The Steyning Stinger Half Marathon

2nd March 2014

3:22:06 

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A little taster of what was to come!

I have to admit, the name of this race was a big attraction and being drawn towards the off road/trail type races, my first thought was that i was going to enter as a walker, but after putting a post on Facebook to my fellow club pals, 100 odd comments later, not only had i been persuaded to enter the half as a runner, I had got a few more people to enter it too!

It is run by Steyning Athletic Club and there is a full and half marathon version. It is set up on the South Downs and the half has 2 stings (climbs) and the full has 4 stings. This was my 2nd half marathon in 2 weeks and couldn’t be any more different from Brighton. I was really looking forward to it!!

It was an early start as this race allowed you to pretty much start when you wanted (there was an earliest start and latest start time) and you just went to the start line when you wanted to, made sure you had shown your number and they sent you on your way! I loved that we could start early and i was planning to run with 3 of the girls from the club. Jay was heading out slightly later with Alan and i knew that some of the runners from the club who were tackling the full marathon were going out early too.

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The girls before the off!

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Helen, Steph, Paula, Alan & Jay

We made our way to the start line around 8am and there was the usual wait for the garmin to click in!

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Once the watches were ready we headed up past the marshals to the start and within a few seconds and with cheers from the marshals, we were off, straight in to a very muddy field! I forgot to mention that the night before on Facebook, some photos from parts of the course had been posted and to say it was muddy was an understatement! We had had a race de-brief which had explained where the particularly muddy parts of the course were, so we knew at what mileage we were likely to encounter issues. I was shattered from trying to negotiate the mud which i find impossible to run in (some people appeared to just glide over it) so when we got on to a quiet lane a few minutes later and not even a mile in, i felt like i was already struggling.  That earlier mud had been nothing compared to what we were about to encounter!

A couple of pictures and video to give you the idea…

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I literally did get stuck in the mud and had to be helped out by a kind chap passing by. Throughout all of this we were in hysterics and people were slipping, sliding and falling over around us. Once we were out of the bad mud there were the uphills and downhills to contend with..

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And this wasn’t even a Sting!

The full marathon had a mass start time of 8.30 and the half of 9am, so we knew that just after these times we were likely to encounter a steady stream of people coming through. We were joking that we were ahead of one of the fastest of the BHR who was doing the full marathon as we assumed he was setting off with the 8.30 start and sure enough as we said that he came flying through, cheering us on as he did and showing us just how to negotiate a steep downhill at some speed! We gently tiptoed down it whilst hanging on to tree branches trying to stay upright and laughing our heads off!

Next it was over a field and on to the next mud episode where Helen lost her shoe!

 As we waited for Helen to become re-aquainted with her shoe, another chap came flying through and lost his as well. He was frantically trying to flag runners down to help him but most seemed intent on staying upright themselves.

After that, things calmed down a little and we passed through a checkpoint serving drinks and little mars bar chunks! (Yum!)  We were pretty much walking the uphills and running the rest which suited me fine and i was absolutely loving it! The atmosphere was just so friendly and being out on the downs in the sunshine was perfect. As a long uphill approached, i thought this must be the first sting and we knew that there were a few photographers from Sussex Sport Photography dotted around the course. Quite often they are to be found at the top of a hill and on this occasion, it was halfway up the sting. We walked until we knew we were in shot and then we ran until we got past!

The Steyning Stinger March 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com #SSP

Halfway up the first sting! (I love this!!)

Photo courtesy of Sussex Sport Photography

It seemed to go on and on and when we hit the top the wind hit us and it was freezing!! This was one of the worst bits for me as i hate running in the wind and it was literally blasting me from the side. It was here that my knee started to hurt again as it had last week at Henfield. I didn’t want to struggle in this race as i was enjoying it so much and i didn’t want anything to spoil it, so i gritted my teeth and just prayed that we would be out of the wind fairly quickly.

The Steyning Stinger March 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com #SSP

Being wind blasted!

