Sunday, 20 February 2011

Moonlight Challenge 2011 - Race Report

This is a story of mud, rain and trashed feet, this is a course which changes every year from sun baked, parched earth to wet, muddy the next.

The plan was for Andy and Matt from my club to meet up at my house at about 3.30pm for a 3.45pm start to get to Marshside, Canterbury in Kent. Google stated a 75 minute drive but the miles seemed to eaten up quickly with one hour of running talk and race tactics. This was a run of personal best challenges, Matt to get to 20 miles, Andy to go ultra and me to beat my course record.

We arrived quite early which was really good as we managed to get a good parking space in the adjoining car park to the pub where the race started.

The Course

The course is 6.55 miles in length and comprises, concrete, tarmac, cinder and grass track roads or paths. We are required to run as many laps as we wish to a maximum recorded 5, some of the runners are happy with 4 laps to make the marathon whilst there is the usual bunch who want to do the full distance.

The first part of the evening was to meet up and catch up with old running mates from previous runs, meet new ones and have the usual pre-race banter but then as the time went on and the race start closer it got a little quieter as kit preparation took precedence and more sober talk of the weather and mud. I was really pleased to see barefoot runners who were going ultra.

We were soon called the start line for a race briefing with some health and safety thrown in for good measure which always amuses me, we were about to go out in the middle of a marsh with headtorches for up to 8 hours!

The Race

Andy, Matt and I found our own places in the crowd as we all stood outside the pub ready for the off, we were to await a firework to go bang which seem to take an age and then BOOM, a large cheer and we thundered down the road ready to get onto the track.

I was feeling pretty strong and I got into a natural rhythm quite quickly on 7 mph, possible a little fast but I wanted to get through the dreaded mud section as quickly as possible as it would soon to turn horrific. The first lap of this course is also the one to be careful as it takes quite a while for the pack to thin out and it is not always easy to see the route ahead as there are so many torches flashing everywhere.

I got through the first lap in just under an hour, similarly lap 2 in an hour but then decided to pull off the gas as the muddy section was now quickly turning in to the consistency of wet concrete and it was very easy to slip as I was to see with so many runners now covered in mud where they had swan dived.

Throughout this first 2 hours the rain drizzled continually making causing water drops to collect on my torch and drip. I was really pleased with my kit choice of long-sleeved top, short sleeved top and my OMM Kamleika smock as I was toasty warm and dry, my hat was even put in my back pack.

Lap three complete I popped into the tent for a cup of coffee from my flask and to grab a couple of carb gels and grab a new bottle of water and was out with in 5 minutes ready to crack on into the next lap. This lap was probably the worst psychologically as it was the run up to the arbitrary marathon distance and the fact that I had to walk about 1.5 miles of it as I found the mud section and the grassy section treacherous underfoot but was pleased with the break as it made the dryer sections better to run on at speed.

On my return to the pub I saw the happy face of Matt who had just completed his ~20 miles, his longest run. I grabbed a cup of tea (my own green tea and lemon) which raised my spirits and I heard Matt say "You are not stopping are you?" which was both a question and an instruction which spurred me on to get straight out (Thanks Matt)

I was on fire now as my pace picked up and the thought of one more lap made me think of it as a short run which was further boosted as I saw and passed other runners which I was lapping. I was now looking forward to the muddy section as it gave me a chance to greet and joke with the runners coming in the opposite direction. That soon over I was on the return trip with 3 miles to go and I was really pleased to see that I was going to get my course PB even if I walked it so was spurred into action passing more runners on the home stretch.

The last mile is cinder and tarmac, I was now a man with a mission, all I wanted was dry clothes and a BIG bowl of pasta soup and there it was the pub, I was home in 5:51 beating my prvious time by 13 minutes even in the horrific conditions.


After having a chat with Matt I excused myself to do my admin and soon got changed into dry clothes and had a few cups of tea and an enormous bowl of pasta/potato/tomato soup with a roll. A feast for Kings and Queens.

Andy soom came in with and enormous grin on his face both of a brilliant accomplishment and possibly relief. Great effort by all....a brilliant night of adventure running


  1. Well done! A great run in tough conditions. Really good to go faster by 13 minutes! Sounds very tough but still fun at the same time.

  2. Jerry

    Well done, sounds a tough race. Great news you got a PB.

  3. good stuff Jezza. I will be looking forward to running with you and the crew very very soon!

  4. Nice report Jerry, well done on the PB. Pleasure meeting you.

  5. Thanks, it was great to meet you at last.