Pembrokeshire Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series ‘Ultra’ Half Marathon, 3rd May 2014

Inspired by Leonie’s race reports for other CTS races, I thought i’d see what all the fuss was about. Fitting the race around a mini break (or visa versa in reality…) to South West Wales seemed perfect for me and my sister Alex. When booking you have the option to do a 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, or Ultra. We chose the Half, with all distances selling out pretty quickly.

Race HQ was in insanely pretty fishing harbour town of Little Haven. Registration was a well oiled machine with numbers, check point timing bracelets, technical T shirts and bag drop quickly sorted for over 450 runners. I love people watching at races. The Ultra runners were my favourite. They all had crinkly wind-burnt skin, extensive hydration systems, a lot of strapping & compression items, plus serious & wily race faces. They weren’t keen on eye contact. In pre-race/bank holiday excitement I had failed to read the urgent ‘course update’ email 3 days beforehand, so only on the harbour slipway during race briefing, did I realise that the Half distance was now 15.7 miles. Ooppsy. Oh well.

The first mile was on a road and led 190 of us ‘Half’ runners out of the town. The steep hedges either side were dense and green – I even spotted a purple orchid amongst the ferns. I good omen surely. We were quickly through a kissing gate and out onto the coastal path. The views were such a treat for a Brummie runner, but hard to look at for too long as the path was narrow and rocky. It was so inspiring to see a long thin line of florescent runners stretching out into the distance, and one of them was my sister. We passed through a glorious section of dappled shade made by wind-bent deciduous woodland filled with the scent of bluebells. I often get borderline delirious on long runs, and I did exclaim out loud at this point about how beautiful everything was. I’ve found that this can work to your advantage as other runners looked perplexed and gave me a wide berth – enabling a few cheeky overtaking opportunities. The narrow coastal path meant that regular overtaking involved moving off the path as the heavy breathing behind you got closer and louder, or shouting ‘on the left’ or ‘on the right’ so the runner in front knew which side you were coming round. All very polite and civilised. Runners are such lovely people.

The first checkpoint was at 5 and a half miles at St Brides Bay. You had to touch your magic bracelet into an electronic box. I think this ensured you hadn’t got lost, and you also got a printed out ‘reciept’ instantly at the end with your split times on it. After this point we turned inland and ran along the edges of lush grassy fields and footpaths to complete a large loop that took us out to near Marloes Sands. We then joined up back with the coastal path to head back towards the finish. The 10K-ers had been bussed out to their start point on the beach at Musselwick Sands to run a linear race back to the finish. I did quite a bit of overtaking to get past bunches of them – slightly hair raising on such a narrow path with a vertical cliff on one side. We ran across a few stunning rocky bays along the shoreline where my skills of ‘staying upright’ and ‘confidence on an unknown surface’ honed during cross country races came into play. I will admit to tripping over a dead badger though.

There were *plenty* of very steep ups and downs as you regularly dropped down into inlets and coves and then back up out onto headlands. The down hills were as hard on the legs as the uphills. Thursday evening reps phrases such as ‘use your arms’, ‘fire your glutes’ & ‘make the downhills do the work for you’ were in my head. At around 13 miles I really started flagging. My poor legs had done enough. I could see the finish as the crow flies, but all the headlands in between meant that it kept on disappearing as you turned away from it. Before I knew it I was up and over the last hill and pegging it down to the finish! Horrah. Alex had been waiting about half an hour (!) for me at the finish, as she had come in as first lady! (& 20th overall!!!!) She was running behind another lady for a while on the way back towards the finish, and didn’t realise her position until a photographer told her she was 2nd. This spurred her on, and an incident involving being chased by wild horses gave her the lead.

I was 25th female, 93rd overall and finished in 2hrs 37mins.

A well organised, friendly, down-to-earth event which was rugged, quiet, picturesque, wild, exposed and spectacular. I might even have got myself a bit of wind-burn…

Recommend. Thanks Leonie!

Full results here.

Course map here.

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6 Replies to “Pembrokeshire Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series ‘Ultra’ Half Marathon, 3rd May 2014”

  1. Well done Laura and sister 🙂 sounded a very tough course in parts. Very brave too, near cliff edges. Mr T will love joining you next year x

  2. Pre-Race `Risk Assessment` ,arguably,needed to get up to date information on where the wild horses and dead badgers were located! Congratulations to you and your sister on successfully completing the Coastal Trail Race in Pembrokeshire. Quite an achievement, and in `respectable` times as well.

  3. Hooray for epic off road races!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the event (I hope you liked the medal too). I can’t wait to enter some more when the leg has mended…
    Well done 🙂

  4. Well done Laura and sister sounds like a very scenic but tough race.Nice race report too 🙂

  5. Brilliant report LG! You both did so well, even with the extra miles!