Runner’s love affair with the South Downs

More homage than handbook: Author Jack Arscott
More homage than handbook: Author Jack Arscott

A book charting a local man’s love affair with running on the South Downs has been released.

Up The Downs!, a selection of 12 cross-country running routes taking in some of the steepest hills and most breathtaking views between Beachy Head and the Hampshire border, went on sale at independent bookshops across Lewes earlier this week.

Jack Arscott, 24, who lives in South Chailey, researched and wrote much of the book while training for the Moyleman Marathon, a notoriously demanding off-road course beginning and ending in Lewes every March.

As well as cramming almost the entire length of the 100-mile-long South Downs Way footpath into 75 vividly illustrated pages, the volume contains friendly advice for would-be trail runners wary of taking up the gruelling sport.

The author said: “Trail running is the sport of the moment.

“It’s gone from being a pretty niche pursuit that most people hadn’t even heard of to being a genuine rival to road running – just without the media exposure.

“But it still wouldn’t occur to a lot of us to run off into the hills for a couple of hours at a time to blow away the cobwebs.

“I wanted to tell a wider audience about the wonderful natural running track we have in the South Downs and reassure them that there’s no need to travel for hours to scramble around rocky Lakeland fells if you want to get away from it all for a bit.

“It’s right there on our doorsteps – and there are a hundred miles of it!”

The book features landmarks that will be instantly familiar to readers, with an early chapter dedicated to Mount Caburn and the rare chalk grassland of Malling Down.

Other chapters offer evocative descriptions of peaks such as Firle Beacon, Black Cap and Mount Harry.

Made up of a combination of Sussex trail races and solo expeditions, the routes vary in length from three to 27.2 miles, with tips on how to avoid injury and safely combine running with a full-time job thrown in.

But Jack says it is more homage than handbook. “I’d rather leave the lectures to the old-timers,” he said.

“I’m still fairly new on the scene myself, and I’ve tried to transmit some of that sense of discovery to the reader.

“It’s first and foremost a tribute to the ground beneath our feet. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learnt so much about the landscape I grew up in and developed quite an emotional connection with it.

“There’s a fascination in realising how different parts of the countryside hang together that can only really come from exploring it on foot.”

Up The Downs! is available from www.pomegranate-press.co.uk and retails at £7.99.