Perfect marathon conditions greeted runners as a record number of Roadrunners signed up to tackle this infamous 26.2 mile adventure.
First held in 1957, this is the longest running (pardon the pun), marathon in the country. Steeped in history, this marathon has seen triumph over the years. From world records set, (pioneer female Dale Grieg in 1964), to the inaugural women’s marathon championship in 1978, this marathon is a unique and special challenge.
Fast forward to 2017 and a coolish but clear morning. Nerves jangling, there was an air of anticipation as our intrepid roadrunners arrived one by one to collect their numbers and make their last minute preparations. Nervous gulping at bottles of water, nails being bitten, lots of pacing up and down, from the experienced marathoners to the debutants, the team knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
Famous for its undulation, this course is no walk in the park. Starting at the Isle of Wight Community Centre in Cowes, the rollercoaster trip out to Porchfield doesn’t feel too bad on fresh legs. It’s all smiles as the runners conquer the first 5 miles or so.Onward they ran toward Shalfleet where they made the turn toward Yarmouth. Elevation starting to level out a bit, the runners started to settle into a rythmn. Bedding in to the metronome in their heads.
Yarmouth arrived and the 11 mile mark passed as they powered on to the cycle path along the river
At the end though, is the very welcome halfway point, drinks, familiar faces and Afton- the turn for home. For those with an eye on their times, a valuable measure of how they are progressing. For those running their first marathon a real mental milestone passed.
“In the first half I got happier and happier” Lucy Deville tells me. At 65 she took the massively brave step over the threshold from runner to marathoner. “The niggly aches and pains melted away and I felt ridiculously youthful. Midway I started plunging mentally telling myself this is a stupid , ultimately risky thing to be doing at my age, but the wonderful supporters kept me going”
Turn left, turn left and turn left…. homeward bound. Onward they went, temperatures creeping up.
Having run it twice before, Roadrunner Glen Jones knew how mentally challenging this part of the course can be
“You’ve come so far, but yet so far yet to go. I know how this section can play with your head. I decided to set up “The Music Bus” to give the team a lift!”
And what a great idea that was. Joined by lots of supporters the “Music Bus” was blaring out requests from the runners, providing that extra welly at 18 miles that all they all needed.
None more so than ladies captain Julie Ray, who, until just 2 days before the race had decided to pull out.
“I just didn’t feel ready, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I gave Glen my song request and like the best DJ in the world he played it upon my approach”
Yes that’s right, at 18 miles she sat down for a chorus of “Oops Upside Your Head” before continuing onward. And that’s the beauty of running your local race. It’s run by your friends, supported by your friends and run with your friends. Beautiful.
It was at this point though, at the business end of the race, that the fun was definitely fading. For the front runners and the chasing pack, things really got interesting.
“After the first mile a significant gap was opening up between me and the front runners, so I knew it was going to be a long, lonely afternoon. However, I tried to keep my cool and stick to a sensible pacing strategy. After 19 miles I started gaining on people ahead of me, which was encouraging, and I managed to move up several places between miles 23 and 25” said Danny Faulkner
“It felt like it was anyone’s race” said Bill Goozee, champion at both Dorchester and The New Forest Marathons this year. “With the hills of the last 6-7 miles it felt like no one was moving that fast. It’s nuts seeing people walking in front but you ain’t got nothing yourself”
Several places indeed, for our Danny, along with Ryde Harrier Adam Tuck, managed to edge their way through the rest of the field in those last few miles to find themselves finally at the front and within touching distance of home. Adam pulled ahead for the well deserved win, but Danny stayed strong and kept edging ahead to retain a triumphant second place overall.
In the women’s race, it was approaching judgement day too. Roadrunners Hayley Baxter and Judy McCabe had both maintained strong starts over the course.
“I was in about 4th place but I worked my way through the field” said Hayley Baxter ” I gained the lead at around 14 miles. I felt really strong until I got back to Porchfield. I felt a bit wobbley but I knew I was so close to home that I had to keep going”
And keep going she did. With a pb and good for age time in her sights, she embarked on the most challenging part of the course. Hill after hill after hill at this point in the race, it’s a big ask, but she hung in. She delivered. She proved that she was back to her best. Through the pain, the tears and the doubt she showed that her class had finally returned as she powered ever forward to cross the line, the champion, the victor, the winner .
