Portsmouth Coastal Marathon – A Christmas Cracker !!

maaDecember 22nd marked the 10th Believe and Achieve Portsmouth Coastal Waterside marathon and as you can see Fareham Crusaders running club (FCRC) were well represented. Throughout most of the race I ran with Mel, Ed, Jim, Trevor, Tracey and Dave pictured above but this was only the tip of the iceberg for local runners that we ran with and that created a special atmosphere thorough the day.

The 50K ultra starting time was at 8.05am followed by the marathon at 8.35 and with the beauty of the race being an out and back route this gave us a huge amount of scope for festive cheer and supporting each other at different points on the way. The high fives and banter were in plentiful supply !!

Our day started with a biting wind coming in off the sea and the usual race day toilet queues !! However, with us being right on the coast we were rewarded with a beautiful mornings sunrise. Thank you to Paul Coates for this photo.

Southsea marathon running

I made my way down to the start area to try and see some running friends before the ultra commenced. I saw Hayley, Ben and Richard from Gosport Runners but missed the two Paul’s and Nikkie from Fareham. With so many running today it was going to be a bit of a lottery as to who I saw and who I didn’t but it really underlines what a great coming together this event is for the local endurance community.

The Pyramids leisure complex is a great location for all your pre race needs what with baggage, race numbers and trade stalls all being gathered in the warmth of a large venue. I had a chat with Craig from the clothing and accessories Runr  company and then it was time to head for the marathon start.

As you can see from my Strava details the marathon actually came to 26.7 miles but who’s counting !! The course is essentially a trip along the seafront followed by a huge horseshoe around Langstone Harbour and then the return journey is the same but in reverse.

The 74 Kudos thumbs up are a mark of our local running community and how supportive they are. Thank you.


The 5.03 timing gives away how long it took me so the rest of this blog will chart my journey. The time was one of my slower marathons but some days are more about the experience than the race.

Our initial mile and a half along the seafront was full of chatter and anticipation especially seeing as the wind was clearly behind us which ultimately meant the last mile and a half it would be against us !! Deep Joy.

Passing Eastney swimming pool and public toilets a few people were already popping in, I guess a nervous wee is all part of the marathon experience 🙂

We weaved our way through a number of streets that are parallel with the harbour area, again I took note of this because as a consequence we’d be running on the harbour mud on our return leg. One additional obstacle was a lady vacuuming her car with the extension lead across the pavement. Nothing unusual about that I hear you say, well, apart from the fact that she was doing it in her dressing gown !!

Once out onto the coastal path I felt much more at home with the combination of compacted gravel and mud along with a trademark of this course, “puddles” . The previous weeks rain had meant they were topped up nicely and rather than complain about splashed trainers and legs I was just thankful we didn’t have a wet 3,4,5 hours ahead of us.

Phil Hoy from Second Wind Running whistled by me at this stage due mainly to him starting late !! He would eventually finish 116th out of 850 so he must have overtaken hundreds of runners,  quite literally. I shouted encouragement and he waved as he disappeared into the distance.

Passing behind the Harvester pub parallel with the Eastern Road I explained where we were heading, to a couple of London runners. The nature of the harbour is that you can see across to where the 13 mile turning point is from about 3 miles in !!

Farlington Marshes meant we were at around 5.5 miles and it was great to see Mike Harper marshalling us through the car park then, a mere 500 metres later, Jamie Hurrel also of FCRC cheering us on as we ran by. When I say us, this loosely describes the people I mentioned at the beginning of my blog plus FCRC Karen, all within two or three hundred metres of each other but the order was constantly changing after feed stations.

The next section towards Hayling Bridge is the muddiest and also has sections of broken concrete to navigate as well as leg sapping shingle. Around this point we were cheered on by Emma, Nick and a number of other Gosport RR guys. Thanks for the encouragement. Once onto the bridge we were 10 miles in and the leading marathon runner was heading in our direction.

From this point on I saw Mark Overton who ultimately finished 7th in the marathon in a time of 3.05 who I know from South Downs Way running and that opened the floodgates for numerous runners I know. Richard and Stephen from Film My Run both placed in the marathon top 60, then came the 50K runners. Emyln Hughes from FCRC who finished 10th in the Ultra ran by with Dan Del Piccolo not far behind and Roman and Ben from Gosport fairly soon after.

