Brighton, England, is an unlikely running destination. Like cotton candy, the party-hearty city is a brightly colored swirl of sweet temptation that’s tantalizing to taste but leaves you sticky and queasy. Running in the region is the perfect cure for a hangover from too many hours in Brighton’s pubs or on its pier.
Our family had a blast when we headed south from London in June to take the kids to the rickety rides at the beach. We spent a couple of nights there, and I balanced out my pub crawling with waterfront running. Then we headed east a half hour, to the quaint Sussex town of Seaford, for one of our favorite half marathons ever.
If you want to combine a dazzling seaside destination with running, consider Brighton and one of these two races: The Brighton Half Marathon, held annually in mid-February (on Feb. 20 in 2011), and the Seaford Half Marathon, held in early June (June 5 in 2011).
I can’t vouch for the Brighton Half Marathon, but RunAbroad.com’s review recommends it as a fast, flat run along the seafront. I’d gladly run the Seaford Half again, though, and urge anyone who visits Brighton to detour east and explore the Sussex area known as the South Downs, even if you can’t be there for the half marathon.
The course starts by the beach and follows a trail through sheep pastures where the grass is as perfectly cropped as carpeting. It then intersects a fairy tale village called Alfriston with Tudor-style inns and pubs from the 14th century. We ran through bucolic back roads and along a gurgling stream until reconnecting with the coast that crashes against dramatic cliffs.
For lodging, I recommend The Grand in Brighton—a classy grand Victorian—and The Silverdale B&B in Seaford. And if you’re traveling with kids, definitely take a detour to Drusilla’s Zoo, a first-rate zoo specializing in small animals and hands-on exhibits. Check out the Seaford Striders running group for info on other races and group runs in the area.
Other South Downs events and trails:
- The Beachy Head Marathon, October 22, 2011, a mostly off-road marathon covering the South Downs near Seaford and Eastbourne.
- The South Downs Way Ultra, July 9, 2011, (103 miles) on the South Downs Way trail from Winchester to Eastbourne.
All photos copyright by Morgan Smith.