Friends don’t let friends do stupid things alone do they? So when a group of Mudd Queens mentioned signing up for Beachy Head marathon I suggested to my friend Emma we should do the same and so just like that we did. It was months ago and seemed like we had an eternity to train and get prepared for it. But my god did it come around quickly!
I am still being treated for an injury and so is Emma and I think both of us were thinking this would not happen and the closer it got the more we tried to ignore it. We knew it was a tough course and we knew from others that there is a lot of the course most people walk, mostly because of the climbs and so we decided we would give it a go and see how we got on. I was terrified if I am honest – this was ambitious.
The game plan was to walk the uphills, jog the downhills and to jog/walk the flat sections. I had seen the pictures of the start and new it was uphill almost immediately but until you get there and start that uphill you don’t realise it goes uphill and then round the corner uphill some more and then still there is more to come, just up and up. So within the first mile I was really rethinking my life choices and wondering if this was the one stupid idea I’d had that was a step too far.
It started really congested and took quite some time to spread out. The run is all trails and takes on grass, mud, woodland, rocky paths, chalky paths and stairs – as if it was not hard enough there were a number of sets of stairs. One set of stairs was called stairway to heaven – I would have called it stairway to hell only it was definitely going up and up and up.
The first check point came quicker than we realised and Emma and I found ourselves high-fiving for getting to 4.4 miles (yeah I know 4.4 into 26.2 was nothing but it felt like a small victory). The second checkpoint at 8.8 miles and we stopped shortly after the 10 mile mark in a pub to use the toilets. I was surprised that up until this point there had not been a single portaloo and I’m not too posh to pee in a bush if I need to but this was quite open so not many places to hide!
At the 10.6 mile mark Emma told me not to look up. I looked up. I wish I hadn’t. It was of course another hill and the marshal at the foot of it said we were doing great and wished us good luck. Emma and I looked at each other and I think it was then that we both realised this was hard and we had 16 miles left. We went up that hill in silence after we had eaten some more mars bar from the check point and laughed at Emma’s now very large swollen hand (just the one hand always swells – and no that is no a mini mars bar that is just how big her hand had gotten).
The next check point was 12.2 and we knew we were almost at the halfway point. That should have made me feel better but it didn’t as I was thinking wow I have to do all that again. What I didn’t realise was that the second half was harder.
Checkpoint 16.7 came and as we approached we could hear music and this was definitely the fun check point – a live band, sausage rolls, soup and porta loos – never have I been so pleased to see a porta loo! This was also the stop we saw two ladies who were supposed to be doing the 10k but started with the marathon wave and just followed. I am not quite sure how they didn’t hear the announcements at the start or how they missed the sign where it splits or how you get to 16.7 miles and only then realise you are on the wrong route. Fair play to those ladies who carried on and I really hope finished!
Emma and I had decided that we would hit a high and get our second wind once we hit the 20 mile mark. The 20 mile mark was part way up yet another giant hill but it was still 20 miles in and still cause for a celebration in between catching breaths. Another check point and hot cross buns and tea and coffee on offer too! We were on the final stretch but my god did they make us work to get to that finish line. The last 6 miles seemed to go on forever. These were where we met the seven sisters or how I now call them the seven bitches.
The views were spectacular especially along the coastal part. It stayed dry and although it was bright the cold wind was savage.
The hills absolutely sapped all energy and life from my legs – the plan of walk/jog the flats soon turned to walk on legs that were getting more and more stiff. I couldn’t have made myself jog some parts even if I wanted and accepted that on some of the climbs even on a good day there would have been no way I would have been running them. It was the first running event I had been to that was more a walking event for the majority of the field of participants. We managed lots of laughs and smiles though – Emma is a much stronger runner than me and I am very grateful that she stayed with me for this event!
We must have spent several miles discussing in detail what we were going to eat that night. It was going to be an Indian and this was what was keeping us going too. I should note there was only one Indian within hobbling distance of our hotel Saturday night and they had no tables! I am pleased I didn’t know this whilst on the event as I may have given up all hope.
I think I lost part of my soul somewhere on the seven bitches and when a fellow participant announce at 23 miles that we had 6 miles left I almost cried. The final 1.2 miles saw us try and get a jog on. My calves and quads had almost fully seized up by now and although my jog was probably as quick as most peoples walk I was surprised I made myself do it until I could hear the tannoy and as we started the descent I could see the finish. Whilst I’m on the subject of walking – some of the participants out there with the walking sticks, man they are quick! I came to hate the sound of those sticks though as it meant I was being overtaken by a power walker or some of them used them like skis and I was scared of being whacked by one! I was going to finish this! I did not appreciate with 100m or so to go the spectator telling me to sprint finish – I was pleased at this point I was still walking, there was absolutely no chance of a sprint!
This was my longest distance I have ever covered, first marathon, first experience of Beachy Head and I can safely say never again. Ever. It was absolutely not quick and it was in no way pretty but we got it done. We completed Beachy Head Marathon. Shortly after the event Emma tagged me in a post that said ‘there is nothing more beautiful than when you prove to yourself just how strong you are’ and although initially disappointed with how much this course took it out of me and my finish time, I am proud of what I achieved, what we achieved together. This was not about a time, this was to complete it.
It was also my first experience of running with a hydration vest/backpack, which I got from Decathlon and it was awesome – didn’t even think about it being on and was so comfortable. I also used my Craft Fuseknit top I was given to review and it was perfect, super comfy, and I didn’t feel too cold or hot – if it ticked the boxes for this event I think it will tick all the boxes for any events I have in future!
Emma and I have now made an agreement that in future when one of us says shall we….. that we just interject with no. We have silly ideas and each of us always says yes sure lets do it.
Getting up on Sunday was interesting as my ankles didn’t seem to want to bend so getting out of bed and to the loo was a monumental effort and on the way back it was easier to just faceplant the bed than try and lift my legs and climb up. Think of the lyrics from the Ed Sheeran song ‘when your legs don’t work like they used to before’ well that’s me. Today was no different, please send help – my legs hate me and I would like to say sorry to them but assure them I will never do this again! Kudos to all those who run marathons and hike miles. If you’ve not done it before and my post doesn’t totally put you off the entries for next year are now open and you can sign up here.