Arun River Marathon 4/12
It’s pretty obvious now that I love running locally, the South Downs is the Queen of running routes, and although I spend an awful lot of time running around some of the same bits, it never gets old!
Arun River Marathon is the 2nd race in the annual Sussex Trail Events river series, and for me it was my third of the series, with just the Lunar-Tic left to complete. Rocking up at the start line was a little different this time as I’d convinced Emma to join me. She is a super runner, much better than me, but hasn’t done much in the way of off-road and well I convinced her it’d be a great idea to mix up her road marathons this year.
We arrived and registered in the already warm sun. It was 8am and I was feeling toasty in shorts and a T-shirt. I get to bump in to lots of familiar faces now at these events, runners from our club, and also runners I recognise from the other river series runs. The start is often a mixture of horror stories from Dark Star, relaying facts about what we’re about to get ourselves in to, and then agreeing we’d all be ok because nothing could ever be quite as bad as Dark Star. The vibe as always though was super friendly, chilled out and comfortable; every one with the common love of running the trails and especially for running the Sussex trails.
The run to the first aid station (7ish miles) at the Black Rabbit Pub in Arundel is lovely. It’s a flat stretch of winding River, and despite a few over eager stinging nettles early on, it wasn’t too over grown. The ground was hard and rutted in places but you expect this of the trails at this time of year. I was still cautious to watch every step, with Edinburgh in 2 weeks I was conscious that an injury was not an option. You can see Arundel castle quite early on as a reference point and as the river winds you get a beautiful view of coloured tops running single file with that picturesque backdrop.
Aid station at STE are always on top form they are manned with lovely folk dishing up lovely food; Watermelon and Jaffa cakes fuel me mostly but I take a little sample of most of what is on offer at them.
The middle section of the race takes you over the best bouncy bridge, up through Amberley and on to the South Downs way. The climb here is no joke, it is a hard, steep relentless uphill and you think to yourself ‘oh it’s ok’ I get to run down that on the way back. Well guess what it’s even harder to run down it I think than it is to run up it!! Even so we had such a blast at this section. We cheered for all the runners coming back, and screamed a bit too enthusiastically at the top 3 ladies, sorry girls! My friend pointed out to me that on the map the hill looks like an evil castle, i think that’s quite fitting.
As I said the turning point and the descent was no easier than the climb and at the bottom I took some time to stretch as my taped up right leg was feeling the pain of pounding that mixed terrain. We got chatting to two ladies who were training to walk a marathon and they were amazed by what we were doing. It’s so nice in the countryside because you get to have these moments that on a road run would just never ever happen. We wished them good luck and off we went back towards the river, the flat and the bouncy bridge.
Miles were flying by now I felt incredible at mile 16/17/18 and then it all went a bit wrong. I was sure the aid station was at mile 19 but it really wasn’t, and everything started to slow and cramp in the lead up to it and then frustration at its whereabouts. Emma and I slid in to some sort of marathon slump which you know is inevitable and we tried to chat and pull each other out of it but the reality was we were both over it at this point. It was a welcome sight to see my friends/fam at the black rabbit although I was uber jealous of their pints in the sunshine as I stopped to hug them, I thought about taking a sip, why didn’t I take a sip?
At the final aid station we lingered for far too long with the dread of making our legs move again. It was ok though we are running back down that lovely stretch of river we enjoyed so much this morning right? Wrong, ugh it was a completely different ball game on tired legs! The hard ground felt like it was bruising my whole body with every step, the once idyllic windy bendy river bank now hid any reference point of how far we had to go, and oh yeah that headwind; I knew this headwind, it was there in the Mouth to Mouth, it was there with bells on for Dark Star and yep it was here again. We dug deep and relied heavily on that old trick of if we just run to this point we can have a brisk walk, and whenever that point came we carried on pushing through. Time disappeared and it seemed as if each mile would never pass.
It takes a special kind of friendship to be able to withstand running for 5 hours through the highs and lows both literal and figurative of trail running. We found that! We pulled each other up when we needed to, we took it in turns leading it into that headwind and we made each other and some more of you laugh a fair bit I think. That’s what this race was about, that’s what every trail race I’ve ever run is about. I still have these hopes and dreams of my body waking up and realising it can push for a 1st lady or even a 5th lady. To be honest though if that never happens I will never stop running these events, because after every one I am honestly filled with so much love for the place I live, and this incredible running community that I’m surrounded by.
Thanks to Jon Lavis for photos and STE for another great day out, that’s 3 down 1 to go and 4 down 8 to go folks. Can I have that beer now?
#clareruns12in12 Marathon #4 charity
I’ve spoken about how beautiful this run was. We are so lucky as a country to have some of the most well looked after, loved and used green spaces. One of my biggest fears over brexit is that the environment will slip down the agenda as far as government policy goes. Our natural world is unfortunately often an afterthought, but for me it really isn’t; I chose to build a career in this sector and one of the biggest joys i get from running is the backdrop of amazing and diverse natural landscapes. I loved being out amongst the beauty of it all yesterday and so for this race im donating my fees to the Arun River Trust.
Rivers Trusts are charities which operate on a catchment basis throughout the UK. They are community driven initiatives to look after local rivers and their areas. They are started by local people who care about the environment, and they’re working hard to take care of our lovely network of rivers. Arun & Rother Rivers Trust (ARRT) are a non profit organisation, and you can support them by following this link or why not spend some time volunteering clearing up your local river, beaches or green spaces.