Sidmouth runner Polly conquers Eden

Sidmouth Running Club member Polly Walton in action at the Eden Marathon

Sidmouth Running Club member Polly Walton in action at the Eden Marathon - Credit: Archant

A firm fixture in the running calendar, the Eden Project Marathon and Half Marathon took place on the third Sunday of October, offering over 1,100 runners hilly multi-terrain courses around the famous site, following a challenging route through areas of spectacular mining heritage and beautiful countryside landscapes, writes Monica Read.

Sidmouth Running Club was represented by Polly Walton, whose dream of running her first marathon had come to an abrupt halt last April after spraining her ankle on the Cornish Coast Path!

Undeterred, she selected the Eden marathon, attracted by the variety of terrain plus the incentive of free entry to the Eden Project for her support team of mother, husband and two sons.

After months of training Polly was nervous at the start of the race and dismayed to hear that the race might need to be cut short because of the cows on Helman Tor, which couldn’t be moved by race organisers.

Polly reflected: “I am not a big fan of cows, but with the starter’s gun, I forgot all about it.”

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The first four miles of woodland trail was followed by a steep climb on the road through Luxulyan village where Polly’s boys cheered her on from the top of the hill and fed her jelly babies to power her on through the thigh burn.

With 2,782 feet of climbing to complete, the runners settled to a conversational pace at mile five and Polly enjoyed a few miles of social running until the approach to Helman Tor. At this stage, 850 half marathon runners peeled off leaving Polly and the other 250 hardy marathon runners to run the gauntlet of the Helman Tor cow herd.

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An unwelcome bovine encounter involving a charging cow, a thorn bush and a turn of speed up the hill saw Polly dazed, heart racing and a bit blurry, but all in one piece at the top of the Tor!

A very wet and muddy trail section followed, but with a long downhill and the halfway mark to spur her on Polly was in the zone.

Around mile 18 her energy started to flag, but Polly focused on her technique and the support team weren’t far away.

Polly said: “At mile 21, my husband and my mum appeared unexpectedly and it gave me just the boost I needed.

“My body hurt, but I realised how close I was. As I started to descend towards the Biomes my legs started moving faster and faster and I felt so lucky to be doing this and to have this impressive backdrop at the finish.”

Polly crossed the line in an impressive time of 4:38:52, gaining a top 20 position in her age category.

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