Run around the Isle of Wight Coast Path… fastest known time
It was meant to be a relay
For the past couple of years, during the summer, there has been a relay where participants run around the official Isle of Wight coast path: 70miles from West Cowes, anticlockwise, to East Cowes. The run is completely unofficial, is not a race and runners need to self navigate the unmarshalled coastal path. The relay is broken down in to 10 legs of distances varying from 6-10miles and attracts differing ability runners from local clubs: Isle of Wight Road Runners, Ryde Harriers, West Wight Road Runners and Godshill Massive (GHM) RS.
Having found a love for ultra distances over the previous 2 years I found I was okay at it. I’d had a few 3rd places in 12hour trail events and even won one, the Bad Cow 12 hour (66miles) in September 2017. Knowing the Round The Island Relay was coming up I had a mad thought that I’d run all 10 legs and attempt to run it faster than anyone know to have before, or at least on par with a credible time. I was also trying to keep this quiet from as many people as I could until the day of the relay.
Fastest known times
Ever since walking around the Isle of Wight in a day at the end of April 2016, as an Isle of Wight Walking Festival walk-leader, I’ve wondered if I’d be up to the task of running/run-hiking the route (answer yes, see above). I set about asking a few people and searching Google for reports on times. One mate had walked it in 20hours, without breaking into a run, and suggested 16hours might be doable.
The Isle of Wight LDWA website states that David Yates has had a crack at it in “a time of 16 hours and 23 minutes, he was some way off the reputed record time of 13 hours and 55 minutes”. So that’s 13:55 to beat?
Outdoors Radar website has an in-depth report from Damian Hall that he completed the path in 13 hours and 49 minutes. It seems this wasn’t optimal from him, misjudging distance, and I would guess that knowing the route inside out would be an advantage (I’m local and know it inside out!).
There is a race billed as Isle of Wight Challenge, The Coastal Path…..Walk, Jog, or Run it. This comes out at 65 miles and cuts certain parts of the coast path out, probably due to numbers of competitors and logistics of route marking combined. Anyway results from this race can be discounted as it comes up around 5 miles short.
13 hours 49 minutes to beat? In the end I decided to set my target around the 13 hours mark, but knew getting the fastest known time wouldn’t be a walk in the park.
The run: 9th June 2018
The relay was due to start at 0730hrs on 9th June 2018 so I decided to start at 0630hrs. This was an hour ahead of the others as I didn’t want to get to finish to find people wondering where I’d got to!
Keeping it quiet also didn’t happen, somehow most people already knew what was going on!
With a nice and early start club-mate and friend, Bill Goozee, we took it easy at a chilled 9 minute miles. Bill wanted to run the coast path too and, having a marathon best of sub-2:50 and a 12hour debut of 71.7miles, is of decent running calibre!
The first 20 miles of so went without hitch. I’d worked out paces, for each relay leg, based on A and B goals and we were bang on pace without working too hard. Zoe, Bills girlfriend, met us at pre-arranged locations/times to resupply us (mainly drinks and the odd cigarette!).
All was going to plan?!
From 20 – 27 miles things get lumpy. Going from Totland Bay to Alum Bay, the Needles, and down Tennyson Down to Freshwater Bay. We sort of stayed on pace, still taking it easy as there was a long way yet to run. After 27miles at Freshwater Bay just over 4 hours had elapsed Bill was having stomach issues (runners belly). We tried to walk it off but to no avail. Conveniently we were a mile from the Compton Bay toilets and phoned for Zoe to pick Bill up. Plans were changed and he’d meet me later to run if he could, and help with support in the meantime.
Being a bit OCD over the timings, I knew I’d fallen a few minutes behind my slowest timings on the pace card. From miles 28 – 36 the path is flatter than the previous 8miles, albeit for a few chines and I found a really good rhythm and ran well, making up these lost minutes. At 36 miles, Whale Chine, I took an few minutes extra to drink more and chat to the other aid crews for the impending arrival of relay runners. My dad had also made it out to Whale Chine and brought extra drinks, Coke and Tailwind, which was very welcomed.
From Whale Chine to Ventnor and onto Shanklin it gets lumpy again. But i ran well, even most of the uphills and steps. At Ventnor Bill was there to meet me, true to his word, with his dad. Drinks and snacks all laid out – including Beer!.. which I passed on. A swift exit along to Bonchurch Landslip I still felt good. I hiked the landslip as running wouldn’t have gained much time and was soon through Lucombe and descending onto Shanklin seafront.
Feeling good didn’t last long though! Miles 49 and 50, after picking the pace up, I was rough… dizzy, staggering and felt sick. Yes, I’d blown up and gone a little hypoglycaemic. Fortunately I was near the public toilets on the revetment so stopped inside, to get out the sun and sort myself out. As if by magic, a handful of minutes later, I exited the loo’s feeling good again.
A quick ice lolly and can of Pepsi stop at Yaverland and I was running up Culver. I had planned to hike Culver Down but Hayley from the leading relay was about to catch me and I wanted to hold it off for as long as possible. Greeted by ‘Whoop Whoop’ she was gone and I was back to solitary running, onto Bembridge then to Duver.
Bill met me at Duver/St. Helens and ran with me, keeping my mind off the task with chit-chat, all the way until Fishbourne at 64 miles. We took it very easy as I worked out I was on for a decent time and wanted to finish well. On the pace card I had reckoned on slowing more, but I wasn’t, and I was now at the faster end of my required paces.
I left Fishbourne to embark on the last 5 or 6 miles, all road now. No race pack now, just a hand-held bottle of Tailwind! I was buzzing, I could still run around 10-10:30 min/miles on the flat and honestly just wanted to get it done.
12 hours and 25 minutes after starting this run around the Isle of Wight Coast Path I was at the Lifeboat Pub in East Cowes. I had finished, met by my girlfriend and a few club mates. And finished over half an hour quicker than my best hope, and over an hour quicker than anyone else I could find reported to have done it. Beer time and chuffed to bits!
Registering a Fastest Known Time
A few months after completing my run around the Isle of Wight coast I finally registered it as an official Fastest Known Time. The process was straight forward: you need to submit evidence such as GPS logs, Strava, Photos, reports etc… then it gets vetted. Two days later I received an email from Peter Bakwin saying it’s all registered and well done, adding Very nice! I want to run/hike that.
So job done, for now. I’m sure someone will better my FKT in the future, but for now it’s mine.
The Map Route and Stats
Below is a map of the route taken during my run around the Coastal Path, from the GPX file on my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watch. Full statistics, including lap splits, stops and elevation can be viewed on my Strava activity.
Total climbing: 10512 ft
Total descent: -10518 ft
Total Time: 12:25:18