Monthly Archives: October 2014

Beachy Head Marathon

I love the nervous energy on the start line of any race, we’ve all been there and I guess that’s part of the attraction of competing but at Beachy Head Marathon it feels different. Of course all races are hard from the 100m sprint to the 100 Mile Ultra but there’s a real camaraderie between competitors with what lies ahead for the next few hours, a real we are in this together and it’s gonna hurt but we love it feeling! Good banter to ease the nerves was had on the start line with fellow Arenas Andrew Bargery, Andy Waters and John Russell (although I later found out he was running for Portslade Hedge Hoppers – honestly!). The usual Road Marathon “pace” conversations were replaced by “Should you walk up the first hill?” Yea right…. “Just here to enjoy it rather than worrying about time” yea right……and the worries of the last 6 miles over the Seven Sisters.

As the Start Gun went off I reminded myself of my 3 goals today:
1. Not to be overtaken by the bloke in the chicken suit…there’s always one right?
2. Beat my time from last year – I’ve done 4 track sessions since last year so must be faster right?
3. Enjoy it…..

Oddly it was a frantic start reminiscent of last weeks XC ‘8km’ race, only runners were colliding with each other 20m past the start line and falling over. Managed to avoid this nonsense and prepared myself for the first of many hills which for those that don’t know is 50m after the start line and goes on for approx 3kms rising to 200m – great warm up! Within 5 minutes all you could hear was the deep breathing of fellow competitors and the ‘one’ runner that has to chat to everybody. I kept telling myself to focus on my breathing and keep it steady knowing that a few seconds gained here would almost certainly lose minutes later in the game, not that I was that worried about my time….! This is always easier said than done and I ran with two runners from a London Running club based in Victoria Park who seemed to have good footing and a similar strategy. I also remembered why I love this event so much, running through stunning scenery on our doorstop up and down trails with a real sense of freedom, running on feel rather than checking my Garmin’s every minute like in a Road Marathon..

For me the second half starts after you’ve climbed the 380 steps through Alfriston Forest, and past the bag pipe player whose tune makes your hair stand up on end as you climb the steps as fast as possible breathing from the bottom of your lung as your legs get their first real taste of lactic acid. Shortly after the two London runners eased away from me and as much as I tried I knew that I would blow up trying to keep up. They ended up finishing together 6 minutes ahead of me and the female runner ended up 1st lady – I think made the right choice.


I intended to run up every hill from Birling Gap back to Beachy Head but failed. The last 6 miles of any Marathon hurts but this is insane, and as far as my blurry eyes could see runners were stumbling up the climbs or blowing up from going off too fast. If you’ve looked at the photos you’ll notice I seemed to have aged about 15 years from mile 12 to mile 25!

Now if you’ve seen the results you’ll notice myself, Andrew and Malcolm finished within a minute or so of each other, not far in terms of distance on terrain like this however it wasn’t until the last mile that we could actually see each other and the unexpected Arena competition hotted up. I bumped into Malcolm with the Seven Sisters ahead of us and didn’t see him again until he ran past me like I was walking… err I actually was with 1 mile to go. I did try and keep pace which the body wouldn’t allow but at this point I saw Andrew about 400m ahead. This spurred me on although it later turns out he saw me coming and also sped up. What he hadn’t realised was Malcolm was in disguise in a red running top! Malcolm passed Andrew with 1/2 mile to go to take the Arena honours.

Not long after crossing the line it was in for a quick and painful massage followed by a well deserved jacket potato with beans and the inevitable race post mortem with fellow Arenas. Great to also bump into the Arena ladies at the finish as we seemed to miss each other at the start.

Would I recommend? Yes, if you love trail running, hills and more hills or just fancy doing something different and testing yourself without worrying too much about split times and or miles per minute.

Of course a massive thanks has to go to the organisers and marshals as without them the event wouldn’t happen but I must also thank fellow Arenas, some that I haven’t even met, cheering out on course.

Roll on 2015…..

Marcus Escott

Arena Boys Hit Amsterdam

Pretty much our first experience of Amsterdam was the taxi driver from the airport to the expo telling us that he was a drug smuggler back in the day… but on to the running part. We arrived at the expo and had a look around, but the general consensus amongst us (me, Jim Watson, Kevin Martin, Mark O’Gara and Mark’s friend Sean) was that it was quite a poor expo compared to some of the others out there, including Brighton.

