Mapping a half marathon trail route

I’ve spent a lot of time running along the beaches and cliffs of the Heritage Coast in South Wales – At least the part I live near which has given me the idea to map a half marathon route from Marcross beach to the river mouth at Ogmore by Sea and back.  Mainly as I wanted to see if I could – I find this a pretty good reason for doing anything.

The map


About the route

This is a half marathon trail course I have run myself in sections plenty of times. As it is a trail the exact distance run may me over or under 13 miles by a significant amount so bear this in mind.

The route takes in both beach and field/grassland running and the beauty of it is that you can run these in different combinations according to taste.

The overall route runs from the carpark at Marcross beach (next to the lighthouse) and along the Heritage Coast to the rivermouth at Ogmore by Sea and back.

If the route on the google map is followed then you will first traverse the rocks and sand of coast as far as Witches Point in Southerndown before climbing up to the top of the point before following the trail to along the cliffs and then the pathway to Ogmore Beach. You will then return along Ogmore Beach and along the same path back to Witches Point where you will, instead of running the beach path run along the top of the cliffs all the way back to Marcross.

Of course if you wish to run the beach on the return journey or indeed the cliffs on the outward journey you can mix and match according to taste.  You can reverse the whole thing starting at Ogmore by Sea, running to Marcross and then returning.

Much of the beach part of this run is dependent on tide times. It cannot be run at high tide and I would recommend running it an hour or so before low tide if you wish to maximise time on the beach. You can run the whole route along the cliffs never touching the beach at high tide.

Warnings – The tides here are the second highest in the world and can catch the unwary out. Always know the tide times before you set off and give yourself plenty of time to get off the beach before the tide comes in.

The route takes you over rocky beaches and care must be taken, slow down on the rocks, although loose rocks and pebbles look solid they often shift underfoot. Some of the smoother paved looking rocks are great to run on when dry but when wet or covered in weed they are treacherous, no matter the grip on your trainers you will slide and fall so slow down. My general rule of thumb is that the darker the colour of the rock the more slippery it is.  Stay clear of the cliffs as rockfalls are common.

Part of the route has you running along cliff tops – show common sense and stay away from the edge. The cliffs are unstable at the best of times and rockfalls happen frequently. Be aware of your surroundings and watch for changes in the path direction as it does come within a few feet of the edge in places.

There is often livestock in the fields, give it a wide berth, especially when new born and young animals are present.

You will be a fair distance from help if you suffer an injury so carry a mobile phone. The weather changes quickly at times and extra clothing is recommended for the cliffs section as the wind is much stronger up top.

 

 

 

Running – Thoughts, benefits, motivations and how it’s helped me

It’s been several months now since I started running and I thought i’d draw up a list of the benefits i’ve found. maybe it’ll inspire someone else to get up on their feet. Running has helped me through bad times and i’m sure it will in times to come.

Running has given me belief in myself and self esteem.  I’m doing something for myself. I’m doing something I never thought I could do, both physically and mentally. It’s given me pride in myself. I feel I have and can achieve more.

Running has given me a focus. Ever feel like you’re just drifting through life?  Well maybe I am in many ways but now I run it’s showed me how to focus on something and i’m letting that seep through into all parts of my life.

Running relieves stress and gives me time to think. Had a bad day at work? Run, run it off. Thinking negatively? Have a run and work through the issues on the move. It’s much easier to sort through things and bring the important ones to the surface while you’re in motion and feeling that running buzz kick in.

Running provides motivation, it used to hard to motivate myself to do much of anything. My focus was only on looking after my dog as she got older. Now I can self motivate. I’ve learned to push myself to run and choose the harder option rather than sit on my ass. I have plans for trail half marathons, hell i’m already signed up to one in 3 weeks. Motivated now? Bet your life I am.

Running has taught me patience. None of this has happened overnight but I’ve learned that given time you can effect positive change. There’s no magic bullet cure for negativity. Pull yourself out of it one step at a time, just like running, take a deep breath and push off, one foot in front of the other and just go. Don’t look back, focus on the path ahead.

