Sussex Trail Events hosts the Arun River marathon for the second year running, with 95 competitors attending at the River start along Littlehampton Marina. 

The route is an out and back off road trail along the Arun River to beautiful Arundel and Amberely Castles. Over historic bridges and then up along the South Downs Way at Amberley Mount towards Kithurst Hill, before switching back for the return journey...

Good cloud coverage to start

With ultra running friend Shawn Timmons we make our way in the car at 7:30 for Littlehampton.

The race start is again at the Marina and starts at 9:00. 

Unlike last year, it is earlier in the 2015 calendar and we have had more average temperatures lately with a cooling breeze. Today is expected to reach 15c, partly cloudy with a breeze. Not too humid and dry once again. 

Hopefully I will not suffer with the sun like last year. I felt sick as a dog with sunstroke (it was much warmer) and had added extra miles from going slightly off route. Which didn't help me for being outside so long without any shade. 

Once at the start and in good time we head over to the Boat House Cafe where Jay, Chris and Danny are organising the start and race registration. 

My number envelope is already at the top of the pile ready for me. One great thing about being local and known already. We chat to fellow Bosh runners who arrive shortly after and about training and races to come. 

It is good to catch up with everyone, then Brigette and Lisa that are usually on crew duties for us at ultra events. 

Today they are running instead.

Bosh runners Ian, Shawn and Ash

Everyone is all upbeat and as usual the time passes by too quickly. Jay gives the race brief, with notes about crossing the road with caution at Arundel, a farmers market is being held. Follow the orange spray paint arrows on the floor and red/white tape tied on trees and gates. 

So should be easier for me to stay on the route this year! 

Shawn with the ladies Brigette and Lisa

START 9:00
Soon enough it is minutes to spare and we wish each other good luck before ready to set off down the river. A couple of speedy runners sprint off as usual and I just follow but keep in mind that the grass will be lumpy and thick in places. 

Myself, Shawn, Ian and Darren

Miles 0-14
Already the sun feels warm and bright across the Marina. Hopefully the breeze and scattered clouds will shelter us some along the way.

The river bank is much less overgrown this year and is easier to run through with less stinging nettles and dry ground below. 

95 runners ready to start

A small group of runners stay nearby to me for quite some time. I can hear the conversation from close behind me. 

Some of the track is quite narrow and lumpy so we run single file until at the next gate, when we can run our own race and spread out. 

The river turns in both directions so a nice cool breeze can be felt.

The go!

Further down the river the breeze is now behind me and I start to heat up quickly. I feel like it is taking longer than usual to get into my usual comfortable pace. 

After a few miles we pass Ford then Tortington further up the riverbank.

Arundel is closer approaching and soon enough at six miles the river route takes to pavement and the streets towards the castle. 

Dry conditions on the river bank

I remember Jay telling us about the Farmers Market and he is just up ahead at the road to guide us in the right direction. 

I can see the castle ruin on the other side of the road and a nice lady calls out to come this way and cut through along the pathway.

Luckily the market is still very quiet early on in this stage of the race. 

The return leg maybe much more congested...

Heading to Arundel

The track is a short spell on the river and then further down I can see the Black Rabbit pub through the trees. There is a small table with a support team aiding the first check point. 

I am wearing my Salomon S-Lab5 race vest with a water bladder today as the check points are quite far between each other, with only three for the complete route. 

I have a few cups of water and thank the team before heading down the car park and into the woods. 

The ground is still quite soft in places from some recent rainfall, but with the drier humidity it is still not muddy or wet. 

It is very runnable with just a few tree roots to be wary of. 

A few MTB cyclists are dotted down the track but kindly stop and pull over to allow the runners through. 

Once out from the woods and over more styles the route cuts through North Stoke village for a downhill road section, before taking the left track through another wood. 

Jon Lavis the photographer is seen hear again snapping away for us.

North Stoke for a short road section

After an hour into the run I take an S!Cap salt capsule. I'm just starting to feel warmer and can feel the extra salt dripping into my eyes. 

Back along the riverbank then through more sheltered trees and the wobbly bridge, which bounces quite a fair bit as another runner is just ahead of me...

The Bouncy Bridge

The breeze is cooling once out in the open again and heading to Amberley. Some clouds are shading me but it is clearing with more warm sunshine now. 

The South Downs Way to Rackham Hill

Back onto road, careful of cars over the narrow bridge at Amberley, before following the markers and finger post left behind the mobile home park. 

I shout out to the runner in front as he carries along under the railway bridge, clearly in his own world as he misses the marker tape...

He thanks me for doing so once he catches up again. Perhaps he doesn't realise I know that had he stayed on the road it is a short cut to the South Downs Way. 

Once back on grass track the views out over the downs greet us.

At the next gate we meet the South Downs Way footpath and I put my foot down as some climbing is involved shortly... so a head start is always good...