On the morning of the Marathon we met in the reception area of the Hotel at around 7:30am before making our way across the City to the Olympic Stadium. The queues to get in the stadium were quite long and after a detour through the queues, thankfully, we arrived at our starting pens with 5 – 10 minutes to spare.

The weather forecast throughout the week was pretty much true to form on race morning: 18 – 20 degrees and 90+% humidity.

Just before the start, I took a caffeine berry gel and an scap. Both of these were going to be crucial throughout the Marathon. The plan was to take a gel every 30 minutes up until 2 hours (I will do up until 2:30 next time), an scap every 45 minutes, a couple of shot bloks in the last 30(ish) minutes and some water and energy drink at every station.

Km 1 – 6:49 minute mile pace. Many people clearly started in the wrong pen and were going backwards at an alarming rate. This annoyed me slightly, as every second was possibly going to be of the essence. Despite the weaving and being held up by those going backwards, I was pretty much where I wanted to be and Jim, Kev and Mark were all in close proximity.

Due to the temperature and humidity, I was sweating a bit early on, which I often do when it’s warm. The next 4kms were 6:40, 6:44, 6:44 and 6:40 respectively, so that was the first 5k done in 21:26, which turned out to be my slowest 5k of the race. As the early kms passed, I was feeling comfortable. 10k – 42:26 (21:00). I think it was at some point during the second 5k that Jim and I lost touch with Mark and Kevin mainly due to the crowds.

The kms were effortlessly going by, but thankfully, Jim would occasionally reel me in, as I unintentionally picked up the pace. This part of the race was an out and back along the Amstel river where there was quite a strong head / swirling wind. 15k – 1:03:27 (21:01), 20k – 1:24:40 (21:13), halfway – 1:29:14, 25k – 1:45:29 (20:49). At this point, Jim and I were regularly overtaking people and perhaps that partly explains why the 25k and 30k splits, were the quickest of the race – 30k – 2:06:26 (20:57). It was at this point that Jim advised me to keep going and that he was going to drop off due to his recent back problem.

Thankfully, I was in the zone and my first 5k without Jim was on a par with all those that had gone before – 35k – 2:27:33 (21:07). Up until this point, I had felt comfortable. However, this was about to change albeit ever so slightly because most of the last 7+k were into a strengthening headwind. I decided to keep up the effort / put a little more effort in to keep the pace around the mid 6:50s.

40k – 2:48:55 (21:22). I went through 41k mark on the course and my Garmin showed 2:51:?? I calculated that unless I ran a near 9 minute mile, the sub-3 was mine and for the first time I allowed myself to believe it was possible, although many around me believed it was possible months or weeks ago and I thank those people for the faith / confidence in me.

My garmin beeped to signal 42k and at this point I told myself to pick up the pace a little, without sprinting, until the finish. I entered the Olympic Stadium with just under 300m to go and my average pace for the current km was 6:25, which was the quickest I had been. This pleased me at the end of a Marathon. I went through the finish line and shortly after had a subtle clenched fist moment to myself. My official time was 2:58:18

I waited in the finish area for Jim, Kevin, Mark and Sean. Jim came through shortly after and was pleased with his run and time considering the recent injury. Next to finish was Mark who was slightly confused with his time considering how training had gone and good he had felt in the lead up. Next in was Kevin – there was no hiding his disappointment, but to be disappointed with a sub-3:10 marathon shows how talented he is and how far he has come. Last in, but by no means least was Sean.

We headed back to the hotel to freshen up and head into town. The others treated themselves to some well-deserved beers while I stuck to the soft drinks. The overall census was that a great time was had in Amsterdam.”

Gary McKivett

British Masters XC Relay – Derby

The race was held next to Derby AC athletic track. The course was more interesting than many of the national XC events – a mixture of grass, short, steep hills and woodland trails.

Jenny ran a determined and respectable first lap. She was running against girls nearly 10 years younger than her and many clubs put their fastest runner first.
Caroline did second leg and thrived on the thrill of the chase, picking off runners one by one. By the time she handed over to Julie, Arena had moved from eighth to third place.
Julie sped past the second placed W45 girl after 100metres. She went on to run, subject to confirmation, the fastest W45 lap of the day, regularly overtaking girls in the W35 age group.

The Arena team finished in a comfortable second place, not far behind the winners, Bristol and West AC.


Next year, I would like to see Arena enter a W55 ladies team as well – I’m sure we could put out two very competitive teams.