RACE TO THE KING 2017 by Kay Viccary, Sally Rothwell and Jennie Spittle
It all started around 9 months ago when I posted on Facebook that Race to the King, Ultra marathon was on my bucket list.
Sally decided there was no time like the present and within a few weeks we had booked up and Jennie had jumped on board too. I hadn’t met Jennie at this stage, but Sally knew her from secondary school so it was decided we needed a few RTTK ‘meetings’ to get to know each other. These were held at various eateries and very little talk of running ever took place but it was great fun and excellent for team building!
Our training consisted of back to back trail runs, locally around Wakering stairs and the creek,
or to Hadleigh to include some hills, where we stopped for refuelling at the ‘Hub’. We took fuelling very seriously, (in a chips and coke type of way) so often had another pitstop on the way home!
We made our own training plan, upping the mileage week by week and doing back to back LSR’s to prepare us for this two-day event. We took things steady and walked the hills, as all good ultrarunners do, hey Keith?!
Most of our runs somehow involved us having to climb over something, when we’d taken a wrong turn or lost our footpath!
Sally and I did all our training together and managed to meet up with Jennie for a few runs too. The training was such good fun, we covered some beautiful routes and the weather was always good for us.
Race day started with do-nuts for breakfast before walking about a mile to the station with our massive back packs on to catch the shuttle bus to the start.
No one felt nervous, we were excited for this experience. We planned to take it steady and enjoy the whole weekend, whatever it had in store for us.
We arrived at Gaston Farm and were welcomed by marshals as we got off the bus. We went to collect our race packs and drop off our bags. Everything was well organised and there were no queues except for tea and coffee.
The weather was being kind to us, it was overcast and drizzling, which was such a relief as it had been so hot and sunny.
Some participants were in the start zone with the announcer getting everyone buzzing and music was pumping.
We made our way to the start where we met a lady who was pulling a car tyre the whole way around for charity. I began to wonder what I’d let myself in for.
At 8.30am we were off. Through a tunnel of trees, then in to a field with a long incline winding ahead of us.
Our only plan was to walk the hills and run the flat and down hills, the flaw in this plan was that there wasn’t much downhill or flat!
The first 7 miles flew by and we reached check point 1. We were happy to see a well -stocked supply of snack bars, nuts crisps, coke, squash and bananas. But NO CHIPS! We should have notified them in advance of our fuelling requests. There were complimentary electrolytes, gels and water stations to refill bladders and portaloos so we could empty them! Medics were there, already tending to feet.
We took shelter here whilst we ate as it started to rain quite heavily. And the waterproof jackets came out.
We set off again passing through areas of woodland, through cornfields, and following narrow tracks where we walked and chatted to other groups. We encountered several cyclists belting downhill towards us at high speed. They were not planning on sharing the paths with us and a few times we had to make a quick sidestep to safety.
CP2 was the ‘lunch stop’. We spent 20 minutes here, enjoying chatting with others while we ate sandwiches and crisps, tea and coffee, as well as the usual snacks.
Medics were asking around, making sure everyone was feeling ok.
Then on to the ‘mountain of the Downs’. Beacon Hill in Hartingdown was the steepest of all hills we were to encounter. Hadleigh Downs could not have prepared us for this!
As we struggled to walk this hill, we ended up practically scrambling our way up, giving in to fits of laughter as a man with what we could only describe as ‘magic poles’ came RUNNING past! At this point we were thinking these poles were the way forward!
As we were nearing the top, we were met with a photographer lying in wait. We did the usual smile and managed a run for the camera.
Once at the top, the scenery was stunning. The hills were totally worth it for the view.
The path down this hill was just as tough as trying to get up it. It was a loose chalky gravel type terrain and was so uneven underfoot.
We ran through woodland, with lots of exposed roots and a fallen tree to climb over. This, was a mini challenge for tired legs.
As we left the woods our path led us to Hundred Acres Farm, the end of day 1 and our bed for the night.
As we crossed the finish line a medic came over to us, checking we were all ok and showed us to the physio tent which we returned to after a quick cuppa.
Sally received a massage from a handsome young man, while Jennie and I were allocated young ladies, they were final year physio students from Birmingham University.
