Dueling with the Red Dragon - Page 4
Day Two—26.7 miles
The wind has eased, the sky has cleared and it is warmer than yesterday—in fact, this November is one of the warmest on record in the U.K. The course rounds Saint David’s Peninsula onto the coast’s most scenic stretch. The greens and blues of land and sea are a sharp change from yesterday’s uniform grey.
“Usually we’d be standing here and the rain would be blowing horizontal,” marvels assistant race director Andy Blow at checkpoint one, high above Caerfai Bay, a rocky cleft in the shore of the peninsula with sweeping views southward across Saint Brides Bay and the Bristol Channel.
The path is drier and wider on this section of the course, and the packed grass is softer underfoot. The Canadians are relaxed, less worried about time and more willing to mix walking and running since they’ve started with the “joggers.” They enjoy the camaraderie on the trails and the friendliness of the few spectators who are drawn out to the beaches and paths by the unusually fine weather.
“There was less pressure today, even though we expected day two to be harder,” says Lishe. “It was easier mentally and physically.”
The Canadians make an impression on the race volunteers. Says one, “They are such a happy group, so full of energy. You can’t miss them!”
After Saint Justinian,―another rocky, precipitous bay with a lifeboat station and stunning views of offshore islands, including a pair of rocks known as The Bitches,―stages three and four introduce the runners to the mental challenge of staying strong and pressing on when the curve of the coast and clear visibility give them a dauntingly sharp view of the many miles they have yet to cover. This is the tortured Pembrokeshire Coast at its best (or worst). The path traces the cliff edge around, up and over an endless series of bays, cuts, cliffs and headlands―all with stunning views of the coastline and the sea in both directions, not to mention fellow runners far ahead.
“A good walk spoiled,” mutters a runner with arch British sarcasm as he crests the long hill near Penberry and starts his descent into yet another bay.
Pat pushes on alone to finish at Porthgain in just 7 hours, nearly an hour ahead of the group. Betty runs 7 hours 45 minutes and the rest 7 hours 55 minutes. They’re giddy with excitement at finishing two-thirds of the run—and the beer their support crew picked up at a nearby pub goes down easily.
Hilary may be the day’s winner. She endured a tough first day followed by a night of nausea. “Mid-race yesterday I wanted to sit down on the side of the trail and cry, but I dug deep. I realized I’ve got something inside I never knew I had. I felt more empowered today.”
The race course crosses pastures bounded by ancient stone walls.
At dinner in The Farmers’ Arms Pub in Saint David’s, the locals are welcoming but just a little bemused by these visitors and their running antics. A farmer whose property borders the path near Penberry tells the Canadians they’ve passed the steepest climb on the course: “If you climbed that hill near my place, you’ll find The Strumbles [the highest point on the course, waiting for them tomorrow] easier than that.”