The third edition, Dark Star River Marathon, held by Sussex Trail Events will be the first race in their river marathon series for the year.

A 28.2 Trail Marathon up one side of the River Adur picking up a part of the Downslink past the Dark Star Brewery at Partridge Green and back down the other side.

With the last few weeks of wind and rain, the riverbank is already a sludge of mud and will become worse once we start to run on it. 

The weather is damp drizzle with light winds, that will get stronger on the return leg. 

Steve and Tina are kind enough to pick me up today and drive to the start in Shoreham. Tina is crewing at the Partridge Green checkpoint at mile 11.5.

Mud Runners

Arriving just after 8am at Shoreham Scout Hut for registration, we make our way upstairs to collect race bibs and drop our bags for the finish. 

I was lucky to get an extra day off from work as my shifts change from tomorrow so I managed to get a last minute spot from Jason, one of the organisers. Like most winter events, runners get sick and injured, so it worked to my advantage.

I had a race breakfast of Bulletproof Coffee, using half the measure and some avocado with goose fat to keep my energy topped up. I am never that hungry this early in the day, as I have been very fat adapted the past two years. I have found using less coconut oil is best on race day, so I do not get caught short for a toilet stop once we start running!...

Miles 0-14.1
By 9:00 for the start, we all make our way to the road and over the bridge to the Downslink path, where the route soon picks up the muddy river bank of the Adur. 

The front pack group are closely following each other and running a 7:45/8:00min/mile pace for the first few miles until settling into the route. 

Even on the thick mud and lumpy grass the front three leading men are in the foggy distance....

Getting aqainted with the sludge!

There is a light wind with drizzle which makes it feel humid. It eases after five miles the further away we run from the sea. 

I start to find a comfortable 8:00min/mile pace for now and the group starts to spread along the riverside. I soon catch up with speedy Caitlin and can spot Tom Sawyer further ahead. He is wearing red so I use that as my marker...

Heading to Bramber

After the first checkpoint, then passing through Bramber the route keeps to the thick slippery river banks. Runners and supporters cheer from the other side of the Adur which keeps the route from feeling too lonely...

Once through many gates and styles the path meets the Downslink footpath at nine miles for a long flat section to Partridge Green. I feel strong in my legs and have just been sipping my water from my Inov8 ultra pack, then using the water cups at the last checkpoint.

The drizzle has eased off now and the route is sheltered with the trees on both sides of the Downslink, until reaching the road at Partridge Green. 

11.5 miles in I see familiar faces, Chris and then Tina at the next checkpoint. I drink some more water and good to go.

I thank everyone, cross the road and meet the pathway for more, long, flat Downslink.

Just a few more miles and a quicker 7:30min/mile pace I see the lead runners appear in the other direction. A sprinting Stuart first, then shortly after second and third, followed by fourth and then Paul Sargent a little later in fifth position. 

I count 13 runners passing until I reach the next bridge and West Grinstead where we switch back for the return leg.

Miles 14.1-28.2
I am greeted with clapping, supporters and volunteers. Jason is here also. I sip some water and head on back the way I came...

I try to stay to the left of the footpath as the runners behind are now approaching in groups and with less space between them. 

I spot Caitlin not far behind me, then Darren looking well. John passes me shortly with a smile and high five then soon after, Steve is following. 

Natalie and Nick are a mile or so further back, looking happy and comfortable...

Downslink to West Grinstead

The miles fly by and soon enough it is through the checkpoint again, where Tina is very busy, refilling drinks for the runners arriving in the other direction. I thank her and say bye before carrying on. 

Lucy and Mark are just by the next junction cheering and shouting out support to me....

Soon enough I meet the last gate and a right turn back on the sludge river bank.

The track is a complete mess and worse then the outward journey. The mud is more a bog and I have to stay to the lumpy grass edges to keep up a quicker pace. Running along the mud in the middle is not an option...

I manage to plough my way along the grassy side where I can but already my pace is slowing... I am not the only one it seems and the few that are ahead of me start to suffer and walk through the slippy mud. 

I slowly start to overtake some and can spot Tom further along. 

I climb over the next few gates as the styles are too low down to the bank and in a bog to even try and attempt getting my leg over without sliding off...

Just 5k left to go...

Reaching 22 miles and time for some fuel, I sip on my handy olive oil I always carry and have some coffee that I packed in a small squeeze plastic pack. The lift helps my legs and as I am not overly sweating. I decide against any salt capsules. 

The south westerly wind picks up and some parts of the river are very blowy. I cover may face with a buff and keep my head down...

Soon enough I catch up with Tom and see how he is doing, he is suffering with stitch and is having walking breaks. I wish him well and carry on. I see familiar lamndmarks telling me how close the finish is in the distance. 

Through Bramber again and with cheering supporters on the bridge to give me a boost. All is going well and the miles tick away. 

By now I reach the last few miles and see Jon Lavis the photographer again snapping away. Through the next carpark and to the otherside of the river for the last mile...

As I look back I see Caitlin quick on my tail and gaining speed.

The Finish
Just after 13:00 I try to pick up the pace and have to concentrate hard on the uneven concrete slabs that pave the pathway to the Scout Hut. 

Just like the Downslink Ultra, this is the worst way to end any trail event. Dog Walkers stop to allow me to pass and then after reaching Shoreham Airport, the route goes along the grass and the playground for the finish.

I see Tina hooting and cheering from the car as I make my way to the end...

The bling. The first of the River Series

In 4:07:05 I make it to the finish in 10th place this year, which is not a PB like last year, but with worse muddy conditions I am happy with the result.

I am greeted by Lucy and Mark and then collect my medal. A very nice heap of bling this year and part of what will be a complete River Marathon set if you complete all four events!

I make my way inside to get changed and warm up with the hot Veggie Chilli and coffee on offer. 

Veggie Chilli for afters

Although always tough in parts I enjoyed the Dark Star Marathon far more than last year and as it was less cold it was good to treat it as a practice and training run to help with the up and coming events thsi spring!


Uckfield Runners
Tunbridge Wells Harriers
Gosport Road Runners
Burgess Hill Runners

John finishes

Yay! Steve the Ultra Runner (at last)

Local Dark Star Ale

After waiting for John to finish, in a time of 5:02:43, which he was happy with, considering he suffered with feeling sick through the later stages. 

Soon followed by Darren 16 minutes later, then Steve comes into finish his first Ultra distance and a huge improvement to his DNF (did not finish) from last year! 

Steve finishes emotionally proud in 5:28

We hang on to see Nick and Natalie into the finish. They all had a great day and loved it! 

It's great to catch up with the race organisers Jason, Chris and Danny. 

What a fantastic show and fun time for all! 

Once all fed we go back inside to sample the Dark Star Ale and talk running stories before heading on home for a big refuel meal.

Ultra Luke