The Hilly, Windy Sweepstake 20
“Who gets up at 5am on a Sunday”, I found asking myself on the morning of the 2nd March. Somehow Hugh Lovett and I had been talked into The Thanet20. A flat, coastal 20miler. Perfect for a pre-spring marathon and a change of scenery for a 3hour run. After all, Mr. Brenton would never be the first to enter a race with elevations above 20m.
6:30am, we set off for a 2hour mini road trip to the other side of the Estuary. Flyers on tour once again. Forecast for a bit of sun and 20mph+ winds. While trying to maintain some sort of confidence in the distance post injury, I wasn’t entirely sure how the run would go. But more about that shortly…
Many sights along the way including the QEII bridge, Minster airfield and the River Wantsum.
I’d never ventured to this part of England, other than a day trip to Margate some many, many years ago. We arrived at the Race HQ with 90mins before the race start and decided the ideal place to park the car was the biggest space in the car park…directly next to the portaloo!
Time seemed to fly by and before we knew it, it was time to head down to the start line on the coast. It was then that I realised the start of the race was going against the wind and an interesting race to follow. After a few minutes the klaxon goes and we’re off. The 3 musketeers away on the first 20mile of the year. Within half a mile the course had turned and the wind behind us. Scott comes up with a little game to pass the time, a little friendly wager, guess the marshals name. £3 a go, and it worked. I found myself, looking forward to the next Marshall.
At mile 3, it appeared this was not a flat race. A half steep 54ft climb to the promenade above felt very similar to Brihhton terrain and was nicely followed by drop back down to sea level. Still, the Marshall sweepstake is on the increase and gaining support from other runners. Mile 5 saw us running along a nice coastal path between the cliffs and beaches of Broadstairs then a far from gentle climb back up the cliff. The Sweepstake went on for around 7miles and the jackpot stood at over £35 and would have kept going but it was at this point that I had to drop my pace. With the short sharp climbs and long steady inclines in the first half of the race, I decided to drop my pace slightly to conserve energy. It was becoming evident I definitely set off a little bit too quick.
By mile 12 Scott and Hugh were almost out of sight. Running into a strong gale for just over 1mile felt like an age but I’d finally made it back to the start line and it was time to keep my head up and keep plodding for another 4 miles out towards and beyond Cliffsend. This section was all open fields onto a long country road passing a huge reconstructed Viking longboat. Not sure on the history but something to do with a couple of Vikings ( wiki confirmed Asterix was not involved). Passing the boat at 14miles, the path to the turning point seemed to be never ending, I headed into Pegwell Bay country park and was met with a 2 marshals and jelly babies. Exactly what I needed and within another mile I eventually bumped into Scotty and Hugh on their returning leg. They both looks so strong and the turning point was still nowhere in sight. One more corner and I was out the woods (literally), and the last fresh Marshall on the course, finally, homeward bound and only about half a mile from the others. I started to think how awful it was waiting for the turn around point to come around and began encouraging the others behind me that hadn’t got that far yet. Whether they wanted to know or not, the next 10 runners I passed were told they were no more half a mile away and hoped it would bring some sort of delight to their journey, and the Viking boat now felt within touching distance.
At this point my walk a bit, drink a bit, get chicked, run again race plan had taken hold and the other flyers were just orange specs on the horizon. Arriving at the next and last water station at around 18miles, I used the bottle to cool down and squirted the contents over my head and legs. I felt refreshed and pushed myself up the last hill towards mile 19. The final mile, being mile 1 in reverse meant predominately being pushed with the wind and my fastest mile throughtout the whole race. Finishing 208th of 261 runners in 3:14:21.
This race was challenging for a few reasons:The elevation, The gale force winds, and My ongoing fitness comeback. But as challenging as it was, I really enjoyed this race. The marshals were loud and encouraging. The route was interesting and there was always something to look at. The medal and T shirt were spot on.
The weather, although windy, was exactly what you’d hope for. The right amount of heat and the wind to cool you down.
I think Thanet 20 is in its 8th year now and this year the race name was changed to the Ricki Savage Thanet 20 in remembrance to the runner that died running Dublin marathon 2 years ago.
Hosted by Thanet Road Runners, for runners. Will I be there next year? Most probably, and bringing friends.