The Steyning Stinger is a well known local marathon, now in its 14th year, organised by the SteyningAC.
It starts and ends in the small town of Steyning, in Sussex. It runs up four “stings” or hills before returning home, with almost 3000ft elevation gain, entirely on trails and including sections of the beautiful South Downs Way.
I’ve previously run the Stinger in 2013 and had great memories of it, so I decided to put it in my calendar for this year… as part of my long training runs.
The 2015 edition took place on the 1st of March.
The race HQ was at the Steyning Grammar School where, showing the registration confirmation I had received in the post, I was able to collect my number 84. I had a little issue regarding the number as I was told by a marshal to remove it from my hip and place it on my chest?! Something that many other runners didn’t seem to be required to do… On a trail run with variable weather this can be an annoyance: having the number pinned to your chest becomes a problem if you want to add or remove layers on the run…
I got changed in what I had decided to wear for the race, with a forecast for a cold and windy morning with some possible sun: Kalenji compression ¾ trousers, DIY calf compression sleeves made from an old pair of Karrimor compression socks, my well loved Injinji socks, a Nike compression sleeveless top and a Hind mid layer. I also decided to take a light pair of gloves, a cap and a neck/head band.
It had rained the days before the race and I remembered how the course had potential to become really muddy, thus a pair of Inov-8 X-Talon 212 seemed as an appropriate choice.
One of the things I really like about this race is the relaxed atmosphere at the start line. When I ran this race years back I set off before the official start time. This is allowed if you wish, and especially if you think you might require some extra time to finish. Many slower runners decide to start even one hour ahead.
The different start times mean that even if you’re in the leading group you will be meeting people along the way, making the race a very social experience.
This year I decided to start with the main group, as expected the weather was cold and windy, with a shy sun desperately trying to brake through the clouds.
I found the run to be fun for the first half: steep muddy hills where aggressive shoes proved to be a good choice; wind on the ridges and some occasional sun. The most enjoyable thing was catching up with other runners who started before me and getting their “well done” word of approval as I passed them.
Unfortunately this gradually diminished as I reached the second half of the race. The faster group was far in front of me and there were no more slower runners in sight… I ran alone for most of the remaining race, resulting in inadvertently slowing my pace, as if out for a long training run forgetting that I was taking part to an event with hundreds of people.
I’m not particularly familiar with the course which includes a few loops around some hills, so I just ran to get to the end. This appeared in the form of a steep downhill which I remembered from my previous attempt… I loved running down that steep muddy section and getting to the last flat stretch before the finish line.
As it often happens I finished my run with a big smile and thinking of the food that was waiting for me… I also happened to meet Dan, a great runner from Brighton who unknowingly won the race and was at the finish line waiting for a friend to complete.
A full English breakfast in the Steyning School, together with the medal, was the well deserved prize for a intense and great run. I was very proud of finishing in 7th place with a time of 3:42, more than 15 minutes less than what I clocked in 2013, and a personal marathon best.