Following in the footsteps of pilgrims
Extreme Energy's Pilgrim Challenge is a two-day celebration of ultra endurance in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty
Modern-day descendants of pilgrims took part in the 13th Pilgrim Challenge on the legendary North Downs Way between Farnham and Canterbury over the weekend (12-13 June). This is a two-day, 66 miles ultra-marathon with 2,374m of ascent and overnight accommodation, which creates a wonderful spirit amongst the runners and walkers as they follow the footsteps of the ancient pilgrims who were headed for Canterbury Cathedral.
Day one starts at Sandy Farm Business Centre near Farnham and is spent in the Surrey Hills AONB. The course runs parallel to the famous Hog's Back A31 Guildford Road and the North Downs Line to finish at the Warwick School, Redhill. After a night at the school – or a local hotel for the softies – the out and back race resumes with a return trip through Surrey, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the regular transport methods.
The full race package includes overnight accommodation; a hot evening meal and breakfast; transport to and from Farnham Station; free photos; toilets, changing, and showers. Of course, there is the obligatory commemorative T-shirt and finishers medals, plus a free hot drink and cake at the finish and valuable prizes for category winners.
So who were the recipients of those awards? The early leaders on day one were Damian Carr (4:27:35) by 31 seconds from Paul O'Sullivan (4:28:06) and Justin Montague (4:42:35). In the women's race, the order was Anna McNestry (5:02:53) followed by Sarah Hill (5:14:21) and Melissa Montague (5:37:50). There were 112 finishers in 11:01:50.
But this is very much a race of two halves (competitors can choose to just race one day only) and on the return journey to Farnham, the field had reduced to 72 finishers in 10:54:03. The men's race saw a switch between Paul O'Sullivan (4:30:23) and Damian Carr (4:43:26) with Jonni Suckling (4:49:24) third. The overall two-day result reflected the day two order, so O'Sullivan (8:58:29) took the honours from Carr (9:11:01) and Suckling (9:34:07).
Day two for the women saw Anna McNestry (5:33:13) maintain her lead from Sarah Hill (5:41:11) with Susan McCartney (5:52:11) third. Once again the second day was crucial in the overall results: McNestry (10:36:06), Hill (10:55:32) and McCartney (11:33:49).
Our picture shows some of the hard-working checkpoint volunteers ringing the competitors in with cow bells and greeting them with smiles concealed by face masks, hand sanitiser, and a wide range of energy-giving treats.
Full results at runABC South race listing here