My challenge this year is to see how many Half Marathons I can complete without going too crazy. So Falmouth’s Half makes its entry on the race calendar at number 2. I wasn’t able to enter it last year, as I was away in Warwick running their inaugural Half, but I did complete it back in 2012 with horrid memories of retching at about mile 2.5.
So, with a race start time of 09:30am breakfast is going to be a challenge for me today. A 10:30 start does allow for better digestion, and a more stomach comfortable run. I opt for porridge with blueberries and keep my fingers and toes crossed.
Sidney Skoda and I get packed for the off and with clear roads between Truro and Falmouth, I arrive earlier than planned which means I can park for free on the roadside.
The race HQ is in The Packet Station a jdwetherspoons public house, situated on the Moor, which at 08:15 is already buzzing with an assortment of team and non affiliated runners plus accompanying family. Also in attendance and sat at a table with some TRC runners gathered around, is Nigel, who is handing out the race numbers and is armed with a large supply of safety pins. This supply of pins seems to act as a magnet for other runners not attached to our club and in no time at all appears to have been almost cleared out. Now if I had been the master of the pins, I would have cross examined all those not wearing a TRC shirt as to their right to have some of OUR PINS. At the Mob match I was told I could only have two, when I took 4 from a communal pot. Even Julie thinks we should be growling at these interlopers, but Nigel lets us into a secret…….they are not TRC pins, and he has secreted a large quantity under the condiment set on our table, filed under Heinz Tomato sauce and Sarsons vinegar (I checked the labels, so no infringements of their trademarks committed). Good move Nigel, you appear to be the pro we thought you were.
I feel it must be time to check out the toilet provisions within this drinking establishment. There is no guarantee that the council would open the public toilets outside at the rear of Tesco’s for this event and I did not observe any Plastic Portable unisex temporary toilets outside, so up the stairs I go to locate the Ladies Loo. On first impression as you approach the door, you would think that maybe at the most there would be two cramped cubicles inside, but actually the room opens out just like Dr Who’s Tardis. There are two spacious sections, one with about 6 cubicles and a second with sinks and hand dryers. There is no queue, the area is very clean and most importantly there appears to be a plentiful supply of toilet paper. Spot on!!!!!
I return downstairs and note a lost looking male of about 60 plus yrs 5’ 6” tall dressed in a black trench coat and carrying a newspaper. He is looking rather bemused. I check his feet for slippers, in case he has escaped from an old people’s home, but I think that maybe this is his usual morning haunt for a pint with his paper and today the poor chap has nowhere to sit. He wanders around aimlessly, leans on the bar then wanders around a bit more. I never did get to see if he managed to get his pint and read his paper.
Isobel is looking as nervous as ever and is checking out the facilities on a regular basis. I even do a pre race warm up with her, which involves jogging across the Moor (That’s the name of the area outside the pub, not as in Bodmin Moor) so I can show her where the public toilets are located having just been told that they are open by the pub manager. These toilets are also not far from the start line.
Team Photo now required and a press photographer gathers us into some sort of orderly group. We are hoping that Claire might be able to get a copy of this one, as she has “Contacts”. I also spy out of the corner of my eye, one Steve Rawson wearing Team TRC colours. I wave, he waves back, but doesn’t make our group huddle. Oh and then I grab a quick snog with IR from ECH, things are now looking good for go.
The start line is at the bottom of Killigrew Street on the opposite side of the Moor to the pub. We are supposed to have a mass warm up with some lady on the mic, but the sound system has failed. Thank god I think to myself, I’m not a great fan of flinging my arms around and jumping up and down in close confines to People dressed as Superman, or bananas come to that. Today there are no bananas but I do have Mr and Mrs Superman stood to my right and they appear to be high on the atmosphere of this occasion and can’t stop chatting. I’m not sure I can cope with this if we are of a similar running speed, and hope that the physical effort of merely running may quieten them down.
Pre race briefing over and off we go. Down the slope turning left around the rear of Tesco’s, and then winding around to the right, through the town centre. I have Mr and Mrs Superman with cloaks flapping alongside and behind me I have the male auditioning for a Porn movie to my rear. These Porn Star males have been a bit thin on the ground of late and don’t usually appear until about mile 4 or 5 in a race but this one is going for it from the start. Now he is alongside me and he is easily identified by the fact he is wearing a bright yellow singlet with a single foot print design on the back. This could be a long race! Menopausal woman could get tetchy.
