Laura Gale reports on the ‘Three Forts Challenge’ – Sunday 5th May 2013

Three Forts Challenge, South Downs, Sussex. Sunday 5th May

This race is know as ‘The Tough One’, and not without good reason. The
half marathon has a total climb of 1450 ft and the full marathon 3450
ft! The race starts in Worthing, which is just outside Brighton, on a
recreation ground at a place called Hill Barn.

This is the second year i’ve done the half, and last year the weather
was so bad you could barely see your hand in front of your face, let
alone the runner in front of you. 200 runners didn’t show up because
it was so bad! This year it was very different. Thank goodness for my
factor 50 sun spray – as it was 17 degrees when we set off. About 260
runners for the half and the same again for the full marathon. The
route leads you straight onto a track that takes you from nearly sea
level up to about 550ft. The track starts off quite wide and then
narrows to single file between 2 hedges after a while. I remembered
this from last year, so made sure I nipped past as many people as I
could before the narrow section because if someone in front starts
walking then you are forced to as well.

As it was so hot, I made a point of stopping at nearly all the drinks
stations and dousing myself / drinking. It would have been silly to
ignore the heat on this run. There are 4 big climbs, with the highest
taking you up to the top of Chanctonbury Hill. You get the most
amazing views from up here – you are right on the top of the South
Downs and can see the sea on one side and miles and miles inland on
the other – very inspiring! After this follows some serious downhill
action. Here I tried to make up as much time as I could. By this point
in the race you could really feel the heat coming off the ground. The
paths made of pale mud and deep puddles last year were now rock hard,
bright white, and dotted with flint. On some sections I could barely
open my eyes as the reflected sunlight was so bright! I was slightly
anxious when I could see the dark shadows of birds circling overhead –
only to quickly realise that they were sea gulls and not vultures. The
final climb at about 10 miles is a real killer, but I vowed not to
walk and overtook quite a few people from the posse I had been hanging
with for the last few miles. I checked my watch for the first time at
this point, and realised that I could perhaps get under 2 hours and
beat last years time. The last couple of miles are down the same
narrow track that you started on, so you know what to expect, although
it did seem to go on and on! I really opened up and tried to catch
another lady runner who I knew was not that far in front of me.
Without being able to overtake I caught right up and stuck with her,
then ‘sprinted’ (I felt like I was sprinting, I doubt it looked like
it though) past her on the turn into the sports field at the bottom of
the track and over the finish!

I was met by a row of lovely old men with little stools so you could
put your foot up and they could cut your timing chip off your shoes,
then congratulated and handed my medal by another. The registration
tables from earlier had now magically turned into cake tables –
groaning under the weight of sheer carb! More importantly, there were
15 sports masseuses offering free massages – I had the best massage
EVER from Antonio. Meanwhile, finish times were being printed and
posted up on a board in the middle of field. I was pretty pleased with
shaving 13 minutes off last years time and most excited about being
9th female. My sister Alex was 2nd female, and my friend Andrew was
3rd male, so the lone teal hadn’t let the side down.

I know it’s a long way from Bournville, but I can totally recommend
this challenging race down in Sussex. Extremely well organised,
stunning views, lots of well stocked aid stations, endless marshals,
chip timing, massage, mountains of cake….. Just knock back a shot of
beetroot juice before you start and you’ll be fine!

76th Laura Gale 1.55.52

Full results here.

laura_gale_3_forts1 laura_gale_3_forts2

5 Replies to “Laura Gale reports on the ‘Three Forts Challenge’ – Sunday 5th May 2013”

  1. Sounds like an awesome race Laura! Well done (and extra well done for coming 9th lady!). I definitely like the sound of all that cake…more races should involve cake 🙂

  2. Well done Laura, sounds like a really fantastic run. Shame it is so far away. Cakes as well. Sounds like my kind of run.

  3. Looking at that first photo makes me want to cry. Well done lady!

  4. I havn`t tried beetroot juice Laura,but if it isn`t `a banned substance` I may give it a go sometime! Congratulations to you, and your sister Alex + your friend Andrew on successfully completing what was clearly a demanding course on such a hot day —– and very respectful finishing positions/times. Thankyou for your excellent report on this year`s `Three Forts Challenge.`
    Barrie Roberts

  5. Well done Laura,sounds very scenic and hard work.13 mins off thats awesome.Im sure that it did look like you were sprinting,especially to the lady you over took!!Your sprint finish has caught me out a few times.
    Cakes and massage at the end too brilliant stuff,