Garmin at the ready we all speed off into the dark onto Lewisham Hill over to Lewisham Road towards the station. Stuart has already left a trail of dust behind. I am not familiar with the route in the first stages, so head under the railway and towards the cycle track, like the map advises. I see most the front pack without the map book, looking across to me for guidance. Probably not the best idea...
Once on the cycle track the route leads along the railway line, through small parks, passing Ladywell and then over Catford Station. Already a few runners go off track and I shout back at them to follow. Some of the route is tricky and checking the map regularly is key. At Lower Sydenham I turn too soon by the river, running an extra loop meeting the oncoming runners in the other direction.
Back on the route I keep at a steady pace with the mid pack group, through the woods and onto Beckenham Golf course where I catch up with Shawn. We chat some while I stay with him until out of the woods, he has practice on this section already. He is feeling strong and confident.
Towards Bromley park and then onto Hayes. The route is now pavement along the B2212 until reaching the first check point at 10 miles. I may have started off rather quick but am feeling good at the moment, running on feel and how I can manage.
This stretch is pleasant towards Hayes Common, then at Keston Common I can see the check point and marshals. Mark asks how I am feeling and that we have run this leg at 7min/mile pace. I have two cups of water, and already using Nuun in my Ultraspire Spry vest which has been sufficient so far. Still no need to eat yet. I thank the team and then run towards the trail heading to Biggin Hill.
It is almost 7:30
I use my notes to navigate through the wooded areas, over fields and Furze Bottom, then south towards Biggin Hill airport. I come out onto a busy road and can see I went too far reaching Saltbox hill. I then just miss the trail head turning, so head back on myself.
Down a steep stoney path then out onto Biggin Hill. The hills are big, green and rolling. I start to feel the humidity and warmth increase into the mid-morning. So I take an SCaps salt capsule.
Already my legs feel fatigued and the climbs seem very difficult. My pace has dropped and I really am going to have to dig deep to pull through this today...
Feeling slight hunger I have a few nuts and coconut flakes to give me a slight boost.
Cutting across farm lands, over styles then over the north downs way trail, there is a yellow marker sign to the left but I stay with the current group not realising it was for us. Reaching a field it is very difficult to navigate exact whereabouts but we all scramble through the woods and I manage to head on through a field. I can see a gate by a road which will lead to Titsey Wood. The gate has barbed wire so we realise this is private land, the route was changed today to NOT cross. Whoops!
The route is rather straight forward on trail to the next stop, although I stayed on the footpath a bit too far, it still reaches Swaynesland for checkpoint two. I refill my bladder and drink two cups of water. Mark tells us that the lead is about 45 minutes ahead. Thanking him I move forward.
Heading down the lane, which looks very familiar from the practice run we did. I am more at ease with the map and know what to expect on the route.
Heading over the railway at Troy Town staying on the footpath, then across the golf course, remembering our mistake last time I head on to the back of the trees to pick up the trail. The runners that were behind me have slowed or gone off route. It is only myself out here on this section.
Lots of turns west then east before heading south east to Eden Valley Walk. Through the same field with all the cows, I have to skirt the edges to approach the gate which is behind them.
Heading across to Skitts Farm then over the B2028 road, smiling and thanking a waiting supporter. It is down a long trail following the hedgerows.
Following the trail signs and trying to stick to the map as we went slightly off the route during practice. Eventually I make it to the Two Houses which is near the next stop at Blockfield Wood near Stonequarry.
Tricky to navigate through the over grown nettles, I manage to find the right track and then up the hill to the gate where I can see my parents waiting and waving.
I am pleased to see them and gulp down some coconut water along with some avocado mixed with grapes. Odd combination but it tastes great. In the rush leaving they forgot to pack the sandals so said will meet me at the next stop with them. Luckily home is only 20 minutes drive away. I hug them both and head down the footpath towards Ashurst Wood.
My navigation seems to get rubbish on this leg and I end up missing the track around Weir Wood Reservoir heading onto a cycle track instead. I soon realise my mistake but then head down a long road and different footpath to pick up the route again. I have wasted a good 30 minutes veering off route.
Once back on the right trail it looks familiar again as I cycled this leg in practice. I catch up with a small group and exchange chat on how they are doing. Once at Twyford Farm, I remember how I got lost before and look out for the footpath but without any luck. Half the group split onto another track whilst myself and another runner stick to the map around Twyford Lodge, before meeting a gate and another footpath. Shortly after the other group come down the path we met. We are on the right track it seems.
Recognising the route passing The Old Rectory we head into the village of Horsted Keynes and onto the playing field where checkpoint four is held.
I meet the parents again and eat some more avocado, a boiled egg, packing one with me and some coconut water. I change into the fresh pair of Lunas then fill up my bladder pack. I take one more salt capsule as a precaution. The time is just after 12pm. I say goodbye to my parents and thank them for their support.
Again I am familiar with the next leg from practice. It is rather simple this section and over the famous Bluebell Railway. Through Hammer Wood and Lindfield, more rolling hills before skirting round Chailey Common.
Lucy asks if I need anything, so I eat some pineapple and drink some water for now. I am not that hungry but sure I will be later. I hug Sunday and thank him for all the supportive messages throughout the day. He knew the last message would get me to keep on running home.
Lucy tells me to turn around and see who has come to see me finish. I am so overwhelmed at the turn out from Bosh friends and the Brighton running gang, I feel slightly embarrassed but very grateful the turn out.
I would like to thank Extreme Running for a fantastic organised event. Mark Dean, Denis Rice, Lucy Dean for keeping the original off road London to Brighton spirit and race alive.
I would like to thank my family and friends for all their continued support and love of my running lifestyle. Without them many of my races probably wouldn't have happened or be inspired to push on to the finish...