As if smashing the South Downs as part of last weekend’s successful IWRR Relay team, Stu Backhouse was back to give the historic path another bash…. but this time doing the whole 100 miles himself.
Accompanied by long time pal Ian, he set out on the mammoth journey running in the reverse direction to last week’s team effort, Stu and Ian started at Matterly Bowl, near Chilcombe at an eye wateringly early 6am kick off. Luckily the persistent rain from the previous day had dried up and the sky looked promising.
A loop around the woodland of the private Matterley Estate passing through the farm before they began the ascent on to the ancient track. They negotiated their way to Beacon Hill Beeches with no problems at all. The air still cool due to the early hour. They continued onward and upwards, Winchester Hill and the infamous Butser Hill came and went, affording them some spectacular views from the high ground (very high ground in fact)
“The Hills were ridiculous, even for me! Some were 2 miles long” said Stu
As they left the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, the marathon distance passed beneath their feet. A remarkable achievement for most, but these trojans still had nearly 75 miles left to go, so no celebrations or fist pumps just yet.
“I had a wobble at 30 miles. Psychologically it was hard” said Stu “I had to have a massive word with myself”
After seeing off Harting Downs, Cocking Hill and Bignor Hills, the boys had a bit of welcome relief as they dropped down into the valley and crossed the River Arun. But as we all know, Vallies aren’t one sided so once across the belly of the valley they were faced with the colossal Kitehurst Hill taking them along to Washington and the Chanctonbury Ring.
50 miles in now and it was about 4-30ish. The boys still running at a nice steady pace. Plenty of daylight left.
They dropped down again to cross the second of the 4 rivers on the way, The Adur.
Truleigh Hill, to Saddlecombe Farm, around Devils Dyke to Ditchling Beacon, the boys were motoring now. One foot in front of the other trying to cover as much ground before the sun went down.
“I felt really good at this point. We were banging out sub 9 minute miles”
75 miles behind them and the light faded. They still had 2 rivers to Cross and countless hills yet to be conquered. Undeterred they carried on. Looking carefully for the signposts in the dark that would keep them on the right path.
From the heights of Ditchling Beacon they were plunged downward to cross the River Ouse before being straight up to Firle Beacon and back down to the River Cuckmere. The next hill was home to the famous Long Man of Wilmingham, unfortunately for Stu, concealed in darkness.
“I felt broken by then, I just wanted to sit down. But there was no way I was going to quit”
Just 10 miles left now, just 10 MILES! After ticking off the village of Jevington, they had one more Hill to climb, on top of which the trig point heralded the beginning of a very welcome descent from the heights of the track and into Eastbourne. All they had to do was make it to the Athletics track.
“That last hill was epic, totally brutal! But we knew it was downhill from there on”
Suddenly the track appeared from nowhere and the boys took their victory lap around the orange oval crossing the line together having shared every step of this magnificent experience together
“That was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done…. the best and worst race all in one. It was punishing. 12300 ft of ascent and no rest for 24 hours it was brutal. I was buzzing at the end though”
Stu Backhouse – 100 miles – 22.33.34