Another month, another marathon (or something like that). Whether it’s a safety blanket, confidence-building or just pure madness, I’m working on getting comfortable with distance once again. Then I may throw in some speedwork for fun. So when I heard that my friend was doing Beachy Head Marathon, I couldn’t resist going along for the ride.
What is the Beachy Head Marathon?
Situated near Eastbourne, Beachy Head is a spectacular chalk sea cliff which has an infamous reputation as a suicide spot. Despite the tragic association with what is arguably the highest chalk headland in Britain, the 26.2-mile route is anything but gruellingly glorious. I actually think the former name, the Seven Sisters Marathon, is way more appropriate. For this off-road trail marathon (the website says it’s one of the biggest) takes you right through the heart of the South Downs National Park.
Starting and finishing outside Bede’s School, Eastbourne, you’ll pass through fields, valleys, the pretty Sussex village of Alfriston (I think!) and then finish with an astounding stretch of coastline. Exposed to the wind off the sea, the final 10K could be pretty brutal if the weather doesn’t play ball. Thankfully, it was a stunning autumnal day.
One of the biggest off-road marathons
That’s not to say it wasn’t a difficult race. And while it was super-well organised with plenty of checkpoints, volunteers and support along the way, the sheer number of people (over 1,000) made it difficult to get ahead of the crowds. You had to slow down at certain points because there was a bottleneck on the trail. Running downhill was also tricky as you were surrounded by other runners. If anything, Beachy Head Marathon is a good one in terms of teaching you about etiquette and awareness of others.
Followed by a medal and a meal
Besides the stunning route, well-organised course and friendly competitors, the Beachy Head Marathon also had some welcome surprises. All competitors received a medal at the end and a hot meal (jacket potato with beans (or sausage and beans) and dessert). You could also have a shower at the school if you wanted, and you could also get a sports massage.
Despite the early start (5am to get to Balham for 6am) and my lack of training (hey, I’d been in China for two weeks) I thoroughly enjoyed the Beachy Head Marathon. I think it will definitely be one to test me next year. And at just £36, it’s a great value winter marathon to keep you on the right training path.