Report by Hana Clitherow
This is a point to point Half Marathon, run on open roads with a start and finish location that alternates each year. I ran this race for the first time in 2014 (last year) when the starting location was in the larger of the two conurbations, that being Holsworthy and the finishing line was in the pretty sleepy village of Hatherleigh. Other runners, who had run this event many times before, informed me that last year’s version of the route was the kindest. So what possessed me to return in 2015 to run the harder version of this event? Oh yes, my 13 Half marathons in a year Challenge and the fact that this race was within a sensible driving distance from home.
The race doesn’t start until 10:30am, but as it’s a point to point race you need to choose which end of the race you want to park your car. I decided to park at the finishing location and selected the bus option that takes you to the start. That way there is no panic when you are hot, flustered and knackered at the completion of the race, trying to locate and get the bus back to your only means of transport home. The disadvantage to this choice is that you have to set off from home much earlier to be there for the 8:30 or 09:00 bus. (Hot tip, be there for the earliest bus as the later one is usually a mini bus so there may not be any seats left if you are late arriving).
6am, my alarm sounds and I have 1hr in which to shower, eat my porridge, make a flask of fresh coffee and load “Sydney Skoda”. An hour always sounds a long time, but faffing, of which I am a pro, uses up and inordinate amount of time and most of that hour disappeared far quicker than expected. Having said that, I manage to vacate the house in 50 mins and “Sydney” and I head out onto the deserted streets of Truro followed by an extremely quiet A30.
The weather is dull and overcast so I’ve packed clothes for all eventualities. I have Brandon Flowers (lead singer of the Killers) keeping me entertained and 60 miles to Holsworthy passes in an uneventful 1hr 10 mins. The town is empty, not a soul around, in fact I half expect to see tumbleweed roll down the main street towards me. I locate Manor Car Park easily which is where the pre race instructions suggest we can park for free and also where we can catch the race bus to Hatherleigh. The car park has a couple cars with runners in parked up, but there is no sign of the BUS. It must be time to check out the public toilets close by then?
The toilets are not modern, but they are open and available for the public to use which is very rare for council operated ones in this day and age. They are clean, well ventilated (open windows) with no queue and they have toilet roll. What more could a girl want. Now it’s time to locate the leisure centre where the race info states there are showers for us to use after the race. I can’t see any signs indicating where this venue may be, but walking towards me, in shorts and T shirt is some poor unsuspecting young male so I pounce on him.
He’s too polite to just ignore me so we make polite conversation and he then walks me over to where the leisure centre is located oh and the Bus that will take us to Hatherleigh arrives at this location as well.
Once sat on the bus, I start chatting with other runners around me and before long we are off along the road we will soon be running back on, the undulating A3072. Now last year, running from Holsworthy to Hatherleigh started and ended with a hill, with more downhill than uphill sections in between. The uphills were short and steep. So guess what, this year’s version, (the reverse of last year) starts and finishes with an uphill and the route is predominately uphill apart from a couple short but steeper downhill’s. When I say uphill, it is more long slopes where you seem to grind on forever, each one lasting several miles, a bit like running from Truro to Threemilestone.
Once we reach Hatherleigh the race HQ is in the Community Centre where we have been told we will need our competitor number and I’m runner No 214. So I duly collect my red race number pin it to my race vest and then try to find somewhere warm to sit to kill the hour before the race start time. I keep asking myself why I am doing this, but as usual my answers make no sense whatsoever.
Time to check out the community centres toilets, which are without a queue, modern and clean but with what looks like a scant supply of toilet roll and sure enough, as the hour progresses so the sounds of frustrated females shouting from within cubicle 2, “Can anyone pass me some loo roll please”? Can be heard. You should of course always go prepared and have some emergency soft tissue paper upon your person and guess who didn’t need to put out a pitiful plea from within the confines of a paperless water closet for toilet paper?
