Cockington Christmas Caper

Well, well, well, a running race review. There hasn’t been one of them since we ran the gorgeous Big Pilgrimage Marathon back in August. Normally these blogs are reserved for those big away day adventures or marathons, but we had such a good time at The Cockington Christmas Caper that I thought I should share the story.

The event starts and finishes probably less than two miles from our house, the route takes in a selection of trails, most of which I run a couple of times a week, and the distance is 7.5ish miles. Yet I have the urge to tell you ALLLL about it.
The day started with a leisurely breakfast as the event didn’t get under way until 10.30. We didn’t even need to warm the car up as our good friend, and regular star of running stories on this blog, Martin (a.k.a. The Silver Fox), was kind enough to pick us up on the way.


Parking in the beautiful village of Cockington, we made our way, wrapped in hoodies and coats – it was feckin’ freezing – to race HQ outside the cricket pavilion at what must be the quaintest cricket club in the land. Numbers pinned, we kept our hoodies on until very nearly kick-off time before handing them to the friendly young chaps manning the baggage tent.
A word here for the event organisers, volunteers, marshals, registration staff and everybody else involved in the event – they were quite frankly awesome.

The Cockington Christmas Caper is in its (I believe) 17th year (having missed 2020 because of you-know-what) and is a truly local event. Organised by The Barnabas Sport Trust and helping to fund their great work with those less able to access education, training or sporting activities, they manage to keep the price at £14. A rather pleasant surprise to receive a tote bag, mug and medal at the finish considering the entry fee.

The 220 (sold out every year) runners set off for a brief 200 meter of downhill charge on slippery grass before starting the first of umpteen climbs. This pretty much set the tone for the run, if you like running on flat, predictable surfaces, this definitely isn’t for you. Martin set off chasing the youngsters while me and Nicky settled nicely into the pack.

The grounds in front of Cockington Court are beautiful and seeing a line of colourful running tops snaking through them as the freezing rain gave way to winter sunshine gave an added brightness to the scene.
I ran most of these trails the day before The Caper and there wasn’t a hint of where the course might go – all of the signs and tape must have been put in place early on race day. I’m quite confident (and I do have history with this) that it would be a near impossibility to miss a turn, or veer off the route, the markings were so comprehensive.

Add to that the marshals, at every pinch point and major turn a high-viz hero was there to cheerfully point us in the right direction.
What is there to say about the course? Probably 70% is on gnarly or muddy trails and fields and the rest on more made up trails like compacted gravel and about 100m on tarmac! I bloomin’ loved every step. There are so many ups and downs, totalling about 1600 feet of elevation. Some of the muddy downhill sections were bordering on ski slopes by the time half the pack had charged down them.
Martin is as generous a friend as you could ever wish for, both with his time, energy and support and he is always happy to get the coffees in. He is also known for being as tight as a you-know-what’s-wotsit when he thinks he’s being done over by marketeers…….
“How was the mud in those old road shoes Martin?”
“Terrible, I was sliding everywhere…….”
I’m saying nothing!

The finish is naughty, back up the same 200m hill we started on and with everybody watching and cheering, we felt the need to offer something in the way of a ‘sprint’ finish.

Fabulous run in a glorious location and I can’t believe that, despite it being so close to home, I’ve never run it before!

Nicky and I do get so, so much joy from trail running together and today was bliss, we ran well, the woods and countryside looked just splendid with leaves of all colours carpeting the floor and I feel like weve added to the bank of precious memories of our adventures together. And we were home for lunch!

It’s ok, I’ll run

I’m self employed. Saying that, I’ve mostly worked for the same small firm for the last two years. I did go out on loan for a while (see THIS BLOG), but even that was for a friend of my current boss. Though I’m self employed, said boss still texted me to check I was OK with travelling to and from the customers’ house on both SNOWMAGGEDON days this week.

 

2018-03-01 13.16.52
It’s ok, I RAN home

“It’s OK,” I cheerfully responded, “I’ll run home”. Secretly hoping for a white deluge, I stuffed a load of running gear in a rucksack and drove the 6 miles to work. Rather disappointingly, on Wednesday, the threatened snow barely materialised and the trusty Micra scuttled me safely home.

