The Beachy Head marathon

When my sister Lucy called round at 6am for the drive to Eastbourne on Saturday morning, running 26 miles was not top of my list of things I felt like doing. However, once we got to the coast, and collected our numbers and chips, and checked our shoelaces and jelly babies, etc, excitement began to mount.
It was Lucy's fourth time and my first, and she only had a baby 8 months ago. Neither of us had done more than 13 miles and for various reasons our training had been pretty non-existent.
So it was that we set off gently at the starting gun and began running straight up a steep grassy incline, until we were above the roiling sea and then through pasture into the chalky expanses of the South Downs.
I couldn't stop enjoying the landscape and the skies, glimpses of the sea and just being outside, running and walking up the steepest hills, down muddy gullies and across fields.
Much of the landscape was reminiscent of this print by Eric Ravilious, called Chalk Paths -

Chalk Paths by Eric Ravilious
I felt privileged to be passing through the landscape, somehow, especially with a loved one.
There is such a sense of genus loci, for me,  - a particular sensibility of southern England - that made me think of the elegant work of Edward Thomas, and Paul Nash too. Almost a tone or shade of perception, one that is not pastoral, but is aesthetically precise.  The land is much worked by man but also holds its own contours, and its chalky crust breaking through. The chalk could be slimy and it was flinty, and the hills folded in on themselves and there was a meander straight from a geography textbook.
We kept on going, and I felt good the whole way, really, apart from the last few miles when I began to feel exhausted. But that feeling of sheer exhaustion is exciting, it's almost what you are running for, to reach that state.

Course Profile

Here's a picture of my sister on about the third or fourth of the seven sisters.  We finished running (hobbling) down the grassy knoll we started from, and it felt wonderful.


PS There were also some dogs running it. They got a medal too ;-)


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