Downslink Ultra

The Downslink Ultra follows the old railway line from St Marthas to Shoreham on Sea, some 38 miles of flat running along well maintained paths and bridle ways.  The event is capped at 200 runners and advertised as a good ‘first ultra’.  Tracy D suggested this would be a good ultra to finish the year off with, I was a little unsure to begin with but with the blissful comfort of being injury free decided to sign up.  Now that was a few months ago…………

Unlucky for me I sustained an ankle injury, an old one that just doesn’t seem to want to go away, tends to flare up when you don’t want it, sound familiar?  Whilst nursing this and being cautious about my running, I managed to fall over twice at Endure 24, well documented and shared so I’ll move on.  Had a fab week running in Chamonix, no issues with either knee or ankle, so thought this is great.  Preparing to run one day of The Stones, I go out with Deb and manage to turn ankle again, drats that’s put paid to me running for a while.  So the injury bench no longer has a vacancy, I am the new occupier.  So why share all this with you?  Well October starts to loom from being a few months away to being OMG it’s next week.  Doubt has started to rest on my shoulder, some call it the Chimp.  Am I fit enough, yes says Tracy D, you’ve been through worse.  In the run up to all this Tracy R-C wanted a piece of the Downslink action but couldn’t get a place.  A chance remark to Mark Swan, who we knew was entered, resulted in Tracy R-C being ‘on the team’.  So I’m now getting a pep talk from both Tracy’s.  Ok, enough with all this lets get on with the review.

The day before the run the weather was awful, it rained all day and night.  Not something to look forward to when thinking about the 38 miles the following day, but hey the weather gods were shining on us and the day was glorious if not a bit nippy to start with.  We met at St Marthas carpark to be issued with numbers and told the briefing would be at the top of the hill.  We trundle up the hill, to be greeted with the most beautiful of views.  Quick briefing and we were off, the first bit was what could only be described as nicely downhill but ankle turning territory.  We take it easy, got a long way to go and descend over familiar ground from LDWA routes.  Our plan was to undertake a ‘Jeffit’ approach 2 min run, 1 min walk and maintain at least 14 min mile.  What I haven’t shared with you yet is none of us have run more than 10k at this stage, hence the walk/run method.

Trail Ultras don’t have marshalls just an event representation at the fuel stations, so it can be a bit disorientating at times to follow the tape on the trees and the Downslink signs, thankfully 3 pairs of eyes are better than one.  We merrily totter our way for about 4 miles when a fellow runner comes up behind us, well we thought we were the last!!  This runner was a familiar face to BVR, Jonathan Taylor, who informed us he had taken two wrong turnings.  Now he was back on track we were indeed the last runners.

The Downslink path passes through disused railway stations and sightings of railway paraphernalia can be found along the route.  Most of the route is shared with bikes and horses, with a few walkers in the guise of Duke of Edinburgh participants.  Most people are chatty and amazed at what we were undertaking, wishing us good luck.  At approximately 8 ish miles we reach our first fuel station and are assured we are doing ok and the sweeper was not expected through yet.  The Downslink has cut off times which are enforced, more of that later.  The whole run has to be completed in 10 hours.

We continue on our way, chatting and getting used to the bleep, bleep of the GymBoss informing us to run or walk.  At about 10 miles I ‘bonk’, term used for hitting the wall.  I realise my fitness levels are insufficient and the Tracy’s are doing their best to keep me going.  My water bottles were emptied apparently 2 litres of water is very heavy!!  I would have to stick with the bladder.  I take a couple of energy pastilles and start to feel better, but too much time has been lost and would be difficult to make up.

The rest of the run was just trying to maintain a good pace, with the GymBoss bleep, bleeping away, which after about 20 miles is starting to get a bit annoying.  Our first cut off checkpoint is at 28 miles and it was apparent I was not going to make it.  The Tracy’s were much stronger and were leaving me behind to get to the checkpoint before cut off.  The checkpoint was up a hill which was now looking like Crooksbury in my dazed state.  I could see someone approaching me and realised it was a run official, my time was up I wouldn’t make the second cut off as I was getting slower.  Tracy R-C was encouraged to continue and Tracy D comforted me whilst I realised my run was over.  It dawned on me then, why was Tracy D not continuing.  She reassured me she felt she wouldn’t make the second cut off, but I was feeling guilty that she had her first DNF.  The run officials were very supportive and kept saying you have just run over 28 miles, it then hit me and emotion took over, I’d gone from 10k to 28 miles in a matter of 2 weeks.  Me and Tracy were driven to Shoreham to wait for Tracy R-C to finish.  We enjoyed soup, cake, tea and chilli.   Jonathan Taylor finished and photos were taken, I’m not sure but I think it was his 74th marathon.

Thankfully Tracy came in before the cut off and we were so pleased for her.

Run review by Karen Jones

To be continued…….