Saturday, 13 February 2016

Following the Arc

Last weekend I was helping out with the Arc of Attrition. Photographing the runners but also helping out with a bit of marshalling at various points along the route. Earlier in the year I had hoped to be able to enter this race, having filmed it last year but it wasn't to be; injury and family commitments meant I would be on the sidelines again this year.

Once again though it felt like this amazing community of runners down here in Cornwall came out in force to support, crew, marshal and do whatever they could to get involved in this iconic challenge.

Make no mistake, 100 miles of coast path is a big ask at any time of the year. But in winter its a serious undertaking. Last year, with a 6 pm start, most competitors endured two nights of running. The weather was cold and calm but reached minus eight celsius at times through the night. That said over 50% of the entrants finished and, sitting with Ferg in the sun at registration, I knew this wasn't quite the race he'd had in mind.

This year the start would be at 12pm. By the time everyone was receiving their briefing the news was out. Cornwall was bracing itself for some heavy weather. Gale force winds and torrential rain were on the cards and as many ass four weather fronts were set to converge on our little county during the 36 hours of the race.

Indeed the weather gods did not dissapoint; after a fairly calm start the wind whipped up and during the night the rain came. And boy did it come. With flash floods and impassable roads in places inland the coast path was a treacherous place to be.

Having taken photos early on to make sure I got everyone while they were nicely bunched up, I moved around the coast stopping at a few locations before finally seeing the field through Poldhu and Gunwalloe, about nineteen miles in. I had to head home for a bit to run my girls to guides and had a bite to eat with Hannah before returning around 11 and getting myself over to Cape Cornwall

I had a peaceful start to marshalling duties here; James Turner arrived and got a brew on and the winds had not reached full strength. Soon the lead pack of four - Duncan Oakes, Steve Wyatt, Pat Robbins and Jason Lewis - came through, running strong. Shortly after I was relieved by Juston Lowell and Paull Golley and settled down for a kip.

As the night wore in the winds reached ferrocious levels and runners were converging from various directions. It was time for me to move on and I set off to Levant to film a little and guide the runners as they appeared.

At some point I was asked by a runner how far to St Ives; caught off guard I guessed wildly that it was about 8 miles and was mortified later on checking my paperwork that in fact it was more like 14. I had to drive around to Pendeen to catch him and set the record straight. Sorry!

Pendeen was witness to some of the most horrific weather I've ever been out in; the wind was so strong you could barely stand up and the rain stung like needles whenever you turned to face the onslaught. Soon though I headed back to my original location to film a little more and see the last runners through - by now the numbers were dwindling as one by one they dropped out along the way. On my way through Pendeen I noticed the chippy was open and serving bacon butties. I got my self one and sat down to tuck in when a pair of runers came by, obviously suffering from the cold. One in particular was considering dropping as he could not get warm. I suggested he continue to Pendeen and decide there whether to continue and phoned ahead to let them know he was on his way. Feeling guilty after letting on I was feasting on bacon I nipped back around on a buttie run before heading all the way back to Porthtowan to film the leaders finish.

All this would not be possible without the live tracking, this had helped us all keep a really good eye on where everyone was.

After this I headed west again and stopped at the St Ives checkpoint for a bit, long enough in fact to be bought a beer - why not - thanks Paul!

Then finally I took up position on North Cliffs and filmed some more before heading home to rest and monitor facebook for news of the the final few to finish.

All in all and epic day out. I was blown away by the positivity of everyone involved, runners and crew alike, and despite the terrible weather I think everyone had a good time. I didn't hear anyone complain about their lot, they just got on with business.

Maybe next year I'll give it a go, though there were times over the weekend where I questioned the sanity of that sentiment.

Anyway photos are available here and there's a little film of the whole thing too: