The Coast Path Run – in summary

Days 165 – 181, Sunday 17 June – Tuesday 3 July 2012, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset

Coast Path Run (CPR) had been in the planning for quite some time and I was aware of it before I left NZ last December. The run was to raise awareness of mental health issues and raise funds for MIND in the UK and the Mental Health Foundation in NZ. The plan was to run the entire length of the 1014km South West Coast Path which runs through Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset in southern England – in 14 days ! The runners were Tom Bland from the UK and Malcolm Law who I know from NZ, until the start line Tom and Mal had not actually met face to face.

Before I left NZ I had suggested that if I happened to be in the UK at the time of the run I would come along and show some support on a couple of days. However, due to a conflict in exam schedules Mal’s wife was unable to come to the UK until half way through the run so Vicki, a mutual friend of Mal and Mine sent me a “can you help” email. As I was kinda getting over SE Asia I said yes and found myself in Minehead on the Dorset coast at 8.30 AM on Sunday June 17 for the start of this epic adventure.

My role in this craziness was to support Mal, Tom’s mum Sheila was supporting Tom for most of the event, with Tom’s brother Mike doing a few days in the middle. Supporting meant driving the “Spaceship” campervan, providing food and fluids, medications and ice as required at the rest stop, taking side trips to supermarkets when cravings come on, packing and unpacking the van, washing, cooking, cleaning etc etc so the guys can just focus on the run. It meant for a number of long days, 6 am to midnight was the norm for most of the run.

It is very hard to summarise such a long time in a short piece, if you have followed my blogs then you will know that I do tend to ramble on, so a summary post is going to be a struggle.

The start line – Mal and Tom

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The run started well, we had good weather for most of the first few days, the scenery was varied, the trail in good condition and Tom’s friends Garry and Chris took turns running with the guys. The days were long and Sheila and I did a fair bit of driving – done some spectacularly narrow and windy roads, on some roads the hedges were brushing both wing mirrors.

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As the run progresses injuries took there tool with both guys nursing strains to various parts of their legs. On day 7 Tom’s knee was too painful to run so a temporary halt was called to the run so a physio could be found in Penzance to make an assessment. Mal and I went and had lunch in a pub while Tom was assessed. The physio did a great job and the next day Tom was moving quite freely, though ended up running with walking poles the next day. IMG 1357

By this stage the pace had dropped and as they were already half a day down it was clear it was not going to be completed inside the planned 14 days. A new plan was drawn up to finish inside 17 days.

However, on day 10 Tom had some strange swelling and incredible pain in both shins and after some serious thought decided to stop and seek medical advice. This was a huge call as the run was Tom’s baby and he was utterly gutted to have to stop – medically it was the right one. Mal decided to go on with the run and his wife Sally and I did a few sections of running and walking with him over the remaining few days. There were a couple of close calls on day 13, Mal had been suffering from some serious twinges to the left shin, one being so bad a halt was almost called – but five minutes later it had settled and from then I knew he was going to finish on schedule on day 17 – even though it was down to a walking pace. The weather on the last couple of days was pretty awful, low low cloud, rain, wind and cold, just not pleasant at all, the second to last section round Portland was just dire, nothing to see due to the fog and we walked past prison walls, quarries, housing estates and wastelands, it was a real struggle. For the final section another NZ friend ran with Mal to the finish line and it was all over at 6.57 PM on Tuesday 3rd July. The record for completing the Coast Path thoroughly broken and close to $20,000 NZD raised for NZ Mental Health.

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From a support perspective the event was hugely challenging, the days were long and very tiring and as I got tired I started making small mistakes and got frustrated and on occasion grumpy.

There was an awful lot of driving, I did close to 2000 miles in the 17 days, in many places the coast path was he short option with the road significantly longer. I am pleased to say I only missed one check point over the 17 days and that was due to having almost a two hour drive to complete.
There seemed to be no time to do anything, yet at the same time lots of time was spent waiting, often standing in the rain gazing at the horizon, ready to spring into action with chairs and jackets, tea and snacks when the runners arrived.
One of the key frustrations for all of us was the lack of communications, lots of places had no cell reception so we could not easily get messages to or from the Mal and Tom to see where they were. Internet reception was almost non-existent, most of the hostels had no wifi, this made planning ahead harder and I was completely unable to blog, either for myself or for CPR. Whenever we had some mobile internet we would post an update to FaceBook, but some days we had none at all.


Mal completing the run and Tom being there at the finish line
For most of the run the views were stunning, such an amazing variety of countryside, each day was different.
I got to do 100 or so km of walking and running in a wide variety of locations in a variety of conditions.
Driving round the weird and wonderful narrow lanes of Cornwall, especially when Sheila was leading!
Meeting the Blands – Tom, Mike and their parents Sheila and Richard.
Loads more wildlife than I expected to see – a badger, squirrels, rabbits, hawks, pheasants and other birds. The cows and sheep were remarkably unafraid of people, at one point we had to go around a couple of cows as they were not going to move off the track.
Local runners Garry and Chris helping out with the run legs, guiding and encouraging Mal.

Tom being injured and having to pull out
The weather really sucked at times.
Lack of internet access
Being too tired to sleep some nights
Not taking enough photos
Not getting enough time to spend looking around the villages and taking photos.
Getting stuck in one way systems !

The weather and the views, sun, rain, fog and wind.

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There were some great buildings – and many I did not get to see.

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some great views

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some fun times

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some tears (of joy)

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and some bad facial hair

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.

3 thoughts on “The Coast Path Run – in summary”

  1. Phil: thank you for this fabulous summary. Your photos are absolutely brilliant as always, your comments honest as always. I could almost imagine being there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing this – when I asked you, I knew I was asking something huge: I knew it was going to be long, arduous, and fractious at times.. but I knew you were a person who could actually hold the fort for Mal. Mal texted me immediately after with these words “Thank you for putting Phil in our path. He was a Godsend”. Thx again.

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