After the misery of the last few weeks we’re due a race report to cheer the blog up a bit. I vowed last year to have a break from the Beachy Head marathon so I entered Snowdon (scheduled to be held on the same day).
In the end, the reality of logistics and cost put pay to Snowdon. Since I had booked Penny to cover the shop anyway, I decided I needed something as a distraction. So, once again I found myself Beachy bound.
This time I managed to pursuade G and Lisa to come with me. We had vague plans to meet the Denbies ladies there and since training had gone to ratshit (more on that later!) it was destined to be another painfest fuelled by the thought of tea and buns.
Despite a slightly later departure to Eastbourne and a lorry intent of travelling at 20 below the speed limit, we made really good time and got to the coast a little after 8am. There was still an abundance of car parking available (which confused me slightly) and we secured a spot really quite close to the race HQ. No queue at the registration desk meant we were parked and registered within 5 minutes and then had roughly 50 minutes to wait until the race start at 9am.
There is no better place to wait than the toilet queue so we all made our way to various queues with a rendezvouz point arranged for before the start. Looking round, it seemed that numbers were down. But, a quick check of results shows that although they were 225 down on last year, it was consistent with previous years, so maybe just my impression.
We lined up ready to go about 8.55am. I’d had no sleep the previous night, or for several days preior in fact so I was feeling rather ropey. For the first time in a long while I stood at the start line of a marathon and wondered if I was going to complete it. I was also feeling the pressure of running with others again. There would be many times through the course of the first 10 miles where I would utter ‘you go on’. But my companions stood fast and we ran and chatted side by side.
The race start really doesn’t get any easier, but we were joined initially by Stuart and Nic, two pirates who I had originally met at Ironman Switzerland in 2009 and two of the nicest people you could possibly meet. It cheered me up immensely to see them and we chatted until they gradually pulled away. We were then passed by Kelly, Olivia and Jeanette from Denbies. We would see them several times en route, tooing and froing as we ebbed and flowed around the course.
After the initial cresting of the hill, we broke into a scouts pace run that lasted for some time. The course here is quite difficult to run on. There are lots of people around and the course follows a narrow path with a severe camber for some way. But still, despite being at the back at the start of the race, managed to overtake a number of people here.
The weather was pretty perfect for running in. Short sleeves and shorts were the order of the day and although the wind was gusting it was refreshing rather than chilling. The course was in the best condition I’ve ever seen it and we made really good progress through the first couple of checkpoints, despite feeling fatigued and slightly foggy in the head.
The beauty of this race are the people who enter it. Conversation between participants is rife and banter very entertaining. Characters are plentiful and often the same people are seen over and over again, making for a development in dialogue throughout the day. By the time we return to Eastbourne we often have a chance to discover a persons entire personal history and develop something akin to friendship, albeit temporary. I felt genuinely sorry for those who felt the need to plug themselves into audio distractions, they truely miss out on the point of this race.
It was like that today and the steady hum of conversation combined with the scenery and the company I kept, gently jogged me out of my weariness. Before too long (and after a hug from Dick and Petal eight miles in) I felt much better than I had done for weeks.
The upside of a better pace was every checkpoint being fully stocked with produce. Each stop was a cornucopia of mars bars and bourbons and juice and was very welcome.
The beauty of this race is amazing. We took time to enjoy the views as well as the copious aid stations. Overall, we spent over an hour static. But do you know what, no one cares and that’s why I love this race so much.
The feel good factor continued throughout the day. On the ascent up the stairs a group of young people were waiting at the top. They were clearly on a Duke of Edinburgh weekend and surprised us by giving us a round of applause as we reached the apex. It was genuine and heartfelt and lovely actually. Good for them.
This race was really a tonic for the soul and as we stood at the top of the hill looking at Eastbourne in the distance, I felt a life affirming gratitude that I had found a sport which has provided so much comfort over many years and I had friends to share it with. And with that thought, we headed gingerly down the steps to the finish line below.