Round 4 in the Cornish Multi-Terrain Race Series (MTRS), the Race for Wildlife is among my personal favourites. Being in early December, the weather in Penzance can be rough, and two years ago we ran up onto the moor into fog and saw nothing of the views, only eerie engine houses emerging out of the mizzle. The weather today though was set fair, as a ridge of high pressure anchored out in the eastern Atlantic dragged a mild northerly airflow into western Cornwall. The mildness was quite a contrast to the winter chill of recent days, and the temperature was pleasant for December as we lined up on the start line at Penwith College.
Although a multi-terrain race, the route does include more road than any other race in the series and is perhaps better suited to the Grand Prix. Runners head gently uphill out of the college then turn right onto the main road. It's not long before the climbing starts, as runners follow the road as it starts a long climb up through Madron, before heading across one of a number of granite stiles into the fields. This first section is quite a slog and arguably the least enjoyable part of the race in my opinion. A couple of fields and stiles later, runners are back on the road again, before heading off onto proper trail and starting to climb once more.
This trail was muddy and it was very slippy in the road shoes I had chosen to race in, based on the abundance of tarmac during the rest of the race. The climbing continues across another granite stile into open fields with roaming cattle, which appeared to be more scared of us than we were of them. This was a really tiring slog. The headwind also didn't help. Throughout this climb I'd been right on the heels of Steve, and I finally passed him in the upper field section.
A nice section of rough track follows, undulating gently across the bleak open moorland and granite terrain above Penzance, heading for the disused engine house of Ding Dong mine. The track is rough, composed of angular granite blocks and containing huge puddles in places, but the views down towards Mounts Bay, St. Michael's Mount and beyond along the coastline towards the Lizard were stunning. The moody grey skies cast dark ominous shadows across the sea, but holes of weak winter sunlight were starting to pierce through the cloud blanket. The tussle with Steve was getting intense as we jostled for 8/9th positions in the race, both pushing hard and neither showing any sign of weakness.
Ding Dong mine represents pretty much the highest point of the route, which is good because by this point most people were blowing out. The next 3 miles are great, flying back along the tarmac, almost exclusively downhill, except for one or two gentle ups. At the start of this downhill, I started to get a stitch and Steve passed me and pulled out a sizeable gap. The challenge was over, or so I thought. But a couple of minutes at a gentler pace relieved the stitch and I was back on my way. Pushing as hard as I could, I passed Steve and another Truro runner, feeling sick as I pushed up the final kick uphill to the finish back at the college.
A couple more races to go before the year is out and we say farewell to the fantastic year of running that 2017 has been!