I'd been relishing my first experience of the South West Coast Path for months, ever since this race was added to the Runfurther series and my Grand Slam quest demanded that I get myself an entry. Runfurther was introducing me to yet another part of our beautiful country and so my 151st ultra marathon became my first Endurancelife event.
I was not disappointed by the sights, sounds and smells that greeted our senses. Our route took us along the most southerly and westerly extremity of Britain's coastline, in a westerly direction from Lizard Point to Land's End. The coastal scenery with its old mining relics was spectacular. The ocean was never far away and almost always within earshot, while the smell of honeysuckle and other sweet scented shrubs complemented the fresh Atlantic air.
After a comfortable yet criminally short night in the Land's End Hostel (far too good to be called a hostel in my opinion), a 02:45 alarm call got me standing with Alison Brind on the Land's End car park at 03:45 in the gathering light, waiting for the bus to take us to Lizard Point. Stuart Mills recognised me in the gloaming and came over for a chat. The last time we saw each other was at last year's Lakeland 100, when he was giving us enthusiastic support and taking some pretty cool photographs in the process. He will be back competing this year, as he would be today. "There go our Runfurther points", I thought to myself. He's simply too fast for our own good is Stu.
The bus was a few minutes late leaving. Registration in the reading room at the Lizard, the fitting of SPORTident timing 'dibbers', the pinning on of race numbers, the longer than expected walk down to the start and the race briefing* meant that we started running 25 minutes late at 06:25. The sun had already risen and it promised to be a warm sunny day (that is until the forecast rain would arrive).
* The race briefing. When describing how to 'dib in' at the timing stations, and holding up a SPORTident timing box, the Endurancelife MC said: "You stick the knob-end in this hole here". I waited for schoolboy sniggers to ripple through the impatient throng but nary a titter was uttered. Time had obviously dragged on too much and nostalgic memories of Viz, Carry On, Ealing Comedies and various other British institutions of smut and double entendre must have been temporarily forgotten.
Water station 1 at Mullion Cove (6.3mi.) was welcome but the first timing checkpoint at Church Cove (9.0mi.) would do just nicely for the first water refill and electrolyte infusion, so I pressed on.
Our first beach crossing came at Loe Bar, an impressive strip of coarse sand that separates the sea from a lake of calm water on the same level on the landward side, which must surely be salt water. A sit-down after the crossing was necessary to remove grit from shoes. How on earth do MdS runners manage?
Water station 2 at the "Nauti But Ice" emporium (15.0mi.) was very picturesque. I don't know the name of the inlet but here it is:
Nauti But Ice (off stage to the left).
It felt like walking the plank to certain death.
The path zig-zagged its way, runners dotted along its length to the horizon to bring us to the derelict mine buildings that I had spied a long time earlier across the bay.
Two of many disused mines.