By Richard Chynoweth
One year on from securing 2nd place with the TRC men’s relay team I found myself back at Lizard Point for another crack at the Classic Quarter, this time as part of a 2 man relay team with my good friend the unaffiliated Chris Madeley. It was quite evident at the start that there was less of a TRC prescence this year. Last year we had mens and ladies relay teams, 4 or 5 soloists and a few others taking part in teams. This year at the start it was just the ladies relay team of Juliet, Karen, Sandy and Sue along with myself, James Davies and Chris Barratt who were all competing in the 2 man relay with a non TRC member. I was aware later that Alex Marples and Tom Wright were doing the second half of a 4 man team with some of Tom’s university friends.
Chris and I had adopted the somewhat unusual strategy of alternating legs, with him running legs 1 and 3 (the easy legs) and me running legs 2 and 4 (the hard legs). So at 7:37am the relays were under way out of The Lizard and off towards Kynance Cove. The most notable thing at the start was one of the runners in a black and white striped vest haring off like a mad man. I later found out this was a 4 man team from Highgate Harriers in London who had clearly arrived with the intention of winning.
I then made my way in the car (some of you may remember this car from last years CQ report – it’s still the same heap of crap) to Church Cove. Milling around in Church Cove I chatted to Andy Goundry who had given up his place with me after being booked in for his 17th hip replacement but was there to cheer on Karen in the relay. Andy was clearly chomping at the bit and was trying to work out ways he could still compete by doing Chris Barratt’s last leg even though he had an appointment with the specialist on Monday. Luckily his machinations bore no fruit.
Most of the latter solos had dribbled through by now and then the chap from Highgate Harriers appeared on the cliff top and dashed into Church Cove. Just the 1:05 for him on the 10 miles of cliff path, an amazing feat indeed. As I stood waiting for Chris I was then approached by a man with a tripod! He explained he was part of the official event crew and he would like to film my change over with Chris. Being a media whore I readily agreed and then found myself being choreographed through my transition. When Chris appeared on the cliff the film crew burst into life before running alongside him on the beach and getting up close and personal with our changeover then watching me run to the ‘tripod man’ as I have innocently called him. I wonder if we’ll make the final cut? It was a great relief for me to get through this transition after last years ‘dibber gate’ and even with all the added paparrazzi pressure. Chris had completed the first leg in 1:20 leaving us currently in 4th in the 2 person relay.
I then began bounding along from Church Cove towards Porthleven. I have to admit I was very much enjoying chasing the solo back markers. So rarely in a GP event do you see someone, chase them down, over take them and speed away as you can when you have fresh legs, you’re on a cliff and they are suffering. It was like shooting fish in a barrel and all I can say is I’m a bad person as it was incredibly motivational to keep running faster. I got into Porthleven in about 36 minutes and told myself I needed to slow down as I still had another 19 miles to go today. In Porthleven my parents were waiting to offer some support and appeared to have rounded up quite a posse of unknowns to cheer me on around the harbour. Good old Ma and Pa.
Onwards through Rinsey (can’t see what all the fuss about the climb was) and towards Praa sands. Still charging along trying to get as close to Sowerby’s time from last year as I could, through the kit check point. Still picking those solo back markers off for fun until one oaf wearing headphones would not shift. After a few of us were tangled up behind him on a steep climb yelling I had to resort to poking him in the back. Why are headphones still permitted in this race?
I rounded Cudden Point and was now really on a charge as I was aware in the last mile or so I had picked off several of the two and four man relay teams and by my reckoning we were up to 2nd in the 2 person competition and were the 4th relay team on course. Some of you may be thinking at this point that I’m a bit of a smug git. This all vanishes at this point. With less than a mile to go to Perranuthnoe disaster strikes. At a way marker there are 2 yellow arrows one points left, one points straight on. Straight on I can see the check point down below me so this is the logical choice right? In hindisght I have reflected that if you are following a coast path and the sea is on your left then left is always the logical choice. I would deeply regret this decision
On the above map in blue, you can see the race route. In red, you can see where some idiot named Chynoweth went. Subsequently looking at the map you can see a little way into ‘my red route’ I am offered a choice of left or right. Left towards the sea, or right towards that farm? What on earth was I thinking? By my reckoning, the detour added a little over a mile. To then compound matters, they had moved the checkpoint so I had then ran some of leg 3 before having to double back. At this juncture Tom Wright and Alex Marples appeared and were cheering me on thinking I was starting leg 3 whereas in fact I was circling around like an idiot trying to finish leg 2 when approaching it from the wrong direction.
