#289 - Portsmouth Coastal Marathon

Marathon #289. Portsmouth Coastal Marathon done! Very pleased with 3:49 on a very muddy and sloppy course, semi lucky with the weather, 24 hours of rain stopped about 10 minutes after the start, but did mean very wet feet! Great to see just about all the usual suspects, seemed that anybody who is anyone was there! Congrats to Jim Murray on # 100, couldn't find you at the finish! Thanks to Lisa Hewitt & Ellen Cottom for the hospitality and post race goodies!


Portsmouth Coastal Marathon is the largest marathon in Winter in the UK, especially now since the demise of Luton (possibly) and Gloucester (probably) there really isn't any decent sized event on from November till March, this means that basically everybody is at Portsmouth and as its a straight out and back course that means you get to see everyone on the route which is nice. Less nice is it being along the coast in December on a "mixed terrain" course which is probably 50% decent surfaces and 50% potentially muddy if its wet surfaces. The day before the heavens opened rather making a mockery of the last pre-race email promising a "couple of puddles" Ho, ho, ho I thought, they've taken a rosie eyed view of the impending weather forecast! We came down the day before to see a couple of Rachel's old University friends and then stay with Ellen & Lisa so that meant a nice lay in! Mind you, when greeted by thunder and lightning, we weren't optimistic about staying very dry! Being the fourth time we'd done this we knew the on-site parking (which is close but an expensive £8.50 would soon fill up we got there at about 0745 and parked 20 yards from the race HQ, 30 minutes later and it was stuffed to the gills, a bit like the Pyramid Centre. The event appeared to have over 1600 entries this year and it wasn't long before it was squashed as anything in there, even more so when the rain started falling. I felt sorry for those a bit late with the bag drop or to pick up their number trying to wade through a sea of humanity. The event has clearly outgrown the venue.


About ten minutes before the start the heavens opened up, again, so everyone was wedged in the pyramid centre and was rather surprised when a few minutes before 0900 I hear that everyone is off! Look out side and indeed off they are going, that certainly caught 100s of runners out but as it was chip timed it was no big deal and we zipped down to the start and off we went.

I was feeling OK and with the stiff breeze behind us all I knew a fast first couple of miles was a must before we hit the narrow stuff. Was off at about 7:30s and spent the time weaving in and out of everyone and the puddles. I was trying to avoid getting wet feet but that proved impossible as with so many runners you just couldn't pick out a racing line and I expect I passed 500 on that first bit before the first of many hold ups when we hit the first bit of trail and then the first bit of very sloppy wet/sandy/muddy beach. And that was the end of the 7:30s!

I have found of late that I do like to run in a rhythm and I found the constant weaving, dodging, tip toeing etc not great for maintaining a rhythm and then the mud and wetness meant that this was going to be frustrating as just couldn't pick up the line I wanted time and time again and then splash!

About four and half miles there were a couple of disasters, some guy decided to dodge very quickly around me on a nice bit of wet, muddy single track and then stop dead in front of me to take a photo of somebody behind me! Absolutely no way to avoid him and I just flattened the guy, he was OK and apologised etc and I suspect he learnt a lesson! Then shortly afterwards my left foot slipped on some mud and over I went on to my right knee, on top of a little concrete wall, I managed to half catch myself so wasn't a total wipeout but ouch! Took a mile or two to run it off and had a quick glance and saw a trickle of blood so didn't look too bad. Onwards and upwards...

There were some very runnable bits and some very muddy bits but getting out on to the old "Billy Line" is the highlight as then you get to see everyone else on this 2.5 mile stretch out and back, was full of puddles and mud, so again much weaving and cursing and feet in puddles but good to see all the other runners.

On the way back one guy said to me "you must know everyone here!" as I'd called out to maybe 50 runners by then (apologies if I missed you!) In fact was feeling quite hoarse by the time the back marker passed me. Was at the turn in about 1:50, which I was pleased with as that meant 10:00 miling home would get me a sub 4 which I would be pleased with as I had previously had three dreadful runs on this course. (2010, just slow - 2011 Did a PB the day before - 2012 Felt rather sick)

Mud was much worse on the way back on the narrow bits, especially the bid past the kissing gate it was hard to stay upright walking let alone running, a thousand pairs of wet feet had churned that up nicely... but off I went, the wind in our faces now and wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be. The forecast was for 25mph wind but didn't feel that bad.

Back we went (finally this year I think I went the right way, had gone a different route each time before due to "follow the leader", poor marking of the course and just general confusion I think) the the beach bit I just made before the tide came in, had maybe a six inch dry feet line, from what I heard at the finish I was one of the last! They eventually diverted people when it got about knee deep!

The last couple of miles along the sea front was tough as that was square in to the wind and was running out of much ooomph by then, but pleased with 3:49:32 I think it was in the end. They then did the cardinal sin of giving out the goodie bag with the medal in it which I hate, so anti-climatic.

Got changed quickly and studied the knee, which looked rather worse than I thought it was (but much, much better when cleaned up!) and went back to the finish to cheer in folk and wait for Rachel. All in all a good day out, event is too large now for that course and those facilities, so hope they reduce the numbers for next year.

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