[UPDATED November 13th, 2017 at 11:04 pm]
Whilst times, positions, PB’s, gender/age category positions and club records are all important, we should remember we are a club of mixed abilities and each runners’
story is an experience, special and unique and his/her race a challenge and an achievement. It is with this in mind, that the below report has been written.
Joan, Amanda and myself had already done a few longish runs together before we joined Andy Boorman and Michael Kennard to run Cheeky’s “No Country for Old Men” route. We ran it as many times in reverse, which bizarrely we agreed seemed quicker! It had been during these runs that we agreed we would all run Beachy Head together at a steady and constant pace. This was to be Joan’s first marathon as well as her first Beachy and it was also Andy’s first Beachy. Andy having maintained an injury free year of running was keen to continue this and Michael, having struggled with calf injury since his last marathon (Beachy) in 2012 was keen to just be able to run and complete 26 miles again.
So it was that we left Tunbridge Wells in darkness and at silly o’clock to get to Eastbourne. On the way down there was still much debate as to what layering/waterproofs might be needed, as only runners can fret about such things!! We arrived still in darkness but able to park close to HQ, having learned from previous years that it isn’t fun having a long walk to the car afterwards!!
We were all pleasantly surprised at the mild weather and absence of wind. We saw Mark ‘Flash’ jog by and we soon met up with Joan who had wisely travelled down the night before. In no time at all we were just minutes away from the gun start. Those of you familiar with BH, know that it is a pointless use of energy to attempt to run the hill at the start. We soon seemed to be going at quite a pace and the miles passed by comfortably. There was a large contingent of Maidstone Harriers who we overtook, but we wisely didn’t bring up the subject of the cancelled Half!!
At mile 4, the first check point, we all were happy and agreed it was just going to be a slightly longer Sunday run!! At mile 8, check point 2, we had the first sample of the choccie biscuits and Mars Bars, happy days!!
The weather was almost perfect and it wasn’t until we started to climb that the wind did pick up, but only a little and nothing to cause pain or hinder our good spirits and steady pace.
At mile 16, check point 4, we were greeted with music, a little muted this year, but still there and tea/coffee, buns and sausage rolls to give us the extra energy to tackle the dreaded “Stairway to Heaven” as a sign aptly said at the foot of the first set of steps. I did wonder where God and his angels were, but clearly they must have been busy shopping!!! Without my “ears” in I don’t know how much swearing or cursing might have been going on around me, however, I am not suggesting there was actually any, after all we were on the “Stairway to Heaven”!!!
Over the wall we went and across the road to the Seven Sisters Country Park before we started the serious ascent. Backaches, sore legs and toe nails had started to kick in, but for one in our group, none of the aforementioned seemed to apply. His drink clearly had magic sherbot in as he was skipping, jumping and imitating Billy Elliott’s moves!!
At around mile 18 or so we were able to get the official photographer to capture all five of us.
As we started the challenge of the ups and downs of the Seven Sisters, literally and metaphorically, the sun had come out to greet us. I must say given this was Joan’s first marathon and first BH she was amazing. She didn’t look phased and at one point as we climbed one of the Sisters, we discussed the drama of Downton and Lord Grantham’s perforated ulcer, who was going to die and would it be Lady Mary or Lady Edith who would be marrying!!! Apologies to those of you who have never watched Downton!!
We reached Birling Gap and knew that the last few miles would mean the steep incline up the side of the Golf Course. In previous years, I have found this torturous, but whilst it wasn’t easy, it certainly seemed less painful and traumatic.
We all managed to walk, run, chat and offer support/distraction and whilst I can’t speak for Amanda, Joan, Andy or Michael, I think they will agree that there were never any real dark times.
As we completed mile 25 and the time on the clock was fast approaching 5 ½ hours, we all wondered if we could just squeeze under. I can’t share with you what made Amanda find her supersonic running legs, but all of a sudden she was racing on and we were rushing to try and keep up with her!!! With the Finish in sight, the soft green carpet under foot and Joan’s friends screaming and cheering their support, we came hurtling down the hill that had seemed so steep at the start, to all cross the finish line in 5.28. Our last mile had been our fastest at 9.37!!! Joan completed her first marathon and achieved a PB and Amanda shaved off 12 minutes to gain a PB. Andy stayed injury free whilst completing his first BH, Michael completed his first marathon since 2012 and I finished my 13th BH having enjoyed the last few miles, albeit they are never easy.
To coin Derek’s phrase, “A great day out!!”
Will we be back next year, there is talk of a new challenge, a marathon none of us has done before, so watch this space!
814 – Amanda Paver – 5.28.48 PB
815 – Andy Boorman – 5.28.48
816 – Joan Woodward – 5.28.48 PB
817 – Ana-Maria Green – 5.28.50
818 – Michael Kennard – 5.28.49
Well done to the other Harriers who also ran, Mark Taylor, Lucille Joannes and Jane Roome.