Little did I know after completing Centurion’s SDW50 last April, it would turn out to be my last race for nearly a year. Long gone are the days of running all of the races, and even training year round. I’ve really benefited from taking an extended break from running, and though it was bloody hard at first to get back into it, I’m actually at a point where I’m really enjoying it again.
Last weekend marked my first race back, I’ve got a few upcoming and I am using them all as training for the NDW50 in May, so I won’t be going hell for leather on them, just getting the miles in and enjoying the day, scenery and atmosphere.
I liked the idea of the Maverick Sussex, as in theory it was relatively easy to get to from London. However, at 7.35am on Saturday morning, my scheduled 7.33am train was cancelled, with the next one not for another hour, it left me no time to get my connecting train and get to the race on time. What followed was frantic, stressful and not really the way you want to head into a race. I managed to get an Uber to East Croydon, a train to Horsham, and then a taxi to the start in Amberley- all of this was bloody expensive, thanks Southern Rail. However, I did make it to the race on time, slightly frazzled.
The registration was pain free, and toilet queues for ladies short (though none of them were flushing). We had a quick race briefing, with a cacophony of barking in the background (I’ve never seen so many dogs at a race and I love how dog friendly the event is) and we were under way. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd who it was good to see, and the atmosphere as always at these kind of events was great. There were three events: short 7k, medium 14k and the long which I was doing which was 23km. All routes were signposted clearly and turn off points were easy to navigate.
They set us off on a pretty brutal climb for the first two miles, which was one way to reunite with the trails. They don’t have climbs like that in London! The race was undulating with a few steeper sections after the first climb, but nothing too extended, and there was lots and lots of flat runnable sections.
For February the downs were surprisingly dry, the chalk was a little slippy in places, but not until the last few miles was there any really thick ankle deep mud to navigate. What was more challenging was the wind, Doris seemed to be lingering, and some of the exposed sections were fairly brutal, in particular the headwind near the end, which made the flat sections feel as bad as the opening hill! There also didn’t feel like there was that many downhills, I was really looking forward to one near the end, but it turned out to be a severely steep set of steps which I tip toed down in fear of falling.
It was a bit of a mizzly overcast day so the views weren’t amazing, but I do love running on the downs, there really is nothing like it.
The finish was a bit bizarre, running round the car park, and through the Amberley museum, before crossing the line and being rewarded with a much needed trail ale. I would definitely recommend the Maverick series, it was really well organized, nice course and theoretically should have been easy to get to as well. I was really pleased with my effort for the day, and it was really good to get out and run on some proper hills and trail conditions.
Next race up is the Thames Meander Marathon next weekend, I did it in 2015 and it’s where I set my PB, although I don’t expect to get close to that this time, as it is a training run. I haven’t run a marathon “race” since 2015, which is bizarre, I’ve done 2 ultras since then, and quite a few marathon distance or more training runs but no actual races. I’ll report back next weekend.