Saturday 20th April saw the start of the 2019 Manx Mountain Marathon, it’s 50th anniversary
Over eight hours later I was very glad for it to be over.
We had made plans a while back to head over to the Isle of Man, an island people on the UK mainland don’t seem to familiar with in this age of aeroplane holidays. But do go, it is a wonderfully beautiful place steeped in Gaelic history. It was a ferry journey over on Good Friday, to return on the Bank Holiday Monday. Saturday was the marathon with my running partner, Stu Hutchison, and Sunday a day of rest.
As well as the marathon it was also a get away to celebrate Ruth’s birthday, and just plain chill out with us staying at the wonderful Knockaloe Beg Farm just outside of Peel where we stayed last year for the Sea to Summit fell race. On arrival we had not realised the farm was open to the public and we literally witnessed the birth of two Goat Kids!
I won’t say too much about the family side as that’s private, wink wink. Suffice to say it was a wonderful holiday in the good company of Claire my wife, Ruth and Stu, and their beach loving son Finley
So, onto the main event. Well sort of… The Manx Mountain Marathon. There is a lot I could say, loads. But I’ll keep it brief if but to save my burnt shoulders and not to mention burnt psyche.
We started off in Ramsey at 8am, it was slightly cold, and then the temperature increased phenomenally over the day, with no real cover across the course. For those that cannot remember this was the Easter Bank Holiday weekend at the end of April. To say it was hot is and was an understatement. It was relentless with many litres of water needing to be taken on board. Such was the heat across what is a hard course that around 30 people did not finish.
So, onto the course. In normal circumstances it is punishing with 30 miles across the island taking in a number of major hills in a rolling manner. The best analogy I can give is running a race in the Howgillls - that tough. The cumulative climb is approximately 8.5k feet with descending just as harsh as the climbing. I struggled badly with the heat, very badly. Not sure why, but I did. At each checkpoint I was having to douse myself in water to cool down and keep the sweat from my eyes. Stu seemed to fair better. I started off strong and practically legged it up Snaefell, continued strong and then by an atrocious heather climb started to struggle. And I mean really struggle.
By now we were 12 miles in and it was damn hot, boil an egg in your pants hot and I was suffering. By mile 18, which was the half way point I was not in a great place. 18 miles in I was in deep trouble. A combination of over heating, poor food consumption, very worried, mind all over the show, and Stu was motoring on with no problems.
We met the girls and Findlay, who were offering support across the day as well as spending time together at the official half way point at St John’s.
The photos show a worn Cobley arriving, but before we left I managed a smile with Stu over a slice of pizza.
We said goodbye to the girls and Findlay, Claire was concerned, then ploughed on after this official half way point. By now I had stuffed my face full of cocktail sausages etc. etc.etc. I was ravenous and staggering about all over the show. Ask Stu. Feeling faint and to be frank, not great at all. It is funny how all the modern gels etc. never seem to work on me as much as real food - frazzles, cocktail sausages, cheese blocks, cherry tomatoes etc. etc. etc. We passed fresh runners all staring at us, some passing compliments, who were arriving for the half marathon, i.e. the latter part of our course. Later on it became a psychological challenge as these runners zipped past Stu and I.
So off we toddle thinking all the climb is done. Ha, ha, he, he… Oh no. We had to climb back up to ridge height above St John’s in stupefying heat through a forest with what must have been a 1:3 climb. We honestly could not believe it.
It then became a run across bridleway, road, and mostly rolling moorland in exposed sun with numerous climbs and descents. The heat was tortuous and the ground very hard underfoot.
If you want to see the route, have a look at:
One very important point to note was the support needed from Ruth and Claire (plus a sleeping Finley) as we progressed into the day, especially the second half. By now we were tired and again suffering from the heat. The race is very well organised with safety in mind, checkpoints with water at regular intervals. But without the girls supporting us as well I reckon we could have been in deep trouble.
As we draw to a conclusion I’ll talk about the last five or so miles that to be frank were downright bloody rude as we descended into Port Erin.
We came off a long ridge run via a bonkers quad destroying descent, prior to that I’d been chatting to a runner from Wilmslow Running Club; nice to see someone from my neck of the woods. The ridge run held spectacular views of the sea, the descent just brought out swearing.
We literally hit the coast at a cove with a dead end road where the girls could meet up with us. We were shattered and heat ridden. We walked up the road assuming it was the route back to Port Erin. No. Oh no. Certainly not. The race planner had put a hideous sting in the tail as you faced a shocker of a climb, a ridge run with precipitous cliffs to the sea below, then a long drag to sea level across grass whilst aiming for the sea tower dominating the landscape outside Port Erin.
The shocking last climb hit my morale hard and I can honestly say climbing up in that heat reminded me of walking the GR20 in Corsica. Stu trudged toward its doom. I made a selfie protest.
It was on the climb up, the ridge run, and the grassy descent into Port Erin that I heard poor Stu wail and grimace as cramp kicked in. He’d survived the majority of the run from that awful affliction. But we soldiered on with rewarding views of the bay that Port Erin sits in. We were almost done - literally. Excitement started to rise…
The finish was amazing with groups of people cheering, including fellow runners who had already finished. We were met by the girls and Findlay who started to run in with Stu, only to see a dog that caught his fancy and he instead ran in its direction. We’d done it, we’d made it, and we flopped down onto the grass of the cafe where the event finishes and food and water is provided, with you also being able to buy food and drinks from the cafe. We hugged and we were happy and downright amazed we’d done it. The atmosphere among runners and supporters was brilliant. Would I recommend it? Hell yeah. Would I say train for it? Hell yeah. We relaxed and changed (I then started to cramp up) whilst Findlay happily played away in the cafe play area. We also took advantage of a massage with a donation to an MS support group.