The Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series in Sussex is the 7th edition of 9 events starting in October 2013 and finishing in May 2014. The trail series are very select coastal routes in outstanding natural beauty around the UK. With race distances for all abilities, graded from moderate elevation climbs, to very extreme.

I participated in the South Devon CTS in February 2013, which was a severe category event.

Today is graded as a strenuous category, with some 4,000ft of elevation gain along the south downs and seven sisters of East Sussex.

Race regulation starts early for the ultra race from 7:00, with a race brief and then starting time of 8:25. Followed by the marathon, half then lastly the 10k race.

Today myself and fellow ultra running friend Nick will be attempting the full 34 mile ultra course that uses all three routes, then finishing with the 10k route after covering 28 miles. We just have to pass the finish area before doing the last leg.... just like the previous CTS I raced.

Starting at a chilly and breezy Birling Gap, the weather looks to be unsettled yet again. Winds to reach 22mph from the south west, rain and broken sunshine. Perfect British running weather...

Registration complete, finishing tee and chip secured on my wrist, I meet Nick and we chat races and I ask about the route, as he ran this last year. My split iPhone cable is playing up with the connection and it doesn't look like I will be getting any charge from my back up battery today. I use Runkeeper as a live tracker, which unfortunately drains the juice fast...

After a race brief we head off to the starting area, the wind cold on my face, already I am missing my buff. I wish Nick all the best and that will see him soon. At go it is across the car park then straight uphill to the downs and cliff tops. 

The climbs are steep and sharp, with even more harsh descents, that is chalky and uneven in places. Through plenty of gates and following the arrow markers. Eventually the route heads away from the cliff edge and into Seven Sisters Park. 

Seven Sisters Park

With the wind picking up strength, it brings in black heavy clouds and just when I admire the view the rain comes down, quickly and hard. Followed by hail. 

Today will be fun....

The track leads uphill through the woods towards East Dean, where eventually at 6 miles or so it is the first check point. I am good for water so just scan my chip and thank the team, heading on down the route. 

Finding my pace and keeping up with some of the front pack, I take in the scenery and deep woodland trail. The mud is getting thicker in places and proves technical at times. 

Once out towards Folkington and deep into the South Downs, the climbs keep on coming. I walk the very steep parts and then after a good 800ft and 10 miles onto the route, I stop for a breather to take in the view. 

The rain has cleared and just a strong wind is left....

Fastest Pace: 7:50
Slowest Pace: 12:45 

Folkington 800ft

Looking towards Jevington

I enjoy some clearer skies and less climbing for the next stretch into Friston Forest, then back towards Birling Gap. I start to feel smoother on my feet and get into my pace better, with my spirits lifted. The route is so scenic, I really enjoy the surrounding views. 

I think I have warmed up now....

The track meets up with the half marathon runners, it seems they are the back of the pack at a more leisurely pace. So I try to navigate around them and over take where possible. Some even have their four legged friends with them for the run...

I go to take a picture with my phone, but with just 20% power remaining, it switches off and dies on me...

Fastest Pace: 7:32
Slowest Pace: 11:51

After another steep 400ft climb at 20 miles and running for over 3hours, the route takes to the rolling hills at Beachy Head cliff-top. We can see the sea view and Eastbourne to the distance, then the drop is so steep runners zig zag down the hill so to not trip and fall. I love downhills so I just let gravity take me down and enjoy the adrenaline buzz....

Once reaching the trail that meets the Cafe by St Beade's School, its a quick water stop before climbing back up to the South Downs Way trail heading west back across to Birling Gap. Checking my Garmin I can see I am almost at the marathon disctance of the race...

I have a few sips of my extra virgin olive oil that I always carry these days, for some fat burning energy.

Almost there... 

Breather between climbs

Fastest Pace: 7:47
Slowest Pace: 11:55 

Another climb up into the downs and joining the South Downs way, high up over looking the valley. The route then heads towards the start and we are teased with seeing the race HQ, before bearing off down a track and then up around a field. Marshals guide us the way. 

A short and sharp climb, another check point and scan of my tag. Then following the trail back down hill. I pass a sign that says one mile to go, through the woods and then passing the finish line. Spectators cheer the other runners in. I carry on down the track where we started to go on and complete another 10k. I grab some water before heading on. 

28 miles on my Garmin and feeling good. I pick up the pace and feel confident I can finish strong....

Beachy Head

Back up the dirt track and out into the open space of the seven sisters cliff top. Rolling hills and strong winds, I really miss that buff now... 

