Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Sunday, 11 September 2016

6th March: Steyning

I ran the Steyning Stinger a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the muddy fun that the race provided, so I was looking forward to getting-out on the course again with the good views from atop the ridges of the South Downs Way - that and the fried breakfast they give you at the finish!

With the Stinger being a relatively local race I woke as dawn cracked and drove down to the grammar school in the middle of the village of Steyning where the event organised by Steyning Athletic Club has its base, registered and changed for the off in plenty of time.

It seemed a bit busier than the previous time here with everyone milling-around through registration, although when I crossed the road in to the field ready for the official start, I could see a crowd of runners already heading-off in to the distance who formed the early start of the race for the slower runners.

All calm before the storm.
Attempting to keep warm in the crisp clear winter morning air us runners began to huddle a bit closer together before the countdown and we were unleashed onto the chocolate-pudding like mud of the field that formed the first part of the course.

Climbing up to the top of the downs.
Last time I ran it I lost a trainer in the mud 3 times within the first mile, but this time I managed to keep it down to just the one, although slipping your cold wet mud-soaked sock back in to your trainer straight after losing it is never a fun experience!

Sheep no doubt thinking we're baa-rmy.
Just beyond the first half mile as we came off the field and on to some tarmac I passed the first person to drop-out, pulling-up lame with what looked like a hamstring strain - I felt sorry for the guy as he’d probably trained hard to get to the start-line only to have every bit of preparation undone within the first five minutes of the race, something I have been mercifully spared from so far on this running odyssey of mine.

I understood what the guy was going through as the previous day I had set my parkrun PB running with Spud only to feel my hamstring tighten-up in the process within the first hundred metres of the mad dash off the start line… So here this morning I was acutely aware of managing the strain and not letting it develop in to a proper pull and seeing the poor chap was a cautionary tale for me about taking it easy.

On to the tarmac for a short while, we plodded along uphill until we hit the turn on to the trails and the mud with the trek and climb up on to the South Downs and the fabulous views from on top.

North to Surrey...
... and south to the sea.
The course was not as muddy as before, bar on the forested paths which were full of plenty of the grey cloying claggy clay-based mud, and once through the trees and on to the fields that form the top of the downs the running was good firm grassy pasture under foot and with the clear crisp air we could see for several miles from on top of the ridge north through Sussex towards Surrey and south out in to the channel.

It didn’t seem too long until I was running past Chanctonbury Ring, mercifully not as cold as before where the wind and an overcast sky really bit in to you back then, before heading south to Cissbury Ring and doing the loop passing the golf course overlooking Wareham before the lonely drag of the next loop of Steep Down.

Sauntering up to the ring.
North from the ring.
Mercifully once you have completed this final loop you know you are on the home stretch and heading back to Steyning and the finish… With the fun steep descent through the woods off of the downs before hitting the tease of the final few fields that divert you here and there whilst in sight of the finish but never seeming to approach it until the final drag including one last quagmire before the finishing line… And the fry-up.

Last views of the channel before turning for home.
Today was one of those runs where everything passed without trouble, but with my position in the field of runners, I was alone for long chunks of time with just the company of my podcasts to amuse me along the route.

With my gammy hammy I had to reign myself in at times when I felt I could have pushed harder - which did me another favour in preventing me from ‘blowing-up’ by going too hard or too fast so hopefully led to a better more even pace throughout my escapade that brought me home 8 minutes faster than before in 106/192 finishers…

What we run this race for!
A pretty good day out for me I felt, and then there was the fried brekkie and the uneventful drive home. The next time I’ll be in Steyning will be the halfway point of my planned 2 day MTB traverse of the South Downs Way in August with Dean, Rob & Stu - at least it should be warmer then, if not as bright and sunny!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.