Dunstable Downs Challenge Marathon 2019

ccimage-shutterstock_94334572The name Dunstable doesn’t instantly bring to mind beauty. I can say this with certainty as I was born there and finally escaped when I was 20. Sadly it regularly features in lists of the worst UK towns, but the surrounding countryside is amazing.

I’ve not run this event since 2012, way back as my 7th marathon and I forgot how good it is. The marathon route is one big loop of 20 miles, shared with the 20 mile event, then a further separate loop of 6.5 miles to come in around 26.5 miles.

There’s maybe 2-3 miles of road/pavement in total, the rest is all really good runable trail. Mixture of footpaths, woods, paths across fields. It’s undulating across the downs, but there’s only a few hills that reduce you to a walk.

It’s basically a beautiful journey through the countryside and reminds you how good a simple event with a decent route is. So many trail events are laps or time events these days. It’s good to go back to a more pure approach.

Aid stations are good, usual mix of sweets, fruits, coke, water etc. Great volunteers.

Technically it’s self navigation with a map and instructions to print but it’s well marked and the GPX is available for your phone/watch to follow. I had a plan of a gentle sub4 attempt. Pacing was a bit erratic at times but I was on for sub4 until I got lost with three miles to go. Yep. Ultrarunner gets lost on his hometown marathon. I didn’t add much distance on but wandered around at bottom of a quarry wondering how to get back on course and finished in 4h1m59s. Pah!

See that path around the top of the quarry?  I didn’t.

This year there was a 50k option that started at 8am, with a 4 mile loop then joined the main route so the rest of the runners (HM, 20 mile and Marathon start at 9am) met them on route and can encourage them on.

Pacing is always fun on these as you set off in a herd and not sure if you’re getting swept along with the HM runners and will regret it later.


Decent medal and tee at the end for marathon runners. Food as well. It starts and finishes at footie club so plenty of toilets, secure bag drop and a bar when you finish. Everything you could want from a race. Perfect.

I’ll be back next year for sure!


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