Well… Goodness me…that was so different!
I could just leave the post without adding more… but that would simply not be me…and folk did ask me to post a report, of this type of beach running.
So, a Floss ramble warning… which will be great for all you awesome runners who have run amazing races this weekend and achieved incredible things…. !
You can read this whilst you put your feet up, and enjoy a cuppa or a glass of something stronger. Bask in your well earned glory.
You are all incredible!!!
Yesterday, here at the coast, I woke to a glorious Welsh morning…sea-blue sky... pink frilled clouds and a day full of promise.
I was all ready to head out to Hafan Pwllheli park run. This is a fairly newly formed park run, held at Hafan Pwllheli, in the most glorious location. I am delighted it has been started as it is ten minutes drive from me, when I am here at the coast... or a pleasant run down the coastal path if I am up early enough! But yesterday was my first visit so I was driving there.
All my running gear set out the night before… the sand shaken from my running shoes, waistcoat and cap at the ready. I had researched the runs and checked the course read the race reports and scanned the photos. So, it was a slight feeling of trepidation that I set off at 8.15. Past run reports of a cancellation because of wind… and the challenges faced by the runners as a result of the high Spring tide…warnings of sea water, pebbles, deep sand and seaweed, were causing me a few niggly worries. Arriving at the turn for the beach, I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of boats moored in the Marina; the morning light sparking on the water and the symphony of sailboats, singing in the wind. Wind?
Yes, there was a wind, not forecast and totally unexpected. Turning, I parked on the huge car park for the beach, volunteers battling their way, laden with the tranklements of the run, towards the beach, I say battling, because that is what they were doing, and as I got out of the car, the wind whipped the door from my hand with a ferocity that did not bode well. In front of me, the modern lines of Plas Heli, the premier sailing event centre of Wales and a wonderful community asset, rising from the dunes like a silver beacon, and beyond the silvery snake strip of a sunlit sea.
After the usual first port of call inside the state of the art, centre, I followed a few runners down through the dunes to the beach, and there were only a few. The sound of the Park Run Flag greeted us, whipped by the wind, but holding firm to a nearby signpost. A dog walker leaving the beach...wrapped up, head down, gloved and muffled, muttered a, good morning, as we joined the small group at the start. There were just 25 of us; jogging on the spot, arm waving, hopping from foot to foot, and arms wrapped around the body in a vain attempt to stop a gale force wind from cutting them in half, the runners were cold. I joined them and joined also in the strange disjointed dance…within seconds I felt as if my face had frozen, it was hard to talk.
The race director shouted for our attention. Shouting as loudly as she could over the wind, she meeted and greeted and welcomed all of us. Apart from the volunteers, there were only two locals, and the rest of us were from various parts of the country. As none of us were first timers, she was able to go very quickly through the run. The tide was high... we would need to run above the sea weed line on the sand... there was a pebbly and stony bit near the turnaround point, we were to watch out for holes, stones and seaweed as the tide was still coming in. My heart sank… the wind was in our faces, the sea, getting ever closer, creeping, with stealthy unassuming white tipped finger-waves over an ever decreasing strip of sand. And we were off.
I moved… and the rest of the folk were gone, racing ahead as if they were on a running track…not so me. As they thinned out a little, I was left in their wake, and I was struggling from the start. The sand, thick, deep and grainy was like nothing I had run on before. There was no purchase for my feet, and lifting my legs was hard. I made the first half K, realising that even in that state I was moving too quickly... I was out of breath already, the wind making it impossible to breathe deeply, and I did not like it. Suddenly a voice by my side... the tail runner. “Are you alright… is this your first run here? “
I pulled back, and steadied into a shuffling stumble… as his calm voice reassured and relaxed me. He explained how difficult it was to run this beach in conditions like today how to just pace it until you got used to the soft sand... to forget the other runners, now specks of colour on a sand swept seascape, and simply to try to enjoy the new experience. I tried… I really tried, but my legs had no idea what they were doing. We moved on at the slowest pace imaginable, I could not catch my breath, there was no rhythm or pace and my legs felt like lead. Mt feet were blocks of ice and I could not feel my toes. The sea coming ever closer, and the wind snatching the words from our lips as we made our way towards the half way turning cone.
Runners on the way back.., below me on the sea side... the first one loping along with the relaxed easy pace, which the young just have! He seemed to float. I felt cumbersome, and ungainly, drowning on dry land. Sheer determination kept me moving, that and the closeness of the man at my side... with the odd encouraging word, positive and reassuring. We made the turn, I had a stone in my shoe... stopping to take it out, was a blessing and I was able to catch my breath in time to hear him say... the tide has turned... the wind will be behind us… you’re going to be fine.
As we ran, I could see Plas Heli in the distance, sliver sides gleaming like the walls of Camelot; it seemed a million miles away, but we ran…my Garmin had paused and not restarted, I think we had moved that slowly…but, the tide had turned. and there were some stretches of slightly firmer sand, wet, but firmer and I sought them out as eagerly as a drowning soul reaches for a lifebelt…finally, finally, my legs took over… a pace of sorts and the slow count in my head… the sun warm on my back and the wind pushing us gently along…My companion maintained his support… telling me I had found my pace, that I was moving much faster and as we made that blessed last half K..I was, sand notwithstanding, able to push for a little spurt… the finish line and smiles and applause. Never has anything been more welcome.
Photos taken... helping to take in the flags etc,, it was the least I could do for all those who had stood in that icy blast waiting for the slowest sea snail ever; into the lovely upstairs café for coffee and chats… The coffee was wonderful and the views amazing.
Chatter and friendship warmth and camaraderie… what a run…!
The legs took me home... I showered, stretched and rolled…. Last night I slept like a log and took a gentle recovery run...yes I do mean that...this morning. And completed 6 K faster than I managed the 5 yesterday! No effort!!!!
A great and humbling experience... and all credit to those runners who simply raced along and mostly the folk who marshalled… just terrific.
My Tail runner… well without him... I might still be running… or swimming
If you are in that area holidaying...then do this run...I shall do it again… and I will get better at it… and I will look forward to doing it at low tide too!!!
Turns out... I ran with a celebrity... a member of the British Masters Athletics Federation... who was newly returned from Events in Poland... and a Silver Medal winner!
PR for paddling
PR for finding a really lovely shell
and Katnap I now know what you meant by sand blasting... !!