Race Reports

Hickstead Gallop - 5 mile (8km) cross country race

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It was a misty chilly morning when two member of the elite Elvis impersonators wing of the Mid Sussex Tri Club arrived at the Hickstead showground to take on the Hickstead Gallop - Haywards Heath Harriers cross country race.

It was dry but the ground was a trifle sticky as large groups of club runners stretched and warmed up we watched on, striking triathalete poses, gazing through our 1980's orange wraparound sunglasses as we nursed our hangovers and curry guts.

The gun went off and I burst to the front - I was in the lead - two seconds later I picked myself up, wiped the mud of my face and rubbed the spike marks in my back, 'humm reminds one of a good night out me thinks'.

Up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, through the mud.

Up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, through the mud.

Running backwards as more runners come by, I try to block with chicken elbows but to no avail, they just keep coming. The coaching books say start in a sensible position and run negative splits so you can have the joy, excitement and psychological boost of running past people. That's not for me I enjoy the extra pain of demoralisation and the feeling of losing every time someone speeds past wondering why I am wearing a wool shirt fashioned into a running vest.

Up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, through the mud - straight through the mud as other traversed the gate to avoid getting their £100.00 plus trainers dirty. Fortunately I had Robs £15.00 second hand cross country spikes on that he sold to me for £20.00 so straight through the mud, past a few runners at every gate and chicken wing to the next gate - absolutely brilliant spikes are thoroughly recommended if you do any of these events.

Still they come past - until the line came in to view, using my spikes and absorbing the DNA left in them by Rob to give me the power of a Spartan (fortunately with clothes on) I sprinted to the finish and past a few shocked runners as I past them, only to realise they were carrying on for their final lap.

The day was complete when I found a muddy old runners glove.

  • Colin - 34:57
  • Dean - 42.32



Chester Marathon


My trek up to Chester started on Saturday, leaving behind the family of wife and 4 year and almost 2year old kids.  At least the marathon guaranteed a good night's sleep but perhaps running a marathon is not the only way to achieve this! 

This year had been all about this marathon with my only other race events two 10k runs and a half marathon, virtually no cycling or swimming.  The year before had been a similar affair with three marathons Brighton (3hrs 24 and too hot), Beachy Head (4:09: too off-road and hilly) and Portsmouth (3:34 - too cold and unfit). I was really concerned that getting close to my pb of 3.10 (set at Rome in 2006) was a lost cause. But I figured I 'd give it another go. So all the eggs had been placed in the basket a long time ago and I was hoping to crack sub-3 hour into the equation. 

Early start as usual - with the upside of having kids is that waking at 6am without interrupted sleep meant that I was feeling the most refreshed I'd been in a long time. Small bowl of porridge and a banana 3 hours before race start then it was off to Chester Racecourse for the start. The organisers had a lot right - warm tents to hang around in - check. Excellent baggage drop - check. Lots of portaloos - no check (luckily that side of things was already sorted). 

Race start was on the Chester Racecourse itself and literally entailed ducking under the white metal rail onto the horse racing course.  It felt a bit strange to be at the front - after the marathon fails last year was I really even wise to step into the sub-3 area with others? But I figured that there is no use predetermining the outcome by being conservative and choosing a slower time.  And knew I should be there or thereabouts after a 1:25 half marathon the month before.  So with the elite thoroughbreds at the front, and the club runners around me I was banking on not being the pantomime horse in my bit.    

The town crier got us started with an oh-yay and a horn and we did a half lap of the racecourse on the grass (fortunately they don't start a marathon in Aintree!). The course then weaved around Chester city centre past the famous clock tower, the cathedral and the tiered olde worlde shops called the Rows. Soon we were out of the Chester part of the marathon.  In reality the majority of the course was on rural roads held across the border in Wales.

