Report by Hana Clitherow
Having completed 13 Half Marathons in 12 months, I somehow seem to have signed up to two more of these events, one being the Eden Project Half, which I have completed twice before and the other is the Dartmoor Vale Half which is held at the end of the month.
“Daughter who runs and cycles (bl—dy long distances)” has come home for a few days after months of jetting all over the place in the name of “Research of the scientific type” and has also entered the Eden Half Marathon, but Julie my long suffering running partner and great friend has opted instead to go on a cruise, so she won’t be joining us for the drive up the A390 to St Austell.
Thankfully the A390 is very light on traffic and we reach the Eden Project earlier than expected where we are directed into one of the uppermost car parks. There is ample room for “Sydney Skoda” and many more vehicles, but we are about a mile from the Biomes where the changing facilities and baggage drop is situated. You can hop on the large “Bendy Bus” and ride down to the Visitor Centre but a gentle walk will do us the world of good and loosen up my old legs.
The weather is overcast, cool and dry. There is only the slightest hint of a breeze, so it is perfect weather for running. I feel quite relaxed about this event which means that I have no pre race nerves which is excellent. Age has made little difference whatsoever on pre “anything important or scary” nerves that take possession of my stomach.
We drop off our kit bags in a room set aside in the “Core building” for Ladies running the Half Marathon and then locate the toilets nearby. There are at least 6 cubicles and they are clean, even if the toilet bowls appear discoloured. They are like this as the complex harvests rain water for flushing the toilets as part of their “Save the planet” ethos. I can put up with that. There are pretty mirrors above the sinks which are decorated with coloured glass mosaics. I gaze into one of these mirrors whilst I pull my hair back into my usual “Telletubby” style, and thankfully the glass doesn’t crack so I return to the changing area in order to part company with the many layers of clothing I have on.
I’m wearing my “silk” shorts today, the shorter lighter type of running short (not as short as NJ’s I might add), but as the manufacturers think that anyone buying these has a washboard stomach and is 18yrs old, they have manufactured them with a lower than I would like waist band. Now I don’t have a belly that overhangs or wobbles out over the top of this waist band, but I’m a V50 female who likes to keep some parts of her ageing body under wraps. My TRC race vest doesn’t help matters either, as it is a tad short which means that when I run, especially downhill it has a tendency to flap about exposing my navel area. Now for any spectators of a delicate disposition, this could be a sight to cause distress. The solution to this comes in the shape of a great bargain buy at Aldi (I’m such a convert to this store) a cheap snug fitting short sleeved compression top, which tucks into my shorts and keeps everything out of the public eye. With TRC race top over the top, the jobs done. The public will be safe!
Daughter and I decide to take the Bendy Bus up to race starting area which is not far from where I parked “Sydney Skoda” earlier. Soon we are milling around with a gathering crowd of runners whilst the runners who have entered the Eden Marathon are sent on their way. There is a long straight line of pristine looking blue portable toilets at this location and the queue for them is short and fast moving. Time to check these out I believe and I find that they are as pristine inside as they are outside. I go to use the hand sanitizer in the one I’m using, I press the dispensing button and whoosh, it spits out foaming sanitizer that misses my hands, hits my left shin, which I didn’t think needed cleansing, and trickles down to my ankle. By the appearance of the floor where my left foot is placed, this must be a normal occurrence and not just me being incapable of getting the foam on my hands. Attempt number two works better and I return to the outside world with my hands cleansed.
We have been given chip timing for this race which fits via an extra strong Velcro strap around your ankle. I manage to get it caught on my socks but after a short battle it was secure and hopefully would remain so for the whole of the race. Having chip timing does mean that it really doesn’t matter where you locate yourself at the start, but at about mile two of this event it proves beneficial to be nearer the front of the pack so you don’t get caught in the bottle neck section. With this in mind daughter and I move to an area about a quarter of the way back from the timing mats where we are joined by a couple other TRC runners. I advise daughter than once the race starts, she should try to weave past any slower runners and speed downhill so that she can beat the masses to the afore mentioned bottleneck section, which is what I intend to do.
