Tavy 13 2014 – race report

For the last 3 years I have run the An Res Hellys 10 at Helston, which I have always enjoyed but it has clashed with the Tavy 13, a Half marathon at Tavistock which is close to where my Mother lives. So as this year I have set myself the challenge of running as many half marathon’s as possible, the Tavy 13 was the obvious option and I sent my entry off.

March 30th Mother’s Day arrived earlier than I would have liked, due to the clocks having gone forward. My alarm clock sounded at 6:20am which in truth would have been 5:20am the day before. I pulled myself and my husband (who today wasn’t playing golf) out of bed and gathered all my running kit, gardening tools and my mother’s weekly shop, (tasks to do at my mother home, post-race) then piled it into the car before we set off up the A30 on a gloomy grey morning. The road was quiet and a few rain drops fell, now I was wondering if I was going to suffer a west Dartmoor typical day……..rain, rain and more rain?

The race HQ was situated at Tavistock College which was well signed and where we were directed to a reasonable sized school car park. Husband parked his car (Sydney Skoda was left at home) whilst I wandered off to collect my race number, No 8, which shows just how keen I was to enter this race. On the list of entrants I had spotted one other TRC runner, Phil Spargo who was race No 88. Thank god we weren’t numbers 6 and 66, or else we would have been the sign of the DEVIL. No comments please!

Husband bid me good luck and even after nearly 30 years of marriage, kissed me farewell, as he headed off on his 6 mile trek to my mother’s house, taking in the likes of Pew tor and Sampford Spiney along the way.

Time to check out the toilets. No queue to speak of, just a selection of disabled toilets that were extremely clean and included in their very spacious cubicle was a shower. Now that’s a first.  There were some green portable lavatories outside as well, but I seem to have an aversion to these, so didn’t try them out.

I was left feeling a little lost with no familiar faces to mingle with and no Julie to keep me company. I couldn’t really engage pre-race tarting, as I wasn’t sure if Tavistock was ready for me yet. Then I saw the one familiar face in the crowd and latched onto Phil, who had run this race 3 times before, so gave me the low down on what to expect. Hills featured a lot, as Tavistock in is a bowl like Truro, so the only way out is up.

The time to muster at the start line had come, and with that the clouds rolled back providing us with glorious blue skies and HEAT. Sun glasses quickly grabbed from the car and we are stood about a ¼ of the way back from the start line. The race numbers look quite intimate, so there is no jostling for the best positions and in no time at all, we are off.

We start off in Crowndale road and head North East towards the A386 where the traffic has been stopped to allow us to go around Drakes Memorial and down Plymouth road towards the town centre. Fab, I can do some window shopping to take my mind off me running at about 7:40 minute miles. The going is flat, so I’m coping and as we pass the likes of The Edinburgh wool shop, Seasalt, Mac and Co, individual boutiques, jewellers, posh soap and flower shops we head out of the town towards Kelly College.

Now Kelly College is a beautiful private school which is famous for producing Sharon Davies one of our past Olympic swimmers and now TV presenter. It sits to our left on a slight slope and we now turn left and wind along a lane which leads us onto an old railway line.

We run along this old railway line for a couple miles, with the surface being of Tarmac, so no need for off road shoes. The scenery is very pretty with trees and embankments giving us some respite from the sun. We run across two viaducts then up ahead I spy a young male who looks no older than 15, bent double puking. Everyone who passes asks if he is OK and he responds favourably, so we all continue on our run. Once again, this aroused the old question “What would I do if a runner was collapsed and in trouble in front of me?”

We leave the traffic free railway line and now it’s time to climb out of Tavistock. The road is a lovely quiet lane with fields surrounding us, but it goes on for what feels like miles, and miles it was. It wasn’t as steep as the ones at Looe, but it was endless. I managed to plod ever upwards and was very thankful when we reached the top. My face was scarlet and in an “I’m about to combust” mode. Sweat was running in rivers from all over my tired body and my security hanky was soaked, what on earth was I doing? This is Mother’s Day, a day for rest and being pampered, and here I was putting myself through what could be described as Hell. Even Hell couldn’t be this HOT?

We now drop down a hill and pass a meadow with a stream meandering lazily through the middle of it. The route takes us off to the right past a hamlet of about 20 houses at a place called Mill Hill. Hill in any place name doesn’t bode well in my mind and it doesn’t disappoint. This hill is steeper than the last one by far. I manage to jog up the first section, but my temperature gauge has the needle wobbling at dangerously overheating, so I decide it’s time to walk. A young female with a nice sun tan, grey long sleeved top and carrying an iPhone, who I have been running either ahead or behind of, now passes and continues running the hill. I seem to be the only one walking, but once we finally reach the top, I soon catch up with this girl and pass her, so walking doesn’t always make you lose too much ground.

At the next road junction we are directed left onto the B3362 towards Gulworthy. This section is a long straight-ish type of road which undulates and saps your will to live. To the right if you have the strength to lift your head are fine views towards Kit Hill. In front of me I have a selection of male runners one of whom has audibly farted. I wrinkle my nose in disgust and feel the need to overtake him, which I manage to do.

