A ruddy big hill

Whenever I’m away somewhere I always like to fit in a run.

Not only is it a new location on my running ‘map’, but it provides a welcome change from the same old same old and, I find, is a great way to explore the area on foot.

And so it proved with this run along the Eastbourne seafront out to Beachy Head.

I was over visiting my daughter and, try as I might, I couldn’t convince her of the benefits of a 6am run!

So out I went on my own. A really lovely morning, the rain that had been forecast didn’t materialise, the rising sun was reflecting beautifully off the English Channel … I started my run at the Redoubt Fortress heading in the direction of the pier with my ultimate destination shrouded in grey away in the distance.

It does make you appreciate and respect just how far you do run when something you know to be 2.5 miles away seems so far off.

Being a tourist and living nowhere near the coast I stopped every few minutes along the seafront to take a quick picture. Hey, I’m an old romantic at heart and I appreciate a good bit of scenery when I see it.

Plus, I knew a much tougher challenge lay in wait at the turning point of my run, the start of the Beachy Head Marathon.

Now, I know I came last in my most recent trail race but there is something about Beachy Head that calls out to me so I just had to see for myself.

I should stress at this point that I’m very aware for what Beachy Head is more well known for, that wasn’t my intention but maybe, having had struggles of my own, I have a certain empathy with what happens there. Who knows?

But, for this run, the draw was to see for myself the start of the marathon. I’d seen videos and it looked horrendous. Surely it wouldn’t be as bad in real life.

My first challenge was just to get up to the start in the first place. I had run along the seafront as far as the path would take me. With it being sea level, I had a wee climb ahead of me to get Duke’s Prep School from which the race started.

I say ‘wee climb’ but it was every bit as steep as Princes Street at home, only twice as long and with a couple of nasty little kicks along the way.

That successfully negotiated at a gentle pace – no sprinting this time – the beast that is the start of the marathon lay in wait.

Gulp.

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I reckoned the hill was at a 45 degree angle, a challenge made all the more tricky given it’s on grass.

Undeterred I knew I had to have a go at it. Only that first hill, mind, not any further. If I couldn’t get past the start there’d be no point entering the race in the future.

It. Was. Difficult. But, somehow, I managed it much to my surprise and delight. It was muddy and slippy but I knuckled down and got to the top.

What goes up and all that … the descent was much more of a challenge. Looking from the top down it seemed so much steeper, the people at the bottom looked tiny and it appeared as if the entire south coast was laid out in front of me.

Yet, I knew I had to do it. I had no choice.

Being slippy going up is one thing, going back down was a wholly different proposition.

I had to choose my footing so so carefully, not only to avoid landing on my arse and sliding all the way to the bottom but, being honest, to not look like a Grade A pillock to those people gathered at the bottom whom I had convinced myself had appeared from nowhere having spotted me and were looking some early morning entertainment at my expense.

“Why do I get myself into these positions?”

I don’t know how I did it but I managed to reach the bottom my pride intact. Maybe not my dignity, though, because there were a few close calls!

Feeling a wee bit smug I then coasted the rest of the way back to my B&B, grateful to have tarmac below my feet instead of grass and mud.

Having taken a look at it will I now enter the race? Maybe the 10k version, at least the first time. Despite the obvious difficulties the event presents it remains an itch I’ll have to scratch one day.

Relive my run

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Recovery, recovery, recovery …

Very much a recovery run tonight like, I’d imagine, much of the club!

Due to time constraints I only went with the 30s although, in order to get some extra distance in, I ran up and ran home again so ended up doing four miles in total which I was happy enough with.

As with last week, the 30s was quite a large group so it was decided to split them in two again. One group set off for Ecos whilst the other stayed in the town centre … I elected to go with the latter because I knew I couldn’t complete the full run with them tonight, and I could break off when it was convenient and run the rest of the way home.

The majority of the group was comprised of recent graduates from the club Cosy Sofa programme but that didn’t necessarily mean it was an ‘easy’ run. Indeed, the route took us along Princes Street which, as ever, we were given the freedom to tackle how we pleased and which, as I’m wont to do, I ran up as hard as I could … although after Larne on Saturday it suddenly didn’t seem as daunting as before!

All told, a pleasant little outing and good to use to loosen up the legs.

