Firstly I have to say that I have trained my socks off for the Beachy Head marathon this year as I was determined to finish in less than 6 hours so I would appear in the Results (they don't record finishing times of over 6 hours and in my previous attempts I have done 6:10 and 6:04). To this end I applied a self-imposed ban on taking photos as I ran the course as I always waste loads of time stopping to take photos. There are plenty of photos on my blog of the event last year here to get a feel for the beautiful scenery.
I was up at 5am and out feeding the horses and bunnies by torchlight and the stars were twinkling beautifully. It was cold and frosty and perfect conditions really as the forecast was for sun later but with South Westerly winds. You expect strong winds up on the South Downs anyway so that wasn't a worry. It's always tough working out what to wear though and eventually I settled on shorts and a lightweight long-sleeved top with a gilet on top to carry my paraphanalia.
Although the race doesn't start until 9am I made sure I arrived in Eastbourne well before 8am so I could nab one of the free parking spaces about 1/2 mile from the start (I like to be a short walk away so that I stretch out my legs a bit after I finish running).
As I was walking towards to Start area I passed a man who I thought I recognised and he said "Is that our Redhead?" to which I had to respond by asking who he was - I knew his nickname but you can hardly walk up to someone and ask if they are Captain Wonderpants now can you?!
We had a chat for a while. He's much further down the hill to madness than me and he was going to a do 12 hour track event in Crawley the next day too!
There was the usual jazz band playing at the start. It was still quite nippy so they were well wrapped up. I had a chat with several people from the Runner's World forum (Fat Buddha, Petal, One Blue Leg, Patsy) and then it was time for the off.
This is the first hill we scramble up and the photo doesn't really capture just how steep it is. There are some steps but they are worn and slippery so I scrambled up the grass, which was also slippery! The people in the photo out on the course already are walkers. They can start earlier than the runners/joggers so that they have a chance of finishing in daylight.
When you get to the top of the hill the course climbs on to the right and as it starts to level out there is always this highland piper (yes, OK, I did stop to take his photo again this year and to give him a clap as a thank you).
Then it was just a case of getting my head down and getting on with it. Up hills, down hills, chalk paths, rutted paths, muddy puddles (more than in previous years), slippery grass slopes up and down. I was running well and feeling strong. The sun came out fully and it was warm although I was glad of my long-sleeves when I was up on the high bits as the wind was biting. I passed the Seven Sisters with loads of time to spare and was well on course for sub 6 hours.
I chatted with lots of people en-route and was entertained by a couple of men and their black labrador who were running it for the first time. The dog was having a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed himself - he even got his own medal at the end but I didn't manage to get a photo of him as I was carrying my stuff back to the car as they passed me.
Well, the marathon is unforgiving and anything can happen at any stage. I'd been dreading slipping in the mud, tripping over tree roots or twisting my ankle on the loose flints but I hadn't counted on getting cramp in my right hamstring (related to the problem I had a couple of months ago and obviously aggravated by the conditions under foot). So it was that when I reached Birling Gap with only 4 miles to go, I had to resign myself to run/walking the last bit.
The last mile is all downhill so I managed to run/limp all of that but the final bit is down the hill we climbed at the start and it's very steep so I had to do a sideways limp down that then sprinted across the finish line in 6:15. That's where my quote comes in:
"I must go down to the seas again............" to get a sub 6 hour time for the Beachy Head marathon! Ho hum, the best laid plans etc etc.
At least I got another medal to add to my pile. You can tell how windy it was from my race number as it's all torn and battered (it's made of plastic rather than the usual paper ones for that very reason).
Anyway, I've got 6 weeks to sort out this hamstring problem before my last marathon of the year in Hastings in December so I've booked myself some deep tissue massage with Mary Massage Lady to try and get to the bottom of the problem. Although the Hastings marathon will be hilly in parts it is run on the roads so is a totally different animal. I wonder what time I'll do there...............