Falmouth Half Marathon 2017

Report by Hana

As you all know, I like to prepare for any race that I enter well in advance and this race would be no different from any other. I started the process on Thursday night with a visit to “The Art of Wine” in Truro and the sampling of 7 different Italian wines at one of their wine tasting evenings. Sadly my wine tasting preparation was rather poor due to work and no time for any supper before attending. This meant my stomach hadn’t been lined with stodge to help soak up any alcohol consumed during the event. I suppose I could have sipped and spat, but that would be just so wasteful. Even so, I left with only a flush to my cheeks (No blusher required on this old bird) a bounce in my step and I was able to walk in a straight line without any problems all the way home. Red wine dehydration would follow the next morning but several mugs of good coffee cured that.

Sadly on Saturday I ate too much food at my evening meal, all of it very healthy food I must point out, well apart from the two mocha cupcakes to round off the evening. It was just too much too late in the evening which resulted in disturbed sleep made worse by thermal overload. To say I awoke refreshed on Sunday morning would be a complete lie. Never the less, I adopted my usual porridge and fresh fruit breakfast routine, hung out the washing in the mizzle still hanging over Truro, then drove the 20 minute drive to Falmouth.

I made sure I read the race instructions carefully before heading off, as the race had a new venue (the Falmouth Hotel) from when I last attended this event a couple years ago. I decided that I would park at the far end of Cliff road at the Car park near Gyllyngvase beach which is free of charge at this time of year and also located very close to some very good public TOILETS.

With dear “Sydney Skoda” parked safely in this car park, I decide to check out the toilets but as I approach the entrance to them, I find what looks like a freshly painted bright blue door but it is closed with a red plastic barrier in front of it suggesting that the building was currently out of action. “No problem” I say to myself, as I can walk along Cliff road towards the Falmouth Hotel, the race HQ, and just below at Castle Beach are some more public toilets.

As I arrive at Castle Beach and in true Victor Meldrew fashion, I let out the words “I just don’t believe it”, as there surrounding the public conveniences in this location is scaffolding and barriers preventing anyone from using this facility. Whatever next? The answer to this question is staring me in the face, two bright blue portable toileting cubicles sitting awkwardly on the pavement outside the hotel entrance looking uncomfortable and unwelcoming. I turn my nose up at these, and enter the inner sanctum of the hotel where the hunt is on for a bleeding TOILET!

I follow some temporary signs suggesting that race participants turn right for the purpose of toileting and one small room offering a few cubicles is available and the queue is short. Short for now but this is going to be a hell hole later as the hordes arrive.

Time to collect my race number, but I pause shortly to check out the route map to see what changes have been made to the Half Marathon route since I last ran it. A male of a similar age is also taking a gander and notes a lake, “Do we swim this lake?” he jokingly asks of one of the organisers. “yes” she replies. “Well I hope there are some small boys to hang onto” he says out loud. I quietly suggest that maybe this isn’t a comment he should say too loudly, he titters nervously. I don’t think he fully appreciated my warped sense of humour.

The baggage drop is in a large room at the back of the hotel on the ground floor which is also where you can purchase tea and coffee, get changed and generally mingle with the crowd whilst keeping warm. I found a nice corner position in which to leave my bag and sort myself out, and then it was time to see if there was anyone in the room I knew.

After exchanging a few verbal exchanges (no snogging involved at all) it was time to visit the smallest room of the house once again. And as expected the queue was out the door and growing by the minute. Time to go “Off piste” I thought, so up some stairs I go, only to find other females had had the same idea and once again a long queue had formed outside the one “Disabled toilet” they had found. One presumes there was lift access to this toilet?

This had now become a personal challenge to find somewhere a lady can release excess fluid before the start of the race and wading into the sea was not an option I wanted to contemplate plus private hedgerows were in short supply as well. Can you imagine the headlines in the “Falmouth packet” ………..dishevelled elderly female found in a compromising position on sunny seafront. It’s at this point I note the sign with “SPA” written on it. Where there is a SPA there must be a water closet.

I now find myself sneaking through a closed door, tiptoeing down some more stairs to the basement level of the hotel. Well blow me, I find a couple other females have already beaten me to the post, just like the finish line to most races. They have found a disabled toilet and as it is not designated as “Female only”, we have to allow a male who has also been on the prowl to join our very short queue. A couple of smartly dressed young ladies in the sort of uniforms that beauticians usually wear, give us a suspicious once over but maybe my “I’m trying to look innocent” smile put the fear of god in them and they disappeared without challenging us.

