The first things to note about Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon is that it is in Portsmouth (bad) and it’s sponsored by TJ Waste. A bin company (bad).
It takes in some of the most beautiful and iconic sights in Portsmouth, including an incinerator, a mental hospital, a ‘beach’ made of mud, the A27, and an industrial estate. They really are up there with the worst views in the UK, and I felt honoured to be running through them. The route is primarily along the coast, with the water on one side (WATERSIDE) and the motorway on the other (apart from the bit through the industrial estate). It’s inspiring. It inspires you to never go to Portsmouth again.
This was my second marathon of the weekend. I had taken Bovington pretty easy the day before, as I knew this was a faster, flatter, less muddy course. That didn’t stop me waking up in a terrible mood, which was mainly down to my life choices, and of course, being in Portsmouth.
The race starts at the Pyramid centre and runs out to Hayling Island (not a real island) and then back, so you get to see all the beautiful things twice. What a treat. In my head, I was aiming for a 4.30 marathon time, but my buddies kept talking about sub 4 and that made me anxious (more anxious than I was about being in Portsmouth). I can quite happily trot out a sub 4 road marathon, but this was mixed terrain and I didn’t know the course (I knew it was shit but I didn’t know how shit). I had also been running for six and a half hours the day before. Couple that with my already foul mood, and I started off running 8.20 minute miles out of anger, rapidly slowing down to 9-9.30 when I realised I was knackered from the day before and that I was being an idiot. Time on your feet, Allie, time on your feet.
To be fair, the route wasn’t as bad as I had thought - nowhere NEAR as bad as Reading for example, but it certainly wasn’t the rural racing I’m used to. It was a really awesome day weather wise - cold and bright - same as yesterday - so I opted for the same gear - the only thing I changed was my shoes - I wore my Altra Lone Peaks as I knew that there was more trail than road. They are super comfy with the widest toe box on earth, and my feet were suffering from 2 pairs of thick, wet socks in Inov8′s the day before.
The route took us along the coast and through a stunning industrial estate towards Farlington Marshes. I had been promised rum and mulled wine at every aid station. This was not the case. Here is one of the aid stations.
I’m joking of course. (I’m not)
I wasn’t enjoying myself, and I was pretty much running alone, so I started to try and work out what was wrong. I think all the talk at the start about sub 4 had really got to me, so I tried to remember what I run for. Because I love it. Because it helps me to feel calm. I needed to forget numbers and try and settle into having a nice time. But I couldn’t. Because I was in Portsmouth. Doing the Incineratorside Skipathon.
I got to the half way point in about 1.52 - literally the most ridiculous turn around point ever. Aid Station on the left and a tiny thin barrier to run around with one person width between the barrier and the table. This meant people getting shitty because they were in Portsmouth, and because some runners had the cheek to stop and get water and snacks. At an aid station no less. Which in turn meant “Salomon Man” was going to have to spend and extra 20 seconds getting out of the turnaround and that meant it would ruin his race and he wouldn’t get a PB and it was ALL YOUR FAULT PORTSMOUTH. Passive aggressive shouts of “RUNNER COMING THROUGH” all the way. Dude, we’re all runners. Oh, apart from the Sunday cyclist that was cycling at 1mph in front of me for the next mile. FFS. Fuck off, Portsmouth.
I am currently working on fuelling strategies to work out what’s best for me - something I have not done before. I am a big fan of the SiS electrolytes but decided not to use them to see what effect it had as I’m not sure I will be able to use these in Mongolia - so I was on water, shot blocks, gels and Jaffa cakes - the food of champions. When I got to mile 17, I had some crisps and realised that I desperately needed salt. They were so delicious. S cap it was and everything got better. Apart from the view.
I was making OK time, and for a while I didn’t look at my watch. Sometimes I think it’s important to not look at it, to remember why you do what you do. There was no pressure, I’ve got my GFA, and this was the final race of the year. I attempted to enjoy it. But I was in Portsmouth. And it had started to rain. A lot.
It was in the last 5 miles I came into my own - this is quite common for me because of the longer distances I have started to do now (boasting). In the last 2 miles, I started talking to a guy who was doing the ultra. The first thing he said was that he hated me (I think he meant he hated Portsmouth). His reasoning was that I looked really fresh. This tends to happen to me a lot. It was his first ultra and his first race (he had never even done a marathon) and he was in bits. So I chatted away to him and annoyed him, (”I hate you but I need you” - story of my life) and dragged him through the last few miles then egged him on for a sprint finish. Good deed done for the day. Got a hug. Everyone wins.
I didn’t win. I came in at 4.14 which is totally fine, and well under my predicted 4.30. Medal was shit. Race was shit. BUT I did it and now I don’t have to do it again. I also didn’t see a skip the whole way round. Marketing fail.
So now I find myself raceless until next year. The temptation is to try and find something in Devon for New Year. All recommendations welcome. Just nothing in Portsmouth.
A skip company proudly supporting sport in Portsmouth? SURE.
The spoils of a weekend running. Bovington wins.