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Race Report: Boscastle Scramble

Driving down to the start line in Rock at 6.20am the temperature gauge was already reading 18°C which was a sign of things to come for the day.

There were over 60 runners listed to take on this coastal marathon which goes from Rock to Boscastle, following the SW Coast Path and passing through some beautiful fishing villages and incredible parts of coastline. After a kit check and being issued our GPS trackers inside HQ (a chapel) we gathered to hear the normal safety briefing which felt very much like a sermon with the big cross on the wall behind the Race Director!

Race Report: Boscastle Scramble

Paul Johnson

11 June 2023

Link for further info

We then gathered outside ready to start with grey skies above and a noticeably high humidity level. Before long we were off on the day’s adventure, hoping, like every race, that there weren’t too many nasty surprises in store…

The first miles were quite gentle and ‘flat’ (in comparison to what was in store later) although the navigation wasn’t always easy (with a confusing crossroads in some dunes and an accidental beach crossing). This was a self-navigation event meaning you need to make your own decisions, or hope that the person in front of you knows where they are going. It’s a tactic that can come back to bite you!

By the time I reached Port Isaac (12+ miles in) I felt like a melting ice lolly, literally dripping with sweat. The more you race the more you aim to learn from past mistakes and sweating this much fluid meant I was acutely aware that this all needed to keep being replaced. I filled my two soft flasks and additionally the 2 I had in my pack so I had 2 litres of fluid to hopefully keep me going. With a packet of crisps and some Bourbon biscuits on board I was back underway.

At the beginning I found myself amongst the top 10 runners and was gradually overtaking the occasional person. This run was meant to be a training day for Lakeland in July so my real focus was getting time on feet, practising some more with my poles and honing my fuelling. In places we were hampered by very long grass overgrowing the narrow making it feel like a jungle expedition (it was well over 5 feet tall) which covered the route and slowed progress. Overall the conditions on the path were incredibly dry and easy going. You could probably have got away with road shoes if it wasn’t for the lose slate and stones in places.

By checkpoint 3 (approx. 20 miles in) I had again drained all the fluids I was carrying. Stopping for an ice-cream in the kiosk was very tempting but I was still aware of people behind me catching up (I had been overtaken by the 2 runners who would go on to be first and second lady making me realise I was walking too much) so onwards it was.

Tintagel Castle was busy with visitors soaking up the myths. The coast path markings here are pretty poor and we even had to pass through a café’s veranda (jumping a dog bowel) and back up into the wilds. This section is stunning and well-maintained but contains some incredibly challenging climbs with steep descents into valleys and in Cornwall what goes down will inevitably go up again very sharply. Even though I knew what was coming it still required a lot of digging in to push up zigzags and steep steps each time.

The final miles remained a real challenge as your legs tire and you just want to reach the finish line. At this point it’s mental strength that helps carry you through. Boscastle was signed from quite a way out but, like St Ives from Zennor, each headland we rounded still left it nowhere to be seen!

After some cruel final sharp ups and downs I rounded the last corner and enjoyed a good bit of runnable path down into Boscastle which was packed with crowds. The finish line was at a set of slate steps outside the Wellington Hotel up to the veranda where we were presented with our medals. I was surprised and happy to finish 5th overall and also collect a trophy for 3rd male finisher. I’m not a runner who ever really gets near a podium so it was a really nice feeling to finish so high up the field – a nice bonus. Just as enjoyable was the lager shandy, bowl of chips and pot of Earl Grey tea (those who know me will know that if I don’t have tea on a long run I really struggle!)

Purple Gecko events aren’t the cheapest to enter but the organisation is excellent and the marshals were all friendly and really helpful. They offer some great routes and I’d recommend giving them a try if you haven’t before.

Tip: try putting Vaseline on your feet before the race. I didn’t have any rubs or blisters despite the heat and impact of the dry path. And Babybelle were my food of choice again: portable, salty and fatty and easy to eat on the go!

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