There must be something about the first weekend in March – so many high quality races around – the Bath Half Marathon, the Berkhampstead Half, The Silverstone Half, the Reading Half …… all major events, but closer to home we had the legendary Steyning Stinger, the Tunbridge Wells Half and of course the Sussex Grand Prix scoring, Eastbourne Half Marathon.
Personally, I’m proud to say that I’m a Steyning Stinger virgin no more……I only signed up to do this in January, sitting in The Bell when Danielle was running through her 2014 ‘beauty parade’ of races she wanted to do – seeing her wavering at the Stinger I found myself saying “don’t worry, if YOU do it, I will”……….and I thought no more. Danielle (I won’t make you feel bad about this, I really won’t!) was forced to drop out due to work, but I had the bit between my teeth and was strangely looking forward to it! Of course, what I SHOULD have done was actually do some preparation, but I hadn’t factored in an enforced absence from running of a month due to work and illness….no worry, I thought, I’ll ‘knock out’ the Brighton Half and that will be more than enough training. Maybe that would have been a ‘stupid but not unreasonable’ plan were it not for the incredible MUD! I have to say that I found this really tough (and I only did the Half…..slowly!) but LOVED it (easy to say when you’re safely back at home with a cup of tea of course).
The mud was truly epic – people were being advised to check their shoes at Race Control and make sure they weren’t dragged off in the muddy patches – did I say ‘patches’?, I reckon the first 6 miles were 70% solid mud. Always the gallows humour at the start – observing my black outfit the comment was “you’re not colourful enough, the helicopter will never find you dressed like that”……..and the mud started immediately – not in a mile or two, it was right there once you crossed the line!
As I plodded onwards I did contemplate the different types of mud……most Saturdays we encounter patches of thick, dark brown, clay-based mud that slides you left and right and sucks at your shoes. But to that we can add the chalk-type mud, light grey in colour and almost a liquid, but very slippery and usually quite deep!
This mudfest lasted until the other side of the A24 when the long first climb (or ‘sting’) began – and a nasty steep one at that! By which time my legs had already had the energy dragged from them and I was suffering those ‘mini cramps’ in the thighs and calves. “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” sounds great when you’re being macho in a pub with a beer in your hand – when you’re in pain its actually quite hard to tell yourself that you can choose not to suffer!
But the miles just passed – the good thing about going uphill is that there is inevitably some downhill too – which is nice! And the weather was fine, a bit breezy but that added to it – no rain, hail or sub-zero temperatures to contend with.
Those who’ve done this for years deserve the praise, I saw Ilidia and Jackie P along with ex-Jogger Terry Bourne afterwards – they (Ilidia and Jackie) had run from Henfield as part of their marathon training plan and then done the Half Marathon (hard core nutters you may well say!) and they looked, well, chipper!……I think the weather today was great compared to the reports of recent years, people who did that really had to endure a lot! But I must say, fantastic value compared to other ‘road orientated’ races….£22 for a brilliantly marshalled and organised course, plenty of drinks stations, all with chocolate and biscuits available, terrific medal (yes I know, it’s a new thing….but!), free breakfast (I expected a bun but it’s sausage, bacon, scrambled egg, beans, mushrooms, loads of fresh bread rolls and unlimited tea or coffee)…….it beats others into a cocked hat! Oh, and ALL the race photographs from Sussex Sport Photography are free! I don’t know how they do it! And as you can see from my (1 of 58!) example, a lovely custom watermark too.
I LOVE this medal, (as we all know -medals matter!) but the shoes have not been allowed into the house yet, and I’ve never had so much mud at the bottom of my bath……….I’m sure there’s a beauty benefit to all this???? Can we retail it somehow? I’m definitely ‘in’ for next year, but with a bit of training first next time, not just rocking up and doing it!!!!!!
Of course I have only this one experience to measure anything against, whereas many Joggers have run this for years, at Half and Full Marathon distances – I hope some of you add Comments to this, but I think Hugh sums it up well:
I have run the Steyning Stinger 10 times and its predecessor the Chanctonbury Marathon 13 times and I have never seen mud like it on the course. The weather was ok, if a bit windy, but there were at least 5 miles of the course where I found it impossible to run, including the start and finish! My quads were still sore after the recent speed work, so I took nearly an hour longer than usual. Despite this, the temptation to opt for the half was not too difficult to resist, although it has to be one of the hardest marathons in terms of terrain that I’ve ever done.
Results for The Stinger:
2:41:33 Ilidia Campbell
2:41:34 Jackie Parsons
2:55:03 Paul Crowe
5:37:58 Hugh Martin
5:25:27 Ralph Bernascone
5:41:44 Mark Skilton
There is a fantastic blog covering the experience of running the 2014 course that really describes it all accurately – you can read it here.
And thanks to my judicious pilfering of the free images for this event, here’s a rogues gallery of Joggers completing the course
Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon
Dave English writes:
Neither of us managed a view of the 1:50 pace man after about half way, before the long climb through Fordcombe.
I would have been happy with anything inside two hours &
was pleased to manage 1:53:57 and he 1:55:30 . Not at all bad weather, dry throughout.
Eastbourne Half Marathon
I’m hoping that I can get a few words on the Eastbourne Half too – Natasha has commented so far:
Windy windy incl one mountain to climb / walk. Great time considering also virtually no training.
Natasha Heasman: 2:12:24
Mick Dee: 2:54:32
Will anyone beat Mick in his attempt to run more Grand Prix than anyone?