At 05:30 on the 27th May 2023, I set off anti-clockwise on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path, starting at the floating bridge in West Cowes. I was supported throughout the day by my incredible support crew, who are good mates, superb at navigation and very good runners. I had organised the route into 6 sections with 5 brief stops for refuelling and crew changeover.
On the first leg I had Jon. The weather was blue skies, sunny and warm from the get-go, which enhanced the beautiful scenery of the island and made the first couple of legs very enjoyable. The first leg heading west out of Cowes consisted of variable terrain, parts through green woody areas, and some sections popping out onto empty deserted beaches, which was beautiful.
After the first stop, Guy joined us at Bouldnor. Jon decided to continue running with us, which was very reassuring, because it meant it couldn’t be that bad if he wanted to carry on! There were a couple of points on this section that we were unsure about. For example, as we heading away from The Needles, the GPX route wanted us to head inland a little, however, the coastal path very clearly went up and over Tennyson Monument. So we followed that, which gave us beautiful views.
As we came into the next changeover point, we had dropped Jon a little (he had just run 31 miles), and the next runners were ready to go. Emma (who had cycled over from Bournemouth!) and Chris were fresh and chatty. I quickly refuelled and we headed off. This section from Chilton Chine to Niton was tricky for navigation. Huge areas of the coastal path have disappeared into the sea because of coastal erosion, so we had to keep diverting away, trying to keep to the line as much as possible. This section was very pretty indeed, as the route takes you along some coastline with quiet sandy bays.
At the next changeover Sophia and Nick joined. This section was fairly technical. The path was undulating, bumpy and overgrown. The navigation wasn’t that simple as the coastal path signs were not obvious. For the first time during the run we hit some busier parts of the island, starting with Ventnor Beach. At this point I was feeling fairly low, suffering with nausea. I later realised I had overheated substantially. I was exposed to the sun all day - there are very few parts of the coastal path where you have shade, and even that is dappled. However, Chris suddenly appeared a little further on, like an oasis out of nowhere, music playing on his phone, jelly babies in hand, a smile on his face and lots of chit chat. He accompanied me to the end of this section, pointing out the route that he and Rich has reccied earlier, because they knew there were huge deviations on the path.
As we came into Sandown to refuel and change the crew, I was feeling pretty good again. Liz and Mel joined at this point and were also superb. Having run with me for so many years, they know exactly what to do. We navigated well, and Mel demanded I eat regularly. I was even handed an ice lolly at Bembridge. As we heading through Seaview, Guy was standing there with his family cheering us along.
We started the final leg at Appley, which was the busiest part of the run - lots of holidayers on the beaches and promenade. Rich and Ali joined for this section and we powered on. This part of the coastal part is unfortunately not the prettiest. The path starts along the beach then disappears inland, through housing areas and along roads. The best part of this section is the steep descent from Osbourne House down to the floating bridge in East Cowes. I was able to pick up the pace and enjoy the glory of this last leg.
As I came round the corner towards the floating bridge I had the support crew cheering me on, handing me a gin & tonic at the lifebouy at the water front. I touched the finish point at 14 hours and 13 minutes. I was very happy and relieved. We all crossed over the water to the west side via the floating bridge, and went to the pub.
Overall, I was blown away by the beautiful coast line. There are some very pretty sections, and the path is interesting to run along because it is so varied. One minute you can be running through overgrown, foresty, narrow undulating paths, the next you are running on grassy sections on the top of a cliff or on pebbles or sand along a beach. The navigation isn’t that easy where the coastal path signs disappear, and huge parts of the path have disappeared into the sea on the south side due to coastal erosion.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to my incredible mates, the support crew. They are supportive, caring, thoughtful, super fit, and actually quite funny :)