Cornwall Fire and Rescue Half Marathon 2015

Report by Hana

Bodmin Fire and Rescue Half Marathon team 2015
Team Truro!

Here we are, Half Marathon No 2 of the 13 I hope to complete in 2015 and I have awoken to a miserable looking day. The forecast had predicted rain and rain is what we are going to get. The sky is the same colour as “Sydney Skoda” and he is definitely not Blue, more anthracite grey with a layer of mud and road salt to insulate him from the cold.

I am no lover of running in the rain and in the 4 years that I have been running, dare I say competitively, I can count on one hand the races that have been inclement and even then it hasn’t been for the whole race. The Warwick Half was the worse one, being on a freezing March morning and even then it was only for the second half of the route. Today though was going to be unforgiving.

My breakfast choice is easy, a large bowl of porridge and blueberries as this seems to be what I run best on. It usually sits well in my stomach, digests easily and keeps me fuelled most of the time. What to wear is more of a dilemma as I do not want to be cold and wet for the 2hrs plus this race could take, then again with my defective internal thermostat I also don’t want to be dissolving into a pool of menopausal sweat. I opt for ¾ length running tights, long sleeved compression top (an Aldi bargain, at only £4:99 in their reduced bin and really meant for cycling but its fab for winter running. I have to confess, I have become a true Aldi convert) TRC team vest, lightweight waterproof jacket, IQ reducer cap to keep the rain off my glasses and last but not least a pair of thin gloves. Oh and multi terrain running shoes as there will be a mix of Tarmac and trails to run along.

With my kit bag stuffed full of clean warm clothes for after the race, plus rain coat, towel, wash bag, flask of coffee, my essential “Snickers” bar, Kendall Mint Cake and extra plastic bags for all my wet muddy kit to go into, I head off up the A30 towards Bodmin and the Dragon Leisure Centre. The journey is uneventful, the road is very quiet because all the sane people on this planet are still in bed, enjoying a Lie in, a luxury I very rarely seem to find time for…….I’m looking for some sympathy here please!

This year the race organisers had requested that we the competitors park at Bodmin College a 5 minute walk from the Dragon Centre. This is because other users of the leisure centre had complained about a lack of parking in previous years as had local residents of the nearby housing estate. The parking at the college was free and plentiful, and the walk to the leisure centre was fine.

I collect my race number and race memento, a turquoise Technical T (“Our Diane” wanted red, but sadly for her that was last year’s colour). The T shirt sizes are male sizes and I had opted for small, extra small would have been better or a ladies fit, but that’s being extra picky. It’s now time to locate the toilets before they get too busy.

It always helps if you have done your homework re toilets and as I have run this race twice before, I know exactly where to find them. You have to go down the stairs to the indoor tennis courts and locate the Ladies changing room, where there are two cubicles for the girls. The men also have a changing room in the same location and there is a disabled loo for anyone to use. In these changing rooms are some lockers and showers. They are clean with standard leisure centre sanitary ware. I also know that there are toilets in another part of the building near the squash courts but I keep this quiet ………initially.

I offload all my kit into one of the lockers, force the key that’s attached to a stiff plastic bracelet into the small pocket at the back of my running tights and head off to mingle with the other runners. IR from Bodmin road runners taps me on the shoulder, we have a quick cuddle, as you do, and then I move off to see who else I can fraternise with. Jenny from Launceston is there and then I’m joined by Steve Rawson, “Our Diane”, Andy and Emma G, Mark M-S, Adam T and Josh P. Steve places his running vest onto the table and is about to attach his race number to it, when I announce “gosh, they’re big ones”. He had placed 4 very large safety pins on the table, not quite nappy pin size but not far off, with which to pin his number to his shirt. Then by some strange quirk of nature another male does exactly the same. My 4 pins look very pathetic next to theirs, but think of the extra weight they will have to drag around the course.

Team photo is taken by Karen G who is unable to run today (good move Karen looking at the weather outside) and I dash off for a wee. The toilets by the tennis courts have a very long queue, so off I go to locate the ones very few people know about, the ones by the squash courts. Single cubicle x 2, of the unisex variety, which are clean and very spacious. As I am having issues with the locker key which I had crammed into the pocket at the base of my spine in my running trousers, I take it out, place it on the toilet floor and promptly leave it there in my haste to return to the team. Some 2 minutes later I realise what I have done, race back, manage to negotiate the stairs without falling down them and bang on the toilet door with some menace. A poor chap inside proclaims he won’t be much longer and informs me there is no key on the floor. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. All my worldly goods are in the locker and some thieving bar steward could steal them. I’ll have to hitchhike home penniless and starved. Slight over the top reaction I know, but the menopause has a lot to answer for. I check at the reception desk to see if the key has been handed in, “no” is the reply. I have to hope that “Honest John” finds them and that “Thieving Bar Steward” isn’t down the road going blip blip with my keys, hunting down poor Sydney.

