Burgess Hill girls in ‘Race The Sun’ trek across hills

Burgess Hill School for Girls trek across the South Downs in fancy dress for 'Race The Sun' event SUS-150708-120805001
Burgess Hill School for Girls trek across the South Downs in fancy dress for 'Race The Sun' event SUS-150708-120805001

If it were not for the unconventional time of day (or should that be night?) the drivers and residents of the South Downs would have been greeted by the sight of some tired 80s dancers, soldiers, and boys trekking across the hills on Tuesday June 16.

This was the 32nd annual Race The Sun event, in which Lower Sixth students walk 14 miles in the dark in traditional fancy dress, following a route over countless hills, past sleepy sheep and finally arriving at Beachy Head for 4.45am to watch the sunrise.

Each tutor group set off in the early evening with high spirits, climbing the first steep hill and admiring the beautiful view of Sussex at twilight.

They were given a number of questions to complete along the journey, as well as navigating the route themselves, despite bumpy paths and thick fog, not to mention the cold! However, the girls were not deterred even through the supposedly haunted Jevington Church or a few wrong turns, keeping up cheerful conversation and song until the early hours, aided by the manned checkpoints providing tea, coffee and snacks.

While there were certainly a lot of aching legs and long lie-ins the next day, the experience was thoroughly memorable and certainly created a lot of happy memories - stargazing at midnight, watching cows sleeping in the fields at 1am, sitting eating wine gums by the roadside at 2am in a brief moment of rest before moving on once again. There’s no feeling quite like the sudden, surreal realisation that you’re wandering the South Downs while everyone else sleeps. The satisfaction of walking the last few steps to Beachy Head is incomparable, especially getting to sit down and eat the breakfast Mrs Marsh kindly served up while watching the first red tinge of the sun creep over the horizon. Race the Sun will no doubt be fondly remembered by all who took part for years to come, and it could not have happened without the dedicated staff observers, tutors, drivers and helpers who stood out in the cold with us all night!

Report by Phoebe Izzard Davey (Lower Sixth). Pictures contributed by Burgess Hill School for Girls.