Friday, 14 June 2013

The Endurance Life Classic Quarter 2013

At the finish line of the Classic Quarter last year, having run as a team of four, I started to think that maybe I could complete it as one of a pair with enough training.  By August two of our team, Simon and I, had run the twenty mile red route at the Roseland August Trail.  This begged the question: if we can run twenty miles now, where's the challenge in running twenty two next year?  And so a it was decided, we would run the 44 mile Classic Quarter solo in 2013.

Mark, Gareth, Simon and I, Lizard, June 2012

Fast forward ten months and Simon and I found ourselves on our way South to the Lizard.

The previous week had been hot and sunny and the forecast was for more of the same.  However, by the time we arrived at the Lizard the sky to the south was dark and punctuated by increasingly frequent flashes of lightning.

Arriving in the car park the queues for registration and the toilets were both quite short; I made a decision to head to the loos first which turned out to be a mistake since, by the time I returned from the toilets, the rain had started and the queue to register stretched right to the back of the car park. By the time we assembled down the hill at the start line everyone was soaked and shivering.  The storm raced off ahead of us though and as we started the rain stopped.  The count down chorus was followed by anti-climax with all but the front runners forced to a walk as we funnelled onto the cliff path.

Cold, wet and raring to go!

Simon sporting typical summer atire
The first two miles were a stop start affair with plenty of bottle-necks; this no doubt helped a good few of us avoid an over-enthusiastic dash to the first check point and gave everyone a chance to ease into their pace gently.

Chasing the storm.  Eerie light at the start of Classic Quarter

We're off! Runners snaking over the hills just North of Lizard

Running down to Kynance Cove

At Kynance we gingerly crossed the pebble beach before starting the first big uphill slog of the day.  From here the going was fairly easy and I made a good pace along the rolling hills to Mullion.  

Arriving at Mullion Cove

I got to Gunwalloe and the first check point in under two hours and it was a big lift to see so many people waiting around (mostly here for the relays I guess) and cheering us on. Forcing down a gel and some flapjack I set off again towards Porthleven.  I had a few aches and pains in the first couple of hours and my back had made itself known a few times but, as the third hour wore on, these early niggles faded away and I ran on comfortably.  

Porthleven came and went, and as we left the houses behind the rain began again.  The course from here to Praa Sands has some spicy hills and by now the passage of those ahead combined with the sudden onset of wet weather had churned up the path into a claggy mess.

Muddy trails, Tremeane
Switchbacks through the undergrowth, Trewavas
At last I came to check point two and on arriving met my wife, Hannah and eldest daughter Bronwen who were generously giving up their day to be my support team. Its amazing the lift you get from seeing a familiar smiling face. I was also surprised to see my friend and climbing partner Jeremy, a Classic Quarter veteran, had popped down to cheer me on and offer some advice.  

Leaving Perranuthnoe

Still smiling, halfway in
After a change of socks and t-shirt I headed off, bound for Marazion and a long, flat section of the course.  Stiffness had set in during my brief stop and it took a good half mile to get myself going again.  By now the rain was long gone and the day was heating up.  Arriving at Marazion I took the opportunity to stop for an ice cream, dunked my buff in the river and wandered onto the new cycle path above the beach.  

At Penzance sea front

Throughout this flat section I alternated running fifteen minutes and walking five until finally arriving at the sea front in Penzance. Here I met Hannah and Bronwen again, who ran alongside me for a while before leaving me to continue along the road into Newlyn and then Mousehole and the infamous Raginnis Hill. At the top of this massive hill I regained the coast path finally, by now exhausted and really feeling the heat. The route from Mousehole to Lamorna was, to be honest, brutally hard with plenty of steep climbs and rocky sections.  Added to this I had underestimated the effects of the heat on my water consumption and consequently ran out two miles short of the check point. 

Looking back down Raginnis hill.  Its steeper than it looks
I arrived in Lamorna at the same time as my team - apparently my directions from Newlyn to Lamorna had been woefully inadequate and Hannah had gone round the houses trying to find her way.  After rehydrating I grudgingly left my resting place on the harbour wall and set off. The route from Lamorna to Porthcurno is generally believed to be the hardest section of the course, and the huge hills in and out of St Loy and Penberth certainly took their toll.  Everyone was looking pretty beaten up by now but it was great to see how we all looked out for each other as we passed others or were overtaken ourselves.

Bloody steps!  St Loy
Porthcurno was in full holiday swing and the temptation to walk onto the busy white sands and dive into that perfect turquoise sea was hard to resist. As I walked up the path towards the Minnack I looked up and saw Bronwen beaming down at me from above; she ran down and held my hand as I climbed the steps to the car park where Hannah was waiting with food and encouragement. 

Porthcurno in full holiday swing
Five miles to go. A lunchtime run, nothing more.  I was lucky to latch on to a couple of motivated souls who pulled me with them for a while, though after we got to Porthgwarra I just couldn't quite keep up and found myself alone again. Walking more than running I finally arrived at Nanjizal Beach, the best beach in Cornwall, and I knew I had a mile and a half to go.  I had twenty minutes to go to get in under twelve hours.  With such a short distance to travel there was no sense holding back and I surprised myself with a final spurt to the finish line, coming home in 11 hours 55 minutes.

Nanjizal, best beach in Cornwall

Simon made it in an hour or so later, having suffered knee problems since the halfway point and swearing he would never again run so far.  For me, I'm not so sure.  Not for a while maybe, but I wouldn't say never. 

Stumbling over the finish line

Simon finishes in perfect evening light

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on finishing! The beaches look extremely tempting, I agree.