FKT: Catherine Stoneman, Elizabeth Munro - Downs Link (United Kingdom) - 2023-03-15

Route variation
one way
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
7h 15m 27s
GPS track(s)

FKT Downs Link 37.5 miles

Wednesday 15th March, 2023

Spending 7 hours running with my sister is the best way to catch up after three months apart, so when Catherine suggested we run from Guildford to Shoreham-by-Sea I was totally up for it. While she is a seasoned pro with multiple 100s under her belt, the furthest I had run was 36 miles - and that was eight years ago. But she assured me it was pancake flat and there would be pizza at the end, so the plan was set. 

Preparation hadn’t been ideal; Catherine was getting over a dose of Covid while I had just had 8 stitches in my knee taken out. I had fallen down a rocky trail and had made a pretty big hole in myself. I wasn’t even doing anything impressive - 4 miles on a pre-work morning run. And then there was the travel. Catherine had visited two different countries in the past two weeks celebrating her birthday; I had flown in from San Francisco three days before. But we weren’t going to let jetlag, injury and extensive hangovers dampen our efforts! I put a plaster on my knee and we were off.

The start of the trail was muddy but not awful. Really, what did we expect for mid March? We dodged the deeper puddles and managed to avoid sliding over. Once we reached Cranleigh the ground was drier and firmer and we kept up a slow, steady pace.

The route follows a disused railway track, which means - in addition to being flat - it’s also pretty much a straight line. Given my navigation skills this was a bonus. And it was very well signposted, with the Downs Link bridge symbol distinguishing the route from the many other trails criss-crossing the landscape. The only challenge was that it was primetime for trail upkeep, and several bits of the route were technically closed. We snuck past some hedge trimming equipment and only got mildly told off by one workman.   

About half way we stopped to use the facilities at Southwater Watersports Centre. We started queueing to buy water there, but were too impatient and left to get going again. This soon proved to be a mistake. While it wasn’t warm, we were getting through our water and knew we needed to top up before the end. Luckily, we passed Mary’s Cafe just by Partridge Green. Mary herself wasn’t around, and it turned out the cafe wasn’t open as it was being redecorated. But Mary’s daughter took pity on us, provided two bottles of water out of the goodness of her heart, and we got back on the road. 

With a couple of hours still to go, our luck with the weather looked in jeopardy as it started to spot with rain. We put our jackets back on but fortunately it never progressed to a real downpour. We plodded on and soon started seeing signs counting down the miles to Shoreham-by-Sea. At three miles to go, we were running along a pretty estuary. About a mile later, another sign told us there was still three miles to go. I ate the last of my Tribe bar to get over my disappointment.

The end was so anticlimactic that we nearly missed it. We ran past a sign then did a double take when we realized it said “To North Downs 37.5 miles”. Catherine checked the Ordnance Survey map which confirmed we had indeed reached the end. We called for backup (the parents) and after running on the Brighton to meet them, were dutifully whisked away to the pub. After scoffing hot chocolate and cheese sandwiches in the car (courtesy of Mum) whilst being chauffeur driven (courtesy of Dad) we finally got our pizza.