Beachy Head = best marathon in the world!

Beachy Head = best marathon in the world!

Summary:

Beautiful, exciting, interesting scenery, almost all of the route off-road. Wonderful organisation with Mars Bars, sausage rolls, ponies noses, swimming pools, and banter. I fell over and hurt my hands, but still had so much fun! Everyone should do this marathon :)

Chip time was 5:17:28.55.

The long bit:

We got to the Bede School far too early, like over an hour before the start, ha. J dropped me nearby and went off for a day out in Eastbourne. I walked into the school grounds to find the Beach Boys playing over the tannoy and people queuing for toilets and coffee. Picked up my race pack and spent a fairly long time putting the timing chip on my shoe, my super-technical lacing configuration meant that I had to completely unlace in order to affix. But I had the time, and I had a lovely seat on a bench overlooking the sea, so who really cared? Pinning the number on my shirt while wearing it was interesting too! So then to wander around and take in the jolly atmosphere. Visited a loo and then eventually joined the bag drop queue. Thought I would miss the start, because that queue was loooooong. But anyway it was fine. Actually they delayed the start by 5 min, most likely because of the bag drop.

So, yay! Off we went. Can I just say I had been sincerely 'bricking it' for the past week? :) But it felt so good to finally start! That first hill is steep, but it wasn't easy to run just because there were so many people walking. It levelled off pretty quickly, and we were running along lovely bouncy turf, light as air. "Watch out for the rabbit scrapes!" warned a marshal, cheerfully. Ah, that's what those holes are - oops! That was close... We passed a Highland piper blasting out tunes amongst the heather - surreal and wonderful! I was pleasantly surprised by the going; when I looked at the course profile I thought, well it's just uphill all the way for the first 5k or so, I'll be walking. But it was actually undulating, so running wasn't difficult at all. I was very conscious though throughout the first half that I should conserve my energy, so I tried to be careful. In fact I would summarise that, although my hill training prepared me pretty well for the ascents and descents, and the terrain, I didn't know enough about the route, and I didn't know how to pace such a long run. I definitely learned a lot on this day!

Saw one woman fall over, then another a little later on (and a man much later, and at one point we had to stop to let an ambulance past!). Stopped briefly to check they were ok. They were, but that was scary! I checked my pace and focused hard on the ground in front of me. We hit a patch of woodland, and it was so beautiful I had to stop and take a picture. In the photo are two women together, who I kept seeing all the way through the race. I tripped on something and nearly fell, leapt in the air to save myself, carried on running with a 'phew' brow-mopping mime to the people around me. "Nice recovery!" someone said. At one of the downhill stretches the footing was seriously treacherous, like someone had made the path by chucking some old bricks around. I slowed right down and marvelled at the speed of others.

The checkpoints were marvellous: wonderfully staffed by the volunteers, my hat is doffed to them!. I had a cup of water at each one, and at almost every one a bit of Mars Bar - this run was sponsored by Mars!

As we headed inland and upward, we found our heads in the clouds, sadly losing the view. But yet there is something about foggy hill scenes, and the accompanying drizzle was most refreshing (it was a pretty warm day, with hardly any wind). Also, it was not possible to see what was in store up ahead, which was probably a good thing, and so on I plodded. That said, it was stunning when we came out of the cloud again. And there was a lovely long downhill stretch. We passed a sign that said "Well done! You are now about half way!" :) The sea came into view at last, and there was that chalk horse in the hillside! We looped round and saw him again later. My phone kept coming out to take photos, I'm afraid. Well, it was always meant to be a leisurely marathon! I would stop to snap some pretty cows, then take off again downhill. I kept passing the same people over and over. It reminded me muchly (perhaps oddly) of my first half-marathon, in Milton Keynes last December (MK Winter Half).

Best checkpoint was that at Litlington (?) where there were sausage rolls, hot cross buns, and a band playing - just magical. After my brief stop there (couldn't, unfortunately, imagine eating rolls or buns at that juncture! More Mars for me, please) we went up a very steep paddock, wherein resided a pony who waited by the kissing gate to try and have away with people's energy gels. There can't be many marathons where you can pat the soft nose of a pony before scrambling through a gate in a hedge! Best marathon ever!

I was wearing my lovely parkrun tangerine t-shirt again (wore it for the Oxford Half three weeks back), and I got a lot of banter about how badly I had lost my way :) Unfortunately I was joshing with a marshal in a wooded section somewhere near one of the villages, when I lost concentration, tripped, and tumbled over - panic! "Are you alright?" called the marshal, concerned. A quick limb-check, nothing broken, all seems fine - "yes!" I called back. Oh, hang on, my hand's bleeding quite a lot. "Er, have you got a cloth?". The marshal didn't have anything, but he said there was a first-aider a little way along because someone had just fallen and "lost the end of his nose". The marshal and I exchanged a grimace at that notion. I fished one of my bits of kitchen roll out of my belt and used it to mop up the blood. I ran on, assessing the damage as I went (and keeping a very keen eye on the ground at the same time!) - One hand wasn't bleeding, but was quite badly bruised and a little painful, but I could move all my digits so I was quite confident it wasn't serious. The other hand had a fairly deep rip in the skin. Halfway up the second flight of steps (there are two, apparently with over 300 steps between them) I stopped and took the two paracetamol I was carrying. I became demoralised for a few km, felt failure. A woman asked me about my hands, and it turned out that she had recently broken one of hers - running on the flat she'd kicked a stone and gone over. It was taking a long time to heal, and she was not happy :(

