What an amazing event the Classic Cliffs race was! So, so much more gruelling than I imagined!
I took the Friday off of work so that I’d have a bit of time to relax before starting this beast. We left home with Andrea driving to save my legs for the nights activities! We missed our junction off the motorway and ended up on the outskirts of Exeter! Ridiculous, considering I’d been raised there and had travelled that route countless times! Never mind, we had a far more scenic and interesting drive up through Devon. We eventually arrived with plenty of time to spare at my parents house. Mum cooked Spaghetti meatballs for dinner which was really good. I ate a whole lot more than I normally would knowing that the run would take a minimum of 12 hours. I then spent an hour or so doing my usual fumbled packing routine. I was very nervous by this stage so I found it difficult to focus on the task in hand.
Finally I got changed into my running kit and mixed my energy drink. It was 2045 and I was ready to go. My Dad drove me down to the start line with Andrea for company. This is always a nice part. The wait is pretty much over, the nerves will soon start to steady. I got dropped off at the finish in Clovelly to catch a bus put on by the organisers, to the start at Port Isaac. I said my goodbyes to my Dad and Andrea. It’s funny saying goodbye to people knowing that the next time you’ll see them, they’d have been to bed and had a good sleep, had breakfast and a shower. Meanwhile you’ve been running and running and running…
I had a little chat with some of the guys, then we got on a mini bus and starting driving to the start.
It’s always nice to be among people that have the same passion. Especially as a great deal of people just don’t get ultra running. The journey took about 1.5hrs so we had plenty of time for a good chat. it was interesting to hear what people had achieved. Some pretty impressive runners where apparently running this race! I was aiming to come in the top ten. Bit of a random target as I hadn’t known who was taking part till this point. Not too sure about a top ten now, but wasn’t bothered at all, just wanted to get out there running.
Finally we arrived in Port Isaac, and were told to wait in a local pub which had a few locals having a good drink in. God knows what they thought when we all entered and sat around with around an hour to go. There were around 35 of us doing the solo event, a few 2-man teams and a few 4-man teams taking part. I sat with a guy called Drew. We pretty much spoke just running and who else was there. Finally we had the race brief then headed out to the start. we were due to start at midnight, but started at 5 minutes past. We went straight up a steep hill on the road and within 5 minutes we were on the coastpath. Brilliant!
Usually within an hour I’ll have slipped into my pace which will be comfortable and sustainable. Not tonight! Seeing as there was no light whatsoever except what was provided from our headlights a group of around 15 tended to stay together. I’ve never experienced this in an ultra before, and I surmised that within the group, not many would be at their optimum pace. I felt like I was working maybe a little too much. But it was difficult to do your own thing. It was easy to lose the usually simple to follow posts in the pitch black night, so staying in a group was good for the confidence.
I stayed at the front of the group or just behind Drew as I don’t like running in a line. I used to run out of the line when I was in the army too. We reached the first checkpoint in about 1hr 20. This was way slower than I’d predicted. This was going to be a very long painful day!
I loved running in the dark. It was quite surreal at times. looking behind and seeing the trail of headlight all over the place. Or looking ahead and seeing lights seemingly floating in the sky as the runners in front tackled the next climb. You couldn’t see any skyline just the circle of path (hopefully!) that was lit by your head torch just in front of you feet. Occasionally you’d look around you scanning your torch to the left and within a metre the circle of light would dissapear reminding you just how close you were to the edge of the cliff!
As the race progressed I kept trying to estimate just when I’d be finishing this thing. My initial thought of midday was tossed far out of my mind. The course was like a roller coaster ride. The uphills were epic. Very long and super steep. They weren’t being ran atall. It would just burn far to much energy for hardly any speed difference. On the other hand, the downhills were very difficult and ended up being very tough on the quads and in turn the knees, as I tried to get a happy medium of staying in control and not braking to much. At around the 25 mile point the group was finally breaking up a bit. This was a huge relief as I could finally do my own thing. I ended up running close to Drew for a fair way with Claire Akin-Smith hovering around too. I was tiring a lot but was loving it and the first sign of light was beginning to show. Eventually I was all by myself for a little while and realised it was safe to get rid of the headtorch. Wow, what a relief! I hadn’t realised just how much I’d had to concentrate watching the path to stay upright! I had a bit of a slow point for around an hour and I was just putting one foot in front of the other, in lot’s of pain feeling a bit negative about just how much was left to do, and just how many bloody hills there were!
Then without realising I felt a little smoother and was finding some sort of rhythm again. Such a good feeling getting a second wind like this! By now I had left Drew behind and was slowly gaining on Claire. As I stumbled down a hill to the 40 mile point I caught up with Claire and stopped for 5-10 mins as I took on board as much food and drink as possible. We both left at the same time up the next brutal climb.
I had planned to meet my parents and Andrea and Kiera at this checkpoint but they didn’t get there in time. I was a bit sad about this but I obviously wasn’t going to hang around for them.
When we got to the top of the climb the path leveled out a little and I broke into a painful jog. Claire at this stage said that she didn’t have any run left in her, so I slowly pulled ahead. Within 30 mins I saw a man standing on a stye apparently looking at me, who then started to wave!? Eventually my fried head saw it was my Dad. They had got to the checkpoints minutes after I’d left and had rushed on to the next point were the road meets the path. What a moral boosting suprise. I stopped and chatted and ate a lovely egg sandwich, told them how hard it was, then said goodbye again and disappeared back onto the cliff edge. I was now running to finish!
I was in 6th place at this stage but was soon to be taken by Vicky Skelton which is nothing to lose any sleep over! If I could hold 7th I’d be happy.
I plugged on and was getting more and more weary. I now needed that end more than anything.
My ‘support crew’ met me at Hartland Point and I hungrily shoved another egg sandwich down my neck, before making my way up the next climb with my hands pushing on my knees as my knees were sore and my legs were weak. Only 7 miles to go!
Finally after getting a little confused with the sign post in a bit of woodland I came through some more beautiful woods which I knew took me down into Clovelly.
Then, never too soon I was at the top of the stupidly steep main street of Clovelly. I went past my Mum who took a few pictures then tried to follow me down till I arrived at the quay where the finish was and my Dad, Andrea and Kiera were waiting.
My finishing time was a staggering 15hrs 26mins! But I had managed to hold my 7th place. Very happy with the result. Now the tiredness hit me as my body reminded me that I’d lost a whole nights sleep and of course been running for over 15 hours!
What an amazing event. Would definitely love to have a go at this one again.
Now, I’ve got one week before I’m attending a training weekend for the JOGLE next year. I’ll be meeting some of the other runners and the organiser plus we’ll be running days 11 and 12 of the actual event. that’s 58 miles on the Saturday and 57 miles on the Sunday! Oh dear…