Fudgafun at Samphire Hoe

We had a team day trip to the seaside last weekend and some amazing if not slightly bonkers performances from the team.

SVN’s annual Fudgathon was on again at Samphire Hoe, in the shadow of the white cliffs of Dover and this year we actually had fudge, when a few of us did this event two years ago, the lady who had made most of the fudge got sick the night before, she and the fudge were stuck in Southampton and we had an almost fudgeless Fudgathon, but not this year. We had fudge in flavours that you wouldn’t, couldn’t and probably shouldn’t imagine let alone eat.

If you have never done an SVN event, I would definitely give it a go at least once in your life. Having said that, it involved, hills, mud, sheep, cows and laps and there are three things in that list that I am not keen on and two that add a bit of wildlife, danger and poo to the event, I think you can work out which ones.

SVN events are all laps with a start and finish base where you can refuel, pit stop, have a break or just run in, get your card punched for another lap and head straight back out again. They are now plastic cup free I am pleased to say, so you take your own cup or bottle, leave it in a basket at base camp and refill with the drink provided. There are also snacks like crisps, nuts and in this case, lots and lots of fudge. You have six hours to run as far as you want or can within that time, as long as you have started your last lap within the six hour cut off, you can keep going. It’s made up of 3.28 mile long out and back laps across the hills full of sheep and cows and mud down to the sea, then along the sea wall, around a cone, back along the seafront, up the hilly fields full of sheep and cows and mud back to base. Then it’s Eat, Drink, Run, Repeat until you can’t take any more.

The SVN events are run by a guy called Travis Wilcox who for some reason was wearing very fetching dangly earrings on this occasion. You have a card attached to your number and at the end of each lap, Travis punches a hole in your card to keep a tally. When you have had enough, whether that’s one lap or ten, you let him know by ringing a bell and he makes a note of your finish time.

I blame Jonathon Algar for the fact that we ended up stood on the seafront in Dover on another cold November day, he had come up with the idea of trying to run an ultra and this was the place to do it although I now hear that Fleur had already signed up before then so maybe we should blame Fleur. Either way, it was a slightly crazy way to spend a Saturday. Fleur was hoping for her second marathon, Jonathon, Chris Preston and Mark Browne had been roped in for an Ultra which is technically anything over 26.2 miles. Iain Love was aiming to run as far as possible in the six hours, with Carol Crowther going for 20 miles, Claire Featherstone, Emma Gibbons and Kat McVicar were going for a half, Debra Hole wanted to get to ten miles and Natasha Godfrey, Gavin Mundy and I were just going to see how we felt.

The first part of the route is narrow, muddy and very slippery in places so a slow start but that’s a good thing. Jonathon and the boys had been working on slowing down their pace to be able to last the distance so I was very pleased and amazed to manage to keep up with them for the first two and a half laps. As it was out and back, it meant we all passed one another at least once a lap and it was great to see everyone going so strong. There’s also a good and encouraging atmosphere amongst all the runners, a lot of these guys do this week in week out, or even day in day out as there were people there doing 10 marathons in 10 days, so they know one another and welcome everyone. Sometime between the first and second lap one of the cows had decided to leave a large deposit on the end of one of the already slippery bridges making it even more hazardous. At the end of my third lap, the boys were just coming back out and all going strong, I had also passed Natasha and Fleur starting their fourth and both looking strong and determined. Claire had been feeling under the weather but was putting in a great effort and Emma was going great guns despite having a dodgy hip. Everyone was doing brilliantly.

Now a quick mention about the fudge. It was inside the base camp building, cut into small squares and came in flavours ranging from vanilla, white chocolate and Aero Bubble, pina colada, coconut, chocolate orange, nutty ones, Marmite, Marmite and peanut butter, bacon and maple syrup, yes really ! I didn’t have any after the first lap, had a small square of chocolate orange after the second lap and then after the third tried dark chocolate and Baileys which was cut in slightly bigger squares and it was amazing but really rich and after a couple of hundred yards, I was regretting it and vowed not to eat any more until I was finished.

On my fourth lap I had to negotiate three cows, which were very pretty, fluffy cows but with really big, not so pretty horns, I slowed right down and eased passed and thankfully they moved out of the way. Having completed the fourth lap which got me to a half marathon, I felt okay apart from a nagging back ache that has been bothering me for a few weeks. I was happy to stop there and start supporting the others. Carol had somehow managed to convince Debra to start a fourth lap and go for the half so they went out just before Emma came in to finish her first ever half as well, shortly followed by Claire for a half and Fleur at the end of her fifth lap, still going strong. I lost count of how many times I saw Iain but he was clocking up the miles and supporting the others while not feeling 100% himself. Kat also came in shortly afterwards having managed to hobble around a half and Gavin decided to call it a day after 5 laps which was around 15.5 miles. Debra made it to her first half, while Carol carried on for two more laps.

After seven laps Natasha asked me how many she needed for the full marathon and ultra and Travis who was beside us said 8, 9 and an extra half lap to get to 50k. I could see Natasha weighing it up, could she, or couldn’t she.

Fleur and the boys all came in having completed seven laps and Iain joined Fleur for her last lap which she finished with a sprint and a resounding ring of the bell to say she was done and with a new PB. The boys had started to spread out over the last couple of laps, Chris at the front, followed by Mark and then Jonathon.

Carol finished her 20 miles. Chris made it to the full marathon and decided he was done, Natasha headed out for her 9th, followed by Mark and Jonathon.

When Natasha came back around again, she decided that she was going for the 50k but was getting cold, so she put on an extra top and I took one off and went out to run with her for her last mile and a half. The wind was picking up and it was getting cold. We caught sight of Mark a little way ahead finishing his ninth lap for his first ever ultra. We finished Natasha’s 50k, I bought her and Mark coffee and then headed back out to meet Jonathon who was part way around his last half lap for his first ever 50k, it was getting really windy by this point so we were glad to get finished. Iain had clocked up about 32 miles by this point and I was up to about 16.

SLGR clocked up a hell of a lot of miles that day with first ultras for three of us, marathons for two others, first halves for two and halves for two others plus over 15 miles each for Gavin and I but the best thing was the support, as always, you can’t beat SLGR for team support and effort. It was great to see.