I pass a few runners, who were pacing much stronger earlier in the race. They are now marching up the hilly parts and trotting down them... 

The 10k route turns off earlier than when I was running here this morning, taking me up and over towards Alfriston. Through styles and gates across the scenic landscape of the downs before meeting the track back to Birling Gap. 

Keeping hydrated on Nuun water and another SCap. I sip my special brew, blended with chia seeds,salts  and nibble on some nuts and choc espresso beans. 

Again it's up and down over the hills to the light house. The climbs are no easier, but somehow my energy is good in my legs, and I can carry on up without any walking this time... 

I wish other runners well and enjoy some sunshine that decides to show up, just in time for the finish. Eventually after reaching the top of a climb I can see a marshal for the last check point. I scan my tag for the last time, and head on down the steep ridge that meets the other routes for the finish. 

Picking up pace with just one mile to go...

I over take some marathon runners and finish strong, with a sprinting burst to the sound of clapping by the nearby spectating crowd...

Collecting my medal from a warm welcome of the Endurance Life team. I have a happy smile of achievement edged on my face. Although I perhaps could of raced this much harder, I did struggle in places with the steep climbs and was aware that this is still a training race. I have key races later in the year, so wanted to tread carefully with a course I am not so familiar with...

I came in 10th position overall. Happy and pleased with the result. I am looking forward to next years event in the South Downs.

Nick came in finishing strong in a time of 6:54:43 and in 45th position. 

Out of 82 starting runners, 63 came into the finish. 

10th Place 5:33:33



The Moyleman is born....

Run Brighton article behind the route idea in memory of Chris Moyle

Early runners at the trail head by HM Lewes Prison-Spital Road

No breeze, temperatures to reach approx 15c and lower than normal humidity. Today's tester marathon could get hot!!! With plenty of time before the 10:00 start, myself and Shawn chat to other runners and meet Ruth, a fellow Bosh-Runner, who like myself also ran The Wall Ultra last year. Ruth is training for her first 100 miler this year and wanted to sample our playground, the south downs...

Last minute stretches 

Getting ourselves organised and ready, we meet Ash head, one of the organisers as he checks us in as attending. A short briefing then a casual start heading up the trail towards Black Cap. We have a cute, white, Jack Russell in tow who stays with us up the climb until eventually joining his owner back at the start. 

Bosh Ultra Runner Ruth

Briefing for the brave guinea pigs

Some 20 or so runners have volunteered to be the guinea pigs of the day, in the hope that come next year this will become a new event with great sponsors and attraction. Similar to the Steyning Stinger and Beachy Head Marathon. Also there is talks of running the route in reverse for every other year...

We just have to try and finish in under 5 hours...

Front pack runners following little pooch

I keep up with the lead runners for the first climb then soon find my pace and run up ahead, following the lead bike as my guide. Luckily I have trained on most parts of the first half and following the South Downs Way markings is very straight forward. We have the advantage of arrow markers too.

Nice and easy markers on the course

Chasing my tail at Black Cap

Black Cap

After reaching Black cap the route follows the South Downs Way south towards Falmer but taking the next left, to head south east towards Kingston. It is a nice and fast downhill section, so I let myself fly taking in the amazing scenery. 

With no breeze in this direction the sun is really starting to feel hot on my skin...

South Downs Way south east looking to Kingston

Kingston junction-follow the arrow

After reaching the Kingston footpath, it is right and still following the south downs way route. Up through the woods and then steep, down towards Housedean Farm on the A27. A smile and thumbs up to the photographer, over the A27 and then under the railway line. 

Another climb, which I start to power walk. I can see the other fast runners approaching in quickly. Once reaching the top of the hills and looking south, I am guided right by the marshal and then left down Castle Hill. Another nice and fast moment before running through the valley and up the steep climb towards the Yellow Brick Road.

Castle Hill

South Downs Way south east looking to Lewes

South Downs Way looking to Firle Beacon

Chasing the lead on the 'Yellow Brick Road'

The runner behind me in 2nd soon catches up and over takes at this point. I keep him in view and just follow his tail for the time being. I am starting to feel quite thirsty and sweating salts, so I take an SCap and drink some diluted coconut water. I should have carried my bladder but I prefer to use it for my much longer distances. 

With just a gentle breeze it feels warmer than it actually is...

River Ouse at Southease

Piddinghoe and Newhaven looking south

Slowing down for some horse riders, down the steep slope towards the A26 at Southease. A quick stop for a few cups of water from Ash before crossing the road, the station crossing and climbing back up high on the south downs way. 

