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Running the Kingley Vale half marathon

The Kingley Vale half marathon Sat 24 February 2024, one of the West Sussex UK Running Events trail series.

Race numberThe weather lady on the TV reported that we had over 200% of the normal February rain soKingley Vale start on a hill far this month.  It was always going to be a muddy event, but nothing could have prepared anyone for the conditions under foot that we encountered.

I met up with my mate Ian and sat in his car to chat and keep warm until just before the start. Just walking to the start was a workout being up a very steep hill. Just before the pre race announcements I realised, horror of horrors, I had no headphones! So Ian and I went back to his car down the steep hill to collect them then back up again. No need for a warm up, not that I ever bother with such things anyway.

So off we went starting about a third of the way down the pack, up a relatively steep continuation of the hill before the start, around a flat section known as The Trundle with spectacular views across the countryside and beyond to Chichester harbour and the sea. Not long after I was in familiar territory with a steep downhill section on wet and frosty grass. I found good grip and made the most of the easy downhill at speed. Then it levelled out and we hit the first narrow trail which was pure wet slippery mud and puddles. There was absolutely no chance of any traction at all, even those with proper trail shoes were struggling to stay upright. I decided early on that caution was my new race plan priority, after all this was in essence hill training, as part of my preparation for the Brighton Marathon, just six weeks away, so I couldn’t afford to suffer any kind of injury.

As the race progressed the underfoot conditions got even worse, mainly due to it being either a steep uphill, no traction to push off, or a steep downhill, no traction to slow down! The ground conditions worsened when it started to rain at mile 5 and continued for the remainder of the event.  

One particular section of downhill was so steep I needed to grab hold of a tree every 30 feet to slow my speed. I even had to drop to my hands and spin around to try and stop.  It was in essence, downright bloody dangerous and it was pure luck that (apparently) no one was injured, despite many, including Ian, taking a fall.

Kingley Vale half marathon courseDownhill running

Even at the end, a "nice farmer" had run his tractor along our route and churned up the firmer, drier ground and then proceed to deposit huge quantities of mud on the nearby highway.

Never use your best shoes for winter trailsIt seemed like I had walked at least 4 miles of what Quick sprint downhill can I stop?turned out to be a 14-mile course.

Even on the last sections of tarmac footpath, the rain had washed mud into the low points of the path.

At the end, the welcome downhill back to the finish at the starting point where catcher marshals were deployed to help you stop before crashing into the medal and goodies table.

I had concerns that I might even finish last but there were 28 behind me, 26 much younger than me so my half marathon time of 2 hours 40mins became my new slowest ever.

Quite why events like these are being held in the winter months I don’t know.

Note to self: - never enter any off-road event in winter again!

Update 15 March 2024: After three rest days, I ran a 17-mile long run as part of my training for the Brighton Marathon and found my left leg shin and calf were giving pain afterwards. I suspect my injury was caused by the slipping and sliding on the mud! I rested for three days and feeling better, I tried again with a 10-mile run and it was still painful the following day so I decided to rest for 14 days so I could hopefully run Brighton on 7 April 2024. Not sure what the resting will have on my fitness, time will tell.

Kingley Vale Half Marathon medal This is not something I want a memory of!

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