I settled into a group regularly doing sub-6.30 to 6.40 times and figured that this would be the one to hang onto. The first half of the course was fairly flat with some gentle undulations but nothing noticeable when feeling fresh.  I was happy with the pace, but dropped off this group eventually towards the halfway point as the main people doing the work in the bunch suddenly dropped their pace.  I was through the half marathon point exactly at 1.28.  Slightly ahead of pace and only 2 ½ minutes off my half pb.

The next section of the race was when the going started to get tough however and the course became more undulating.  I was holding the pace at the right speed (6.50 for sub-3), but it was really tough going as the field was much sparser by now.  Some nice if sporadic support along the very rural route and Wallace and Gromit music in a village was great.  There was a couple of hills along this point that were absolute killers (not in terms of normal running) but when trying to stay on pace (not possible) and to get back onto my average pace after they finished they were real mental challenges.  Eventually I passed the 20 mile point seemingly at 2.15 (new pb for this distance). I now had 45 minutes for 6.2 miles to get sub 3. But unfortunately the course and my body had other ideas.  A succession of uphill drags meant that I was losing on average 30 seconds per mile and my body was giving the early warnings of cramp.  The mind games were now in full swing - every time I started thinking negative I tried to keep it within the moment - just keep pushing on and ignore everything else. 

Normally I get a bit of adrenaline at the end of a marathon and my pace picks up again, but the threat of cramp became real as my hamstring went for a full blown lock out that stopped me in my tracks. I didn't hang around to stretch it out however and carried on a downhill section breaking occasionally into the monty python ministry of silly runs onto the final riverside section, which led into the Racecourse.  Unfortunately, the bridge I thought signalled the entry to the stadium was another ½ mile away but I continued on at some sort of pace.  Finally the course came into sight and it was back onto the grass race course for a final push to get under the 3.03 mark.  Final official chip time was 3.02.50, nearly 8 minutes of my time from six years ago. And some proof that I haven't peaked yet! On the plus side, it will also allow me to qualify for the Boston Marathon either for 2013 or 2014, which is another tick on my bucket list!!!  Unfortunately, not quite sub 3 and 2 minutes 50 secs is also just too near to the sub-3 that I now have to try for it again.grrrrr!  Overall, I was very pleased with the time but with a sense of unfinished business. 

For those interested in my training schedule:

Started training consciously 8 months ahead of the race.  Longest weeks were no more than a maximum of 50 miles in total, which I built up to gradually over the 8 months.  My longest run was a misjudged 23 miler but other than that my longest runs were 20 miles. Each week I did a maximum of 4 runs but many weeks only 3 runs per week.  This often included a long run (12 miles building to 20 miles as the weeks progressed), regular hilly tempo run off-road - 8 miles, faster short run (6 miles with some extended intervals), occasionally a 10 mile run or a treadmill session but each week was judged according to niggles, workload, family commitments etc. Part of my training was entering races, which were essential as gauges of being on track plus a nice intermediate goal along the way.

It is also worth mentioning my footwear, as I used my Inov-8 F-lites, which are 195 gramme shoes.  These are among the most minimalist shoes out there and, compared to 'marathon' shoes I have used in the past, I can honestly say that I feel no worse on the day after than in any other shoes.  Also, no blisters at all or black toes. I have been running in fairly minimalist shoes over shorter distances for years, so I think that I am now fully conditioned for them, but it shows that they can really work at any distance. It's about all about fitness, conditioning and technique and not support shoes.


Club Records click here

Barns Green ½ Marathon

11 MSTC athletes took part this time. This year the race was brought forward by a month from it's traditional time at the end of October. Slightly warmer weather and a later than usual start made it quite a civilised race but as usual superbly well organised and marshalled. 

