When a friend asked if if I was up for doing a half marathon on the South Downs at the end of August, I instantly agreed, quickly registered and then forgot all about it. Running on the South Downs, for me, is pure pleasure so it didn’t take much persuading. What I had failed to notice was that I would still be on holiday in Cornwall the day before, leaving me almost no chance of getting to the 9am start in Clayton, West Sussex.
A silly idea entered my head. We were booked onto the overnight Megabus from Penzance to London , arriving Victoria Coach station at 7.30am. If I could get a train before 8am, I might just make the start.
The coach arrived to pick us up half an hour late and by the time we reached Plymouth, the driver apologised to us with “we’re running an hour late”. I was on the verge of messaging my friend to say I wouldn’t make it but deep down I was hoping that maybe the coach could make up time. Miraculously, as the Sun was rising over London and to applause from the passengers, the driver announced that he had managed to pick up time. We’d be arriving just 17 minutes late! He even apologised but added, “I’ve done my best”! Brilliant.
I can’t say it was the best warm up I’ve ever done but I managed to get to the start , 25 minutes late and start the run. This is where the name of the run starts to have meaning.
The first kilometre starts from Underhill Lane and is a steep ascent to the South Downs Way climbing about 140m. From there it is a beautiful run along the SDW, past Ditchling Beacon and on to Housedean Farm at the halfway point. Coming back is gruelling with the less steep but longer climb back onto high ground. I ran with my friend Paul and both of us found it a struggle in places, especially in the heat but the pain was more than compensated for by fantastic views to the North and some excellent half way sugary nibbles, including Jaffa cakes, water melon and cupfulls of coke.
As a running experience I can’t ask for a better location. The organisation and friendly atmosphere made it really fun – I’d do it again next year but I hear there’s talk of 30 the Hard way! Maybe.
13 The Hard Way was organised by Sussex Trail Events