Race Report: SDW 50


My first attempt at running 50 miles.

I signed up for this last year. In my mind I’d train like Rocky all winter and by spring would be knocking out 40 mile runs every Sunday. Of course it doesn’t work like that and my winter was a balancing act between training and managing soreness. Never did more than a 30km long run….(foreshadowing)

Cut to this Saturday, lining up at 8.30am in Worthing, feeling good and excited about the prospect of running to Eastbourne along the South Downs Way. Weather was beautiful, spring was in the air; a good day to be alive.
We set off and I immediately got into my comfortable pace, letting a gap form ahead of me so I could just do my own thing. I counted about 20 up the trail as we hit the first climb and thought “that’ll do nicely”.

Over the next 30km I had the best time ever. I moved steadily up to 13th place, feeling amazing. In my head I was Jim Walmsley, cruising through the landscape to cheers from the spectators. This was what I had been built for…

And then the wheels slowly started to fall off! At first it was a subtle increase in muscle soreness and a couple of hot spots on my feet. Then my quads got really sore and weren’t working so well. Then I had to take a walk break. A big blister formed on my heel.
Ever so gradually, competitors caught me up, offered kind words and disappeared into the distance. I hit a point where I gave up my racing hopes and came to terms with it being a different kind of day. I even rang my wife for a laugh at my predicament. She was great and it picked me up no end.
And so my day wore on. The trickle became a torrent of seemingly fresh athletes and I was unable to run at all for hours, even on the downhills (they were the worst actually). I started to despair at how long I still had to go and it was getting chilly on the tops.

I was pretty out of it by the time I got to Alfriston. Despite eating loads at all the aid stations (strawberries and cocktail sausages anyone?), I was plain tuckered out. A couple of cups of flat coke were the best thing I could find and then I set off up the climb to Long Man.
At the top of this, two blokes glacially caught up with me. They were making all kinds of groaning noises so I exclaimed “you’re the guys for me!” and blow me if we didn’t cajole each other back to running, with lots of military “let’s do this!”, “stick with me, man!” type nonsense.

Last 3km through the streets of Eastbourne were a dream; was back to 5min/kms by then. What’s that about?
Finished with a lap of the track at the sports centre, hugs, laughter, and a very slow walk back to the car.

What a brilliant, awful, soul destroying, life-enriching kind of day. I’ve read about this, but to experience it was something else.

Ed Fraser