3 Forts Challenge


Three Harriers took on the 3 Forts Challenge on Sunday 6th May. I was doing the half marathon, while Lesley Page and Nigel Webb did the full marathon +1 mile distance.

I’m lazy, so I’ll start with a copy/paste job from the race website. Known as “The Tough One” the Three Forts Marathon (approximately 27.2 miles) includes a total of c. 3450 ft of climb with stiles and rough tracks underfoot. The route runs northwards from Hill Barn to Cissbury Ring, then eastwards towards Coombs then to Botolphs and the River Adur crossing. The route then goes to Devil’s Dyke and back to the River Adur. It continues on the South Downs Way to Chanctonbury Ring, where it swings south-west to Findon Park Farm. It stays on public bridleways to Cissbury Ring and back to Hill Barn.

The Half Marathon, with a total climb of c.1450 takes a shorter route (Nick: bloody obvious!) to Steyning Bowl and picks up the last part of the Marathon route.

I’ll write it from my perspective, as I didn’t compare notes with Nigel and Lesley, but I’m guessing they found it difficult in the heat as well.

My short version is: bloody hot, hilly, scenic, bloody hot.

1st Owen Knight 1:33:42
21st Nick Reynolds 1:46:10
334 finishers

1st Paul Sargent 3:25:58
122nd Lesley Page 5:15:32
195th Nigel Webb 5:54:48
253 finishers

Long version (Nick centric). I’d picked this race because it’s 1.5miles from my in-laws, so logistically convenient and it would be a good test of my strength training over the winter. I’d run the route back in February and practiced some of the hills during hill reps training. I was hoping to pace this better than the Southern XC Champs, where my pacing had been so bad it made it into Ed’s report.

Temperatures were meant to be 21c with some breeze. I’m not sure how accurate the garmin fenix3 is, but it said the average temperature was 28c on the downs,which I can believe. There was little to no wind on most of the HM route.

I can pretty much recall every mile of the race because they were all unique, in their own horrible way.

Mile 1: gentle climb, shady, dirt trail. Went off in about 8th, trying to take it easy. Breathing a bit heavy, but felt in control.
Mile 2: still climbing, with one nasty steep section. Bye bye shade. Taking it ‘easy’ on the climb. Slip a few places. Breathing a bit heavy, but not worrying, know climb is almost done.
Mile 3: water station (one mouthful, rest over head/wrists). Downhill time, not too steep. No shade. Rest of the course is mostly compacted stone. Legs feel OK after the climb. Breathing still a bit heavy, starting to feel the heat.
Mile 4/5: short very steep hill, short less steep downhill, long middle steepness hill. Some shade. Wheels start falling off (maybe a single puncture). Breathing starts to get too heavy so decide to walk the steep hill, then mixture of walk/run for the long one. End of mile 5 is very slightly up hill, completely exposed to the sun. Water station (one cup in mouth, one cup over body). Lose a few more places.
Mile 6: flat’ish part of the course on top of the downs, on the South Downs Way. No shade. Really hot. Working hard to keep 8min/mile pace. Now thinking just enjoy the race because time is going to be ungood. Lose a few places.
Mile 7/8: water station (one in mouth, one over body, avoided accidentally chucking squash over myself(first win of the day)). Long gentle’ish downhill section. Feeling a bit better and pick off a few people. Towards the bottom of the hill start to feel a bit sick. Sloshing water in my belly may be the cause. Spot a spectator in a jumper.
Mile 8/9. Long long climb. Shady. Walk most of it to maximise time in shade and keep breathing under control. Plan to finish strong like a pro. Lose a few places. Get some words of encouragement from fellow runner. I reply it’s a tactical choice.
Mile 10/11. Mostly flat apart from the short steep hill at the end. No shade. Really struggling. Took a 20s walking break on the flat. Walked the hill. I’ll finish strong on the downhill. Water station (one mouthful, rest over head). No places lost or gained.
Mile 12/13. Downhill time. Shady. Feel sick. Legs heavy. No energy. Plod downhill. Actually had to walk at one point. Lose a few places. 50m from the line break into a sprint. Finish strong like a pro.

Obviously I had some pacing and fueling issues. Without those I could of definitely finished faster, but I’ll write it off as an experience to learn from. The most frustrating thing was I ran the course about the same pace on a ‘steady’ training run.

It was a well organised race and if you fancy something different from a road race, then this is a good one. The cake at the end wasn’t up to the standard of Eridge, but I enjoyed my flapjack. They had popcorn, which I thought was weird.

Well done to Lesley and Nigel. I’m not sure I would of managed to finish the marathon.