50/50 marathons

4. Beachy Head Marathon

26th October 2019

Beachy Head Marathon

The drive down to Eastbourne to take register for the Beachy Head Marathon took a lot longer than anticipated. Friday evening, busy roads. Driving in the dark has never been my favourite thing. We were on a mission to get to Eastbourne before 7:30pm so that I could get race registration out of the way.

On approach to beachy head the thing that struck me was how big the hills were. I’m kind of glad it was dark so I couldn’t see the full extent. It was also noticeably very windy! The nerves were kicking in.

We made it to registration by the skin of our teeth and I was greeted by a very friendly chap who proceeded to ask if I’d done it before, no. Sharp intake of breath, “well I hope you know what you’ve let yourself in for?” In truth I hadn’t a clue but I was beginning to get the gist.

Our campsite was about 15 minutes away from race start, so pretty close. I think the morning will offer some parking challenges so we will need to be up and out of here pretty early.

The constant buffeting wind all night ensured a sleepless night. So an early start was easy so that we could get a space not too far from race start. The wind was still very strong so it was guaranteed to be a blowy race.

The start of the race is outside Bede’s Prep school. Just beyond the start line you see the course going straight up a beast of a hill, that’ll be fun!!!!

Beachy Head Marathon

The race started on the dot of 9 and 2000 people set off on what I can only describe as the hardest marathon I’ve ever run. The first hill was carnage, with so many people it made it difficult to go anywhere fast, this continued all through the race. The track was very narrow pretty much most of the way so a lot of the time was spent in single file, I think that even if you had it in you to do a good time on this course, you’d struggle to because of the congestion of runners.

The first half of the course is brutal, it felt as if we were constantly moving up hill, there were obviously downhill sections but they were short lived before you had another hill to tackle. On top of the hills, the terrain was tricky to negotiate. Predominantly chalky and very rutted paths, a bit boggy in patches, but generally fairly dry. The un even surface was quite unforgiving on the feet. With that and the relentless hill to contend with it made it difficult to find your pace. On the plus side the wind was behind us and the views on the top of the South Downs are stunning.

Beachy Head Marathon

There were no mile markers on the course which made it difficult to judge where you were and when a gel or some fuel was needed, I’d got in to the habit of having a gel every 5 or 6 miles. There were checkpoints at roughly 4 mile intervals so in some ways this was quite nice as you see quite a jump in distance traveled. The checkpoints were really well stocked with all sorts of goodies should you want it, cakes, mars bars, sausage rolls, all sorts. This generally meant that people spent a bit of time there refuelling rather that just grabbing a cup of water and going.

At about 12 miles there was the turning point and the wind was then right in our faces. But there appeared to be a lull in the hills. For a short while at least. For me though the damage was done, the first section had completely drained me so I couldn’t really use this flatter section to try and pick up the pace, plus the wind made forward momentum quite tough.

I can’t remember what point the steps came into it, but there were steps, lots of them. 2 sections of roughly 150 steps each! Every inch of this course has the ability of sapping every last morsel of energy in your legs. There were times when I thought I couldn’t keep going.

Beachy Head Marathon

After the steps came more hills. I think it’s the last 6 miles where you take on the 7 sisters otherwise known as the 7 bitches, I guess it depends on your relationship with them, mine is definitely the later. This section is run along the cliffs and you can clearly see hill after hill after hill. With every up there came a really steep down and running on legs of jelly means that the down hill is as bad as the uphill. Only the hardiest of runners we’re actually running up these hills, most of us were walking and grumbling.

You could see the Beachy Head lighthouse in the distance, from there it wasn’t far to the finish, so once we’d finally finished running/walking up and down the 7 sisters, there were a few more hills and over the brow of the last hill you see Eastbourne pier and a nice descent into Eastbourne.

Beachy Head Marathon

The race finishes on the same steep hill that you start on, only this time you’re going down on very tired legs. Crossing the line is such a relief.

I couldn’t see Caroline or Winnie anywhere once I’d finished, it turned out she was waiting on the last hill to see me in but somehow we missed each other and her phone was dead. I hung around a bit hoping to see them but I was beginning to get cold and feeling sick so went back to wait at the van. I had no key so had to just wait it out. Caroline managed to get her phone working and realised where I was.

I was feeling pretty rotten, I’d been sick and the cold was hitting so getting in the van was such a relief, but now we had to drive for 3 hours to get our ferry home!

So that was the first full month of marathons done. 4 in and still kind of holding it together. Next week is the hopefully more sedate Thames Meander.

If you’d be interested in running the Beachy Mead Marathon in the future, take a look at beachyheadmarathon.co.uk

Beachy Head Marathon


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Calories burned

I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.