Report by Hana Clitherow
This will be Half Marathon No 8 for me this year and I am approaching it with a sense of fear. Not because of the distance or terrain but because after running the Trevornick 10 the previous weekend I had a near death experience during that night.
After nearly 31 years of marriage I thumped my “husband who plays golf” for the first time (Don’t panic, he is fine, the police weren’t called and we are still living together in what I tell him, is marital bliss) as I had awoken from a deep sleep gasping and unable to breath. I was choking and my body had gone into a spasm from which I could not escape. I could just manage enough strength to lash out at my poor husband who was fast asleep and then with the poor chap having no idea what in the hell was going on, I managed to gasp the word “hit”, so he slapped and thumped my back for what felt like an eternity before I was able to collapse in a heap in agony but able to breathe once again. I seriously thought I was going to die and here I am going to run a tougher race than Trevornick. I must be completely mad but then again I think madness is a common phenomenon amongst all runners of a certain age or is that any age?
The Imerys Trail Half and me, have a sort of love hate relationship. I love it as the route takes you to places you can’t normally run on any other day of the year and the hate is the fact that it is hilly, it can be scorching hot and then one year I ran an extra mile (along with about 20 others) making it a 14 mile half marathon.
The start time is 10am, so with it only being a 30 minute drive away from my home to St Austell it makes for a pleasant and unrushed start to the day. I have time to pack my bag, eat my usual porridge for breakfast and take a leisurely drive across. The weather is overcast and cool with a light breeze blowing, so with a bit of luck the race should be run in ideal conditions.
The race HQ is at the College in Tregonissey road, with plenty of yellow arrows to direct you there. I am one of the earlier arrivals so I am directed to a nice parking spot not too far up the winding road that leads behind the main college building. Julie my long suffering running partner and great friend has sadly pulled out of this race, so I wonder down to the main building to register all on my own and I can’t see anyone I would normally mingle with. I collect my race number, feel slightly lost and alone when I spot two runners with Teignbridge tops on and attack them. I ask them about the “Dartmoor Vale Half” a race I have just entered on line which is run later in the year. They tell me it’s awful, that numbers were low last year and that they only enter the marathon as it’s close to home. Oh, well that fills me with lots of enthusiasm. They really managed to sell the event well!
It isn’t too long before I am joined by a few TRC males, but where are all the TRC ladies? Well the answer is easy, apart from Issy and Wendy (who are both running the marathon and not the half) there are none, and these two lovely ladies are also not sporting TRC vests, no, they are adorned in “Mud Crew” tops. I’m just not intrepid, tough or in love with MUD enough to sport one of these coveted racing tops, maybe I should start an alternative group? “Old Croc’s united” ?????
It only seems appropriate that I check out the toilet facilities at this venue and although there are not that many available there really isn’t much of a queue. The first ones I tried are located at the far left corner of the main registration area, they are of a standard college fit, with plenty of toilet roll, nice and clean but the flush was a little lazy. The location of the second block of toilets is down a corridor leading off the right hand corner of the Registration area and again they were as before but with less cubicles and a small queue. In this queue was Isobel who informs me that she refers to me as “the lady who reviews the Loos” to those who don’t already know that. I can think of better things to be famous or is that infamous for but for now it will have to do?
I gather the small number of TRC males available for a team photo and someone asks where Pip is. It was suggested that Pip was giving birth in the heads, as a result of a Mac D’s and a night out in town. All I can say to that is, thank god I don’t review the gents Loos!
The time to gather outside arrives and it feels chilly but not cold. I decide to not wear my “Cool Dude” sun glasses as firstly I’m anything but cool, and secondly it’s too overcast. We are told that today’s race has the largest number of entrants since this race started and both the full marathon and the half marathon runners are starting at the same time. I find myself in the front 3rd of the start line and I have decided that today I must be mindful of my running and not overstretch myself at all. All I need to do is finish the race and hopefully my near death experience from the week before won’t occur again.
One of our TRC male runners has arrived very late. They had thought the race started at 10:30, so as the rest of us set off, that certain runner was still trying to attach his race number to his shirt. The moral of the story is…..check the start times the night before!
The start of the race consists of two laps along the service roads around the main college building. On setting off it is only a matter of about 50m before you are running up your first incline, which Is not my favourite start as it’s uphill, then it’s a case of, watch the heavily disguised speed humps before running back down and in front of the college again, through the finish line and back around for the second lap. At the far end of the “speed hump” section you bear left, uphill and out along a grass stony track where some kind soul has really gone to town with a strimmer, making the path wider than normal. Its firm under foot, but with any rutted areas back filled with chunky gravel making an ankle turning experience a possibility. I manage to navigate my way around the stones and immerge out onto Mount Stamper Road unscathed.
The route takes us along this road passing a few houses where the residents have come out to cheer us poor souls on. The road leads to a dead end alongside the A391 before turning left out onto the Clay trails. A dog walker with two Collie dogs steps to one side to let us through, but his dogs are left unleashed and one of them barks as I run pass. I’m not a great fan of Collie dogs especially when my legs are devoid of any coverings and whilst running near Troon in Camborne recently, I ended up being circled by 3 such Collies, a Jack Russell and a pride of hissing geese…..I won’t be running down that lane again, but today I pass by bite free.
My legs are actually feeling remarkably fresh, which is strange as the day before I had taken my pedal cycle out for a 24 mile ride (only the second outing this year I should add). Not one of my best pre- race warm up ideas but then again maybe it will be OK. I have been known do something silly like a 15 mile hike along the cliffs the day before a race, so I just don’t learn.
