Race Report: Weald Challenge HM


Good evening Harriers,

Weald Challenge Half Marathon


June 9, 2024, Chiddingly, E. Sussex


The Weald Challenge Half Marathon is not about times. It’s about mugs, and yesterday a squad of eight Harriers earned theirs (on finishing, runners choose between mugs in ceramic blue, green or kinda-off-white). And if you are really flipping fast – like our own Mark Mellor – and you win the race or your category, then you earn a ceramic plate to match.


It was the 10thWeald Challenge Half on Sunday (there used to be a Marathon and Ultra too), now organised by Uckfield Runners, and Harrier Kelvin Desmoyers-Davies is the only athlete in the world to have completed all 10 Weald Challenge HMs!


The Weald Challenge has a Sussex village charm: free parking in a field opposite race HQ in the local school; Uckfield Runners put on loads of home baking for afters, along with complimentary tea and coffee poured into the prize mugs. An old-school feel extends to no chip timing and for good measure, the HM route measures about 13.7 miles (which is better than coming up short Chislehurst). To be fair, the organisers are open about the extra yards and it is now tradition.


The route starts and finishes on road, but for the most part follows off-road footpaths, and to say they had been cleared in readiness for a field of 400 runners is a stretch. The landscape is idyllic, but also stinging, scratching and one unsympathetic, green-fingered crop was pretty slap-happy (finger millet perhaps?). This was fine, but the route has countless turns around the farmland, onto roads and off again, some of which were partly hidden, and perhaps it is the parkrunner in me, but the route signage and marshalling could have been better. Many runners missed turns along the way, which is a pity.


Anyway, Mark smashed it. He has finished third in the Ultra here but 2024 was his Weald Challenge HM debut. The problem with being so fast is that if you are leading, it is easier to miss a turn, which Mark did a few times, but there was no catching him and he won by 23 seconds. “The Weald Challenge is a great regional trail race,” says our champ. “Love the cake at the end”.


Kelvin, Sonja King and Steve Bolton all ran very well, despite each being hampered by injuries in recent weeks, while Alistair Reid completed his third Weald Challenge HM and has posted improving finish times each year – excellent work!


As for me, an over-excited Weald Challenge rookie, I went off like a wally on a waltzer and later, inevitably, finished like a wally after too many rounds on the waltzer. I’ll try again, calm down a bit and try to finish stronger.


Congratulations to Sonja, who, after completing two Weald Challenge HMs and one Ultra, has collected a mug in each colour (pictured below), and commiserations to Kelvin’s partner Marina, after Kelvin walked through the front door with his 10thmug. “You should have seen the look on her face,” he says.


– Robin