I’m all of a bother now but it’s almost time to muster for the pre race briefing. Emma is in need of the ladies and I disclose where she can find a loo with no queue. I end up gathering a couple more ladies and hope that by next year they will have forgotten how to find these toilets.

“Our Diane”, Adam and Josh are making me shiver. It’s only about 4 degrees outside, it’s raining and the forecast is for heavier rain and high winds and they only have a TRC race vest on. There’s me all dressed up against the weather wrapped up to the nines plus a Space blanket in my pocket, but I’ve left the whistle and Swiss Army penknife behind. Mark M-S is looking resplendent in a little “Nick Jeans” inspired outfit. He has a very neat black bin bag mini dress on with bows on the shoulder and just enough length to cover his modesty. “Where’s your race number going to go?” I ask, as quick as a flash he lifts the front of his mini dress up and today, Mark is modelling a race number sporran. I let out an involuntary screech, no idea why, but I do. I must add that Mark did have running tights on as well.

Race Briefing over and I don’t remember much of what was said as it did drag on a tad and Diane and I were chatting. Diane was a little disappointed that “Wellyphant” had not made an appearance. “Wellyphant” being a rather large red cartoon style elephant dressed in fireman’s clothing. I didn’t want to upset her too much by telling her that he wasn’t real, that he was just a man dressed in a costume. I wasn’t going to be responsible for any trauma this information might cause.  I did hear the part of the briefing though that stated those running with dogs would have a slightly later start than the normal runners. I personally think they should start earlier, much earlier and get them and their long “trip hazard” leads well out of the way. I’ll say sorry now in advance just in case I have managed to offend any dog owners with my last comment. Sorry!

So outside we all go, we try to stay warm and Mark M-S shares the fact that when you gather for the start of a marathon in Germany everyone huddles up nice and close and so you keep warm, but when in the US of A, everyone keeps you at arms length. It must be a personal hygiene sort of thing and on the odd occasion I might just go along with them, but being a race flirt up close and personal might also have its advantages.

The race starts and its straight uphill we all run. The going is slow as there are quite a few runners all heading in the same direction and we are in a bit of an egg timer situation. I’m treading carefully as I don’t want to trip over, but I desperately want to overtake a few of those ahead who are a little slower. I’m not saying I’m fast or anything, but my legs are telling me they want to be unleashed.

The route takes us out of the leisure centre grounds bearing left up along the pavement on Lostwithiel road, then right along a footpath which climbs up to Respryn road. We now have some respite running downhill before entering a wooded section that leads to the cycle/footbridge over the A30. Now the first time I ran across this bridge a couple years ago, I was totally unprepared for the weird sensation I was about to experience. The bridge obviously wobbles as we run across it but the eyes don’t detect this, which makes the head go all light and dizzy. A bit like any other day for me really I suppose.

Once over the bridge we start a tour of the grounds and parkland of Lanhydrock House a beautiful National Trust property. Today though was not a day to really enjoy the grounds as the rain was doing its best to get under my IQ reducer and mess up my glasses. Today was a day to keep my head down, get the job done, and try to complete the race without getting hypothermia. My head was also still chuntering away worrying about the locker key loss and whether someone will raid my locker, find my car keys and steal my beloved “Sydney Skoda”.

We run across the front of Lanhydrock House where a few hardy souls cheer us on before we turn left down a wooded track which runs through Great Wood. I feel a slight ping in my right foot. This shuts down the chuntering in my head which is good news and makes me concentrate on where I’m putting my feet. Not an easy task on a rough stony path.

Towards the bottom of Great Wood you are marshalled right and gradually you wind back up hill towards the garden boundary walls. I decide to walk a very short section of this path, but in no time at all I start my slow plod ever upwards before we drop down again in front of the House and back onto Tarmac. We follow the road towards the visitor centre and car park and there sheltering under an oak tree is Karen G holding onto some sort of metal frame. It’s then that she informs me, that this metal frame with not much cloth attached to it, was what was left of the “Storm force” race memento. A Golf umbrella that obviously is for keeping the sun off its user in milder weather conditions and not for keeping rain off on a blustery Cornish morning………….one for my husband then?

