South Downs Way 50

Event: SDW50
Date: 13th April 2024
My finishing time: 12:19:24

I knew SDW50 (South Downs Way 50 miles from Worthing to Eastbourne) was going to be a big challenge for me mainly because of the elevation profile and the cut offs at every aid station and the finish. On race day, I made the decision to share the tracking details on the RntS FB page to make myself accountable. This helped put pressure on me to do my best.

SDW50 was my A race for the first half of this year so I decided to follow a purposefully self-built 16-week programme, incorporating some long distance races (in particular, Winter Wychavon Way in January and Hundred Hills in March) which I used for training runs. My weekly mileage was mostly how I wanted it to be (though it could have been a little higher) and I started doing strength training using weights. I am creation this has helped me in my running. In preparation I also studied the race results from previous years to see how long it took the last few finishers to reach each of the 7 cut offs so that I could aim for a particular time for each of these cut offs. This plan turned out to be a great idea for my pacing strategy during the race.

On race day the weather couldn’t have been any better. Although initially cold and misty, it soon turned into full sunshine with very strong winds, mostly tailwind (!), which certainly helped. That wind was certainly willing all the runners to reach their destination faster than they could have imagined!

I had lovely little chats with fellow runners along the route and said hello to countless walkers enjoying being on the Downs. The scenery was awesome. The hills, with the exception of a few very steep ones, were mostly runnable. It was liberating and I enjoyed the freedom to be able to launch myself forwards!

I was very happy with my nutrition and hydration throughout the race: watermelon, grapes, pineapple, cheese, cheese sandwiches, cakes, pretzels, hula hoops, and soreen, alongside some electrolytes (2,5 sachets of Tailwind and several salt tablets), water and coca cola. I also had 3 gels with caffeine in them. Food consumption involved nice little picnics on the go; power hiking to move forward so as not to lose time.

We’ve learnt from our coaches that running form is very important. On steep hills uphill or downhill it becomes too easy to tense up but I knew to relax my shoulders and just enjoy the motion of running. I’m pretty sure I was smiling most, if not all the time. I kept checking my watch how I was doing against the times I’d set myself for each of the cut offs. Seeing I was well ahead of my anticipated timings in particular by the time I’d arrived at check point 4 (Southease) was gratifying. The race finishes after a lap of the athletics track at Eastbourne. When I entered the track there was so much cheering from spectators and some runners who’d finished before me. I remember someone shouting “Go get that medal” and me responding “I will!”

I was, and still am, very happy to have been able to complete this race without the worry of each cut off looming over me.

I don’t always make sense at the end of an ultrarunning event and usually feel dithery for a while. At the end of this race I was exhausted but mentally I could have carrier on! To see I wasn’t dithering at all when I finished and that I could hold normal conversations, certainly felt good.