Whether you chose 23.4, 30.2 miles, or run the whole she-bang, Race to the Stones has quickly established itself as a fantastic race event in the summer trail calendar. And for GRTW runner, Florence Theberge, who came first female for the Day one race, the perfect training race for her first ultra the South Coast Challenge in August
The morning of the race was gorgeous, with the temperature already warm at 5am, lovely as a start but promising hot conditions for later for the many runners, joggers and walkers taking part in the RTTK 2018. As I was allocated wave B start at 8.15am, I arrived at Arundel train station at 7.15am to waiting for the event shuttle (£10) to the race start. I arrived there to find many other runners waiting for the shuttle too and we all exchanged stories, some had signed up for both days, some to run it continuously, others to break for the evening and some, like me just doing day one.
Most were from UK, although there were a few runners from as far afield as Poland, who looked very experienced judging by the running kit. And the age range was really diverse, including two ladies in their sixties or seventies who told me they walked the race every year.
Soon we were on our way to the race start at Gaston Farm (BN18 0RS), arriving just a few minutes before the first wave went off at 8am. The atmosphere was great with the usual warm ups, long toilet queues and the excitement of the runners, support crew and event organisers all in the middle of a farmer’s field just north of the beautiful city of Arundel.
Ten minutes later, my wave was started by a man dressed as a King, carrying a fuming torch,who ran in front of the runners before quickly stepping aside for risk of being trampled over by a hoard of eager runners/walkers.
The start was quite narrow for about a mile, making it difficult to overtake walkers/slower joggers & runners, so I’d recommend anyone else doing this next year to start nearer the front. But soon the path widened and wound through a mixed of shaded, wooded areas and South Down chalky trails, including some steep hills! I love hills but these were even quite an ascent for me but it gave everyone the opportunity to have a power walk and refuel. And the reward of the climb was stunning views and picture-perfect landscapes which made me regret having buried my phone at the bottom of my running bag.
Over the 23.4 miles there were 2 feed stations (8 and 16 miles approx.), which were both well provisioned with fruits, sweets, squash, flat cola, and water, while the second stop included for the 1st and the 2nd had savoury snacks and sandwiches – and both hand hand santizers, a new one on me!
I ran most of the race on my own but chatted to a few runners who gave me advice on how to manage cramp during ultras – the Monty Python Walk. Apparently, if you feel your calves starting to cramp, practice that walk and you’ll be fine. It didn’t quite work for me but that might be due to being already too tired to be able to reverse the process. Thankfully, I was close to the finish for day one where were were cheered in and ushered towards hot food and salad bar.
At the finish, there were also small tents for those who were staying overnight or for the runners who needed a break before pushing on. They were quite close together, so if you are a light sleeper, I’d bring ear plugs. The best thing though were showers, yoga mats for stretching as well as a massage tent provided by Birmingham physio students.
I loved the race but the downside of finishing in such a remote area was the complete lack of mobile phone reception (3 mobile) , and being nine miles from the nearest train station. I didn’t want to wait six hours for the next shuttle at 7.30pm, and so I had to walk another mile to Compton village for a bus (every two hours to Havant).
What I learned from the race:
- A change of scenery is great for fighting the ‘tiredness’ of the training
- Never, ever neglect 2 things: sleep and strength training, especially your upper body; your body gets tired and you really need your upper body to switch on and help support your body
- Practice, practice, practice: I used this event as a training run for my A race – my first ultra – and it was a great occasion to test running gear, refuelling on the go, pacing in race conditions.
- Great organisation from start to finish with clearly marked route and well stocked pit stops (even ice cream!); love the hand sanitizers at every pit stop.
- Finish area (day 1) greatly set-up; my favourite was the bean bags areas with free newspapers and a giant TV screen to watch the World Cup 2018 football
- Very good atmosphere, friendly staff and great post-run massage from Birmingham physio students.
- Narrow start meant a very slow jog over almost 1 mile before getting into one’s own pace.
- No phone reception at the finish area.
Flo is being mentored and coached by GRTW ultra running coach, Sarah Sawyer. For details on our virtual coaching packages please click here.
Next year date: 22-23 June 2019
Day 1 2018 entry fee £57
Shuttle from Arundel station to race start: £10
YouTube video of full length (not official video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnaaC9A8RRo