The XNRG event, open to runners and walkers, takes place over the Early May Bank Holiday weekend, which means the weather can be variable, but the scenery is always beautiful as everything is green and the trees freshly in leaf. Overnight accommodation is in schools, usually on the gym or hall floor; competitors’ luggage is transported along the course, so it is only necessary to carry a small pack with water and a few essentials. There are well-stocked checkpoints about every 8 miles. The South Downs Way in the UK is a national trail, so it is well marked, and no navigation skills are required.
The start is in Winchester, England’s ancient capital and former seat of King Alfred the Great. Many competitors arrive a day early to avoid an early start on Saturday and possible travel disruption. This gives them a chance to enjoy Winchester’s world class attractions and architecture including a magnificent Cathedral, award-winning pubs and restaurants and a tempting array of independent shops.
The staggered starts, with the walkers going first and the slower runners next means that the narrower sections of the course are not crowded.
The first day is probably the easiest of the three, although it is still a tough day of 31 miles with 1146 metres of ascent and 1118 metres of descent. Competitors are pleased to reach Elsted Village Hall at the end where they can have a cup of tea and a piece of cake before being transported to the overnight accommodation in Midhurst. There they can have a shower and a substantial meal before a night’s rest. Some people forsake the camaraderie of communal sleeping and book a B & B nearby.
Day two is hard being almost 35 miles, although overall it is ever so slightly downhill with 1355 metres of ascent and 1388 of descent. The views are first class as the route passes along the top of the Steyning Bowl before heading for the iconic Devil’s Dyke Valley and finishes near the Jack & Jill windmills. Yet again cake is at the end before catching the minibus shuttle to the accommodation in Brighton. This is a very long day for some of the competitors and support crew. The winner will complete the course in about five and a half hours, but the tail enders will be out for over 12 hours. There will still be cake left for them and a very warm welcome.
Day three sees the competitors reaching the coast and passing over the famous Severn Sisters on their way to the finish in Eastbourne, taking in the views of white cliffs, lighthouses and the sea on the way. It is another day of climbing and descending (1218 & 1386). For many it will be their first multi-day event and for some it will be their first ultra, the sense of achievement on reaching the finish is immense.
The ethos of XNRG Extreme Energy Events is to allow people to challenge themselves to achieve big things in a safe and inspiring environment. The South Downs National Park provides a superb backdrop, while the experienced and enthusiastic checkpoint crew help the runners and walkers on their way. The professional medical team keep an eye on the runners and are ready to react, often helping before a problem becomes something that will stop a competitor finishing. Every competitor receives the same enthusiastic support whether they are the winner, who will finish the three stages with a combined time of about 15 hours 30 minutes, or the last walker home who will have a combined time of 31 hours and 30 minutes.
XNRG have a range of challenges over 1, 2 or 3 days in stunning locations in the south of England. Full details on their website xnrg.co.uk
Images credit: XNRG
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