The South Devon leg of the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series is, according to their website, where it all began. It is for me too, since last year this was the first time I had entered a race. I ran the 10k, actually 7.4 miles, and it was hard; but not too hard apparently since I felt compelled to enter increasingly longer races throughout the year. Of course "race" is a misnomer since I never have any illusions about winning, but its good to have something to aim for.
Anyway this year I was running the 1/2 marathon.
After many weeks of heavy rain the news came that the car parking would be limited at Beesands and we were forced to park at Torcross, about a mile away. This, combined with some poor route-finding on the way, meant we were running late. Luckily everyone else was in the same boat and the start was delayed to accommodate us.
As with Dorset in December, there was no mass start and we filed across the line in twos and threes, dibbing our timer chips as we set off. Stupidly I shot out like a startled pigeon and, unable to learn from lessons past, I was paying for my early pace by the end of the second mile.
The early part of the course was actually not too bad; a couple of long climbs separated by an inconvenient dash across a pebble beach and a fast open descent past the lighthouse at Start Point. After this the path winds up and down along the coast for a mile or so until our detour - landslides had necessitated a course change. Turning inland we ran deceptively easily along the side of a valley until being presented with a monster of a hill. From here it got really muddy, I fell once rounding a corner on the side of the hill and watched another runner impressively go head over heels and continue almost without breaking stride!
Fields soon gave way to some fairly technical rock hopping as we returned to the coast path. After another mile or so we turned inland again, climbed steeply and arrived at a checkpoint, and the turnaround.
By now we were about eight miles in and I had recovered from my earlier enthusiasm and felt into my stride. The next few miles we partly retraced our steps before hitting the road for a little while. As we turned back onto the trail I realised I recognised where we were from last year's 10k; this allowed me to increase my pace a little, confident I wasn't going to blow it before the end. As it was I still had some left for a little sprint finish which goes to show I wasn't trying hard enough!
Another well organised event from Endurance Life in the bag, there was little more to do than head to the pub for a quick pint and get on our way. On the way back to the car we followed the lead of some other runners and spent a few minutes up to our waists in the seas soaking our aching feet and washing the Devon mud from our legs.
As we changed at the car, several marathon runners were still plodding past in various states of distress; maybe next year?