Running has got me out of the door and into nature. They say nature is good for the soul and I believe it. I love trail running, I love being outside in the elements. It makes me feel alive. I see things I would otherwise have never experienced. You don’t see much within four walls and the screen is no substitute for real life.

Running has helped me grieve. People might say it was only a dog but I looked after that puppy for sixteen years. From the moment I found her to the moment I had to let her go I loved her for every second. I still do. I ran the day I had to have her put to sleep and I think of her when I run the beach where we used to walk and it makes me feel closer to her still. That has helped a lot.

Running has given me an interest even when i’m not actually out there on the trails. I like to think about it, I like to blog about it (here I am typing this!)  I like to read others thoughts about it.

Running has taught me to march to the beat of my own drum. You can read about how to run and what you should be doing forever on the internet. I believe it’s each to their own. Listen to your body and you won’t go far wrong. Perhaps to win races or set great times people must stick to training plans but that sounds like a job to me. I run for the joy of it. There is no end goal for me. No magic distance or time. Just do what I can and push myself a little further when I feel I can.

Running has made me feel fit, or at least fitter!! I was scared of how out of shape I was at the beginning of last summer. A few runs in cricket and I was almost on my knees – That’s heart attack territory for you.  Now I feel much better, I have more energy, I get more done in work, I want to be in motion not looking for a chair. Yes I ache occasionally, you know what? It’s nice to ache, it feels like progress when my muscles tell me “hey that was hard”

Running has helped with weight loss – Ok so to be honest I haven’t lost a huge amount while running. A few years ago I lost 70 pounds through sheer effort of will and hard dieting. That started to creep back on but running has helped me shed that creep again and i’m slowly going back down but feeling much stronger for it. It doesn’t feel like “diet loss” it feels like “strength gain”

Running has helped with my nutrition. I’ll freely admit i’ve never really thought too hard about what i’ve eaten. Now I think about it a lot. If I want to achieve better things (and for better things I don’t mean winning races I mean feeling that I’ve achieved something personally) I need to think about how I fuel my body for the runs. I’m virtually vegetarian now, in fact I don’t think i’ve eaten meat since xmas. I ensure that I have enough fuel for longer runs and eat as healthily as possible.

That turned out to be more expansive than I originally thought.  If anyone out there needs any reason to get up and go then just pick one of those points and use it as motivation, the rest will follow if you stick at it.  I run alone by choice, there are other benefits you can get from joining others – friends or a club.

I didn’t think I could do this. Sometimes I still don’t think I can do this. Don’t be afraid of failure. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go again.  The only failure is when you stop trying.

If you feel just a little inspired and want to get started running but not sure where to start drop me a line, i’ll quite happily give you the push off the line you need. Im no expert and will never claim to be but I know what it’s done for me. It really is something anyone can do – I’ve just proved that to myself

Onwards

Another run to and around the beach after work. I feel like i’m posting the same thing every day – and in a way I guess I am but this is also a log for me of what I’ve done and when. Runkeeper keeps the stats but it can’t tell me how I felt, what I saw, what inspired me that day. So i’ll keep on keeping on with the same reports!

A 4.5 run and it felt good – todays route

I’ve noticed how much easier its becoming to do what I now consider “short” distances, when once 4 miles was a killer and something to be proud of it’s now “something I can do” not that i’m not proud everytime I get off my ass and run it’s just nice to feel there’s still progress going on.

I was also happy to remember to take carrots for the horses today! They certainly enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed feeding them!

Also I found the natural freshwater spring on the beach a friend had mentioned. And it is indeed fresh water bubbling up from the sand and tasted wonderful. Must be all that filtration down through these cliffs! I do love my beach, it never fails to surprise.

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Huge horse, tiny carrot
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Freshwater spring bubbling up through the sand
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Bubbling!
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Cliff filtration system

Back to the trails!

After a few days break – work and weather enforced it was great to get back out running. Managed to fit in an hours run on the beach after work. Felt good today and pushed it a bit harder on the way back for an even split which isn’t bad considering its always uphill on the way home!

