In a blink of an eye marathon two was upon us. Langley and I made the nine-hour journey to the South Devon coast excited if somewhat anxious about the next stage of our challenge. Our research showed that the course at South Devon was going to be stunningly beautiful, but also regarded as one of Endurancelife’s toughest runs with its daunting 4000ft ascent and 28.5mile distance. Surely it couldn’t be harder than the Anglesey stage of the series, could it?
In preparation, and with all the facts and figures planted firmly in our minds, we had put the work in, hitting the North’s local trail spots regularly, hoping the extra trail experience would see our legs through when we came down to the south coast. All in all our training had gone very well.
We arrived on site bright and early with the wind picking up and the sun beginning to peek through the clouds. There were cliffs as far as the eye could see, so we knew we were in the right place – Endurancelife would never make anything easy!
As always the event team were in great spirits and very welcoming to all runners and supporters. I reminded Langley of those wise words of Gary Jolliffe (always Bear Grylls in my mind) at the close of the Anglesey marathon. He’d told us that ‘the Devon stage is simply awesome. It’s set in an amazing part of the UK and its longer and tougher with down hills as hard as the up hills. It’s awesome – you’ll love it guys!!’ I expected nothing more from Bear, who is always Mr Positive with a slight tendency to overuse the word awesome.
So with Bears words ringing in our ears we couldn’t wait to get started, knowing it was sure to be awesome. Bear had filled me with so much positivity even the thought of my energy-sapped legs in the latter stages of the race was bound to be awesome too!
The race began and it wasn’t long before we faced our first climb of the day. Once over the hill the views were spectacular. We knew we were on the coastal path and it was sure to be good (sorry Bear, I mean awesome!).
A challenging 200metre stretch of pebble beach proved our first obstacle. Though short, the sinking surface quickly made the legs work – providing a good warm-up for the course ahead. Once we’d reached the cliff top path the sun had burned its way through the clouds making the views all the more impressive.
It was the jaw-dropping scenery that guided me to mile five without me properly cottoning on to the fact I’d been running. I’d been so attracted to the views that my legs had gone into robot mode, taking care of themselves throughout the opening period. If only those legs would do this more often and for longer!
At mile five we were greeted by Hayley, our lone screaming super fan who took on the challenge of finding us at the most obscure places on the course. One minute she’d appear in a field, the next hidden away on a narrow lane, later she was found lingering outside a local pub (no surprise there) and to prove her value to ‘team Marathon Men’ she stood alone in the driving rain to cheer us both over the finish line in her ever enthusiastic way. Others must have thought she was just a crazy local nutter up until the point of our arrival.
Enough about Hayley, back to the race. As the run progressed the hills became tougher and longer, but – looking at it with Bear’s positive hat on – the view at the top was going to be awesome!
By the time I’d reached the end of the coastal path I felt as though I’d been running for only an hour, as opposed to the two hours my watch was telling me. It really shows how running in beautiful places can take the mind off the aches and pains in your legs.
We started heading inland. By this point I’d lost Langley, leaving him on camera duty for the day. The miles began to get tiring, but no less enjoyable. The second stage of the course challenged us with more ups and downs, not to mention the crossover point where the half marathon merged with the marathon course. I’d bumped into a fellow marathon runner – a guy called Kevin – shortly before The Pigs Nose Inn and we had enjoyed a couple of quiet country miles with little sign of other runners or locals. That was until the half marathon front-runners came at us like a storm of wildebeest. They were moving at such a rate of knots that Kevin and I were more or less forced to step aside to let them through. My competitive side wanted to keep pace, but my head, lungs and legs told me otherwise so we let them pass into the distance.
By mile twenty Kevin and I were travelling at different paces and we had split, making for a lonely final 8.5miles to the finish. There was a fantastic forest trail late into the race, which I entered knowing by the end of the track I was almost home.
The sight of this Endurancelife sign made me smile as I reached the end of the forest path. Here I dibbed in at my final checkpoint and asked what was to come. Laiprepaleset I was told ‘you’re home and dry now, there’s two miles of flat and a small climb before the finish’. I think I replied with, ‘another bloody hill?’ to which he responded ‘it’s just a mini one – you’ll hardly notice it’.
So off I went knowing I had nothing to worry about. The wind had picked up sending the heavy rain crashing head-on into me. Not the most pleasant two miles of my short running career, but bearable. I then reached that ‘mini climb’ I’d been told about. As always with Endurancelife it wasn’t mini and certainly didn’t feel easy 27miles into this tough race. I battled on, cursing the man – who no doubt continued to tell all passers the same ‘small climb’ story, then chuckling as we all helplessly ran off into the distance.
My spirits were lifted and my determination to drive for the line picked up as I passed the ‘Never, never, never give up’ sign carefully positioned half way up the final climb.
I got my head down and drove for the finish, powering my way through the driving rain that fired straight back at me.
With Hayley’s cheers in the distance I picked up my speed for a Usain Bolt-like sprint for the finish line – shame she was the only one who saw such a pacey finish. I’d made it and loved every minute of it, finishing in a time of 4hours 57minutes. I was pleased to break five hours and was feeling surprisingly spritely!
I awarded myself a lovely cuppa and the most fantastic flapjack for my efforts before I headed back into the pouring rain to cheer Langley home in his time of 5hours 59mins. We later found he had taken a wrong turning 21miles into the race, which clocked his total mileage up towards 30. I couldn’t help but laugh at his misfortune.
So we are now two marathon’s down and the story so far has been simply AWESOME!