The Cornish Marathon, the beast of Cornwall, closes out the 2018 Cornish Grand Prix Series once again. A challenging route, entirely on tarmac, takes runners out onto wild Bodmin Moor and includes a total cumulative ascent of around 600 metres. Perhaps the most challenging part is that a quarter of that ascent comes in the last 5 miles, just when you don't want it. Ahead of the race, concerns were focused on the weather and the potential for some very wet and windy weather, which would have made the Bodmin Moor section even more challenging. As it turned out, a well-timed weather window saw the bulk of the race proceed in dry and calm conditions, although the the rain did set in big style ~4 hours after the start of the race.
The start of the race was warm and humid though. The first 2 miles comprise two mundane loops of the country lanes around Pensilva, followed by a long climb out of the village onto the moor at the top of Crow's Nest. For the first 8 miles, the downs are longer than the ups, and there is a net loss of elevation until the lowest point in the race at Golitha Falls. Just before the falls, a huge flood across the road ensured that all runners had soaked feet for the remainder of the race. The pretty viewpoint at Golitha Falls is always accompanied by good support, and so was the case this year.
From Golitha Falls, there is quite a bit of ascent to do to get up onto Bodmin Moor proper. Some of this is really quite steep and it's important to not bust a gut here or you'll pay for it later on. Robin Watson and I were pacing for a 1hr40min first half, something that is quite challenging to do on terrain such as this, but we were both within a minute of this time at the halfway point, an impressive achievement.
As the gradient levels out, runners emerge onto open moorland. It isn't long before Brown Willy and Rough Tor, the two highest points in Cornwall, emerge in fine view straight ahead, as runners follow the road alongside Colliford Lake. The moor section is quite long and takes in some further undulations, before finally topping out at the highest point of the race at Jamaica Inn. Nonetheless, the moor section is undoubtedly my favourite, conditions were calm, a weak hazy sun was trying to poke through the clouds, and the wilderness was coated in a shade of pale yellow to brown autumnal hue. The support at Jamaica Inn was fantastic as always, a good number of Falmouth Road Runners were out in force and the flag was being waved proudly. Special thanks also to Thomas Matthew Rosenfeld for handing me a much needed SIS gel at this point!
Following the hustle and bustle of Jamaica Inn, runners settle in for a long descent through the Draynes Valley and the only chance in this race to build into a rhythm and maintain some consistent pace for 5 miles. Denise Lydall provided fantastic race support at mile 17 and I picked up my Lucozade, followed by an enthusiastic Sharon Broughton at mile 21.
Ah yes, mile 21. This is where it starts becoming make or break for everyone as the hills start, with over 200m of climbing to do before the finish. The calves, quads and hamstrings just want to give up, it's probably still the hardest road 5 miles I've ever run, but I knuckled down and forced my way up. The final half mile descent back to the finish at Pensilva couldn't come quickly enough.
Really pleased with my time, just 2 seconds slower than last year, suggesting I'm getting back towards last year's form at last. Thanks for all the support, to those mentioned above, and the many FRR at Jamaica Inn! Special shout out to Bob Willcocks, Jackie Cope and Kate Rowlands for completing all of the grand prix like legends, Claire Honey Hemens for a 10 minute marathon PB, and Melanie Boxall for completing the Cornish as her first marathon! Nothing like starting with the hardest first. Next up, Remembrance Run at Marazion next week...