It is the annual Stuart Mills Processional Marathon on Saturday. Excuse my facetiousness, I mean the Beachy Head Marathon. For many years, the rollercoaster race along the South Downs Way and over the Seven Sisters was the most predictable in England. Mills dominated, winning seven times in nine years. Not last year, though. Rob Harley, Mills’ University of Brighton contemporary, took the crown, with Mills a runner-up. Imagine the water cooler small talk on the Monday after.
‘Stu, mate, about Saturday…’
‘You know the deal, Rob. The Stuart Mills Processional Marathon. What part of that don’t you get?’
‘You’re dead to me…’
I should say at this point that Stuart Mills is a very nice man. We spoke after he beat me (obviously) by 42 seconds at the Steyning Stinger Marathon in March and later he said some kind things about me on his blog. He is also a very good runner, having won the Lakeland 100 earlier this year. It stands to reason: you do not win a race as arduous as Beachy Head without being a bit good.
Will Mills make it eight victories in 12 years on Saturday? Lacking a time machine, I can only reserve judgement on that. Whoever does win, however, will have their work cut out. The front end is sharp and if the weather is good, which looks increasingly unlikely, a time very close to three hours will be the requirement. There is Mills, of course, as well as defending champion Harley. Then there is a supporting cast of winners: Mark Perkins (South Downs Way 50), Paul Sargent (Three Forts Marathon) and Paul Navesey (Downslink Ultra 38 and Sussex Marathon). And those are only the guys I recognised on the entry list. There, I have jinxed them all now. Let me make it up to them by jinxing myself; after all, I am a winner too. I am the reigning champion of the Lloyd parkrun, Croydon’s premier (and only) parkrun, having beaten two 15-year-olds into second and third. Never mind the Lakeland 100, that is form.