South Downs Relay

Saturday 1st June 2024 – Report by Steve Apsey

South Downs Relay This is always a brilliant team event, a chance to race a relay over 100 miles of hilly trails, from Eastbourne to Winchester, with a strict cut off time of 14 hours, against some of the fastest teams in the South of England. What’s not too like?

This year Tyler Rimmer, Ash Crabbe, Jon Bye, Matt Fletcher, Ross Wilke and Steve Apsey took on the challenge. Travelling down on Friday Evening in what became known as ‘The Bus’, to stay at the Travelodge in Eastbourne, ready for an early start. Each team gets a start time based on their predicted finish, ranging from 6am to 9am, ours was 7am and Jon eagerly took the baton to start the race! The good news was we started on top of beachy head so a nice downhill start, the bad news was the up and down of the Seven Sisters! However, every leg involved a good amount of elevation so there were no easy sections. Think Chilly Hilly, Needles half, 3 Hills, that kind of run!

The race is split into 18 legs across the South Downs way and each runner has to complete 3 non-consecutive legs, which means totalling around 17 miles each. What makes this race unique is the team element, the self-navigation and having to jump out a minibus and urge your cramping legs to race with no warmup.

To make sure we were at the next checkpoint on time we had support team extraordinaire Ian Dyer and Zoe Elliott. Driving the route is almost as hard as running it and some of the legs leave you tight for time to get the next runner in position ready to receive the baton. Ian did brilliantly with his driving and Zoe rocked the check-in clipboard!  As ever the scenery, comradery and banter was as good as it always is, the hairiest moments of the day came from ‘the bus’ which always needed 3, 4 or 5 attempts to start…..leading to some panicked moments!

The team did amazingly well bettering last years’ time and achieving the third fastest time by Road Runners, and fastest since 2019. Our time of 12 hours 52 minutes put us 31st out of the 48 teams who finished (there were also 3 DNF’s this year) and 15th in our category. The overall winners were Brighton who completed the course in under 10 hours which meant they maintained sub 6 minute miles for the whole route!! A cracking race as always, same time next year, who’s in?