First held in 1957, this is the longest continuous running marathon in the UK. Historic for so many reasons, this marathon has seen tears and triumph over the years. From world records set, (pioneer female Dale Grieg in 1964), to the inaugural women’s marathon championship in 1978. It is a unique and special in equal measure.
62 years and a couple of course changes later, 22 brave soldiers in white red and blue embraced this infamous 26.2 mile journey. After a week of extremes of weather, the merry go round of rain, gusty winds and unseasonably high temperatures the day started with torrential rain.
“It’s a monsoon!” Said Zoe Elliott first thing in the morning.
Despite it throwing down the proverbial cats and dogs as they still made their way to the IOW Community Centre in Cowes.
There was the usual air of fear mixed with anticipation and excitement as our intrepid roadrunners arrived one by one to collect their numbers and make their last minute preparations. A wealth of different levels experience in the registration area, from people running their first marathon to those running their 150th. All of them doing the same things, worrying about the same things…. Have I drunk enough? Have I drunk too much? Do I need the loo…… again? Have I done enough training? I wish I hadn’t skived off that run when it was raining/hot/windy and all the other tricks your mind plays on you when the nerves show themselves.
Famous for its undulation, this course was going to be no walk in the park for any of them. Luckily the rain stopped just before they heading out onto the sports field for the 11.30 kick off.
Starting with a nice downhill mile to Gurnard, 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 and then 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 advantage of the friendly faces at the water station handing out drinks and any other special supplies left there and a chance to take stock of the time.
The support on on the course was superb. Pockets of family and friends scattered along the course. Not too much distance passed between someone’s nearest and dearest being there, residents standing out in their front gardens or club members cycling past on their bikes providing a mobile support crew.
Turn left, turn left and turn right…. the turn for home! Thorley and Wellow. The flattest part of the course but strangely where many of field start to unravel.
“I can’t begin to even tell you how many times I’ve thrown a tantrum running along that section during training in the past” said Sarah Holmes “I have many personal landmarks along that stretch such as the sulking stone, the bollard of dispair and the gate of sorrow. They are all points that I’ve mentally crumbled and ended up in tears”
It’s the misery miles. The miles where you’ve come so far but you’ve still got so far to go. Most of the runners are in for a lonely battle between their legs, their minds and their hearts. Every runner praying they can keep all three in check as the miles tick by. At 18 miles there was a huge group of the roadrunners crew standing on the corner screaming like banshees, giving everyone a boost just when they needed it the most. It was along this stretch that Simon Randall decided to call it a day.
“I felt dizzy” he said “and my chest was hurting, I decided not to risk it. I am gutted, I was in third place”
Sometimes it’s the best thing to do. The long term implications of running under strain can far outweigh the disappointment of having to drop out. The marathon will be there next year for another crack at the whip.
20 miles. Shalfleet Garage. Left turn. 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. The legs start to hurt as the runners start to revisit the hills that they’d tackled with a smile a few hours before. Smiles faded, it was time they gritted their teeth and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.
The front pack had started to stretch out. With Simon out of the race it was Paul and Stuart leading the bidding for the IWRR. Paul, having had a long period out with recurring injuries, had decided on a whim to enter only the day before.
“I haven’t run a competitive marathon since 2014 when I collapsed at mile 23! I was intending to take it easy, but I kept chatting to people along the way and unintentionally sped up as I was feeling really good. It was only in the last couple of miles that I started to feel a bit tight but I managed to jog it in. I’m chuffed to have gained a good for age time for London 2020 so I’m so glad I took the risk”
Showing his form has returned and that his class as an athlete is permanent, he crossed the line in 4th place and 1st V45. Not far behind him was this year’s most consistent performer, Stuart Backhouse giving his usual inspirational 100% effort to finish 5th and 2nd V45.
Andy MacArthur, again having only decided to enter last minute gave a cracking performance to finish 12th and 3rd V50. Less than 5 minutes later was the first of the marathon debutants. Sean Williams smashed his way through his first marathon to finish 15th and 3rd V45.
Next home was the first of the ladies. Defending champion Hayley Baxter, unleashed another stellar performance to finish 25th overall, 2nd lady and 1st V40.
“I was right behind the ladies leader until about 11 miles, but she turned and saw me and picked up her speed” said Hayley “I tried to go with her but she was just too fast for me. My calves started tightening in the last few miles, but I pushed on through. I’m chuffed to come 2nd to a class runner like Liz”
And chuffed she should be, she knocked a huge 7 minutes off her Pb.
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.
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 at mile 22 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. 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 picked up pace and the will to finish kicked in to bring them home strong.
In they came, crossing the line triumphant, one by one, two by two and three by three. A flurry of PBs and marathon debutants made their way back to the Community Centre. Hill king Michael Coultrup was the next to return looking very smiley as the last few hills proved no obstacle for him. Next to emerge onto the sports field was Richard Bezer in only his second marathon, knocking 15 minutes off his previous time, Noel Finn ran his debut over the distance, Zoe Sherwin snatched yet another Pb and took 4th lady and 2nd V40. Harry Rann took the Junior men’s title for the second year in a row. Steve Horsey took a huge 23 minutes off his PB, Giorgio Marinelli ran his first marathon after only taking up running in December. Sarah Holmes took 4th V40, closely followed by Ian Dyer.
It was the next 3 that stole the show though. Steve Hickman, Zoe Elliott and Sally Trotman. Steve completed his landmark 150th marathon, accompanied the whole way by his two good friends. Sally finished in the biggest Pb of the day of 31 mins and 1st V50. Zoe finished 5th V40, an awesome achievement as she’d done zero training and only decided to attempt the distance the day before.
Julie Salter was next home to claim 2nd V50 having accompanied Nick Carter on his first trip over the distance. Sue Meredith also ran her debut, crossing the line with a big smile on her face to finish 4th V45. Sue Hunter was next to take 2nd V60 and closing the batting in style for the IWRR was Jo Randall with a nice 9 minute PB.
It was clearly evident that the Roadrunners ran happy. Massive smiles all around as they hugged, congratulated and cheered each other in. The air of jubilation was so sweet you wish you could bottle it to take home. Everyone of the warriors in white having run their socks off and run themselves proud. A fantastic day of achievement, of unwavering support and of being a part of the best running club in the world.
Paul Cameron – 3.05.32
Stuart Backhouse – 3.10.53
Andy MacArthur – 3.18.58
Sean Williams – 3.22.51
Hayley Baxter – 3.36.07
Michael Coultrup – 3.37.47
Richard Bezer – 3.39.22
Noel Finn – 3.42.36
Zoe Sherwin – 3.55.29
Harry Rann – 3.59.07
Steve Horsey – 4.14.06
Giorgio Marinelli – 4.20.27
Sarah Holmes – 4.21.43
Ian Dyer – 4.24.20
Zoe Elliott – 4.30.08
Steve Hickman – 4.30.08
Sally Trotman – 4.30.08
Julie Salter – 4.35.59
Nick Carter – 4.35.59
Sue Meredith – 4.53.07
Sue Hunter – 5.03.40
Jo Randall – 5.23.56
1st Cameron, Backhouse, Macarthur
2nd Williams , Coultrup, Bezer
3rd Finn, Rann, Horsey
5th Marinelli , Dyer, Hickman
1st Baxter, Sherwin, Holmes
3rd Elliott, Trotman, Salter
5th Meredith, Hunter, Randall