Report by Hana
This is Half Marathon number 15 and one I had planned to run with my good friend Julie, but sadly this was not to be. “Husband who plays golf” agrees to step in at the last minute, but only as far as sharing a room in the Premier Inn, in the sunny metropolis of Newton Abbot, Devon. No way will he be running but he will act as my chauffeur for the journey up and back.
Now Newton Abbot isn’t the obvious choice for a “Romantic” weekend away with my long suffering husband but the town is situated in between Tavistock where my elderly mother lives and Bishopsteignton, where my mother in law resides. So to coin a phrase, it gives us a chance to “kill two birds with one stone”. Well, more like make a social /domestic visit times two, rather than actual murder!
Sunday morning arrives and I hadn’t forgotten to change my alarm clock the night before, so feeling a little indulgent I stay in bed to eat my 2 pots of instant porridge (Tesco’s own variety this time) with a few Cornish strawberries on top. They taste slightly better than some of the branded ones I’ve tried over the year, but they are still no substitute for the real thing. Having said that, it is now a tried and tested safe breakfast that I can transport to any location in the world that has a supply of boiling water. “Husband who plays golf” nose wrinkles at the mere thought of these pots of wallpaper paste and indulges in Muesli instead.
On looking out of the window the sun is already shining, the sky is blue and I can see a frost has settled on the roof tops of the cars in the car park below. I’ve packed the same running kit as I wore last week but I didn’t think to include thermals and gloves.
The Dartmoor Vale Event is in fact three races which are run by The Dartmoor Vale Rotary Club, out of Sibelco’s East Golds Works where minerals are quarried. There is a 10K, a Half Marathon and the full Marathon, which Isobel and Fergie have entered on a whim, after last weekend’s Marathon at Eden. And I thought I was mad but obviously I don’t have the sole rights on madness????
The race HQ is situated a mere 2 minutes walk from the Premier Inn, so “Husband who plays Golf” states he isn’t going to drive me there but will come and pick me up once I’ve finished. I walk to the main entrance gates where I am then directed to a quarry road and told that it is a ¾ mile walk to the Half Marathon starting area, where I can collect my race number and timing chip. I am also informed that there will be a baggage drop and toilets at this location. Off I plod, along a tarmac road that is rather slippery under foot. It feels as if I’m walking on ice but it isn’t due to the early morning frost, it’s due to a fine covering of what I would call “Slip”, a wet clay deposit which is smeared across the road surface that must have been left behind by the quarry vehicles. Time for me to concentrate on staying upright, which thankfully I manage.
I reach the Half Marathon start area and find a row of portable toilets, a van being used as the luggage drop and a table where you collect an envelope with your race number and a timing chip inside. They have a shoe on the table demonstrating how to attach said timing chip to your laces. I take a quick look then stare hopelessly at my shoe laces trying to work out how to fix the blessed thing via some plastic pull ties. Eventually I fathom it out and then I’m able to impart my knowledge onto other runners around me who look just as bemused. This is the sort of challenge you have children for, but sadly children grow up and move away.
I decide to test out the toilets and join a very short queue. They aren’t up to the quality of the ones we had at the Eden Project last week, but they are clean, the flush works but the hand sanitizer doesn’t. It could be worse
I suddenly spy three young men with Newquay Road Runner Vests on, so I decide to pounce and before they have a chance to escape they find themselves having to make conversation with this “Old Croc” and keep her entertained, for I am a TRC team of one at this race.
There is nowhere to shelter if you have walked to the start/registration area like I have. If on the other hand you have driven to this event then the Half Marathon parking is right by the start and therefore you can sit in your car and keep warm. It’s chilly but the sun is out so with 20 minutes to go to the start I decide to discard my layers and test out the air temperature. Silk shorts, compression T with race vest over the top with sun glasses is the required attire. I’m ready for the off when I see a female runner of an age cat just below mine stood nearby looking decidedly cold. It’s not surprising though as she doesn’t appear to carry any surplus body mass unlike me, who looks positively obese stood next to her. She asks me what time I’m looking to run today. Why do people do this? I reply “1:50 would be good” but in truth all I want to do is finish and not knowing what this course is like who knows what I time I will manage. I wasn’t feeling nervous up until this question was posed, I tell myself to breathe deeply, relax and before I know it we are off, crossing two timing mats thankfully with my Garmin activated.
The route takes us out the back of the Sibelco site and onto what can be a very busy lane, but as this is 09:15am on a Sunday morning, all is quiet traffic wise. I’m towards the front of the pack with two ladies ahead of me and a young female who must be under 20 to my left. I can’t see me staying in this position for long.
This lane then joins the B3193 Kingsteignton to Chudleigh road where initially the road is fairly level as it has been from the very start of this race. I have a young female running just to my left and her breathing sounds laboured. Maybe it’s the cold air which has as usual triggered my running cough. She is also attempting if not equalling men in the spitting department and as long as I stay to her right side I should be fairly safe. I don’t try to engage her in conversation as I’m not sure she would be able to speak but I can gather from her body language that it appears she doesn’t want me to overtake and get ahead of her. Every time I go a little faster so she ups her speed, spits a few times and her breathing gets heavier. It’s time for me to work out what I should do and so I settle into a comfortable pace and we run side by side for a couple miles.
Before long we hop onto a nice wide cycle pavement rather than running in the road and the first hill approaches that climbs up towards Chudleigh. It’s a drag rather than a hard climb to start with and I move ahead of the young lady with a predisposition to spitting. I expect her to chase me and move ahead but I think she has expended too much energy at the start and blown a fuse and this is the last I see of her. I’m feeling very comfortable and my Garmin shows a good speed for someone so old, but my pace drops off as the slope gets a little steeper and we bear left off the B road and back onto narrow country lanes which dissect the town of Chudleigh.
