Yesterday (10th May 2015) saw the innagural running of the Starfish races on the Bexhill promenade, including a half and full marathon and the option to run the full distance either as a team of two or four. The event was set up primarily to raise funds for St. Mary’s Special School and College in Bexhill, and it was run by the local group, Bexhill Runners Triathletes.
With my folks based in the town, it seemed like a no-brainer to have a nice weekend away at the seaside with the family and incorporate a nice training run into a race – so I signed up not long after having seen someone mention the race on Facebook. The entry process was not without its foibles, as it was a little convoluted by paying your entry fee as a justgiving donation, but seeing as the organisers were trying to maximise every penny for charity, I suppose this makes some sense.
The field was restricted to just 300 runners in total and I don’t think that they even managed quite that many registrants, but hopefully the race will grow over time as it certainly has the potential to be a strong PB course (though this is a little reliant on the weather). The previous weekend I had included a stretch of Galley Hill towards Hastings and back again into my run and the driving wind and rain made for particularly tough going which did not fill me with confidence. With each passing day, however, the weather forecast seemed to be looking better and better for Sunday.
We awoke, surprisingly refreshed after an impromptu lie-in from Delilah, and I set about wondering how to fuel for a late (10am) race start time. I packed the girls into the car, and I jogged down to the rowing club on the promenade near the De La Warr Pavilion and registered myself and collected my number. The atmosphere was cheery and the weather seemed almost perfect with light clouds in the sky and a gentle sea breeze. I was in two minds about ditching the t-shirt under my vest and in hindsight I am delighted that I decided to do that.
Under the Start/Finish barrier, all the races set off together which made for an interesting mile or so as I tried to settle into a comfortable pace whilst not getting carried away by either the people who were running a fast half, either as the total race or part of a team, or indeed running the marathon themselves, or running just over 10km as a group of 4. I had set the Virtual Partner on my Garmin for 8:15 which I felt may have been a little ambitious, but as I reminded myself at the beginning to just run my own race, I wanted a goal in mind, but not one that I absolutely had to cling on to at all costs.
The route heads west from the De La Warr Pavilion along the promenade and the first mile was into a very slight headwind. each time I glanced at my watch I seemed to be going too fast (7:50 ish) or too slow (8:30) and I was worried about failing to find a rhythm. The prom was lined with marshalls who were supportive and the early morning walkers and beach-enjoyers were also offering the odd cheer and applause. Which was nice. The first turnaround point came at about 1.5 miles and was fairly unceremonial in its U-Turn around some cones. From here though, we enjoyed three miles with a very gentle side/tailwind which may not have really helped push us forwards, but certainly didn’t hinder.
I was surprised that people were already drinking from the aid stations within the first couple of miles, but I kept on trucking and often made up a place or two here. I had found a rhythm and began ticking off the miles , trying hard to maintain my pace up and over Galley Hill before the eastern turnaround point. Here, that mildly supportive tailwind became a bit-of-a-bugger headwind going back up the hill, but in all honesty it wasn’t much of a problem running back along the prom.
Funnily enough, the second lap was much like the first. The sun had burnt through the cloud and the wind maybe picked up a little, but all-in-all it was a beautiful day for running and I was feeling pretty good. I had a Torq Raspberry Ripple in my back pocket for some point in the race and decided the western turnaround point was a good spot to slurp it as I could get a drink of water soon after. For a brief moment I questioned my decision as my tummy made some funny girgly sounds and sparked concern of distress, but this died down again quickly and I motored along the three mile stretch back towards Hastings and Galley Hill.
From the very first u-turn I had been following a lady in front who never got more than about 30 metres from me, but who seemed to be following the centre of the prom at all times. Having recently listened to the old episodes of MarathonTalk with Geoff Smith and Rod Dixon, I was keen to follow the mantra of sticking to the apex in order to minimise the distance that I ran.
At Galley Hill I decided to push on past her and I made it to the top and decided who would be next. There was a man in a yellow vest at the bottom of the hill and he was my next target. By the turnaround point I had caught and passed him, but only then could I see that he was also in my race because of the colour of his number. The next target was quite some way away, but ultimately I hoped to catch the guy in the purple top.
I was still going really well, and hadn’t been overtaken since about mile nine when I got to the sailing club and past the purple vested man. I picked up the pace (unaware of what time I was on, just that I had almost two minutes in-hand on my 8:15/mile pace) and powered along the final stretch of promenade infront of the rowing club, catching another runner in the process.
Lyndsey turned around just in time to see me as I went for the final turn to run the slope up to the Finish gantry.
1:46:20. A PB by 7 minutes from my only other Half Marathon (Silverstone in 2012). And I finished in p.10 – both the guys I overtook in the last few hundred meters turned out to be marathon or relay runners!
Mum and Dad didn’t quite make it back from their triathlon in East Grinsted in time to see me finish, but they were back pretty soon after and we all grabbed some lunch together before enjoying some lovely time on the seafront.