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Peachy in Beachy

If there's one thing Beachy Head doesn't have, it's a beach, but it does have a marathon, so perhaps that makes up for it... Amanda ran much of it last year in rather drizzly fog, so she thought she'd have another go to see if she could see the scenery for a change.

Well, the view from our hotel the evening before is better than we had last year, so that's a good start. Maybe that's why the room cost more, although it's the same hotel and allegedly the same class of room, but then their pricing does seem a bit unpredictable. When Amanda first signed up to the race, the rate at the time was double what we paid last year, so we thought we'd hold off until a bit nearer the time. Lo and behold it did indeed drop, though not to the original point.

It's like an Oktoberfest beer tent, except that Oktoberfest is mostly in September. And there's no beer here. And Oktoberfest beer tents don't actually look like tents at all. Hmm... maybe that's not a very good simile... I know! It's like a Marathon registration tent!

She's down there somewhere I believe.

Here come the first guys up the hill. They are clearly on drugs. It is not physically possible for normal human beings to climb that hill so quickly.

Was there a piper last year? I don't remember seeing one, and checking back I don't have any pictures of one, so I think this must be a new-for-2017 innovation. Maybe they go the idea from Dr Rob, who does have a penchant for a piper on a peak.

Amanda with the mere mortals, as we look back over beautiful Eastbourne. Now Sally of SSP, taking the official photos, is on the other side, so she has a much more scenic backdrop; but then she won't want to pan around as one particular runner comes past which would mean pointing right into the sun, and there's only so much artistic lens flare we can take before it stops being artistic and just becomes a complete mess. This point-and-shoot malarkey gets complicated sometimes.

As the runners snake through the hills, I take to the road.

Now, last year things didn't go quite to plan initially, so this year I have a different plan. I've also got the advantage of Amanda's telemetry from then, so I know roughly when I should expect her at various points.

However, this plan gets a bit derailed too!

At a junction, I expect to turn left, but GPS says turn right. I zoom out, and see that it has indeed found a slightly shorter route than I was expecting, so I foolishly follow its robot command. A couple of minutes later, I realise it's trying to take me along the South Downs Way which is presently full of marathon runners! That's not going to work, so back to my original course I go.

That means I'm a few minutes late at my first planned rendezvous point, but Amanda had said that Claire paced her hard for the first 10k last year and this year she'd probably start a bit more gently, so maybe I'm still ok. But no, and I end up waiting too long to get to point B in time either :-(((

So what do you know, I finally see her for the first time at the same place as last year! Oh well, if she does it again, at least I'll know what to do next time.

Beyond the runners is the Rathfinny Wine Estate. I only know this because it appeared on Google Maps when I was doing my route planning, but looking it up online it turns out it only began operations in 2010 and the first vintage won't be on sale until next year. They are going to produce "Sussex Sparkling" - basically an English Champagne - and they certainly have high aspirations. From their website: "We established the Rathfinny Wine Estate in 2010 near Alfriston in the South Downs of Sussex, one of England’s exceptional natural landscapes, with the express intention of producing some of the world’s best sparkling wine."

We will need to test the degree to which they succeed in the not-too-distant future.

This time last year, all you could see here was murk, and it had started to rain.

Although, of course, the sun chooses to go in just at that moment I wanted the beautiful sunlit farmlands as my backdrop.

The runners run over the hill, but I've taken a flat route around it. Heh heh heh!

It's a great place to photograph the runners, so it's no surprise to find SSP's Tony set up here. I say that Amanda's told me that the place I really want to get to is where Anthony is, up on the top, so if I wait for her here, I'll never manage it. He agrees that it's a great location there, but apparently Anthony is doing nothing but complain about the cold and the wind :-)

So I begin my ascent, and I'm now quite high up, looking down through my long lens. Amanda tells me that as she passes Tony, he shouts "Your boy's up ahead!" and she thinks, "Oh bugger! That means I've got to climb that bloody hill to get my energy gel!"

Maybe the front runners were still running at this point, but nobody is now!

And Amanda isn't bucking the trend. I give her her gel - she's never quite believed that because they taste so bad they must be good for you - and she surges off into the distance. Ish. It's really only a surge by comparison with me on my bike, because however hard these hills are to run up, they're harder to cycle up!

Just how many of these <expletive deleted> things are there?!!!

They are steep enough that riding down at full speed is lethal, so there's only one place where I get up enough momentum to climb up the other side without stopping. Mostly it's grinding to a halt a few yards past the bottom and then push! It's undeniably pretty, but it's an awful lot like hard work, and while they say hard work never killed anybody, I'm not sure it's altogether worth the risk.

It's not until I can get back on the road that I stand a chance of catching Amanda again. But while the road is easier, it's all uphill, and the strong wind has me slightly nervous about being blown into a passing car. It doesn't help that the race has meant severe delays to a lot of motorists, and consequently not all of them are as relaxed and even-tempered as they could be. That means I'm concentrating on the road and don't see Amanda myself until she spots me and calls out.

But now at least I no longer have to worry about not getting to the finish before her, so long as I don't have any further delays.

I've deliberately not brightened this picture, because it shows very realistically how people are semi-silhouetted against the skyline, making them very difficult to recognise. Amanda is actually in this shot, but she's behind somebody who looks a bit like her in a similar-coloured top. I looked at this woman for a moment, thought, no, not her, and then didn't see the real Amanda until she was right on top of me.

Anyway, I grab the real Amanda's hand, and help her down the really steep bit that her knee gives her trouble with. Not that anybody finds this bit easy after everything that's gone before. At the start, somebody encouragingly shouted to the runners as they reached the top that this was the worst part over - until they had to go down it again.

Past the worst bit, she's taking it carefully but steadily.

And we're done! 5:18 chip time, which is not as fast as last year, but quite a number of people seem to think it's been a slower race overall, particularly in the second half. Certainly after the first few hours of quite decent weather, it got very cold and windy, especially out on the cliff top. In proportional terms, though, she's 208th of 869 women finishers as against 165th of 685 last year, so a fraction higher up the total field.

And I didn't get to see Anthony at the really good spot in the end. If I'd tried to stay on the path instead of the road, I wouldn't have stood a chance of getting back in time.

It's interesting to compare supporting this race with something like the (now defunct and sadly missed) Greensand marathon, where I would have to take the car. There's no way I could get anywhere on the bike quickly enough, because that route went mostly east-west and the roads go mostly north-south. By contrast, trying to drive anywhere around the Beachy marathon route is a complete nightmare, and many is the queue of cars I blithely pedalled past.

Around the back of the school canteen, there's this, err, posing area. I think they should have a picture of some famous runner's body with a cutout for your head, but maybe that's a bit too sophisticated for Eastbourne.

She's completely knackered but she's happy :-)

(Although we fear her hairdresser might not be happy if he could see what was under the beanie. It has not been a good hair day!)

And that's Beachy Head 2017. She only did it because last year was too foggy to see anything, so never again! (Maybe...)

Love to all,


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