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Marlborough Downs Challenge 2018 – updated 10 May

There were 90 finishers in the long race this year, in pretty warm weather – there were a few people who needed to retire due to the heat.  It looks like there was a race to the line for the first two finishers, who put in very fast times.  Edward Knudsen (Avon Valley Runners) finished in 3:58:11, with Rob Ford (Cirencester AC) just 25 seconds behind.  Rob Brown (also Cirencester) was 3rd in 4:30:07.  Not sure what happened to David Chetta, who finished 8th in 5:10:46: I’d have expected a faster time from David, but maybe the heat was too much or he got lost.  Hope it wasn’t injury anyway.  In any case David is now the only contender left for a Runfurther Grand Slam of all 12 races this year.  Alwyn Nixon finished 11th in 5:15:45, a very fast time, and first V60 by more than 90 minutes.  Alwyn’s written up his race, and you can find that below.

First woman was Ciara Blackstock (Calne Smartt), 17th overall in 5:31:46, 2nd was Rachel Bennett (White Horse Harriers) in 5:37:17, and 3rd was Rachel Stanley-Evans (Witney RR) in 5:46:13.

The race results are up on the Marlborough Running Club website.  I have now updated the Runfurther leaderboard as well.

No photos this time, as Nick Ham was at home sick – hope you’re feeling better now Nick!  And no Karen either, so no point in checking her blog.  Alwyn’s come up trumps though…

Alwyn Nixon’s Marlborough Downs Challenge Report

The Marlborough Downs Challenge is a pleasant, undulating route with some good views, and not too far from my home in South Wales so much more convenient for me than the majority of Runfurther races. It was only a week after the Fellsman, so I wasn’t sure how recovered I would be. However, the Fellsman had gone pretty well in my book (notwithstanding Karen’s colourful version of my trials and tribulations beyond Cray – after all, I finished 3 hours quicker than the previous year, and despite my eating/energy problems took 1 hour less from Cray to Yarnbury).
The weather was warm, but not scorching, and there was plenty of fluid to drink at the checkpoints and throw over head and body to keep cool. The ground was dry, but not baked hard. I started steadily; although I knew that I was fitter than 2 years previously, I was not feeling fresh. My plan was to try and maintain a steady pace for as long as possible and avoid losing time at checkpoints or through having to walk.
The first 13 miles or so over the first section of downs went smoothly; some runners in front of me went wrong at Gopher Wood, but came past again soon after checkpoint 2. Although I managed to hang on to them for a while I lost ground along the canal towpath to the edge of Devizes and my legs were feeling leaden by checkpoint 4 (15.2 miles). However, after the next hill I started to pick off runners, and was feeling OK and running on my own by checkpoint 6 before the Wellington Monument (20 miles). I managed to keep running up to the monument and made good time to the checkpoint before Avebury (25 miles). The next section to the final checkpoint is a grind, slightly uphill for much of the way, but I was still running. A quick final drink, and then push the final 3.5 miles down to the finish. Pleasantly surprised to find that I was 11th overall (1st MV60), and my time of 5 hr 15.45 was nearly 20 minutes quicker than in 2016. Time to relax, shower and socialise!
89 runners completed the 33 mile route; Edward Knudsen (Avon Valley Runners) was the overall winner in a quick 3.58.11. First lady was Ciara Blackstock (Calne Smartt) in 5.31.46. Runfurther members alongside myself to successfully complete the route included Ned Lammas (6th/2nd MV50 in 5.06.08); Dave Chetta (8th in 5.10.46); event (apologies if I’ve missed anyone). Dick Scroop (MV70) had the misfortune to go wrong and lose significant time in West Woods after checkpoint 1, and so missed the cut-off time and checkpoint 3 and was diverted onto the 20 mile route.
To those who haven’t tried the Marlborough Downs Challenge yet, it’s well worth the travel; the course is interesting and varied, whilst the event has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and is excellently organised.
Alwyn Nixon

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