So last weekend I hired a car and drove from London to the stunning Cornish coastline.
My reason for doing this was to compete in the VOTWO event ‘the Atlantic Coast challenge’ . Three marathons run back to back along the Cornish coastline from Padstow to Lands end.
The first day was unchartered territory, I got up and had breakfast, porridge and coffee after a good nights sleep in my camping pod. All the runners were staying on the same campsite. We then were driven to the start via mini buses in two groups, group 1 started earlier and were made up of walkers and slower runners. The rest of us were in group 2.
I had given myself a target of 5 hours to complete each day, given the terrain and elevation. The going was surprisingly good, and I soon settled in with another runner Mark McDonald who had just qualified for the Boston marathon, I was in good company.
Mark started to suffer a bit with his stomach, I went on ahead, then I started to get cramps in my glutes and hamstrings, my hamstrings had actually been giving me problems for weeks, the Bristol half two weeks before I was limping over the finish line.
Then the finish was in sight, on a hill at the end of a vast beach. I started picking up my pace but soon the sand was sucking my strength away. Mark caught me up but the sand sapped him as well. We both started a walk/run tactic along the beach picking out landmarks to run towards.
I crossed the line after 4 hours 17 minutes. A respectable start!
That evening I booked in with one of the massage therapists, he berated me for running a half so close to the challenge and told me my hips were woefully tight and externally rotated. This didn’t fill me with much hope for day 2.
That night I didn’t sleep well , my hamstrings were really tight and painful, I was also worried if I would be able to finish.
The second day we were driven to our start line, the finish of the first. I started very slowly worried about my hamstring, I also concentrated on my form and keeping my feet pointing forwards. I don’t know what happened but I soon warmed up in to a nice stride and didn’t suffer much at all, I was slower than the day before, but still finished in 4 hours 35 minutes, and more importantly I felt great.
I jumped in the sea later, to get a bit of cold water on my legs, I think it worked, it was certainly cold.
The third day came. I was definitely feeling the effects of two trail marathons, 52 miles and 6000 feet of elevation! Only today I would be running close to 29 miles and 5000 feet of elevation. Sure.
I started slowly again, I can’t stress how important this is on long races. I hit a big slump into the run, around mile twenty, it was my glutes, very tight and sore. The climbs were brutal and the going hard, lots of rocks and boulders making running almost impossible in places. I told myself to keep going that it would get better, and you know what it did.
The trail eased and my spirits lightened, soon I was flying along and filled with the elation that I was heading to the finish line. I started passing runners and got into my stride, I got a few remarks on my running tights, I had opted for a horrendous fluorescent orange pair, seemed like a laugh at the time, looking back wasn’t my best decision. Then after a false finish (I thought lands end was the wrong outcrop) was crossing the finish line. 6 hours 41 minutes. A hard days running, climbing and stubbing my toe again and again and again…
We were given our medals, and a pasty, I even got an ice cream from the lands end gift shop.
I was very impressed with the event, great organisation and great facilities at the camp site. It will certainly be on my radar for next year.
That night I slept well.