The preceding week had seen the South West racked with some of the worst storms of the winter, leading to widespread flooding and general disruption. The met office suggested that Saturday would be no better. All week the Facebook gossip had questioned whether the Endurance Life South Devon leg of the Coastal Trail Series would, could or even should go ahead. Many, myself included, wondered whether it was right to risk overloading an already stretched emergency services by placing several hundred runners on the coast path. Updates from Endurance Life were somewhat well spaced and this gave everyone, especially those travelling from further afield, plenty of time to worry about what to do. Eventually though, it seemed the event was on.
Simon had already told me he wasn't coming. His training hadn't been going too well; on a good day he would struggle to complete the distance but with 70mph winds forecast there was, as far as he was concerned, no chance. Struggling to decide whether the whole thing was foolhardy or merely adventurous I eventually stopped procrastinating and committed to give it a go.
I made good time and arrived early, got registered and said hello to a few familiar faces. During the race briefing we heard of the route changes; no loop out East around Slapton Ley, instead we would return to the start after 20 miles and, for those of us running the Ultra, head out again to follow the half marathon course. Before long we were briefed and ready to go, shivering in the early morning chill we lined up and waited for the off.
At last it came and we headed off up across a couple of fields before joining the coast path. For the first few miles the lay of the land saved us from the full force of the wind. On reaching the car park at Start point we were diverted to the right as the organisers had deemed the traverse of the rocks around the headland too risky in the current conditions. Dropping down a long, fairly technical rocky path we got our first taste of things to come; the wind roared up the valley buffeting and blasting us and letting us know exactly what we were in for.
|Our first taste of the storm|
|Dramatic Devonshire coastline with added weather for good measure|
|Sunny Salcombe from across the Estuary|
As is often the case though, things soon started to look up, we abandoned the coast path and headed inland, the sun popped out again briefly and I stopped to get some photos before entering a sheltered pathway up to a road section that brought us into East Prawle. It also brought us another violent hailstorm that stung my face and legs but it was over soon enough. Another check-in followed and more fields and muddy pathways too; some of this I recognised from the year before when I had run the half.
|Dark skies approaching|
I had good fun running these next few familiar miles and before long I was dropping down to the start, another check point and the unavoidable acknowledgement that the second lap, including those wind swept cliffs, was imminent.
One of the great things about running these long races is the interactions with other competitors. Often the same faces are passed and pass you many times throughout the course of the day and one of those was Ferg, of Mud Crew fame. We kept each other company on and off for the rest of the run and it was good to have someone to chat with along the way.
Having felt so good at the end of the first lap I felt awful for the first miles of lap two; things did not exactly improve once I reached the coast - the wind, if anything, have become stronger and I was in no condition to manage more than a slow, painful slog. That said, once I accepted any chance of maintaining a decent pace was fruitless I was able to just get down to getting through it as best as I could. Again, once we turned inland, despite feeling quite tired by this point, things improved.
|A bit breezy, spume covers the "path" - actually ankle deep water|
|One mile to go - bloody good job!|