So, the day is nearly upon me. For the last hour or so, I have been surrounded by kit – I’m not sure how much to take, and so I am taking a lot. And then some more.
I can take all the kit I like of course. But, at the end of the day, running remains a simple activity really. One foot in front of the other; however long the route may be, and however quickly you travel it, we’re all doing the same thing. So, me, my daps, a bit of kit and a whole load of heart.
I don’t really know how long this one has been in the making and dreaming. I entered last year, but deferred due to injury. In 2016, I couldn’t run it due to work commitments. In 2015, I had just run the Cotswold Way. But, even then, I am pretty sure I knew of the Atlantic Coast Challenge. That means it’s four years certainly, maybe more.
Across those years, I have read the blogs that I can see. I have watched the videos and I have read and re-read the instructions (whether I have been running that year or not!). I have got excited, nervous, excited and scared again. I love the feeling of not quite knowing what to expect, but I hate it too. The last couple of nights, as soon as I have been awake, I have forsaken sleep for the “awake dreams” of what is to come. I’m excited. Did I mention I was nervous too?!
And now, all I have to do is head down to Cornwall tomorrow, and get myself ready. 82(ish – no route that I have seen seems to be quite sure how long) miles beckon across three days, Friday to Sunday. They’re lumpy (2500m of climbing approx.), they’re narrow and rocky on the South West Coast Path, but they’re going to be fab. And, if the gods of running allow, they’ll be done. I am sure that I will make a few new running friends into the bargain as well – what a way to spend a few days.
I am sure many of us feel the same about Cornwall – so many holidays have been spent there, it’s a second home to many. I know that if my ‘shire were ever to give this proud son up for adoption and Kernow were to step forward, I’d be far more accepting of it than I would of any other county. I have memories that go back to Silver Jubilee year, 1977, when my sister and I spoke to the Queen when she was on a tour of Falmouth as we holidayed there. Anna and I have been there for New Year celebrations with friends, we’ve been to weddings there, we’ve eaten at Rick Stein’s. We’ve been down there with the girls as we drove around in the wonderful VW Camper Lulu. Memories abound. I am keen to make some more.
Getting ready hasn’t been the plainest of sailing this time around. The summer was hot and, in some ways, cruel; runs were sparse and shorter than they should have been, and were far too often followed by cold beer. Like the captain of a ship, I could sense that the crew wasn’t fit enough, there was no way they’d pass muster.
As he returned from his wonderful time in South Africa then, the captain knew it was time to plot a new course. He needed to shed some ballast and plot a new course. That he did; alcohol was consumed less, miles were run more. In the last month, I have pushed 200 miles – not only that, but they have been lumpy as only the Cotswold Way knows; that will stand me in good stead I know. I have done the back-to-back runs that I know are so important for multi-day events. Like a student getting ready for an exam, I could always do with a bit more time of course; but I am as ready as I can be, and keen to get going and hopefully pass the test.
The course has been plotted then; the ship has been turned away from the summer of excess and into the autumn of miles and dreams. The prevailing winds are southwesterly, and that is the way I now turn. Like an aircraft carrier, I am turning into the wind, readying myself to launch my flights into the battle that I know is coming. Whether I shall be Illustrious or Invincible, time will tell; I know, though, that I shall give it my all of course.
It’s time to ring for Battle Stations; on a yard we go!
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