Darkside Half Sunrise race recap

Darkside Half Sunrise race recap

A quick note before you carry on, this probably reads horribly as I very, very rarely write any reports, I hope it helps someone though.

Pushing pebbles to pounding the pavement this race proved to have the most varied terrain I have yet experienced, brutal on the legs but beautiful in the mind.

The Sunrise event is split in to 2 different races the Full Sunrise at 83 miles and the Half Sunrise at personally more palatable 45 miles. The Full starts from Snettisham (North of Kings Lynn) the Half starts from Cley (Central North Norfolk), both end the line at the Pier bar in Great Yarmouth.
My entry to this race was really last minute, less than 10 days to the event, massive thanks goes to Eva Wilkes who unfortunately could not run due to illness so I stepped in.

With no targeted training and knowing a good group of experienced mates were out too It seemed like a great opportunity to get out there, learn from them and have a fun night out.
The only real difference to my normal training has been the intervention of Sports Nutritionist Jason Fligg, even this was only a recent thing being the first week working with him, never the less he soon stepped up and saw to it that I was prepared with the knowledge I needed the week before the race and during. Carb loading properly was a massive eye opener for me! (This is however a different story which I will cover soon) what I will say is Jason is already proving his worth, 1 week in, please hit him up if you want any support.

Race day soon crept up, my second huge thank you here goes to Gemma Woolrych who was so kind to pick us up and drop us off in Cley. The race HQ (as well as all check-points) were absolutely awesome, organised and swift, not surprising considering Giles Thurston and Mark Turner were leading an incredible event team with equally as much experience. Race briefing soon came and went, we were led out in to the cold dark rain on to the #Norfolkcoastalpath just by Cley windmill. Everyone gathered and we were off. My plan was to run with mate Pascal Fallas, Carmine De Grandis, Nancy Connolly and Mark Collinson until half way where we would see how we felt and judge wether we individually go for it or loosen off from there.

Mile 1-10
This is my favourite part of the #Norfolkcoastalpath. The comfortable hard packed trail leads straight to the Cley shingle, fortunately the tide was just out enough to run the bank, I can imagine having to run that shingle at the start indiscriminately destroying any possible goals.
This was a beautiful run with the group holding together great chat and banter, absolutely loving life.
The cliffs soon rise from the shingle, up and over the Skelding hill, through Sheringham and over Beeston bump which are definitely more my forte of terrain.
I could not believe how fast the first checkpoint came, I didn’t really need anything so carried on slowly whilst the group soon caught up.

Mile 10-20
This is a really odd part of the race. It starts by running through Cromer, heading up the cliffs, following the wavy and very slippery cliff edge on to the coastal road by Trimmingham, through quite a few caravan parks with the checkpoint at Mundsley. After my last race Escape from Meriden where I pounded pavements for 12 hours I did not like this section. I was feeling really good in myself though. My in race nutrition, Maurten mixed with crystallised ginger along with Chia Charge bars were working a treat. The bars are really tasty, palatable and moist. By now me and Pascal had set off with a chap who unfortunately did not know the way, the slippy cliff edge had me on my face a couple of times and I felt a little tightening up from my right glute but other than that everything was smooth and happy. I really enjoy running with Pascal and find we work really well when we stick together, unfortunately this did not last and I ended up splintering from the pack sooner than I would have liked, around mile 18.

Mile 20-30
This is a part of the Norfolkcoastalpath I have never really seen let alone run before, it is really pretty. Particularly as the sky was clearing now, moon shining brightly, shooting stars falling, grumpy seals having a pop at your ankles. The terrain here is a mix of hard pack trail but mostly loose sand. For some strange reason I absolutely loved running on the sand, vast open darkness engulfing all of you apart from that small beam from your head torch. As beautiful as it was this is where I wish I had stayed and ran with others, It is beautiful on your own but its better to make memories with people not just places. At 27 miles the path left the beaches and on to the diversion behind Sea Palling avoiding most of the Seals. This was where it all started to go dark for me, battling the voices saying “just walk” which if I’m honest they won a few times. Fortunately Sea Palling aid station was just on the horizon. An amazing event team saw straight to me but not too much to make me want to stay (Im notorious for overstaying at checkpoints), I stopped for just 5 minutes, I later found out Pascal was just 5 minutes behind me but by this point the race was well and truly on.

Mile 30-40
For the next 10 miles the route follows what with fresh legs would call runnable trail, a small section of soft sand by Happisburgh, concrete sea defences and part of Winterton Dunes. I have run a fair few mountain races and I have got to say running constantly for 35miles to be hit by loose sandy hills was harder on my legs than the last ascent at Ring of Steall. The weather was so beautiful here, just a few short sharp showers, mostly clear with a beaming moon. With the taste of that lovely Sea Palling cuppa fading it was obvious the bonk pit had not yet left, I was fading, fading fast! Remembering what Jason had said I rummaged my vest for what proved to be the best Go Outdoors impulse buy I have ever made, a Battle Bites protein bar. Through the whole race I was shovelling in the carbs, switching to protein at this point was an absolute winner for me, within minutes my legs were pumping again, head cleared of voices and soon enough made it to the last checkpoint.

Mile 40-45
I want to make a note here to the chaps on the last check point. The final bit is not “easy running” thanks for the optimism though! The dunes here are a lot smaller but christ are they technical, I have landed on my twice in races before, here 5 times in 3 miles, soft soft sand coupled with rutted grass bumps, and a maze of paths, when you are tired it is a bit of a minefield. By the time I got to the pavement north of Yarmouth my legs were well a bit wobbly, the idea of being caught when I could see what I thought was the pier (Actually a ship laying cables) was bold enough to kick me up the arse and get on with it. I don’t think I could have gone faster this last 2 miles but a sprint finish with Pascal would have been fun.

Finish / WTF!
Finally the Pier came in to sight, I could not believe it I still cant, I was not expecting a race win especially not one this year! I was really happy with the time all things considered it was a pretty smooth race for me.
In hindsight I would have stuck to plan and stayed with the pack till near halfway also when training for races like this where you have to carry more kit it is so important to train with the weight, this I will definitely do in future.
The route is stunning even at night and I highly recommend it to everyone. The race organisation was brilliant, Giles and Mark are brilliant RD’s they are clear, direct and still very personable. The event team I can’t thank enough you all did an incredible job. The chap who at 3am stood out on course at several points and somehow knows my parents, you are awesome man, thanks for the encouragement.
And so on to 2020, I’m looking forward to a decent training block through winter and working on my nutrition with Jason Fligg (who I would already highly recommend based on this result).

Anyway I hope I’ve not bored you to death and this has helped you in some way.

I wish you all a lovely Christmas and a cracking New Year of running ahead.

Happy Trails!

Matthew Harris

Running through life screaming not knowing where the hell i'm going.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Pascal Fallas

    Brilliant report matt. Brought back some good memories from an unexpectedly enjoyable night. And reminded me that I should sign up again this year.

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