Report by Sumanth Nayak
The Coastal Run is one race I really wanted to do last year when I heard it was voted one of the most scenic races in the region. Unfortunately, I was too late in entering as it sold out very quickly. This year, I took no chances and got up at midnight (4am in Dubai where I was at the time!) to book my place when entries opened.
On a warm, windy and slightly overcast morning, I, along with a few other Claremonters and runners from other clubs, took a bus Paul Schaeffer hired to Beadnell where the race starts. The route takes us along the beachfront and coastal paths through Craster all the way to Alnmouth beach. At the registration tent, where we collected our race numbers and timing chips, we were told by a marshal that a mile into the course, there was a stream that was waist deep and we could deviate about 200 metres to take a bridge instead. I had heard that there were some rough stretches but I wasn’t expecting to wade through a river!
After a long wait, we finally made our way to the start line on the beach and set off into an extremely strong headwind. The tide was out and the sand was quite firm but very lumpy. About a mile in, I saw the “waist deep” stream which actually turned out to be a shin deep fast moving outflow of water. I didn’t realize how strong it was and attempted to just run through it but it knocked me off my feet and I went face first into the water jarring my knee quite badly in the process. A bit embarrassed, I quickly picked myself up and carried on, not feeling the pain with all the adrenaline pumping.
The first few miles were hard going, especially the bits on soft sand, but after an agonizingly slow climb up some rocks we left the beach behind and made our way past Dunstanburgh Castle and onto some very undulating trails and tarmac paths. There was some very good support from the locals as we made our way through the towns and I felt buoyed by all the encouragement. At the halfway mark in Craster, I was really starting to feel the pain in my knee and my pace was dropping significantly. Paul Hughes passed me soon after and I struggled to keep up with him. Having to stop because of the queues at the various kissing gates didn’t help as it killed my momentum. I saw Paul Schaeffer waiting with his camera at one of the gates and managed a fake smile.
After ten miles, the pain was unbearable and the wind was getting even stronger. I was getting passed by quite a few people but all I cared about was just finishing in one piece. At one point on the rocky trails, there was a huge puddle ankle deep and after my shoes got soaked, it felt like I had weights attached to my feet. With two miles to go, we hit the beach at Alnmouth and a marshal shouted, “It’s all easy running from here”, but it was anything but! It felt like the longest two miles ever as the there was no shelter from the ferocious headwind. I could see the finish and the huge crowd gathered there but it just wasn’t getting any closer. There was a banner to my right which I assumed was the finish line but as I got nearer, I realized it was a running club’s flag and I still had about a half mile to go! Brendan McMillan casually jogged past me in the opposite direction giving me some encouragement, and running in what felt like slow motion, I caught up with Paul Hughes and finished just seconds behind him in 1:45.
After collecting my shirt, a Tour de France inspired bright yellow long sleeve top, I headed back to the bus, had a sandwich and then hobbled to the closest pub in town for drinks with a few Claremonters. The race had some stunning scenery but running twelve of the thirteen miles with a bum knee into a howling gale, I couldn’t enjoy it at all. Hopefully next year we get the wind at our backs! I look forward to seeing all the bananas running around toon.