In an historic week for women’s athletics, with Dina Asher-Smith being the first woman to win a world championship sprint and Katerina Johnson-Thompson breaking the British record in the heptathlon, it seemed fitting that this years IOW Marathon be dedicated to one such inspirational woman. Renegade, rebel and pioneer Dale Greig who sadly passed in May this year aged 81. Back in 1964, despite women not being allowed to compete in the marathon, trailblazer Greig defied the rules and ran a world record time right here on the Isle of Wight, the first record to be officially recognised by the IAAF and stood as the British record for 11 years.
“It was a tough and hilly course” she recounted later in the press.
Here on holiday, Dale celebrated by dancing the night away afterwards at the Royal York Hotel in Ryde.
That’s not the only aspect that makes this race unique. Having first been held in 1957, this is the longest continuous running marathon in the UK.
63 years and a couple of course changes later, and hoping to blaze trails of their own, 27 brave IWRR soldiers in white red and blue embraced this infamous 26.2 mile journey.
There was the usual air of trepidation, anticipation, excitement and good old fashioned fear as each roadrunner arrived one by one to collect their numbers and make their last minute preparations. A wealth of different levels of experience in the registration area, from people running their first marathon to those running their 160th. Some nervous, some relaxed, some just raring to go.
11.30 came and they set off from the sports field at the IOW Community Club in Cowes.
Starting with a nice downhill mile to Gurnard, it wasn’t long before the famous undulation began as they started on the rollercoaster trip out to Porchfield and Shalfleet.
Onward they ran toward Cranmore before they arrived on the outskirts of Yarmouth. A bit of respite from the ups and downs of the course for a little while as they swung a right onto the cycle path and a hugely warm reception from the supporters cheering and screaming encouragement on the old railway platform outside Off The Rails Cafe.
At the end of the track is the Causeway and the all important halfway point. Time to take stock of time and grab a drink from the water station.
First timer Callie Hatcher hit a mental blip at this point.
“I shed some tears. I didn’t feel good, everything ached and I’d planted the seed in my head that I couldn’t do it”
It’s tough going when that happens… the misery miles I call them. When you’ve come so far but you’ve still got so far to go. It takes real determination to find the mental energy to keep going. Callie had her boyfriend Kelvin by her side and together they carried on.
Turn left, turn left and turn right…. the turn for home! Thorley and Wellow. It should be the “easy bit” As the flattest part of the course on paper it should be, but strangely where many of field start to mentally unravel. By now the field is pretty stretched out, the support is thinner and most of the runners find themselves locked in a lonely battle between their legs, their minds and their hearts.
It was here that David Blake decided enough was enough. Having felt strong and relaxed at halfway, he suddenly felt achy and sick.
“My vision went blurry… I couldn’t even walk the rest to settle it. It’s the first time I’ve ever had to pull out of a race”
The marathon is a different beast to all the other distances. There are so many variables, so many things that can go oh so right or oh so very wrong. The weather, not enough sleep, not eating enough the day before, misjudging pace, over hydration, under hydration, not enough fuel on board in the early miles …. the list goes on.
Past Shalfleet Garage and the 20 mile point. The road back to Porchfield and more importantly, the road home. They say the marathon race starts at 20 miles and that’s no truer than on this course. In any marathon it’s the point when the body is waning. The glycogen stored in the body has all but been depleted. The legs are tired, the heart has to take over to get the runners home. All the hills they’d attacked with gusto a few hours before were being revisited as they retraced their steps through Porchfield and Thorness, culminating in a crescendo of climb at mile 24/25 as they tackled Pallance Road.
Having run together for the most part, it was Bill Goozee that went ahead in the final stages to take 5th place with Stuart Backhouse not too far behind taking 6th and 1st V45.
“I’m happy with that” said Bill “it’s my first marathon for ages and it felt good”
The next roadrunner home was a show stealer. Rosie Sexton. No training, no experience…. no problem!! The pocket rocket only went and won it!!!
“I just got up and decided to run it on a whim”
Wow! What a whim that was! Even her biggest cheerleaders, (parents and fellow IWRR Pete and Yvonne Sexton), didn’t know she was running it!