The pre race briefing takes place and before we know it, someone fires a starting pistol and I literally jump out of my skin. So with adrenalin pumping I’m off, out of the Eden Projects grounds, onto a lane where we are almost immediately directed right, off down the long hill towards St Blazey. Daughter is ahead, and we have, as with the last race we ran together, decided to run at our own pace and meet up at the finishing line.
I love downhill starts as it allows my legs to get use to the idea of running without me having to put too much effort in. By the time I reach the bottom I’m warmed up and ready for the next section. We turn left onto the pavement alongside the A390 then very shortly after it’s left again and onto a footpath, which after heavy rain can be very muddy and squelchy. This is where the race can slow down due to the path being narrow if you have a slower runner ahead. Today I am that slower runner, but to be honest I was keeping up very nicely with the gent directly ahead of me.
The path has lumps and bumps, trip hazards, old railway line fittings and to finish it off a short tunnel with a rather low ceiling. For the taller runners it was time to duck down a little unless you wanted to head butt the entrance…..ouch! Just prior to this, the path appeared to have a branch off to the left where suddenly a large gaggle of much faster runners emerged. They had unwittingly taken a wrong turn, something I did two years ago at another Half Marathon in the St Austell area. I have no idea how far they had run in the wrong direction, but they definitely didn’t hang around to discuss the error.
At Ponts Mill the path reaches a Car Park and the route takes us up through North Hill Woods, along a leaf strewn wide dirt path with a small river to our left. The trees are displaying beautiful autumnal colours and the path through this woodland is mostly dry with only a little squelch in places. Road shoes are therefore fine for this event. This path climbs steadily but not steeply for about a mile and a half then we turn right to join an unclassified road towards Luxulyan.
Initially the road is level and everyone around me has settled into a regular pace. Some kind soul has placed a Bed settee and an armchair at the side of this lane should anyone feel in need of some respite. I quietly seethe as this is fly tipping at its worse, especially as St Austell has a perfectly good recycling Centre near the Eden Project.
The lane bears left and up the hill we jog/slog, into the village of Luxulyan where there is a lovely crowd of supporters cheering us all on. A quick right turn next to the Village Church takes us back downhill passing a caravan site to our right then Luxulyan quarry which couldn’t really be seen from the road.
We have passed one water station already but as I never stop I can’t for the life of me remember where it was situated. I can remember young outstretched hands holding onto clear plastic cups eagerly waiting for someone to grab and go. A bit like rush hour in London, when commuters grab coffee and some form of breakfast from pop up tables situated outside tube stations. God I could never cope with that life style. Coffee should be brewed and savoured, not thrown down the neck whilst rushing down the street. Perhaps there is a shortage of Alarm clocks in London????
Our route now takes us along a quiet lane by Corgee Moor. Helman Tor which must be the highest point on the Marathon route is off to our right somewhere and thankfully we don’t go anywhere near it. The lane meanders and undulates and I pass a couple of Marathon competitors who are walking. I could be doing the very same in a few weeks time at the Cornish Marathon which I’ve entered in a moment of senior madness.
A short while later I spy a lady marathon runner all on her lonesome. As I pass I’m not sure whether to say well done or not, but before I could make up my mind I hear her say “You’re Julie’s friend, I’m Clare”. What is it about my rear that is so recognisable or do I run in a strange way? Anyway, I say hello, but this wasn’t the time or place to strike up a conversation as I was running well and didn’t want to slow down. Sorry Clare, but you could always join me at the Cornish marathon and we could natter all the way round, stop for a glass of red at the Jamaica Inn etc…..?
Soon the route takes us along cows muck encrusted tarmac with the sweet smell of silage wafting through the air. I have to say that it smelt a little like sauerkraut (pickled cabbage to those not in the know), which wasn’t really an unpleasant aroma. I can think of far worse smells to be engulfed in during a race.
