Arena Men – South Downs Way Relay 2018

The South Downs Way Relay takes place on the first Saturday every June, and so will be on Sat 2nd June 2018.

It covers the length of the South Downs Way (approx. 100 miles) from Beachy Head to Winchester. The distance is divided into 18 legs – see the website for all the details:

Each team (of which there were over 50 last year, from over 30 different running clubs in Sussex, Hampshire and Kent) has 6 runners, all of whom must run 3 legs each. Thus each runner runs about 17 miles over the day, nearly all of which are on trails that are uphill or downhill. Most legs start with a steep uphill. It is at least as demanding as running a full marathon, especially as (when not running a leg) one spends most of the time stiffening up in the minibus that goes from leg to leg for each of the baton handovers. Pacing each leg consistently is very important and very difficult!

For those who have run it, it is often the highlight of the year. It requires prodigious amounts of organisation, planning and practice to get to the finishing line, is utterly exhausting, and yet never does 11-12 hours of your life fly by so quickly!

Running in general, and running races in particular, is often a solitary affair. The SDW Relay is completely different. The team spirit is everything.   

Arena has been extraordinarily successful in recent years – the women’s team won their race in 2017, the men’s A team won their race in 2016, and the men’s B team won the B team race in both years!

The required standard to be selected is high. To give you an idea, the men’s A team (who came 4th) completed it in under 11 hours last year (an average of 6m 35s per mile) whilst both the women and men’s B team averaged 7 minutes per mile.

All members of the club are encouraged to put themselves forward for selection if they think they have got what it takes. 

In 2018 we will be yet again be entering a men’s A team, a men’s B team and a women’s team. We are hoping to enter a 4th team (which would be a mixed veteran’s team – V40+), but given the excess demand to enter the event, this is more a hope than an expectation.

For those who have never done anything like this, Steve McNealy (the SDWR guru & overall Arena manager) will be looking at other off-road relay races that the club could enter to give “novices” a chance to experience them. Further details to follow from Steve in 2018.

Also, when the time comes for selected runners to practise their legs, we will endeavour to let members know so that they could come along too if desired. This might include, for example, running legs 1 & 2 together at the Eastbourne end, or legs 17 & 18 together at the Winchester end. This would more-than-likely be an early Sunday start, with a pub lunch somewhere as reward.         

WOMEN – please look out for an email in the next week or 2 from Fiona Jamie.    

MEN – if you wish to be considered please email me at

To be selected for the men’s teams a combination of factors will be considered. These include a proven ability at distance running (sub-3:15 marathon, sub-1:30 half marathon, trail races run, ultra races run…), and evidence of being a “team player” (participation for Arena in cross country races, Harvey Curtis races, road relays…). It is a privilege to be selected – are you worthy?!

That I know of there are over 20 men who fulfil the requirements. Obviously for the 2 men’s teams only 12 men can run. However, as last year proved, we NEED a squad of 20. In late-January Steve McNealy and I will select the 2 teams and name the reserves. But injuries will happen, reserves will be needed, and more-than-likely new reserves will be needed too! It is also the case that some people selected in January will be in much better form (or worse, as in my case last year) by June. We therefore need some flexibility. Whilst on the actual day it is very healthy for the A team and B team to be competing hard against each other, until then we are all in it together. The A team must be able to be the best team it can. Of course there has to be consideration for which runners have practised which legs, but no runner must think “I am an A team runner” or “I am a B team runner” and be unwilling to move from one to another.

Once the teams have been selected, the team members will get together to decide how to divide up the legs, with the input of Steve and I. After that, you can get practising!

Thanks, Dan Vaughan