So with race vest on, number attached by 4 pins only, “IQ reducer” firmly placed on head, I venture out into the cool sea breeze and take a pre-race stroll passing the two portable toilets placed on the pavement to find a massive queue waiting to venture inside them. I am sure that when their doors open you aren’t going to find the equivalent of the inside of Dr Who’s Tardis, but at least with the volume of what is/would be deposited into them, they won’t blow away should the wind pick up further.

I wander off up the road to Castle Drive and a road that runs off it where the start of the race is located. I start chatting to a young female who has enquired if she is in the right location and before we know it, a photographer has pounced on us, taken our names and snaps a photo or two of us. All I can hope is that when she reviews her days snap shots, mine will be too distressing for public distribution or maybe she’ll apply a little airbrushing and turn me into a goddess (sadly neither happened and to make matters worse she published a larger photo than was necessary on a website that others have found and seen).

I’m soon joined by the lovely Chris R and when I casually mention that I am trying to get my Garmin to lock onto to any passing satellites that were flying overhead and failing, panic set in. He had forgotten to do this himself and was now also trying and failing to load his running GPS. The two of us are waving our arms in the air, when Chris suddenly thinks we may be mistaken as making a second world war political arm gesture, but as both of us are in partial melt down, because obviously there is no way either of us can run a race without knowing how far/how fast/how many calories we are using, we carry on standing there with our arms in the air until we are locked on and showing zero’s across the screen. So much stress so early on a Sunday with both a toilet and satellite shortage. Does the rest of the country have this problem or only Cornwall?

A race briefing starts but as I’m tucked in the middle of the massed crowd which has the advantage of keeping the chill breeze away from my aging bones it has the disadvantage of making anything said indistinct. I get the gist of what is being said…..no closed roads/keep left/No headphones but unlike the Truro Half Marathon they don’t have snipers on the roof tops taking out runners who contravene this rule.

I think someone counted down from 3, and the crowd moved forward. Garmin set to go and before I can say good luck, Chris R has shot down the outside and is weaving past slower runners. I’m jammed in with arms, legs, feet and wider girths hemming me in, but I don’t panic, for we have 13 long miles ahead with numerous hills for me to make up time, and size and shape does not mean that a person is deficient of speed. I jog on and when able weave a little till the crowd starts to spread out as we enter Castle drive and the first hill/unpleasant slope arrives.

I’ve got my head down, not even noticing Falmouth docks on my left as I’m trying to cough and breathe at the same time. Before long I’ve regained some composure and I can see both Chris R and Nigel E ahead of me but the other TRC runners, who are fleet of foot, have long gone, even Mike W is included in this category.

The road starts to go downhill and everyone picks up some speed. I find myself running with male in black T-shirt and male in blue T-shirt and these two will play cat and mouse with me for nigh on the entire race. As I am a miserable Old Fart, I avoid both eye contact and conversation and try to keep a low profile. Another two young males then have the audacity to overtake us and one is wearing an “IQ reducer” (baseball/skater cap) in the real cool fashion, of peak of baseball cap at the back of head. He also has floppy silky trackster bottoms on and lollops casually by. Is he taking the P-ss or is he actually a competitor I ask myself?

There are lots of supporters lining Cliff road and the route takes us past Gyllyngvase Beach, Queen Mary Gardens before heading uphill along Spernen Wyn Road. We take the third road on our left for a short loop around the houses and back past the cemetery before the reward of a downhill section to Swanpool, and the lake that we do not have to swim across. One male runner ahead of me is being shouted at by race marshals. They have spotted earphones and a wire trailing down his left side. He appears to ignore them, but that isn’t surprising if he’s got “Black Sabbath” or Vivaldi’s “Four Season’s” at full blast reverberating through his cranial passages. The question is, “will he be disqualified”?

At Swanpool just before the next hill there are some public toilets, I bet they weren’t locked or out of action, but I pass by without testing them. Instead I’m about to test my hill climbing legs and tolerance levels and just ahead of me is Chris R doing the same. Slow and steady is the mantra I repeat to myself but just to put me off my stride, a young male in front of me, clears his throat and spits without first checking for possible casualties. I’m just behind this male and thankfully for him, his bodily fluids miss me. Soon the summit is reached and spitting male is behind me.

We are now rewarded with a nice long downhill section taking us to Maenporth which has a beach, a café, restaurant and PUBLIC TOILETS. I see one young female divert off to her left and up the steps to this facility. Maybe she never reached the front of the queue at The Falmouth Hotel?

As we are at Sea Level there is only one way for us to go and yes you are correct, the only way is up. I think this is the worst hill of the race but not on the scale of the Looe Hilly 10 hills. It drags on a bit but somehow with head down, feet watching I make it again to the top without resorting to speed walking. The Sun has come out, there is some blue sky and we are in an area called Meudon, where there is a hotel and footpaths that could take you back to the cliffs, but we follow the road around and into Carwinion Road and the start of Mawnan Smith.

