More than 3,000 runners, including one very special couple, breathed a collective sigh of relief as Saturday (26 October) dawned with a brilliant sunrise and mild, dry conditions for the Beachy Head Marathon and 10K from Eastbourne. Heavy rain during the week had threatened to cause a few issues, as if climbing 1,318 metres en route was not challenging enough!
There were 2,201 official marathon finishers in just over nine hours – a long day out on the South Downs for the brilliant army of volunteer marshals who raise flagging spirits every year of this annual sell out event, expertly promoted by Lewes and Eastbourne Council and Visit Eastbourne.
There was a first for the event this year as Beachy Head Marathon, formerly known as Severn Sisters Marathon, witnessed a mid-race marriage. Luretta Spearing (Poole Runners) and Jon Sharkey (Bournemouth AC) tied the knot at 9.5 miles in the pretty village of Alfriston before sprinting home together in 6:15:38.
The top three men in the 26.2 mile race were Luke Delderfield (Tring RC, 3:05:55), James Turner (Brighton & Hove, 3:06:54) and Gary Laybourne (South London Harriers, 3:07:40). Turner had led by 38 seconds at halfway (1:28:05) from Laybourne (1:28:43) and Delderfield (1:30:05) but the positions were reversed on the tough hills in the second half.
Four hours was bettered by 87 runners, including the leading ladies W35 Rebecca Bunting (London Heathside, 3:24:22), Laura Temple (unattached, 3:49:25), Jade Elphick (Brighton & Hove, 3:56:03) and Jemma Whyman (Medway & Maidstone, 3:58:01).
The supporting 10K race was won by Euan Brown (36:42) from his East London Runners team mate Thomas Grimes (37:16) and unattached Marcin Gawel (37:31). Just the top eight runners beat 40 minutes on the scenic route to Belle Tout Lighthouse and back.
Sue Fry (W45 Eastbourne Rovers, 43:19) was an understandably popular local winner of the women's race from Belinda Cottrill (W35 Dulwich Runners, 45:12) and Libby Brewin (Meads Runners, 45:54) – another Eastbourne athlete to receive a special ovation.
Next year's event (on 24 October 2020) will be expanded to incorporate a half marathon option and entries are open now with early bird fees at the Beachy Head Marathon website