Treading the terrain at the Boconnoc 5 Trail, the last of the Cornish Multi-Terrain Grand Prix Series.
How did I come across the Boconnoc 5 trail run? Some of you probably already know I tend to run at least one race a month and use races as motivation to keep running. Plus, I really enjoy the atmosphere that comes with them. I don’t enter to compete with anyone aside from myself. On the most part, I find the majority of other people doing the same.
Wherever I am, be it on holiday or on business, I always search to see if there are any runs to join or races to enter. Knowing I would be visiting Cornwall, this is what I did. I managed to find a parkrun not far away. The weekend run was chosen, so, what about in the week?
I knew club runs took place in the week and decided to search for the clubs nearby to see what I could find. My thinking was to contact the club to see if I could join one of their sessions. I’m sure they would not have minded as long as my level of fitness matched the run or session. The last thing I would want is to slow anyone’s run down, especially as a visitor to a club night.
This is how I came across the Boconnoc 5 trail and final race of the Cornish Multi -Terrain Running Series for the season 2018/2019. Anyone could enter, the only downside it was quite a distance from where I was staying, approximately an hours drive away. The series is a Grand Prix of trail runs which gives runners the chance to run on some of Cornwall’s beautiful off-road land. It encompasses ten challenging events ranging in distances from a 4-mile run on a beach to a full off-road half marathon on the St Austell Clay Trails. How good is that? As beggars can’t be choosers and with the opportunity to try out a Cornish trail race coupled with a bit of bling, I signed up.
This particular trail was organised by St Austell Running Club and described as a 5-mile challenging, undulating, multi-terrain run in the grounds of the Boconnoc House Estate. A 1-mile Fun Run for children at 18:30 was also on the agenda, the main event then followed at 19:15 with medals for all finishers.
The main event was limited to 500 entrants, with a minimum age of 15, and chip timed. Cost of entry of £13 affiliated or £15 unaffiliated in advance and slightly more expensive on the day if places available. Venue facilities were listed as onsite parking, toilet facility & refreshments.
£13 seemed good value for money, especially for a unique annual run with a bespoke medal as a keepsake. Unfortunately, I did not receive any pre-race information. The only information I had was from the Run Britain site and the St Austell Running Club website.
The Boconnoc area of Cornwall near Lostwithiel is very rural. On heading to the run, the sat nav took me down a few single-track narrow lanes which looked like they had not been used for quite a while. Nearing the venue a few signs stated to ‘ignore the sat nav’, and pointed you in the correct direction.
On entering the estate, you drove down a very long avenue past a gatekeeper’s house, a lodge, and a very tall column at the top of the hill. The column was a similar shape to the Luxor at the centre of the Place de la Concorde in Paris, or the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, or Cleopatra’s Needle in London, or New York. By the time I arrived, the fun run had just started. Children were running up the tree-lined avenue away from the house.
Plenty of parking was available in an adjacent field, a short walk away from the start and race HQ. A set of Portaloos were located by the parking area, and a further set of toilets could be found in one of the buildings next to the race HQ. Many runners were arriving from the various Cornish clubs. Collecting the bib number was straight forward, although a little queue had formed due to only being manned by two people.
The route and recap
I had a bit of a dilemma, I didn’t know whether to wear standard shoes or trail running shoes. From looking around at the other runners, a mix of shoes were being worn. I opted for standard shoes as the last few days were dry and hot. After a quick toilet stop, it was soon time for the race to start. Everyone lined up, and I chose to start at the back as usual.
The opening section of the race was on tarmac which veered off to the right and down into the valley. Sheep were grazing on the grassland on both sides of you. The route curved around, and you could see the Estate house in its glory.
In recent weeks, I had been suffering from some slight issues in one of my lower leg muscles. Shortly following the initial set off, I felt a slight ache and conscious of my right calf muscle – oh no! When fully warmed up, thankfully this seemed to pass. However, I decided to err on the side of caution and walk any of the hilly parts. The last thing I wanted was to aggravate the calf muscle and hamper the possibility of reaching the Great North Run, again. What I didn’t realise was, it meant walking a 2 km long hill. This evening was notably hot and humid, even in the shade. It felt like someone had whacked the heating on full blast while locking all the doors and windows. More than likely, I was a little dehydrated, after spending the day in full heat and sunlight on the beach.
The terrain was mixed, there was everything, tarmac paths initially, forests tracks, stone paths, mud, a stream and more. You name it, this trail had it all. The start of the race incorporated a fast-downhill which took you into the lower part of the estate. Soon you hit the trails trekking along the challenging rugged forest paths, and descending to the lowest point of the run. Here you crossed a rivulet before commencing a long slog uphill to the highest part of the course.
This uphill segment was not overly steep, it just seemed to last forever. The climb covered approximately 2 kilometres and had an elevation gain of 100 meters or so. The challenge comes from, the varied terrain, uneven, grassy forestry paths, dirt tracks, mud, stone scree like tracks, mostly loose and rugged underfoot. I soon found out I was wearing the wrong shoes. Not wearing the appropriate footwear made me somewhat nervous. The terrain was rougher than when I, unfortunately, fractured my fibula.
Finally reaching the highest point of the course, a pleasant downhill section of tarmac followed before heading into the woodland trails again. Here the route is slightly undulating and takes you further down into the valley with pleasant views of the estate. Near to mile 4, the course again sends you downhill for one last off-road section, and climb up a rough track. Then you are back on the road, which guides you towards the estate house and surrounding buildings. This is the home stretch, with a small ascent at the very end.
As you neared the finish, spectators, marshals, and finished runners gave encouraging cheers and applause to the remaining runners. This was great! You received your medal, grabbed a glass of water etc. Refreshments were also available, cakes, teas, and coffees. I didn’t see any Cornish Pasties though. 😉 A few runners spoke to me after completing the race, congratulating me. They also stated it was tough out there, especially in the evening heat and humidity. It was one of the hottest days of the year. Appreciation and friendliness like this is what I like about running and races, even more so as I was a stranger at a local event. The bespoke medal was lovely, embossed depicting the estate house, woodland, and runners.
I would love to take part in a race like this again, but next time wearing the appropriate footwear, and fully fit to really enjoy the challenge. Nonetheless, it gave me the opportunity to sample an authentic trail from the Cornish Grand Prix series.
The Boconnoc 5 trail encompassed everything; different terrain, hills, in lovely surroundings, well organised, friendly, and for a good cause, supporting St John Ambulance. For those reasons, I’m going to give the Boconnoc 5 trail a score of 4 out of 5 on the Runiversity of life™ Runometer™.
Route and elevation profile
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