It’s a while since we caught up with regular contributor Hana Clitherow, who is keeping us posted on her attempt to run thirteen half marathons in 2015. This week she talks about her twelfth so far, her home club’s event Truro Half Marathon. We’ve added links to a couple of half marathon reports we’ve missed to the end of this article!
So here we are once again with another half marathon to run, this one being the 12th this year. I had hoped to have made it my 13th, what with it being my home event, but fitting in with my work and family commitments proved too difficult a task to do. I would have entered the Severn Bridge Half Marathon but my husband reminded me that I hate heights and have difficulty walking over lower bridges let alone the Severn Bridge! This race was also held on the August Bank Holiday weekend so driving there and then back into Cornwall would have been horrendous. I might as well have parked in a car park for two days to get the same experience.
So how do I prepare for the Truro Half Marathon? Well I disappear off for two weeks to the lovely sunny Island of Menorca for some sun, sea and …… cycling with ‘husband who plays golf and also cycles‘. Don’t panic, I haven’t traded in ‘husband who plays golf‘ for a new more active version, in a moment of mid-life menopausal madness. No, ‘husband who plays golf‘ also cycles and he still plays good quality squash as well so he’ll do quite nicely as he has done for the last 31 years. Anyway, I digress. We spend 12 of our 14 days in Menorca cycling to all four corners of the island and up to its highest point, Monte Torro twice, covering some 443 miles of tarmac and trails on mountain bikes. We walk over 25 miles, swim daily and I manage one measly 6 mile run, but it was far too hot for me to attempt any more running. We return home, tanned, toned, shattered but fitter than we were before we left. So Truro Half here I come.
Sunday 20th September arrives. My alarm has sounded for the first time in two weeks so I climb out of bed and look out the window. It’s not raining, it’s overcast, there appears to be only a very light breeze and it feels cool, so all in all perfect weather for running. My head on the other hand is still in cycling mode so I have to give myself a bit of a pep talk. [pullquote-right]My head … is still in cycling mode so I have to give myself a bit of a pep talk.[/pullquote-right]
Porridge consumed, bag packed, running kit on, I walk the half mile from home to race HQ (a large marquee) down on Lemon Quay. No driving today, bliss! Inside the marquee I spy Julie and Karen G handing out the race No’s to the running club entrants so I grab mine have a quick chat before checking out the TOILETS.
No plastic portable vestibules today, we have council owned facilities situated at either end of Lemon Quay. I decide, as I have loads of time on my hands, to take a walk to the council toilets in The Leats at the back of Pydar Street instead. They are open, they are spotlessly clean and best of all there is no queue whatsoever. I can use any cubicle I desire and there are plenty to choose from. Fantastic! I do go and check out the toilets at the bottom of Lemon Street closer to the start time and again the council have left them spotless, with ample supply of toilet roll and best of all there was no queue once again. Brilliant.
Club runners are gathering. I have my usual snog with IR from Bodmin road runners and fraternise with others, but somehow today, I feel a little out of place. I feel slightly lost almost as if I’m at an out of county event on my own. I just don’t sort of fit today. It’s probably because there is so much space for people to spread out in that other runners don’t feel obliged to entertain me. I nibble on my Kendal Mint Cake and go and annoy some of the TRC runners.
No one is gathering at the start line. People are milling nearby, but no one appears willing to make the first move. Normally the faster and more elite runners are champing at the bit to be on the front line, but not today, so I decide to make the move and gather a few other TRC runners in my wake. We could link arms and make a human barrier, but I decide that in truth I’m too far forward so I take a few steps back. I have though, created the first chicken out of the barn moment, that’s the moment when all the other chickens think ‘ah yes we can now go out as well’. Behind me all the other runners are now streaming into the starting pen. It does make a difference in shorter races to your finishing time if you are towards the front when you don’t have chipped timing, but in a field this size and on hilly terrain it won’t really affect my results wherever I start.
“Our Diane” the very important Race Director is looking as cool as a cucumber and is stood on her podium ready to give us a low down on the rules and regulations of today’s race. Earlier the race “DJ” our lovely Dave M had already warned runners about Ninja’s lurking in the bushes and how they will assassinate any runners wearing headphones so “Our Diane” can concentrate on the other Do’s and Don’ts instead. Before we know it, and thankfully with Garmin primed and loaded she counts, 3-2-1 air horn sounds and we are off.
Now my legs have no idea what is going on. They have been attached to pedals for almost two weeks and so although there is a similar motion taking place, there is a larger downward force being placed on the knees and feet today. I’m sprinting along the cobbles as set off from Back Quay, turning left into Green Street then left again into Princes Street. I know I’m going too fast, but my legs are doing their own thing.
