This is the people’s half marathon

Eastbourne Half Marathon 2009
Eastbourne Half Marathon 2009
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I’VE run quite a few half marathons in my time - some good: the Mull of Kintyre Half and some bad: the Stroud Half Marathon, writes Dave King.

There have been spectacularly scenic races (the Cape Wrath half), the extremely well organised (the Swindon half), the best crowd support (the Great North Run), and the downright dull (the Grand Union Canal Half Marathon).

But from a runners’ point of view they all have one thing in common; at the end of a race the feeling of glowing satisfaction is huge once those endorphins kick in for the realisation that you’ve just knocked off 13.1 miles. Epic!

The Eastbourne Half Marathon will be a first for me and I can’t wait.

I’ve been asked by the organisers to pace the race in two hours with fellow pacer Jon, which is just over nine minute miling.

There will be seven orange-bibbed pace-makers running at 1 hour 30 minute pace, 1 hour 45 minutes, two hours and two hours 15 minutes.

So if you are looking for a time, then stick close, and if you are feeling good towards the end, kick-on for the finish.

I’ve been a pace-maker a few times before and it is a pressurised role to maintain a metronomic pace throughout which on Sunday will mean taking into the account the stiff climb around Beachy Head Road and Upper Dukes Drive at the three-and-a half mile mark. But what goes up, must come down, and we’ll catch time a bit up heading towards the prom.

Having sat in several of the organisers’ meetings I know how much work goes into putting on the race.

Speaking to race organiser Rupert Ashford, the Eastbourne Half Marathon carries the distinct character of an event which has been organised by the community, for the community.

So far some 1,800 entries have been received, which compares with the 1,500 entries 12 months ago which saw 1,350 starters.

“What Eastbourne has is a very scenie race,” he explained. “We’re bigger than Tunbridge Wells, but smaller than the Hastings Half which has been going for more than 30 years.

“Ours is very much a fun event where there is something for everyone.

“It’s a race that caters for all abilities where we are just as keen supporting the last person to finish as the first.

“The Eastbourne Half is very much a community event.”

That is exemplified by the 150 volunteers who will be helping out on the day marshalling, helping with registration and baggage, as well as serving at the drinks stations.

These are drawn from a number of organisations including Community Responders, the Sea Cadets, the Maritime Voluntary Service, students from Sussex Downs College, Eastbourne College and from the Eastbourne Hospitality Association. St John Ambulance volunteers will also be in position on the day.

“It is a bit of a cliche, but these people are giving up their time for us and without them we would not have a half marathon,” added Rupert.

It costs organisers around £15,000 to put the race on.

Profits from the half marathon go to charity, and this year they are Chestnut Tree House and the Regain Sports Trust, a disabled charity which helps those who have become tetraplegic as a result of a sporting or leisure injury.

That money aside, tens of thousands of pounds are raised each year by Eastbourne Half Marathon runners supporting their own charities.

Of course, community relations are key with the disruption to the seafront on the day.

Some residents have made it clear they’re not happy their Sunday morning pattern of life has been disrupted by lycra-laden runners, as roads are closed during the morning.

In terms of disruption, organisers have tried to keep this to a minimum.

The area around Princes Park and Channel View Road will be closed throughout Sunday morning to traffic.

The roads along the seafront will be subjected to rolling road closures from 9.45am once the race gets under way.

And then the roads on the route around Meads will be closed when the lead runners pass the pier at around 10.10am for around 40 minutes once the last of the runners head up towards Beachy Head and then down along the promenade.

While tolerance is the order of the day for some, for many others the half marathon is regarded as another marquee event which puts Eastbourne on the map and brings in tourists at a quiet time of the year before Easter.

Runners know they are going to get a friendly race with plenty of scenery. Not always the best of weather, but along the route there will be good-sized crowds and music from the Pentacle Drummers by the Bandstand as well as a couple of buskers along the route.

There will be Joe the lone bagpiper playing in Sovereign Harbour, and new this year will be a guy called John, who lives in Meads, who is bringing along his Austin 7 called Melody which can play a tune.

Melody will be stationed in North Harbour and I’m intrigued to find out more.

Before the race in the warm-up area, Rick Scott from Sovereign FM will be pumping out the tunes and Jason Hull from Fitness Boot Camp, who has been training a group of novice half marathoners in the run-up to Sunday, will be leading a pre-race warm-up.

You’ll spot me looking like a Tango ad, dressed in a bright orange pacers’ bib with 2 hours emblazoned on it, carrying an orange balloon, and sporting new sparkling orange Evo Cursoris minimalist shoes, which I have been trialling for Mizuno in the lead-up to the Reading Half Marathon in two weeks’ time.

I reckon I need a fake tan to finish off the look! I tell you what, I can’t wait for Sunday - just make sure the weather is dry, and not too windy either!!