I love the summer holidays, but having the kids at home isn’t exactly conducive to training for the half marathons I always do in September. I run on Sundays and, if I’m lucky, my husband will go into work a bit late on a Thursday so I can run then. But this doesn’t happen every week.
So our annual holiday in Padstow always gives me a bit of extra time to train without worrying about childcare, plus a handy nearly-12-mile route, in the form of the Camel Trail, which gives me a great opportunity to up my training.
Running 12 miles always makes me slightly nervous, it’s a lot to prepare yourself for mentally and physically (I have to be very careful what I eat the day before I run). Running the Camel Trail makes me more nervous. It has many advantages, but a fair few disadvantages too. Hearing endless weather reports about Hurricane Bertha and torrential rain don’t help to inspire confidence. It would have been very easy to back out.
The Camel Trail is a disused railway line which runs along the Camel Estuary from Padstow, through Wadebridge, to Bodmin and beyond. It is VERY popular with families cycling, as well as runners and dog walkers. Running from The Sailmakers to Wadebridge, through the town and back again, was a very convenient 11.75 mile training route.
I run at my steadiest pace on the Camel Trail – all the way to Wadebridge fluctuating only between 8 minutes 35 seconds and 8 minutes 38 seconds per mile! This is unheard of on my usual runs. But my usual runs have hills and pedestrians and roads to cross. The Camel Trail has none of these things.
My usual route has council estates and shops and a railway station and parks. The Camel Trail just has hedges and bridges and glimpses of water. Strangely, I like to see the shops and the railway station – it helps me to know where I am. The Camel Trail all looks the same, which can be psychologically tough.
I mentally break the run into four – the rocks halfway between Padstow and Wadebridge are my first milestone, then Wadebridge town centre is my halfway point and second milestone, then it’s back to the rocks. Between the rocks and Wadebridge you hardly even see the water – the trees form almost a tunnel and the trail stretches for miles ahead. I’ve started to recognise the individual bridges and benches as mini-milestones. There’s the bench we sat at to have a picnic when I was pregnant with my younger son and a robin sat on the table and frightened my mum. I know Wadebridge isn’t too far when I’ve seen that one.
A quick loop through the town and I’m back on the trail. And the heavens open. Luckily it’s only short-lived because running in torrential rain is no fun.
I get to the rocks and I see two women running in front of me. My pace has slowed very slightly as the wind is against me, but I catch them, then overtake them. I love these little triumphs.
From the rocks, Padstow looks so close you can almost touch it – a mile at most as the crow flies. But I’m not running as the crow flies, I’m running as the estuary winds and it’s three long miles away. Hurricane Bertha is whipping up and blowing across the trail and I wonder if I’m going to be able to run it all. But walking it would only prolong the agony. I dig deep and I keep running.
There’s the woefully inaccurate sign saying ‘Padstow 1 1/2’ when it’s actually over two, but I’ll take that anyway. I know it’s not too far to go. More water, more trees, more wind. The big metal bridge, only a mile to go. The outskirts of town with the bike hire places, the car parks, Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant and the centre of town with Padstow still only starting to wake up.
And I’m back ‘home’. My second fastest pace ever over a ridiculously long run.
My body is tired, my feet are sore, I am hungry and thirsty and I can barely think straight. But I am happy and proud. The adrenaline and the feeling of achievement lasts all day – and I know next time it will be easier.