Andrew and I took part in the 66 mile Pilgrim Challenge last weekend. The event is held over two days following the section of the North Downs National Trail from Farnham to Redhill on Saturday before retracing your steps back to Farnham on Sunday. There is a total of 2,374m of elevation to climb in the beautiful Surrey hills and about 95% of the route is off road.
We took the 07:35 train from Waterloo to Farnham on Saturday morning and met two other runners on the train. Sam was taking part in the event for the 12th time and Ella was taking on her first ultra(s) as training for the Marathon des Sables.
On arrival at Farnham the race organisers had a minibus waiting to shuttle us to the start area a few miles away. After showing our Covid vaccination passes, bag drop and collecting our trackers, we were off at 9am with a minimum of fuss. It was a staggered start with walkers beginning at 8am and fast runners at 10am. The race briefing had been e-mailed out during the week with a link to GPX routes which we had uploaded to our watches.
The first 20 miles were mostly runnable with relatively gentle undulations. There was one steep climb up to St Martha’s Church near Guildford. Course marking was extremely good and I only got us lost once for a short duration before the GPX watches were screaming ‘Off Course’ at us.
We overtook some walkers and as the morning wore on we were passed by the majority of the field but usually with a bit of friendly encouragement as is often the case in ultras. The weather on Saturday was perfect for running. Dry, mild and the prevailing wind was gentle and behind us. The sun appeared at times and it was more like a Spring day than the first week of Febuary. We enjoyed glorious views of countryside, picturesque villages and areas of outstanding natural beauty (I stole this sentence from the organisers website). Many walkers and cyclists along the route cheered us on. One of our highlights of the day was passing a big dog who refused to budge for his owners midway up a steep ascent.
The real work started after 20 miles when we had to climb the 224m Box Hill and later the 235m Reigate Hill. The last few miles into Redhill were a welcome and gentle descent and we used our head torches to navigate for the last 45 minutes before reaching the finish.
Having entered the race late, we missed out on the ‘luxury’ accommodation offered by the organisers so instead of sleeping on the school hall floor we were ferried off to slum it at a nearby hotel where we had rooms booked. About 50 others taking part in both days did the same.
We had purposely paced day one very conservatively with day two in mind and both felt very good at the finish after 9 hours of moving. After showering we found a nearby pizzeria and ate family sized portions of pizza and pasta to top up all the cake, crisps, banana, sausage rolls, cereal bars and chocolate that we had devoured at the four feed stations during the day.
An early night was in order as the organisers had requested our presence (as slow runners) at 06:30am outside the hotel on Sunday to be taken to the start line for a 7am start. With the hotel restaurant closed we had to have instant porridge and cereal bars for breakfast but it was all good calorie laden fuel for what lay ahead. It had rained all night Saturday and was still raining on Sunday when we started. Our pacing strategy on Saturday worked well and we were both feeling strong and running comfortably, if very slowly, from the start. However it wasn’t long before we encountered mud of cross country proportions - ranging from 5 to 10 on the Renton mud scale. And this was on trails which had been mostly dry the day before. It seemed to go on for miles and miles and many runners took tumbles. Going down the wet steps at Box Hill was tricky and there were some casualties but fortunately nothing series. There were also sections of hard chalk which was very slippy from the rain. On the higher ground we had to tackle the strong gusts of headwind.
We ran/walked together for most of the day but as is usual we leap frog each other as we have good and bad spells at different times and spend time chatting with other runners. Without Andrew to shepherd me back on course, some minor navigation errors by yours truly made for an interesting day which included climbing a near vertical cliff face using tree roots to pull myself up and later scaling a barbed wire fence to get back on course. By early afternoon the rain stopped and spirits lifted. We were still running and on the way home and both still feeling good. Despite the more difficult conditions on Sunday we were both faster than our Saturday times although this probably says more about how slowly we took it on Saturday than it does about our super ability to sprint finish.
It is a very well run event that we would recommend. At £130 for the two days (£50 extra if you opt for the school accommodation it may seem expensive but the organisers go out of their way to do all they can to help. The marshals were incredibly helpful and supportive. The extremely low (for an ultra) DNF rate is surely a testament to how well this event is managed. All you have to do is the running - the organisers take care of all the rest. We met some old friends out there and made many new ones.
Day One had 226 finishers out of 230 starters. First man 04:26:30. First lady 05:04:06. Chasers home in 9 hrs for 210th and 211th positions with the last competitor completing in 11:42:36.
Day Two had 160 finishers out of 166 starters. First man 04:50:27. First lady 05:23:29. Chasers home in under 9 hrs for 130th and 139th positions with the last competitor finishing in 10:15:09.
Both Day Competitors had 157 finishers out of 163 starters. First man 09:22:50. First lady 10:27:35. Chasers finishing in under 18 hrs for 145th and 151st positions with the last competitor finishing in 19:25:01.
Shout out to Sarah ‘Thunderbolt’ Funderburk who has had an excellent year of running and was recognised by making it into the top 10 performances in North America. Well done Sarah!
