Race Date: Saturday 2nd April 2016
This has honestly got to be the most physically demanding thing I have ever done. Why did I choose to do this? I asked myself that many times over the 6 hours I was running – moreso towards the end than at the beginning.
The Vale of Glamorgan ultra, a 32 mile coastal run, point to point from Penarth to Ogmore by Sea, all along the South Wales coastal path. What’s not to like. Well, a 4.45am get up and a 80 minute drive from our rental cottage on the Gower penisula and the driving rain and wind at the beginning of the race. However, as the day was dawning and other competitors started to appear, a sense of camaraderie and ‘we’re in this together’ feeling started to take the edge off.
At 7.58am, we were all herded onto Penarth pier for the start – and a little more exposure to the elements. The race briefing went something like, ‘ it’s 32 miles so don’t break your leg sprinting down the wooden pier and slipping on the very wet and slippery floor. Enjoy the run, see you in 32 miles’. At 8am, off we shuffled, very slowly and delicately.
The first 10 miles or so were mainly tarmac and industrial with the added bonus of having to navigate Barry Island. We were told it was not wise to get lost in Barry!! Legs felt strong and I tucked in behind a group of Welsh blokes who were running at a reasonable pace. Mile 10 to 20 was when the fun started. The weather turned brighter but the torrential rain of the previous night and early morning had turned the coastal path into a quagmire – similar to the Trunce yesterday. The legs started to feel tired, the heat was starting to increase and I almost choked to death on a porridge flapjack – note to oneself, chew properly when running before swallowing.
The half marathon came and went, the Grindleford gallop came and went. 21 miles in just over 3 and a half hours. Excellent, I could maybe get 5/5 and a half hours here. Then came the cliff top running. Down onto the beach, up the other side, down/up, down/up. I couldn’t believe how long it took me to get from Grindleford gallop to full marathon. However, full marathon completed, only 2 parkruns to go. Legs were now feeling very jelly like. Up the hill and down a very steep, rocky and muddy descent onto a stony beech. How cruel. My legs felt like giving way. I had to totter down like a 3 year old walking down the stairs, one step at a time. My watch told me I’d done 29 miles – nearly there. I’m into the last parkrun but the legs won’t function properly. Run, Walk, Crawl was the name of the company hosting the event. I almost crawled but not quite. Legs and head said walk, heart said run. Heart won most of the time.
32 miles and no sight of the end. Lots of encouragement from the passers by on the coastal path. ‘The end is just round the corner’ they would shout. Mmmm, yeah but which one. I think I went around 3 corners before the sight of the beautiful inflatable was before me. No sprint, just a shuffle over the line and an immense feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Hated it but loved it more. Hated the fact that my legs were so tired but loved the experience, the camaradarie, the encouragement, the views, the mud, the lot really.
Would I do it again – definitely, would I recommend it to someone else – absolutely. I had no idea of the position I was in and thought I was going pretty slowly. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to bag 39th place in just over 6 hours.
The race was won by Adrian Jones in a totally ridiculous time of 4.13.48, a full 36 minutes ahead of second place. The first woman was Emma Williams in 5.38.30.
Official Results: Vale Coastal Ultra results