Forum vs Hastings Marathon: Winning the Battle

RW forumites turned out in force for the once-in-a-lifetime Hastings 100th Anniversary Marathon - find out how they got on with period costume, hills and sausage sandwiches...

Posted: 18 December 2008

Forumite Kevski has a Chariots of Fire moment (© photos)

On Sunday December 14, 1,178 finishers crossed the line of the first Hastings Marathon to be staged in a century. Held at the home of the celebrated Hastings Half, race organiser Eric Hardwick MBE was determined to recreate the event on its centenary, having first heard about the 1908 marathon 27 years ago.

Historic Hastings

The 1908 marathon was male-only, run on a course just 25 miles long, and won by British Olympian W T Clarke in 2:37:16. This year, Julian Rendall of Tonbridge AC took the honours in 2:36:51, with Annabelle Stearns of Gravesend Roadrunners & AC the inaugural ladies' winner in 3:04:40.

There was also a large RW forumite contingent among what Runningmachine reports as a "predominantly club-runner field. Runners had travelled from far and wide across the British Isles and beyond to take part in this special race, and many even put on period costume for the occasion."

The marathon's starting gun was fired by the local MP, just as it was 100 years ago. And many other elements combined to reflect the race's 1908 counterpart, from the long-lived 1908 car at the start to the fancy dress-clad marshals and spectators.

Challenging Course

Weather conditions sadly did not reflect the toll of years of global warming in the UK, with temperatures hovering unobligingly close to zero and mist covering the plentiful hills. Runningmachine reflects, "One of the lasting memories of the 2008 race will be the penetrating cold – only a couple of degrees above freezing and misty too on the hills around Battle."

As Pete Sherri also commented, "It was a funny time of year to run a marathon! I was never quite sure what the weather was going to do!"

The course itself was kept as close to the original as possible, with a few necessary alterations, as Runningmachine reports."In 1908 the runners started with three laps of the Cricket Ground. The 2008 runners did two laps round the shopping centre, which had been built on the site!"

Once out of Hastings town centre and its shopping mall, runners steadily scaled more and more incline, the fog closed in and the herd began to thin out as runners headed towards Battle, home of the famous battle, and through the villages of Catsfield and Ninfield towards Bexhill. Forumite Iron Tractor Boy looked on the bright side: "There were plenty of undulations for the next few miles, but luckily there was some pleasant countryside to look at through the mist!"

Tough Guys

And those hills kept coming. As Iron Tractor Boy remarked, "For each hill in the last six miles each marshal seemed to think they were at the "last" hill! We finally reached Galley Hill, at 22 miles; the final hill. Perched on the cliff tops, it was definitely refreshing. Even when I got to the top I still couldn't see the finish. But at least I could see a cafe aid station, which supplied me with a cup of tea and toasted sausage sandwich – a great change from energy drinks!"

The field then followed the promenades of Bexhill, St Leonards and Hastings, to finish back at the start at Hastings Town Hall. But before the finish, the hardy Hastings competitors had to tackle a punishing shingle section, as Keith Foreman (4:13:29), of Reigate Priory Athletic Club remembers: "The beach provided the sting in the tail that we all expected. If you don't want it tough, don't do marathons!"

As Walking in the Air? Running in a Gale, more like! (4:19:13), of Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club reports, "Unsurprisingly for a hilly winter marathon, a fair few of the runners who entered do like it tough – three new members of the 100 Marathon Club notched up their 100th marathon at this 100th anniversary race. One woman completed her 12th marathon in 12 months here. Paul Garner (4:14:42) of Serpentine Running Club even ran the course twice as part of his training for March's Marathon des Sables! He set off at 4:50am in the icy darkness, finished in 3:58 and then set off again for his lap of honour."

Battle won: Iron Tractor Boy with his hard-earned memento

End In Sight

But crossing the finish line to the strains of a brass band and the cheers of supporters in period costume, to pick up an old-style mounted horse brass in place of a medal, made the Hastings Marathon feel like history to many runners. As Tonic Tone commented, "The organisers, marshals and crowds of supporters all did Hastings absolutely proud. Considering the harsh weather, the atmosphere they created was fantastic."

And for some it was particularly special. Oliver Jones wrote, "It was cold and damp, the hills were seriously tough and the last six miles on that windswept shingle beach were murder! With all that, I came in with less than two minutes (count ‘em!) off my marathon PB, which was set in a warm, dry and flat Berlin! Proof, if needed, of what a fantastic race it was!"

