Triple East Devon marathon birthday run

Last Saturday John Keast and Don Cawthera set out at 3.30am to see if they could run 72 miles around the perimeter of East Devon, this was their way of celebrating their 50th birthdays.

John who has been running for over 30 years describes the route as being on the perimeter of probably the best running playground in the world. It was planned to be a sociable affair with friends invited to join them at any stage for any distance – long or short. It turned out to be an excellent day, with perfect running conditions – warm but not too hot, and over 80 friends joined in at some stage, it was very sociable with a great atmosphere all day.

John and Don started their run on the seafront , for this first section of the run they were joined by four other insomniacs, and other well wishers – including Chris Woodcock who kept popping up all day to takes some great photos.

The route took them along the coastal path up Peak Hill to Budleigh Salterton where more friends joined them – approaching Budleigh the group of runners were treated to a fantastic sun rise. It was onto Exmouth where Jon Croome was waiting (at 0530) with bacon butties and coffee. Across the seafront at Exmouth to the train station where the East Devon Way long distant footpath starts.

This took the runners and a two on mountain bikes onto Woodbury Common; at Joney’s Cross the group were treated to more food, this time prepared by Lorraine Croome, across the main road the East Devon Way route took the runners to Harpford, where they arrived at 0945 having completed 26 miles – the equivalent of a marathon. Malcolm Hilton joined the run at Harpford and pulled out of his bag more, and much appreciated bacon butties. Through Harpford Woods and up to Fire Beacon – from this point the route becomes considerably hillier, on Fire Beacon John had a chat with his mum and she told him ‘at the age of 50 he should know better!’ A keen rambler she too appreciates the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

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A few more hills around the Sidbury area with the route heading towards Roncombe – it was approaching Roncombe that John Podmore who had left his car this end of the run and had travelled with Helen Palmer to start a stretch of the run from Harpford, realised that he had left his car keys in Helen’s car at the start! They had a plan B which was to go from Hatway Hill over to Lesley Hoo’s house in Salcombe Regis – which they did, but not without getting lost! At Middle Knapp (top of Roncombe) John and Don stopped for lunch where they were dined (but not wined) by Cathy and Ellie Keast, after being refuelled with a lovely pasta meal they ran a 3 miles section into Northleigh, the only part of the whole run they ran without company. Running from Northleigh to Colyton and Musbury is quite a flat section with some road and they were able to m

ake good time – it was also a popular section with friends, Katy Marriot (7 years old) managed the section on her bike and at one stage dropped veteran cyclist Neil Tubbs.

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In Musbury John and Dint Mullins (stalwarts of the FORCE charity) greeted the runners with sandwiches and tea. After a short break there were a couple of severe climbs up to the Castle, with amazing views, and Bulmoor Cross, before a long descent into Uplyme and Lyme Regis, 54 miles done 18 to go – but probably the hilliest section of the route along the coastal path back to Sidmouth.

John and Don refuelled on chips and coke before starting on the difficult under cliff – the path is very undulating and difficult to run on because of all the tree roots and flints. It was at this stage that the run started to get a bit painful and tiredness was creeping in – there was quite a lot of walking in this section. It was a relief to get out of the under-cliff and drop into Seaton where Debbie Marriott had prepared a further snack attack and also had at hand some much needed painkillers. It was also pleasing to see several youngsters at Seaton – Anna Read; Danni, Amy and Oliver Keast – Don and I

wished for the energy that they had as they were scampering along Seaton seafront! Their energy, excitement and enthusiasm was energising for John and Don.

Along the coastal path and into Beer, Geoff Adkin had promised us a pint – but he said we were too late and had gone to the Beer Football Club Dinner. The descent into Branscombe was as painful as going up hill, if we weren’t so tired we’d have adopted Anna Read’s approach of rolly pollies all the way down the fields. Coming into Branscombe the light was fading and the wind picked up, John and Don were supplied with warmer clothes and head-torches to start the final 6 mile push for home – three ascents and three equally painful descents.

Though strangely the final decent from Salcombe Hill did not seem too painful – the run finished where it started on the sea front in front of the sailing club, but John and Don a bit like Forest Gump kept on running and made it in time for a hard earned pint at the Swan! They completed the run in 20 hours 25 minutes – a long and fabulous party, well ahead of their target of 24 hours.

It was a great day out and many thanks to all those who joined in the running, those in a supporting role providing foods, drink and change in clothing. John and Don have been raising money for FORCE charity and have so far raised over �1000, donations can be made at or

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