Marlborough Downs Challenge

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Click here for the Marlborough Downs Challenge website

Date: Sunday 6 May 2018

Distance: 33 miles (Short)

Ascent: “over 3000 ft” according to the race website

2015 winning time: 4:21:18


The Marlborough Downs Challenge is based in the historic town of Marlborough, next to the famous and equally historic Marlborough College. Of the two distances on offer, the longer 33-mile ‘Ultra’ is naturally the one we’re interested in. The longer the better as well, because the uniquely runnable chalk countryside fills the visual senses and produces fast times, provided it’s not been raining too much and the mud isn’t too sticky. It’s been dry every year we’ve done it but there are reports of a terrible mudfest in 2014. Expect to see carpets of bluebells in the woods and acres of primroses across the rolling chalky downs. Keep your fingers crossed that the canal swing bridge before checkpoint 4 (the far point) won’t be retracted to allow a barge through, otherwise you’ll be enjoying an unexpected breather.
The route takes us through eight closely-spaced checkpoints along and through ancient earthworks, dykes and ditches, the impressively big Avebury Stone Circle, the Cherhill monument and the big white horse carved into the chalk hillside. If previous years are anything to go by we will get an earthenware mug at the finish to add to the pleasure of completing such a beautiful course, and of course not forgetting the post-race meal to recharge the batteries. This really is one to return to again and again once its pleasures have been sampled.
This is one of the easiest of the 2018 Runfurther races: if Hugh Aggleton can run it in 4:04:12, can the rest of us be far behind?  For most of us, I suspect, the answer is “yes”.