Todays route

I was glad to feel good today as yesterday I bumped into a teacher in work who I didn’t know runs and after telling her about what I was up to she told me about this trail half marathon virtually on my doorstep!  The hoka half at Margam Park

I’ve already got an event planned for that date in Avon and that was to be my first but thats only (I say only, I wouldn’t have said that few months ago) 12k not a half marathon  and having considered it for a day I’ve signed up for the half and will drop out of the 12k. I wasn’t planning to run a half until later in the year when I felt I would have the confidence to do it but having run the distance twice in the last few weeks over probably harder terrain than the event its something that I really want to do. I’m not worried about times but I am worried about finishing of course. But I believe that with just under a month to go I can do this! Time to put what i’ve been learning into practice. And i’m excited already!

Other things of note today – it appears that horses don’t suffer from vertigo judging by this lot happily grazing a few feet from a cliff edge with a couple of hundred foot drop right next to them! After taking the photo (poor quality im afraid, the camera hates long distance and ducky gloom it seems) I literally couldn’t watch them as I ran past. I’ve seen sheep doing this before and that was bad enough but the thought of a plummeting horse kept my heart in my mouth. I’m a complete animal lover and this scared me half to death. I’m sure it doesn’t concern them though and I’m glad I was on the beach not on the cliffs as it would break my heart if I was to startle one off the edge.

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Death defying stunt horses on Nash cliffs

Also of note were the first molehills. A sure sign of spring approaching as the earth has warmed up enough for our subterranean friends to start stirring. I can’t wait for spring. Winter running has taught me a lot and I’ve enjoyed running through the changing seasons but a little warmth would go down a treat around now

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First molehills of Spring!

 

Running guerilla in the mist

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Misty morning at Traeth Mawr

Quick post for what was suppiosed to be a quick run. Just under 7 miles but the beach was kinda fun this morning so I ran and explored so a slow time but who cares!  Felt good again today so all in all it’s been a good weekend, hasn’t felt like a strain at all and just the boost I needed after what was a quiet week running wise.

Wore a pair of Adidas Vigor trainers for the first time. Felt great and plenty of bounce and traction on rocks. Not so great in the slippery mud but I didn’t expect them to be. I’ve realised that for next winter I’m going to need inov8 mudtalons or something seriously luggy.

Spent a good 10 minutes just watching rocks tumble down a recent slide

Witness an incredibly tedious video of the odd rock falling! Joking aside it was a reminder to me that although I treat the beach as a fantastic training and recreational area it’s also a very dangerous playground.

 

 

 

Fantastic!

The sun was out as was the tide and off to the beach I went. I felt brilliant today, in my head and body. I loved running the fields,  I loved running the woods, the rocks, the sand, the cliffs. I did it all, I did it with a smile and I did it without feeling tired at any point. It was slow but it was to be savoured. Ok i’ll stop gushing!  I ran to Cwm Nash then across to Witches Point, up the cliff path and back along the clifftops all the way to Marcross then back down to the beach and back to Cwm Nash and then the mile back home through the woods and fields.

I must admit I love my pack, I really don’t notice it and it’s great to have water and fuels with me. When I felt too hot I could easily stash my jacket, on top of the cliffs where the wind was cold I simply popped it back on again. I took it quite slowly today, my toe was recovered and wore the Adidas Kanadia which are the easiest on my feet. I also stopped multiple times to take photos for a project i’m working on. So all in all a nice relaxed run of around 10 miles and felt like I could have done more. But why overdo today when there’s always tomorrow!

Todays route

 

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Sun rising over the Plough and Harrow in Monknash
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3 fields in – Best way of crossing the icy stream is plough straight through it at speed!
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Sun over the cliffs at Cwm Nash
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Mist rising from the sands – Those seagulls are soon going to shift!
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Sun on sand
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Beaufitful Welsh beaches – Looking from Witches Point at Southerndown to Cwm Nash
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The old beach “hut” at Cwm Nash. This was built on the cliffs for a lady of The Bruce Estate to watch the sea
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Looking from Cwm Nash to Marcross
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Nash Sands – High today – A sandbar out in the Bristol Channel that is visible at low tides. Has doomed plenty of shipping in its time, hence the lighthouse at Marcross
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Nash Sands – The swell was right today for waves and you could have surfed the sandbar

 

 

 

 

Well …. That was unexpected

I’m proud to say i’ve just completed my first half marathon distance. I didn’t actually mean to. The tide was out the beach was perfect, little wind and weather was fine. I ran from home to Witches Point near Southerndown and back and would normally turn to run the path back home – around a 6 mile run but I felt great. The legs felt fantastic, no stitches and my breathing was fine.

