Pilgrims Challenge is a multi-day event on the North Downs Way. Starting near Farnham and ending in Redhill on Day 1, Day 2 is the reverse.
I signed up for Day 1 only, thinking taking a whole weekend out was a bit of extra time from the family, and I have a number of other trips later in the year which I am already in for!
The XNRG Team that runs this event are great. Very organised and friendly.
This was the first race approached race day feeling totally relaxed about. I almost forgot about it and even 24 hours before race start I was hardly thinking about it. I hadn’t run more than 22 odd miles since my Wendover Woods 50 Miler in November, so I felt comfortable I have the distance in my legs, but strangely experienced a lack of nerves and worry. Maybe my running in 2021 finally made me feel that I belong alongside all these other runners. I’ve always had a bit of an imposter syndrome with running but maybe I’m now moving away from that.
The Race starts in a field outside Farnham and heads off through a few streets and paths until we finally hit the true trails of the North Downs Way. It is simply stunning. The North Downs are wonderful and some. of the views are simply incomparable.
The route is almost entirely on the NDW and this is well signposted. The addition of orange ribbons on the finger posts and some orange dots on the floor helped to make this a simple to navigate route.
The hills are tough, I won’t lie! But for me I am looking for a bit more elevation in my running so this was a good way to kick start the year, Overall I clocked 3622 ft of elevation.
The route takes in the Mole river and it’s truly fabulous stepping stones, as well as the iconic Box Hill with its 275 steps. It’s a popular spot as well which does mean there are lots of people using the NDW on a good day. We were lucky with the weather being almost perfect for the race, but that meant we had a lot of people out and about. This slowed down the river crossing and the climb up the steps. But this are minor things, having a forced break was no bad thing really.
That’s then most of the climbs of note done. The rolling NDW was a short respite and time to relax, and soon there was the long gradual descent near to a vineyard.
The race then levels out a bit – if that’s possible, before hitting one final climb and descent as you approach Redhill from the NDW and head towards The Carrington School for the finish.
At the finish the team are really welcoming, there’s food and drink and a massive bonus (even for 1 dayers) of having some decent changing and shower facilities. I had planned to get the train back to Farnham, so being able to shower and change (having left a bag at the start) made that journey much more pleasant – for other travellers as well as me 🤣🤣.
This was my first XNRG event, and I really hope it won’t be my last. This is a great team or organisers and volunteers and a real family event feeling.
I enjoyed my day, I was very happy with my 9th place and 5 hour time and I take a lot of strength and encouragement from the day.