Eden Project Marathon & Half Marathon Review
Late last year, discussions in the Macdonald household centred around an autumnal vacation. Eventually, Cornwall was chosen.
The next question was the date. A quick internet search confirmed accommodation AND a marathon, organised by the Eden Project, at the same time. Everything sorted in a few clicks – me to do the marathon, Mrs Mac to do the Half and accommodation about 20 minutes away. Ah, the wonders of modern technology.
But 10 months later, reality kicked in with the information that as a large proportion of the course was on woodland or trail paths, trail shoes would be the best option, and by the way, it was also hilly!
Time to acquire suitable shoes. No trotting down to the local shop for me to get properly fitted. Just go on-line, find what you want, at the right price and right size (using my road shoes!) and a couple of days later, they were on my doorstep. So they seemed a little bit tight, but you don’t want them too big and loose when going cross country, do you?
Race day dawned sunny and only mildly breezy and on arrival at the Eden Project, I spotted the 25 mile marker. It was going to be downhill to the finish from there! Hooray! Then I saw a proper profile map….
The lumpy bits on the printout map looked quite lumpier and what was that big lump in the middle? “That’s Helman Tor.” “Excuse me, but did you say Tor?”
– At this point, I should advise readers suffering from hillophobia to skip the next few sentences and the rest of the conversation. A Tor, dear reader, is something the local population call a hillock or undulation in the countryside but something that townspeople call a f***ing big mountain rising out of the countryside.
“Oh yes, you’ve got to climb up it and the club chairman will be there with his megaphone to cheer you on.” “OK, so how do we climb it? Is there a proper path or trail or perhaps a road?” “No, no, no. When I said climb, I meant a proper climb, scrambling up using hands and feet. There’s no path straight up.” “Thanks. I think.”
And so to the start and where were the marathon runners? Having been told the organisers were expecting 800 – 900 runners, there seemed to be a distinct lack of marathon numbers and those that were waiting looked like wiry whippets without an ounce of fat between them and whose conversations were peppered with words such as “2.40 last time.” “Hill reps.” “Just a warm up for a 24 hour race next month” “Ultra training.”
I was thinking “should I have a bacon roll before I run?” and “where was the loo?”
The start was delayed for 5 minutes for last minute repairs to a riverbank and when the gun went off, it was a mad rush downhill for the first mile and a half. A bit more road before heading into a wooded shady valley. Very scenic but why were there “Beware, Tramlines.” signs – until the runner in front of me tripped over a sleeper.
Some three or so miles later we emerged on to the road and having run along the valley floor, guess what? It was onwards and upwards in a series of undulations, some shorter and sharper than others but with some sharp downhill stretches and almost everywhere was a distinct countryside aroma. But it was on the downhills where my toes kept bashing against the end of the shoe. Not too much of a problem early on but one that was to grow as the race continued.
Just before where the course split and the half marathon turned for home was the 20 mile marker and I was already thinking what excuse could I give to take the easy option and make that short cut. I wasn’t helped by the marshal saying the Tor was still a couple of miles away across the moor. But no! Throbbing toe or not, I would carry on.
So, across the moor, on the road, on the trail, back to the road, over the stile and start climbing. Some might call it a little scamper while others might liken it to the ascent of Everest. Whatever, it was still hard work and certainly one way to raise your heart rate. Time for a breather and ask the Mountain Rescue team for a plaster to wrap around the toes (and waste some time) and get licked by Mountain Rescue Dog Millie.
Once repairs were complete and the toe was better wrapped than a Christmas present, it was downhill, leaping like a gazelle or gently mincing, to the next trail path. What a misnomer! I should have said running water and mud, thick mud.
Back on the road, more ups and downs and with the extra wrapping, it felt as though my toe was getting hammered each step and why does no marshal have a pair of scissors or a knife when you need them? None, not until I reached a drinks station where a Stanley knife was produced and I could sit down and attack the shoe, carving a hole to relieve the pressure. And said knife owner must have been the only person in Cornwall to know where Pitsea was as he had spent the first five years of his life living in Billericay before his family moved west.
Only a job half done as there was a bit more room but further cutting curtesy of scissors provided by the mountain rescue team a bit further on solved the problem.
Full steam ahead on the road to another marshal (apparently there were over 100 on the course!) providing the warning to be aware of fallen trees and hidden roots as we turned back into the woods. Plenty of roots and clambering over large tree trunks before a series of short hairpin bends on the side of the slope down to a flat bit (hooray!) alongside a stream.
At last it was back out on to the road and follow the same early part of the course to the turn point. Only 6 miles or so to go! And most of this was on the road, and there were still up hills and downhills, and there were areas with something smelly and soft underfoot, and you had to be careful of vehicular traffic on the narrow lanes, and the marshals all had jelly beans or jelly babies.
Around this point, I actually started overtaking people, well, a couple of guys who were walking to the finish and somebody whose legs “aren’t working but I’ll get there.” Through the Chalk Pits and past a big lake and the most vocal and supportive marshals, up another slope and woodland on to a road where, lo and behold, was the main entrance to the Eden Project.
Having said the last mile and a bit was downhill, I discovered that it was quite a sharp descent with a few twists and turns before finishing in the middle of the park.
Who cares about how long I took? Medal and T shirt were collected, so where was the pint and pasty?
So would I do this race again? Some pros & cons:-
We were blessed with ideal conditions, although drier weather the previous week might have reduced some of the watery parts.
No Big City atmosphere so you could be running on your own for some time. Not necessarily a bad thing as you get the opportunity to do some sight seeing and the views were magnificent. Also got to do some thinking.
A no frills race. What you see is what you get. But the pint and pasty taste great