South West Coast Path Running Record! And I had the privilege to witness it.
by IronjediMay 20th 2015
On Tuesday 7th April 2015 a friend of mine, Patrick Devine-Wright aka @Barefoot_pdq, set out to run 630 miles in 12 days in the hope of breaking the current record for running The South West Coast Path which stands at 14 days 14 hours. Running from Minehead to Poole with over 4 times the ascent of Everest, Patrick would have to run the best part of two marathons a day. Rather him than me! He was doing it to raise money for charity. His three chosen charities are The Devon Air Ambulance, The South West Coast Path Association and The Wave Project.
Below are the links to his charity pages and his blog. If you can please spare a pound or two for these great causes he would very much appreciate it. :)
I headed to Minehead to see Patrick off. He left just after 8 in the morning and I did not think I would see him again until the end. He had asked me if I could support him at some point along the way, however I thought that there would be no chance of that due to work commitments and the fact that I was running The Oner in the middle of his record attempt (and didn't think I would be up to running much after that!).
Patrick had a very hard start to his record attempt and developed some serious blisters along the way. For the first week I followed his progress via his blog and the occasional text. He seemed to be doing ok but as each day passed his record attempt seemed to be stretching out in days. However, he had some people running with him during the second week to help push him on and the record was still within reach.
After my race I stupidly agreed to run with him on day 11. Plymouth to Dartmouth. The only reason I said yes to this only 5 days after my own coastal race (82 miles - Brutal Events The Oner) was because I thought Patrick would be a broken man by day 11. I thought he would be walking and shuffling along and even in my own sore state I would be able to keep up with him. I thought it would be an easy day's running, oh how wrong one man could be.
I run occasionally with Patrick, mainly on the days when he needs a slow recovery run. This may be sedate for him but his slow recovery runs are my full pace runs where I really challenge myself. Normally I run behind him puffing and panting whilst he doesn't even break a sweat.
If you look closely at the picture above (left) just about in the middle you will see Patrick (blue mountain goat).
So day 11 for Patrick was Friday 18th April. "Rambo" from Axe Valley Runners (if you have ever run The Grizzly you will have seen Rambo, every year no matter what the weather is, he runs bare chested with his number and name written on his chest) was doing the support driving for the day. I had to get to Dartmouth, pick up the keys for the cabin Patrick was due to stay in that night and then somehow get to and find Patrick somewhere on the Coast Path. I called Wendy's uncle, Mike, who lives near Challaborough. Thankfully for me he was free and willing to pick me up. What a hero! I was up against time and had no idea where I was going to meet Patrick. Mike suggested Challaborough and I went with the plan. He drove like an absolute maniac but got me there in good time. I hopped out of the car and started to run back towards Plymouth. After a couple of miles I stood at the top of one of the many hills we would encounter during the day. I saw what I can only describe as a "blue mountain goat" skipping down the hill towards me.
My stomach dropped and I knew I was in for a hard day at the office.
So we set off together at a reasonable pace, quickly passing back through Challaborough and whizzing past the stunning Burgh Island. We made a brief pitstop to meet "Rambo". His car was overloaded with two weeks worth of food which had been kindly donated by Ganasha in Honiton. We then headed off to make the river crossing at Bantham. The ferry had not yet started to operate as it was too early in the season so we had two choices. Plan A - wade across or Plan B - take a massive detour. Wade it was then! I had never waded across a river before, the river was flowing quite quickly and it seemed like a fairly long way to the other side. We walked up river on the sand banks, sinking in over our shoes. We tried to hail a kayak but that failed. We were then directed up river where it would be knee deep apparently.
Well that was duff information. I went first followed by Patrick, with each step we got deeper and deeper, half way across and it was up to my chest. The water was freezing, however I could hardly feel it for fear of being dragged away by the strong current! At the point when we almost turned around to revert to plan B, the water began to get shallower and with much relief we made it across. This was the highlight of the day by far!
Pretty wet and with sand in our shoes we began running. The terrain was pretty rugged but absolutely stunning. We would run for 6 or 7 miles and then meet Rambo along the way to fuel up. Patrick was so rude and demanding. It's funny really, when one does endurance events the "all faithful support crews" have an understanding acceptance of the person's rudeness. They will do anything for you to help you achieve your goal. They are amazing and self sacrificing really. I know I could not have got through the events I have done myself without the support of others.
