The Saltash Half Marathon is my 6th Half Marathon for 2014 and one I have never entered before. The race description for it uses the word “TOUGH” and looking at the contours on the map and having run the Mag 7 numerous times, I am familiar with a few of the hills in the area that this race will cover and they are tough. So with my mantra of “run to complete” bouncing around my ageing brain I send my entry off for this value for money Cornish race. No wimping out allowed once the money has been posted off!
Race day arrives and the weather is wonderful, sunny blue skies but with a cool edge to a slight breeze. I consume my pre soaked muesli with yogurt and Blueberries my current half marathon staple breakfast then pack “Sydney Skoda” before taking the solitary drive up to the final outpost in Cornwall. Devon beckons from across the water. No Julie once again, just one sad old Croc on a half marathon mission.
The car parks in Saltash are all free of charge on Sundays and the info pack has suggested three we race participants may like to use as there is no parking at the race venue. I follow some “race car parking” signs and park Sydney in one just off the main High Street. It’s almost deserted with only a couple other cars to keep Sydney company, and a Toilet block that appears to be open (now that’s a rarity). Perhaps I should check this toilet out? I start to walk over, but a male has also just parked in this car park and has managed to get there first. On closer inspection it appears to be just one unisex toilet, so sorry folks I decide that maybe this toilet doesn’t require a review and head off on my trek to the race HQ.
There is a 5 to 10 minute walk to the race HQ and starting area at Saltash Football Club which is situated between the Leisure Centre and the Police Station. There are assorted marquees set up around the field as it’s their May Day Fair as well. I spy a few toilets of the portable variety for our usage and the club house, so as there is no queue it’s time for the Loo.
Portable, green with poorly fitting doors, are how I would describe these toilets. I leave my kit bag outside, enter cubicle and with the door closed I can still see my bag through the gap that is left. Hopefully anyone stood outside can’t do the same and see me, but it does afford some extra ventilation I suppose? These Portable Loos are of an older design to some of the others we have had to use of late. They have a sink with soap and water for hand washing, there is plenty of loo roll and the internals are otherwise the same as usual…..namely muddy floor, push pull handle for activating a flushing action etc…..
Once back outside, I have a quick look around to see if I can see anyone I recognise and sadly the answer to this is no. Time to collect my race number and look lost and lonely I think. I’m race No 49 today and as I sit down to sort out pinning it to my race vest I spy Steve Rawson and then “Our Diane” in the small queue forming at the desk. We are Team TRC and don’t we look fab as we pose for our photo that “8 pin Colin” has taken for us. “Our Diane” and I try to do the “Look at me am I not so sexy and slim stance” Steve joins in. It may have worked for Diane, but I’m not so sure about myself and Steve.
Time to drop bags off at a Marquee situated by the finish line and as the three of us wait to gather at the start line I spot a shiny new penny in the grass near my feet. I pick it up, where upon Colin tells me it must be a lucky penny and I should put it in my pocket. As I always do as I’m told, I place it in my pocket and move off to the start line.
This is what you could describe as an intimate race with under 200 runners (results show 156 finishers) and there appears to be a low percentage of women in the gathering assembly. Do all the other runners in the county know something I don’t and is this race tougher than I’m expecting? I start to have some doubts about my sanity but hey ho, it’s another Half Marathon to tick off my list……”run to complete” I tell myself. There are though a few “Bermuda shorts” type of runners in the pack. The runner of the male species who when overtaken by a female gets carried away in a huge testosterone rush and collapse vomiting about a mile later.
I’m towards the front of the pack with Steve and Diane not far away. 3,2,1 and we are off, off across the bounciest field I have ever run across. I feel as if I’m running across old mattresses and it’s doing weird things to my head. Luckily tarmac arrives and we are now going on a trip around the houses. In fact we are running around numerous streets through housing estates and I’ve lost count of whether I’m going left or right all I know is that it is an undulating route with a propensity of heading ever downwards. Ah, I’m being overtaken by a pair of Bermuda shorts and his mate in a charity vest.
Whilst running along the roads and pavements of this part of suburban Saltash I note a male runner overtake me wearing a green running vest with “Spa Striders” on it. I saw many of these vests at both Warwick and Stratford Half Marathons last year and as I tend to take note of any shapely younger men that overtake me, I felt sure I recognised this young man from a previous race. He may have tried to evade making any eye contact with me, but he failed. “Hello” I shout “You’re a long way from home”. He glances back and then he registers that he recognises me from the Warwick Half. I don’t think it was quite a, “Oh my god, it isn’t that woman again” expression he displayed so we exchange a few brief words, and I put him out of his misery by wishing him good luck, and off into the sunset he ran. I didn’t set eyes on him again. My loss not his.
As you can see I’m a very easily distracted Old Lady, but my mind should really now focus once again on running for a while. We have been sent along a footpath and before long we wind downhill towards an older part of Saltash which runs alongside a creek. One Marshall shouts out that I am the second lady, now I know this is incorrect as I’ve counted two ladies who are in front of me somewhere. I don’t think I’ve ever been 3rd lady in any race at any point of a race…..wow. It will only be wow for a minute or two though.
