3 forts challenge

Three Forts Challenge – An Accidental Half Marathon –

Let me set the scene.

I’ll be home in about an hour. That was the last thing I said to my miss’s and my boy before I set off on a brisk walk before doing the weekly shop.

My walk is usually a couple of miles over the South Downs near Worthing.
We had planned to take my boy to the Lego shop in Brighton that day, so I was intending on cutting my usual route short.

About an hour before I set off, I had my usual Bulletproof Coffee, as most mornings I am in Ketosis and fasting for around 16 hours. The last time I ate was around 7pm the night before and that day my carb intake was probably around 50-80g, from a little rice, veg and beverages.

Three Forts Challenge

As I approached the place where I usually park the car, I noticed a sign. “Three Forts Challenge. Marathon & half marathon.”
The first thought was that I am going to be dodging runners for the next hour, especially as the path can be very narrow at times.

Luckily I had missed the full marathon, but the half marathon was to begin at 10:30 So I thought I would wait at the start line, to let everybody pass before I set off on my trek.

Everybody passed me and I set off on my merry way.
The first thing I noticed, is that a few of the people didn’t look as though they should be participating in this sort of event. (3 Forts Challenge is a very tough course)

Old and young, fat and thin, all passed me with vigor and enthusiasm, even the ones at the back that walk the course were not holding back on pace.

After a mile and a half, their course veered right, whilst mine veered left.
I could still see the walkers about a quarter of a mile ahead of me and setting a fast walking pace. (compared to me anyway)

Let the experiment begin…

As I was to turn off on my own route, something inside me thought that now is a good time to take part in my own “N=1 experiment”.

So with spontaneity on my side, I turned right instead of left, knowing that there will be trouble at home.
I had upped my pace and was at a steady jog, though I didnt look the part.

As I reached the first refreshment station I declined the bucket of jelly babies, little squares of sugary cakes and orange squash. I jogged past them stating that I am a fat burning man and then listened to the mutterings as got further away.

Listening to my body.

Change music: I was listening to chilled out acoustic music that varied in BPM
I switched to listening to Pod Runner a very cool app that plays music mix’s at selected speeds.

I selected Some house music at 125 BPM and sure enough, without thought my pace and stride improved.

About 3 miles in I had caught up with the last of the walkers and passed them at the bottom of a steep climb. The music kept my pace and I monitored my breathing.

4.5 miles in I overtook another walker and my pace was still good but I had low battery on my phone and switched the music off.
I noticed that my pace varied more now depending on what was going through my head.
I remember thinking of turning back, wondering about the after effects and aches that I would suffer… plus I had no idea how long this would take.

Bear in mind I have never done anything like this… I was not prepared or nourished correctly.
I knew that by now I had been in a fasted state for 16 hours, with nothing more than a dob of butter and some Upgraded Brain Octane inside me.

I think the brain octane helped with the focus and I had to keep telling myself that I was not racing anybody. All I had to do was complete the course and see how my body felt at the end.
I was making mental notes of weak points and stress areas on my body.

I had run some of the course to find out what my body could cope with.
But considering I was wearing walking boots rather than trainers, I was aware of the extra weight on my feet. I also had on a waterproof non-breathable jacket, which made me sweat profusely.

I remember around mile 5,  looking for somewhere to ditch the jacket, but decided on the fact that Paleo man would of had to carry things whilst on long walks. So I tied the thing to my waist and marched ahead.

I found that running up the hills really drained my thighs and running down smashed my ankles and knee joints. So in these zones I kept good pace and ran on the flat areas and slight downhills.

I had passed about 3 refreshment points at this stage and managed not to be taken in by all the goodies on offer.

The half way mark.

three forts challenge routeAs I was approaching the halfway mark, I was thinking more about what would be good for my body rather than trying to stay in ketosis for the whole trek.
After all I am no athlete or even primed for this sort of event (Yet)

I decided that I could carry on in a fasted state but I don’t think I would of noticed to much change over this distance.

I opted to take some refreshments to see if it boosted anything or made a noticeable difference to me.


