The Coast to Coast Half Marathon, which takes place in Cornwall between Devoran on the south coast and Portreath on the north coast, should have happened in June. It was postponed until this weekend (3rd October 2020), but was then postponed again until next June. We had already booked and paid for accommodation, and I was already committed to running to raise money for a local charity – so we decided to come to Cornwall anyway (such a hardship) and run a DIY half marathon.
The race would have taken place on Saturday morning, but we decided to drive down on Saturday (avoiding stormy weather on Friday) and run on Sunday. This was fortuitous as it meant we got to run alongside many virtual London Marathon runners.
On Saturday, we got to know the animal neighbours at the holiday cottage, and enjoyed a sunny, windy walk on Portreath Beach.
Visiting Portreath on Saturday also meant that I was able to locate the start of the mineral tramway, where I’d be running with my daughter. Although the half marathon race follows the full course of the tramway from Devoran, practicalities (ie: lack of shuttle buses) meant we needed to run half the distance and then turn back.
As we arrived at Portreath on Sunday morning, it was super windy and threatening rain. We saw lots of other runners arriving and preparing to set off, many of them wearing London Marathon race bibs or charity t shirts. We felt we were in good company.
We set off towards the start of the mineral tramway behind a group of other runners. This pretty much set the tone for the day. It was the closest I can imagine getting to a race day atmosphere, without actually being in an organised race. Everywhere people were friendly, encouraging and supportive.
The tramway route was extremely enjoyable to run. It was mixed terrain, undulating (but flat for Cornwall) and took us through varied landscape. Much of it was also surprisingly sheltered, helping us to avoid the worst of the blustery wind that was blowing everywhere else. I enjoyed spotting reminders of the route’s industrial heritage – the granite stones that rails used to be fastened to, an old tram wheel, engine houses.
We weren’t very quick, and we did need to stop from time to time to make sure we were going the right way. My daughter (who is faster than me) held back and ran with me to our half way point at Poldice.
After Poldice, just as we turned back, the rain started to lash down. I told my daughter to run on ahead, while I plodded along. It was hard going running against the torrential rain and fierce wind.
The second half of the run was hard. I’m fighting off a cold, and also started to have some stomach discomfort – cramps, reflux etc. All my own fault for eating the wrong things the day before (when in Cornwall, pasties and chips are actually compulsory).
I plodded back, and settled into a routine of jeffing, which helped. I was frequently congratulated and encouraged by people who undoubtedly must have thought I was running a full marathon. I felt a bit of a fraud, although I appreciated the encouragement (especially as my phone died and I had no music to help me on my way).
Then, minutes from the end, my daughter had come back to meet me and cheer me on – which helped greatly.
I loved the route, and the atmosphere of running during the big virtual event. I had been a bit cynical about the virtual London Marathon. But today we saw so many people out running, and walking, their own marathons. We saw people helping each other and handing out water, and everyone was so positive and cheery. Virtual races are usually lonely events. Perhaps today has shown a new way of doing things, a way that has its own strengths and it’s own value.