South Downs Way 50 report

Sunday 21st April 2024

Helen Cuninghame reports on her third SDW50...

This was my third time running this race, and it is my favourite on the calendar without a doubt. I was thrilled to come in in under 9hrs (8.56) last year, and was aiming at an 8.45 this year.

After a brilliant first two months this year, including a 4 and a half minute pb at Brighton half and completing arc50 in Jan, I jumped back into training pretty much straight after, seeing as I only had about 5 weeks until the main race.

Looking back on it, March was where it went a bit downhill. Ironic, as I ran up even more hills than usual, in an attempt to have a bit of a last push in the final month of training. I spent a large amount of that month running up Ditchling beacon and as many bostals as I could - the steeper the better right?!

I worked through a series of niggles during that month, and despite some quick training runs and pretty much hitting the numbers I planned, I don't honestly think I ever fully recovered. 

The result, cramp at mile 17 during the race, which never really left. I could blame the heat, but I'm inclined to think I probably never quite gave myself as much recovery as I needed over the previous 6 weeks. Interestingly the cramp only occurred when either walking/running Up a hill, and not down. Perhaps again, a small message that my legs really had had enough of ascending.

So much slower than planned, but I navigated my way to the finish.

For me, the learning is to try and take the pressure off myself, and be patient with progress. This isn't the first time I've overtrained in my desire to improve - and whilst improving is important, it's good for me to remember I run because I love to move and feel good, not to be constantly exhausted and fatigued.

So I'll be back to run it next year, and in the mean time it's recovery and just 'enjoying running' for a bit :)