50/50 marathons

15. South Wight Ballbreaker Marathon

12th January 2020

To clarify, The South Wight Ballbreaker is not a real event. I just couldn’t find a marathon to run this weekend. Well, apart from another soul destroying lapped course, and I really don’t think I can stomach any more of those. One thing I’ve realised is, if you’re going to run as far as a marathon, you need to make sure the course is interesting. Going around in circles on a flat course may suit some people, but I’d rather punch myself in the face for a few hours than do that.

So, what do you do when you can’t find a marathon to run? You have a look at some maps and find your own marathon. And you rope a willing mate in to join you along the way for some moral support.

My friend Guy was resting up from his own running challenge of running every day over 2019, I knew he wouldn’t want to run so I suggested he could come along on a mountain bike as I was planning a cross country route. The Isle of Wight is full of running possibilities, interesting routes that are both challenging and beautiful, there’s way more scope than just the official Isle of Wight Marathon.

The route was fairly sketchy, starting at the White Mouse Inn in Chale and then running the coastal path to Freshwater Bay and up to the Tennyson monument. I’d figured this to be about 11 to 12 miles. From there I was either going to come back the way I came, or try a route across the downs to build in the extra miles, only problem with that is that I wasn’t sure of a route and it could potentially add more miles than needed. So I decided to just wing it and see what happened!

We set off from the White Mouse at about 9:45, crossing the Military Road and out along the coastal path. This path literally follows the cliff edge, at some points there’s not much path to run on, just the cliff edge. The wind was howling straight into us as we trekked along. I found it really hard going, but Guy was really struggling. Along with the wind, the path was really boggy so made for slow progress, especially on a bike. Apart from the strong wind, it was actually a lovely day, the sun was out and in the lulls between gusts of wind it was perfect.

The South Wight coast line is so beautiful, it’s a scene I could never tire of. It’s very rugged and in places the land is slipping away quite badly. There are also a few chines that needed some careful negotiating, especially with Guy’s bike. The first of these was Whale chine. It looked ok to cut through, but we would certainly get our feet wet. At the bottom there was a set of steps that have been washed away by a constant stream of water. It was tricky going and very slippery, but we did it and carried on.

Further on we had to pass through another chine at Grange Farm. This one wasn’t quite as tricky, but I managed to slip and went hurtling down the hill on my butt. From here I was covered in mud. There were other sections that were impassable, so we’d have to just go around, at some points going out along the military road. These extra diversions were adding extra distance, which I needed, so I didn’t mind.

By the time we got to Compton, Guy had to turn back, so I carried on along the coastal path into Freshwater. The hill leading up to Tennyson monument is a beast. I’ve run up it the other side, but never from Freshwater. Apart from being quite steep, it just keeps on going. You can see the monument in the distance, but it feels like you never get any closer! At one point a little black pug decided it liked the look of my leg and wrapped itself around it, it was quickly dragged away by it’s horrified owner, leaving me to continue. When I did make it to the top, the distance was pretty much spot on 13.1 miles, exactly half way, so it made sense to run back the way I came to get the full marathon.

Quick pit stop at the monument to take in the scenery, have a few pretzels and a glug of water, then it’s back down the big hill, avoiding all pugs and back along the coastal trail. My time was slow and by now my legs were feeling like lead. The last few miles of any marathon are always the tricky part and this one was no exception, I was struggling to keep running, all I wanted was to stop. These are familiar feelings now. They are not getting easier, if anything they’re harder. I don’t know if that’s down to not recovering properly from the last one, or just that I’m possibly a bit rubbish at running marathons?

So no official time or medal for this run, just the pleasure of having run such a nice course.

Next week I’m heading off to take part in the Gloucester Marathon.


Time taken





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.