Well, the Atlantic Coast had been a long time in the making for me. It had promised much, I had dreamed of plenty. And boy, did it deliver today. Cornwall, take a bow – you truly are a prince (or should that be Duke?) amongst counties. Then, having taken a bow, please take a massive roller and sort out those bloody cliffs of yours!!
Sleep was OK considering it was the night before a marathon; after my evening meal, I was certainly full enough. Brekkie sorted me out too; the full monty! Lush!
I’d fretted about being in Group 2, as it goes against everything I would normally do when I run; I want to get out and get on. But the die was cast, and Group 2 it was. Ah, the eternal pain of waiting – the buses didn’t leave until 10.00, and so we were finally off just after 11.00.
After that wait, the first few miles were always going to be quick; a taper, and then a wait on the day of the run itself was going to ensure that. Ah, but the bays came along like a machine-gun roll call of the great and the good; everyone conjured up a memory. Treyarnon, with Anna and the girls in 2012. Constantine and Bedruthan, where we stayed for Mark and Kerry’s wedding. Mawgan Porth, known for a more sobering reason, and why I am always happy to raise money for the RNLI. The cruel sea indeed.
So it was in very good, and quick order, that I arrived at CP1 in Mawgan Porth. Conditions normal indeed, but far from coming home yet. Snippets of conversation abounded, and I was amazed about the common links I had with people I’d never met before; races I’d done, or ones that I’d heard of and liked the sound of, the burr of home as well as I struck up a chat with people from Tetbury. Truly, these events give the lie to the old “Loneliness of the Long distance runner” adage.
We continued to “up and down” as we headed towards the dreaded Newquay. I’d recce’d it a little yesterday, and was more than a tad nervous; the morning briefing hadn’t helped as Ben spoke of how easy it was to get lost. Just as we were arriving, a chap called Ivan announced that he had done the route 9 times before and knew the way. Well, as I said to him, wasn’t he suddenly popular! As we left CP2 (lush marmite sandwiches!), he was like the Pied Piper of Newquay, whistling a happy “come hither tune” to wayward runners.
And just as I thought we had conquered the town, along came the tide times. We hit The Gannel bang on high water. There’s a footbridge to cross – we’d been told we may get our feet wet; well, to our feet, add the rest of my lower half. Comedic and funny, but a bugger for the mile splits, believe me. We then had to scramble up a six foot vertical cliff climb after crossing another river; “bloody hell, how much do you weigh” asked the poor chap pushing Gloshawk’s arse skywards!!
I was probably already feeling the pace a tad I suspect; I wasn’t worried, as I knew that I had time in the bank – in my mind, I had thought 6/6/8 hours across the 3 days would get me my sub-20 target. I knew that I would come in under that, so I guess I was as content as Victor ever gets. But the river crossing and then the cliff climb really put me off my rhythm – that meant that the next few miles definitely fell into the “endure” rather than the “enjoy” category.
Oh, and then came the finish towards Perranporth. The beach looked lovely on the map. But let me tell you, it was horrible. When I had been happy to be tall as I crossed The Gannel, I cursed now; with my height, comes weight. So, as others were skimming across the sand’s surface like a dragonfly, I was wallowing in every step like a forlorn bull. Every footstep was hard, as I sank ankle deep. I was running as close to the sea as I dare, but it still had no firm sand. Serious sense of humour failure time. And then the steps; when the tide is out, you can avoid them by running round the headland. Today, they couldn’t be avoided. Bloody hell, but they were hard. Even when you went downhill, it was back onto the bloody beach!
I managed a run for the photographer, and was mightily relieved to see the buses; they meant the finish. Up a hill, of course, but done. 5.25 all told; I would have taken that at the start of the day.
Back to base, cramping up in the minibus all the time, for a massage and a shower before tea. What a meal. Lasagne, mini roast potatoes (how much salt did I put on those bad boys!), coleslaw and salad. Oh, and an inspired choice of pudd – chocolate sponge and chocolate custard. Boom!
Now, all around me as I sit in the bar (the only wifi here!) are Friday night beers being consumed by my fellow runners. They’ve earned them. Me? I type with a pint of lime and soda by my side. Why, well, I’m like Europe after day one of the Ryder Cup – I’m ahead, but I have won nothing. There are two days to play; the Americans (the remainder of the route) will come back strong and are usually at their strongest on day 3. I have two battles to fight.
Like Thomas Bjorn, then, I shall marshal my resources well. Whether I shall be Molinari or Mickleson come Sunday night, time will tell.
On a yard I go.
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