Our beginners are in week 3 and going great guns. Volunteers for the next few weeks would be great. Please sign up on the calendar
Rob Scott is organising the Trent Park cross country race on the 19th February. If you’d like to volunteer please grab Rob the next time that you see him or give him a call on 07775 698234.
Big up to everyone who helped put on the Regent’s Park race last weekend. Small up to the weather which was truly rubbish on the day.
Some great times achieved on the day and congratulations to everyone that ran.
The next race is on 6th March. You can sign up here
Here's whats happening over the next few weeks other than our usual Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday runs. You can find our full calendar on the website.
05/03/2022 Chingford League Relays- Wanstead Flats
Sign Up To Run - deadline 2022-02-28
19/02/2022 Met League - Fixture 5 - Trent Park
26/02/2022 National Cross Country Champs - Parliament Hill
Please sign-up (no entry on the day)
27/02/2022 Wokingham Half Marathon
06/03/2022 Mornington Chasers Regent's Park 10k marshalling
Volunteer (1 of 12 left)
21/02/2022 Committee meeting
15/02/2022 Beginners Week 4 - Volunteering
Volunteer (1 of 4 left)
22/02/2022 Beginners Week 5 - Volunteering
Volunteer (2 of 4 left)
01/03/2022 Beginners Week 6 - Volunteering
Volunteer (1 of 4 left)
08/03/2022 Beginners Week 7 - Volunteering
Volunteer (1 of 4 left)
We are also currently taking names for the following events.
15/03/2022 Beginners Week 8 - Volunteering
If you want to upload a photo or your results are missing, log in to our website and update your picture and Power of 10 ID.
|Claremorris, IRL||Caitriona O'Rourke 33:26, 64 [44.47%]|
|10M||Nelson Goh 01:12:36 (01:12:36), 167 (65) [61.46%] NEW PB|
|Robin Smale 85:22 (83:36), 403 (71) [58.91%] NEW PB|
|Claremorris, IRL||Caitriona O'Rourke 32:31, 66 [45.72%] NEW PB|
|Ally Pally||Stephanie Mercier 26:20, 98 (1) [56.46%]|
|Canons Park||Meryl Walker 38:02, 107 [48.16%]|
|Crane Park||Lizzy Muggeridge 31:42, 149 [50.47%]|
|Finsbury Park||Marcos Cuevas-Nunez 20:56, 57 [69.90%]|
|Simon Fitzmaurice 24:52, 206 [53.08%]|
|Gaby Anderson 24:53, 208 [59.34%] NEW PB|
|michele griffiths 27:22, 305 [65.35%]|
|Sophie Fenner 29:05, 357 [50.77%]|
|Gladstone||Alex Renton 23:04, 35 (1) [61.13%]|
|Caitriona O'Rourke 34:57, 219 [42.54%]|
|Hampstead Heath||Emily Morgan 24:24, 69 [60.52%]|
|Rebecca Taylor 37:03, 269 [43.18%]|
|Highbury Fields||Bruno Papadacci 19:33, 21 [68.20%]|
|David Renton 22:06, 70 [66.21%]|
|Paul Dickens 24:18, 125 [54.87%]|
|Sophie Wood 29:09, 259 [50.66%]|
|Margate||Simon Fuller 30:12, 87 [50.39%]|
|Mile End||Rachel Rosenthal 20:28, 36 [72.48%] NEW PB|
|Juliette Westbrook 28:36, 259 [51.63%]|
|Andy Davies 28:36, 260 [45.45%]|
|Stephen West 30:37, 312 [47.09%]|
|Mole Valley||Chloe Bazlen 26:03, 60 [56.69%] NEW PB|
|Montsouris, FRA||William Watt 21:57, 2 [66.67%]|
|Valentines||Paul Matthews 26:19, 72 (1) [77.01%]|
|Other||Eamon Byrne 09:01:20, 210 (41)|
|Andrew Disley 09:01:36, 211|
|10K||Christopher Leslie 38:48 (38:45), 8 [68.95%] NEW PB|
|Alex Astley 39:21 (39:19), 9 [67.95%]|
|John Armstrong 40:49 (40:47), 12 (4) [73.03%]|
|Alex Renton 43:54 (43:47), 29 (11) [65.32%]|
|Jodie Pearlman 44:32 (44:26), 32 [68.27%] NEW PB|
|Hattie Lowe 44:45 (44:39), 33 [67.94%] NEW PB|
|David Renton 47:26 (47:19), 42 (12) [62.94%]|
|Nick Fenner 49:23 (49:09), 49 (3) [64.94%] NEW PB|
|Stephanie Mercier 51:13 (51:01), 60 [59.88%]|
|Alice Sullivan 53:31 (53:22), 67 (8) [62.74%]|
|Elizabeth Aryeetey 57:32 (57:16), 80 (1) [67.90%] NEW PB|
|Phil West 58:12 (57:56), 83 (1) [62.40%]|
|Other||Eamon Byrne 08:34:43, 130 (31)|
|Andrew Disley 08:58:36, 139|
|5M||Nitesh Thakrar 37:23 (36:55), 301 [69.84%] NEW PB|
|Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.|
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