Eventually I got myself back together - by that stage I had only about 10k left to go and I was still feeling strong, and it was an amazing experience, and an achievement. I heard many people along the way say that they were doing this as their first marathon too. I hit the Seven Sisters and, mostly walking the ups, had tremendous (careful) fun running down them. My legs weren't troubling me, and they felt fine the next day, too. We turned inland for a while, running along a road I started to wonder when we were gonna finish, come on where's that hill?? Oh-oh, there it is! I'll be walking then :)

But the 'strides' kicked in at the end! A spectator told us there was a mile left to go, all downhill. "A MILE??" said a girl, and I thought the same. But it WAS all downhill, and it was fabulous! Back along rabbit-scrapes avenue we went, I picked up my pace, slowed down for a tricky bit on the steepest part of the last hill (that which was the first hill, all those hours ago), then off I went again, sprinting under the FINISH arch, raised fists, big grin for the camera! A beautiful medal, and a chair to sit down on while I negotiated the removal of my timing chip. I didn't see J, but I thought I should go and find some first aid to get my hands checked and maybe cleaned up a bit. I'd given up on thoughts of using the swimming pool (not only ponies noses and buns, this marathon has a swimming pool for runners to use! Everyone needs to do this marathon!!) because of my grotty hands. Anyway, I retrieved my bag and J, found the charming young people of St John, and then went home for a lovely bath. And a few beers :D

Chip time was 5:17:28.55. I've got a place in the Brighton Marathon next year, and I'm planning on doing that a bit more quickly :)

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21 Replies

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  • Sounds like a great race - and well done!

  • Thank you!

  • What a post! Fairly galloped through it. what a page turner 😊

    Sounds like a good route!

    Well done. I hope your hands are OK now ☺

  • Thank you!! The hands aren't too bad, thanks. I just won't be able to do any planks for a while. What a shame. :)

  • Waht an excellent report. I felt like I was there with you. Congratulations!

  • Thank you, 3PO :)

  • Lovely post there! really enjoyed reading that! CONGRATULATIONS! thats a great time for that kind of off road marathon! hope your hands are ok! aaah lovely ponies, just my kind of race! never say never! :) sounds a really great experience :)

    i think you'd like our Needles Half Marathon race over here! :)

    westwight.org.uk/events/nee...

  • Thanks Ali! Hands are much better :) Apparently there are wild ponies living on part of the route, although I didn't see any unfortunately. Yes, it was a fabulous experience - go for it! It's really quite a laid-back race, they give you 9 hours to do it! And hot food and a bath at the end:)

    Yes, I would like that half-marathon :)

  • Wow that is amazing, super fast too ... and it was a trail, I'm so impressed!! I really think I should do this one next year it sounds amazing!! It makes such a difference having the nice checkpoints to look forward to as well!!

  • Thank you ju-ju!! I really think you would love it. There were plenty of checkpoints (and also marshals all along the way - these people are truly amazing!), and food at each one. I just checked on the map, and there are 5 checkpoints marked on it, but I'm pretty sure there were some extra ones! Maybe they were just nice people who wanted to give us water and food? Mind you, I felt pretty confused all day :)

    ps Can I have a marathon badge?

  • done :)

  • Thank you :)

  • Sounds great well done great report, glad to hear your hands are better and a great time for such a hilly course. Maybe one day i will do this or the 10k race.

  • Thanks Ben! Yes you will!!

  • "By that stage I only had about 10k left to go". Did you ever imagine yourself saying that before? Congratulations- as always when reading about marathon completion, I am in awe. Love the post, and love the sound of this marathon. I'd love to see the photo on the finishing line.

  • I know - ain't it crazy!!?

    Thank you very much :)

  • What a great read, I loved it. And you make it sound so easy! I am almost tempted to go back on my promise to myself not to do another marathon, because it sounds so wonderful! Hope your hands get better quickly, sounds painful.

  • Thank you xxx It helped a lot that it was such an adventure! Definitely a hint of danger about it though, although my hands are much better, thank you - I could possibly manage a one-handed plank now if I wanted to. Which I don't :)

  • Huge congratulations and great pictures too! Such a great write up you almost convinced me to sign up for next year (ALMOST!!)😉 Really inspiring stuff roseabi - sounds like you really enjoyed it.☺

  • ..apart from the trips and injuries of course!

  • Thank you Sandra! xx Yes, it was a great day, I feel really lucky, especially now I've read some reports of less than good experiences on here. All of it goes to show just how easily things can go wrong...

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