Up the gravel track and over the railway, crossing the main road then up to Amberley mount towards Kithurst Hill for the turnaround and halfway point. 

Many cyclists are grouped here in pairs, walking with their bikes or climbing very slowly. 

They let me pass and wish me well.

The next sharp climb is the very rocky and stoned track that leads to Rackham Hill. I power jog at a 12:00min/mile pace, using my hips and hamstrings for the uplift. Keeping my movement smooth. 

I find looking to the ground to watch my footing is a good distraction and helps to forget how steep it actually is!

Finally to the top and basked in stunning beauty of the downs, for miles to see. I take in the sights and turnaround to see the other runners climbing the hill. 

I catch my breath and then head on to Springhead Hill for a flatter and faster pace. 

The first then second runner have just passed, already heading back down for the return.

Miles 14-28
Once at the halfway checkpoint and greeted with a warm welcome from the support, I take some water and bite into pieces of melon. I pick up a few jelly babies for my sugar kick later, then thank everyone before heading back the way I came...

Return leg on Springhead Hill (Photo by Shawn)

Once heading back down the track I came along I can start to see the other runners approaching for the turnaround point too. I counted three ahead of me and just pass the runner in fifth position. 

I am doing better than last year and have stayed to the actual route so far. 

I take another salt capsule and sip on some olive oil. I am not overly hungry just yet and the pre-race fuel of coffee with coconut oil and butter is still keeping me fuelled up strong

I see familiar faces coming up the hill to pass me, Darren looking strong then Ian, Sam and Ash further down. 

Just before Rackham Hill I see Shawn as he takes my picture. He looks a little worn and hot but still smiling...

Water stop at Amberley. Mile 16

Back down the hill and across the road again into Amberley. I see the ladies Brigette and Lisa when running back along the dirt track, they look like they are having a blast! 

I stop at the drinking water tap for a few gulps, as the final check point is back at Arundel, which is another five miles from here. 

I feel like my body has finally warmed up and got into a steady comfortable pace. The lumpy grass and climbs have fatigued my legs but nothing too strenuous. 

The sun is brighter with less cloud now.

I hope the breeze still comes in along the river for the home stretch...

Arundel. Mile 19

Back over the wobbly bridge then on the riverbank, through wooded trails, North Stoke and then heading along on the winding riverside to Arundel. 

I take in the pleasant scenery and spring air, my legs running on auto-pilot and feeling good. 

The field has spread out and I can no longer see third position or the runner that was once behind me...

Perfect riverside view at Arundel

Once at 22 miles and reaching Arundel Castle. I cut through the farmers market with help from passing supporters. I manage to avoid the crowds and nip in and out of any congestion on River Road before we head back onto the riverbank. 

Soon enough after another shaded wood I reach the last check point at The Black Rabbit pub where I see Chris filming and asking how I am doing. 

I am still feeling strong and after a few cups of water I am ready to keep moving to reach the finish. The last section is quite open and with no shade now. The sun feels hot on my face.

Chris shouts back that I am in third position. I thought I was in fourth place so this is a welcomed surprise.

With the heat from the sun I can feel myself beginning to fade quickly. The lumpy grass on my tired legs is hard to keep up a quicker pace...

I have some jelly babies and cold coffee from my squeeze bottle to give me the last kick to reach the finish. 

It seems to help eventually and I manage to keep at a 7:50min/mile pace through Tortington and Ford for the final five miles.

3rd Place 3:38

Soon enough the busy road can be seen then the Marina for the finish. 

Cheering supporters are at the last few gates and then more are clapping me into the finish back at the Boat House Cafe. 

I reach the finish in third place in 3hours 38minutes. Much an improvement to last year and without any extra miles added. 

This route is off road at 27 miles, so slightly further than a flat road marathon.

I collect my medal and catch up with Jay and Chris about today and future events. 

They are so keen on a London to Brighton off road event one day and I hope them much success in creating one. 

I chat to Chris about my up and coming Thames Ring challenge next month. He has the experience of completing this very long foot race two years ago. 

Ian at the finish

I catch up with Darren, Ash and Ian once they finish and then wait until Shawn comes in so we can eat the breakfast together. 

After a struggle Shawn makes it to the finish

He takes a little longer than I thought he would do, although he is still recovering from his recent 100 mile finish. 

I text him to check he is ok. Myself and Jay run up to meet him just as he is coming in for the last stretch as he ran low on water.

Happy Shawn

He struggled without much water and the warmer sunshine, but still managed to finish strong and happy.

His body has still much recovery to do before he is ready for his next adventure at the South Downs Way 100. 

Boat House breakfast included

Once Shawn is showered and changed we enjoy the included breakfast on offer before making our way back home. 

Another good day at the office and training miles for the week! 

Sussex Trail Events

Ultra Luke

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