It can be done!
But in an age of wanting instant success, instant service, instant fame, instagram!!! Some things still require a lot of training, preparation, commitment and pain to achieve the end goal. These things will only ever be achieved if you really want them for the right reason and then you still not guaranteed. An Ultra Marathon is perhaps the ultimate test of this.
1) Richard Simpson – 64hrs 32mins
DNF – Helen Platel – 80 Miles Day Two – withdrew due to Injury
DNF – Rob Brown – 50 Miles day one failed the cut off. Continued with a view of completing 3 x 50 milers – withdrew day 3 on 107 miles due to injury
What Makes it What it Is
Now the “Marathon des Cotes” is a 3 day stage Ultra race consisting of the entire 186 miles of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which also boasts an overall elevation of over 30,000ft.
The inception of this event lead to a lot of queries, chat and discussion and brought out 3 types of character in people
1) The negative – It Can’t be done! The end!
2) The fantasist – I’m a good walker I could walk that just slow and steady – “I walked 10 miles the other day in 3hrs and I felt fine”
3) The believer / Dreamer / The positive person. Yes it can be done but it would be a massive ask and take a special kind of person.
Now the above is not a criticism of anyone because in the build up and during it I have been all 3!
At the start I foolishly thought it could be walked within the cut offs, it can’t – You will have to run sections as the distance, terrain and timescales are just too hard (unless anyone proves me different)
Then I became, a believer that the right person or persons can do it. Yes it would be a massive task (Massive understatement) but it could be done. This is the view I held for the longest but!!!!
Then at about 8pm on day one As I looked out across Caerfai Bay having just seen Helen Platel arrive back carrying an ankle injury and whilst waiting for the others I was thinking of what they had just done & what they still had to do. And seeing what the toll of an extremely tough day had Taken-on the runners I had a moment of “This is too hard it can’t be done”
This thought stayed with me until 14.12hrs on day 2, Which is when Richard reached CP 2 at Dale with the knowledge that he had beaten the potential 6mile forced tidal diversion at Sandy Haven. This seemed to lift the pressure off him and there was a glow and at that point I was as confident as you could be that he was doing to do this. Mind you he still had 75 miles to go so it wasn’t a forgone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination.
Now we had 14 people sign up for this event and only 3 make the starting line and who are these three and what was in store for them. Well Thursday night we all meet in St Davids, to brief the event, check kit and issue out trackers. All for a 0315hrs meet the next morning in St Davids to head North to St Dogmaels (I was genuinely asked by someone why don’t you just start in St Davids!!) for a 0400hr start.
The Three Amigos and what we now about them.
1) Rob Brown, just turned 40 from Cranleigh In Surrey but now living in Brighton. A father of 3 very small children with a very nice and partner. Rob is fairly new to the endurance running world but has some massive goals ahead of him for the coming year, which will be topped off by the Marathon des Sables. Now what motivates Rob is that during his early teens he was diagnosed with type one diabetes and now works hard to promote awareness and to fundraise for the cause. Now as if taking on the challenge of the MdC isn’t hard enough to do it when you have to monitor your blood levels every 20 mins and take the appropriate action is something else. Rob had the hardest of starts. The beginning sees you climb the highest point of the 186 miles in the first 2 miles. And the next 15 miles aren’t much easier. Rob had issues with his blood levels straight away and it took a while to settle. This with the realisation of how hard the path was in the North made for a difficult day. As Rob approached the 50 mile mark at Abereiddy it was obvious that he would not make the cut off. Ryan Naish had a good conversation with him, about the need to reassess. Lets turn this into a 50 mile a day stage event and that would be 150 miles, still a big ask. So this was agreed. Rob was obviously gutted to start with but soon picked himself up.
Day Two saw Rob joined by half of Surrey he had a support crew like a formula one team and they all appeared to enjoy themselves either driving around Pembrokeshire and taking turns in supporting him on the course. With the second lot of 50 miles complete I picked him up and as we drove back through a packed Pembroke with the crowds leaving the UB40 concert Rob had a funny turn in the landrover and started screaming and shouting (Cramp in the Hamstring) So I pulled over on the side of the road, whilst he was fumbling to undo his seat belt shouting all sorts!!! Now once out of the vehicle he stood on the pavement with his hands on his head. Whilst I went to his rescue. As a bent over in front of him to pull his foot up and rub his hamstring. he was shouting “Ah F£$k AHHH OOOOH AAHH YES THATS BETTER” Whilst I was bent over saying “Jesus Christ that is hard” Now I’m not sure what anyone on the other side of the street would have thought as they would have only seen Rob’s top half and my head behind the landy! Followed by us both saying I think we better go! You could see at our arrival back at Baseamp two that Rob was knackered. He struggled to eat or drink anything and went to sleep about midnight and was up again at 0330hrs!
The following Morning Rob did another hard Section. Angle to Freshwest and on the steep ups and downs this area has to offer his knee started to ache bringing on a limp. This combined with his fatigue was just too much so at 7am on day 3 he called It! With a 107miles complete not really a failure!!!! but not what he had set out to do.
As Rob goes on to prepare for MdS his experiences on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path will be the biggest and best learning curve he could have. We were gutted for him but he gave it all he had. And as he waved us goodbye said “I intend to comeback!!” “Those two days were amongst the best experiences I’ve had”
Helen Platel – Early 40’s from Solva
Now we have know Helen for years and she has done pretty much all our events. As an endurance athlete she is top draw. Although Helen is a veteran on the Pembokeshire Coast Path 100 miler (Joint first lady) I was surprised she was going to take on the MdC as this year also sees her go to Kona as a Qualifier for the Ironman World Championships.
