South Downs 100

100 miles of rolling countryside made up the course for this invitation only event. From glorious Beachy Head in East Sussex following the South Downs Way from point to point, ending up in Chilcombe near Winchester.

One of only 15 National Trails in England, the South Downs Way spans 3 counties. It follows ancient routes along the ridges and chalk escarpments of the Downs. It takes in the famous Long Man of Wilmingham, the Chanctonbury Ring and Devils Dyke the view from which artist Constable described as “the grandest in the world”

As if negotiating the terrain isn’t challenge enough, it is completely self navigated with only tiny signs to follow.

Our team of 6, accompanied by their trusty support crew made their way to the early start at Beachy Head. Warm already despite the early hour, the breeze was minimal and the temperature was climbing.

Nick Kenney set out first from Beachy Head, starting the bidding for team IOWRR on this epic journey. A nice downhill sent our recent Ultra runner Nick on his way on this undulating 6 mile leg to Exceat. It was here that Steve Apsy took the baton as he embarked on his way to Bo-Peep passing the famous Long Man of Wilmington on the way.

He smashed it though handing over to Phil Mannall. Phil set out on his 5 mile journey to Itford Farm where team member Andy Wheeler was waiting for him.

Andy had a reasonably flat start (well in a South Downs context) to his leg, but it wasn’t long before the elevation started. Once it started it went on and on and on on, this being the second longest leg of the entire event. The end came at last as Andy made it to the Newmarket layby where Nick Kenney was patiently waiting to kick off with his second leg of the journey.

The brutal 5 miles of climb to Ditchling Beacon was no match for our Nick who conquered his second leg amazingly, passing the baton on to Immanuel Skeet. 

Immanuel banged out the miles as he made his way to Saddlescombe passing Devils Dyke. 34 miles behind them, the boys were going great guns.

Our Rocket Ross Wilkes took the baton from Immanuel and continued onward to Adur, comparatively one of the kinder legs this was a perfect opportunity for our in house speedster to make up some time and close down the competitor’s. Handing over to Phil, he then had a hard task as he pretty much has 5 miles of continuous elevation gain. Passing the prehistoric hill fort of Chanctonbury Ring, he finally found a bit of downhill relief in the last half mile as he descended toward Washington. 

Steve took the baton from a rather hot and bothered Phil who was feeling the pressure and the heat. The next leg wasn’t any easier either. Steve had a whopper of a hill, (650ft within a mile) taking him up onto the high ground where Nick was waiting to start leg 3 of 3.

The downhills weren’t any easier either. Peppered with large stones and boulders, roots and loose gravel, they were trecherous. Nevertheless the boys were smashing it.

Nick battered the next leg. The 4 miles from Springhead Hill to Houghton Lane were devoured up in lightning time passing over to Immanuel who continued on the momentum as he made his way up Bignor Hill to Littleton Farm.

Ross took on the next part of the journey. No whoppers on this leg, but constant undulation took Ross across the high ground before dropping down to Hill Barn Farm in the Valley. 64 miles in the bag and still some of the biggest climbs were still to come. The heat taking its toll now, and the difficulties of stopping and starting after running so hard on the hills were starting to set in as stiffness and fatigue began to appear. The clock was ticking as they had to make it to the end of Leg 15 before the cut off time, otherwise it was all over. They would be pulled from the race and It would have all been for nothing.

Andy had a rude awakening to this next leg as he was sent immediately up Cocking Hill. It proved no problem though as he motored up it along to Harting Down where Phil was again waiting. He took the team onward, up and down the relentless undulation to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. 

Getting there now, they were 75% of the way to their destination. The next leg was crucial. Only 4 miles, but it contained the infamous Butser Hill. Not only that, the cut off point was at the next changeover point and they couldn’t afford to lose any time. All the pressure then for Immanuel who had picked up the task of taking on this beast.

Off he went, giving it everything. Desperate to catch sight of the changeover point at the Sustainability Centre before time ran out. Keep going, keep going. Before he knew it he was there with Andy waiting for his teammate despite having only finished his last run two legs ago! They had made it in time, and so they continued, buoyed on by surviving the tight cut off time which allows for an average of just 7.20 minute per mile over this brutal course.

Andy took the bull by the horns and annihilated his final leg. Plenty of downhill on this section as he pushed on and then finally up Old Winchester Hill. 

Just 2 legs left as Andy handed over to Ross who was now well rested from his last leg. The longest leg of the entire relay was second to last on the list, cruel on tired legs for many, but Ross’s speed and endless determination saw him spank through some technical downhills before his last climb took him up to Steve at Holden Farm for that final exchange of the metal tube that had travelled with them for 90 odd miles. 

Steve kept it moving, still running at a phenomenal pace despite being on his final leg. Knowing that the end was just a couple of miles away. One more hill. The last of what must have been hundreds by now. Up he went, running as hard as he could until that long awaited finish line came into sight.

They’d done it! Despite some injuries and a little bit of getting lost, they’d finished! 100 miles covered and some quad crippling 3800m of ascent. That’s almost halfway up Mount Everest or two thirds of the way up Kilimanjaro! Beers in hand they were tired, drained and dehydrated, but jubilant. Not all teams make it back to Winchester, but our heroes returned victorious! Absolutely amazing work chaps! very well done.

Big respect also to the support crew of Ian Dyer, Pat Harris and Zoe Elliott for timekeeping, navigating and keeping the boys fed and watered. 

Finish Position – 17th Overall – 13 hours 40 minutes and 01 second.