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Five tips for the South Downs Way

by Robert Britton
Thursday 26th February 2015
Tags  South Downs Way   |   SDW   |   Paul Navesey   |   Mark Perkins   |   Eddie Sutton   |   Robbie Britton

People often rave about the great trails in the Lake District, Wales and Scotland but there are some beautiful trails down South too

The South Downs Way (SDW) is fast and runnable with some great views (on a sunny day), but wild enough to make it good, clean fun. If you're based anywhere near London you have no excuse.

Paul Navesey knows the SDW like he knows the inside of a Nutella jar, on a deep and personal level. Mark Perkins knows the trail so well he can rank the bushes on how pleasant they are to dash in in an emergency and Eddie Sutton can tell you how each gate opens with her eyes shut.

All three have something in common, all hold course records on the South Downs Way over 50 or 100 miles after stellar runs in 2014, so we got them to put their heads together to come up with their top five tips for running along the wonderful 100 miles of trail from Winchester to Eastbourne that are so close to the Big Smoke.

1) Love the Downs.

There's about 14,000 feet of uphill along the trail but that also comes with an almighty amount of downhill running too. Eddie Sutton, Women's SDW50 record holder says "the downhills are all really runnable and if you're prepared to push on down hill then you can make good time"

Five tips for the SDW

Photo: Paul, Mark and Eddie at the start of the SDW 50 © Stuart March

2) Learn how to deal with cows.

The US may have mountain lions and bears, the Aussies have snakes and we have those natural born predators, the dairy cow. Paul Navesey has been chased on occasion and even he was nearly caught. As a wise farmer once told us "Clap your hands, shout and be confident, they'll move" He also called us soft for being scared of cows.

Five tips for the SDW

Photo: Cows. The UK's deadliest predator © Stuart March

3) It's not a wild remote highland but that can be a good thing.

The South Downs Way can feel like you're miles from anywhere at times but is surprisingly well equipped when it comes to amenities. Mark Perkins does most of his training on the South Downs and knows that there are cafés, toilets, water taps, car park and train stations aplenty, so if you plan well it is easy to have a good day out on your own or in a group.

Five tips for the SDW

Photo: Mark in the SDW 100 with South Downs Way legend Stuart Mills, multiple winner of Beachy Head marathon © Stuart March

4) The Gates of Hell

Before he ran 6:11 for 50 miles in the Centurion Running SDW50, I made Paul Navesey open every gate we ran through in training for the months beforehand. You may only save 5-10 seconds a gate but there are 95 over the 100 miles and that sure does add up. You have to make race day as easy as possible! (Always close the gates too, we don't want feral cows charging around!)

Five tips for the SDW

Photo: Paul on his way to SDW50 victory. This is his happy face © Paul's brother

5) Know the ground underfoot

Every terrain has an ideal shoe but nothing works on wet chalk, it's like running on ice. The mixture of chalk, mud, gravel and road sections mean that you need a shoe that is comfortable on a mixture of surfaces. If it's dry then a road shoe will be fine but if it gets muddy the X-Talon 212 is my shoe of choice. Mark ran 100 miles of #SDW in a shade over 14 hours last year in a pair of Nike Terrakigers and seemed to love every second of it.


About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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