50/50 marathons

18. Portland Coastal Marathon

2nd February 2020

Portland Coastal Marathon

As a knee jerk reaction to my hatred of lapped marathons I decided that I needed to find something that wouldn’t be boring, that wouldn’t be flat and that would test me. Not sure why, but that’s how it went down and that is why I found myself entered in the Portland Coastal marathon. A few months ago, when I entered, it seemed like a good idea, but getting closer it started to fill me full of dread.

To use a quote from the write up on this race, ‘we won’t sugar coat this, it’s not for the feint hearted!’ This phrase had been ringing in my ears ever since I read it. But it also mentioned that there were wallabies at some point in the race. I’m not sure, but I think it was the wallabies that clinched it for me.

Nevertheless, Saturday afternoon I was on another 4:30 car ferry and heading to Portland. My bed for the night was the trusty camper, in a very windswept field somewhere in Weymouth. The rain and wind all night didn’t fill me full of hope for the conditions on the Sunday, but it actually turned out to be an ok day, bit overcast and cold, but what do you expect? It’s February.

The race start was at the Portland and Weymouth sailing academy. Famous for being the sailing venue for the 2012 olympics. I turned up in good time to get registered and take in the atmosphere. There was a race briefing that did nothing to quell my nerves and the irony was that having entered this race as a reaction to lapped marathons, turns out this was a lapped marathon! Well to be precise, 2 laps. I could cope with that.

The race started inside a big warehouse and led out through the surrounding marina. Not too far in the distance you could see a very big hill. This was referred to in the briefing as ‘heart attack hill’. We were less than a mile in when we started to climb that. Everyone walked up this beast, even on fresh legs it would be tough to run up, and very slippery. Once at the top, it wasn’t long before we were running around what appeared to be an old prison. Then before long we were on the nastiest of coastal trails. The path was made up of jutting rocks, all rutted and craggy, ready to trip you up or break an ankle. When people moan about the cobbles on that tiny portion of the London marathon, I’m going to laugh in there faces and tell then they know nothing! This path was so rutted and lumpy bumpy that it would be possible to hurt yourself at every turn. The race has a mandatory kit list, with things like a first aid kit, whistle and foil blanket. I could see now why this may be required.

Portland Coastal Marathon
Portland Coastal Marathon

When ever you follow the coast and in particular, the Jurassic coast, you can expect lots of ups and downs, each as hard as the next and perfect for draining every ounce of energy. One of the hardest things to get used to was just how slippery the trail was. Even in trail shoes I was like Bambi on ice. I had a few falls along the way, one in particular gave me quite a few scrapes. But I kind of liked the fact that I would cross the finish line bleeding and battered!

One of the highlights of the run was running around Portland Bill. All around this area was amazingly slippery, it was a real struggle to stay upright. The path was very close to the cliff edge, so very exposed and windy. To the left was a drop into the sea, to the right was a barbed wire and electric fence, in the middle was a slippery boggy track that wants to kill you!

Portland Coastal Marathon

Beyond Portland Bill you get back onto tarmac as you head back into Weymouth, quite a relief after that coastal path. But it’s short lived as it’s not long before we hit a lethal downhill section that is so steep and slippery, more so after all the previous runners have chopped it up. Slowly does it.

The final stretch into Weymouth and the turning point back at the sailing centre, is a long stretch of stony beach that goes on forever. By the turn point I was really feeling it and wishing this challenge was just half marathons. Now I had to go back and do that entire course again but the other way around. So all of those steep descents now became climbs only this time a lot worse because the trail was even more messed up and my legs were shot. That final lap was just a case of hanging in there. There were some steep steps that were ok going down, but going up was a killer. By the time I got to the final descent down heart attack hill my pace was little more than walking pace, but I didn’t care. Crossing the line was a huge relief, 2,467ft climb and another marathon completed felt like quite an achievement. All in all a great race, but I wouldn’t want to do it again. Good value for money as each runner not only gets a medal, they also receive a t shirt and buff thing to keep your neck warm. The organisation was great, the marshals were brilliant. The course was a killer …. oh and there were wallaby’s, what’s not to like?

If you’d be interested in running the Portland Coastal Marathon in the future, take a look at Bustin Skin Events.

As I write this it’s the following weekend and I should be doing another marathon, but I couldn’t find anything and as luck would have it we’re being hit by the biggest storm in ages, storm Ciara. All ferries are cancelled, so I think I dodged a bullet.

Next weekend is the Mods and Rockers Marathon!

Portland Coastal Marathon


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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.