Classic Quarter Ultra Marathon

“You don’t have to be mad to complete and ultra marathon, just prepared” that’s what it said on the Ultra Marathon website I visited. Knowing that I have the potential for a bit of both, I swiftly entered the Classic Quarter.  This race, so named because participants run through a quarter of the compass from Lizard point to Lands End covers 44 miles of South West Coast Path and is described as the ultimate runners rush.  Right then.

Ready, Steady… go

Luckily for me I like these early starts as I find the numbing effect of still being half asleep for the first three hours quite calming. My support crew (The Mac lads) were still in their PJs in the car as we headed off to register at about 5:30 am, Race briefing at 6am.  I hadn’t anticipated the race briefing taking a full 30 minutes and tried to make a dash for the ‘facilities’ just before the start.  I had Gabriel in tow as he also needed to ‘go’, as we headed back down the path the race had already started! I was truly at the back of the pack. 

I could see the lead runners haring off into the distance. In this race there is absolutely no way of knowing which runners are in relay teams and which ones are individual runners.  I had trained on the first stretch of coast path lots of times and knew exactly what to expect so stayed nicely within my comfort zone.  Nevertheless by Kynance Cove I had moved through the pack and had a few runners safely behind be.

Friends in High Places

I was dreading crossing Kynance Farm as I had run into the cattle there on several occasions and know just how intimidating they can be.  We were warned about them at safety briefing and as we got nearer they were bellowing and milling about all over the footpath. Luckily for me I had the company of Paul the Vet from Helston for this stretch.  He was very assertive and our huddle passed through without too much adventure.  Paul the Vet I am forever in your debt. I also knew that on the other side of the farm, at Predannack Wollas, my friends would be waiting with special molasses laden ginger cake, just what a girl needs after a coastal 10km!

Feels like home

On through Mullion Cove and onto my home turf, just a stones throw from my own front door.  There is a certain novelty in running past your house in a race.  I wasn’t tempted to pop in though, the conditions were perfect and I was alarmed by how comfortable I was feeling. My knees and hamstrings were holding up nicely and check point one was within easy reach.

Pride Comes Before…

Yes, we all know what comes next, I had been starting to get a bit more confident on the down hills but I took a bit of ankle turner at Praa Sands which reminded me to concentrate. Being quite experienced in the ankle turning department I knew that the best thing to do would be to keep moving now and worry about it later.  I had a change of shoes and socks, as well as my peanut butter sandwiches awaiting me at Perranuthnoe, all of which would help. Between Prussia Cove and Perranuthnoe, MBH member Gabby and her lovely dog were there to cheer my way.  Thanks Gabby it was lovely to see you both.

Half Way

I arrived at Perranuthnoe at about the five hour mark.  Found out one of my closest friends had just had a baby, congratulations! The sun was starting to shine down now. Footwear change (ignored balloon ankle), found peanut butter sandwiches indigestible.  Kissed the Mac lads, dibbed my dibber and headed for what the Mazey Day celebrations in Penzance, trotted past my mum’s front door.  Adopted the 5:1 run/walk strategy.  Who should be waiting for me at the water station in Penzance? Ian and Sue, and lovely, lovely salty chips! How fabulous is that? Worked for me, anyway, thanks guys. Determined striding past the fair and onto the very windy Prom. Very glad to turn the corner at Newlyn!

On my way down to Lamorna

Once Newlyn was behind me I felt suddenly refreshed and knew that check point three at Lamorna was within easy reach.  It was great to be off the road and back on the footpath at Mousehole.  From here, although the course is tough going the scenery just gets better and better. Cornwall at its best. The sun was glinting on the sea, just totally perfect. Lots of scrambling about on boulders and me singing, Brenda Wooton style (altogether now). But who is this athlete heading towards me? John Mostfast Doyle! It was fantastic to see you John, Thank you.

The Final Countdown

I left Lamorna after seven and three quarter hours on my feet.  This had been the furthest I had been in training so every step from here was new territory and a step further than I had ever ran before. How exciting is that? The final stretch of this race is without doubt, jolly challenging. The eight miles from Lamorna to where Lands End hoves into view are not only undulating, but there are also huge boulders to scramble about on and sheer edges to avoid.  It is very, very stunning and the view managed to take my mind off the throbbing in my big toes every time I pootled down any incline.

I hadn’t envisioned it taking me over three hours to cover the 10.5 miles to the finish. To be honest though I had never pinned a time on this event for myself, I went there to finish.  As I saw Lands End in the distance I felt a great big surge of emotion, and I have to admit I was a bit choked. I kept thinking about the brilliant support I had had from family and friends and about the fulfilment of a personal goal, I was also stumbling about a bit and stubbing my poor toes at every end and turn. Tired and emotional I think.

Then, all of a sudden I could see a cluster of other runners ahead and Lands End not too far away at all, off we go!  I headed for the finish at what felt like a gallop, I could hear Ian and Sue shouting and other finishers were there to cheer me in, Pete and Gabriel were right there and Gabriel presented me with my medal.  I made my final ‘dib, dib, dib’ and with that at 11 hours I had finished my first Ultra Marathon. Yippee.

Post Race

I had a meal ticket as part of race entry, supporters had to buy their own (£6). The portions were not generous I’m afraid There were no showers, you can only imagine how dirty and smelly all the finishers get.  I took my shoes off to reveal some very purple big toe nails.  If you are planning this race for next year, consider taping your toes. It’s a brilliant day out though, AND, I won a special spot prize for being the most ‘chipper’ runner.  Must be those chips Ian fed me at Penzance.

Steph (Mac1) Mackley

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