Exe-rated runners!

Exe-rated runners!
The successful Harriers team, en masse, at the Erme Valley Relays, July 2013

Monday, 14 October 2013

Mike's epic 3 day Cornish coastal ultra run!

On the weekend of 4th / 5th / 6th of October, Mike Musgrove was down in Cornwall for, not just one day of racing, but 3. The 3 races in 3 days format is not new to Mike, as this July he participated in the inaugural 3 day 'Tour of Exeter' event, but his latest challenge was on a quite quite larger scale.

Mike was in Cornwall for the Votwo organised 'Atlantic Coast Challenge'. In essence, this involves running 3 marathons on 3 consecutive days, along the North Cornish coastal path, starting in Padstow and making its way south west to Lands End; however, each stage is not a perfect marathon and all of them come in slightly over distance, with day 3 being the longest and toughest at 29.5 miles. For the less adventurous, Votwo also offer the option to just enter one or two of the stages, but Mike-the-Mighty-Musgrove wasn't about to pussy-foot about with that: he was going for all three!

There were 150 competitors tackling the 3 day challenge and all of them were staying at a campsite/caravan park in Hayle, making for a bit of a festival atmosphere. From there, the organisers ferry runners to the different starts each day and then set up various checkpoints along the way, where a timing chip had to be "dibbed in" to make sure you were safe and accounted for: all part of the Votwo care package! 

Leg 1 started at Trevose Head, near Padstow, and from there the runners made their way to Perranporth. This section was very enjoyable to run as it wasn't too technical; the hardest bit was navigating through Newquay! There were a tough last couple of miles awaiting runners as the coastal path goes all the way along the soft sand of Perranporth beach, at the far end of which was the finish line of day 1. By this point, Mike had run 27 miles, and not on flat, tarmac roads. Most people would venture home at this point, put their feet up, pull the cork on a nice bottle of wine and stuff their faces with whatever they fancied as just reward for completing a tough marathon. Nope. No such luxuries for Mike; he had to head back to his tent and fuel up on more carbs ready to do it all again the next day!

Mike running through the spectacular coastline at Bedruthan Steps, on day 1 of his epic challenge

Day 2 and leg two started in Perranporth. All the runners set off at different times on this second day, according to their splits from the previous day. This section was similar to the terrain covered on day 1, with some lovely beaches and towns, like St Agnes, to pass through. This stage conveniently finished at the campsite in Hayle, but not before another energy-sapping, 2 mile long stretch of beach at Hayle sands was run over: hard going on already tired legs and after another 26.5 miles in the bag. Bet that tent was a welcome sight that evening! 
Enjoying the sun and superb scenery on one of the less technical sections

And so day 3 dawned and the already leg weary Mike was preparing himself to tackle not only the longest stage of the event, but also the toughest in terms of terrain and climbing. Setting out from Hayle, just a mere 29.5 mile ultra-marathon lay between them and the finish line at Lands End. Mike reports that the first six miles were very nice underfoot, as he made his merry way to the picturesque seaside town of St Ives. Once beyond the town, everything changed! The meandering grassy slopes run over so far come to an abrupt end and are replaced by more rugged terrain, making for some rather technical sections underfoot, with lots of rocks, boulders, mud and steep inclines/descents to try and catch the leg-weary runner out. However, there was a reward for the effort in the form of the most spectacular views of the whole challenge, with the turquoise waters crashing into the sides of the granite cliffs below. This section is also a run through time and Cornish history, as the coastal path takes runners right through the ancient workings of some of Cornwall's tin and copper mines, at Levant and Botallack. Mike reports that with all these stunning views to distract him, it was easy to lose focus and concentration: not advisable when running along these uneven, technical trails. 
At a place called Brandy point, designated as checkpoint 2, Mike came around a corner, high up above the waves, to be greeted with some welcome smiles from the Votwo events team, who were handing out much needed food and drink supplies, all perched precariously high up on an outcrop of rock, miles from anywhere: how they got the supplies there, Mike has no clue, but very welcome they were! From there on, Mike continued to beat his trail along the cliffs to Cape Cornwall, passing through various other tiny settlements and deserted beaches along the way. Coming around the point at Gwenver was quite a moving and emotional moment for Mike, who has surfed here for many years and states that it is quite possibly the loveliest surfing spot in the UK. People were out enjoying the lovely autumn sunshine and surfing or relaxing on the beach. This was all he needed to dig in and make his way through Sennen and on to his destination at Lands End. After 29.5 miles of tough, hilly running that day, and around 80 miles in total over the weekend, Mike was exceedingly glad to cross the finish line and to be presented with a delicious hot Cornish pasty: after all his efforts over the past 3 days, I think he had earned himself 10 pasties!

Mike is in his element with tough, off-road endurance type events and once again did himself and the Harriers proud here as his talent, speed, strength and determination earned him a very well deserved 4 place overall, 3rd male and 2nd MV40. His overall time for the 3 days of running was a staggeringly impressive 13 hours and 13 minutes. This broke down into the following times for the days: 3:52:20, 3:55:18, 5:25:49. Of the 150 starters, 99 completed all three days and so Mike did amazingly well to be up in the top 5% of finishers. Challenges like this require so much dedication, not simply in terms of running them on the day, but with all the training miles that are needed beforehand. Most impressive is that Mike has managed to juggle this around his full time shift work as a fireman, full time role as a husband and Dad, and without losing any of his speed as he's still managed to set some PBs over the short distances during the training schedule. Well done Mike: top effort! 

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