At Lavrean farm came the opportunity to grab a sponge, not the jam and cream variety, but something vaguely yellow in colour, rectangle in shape and soaked in a dustbin full of water. I watch as sponges are discarded onto the ground by the runners passing through ahead of me, then hastily picked up and once again plunged into the dustbin full of water before being handed out to the next unsuspecting customer. Maybe someone will benefit from this farmyard version of a facial scrub, but I certainly wouldn’t be. Thank you but no thank you, I smile and pass on by. My security hanky was coping admirably with the sweat streaming down the side of my face and it hadn’t been in contact with the grit and cow shite lingering on the surface below my feet.
At Bowling Green we bear left and then we are directed off to our right and onto a rough track. The surface is fine but you have to be careful that you don’t turn your ankle on any of the chunky loose stones on it. It’s at this point that I can actually see my daughter up ahead. This is the first time that I had seen her since she sped off at mile 2 and it appears that she is slowing down. Now as a mother this throws up a huge dilemma…..Do I or don’t I overtake, mind you it could still be a can I or can I not overtake her. One thing is for sure, whatever a mother does, it will always be wrong. With that in mind I decide to overtake and find that I’m even able to pick up a little extra speed.
We have about two miles to go and I take a peek at my Garmin. It’s looking good; I could be able to beat my previous time for this race. I manage to keep a reasonable “Old Croc’s” pace going and before I know it I’m on the last downhill section within the grounds of the Eden Project itself. I don’t look over my shoulder to see if anyone is chasing me down, all I need to do is finish this race as quickly as possible.
I cross the timing mats in 1hr 47:40 a good 8 mins faster than I have finished before, so I’m a happy bunny. My daughter isn’t far behind me, so with race memento cotton T shirt collected and a voucher for a pasty and a pint I head off to have a good wipe down with a Baby wipe and daughter heads off for a massage.
With steak pasty collected, we sit in the sun and await the Half Marathon presentations. I check the results that have been pinned up and both my daughter and I are featured on the second page of 6. I have amazingly also come in as first V50 female and I can see a table full of wine. Sadly it would appear that whoever bought the wine believes that Ladies drink white and men red. Having said that, any colour wine is far better than a plastic trophy.
With wine stuffed in my now heavy rucksack daughter and I have a wander around the biomes then join Isobel whilst she awaits her award for being the first lady across the line in the full marathon. She too receives a bottle of white wine and as she doesn’t touch any alcohol it is swiftly handed over to someone who does……ME! You see I do have some uses in life.
Time to head home, but there on another table nearby is Helen D who also ran the full marathon and was the 6th lady to finish. This is a fantastic result, but 6th place gives you no rewards other than your own pride and satisfaction and that can’t be poured into a wine glass can it? It’s at this point that I decide that over the year I have had my fair share of Isobel’s “winners wine”, so I pluck today’s bottle out of my rucksack and pass it over to Helen instead. Mind you, if it had been red wine……
So all in all:
- Parking: Masses of it and totally free.
- Race HQ: You can’t really beat the iconic Eden Project core building. It has plenty of space for all, whatever the weather throws at you plus a bus service to take you back up the hill to the starting area.
- Toilets: More than enough. There are plenty by the visitors centre. More in the core building where the changing and bag drop is situated. Then in the biomes there are another load, plus masses of Portable toilets at the start line. You were not going to be caught out before the start unless you arrived late.
- Showers: None, so bring your wet wipes.
- Route: This is a lovely scenic race with quiet lanes, some off road tracks and plenty of hills. The marshals were well placed other than in one spot at about 2.5 miles where the lead runners veered off left when they should have stayed on the track they were already on. Maybe next year a piece of tape or one marshal at that point would be a good idea.
- Race Memento: A cotton T shirt in both ladies and men’s sizes, a can of Tribute Beer and a hot Pasty. On top of this all your supporters could have free entry to the venue for the day, which more than covers your entry fee several times over. This is a GREAT value for money event.
- Will I run this race again? Without a doubt, unless I decide to jet off to Amsterdam, Palma or Birmingham which all share the same event date with the Eden Project
If you haven’t run this Half Marathon, give it a go it’s a 10 out of 10 event!