The men certainly surpassed all expectations. Jim, Mike, Martin and Gordon all gained new PBs. Jim was really flying with 1h22m33s while Mike ran his first time under 90mins with 1h28m6s. Martin started very strongly and finished in 1h36m58s and Gordon cruised round with his dad for most of the way (just leaving him towards the end) for a 1h48m04s. I think we are going to see further huge improvements from both Martin and Gordon in the next couple of years.  Steve A managed a respectable time (1h32m23s) just 6 days after completing LEJOG and James paced himself round sensibly to a sub 90 minute time (1h29m28s) 

Lucy (1h43m4s) held off a very strong challenge from Emma Jaffe (1h44m38s), with Rachel not far behind both(1h46m10s). Hazel was a bit disappointed to find it quite a struggle this time in 1h51m19sand Helen Graham comfortably completed it sub 2 hours (1h57m06s) 

MEN WINNER 1h06m53s 

  1. Jim Graham         1h22m33s     23.45%   10pts
  2. Mike Jaffe           1h28m06s      31.75        9  
  3. James Dear          1h29m28s*    33.79       8
  4. Steve Alden         1h32m23s     38.16         7
  5. Martin Sanwell    1h36m58s     45.01           6
  6. Gordon Skeats     1h48m04s     61.61         5 

WOMEN WINNER 1h25m04s 

  1. Lucy Williams    1h43m41s    21.89%    10pts
  2. Emma Jaffe        1h44m38s*  23.00         9
  3. Rachel Baker      1h46m10s    24.81         8
  4. Hazel Tuppen     1h51m19s    30.85         7
  5. Helen Graham    1h57m06s*  37.66         6

 * means chip time not available so slower 'gun' time is recorded in the results only

Brighton Marina Tri. The view from the back..............

I competed in my second ever triathlon on Sunday morning, in conditions that were more conducive to spending the day in bed than partaking of a multi sport event. A view confirmed by the current Mrs John!

The alarms sounded early, but we were prepared(egg sarmies, coffee, etc.,) and we loaded up the kids and headed to the seaside. As we passed the Amex community stadium, I realised that there was no horizon, as the grey mass of the oceans joined hands with the grey fingers of the rain. At least the temp was in +. We arrived, decanted the various bags and "kuthundu" required, before being asked to drive the car up to the top of the car park so as to have "something " to watch!

Eventually found the transition zone, after expecting to find it closer to the water. Racked my bike, donned my wetsuit, and readied my belongings for transitions. And then it started to spit. So I covered everything with my bag, only for it to roll off my shoes and display my clean smalls to the gathered audience! Quick briefing and a surprise visit from my sibling!

So we embarked to the start of the swim, me trying to herd a chattering of kids and uncles, only to realise that they were about to start the race! Water was indifferent, but at the very least it was not freezing. As a result of my faffing, I swam 1040m! Pull pull breathe, and the added salt buoyancy got me out in just over 18mins, despite the two run ins with kayaks( turn around now sir, and , watch out for the quay!) and some entirely unneeded comments about sturdy ladders for sturdy athletes. Long t1 (wet feet, wet socks, bag again!) and off out on the bike!

After the first zip along the coast road, I regretted not wasting another 30sec not putting on a jacket. Not because of the chill, but more to do with the needling rain. Turned left at St dunstans and into ovingdean. So far, so good no hills. How I hate hills. Drag myself up one, telling myself that the down hill will make up for the pain. Only to brown short it due to the wet roads. Up, up, up and away to woodingdean, and the singular most vile bit of road ever attacked by yours truly. Recovery roll across the top of the downs, one small rise to cope with and then the glory of the sweeping accelerating decent back into Brighton. And then do it again!!!

Repeat last paragraph!

Rolled back down to t2, and realised there were still bikes out behind me. :-) change of shoes, cries of cant feel my feet, can't feel my ears popping around as I managed to ejaculate Iso gel all over my hands. Nice!!

Out onto the run, and realise that the cliffs offer a lot more respite from the wind. Lots of "serious" athletes returning from the run leg, and some compatriots in the slow lanes overtaking each other provided some entertainment. " keep going mid Sussex, you are looking good " did boost my stride. Thank you. The feeling of exquisite agony on turning around, realising that I've done this once, I can do it again. No more overtaking, lots of smiling and then finished! Yay!

Swim. 1000m. 18.04
T1. 7.44
Bike 32km. (90.). 80.12
T2. 3.48
Run. 8km. 46.40

Total. 2:36:18

Lets do it again!!!