We soon reach the nasty slope up Castle rise and pass the viewing area out over Falmouth Docks. This slope can take you by surprise and slows me right down. Mr and Mrs Superman are still incessantly yapping with a third person joining in. They don’t even have time to draw breath between words and I cannot detect any signs of them struggling to breathe, unlike wannabe porn star, who sounds like he may be about to combust or worse. This is the only time I have felt the need for earphones but should I have had any to hand, I would have been disqualified for using them. I’m being tortured and we haven’t even reached mile 2 yet!!!!
Thankfully the road slopes downwards around Pendennis Point with the views out over the sea providing some light respite from my ongoing trauma. The sea is flat calm, with only a slight breeze gently touching my face and drying the sweat which has already risen to the surface causing Security Hanky to be brought into action earlier than normal. Just digressing slightly, I actually saw another lady at Looe 10 with a Security Hanky tucked under the shoulder strap of her running vest. I felt obliged to talk to her and she too uses a man-sized cotton one like me, due to Runners Rhinitis. I’m no longer a lone Security Hanky user.
We continue out along Cliff Road and Mr and Mrs Superman have disappeared off onto the horizon, sadly I can’t say the same for Auditioning Porn Star. He’s a little quieter but still close by, may be the next hill will kill him off……not literally but it did nearly take me in 2012.
There are supporters along the road side cheering everyone on and the temptation to stop at the Gylly Beach Café for a nice brew of strong coffee and a sticky bun of some kind had to be quelled. Now it was time to revisit Spernenwyn Road and the hill passing the grave yard, where I found myself slumped over retching in 2012. I had from the outset of this running year made the decision to run to complete and not compete all races entered, so this meant that any hills encountered of which there would be many, I could plod up and therefore not end up in that retched state at the side of the road once again. I didn’t walk the hill, I just maintained a nice even steady (slow) pace and then enjoyed the downhill all the way to Swanpool and another view out over the sea. On this downhill I managed to shake off the heavy breather and my sanity was now going to remain intact.
From Swanpool you have only one option and that is to climb another hill passing Falmouth Golf Club on your left. I once again kept a steady jog up this hill, not once reverting to a more sedate walking pace and it seemed to be working well. I was actually passing those who had chosen to walk, but I was also overtaken by the speedier runners amongst us. One lady with a top on that had the word TRURO across the back, (It wasn’t a TRC vest) passed me by and we would from this point on, play cat and mouse for the rest of the race. Also passing me was Lynn Counter from Newquay Road Runners, a female in my age cat who definitely had the bit between the teeth.
Once the top of this hill was reached it was hanger left and down Pennance Hill, a beautiful tree lined lane leading to Meanporth beach and guess what……another Bl—dy HILL!!!!!! My legs were still feeling surprisingly good and my mental well being had improved since the heavy breather ran out of puff, so once again I ran this hill and did not revert to walking. Things were looking good, even if I could no longer see Lynn Counter ahead of me. She was in full throttle now and I had sort of settled into a belief that I had no chance of any age cat placing anyway, “run to complete” was my mantra, so I continued to enjoy the race without any pressure on me at all. I then started to think, where was IR of ECH? I’d seen him in the starting line up and he wasn’t in front of me at that time, and by now he would have normally overtaken me, trading either insults or pleasantries as he passed. Perhaps he has found someone more interesting to pass the time with???? Am I showing signs of jealousy? No, not at all but I am curious as to why he hasn’t overtaken me yet?
The hill out of Maenporth does drag on a bit before entering Carwinion Road and the village of Mawnan Smith. Ah, we are approaching the Red Lion Inn and the aroma of potatoes roasting lingers in the air, not quite a “Bisto” moment, but not far off. I also spy a coffee shop to my right but have to once again stop myself from popping in for a cuppa. The route then turns right, opposite the village stores and continues along Carlidnack road. One of the great things about this race, and Truro’s Half Marathon, is that it takes you along lanes you may have never had a need to travel along before, so the scenery is fresh and inspiring, when it isn’t of the uphill gradient.
We leave Mawnan behind and traverse more pretty narrow country lanes where I see a male dressed as some sort of comic book character with cape flapping and race number “40” pinned to his front, He’s running towards me. I blink a couple times as he is obviously running in the wrong direction. Oh well, not a lot I can do about this, maybe it’s a charity type thing and he’s chosen to run the route in reverse. About 5 minutes later, man with flapping cape and race number “40” overtakes me, this time running in the right direction……I’m truly confused and how come he can run so fast and overtake me?
