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Classic Quarter 2013

By Will Hancock

17th June 2013

A Race Of Two Halves, the Rain and Sun!

Plans for the weekend in Wales doing the Man v Horse Marathon (Google it!) had fallen through. So what to do? Well it just so happened the Classic Quarter still had places. So what’s the Classic Quarter?– Well it’s a 44 mile Ultra Marathon on the coastpath from Lizard Point to Land’s End, gulp! Spurred on by entry to this summer’s “Plague” I had been putting in some long training runs, getting up to 40 miles on the Saints Way Run. Despite this you never quite know how these events will turn out as so many factors play a part; weather, conditions under foot, how you feel on the day etc etc.

My pre-race build-up saw a pre-occupation with the predicted hot conditions. Extra sun cream and larger water bottles were stowed in my race rucsac. So it was with some surprise that our early morning journey to Lizard was illuminated by violent thunderstorms. On our final approach from Helston the thunderclouds were truly gathering and the winds picking up. The usual pre-race banter with STARC and other off road nutters was disrupted by heavy rain and cold winds, it could have been winter as we shivered in our waterproofs! We gathered for the safety briefing at 0600 (honestly) and sheltered like a flock of Penguins under the café veranda, with some unfortunates on the outside bearing the brunt of the conditions!

Once the race started the rain and cool conditions were a blessing in disguise. It seemed a bonus to be able to get some miles under the belt before the inevitable heat of summer burst out. As has become customary since my return from injury I continued my strategy of starting near the back of the field to ensure a steady start. Essential on a race of this length! However it was slightly frustrating being stuck in the crocodile which inevitably slowed to a snail’s pace as various obstacles were negotiated. The upside was the mental fillip of passing people throughout the entire race. Though I never seemed to catch my chauffeur for the day Bruce McLaren who slipped out of sight, but would it be for good in the final race analysis?

Some people describe Ultras as “an eating competition whilst running.” Since learning the skills of the trade I have settled upon eating and drinking about every half hour. My hi-tec, scientifically controlled diet includes Malt Loaf, Jam sandwiches, Dairy Fudge , Peanuts and Ribena! It works for me and is palatable! I stuck to this fuelling strategy and in seemingly no time, at around the 2 hr mark we were approaching the first Checkpoint at about 11 miles. It was good to see the STARC support crew of Helen and others and Team McLaren. In fact these Checkpoints help break the race down into manageable sections – mentally as much as physical!

By now the field was spreading as we passed through the stunning mixed scenery of clifftops, beaches and abandoned Mine Engines. I had a chat with Emma as I passed her and recalled how she shot by me near the end of the RAT last year as I was labouring. Anyway as we were approaching Praa Sands, well on the way to Checkpoint 2 the clouds were clearing, and the inevitable Sun burst through, boy was it hot! This truly was going to be a race of two halves and suddenly the need to take on water at regular intervals became more obvious. Into Perranuthnoe and Checkpoint 2 at around 22 miles and again Team STARC was out in force, boosted by Deb Grills. Many people paused here to change clothing etc, but I was determined to press on as I knew any stop may be for good!

Then came perhaps the toughest bit mentally; the slog through built up Penzance and Mounts Bay. As you curve round the bay you can see Mousehole perhaps 9 miles distant, all along increasingly hot tarmac! Fortunately chasing down a few others helped me through this section. As did helping others find the way who had missed turnings. I was a bit smug about this, but I paid the price for this later in the day!

I was still moving well at the 30 mile mark, and felt invincible but as I left checkpoint 3 at Lamorna about 33 miles in tiredness started to bite. I think mentally this is where you start thinking you’ve cracked it, fatal! Those who have run the race previously will know this final section is by far the toughest, with bouldery paths, many steps and steep hills to be negotiated. It is stunningly beautiful though and the beach at Porthcurno as we approached the Minack looked sub-tropical, and calling out to be swimmed in! But no time for that as I dragged myself up the steps to a water station with about 7 miles to go. Not far on we encountered the heavenly Café Grills offering cold water and flapjacks which was a great boost on the final section, as was an encounter with Mr Oakes out on a nice “little” training/support run.

Finally the Lands End Hotel was visible on the horizon as the Garmin hit in excess of 40 miles. But this is where I paid the price for my earlier navigational smugness. On perhaps the final climb I ended up heading inland between fields. Sensing this was wrong I climbed hedge and had an unpleasant run through potato fields and nettles to rejoin the coastpath, but not before I saw several folks I had passed earlier shooting by me! All part of the fun as Pat Munn says, but not good when you just want the end to come! With that the final tired approach neared and I was relieved to reach journeys end and the crowds outside the Lands End Hotel. My post-race celebratory drink was a Slush Puppy; shows what effect the race had, when would I drink that rubbish normally?! Bruce quickly appeared and it transpired that his many navigational glitches had allowed me to past him on the final leg. Were it not for that he would have definitely beaten me!

In the final analysis I was a mere 2 mins ahead of Bruce, incredible over that distance. Despite my navigational glitch my race exceeded all expectations! I would like to thank all of team STARC/McLaren both running and supporting on the day, it was a great lift to see your cheery faces through the day. I think I am now a convert to these long, steady “Journey” type races. But as Fergy says “44 ain’t long, another 100 would be!” Well done to all the other STARC runners, time is academic on these events, it’s all about completing the journey! See you at the club soon.


PlNoNameUIDClass[Finish]Time CP1CP2CP3 
25 102 William Hancock 9471 M 15:37:10 09:07:40 01:44:05 04:10:55 06:16:13
28 157 Donald Maclaren 13256 MV50 15:39:31 09:10:01 01:36:35 03:59:39 06:23:48
50 178 Emma Murray 25172 FV45 16:09:46 09:40:16 01:42:21 04:14:28 06:31:43
129 185 Mark Owen 27872 M 17:38:46 11:09:16 01:57:02 04:54:58 07:52:03
130 240 Patrick Talen 27795 M 17:39:05 11:09:35 01:57:06 04:55:21 07:52:27
131 232 David Speake 29924 MV40 17:39:08 11:09:38 01:57:07 04:55:17 07:52:04
157 218 Melissa Rowe 29247 FV40 18:23:47 11:54:17 02:02:11 05:11:30 08:11:25