This is a very well organised and beautiful event. Above all, it’s canicross friendly with wide compact paths, a friendly vibe and water stations.
I would highly recommend the Endurance Life CTS Sussex event to anyone looking for something special in the canicross racing calendar. Just don’t expect a PB as it’s got a few hills in it!
This rolling course starts from Birling Gap, East Dean and largely tracks the dramatic coastline of brilliant white cliffs towards Eastbourne with views out over the English Channel.
We ran the half marathon distance (my GPS actually tracked it as just shy of 13 miles) which effectively followed a figure of 8 lap, taking us in-land a couple of times. Though there are options to run 10km, a full marathon or ultra distance. I was totally in awe of those running the ultra, whilst Sidney was just relieved we’d only entered the half! 😉
Being a coastal trail run there are hills as I mentioned, including the famous Seven Sisters, and there’s a total ascent of nearly 2,500ft. But compared to many of the other courses in the series, the Sussex CTS isn’t too taxing. Classed as ‘strenuous’, the hills are not treacherous underfoot or too steep (there is just one steep downhill section to speak of).
The paths are easy and firm to run on – just watch out for the occasional rabbit hole! As for foot wear, I would recommend trail shoes, no need for terribly grippy trainers as there was no mud.
The event is canicross friendly but it is worth mentioning that if you have an anxious dog there is a lot of waiting around between registration and the start. Ideally we would have gone back to the car but the problem we found was that the actual start time was not clear on the website.
It states that registration closes at 09:45 with the ‘briefing/start’ from 10-10:30am so we felt we needed to be ready for 10am. When in actual fact, people were still registering at 10:15, the briefing took place at 10:25 (and it’s a long briefing) and the race didn’t start until 10:45, by which time one of my dogs was very eager to get going (understatement!) and we were freezing cold.
Some more clarity regarding actual start time would just help.
Car parking this year was a great improvement on last year where we had to park a mile away and get a bus down to the main area. The organisers had managed to secure a bigger space (on local fields) for parking just a 5 minute walk from the registration and start.
Registration was in a marquee. There was a fair bit of queueing despite us allowing plenty of time but you have to collect your number, pins, chip, free goodies (a fab technical t-shirt and yummy Cliff bar!) and sign your name on a sheet, so there’s a fair bit to do.
The chip timing is interesting. You wear the chip around your wrist and a marshal has to physically clock you in/out. This happened at the start, 2.5 mile mark, 8 mile mark and finish. This strikes me as highly inefficient (especially early on when it’s more congested) and potentially frustrating if you are racing someone to the finish line at the end.
Once we finally set off the course itself was gorgeous and really easy to navigate – there are small but effective markers that do a great job at not creating an eyesore and detracting from the beauty of the course.
The organisers take the health and safety of both people and dogs seriously and runners doing over 10km are required to carry a backpack with emergency supplies. There are also two refreshment stops en route at around 2.5 and 8 miles. We were spoilt with custard creams, jelly babies, water and pieces of Cliff bar.
There were also special red water buckets for the dogs which was wonderful to see (thank you) – though the red bucket at the first station had no water in it and appeared to have been used as a litter bin by the runners!
It’s worth emphasising the overall atmosphere and friendliness of this race. I found everyone to be very accommodating of the canicross runners and one kind runner even offered to help me with my dog when we had to go over a stone wall/style.
Overall, this is a fantastic course and a lovely one for canicrossers to do. You get gorgeous views, a challenging course with nice wide paths for the dogs, a brilliant atmosphere and great freebies!