One of the biggest off-road marathons, and the top ten on the list in the UK. One aimed at the adventurous runner, seeking plenty of hills and sight seeing...

The Beachy Head Marathon is a long-established fixture in the race calendar and attracts more than 1,500 runners, including overseas participants.

And, with its scenic yet extremely challenging route through the South Downs National Park countryside proving ever-popular, it’s little surprise the 2013 race saw an impressive field of 1,700 runners, the highest number so far to tackle the course.

The gruelling 26-mile run includes 300 steps and 14 gates, passing through Jevington, Alfriston, Litlington, Friston Forest, the Cuckmere Valley and Seven Sisters, including Birling Gap and Beachy Head.

Unuasually warmer weather than last year, dry and partly sunny with temperatures reaching 16C. The wind has picked up and will be 20mph in places. I am wearing a light shower proof jacket, tee, Skins and Merrell Trail shoes as the terrain is very muddy and wet in places from the heavy rain all week. 

Myself, Trefor, Karen, Ian, Darren, Sammy, Rachael, Lucy and John

After race registration I bump into Bosh runners Thomas, Tristan, Ultra Ian and Karen before meeting the others on the green for pre-race pictures. As with most local races it is great to see familiar running friends and meet new faces. We are all very excited, but I can see some are rather nervous and just want to get started. I chat to John about ultra training and his goals for next year. We all wish each other the best and make our way to the starting area facing that steep climb...

9:00 The start of Beachy Head Marathon

Fastest Pace: 7:26
Slowest Pace: 9:30

Taking it easy and jogging the first climb, before settling into a comfortable pace. The first half is steady inclines, until reaching Jevington, a steep drop of 600ft followed by another climb then reaching Alfriston.

Feeling good at Jevington

I remember the route very well and my memory serves me well. lots of climbing and lots of stunning scenery into the downs. The amazing sights distract me from the powerful wind and hills.

Just the beginning of many more steps

Fastest Pace: 7:56
Slowest Pace: 12:20

Starting my day with a Bulletproof Coffee, some spinach, walnuts and a shot of wheat grass, I am feeling well fuelled so far, and only need some salted coconut water and then sips of my special blend (espresso, chia seeds, olive oil, coconut water mix) after 18 miles into the race. 

Along the river, at Cuckmere Valley about 16 miles into the route, the mud is wet and thick below and I slip onto my side. I have been stumbling here and there, as I rarely run in shoes these days, but with the tricky terrain my Luna Sandals would not be practical enough to see me through safely. 

Passing the Bosh support

More steps...

Seven Sisters Park

Fastest Pace: 8:44
Slowest Pace: 12:23

Struggling to even run any of the steep climbs in the later stages, my legs,  fatigued and aching. I can manage a slow run downhill and a hiking/walk uphill for the remaining 8 miles of the route. By the 22 mile aid stop, I am rather thirsty so have two cups of water and top up one of my bottles. I take a small bite of a mars bar for a sugar trickle. Suck the chocolate and spit out the rest. 

The Seven Sister Cliffs

Head winds

With the light house in view and approaching closer, it is just a few more miles left until the steep downhill back to the start. Lots of spectators and walkers clap and cheer as all the runners battle on through the strong head winds. Gusts blow from behind pushing me upwards like a helping hand...

I check my Garmin and can see I am already approaching 3 hours and 40 minutes, so reaching a personal best this year is out of the question. It has been a tough year of racing with a mixture of road marathons, off road and ultra distances with varied terrain. Two weeks ago I ran Cologne, and five weeks ago I finished the London to Brighton ultra. Although I feel recovered, it was the last time I was running steep hills and I have not been training particularly for this marathon. So I used today as an enjoyable, training run and to finish strong and injury free... 

Final leg to the finish

Once reaching the Beachy Head pub, it is just a mile left to go. I can see the familiar road we crossed on our first climb all those hours ago. The support and cheers are greeted from both sides and the groups grow the closer we get to the finish. Eventually the grass leads down towards the seafront and the pier is in view, the red finish line looks a spec from high up here, and it is hard to slow down my pace on the steep, slippery drop. I tread as careful as gravity will allow and then reach the road to the sounds of 'go on Luke'. I can see Bosh blue to my side cheering me into the finish. I thumbs up to the camera and catch a glimpse of the clock above. 4:06:30. 

Considering how slow I was climbing the hills towards the end I am still pleased with my final result and I had no ankle issue today, which was my biggest worry over my race position and time. 

After collecting my medal and changing into a warmer jacket, I make my way over to see the Bosh-Run supporters to cheer on the remaining finishers. 

Proud finishers


151st in 4:06:30 
(16 minutes slower than 2012)



Please add your comments here. I would like to encourage discussion on running, training and nutrition. Luke