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.
This is the first time I have the Northumberland Coastal marathon and it is now high up on my list of most scenic routes. The route is an out and back from Alnmouth to the river bridge just south of Beadnell. It mainly follows the Northumberland Coastal Run route, but with the vast majority of the road sections on trail instead. It passes the spectacular ruins of Dunstanburgh castle, the lovely seaside village of Craster and goes along some beautiful beaches.
There were only fifty five runners at the start line which is surprising since it is such a beautiful marathon. Amongst these 55, were Striders DaveR, JulietP and DavidB. The weather was a little cool and overcast at the start with a breeze which made for perfect running conditions. It did warm up a bit later as the sun came up but it never got too hot.
I ran the first half with Dave and it felt as if it was going well. The course was runnable which made it a challenge for us as we are used to courses with lots of hills that we walk up, we are not used to running constantly. At the halfway point Dave decided to slow a little and I went on ahead.
At mile 15 my knee started to hurt quite a bit and I slowed down but thankfully it eased off as I hit the firm flat sand. Up until mile 20 I was feeling pretty strong and enjoying the scenery. However I began to feel unwell with a slight headache and feeling sickly. It is not like me to feel sickly in a marathon and I thought it would just pass.
At mile 22 I caught up with Juliet and David and I ran the next 2.5 miles with them, however by now I was feeling pretty sick, my head was hurting quite a bit and I was generally feeling very tired. It was great to have Juliet and David’s company which kept me plodding on, rather than resorting to walking. Although my poor navigation skills did not help them. At one point I tried to send us all down someone’s back garden because I remembered at one point on the way out turning past some lobster pots, maybe not the best way to remember a route when in Northumberland and lobster pots are a common thing. Then we came to a confusing section in a caravan park, I thought I had remembered the way as Dave had showed me on the way out. However we ended up on the beach way too early and ended up having to clamber over lots of rocks to get back to where we needed to be. I guess it was a good distraction from feeling ill but I did end up adding nearly a quarter of a mile to our distance, sorry.
About a mile and a half from the end I told Juliet and David to go on ahead as I felt as if I might be sick and I needed to run/walk to the finish. They kept looking to back to make sure I was okay, so I had little rest walks but the thought that I would be seen walking in the last mile spurred me to run more than I would have done otherwise. Thank you Juliet and David for helping me get through those last four miles. I was very relieved when I crossed the finish line. It was only then I realised that I was feeling so unwell due to a migraine. I took some tablets then cheered Dave in at the end.
Dave and I had some food and I began to feel a lot better. We then joined Juliet and David in the pub for a quick drink before heading home.
It wasn’t until the next day that Juliet and David realised that they had both come first in their age categories. Well done you two!
I had really been looking forward to this marathon as I had been told it was one of the nicest marathons that you can do and I remember months ago booking it with Angela because John H had said he was going to do it and I was jealous – I don’t like to miss out lol.
Anyway as it turned out I started on my own (not that I would have been able to keep up with John or Angela anyway) and I knew that although I could probably keep up with Dave R, that if I did I would pay for it big style later on in the run. I also hadn’t done enough training having only ran a maximum of 15 miles in the last 2 months which is nowhere near enough for a marathon.
The weather was scorching and after a couple of miles I really thought that I might not make it. The terrain was really tough – sand then thin overgrown paths with nettles sometimes as high as your face (a bit like the summer BBQ run) and no shade from the sun. I was lucky enough though to meet a couple of other runners who I tagged along with and managed to stay with until the half way point. I told them to go on and leave me there as I really thought I would have to walk parts of the way back but Sharon said she would prefer the company. She was running the marathon for St James Hospital in Leeds and had raised £1500.
We got to about 15 miles and fortunately the weather had changed a little and the sun had gone in – what a relief that was. I was also suffering at this point from severe friction burns under my arms as I was wearing my striders vest and I have only ever worn it for short runs before. At one of the water stations I asked if they had any Vaseline but the only thing they could find was a lip balm stick. This belonged to one of the runners and I said I hoped they were going to tell him not to use it again on his mouth after it had been used on my armpits, but they said he would never know the difference!
We made it to the end in 5 hours and 44 – a bit slower than I had hoped but in the scheme of things, we ran the vast majority of the way, in the heat and with not enough training so I can only feel proud that I have now completed my eighth marathon and of course there is always next year to get a better time lol.
This is a beautiful course and a well organised event which is pretty easy to follow and not get lost (you know what my map reading skills are like) and I would definitely recommend it if you are interested in doing marathons. It is however nothing like a road marathon and definitely not a PB course.
The Chris Hills 10 in 10
Preparation for this race was marred by the passing of my lucky marathon pink pants. They were the only item of anything that has been a constant in all 15 (ish) marathons I’ve run so far, and when I hopped happily into them on race morning my foot went through the last threads and that was that. Without them I felt naked in the dark. Turns out I was, so I turned the lights on, put some new lucky pants on and went to make my porridge.
The race was really good, we started on the sand and pretty much hugged the coast line all the way round and back again, running on trails and bits on the sand. I’ve never done the Coastal Run, I had an entry three times but missed it each time as life always seems to get in the way. Now I can see why it is one of the most popular in the Striders Calendar. One to be enjoyed rather than raced though!
It was quite a hardy field; Dave Robson, lots of 100 marathon club members and a bunch of North East Marathon Club members, a lot of faces I have noticed from other races. I’d recommend anyone interested to check out the NEMC who also organise the (entirely road free) Town Moor and the Druridge Bay Marathons. Organised by runners for runners in the North East I hope they do get a Durham Marathon going. I did learn one thing at this race; that I’m certainly not yet in the same league as most of this field, half of who I saw in Derbyshire two weeks ago, my legs began to really hurt and I felt really rough for most of the last 10 miles.
Having said that my birthday Nikes have had a really hard life so far – Swaledale (not one of the 10 I know, but still a tough race), Coniston, Dovedale and now this – reckon there must have been 1400ft of climb over the first three of those races and this one was also a challenge but because of the terrain rather than the hills. Next up is Nottingham in 3 weeks – it will be nice to be amongst the crowds and glamour of a ‘Big Day Out’ Marathon, chance to take Mrs T for a weekend away as well!
One other thing about the day, my friend Chris’s mum came with me and my mum to spectate this race, they popped up at 3 different points of the course and she was waiting for me at the finish line with a pint. She did, however make the oldest mistake in the non-runners book; never ever give someone a hug the second they cross the finish line – gross!
||North Shields Poly
I love the Northumberland Coastal Run which is 14m from Beadnell to Alnmouth. So when the opportunity came up to run a marathon on roughly the same course out and back from Alnmouth, I jumped at it and I am glad I did. An added advantage was that it was almost all offroad and it took me down trails I hadn’t covered before.
A very small invited field of about forty including 100 marathon club members, locals and Anna Seeley and myself. Phil Owen was there supporting on his mountain bike and as is almost inevitable when Phil is around we had a sunny day. We started with a slight cooling breeze, but that developed in the second half which made it tough. It also got warmer and I was resorting to pouring a bottle of water over my head at the checkpoints. However, I seemed to dry out in about five minutes.
I had spent four and half hours on a mountain bike the day before and as I expected, I ran out of steam. This was at about 18m and I ran/walked from there. The scenery in the sunlight was just awesome. I managed to come in under 5 hours so I was happy with that. Anna finished not far ahead of me
One of the advantages of a small field is it increases your chance of a prize and I won my age category ! It’s only the second time I have ever done that
I will definitely do this one again