The support on on the course was unprecedented. Pockets of family and friends peppered the course. No too much distance passed between someone’s nearest and dearest being there, residents standing out in their front gardens, IWRRs manning an aid station or club members cycling past on their bikes providing a mobile support crew.
“As cyclists we tried to cycle up and down the route to support as many runners as possible” Vice chairperson Sarah Sharp tells me “It’s quite difficult covering 26 miles and seeing everyone but we definitely saw everyone at least once, offering words of encouragement and even busting a few moves at “The Music Bus” at Wellow. We loved supporting “team awesome” today”
My daughter had a cup of tea ready for me at mile 21″ said Jane Andrew “I was ready for that”
As the miles ticked by and the day began to draw to a close, the runners began to tackle the dreaded final 4 miles and the accompanying hillfest. After the welcome sight of the aid station manned by our very own IWRR aid angels, the marathon and all its challenge really started to kick in.
Bunts Hill into Thorness into Rolls Hill into Palance Road. Punishing hills on tired legs and the order of play changing from mile to mile. The last 4 miles of any Marathon are tough but these are brutal. But as they began to conquer that final Hill and with 1 mile left to go they picked up and the will to finish kicked in to bring them home.
In they came, crossing the line triumphant, one by one, two by two and in little flurries. Some breaking their own course records, some breaking their all time records, some actually breaking the course records and some breaking the biggest record of all…. running their first marathon. All stretching themselves beyond the comfortable, beyond what they though possible…. being heroes… just for one day.
Prizes a plenty, too many to mention. Suffice to say that the Roadrunners ran. Ran themselves to glory. Ran themselves proud. A fantastic day of achievement, of unwavering support and of being a part of the best running club in the world.
Danny Faulkner – 2.55.39 – 2nd overall – 2nd SM
Bill Goozee – 2.57.37 – 5th overall –
Tom Forster – 3.16.14 – 8th overall –
Michael Coultrup- 3.17.22 – 9th overall – 1st V50
Dan Williams- 3.30.45 -1st V40
Simon Randall – 3.32.12 – 2nd V40
Hayley Baxter – 3.43.03 – 22nd overall – 1st Female – 1st V40
Harry Rann – 3.45.58 – 1st Junior Male
Ross Wilkes – 3.46.24 –
David Blake – 3.47.27
Matt Fletcher – 3.47.44 – 3rd V45
Tim Cordery – 3.50.05 – 4th V45
Tim Keyte – 3.54.55 –
Tim Howell – 3.56.24
Sarah Holmes – 3.57.31 -5th Female -2nd V40
Gordon Mucklow – 3.59.19
Steve Bennett – 4.05.06 – 3rd V55
Judy McCabe – 4.05.06 – 7th Female -2nd V35
Kevin Rann – 4.06.15
Paul Butcher – 4.12.37
Tom Grand – 4.15.11
Donnacha Deasy – 4.19.20
Claire Howard – 4.28.13 – 2nd V50
Julie Salter – 4.28.14 -3rd V50
Jane Andrew – 4.28.14 – 2nd V55
Karen Phillips – 4.35.49
Julie Ray – 4.35.50
Sue Hunter – 4.50.16 – 1st V60
Peter Dixon – 5.03.04
Tarnia Eldridge – 5.15.30
Lucy Deville – 5.46.07 – 1st V65
Pat Harris – 5.52.19
Coral Leach – 5.53.57
Lyn Snow – 6.51.09
1st – D.Faulkner, B.Goozee, T.Forster
3rd – M.Coultrup, D.Williams, S.Randall
4th – H.Rann, R.Wilkes, D.Blake
6th – M.Fletcher, T.Cordery, T.Keyte
8th – T.Howell, G.Mucklow, S.Bennett
9th – K.Rann, P.Butcher, T.Grand
11th – D.Deasy, P.Dixon, P.Harris
1st – H.Baxter, S.Holmes, J.McCabe
2nd – C.Howard, J.Salter, J.Andrew
3rd – K.Phillips, J.Ray, S.Hunter
5th – T.Eldridge, L.Deville, C.Leach
Course records smashed
Harry Rann -Junior Mens
Lucy Deville -FV65