The London to Brighton off road race was originally created by Extreme Running Ltd back in 2008.
I was fortunate to run the route back in 2013, with some practice help before the event from Mark Dean, one of the organisers.
Since then the event has not taken place. With the Ultra scene flourishing, runners like to run fast, hard and to follow markers without worry of map reading.
This is one route that needs practice and cannot be run without a map, unless you have accurate GPS on your watch!
Waiting to register and start
This year Sussex Trail Events have tried the logistics of a revamp to the original keeping of the off road route, as close as possible. With the help from Mark and Dennis (Extreme Running Ltd) they tweaked the route slightly and trailed the checkpoint areas.
Jay and Danny check everyone off the list
This is where I come in...
I was one of the lucky thirty or so ultra runners invited to try the route again, like it would be an actual race.
The plan is that STE can look to making it their own event for 2017.
Lucky number, my birthday, so a good luck charm
The start is officially on the green by Hare and Billet Road, heading down the hill to Lewisham Station, then along the cycle path.
Instructions for the day ahead
After catching up with Mark, Lucy, and all the runners, 18 of us in total, we set off at 06:05 for the journey back home!
06:05 The Start
Map book at the ready on page one. I won't be letting it go until I finish in Brighton.
Keep running to the sea...
We run together in small groups at a steady 8:00min/mile pace, chatting training and events we have been doing.
I catch up with Katherine Ganly who is picking her training back up again for the autumn season. She is doing Dragons Back race next year.
Running the streets
The route is very much exactly the same as last time I run it in 2013.
We pass through Catford, Rabourne, and Beckenhan Park before the long stretch of road heading up to Keston Common for the first checkpoint.
Approaching Checkpoint One
Making our way to the Team at Keston Common
Heading towards Biggin Hill
The long stretch around woodlands and the ridges of Biggin Hill are peaceful and flat with plenty of scenic views miles in front. Through gates and over styles, Caitlin has a fall on some rock, smacking her elbow. She knocked her knee but nothing serious just a dull pain in her arm.
Even the most quietest spots, always someone watching...
We walk a short while until we know she is ok and it is not serious. I hope we can get some ice or gel for it at the next checkpoint...
Coming into Swayesland
After 20 miles we reach the next checkpoint. The past downhill tracks and open fields have been covered in pot holes and rutted stones. Already I can feel my ankles and quads working overtime to compensate for it...
The Team at Checkpoint Two
This section I can remember from previous practice, it is challenging and technical in places.
Although not overly warm it feels to be now the sky is clear...
We manage to keep to the route and look out for markings and stickers on posts as we go by.
My memory serves me well, as I stay to the route that feels so familiar from last time I was here. The others are close in tow enjoying every turn we make.
Myself and Cailtlin have been running as a group the entire route so far...
Catching up with the folks just after Checkpoint Three
The markings on styles and finger posts are so clear and thorough along this leg, it really hasnt been so hard to go wrong.
I packed babybel cheese and olives for between checkpoints, as there is about 10-11 miles for each, this has been so helpful.
We reach the next checkpoint which is about 32 miles in now. The area STE have used is a touch further along the route on a road bend. Danny is here to top up our water and supply some snacks, coke, sweets and nuts. we all nibble on everything and take some jelly babies with us.
we set off quickly and I remember my folks will be up ahead at the A264 road crossing.
Next stop Horsted Keynes. Mal, James, Myself and Caitlin
Katherine is now running with us after picking her pace back up again.
After coming out of some wooded parts the track leads up to a field where I can already spot my Mum, Dad, Mark and Lucy supporting and taking pictures.
I catch up with the folks briefly and nibble on some nuts with a hot coffee and cream, that Mum has kindly carried along for the day.
Mark aids me across the road and sees me off until I catch up woth the group again.
Following the stickers
All five of us run together for the time being without any wrong turns or diversions.
The gap in the trees at Chailey Common, which I remember from before and reading the map notes is easy to find, yet very overgrown as we pass through. We follow the track best to the map as we can but still come out on the road slightly off.
The Hooke near Chailey
We easily keep to the road then the next track off road through the common. Chailey is still very technical as before and I keep clued to the map until we reach an open footpath again.
Katherine has dropped in pace and slowed behind us again.
We make our way through Lower and Upper Burrow before coming to the next stop...
Almost at the last checkpoint
The sun is lower but still bright with a strong breeze picking up across the downs. Already the air temperature is cooling quickly.
It is now after 4pm when we reach the final checkpoint at Chiltington on the railway bridge.
John is helping out here with Danny and helps us restock our fuel and water for the last 10 miles left to go...
James up ahead climbing Blackcap
Blackcap... that little hill...
After we are fed and watered, we head down the long track together. The route is quite straight forward here and I no longer need to refer to the map.
The L2B stickers are still easy to find on the way...
The route is diverted just before Blackcap, which differs to the original route I have already run. It is fairly easy enough, but has climbs, is rutted and cuts through farmland and electric fences.
The cows at Warningore Farm pay little interest in us coming through, they hardly budge to allow us out the gate...
Mum and Sunday greeting everyone at Race Hill, Woodingdean
Quick wave as we pass...
I can see the sea!
After the electric fench and across the next field we head over the road and onto the footpath trail that leads up Blackcap along from the east instead of south. We hike up the chalky pathway as James trots on up infront.
Once we reach the top and meet the South Downs Way footpath I can enjoy the smoother flat and home turf to Falmer...
It is a wonderful feeling after making it all this way from Blackheath this morning.
I lead the way at an average 7:30min/mile pace until coming out at Ridge Road. We walk some to cath a breath and recgroup before making it over the bridge at the A27.
Just three more miles to go now!
The last few miles to the finish... (Photo by Sunday)
Reaching the finish at last
The wind is sweeping over the downs already and I can smell the fresh sea air.
Shawn Mark and Lucy are at Woodingdean cheering us on and Mark keeps Caitlin company until we cross over to Drove Road around the back of Woodingdean.
Once out at Race Hill we follow the arrows to the small carpark where Sunday, Mum and Dad are waiting to catch us. After high fives and waves we speed onto the track around Sheepcote Valley, parallel to the East Brighton Golf Course.
Sunday joins us but has trouble keeping up with our 8:00min/mile pacing, so takes to filming from behind us...
We soon meet the road at the Club House and cross over to Black Rock for a finish at the promenade by Asda! This wasnt the first choice of the finish, but the road to Madeira Drive is blocked for a car show event, so last minute decison from the team to finish here.
It worked out great as we ran down the zig zag slope cycle path for a sprint finish!
We reach in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th position in all in 11hrs 34min
Myself and Caitlin
Sunday and the new finishers tech T-shirt
Many thanks to the guys at Sussex Trail Events for the opportunity and experience of the original London to Brighton off-road event.
Looking forward to the official event from next year!
Thank you to Mum, Dad, Sunday, John, Shawn, Mark, Lucy and the STE team for making this a successful practice session...
Caitlin, Mal and James