The rest of the week will see a slow run tomorrow with Iverene (depending on work), and then at least one run in Eastbourne when I’m over visiting my daughter. Nothing too strenuous or taxing though.

Oh … and I entered the Dublin Marathon today. Eek!

Relive my run

Larne Half Marathon 2018

What an amazing day! That’s really the only way to sum up today’s Larne Half Marathon. It was the second of my 18 half marathon’s challenge this year, and my first at ‘home’.

After doing so well in London earlier this month, and in Belfast a week ago (albeit that was a 10k) I had a bit of a wobble the day before.

I was worried that my bubble had burst, that my recent good form wouldn’t last and that I would struggle given, numbers wise, this was a much ‘smaller’ event. I wouldn’t have the crowds supporting from the sideline, and I wouldn’t have the same number of fellow runners around me out on the course.

Silly Martin.

In the end, all of those fears were unfounded.

I travelled to the race with my usual running crew, namely Iverene, Judith and Parveen. For Iv and Parv this was their first half marathon and whilst Judith is no stranger to the distance she, by her own admission, hadn’t trained. So we all had our own worries, but it was good during the journey to get them out into the open and I think it helped each one of us.

Arriving at the start line, there were around 100 members of the club milling around and it was good to chat and meet up with old friends etc., – all an important part of the nerve settling process.

The start was delayed almost 25 minutes due to an accident somewhere on the outskirts of the town which led to some busloads of runners not being able to get there in time, but once we did get going Iverene and I very quickly started running beside each other – and proceeded to keep each other company for the entirety of the race.

To me, this was invaluable. We had trained together, and had experimented running in heart rate zones although this often amused us because we kept running too fast despite trying not to.

And so it proved today as well. Completing the first 5k in around 33 minutes we knew this was an unsustainable pace. So we tried to slow it down. We tried walking for short spells in an attempt to reset our speed … but, no, every time we started running we quickly went too fast again! We even attempted to tuck in behind some other runners and use them to ‘pace’ us, but pretty quickly we were drifting past them.

This would have been ok over a shorter race, or in slightly less summery conditions, or in a race without a ruddy great hill slap bang in the middle that we had yet to reach!

At some point I was convinced I was going to blow. But it never came.

This much feared hill, that we had heard lots of stories about, was indeed a fairly substantial climb – a little under two miles long – and did slow us down.

It came just after the 10k mark and, to give you an indication as to my pace at that stage, I was just a fraction off my PB at that point which, in light of the heat, was quite good going!

But we did need to slow down, so the hill served a purpose in that regard although, with hindsight, it was a little too long and ultimately put paid to my chances of setting a PB at the finish.

With the climb conquered, it was back down the other side and onto the coast road that we had ran along a little earlier. Apart from being flat, it also brought a welcome breezy relief from the unexpected heat.

Our earlier exploits began to catch up on us a little, so we decided to indulge in a bit of ‘Jeffing’ ie: run/walk and settled into a sequence of two minutes running/30 seconds walking for the last 5k or so.

This proved to be quite successful and whilst not at the pace from earlier in the race we still weren’t too far away from it. I knew we couldn’t have maintained that, but to get fairly near to it in the latter stages of the race was pleasing.

In the end we finished just over 90 seconds outside my London time which is pretty good taking the heat and the hill into account, and is now my second fastest competitive half marathon.

Once finished, we waited to cheer Judith and Parveen home as well as the runners from not only our club but others too whom we passed out on the course. That’s the thing about running, you get to ‘know’ people who you’ll not see again apart from at the next race but whom you’ll support every bit as much you would a close friend … and you know they’ll do the same for you.

Thanks, Iverene, for your company today and for sharing your birthday run with me. Thanks, also, to Parveen and Judith for your support before and after the race. We’re a little team, and it’s a pleasure to train with you. Bring on the next one!

Speaking of which, as I said at the outset, this was my second half marathon this year. I’m planning on doing 18 (18 in 2018?), as a personal challenge but also, as a Type 2 Diabetic, to show what is possible and to hopefully inspire others who are carrying too much weight and who fear they’ll not be fast enough to take up running.

As well as awareness, I’m hoping to raise a little bit for Diabetes UK as they provide vital support and fund further research into the condition. If you would like to donate you can find my JustGiving page here.

Relive my run