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
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