Get the excuses in early
Last time I ran a marathon was back in November 2018 in Athens. After that I rested for a bit apart from the C25K group, finally getting going again in December when I went on holiday for Christmas in Tenerife.
Currently I’m in training for my big Summer ultra, however I’ve not got into the big weekend run stage yet so the furthest I’d been up until Sunday was 13 miles around the Box Hill/Denbies area with the wonderful Michele.
Ideal prep then for a flat easy marathon. Shame that the Portland Coastal Marathon is none of those things. It’s not even a marathon, it’s 27 miles long!
I blame myself
Which is just as well, because it was.
Ear, you’re not wearing those are you
Myself, Darren, JK and Lewis assembled in the start hanger around 8.15. The others stayed in Portland but being reasonably local I drove down to meet them. The weather was less than ideal but what else can you expect in February.
Yes, I was wearing bunny ears and a tail. The RD said I’d be lucky if the locals didn’t shoot me. Portland has a big thing about not saying the R word.
I had brought my poles to try them out in a race for the first time but got told they were not allowed and that it was in the race briefing. Fair enough, their race, their rules and I should’ve read the instructions.
So, with the Fantastic 4 assembled, fully headscarved, hatted and bunnied we set off at 9. It was raining and we soon hit bastard hill number 1. Muddy and slippy until half way up where to much relief there are some slabs to use for traction. At this point Darren slowed down a bit which, given the hard 33 mile race in snow a week earlier, was no surprise.
We continued on through the rain and wind, traversing steep steps and downward climbs we knew would hurt on the return. Then we hit Portland Bill and the wind just got insane.
Blow me down
Shortly after rounding the lighthouse you go up a muddy track by the cliffs (normally grass, but this time of year mostly mud). The wind was so strong that at a couple of points we were showered by up-draughts of water from the sea hitting the cliffs below.
On the way back it was even worse. The mud was slipperier and churned up and the wind was a lot stronger, to the point we were nearly getting pushed over. All you could do was laugh, it was so nuts.
This is the road to hell
Eventually, after more steps, clifftop runs and a really steep slippy descent you find yourself near the start. Except you’re not because you have to head up (battered by a headwind) and down the Causeway to get halfway, turn around to do the course in reverse so you then go up (battered by a headwind) and down the Causeway before heading up the Big Hill again. We met Darren on the way back and he had decided to stop at halfway, a wise decision given the exertion of the previous week. Our halfway turnaround was about 2 hours 30. At 3 hours they pull you in.
We hated that Causeway and actually put a quick mile in just to get off the damn thing. I had to put music on to get through it but then Pitbull, who persists on my playlist despite my attempts to delete him, came on and ruined the moment. Twat.
At least when you get to the end of the Causeway you’re 15 miles in. Big Hill was a killer and then slog on round to Portland Bill.
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
It wasn’t raining anymore but the wind was worse. Once turning the corner at the Lighthouse the weather actually got really nice and sunny so the only picture I have of the route, just before the steps of doom, makes it looks like we had a nice flat sunny seaside run! We were pretty damn tired at this point and anything like a hill was walked.
Lots of swearing on the last big hill and steps but had a Chas and Dave singalong to get through the last slog before we hit the descent down into town. Then it’s a short way to the finish. Made it in under the cut-off of 6 hours in around 5 hours 48.
The medal and buff, both with a map of Portland, are a lovely touch and the marshals clap you in. In fact the marshals all the way round were brilliant. Bustinskin have a done a great job here.
The ears and tail survived the journey too, I didn’t get shot (bonus) and crossed the line to a particular Chas and Dave classic with a bunny theme!
Of course I won’t be back
It’s really tough and I’m really not marathon fit in Feb normally. It was hard and, quite honestly, without the company of JK and Lew it would have been awful. As it was it was a great fun in a twisted way because it was so horrible and someone else was sharing that. We kept each other going and had a laugh. Could not have asked for a better crew on a race day then Darren, JK and Lewis.
If you fancy a go then do it for a challenge, but do it with others and you’ll have a far better time of it.
Just don’t say Rabbit.