BEACHY HEAD MARATHON
Beachy Head Marathon 2016 is the 15th year of the popular East Sussex trail marathon. More than 1,700 runners and walkers have arrived to take part today.
This famous spot attracts many to Eastbourne from all over the world to for the Beachy Head Marathon and 10K race, set within the stunning South Downs National Park and taking in the sights of the UK’s highest chalk sea cliff.
This is my third attempt at Beachy after a two year absence. I have always been a part of the experience whether I am supporting friends or taking part myself.
This year my better half Sunday is running for the first time. It will be his first go at a trail marathon event.
Like me Sunday is calm but excited at what lies ahead. As this is a local and less congested event than the over populated road marathons of the South East, the mood is happy and cheery with a real friendly vibe.
We arrive in good time to park and then register at the marquee, on the green, by Beads School, Dukes Road.
Within minutes of collecting race bibs we see familiar faces and friends. Marathon legend Mark Johnson running marathon number 140! Nick, Lucy, Ann-Marie, Julie, Steve and Tina are just some of the usual friends here.
I am running without a water pack today as it leaked in the car, so I will make do with the water cups around the route instead today...
The time flies by taking pictures and catching up with each other. The crowds make there way to the start with the runners at the front and the walkers and those running with dogs further behind.
I wish everyone all the best before weaving through the waiting crowds and settling near the start... but not too far to the very front...
Six miles in
I can see Tracy taking pictures after the climb up, then further along Sharon is marshalling at four miles.
It is always good to see friends out supporting when they are not on the running side for a change!
Once meeting the South Downs Way near Jevington the air becomes thick with damp and poor visibility. The wind has picked up the higher we climb and the fog is making me feel cold.
I am finding it difficult to warm up and feel comfortable.... I keep my head down and follow the other runners.
At Bo Peep around nine miles in, I can see a photographer up ahead, but then realise once closer it is my good friend ultra Nick hidden in the fog. He hi fives me once I pass him and calls out 'you Lakeland legend'
When you need perking up it's always a boost to see a friendly face...
Endless leafy trails
The fog feels like it is hugging the downs without lifting. Although just as quickly as it started it disperses and a break brings some hazy sunshine.
Those damn steps...
Once over the wall and heading across the road to Seven Sisters Country Park. I enjoy all the spectators cheering everyone along and the scenic views across Cuckmere Valley.
Making my way across Seven Sisters
At mile 18, just over 2hrs 33min, I take some 'Pip Nut' peanut butter fuel and a walking break to start the cliff-top climbs.
I try my best to keep an average pace of 9:30min/mile but it is slowed with the rolling terrain.
Rolling cliff tops
By mile 24, 3hrs 46min on the Garmin, and reaching the top of one the seven sister cliffs is a checkpoint. I take on some water and a mars bar piece. There is nothing else on offer, which is a surprise as a few years ago I remember a full table spread of homemade goodies...
I thank the team and make my way down the hill and then back up the next climb. They become less steep but with a long gradient so I can start to run again...
The last few miles to go
Heading to Birling gap I can see by my watch I am doing good on time and look close to reaching my PB from 2012.
I feel I have held back just enough to save the energy in my legs to be able to finish strong!
I wonder to myself if I can beat my Beachy PB of 3hrs 50min...
Checking the Garmin
Passing another water stop and many cheering spectators we keep following the cliff top path until the very last half mile, which is the same as the beginning.
Carefully placing my footing so I don't slip or trip in the potholes or the steps leading downhill to the cafe and then back to the School.
I sprint for the finishing stretch, I check the clock and can see that I am just a few minutes off my personal best time of four years ago....
Finishing in 111th Position 3:52:29
I finish in 3hr 52min.
Considering I didn't get the chance to train as much summer/autumn, I still managed a good time for this hilly trail Marathon. Good to know my endurance fitness levels haven't dropped since Chiltern Wonderland 50 last month, which was some tough elevation.
I collect my medal and some water then check my official time at the timing tent. I head back up the road where the car is parked to change into warmer clothes.
I see Steve coming back down the road. Puzzled by this he then explains how his flu has caught him out of breath and struggling, so decided it wise to not continue after 16 miles...
I head back to the school with Steve to have the lunch that is offered to all runners and a hot coffee.
We watch everyone else coming in for the finish and have a great spectating spot at the cafe. Sunday makes it in without any troubles and much less cramping than the usual road marathons he has run.
He is beaming and enjoyed every moment of the event. He says he will be back again next year it had that much of an impression on him!
We stay around for the remaining runners and walkers so to cheer on Tina for her finish.
Another Beachy Head Marathon complete.
58 Marathons (including ultra)