Last weekend Sidmouth Running Club’s Mark Andow took part in The Arc of Attrition 50, a point-to-point extreme coastal race taking in the stunning and dramatic Cornish coast path. Mark was on the cancellation list for this popular event organised by The Mud Crew and sponsored by La Sportivia so when the call came offering him a place, he only had a few days to decide whether to accept; luckily he was prepared having completed the Dartmoor 100 in November and running the longer Sunday club runs.
It was a very early hour long coach ride to the amazing start running up from the stage of the Minack Theatre out onto the South West Coast Path to then follow the hardest first 25 miles he had ever had to run, walk, climb and scramble over.
The race had strict cut-offs which meant 25 % of the field of runners did not finish and there was only one official checkpoint 25 miles in at St Ives. The MG found the second 25 miles misleading, as after long stretches of relative flatness, there would be huge descends and ascends up steep steps. Mark found it very taxing on the legs.
Although a way-marked route there were parts that were challenging to navigate, particularly through the ‘Dunes of Doom, at night. Competitors needed the ability to be self-sufficient for long periods of time and Mark was really blessed by having the ‘crew support’ from his friend Richard who drove down the night before in his camper van. Richard met Mark repeatedly for food, fluids and encouragement. The MG said Richard being there made a real difference and was glad he was able to fit in a sea swim and get joined by a seal who swam with him. Without people like Richard and the scores of volunteers called the ‘Flying Angels’ these kind of extreme ultras could not be safely attempted, so my gratitude goes out them.
There were potentially challenging winter conditions, but luck held and the daytime was ideal for January with it being not too cold, blue skies with some sunshine although there were occasional light drizzles after the sun set. This helped Mark maintain a constant effort, if not speed, as the terrain was so varied. The MG was able to stay ahead of the cut offs and eventually completed it after 13.5hours!
To sum up the extreme Mighty Green said The Arc race on the Cornish coast was tough but safe and well organised, brutally beautiful…and painful! Comparing it with the Dartmoor 100 Mark said they were both tough in different ways – Dartmoor total exhaustion over a long burn and The Arc of Attrition hard as had to put more intense effort, but not as mentally tiring.