Polzeath 10K...summer returns for the Summer Sessions
Round 2 in Freedom Racing's 2018 Summer Sessions, the Polzeath 10K is without a doubt my favourite. Offering a more than plentiful supply of ups and downs (aka undulations), a pleasant assortment of steps, bare rock, loose gravel, some technical sections and even some exciting scrambles, this route offers a multitude of ingredients to delight the trail runner and coast path wanderer alike. Add in the fantastic location on a headland jutting off Cornwall's rugged north coast into the wild Atlantic, backed by a setting summer sun and a cooling sea breeze, and this race has to be one of the highlights of the Cornish summer running calendar. Now in its second year, it is unsurprising that many fellow runners also rate this as one of the best short trail races in Cornwall.
The race starts on the beach at Polzeath with a fast flat first 500m across fairly compacted sand, however still loose enough to sap the energy from the legs. Rounding some barnacle-encrusted rocks and into a more sheltered cove, we reach the coast path and quickly ascend up some steep switchbacks to get a fine view of the beach with its stream of over 200 eager runners making their way towards hillier terrain. It was rush hour on the beach at Polzeath.
Following the steep climb, there is a longer but more gradual climb as runners head inland to cross Pentire Headland and pick up the coast path on the opposite side. This is followed by a nice section of fast tarmac and a chance to stretch the legs and pick up some decent pace. Once at the coast path on the opposite side, the ups and downs start again. There are many of them, running is always an adventure, albeit a tiring one, when venturing out on the Cornish coast path. This section is particularly rough in its topography though, with numerous short but steep ascents, accompanied by some equally steep descents. The combination of some slightly technical rocky terrain and loose gravel makes this a paradise for the trail runner.
This is all exciting, but the climax of the race has to be The Rumps peninsula. Sticking out into the North Atlantic like a shark's tail, this peninsula comprises two steep-sided hillocks accompanied by an abundance of rocks and the pounding Atlantic far below. The first is the easier, whilst the second involves a steep ascent (walked by most) topped off by a fine section of exhilarating scrambling through a narrow crevasse in the 400 million year old slate, before a fine descent back to cheer on fellow runners on their approach to The Rumps.
By this point, I must admit I was pretty fatigued but the hills aren't finished yet. Instead there is a long drag back up to Pentire Headland and a fine viewpoint back to the beach at Polzeath...which worryingly still looks quite far away! Fortunately, from the headland the race is largely downhill, a fine fast finish with some more steep and technical descents, rather more challenging at this point on tiring legs. A final kick uphill before arriving back at the beach is most unwelcome though. The final 500m beach section, which seemed to drag on forever, leads to the finish.
Pleased to finish 7th, although my quads were screaming pretty much from the start after racing Meet Your Max just 2 days ago. I'll be jogging Sticker as a cool-down tomorrow...