I can see a castle (Trematon Castle) on the hill in front of me and as we reach the Creek side the tide is in and the scenery is beautiful. We are heading for the lanes and hills on the west side of Saltash an area which for anyone who has run the Mag 7 will be familiar. We are running along a similar route but in the opposite direction, so the views are a pleasant surprise apart from “Bermuda shorts mate” vomiting in the hedge. That will teach him from thinking he can run faster than this old croc. Thankfully we aren’t directed up Castle Hill which on the map shows it as having two chevrons (that’s steep to you and me) Instead we run under the main Penzance to Paddington railway line before a short while later we start one of many climbs crossing over the line heading towards Longlands.
I’m managing to keep a reasonable pace going in the lanes but it’s very hot and I’m as usual dissolving. I can’t face stopping for water at any of the drinks stations so security hanky is taking a battering, keeping the sweat from my eyes. JFD had suggested after my last report that I smear a line of Vaseline across my forehead to stop sweat running into my eyes. I felt this would end up being more like a “Vapona strip” and I could end up with a line of dead or dying flies stuck to my furrowed brow, not one of the best looks for a woman of my age. Please don’t say that I look like the front of a bus, so I could in fact carry this look off!!!!
At Longlands we are directed left and as I look out to my left I can see out across the Lynher River to St Germans. The river is a beautiful teal in colour instead of the usual mud flats that I’ve seen copious times from the train window. The hedgerows are awash with a lush spring growth of Ground Elder, Buttercups and Pink Campions. It is just so wonderful to be able to experience these sights that so often we take for granted.
We climb up then wind down along Voss road before reaching a split in this road, where faster runners are running back towards us slower ones and bearing off to our right towards Longlands. We continue out and through the village of Trematon doing a small loop along Duck Lane to find ourselves at the crossroads with Broad lane. It’s now my time to be one of the faster runners with slower ones approaching me and the route is now heading back along lanes to Longlands. I have a cool breeze blowing across my face and it feels amazing, the sun is out in force and my mind starts to wander back to this time last year when I ran from Avebury to Stonehenge across Salisbury Plain.
I’m no longer 3rd woman in this race as two other ladies have overtaken me along the way. I’m in my own little world enjoying the run but at the back of my mind I know that the last 3 miles will be testing, as there will be a lot of uphill and it will be back around the houses.
Down a lovely tree shaded slope I run and I am in the company of two Plymouth Muskie male runners that I seemed to have followed for at least 5 miles or so. This hill takes us back down to the railway line first going over it, then under it close to the creek side. My thoughts now fill with the dread of those last 3 miles but I have no choice, I must complete this race.
One of the hills we climb features in the Mag 7 and is one I usually slow down to a walking pace to cover. Today I do the same and then alongside me comes a lovely Tamar Trotters male runner, who tells me he has followed me most of the race. He then tells me we have reached the top of the hill, he tells me again in such a way as to encourage me to break into a run again. I do as he has suggested and move off ahead of him and sadly I don’t see him at the end of the race to say a much needed thank you.
I grit my teeth and dig in for the last two miles and in the distance I can hear the supporters at the finish line. My legs are tired, and I console myself that this is my 4th Half Marathon in 5 weeks, the finish line approaches and back onto the grass that feels like a bouncy castle I go. I can’t sprint for the line, but I manage a smile and a wave of my hands as the man on the microphone announces my arrival. Job done, 1hr 52:35 and first V50 female, this old croc is now a happy bunny!
Steve is long gone and I head for the showers which in the race info are supposed to be in the Football club house. JFD for your info, Vaseline wouldn’t have helped me one jot. There wasn’t a single pore on my body that hadn’t gone into overdrive. I approach male behind bar and ask the question, “Which way to the showers please?” he looks bemused and informs me they haven’t been turned on as no one requested them, I can have a cold one if I like…………Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I’m too shattered to protest, and so I pull an “I’m not very amused” face and drag my weary body outside. I’m sure industrial baby wipes will not help me in the state I’m in. “8 pin Colin” suggests I venture the short distance to the leisure centre and see if they can help, so I drag myself and my kit bag over to the leisure centre give the girls behind the desk my most pathetic look (something I’m not very good at) and for once in my life, someone takes pity on me. I even offered to pay, but they declined the offer. So thank you Saltash leisure centre, I came out of your showers a new woman……..well almost!
So all in all:
- Venue……good but don’t say there are showers unless you have them working!
- Toilets…..yes of the green portable variety and working with short queues
- Parking…Free and plentiful but they are a short walk away.
- Course….Not as hilly as I thought and very scenic once out from the housing estates of Saltash.
- Marshals.. All very encouraging and you could not get lost along the route.
- Goody bag.. A Lovely “I’ve survived the Saltash Half Marathon” technical T, a bottle of “Betty Stoggs” and a Mars bar. Fantastic.
- Will I run it again…..I may well do, legs and body willing.
This is a value for money, extremely friendly Half Marathon that more of you Truro/Cornish runners should enter!
9 out of 10 Saltash (it would have been 10 save for the lack of showers)