• What? Duchy 20
  • When? Sunday 3 March, 2019
  • How far? 20 miles
  • Where? Redruth, Cornwall
  • Finish time: 2:47:10


A< 3:00 hoursYes
B< 2:45 hoursNo


This event was intended as a bit of a stepping-stone for me, a way to bridge the hard work I did in getting ready for the Arc 50, and maintaining that fitness for events later in the year. Of course, the Duchy 20 has always been a popular race for people preparing for spring marathons (such as London Marathon in eight weeks’ time), and this got me thinking about marathons. It’s a long time since I ran a straight road marathon, and it would be a shame to wait until Snowdonia in October to see if I could go under 4 hours!

So, I decided to add a ‘build’ block into my training after the Arc 50, not worry about tapering too much, try to forget I’ve got The Grizzly next weekend(!), and see if I could run 20 miles at roughly marathon pace. Assuming that all went well, maybe I could think about scratching an old marathon itch!


The day dawned pretty grey and damp, but not nearly as wet as the forecast had promised, Storm Freya managed to hold off until later. After six years, the race was back at its traditional home of the Penventon Hotel in Redruth. Having given myself plenty of time to get to Redruth and park, I somehow still managed to present myself a bit late for the team photo!

Carn Runners at the Duchy 20
Late for the team photo…

Staff at the hotel couldn’t have been more helpful, and between them and the excellent marshals, I managed to find my race bib, get changed and stow my dry clothes. Stupidly I managed to pack away the Chia Charge bar I had planned to eat on the way round, and probably suffered for this later.

It was now a case of hanging about until the very last minute before huddling at the start line with about 200 other people also trying not to get too cold and wet. Attire varied from the brave in running vests, to the cautious in borderline ultra gear, complete with hydration vests:

Runners at the start of the Duchy 20
Runners at the start of the Duchy 20


A brief and loud briefing followed and we were off! The first nineteen miles of the route would follow the 2013 route, but since I had never run the race before, I had no real sense of where I’d be going. I did know that we’d be heading out onto the North Cliffs, running southwest into what had been forecast as 50mph south-westerlies! As it turned out it wasn’t quite that bad…

I usually my pacing from Strava over my headphones, but this isn’t an option in a sanctioned road race these days. So I had bought a cheap and cheerful Casio, and planned to look carefully for mile markers as I went; it was something to take my mind off the lack of music! I hoped to run a steady 8:20-8:30 pace, but things did not really go to plan; do they ever? As always, a bit of adrenaline kicked in and I ran the first couple of miles too fast, between 7:55 and 8:05-ish. It was time to try and settle down before I wrecked myself for the second half.

After five miles or so we headed out to the North Cliffs, and as I stopped for water I was picked up by a contingent of Hayle Runners, led by Scott Abraham who was taking it very easy with a niggle or two. I won’t often get a chance to ‘race’ alongside Scott, so it was lovely to be able to chat and run at a more or less conversational pace. Having not run a proper road race for several years, it was great to catch up with people I haven’t properly spoken with for ages! Scott and I ended up running abreast at the front of a little group sheltering in our wake:

North Cliffs - Duchy 20
Forming a mobile wind-break on North Cliffs!

Pacing settled down from then on, but it was a bit of a struggle maintaining it into the headwind and I did wonder if I’d pay later on. At the half-way point, a long climb up Coombe Hill took us into less undulating territory, and it was time to start counting down the miles. I had managed to wander off the front of the group up Coombe Hill, and by mile 17 was really starting to wish I hadn’t. The rain got heavier, along with my legs, and it became a real struggle to maintain pace. I managed to snag a couple of jelly babies at the water station at mile 17, and eating these made me realise how much I had missed not packing my cereal bar: I was running on empty.

Still, not far to go now, and the wind was behind us for most of Illogan Highway. It was around this time that Scott flew past me with another Hayle runner, and I started getting picked off every few minutes. By some miracle, though, I was still running, occasionally even getting both feet off the ground!

Runner at Duchy 20
Tired, but still vaguely in running mode!

The final mile or so was a bit of a tease, as we were brought down Barncoose Terrace with Penventon Hotel almost within sight a few hundred yards ahead. However, we were taken down past Redruth School and under a viaduct to bring us onto the right side of the road, and then up what was probably the steepest hill on the course. It was also pointing straight into a headwind, of course! I briefly lost my sense of humour and had a little talk to myself while walking up this final hill, but got it together enough to jog the last bit and cross the finish line at a bit of a canter. Someone was selling lovely cappuccinos next to the finish line, so I was back to normal fairly quickly!


Heading back into the hotel, I eventually found the goodie bag I should have collected when I picked up my race number, and found a great medal, along with a Salomon ‘squishy’ cup. More and more races are going plastic-free, which I applaud, so it’s good to have a spare cup I can squash into my running belt for water stations.

I almost achieved my ‘A’ goal of running under 2:45, and in better conditions on a flatter course, who knows? I think I’ve convinced myself that a sub-4 marathon is definitely within reach if I pace a bit better, so have entered…. you’ll have to wait and see!

Thanks to the marshals and other organisers, who put on a tremendous event; I really hope the Duchy 20 is back to stay, and who knows, maybe the marathon event might be back one day too? Special thanks to Sharon Sullivan, who popped up in random places throughout the course to encourage us all.