 

And then scuttled me back to work Thursday morning. The difference being, the snow actually came on Thursday. And didn’t it.

Another text from my boss, basically saying have a half day, “It’s OK, I’ll run home.” I reassured. Then the call from Nicky came. She was more insistent now that the weather had deteriorated sufficiently for her office to close early. For those who are new to the blog… WELCOME!!…. Nicky is my wife, my inspiration, my heartthrob, my passion, my reason, my life. Feel free to read back through the blog for more, suitably gushy, posts about how I treasure every moment of our lives together and the incredible adventures she dreams up for us.

Anyway.

2018-03-01 12.44.37I am learning to understand when “I think you should leave now” means “You ARE leaving now.” Not to worry about the chances of the Micra getting home in one piece, I reported…. “I’ll run home!”.

So, as Nicky left her office a couple of miles from home, I washed up my decorating gear (by the way, once this project is finished I’ll be striking out on my own, so if you’re local and have property repairs or renovations needed…. get in touch) and donned several layers of running attire.

“When you said ‘it’s ok, I’ll run home’, we thought you were joking!” exclaimed the customer as a thick veil of snow started to hide the rather tatty Micra from the beaky eyes of their neighbours.

An hour and a half later, I met Nicky sat in stranded traffic at the bottom of our road! Torbay ground to a halt as the heaviest snow I can remember combined with a ferocious easterly storm to close roads and challenge the authorities and emergency services.

2018-03-01 13.21.12For me, though, what a treat, running 6 miles on crisp fresh snow on the country lanes. T’was quite beautiful.

I’m always jealous of those people with their ideal jobs, showers at work, gym on site. So many magazine articles suggest ‘squeezing a run in at lunch time’ for those of us with time-poor lives. Not much use for us hairy-arsed builders. Unless we want to stink all afternoon. The same goes for running to work – I’d have to carry so much (I have an ENORMOUS lunch box – come on now, no sniggering at the back!) and would be rather sweaty and smelly.

That leaves running home as the only possibility. The challenge here being, again, carrying my work clothes and paraphernalia and, of course, then not having my car to get to work in the morning. For a long time I cycled to work trying desperately not to be a sweaty mess on arrival and weighed down by so much STUFF.

So, with work related runs not really an option for me, yesterday was a real treat. Emerging from the silent, bright white lanes into the ring road on the outskirts of Paignton, I saw the full extent of the travel chaos. I helped a couple of motorists battling the challenging conditions up the first hill before zigzagging my way home via more unused tracks and lanes.

Since the advent of cameras on mobile phones and the instant world of information we now live in, we are all ‘on the spot’ journalists to our little world.

Nicky, Charlie (the intrepid Border Terrier) and I ventured out into the snow last night for a great fun walk, and to record Paignton in the snow – not something we see very often. We avoided the beach area, Storm Emma was throwing crazy waves up and over the prom.

We should all consider those less able to cope than us, the frail, the elderly and keep an eye out for our neighbours. I have to say, it’s been heart warming to see the army of 4X4 vehicle owners and those with spare rooms near hospitals, some pubs, shops and cafes, all start to offer their generous and selfless support once the extent of the extreme weather became apparent. Getting people safe and warm and where they need to be was the mission and so many joined the cause.

In a world where nobody has any time for anyone, there has been a real sense of community around here, and I for one think that is a fine thing.

Saying that, Nicky and I are grandparents ourselves, but nobody had traipsed across the snow currently covering our garden to ask us if we need any bread or milk….

So, this morning a lovely run of nearly 7 miles with Nicky and Charlie (see HERE) was slightly hampered by a lot of the snow being too deep for Charlie’s little pins! He’s collapsed on the sofa now and avoiding eye contact! But how beautifully the forces of nature had prepared the countryside for us today us today.

So another week of limited running has bizarrely been rescued by the very weather which has hindered people getting out at all.

Nicky’s troublesome calf seems to be giving cause for very tentative optimism and our entries into the 2 Oceans Marathon have finally been confirmed. Little by little……..

Hoping for two long outings over the weekend, watch this space……