There are people lining the road, cow bells ringing like the Tour de France but we haven’t got a man dressed as the devil running alongside us like you see all along the route of that famous cycle race.

We pass the village square to our right and convenience store on our left before being directed left towards Lower Tregarne, where the lane is narrower, the surface thick with mud and the hedgerows alight with daffodils in full bloom. There is one section where if I was out for a leisure run, I would have stopped and photographed the woodland and its curvy/knobbly tree trunks. All very pleasing on the eye and it took my mind off how my legs and lungs were feeling, because this Old Croc was managing to somehow maintain a reasonable pace.

We pass Higher Tregarne, where a little boy of about 4 is stood on a low wall watching us crazy people trot past. We reach a T junction where we join the main road out of Mawnan Smith at a point where the name on the grand gated entrance opposite says “Penwarne”. We are directed left then not too long after this, right onto a road with the lovely name of “No Mans Land Road” passing cottages at Lower Crill. The Spell checker on my laptop is now going do-lally-tat with all these wonderful Cornish place names, so to give it even more of a headache, we are now directed left and up yet another hill at Roscarrack road.

Black T-shirt and Blue T-Shirt are just behind along with girl with long plait and green top who breezes by. She looks much younger and has obviously been engaging in banter with these two males for much of the race, unlike the miserable Victor Meldrew impersonator that I have turned into. “Turned into” I hear you say, “More like his big sister”!

At the top of Roscarrack Road we turn left then right retracing our steps along Swanpool Road, with Falmouth Golf Club on our right but this time it is rewarding us with a lovely downhill. My knees are protesting slightly even if gravity is assisting every step I take.

At Swanpool we DO NOT have to swim the lake or paddle in the sea, we are directed left, passing fabulous PUBLIC TOILETS open for all to use. I see a lady I know from work who cheers me on (having stood on some weighing scales thingy-ma-jig at work a few weeks ago, scales that have electrodes which send pulses through your body to work out just how much FAT you have amongst other things, it pronounced that I had the body of a ………….wait for it……………..a 39 year old. Can you imagine just how loud I squealed? I did punch the air, but one look in the mirror soon brought me back to reality, but it was good for at least an hour). Anyway I digress, “remember you are 15yrs younger” she shouts………I plod on tittering to myself. No one else around appears at all interested but who cares because at this moment in time I actually felt 15 years older, but it isn’t too far till the end of this race.

One last bl—dy hill to tackle, and ironically it has a cemetery either side of it. I’m still running and at the top and I see the first spectators to offer sweets to us runners. I decline and off down Spernen Wyn Road I go, making sure that I don’t go “A over T” on any of the speed humps that are in this road.

Cliff road is in sight, I take a quick look at my Garmin and I’m on course to finish in under 1:50 so I dig deep into my energy reserves and I pass the male in silky trackster bottoms and back to front baseball cap (Chav is what I would normally describe his appearance as) who overtook me at the start of the race but the males in Black and Blue T-shirts are ahead and I cannot catch them. Who cares, I cross the line in 1:48:33 collect my medal, energy bar that looks far too healthy to pass my lips post- race and a banana.

I return to the room where I left my bag, have a quick wipe down with a baby wipe or two and then pour myself a coffee from my flask and indulge in my favourite recovery food…….a Snickers bar, but god how they have shrunk in size. Do they not realise that when you’ve just run 13 long miles with hills thrown in for good measure, diet is not a word that features in my vocabulary. This woman runs so she doesn’t have to diet for god’s sake………now where’s the cake?

Chris R appears, “would you like a baby wipe I ask” he declines my offer, “Well that’s the last time I offer you one of these” I say. Maybe he thinks I have more on my mind than just giving him the packet for his personal use. He thinks about it for a while and then coyly he says, “Maybe I will have a wet wipe?”

So all in all:

  • Race HQ fine.
  • Race Marshals: Brilliant with no chance of getting lost at all.
  • Car parking: There were no issues as the car parks close by were free of charge and there is loads of on street availability as well.
  • Toilets: Noticeable by their absence. Maybe the organisers should have checked out the public ones and then hired in some more portable Turdi. It is safe to say, that the one thing all runners need prior to a race is a TOILET especially if you are of the nervous disposition or have drunk coffee to clear the way for a more comfortable run!
  • Race memento: I know this is a charity fund raiser but for some people it may be the only Half Marathon they will run and they will be the ones that really want “Falmouth Half Marathon” spread across their back for all to see. Why not do what the “Tavy 13” organisers do? They charge one lower fee to enter the race only and a higher fee if you want a T-Shirt as well. That way they know how many to buy and print off and it keeps everyone happy.