Damian Hall set the Fastest Known Time in 2016 for completing the 630 mile South West Coastal Path, in 10 days, 15 hours and 18 minutes.
I would be running a 10 mile and a bit out and back from Mevagissey to Charlestown (and a bit extra).
In this run, I’d discover that Damian is indeed a crazy and humble guy, able to put aside insane levels of fatigue, discomfort and above all, a trail though no alpine pass in sheer height, soon equates to strong numbers in elevation gained and lost.
‘It was either up or down’
Twas an early start. The previous day had been one of travel, heading from the South East, 300 miles South West to the Cornish coastline, a birthday treat for Lisa. In the past, running has always been thought out, to make the most of the terrain and hours on trips away, yet, 98% of the time I never run, out of guilt, for the selfish act it is…. or how it has been perceived to be in recent years (I keep hearing it in the media, by athletes).
In actual fact, it helps clear my mind, make decisions, use energy creatively and above all, live.
So, at 0520ish I left the confines of the AirBnB and headed down the steep hill to the harbour front. The sun lay low on the horizon, kissing the calm sea, as the orange glow lit all buildings and surfaces it touched.
The plan was simple. 10ish miles along the coast path, before turning around and returning for breakfast. Having looked at websites the night before, the most I gleamed about the route was it would be ‘challenging’, the one word which seemed to be the focus of route guides.
Climbing out of the harbour, grassy fields were the first real off-road running sections, following the edges, avoiding livestock. Soon, as I started descending into one of many coves, a narrow rut formed, carved by footsteps before me, the main line to follow. As the ruts formed, the hedgerows grew in height and number. Hedgerows closed in, with spider webs cast between all available branches, brambles and stinging nettles ready to latch onto unprotected limbs.
That word ‘challenging’ started to rear it’s head.
The sun, now rising higher began to discharge heat in increasing strength, causing numerous beads of sweat to run uncontrollably from my head. I was glad I’d opted to bring sunglasses. The South West Coast Path generated steep, short, sharp descents followed by equally challenging ascents, marked by staircases of wooden slats, caked in dry long grasses, providing a loose surface to gain traction.
These elevation changes, though small, were punchy and by the time I’d entered the harbour of Charlestown, my legs were feeling it. The constant change of pace, slope angle and addition of steps were messing with my muscles.
At the turn around, I dropped into a little cove, sat on the jagged fragile rocks of the cliff, watching the small waves lapping up against the mainland; eroding micro particles with ever contact. The shade was welcomed, the tranquility absorbed.
Heat was hitting me hard, I had a litre of water with me, chowing down on Mountain Fuel power pancakes (homemade) and Stealth gels. I had money, but wanted to work rationing what I had, like in race conditions. Money was in my pack as a backup. My going felt slower, walking more of the climbs, being more mindful in my approach. Yet, I was willing myself to run more uphills, good for mental and physical training, easy to take the easier path.
Being able to see the end harbour of Mevagissey the majority of the time when on the cliff tops was cruel, as the path led away repeatedly, my watch keeping context and reality abundantly clear. I had further to go.
My ears were full of Billy Yang Podcast from the start. Rory Bosio, Tim Tollefsen and Scott Jurek interviews kept my mind busy & I almost tripped laughing to the future Mrs Brad Pitt’s masturbation song….
With the end in reach, my mind moved to breakfast, Break Fluid Coffee and getting in the shade. 4 1/2 hours had been warm and I was thankful to being next to the sea, for its reduced humidity and cooler temperature.A run that was either up or down, terrain that didn’t flow and stunning views. How Damian did his FKT is beyond me, he’s an animal!
Onto the Lakes and the Scafell Sky Race.
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