Pilgrim Challenge 2-day Ultra

2021 North Downs Way 100 - Sarah Hill and Emma Pearson

When your running buddy is fellow Farnham Runner Sarah Hill, then it was only a matter of time before I agreed to run another ultra-distance race. I ran the Downs link 38 mile Ultra a few years ago. I joined Sarah last year for the final 10 miles of Pilgrims and was really interested but 2 ultras back-to-back were too much for me. Bring on COVID and it suddenly seemed like a great idea!!

The Pilgrims Ultra is 66 miles along the North Downs Way, split over 2 days. Day 1 starts in The Sands and finishes in Redhill and the following day you run it in reverse, 33 miles each day. The route is very hilly but the stunning views make up for that.

A couple of weeks before my right calf and shin became very sore so I barely ran and thought I would have to pull out. Luckily my physio really helped and said to try day 1 and play it by ear for day 2. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to do it I didn’t feel nervous until the morning of the race…..

I ran the first 13 miles with Sarah which was lovely but I stopped to grab some water and instead of catching her up I took the wrong turn and ran a mile before I realised!! Once back on track I relaxed and enjoyed the race, it was so hot but there was plenty of water stations with food.

Unfortunately, COVID prevented overnight stays so we had to get picked up and dropped off again the next day, I hardly slept that night even though I was exhausted and I think if we weren’t taking Sarah, I would have been tempted to not do day 2!!

It took a couple of miles to get going and as my calf was more painful, I just relaxed and took it easy and loved it, the miles went by really quickly. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. It was incredibly hot and some tough hills but the stunning scenery helped a lot, as did the lovely marshals. I was so happy I did it and amazed I was 5th lady and 11th overall!! Battling injury Sarah was delighted to be 2nd lady and 7th overall.

A really great, well organised race by Xnrg.

By Emma Pearson