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…..