This is a special one, or as Chris Moyle would have said: It’s a Bastard!
I first heard about the idea of a Lewes Moyleman Marathon almost a couple of years ago when I stumbled on a post by a guy called Sweder, who with a friend was planning to set up a local marathon.
I found Sweder on twitter and started pestering him about how I really wanted to run that race. On the 16th March 2014, together with a dozen other people we set of for the trial run of the Moyleman marathon (named after Chris Moyle, a much loved local runner who died at the age of 42 in 2009).
I remember it as an unexpectedly very hot day. I knew the route and was aware of the big hills, as I’m local to the area, but it was also my first long run after months of recovery due to a stress fracture. It wasn’t easy but I finished the course in 4:30, tired and thirsty (the thirst issue was solved with a beer at the pub) but with my usual smile and my family waiting for me at the end.
2015 was the year of the first official “The Moyleman” Lewes marathon
I had it on my radar for a long time and signed up way ahead of time, like many other local runners, both to get a discounted entrance price and to make sure I wasn’t going to miss it.
The race was mainly advertised over the net or by word of mouth.
A facebook page was where all the info came from, and the page was mostly silent increasing people’s anxiousness until a couple of weeks before the race. Then everything seemed to fall in place for the organising team: logistics, catering, volunteers, almost 100 runners, and even the free beer at the end!
The course starts on the west side of Lewes, it joins the South Downs Way and follows all the ridges that surround the town, until descending toward the finish line in the heart of Harveys brewry. A total of 3000ft of elevation gain with stunning views over the Downs.
On the morning of the 15th of March I set off to Wallands school used as HQ for the marathon. Along the way I got a car lift to the school from Andrew, a Lewes A.C. friend who was running the first half of the marathon as part of a two leg relay.
At the school I got my number 23 and dropped a bag that was to go at the finish, with a tracksuit and a waterproof jacket. I was expecting the weather not to be dry. The forecast was for a cloudy, cold and windy start, most probably changing for the worst with some rain.
I have memories of running on the ridge above Firle in 2013 during the Centurion South Downs Way 50, the weather was horrible with wind and rain, and it was not fun!!
So, even if many of my club mates were in shorts and vest, I decided to run with a soft shell just in case the weather turned for the worse (and a shiny new white hat my brother sent me for the occasion)!
The start was very exciting, with so many known faces and we were all ready to go out for a “fun” run on the hills. I set off with a fast pace (too fast as I found myself in front of the group…), slowed down just a bit to make sure the speed was sustainable, and ran on.
Blackcap is the first hill we ran up to.
By the time I got to the top of the hill Mike (yes, the one who runs marathons with a 18kg pack on his back!) and Chris were already taking the lead and a distance between them and the rest of the group had already formed.
From Blackcap the course takes on a long descent towards Housedean Farm (with a short breathtaking uphill through the woods), crosses the A27 and heads up towards Castlehill with a long uphill.
As soon as you get to the top you go down again in a beautiful remote valley and up again on the ridge above Kingston.
The marathon proceeds on the ridge until descending in the small village of Southease where, after crossing the river Ouse, reaches the South Downs YHA just in time for the half course water station.
This is where the first leg of the relay ends and the second one starts.
At this point I realised that some of those in front of me were actually running only half the course, giving me a boost in confidence truly needed to run up the next hill: “Southease Monster”.
Until this point I had been able to run all up hills and didn’t want to stop now. I lowered the brim of my new shiny white cap and with the stubbornness of a mule only looked at a few feet in front of me… never giving up… Hey, it worked!!
I ran the ridge, which seems flattish compared to the rest of the route, and then turned down on a road towards Bo Peep farm. This is where Rick caught up with me and zoomed by.
At the bottom of Bo Peep the course continues towards Firle and Glynde on a dirt road. I know this route well and on a previous recce with James I mentioned how this was where I could see tired legs slowing down!
I tried to push here, still keeping some energy for the last hill. A couple of club friends running the second leg of the relay passed me and… I tried running behind them using them as pacers (I said… I tried…).
At Glynde I knew what laid ahead waiting.
The last climb from the village of Glynde to Mount Caburn is not an easy one. With an increasing steepness it seems to never end. I knew I had to run it. I managed to real in another runner on this ascent.
Once on the top of the hill it’s over… actually there’s another descent and another short hike, but at this point you can already smell the Harveys beer waiting at the end.
With the golf course now behind me I ran down the last hill and attempted a sprint along the busy Lewes high street.
When I passed the finish line I was greeted by many of my running friends, and to my surprise they told me that I finished just under the 3:30 mark!
I enquired on who won the race and it was a tight finish around the 3h mark between Mike 1st and Chris 2nd (I believe this was his first marathon). Rick came in 3rd place just a few minutes before me, giving me a 4th place and a marathon PB of 3:28!
I picked up my medal and went straight for a massage, after which no better way to finish the day than a burger and a pint of Harveys.
The whole course was well marked with purple arrows, and marshalled by enthusiastic and cheerful volunteers. Water stations well placed and the whole organisation side of the marathon was great.
Definitely a marathon worth running in the years to come!
Many other runners kept coming in after me, all with big smiles on their faces.
I waited for some friends to finish and then headed back home to celebrate my beautiful wife on this wonderful Mother’s Day.