We continue onto King St, then High Cross passing the beautiful Truro Cathedral before we return towards Lemon Quay and down under the subway near M&S. We run along the river walk behind Tesco’s and I have runners trying to overtake and undertake me. I can’t squeeze in any more and I’ve tried to contort my arms to make my girth narrower and failed. As one female passes I catch their feet but manage to stay upright. Phew.
Once out onto the pavement at Newham I don’t feel so crowded and knowing what lies ahead I settle into a better pace. My legs feel good as I join the old railway line which is a little squelchy under foot. Fergie has now flown past and he is like a sheepdog rolling in —–. He is running on his favourite surface…..mud, after all he is wearing a “Mud Crew” vest.
I watch the footfall of the runner ahead and note where best to place my feet. I’m wearing road shoes not multi-terrain ones as this race has a higher percentage of tarmac to mud and they are coping well. At least they aren’t new and shiny as otherwise I might have had to tiptoe in places.
At the end of the old railway line there is the first water station, as usual I decline the offer of liquid and turn left downhill to Calenick where we bear left again along Ropewalk Road and the start of the first big hill. The first time I ran this hill I walked it. It has a nasty little nip half way up under the trees but today I plod up in a gentle jog and reach the top with my heart still contained in my ribcage. The gradient levels out onto a gentle undulating lane with green fields either side, and views off towards Malpas on the left if you have the energy to raise your head and glance that way.
This lane finishes at Porth Kea, where several years ago a terrible murder took place. We are directed right and the road starts to gently climb upwards towards Kea school. To our left there is a group of children with outstretched hands offering those of us looking parched more cups of water. I decline again as if I had consumed two cups of water by now, my stomach would have been swishing or is that sloshing from side to side. You weren’t going to die of thirst on this course that’s for sure.
As we pass Kea school we are directed left once again and out towards Playing Place along a cyclepath again on a gentle uphill gradient. Those who have never run this race might start to feel like this uphill is never ending but soon the road levels and descends slightly until you reach Halvarras road where once again we climb gently upwards.
The route bears left again onto the B3289 where we must keep left at all times running with the traffic. We pass the lovely thatched “Punch Bowl and Ladle” pub at Penelewey which sadly had not set up a refreshment area for runners in need. A wee dram or a G & T might have been a nice gesture, I mean the brewery in Prague supplied lager as the runners ran by so come on Cornwall businesses lets add some variety to keep the runners interested and race bloggers amused.
This section is slightly downhill so the legs are moving easily and my speed has increased. I haven’t really taken in who is running past me or even with me, I’m in a world of my own and delighted that my usual annoying cough hasn’t surfaced yet. I’m on stealth mode; anyone who might be concerned about me approaching from behind them will have no idea I’m there, that is until the lovely spectators along the route shout out “come on Hana!”
At the crossroads we turn left towards the King Harry Ferry and where the road slightly narrows and starts to go uphill we take a left turn onto the next short section of off road track. We first weave through some trees along a dirt track where “Our Diane” has beautifully sprayed all the trip hazards (tree roots) with bright orange paint. My running style, or lack of style changes to an up on tip toes prancing sort of girly thingy-ma-jig, the sort of movement you make when stepping in and out of tyres laid out on the ground. Well I pass this exercise with flying colours and move onto the field section with a track where walkers obviously take their route across it. There are a few nettles to the side but once again I appear to reach the end without incident.
We exit the field via some steps pass a lay-by full of scouts handing out cups of water and I hear the lovely Mrs K cheer me on, she is doing an admirable job keeping this water station morale on a “high spirits” setting.
To keep things nice and simple, we take a left turn onto the rough “cycle route” track that skirts Namphillows Wood (National Trust) to our right and Delabole Wood to our left. The surface is a rough mud and small stone one which starts off flat and contained within two walls, then it plummets away like one of those water rides at Disney where you put your hands in the air and scream……in my case shut your eyes, try to scream but fear steals my voice, reach the bottom shaking like a leaf and vow to never ever do that again. Behind me I can hear a couple of male runners approaching at speed. I hear the sentence “Just f—ing go for it mate” as one male literally flies past me. Well they can just f—ing go for it, but I’ve slowed right down to enable me to stay upright and pass the steepest section of this slope without injury. Once at the bottom it’s straight back up the other side but the slope is shorter than the downhill section.
Left turn and we are back onto tarmac in a country lane where we pass Tregew. I’m all set for a right turn, but not this year. This year the route goes straight ahead to a measured point and we have to run around a cone and run back again to the junction that leads to Treloggas. This does give me a chance to see who is catching me up but could I do anything about this at this point if required, I don’t think so. Having said that my legs are doing OK so far and I haven’t had to walk a single hill.