We wind downhill through a housing estate then another short but sharper hill arrives with a photographer stood at the top. I smile or was it wind? Anyway he commented on my facial distortion, and with luck his camera hasn’t suffered any adverse effects.
The route takes us along a narrow leafy lane with a view out over Chudleigh to my right and a high estate wall to my left. This is the boundary wall of the Ugbrook estate. The gradient is now undulating flat, and we are at about mile 8. I overheard someone at the start of the race stating that there was a hill at mile 8 so I’m now scanning the road ahead for signs of this but I can’t see any.
Before long the road starts to slope downwards and my thigh muscles start to protest. This must be the after effects of last weekend’s Half Marathon. Then I hear a familiar female voice coming from behind me, telling me I going well. It’s the lovely Isobel who also ran last weekend and today she is making it two marathons in a row. She flies by looking as cool as a cucumber, whilst I’m melting like a Strawberry Mivi. Security hanky is having its work cut out today!
The road carries on downhill all the way to Sandygate where we pass a pub of the same name, it’s tempting to take a little detour but on looking at my Garmin, I’m motoring on well and have two younger ladies ahead of me to keep my pace up.
Before long, we are running on pavements and lanes around the village of Kingsteignton. The gradient has flattened out and I seem to vaguely remember negotiating one or two roundabouts where the marshals had everything under control and I was able to run on uninterrupted.
The last ¾ mile s of the race takes us back along the Sibelco sites roads and thankfully the road surface has dried in the beautiful sunshine so they are no longer proving to be a slip hazard. I glance at my Garmin again and realise that I could, if I made a last minute effort beat my Half Marathon PB. So with teeth clenched and Husbands comments of “you should try harder” firmly imbedded in my head I start to chase the female ahead of me. My body protests but my lungs are functioning so I push a little harder. Wow, I overtake her and the finish is not that far away…….well about 100m to go. I give it one last push and go for a sprint finish. I can hear someone shouting out encouragement from the sidelines and with only a few meters to go, the lady I overtook flies past. Blast.
I cross the timing mats with Garmin showing 1:43:25 which is 8 seconds quicker than my previous PB. It’s not much so I’ll now have to await the timing chip results to see if the chip time is the same.
My stomach though is trying desperately hard to escape via my throat as a sign of annoyance at me pushing hard for the last half mile, so instead of moving up close to the marshals who are cutting the timing chips off our shoes I pause for about 30 seconds, to breath slowly and try visualisation to get my stomach and its contents to remain unseen. I apologise to the nice man poised with snippers at the ready, for my delay and then once he’s dealt with my timing chip, I receive a lovely medal, a recovery bar, a banana and a bright green technical T. Time for coffee I think.
The rotary club have laid out a lovely spread of cakes, bacon baps and burgers for us to purchase. I choose a large coffee and sample the recovery bar which tastes sweet, sticks to my teeth but thankfully doesn’t pull my Gold inlays out. Whether it aids my recovery God only knows but I do need a second large mug of coffee to try and help it dissolve in my stomach.
I wander around looking for the list of results and come across the three Newquay boys and one Newquay female who has joined them. She had run the 10K event and I believe obtained a PB as well. It’s at this point we all spy the massage tent which has plenty of staff and NO CUSTOMERS. In unison we all decide to make a dash for tent. Age has some benefits, as they allow me to go in first. Climbing onto the treatment table was quite a challenge but with oil smothered, gently massaged legs getting off was even harder. There was plenty of creaking and groaning in order to get my feet back onto firm ground.
The presentations are about to take place, so I put the empty polystyrene cup that my coffee came in, into the front pocket of my kit bag where it sticks out. A certain male runner who frequents Cornish races and has a very smooth, hair free head, and whose 40th birthday was the following day, notes this cup sticking out of my bag and suggests that perhaps I was begging. Now I have been called many things over the years but never a vagrant. “I suppose you’ll put this in your race report” he says, “Too bl—dy right” I think to myself and a moment of merriment is had by all.
I’m awarded a beautiful paperweight as First V50 female, but in truth I was second. The race rules were that you could only collect one prize and the lady who was first V50 had already been given a trophy for being in the first 5 ladies home. Marc from Newquay also collects a trophy and then we all go our separate ways.
I take a look at the times on the results sheet that has been pinned up and shock horror, my finishing time is nothing like what my Garmin has recorded. It puts me as finishing 15 minutes slower at 1:58. I protest first to a lady from the Rotary Club who takes a note of my name then I hunt down the people in charge of the chip timing. They look bemused but have promised to check the video to see where I came in. I have also emailed them, but three days later still no reply. This bunny is not very happy as to finish my Half Marathon year with a PB would have been the icing on the cake. Oh well maybe I can get a PB at the Cornish Marathon instead? Oh and pigs might fly?
So all in all:
- Parking: Free and it appeared to be plentiful.
- Race HQ: This appeared to be for the organisers only. Race numbers had to be collected at the starting area for each race where there was no shelter. I have no idea what they would do if it rained.
- Toilets: Portable, clean with short queues.
- Showers: None.
- Marshals: Excellent. You could not get lost and the road crossings worked well.
- Route: Quite scenic with a chance to obtain a PB as the two hills are in the first half then it’s downhill and flat to the finish line. A bit like the Treggy 7.
- Race memento: Medal, Technical T and a recovery bar.
Would I run this race again? I might do, but if you fancy the marathon then you have to do two laps of the half Marathon route.