Friday, 20 October 2017

Event Review : Eden Project Half Marathon

Who on earth would drive down to deepest darkest Cornwall on a Friday night? Two people who really wanted a get away, have no annual leave left and had planned to run a half marathon, that's who. Namely me and Dean! It was our last get away and event before our wedding, and the break in particular was much needed.

Traffic was on our side and we had a good drive down but we still arrive at our B&B, Ragstones, until about 9:30pm. Regardless of the time, we were given a warm welcome by Jacqui and shown to our room where we were served tea and cake. Comfortable as the room was, I don't think either of us slept that well and so a day of pottering on Saturday, after a hearty home cooked breakfast, was just the job.
We'd spent New Year 2016 in Cornwall and visited the Eden Project in early January. Our tickets were valid for a year so it was the perfect excuse to go back and use them again. Even though it was busier than our last visit, it was quiet for a Saturday, and we spent about 5 hours exploring at a leisurely pace. We spotted members of the St Austell Running Club sorting t-shirts and medals for the races on Sunday so had a chat and got a heads up on where the post-race pasty collection point would be. Of course we also did a bit of shopping and had a late afternoon meal at their restaurant. I'd go back for the food alone... the scones are amazing! We still had some daylight hours to kill so we drove a couple of miles to Par Sands for a stroll on the beach and a pint in the pub before heading back to the B&B to rest up.
Trying to take a selfie with the biomes
The Eden Project hosted two events on Sunday 15th October, the Marathon and Half Marathon. The marathoners set off at 9:30am and the half marathoners at a very civilised 10am. We had a 5 minute drive from the B&B (after another hearty breakfast) to the designated car parks, from where it was a short Park-and-Ride bus journey to the visitors centre to drop off our bags in the Core building. There were male and female changing rooms-come-bag drop, tea and coffee available and no queues for the loos! Hot footing it back on to the bus we made it to the start line with about 5 minutes to spare. There weren't as many people there as I think I expected but it was a good crowd. We started bang on time, with a bang from a proper starting gun!

The route heads out of the Eden Project with about a mile of down hill road running to start. This sounds great but in reality it's crowded and I had to really hold back and pick my way carefully through the pack whilst avoiding wet leaves and mud on the road. After the road section you're diverted onto footpaths and trail. It was wet and muddy with quite a lot of puddles, not unexpected but you needed to keep your wits about you, and it got quite narrow in places, all of which meant bottlenecks. Being a mid-pack runner means being a bit more picky about running through puddles so there was a lot of dancing around the edges slowing up people behind. The three mile marker came and went with no sign of the promised drinks station. This eventually appeared just before miles four, after we'd spilled out of the foot path onto a road that was almost blocked with cars. Four miles in and I'd not been able to find any sort of pace or rhythm.

The rest of the route was much less eventful. We continued on a mix of trail and road, past farms guarded by barking dogs, fields of horses, cows and sheep, views across the villages and of course plenty of hills. Hills through villages, hills through countryside, gradual hills, steep hills, rolling hills. The downhills felt treacherous and the uphills draining and the pockets of support were gratefully received. We kept moving but started adopting our ultra tactic of walking anything uphill. It seemed to do the trick and soon we started to see signs back to Eden. The last mile was almost all downhill through the car parking area and finally down into Eden itself. We flew down the last quarter mile into the quarry, almost crashing into people just past the finish line! I'd hoped for 2h20 before we started but stopped looking at the time after the second mile, so I was delighted to see we'd completed 13.1 miles and 288m of elevation in 2h23.
The finish area was a bit congested. It took a while to collect our t-shirts (mens and women cuts in varying sizes), medals (different sizes for half and full distance), beer and pasty tokens and travel size toiletries from Weleda. A short walk back to the changing rooms to collect our belongings and change into dry clothes wasn't enough time for the pasty queue to die down but the line moved quickly enough and soon we were inhaling our snacks. As well as the runners there were lots of spectators, each runner having been given two entry tickets for friends and family for the day, so it was much busier than on Saturday but not overwhelmingly so. We left just as the prize giving started (winner judged on gun, not chip time... fair?) forgoing the free foot soak and massages on offer in favour of a proper clean up back at the B&B.
The organisation of the event was excellent but I think there are improvements that could be made to the route and finishing area. I thought the route was good, varied and challenging (fair play to any running clubs in that area) but neither of us would go back to repeat it, or take on the marathon challenge.
One woman, two half marathons, 10 years apart.
But the race did mark 10 years of half marathon running for me. I did my first half back in 2007. It was the year that the Windsor half got moved to Henley following an outbreak of foot and mouth. I can't find the results online but I know it took me over three hours and a good deal of crying to complete it. I ran in thick jogging bottoms and a cotton t-shirt! The Eden Project half is my 23rd half marathon (though I can only prove 20 of them) and I can't believe how much has changed over the years. I've gone from working in IT to becoming a self employed Personal Trainer and Run Coach. I now own more lycra and sports clothing than regular clothes but I still use my running to fundraise. I used Eden to try out my Anthony Nolan vest, which I'm glad to report was very comfortable. I'll be wearing it for all of my key events next year and using them to raise money for the Anthony Nolan Charity.

You'll know from previous posts that I donated stem cells back in June and I will be donating for my match again on October 23rd, but this time white blood cells. I'm invested in the charity and their work and want to raise at least £1,500 for them through my sporting endeavours. Donating stem cells affected me physically, making it harder to run for about a month, so I'm grateful that I can run at all. So I dedicate the following events to Anthony Nolan on 2018:
- Swimathon 5k
- Brighton Marathon
- Outlaw Half Triathlon
- and finally Lakesman, my first full Iron Distance triathlon!
These will all test me as I've set  targets for each that are beyond what I've achieved before! If you would like to sponsor me you can do so here and I thank you so much for any support you can give. As ever, you can follow my training and fundraising efforts on this blog :)
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