Sunday, 5 June 2011

Seaford Trail Half Marathon

...what an absolute joy!

Forecast was grim, morning was grey and the wind up on them there hills was strong and swirly, but I'm not sure I've had quite so much fun in a long long time.
From the nice old chap who gave me his roll of loo paper pre-race coz bogs were empty to the spectators and marshals dotted around the course in 1s and 2s, and lost but not least the runners themselves, this was all about niceness. Beautiful course although it was a bit grey and brutal in today's weather conditions, but that only enhanced the dangerous beauty of the race, giving it that added bit of spice and sense of competing with nature.

Granted this sentence will sound a little trite, but I felt so free! 13.1 miles of relaxation (odd choice of word, but true), felt as though all my cares had been washed away and it was just me (another 483 runners) and nature. A wonderful feeling, and the sense of liberation that comes from hurtling downhill on trails was really quite childlike in its excitement.

Never done a trail race before so this was virgin territory in more ways than one and had no idea what to really expect in terms of pacing etc etc. Started off this morning thinking I'd be content under 2hr15 against my road PB of 1hr49, so I was over-the-moon to finish my first trail half marathon in 2:02:51. 

Only 1min per mile slower than my road best time, which is better than I was expecting this morning (was expecting to give up around 2mins per mile). Given the topography of the race and the brutal wind on the hill-tops I am very very with this indeed:
According to the Great God Garmin there was 1,047ft of gain over the route, which may or may not be impressive, but is a damn site more difficult than anything I've ever run before. Penultimate word there is what gave me most satisfaction as well today, I ran ever last step of that 13.1...passed a lot of people on each hill who'd stopped to walk them, but I was determined to run that entire race come hell or high water.

Race Itself: 
Opening 3/4 of mile or so were on roads heading out of town, turned onto bridal path at which point the Marshall shouted, "Good luck, its a really hard race"...which head us all a bit dumbfounded. From that point until the last mile or so on the seafront to the finish the entire race was off-road.
The hills began (above) pretty quickly, building in steepness and although the one from mile 4 to 5 was quite frankly a bugger (did miles 3 and 4 in around 11:30 each though which given the climb I'm happy with), my side-ways chi-running hill technique got me up it with little difficulty, but it was impossible not to "enjoy" the hill when either side of the path were field of lavender in bloom - beautiful!
After a couple of miles on fairly bleak terrain on top of the Downs we dropped down in to the stunning little town of Alfriston, past the church and off along the river for a "relaxing" 4-miles or so til the final flurry of hills. 
We came down from the hilltops you can see in the background down to the village and with the hills behind me I felt remarkably sprightly banging out 8:26, 8:37, 9:13, 8:45, 8:38 before I hit the final hilly section where things slowed down a bit with a 10:26.

What did strike me as amusing, particular on the hill-tops, was how and why when there's so much space to run why do we runners weave our way through the countryside in single file, a drawn out line of lyrca stretching as far as the eye can see.

Picked up pace again on the last couple of undulating miles even though there was a bugger of a final hill around mile 11and knocked out the final mile in 8:06 which given what had come before I was very happy with.
Wonderful race, with a fabulous descent towards the finish and final mile or so back on the road along the seafront!

Got my medal and an end-of-race banana, then grabbed my bag and ran the 1/2mile to the station just in time to catch the train home, and more importantly just before the heavens opened!
Can't wait for next year, will certainly run this race again and any other trail races I can find in the meantime.
Brilliant way to end of the weekend and mark Day 5 of Juneathon.

Time: 2:02:51
Elevation Gain: 1,047ft
Splits: 8:39, 9:12, 11:35, 11:30, 9:32, 8:26, 8:37, 9:13, 8:45, 8:38, 10:26, 9:08, 8:06, (7:10)

Oh, and don't worry I didn't lose time and end up over 2hrs by taking photos...I "borrowed" these from Google


  1. Blimey, those hills look steep! Stunning views though. Well done.

  2. Wow! This is well impressive, not to have lost that much time over your road HM PB! But the most important thing is that you enjoyed it, which obviously you did.