Northumberland Coastal Marathon and Half Marathon, Alnmouth, Sunday, August 13, 2017

Matt Claydon

Another fantastic, scenic, sensibly priced race from the North-East Marathon Club. The full distance takes you from Alnmouth Beach along the coastal path passing Boulmer, Craster, Dunstanburgh Castle and Low Newton Sands up to Long Nanny Bridge, where after a short run on the beach the course returns to Alnmouth along the same route. The half marathon follows the same route to Craster then returns back to Alnmouth.

The beautiful setting can be deceptive as this can be a tough run. Last year I undertook the marathon with the hope of bettering my time of 3.52 from 2010. After a solid run for the first half I fell apart on the way back finishing an hour later than planned. The sand can be particularly energy-sapping when soft underfoot and the paths provide a mixture of surfaces, often undulating and occasionally littered with rabbit holes. It is easy to take your eye off the path at the wrong time to soak up the landscape and come a cropper. That said it is one of my favourite.

I arrived a couple of hours before the race started and was rewarded with a fantastic view:

Anna, Catherine and Alex had entered the full distance and set off an hour before me. So early that the tide was too high to begin at the usual place and the start line had to be moved further up the beach. This year I opted for the half as it was soon after Outlaw. I hoped it would be a breeze by comparison, but this is rarely the way of things. Shorter distances require a faster pace and are thus more exhausting, but with a PB in mind (dreamland) I set off with the front runners. The ridges in the sand caused by the retreating tide were surprisingly uncomfortable to negotiate and it was a relief to get up on to the path and settle into a rhythm. Within the first couple of miles three of us were maintaining a very good pace and had broken away from the field. Although I knew I couldn’t possibly sustain the pace for the duration I was hoping they would tire also. One of the side effects of Outlaw is a real sense of ‘I can do anything’. Although often a false hope I have adopted this positive approach to all endeavours since and enter races with the intention of trying to win them, or at least PB, however improbable.

We kept together until around half way, but as we opened and shut the many gates for each other along the path I had a moment of indecision and after leaving a gate open for the next runner (some distance behind) I ran on, had a change of heart, and ran back to close it (the Country Code was drummed in to me in childhood). This was sufficient time for a gap to open up between myself and the leaders that I could never close. It also meant the 4th place runner had gained on me. After unsuccessfully putting in a few surges to try and claw back some ground I accepted defeat and settled down to run my own race and try to ensure I didn’t lose a podium spot. I passed the place where I had collapsed with agonising cramp in last year’s marathon and grinned to myself- it felt good to still be going strong and be so close to the finish.

Over the last couple of miles I inevitably tired and he reeled me in. Others were also catching me but I made it to the line in 4th and luckily 1st M40.