I have it fixed in my head that we only have one more hill to go, but there ahead of me is Penjerrick Hill all nicely shaded under the trees but it’s a hill I had forgotten. Grrrr !!! Still, it’s all mind over matter and I plod up this hill only to be overtaken once again by younger female in the top with “TRURO” on the back.
We enter Budock Water next and run through the middle of it either on the outer side of parked cars or on the pavement. Up ahead is the last real hill and it’s a long one. Three road cyclists pass by with the rear rider, a girl of about 18 moaning about the impending slope. I said I would swap places if she wanted to, but she declined. “Mind over matter” I told myself, and I managed ½ of the hill with a group of like minded runners, then we all gave up at the same time, placed hands on hips and speed walked.
Once the road levelled out ish, we all started running once again and the route was along the road at Kergilliack then along a grass verge which was interesting then down Hillhead. I overtook the girl in the “TRURO” top and made haste whilst the legs were willing. At the bottom of the hill, if you have never run this race before, you now have an interesting but small detour into and up the slope around a cone and back out of the Baileys Country Store at Penryn. As I am running down the slope I glimpse a flash of yellow out of the corner of my eye. Please god don’t let it be the Heavy Breather again. Ah, I hear someone muttering something at me and realise its IR from ECH and for a split second I go into RACE MODE. I pick up a little speed and continue along the pavement alongside the B3292 then we are marshalled safely across the road just before the BMW dealership. The homeward straight is fast approaching.
We enter the road that takes us towards the Greenbank Hotel alongside the water’s edge and I move up onto the raised pavement, where if the paving was more level I could have taken in the lovely view across the harbour and over to Flushing. Instead on the road below me, I see a grey bobbing head and faster runner in the shape of IR speeding away towards the end of this race. Blast! Oh well “complete not compete” I tell myself and in no time at all, I’m running down High Street turning sharp right and sprint for the finish line. 1hr 52:48, 7 minutes faster than my last attempt, so well pleased even if IR finished before me.
I’m presented with a small medal, a pasty, a banana and a glass of water, oh and a voucher for a small glass of bubbly. Time to regroup with the TRC runners who have already finished Izzy being one of them and first lady home then we spot Julie sprinting for the finish, blood dripping from her arm and race bib covered in what can only be described as the blood effects from a murder scene. Bailey’s Country Store detour and one’s own feet was the cause. She even willingly heads off to the St Johns ambulance for treatment……brave soul.
Quite some time later whilst sat outside awaiting the prize giving and supping coffee with the now bandaged Julie, I spot the male with yellow shirt with foot print design on the back auditioning for the role of a porn star, limping to the finish line. He looked sh-gged out, poor love, but he can be proud because he finished the race, a race that many people would never enter.
So the prize giving starts and Isobel wins first lady overall (Bottle of wine) and first lady in her age cat (Bottle of wine). Shock horror I win 2nd place in my ancient and decrepit cat, oh and a bottle of wine and the ever elusive Steve Rawson won a prize, I think first but I wasn’t paying full attention until I realised there was a bottle of wine to collect on his behalf.
Then give the girls a round of applause because they’ve done it once again……2nd place team prize and we get to take even more wine home.
Now Isobel doesn’t drink alcohol so I go into vulture mode and as she knows me so well, I’m awarded extra wine for just lingering and looking pathetic. I pass two bottles over to Julie, as she is bruised and battered and then the presentations stop as running across the finish line is a lady, who the man on the mic announces, had been knocked down by a car about a year ago and had been told she would never walk again. She had crossed the line unaided in tears to a standing ovation and it was at this point I thought that one of my bottles of wine should be presented to her as she really did deserve it. We hug and then she says, “I don’t drink alcohol” ………..don’t any of you readers say a thing!
So all in all:
- Parking….Plentiful but at a cost if you go to a pay and display.
- Toilets….. Fab
- Race HQ…Good.
- Marshals..Brilliant, with lots of encouragement along the way and safe road crossings.
- Goody bag. It’s a charity race so you really only get the medal, pasty and glass of Bubbly but the money are for a good cause.
So will I run this race again? I think so as the scenery is good, the course challenging and it’s close to home.
10 out of 10 Falmouth