At a small roundabout at Gulworthy, where the B3362 joins the B3257 and crosses the A390 we are directed straight ahead by marshals who have all the traffic under control by means of stop go boards. We all run through this junction without any mishaps, full marks marshals!

The road is still straight, undulating and energy sapping. We pass a “paint ball” area and mile 8 arrives where I have to say I was feeling rather tired. It was at this point I remembered what Phil had said, and that was, that there was a good downhill at mile 10 and then almost flat to the finish. Dig deep girl, I tell myself and still the girl with the grey top and nice tan, hadn’t passed me. Audible farter overtakes though as we turn left and then start our downhill decent.

We run down this hill with a large woodland to our right and the sounds of shotguns being discharged. I can see where the old railway line had run and start to think about how good it would be if it was still connected to the line we had run along at the start of this race. The road starts to flatten and there ahead of me, is a young female collapsed at the side of the road with a single male in attendance. A couple runners pass and without thinking I stop. I had seen this girl earlier in the race when she overtook me on the first long hill; she was now in a bad way. Her legs useless, head pounding, nauseous and unable to move. I made the decision to roll her into the recovery position for fear of her choking on vomit and then a cyclist stopped and offered us his water bottle. She took some, but she had no strength to do anything. More runners stopped so we sent them off to get help and I decided at this point, that my race was over; there was no way as a mother or human being that I could have left her.

I unpin her race number to see if she has completed the “In an emergency” section on the back, something I rarely do myself, but will from now on. She has details of her boyfriend Daniel on the rear. Another male all in black Lycra stopped and announced he was a doctor and it was at that point that the male who was with the girl when I first stopped announced that he was a doctor as well. Bloody hell. Man in black has a phone, so I phone Daniel but have to leave a message as he is not answering.

Two men in pink (Charity T-Shirts) now stop, with one of them announcing they were a first responder, followed by yet another male who states he is in the army and is trained in field medicine. Still no help from the race organisers and NO BLOODY ST JOHNS AMBULANCE! Ahhhhhhhh.

All these males may well be medically trained but it takes a woman to get one of them to ring 999 and call an ambulance, as the girl is deteriorating rapidly. Only one problem, no one knows the name of the road we are on, only that we are 2 miles from the finish line, and trying to describe this location to the man on the end of the phone line who was based probably in Outer Mongolia was a nightmare. I tried as best as I could, then a local farmer arrived home and gave me his post code. Problem solved.

The men then carry the girl, who is a dead weight, to the farm and some shade. Army medic goes into full heat exhaustion training mode, directs operations and they are pouring cold water over her, soaking cloths and covering her as she vomits. I hold her hand and promise to stay with her, telling her she has ruined my race timing, but has added a new dimension to my race report. One man titters but she has no idea what day of the week it is really.

Finally St Johns first aiders arrive with stretcher, but when asked by Dr in black Lycra if they have cannulas and a drip, they announce that they don’t and aren’t trained for that anyway. They look rather baffled by all that is going on but tell us that they do have an ambulance with air con.

Within seconds real paramedics arrive and we load the girl onto the stretcher and she is passed into their safe hands. Army medic continues his race and then male in Lycra, the two in Pink and I continue on our way. I reactivate my Garmin which I had stopped about a minute after stopping. We run the last two miles together with male in Lycra going ahead with half a mile to go. Our race times will be pants, but as male in Lycra says before he ran ahead “at least we saved a life”

The race finishes with one circuit of a race track and I cross the line with the two males in pink in 2hrs 15. I then reminded myself that I was only running to complete so time didn’t really matter, but after I had collected my race Technical T, banana and bottle of water I checked my finish time on my Garmin, to find I would have been second V50 female. Maybe next year?

I head off to use the showers, locate the brother of the girl who had collapsed and explained what had happened. It turns out she is a year 4 medical student, I start to wonder if I was the only person running this race not medically trained. If you were going to collapse, this was the definitely the race to do it in.

The showers were HOT, very HOT, in fact so hot that they could easily give you Derma abrasion, a cosmetic procedure some women pay thousands for and here you could have it for free. The whole process of showering was quite comical, with me trying an assortment of contortions to get my body low enough, to get the water as it cooled in it’s decent from the shower head. As the shower heads were at school pupil height, this turned out to be impossible. Anyway, I was completely sterilized and sweat free by the end and headed off to my 89 yr. old mother’s, to deliver her shopping, do her gardening and cook her dinner.

A memorable Mother’s Day all round.

So all in all:

  • 1. Great race HQ.
  • 2. Toilets faultless, showers too hot.
  • 3. Race route scenic and challenging.
  • 4. Race memento: nice Technical T, banana and bottle of water.
  • 5. Marshals located so no one could get lost and traffic control excellent. A couple could have done with being a little more encouraging to the runners, but all in all 10 out 10.
  • 6. Would I run this race again? Maybe if only to see what time I could actually do it in.