So I kept going, halfway towards Marcross beach the rain started and the wind picked up. No matter, its beach running, it’s a bit of water. On I went! Past Marcross – Now I’ve never run past here before as I know its all rock and no sand but I wanted to take a look. It is indeed all rock but almost paved in places so not too bad. But then the real rock hopping started. I’m not sure I realised how much it was taking out of my legs, I was just enjoying bouncing around the beach, concentrating hard and picking paths. If you were to ask me how I do it I wouldn’t be able to say. It seems to be an ability to flick your eyes up to see which way you’re going for a split second then back down to watch your feet and pick the rocks you’re going to run on next.

It was around the 7 or 8 mile mark (I wasn’t really looking at the distance) I thought to myself “hang on i feel great, just keep going and see what happens” And so I reached Atlantic College, checked my distance and it was around 8 and a half miles. Pretty much perfect for 13 miles by the time I got home as long as I added a small loop of around half a mile.

So off for home I set, now with the wind and rain at my back. I was getting pretty cold by now though despite the running effort. I’m not sure if this had an effect but not far after the turnaround I started to tire. I could almost feel the energy draining away. I had an energy get but it was probably too late by then. Had I known I was going to try a half marathon I would have taken 2 or 3. My spontaneity was now starting to cost me. The journey home was more of a struggle than i’d anticipated. The sand stretch wasn’t too bad but it was taking more and more effort to spring up onto rocks at the Nash end of the beach.

Despite feeling tired I was determined to do 13 so I added a small loop around the rocky part of Cwm Nash and headed for home. Now one drawback of beach running is that you can’t escape the fact that going home is always going to be uphill and as I started the first uphill part I started to crash badly. My energy levels plummeted and I was almost falling over at parts. It was incredibly difficult to run at all and I was almost doubting my ability to get home at all. Even at a walking pace. I’m not sure if this is what marathon runners refer to as “the wall” I honestly felt like I could pass out and running was extremely difficult.

Each field on the way back was a huge challenge, not helped by the sticky mud pulling my legs down, I was literally staggering in places. To be honest it was lucky this hadn’t happened further from home. A lesson learned indeed, be prepared and if i’m going to do a longer distance plan it, don’t just do it on a whim. Still as with everything in life its a lesson learned and an exprience I won’t forget.

Forgetting that last mile though it feels fantastic that i’ve actually achieved a half marathon over difficult terrain and in adverse weather conditions. Today i’m proud of myself and I feel I deserve that feeling for a while. Six months ago I couldn’t have dreamed of todays achievement and while i’m proud of todays particular effort i’m mostly proud of sticking at it and the hundred other efforts it took to get this far.

The route

Outward bound toward Witches – These rocks require some concentration at any speed

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Traeth Mawr – Sandy stretch between Cwm Nash and Cwm Mawr. Beautiful scenery and lovely sand to run on

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Rained a bit lately – Waterfall at Cwm Mawr

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Cave at Cwm Mawr – Inside and out (Kids do not enter caves or go under cliffs like these – its very dangerous. I’m an idiot)

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  Chimney stack near Cwm Mawr

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Undercut rock at Witches Point – Only exposed at low tide

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Marcross Lighthouse from the beach

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Turning Point – Atlantic College lifeboat ramp

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Around 11 miles in these rock steps felt more like a ladder

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Limpets in a line – At this point I may have been hallucinating and willing to take photos of anything

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Second field of hell – Hey cheers horses for really making it as muddy as possible

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13 Miles and i’d like to say “Never Give Way” is more appropriate

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