Photo courtesy of Sussex Sport Photography

Finally we headed down and out of the full force of the wind and at this point, Darryl (another fast BHR) came almost skipping past ‘Bambi like’ at great speed with a little cheer as he went. I assumed he was doing the half and he was flying! Being out of the wind gave me a chance to have a munch on my peanut bar and a slurp of drink and to assess how the old knee was holding up. It was the same pain as last week, outside of the knee and feeling like it was locking up or giving way and running downhill made it feel even worse. I was still loving being out in the country and strangely enough as it had been relatively flat or downhill, there had been a few miles of uninterrupted running and before i knew it we had hit about 8 miles. Another checkpoint passed with more mars bar and flapjack and it was back on the tracks and on to the next sting! I didn’t really even notice it too much at first as we were walking and chatting and then i realised we were just going up and up and the end was nowhere in sight! As it sort of levelled out a little we started to run again and that hideous wind kicked in. I had my neck scarf pulled up over my head to keep the wind out my ears and must have looked a right fright! Luckily no photos of that!

The Steyning Stinger March 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com #SSP

Myself and Paula not too far from home at this point

Photo courtesy of Sussex Sport Photography

When we got to 11 miles we were still on top of the downs, so i figured it wouldn’t be long before we started heading back down again. Normally going downhill is a welcome relief, but with my leg feeling the way it did, every step was fairly torturous. I wasn’t prepared for what was to greet me at 12 miles… a very very steep down hill, again where you were literally hanging on to trees to stop yourself sliding down. Every other step was greeted by an ‘ow’ from me and watching in awe as some people scampered down like rabbits! Even though i was hurting badly now, i was still laughing and soaking up the atmosphere, but really looking forward to getting back and experiencing the free breakfast that everyone got. I was sooooo hungry!!

Through another field and Oh no!!! back in to the horrendously muddy field that we had staggered through on the way out from the start and it was nicely churned up now! I really wanted to run the last bit but it really was impossible, so i just focused on staying upright! I hadn’t gone over yet and i certainly didn’t want to do it right at the end! That breakfast was calling me loudly now! Ant from Sussex Sport Photography was sitting at the finish line and as much as i wanted to pose as i ran past, i could barely manage a grimace!

The Steyning Stinger March 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com #SSP

The finish!!

Photo courtesy of Sussex Sport Photography 

We had made it!!! 3 hours 22 minutes odd but it was just the best time!! I really felt like i had been battered around with the mud and the wind, but strangely enough even though my leg hurt, i didn’t feel overwhelmingly tired, just overwhelmingly hungry!!! We headed back to the school where the race had started and peeled off our shoes………uugghhhhh!

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Priorities first, picked up our medals! (yes even before breakfast!!).

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Beauty of a medal this one!

This was the first year that the race had given out medals so i felt so lucky to get this and it has overtaken the Brighton medal as my favourite! In previous years they have issued mugs to the finishers and i fancied one of these too so managed to pick one up for £2. We then headed off to get changed and i really liked that we had one of the classrooms to get changed in as it was warm, roomy and we were able to leave our bags there quite safely. I hate being crammed in to a space trying to get changed so this was really welcome! Now on to breakfast which was free when showing your race number! Full veggie breakfast and a cup of coffee which couldn’t have been more welcome!

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It barely touched the sides i was that hungry! This was also a lovely chance to catch up with some of the other Burgess Hill mob who had run the Half and who had finished earlier than us which included my speedy husband!

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When we had eaten and drunk all we could it was time to make tracks, so we collected our stuff and headed out to the car.  We timed it perfectly as we saw Neil and Jan from the club just getting out of their dirty shoes having just finished the Full marathon! It was really lovely seeing them and hearing a little about it before they headed off for their breakfast!

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Neil and his hat!

Well, i still feel over a week later that I am on a Stinger high!! I am even toying with entering the full marathon next year but we shall see… I absolutely loved this race!!! I didn’t exactly race i guess but everything about it was just fantastic, from the facilities at the school, to the kind volunteers on the course and at the checkpoints,  my running buddy company, the course itself and the mud! Oh the mud!!! and the breakfast!! Just a totally brilliant race which i would recommend to everyone!!!!