Our next big goal was the Ferry at Salcombe. Thankfully this time we would get a river taxi across. Prior to getting to Salcombe the weather had deteriated somewhat and the wind and rain were pretty hideous. It felt as though you could get blown off the side of the cliff if there was a sudden strong gust. We made our way around the Bat's Head which is an outcrop of stunning rugged rocks. Having made it to Salcombe we sped across the river on a small river taxi. It was a great opportunity to stop and enjoy the whole experience which I had been fortunate to be part of.
From Salcombe Patrick was still running strong. The man is a machine. When we made it to Star Point we found a finger sign with some distances on. Wow! Wow! Wow! Patrick had already come 462 miles and only had 168 miles to go. The record was now within touching distance. Seeing the sign really lifted Patrick and pushed us on to finish the day.
From Star Point we headed back north and it really felt like we were on the home straight to Dartmouth and our destination for the day. The terrain had eased a little and the running became slightly easier (not really as we were pretty knackered by now). We passed through Slapton Sands which was a flat drag which seemed to go on for ages. We were clearly getting tired. The next section of the Coastal Path goes inland away from the coast around Strete and Blackpool Sands.
By the time we reached Blackpool Sands it was dark and we needed our head torches. We put our requests in for food to be waiting at the end in Dartmouth. Fish and chips! Patrick of course wanting two pieces of fish. Who could blame him? We had a slight dilemma about whether I should leave Patrick to finish the day off in the dark as I had personal commitments. Patrick grumpily told me to go as 'he didn't need me to babysit him, he had got this far on his own and didn't need me to stay'. I chose to stay as we only had around 6 miles left to go and I had come this far, it seemed a shame not to finish the day with him.
The next six miles seemed to last for hours. We were running in the pitch black. As we ran along, on looking back we could see the lighthouse at Star Point over 12 miles away. It seemed so far away. After a couple of miles Patrick admitted that he was glad I was there as he would not have wanted to run this section in the dark on his own. 'I told you so'. As we reached Dartmouth Castle we were met by Ita, her husband and children who had come down to cheer Patrick on. We were much later than originally expected and they had waited hours for us to arrive, armed with a cup of tea for each of us which they had managed to source at the local chinese restaurant, and we drank it out of sauce dishes. Lovely people and a great boost for the final mile into Dartmouth.
We arrived into the heart of Dartmouth at 10.30pm. This had been the longest day so far for Patrick and it felt pretty long for me too. I had run 42 miles, Patrick around 52 miles that day. He had been going since 8.30 in the morning. What an amazing day, an absolute privilege to share it with him. Thank you Patrick.
So with the running concluded, we had the disappointment of no fish and chips to contend with. A quick curry instead, the unloading of Rambo's car and then a drive back home. I got home around 1.30am on Saturday and was pretty tired!
I didn't know how Patrick was going to get up at 6.30am the next day and do it all again but he did! Now that takes great mental strength.
So with all the excitement that was brewing over the weekend it looked like Patrick was going to break the record. On April 21st 2015 Patrick had to run the last 32 miles and make it to Studland before the day was done. We were going to run with him in force today. I met two experienced ultra runners from Axe Valley Runners, Phil and Gary. The three of us were going to get him home! Not that he needed our help. Gary and I met Patrick and Phil at Kimmeridge Bay and we all set off together. I couldn't believe the man was still running and looking quite strong too. He was pretty quiet to begin with and seemed reasonably grumpy, I guess he was tired. Totally understandable. The end was so close now and with every step taken we were that much closer. As the day unfolded Patrick's spirit really lifted and he, Phil and Gary were great company.
The four of us had an amazing day. The weather was absolutely perfect. It was so clear as we reached Swanage that we could see the white cliffs of the Isle of Wight. We couldn't have asked for a better day. The coast path from Kimmeridge was undulating and included the "stairway of death" at St Alden's Head. Patrick was running at every opportunity. You could see it in his face that he had the bit between his teeth and wanted this to finish.
As we hit the beach at Studland, the last three miles were before us. With every step Patrick got quicker and quicker until we could keep up with him no more. He ran off ahead, embraced his wife Hannah who had done an amazing job in supporting him over the last two weeks, either at home dealing with logistics or driving the support vehicle. Patrick was then off, finishing this amazing journey in 14 days, 8 hours and 2 minutes.
South West Coast Path.........done! What an absolute privilege to be witness to such an amazing feat of endurance!
Patrick is doing a slide show and presentation at Kentisbeare Village Hall at 7:30pm on 25th June if you would like to join him. Donations to the three charities on the door.