Afterwards we went to ‘tent allocation’ then collected our rucksacks. The accommodation was a 2-man tent, all ready for us with inflatable mattresses.
Simple but comfy, especially if you closed the valve on the mattress!
Our ‘neighbours’ were friendly, we’d seen them along the way and it was nice to catch up and exchange stories about our day.
Then our ‘poshwash’ showers, which quite frankly were amazing, perfect temperature, clean and very powerful – not what I had imagined.
Sally took herself to the pamper tent and found a hairdryer and straighteners, while Jennie and I went for the ‘natural’ look!
A man with a guitar set up near the tents and began singing. It was such a lovely atmosphere, everyone was chilled and feeling good.
At Base Camp there was a huge marquee serving dinner, a buffet of pizza, various pasta dishes, potatoes, salads, drinks, cake and fruit. There was a chilled zone with bean bags, newspapers, a tv and a huge supply of plugs to charge phones and watches.
There were fire pits outside near the Bar and later, the singing man came in to the marquee to entertain us all.
We were back in our tents by around 8.30pm and settled in sleeping bags by 9. The camping area became quiet as everyone rested for the night.
The camp started to wake around 5am, there was no need for the alarm we’d set for 5.15! Over breakfast we discussed how essential an eye mask and ear plugs were and we had mixed reviews of the quality of sleep we’d all had. Breakfast was a buffet style selection of cereal, fruit, bacon baps, fried breakfast and waffles.
We all felt incredibly fresh considering yesterday’s mileage and hills. No twinges at all.
The start time was between 6 and 7am. The ramblers seemed to set off around 6 and we set off at 6.45am ready for another day. We planned to walk the first mile or so but we felt good, so ran from the start. Initially we were on country lanes but it wasn’t long before we hit the trails again. The whole route was well signposted
At the top of Butser Hill, the highest point in the South Downs at 889ft, the crew at Check point 4 were waiting with words of encouragement and snacks! The check points all seemed to be positioned at the top of a steep incline, when a few minutes rest and refuelling was very welcome.
The miles seemed to fly past, the scenery was just amazing and the variety of terrain kept it interesting.
Other runners and walkers were so friendly, chatting as we ran along side them, when we separated company we often met up again at the next checkpoint.
Check points were closer together on day 2 , varying from 4 -7 miles apart.
CP 7 was our final pitstop and most lively. We were welcomed in with shouts and cheers, music and chat.
We were starting to feel a little sad as this point that we only had 7 miles left. Our adventure was coming to an end.
A few miles after leaving cp 7 we could see Winchester in the distance, where the finish line awaited us at Winchester Cathedral.
We left the trails behind and took to the roads which eventually led us through the picturesque town with quaint shops and pubs.
We knew we were close, when we saw the walls surounding the cathedral and the RTTK flags in the distance..
As we turned the final corner we were led along a winding path with cheering spectators to the steps leading down to the cathedral and finish line .
Once we received our medals and had official photos taken we headed to the marquee in the grounds of the Cathedral for a well earned hot meal… and Pimms supplied by Sallys Dad.
This event was open to ramblers and runners, wether you walked it, jogged it, or ran it, it was a superbly organised event. The checkpoint marshalls were amazing, offering to refill bladders whilst we rested and refuelled. The medics were onhand for blister treatment and first aid.
The route was well sign posted you really couldn’t get lost. Everything you could possibly need and more, was catered for. The ambience for the whole event was fantastic. Other partIcpants were friendly and everyone involved in the running of this event made you feel special.
After saying I wasn’t going to run more than a half marathon next year, I couldn’t possibly miss out on Race To The Stones 2018. We all plan to enter and considered doing it as a non stop event, but decidied we don’t want to miss out on the base camp experience.
We are also looking forward to taking part in Race To the Tower to complete the trilogy of Threshold ultra events.
Day 1 24 miles 2800ft elevation.
Day 2 30 miles 2700ft elevation.
This is our first run report so forgive us if we’ve rambled excitedly about irrelevant things and omitted vital informaton.
This was truly a weekend I will never forget. Such an amazing time, on a fantastic route, with the best company ever.