The faces continued but unfortunately the track became boggy and waterlogged so more attention was needed on foot placement and less on face spotting. I saw Richard Law from Gosport and my friend Deb from Sussex during this sock soaking section and then it was time to turn around and face the same mud and puddles from where we’d come from. Apologies to anyone that I passed but missed saying hello !! I must have run near Dr Dan, and Tracey Slade but didn’t spot them.

Mile 15 saw a chunk of inspiration with not only a number of my Crusader friends catching me up after a longer stay at the feed station than mine but also these two young lads spreading their Christmas Cheer. Yes, 26 .7 miles carrying fully decorated xmas trees. Hats off to you lads. What was also impressive was the continuous positive feedback they received from all the runners nearby.

Christmas tree

Knowing that we’d run through the worst of the mud and water and were heading back to Hayling bridge I could now start to consider the last ten miles. I said hello to Kim Carter from Gosport RR and we agreed we were “getting it done” marathon wise. My longest training runs in the last three months have been 18,19 and 20milers. Frankly that isn’t enough running them only once but considering I’d lost a lot of motivation prior to that three months then the next two hours would test my mental resolve as well as fitness.

Challenging yourself is why we run, I don’t think the pace is actually relevant it’s your own personal battle.

Before crossing the bridge I spotted the group of my FCRC friends that I’ve mentioned. I’d already filled both my two 500ml soft flasks earlier so I had plenty of fluid and I still had gels and energy bars so I bypassed the feed station and pressed on. This would become a feature of the next few miles with the gang catching me and then me catching them.

To be fair a couple of the group were having some “issues” so they weren’t running at their usual pace but it helped me having regular ironic chats with friends as well as passed and caught each other with banter.

Returning through the muddier and uneven sections on the outskirts of Havant I concentrated on picking the best lines possible and was thankful I’d been on a few training runs to familiarise myself. Once again Emma Noyce from Gosport RR cheered us on as we passed by, thanks Emma.

I chatted with FCRC Mel Seddon and we discussed our preparations for the race. Mel is an accomplished regular endurance runner and she was very encouraging which spurred me on. I’ve had a hit and miss year but its the enthusiasm of your fellow off road runners that reignites your passion for what you do.

The 20 mile point came and went and occasional short walks were employed. Reaching Farlington Marshes again meant there were about 5.5 miles left and it was great to see Del Roberts from On the Whistle running who kindly shouted encouragement and took this photo. Thanks Del.

pcm6.5Pressing on for the next two and a half miles I was starting to stiffen up but I was pleased to keep a slow but purposeful jog !! More ultra runners were now starting to pass me and in a way this spurred me on because they weren’t running a lot faster than I was.

The last feed station came and went and the short section of harbour mud beckoned at around 24 miles. Yes it was muddy, yes there was seaweed and yes I walked !! I could feel cramp setting in so I decided it would be better to try and walk it off.

The smelly mud motivated me to start running again because as we know time and tide wait for no man and to be honest the tarmac / paving of the seafront came as a huge relief. Yes the wind was against me and yes I walked a bit but the end was in sight. Southsea seafront often has people out on Winter walks and I bet everyone of them was thinking who are these muddy sweaty people ? Well, we are proud of our mud and sweat, it was what we came for 🙂

FCRC Karen and Jim had forged ahead but as I crossed the line, even though I felt a bit light headed, I was very pleased to have completed 26.7 miles and my 22nd marathon.

I collected my medal but my overriding need was just to sit down ha ha !! After a few minutes gathering myself and my thoughts I concluded what a great day it had been and I ought to stand up and see who I could talk with.

No sooner than I’d stood up my great running buddy Paul Coates, who was completing his ultra 50K, arrived, closely followed by some of the FCRC marathon gang and ultra Nikki and Paul Pickford. We chatted, said hello to others and Paul added a clip of video coverage talking with me to add to his gopro account of the day. Here we are with out good friend Teresa from Second Wind Running “kind of” photo bombing us !!

marathon runningBecause Teresa is our mate I’ve tracked down a second photo :-) Happy Birthday for the 29th too !! A rose between two thorns.

pcm12Marathon Madness it says on the medal, yes they probably are correct !! Thanks to Rob Piggott and his Believe and Achieve team that hosted the half, full and ultra.

As I collected my kit bag I had a chat with Matt from Runr and Dave Fuller from our club before heading off home for a soak in the bath !!!

A great day with so many running friends. Our local running community is what makes running special. My running isn’t a hobby its a passion and sharing it with like minded people is what makes us all “Weekend Warriers” on this Christmas Cracker of an event.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year