Outside I can see keen looking runners stretching their bodies in many different ways and some of their contortions I don’t think my body could ever recreate. Then there are those just sat against the wall chatting whilst others are attaching tubes of synthetic goo to their race belts all in the name of fuelling. So what am I doing? I’m aimlessly wandering around feeling lost and unloved with just two rectangles of Kendal Mint cake to give me the sugar rush I need before the start. My usual brigade of lovable older men who oblige me with the odd hug and kiss are nowhere to be found and I’m not sure that north Devon is really prepared for this Old Croc…….just yet anyway. Sadly I am the TRC team of one.
I notice one lady in the crowd who is sporting a white running top with “40 B4 I’m 40” on it.
“40 what” I ask, to which she replies
My jaw drops.
“In a year?”
“Yes” she replies. And there I am thinking that my 13 in a year is good going, but in reality I’m such a light weight.
We exchange notes on some of the half marathons we share in common, then I wish her good luck and wait for the off.
We are now all being mustered into a large gaggle of noisy runners and escorted out onto the A3072 and given a race briefing where I hear words that haven’t featured in any of the briefings I’ve been party to before, not even the Truro Half when placed into the hands of David M. The words are “If anyone decides to run naked they will be fined”…….Maybe the hills around Hatherleigh are sacred like Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, but don’t panic I for one won’t be stripping off, it’s far too cloudy for that sort of thing. No sooner had I thought this, than the clouds rolled back and blue sky and warm sunshine drench us. Thank god for “security Hanky” a fetching turquoise coloured one today I might add.
I’m towards the front of the starting line-up, when the air horn is sounded by the Mayor. It’s a tad too loud and too long in its blast. My hearing has been destroyed and I have bells ringing in my right ear. I shake my head like a dog with canker but it makes no difference, but trying to breathe whilst running uphill soon takes priority and I forget about my hearing issues. The hill is not overtly steep but my legs are feeling the gradient even if I am managing to keep a reasonable pace.
I would like to say the road levels out, but I don’t think it ever did. The first 5 miles just seem to be continually upwards at varying degrees of steepness. It never occurs to me to walk, it is just a continual grind where the only thing my old body can do in response, is produce surplus moisture that trickles down the side of my face splashes onto my legs and makes me wonder if I have had a bladder malfunction. At least we are running on the shadier side of the road, unlike last year.
One stupid car driver in the first mile decides his soft top sports car with roof down was small enough to squeeze between us the runners on his nearside and the car travelling in the opposite direction. Well it wasn’t and any street cred and ego he may have had before dissolves just like my face in the warmth and exertion. If I had been carrying a drinks bottle it would have been so tempting to have discharged some of its contents in his direction, but I didn’t so I just muttered under my breath instead.
This uphill grind lasted for about 5 miles and became easier once you settled into a sensible running pace. I checked my Garmin and was surprised to see how fast (for me that is) I was actually going. Between mile 5 and 7.5 we appeared to have some downward gradients one of which allowed you to pick up some speed, but at the back of my mind I knew it would soon return to the upward slog once again.
We passed a group of “New age travellers” who had made an encampment at a Y junction on this road where there was a large section of grassed area. They were travelling by horse and old fashioned Gypsy Caravans. The horses were tethered and grazing whilst the travellers sat relaxing in the sun watching us foolish runners slog pass.
As I ran alongside a high hedged area gun shouts sounded from my left. I wondered what they were shooting at then reassured myself that they couldn’t mistake me for a fox but a badger …….well maybe.
Then at mile 8 we pass the second pub along this route, The Bickford Arms at Brandis Corner. Here cheers came from customers stood outside. I heard someone shout “come on Hana” and “Well done Truro” and realised it’s was a lovely lady from Okehampton Running Club and her (dare I say Husband or should I say partner) cheering me on. I chat to lots of different people over the running year but I don’t always remember their names or their marital status. I feel dreadful, because I had to look this ladies name up from a results page of the Cornish Marathon. It dawned on me, that I had never asked her, her name and if I have been told my memory has not served me well. So Marilyn I do apologise and thank you for cheering me on. It is so good to see friendly faces especially when I’m out of my comfort zone.
