Man or mouse or cheese?
One of the good things about running is it isn’t just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. It also forces you to ask yourself questions; some physical, some mental, some both. Ever since registering for the Torbay Half Marathon one such question had been niggling away at me, and sat in the breakfast room of the Cherry Tree Hotel in Paignton one hour before race start I finally had to come up with an answer. Did I have the guts to go for the full English breakfast and then run a half marathon? Physically, given the abuse it’s been subjected to over the years, I’d guess my digestive system would have found a way of coping, but mentally, did I have the courage? Was I man or mouse? And why did I suddenly fancy a slice of cheese?
Discretion is the better part of valour, so I opted to discretely ignore the sausage and bacon route and go for a muesli/fruit/yoghurt combo, only to be put to shame by a couple of guys at the next table who were also running. One guy ordered a bacon sandwich and the other went for a full English with nothing left out. Nothing rodent-esque about those guys!
It was only 100 yards from the B & B to the start line, so I had time to check out the scene at the start line. A new location meant some new different running clubs, with Dawlish Coasters, Teignmouth Trotters and Storm Plymouth all catching the eye. The latter had a huge turnout and judging by their website seem to be a club that has really made a mark. Check out the TV interviews on their Facebook page too.
A chat with Superman
The pre-race info pack had asked you to predict your race time and emphasised the need to choose a realistic place in the starting line-up so as not to impede faster runners starting behind you. This seemed reasonable and I’d decided to heed their advice and start somewhere in the middle, so I was a little surprised to see no markers or any indication of where people should start. It seemed to be a bit of a free-for-all, so I thought ‘stuff that’ and made my way to the back where I was joined on the back row of the grid by Superman to my left and a pirate to my right. Not long later the klaxon went and..….nothing happened. We could hear the cheering at the front but we were firmly rooted to the spot catching some rays and enjoying the scenery. After spending a couple of minutes exchanging pleasantries with superman, suddenly everyone in front started running all at once. I eventually crossed the start line after 2m 20s, which was triple how long it took in Corsham and a new PB for me.
We then did a lap of Paignton Green (a big grassy area in the middle of 2 roads). The roads were quite wide, so I had no trouble in making my way forward at more or less my own speed, although I was soon overtaken by the pirate. I did think about trying to use him to drag me along, but he was clearly too quick for me, so I soon gave up on that idea and settled in to enjoy the run at my own pace. This proved to be a wise move as he finished 7 minutes ahead of me.
Who put those hills there?
The road went north out of Paignton, through a residential area and out onto the coast road. Here I started to get a nasty surprise. For reasons I’m not entirely sure about, I’d expected the route along the sea front to be pretty much flat, whereas actually we started to undulate with an increasingly alarming gradient as we cut inland over a headland. If the hill at Corsham was ‘cheeky’ then this was bordering on impudent, the worst bit being roughly the same gradient as the Royal Oak to Nett Rd, but twice as far. We then rolled down the hill into Torquay, reached the Torquay Eye and turned round, heading back to Paignton. Obviously it was back over the headland and to make matters worse there was a sea breeze, which seemed to become a headwind for most of the climb.
On arrival at Paignton it was half way, and after turning on the green we headed back to Torquay for lap two, which was very similar to lap one (funny that). I was extremely pleased to see the finish and collected a goody bag containing T-Shirt, medal, fruit, drinks etc. After a quick shower back at the B&B we jumped on the steam train to Kingswear, the ferry to Dartmouth and then took a river cruise up the Dart. This is a well recommended way to spend an afternoon, not least because you get a nice sit down whilst the fantastic scenery moves for you.
One notable feature of the race was the level of support. At Paignton there were a few hundred people who were offering a lot of encouragement but all along the route there were people clapping and cheering. One or two had sound systems providing some entertainment and in Torquay a couple of guys had brought an amp and a microphone and were singing as we went by, sometimes quite well. The most impressive was a group of 8 japanese-style drummers, who were both loud and very good.
So would I do it again? Although it was well organised and there were a lot of spectators who were noisy and enthusiastic, probably not. The main attraction was the location and the ability to fit a weekend in Devon around it, but for me the race itself lacked a wow factor. In my book, Paignton isn’t that scenic and we didn’t see much of Torquay, so I think it was good to have done it once but next time I’d pick another race in Devon rather than repeat this one.