Having never been to the Isle of Man before and having always wanted to, I was a sucker for Steph Goodchild’s suggestion of doing the Manx Mountain Marathon. Hey - I’ve done marathons before - it's not so bad and anyway, there aren’t any mountains on the Isle of Man are there? Well, none I’ve heard of so they can’t be that big. It's true to say that on 8th July 2017 I was put to rights on this score.
The race is actually 50 kilometres (30.5 miles but we ended up doing 32 somehow) and there is only one true mountain - Snaefell - but during the race you go up and down quite a few hills which can’t be far off qualifying. There was however a half marathon for those without 9 hours to spare. Four of us were competing, three Harriers - David Ashton, Steph Goodchild, Steve Symons and an interloper - me!
The race involved navigation (yeek!) and you needed to have a good idea where you were going as there were only 66 entrants with fewer starting and these fairly quickly got spaced out. Luckily David Ashton had completed the course many times so he knew the way. Unluckily I wasn’t good enough to keep up with him!
The weather was fine as we set off from Ramsey in the north of the island, headed for Port Erin in the south of the island via pretty much every hill they've got. After some deceptively easy road running we began to climb the first hill - South Barrule. At each hilltop (10 of them) we had to clip a waterproof piece of paper which we were given to prove we’d actually been there. At the end I was very disappointed no one checked mine… I could have shaved another 1 minute 30 seconds off my time if I hadn’t stopped to clip! Many of these hills have unusual and enchanting names - Slieau Ruy, Cronk Ny Arrey Laa and Greeba.
With clear weather there were excellent views especially from the top of Snaefell but the weather got a little too hot later and for the first time in my life I got sunburnt whilst carrying a waterproof jacket and trousers. The terrain was extremely varied from roads to paths and sometimes just across country through heather and more painfully gorse which perforated our legs.
After about 18 miles we turned a corner to be confronted with a large crowd of runners. We quickly realised that this was the start of the half marathon. The man with the tannoy announced to the crowd that we were doing the ultra and the whole throng clapped and cheered us. It was a moment to savour but not for too long as a couple of minutes later the whole lot of them charged past us when their race started.
After all the hills had been scaled the end of the race was gentler with nice soft grass to run on for my aching knees and at the finish at Port Erin there was a free bottle of beer for all finishers as well as a technical tee shirt and best of all a choc ice - definitely the best post race treat.
Thanks must go to Lisa and Simon who flitted from one place to another to intercept us with drinks and sweets which was much appreciated as the heat made extra drinks stations essential.
— Dave Jones