My training for this year’s Atlantic Coast Challenge, a three marathons in three days event from Constantine Bay to Lands End, mostly involved resting and eating cake, so I was aware from the start that a lot of walking would be involved writes Jo Earlam.
Indeed each day I set off at a slow pace, watching the other participants run, leap and jog away from me and within a short time, I was often the back marker, which didn’t bother me at all as it meant I had the sometimes narrow paths to myself. Some while later the faster runners (arriving on the next minibus trips) would pass me, the lead runner in the blink of an eye, then a stream of nibble footed followers, with a cheery exchange of “well done”, and me stepping carefully to the landward side of steep cliff paths to let people pass.
I didn’t bother to set my GPS as I knew the battery would pack up before my expected finish time. I just hoped my legs and mental attitude would last out. I let the terrain and tiredness dictate my pace, if both were tough I’d walk, if they were favourable I’d jog.
The first day was dominated by strong winds, gusting so fierce at times that it was hard to stand up straight let alone make progress and by 22 miles and at more than six hours it had been become an exhausting battle! A narrow cliff edge and steep climb from Holywell Bay to Penhale Camp was particularly gruelling, leading to complete sense of humour loss! Hoever, I eventually got down to Perranporth beach and my conservative start paid dividends, I had enough energy to do a steady jog, passing several people and completing the two miles of sand in 24 minutes.
My strategy for days two and three was similar, setting off at walking pace, watch everyone disappear, and keep plodding on behind them. Each day I also stopped at the halfway checkpoint, sat and emptied sand from shoes, had sandwiches and fabulous homemade flapjacks along with a welcomed cup of coffee. All provided as part of the amazing event hospitality. The scenery on route is incredible and offers many opportunities to pause for photo breaks and sometimes seal spotting.
On day two, although I was tired, I power walked past several people on the last two mile road hike to the finish at St Ives Bay Holiday Park, our accommodation venue for the weekend, and on day three Lands End was like a lure, from the last checkpoint at Cape Cornwall, I fixed my sights on it and with a steely determination put every effort I could into those final six miles, managing to properly run the last half mile and elated as I crossed the line.
All of my finish times were slower than last year, which – not being as fit – I knew from the outset would be the case. However, checking the statistics was rewarding, as I could see that my slow pace did not hold me back and more importantly did not stop me taking part. In fact rather like the tortoise and the hare, my plodding paid off, as each day my time and placing between the last the checkpoint and the finish got better, and the final day was my best.
My times and placings were: Day one – 7:24, from place 174 to 146 between checkpoints, and placed overall 161; Day two – 7:08, from place 167 to 118 between checkpoints, and placed overall 148; Day three – 9:27, from place 153 (5 minutes before 162, who was the last person) to 88 between checkpoints, and placed overall 130. Overall finish time 23:59, overall finish place 129. I didn’t win, I wasn’t fast, but I’m really happy with how I did and now the 74th marathon has been completed.