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Beachy Head – John Tovell reports back from this ‘Brilliant’ event

‘This was brilliant in so many ways.  The fact that the event welcomes walkers as well as runners means an extended cut-off time of nine hours and a more relaxed vibe, as well as more substantial food offerings at the aid stations along the way. As well as flapjacks and Mars bars (cut into convenient one inch chunks), there were hot cross buns (quartered) and sausage rolls at the later stations.  Strava tells me that I spent a total of twenty minutes at aid stations in total! Full marks to the friendly marshals who were on station in the cold for a very long time.

John Beachy Start.jpg

Although the event took place in uninterrupted sunshine the whole day, it was cold and windy.  I was glad that I decided to supplement my Sandhurst Joggers vest with an extra two layers plus buff, hat, gloves and tights. Lining up at the start, it was 3°C but the penguin effect kept me warm.  The start is famous for the climb that follows immediately afterwards. What with the climb and then funnelling the 3,000 participants into a narrow track, the first mile took 17 mins.  Once up on the Downs, we enjoyed a succession of spectacular views, first over the country to the north, then later south towards the sea.  It is the views that really are the stars of the event. The Cuckmere river views are remarkable because, for me at least, it was the first time I have used the words ‘ox bow lake’ since doing geography O-level at school.

John Beachy profile.jpg

I managed to miss all the Sandhurst Joggers at the start but met-up with almost everyone either along the route or at the end. I ran with Richard Boese for a while but, since he seemed to know all the other runners and wanted to chat for a couple of minutes with each, I eventually pushed on by myself down to Cuckmere Haven and on to the Seven Sisters. Reviewing the course profile before the event, the Seven Sisters look like small mounds compared to the hills already surmounted. But although they are not very high, they are very steep and very energy-sapping on both the up and the down.

John Beachy downhill

The finish involves a painful clamber down the same slope that we started up, then a 50 yard ‘sprint’ for the line, claiming the lovely medal and a beetroot (!) energy bar. But that is not the end of the goodies – the event provides a meal in a school canteen right next door to the finish line. This consists of a baked potato, a sausage, baked beans, then rice pudding and tinned fruit salad. Sitting down to eat this with other runners is a great way to socialise and relax after the race.

John Beachy prom.jpg

So, congratulations to Eastbourne Borough Council for organising a fantastic event.  Never again will I poke fun at Eastbourne for being ‘God’s waiting room’. In the Beachy Head Marathon, they have an event which in my view is on a par with the Grizzly.’

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