I was really hoping beyond hope that I wouldn’t have to write this report.
With my track record of forgetting things another race could lead to yet another disaster. This time I had all my kit. I was so organised that I had two pair of trail shoes stinking out my car like a slowly decomposing badger in the boot. This time my slight oversight was with the accommodation – I had only booked two nights and not three! Luckily I realised this after dropping my children with their grandparents in Southampton! Thankfully at the end of the season a seaside town like Eastbourne is awash with rooms – hence the council organising the marathon! – that was easily solvable via www.booking.com
It wasn’t even another trip into the woods and returning without my buff (Newer runners you really don’t want to know.)
Unfortunately, it was Mary! After having an amazing vein of running form setting PBs in all categories she picked up Achilles Tendonitis! Under doctor’s orders of no running she is slowly recovering. (Not fast enough for her… or the rest of the family – look up ‘Bear with a sore head’ in the dictionary and Mary could be the human example.) but is recovering.
On Tuesday the physio gave her the green light to try running again… building up slowly on the flat!
So as any runner in history – I am sure Pheidippides was advised by his doctor to take it easy for a few weeks rest to let his heart recover – Mary was desperate to give it a go especially as it is her favourite Marathon ever and she has already run quite a few great events!
She didn’t plan to run it… No that would be daft! Just walk it – from nothing to 42km all 1264m of total elevation (and descent). The physio hadn’t said definitely not to but if she was desperate she could give it a try and pull out if it started to play up. How many runners would pull out during an event? We even helped a runner who suffered from extreme hypothermia at a race who kept going the last 3 (actually 5) miles rather than pull out. Even Mary kept on running with her torn ankle ligaments and had to be timed out by the sweeper rather than stop at a checkpoint.
On the Friday we had sort of agreed it would be too much of a risk to run so only I collected my number but with number collection until 8:30 of race day she still could run – even though she hadn’t packed her trail shoes (accidentally she collected my spare pair – hence it wasn’t me packing the extra kit really!) As she would be walking potentially she could use normal running shoes or even the shoes she was wandering around in all day.
So it was that even up until the start I was unsure if she would run – even then I was unsure as I had persuaded to go to the parkrun to start her return to running. So she could even then sneak herself into the race unknown to me until too late.
The race itself has changed very little over the four years I have run it. It doesn’t get any easier, in fact I am sure the 1750 runners contribute to the erosion making the hills and steps steeper each year. Unlike last year the sun was out and bright with not a cloud in the sky – they had been blown away by the wickedly cold wind. This meant that rather than running through mist and clouds you could really enjoy the spectacular views of the South Downs Way and the Seven Sisters – breathtaking (if you have any left are struggling up the hills).
Having run it before my course knowledge came into play, when to run and when to walk, sometimes it is faster and uses less energy to walk briskly up the hills than even attempting to run them. I planned on trying for a PB on the course but despite a good start my excess baggage this year (weight not fully loaded pack) caused me to slow and I decided that to get round in one piece would be a success. So rather than run off too fast I had more time to enjoy what was on offer at the aid stations. This is a marathon that doesn’t do energy gels, think chunks of Mars Bar and jelly babies, bourbons and custard creams, sausage roll and fruit buns. No isotonic drinks rather orange squash, tea, coffee and soup! Running a marathon this well treated will not help me return to my racing weight.
For 22 miles I had headed up and down slopes including the seven sisters, climbed up over 300 steps – yes two massive staircases on a marathon worrying about Mary. However on running down to the Coastguard station at Burling Gap I saw Mary waiting to cheer me on the last few miles.
Sensibly she had stuck to her decision not to run even though she was desperate to give it a go. It was a real challenge for her to get the final checkpoint due to the road closures and even more to then stand and support other runners when she felt that she might have been able to take part herself.
After dunking a bourbon in my warm cup of tea I carried on to the finish. No longer worried about Mary, but still with a final 3 mile uphill slog before passing the bus stop by the Beachy Head pub and Mary once more cheering me on before the fast final mile downhill to the finish.
One of the real treats of this tough marathon is that after you have collected your medal you get given the most delicious meal of the year – jacket potato, sausage and beans, followed with rice pudding and fruit salad all washed down with a nice cup of tea!
Mary may have missed out on the 2017 race but we are both already signed up for 2018 and it would be great to be joined by a few other Massey Runners next time.