So I stopped for 2 minutes and indulged in a half of banana, 5 jelly babies, two 1inch squares of a cake and a sip of orange squash. (I so wanted to fill my pockets with the Jelly babies)

At the Checkpoint the 2 walkers that I had passed earlier, passed me.
I realized that they new more about pacing themselves than I did.

By now I was suffering a little in my right hip area where I am prone to some inflammation, but my knees that I thought would suffer were doing OK.

My feet didn’t feel to bad although a little achy around my toes, but having good boots is something a learnt a long time ago…And I was thankful I was wearing them today.

Mile 8 had passed the two back markers again but decided to slow down and have a chat with one for about a mile. (which was pleasant)
As we reached a peak I decided that I recovered enough for another jog, this time I managed a fair distance, although my calves felt very tight and ankles where starting to feel slightly inflamed.

I manged to jog up to the checkpoint at about the 10-11 mile stage.
The marshals stood out offering me the goodies I first refused, I jogged past shouting “No thanks I’m still only eating fat”.
I remember the overweight boy in the chair eating a packet of crisp shouting “If you wanna have a heart attack”.

I chuckled to myself as I decided not to go back and educate him.

The last 2 miles

tough terainI think there is something psychological about knowing your nearly there.

My pace was still pretty good and I had been managing my breathing, using the “in through the nose out through the mouth” technique.

I knew that I would suffer with some aches and pains, so I wanted to keep the puffing and panting to a minimum and make sure that I stayed well oxygenated.

My legs in general weren’t to bad depending on the type of terrain.
Again  it was mainly my hips, a bit of lower back pain and my ankles were the worst.

Going down hill across the rutty chalk and mud landscape I could really feel the twisting and impacting on my ankles, and due to the steep decline and slippery condition it’s very hard to moderate your speed here.

But knowing that home is in sight I managed to up my pace a little but not enough to break into a jog.

I could feel the fatigue weighing heavy on my body as a whole by now and thought that if only I had taken some of the essential amino acids I had in the car, before I set off.

I am sure that it was a good few miles back that my body was starting to really feast on my muscles for energy, I think that was the point where the back ache, and my shoulders and arms started to become stressed.

I am sure that by taking the essential aminos would of definitely helped on those last few miles and also with recovery.

100 yards from my van I realized I could relax, I became a little dizzy and my legs became jelly for a moment.

A big sigh of achievement from me, before heading home to lay in a very cold bath.

Completion time 3 hours 20 mins.

After Thoughts…

I am really glad I did the 3 forts challenge albeit not officially.
I do think of it as a great achievement, although in my mind, I am thinking that others will be thinking I just took a walk across the downs.

This is a tough course and I admire all that took part in this especially the runners.

I am definitely going to enter officially next year but I shall train before hand as-well as make sure that I’m am well fueled.

I now have a base time to beat.
I know the areas of my body that need some attention to avoid pain and injury.

I know where I can and cant run and I don’t think I will be looking to change that, I have suffered to much in those areas in the past… But I will be trying to improve on the places I know my body works better.

I have taken note of a few other events coming up this year and will try to compete in at least 4 this year.

My N=1

Ketosis is possible for the half marathon,  no probs…but supplements could make a big difference to pace and recovery.
I actually think, knowing what I know, that staying in ketosis or just outside of it, would probably be better for me than carbing up.
I have become a fat burner now and the thought of the fast decline in energy when eating the carbs, does slightly put me off.

Music at the correct beats per minute really helped.
When I had the music going, it was as though the ground was my drum and my feet where the sicks.
It acted as a great pace setter. So choosing the right tracks is a great little hack.

Joints: Next time I’m at the gym, I will ask the trainers how I can improve and build better support around the joints that suffered the most pain or discomfort.
I will also up my intake of good fish oils.

Mindset: I need to run my own race and not be so competitive…There really is no point at this stage.

Thanks for reading.

If your interested in the Three forts challenge. Go here.

Here for route description and maps

More Sussex races

How to make Bulletproof coffee

Competing whilst in ketosis






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