Yet again we return to Eastbourne and I am trying to write up a race report as Mary’s snoring gives a pneumatic drill a run for its money.
Beachy Head Marathon was our first marathon and Mary’s favourite. I keep trying to persuade her to try other end of season marathons (Snowdonia) but she won’t have it. It does make for an easy if unoriginal birthday present.
Last year, I ran it alone as Mary was taken out by injury. This year it looked at times like I would suffer a similar fate. But after many physio sessions and loads of stretches and exercises I was cleared to run.
We arrived early to get our usual free parking spot. But we weren’t quite early enough. But with plenty of time we parked up. We had collected our race number the night before so quickly made for the baggage drop to get out of the bitter wind. The forecasted arctic blast had come as predicted.
Realising that the conditions would cause Mary a few issues over the hilly 26.2 miles, I decided that I couldn’t let her run this race alone on her birthday. I would accompany her the whole way round and keep her scintillated with my wit and repartee as well as keeping an close eye on her.
As Mary added yet another layer to protect her airways and core from the cold I made a concession to wear a long sleeved technical top under my Mr Bump vest.
We held off leaving St Bede’s sportshall as long as possible but eventually we had to make our way out. As we tried to stand in the sun to gain a ray of solar energy I realised that everyone in the time zone we stood was in running tights, even the men, it was just theirs lack the exciting range of colours. I realised I was cold!
After the first year, we quickly learned that if you aren’t just out for a thoroughly good day out and are actually planning to race the event, walking the first half mile is the best option rather than trying to run the brutal hill!
During the time in the sportshall apart from Mary buying merchandise… yet another hoodie! We discussed our race strategy. While certainly not one for winning it was great for an asthmatics successful completion. Walk the hills (at Mary’s pace not mine!) run the flats and runable downhills use a large lump (me) as a windbreak where possible.
The strategy worked well until 9 miles when the first large climb kicks in. 500ft of climbing over a mile and a bit! As the wind raced down combined with the effort of pushing up the hill Mary slowed to a pant… I kept on chatting.
Any climb caused Mary to do an admirable impression of Darth Vader. But she was not to be stopped. The superb aid stations helped maybe not the mars bars, bourbon biscuits and sausage rolls but the warm soup and tea and coffee on offer at some, kept her going.
This year I sacrificed the ice cream before the 7 sisters (or female dogs described by one runner on the slog up to the coastguards water stop!) as we really didn’t need any cooling this year, especially when the sun hide behind the clouds it was very nippy!
Once Burling Gap was passed, we knew it was just one more hill before the downhill finish. Unfortunately that uphill goes on for nearly 3 miles. The wind chose this point to really blast us and Mary had dig deep to grind out that last part.
Passing the pub the last mile is all downhill, but the tail wind on the way out of Eastbourne meant a headwind back, so every so often the running had to be put on hold to try and grab a proper breath.
Heading down the last slope I remembered previous errors – forgetting about the steps and realising I can’t fly, the bollard to the hip (narrowly avoided somewhere else!) I slowed up.
Crossing the line just under 7 hours may not cause the winner any sleepless nights but it certainly proved how strong a desire someone has to finish a marathon in far from ideal conditions.
As it is Mary’s birthday I gave her the present she most wants… a marathon entry to Beachy Head for 2019 as the early bird price is already open.
So same place on the 26th October. It would be great to see some red and white quarters on the course that aren’t Watford Runners if anyone fancies joining us on this hilly but superb marathon.