After the Steyning Stinger Marathon....Mud, sweat and cheers!, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.
Most of the race I had my fingers crossed for Dave Immune and Jezza who were hopefully in the last throes of the Thames Path 100.
The weather was awful. We picked up Lily from around the corner and had a drive down to West Sussex for the Stinger....the rain did not abate all morning.
Straight out of the car and to collect my number, we were running a little late but in plenty of time to get organised and to bump into none other than Spenser from the running club. Hirsute to the max (no doubt for insulation on this cold day in full beard) he introduced me to his work colleague who had come down to support and then we trotted round the back of HQ to essentially a ploughed muddy field for a quick countdown and off we went.
Chalky mud and driving rain are an accident waiting to happen and sure enough, within a couple of miles there were runners slip-sliding all over the shop. I ran with Spenser for the first couple of miles and he took a tumble in his road shoes. Luckily through the farmhouse and up Chanctonbury Hill he seemed fine, but struggling with grip. I trotted on and skirting the Chanctonbury ridge the temperature dropped as we climbed onto the Downs proper.
The first few miles were fairly uneventful. I glanced at the watch and noted that Mrs UB and Lily had probably started and were cursing the same mud on the half marathon; the same first 11 miles and last 2. We crossed the A24 at Bostal, I picked up some sliced up Mars bars and we hit the first sting. Some marathons I feel good all of the way round and some I grow into. This I was still unsure and a very tiny part of my grey matter said......do you want to just do the half? The other overriding art said.......this is going to be immense!
Onto Chanctonbury Ring and one of those moments that defines a run came up. Both of the girls felt this too, although later tha morning. Approaching the 755ft summit with driving rain in the face, the eerie pine trees that adorn the crest of the ridge crept out of the mist and fog. So spooky! But all the same...ace! Jezza would be there in spirit "bring on the ghosts!" At the 11 mile mark the 2 races split and the marathon went headlong into the driving rain. My suspicions that many of the marathoners had opted to start earlier than the mass start were confirmed when I bumped into John who I had met at the London Ultra. We exchanged chit-chat for 3-4 miles but his legs were probably weary from 3 marathons in 3 weeks. Mile 17 I realised I had not had a drink or a feed so downed a flapjack and emptied my bottle down my neck at possibly the most rubbish part of the course, around Worthing golf club.
Back up onto the Downs and the dizzy climb up to Cissbury Ring with a lap around the old hill fort. It was a slippery mud bath and I helped a lady who had gone apex over triangle and I watched bemused as others slid down the back end of the hill. Approaching mile 20 I felt fab. I recalled a section where I had first met the legendary Johnny Mac 3 years ago and that filled me with a fresh zing to my step....or maybe I had a sugar rush? Anyway, back to Chanctonbury and I saw Spenser at the switchback. The last 6 miles were increasingly wet and the driving rain filled my left ear with cold deafness.
I dawdled at the 20 and 24 mile checkpoints as I was feeling undernourished. It is surprising how long a near frozen mars bar takes to eat but thanking the brilliant marshals was my key priority, chocolate teeth and all!
I loved the suicidal hill back down off the summit......total brain off, brakes off moments like that are buzzing........and it will be great to see the photograph from that poor SSP chap, snapping away as I plummeted from puddle to puddle down the hill. The last 3 miles were 8.26, 8.07 and 7.27 as I overtook I think about 12 runners to blast in the usual styleee to the finish line. 4.10 for the day was 17 mins slower than my previous attempt but no mean feat in the horrendous slippy, angle deep mud and driving wind and rain.
I finished and then jogged to warm down (up) and was greeted by a fry up and cup of tea from the beautiful Mrs UB who had, with Lily gone round the half in 2.45, demonstrating how tough going this really was.
Marathon number 25 could not have been more different from 24........this is where memories are made.....