On Thursday, 20 September 2012, Ali, Sue, Caroline and Amanda set off by train from Chelmsford to Hayle, full of anticipation, excitement and fear!! We settled in to our St Ives holiday camp chalet and watched with horror as the place filled up with young, fit athletes.
At 6 am the next morning, after very little sleep, we were up for registration, emergency kit bag checks ( survival stuff!!) , and to be chipped, tagged and numbered! We all attempted to eat some breakfast knowing this was the sustenance needed to get us through the day, and we were then driven to the start point – Padstow. It was cold but sunny and clear and we set off at a steady run along the coastal path. Soon the group spread out with some soon dots in the distance, but we continued as we had planned, running the flats and downhills and walking the uphills. There were three checkpoints each day at roughly 10km gaps where you were required to check in, and food and drinks provided. Each checkpoint became a euphoric moment, as it marked another portion done as well as a chance to try to refuel on flapjacks and cheese and pickle sandwiches!
The first day went well, as apart from negotiating through Newquay, the path took us along some beautiful beaches and the scenery was spectacular. We were all fine until about 22 miles when sheer exhaustion was starting to set in. The day finished at the end of the huge Perran beach at Perranporth.
Day 2. Another sleepless night – all too tired and anxious to sleep we set off again from Perranporth with the final destination of this day being St Ives and our holiday camp. To our surprise, once we were out in the sunshine and fresh air, we found our limbs did work and we were able to keep on with a good and steady pace. The morning pathway was hard with lots of steep climbs and steep descents. Long steep steps cut into the path took it out of our already tired legs but we tried to keep pushing on and once things levelled out, we were able to put in several good miles of running and the day was proceeding well. Unfortunately, Caroline then developed knee problems which was extremely painful for her and by the end of the day, Ali had developed a very painful shin. Fortunately, medics and massages were on hand to sort them out back at camp and this evening, we were filled with confidence that with 2 days done, we were going to be able to complete the challenge.
Day 3. As threatened, the weather was horrendous. Driving rain and wind. The organisers brought the start time forward to help people try to negotiate this last day in the time available. We set off through St Ives and it was obvious Ali was in a lot of pain from her shin, but determined to keep going. Out of St Ives, we set off over the headlands where the path became a stream and we felt we were mountaineering rather than running or walking. We were wading through water and soaked to the skin and freezing cold. We were out in the wild with headland after headland and no end in sight. When we finally found the first check point, we huddled into a rather nasty public toilet to try to strip off our rain jackets and put on another layer of clothing. This was definitely a real low point, knowing we still had many miles to go. We were all shivering uncontrollably and we were worried the staff may take us off the course, so we grabbed yet another flapjack and pushed on as quickly as we could. We found out later that many people dropped out at this point!
Progress was so incredibly slow with little chance to run and by checkpoint 2 we were told that if we didn’t make the next check point by 3pm, we would not be able to finish the course. We arrived at 3.45, mentally prepared for the fact that we couldn’t finish. However, the organisers then said we could – so we then had to mentally prepare for another 6 miles to Lands End and the finish.
This last section was actually very nice and we suddenly found the energy to run. Im still not sure how we kept ourselves going for the last 2/3 miles but we all encouraged and helped each other and suddenly the end was in sight. Alis parents were there with champagne and we were handed medals and a Cornish pasty!! The relief was incredible – we had done it. Nearly 29 miles on this day and about 80 miles in total. And Ali it turned out had done this day with a stress fracture in her shin!
What made us think this was a sensible challenge to take on I will never know, but we are all filled with a huge sense of achievement. It certainly pushed us all to the limit mentally and physically. We have had fantastic support from our families and friends and it has been great to raise some money for the Chernobyl childrens project.