Barnstaple square has an iconic clock tower which is at 3/4 of a mile on the outward leg and therefore about 25 1/2 miles on the way back. The 1920’s photo of the square shows that little has changed, buildings wise, and today the hands of the clock kept ticking with 4 hours and 43 minutes while I ran my marathon. Not my quickest, not my slowest but definitely the best organised and supportive that I’ve run.
This is only the second running of the Barnstaple marathon and even though my time was hindered by the estuary winds and a sore hip it I’d recommend it to anyone. The pre race announcements suffered from microphone issues until the town crier stepped in. Without doubt he stole the show with a rousing speech that included “may the breeze be in your face, the wind behind you and there be a spring in your stride” followed by “God save the Queen”, it was quite emotional !!
At 10am we set off in the September sunshine with a pleasant breeze blowing across the park. The clock tower and old long bridge were soon in sight and within a mile we were on the Tarka Trail (see below) which is a reclaimed railway line that’s used for a large section of the route. With 14 water stations on the course we were well looked after from a practical point of view but what was apparent from the first one, onwards, was the enthusiasm of the marshals. The race numbers had our Christian names on so “well done Roger” was great to hear from mile 1 through to 26.
Fremington quay at around 3 miles had quite a party atmosphere with a large crowd, music, cow bells (all the water stations had cow bells) and even portaloos !! By the 7 mile mark we had turned back along the estuary and accompanied by the half marathon runners were heading into the wind. My pace was around 9 & 1/4 min miles but the wind didn’t bode well for the second half of the race on the more exposed side of the estuary.
The half marathon peeled off and suddenly they were far fewer runners in sight as we ran under the new Taw bridge. I grew up in Barnstaple so the second half of the race meant passing a number of familiar land marks which was a pleasant distraction from the growing pain in my left hip. RAF Chivenor was approaching by now at around mile 19 and this meant 3 miles of the air field perimeter. A combination of the wind and the apparently never ending runway were a topic for conversation that I had with Gareth from North Devon triathletes. We were both struggling a bit by then but we soldiered on. It was good to hear later that the Kenyan winner of the race also found this section hard going !!
The marshals from 21 miles onwards were hugely supportive, even running towards you to pass on a wet sponge, that certainly helped my motivation. From 22 miles I needed stretching breaks for my hip but with my parents waiting at the end I dug deep to keep going. By 24 miles I overtook a couple of people and by 25 I knew the route was more sheltered. The 800m to go sign was a treat to behold and all that remained was the long finishing straight across the park’s grass.
I said “Time waits for no man” that was a reference to the stretching breaks and wind against us, but also the familiar sights of Barnstaple, some I haven’t seen for years, they reminded me that you need to live life to the full and don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, #livelife. Great medal and T shirt too 🙂