Cornwall Running News is delighted to welcome another guest post, this time from Mike Robinson, latest member of the Mud Crew Ultra Team, and winner of several races this year, including The Dark, Exe to Axe, and today’s SLaMM (Somerset Levels and Moors Marathon). This post is about his successful attempt to conquer the 32 miles of Black RAT Run a few weeks ago – over to you Mike!
Coast Path Ultra Adventure
“Mum I’ve got a stitch, I’m going to walk” I called as I spotted my mum at the junction for Pentawen, I knew this meant a checkpoint was close. “Come on, let’s run!” she said. I then found myself jogging again with this crazy lady in sandals, she had unbounded energy. I had been running for 3 hours & 50 minutes in complete isolation (just how I like it), across beautiful coastal terrain, yet this flat 100 metres of tarmac, alongside my mother, with 26.2m on my watch was a moment to remember.
The Roseland August Trail (RAT) has 3 distance options, 11, 20 or 32 miles. The 32m race sees the runners hopping on a coach & riding down to the start at St. Anthony Head. Here, you are not far from St. Mawes, with awesome views of the Fal estuary. The task was simple; run back to the campsite in Porthpean, St. Austell where I had left my tent & most of my belongings 2 hours ago. This was already turning into a long day!
There was a lot of buzz around the start with talk of the ‘Plague’ runners and how brave/crazy/tired they must have been. This is the 4th distance option: having started their run in Porthpean at 12:05am, they were tasked with running to St. Anthony, & back, just a cheeky 64m of Cornish coastal path.
There were many personal stories to be told, and reasons why people were running on this fine Saturday.
Deb Grills was completing her Cornish coast path charity challenge. In the past few months, she had previously run the whole of the Cornish coast path, 10-15 miles at a time, inviting friends, local runners and anyone else willing to join her on each leg. She now had just 32 miles left to tick off.
Sharon Daw was about to complete her 100th marathon, (and just go that little bit further).
‘Marvellous’ Mimi Anderson tailing the back of our run. This woman can run and run and run, probably forever. I cannot even begin to tell you about her achievements, she has run some of the longest races on the ultra circuit, and then turned around and ran back to the start!
It is always special to be in the company of such inspiring runners.
Start – 4m and checkpoint 1.
The gun went and the race was on. Although it doesn’t feel much like a race when you know you’re going to be running until after lunch time. A runner in a bright orange T-shirt had a pretty quick start, ran off into the lead and by 2 miles was already 90s ahead of me in 2nd. He stayed ahead of me for the next few miles and I concentrated on my own running. “See you later” (maybe).
The first checkpoint and 2 guys are dressed as Del Boy & Rodney going to a fancy dress party. Then Robin calls my name and I’m supposed to know who it is? He’s in disguise! A quick check in and we’re on our way again.
About 7 miles in and I spot the early runaway leader, he is only 20 metres ahead. I assumed he’d just got lost, because no one can blow up that quickly. This helped me relax because at least I knew he wasn’t some international crazy mountain athlete who I was never going to see again, at least now we could have a race (or something like it at least).
By the end of mile 9, with 68 mins on the clock I decided to overtake. Not with any real speed but just enough that I could have a clear view of the ground ahead, there’s nothing worse than having your vision impaired whilst trail running. So I was now in the lead, with 23 miles to go, oh dear.
Some good memories here as I joined the start of the 20m run, one which I had taken on in 2012. You may not believe it but navigating a coastal path isn’t quite as simple as it sounds and here is where I had a small reminder.
A couple of miles later and I’m in Portholland, a handful of Haribo followed by clambering on rocks “I used to love doing this as a kid!” I told one of the holidaymakers who waited as I passed. What must they think of us?
Mum had had the foresight to freeze a bottle of water & bring it all the way to me from Penzance. This I still think is the reason I was able to finish the run that day. After running with her for 100 yards we stopped at the checkpoint for some more luscious flat Coke. I don’t normally drink it but this ultra running has changed me.
Around the corner was my parents’ van and my lovely little niece Lottie there to welcome me. After a chin wag with parents & 1-year old Lottie, I was on my way, onto which I knew would be the hardest part of the run by far.
26.2m – finish
Steps, stairs, hills, dips, badger holes, and cramp! This was, as expected, the toughest segment of the race, with my 7-8 min miles being pushed back to 12-13 pace. But with some stunning views, the determination to finish and an emergency stash of electrolytes I managed to get myself across the line in 4:46:23(ish) and keep hold of my 1st position.
I had no idea where anyone else was behind me, I had a feeling Clare Prosser couldn’t be too far, and there she appeared, 8 minutes later. I found out later that she had clawed back 7 minutes in the last 4 miles, mighty impressive over that terrain and a very similar achievement to 12 months ago where she closed a 10 minute gap to 1 minute, overtaking every guy but one!
The Plague had been a tied finish, by two women. An incredible run by both of them, clocking 12:34 for double the distance!
There are many factors which helped with the success of this run, here are some:
- Running off road, a lot.
- Running hard up any set of stairs whilst out running in the past 4 months.
- Running the Dartmoor Discovery (32.4m tarmac).
- Being taken out on epic adventures by my East Devon Ultra Runners comrades, (including a 50k Dartmoor run).
- The support from friends and parents before the event and on the day itself.
- The supplies and support of the organisers, Mud Crew.
- Knowing that people on the course had run for as long as me PLUS 8h30m! (Well done to those strong-willed individuals).
Anyone thinking of tackling this run, I would thoroughly recommend it. If you are new to trail running then the 11 or 20 might be a better idea, bearing in mind the 20 will take the same sort of time as your marathon best.
See you next year, I will be going for the double distance in The Plague so I may be a little more forlorn when you see me!