Details of the Event

Thank you very much for showing such an interest in this magnificent challenge. Firstly let us point out that the D-Day 44 Challenge is an event that is open to both civilian and military runners of any nationality. Please remember that the Allied military force at D-Day was represented by several different countries. As well as American, British and Canadian there were also large numbers of Polish, French, Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian soldiers. The picture below is of Giles Barnes (civilian) and Michael McErlain (military), co-founders of the D-Day 44 Run. Their aim was to have as many people as possible participate in the event each year on June 6th. The D-Day 44 Run supported the charity  BLESMA (British Limbless Ex-Servicemens Association).  Giles and Mike welcomed runners from all over the world who were prepared to support this charity.

Sadly, Lt Col Mike McErlain died while running the Normandy Beaches on the 6th June 2013, but the event returns in 2017 as the D-Day 44 Challenge with the blessing of Mike’s widow, Jo, and is now supporting the charities Combat Stress and Blind Veterans UK as well as BLESMA.

44 miles is a challenging distance and for this reason, the D-Day 44 Challenge is designed for teams of between two and eight. Although the bulk of participants will want to complete the entire route, we are aware that some participants will only wish/be able to complete a portion of the route. Team up with a friend, create a Team of Two and run/walk the entire course together, or team up with a group of friends, create a Relay Team and run/walk a section or two each. Relay teams must have at least 4 members and no more than 8.

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The route starts at Pointe du Hoc and finishes at Café Gondrée on the west side of Pegasus Bridge. The four sections will be Omaha to Gold, Gold to Juno, Juno to Sword and Sword to Pegasus. Every portion of the route is an adventure within itself!  The event will begin at 6am (French time) on June 6th at Pointe du Hoc and participants will finish at Café Gondrée for the celebration champagne from 3.30pm. Café Gondrée sits on the west side of Pegasus Bridge and was the first cafe/house to be liberated in WWII.

The object of the D-Day 44 Challenge is to include as much of the five beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Juno – as possible.

D-Day 44 Run map

The route of the D-Day 44 Challenge is shown in red

The route starts at the Pointe du Hoc.  This is where Colonel Rudder led an elite group of 200 rangers up the chalk cliffs using ropes and ladders. After dispatching the German sentries at the top of the cliff, their mission was to find and destroy large battery guns. This action was crucial as these large guns were capable of firing shells several miles out to sea and would therefore have claimed many men’s lives who would be arriving at Utah beach the following morning. After destroying the guns, but alerting a large German infantry force, Colonel Rudder and his men fought bravely with their backs to the sea and suffered large casualties, not only at the hands of the German infantry force but also due to friendly fire coming from naval ships at sea. Colonel Rudder and 30 of his men survived the mission.

The bomb craters at Pointe du Hoc

From the Pointe du Hoc, participants will be head east with the sea on their left beating up against the rocks below. Immediately the striking countryside takes hold as runners run through crop fields, passing evidence of the German defensive line in the form of concrete bunkers and the occasional burnt out WWII vehicle.

D-Day Run 2008 - (08)

Lt Colonel Michael McErlain on a scouting mission in 2008 mapping out the first D-Day 44 Run. One of the first cornfields encountered.

D-Day Run 2008 - (15)

Wheat stands tall and proud in June making it tough terrain in the first two miles.

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One of the 2009 veteran participant making headway through the crop fields.

D-Day Run 2008 - (25)An example of the barren but beautiful Normandy coastline approximately 7 miles into the route.

Co-founder Giles Barnes sporting some of the previous D-Day 44 Run merchandise.

D-Day Run 2008 - (28)

Steep inclines start putting participants through their paces at this stage, two miles out of Arromanches.

D-Day Run 2008 - (18)

Expect to see unforgettable sights! This, a Hercules transport plane, so close one of our participants almost touched it. Later spitfires, hurricanes and modern tornadoes flew by, all part of the June 6th yearly celebrations of D-Day.

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Four American GI’s in a Willis Jeep at Port En Bessin. These guys aren’t the real McCoy but are an example of thousands of people who dress up for the occasion.

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Two 2009 participants scaling the steep hills that surround Port En Bessin.

DSC01410The gun battery at Longues overlooking Arromanches is a reminder of what the British troops had to contend with at Gold Beach, 15 miles into the route.

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Three 2009 participants helping each other over barbed wire, led by Ben (civilian).

DSC01412This cluster of WWII Willis Jeeps were spotted by our photographer just outside of Courseulles.

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The unforgettable descent into Arromanches. Participants s get a fantastic view of this beautiful Norman village and looking out to sea, the emotive scene of what is left of the Mulberry harbours. These were huge sections of floating concrete roads dragged across from Britain and fastened together at Arromanches forming a temporary harbour for ships to unload their cargo in support of the soldiers who had recently landed on the beaches.  Over 19 million tonnes of supplies were off-loaded at the Mulberry Harbour of Arromanches.

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Landing craft, jeeps and amphibious vehicles make for interesting viewing at Arromanches.

The section between Courseulles and Lion Sur Mer is flatter than other parts with sections of marshland, flat sand or pebble beaches. It was here where the Canadian division landed and suffered serious casualties in the first day.

Pegasus Bridge

The route continues to Ouistreham where the course heads south along the Orne canal.  This is the final few miles. Pegasus Bridge looms up ahead,  its structure an icon of the first few hours of the D-Day invasion. It was here where Horsa gliders, part of the three airborne divisions deployed during the night of June 5th, landed 50 metres away from the canal bridge. The gliders broke up on impact as they hit the field and soldiers scrambled out through the broken sides. Led by Lieutenant Brotheridge, the small platoon of commandos (the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light infantry) charged across the bridge. Their mission was to take it intact in order to aid the main landing force which would be arriving in the morning at Sword Beach. The commandos were in peak physical condition and expert cross-country runners. But by the time Brotheridges’s platoon reached Pegasus Bridge, the German guards had got themselves organised enough to open fire. Brotheridge was the first casualty of D-Day after being mortally wounded from a shot through the neck. The bridge was quickly over-run with reinforcements in the form of charging Willis Jeeps fitted with Browning machine guns.

The end at Cafe Gondre - (5)

It is here at Pegasus Bridge that the epic D-Day 44 Challenge comes to a conclusion. Quite appropriately the official finishing post is a cafe awash with champagne. Café Gondrée was also the first house to be liberated in WWII and had been saving their supply of champagne, hidden away from the Germans in the cellar, to shower upon the heros who liberated them.  Mrs Gondrée inherited the cafe from her father and remembers with pride when the British commandos knocked on her door.  Cafe Gondre

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Any questions? Contact us at info@wildfoxevents.com

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