So Sunday 15th March finally came round and it is the day of the first running of the Moyleman Marathon, a trail marathon starting and finishing in Lewes and taking in many of the wonderful trails and hills of the surrounding area.
A huge amount of work must have gone in to get everything in place for race day and we were all ready to go.
The event is called the Moyleman, after a local runner Chris Moyle who loved running the hills of this area and sadly died a few years ago. It was really quite fitting that Camilla Moyle, Chris’ sister ran the race and she wore the number 1.
Registration for the event took place in Wallands school hall in Lewes. An excellent place for registration with all of the facilities you needed, including tea, coffee and cake.
The start is a short walk from the school hall and the bottom of the hill that leads up to Black Cap. The race brief took place there, excellently delivered by the Race Director, who quite correctly described the hills as ‘a bit of a bastard’.
So, we’re off bang on time at 10am. Now this is where the first dilemma came. My rule for hilly trail marathons is walk the hills, run the flat and the down hills. However, the first 3.5km are uphill. The total ascent was 140m. Not bad to start with. Everyone ran up the hill to Black Cap. This certainly wasn’t in my plan, but it wouldn’t have felt right to have walked that section. I would have been alone if I had.
Having passed Black Cap, we turned left and headed down to the A27 for 6km, almost all of which was downhill. This section was quick, but it was time to make the most of the slow descent to the A27 crossing, where we met the first aid station.
The second climb came at 9km and was 2km long with 130m of elevation gain. I walked it all. We weren’t even a quarter of the way through and I knew that there were bigger fish to fry later in the race.
After a short descent of 3km, we found ourselves in a valley. I had never been in this part of the South Downs before and it is totally stunning. No signs of life apart from a few idiots seeing how quickly they could complete 26 miles.
The 3rd climb soon came into view and again I started to walk. At this stage I had some food for the first time. The on board food for today was date, walnut, brazil nut and chai seed balls. I know that they look like something that a dung beetle has made, but they are tasty and beat gels hands down.
The 3rd climb is 3.5km long and just over 100m of elevation gain. At the top we are greeted by the folks at the 2nd aid station. This was the most remote station as well. It a pretty good job that the forecast bad weather didn’t come in, or these marshals would have frozen.
At this aid, you turn left and head down what is known as the yellow brick road, which is downhill almost all of the way to the half way point at Southease.
At the half way point there is a good crowd gathered and another aid station serving sweets and water. We are at sea level here and I know what was round the corner. I filled up the water bottles and set off again.
The next 7km are almost all uphill. The much of it totally unrunnable (not sure that’s a word, but you know what I mean), even if I’d wanted to. The first section is especially steep. Just when you thought that the uphill had finish, you went over the crest of a hill and there was another hill coming up.
The section that brings you off the South Downs Way is very steep, on concrete and thigh busting. I even met a runner going down backwards to save his knees and thighs. The bottom of the hill is the 30km point and another aid station with water and jelly babies.
I found the next section pretty easy. It’s 8km, mainly downhill. I got into a rhythm and made up some time. It was at this point that I was sure of making my 5 hour target. In fact, I was heading for nearer 4 and a half hours (although I hadn’t taken into account what was waiting at mile 23). This section was in the shadow of the South Downs Way to the north side and I really enjoyed looking over my left shoulder at the great views.
As we closed in on Glynde village at the last 3 miles, we had to cross a very rutted field. It was totally dry and this played havoc with tired calves and ankles. Better than if it had been wet though.
So we head through Glynde village, past the marshal who points us right into a field and there it is. The hill. At this stage? Really? You’re having a laugh. So, I set off walking up the hill to where I thought it ended, where there was a gate and a hedge. Oh how I was wrong, that was probably half way up the hill. Through the gate it continued and you really could not tell how long it went on for. It was only just over a kilometre, but there was 130m of elevation gain.
The views from the top were stunning. Hang on a minute. I thought that was the last climb, but oh no. You head down into the valley (some of which is too steep to run), before the last climb (it had to be the last climb surely). It was only about 700m, but still enough at 25 miles.
So, we could now see Lewes and we headed down the steep hill into the town. The finish took us along the main shopping area where people either clapped or looked at you like you were a bit weird. It was a great place to finish. A quick right turn and we were in the yard of Harvey’s Brewery.
That was it. 4 hours 50 minutes and 25 seconds. Having crossed the line you get your medal and a voucher for a pint of ale and some food. Massages were also available.
Given my time, you can probably guess that things went well, even though the course was tougher than I’d expected. The plan worked and my legs worked. I fuelled along the route and took my time when I needed to. Mental strength played a bit part in this race. At no stage did I even start to talk myself into negative thoughts.
So what about the race? Well, think of the Brighton, London or any other mass participation run event and now think of exactly the opposite. Well that’s Moyleman. Hilly, beautiful, lonely (it was for me, but I like that), relentless and brutal in places.
This is a tremendous addition to the Sussex trail running calendar. It sits very well with the Steyning Stinger, 3 Forts, Beachy Head and the wonderful events organised by the people at Sussex Trail Events.
Here is the link to the route from my gps – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/720375846
Thank you all for this. Top organisation, perfectly sign posted and tremendously well marshaled. A brilliant tribute to someone who loved those hills.
Can’t wait for next year. I’m sure that there will be plenty of interest as word spreads.
Take care all and keep running.