Many of the competitors on Sunday would agree with JeyChick, in sending a strong message to the race's organisers: "I hope I don't have to wait another 100 years for another shot at this course!"

Thanks to all of you who contacted us with your accounts of this special event. To view more race-day photos, taken by longstanding forumite RichK, please visit Iron Tractor Boy's photos can also be seen here.

Previous article
Pocket Race Guide - January
Next article
Pocket Race Guide - December

forumites, forum report, forum

Discuss this article

is this event going to be a full 26.2 marathon ?
Posted: 25/11/2007 at 20:33


think there is already a thread running on this

Posted: 25/11/2007 at 20:45

Think this is the only thread that I can see so far.  Are both of you up for it?  I am, and it should be quite special and picturesque, given the route details so far.  I wonder if it will become a regular event in any case for Hastings, just as the wonderful 'Hilly Hastings Half' is? 
Posted: 28/11/2007 at 21:15

definitely thinking about it if it is a measured 26.2.trying to plan in one marathon on each month next year[2008].this would offer an alternative to luton
Posted: 03/12/2007 at 21:06

have registered my interest - sounds twice as good as the Hilly Half!
Posted: 03/12/2007 at 21:18

Sounds great - I have just registered my interest   The Hastings Half is my favourite road half so I'm looking forward to this one already!
Posted: 04/12/2007 at 14:55

Looks like the race will be full quite early, given the interest shown so far.
Posted: 11/12/2007 at 18:38

Posted: 12/12/2007 at 12:23

.......ever closer.
Posted: 12/12/2007 at 18:38

Have also had my registered interest acknowledged by RO. With all the above usual suspects, let the marathon roadshow continue!
Posted: 13/12/2007 at 13:36

Registered my interest
Posted: 13/12/2007 at 20:15

Yippee Redhead, hope to see you there.  Might you do the Christmas Pudding Dash in 2008 as well, presumably on Saturday 20th December, just 6 days after the Anniversary Marathon?  Are you that keen?  Am I?  Does it matter?

Posted: 14/12/2007 at 17:15

Just getting started for the ones I want to do Next year....  Like the idea of this. 

Do we have to do it in Baggy shorts and in black and white?  .. Might be a nice idea

Posted: 22/12/2007 at 23:37

How did you manage to register your interest?  I tried e-mailing the race director (as per website) but it got bounced back. Any help appreciated.

Posted: 22/12/2007 at 23:54

Yvonne - try again my email went OK and was acknowledged by RO
Posted: 23/12/2007 at 07:55

Thanks Shades.  I've just tried again but it's still been bounced back.  Ah well, will just have to keep a close watch for when the entries open. 
Posted: 23/12/2007 at 12:01

Yvonne - how strange, are you sure you have the right email address
Posted: 24/12/2007 at 08:10

Yes, I've tried a few times now and after the first undeliverd message double checked everthing, even tried copying and pasting it just doesn't like me  I'll try again in the new year.

Merry Christmas everyone

Posted: 24/12/2007 at 16:11

I'll be there - have registered my interest, expect it to be tough from what I've seen of the route - climbing up from the seafront over the same big hill that the Half goes over (though up a different way I believe... though that doesn't make it any smaller!).
Posted: 06/01/2008 at 17:16

Ah, that's interesting - so if not Queensway, then which road is it that you refer to?   Have you seen a map, by any chance? 

Posted: 06/01/2008 at 19:20

I've only seen the original announcement in the local paper - starting at the old town hall and going up near the centre of town rather than back along to Harley Shute. It's supposed to follow the original route quite closely - which would mean about 80 years before the Queensway was built I guess?
Posted: 06/01/2008 at 20:48

Yes, I suppose you're right.  And am I right in assuming you are a Hastings resident, as you refer to your local paper, or is that me barking up the wrong tree? 

Any news of when the registration will begin?

Posted: 06/01/2008 at 20:56

Posted: 06/01/2008 at 20:56

Afraid I'm not from Hastings, but mum and dad are near there and I get to run when visiting the family... I'm in Portsmouth, but I've run quite a few Hastings Half's over the years.
Posted: 06/01/2008 at 21:19

Boing so this doesn't get forgotten

Hope you are all doing the 1/2 too in a few weeks.
Posted: 21/01/2008 at 21:00

Yes indeed Susie, and apparently, entry for this Anniversary Marathon will probably take place after the Hilly Hastings Half has been staged.   See you there.  Is Mike running - ??!!
Posted: 21/01/2008 at 21:11

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That would be a "NO!" to your question Pete.
Posted: 22/01/2008 at 18:37

Mr Finknottle - insider information

Redhead - PSC and I will definitely be there for the half, its become quite a tradition, hopefully Jnr will out on the course with his new camera - will be good to meet again. 

