The full Mordor

Cornwall's north coast is generally more rugged and spiky than it's south coast, and way out west there's a section so remote and spectacular that my friend Tom calls it Mordor.

This section of spectacular beauty, despair and impending doom is the location for the Cousin Jack race. There are two races: The Classic race (St Just to St Ives) and the Ultra (St Ives to Cape Cornwall and back). Both races took place last Saturday and I was entered in the Ultra, thanks to a very kind lady called Karen who won the entry in a raffle but didn't fancy the race (whaaaaaaat?!). Greg and Phil who I'd recce'd with were in for the Classic (sadly Phil didn't start due to a hand injury) along with Ed and Connor from Falmouth.

Greg and Phil on a recce

I had three songs stuck in my head all day, which is an improvement on the usual one line!

The first was the Arctic Monkeys - I'm going back to 505, if it's a 7 hour flight or a 45 minute drive... I don't know what 505 means, but I drove 45 minutes to get there and I hoped for a 7 hour flight.
I'd left home at an ungodly hour to drive arrive on the startline fed, watered and registered ready for 5:30. It was chilly but I stuck to my (unimpressive) guns and went for short sleeves. 

Ready to be led off the startline (photo: Bys Vyken Facebook)

We set off from the Surfhouse start location, down some steps and straight onto the beach. For this first section we had a lead runner with a high visibility vest to lead us out, which he did admirably. Myself and another bloke stuck close to him across the beach and up onto the coast path proper.

I assume this other bloke was Daniel Jones. We chatted briefly as we tried to stick to the main path west towards Zennor. In places this was easier said than done. After a little while I had a small lead, then I inevitably cocked up the route and went the long way around a headland. I was disappointed to see Daniel ahead and someone else close behind me, but tried not to rush catching up. After about 40 minutes I did catch him, and I was slightly ahead by the time we reached Zennor.

David Andrewartha of Bys Vyken events
(photo: Alice Ward via Bys Vyken Facebook)
Runners in the Classic race get what sounds like an incredible talk about the origin of "Cousin Jack" (the Cornish miner in foreign lands) from the inimitable organiser Dave Andrewartha. This was actually the last race David and Sally would put on, so took on an extra poignancy.

As David delivered his final sermon and he the runners got ready to leave St Just, we had already reached the turnaround point at Cape Cornwall and were well on our way back. I turned at a few seconds after 3 hours, which felt pleasingly and worryingly fast in equal measure. There was orange at the checkpoint which was niiiiiice.

I tried to enjoy the spectacular views on the way back and keep myself moving at a reasonable speed. My legs didn't feel great for another 18 miles of tough running, but I tried to stay floaty, as Ginelle Monett might say... I don’t step, I don’t dance, I don’t walk, I just float... I certainly wasn't dancing.

Eventually, I made it back through the final Pendeen checkpoint and to Zennor. Just before here I noticed two people on the horizon and as I got closer realised it was Robin and Bob from FRR. It was great to see them and gave me a really nice boost (even if I did nearly fall over in all the excitement!). Past Zennor I started to feel good. I didn't know what the gap was like and having been so close for the first half of the race I was a bit obsessed with checking over my shoulder, but Robin promised me the gap was good so I started to believe. A bit, anyway.

Gap looks OK and great encouragement from Bob
(photo: Robin Watson)

The next section is arguably the toughest, but the end wasn't far away now and I enjoyed the varied running / scrambling / scrabbling through gorse. Some blood came out of my finger when I whacked it on a metal gate but otherwise I was relatively unscathed (unlike Daniel who came in with most of the inside of his legs on the outside. He'd had a fight with a bush).

About 3 miles from the end I saw more Falmouth royalty - Tom Carthey, Amy, and their spaniel. I ran up a hill I might not have run all the way up normally.

The hill Tom made me run up (photo: Tom)

A couple of miles from the end, just after seeing Tom and Amy, I finally remembered the music I'd listened to in the car on my way over. I'm sure you know the fantastic punk band Chumbawumba. I used to run a little with Boff from the band, and we did a Bob Graham Round together in the early 2000s. He and Daniel Bye recently released a wonderful little album and book called These Hills are Ours. The first song on the album is called Run to the Horizon, and it's actually about Roseberry Topping, a little hill in North Yorkshire I grew up in sight of. So, thanks to Boff and Daniel, I had this great song in my head for the last few miles...

I never ran in the Olympics,
I never learned to drive a train,
But I can run to the Horizon,
And back again

So that was that. I eventually made it back again, across the horrible beach at a snail's pace, and up the steps to the finish. Bob and Robin were back there again, as were Pez and Steve. It was great to see everyone at the finish. Daniel came in soon after, followed by Joshua White. Jodie Gauld was first lady, followed by Melissa King and Claire Grubb.

Up the steps , finish with David and Sally, Daniel at the finish
(photos: Bob, Bys Vyken)

It was amazing to be part of the last Cousin Jack race under David and Sally. BysVyken sounds like it's in great hands, but for those who have been involved for years it's clearly the end of an era. I feel a bit of a fraud winning the last one but still, thanks David and Sally for your years of amazing work! Thanks everyone for the support, as well as Andrew Gibbons (who finished 18th).

In the Classic race, Jonny Dry and Hannah Mason won, Ed was 18th, Greg was 20th, and Connor was 34th. Great running everyone! There's some really tough ground down Mordor way, but it's absolutely stunning. Can't wait to get back out west.


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