Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Race report: The Moyleman Marathon

I ran the second half of this last year as a relay with Louise and loved it so was determined to come back this year and run the whole lot. It's also about the right time to take on a longer and more hilly race - and the South Downs is perfect as it'll make for some great terrain-specific training for the first of the year's Centurion 50-mile events, the South Downs Way 50, which is coming up in a month.

The route of the Moyleman marathon

It's easy to get to Lewes where the race starts and finishes, only an hour and a bit in the car, so no need to stay over the night before or after. The civilised 10am start helps.

Super friendly cat in the car park was a nice race-day bonus

I toyed with not taking a bag at all, there are five aid equally-spaced water stations on the route, but instead opted to pack light. My trusty Salomon 5 litre pack was pulled into service, and packed with some essentials:

  • Because I'll be in fairly remote areas: Foil blanket, whistle, little head torch
  • Because I might have to bail: Phone, bank card, some cash
  • Because I may need sustenance: 500ml floppy water bottle, an energy bar
  • Because weather: Waterproof jacket, hat, gloves

It was scheduled to be around 10C with a good chance of potentially heavy rain, so I opted for a thin merino long sleeved base layer with my bright Adidas mid layer on top. Shorts as always (unless it's sub-zero or there's lots of undergrowth), and my new most favourite shoes - La Sportiva Helios SR.

032 and 033, ready for action

Mrs was running too, she had also run last year but pulled out at half way with stomach discomfort. We were both hoping for a good day in the hills. She was going for a long training run whereas I was out to treat it more like a race so we decided to start separately and meet at the end.

Race briefing in the school hall

Ready for the 10am start for full marathon entrants, relays start 15 minutes later

I started well, running comfortably. I'm not really one for chatting while I run, so I was pleased that the field strung out quite quickly. I don't mind the odd "hello" or "good going" but I'm not up for a deep and meaningful or anything that requires too much thinking.

The start was a gentle series of runnable climbs, then some lovely fast shallow downhills to open up into. The segment to the first aid station flew past. The sun was trying to peek through, the ground was damp enough to provide some light cushioning but with very little mud or slippery grass. Perfect.

Working our way up one of the early inclines

The first longer climb comes after aid station one, and is a fairly long slog. I ran the shallow part, but used my head and dropped to a hike rather than tire myself out for little benefit. On a clear day there would have been some good views from the top, but today was a bit misty so the horizon was a flat grey colour.

My legs were feeling good, and I was running at an even pace, averaging about 9km/h which is a bit faster than my normal hilly trail pace of 7.5-8km/h. Annoyingly, I had started was sweating profusely from my head. I wasn't that hot although there was very little breeze, and I wasn't suffering from overheating in my body, but my head just wouldn't stop sweating - it was ridiculous. I realised the one thing I'd forgotten to bring was a buff to use for mopping!

I reached half way in around two and a quarter hours - happy with that time. I ran the second half in 2:12 last year. I knew it would take longer this year having already run a hilly 13.1 miles, but I should be on for a finish under five hours.

This was the last time I saw the two ladies in purple I'd been leapfrogging ever since the start

After the midpoint is the longest continual climb of the course, from sea level right up to some prominent transmitters on the very top of the Downs. I remembered this well from last year and was mentally prepared. Although I hiked at a good pace I found it hard to get my legs going once I'd got up there. I felt a bit light headed and took a big drink from my flask and ate my emergency nine-bar. In time, I got a second wind and picked up the pace again.

The route drops back down in to  the valley after about 30km, following a steep twisty road - the altitude it took 5km to gain lost in just 500m. I always try and make best use of downhills as I can, running them with effort (free speed!) rather than decelerating with every step - but this one was really punishing on the quads.

A more level segment followed, and I told myself to keep running - I had slowed a little now but was determined not to walk apart from up hills.

Bravely combatting the challenging penultimate climb

The course has a lovely sting in the tail in the form of a steep path up a field and hill side, then a punishing descent, followed by another more shallow climb, then a steep road descent again back into Lewes. The last few kilometres really could be a painful experience if you've overdone it previously.

I picked up the pace through the town, and reached the finish two second shy of 4 hours and 52 minutes. Comfortably under my five hour target, and happy to have ticked an early season marathon off - it's a good confidence builder. I've had some hard ones in the past and finished in quite poor condition (Seville last year springs to mind!) - so I was happy to finish still running and still in one piece.

Pace in blue, cadence in pink, and route profile in grey

Seriously, how could my head even generate this much water?!

Most races give you a bag of adverts and free samples of stuff you don't want at the finish - this race sets the bar a little higher with a free pint of beer and a free pizza! Outstanding, and exactly what I was looking for after almost five hours on the trail.

Thanks to Circa's mobile pizza van and Harvey's and Sons for the pint - best finishing gift ever

In general the organisation was good - there were dozens of marshals out on the course, and no end of big purple arrows. The aid stations were water only and were a bit low on stock when I got there - I understand from later finishers that they ran out later on. That's inexcusable - it's the later finishers who are out for the longest time and will be most in need from the water stations.

A mental note for next time, it is just water at the stops - don't expect food!

Nothing like seeing the winning time to put things into perspective!

I'm not sure where I came overall as the results aren't out yet. To be honest, I don't really care - I had a good day out, I finished well, and I got my free beer - what more do you need?

I showed a much more consistent pace and cadence than I have done in the past. Now I just have to do it twice for South Downs 50!


  1. Great stuff. Glad you enjoyed it. I've just finished a week of 5kg walks. Feel good despite the bronchitis.

    1. Good to get out in the air - difficult when you're not so well but our minds and bodies thank us for the effort!

  2. We're really sorry about running out of water. We actually had the same amount of water per person as last year... when we ended up with a pallet spare. This year, for whatever reason, the runners were thirsty. However, that is no excuse and something we'll definitely rectify for next year.

    1. Thanks for replying, and for doing so on twitter too. The main issue is there was virtually no wind even up top, so runners got hotter than they would normally have done in such temperatures - I certainly drank more than normal. It's just difficult when the ones who lose out are the ones at the back who usually (but not always!) need support the most. Thanks for taking my comments on.