The Bys Vyken Cousin Jack Classic is a new trail event Cornwall. Given the number of runners, it’s clearly going to grow and become a staple in the running race calendar.
As a Cornish woman (or “maid”), I like how this race is connected to local Cornish heritage and storytelling. I only found the Cousin Jack Classic II by chance by googling “trail races in Cornwall” but once I read the race information, I simply had to enter.
Weirdly, the difficulty rating of “bleddy ‘ard” excited me but I only had about 6 weeks to spare. I was running anyway but knew I’d have to focus my training. With the 20 mile Roseland August Trail (RAT) in the summer, I knew this would be a good test. There’s nothing tougher than the Cornish south west coast path in the rain.
Race Day Morning
Predictably, the control freak in me came out on race day.
I set my alarm epically early and made sure we left the house in plenty of time to get to the start at Cape Cornwall. Weather-wise it was “bleddy freezin’.” Rain was forecast and winds were predicted to be about 28mph.
Well, what did I expect for early March?
The Start Of The Cousin Jack Classic
The race started at 10am after the usual kit check (taped seams anyone?), registration, and 300 trips to the toilet.
It was an uphill start to the coast path, not helped by the Open Reach van parked in the way. It took a good mile for the field to thin out but before I knew it, I had reached Pendeen (about 4 miles in).
I have to say, for the first 10-11 miles, I was sailing. I felt strong and was having a brilliant time. My pace was pretty good and I was moving my way up the field.
Thankfully the wind was blowing in the right direction, carrying me along the inclines. I found I could run steadily for stretches but then have to focus on rocks or boggy, soggy ground.
From St Just to Zennor
The stretch of coast path between St Just and Zennor was new territory for me.
I didn’t find it too shocking though.
I generally do most of my long runs along the Cornish coast path, and it was paying off. The terrain was uneven and there were many climbs. It’s never boring is it? There were steps, endless mud, streams, mini bridges and gates. All this requires concentration. I had to remind myself to look up from the coast path and take in the outstanding views.
Somewhere around Gurnhard’s Head I took a wrong turn. I was following some men who were bombing ahead very enthusiastically. They went further down the cliff path than me but it was a pain. It’s self-navigation and it happens. It served as a reminder to look ahead and not just follow those immediately in front.
From Zennor to St Ives On The South West Coast Path
I’d already been warned about what lay beyond Zennor and had checked it out previously. Having now completed The Cousin Jack Classic II, I know I went on a different path on my recce and missed the most challenging bit.
Even so, I knew this bit of the course would be the most difficult and I wasn’t disappointed. It made the first 10 miles seem relatively easy in retrospect.
Sure enough at mile 13 I managed a 20 minute mile. This mile involved (from what I remember) lots of climbing. We almost reached sea level and had to get around what seemed like endless rocks and boulders, before climbing higher.
A running friend calls me a mountain goat when it comes to scaling the south west coast path. I tried to harness this inner goat but by this time, I didn’t feel so confident on my feet. While the climbing was hard, it gave my legs a reprieve, firing up different muscle groups, making the return to running welcome.
At 14 miles, my legs were aching and sore. Picking them up was becoming an effort. In total the Cousin Jack Classic is 17.4 miles with elevations of 3334 ft, so I didn’t have far to go.
The last few miles were good. I knew the most challenging parts of the course were behind me. This offered much motivation and I tapped into whatever energy I had inside me.
With a mile to go, I could see St Ives ahead. It was just what I needed. It energised my mind and I had to stop myself from crying (is anyone else a total cry baby when it comes to races?).
Despite feeling weary, my spirits were high and I pushed on.
The Last Mile to The Cousin Jack Finish
The final mile of the run took us along Porthmeor beach. What a stunner! The yellow sand and blue sea twinkling in the sun made me think I was in a different country. By this time the sun had made an appearance but the wind hadn’t let up.
Along the beach I went, around the island (St Ives Head) and up the last incline (the buggers!) to be greeted with one of the best medals I’ve ever received.
4 hours is a long time to be running (and the rest), but it flew by. That’s got to be a sign of a good race.
Bys Vyken events are well organised. Here there was supportive marshals who stood in the cold for hours on end to make sure we were on the right track.
Cousin Jack is a totally brilliant trail event, I had the best time!
If you fancy running the south west coaspath but would prefer shorter route, why not try this circular route from Chapel Porth to Porthtowan?