There is a gentle breeze up here but from the other direction, it still feels very warm...

By now the lead runner is climbing up ahead and is a minute or so from me. I have a few walking breaks on the climbs and try to pick up pace on the flats, but I am feeling worn out already just 15 miles into the course. Lack sleep, long hours at work, the unusual sunshine rays and last weeks 40 mile run, I think has tired my body out some.

Firle Bostal

With plenty of activity, bikes, hikers and strollers, the time passes quick enough and I reach a marshal to direct me off the south downs way and left down the road to Bopeep Bostal towards West Firle. This is the first road section of the route today. It is a steep winding road, before a marshal directs me left on the chalk track across through the valley to Firle. I ask for some water as I only have my chia seed coffee mix left on me. He only has Volvic flavoured water which I decline as I'd rather not start on the sugar.

I see the lead bike and advise him I will be ok. It is about 5 miles left to go. I have another SCap tablet. 

Through some wooded areas and staying on the track, which eventually meets the footpath into Firle Place Estate grounds. This was a last minute diversion to the course, which I only read about after the race. 

I ask the marshal here for some water, luckily he has a little left in his bottle for me. Thanking him he directs me to follow the track that meets the road heading through the grounds.

Looking south east to Glynde and West Firle

Well I can see a shingle track further over but follow the trail posts through the trees, this meets a cross section in the track and I head to the nearest gate, it follows the path into the village of Firle and passing the pub. I keep to the public path signs then behind the pub it is back into the estate grounds. So I have just gone around a slight detour. I can see a marshal in her high-viz waving on the shingle road to the entrance of Firle place. 

Picking up pace I run across to her and then she directs me towards the A27 cross over. Another marshal and much needed cups of water, I am helped over the busy road safely onto a brief section of road before heading towards Glynde up a small lane. 

The village is so cute and quaint, I have never seen Glynde until today. rather like stepping back in time, locals enjoy the sunshine on front steps. Passing rows of small cottages, A small pub and church, then over the station bridge before taking the footpath just after the local post office. Following the arrow 'The Moyleman'. 

At 24 miles and greeted by a huge beast of a climb towards Lewes, I wonder if the finish will ever emerge! Nothing but rolling downs and valleys to be seen for miles...

After 2,700ft of elevation gain it is a last glance back...

With a much slower pace and still hiking uphill the best my legs can manage, I take in the gorgeous views from 360 degrees around me. It is a steep drop down to the next style at the bottom. I fly down enjoying the breeze to cool me down...

Around the base of some hills before heading back up again for yet another steep climb. The dusty track carries on up, but along the side of the hill before finally reaching Lewes Golf Course. Where for the first time, Lewes can be seen below. It is so close by, but still so high above. This has to be such an owe inspiring sight and knowing the finish has crept up so quickly. 

I cannot see any markers so carry on down the very steep road by the golf course until it winds into Lewes. I see a marshal at the bottom of Chapel Hill and then it is straight over to Cliff High Street, where I can see the team clapping and cheering me into the finish, turning left at Rear Yard just by the Tavern. 


I see Ruth cheering and wonder how she got here. Sadly she had discomfort in her foot and twisted it on some rock about half way, so had to pull out. She is still in good spirits and really enjoyed what she saw of the route already...

I finish in just over 4 hours on my garmin and I am the 2nd runner to finish. Congratulated by all the support and organisers, some much needed water and then cheering in the third runner.    

Not my best off road time but a good training day 

Click Here: My Garmin

Official Finish Times 
(taken at John Harvey Tavern, Lewes)

Colin Bennett 3:50
Luke Ashton 4:00
Kevin Tourie 4:00
Paul Denby 4:20
Neil Watford 4;25
Kevin Bush 4:25
Dom Jones 4:30
Tim Jones 4:30
Brook Barbieri 4:33
Brian Courage 4;39
Naomi Ayers 4:39
(first and only female)
Shawn Timmons 4:55

Shawn coming into the finish on Cliffe High Street

Stop the Garmin at 4:55 hours

After freshening up and changing into dry clothes, we wait for Shawn to come into the finish. He had a great run and really enjoyed the day. 

After chatting to other runners, a first time marathon runner and the organisers, we head on home and reflect on the success of the tester marathon today. 

The team seem very confident that it will become an offical race for 2015 with some slight diversions, perhaps at the Firle Estate and the finish. Suggestions are welcomed as to where the starting area and registration could be held. 

I would like to thank the team and fantastic volunteer support for today and supplying the much needed emergency water on such a dry and warm day! 

See you in 2015!

Run Free