cup of water. I stop very briefly as it is now so close to the finish. I thank the team and hear ‘well done’ call out once I move forwards. I can still spot the runner all in black just 30 seconds or so ahead.

More runners pass from the other direction until the arrows take me right back over a field and then skirting downhill around the woods. It is grassy here but there are still lots of rocks to navigate around. I pick up speed the best I can, seeing the runner in front getting closer.
I climb over a style then head into the woods and back onto the uneven trail from the beginning. The descent is so steep it is very hard to tip toe around tree stumps and rocks. I try to slow down, but it seems impossible on this gradient, so I just follow in the footsteps of the runner in front. We pass two more runners who move aside as they hear us both approaching fast. I shout back ‘cheers’ to them.

Once out of the wooded area, I can see the open fields where we started and run as fast as my legs can carry me, until around the bend where I can see the finish area. I smile and give a ‘thumbs up’ to the photographer once reaching the finish, the runner in front was some seconds ahead of me.

11:54: I check my Garmin and see I ran 3:24:39, which is a personal best for a trail marathon and three minutes faster than Salisbury Trail Marathon last summer with similar elevation. I am very pleased with my performance today and felt great out there; I didn’t hit a wall and felt strong right the way through. I think my love of trail running really shined through today.

Walking back up to the School I meet my parents who congratulate me. I change clothes, drink my ‘greenie’ vegan protein shake made with coconut water, then head inside to collect my Stinger mug and free hot food and drink.

My parents stay in the warm and I head back out to meet Andy for his finish. I spot him from the distance. He looks really chuffed and didn’t let those Stinger hills beat him either. One of the first things he says is ‘I need to train for more hills!’ His ankles got pretty trashed on the hard surface but nothing he cannot handle. He is pleased with his result too.

We head back inside, saying goodbye to my parents and then catch up with fellow Bosh runners Bill and Ian. We talk about upcoming races and training. They all had a great time and did so well out there today.

Steyning Stinger has been BOSHED!


Nuun electrolyte tablets Dirty Girl Gaitors from
3:24:38 Personal Best for trail marathon
7th / 208

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