Posted: 22/01/2008 at 19:45

Hi Bo-bo, look forward to seeing you both. Please ask junior to watch out for me as he takes the best race photos!

Posted: 22/01/2008 at 20:45

It's quite simple really, bo-bo.  I just emailed Eric Hardwick about one aspect of the race and about purchasing some souvenirs at the half marathon event, and I got all this info.  Eric has been inundated with inquiries about the Anniversary Marathon, and is already organising the 2009, yes 2009 Hilly Hastings Half, to be staged on Sunday, 15th March 2009.  More insider info for you.  
Posted: 22/01/2008 at 22:24

For those interested in the proposed route here is the information I was given when asked back in August of last year!

Starting outside Hastings Town Hall, at least round the ‘Ground’ Havelock Road, Devonshire Rd., South Terrace,once. Then into Queens Road, St. Helens Road, turn right into Parkstone Rd., Hillside Rd., to The Ridge. Along to Beauport Park Roundabout, Follow Battle Road into and through Battle, turn left into North Trade Rd., Left into b.2204 through Catsfield to Ninfield Junction. Left to Sidley. Through Sidley and past Bexhill Hospital, under Tunnel ,turn right, and follow to Bexhill Town Hall Square,Terminus Road into Terminus Avenue, Richmond Rd., to Bexhill Promenarde.
Then along Promenarde and seafront to Hastings, through underpass to Town Centre and Town Hall Finish.

There are some ups and downs but nothing too bad. The climb out of Hastings via this route is probably easier than Queensway (for the half) but I may just be hoping for this! The part through Battle should be nice then it is a long, long slog through Catsfield (long stretch of rural roads) and Sidley (back in to built up areas but this is probably the 20 mile mark).

Cheers, Mike

Posted: 10/03/2008 at 15:18

Will be there at the Hilly Half as a spectator for once... been waiting for some time for an operation to fit a replacement pacemaker, and it came through two weeks ago... I'm recovering, and would still run, but under threats of violence from various family and club members if I attempt to put my running shoes on!

Will watch out for you all and be cheering at the sidelines - still be on for the marathon, and as for the Half in 2009, try and stop me!

Posted: 10/03/2008 at 15:39

I've just seen that entries for this will be open from 12:30pm Next Friday (28th).
Posted: 21/03/2008 at 12:16

I went over to watch on Sunday, and took a drive round the full marathon course... for information, once you get out of the centre of town it's a seriously long drag along St. Helens Road, Parkstone Rd, Hillside Rd, and up to The Ridge just to the south east of the Conquest Hospital roundabout. I guess it is always going to be a big climb no matter which route you go up, as the elevation difference between the Ridge and sea level has got to be overcome somehow!

I'd say the course out to Catsfield and Battle, then back through Sidley to Bexhill, is undulating, and could be quite exposed in the winter weather - they do get snow in this part of the country. Once you hit Bexhill it's flat along the prom with just Galley Hill left to contend with. I'm assuming we'll turn under the railway arch and along the main road/pavement, rather than taking the beach footpath (shingle/dirt) - at least I hope so!
Posted: 21/03/2008 at 15:52

Should be challenging in any case, and thanks for the weather warning Russ.  I guess that hgher ground will be exposed to more severe weather, especially in these days of climate change.  I hope to enter the event, nonetheless. 
Posted: 24/03/2008 at 10:42

I'd say the course out to Catsfield and Battle, then back through Sidley to Bexhill, is undulating, and could be quite exposed in the winter weather

undulating may be an understatement at this stage of the race - I bike those roads a fair bit and the bit between Catsfield and Ninfield will make you work a fair bit but thankfully it's only about 3 miles

is going to be fun closing them roads as well as alternative routes are not easy
Posted: 24/03/2008 at 14:49

Just signed up for this race. Was planning to do their half but thought I might as well do this race.
Posted: 28/03/2008 at 12:39

I've entered!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now need to start some hill work!
Posted: 28/03/2008 at 12:43

myself and OH (Pit Stop Crew) will see you there!
Posted: 28/03/2008 at 12:50

hmm shall I ?
Posted: 28/03/2008 at 12:54

See more comments...
We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.