On 24th October 2020 I took part in the Beachy Head Marathon. This is a Marathon that I have wanted to take part in for years. It has been described as one of the toughest and beautiful Marathons in the UK, so naturally I wanted to complete it. The reason I’ve never signed up is because my Autumn is usually so busy, but with lots of cancellations I took this as an opportunity to take part in the Beachy Head Marathon. I had originally thought I would try to complete in Sub 4, and realistically I think I could, but this would be really hard work. I have a fast Marathon attempt next week, so instead I took this more cautiously to preserve energy.
As always I got my stuff together before the event, which is even more important when you are staying away from home. I like to get everything I need together so I can check I have everything I need. You would think by now I wouldn’t forget things, but I do, regularly. The Beachy Head Marathon was my 58th Official Marathon, and the 67th qualifying event for the 100 Marathon Club. So just 33 more Marathons, ultras or Ironman events and I will be able to join the 100 Marathon Club.
If you want to take a one minute tour of the Beachy Head Marathon with me take a look at my little video above. Hopefully I’ve captured the beauty, challenge and atmosphere of the event, which I think is one that many would enjoy. It is not for the faint heated, or someone who just wants a fast time. I thought of friends who love ultra and trail courses, and thought how much they would love this event.
With Covid 19 it was good to see the social distancing measures in place at the start. We had to arrive early, and go to our pens and stand on a spot. These measures are necessary, but this does take an element of the event that I always enjoy. The atmosphere at the start was not as good, as unless you arrived and lined up with friends it was a long lonely start. I stood on the spot by myself not knowing anyone around me, so just waited for an hour in the cold. Usually I would be mixing with others. I understand it and I’m so grateful for the organisers putting these measures in place to enable their 40th event to take place.
When we started we made our way in small groups about 300 metres around a corner. We ended up spacing out more and ran through the start line as we approached. This was the first time I’ve seen the start line, although I’ve seen pictures before. The pictures do not do the hill justice, and this must be the hardest start to a race I’ve ever done. However, this hill was nothing compared to what was to come.
The general theme of the whole course was hills and beauty. After the first big hill there was a few flatter sections that I was able to run at around 8 minute miles. There were also some steep declines and at one point I was struggling to stop myself running faster than 6:30 min miles. The soles of my feet were on fire as I was trying to put the breaks on.
At around 5 miles Richard was there waiting to take a picture of me. A great shot and proof that my shoes were once sparkling white. I had to be really disciplined to hold my pace. I intentionally didn’t push too much as I have a fast marathon attempt in 7 days and I didn’t want to destroy my body. The whole idea was to treat this as a long training run (a challenging, long and hilly training run).
From very early on I walked the hills. Frankly my walking pace and running pace wasn’t much different. To push any harder would have been a mistake and not something I was aiming for.
I carried a bottle of lucozade from the start, and this got me through to the first checkpoint at mile 8.2. Here we picked up water and a mini marsbar, there was also banana. I then carried this water until checkpoint 16.6. Here I picked up another bottle of water and put my empty in the bin. There were marsbar and banana again, but best of all was single wrapped sausage rolls. I didn’t really fancy it when I picked it up, but it was a lovely fresh sausage roll. And immediately followed by a hill, so I walked and enjoyed it. I also ate too quickly and gave myself hiccups.
Shortly after there was a lovely village with people playing the bagpipes. The villages were lovely, and despite the entire route being mostly on trail and hills, it felt well supported. The villages were all so supportive. I then came to these steps, and Richard was there waiting for me again. He said he would walk the steps with me and it was a nice brief moment of companionship. People have commented about how hard these steps are, and they take it out of you. However, genuinely, I barely noticed and all I can remember is chatting with Richard… Thank you.
At the top you have to climb over a small wall… I thought they were joking when I got up there… 18 miles in and now we have to climb. After this I came across a muddy bog, I had managed to keep my trainers fairly clean, but here there was only one way and that was through it. I almost fell in, and later I saw many with the tell tell signs of mud splattered arms and legs.
Whilst walking the steps I told Richard how windy it was, and it was bloody windy. We were lucky it didn’t rain as forecasted, but the wind was so strong. I told him it was especially windy at the top, and he laughed, saying I’ve not got to the top yet.
When I signed up I heard something about seven sisters. I thought this sounded like a lovely day out. Well this is the first time I’ve ever been anywhere near seven sisters, and its less fun than it sounds. It is continued up and down, and by this time I was hardly noticing the downs. I walked a lot during the last 10k. Mainly because I wanted to save my energy, but the hills are hard.
I do find courses like this strangely enjoyable. It had the same feel as the threshold ultra events. Its more of a quality day out and a real challenge. Of course you can go and race if you want, but for me it’s about the challenge and adventure.
It felt like the hills lasted forever, but finally we came to the final checkpoint at about 22 miles. At this time I was so grateful for the water. I took two bottles this time, drinking one straight away and carrying the final. There were a few more ups and downs, but the last mile was basically flat. We finish where we started and that finish line was steep, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to stop after reaching probably the fastest pace of my race.
A beautiful start, and wonderful finish, and such a wonderful race. I am so pleased that I took on the challenge.