By Tom Roper
When the Lions moved the Seaford Half from its traditional mid-June date to May, they left a half-marathon shaped hole in the running calendar. Running, like all of nature, abhors a vacuum, and in 2016 the Martello Rotary Club organised the first Triple Challenge, which includes a half-marathon for runners, as well as a choice of 20 and 30 mile routes for cyclists, and a walking option.
The 2016 event was notable for thick fog and rain that caused at least one runner to lose his way. In the week before, it looked as if conditions would be better, but on Sunday 11 June the morning was cloudy. As we arrived at the Salts, thick cloud covered the cliffs above Newhaven. History would repeat itself.
Three Striders lined up with thirty-odd runners, and a similar number of cyclists: Amanda Feast, Trevor Jones and me. The cyclists were off first and, after a decent interval, we were sent off westwards towards the Sailing Club. This race follows the same route as the other Seaford Half until Bishopstone, where we carry on towards Norton, instead of turning off the road.
At the Norton pumping station, we ran out of road, and started a long ascent to the top of Beddingham Hill. Climbing was warm work, and the cloud cover seemed to make it hotter. I was alarmed when warned by a marshal that there would be no water at the water stop. An accident on the A27 had stopped the car carrying the water from getting through. This was dispiriting news, but there was nothing to be done.
Once at the top of the hill, we turned east, joining a very familiar route: apart from the many training runs we’ve all used it for, it’s the route of the Moyleman and, in reverse, the Firle half-marathon and the Bill Young Memorial Run.
The fog had set in, and visibility was very poor, but fortunately there was no rain. By the time I reached Firle Bostal I was pleased to find that there was water, despite the marshal’s warning. I drank gratefully.
Then we went over Firle Beacon, the highest point of the course, and then down, turning seawards at Bo Peep. The final slog is back from Bo Peep, and following the May Seaford Half’s course backwards, down to Bishopstone. Finally, with nothing left in my legs, I slogged back from Bishopstone, past the sailing club where, defying the fog, they were sailing, and along the sea front to the finish.
First finisher was Jamie Boucher in 1:29:33, while the first lady was Rachael Newble in 1:50:47. Amanda Feast was the first Strider home in 2:04:27, while Trevor Jones finished in 2:20:58. I was last, in 3:03:37. That’s the first time I’ve ever been the wrong side of three hours over the distance, and over an hour and a quarter slower than my best time for a half.
Thanks to Martin Bulger for time-keeping, all the Striders who helped with the road-crossing, the Rotary club organisers and marshals, and Tony Humphreys for photographing us, warts and all.
I’d recommend this race. It’s different from the May half, without the long slog by the Cuckmere, and the leg-shredding descent of Seaford Head, and the views, on a clear day, would be spectacular. Next year, perhaps.