Wednesday, 30 September 2009

ACC DAY 1 - Padstow to Perranporth

So the waiting was finally over... I’d entered this event shortly after the London Marathon back in April and had been gearing up for it ever since. Training had gone well, completing my first two ultra races in the process. A 50km race in May and a double marathon in July. But they were both very different to the Atlantic Coast Challenge which would require instant recovery to be able to run 3 marathons in 3 days. Was I ready? I would just have to find out...

The route started at Trevose Head near Padstow (about 15 miles north of Newquay) and would go South along the North Cornwall Coastal path for 3 days finishing at Lands End on the southernmost tip of England.

Each day started with a briefing at race HQ in St Ives about what to expect and the detail of the course for the day. Maps were handed out but it became apparent on route that when you needed it most the map scale was just a tad too small to be of real use meaning that you are never 100% sure of the exact route, which all added to the fun! If in doubt we were told to keep the sea to our right and the land to our left and you cannot go far wrong!

After the briefing we were loaded off like cattle onto a convoy of white mini buses that snaked their way to Trevose Head for the start. Polite small talk was made with other runners but this journey was always the worst bit of the day as you just wanted to get going.

And so it was that we finally did get going shortly after midday as 120 or so runners set off on their intrepid way.
It was so great to get going and I was not nervous at all. It just felt right to be finally on my way. Day 1 promised some flat stuff including runs on sandy beaches including Booby’s Bay in the very first mile, as well as a many steep assents and descents. The terrain was very varied not only on each day but also throughout the 3 days as it would progressively get tougher and tougher.

Booby's bay

My pace from the start was quicker than I had intended but it felt right so I did not change it. Of course it was the terrain that would dictate my pace for the most part so my strategy was to run strong wherever the terrain was kind to me and slow down for the tougher sections to reserve my energy. The early sections were nice and flat and grassy and easy on the legs but involved much zigzagging around the many coves including High Cove (below).

Heading towards Park Head
High Cove

We were warned in the race briefing that navigating through Newquay might prove tricky for those of us who are navigationally challenged! Despite being with four other runners, five minds did not prove any better than one. I was concentrating so much on navigating the streets of Newquay that I completely forgot about Check point 2 at ‘Lusty Glaze’ and it seemed that so did the others. By the time we realised our mistake we had overshot the check point by ¾ of a mile. I was gutted as we had led a good pace out for the first 15 miles and were easily in the top 10%. Once back at ‘Lusty Glaze’ I did not hang around though (a strategy I employed at every check point throughout the challenge). It amazed me how much time some runners would spend at each check point like it was some kind of Sunday afternoon picnic. The 2litre camelback I was carrying meant that I only required one refill each day which saved a lot of time.
Above Fistral Beach

After shooting off from Lusty Glaze I pretty much found myself running on my own. I successfully navigated through Newquay and past Fistral Beach (above) and across a foot bridge over ‘The Gannel’ which could only be accessed at low tide (15:10 on this particular day). Those runners arriving later would have to make a further detour to get around to the headland above Newquay or get wet. Whilst the going got a little tougher after Newquay the views were fantastic taking in many nice parts including Kesley Head, Hollywell Bay, and Penhale Point, as the miles ticked on by.
Holywell Bay

The final descent of the day was from Ligger Point on a very narrow path down on to Perran Beach.
Perran BeachFrom there it was just a 2 mile trek across the soft sands to finish at Perranporth with my family waiting for me at the finish. Glorious! I completed Day 1 in 4hrs44mins covering 27.1 miles (including 1.5mile detour at Newquay!) and finishing in 28th place.

A big shout out must go to Tommy 'sicknote' from the RW forum whom I met on Day 1 at the start and the end! Here's Tommy cooling off!!..


  1. Hey man, nice one!!! Only thing is, if you hadn't kept stopping to take snaps, you might have won!!!!

  2. :-) haha yeah maybe but my memory is so crap that it was the only way to recall any of it!more snaps to come for day 2 & 3! just uploaded day 2 now...