ROTARY ROUND-UP: Go the extra mile at the Three Forts Challenge

Worthing town crier Bob Smytherman rings the bell to start last years Three Forts Challenge marathon
Worthing town crier Bob Smytherman rings the bell to start last years Three Forts Challenge marathon

This week, David Chapman, from the Rotary Club of West Worthing, gives an update on the latest and future goings-on.

The starter’s pistol is already up for the 2017 Rotary Three Forts Challenge marathon, which takes place tomorrow (April 30).

This is an annual event which brings together five Rotary clubs (Worthing Steyne, Worthing, West Worthing, Shoreham and Southwick, and Steyning & Henfield) and armies of other volunteer helpers to make sure it goes off smoothly.

More than 40 Rotarians turn out on the day to organise and marshal the event, assisted by running clubs who help with the marshalling and first aid stations.

There are two races, both starting at Hill Barn Recreation Ground.

One is a half marathon which starts at 10.30am and takes in Chanctonbury and Cissbury Rings.

The 13 miles are made even more challenging because of ascending and descending the hills.

The main marathon is a gruelling 27-mile cross country race which takes upwards of 300 runners around the three Iron Age forts which top the South Downs – Chanctonbury Ring, Cissbury Ring and Devil’s Dyke.

It has a national reputation among all serious runners as ‘The Tough One’ with 3,450ft of climbs which sets it apart as a serious challenge compared to most other marathon events run on comparatively level surfaces.

The origins of the Three Forts Challenge goes right back to 1977, when it was devised by The Southdown Orienteers running club as a 26-mile cross country course.

It grew in popularity, but by 1986 it was becoming increasingly difficult to marshal the race and the event was suspended.

In 1988 Rotarian Mike Airey, who is the current race director, was inspired to reintroduce the race for a small group of dedicated runners.

Other running clubs soon heard about it and wanted to join in, growing year on year to reach its present popularity.

Since the Rotary clubs became involved the event has raised more than £49,000 in direct donations for St Barnabas House hospice, the RNLI Shoreham Lifeboat Station appeal and, more recently, Ferring Country Centre, who last year received £8,500 from the organisers of the event, and will again be the principal beneficiary this year.

In addition, some runners raise sponsorship money for their own preferred charitable causes, but there is no way of knowing how much has been raised in this way.

There has even been a proposal of marriage half-way round the course – she said yes!

There is no doubt that, what ever the weather, this is a key event in the serious runner’s calendar.

The attraction is not only in the challenge, but in the panoramic and uplifting scenery of the South Downs ridge course and the efficiency and support given by the volunteers.

Helen Woods of the Horsham Joggers, a competitor in the 2016 event, said: “Wow, what a perfect day! It hurt a bit for several days afterwards but it was so worth it!

“Great organisation, amazing marshals, inspiring conversation from other runners and a support crew at start and finish who genuinely wanted every runner to have a great experience.”

David Eaton, of the Hove Hornets, said: “First time I have run this event. I have to say it was brilliantly organised, friendly and the water/food stations around the course had everything you could wish for.

“A special mention for the person that made the date flapjacks given out at the finish. Absolutely delicious!

“If you want a challenging half or full marathon with a great atmosphere and fantastic scenery do this one. It should be on everyone’s to do list.”

Last year’s race director, Mike Airey, said: “We raised in excess of £7,500 for Ferring Country Centre where they provide training and work opportunities for adults with learning difficulties.

“I would like to send thanks to all the competitors, the voluntary workers from Rotary Clubs and local running clubs, and the local businesses that support us.”

You would be welcome to join the throngs of spectators and well wishers that line the route and cheer on the runners.

You can find more details about routes on the website: www.threefortschallenge.org.uk.

This is but one of the many events that Rotary organises over the year to support groups and charities and add to the social and community life of the town.

It includes the annual Rotary Carnival and the annual Rotaries Hobbies Fayre.

You can help Rotary in this work and perhaps even to develop new projects to meet the needs of the community.

Why not contact one of the clubs detailed below to find out how to become involved?

Details of Worthing’s three Rotary clubs are:

• Worthing Rotary Club meets Monday, 12.55pm, at the Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, Worthing, 01903 209564.

• West Worthing Rotary Club meets Tuesday evening at Tudor Close, Ferring, 01903 501961.

• Worthing Steyne Rotary Club meets Monday evening at The Ardington Hotel, in Steyne Gardens, Worthing, 07788 638757.

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