I remember (just), bad old days when a good weekend meant going to bed at 5am. These days that’s when the alarm goes off signalling the start of another day of adventure for me and the beautiful one.
Although, yesterday we did the Race The Tide long half marathon (16.5 ish miles), the first time we’ve attempted a Pure Trail event. In order for the race’s appropriate cut-off at the river crossing coincide with the incoming tide, the start time was 1.24pm precisely.
So, no 5am alarm, how very civilised for us to have a lie-in, although, being creatures of habit, we were naturally dithering about what and when to eat to prepare for a lunchtime start.
Friend, and all round good guy, Jamie was directing us into the field being used as a car park. He’s a stalwart of the running community, aside from his own achievements in trainers, he’s regularly to be found in a hi-viz shepherding runners or their vehicles and generally contributing to making trail races the great events they are.
Please check out the Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k(ish) as organised by Jamie and come and enjoy a beautiful course to run or help out on the day.
Anyway, we arrived in the picture postcard village of Holbeton in plenty of time to collect our numbers and enjoy watching some of the mud splattered 10k runners career across the line. Everybody looked so happy. We had a good feeling about today. And how right we were……
Aside from our 16+ mile half marathon and the 10k, there was a 30 odd mile marathon and those runners
were already out there, attempting to best their various tide cut-offs.
After the race which shall not be mentioned recently, Nicky’s knocked confidence was in need of a boost and we were both determined to put that to rest. (I have now, honestly….)!
This race, in my opinion, has it spot on – the cut offs are they for all the right reasons. The first is primarily because the tide would have prevented anybody not making the time getting across the estuary.
Just one of the many well thought out details of this race was that, even in the event of missing the crossing at 6.5 miles, you could simply retrace your route and still cross the line having completed the best part of a half marathon. The marathon had similar contingencies in place.
Anyway, within the first uphill mile, we soon learned why those earlier runners were caked in mud as we waded through knee (or higher) deep mud as the route became, in the name of the organisers, pure trail.
The route was certainly undulating in those first 6.5 miles, but not brutal and Nicky had her race face on as we reached the estuary crossing with about 17 minutes to spare. We dibbed in (the timing system involves wearing a ‘dibber’ which you connect with a receiver at each of the check points and the finish), I do enjoy races with dibbers, something of the child in me I think! and then started across the estuary. Such a beautiful spot, great fun splashing through the water and welcomed on the other side by, amongst others, the omnipresent Jamie, having been relieved of his car park duties. “Cuts offs?! PAH! cut offs, schmutt offs” he called out, being aware of our recent experience at the race we shall not mention (I promise!).
This race made it quite plain that you need to be fit, strong and used to difficult, challenging, hilly and rough terrain to be able to make the cut offs, but it does not expect you to be challenging fro a spot on Nike’s next Breaking2 project! All the wonderful, friendly, encouraging, knowledgeable marshals and crew at Pure Trail appear to UNDERSTAND trail runners, they can look at an athlete and instinctively know whether they are physically or mentally struggling to meet the times needed to get around.
Consequently, us runners are free to enjoy the stunning, varied and fantastically thought out course, using the pacing strategy which works for us.
After those 6 or so miles on woodland trails and riverside paths, the scenery change as we headed off for 3 or 4 miles on the coast path. It doesn’t matter where you land along it, the South West Coast Path is something else. Plenty of steep ups, steps, downs, gates, stiles and wildlife. And endless stunning
viewpoints. Despite these, naturally, being the slowest miles of our run, they are SO gorgeous, time becomes irrelevant. Before we knew it, the route was taking us back in land. Nicky ran so strongly in this race, pushing on in the woods, taking her occasional walk breaks to pause, take a drink, check we’re both going well and then pushing on. I’m always bleating on about just how PROUD I am to be Nicky’s husband, but she never ever does anything but make me proud.
This tough 16 mile run was no exception. When I write this blog, I just let my feelings about this wonderful running life we share leak onto the page. I’m not a particular ‘type’ of runner, I enjoy pounding the pavements, doing laps of Paignton Green, intervals and pushing myself hard.
But I am NEVER happier in my running shoes than when I’m enjoying the most beautiful of views in the most beautiful of company. Pure Trail gave us the first of those in spades on Saturday, and Nicky, naturally fills the second and I truly feel blessed.
We gave our best team effort here, and absolutely loved every second of the day. We encountered nothing but fun, smiles and laughter amongst the other competitors and magical scenery from the route. Looking forward to seeing the outcome of the footage being shot by the three ladies (from Ireland I believe) with whom we shared much of the course, to be found on youtube within the week we are informed.
Anyway, almost too soon, the sign pointing us towards the finish appeared and we found ourselves giggling back through the mud (it’s good for the complexion you know) and charging for the line. We do enjoy finishing holding hands (“oh get a room you two” as one social media wag quipped), even better today was that we managed to be dibbed at EXACTLY the same time and were officially in a dead heat for 86th place, ahhhhh!
So, having crossed the line, there was, amongst the throng of happy faces, good old Jamie, still encouraging, congratulating and still grinning from ear to ear.
I certainly don’t write the blog for plaudits, but it was lovely when Brian and Tracey, who had finished a short while before us came over and said “you’re the guy who writes the blog”!
It turns out Brian is race director for the City To Sea and he did a
pretty good job of convincing us that we might fancy a marathon (or even ultra) from Exeter to Torquay in early September. Lovely people and it looks like a cracking event.
Just like this was.
We were pretty tired by the time we’d got home and washed the mud down the shower, but so glad to be glowing from a wonderful day.
As ever, time is our enemy, and this coming week is going to disappear before we start heading up north on Friday with what promises to be another picturesque event at the Coniston Marathon next Sunday.
So, ever so briefly….
I kayaked up the Dart from Stoke Gabriel to Totnes and then accompanied Nicky as she swam the 4.5 miles back. I won’t go on……….
Then, after helping her out of her wetsuit and feeding her, I set off for a 13 mile run around the lovely area we are fortunate enough to inhabit……
And so, Bank Holiday Monday……….. proud husband, step-dad and granddad…..