Nine runners from Farnham Runners took Craig Tate-Grimes up on his suggestion to run Second Wind Running’s midnight marathon.
The Farnham team left Queen Elizabeth Country Park at 9pm and headed out along the South Downs path to Cocking car park and back. The team joining Craig were Kate Townsend, Richard Denby, Mark Maxwell, Emma Dawson, Linda Tyler, Sue Taylor, Louise Granell and Ivan Chunnett.
This was a last-minute booking, with most signing up in the week before the marathon.
Marathons – especially one as tough as this – usually require three to four months of training.
So the plan for most was to take it easy and enjoy the event – other than Louise, who was looking to push herself.
Louise pushed on from the start and ran superbly to finish as the second lady.
Louise said: “Like the rest of the club, I entered in the week leading up to the race. I hadn’t run more than 11km since the London marathon in April, but I had been strength training three times a week – I really think the latter helped me stay in a good condition.
“The race started with a steep uphill and it was fairly slippery underfoot.
“The South Downs route took in some lovely views, even in the night-time. It was so dark with little light pollution.
“I reached halfway at 2:15 having met another runner doing a similar pace.
“He had run the course before, so knew all the hills. I just had to concentrate on keeping up. In the last few miles we encouraged each other to keep going and we ran immediately after the hill finished.
“We finished in 4:34 – which wasn’t a bad split! I was thrilled to finish second lady.
“I managed about three-and-a-half hours sleep that night, and definitely still need to catch up!”
The rest of the group settled in for a more leisurely pace the whole way around.
Trail runs are not measured accurately and often have a slightly different length to the published distance.
Most of the group’s GPS watches measured it to be closer to 27 miles – so technically it was an ultra-marathon.
The Farnham team treated it like an ultra and followed two key ultra-rules – “walk up the hills” and “remember to eat while you run”.
Walking the hills in an ultra conserves energy as running up a hill uses more energy than what is gained in time over walking. This led to the mantra on the run being “is that a hill?” and the instantaneous response being “yes”.
It is also important to eat while running – it is often said an ultra is an eating competition and not a running competition. When you push your body to the limits you burn a lot of calories – if you don’t consume replacement calories or salts, you will burn out and not be able to complete the race.
Farnham’s runners observed this rule by taking ample advantage of the food on offer at the five aid stations and checkpoints. There was a feast of chocolates, fruits, chips, ice lollies, Coke and water every four or five miles.
Craig helped another runner who was on his own, who had been impacted and was battling with cramp at about 20 miles. Craig gave him two of his last salt tablets – and, thanks to this and his determination, he was able to complete the event.
Having fewer salt tablets meant Craig had to rely on licking some crisps to get salt to get through to the end of the run – but it is important to look after fellow runners.
The runners luckily had a clear night with a bright moon.
Conditions were perfect for running – just a little breezy high up on ridges. With eight high-powered torches, the night was awash with light and there were no trips or falls.
The views over Harting and Maden were breathtaking and the feeling of adventure being in a small group with torches lighting up the way was a rewarding and memorable experience.
It was a fantastic way to spend six hours with friends chatting away through the night, laughing at each other’s stories.
The lack of training did catch up with the group and the last few miles were hard, but they pushed through as a team and crossed the line together to smash Craig’s previous time by 40 minutes.
A big shout out to Second Wind Running for a great event with well-stocked aid stations, friendly marshals and a great medal!