This last September 7th I ran the Longman Devils Dyke Ultra 33.4 miles.
For those who are familiar with the South Downs Way the route needs no introduction… beautiful rolling hills that stretch all along the southeast of England.
From the National Trust’s website:
Devil’s Dyke, just five miles north of Brighton, offers stunning panoramas, a record breaking valley, a curious history and England’s most colourful habitat. At nearly a mile long, the Dyke valley is the longest, deepest and widest ‘dry valley’ in the UK. Legend has it that the Devil dug this chasm to drown the parishioners of the Weald. On the other hand, scientists believe it was formed naturally just over 10,000 years ago in the last ice age.
The run started right under the Devils Dyke pub (built right in the ramparts or walls of the Iron Age hill fort) at the same time of the 10 mile run. The course was quite simple: first out&back a few miles west on the SouthDownsWay and then east out&back following the SouthDownsWay all the way to the ridge above the town of Kingston, just near Lewes.
Here is the Longman’s description:
The route will start by heading west along the Devils Dyke ridge with stunning panoramic views of the South Downs Way and big sky’s towards the Sea over Shoreham. The run returns to Devils Dyke along the open ridge before rounding Devils Dyke and proceeding to sweep down through the iconic Devils Dyke Valley. The route will then return to the South Downs Way at the historically restored Saddlescombe Farm and heading out to Ditchling Beacon enjoying more stunning views over the Sussex countryside below. The race will continue past Ditchling Beacon along the South Downs Way, through meadows and farmland with views of the historic market town of Lewes, out towards Newhaven and the sea to Castle hill before returning to Devils Dyke.
With a 4000ft gain this is not a particularly demanding run and runners are asked to be completely self-sufficient although there are two feed station at 16.4m and 22.4m (which you pass both on your way out and on the way back).
The run itself was quite enjoyable, foggy at the start and then a nice sunny day. It’s a run I know well, as I often run on the SDW, and definitely worth the effort.
At the end I was given a medal and a bag with some goodies. There was some hot pasta and other food, including hot chocolate recovery drink.
It took me more than I was hoping (as usual…) but I crossed the end line with my children, and this was by far the greatest prize I could wish for!
I must mention that the organisation seemed to be the weak point of the race and here are a few points I think the Longman Crew can work on for future events:
- Start: having runs of different distances start all at the same time is very confusing (pace for a 10 mile is somewhat different from the pace of a 33 mile) – the web site said it was to create an event feeling but the event feeling should actually be at the end or the start?
- Volunteers: a little more enthusiasm from the volunteers always helps (one seemed not too happy that I asked for help opening my water bottle)
- Route: right after castle hill (before the turnaround point) there are two possible routes, one level and the other uphill and then down. I asked a marshal which way and the response was: “it’s your choice, it’s the same”. It didn’t make any difference for me but I saw some of the front runners on the easy one and some on the harder one… that’s where it makes a difference!!
- Finish: the finish line needs a little more enthusiasm? no photos? no cheering? even the race results shows three names missing, written down as “??”, and one of them is the second finisher…
So yes, as the Longman’s website says “The Longman Devil’s Dyke has potential to become an iconic event with the start and finish in quite simply one of the most breathtaking spots in the UK“, it’s a beautiful trail with stunning views, but the organisation needs a little tweaking 😉