Ahead of me is an ECH male with some of that miracle “Tape” that runners seem to like to attach to their legs, arms, necks in fact almost anywhere, in a variety of bright colours. His tape is yellow to match his running vest and is flapping at the ends. It is just so tempting to speed up, grab one end and pull, but I don’t for fear I might cause some catastrophic effect. What would I do if his leg fell off because I ripped the tape off, oh and think of the hair loss that might me incurred…..ouch! So I leave well alone and 2 miles later nature had done what I had feared to do and the tape was no longer attached. As I know that this male finished the race 2 minutes ahead of me that tape must have been providing a placebo effect and nothing else.
The route of this race is undulating with some hills thrown in for good measure. The surface is variable, one minute you are running on what feels like the surface of the moon, with very wide white sand tracks that are the result of China clay production. Then there is Tarmac, grass and mud or compacted soil depending or how much rain has fallen prior to this race taking place. Today it is firm under foot, and I have chosen the correct shoes for the job, my Salomon Road to trail shoes. Fell running shoes would not be required and road shoes would have coped admirably.
At about mile 5 I can hear a cuckoo, cuckooing, the first one I have heard this year, but there aren’t any signs of other animal life around other than numerous black small plastic bags knotted at the top with Dog poo inside. Why oh why, do dog walkers bother to bag dog excrement then leave it in the non- biodegradable bags on the path or the nearest tree, if they never intended to dispose of it properly in the first place????? Grrrrrrrrr!
The views on the higher sections are vast, out over the surrounding countryside and on the return leg out over the sea. The sun makes an appearance from time to time and as there is only a slight breeze now and then it feels very hot. I am sweating and my security Hanky is once again working hard.
I chose to walk some of the hills and a lady who has been running at a similar pace has noted that when I walk I actually don’t lose too much time so she joins me at this pace. I’m sure my choking episode has nothing to do with running, but I can’t get it out of my mind, so I’m adopting a sort of self preservation mode. It must be working as my legs are still feeling OK at mile 9 and 10.
We have had the luxury of many well manned water stations along the route with young smiley faces handing out cups of water and sponges. I decline all of these and the offer of Jelly babies. The water sponge is a great idea but then I watch as they pick up the discarded ones and dunk them again ready for the next runner. Yes you’ve guessed it; my nose is wrinkling at the mere thought of this. I should follow Julie’s tactic and that is to take my own sponge, but where am I going to store it? I have my hanky in one hand and I don’t fancy tucking a sponge anywhere upon my person.
The Marshalls are ensuring we don’t take a wrong turn at any point and at the intersection where the poor Marathon runners are sent off on their extended loops there is a marshal pointing us Half Marathon runners left so we don’t inadvertently add a few extra miles to our run in the wilds of the Parish of Treverbyn.
There is a shaded stony rough section that descends downwards causing the girl who has walked the hills with me, but runs faster elsewhere, to slow to almost walking again. I’m in my flailing arms, no feet on the ground setting and surprisingly I’m quite fleet of foot on this section but once the path levels out it isn’t long before she overtakes me once again.
There has been no bad behaviour along the way, not much chatter either as most runners have been too spread out or short of breath to engage in polite conversation. I’ve had no fit men in tight lycra to distract me from the hills, and thankfully the one pair of tight tights that I did see before the start and that should really only be worn by the likes of Rudolf Nureyev and not a middle aged male with short race vest above, was well behind somewhere and so out of my view. Having said that I did spy him stretching after the race and had to turn away due to my delicate constitution. Budgie smuggling comes to mind!
The last mile or so is back out onto Mount Stamper road and tarmac once again. My legs are holding out, my lungs are fine and I know there is only one slight incline then its downhill all the way to the finish line. You do have to negotiate the well strimmed path and its rough sections once again with fingers crossed that the “ankle snatchers” don’t creep up on you and trip you up. I can hear the supporters at the finish line cheering and as I pop out the other side of this path I’m running down the college service roads towards the final couple hundred metres. I cannot catch the runner ahead but sprint anyway and cross the line feeling remarkably OK after 13 hard miles. To my surprise I’m actually 6 minutes faster than my previous fastest time at this event so I’m pleased with this as I’ve finally run a sub 2hr Imerys Half Marathon.
I’m directed towards a table with cups of water upon it, I grab two then my hessian goodie bag with can of Lager, chocolate bar, crisps (Note no brand name infringements) and medal within. Then I am greeted by a lovely lady offering me an assortment of fruit segments. Oh my goodness they taste like heaven, we have Melon (two types) blueberries, oranges and other delights but I find myself drawn to the Melon. This was a fantastic recovery tonic.
I now feel fatigued and in need of my flask of coffee, so wander slowly to the baggage drop which is being run with military precision. They have a young girl (school age) watching out as runners appear through the door, she shouts out their race number (if they the runners still have their race No on) and the bag is there as you arrive at their desk. Whoever was running this bag drop should be invited by Budapest’s race organisers to teach them a thing or two. 10 out of 10 Imerys.
So all in all:
- Parking: Plentiful and free
- Race HQ: Enough room to house all the runners but if numbers continue to grow, then a few more toilets might be required.
- Toilets: Clean, functional and with enough toilet paper for all.
- Showers: None. The first year they provided showers for the runners to use, but none since. It would have been great to be able to wash properly but a damp towel had to do.
- Massage: There was fee massage available if you wanted it, but I couldn’t face being smeared with oil to go with the salt streaks I already had on my elderly fatigued body and clothes.
- Bag drop: Brilliant. Military precision providing a10 out of 10 facility.
- Marshals: Well placed, friendly and I couldn’t get lost.
- Would I run this race again? I expect so as I love the experience and so far the weather has been fair. The less pressure I put on myself the better the experience.