My love for Cockington Country Park started from a young age, as the place where I first sat on a horse it will always hold a special place in my heart. Situated between Torquay and Paignton, only a 5 minute walk from the seafront it is an oasis of calm from the hubub of Torquay town centre. Even in the middle of summer when tourists crowd the picturesque thatched villiage centre there is always miles of bridleways and footpath through fields and forests to escape to where the only sound is birdsong and wind whistling through the trees. Inevitably when I discovered there was to be an 8 mile off road race there in December I just had to enter.
Me and my amazing supportive Mum
The race took place on Saturday 12th December starting and finishing at Occombe farmshop. Though a rather damp and dreary day spirits were high on the packed startline, club shirts from far and wide were in evidence as well as many a santa or reindeer hat, tutu and even an elf costume. The course itself can be best described as a mud bath! I thought organisers made good use of the limited size of Cockington sending us winding all over the park with minimal crossing of our tracks and barely any backtracking. Though a few front-runners got a little lost on a whole the course was very well marked with plenty of marshals to keep you right. There were many roots, puddles,twists, turns and some seriously slippy, very steep hills to slide your way up and down. At one point we had to pretty much climb up a bank using the trees to stay upright. I thought this was all great, to me it’s what trail running is all about and from the giggles and gossip I heard on my way round and at the finish other competitors felt the same.
My own personal race on the day went very well, I finished 17th out of 122 females not bad for a newbie. I made a few mistakes, such as not getting to the start line early enough. I was too busy worrying about taking my extra layers off and getting cold – WIMP! This meant I didn’t give my Garmin enough time to find satellites so I couldn’t track my distance during the race making pacing difficult. Stretching was rushed and in retrospect I should have started nearer the front as I spent most of the first 20 minutes walking behind people where the trail got narrow and technical. As I train there a lot I am used to that terrain so could happily have ran these sections. Lastly in the final quarter of a mile you have to run up a long hill back out of Cockington to Occombe farm. Despite being able to see the girl in front of me, I partially walked this which I am now disappointed with. Of course at this stage of the race it is understandable to be tired but I was having real difficulty catching my breath to the point of mild panicking. Having given it some thought I think I could improve my ability to push harder when tired/lacking oxygen by being stricter with myself to include 1 interval session in my training EVERY week. Nobody likes intervals, yet nobody can deny they do work, if nothing else they show you how much harder you can push your body than you think!
Overall the race was a great experience. I am most happy with the fact I wasn’t
affected by nerves in the same way as last time. I think that comes down to being happier with my overall life situation and having a little more experience running now. There was also a different, less competitive atmosphere with this race, people were chatting on the way round, giving advice to others, near the end some of the more experienced club runners who I’d been running with for the last few miles were even encouraging me along up the killer hill. Most of all I tried to keep at the front of my mind that the reason I am doing this is because I love to run, I love to find new trails and I enjoy the novelty of doing so in a crowd of other like minded people. When I remembered this, it would make me pause in my panic stressing to take in what was happening around me and enjoy it, which after all, for me,
is the point of the whole thing not winning! Now I am actually looking forward to my next race rather than just worrying about it. Kingsbridge CTS Half Marathon here I come!