When you set yourself a challenge to run 13 Half Marathons in a year and due to injury you only complete 12, what would any sensible woman of a certain age do? Enter the Cornish Marathon which is described as the toughest in the country. No they wouldn’t, but I did. I wasn’t even drunk at the time, delusional yes but not drunk.
Saturday 15th November arrives, pre race worries have really set in, but to make matters worse, whilst meeting Julie for coffee at Boscawen Park, I disclose to a group of TRC runners, also there drinking coffee, that I had stupidly entered this race. One of the group laughs out loud, in that “you must be joking, there is no way you could run this event” sort of way. For a minute I am hurt, but then it dawns on me that this is just the what I need to fix in my head as my running mantra for this event, so when things get tough as I know they will do, I can visualise this moment grit my teeth and carry on, just to prove that person wrong!
6:30am Sunday 16th and my alarm clock sounds so I ready myself for the off. I’m no good at Carbo loading or fuelling for races, so I stick to porridge and banana for breakfast then head off up the A30 then A38 to the sunny metropolis of Pensilva. The last time I visited this village, I was 16yrs old and my parents were looking at a property there. Luckily it didn’t prove to be what they were looking for. Sorry Pensilva I don’t wish to offend, and you do appear to have improved with age.
Parking is free of charge and situated in a small industrial unit about 500m from the race HQ. I leave “Sydney Skoda” there and walk up the road with a group of Bodmin runners, no Julie to keep me company today, she is far too sensible to even contemplate entering this race, but I must add that she has run it in the past. A couple weeks ago, it looked as if TRC would have a Ladies team of 4 for this event, but sadly injury and illness meant that the only ladies here today would be Isobel and I. There is a good turnout of TRC men though and I am handed my race number by Andrew, 181, I think I might well feel that age after today?
I find Isobel sat in the corridor of the race HQ in close proximity to the toilets, her usual haunt at any race. She does a wonderful job in trying to reassure me and I feel a little more positive. My mantra is fixed in my head, and I’m already gritting my teeth, which my dentist will hate, as it ruins my back teeth, what’s left of them that is! The toilets are situated in the race HQ (Millennium House) and there are about 5 cubicles in a small room of standard Community Hall standard. There is toilet roll, but there is no way that it will serve all the nervous runners passing through this facility. So should you plan to do this race in 2015, make sure you have some tissues to hand. The room is clean and the queue short, unlike the men who have a queue out the door to their Loo.
The next dilemma is clothing. I had looked at the weather forecast a couple days ago and it showed rain due to come in at about 12 noon, so I decide shorts would be the best option not cropped trousers as bare legs will cope better with rain. I also pack a waterproof jacket in my bum bag (a rather large yellow bag) as I don’t want to suffer hyperthermia should I be part way round and the heavens open. I also pack a pair of gloves and a Buff. All I needed now is a flask of tea and a picnic, ah but I don’t normally eat and drink when I run. Maybe a marathon requires the intake of nourishment, so I pack Kendall Mint Cake, Jelly beans and some savoury biscuit thing that came in my goody bag at Palma.
Off to the start line we all walk, which is in the driveway of the Race HQ. Today is not a day that requires me situating myself towards the front 3rd of those gathered, somewhere near the back will do fine. My stomach churns slightly at the thought of what lies ahead, but there is no going back and I have that mantra in my head where I need to prove that I can complete this course in its entirety and prove the laughing doubter wrong. As my mother said, “the one that laughs last laughs longest!” I cannot hear the race briefing due to all the chatter going on around me, but I’m sure it is the usual keep left, keep right, do as the marshals direct, no head phones, mind the traffic etc……. before I know it, we are off. Off on a two lap route around part of Pensilva, and I’m reigning myself in. I can hear my daughter telling me to run slower, so I keep to a moderate pace that feels very comfortable, but in truth was too fast for the likes of myself. The pace is good though and conversation with those around me is easy.
The village has come out to show their support and I spy one young lad with a sign that reads “Toe nails are for sissies” a runner in front of me says “it’s a shame the boy can’t spell scissors”. I can sense this will be a sociable run, unlike the short and faster races I have competed in, where it’s hard enough to breathe, let alone converse. After the first two laps, we head out of the village along a road with a multitude of speed humps, which must be hell to drive along on a daily basis. The road has a slight incline but it doesn’t cause any problems for me and at the top we bear left onto the B3254 then right towards Crows Nest, with open moorland each side and fabulous views. If only I had time to stop and soak it all up, take some photo’s, drink coffee, eat chocolate, but no I must run on.
The lane we are now running along slopes downward, which is lovely. I feel relaxed, my pace feels good and I’m sort of enjoying myself as this is all totally new territory for me, somewhere I have never run before. I have no idea what is around the corner and that is really good, I’ll face each hill as it arrives and see what happens. Crows Nest is a small hamlet with a pub, where the route starts to climb upwards skirting another hamlet called Darite. I decide to walk a section of the hill to conserve energy levels and before long we reach the road that if we turned right would take us to Minions, the home of The 5 tors fell race which sadly this year was cancelled due to all the rain we had over the winter months. The road takes a gentle downwards slope passing King Doniert’s stone on our left and is busy with cars, cyclists and runners. A bottle neck arrives and the traffic comes to a halt ahead of me, where one very silly female runner decides to try to squeeze between two cars travelling in opposite directions. This makes her the jam in the car sandwich. She does this just as the car on her left, who has no idea she is there, continues to squeeze through the narrowing gap. I gasp then say “You stupid girl”. She doesn’t hear me or the other comments by runners close by, but manages to come out the other side unscathed, whilst I just stand still and wait for the hazard to clear. I must have added a 20 second penalty to my finishing time, which over 26 miles would ultimately make no difference at all but at least I wouldn’t end up squashed and broken within the first 5 miles of the race.
