50/50 marathons

38. Monumental Marathon

27th June 2020.

Viewpoint carpark Blackgang

Another week shoots by and I’m back to the Groundhog Day of running another marathon. I was originally going to be running around Devon this weekend for the North Devon Marathon. I’ve had this one tucked up my sleeve for a rainy day and today was indeed a rainy and particularly windy day.

A friend of mine had sent me a route a little while back, that had been dubbed ‘monumental’. It was a route that circled around the southeast of the Isle of Wight and passed a few monuments along the way. I used this as the basis of today’s route but did it point to point rather than as a loop.

I had visited the Tennyson monument on a couple of marathons already, ‘not the Brighton marathon’ and ‘the South Wight Ballbreaker’, so I didn’t need to tackle that hill again, besides, the route I had mapped out looked likely to be the hilliest marathon yet!

Monumental Marathon Route

St Catherine’s Oratory

My run started at the viewpoint car park, just above Blackgang. From there a footpath leads you up onto St Catherine’s down and the first monument. Also an opportunity to catch my breath from the first hill.

Known locally as ‘the pepper pot’, St Catherine’s Oratory is one of the Island’s more famous landmarks. It looks like an ancient rocket standing tall overlooking the beautiful south Wight coastline. According to English Heritage, ‘It is likely that the oratory, completed in 1328, was erected by Walter de Godeton, a local landowner who was condemned by the Church for stealing casks of wine from a shipwreck which had occurred in 1314 off Chale Bay’.

It turns out the wine belonged to the church, so they were a bit miffed and threatened him with excommunication unless he built a lighthouse above the site of the shipwreck. The lighthouse was manned by a priest, who would keep the flame burning and also hold masses there. Not technically a monument, but I like it. It’s also the site of a Bronze Age burial site.

St Catherine's Oratory
St Catherine's Oratory

The Hoy Monument

So ok, St Catherine’s Oratory May not be a monument, but if you continue a bit further along St Catherine’s down, you can’t miss the Hoy Monument. As monuments go, this one is a massive erection! It’s very tall, 72 feet to be exact. It’s also known as the Alexandrian Pillar. Michael Hoy, a successful Russian merchant, had the monument erected to commemorate the visit to Britain, in 1814, of ‘His Imperial Majesty Alexander the 1st, Emperor of all the Russias’. Sadly the Tsar never came to the Isle of Wight, apparently, the ferry fare was too expensive!

On a sunny day, the view from the monument would be amazing, but today was grey, very wet and windy, so visibility was pretty awful. On my way down a rather steep hill from the monument, I slipped and had a bit of a tumble. I landed with a crunch on the base of my spine and somehow managed to twist my leg in a very awkward manner. I lay on the floor for a while feeling somewhat dazed. Once up, I cursed my choice of footwear. Why did I not wear trail shoes? I’d forgotten how challenging it can be running downhill on a slippy surface. Needless to say, I continued a lot more gingerly.

Hoy monument
Hoy monument

The Worsley Monument

The route I’d plotted was pretty much entirely Trail, with a light sprinkling of quiet roads. But all in all, it was proving to be quite a beautiful route, even in the rain.

The next monument of the route was the Worsley monument. I’d previously visited it on marathon 34, this time I was approaching from a different direction, but it still didn’t make the climb up to the top of Stenbury Down any easier. Running isn’t really an option. It’s a case of walk or crawl, but once at the top you are blessed with a stunning panorama of the Isle of Wight in all it’s glory… only not today! I was buffeted by the wind and could see about 2 meters in front of me, at least I could see if any rogue ramblers came too close. Social distancing was maintained, I didn’t see a soul.

The Worsley monument was erected in 1774 by Sir Richard Worsley in memory of Sir Robert Worsley of Appuldurcombe House. The monument was struck by lightning in 1831 and partially demolished. It remained in that state until it was repaired in 1983, only not to its original height.

Worsley monument
Worsley monument

The Yarborough Monument

From Godshill, I had the joy of the longest section of the run, towards the jolly unpleasant hill that goes up to Culver Down. I wanted to avoid the main roads through Lake and Sandown, so all the route was trail. There was a nice section that went through America Woods. Obviously I got lost, but that’s part of the fun right? In fact, this marathon was more of an orienteering route. I spent so much time just trying to figure out which way I should be going, so it was a bit on the slow side.

I passed right through Sandown golf course. There were loads of people out playing, I had to keep my eyes open for any random golf balls heading in my direction.

The Yarborough Monument stands 75 feet tall and is perched right on the top of Culver down. However, this was not its original site. It was originally built on the summit of Bembridge down but was painstakingly removed and rebuilt in its current location in the 1860s to make way for Bembridge fort. The monument was built in memory of the Earl of Yarborough, Charles Anderson Pelham. Quite a prominent figure on the Island in his time, he was one of the founders of The Royal Yacht Squadron. His son was known for having a bit of a gambling habit and is where the term a Yarborough in bridge is derived from after he bet ridiculous odds on a rubbish hand.

Culver cliff
Yarborough monument
Yarborough monument
Field of gold

Ashey Seamark

From here I had just one more monument to see, so I headed down from Culver and ran back the way I came and through Brading. I needed to climb up Brading down and head towards Ashey.

I’d seen this strange triangular structure many times as I drove along Ashey Road, but I’d never seen it up close and I had no clue what it was, so I thought that now would be a good chance to take a look.

Ashey Seamark is on the summit of Ashey Down. It is a triangular structure erected in 1735 during the reign of George II by the Trinity Board, and guides the navigation into St. Helen’s Road at Spithead.

So now I know. Not quite as impressive as I’d hoped, but the cows that surrounded it looked quite happy with it and were quite perplexed by my appearance.

Ashey Seamark
Ashey Seamark

All I needed to do now was run to Havenstreet where Caroline was waiting to pick me up. The last few miles didn’t seem as bad as previous marathons, but I was taking my time so that probably helped. A combination of not knowing where I was going, big bloody hills and pains everywhere, kept me from breaking any records today. But it made it more pleasant, not a word I’d normally associate with marathons, but in this case, it was quite enjoyable to explore and visit some monuments along the way.

Once at home, Caroline handed me a white box. Inside was a crown made of olive. This little beauty was made by Craig Ratcliff, a very talented landscape designer, he has a company called CAR Gardens, so it seemed fitting for him to make this. He told me that Olive crowns were originally presented to the Greek Olympians. The crowns would be laid upon a gold table before presenting to the Olympians. He had lined the box in gold and it had the number 38 cut into the lining and some of the leaves. Bloody genius, I love it. Could have done with it after the Athens Marathon.

Olive crown
olive crown







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.