There are a couple of properties situated at Treloggas and on a satnav, and in fact also on road maps, the lane leading to them is shown as being suitable for traffic. It is shown as continuing all the way to Higher Lanner Farm which is does….BUT not for traffic. It may well have been suitable about 40 years ago, but not any more. It has fallen into disrepair where there is more mud than tarmac visible, the little bridge at the stream crossing is marked as weak and where there is tarmac visible the pot holes are only survivable in a tractor. So down this track we run, where the hedgerows have been trimmed back in preparation for this event. I know this as it was my ‘husband who plays golf‘ and myself that spent 3½ hours one Sunday armed with garden shears cutting the brambles and stinging nettles back and lugging part of a fallen tree out of the way. The track is a little squelchy at the bottom but once again my road shoes are coping fine then it is another upward climb passing the slurry area of Higher Lanner farm.
Once this redundant road meets tarmac we turn left continuing upwards to a t-junction and a left turn back towards Porth Kea passing the house where the murder took place. Soon we pass the water station just before Kea school where as usual I decline the water being held out by all the lovely helpers, what I really could have done with was a replacement security hanky. Its absorbency levels had been stretched to the limits. We bear left along Carlyon Road which takes us into Playing Place once again and I now just want to finish this race. I remind myself that from this point on there are about three miles left to run and all but a very short section is either downhill or flat. If I can ride 60 miles in the heat in Menorca in a day, I can bl–dy well finish this race.
The downhill section past Kea school makes my thigh muscles protest. The last time my legs felt like this was when I ran/walked/staggered the Cornish Marathon last November. 443 miles of cycling obviously used other muscles. I think walking and stair climbing could be a problem tomorrow.
The last nasty little nip at the bottom of the hill in Old Falmouth Road passes without too much problem as I use the momentum gathered from the downward slope to give me a boost-ish up the slope. I’m on the old railway line once again and the end of this race is nigh. Sadly this off road section skirts the edge of Truro’s sewage farm and the prevailing aroma is not of roses. It could of course motivate those not too keen on this scent to run faster.
As I reach the end of this track where it crosses Literage Hill I see one poor male runner who has reached the end of his race. There are couple people looking after him so as he appears to be in good hands I run on. It takes me back to the Tavy 13 in 2014 when I gave up my chance of a good finishing time and age cat win to help a very poorly female runner, but today some other runners had made that choice. So I pass on my congratulations to you whoever you were as I’m sure the runner you helped will be eternally grateful for your help.
Newham road is finally reached and I try to pick up a little speed for the last half mile. I can hear the crowds cheering at the finishing line and decide to not look at my time, because on this course a half marathon PB is not something you are going to achieve.
Under the subway I go, bear right then left and I sprint for the line to hear our race DJ Dave M pass some comment about me over the loudspeaker. I try to smile in such a way as to not terrify any young children nearby and wave my hands in the air…..why? I have no idea it must be delirium.
I stagger across the line over 4 minutes faster than last year….wow, I’m well pleased with that but it isn’t good enough for an age cat win. I’ll have to settle at being 4th female “Old Croc”. Younger and faster “Old Crocs” have moved over to the dark side so I’ll just have to keep running until I tip over into the next age cat, the “Even older Old Croc category” to see if I can achieve any wins.
I loiter in the general area of Lemon Quay, once again feeling lost. I purchase a very large decaf Americano and a Danish pastry as my recovery fuel having downed the bottle of water and the banana handed out at the finishing line. Then I wait for the presentations. TRC ladies do it once again, this time coming in as the first ladies team. Fantastic! I am included in this team and walk home clutching onto a very nice bottle of red wine which brings a smile to ‘husband who has had a mediocre day of golf”’s face.
So all in all:
Parking: there are plenty of options from on street to car parks where you have to pay.
Race HQ: Better than last year due to the marquee being must bigger.
Toilets: Fantastic. Not a green plastic “Turdi” to be seen. Instead there were Council water closets at each end of Lemon Quay and more in The Leats, a 2 minute walk away. All were clean and when I visited queue free.
Chaffing: I had none. I have to say Mr K after seeing you and your large pot of Vaseline at Indian Queens I have become a convert. I’m still not sure about JFD’s suggestion of the smear across my forehead, but you never know I might progress to that when I’m his age.
Marshals: Brilliant. They all had a smile on their faces and you could not get lost.
Water Stations: Plentiful and as I passed they were working like clockwork. The noisiest/happiest were the ones in the lay by at the top of the Cycle route 3 track near Trelissick. Well done Mrs K.
Race Memento: A turquoise technical-t with orange flashes on the sleeves. You were also given a pasty but no beer or medal this year.
Weather: Perfect. Overcast with occasional sun and a very light breeze. Not too warm but I still went into meltdown and my poor security hanky was tested to the limit.
If you would like to read Hana’s earlier Half Marathon posts, you can find them here:
5) Tavy 13