In his final race that would take him up to his goal of 50 marathons by end of the year, it was only fitting that Stu Nicholas was back in his spiritual home of Cornwall for the illustrious Cornish Marathon.
Having grown up in the area, it was the fifth time that Stu had lined up for the Cornish Marathon. He still runs for his previous club St Austell as second claim so he was back representing them for the day in their familiar purple and gold vest.
Although it has a reputation for being quite a tough one, Stu loves the Cornish Marathon route. It starts off with a couple of one mile loops to thin the pack out. That is followed by four hilly miles leading to Golitha Falls, which was waterlogged resulting in a flooded road for approximately 25 metres.
It then skirts around Colliford Lake for 10 miles until you reach the dreaded Draynes Valley which is six miles of flat running alongside the River Fowey. After that you then retrace your steps back to where it all began.
For a large part of the race Stu was running with Marc Smerdon, the same guy he had a good head-to-head battle with at the Eden Marathon three weeks prior. He and Marc have had their fair share of duals before in the past when Stu lived in the area so this was nothing new to them.
Stu and Marc ran together up until the 16th mile when Stu decided to push on. It was then that he secured what would turn out to be an excellent 3rd place finish.
The weather had been ideal on the day, although it did turn to light drizzle over the last six miles or so. Stu didn’t mind that though and, as he crossed the line in a marvellous time of 2:48:41, the realisation of what he had achieved began to dawn on him.
He’d done it! He’d made it to the big 50 before the turn of the year. All his hard work, training and dedication had paid off and he could now finally rejoice with a full year’s worth of marathon exploits behind him.
It was a momentous occasion for Stu and his family had come out to support him, along with his partner Anna and her parents. No doubt they were all incredibly proud of Stu for his Herculean accomplishment.
After the race Stu picked up his Cornish hamper and mini trophy for 3rd place. He was also part of the St. Austell team that won the team prize for the 10th year in a row.
As well as Stu in 3rd, St. Austell also had Dan Alsop who finished 2nd in 2:44:59, Simon Williams who was 5th in 2:58:02 and Jamie Masters who was 6th in 3:07:22. The individual race was won by Dan Nash of Cardiff AAC who clocked a stunning time of 2:35:29.
For Stu though, it was all about hitting that big 50 benchmark. He’d started the year on 36 marathons, meaning he’d had to complete 14 marathons to meet his target.
At the beginning of the year it looked a tall order and was clearly going to be a challenge, but Stu likes a challenge. In fact, that’s what really gets him going.
He set about researching different marathons and mapping out a potential schedule that he could follow for the year that would enable him to hit his goal.
Kicking off the year with a back-to-back wins in the Winter Enigma event at Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes. That was the first time he’d run two marathons on two consecutive days but he’d set an early precedence of what was to come for the rest of the year.
Next up it was the Dark Star River Marathon, which was a demanding 28.2 mile trek along the muddy banks of the River Adur. He almost came unstuck in that one but persevered through a tough last five miles to take 4th place.
In February he was back to winning ways at the Phoenix Running ‘Jaw Dropper’ Marathon, where he was the only man to finish in a sub-three time.
That was followed by one of the ‘Week at the Knees’ marathons in March, which was back at his happy hunting ground of Caldecotte Lake. Again he emerged victorious despite suffering some stomach issues on the day.
Not long after he was back in action again at the Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon where he was in 2nd place up until the 23rd mile when he hit a wall. It became a real battle from that point on but he still completed the race though, taking 7th place and most importantly, adding marathon number 42 to his tally.
As well as doing all these marathons, Stu was also finding the time and the strength to race for Bournemouth AC in the majority of the Dorset Road Race League fixtures, even if he was feeling shattered off the back of his latest marathon.
In May he took part in the North Dorset Village Marathon, which actually was a Dorset Road Race League fixture, so with that he could kill two birds off with one stone.
On a sweltering hot day, Stu somehow managed to get around the course in another superb sub-three-hour time and actually ended up in the winning team for the day, alongside Steve Way and Ant Clark who finished 1st and 3rd.
Later on that month Steve and Stu were both back in action in the Dorchester Marathon, where Steve again emerged victorious, whilst Stu claimed 4th place, getting to the line in a superb time of 2:54:04.
In July he took on another marathon double header, with the Black Knight Challenge being followed by the Teddy Bears Picnic Challenge the next day. Both races took place at Kings Wood in Kent. He won the Black Knight Challenge at a canter, finishing 14 minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
In the Teddy Bears Picnic Challenge he had a comfortable lead after five laps of the 6 lap race but he then blew up and could no longer carry on. It was gutting, not just because he was in the lead but also because it would have taken him up to marathon number 46, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
That DNF had the consequence of throwing him off-track, meaning he’d have to somehow shoehorn an extra marathon in somewhere to make up for the loss. Instead of giving up though, he set about looking to put a contingency plan in place.
At the end of July, he’d already pencilled in another marathon double header, but this time it was basically two marathons on the same day.
He was taking on the Dorset Invader Marathon on the Saturday morning and was then due to run the Midnight Marathon that same day, in the evening, starting at 9pm.
This was again, something he hadn’t done before so he wasn’t sure how his body would cope, but there was only one way to find out. He completed the 28.5 mile Dorset Invader Marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes, putting him in 3rd place.
He then went home to refuel before heading back out that evening to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park for the South Downs Midnight Marathon. It was a tough course which included some rocky terrain, giving his feet a bit of battering, but he completed it, finishing in 15th place and crucially taking his tally up to 47.
That left him with three marathons remaining. At the beginning of September he took on the Andover Trail Marathon, where he took 4th place crossing the line in 3 hours 42 minutes.
In October, he headed back to his original home of Cornwall for the Eden Marathon, making a heroic return to the scene by recording a spectacular victory.
It was a very good performance as well for Stu as he clocked a time of 2 hours 53 minutes to give him a winning margin of two-and-a-half minutes. That led him onto the Cornish Marathon for his final act.
Overall it’s been a pretty incredible year for Stu. He may have had his ups and downs along the way but ultimately it’s been a hugely rewarding journey where he’s shown amazing commitment, a tremendous work ethic, perhaps a little craziness but, above all, an iron will to succeed in whatever he turned his hand to.
After his 50th marathon, Stu was being congratulated on his achievement and his response, much to his girlfriend Anna’s horror, was to say thanks and that he’s half way there now!
After seeing everything he’s been through over the course of the year, Anna was probably hoping that he’d have a rest now and celebrate reaching the 50 mark.
That comment kind of sums Stu up really though. He’s already setting his sights on his next big goal and if that indication is anything to go by, there will be plenty more to come on the marathon front from Stu Nicholas in 2019.