London to Brighton Run (57ish miles)

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This race is billed as a challenging self-navigated off road run from London to Brighton, facts which I am not sure I really understood when I entered. The more people I spoke to, the more horror stories I heard about checkpoints being abandoned and bags just left at the end, and the more concerned I became.

The fact that the map book only arrived 3 weeks before the race was not terribly helpful either, especially since I had begun to recce the course as per previous years and there had been significant changes.  In fact I was more worried about getting lost than running the distance.  

However, I did manage to run the course south of the M25 in bits and pieces prior to race day, which calmed my nerves somewhat. 

Race day was a 6am start in Blackheath with registration in a TA hanger full of fit looking people and the discussions of previous races began.  It is pretty difficult not to doubt yourself when surrounded by multistage desert racers and people using the race as training for the 400 mile Arctic Yukon race, but too late to back out now.. 

I have to say the run was scenic, even through London.  The course ran through Lewisham, Bromley and to the west of Biggin Hill, crossing the M25 just north of Limpsfield Chart, then east of Edenbridge and East Grinstead.  The run then goes via Wych Cross to Horsted Keynes and then through Chailey Common heading south to cross the Downs at Black Cap, then through Falmer to Brighton.

The 5 checkpoints were well stocked with water, bananas and in the latter stages cakes, biscuits and also cold roast salted potatoes dipped in tomato sauce which have to be one of the most delicious things known to mankind when running this distance.  

I managed to go off course 3 times (once was in Ashurstwood which is a part of the course I had run in training) but nothing too terminal, adding 1 or 2 km at the most and was never running alone.  The people were friendly and happy to chat as we ran which was encouraging and also useful as many of them had a great deal of ultradistance running experience.  I did meet 2 other people who were also doing their first ultra and both finished just ahead of me.  I was pretty amazed at the number of experienced runners who were happy not to look at their maps and just follow inexperienced people like me, especially when I was joined by Rob and Jamie, acting as tour guides for the latter stages of the run. 

Overall, the run went pretty much as expected for me.  I was comfortable until about 35 miles and then began to tighten up as we climbed from Weir Wood reservoir and it was then that Rob and Jamie's support was invaluable.  Rob ran with me for about 15 miles from mile 31 and Jamie joined us in Horsted Keynes at about mile 40 and ran to the finish.  

I enjoyed the day, despite the pain.  Interestingly I learnt that it is possible to run through pain and out the other side to a stage where running is actually more comfortable than walking (although up hills are still very difficult after 50 miles with weak legs).  I was pleasantly surprised that, even when we were within a mile or so of our house, I was not tempted to crawl into bed with a cup of tea! 

The low point was leaving checkpoint 5 knowing that I had the walk up Black Cap ahead, but thehigh pointwas reaching the top with Jamie and seeing not only the sea, but also Steve and Kay, which was a real boost.  I knew then I could get to the finish and promptly ran past 3 other runners, one of whom tagged onto Jamie and I and then finished with me.  He was a French guy called Sebastian and a mutual thumbs up was our signal to each other of a job well done. 

As I look back I am not sure I would do it again, although as my legs recover I could change my mind..  

All I know is that I could not have done this without all the encouragement from everyone I know.  It is fantastic to belong to a club where people don't tell you that you're mad when you suggest something like this.  Claire Cresswell deserves special mention for getting me to start running on the Downs and Rob for training and company on the day. 

I will be forever grateful to my amazing husband Jamie for putting up with my training and for his help on the day.  Not only did he run about 20 miles with me, he kept my spirits up and force fed me jelly snakes on a regular basis to keep me going.  He always knows just what I need and that is just one of the reasons I love him. 


  • 3 runs a week in training
  • Longest run 35 miles
  • Time to finish 12.24 (cut off 13 hours). 
  • Not sure how far I actually ran (Garmin packed up after 65km)
  • Number entered 290+, 196 started and 88 finished

I finished 58th (7th female)

Emma Goodhead