To summarise, the Three Forts Challenge is an exceptionally friendly event set in a picturesque location….the latter point is based on my knowledge of the area as opposed to my experiences on the day since the majority of the run was encased in fog!
The course itself is hilly and undulating with mostly wide paths, perfect for canicrossers. However, the terrain is hard underfoot (flinty in some places), so something to bear in mind if you have a dog with sensitive paws. The run is also set in open landscape with very little shade – this didn’t present a problem on this occasion as the fog kept the temperature down and blocked any direct sunlight but it could be a potential issue otherwise.
Something that really stood out for me was the fact that we didn’t have to register on the day for this race – race numbers, with the timing chip handily attached to the reverse, were sent out in the post before the race – so all we had to do was turn up just before the start! Perfect if you have a dog that gets excitable at races and you don’t want to hang around too long before it gets going.
It’s worth noting, however, that parking was limited to one main car park which was not large enough to accommodate all the runners. We were asked to find parking along nearby residential roads which wasn’t a problem but it did add on a few additional minutes.
We set off on the half marathon at 10:30am (there was also a full marathon option) after a short briefing from the race starter.
Starting from the recreation ground on Hill Barn Lane, Worthing the run takes you along a fairly narrow track that gradually climbs north of Worthing to Cissbury Ring, the largest hill fort in Sussex. On a clear day, apparently you can see as far as the Isle of Wight. Today, I could probably see about 50 metres in front of me!
There is just about enough room to overtake on this narrow stretch but if you are a quick canicrosser I would advise starting near the front of the race to avoid having the added stress of overtaking.
From hereon the paths are much wider but remain hard underfoot throughout. The route itself is mostly undulating with the occasional flat section and more significant climbs up to Steyning Bowl, Chanctonbury Ring and Cissbury Ring once more. The last couple of miles take you back down the initial climb at the start of the race to the recreation ground.
Overall there is approx 1,450m of climbing, so fairly healthy!
I mention all these beauty spots but given the foggy conditions we really could have been anywhere!
The route was clearly signposted with marshals at key places and there were four water/aid stations on the route where you could have water, orange drink, jelly babies and pieces of bananas. There were no bowls of water for the dogs, however, which would have been more of an issue had it not been a cool day and recently rained – though I tend to carry water for the dogs on these longer distances and/or improvise with the cups provided.
As for recommended footwear, I would advise a mid-grip off-road shoe. I found that, whilst the course was hard underfoot, the damp conditions (recent rain and fog) made the surfaces very greasy in places, due to the wet chalk and clay. I wore a my Inov8 Trailrocs and found these comfortable for what I needed.
Overall this is a lovely course, well run with friendly marshals and fellow runners. Despite the sizeable turnout it had a nice local event feel – even the mayor and local press made an appearance! And all runners who completed the course received a medal.