exmoor CTS marathon: how not to run a marathon.

After a few events at half marathon distance I’d decided to step up to marathon level. I was quite looking forward to the new challenge, but what resulted was an experience that I won’t forget in a long time. It all began on the Friday night. After 5 hours of driving immediately after work before pitching the tent in the dark, fatigue seemed to have run off with my common sense.

Without having any dinner to speak of, Jo and I decided to go and have a pint in Combe Martin. It seemed a great idea at the time and was further fuelled by our excitement at running in such a great location with the weather shaping up to be stunning…this would haunt us later!

After the first pint our food-starved brains told us it would be a good idea to have a second. This, of course, meant we’d need something to munch on, so two packets of crisps were also ordered and devoured. Thankfully, after the second pint we headed back to the tent.

Saturday morning came with glorious sunshine and clear blue skies; something which would remain constant for the duration of the race. It quickly became apparent that Friday night’s ‘dinner’ of two pints and two packets of crisps was a bad move. Dehydration kicked-in almost instantly and no matter how much Robinsons diluting juice I could pour down my throat, there was no way I’d get back on top of this before the race. Morale sunk.


Once at the event I nervously tried to laugh off my pre-race preparation, but knew it was no laughing matter. I was concerned, but attempted to put it to the back of my mind. Once we got under way, the dappled shade of the woodland glade was glorious and cool and I set off at a brisk pace. By the time I climbed up and around the coastal cliffs I was feeling fine and was making good time. I even managed to pose for the camera! This was to prove a false dawn…

Before we even got to Lynton I was struggling and I realised at that I wasn’t carrying anywhere near enough provisions. I’d already munched through my Clif bars, fruit and oatcakes. Apart from my emergency rations (these were to remain untouched unless things got really bad) all I had to rely on was the checkpoint offerings of biscuits and Jelly Babies!

After slogging up a treacherous hill to return to the coastal path just east of Lynton Jo had caught me up. I realised now I’d started off too fast without keeping enough in reserve. She was struggling too and, despite me telling her to run on, she remained with me so we could keep each other going to the end.

The remainder of the race was a struggle. I was running on empty and had only Jelly Babies for food. The sweet, sugary taste they left in my mouth was making me feel sick. I couldn’t get enough water no matter how much I drank and the glorious sunshine was turning into a curse.

I walked and plodded through Lynton, past caring how I must have looked to the local and holidaymakers, and despaired at the false dawns of the cliff path as each headland promised a turn inland to the finish line like the mirage of an oasis in the desert.

By the time we reached the end I was so relieved to have made it we posed for photographs before dibbing our timers! Any concern about a finishing time had long been left behind on the trail.

Fish suppers on the beach at Combe Martin

I slumped to the ground broken; mentally and physically. Jo didn’t look great either. When James from Endurance Life came over and asked Jo what she thought of the race, I don’t think her response of “it was terrible!” was what he was expecting!

Later in the evening, as the trauma of the race began to subside, the glorious scenery of the race started to overwrite the torture we’d inflicted upon ourselves. We’d completed our first marathon! This was cause for celebration. After finding the best fish and chip shop in town, we took our fish suppers to the beach where we ate like champions in the evening sun.

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