At Redgate we turn right continuing downhill to Draynes Bridge and the car park serving Golitha Falls. A gathering of supporters cheer us on and upwards as this is the start of the climb up to Colliford Lake. This is a run walk area for me and Donal Breen comes alongside and we walk, talk and run a mile or so together before he trots off into the distance. I hear someone shout “Come on Hana” and there at the side of the road is Wendy, her lovely family and camera. I’m still running fine, but am aware that very soon the 13 mile mark will arrive and after that point I will be running distances I have not covered since May 2013, for I have not trained at all for this marathon, I’m just hoping to blag it. As I said at the start of this report, I was delusional when I entered this race.
Mile 13 arrives; I celebrate with a quiet whoop whoop for I have now completed 13 Half Marathons. Colliford reservoir is to my left and a cool breeze has whipped up. I am so pleased I have my long sleeved T on with my TRC vest over the top, as it feels positively chilly. Mind you I don’t expect Isobel will be feeling the cold at the pace she runs. I check the sky for signs of rain and the sun is still shining and impending wet doom doesn’t feature at all. I’m starting to regret packing the rain coat, but if I had left it behind, sods law would mean I would now, at the most exposed part of the race, be running through a monsoon style downpour, so if it keeps the rain away, then it’s worth the added weight. It’s time to break out a square of my Kendall Mint cake as I feel a little light headed and maybe some sugar will help. I nibble away at it but as my mouth is dry, I’m starting to have the wall paper paste moment in my mouth. A water station is what I need and there should be one very soon. So with security hanky in one hand and mint cake in the other I plod onward. The road undulates all the way to mile 16 and Bolventor, the home of Jamaica Inn and the start point of TRC’s New Year’s Day run out to Brown Willy. A large gathering of supporters cheer us all along and I grab a cup of water to enable me to clear my mouth. To my left I spy Julie, I stop for a hug and she wishes me well. A short distance on I spot Ian who use to be with ECH but now sports a Bodmin running vest, today he is a marshal. He laughs as he sees me approach so I stop dead, cup in hand and do an impersonation of a “Tesco’s child”. I stamp my feet and shout “I’m not going any further”. I get no sympathy whatsoever so I wave farewell and plod slowly on. Unknown to me, Jenny from Launceston who is running with a lady from Okehampton, draw level and as I’m spitting the remains of my mint cake that I can’t swallow into the hedge, she asks me if I’m OK? I’m a tad light headed, I’m questioning my sanity, my legs ache, my ankles ache, my feet ache, in fact everything aches. I hadn’t run for 9 days before this race due to hip/IT pain in the right leg and a painful right ankle/Achilles, so I reply “I’m tired” and they tell me to just dig in and tick the miles off, so that’s what I try to do. I watch as they run at a lovely even pace and wish that I had my daughter here to keep me going like she did in my only other marathon last year.
Mile 17 and Jeff Medway draws level with me, we have a brief chat then he motors on. I on the other hand, seem to be getting slower and slower, but not as slow as Andrew who appears to be having problems and has stopped at a water station. I plod on by and grit my teeth as I’m now into single figures when it comes to miles left to run and giving up is not an option. This long section of the route from Bolventor back to Draynes should feel easy as its downhill/flat, with a small river to my left, but I am having to engage the run 10 walk 1 technique as I hurt. All the runners who pass offer words of encouragement and at no time do I feel alone or left to feel despondent. The comradeship from other runners and the support from spectators along the route are fantastic and keep me going. And before long we are back into the hilly section and the last 4 miles of this race. Wendy is there again with family and offers words of support. I stop to offer words of advice to her small daughter “Never enter a marathon without training, look what it’s done to me” I say. The poor child must have wondered where this strange woman had escaped from. I plod on. My feet don’t want to leave the ground, the soles feel battered, my stride length is miniscule but my toes are OK.
I’ve drunk water at most water stations, eaten two segments of Kendal mint cake but with about a mile ago I start to crave for a bottle of Fanta Orange. As if to answer my prayers a lovely male draws level with me, offers me some of his orange sports drink, and a couple slurps later I say thank you as he manages to plod off at a slightly quicker pace than myself. I have 2 miles to go, I know that I will have to walk more than I run, but I’m too close now to give up. I emerge out of the narrow lanes and back out onto the road with open moorland either side. I somehow manage to slowly run and the words “it’s all downhill now” are uttered from a marshal to my left. This would be on any other day fantastic news, but downhill is actually more painful on my joints that uphill. There will be no sprinting to the finish line today folks. Each step of the last mile is hell. I wince and groan and must look a sad and pitiful sight, but the end is nigh.
Supporters cheer us finishers across the line and as I stop to receive my finisher’s medal, I feel tears well up, my throat tightens and all I want to do is sob. Don’t ask me why, I’m probably over tired, hormonal, hungry and pathetic, but I have proved my doubter wrong, for I have completed the Cornish Marathon, not in a record time, no PB or age cat prizes, but just with a sense of achievement showing that grit and determination can pull you through………one of the few advantages of AGE!
So all in all:
- The race was well marshalled.
- You could not get lost.
- There were plenty of water stations, which worked like clockwork, especially when it came to handing out runners own personal sports drink.
- The support along the way was fantastic and really motivating.
- The route was very scenic, if you were able to lift your head to take it in.
- The competitors friendly and motivating.
- The weather was well behaved and perfect for running.
- And to have showers to use at the end was a godsend.
Will I run this race again?……..No, but only because I don’t think I’m made for running marathons and should I have delusions again, I should really try a different one……………. I hear the 5,4,3,2,1 in Salisbury is good! Quick, someone give me a slap!
10 out of 10 East Cornwall Harriers.