Last updated: 20-Aug-18
By Kerry Sutton
The Atlantic Coast Challenge: three marathons in three days along the South West Coastal Path was always going to be a tough challenge.
However, the beauty of the terrain, the fantastic weather and the well organised nature of the event meant that all I had to do was focus on getting myself from start to finish each day as fast and safely as possible!
I entered this event as a training run for the ETR (Everest Trail Race), which takes place in early November, in just a few weeks time. Whilst the Coastal path did not come close to the elevation I will be facing in Nepal, I felt it was a good race to practice running on a rocky, uneven terrain.
Being a multi day event it was also great training for running hard and then getting up the following day and forcing a fatigued body to do it again and again, simulating what I will be going through in the ETR.
The field of runners were of very mixed ability and three start times allowed for the walkers, run/walkers and racing snakes to run their own race without restricting each other. Votwo based themselves at St Ives Holiday Park for the three days and we were taken by bus from here to the start line and then either finished at the park or we were driven back there each evening.
There were a large number of accommodation options catering for all budgets from camping to staying in the chalets on site. Whilst the chalets were self-catering, you could also buy a hearty breakfast or dinner from the Votwo catering marquee. The food provided by Votwo throughout the event was of a great standard and there was loads of it, plenty of opportunity to replenish protein and carbs stores!
The checkpoints were really well stocked with a good balance between homemade food and the standard sweets and cakes. The homemade sausage roll deserves a special mention!
Each morning we were provided with detailed route maps to guide us along the course. I was surprised to find that the coast path is not particularly well sign posted, many of the signs were either missing or broken. However, as this was a linear route and we were headed south if you kept the sea to your right you couldn’t go to far wrong! Newquay was the only real test and got the better of a few of the runners.
The trail was a real mix of grassy track, technical rocky narrow paths, vertical switchbacks, sandy beaches and long descents. As you’d expect there were styles and kissing gates a plenty. On the occasions you could peel your eyes off the trail and gaze around you the views were stunning. It is such a beautiful part of the world. The sea went from raging, crashing waves, to calm and glass like.
We were blessed with dry, clear days, no sign of the storm that was forecast, the only possible irritant was on day two with the strong head wind sapping your reserves.
At mile 81 (the event didn’t quite keep to the 78 miles advertised) and one final push along a sandy beach, the finishing line at Lands End awaited me. Having collected my medal and pasty I was happy with my weekends work!
I’ll definitely be back to do it again.