Myself (Helen) and Alicia ran the Isle of Wight Coastal Path clockwise due to the easterly wind. We didn't want to be on the exposed south of the island with the wind coming towards us. This meant we had the 'easy' section first and would end with the 'not so easy'.
Conditions weren't great and there had been a week of heavy rain, gales and cold weather. But we had no choice, we had already postponed the FKT attempt once when Alicia was involved in a bike accident and we had a small window of opportunity in our calendar.
We caught the first chain ferry to East Cowes from Cowes at 5am. We ran to the start indicated on the GPX on this FKT page. I'm not sure why it starts/finishes at East Cowes Merina and not the chain ferry but it does. The route to Ryde was on pavement with street lights and easy to navigate. There were some country lanes with no verge which felt a bit unsafe but at least we had head torches. Ryde was quiet at that time in the morning and we continued on to Bambridge along the prom by the sea. We ran through Bambridge without seeing a shop or anywhere to pick up some food and water so we carried on to Sanddown. Bambridge to Sandown was a mix of trail and road and there was a beautiful descent on grassy cliffs into Sanddown.
We picked up some pastries from Sainsbury's local and ran along the prom to Shanklin which was very quiet indeed. There were a few diversions along this stretch which took us inland a bit and made navigation hard. Luckily some locals and OS Maps helped. Stocked up on supplies at Ventnor as didn't think we'd get another chance till Yarmouth 40km away (there was actually a shop in St Lawerence and at a holiday park about halfway along the coast but who knows when they would open).
You could see for miles along the coast and I expect it to be very beautiful in summer but it was raining and we could only see a faint outline of the coastline ahead. It was also very muddy with lots of clay stuck to our shoes. At one point we had to crawl down a clay (like quicksand) landslide, jump over a river and crawl back up to the other side. I thought maybe we had missed a diversion but we saw a local guy attempt this too. Along Brighstone Bay we were very close to the edge of the cliff with big cracks on the path and you could see lots of land had already fallen over the edge. There were quite a few diversions.
I was a bit disappointed the route didn't go right up to the needles and the view was covered by the buildings there. I wanted to run the 500m ish to the viewpoint but after so many km I wasn't going to add one more! Still, it was a nice view down to Totland which had the most tranquil waters due to the easterly wind. We arrive at Yarmouth just as it was getting dark and stocked up on enough food and water to last us 28km back to Cowes. Little did we know this last stretch was the hardest of all as we had to navigate in the dark, the rain, the cold and underfoot the majority of it was ankle-deep bog. It was an experience to say the least! The boardwalks in place to "help" with some of the deeper sections were like ice rinks. Alicia slipped on a slanted wooden bridge and quickly grabbed the fence to stop her from falling down into the sand/sea (we couldn't really see!) and of course, this fence was barbed wire. There were also some sections on a busy road with no verge (national speed limit). This 26km (which we usually run in less than 3 hours) took us over 5 hours! Had to walk the last 3km which was (annoyingly) paved due to hip flexor/foot injuries.
We reached Cowes at nearly 11pm cold, wet and exhausted but pleased that we had continued on and both ran our first ever 100km. It was 120km in total due to diversions and if you count the run from the flat to/from the chain ferry 121km! What an experience!
This route would be lovely (especially the south) in the summer or even when there hasn't been much rain in the days/week before but I wouldn't recommend it in the conditions we had. It was certainly a character building. It's more than doable self-supported as the shops on route only require a short detour and if you did it in summer there would be seaside cafes/ice cream shops etc. I would also recommend doing it anticlockwise if you can and if in normal conditions, hybrid shoes. I had trail shoes and Alicia swapped between road and trail shoes carrying the other pair on her back.