I seem to be running with the same group of males when a lady in a red Tavy 13 T shirt saunters by. I have no idea where I am placed with regards to women of my age in this race, but to be honest, just getting to the end in less than two hours would be good. I have no chance of an age cat placing today, as the category I fall into is 45 to 54yrs age band and I’m nearer the 54 than 45. I even tried to tell my legs to go slower but they were not under my control, something had possessed them or was it the Kendal Mint cake kicking in?
We are still running uphill and I keep telling myself that we should start a decent into Holsworthy with about 3 miles to go. I pass that mark and no we are not going downwards. It isn’t until we reach mile 11 where I am making a mental note to myself “do not enter the Ruby run AGAIN!” that we finally start a gradual lowering of altitude. I mustn’t get too excited as I have seen the hill up to the finish line at mile 13 and it’s really unkind.
Almost at the bottom of the hill into Holsworthy we need to cross from one road to another. There are marshals in High Viz jackets stood on the verge looking bright and strangely enough, highly visible, but we the runners are left to fend for ourselves. At this point just when your brain is at its lowest energy levels, and where risk assessing functionality is almost zero, crossing potentially busy roads is where help is required. Both Treggy 7 and The Falmouth Half Marathon have this off to a fine art, so maybe Ruby Run, you could do with speaking with those in the know as this part of the race let you down.
Anyway, I crossed the road ran to the bottom of the last hill and my legs said “No more hills”. My stomach was going into a spasm, so to save embarrassment I slowed to a walk for the first part of this hill then 2/3rds of the way up broke into a trot before running towards the finishing line. There was loads of cheering, I could hear my name being announced and even the time I completed this race in, in 2014. I threw my arms up in the air and tried to smile in such a way as to not frighten small children as I saw I had beaten 2014’s time by over a minute and this was the harder route. Maybe I should return next year after all?
I grab two cups of water, feel a little wobbly on my feet then stagger to the tent where they are handing out high viz yellow technical T’s for our race memento and a banana. I’m soon joined by “40 B4 40” the lovely Jenny who looks just as tired as I do. She gets someone who still has a functioning brain and hands to take our photo and we exchange details before walking back to the car park together. I’ve tried to find you on Face Book Jenny and failed so if you are reading this Go onto the TRC page and you’ll find me there. If not see you at the Barnstaple Half, if not before.
I locate the showers at the leisure centre, and restore myself into something more human and presentable before I walk to the finishing area to await the presentations. Debbie Webb from Hayle running club is 3rd Lady and I’m sat listening to the prizes being given out whilst drinking my coffee and eating Hot Cross buns, when “the prize for V55 female goes to Hana Clitherow” is broadcast to the world. Excuse me, I think. I am not 55, so should I be honoured or insulted. Well I walk up to the nice man handing out the trophies and announce to the crowd, “I’m actually not 55 yet. I know I may look it, but I’m not even 53 for a couple more weeks” they look perplexed, confused so I continue, “I’ll accept the trophy if you want, but really it’s not mine” As I return to my seat and my cup of coffee “I’m thanked for being so honest” well what woman wouldn’t be, there isn’t a single woman I know who would agree to being older than she actually is! After they had rechecked the results etc. they finally award the prize to its rightful owner, who then in turn asks me if I would like it. As it wasn’t a bottle of wine, I declined. That poses the question, would I have confessed to being younger if the V55 award had been a bottle of wine??????????
So all in all:
- Car parking: Free in the manor car park but £1 in the leisure centre one.
- Toilets: Public ones at Holsworthy right next to the car park, then once at Hatherleigh there were toilets available with little queuing in the race HQ.
- Race HQ: warm with teas and coffee available. I’m not sure there would have been quite enough room for all, if the weather had been damp as the main hall was being utilised by a band.
- The race route: well serviced with water stations along the way and no need for route markers as you just follow the road to Holsworthy, where the marshals that really mattered didn’t really do anything. I know by law they have no power to stop traffic, but that is the only section where there is room for improvement.
- Race memento: a great High Viz Technical T.
Will I run this race again? You know I think I might , as it’s a warm friendly small event in a beautiful sleepy part of the world.
9.5 out of 10 to the Ruby Run.
PS I did check through the results and if there had been a V50 age cat I would have been 1st Lady.