Simon Hollyer and David Wright
Back in 2017, when Jo Earlam organised the inaugural Women Can Marathon, David Wright volunteered to help out by course-checking parts of the route. Since then, he has wanted to have a go at the whole route himself. Over the last few years he and Simon Hollyer have done sections of the route and both thought it was about time that they did all of it. So, inspired by Jo’s recent birthday marathon effort, they both decided to make the most of the late May heatwave and take on the challenge in the Sidmouth sun writes Hamish Spence.
The 26.2 miles course starts on the sports field of Tipton St John. However, they both live two miles away from the official start line and neither of the wanted to drive, so they set off from West Hill at a very early hour with a socially distanced gap and made their way down to join the River Otter at Tipton and pick up the route from the beginning. This would mean it would be a stretched marathon of 30 miles! There were very few people out at this time of the morning, so they had the trail mainly to themselves, only encountering the occasional dog walker and the skylarks hovering high above along the Coastal Path to Sidmouth. As the pair descended down Peak Hill the heat from the morning sun was just starting to bite and water was being consumed in quantity!
There were a few more people out and about as they continued along the seafront of Sidmouth and along the Byes to Sidford, so where they could they ran on the grass areas of The Byes. By the time the lads had reached Sidford and due to the heat of the morning sun, they had got through 3 Litres of water between them, fortunately a pre-arranged pit-stop enabled them to top up with another 1.5 Litres each. The decision not to stop for an ice-cream in Sidmouth didn’t feel like such an error once they had cold water in their backpacks again! From the mostly flat parkland to Sidford it was then to be up, up and up onto East Hill to follow The Strips through the woodland and forest and then down to the other side of Ottery St Mary, to pick up the River Otter again back to Tipton St John.
The Women Can Marathon route is so carefully considered, taking in so many wonderful elements of East Devon and many of its beautiful trails. The views from East Hill were magnificent, but by the time we reached Ottery St Mary it was the thought of a John Mills style “Ice Cold in Alex” drink at the end that kept us going. Completing the marathon took about 5 hours 55mins and the “Ice Cold” was in fact a pint of milk at Knights Farm Shop in Fluxton! Thirty miles and 7 hours later, having spent the day at least 2 metres apart, consuming 3litres of water each with 1 pint of milk and 0 ice-creams they arrived back at West Hill in a happy, but knackered state.