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1 Prospect Court
The Broadway
Farnham Common
Bucks SL2 3QQ
01753 647339
info@apex-sports.co.uk
1 Prospect Court, The Broadway, Farnham Common, Bucks SL2 3QQ - Telephone: 01753 647339

The evolution of the famous London - Brighton race

Growing up along the Comrades route it was destiny for me to run the great event, but not before moving to the UK. While preparing for an Up run, I decided to run the famous London-Brighton run, historically linked closely with the Comrades, very often won by South Africans runners.

 

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my 2005 race was the last running of the event as we knew it. This event is about 60 times smaller than Comrades in numbers and support, despite its history, and as a result no roads are closed off to traffic, so to organise that every roundabout is manned by police or local clubs can be an organiser's nightmare! Yet it had been managed for many years beforehand.

A little over a hundred runners set off to the first stroke of Big Ben at 7am, a moving experience given its history. The route wound through South London before hitting the towns and villages along the A23 to Brighton. Things got a little harrowing with no footpath at times along the road and traffic storming past and just support from the checkpoints and runners' crews.  There was only one big hill (Ditchling's Beacon) lying in wait on the outskirts of Brighton before coasting (mostly) downhill into Brighton to conclude under a Finish banner with a few officials and friends in wait in under 9h45 as a (fairly tough) cut-off for the 55-mile event. 101 finished this event.

 

With a gap of two years the event was resurrected by a company (www.extremerunning.org) wishing to kick start the event again, but with a difference. Having run the 2005 race, the organisers of this year's event decided to revive the occasion and combine it with their love of off-road running. Plans of plotting the entire route off-road from London wasn't quite feasible; just under 10 of the first miles were on road to get out of South London.

The route thereafter travelled a parallel course to its predecessor with bits of road and large chunks of off-road, rather than alongside the traffic of the A23. All good and well, until you have the added challenging task of navigating yourself through 56 miles of  road, woods, fields, paths and farm/country roads in England's South East!

Over 200 applied for the race, whittling down to around 120 on the start line at 7am in Greenwich Park. A (water-resistant!) booklet was specially produced by the organisers with OS maps and a thick line as the route to follow. Those unfamiliar with the route were forced to stop often to check their position and to ensure they hadn't missed a turn, something easily done. There were not many markers or arrows on the course, just several checkpoints to check in at. All part of the challenge. The website did have constant warnings to practice map reading and navigating yourself.

To compound all this, the weather couldn't have been worse with lashings of rain leading up to the event, and firm, steady rain and wind during the entire event, causing bridle paths to become water tributaries. It became a game of physical and (more importantly) mental endurance, as well as a sense of humour to not be affected by the weather on the day. Many sections forced runners to walk, as well as the occasional ambiguity when disorientated with the map. Obviously, compasses were encouraged to try and steer runners south and not to violently veer off course.

 

The initial cut-off time of 12 hours was extended when only about 40 runners had finished in that time with many more still out on the course as light was fading. A further 14 or so finished between 12-13 hours and another 30 odd completing the race between 13-15 hours. There were less than a hundred finishers.

Organisers had offered unsupported runners various foods & drinks at each checkpoint, even thoughtfully ensuring the potatoes were laden with salt to give runners some neglected electrolytes!

Organisers vow to take note of comments and amend where necessary to make 2009 an even better event, admitting the usual red tape and difficulties in getting the various permissions for the race to go ahead in the first place.

Obviously this race lacks the history and charisma of the original London-Brighton, but offers a different challenge altogether.

(Written after the 2008 race)

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