What is it about Beachy Head Marathon that lures people back year after year? One of Britain’s biggest, toughest and most scenic off-road races was held on Saturday (29 October) in the South Downs National Park from Eastbourne, with 2,500 runners completing the marathon or supporting 10k challenge.
Highlights of the marathon course after the notorious initial climb onto the Downs include the spectacular Friston Forest, golden with autumn colour; the Cuckmere Meanders, twinkling as the morning mist clears and the fabulous view of Eastbourne as runners enter the welcome final downhill mile.
Beachy Head, the UK’s highest chalk sea cliff at 531 feet above sea level, is quite literally breathtaking and features in the latter stages of both races, contributing significantly to the reputation of the race formerly known as the Seven Sisters Marathon.
The top two men amazingly broke three hours as Sam Humphrey (Victoria Park Harriers) took his first Beachy Head Marathon title in 2:50:37 from Jeff Pyrah (Hastings, 2:56:05) and Alun Myers (Victoria Park, 3:00:25). Sarah Swan (London Heathside, 3:30:20) won a close women’s race from Emily Hutchinson (Arena 80, 3:32:13) and Lorraine Collins (3:32:42).
The 10k winners were Darryl Hards (Brighton Phoenix, 35:49) and Sue Fry (Hailsham Harriers, 41:40) but the 438 finishers (in 2:12:53) would do well to heed the wise words from marathon competitor, Carol Grant of Brighton Runner, who had this advice: “To anyone who did the 10k this year and enjoyed it – beware. That’s how I got drawn in.
Carol continued: “After finishing the 10k in 2014, I sat in the café and I’d never seen so many people finish a marathon with a big smile on their face. Running in 2015 revealed their secret – you’re just thrilled when it’s over! And yet the Seven Sisters wove their magic over me and I signed up again for 2016.
“The camaraderie, as always, was superb. I’m sure a friendly chat and a kind word from a fellow runner got many people over the Seven Sisters. And the volunteers were brilliant, whether handing out currant buns or the colourful medals at the end.”
Images courtesy Graham Huntley and Beachy Head Marathon