“My girls first marathon and she won it! I can’t believe I missed it… especially to go and watch the footy!” Said Yvonne in the pub later “And we lost!”
Hayley Baxter was next to cross the line just seconds over her PB but chuffed to take 2nd lady, 15th overall and 1st V40
Another marathon debutant was next to make it across the finish line. Jamie Brenchley has smashed it out the park with an amazing sub 3.30 time, made all the more phenomenal because, like Rosie he hadn’t trained either!!
“That was so emotional finishing! I really enjoyed the first 20 miles, then spent the last 6 miles wishing is trained properly haha!”
Meanwhile back out on the course, the rest of the team were battling their way around. The last miles really starting to hurt for some, not so much for others. Some having some rather personal motivation to keep them going. Debbie Radestock took up running in memory of her older brother Richard, a keen member of Headington Road Runners. He died shortly after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, so Deb, with the encouragement of her other brother Andy took up running to raise funds for Macmillan. Daughter Eloise took up running when she went to university as a way of connecting with her mum. Their determination to see this challenge through was furthermore family fuelled as Debs elderly parents live on on the marathon route and would be looking out for their inspirational girls.
“There was no way I could turn down the chance to run this with Mum” Eloise tells me “Knowing her history with her brothers I wanted to be alongside her every step of the way”
The miles ticked by the rest of the runners began to tackle the dreaded final 6 miles and the accompanying hills, the marathon and all its challenge really started to kick in.
“I weirdly love getting to 20” said Sarah Holmes “I usually start speeding up as I know the worst is behind me”
She’s not the only one who woke up a bit. Callie got her second wind too, as she gleefully high fived every mile marker from that point onward.
Bunts Hill into Thorness into Rolls Hill into Pallance Road. Brutally draining what energy they had left, these last 4 miles were chewing runners up and spitting them out left right and centre. But as they each began to conquer that final Hill and with 1 mile left to go, they rallied to pick up pace and the will to finish kicked in to bring them home strong.
“I got goosebumps crossing the line” said Callie
“I managed it!!!! Me!!!” beams Eloise
They’d done it! Marathoners, achievers, warriors, lionesses, heroes. Last word on this report goes to Debbie
“I’m immensely proud of my Ellie….. It’s a memory to cherish”
As always big thanks to the fellow IWRR that take the time to come out and cheer the runners … your support is immeasurable
Bill Goozee – 3.10.20 – 5th – 3rd SM
Stuart Backhouse – 3.13.54 – 6th 1stV45
Rosanna Sexton – 3.26.25 – 14th – 1stF – 1st SF
Hayley Baxter – 3.27.57 3.36.07 – 15th – 2ndF – 1st V40
Jamie Brenchley – 3.28.40
Simon Randall – 3.32.14 – 4th V45
Ross Wilkes – 3.38.41
Rob Hunter – 3.49.05
Simon Riley – 3.52.25
Richard Bezer – 4.03.12
Petya Torodova – 4.08.54 – 5th SF
Glen Jones – 4.11.50
Noel Finn – 4.17.33
Zoe Elliot – 4.22.12 – 5thV40
Steve Hickman – 4.28.28 – 3rdV60
Neill McCall 4.31.31
Julie Ray – 4.32.52 – 2nd V50
Tim Keyte – 4.32.52
Karen Phillips – 4.33.47 – 3rd V45
James Shoulder – 4.35.50
Sarah Holmes – 5.32.40
Tarnia Butler – 5.32.41
Kelvin Mansfield – 6.11.55
Callie Hatcher – 6.11.55
Deb Radestock – 6.16.12
Eloise Radestock – 6.16.14
2nd Goozee, Backhouse, Brenchley
3rd Randall, Wilkes, Hunter
4th Riley, Bezer, Jones
6th Finn, Hickman, Keyte
1st Sexton, Baxter, Elliott
2nd Ray, Phillips, Holmes
4th Butler, Hatcher, Radestock
Dedicated to the late and great Dale Greig 15.05.1937-12.05.2019