This race takes us on a varied green and muddy, up and down, off and on road route and even when I look at the race map I still can’t make out where we turned left or right next. I just sort of went with the flow, followed the directions given and somehow didn’t get lost. One section you run along is along the Drive that starts at Bodmin parkway Railway Station and ends up at the bottom of the long driveway up to Lanhydrock House. This is a section where the lead runners pass you running in the opposite direction. This can be quite depressing, when you start to realise just how much faster they are compared to yourself, but hey, they don’t get to fully appreciate the countryside, they steam right through it instead, unlike me. Try to think of the positives and breathe, I tell myself.

You do get to run along a short section of muddy track by the river which is lovely, but at the same time, it pays to look at your feet so as to stop yourself tripping over tree roots. This is when the Bl—dy hounds are unleashed, well two runners with dogs attached by those very log leads. Grrrrrrr! I have one behind me telling the dog he can’t go in the river, then the dog, followed by about a mile of leash overtakes me, eventually followed by its owner. Off they trot into the distance, tail wagging, never to be seen again, thank god. Then when I reach one of the next steep sections, the merits of being attached to a dog who pulls you up any slope becomes apparent. No, I’m still not tempted, it’s going to take me long enough to clean myself up after this race, without having to deal with a fetid dog as well.

At Respryn Bridge we negotiate a car park and then back track along the drive way I mentioned one paragraph ago. This time I am passing the tail end runners and I’m at about the half way point. My legs feel reasonably OK, even with having run a Half Marathon last weekend. So it’s time to plod onto the next hill.

We pass Cutmadoc Farm and at Dreason we are directed up another rough track. This track passes cattle sheds which are devoid of any cows. Perhaps they have been disturbed in previous years by us mad runners so have been moved for their health and wellbeing??? Anyway once past these sheds we enter a lovely field, well it would be lovely on a dry summers morning, but seeing as large numbers of runners have already traversed this area ahead of me, it is a sloppy, sticky slidy mud fest which must be crossed upright. I try to find anywhere that hasn’t been compressed into gloop but this takes me too far to the right, so I just have to plough through. When I look back after the race at my Garmin stat’s this section stands out at mile 10, when my pace drops significantly. Getting out of the field is also “fun” as foot fall meets tractor tracks, tracks full of muddy water and deep mud. There is only one way to deal with this, wrinkle up one’s nose, pull strange faces, attempt to tip toe and fail, so give in and run right through it. I will not now or ever be entering the grizzly OK? My shoes are full of putrid, rank brown water and whatever lurks in it. My feet are cold and it takes me back to being 4yrs old when water depth and height of wellies are not your strong point.

After the field we run along a forest track and just before we join the road there are some firemen cheering us on, but still no “Wellyphant” for Diane. Another muddy wooded path follows before we pop out into the car park/cycle hub at Lanhydrock. People cheered us as we ran pass, I would have smiled, but I was still distracted by the swooshing of water in my shoes.

Once out of the car park we were helped across the road by a lovely female Police Support Officer and the final mile and half back to the finish beckoned. I had been running either in front or behind of the same two girls for most of the race, so now was the time to see if I could get ahead. I picked up a little speed and back over the balance-disturbing bridge we go followed by a bit of a downhill to gain some momentum, before the last hill of the race. I thought this is where they would both overtake me, but no I was ahead. Pressure on there was still about ½ a mile to go.

The last section of the race is downhill back into the leisure centre. I can’t catch the man ahead of me, but I cross the line happy because I’ve managed to complete this race in less than two hours (just) and have beaten last year’s time (which was on firmer ground) by 49 seconds. My feet and toes feel battered and cold, so it’s time to find someone with a master Key so I can find out if my kit has been nicked or not. 

Locker opened everything present and correct, so I use the wonderful hot showers, remove all traces of mud from my splattered legs and feet and adjourn to the café with my flask of coffee and “Snickers” bar. Diane soon joins me, so we put our feet up, discuss the merits of the race and why running in just a TRC vest almost caused hypothermia. Oh and the disappointment of not seeing “Wellyphant”.

All in all:

  •  Parking: Plentiful and free.
  •  Race HQ: Warm & large enough for all.
  •  Race route: Varied, scenic, hilly and very muddy in places this year.
  •  Toilets: Clean and without too long a queue, but a couple more cubicles      would have been nice.
  • Showers: FANTASTIC. No cubicles for the shy people amongst us, just a bank of showers where you have plenty of hot water and modesty goes out the window.
  •  Race memento: Technical T

This could be one of my favourite races and even when part way round I tell myself that I don’t need to run this again, I know I will.

10 out of 10 Cornwall Fire Service. I will be back, body willing.