Round 1 of the 2017 Cornish Multi-terrain Race Series, the Tywardreath Trotter, will be one that sticks in many competitors minds for several years. Traditionally graced by glorious summer weather, the weather yesterday evening couldn't have been more different. A day of persistent rain ensured that any runner not wearing a trail shoe of some kind had a very realistic chance of ending up face down in the mud at some point. The race got off to a bad start, as runners sheltering from the cold rain anywhere they could, were informed that the race start would be delayed by 10 minutes to allow all runners to get through a ridiculous queue in the pouring rain for registration that had built up. Somewhat ironically, ill-prepared runners who had decided to just turn up and sign up on the day escaped the queue and walked straight in to race HQ...something wasn't right there.
As if someone from above was controlling the complex weather machine however, the rain miraculously started to ease off as we lined up on the wet start line ready for the off.
The race starts with a mundane half mile round an uninteresting housing estate, but added excitement is provided by the fact that there's a prize for the first runner to complete this half mile, and as a result a number of runners sprinted off at the head of the field at a pace which clearly they weren't going to maintain over the 7 mile course. Ultimately the eventual winner of the race was also the first to complete the half mile, making the other runners' attempts rather fruitless.
After crossing back across the start line, runners then head out of the village of Tywardreath on a gentle hill, before descending very steeply down a rough path, the going darkened by a series of trees making it tricky to spot where the rough and uneven patches were, terminating in a series of steps. This is then followed by a long section along a muddy path by a river...for the faster runners, the conditions were good on the way out, but the churning up by over 300 runners would ensure that parts of it would become a quagmire when returning along it around mile 5...one of the most memorable parts of the race for many I'm sure. After this muddy path, is one of two long hills on the run, rising up to the highest point of the route, the first half on tarmac and the second half on rough track. But what goes up must come down and this was followed by a steep descent on rough track, where loose boulders provided potential ankle breakers and as much time was spent looking down at the track and for obstacles as looking ahead.
But with the ever changing terrain of an MTRS race, this steep rough descent is followed by the fastest part of the race, a long downhill or flat road section and the chance to pick up some good speed. The off-road soon returned with a vengeance though, with some more rough uphills and a long downhill on rough track, before returning to that muddy quagmire along by the river.
By this point the legs were starting to tire and a long hill is not what you want, but sadly what you get. Arguably the hardest hill of the race, given its position towards the end, the long drag uphill seems relentless along the road. A final section through the fields adds a last touch of mud to the proceedings, the cheering crowds in earshot. A steep descent down some steps, which became positively dangerous if taken at speed given the copious coating of mud, takes runners onto a final sprint through the cheering crowds to the finish.
No doubt a tough race, with plenty of challenging terrain, mud and hills, made harder this year by the weather. Sadly, due to the weather, the annual MTRS prize-giving for the previous season was delayed and will either occur at Lanhydrock or the trophies will be dished out to the clubs...a disappointment for some but understandable given the extreme weather circumstances...