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Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon – a scenic pan-flat course with ‘varied’ ground conditions… and wind! Lisa Hale reports

So I discovered this race a few years ago, while looking to fill the gap in January and February where there were very few marathons about!  Since being dragged down to Bognor for day trips in the Christmas holidays as a child by my hardy parents…I’ve always quite enjoyed the bleakness of the coast in the winter!  I’ve run a few events organised by Believe & Achieve, who do a number of running, cycling and adventure races throughout the year in the Portsmouth area, and they are always good value, good fun and friendly, with their coastal marathon the week before Christmas being permanent fixture in my race calendar.

They always throw a bit of a quirky twist on their events, with last year’s medal being very much ‘love’ themed with a rose bearing mermaid, due to the event falling on Valentine’s day.  This year they held a tribute to George Michael…with every mile marker featuring one of his hits.  I was informed that there were a few ‘Careless Whispas’ despatched in random goody bags, but sadly was not a recipient of one…though there were some Wham bars floating around, and a medal big enough to eat your dinner from made up for it!


The course starts on the seafront, taking you down the promenade past the pier, taking in the best that winter’s coastal winds can throw at you!  You then follow a loop taking you out and back across the dubiously titled ‘best muddy beach in Portsmouth!’

It’s a pan flat course, described as ‘very multi terrain’ which is pretty accurate, choice of shoes is always a dilemma with the course throwing everything from path and pavement to stones, sand and shingle, with (weather depending!) a ‘Bog of Doom’ through a field at the finish.  For anyone training for the Grizzly…get your shingle training in here!  It’s very weather dependant, and being a bit of a wimp in the cold and wet I decided to treat it as part of a marathon training run, saving my race head for another day, and enjoying the support from the well wrapped locals, and high fiving children on the way round, though if the wind is in the right direction, (or there’s someone sturdy enough for you to draft behind!) there is an opportunity for a speedy sprint finish back down the prom!

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