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Race to the King is a fully supported 52-mile ultramarathon challenge. The breathtaking route starts Slindon Estate near Arundel in West Sussex and runs through the South Downs National Park until you reach the climactic finish on the steps of Winchester Cathedral, the burial place of the first Kings and … MORE
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    JoJoRunner FIRST-TIMER '18

    Thresholdsports organises a double marathon in Southern England to honour the ancient Kings who resided and were buried in Winchester. And that’s where their race finishes. The full distance is … MORE

    Thresholdsports organises a double marathon in Southern England to honour the ancient Kings who resided and were buried in Winchester. And that’s where their race finishes. The full distance is 52.4 miles but one has also the option to run the race in two unevenly splitted races (about 23.4 miles and 30 miles) or run/ walk only day or only day two.
    When I did research for races that fit in my 20-20 challenge for 2018 (20 fulls and 20 halfs), I came across the race cause my running club (Half Fanatics/ Marathon Maniacs) would count day one as half (13.1 plus miles but less than a full marathon) and day two as marathon (anything 26.2 miles or more).

    So I opted for the split-up option with an overnight camp. Two-day race weekend are highly appreciated in a full summer schedule…

    My brother gave me is ultra light sleeping bag that I could fit in the hand luggage and the tents plus mattresses would be provided by the organisers- sweet deal. 😊

    I flew to London Heathrow after work and took a national express bus to Winchester where I spent the first night in a lovely Airbnb close to the Park n Ride. From there, the shuttle bus to Arundel/ starting point of the race left at 5:45am.
    Everything was set up at the start at Gaston Farm in Arundel: the check-in for the foreigners (UK residents got their bib via mail), photo walls, water supplies and porta potties… my tension was rising. Being sometimes a bit competitive in races, I really didn’t want to overpace the first 36 km/ 22 miles of day one and I wanted to have enough energy for the second day.
    The race / first wave started on time at 8:00am and some hundred people started moving and making their way over, along and inbetween fields of wheat, cattle and sheep. Later we turned into the forrest and the newbie to trail races that I was, I was wondering how quickly it got really narrow ( two runners side by side later one after the other). I loved the first part of the race to the first pit stop and again I was wondering…. this time about how much options of food (cereal and nut bars, bananas, chocolates) we had besides water, energy gels and electrolyte tablets.
    The South Downs Way offers a beautiful changing landscape and for runners, walkers and mountain bikers it is a hilly challenge. Shortly before the second pit stop (about km23), I started to feel my groin- an old “injury” from last year that slowed me down and made me careful. I missed several weeks of running because of it last summer… thinking about it, I felt my spirits sinking and it felt harder to move forward. Nonetheless, step by step I got closer to pit stop 2 and had a longer break there. That stop offered different wraps and sandwiches on top to what the first pit stop had. So I took a “wrap and chips” break before I continued. With temperatures of 25 degrees, I did appreciate the beautiful sections in the forest and my running started to feel easier again. My abdominal discomfort was gone. I reached pitstop 3 aka the basecamp after 36km/ 22 miles and a cumulative elevation gain of 850m about 2700feet before noon. And I was done! I felt weak and at this point I couldn’t see me running the next day again with a similar elevation gain but 13 more km/ 8 more miles.
    The tents were all set up and I checked in. I was one of the very first to use the posh showers (literally, that was their name) and got a back massage.

    The Marquee / main tent at the base camp had a great catering section! Hot pasta and pasta salad, baked potato corners, veggies warm and cold, soups and rolls. Later for dinner, they served on top of that 4kinds of pizza, lemon tart with merengue and rhubarb crumble with vanilla sauce- heaven! Orange and black current juice, water and hot drinks (tea, instand chocolate and instand coffee) were free, “real coffee” (also iced) and alcoholic beverages could be purchased.
    I sat on a beanie bag or camping chair for most of the rest of the day in the lounge area of the marquee where I ate and drank and ate and drank (only one beer- don’t get a wrong impression), I felt so verveless…

    Since it was football World Cup, all games were shown on TV in the tent. Outside, people were taning, dancing or participated in Yoga. When Germany started playing against England, I was a tiny bit uncomfortable since almost everybody was cheering for the Swedes (just to be against Germany I assumed) but with a last minute goal by T. Kroos, I went happily to bed at 9pm.
    The next day, I woke up at 4:30am. It was light and people started chatting outside- my alarm was set for 5. Calculating back and forth about my running performance, I wanted to leave at 6am with the official start and not taking usage of the possibility of a flying start (anytime up until 7am). My bus from Winchester to get back to the airport was booked and so was my flight from Heathrow at 4:25pm.

    Breakfast (oatmeal in numerous versions, sweats, bacon, sausages, beans, sunny side ups, …) was as lovely as dinner. I changed into my running gear, applied sun scream and mosquito repellent, dropped my bag and 6am: off we went again.
    The 30 miles of day two were parted into 4 sections by 3 pit stops before the runners reached to finish line next to Winchester Cathedral. The temperatures in the morning were perfect for running and my legs felt stronger than I thought.

    Most of the (more experienced?!) runners were wearing a back pack with water/ camel bags. I only had a belt and was carrying a plastic bottle for sports drinks to refill at the pit stops. I often don’t drink in between my training runs and knew I can go 10km without a massive water supply.
    After leaving pit stop 6 (about 33 km into day two) I was following a long straight field track. The organisers put lots of arrows along the route to make sure that one doesn’t miss a turn. First, I was running along but I didn’t see any arrows no more. I slowly got anxious about not seeing any arrows and when I finally reached a junction and there were no arrows, I knew I must have missed a turn. So I had to run back and saw the turn very sharply after the pit stop… about 3km added for nothing.
    I reached pit stop 7 and refuelled- the water melon was divine. From there, it was less than 12 km to the finish line! First I had to conquer one more hill on a rocky field track. After that, a mild steady decline followed and I could see the rooftops of Winchester and the top of the cathedral.
    I started to feel a little outburst of energy and my pace got quicker (5:15-5:30/min). I started smiling and could not wait to get to the finish.

    “King Artur” was awaiting the finishers. Since the name of the race was “Race to the King”, I brought a little crown with me, picked it up from my checked luggage and went back to Artur for my finishers selfie.
    Race to the King was perfectly organised and my one and only point of a possible improvement would be the finish area. Since it is near the cathedral and the park, I understand that space is limited. However, showers (in a gym of a school?) and some food would have been awesome. There was so much food at the pit stops when I couldn’t eat much or didn’t want to eat much. Drinking water was provided. I de-dusted with a bottle of water and my towel.

    I enjoyed strolling along Winchester- a very picturesque little town with plenty of food and coffee options- before I made my way back home to Heathrow and than to Zurich.
    Back home I looked at the race results and to my big surprise (and despite my 17 min detour on day two), I finished as third man in the two-day ranking of the race.
    BTW: free race photos 🙂 no free Race Shirts but with all the food and that awesome overnight camp they still got my 5 star rating for swag

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