Saturday, 24 October 2009

Beachy Head Marathon 2009 - Report

Throughout the past week we have been reviewing the weather reports as the rumours were that it was going to be pretty rough in Eastbourne on the south coast of England. So it was at 5.15 am this morning that I peeped out of the bedroom window to see wet streets and a moonless night.

I was up and out at 5.45 am to pick up my club friends G
eorge and Brian and soon on our way to the coast. About 15 miles out of Eastbourne we noticed the cloud was getting lower and spots of rain were appearing on the windscreen of the car...this did not bode well.

Beachy Head Marathon is a notorious race and underta
ken by only the hardiest of man fellows and lady fellows, 26 or so miles across the South Downs with paths made of chalk, flint, woodland paths and ungulate fields. Starting at 181 feet above sea level it rises to 567 feet (asl) after just 3.2 miles. You can see by the elevation chart above that it is, in the best British tradition, called undulating!

Suited and booted and wearing a pair of semi-r
etired road shoes as my weapon of choice 700 runners, 700 joggers and 700 walkers commenced on our challenge with the feel of drizzle on our faces and the wind in our hair.

After the first ascent and at the highest point in the course it soon became apparent that we could get no visual clues of ascent or descent as the visibility was down to about 50 yards due to low cloud. The ground underfoot was soft after 2 days of rain and the chalk under rock was not assisting in draining it away as large puddles of water stretched acro
ss the paths creating clawing, sticky mud and it was soon to find a number of victims who took various dramatic tumbles.

I was aware that my running time was not going to be a personal best for the course as it was becoming obvious conditions were tough so I went off to do my best, have a laugh and get through the challenge unscathed.

To give you an idea of my race plan, it went:
  1. Run as fast as I can to 19.5 miles
  2. Walk the ups, run the downs and get to the finish as quickly as I could
  3. Keep away from the edge of the cliffs
  4. Come back in one piece

At Beachy my opinion is that the race starts as 19.5 miles when you hit the coast and start the sharp ascents and descents of what are called the Seven Sisters, the iconic cliffs which are the South Downs Way. It was here that the wet weather, the cloud and the mud really payed a toll on my reserves, I was at a good pace up until then and onto equalling, if not just beating my course PB but the buffeting wind, the very powerful gust of winds and low cloud base made it very difficult to judge pace and distance, I decided to just work with #2,3 and 4 from my list and just push through.

Digging deep I finally came in sight of the finish some 375 feet below me and I took the treacherous descent to the finish, some 4:45 hours later, collected my medal and met up with all my pals in the canteen for sausage, beans, baked potato and a cup of hot sweet tea.

I kid you not, a tough run but one I would go back for year after year....BRILLIANT


  1. This course sounds nutty, Jerry! Good job staying on your feet and finishing.

  2. Wow, sounds like a lot of fun... one of those where it's fun even when it stops being fun... you know. Congrats on getting it done and howdy from Texas!

    Lynn B

  3. I can't say it enough but it is a really tough race normally and the camaraderie between the runners is second to none