Knowing Helen I was super confident that she would complete this and do it in a very good time. Helen started the event very confident and ran the first day with what appeared to be ease. we had a couple of conversations along the way about slowing down as she was moving too fast. But some people are just naturally quick like that and Helen is one. When Helen came into the Bunk Barns at Caerfai she said straight away I think I’ve got a problem with my ankle / foot she had gone over on it. Our Masseuse for the night Marie Springer worked on it and Ice pack was placed on it but with only a couple of hours rest and 120 ahead of her from that point it was always going to be hard. At the start of day two Helen was up at 0315 (What a miserable morning) and ready to go. As she reached the check Point in Newgale 10 miles in, she was struggling to run or even walk without limping. Although she had still ran this section in great time the pain was taking it’s toll. She had a chat with Ryan and the reality was laid out can you carry this injury for another 110!!!!! Miles on this terrain. Helen has got a big year ahead of her and although it’s gutting for someone so focussed and competitive to withdraw there literally was no other option.
Ryan, Myself, Rich and Rob were gutted for her having to finish and for the fact that Helen is always a positive and lively character to be around and was missed from the camp. 80 odd miles completed in which she pretty much lead the way.
Rich Simpson age unknown but he is officially a pensioner after picking up is Army pension after 23 years service. Originally from Cambridgeshire he settled in H/west many years ago after being posted to Brawdy with the 14th Signal Regiment.
Now out of the 14 that signed up when I saw Richards name I instantly thought he will do it. I’ll admit I didn’t think he’d be the only one or even first but from previous conversations and events I knew he had what it takes.
As Myself and Ryan sat in Freshwater East waiting for Richard to come in we were saying he’s smashed this he’s done it. Then you realise that he still had a Marathon to complete a coastal one at that. And then we started to think injury, fatigue or mentally he could fail. We ruled out the last two quite quickly and that is because and what made Rich succeed was his prep, game plan, management what ever you want to call it. We had a good discussion about his planning, which went like this
He turned up fully prepared with set bags for each day, different trainers, clothing, nutrition, all extremely well planned out. There was never a moment wasted or lost looking for something or realising you didn’t have something.
Nutrition he ate substantially at every station, and at the end of the days he knew he needed that energy.
Knowing the way. He did not go off the course once or have any turn round’s, he did not waste energy and time he had done his home homework.
He had experience of stage races, he had experience of some pretty hard core mountaineering and hiking around the world and knew bad moments will come and they will go, but you have to get past them.
Kit he had quality in terms of the right kit. He wasn’t flash but when the weather closed in the water proofs he had were quality and what he needed to stay comfortable.
He had a plan. Such as he knew when he left St Davids at 0400hrs on day two that he had to leave check point 2 in Dale at no later than 1430hrs to make the tide in Sandy Haven. And he pushed it to achieve this and eased off after.
Interestingly he ran without a garmin or any such gps thing did it on time from an old fashion watch.
Although he did smile like a child at Christmas when I said to him at Dale, I’ll meet you in Neyland with some sausage and chips from the chippy – if only everyone was that easy to please.
And these are Richards own words and thoughts
Thank you all so much for your support. When I met up with the muuk-adventures.com support team it was very humbling to hear your comments, it served as a real motivation tool for me to not give up. It has been the most brutal event that I have ever taken part in. When you divide the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path into 3 sections, knowing that you are going to run/walk it, it looks sickening! The reality is though that every corner turned there are stunning views, day two and three were very hard and painful but like when your car makes rattily noises you turn the radio up to ignore it, I would use the spectacular scenery to drown out the aches and pains.
Armed with the knowledge that my every move was being watched was incentive to keep going. I apologise for the last few miles but the hills and woods were utterly hideous, steep and muddy and I just could not get into any rhythm and it would be fair to say I was quite fatigued by then. Sleep running is not a good thing on coastal paths!
A massive thank you to Man-upuk team for supporting me on the way round, I was burning around 7 to 8 thousand calories a day, Ryan tried his best to replace those calories with chicken fajitas, rolls and cake along with his great coffee making skills! Finton, thank you for believing it could be done and inspiring me and others to overcome our limits.
The Achievement could You
Yes we believe this is the quickest time it has been done in and fair play Richard has got that honour. Once you set a bench mark people will try and beat it and good luck to anyone who attempts it. Again there has been conversations about how hard is it and what is the hardest race in the world. Its difficult and dangerous to make claim that you are the hardest because someone will always try and out do that. The Marathon des Cote is an extremely difficult thing to complete, you have to be so much more than just fit. You have to be what Richard was. But apart from being difficult it is an amazing experience it is in a world class location, which has so much variety and character along the way it really is a journey and experience that you will never forget. We also offer the relay version a great way for a group of 3 to work in tandem to support each other around the course.
If you are thinking of it, it would be recommended to get some stage racing in you and events like Ras Dewi Sant are a must.
A massive thanks to Ryan Naish of Primal Pathway for the Logistical support. He can’t make porridge as good as me but everything else was top drawer. I know the runners really appreciated the food, care, campsite and support great effort.
Also appreciated Marie Springer of SW Sports massage. To come out in what was almost the middle of the night to rub done the 3 and for arranging Sara Williams to come to a field in Hundleton and do the same under head torch – She said it was a first!
And Accommodation providers Celtic Camping, for pre-event accommodation. And St Davids Bunk Barns (great spot and facilities ideal for coast path adventures) for being the site of Base Camp 1 and not forgetting Jeff Tierney for use of his land down South for Base Camp 2 .
If you you’re thinking about really challenging yourself have a look Marathon des Cote