Regular readers of my CQ report will remember me arriving in Perranuthnoe last year in my car with the exhaust unit scraping along the floor and people pointing at me and shouting. One year on and I arrive in Perranuthnoe, this time on foot, but once again with people pointing at me and shouting ‘you’ve gone the wrong way’. Eventually I found Chris who was utterly bemused as to where I had been and why I was behind him and thankfully, he got leg 3 under way for real. At the risk of making myself look like an idiot, it is not as if I ran and walked this stretch of coast path in the last month in order to prepare, it is also definitely not the case that my other half is from Perranuthnoe and I have in fact walked this piece of coast path on many occasions. Oh wait! Sad face emoji.
Overall I had cost us about 10 minutes and several places in the relay events but Chris was off and making his way along the tarmac section through Penzance. I was in a real sulk and forgot about all the things I had planned to do such as warm down, stretch, eat, keep warm, etc and was just chuntering away at myself. I then got in my ‘bomb of a car’ (these were the words used by a member of the Endurance Life crew) to drive to Lamorna.
On arrival in Lamorna I had just missed the first 3 soloists go through and the leaders of the 4 man team event. I found out at this stage that misfortune had befallen the Highgate Team and their 3rd runner had fallen and had been replaced by their 4th man with their driver now set for the last leg. This had meant that they were now back in 2nd and their bid to break records had passed. I stood and watched the leading soloists and relay teams come through and waited for Chris to arrive. Chris ran a good 3rd stage and despite struggling over the last few miles had made a place back on what I had lost and got us back on the podium. Meanwhile just behind him Alex Marples was flying around in a very competitive time of 1:22 for the 11 or so miles of leg 3.
So I began leg four knowing I had to redeem myself and also knowing that Tom Wright was planning on ‘hunting me down’ with his fresh legs. Scrambling along from Lamorna it is not really a run and you have several miles of just hanging on. I was coming across the odd soloist for company and was pleased after a few miles to catch up and overtake another of the 2 man relay teams. This chap looked like he was struggling and I was pleased with our breaking the stages up strategy. This put us in 2nd place in our event, I knew that 1st place were far ahead and we were not likely to catch them and was a lot more worried by what was behind. One of those things that was behind was Tom Wright who about 3 miles in to the final leg came bounding past me like an Ibex on ecstasy. It was good to see Tom and I was pleased he was not in my competition as he rapidly sped away into the distance. It’s funny how with an extra stage in my legs and a bonus mile or so that I was not able to keep him in sight long.
By now the weather had seriously turned and visibility was shocking. It was cold and wet and what had been a tail wind in the early stages was now pushing me inland (something I was quite capable of doing myself as you saw earlier). It was lonely out there now and other runners were rare. Another member of a 4-man team caught me and ran with me for a while through Porthgwarra and the odd soloist was still being picked off as I plodded along. My enjoyment at their struggles had long since faded and I really felt for these poor souls in the rain and 40 odd miles in. They are truly remarkable. The steps out of Porthcurno were depressing and really quite disorientating and I hadn’t seen any of my ‘support crew’ as had been agreed at several points and I was feeling quite low. I subsequently found out that they had been waiting for me at Porthcurno but after Tom had danced his merry jig through and I hadn’t arrived they had assumed that they’d missed me and carried on to Lands End. How I found my pace for the last leg being benchmarked against a mountain goat who had done 14 less miles I do not know, but there we go.
Over the last few miles I passed one or two more soloists and had another 4 man relay team passed me, shortly after he did he fell and cut his arm and I had to help him over a stile. With 1 mile to go they had placed a little sign on the cliff presumably as a motivational aid but as it appeared out of the fog it thoroughly depressed me to think that if I hadn’t got lost I would have been finished. By now, the rain was lashing down and I was cold and sodden as I trudged into Lands End and crossed the finish line in just under 7 hours. It was nice at the end to have my friends and family cheering me on and they’d be Joined by James and Jen. James all wrapped up warm after he had strolled around his first two legs enjoying himself. We had managed to finish second pair in the relay open event, the team that had won it were 25 minutes ahead of us so I do not think we would have caught them even if all had gone to plan.
In some warm clothes, we retired to the bar where Tom and Alex were swigging back their beers as if they had barely broken a sweat. James and Jen then came in a little worried that James’ running partner Nick had experienced misfortune but he arrived a little later. We then made our way back outside into the rain for an hour or so to cheer people in including the Ladies relay team and a soggy looking Chris Barratt. The presentation was a bit of a damp squib as unsurprisingly many people had gone home due to the appalling conditions. Logically after second place in the 4 person relay and second place in the 2 person relay I should be aiming for second place in the solo next year. I have a very strong feeling this will not be happening. As ever an enjoyable event with an amazing amount of support on course and given the weather over the last few hours, it is commendable. As we drove home at about 5pm I felt for those poor soloists who were still coming in until nearly 9pm that evening and deserve a huge amount of kudos.