I’ve just returned from a fantastic weekend in Cornwall taking on Rat Race’s Man vs. Coast.
Billed as “a breathtaking 25 mile route [that] takes in high cliffs, brooding moorland, picture-perfect beaches, crashing waves, big swells, rough-hewn rocks, water jumps, short swims and a few cheeky surprises.” It most certainly was this, albeit about a mile or so short distance wise.
It was great to be out running again and experiencing nature at its finest. This post will cover a short review of the event, and perhaps more importantly tips on what to take, travel planning and nutrition.
Man vs. Coast 2021 Sunday Race Review
- Overall rating: 9
- Route: 10
- Location: 10
- Obstacles: 7
- Value for money: 7
Elevation was 1,020 metres and the distance was 37.5K/23.3 miles (via Strava).
- Another race after lockdown 🙂
- As ever, a very well-organised Rat Race event
- Incredible technical running on the South West Coast Path
- Simply stunning scenery that I felt privileged to enjoy
- An opportunity for a weekend away in a beautiful part of the world
- Fun scrambling on the rocks, and jumping into the sea
- A nice UK made medal and a free Man vs. Coast rag. I like it that they didn’t give endless free stuff away. It’s not needed and often ends up in landfill anyway.
- Expensive to enter. I don’t mind paying top whack for a great event (which it is), but it is on the pricey side starting at around £140 for 2022. You can see these events cost money to put on, I can only start to imagine the logistics, but…. see my next point.. Note that buying a Man vs. series ticket can get the price down closer to £110 and you can also group book for further discounts too on individual events.
- PAYING FOR PHOTOS! I had forgotten that Rat Race charges you for photos. Everyone wants photos to remember the day. I had even said to myself I wouldn’t bother too much with photos because my camera phone is rubbish and they’ll have professional photographers. Needless to say I’m not going to pay up to 45 quid for my photos from the event at almost 33% of the ticket price. I probably would have given the event an 8 or 9 for value for money had the photos been free as it is epic and very well organised.
This wasn’t an obstacle race per se, so I won’t list it as a con as I absolutely loved everything that was included, but a few more sea jumps and sea swims would have pushed my obstacle rating up. I would say that my rating may be a little biased as I went coasteering a few weeks back and found out just how amazing cliff jumping and scrambling is. This was great though, and a great introduction for anyone who hasn’t done it before.
The race started at Marazion Beach with views out towards St. Michael’s Mount. You can either park at the finish and get a bus to the start or make your own way (I believe there is cheap all day parking). I decided to stay in Penzance as I got the train down on Saturday and it was near registration. The warm up jog to get to the start was about 4K, a tad on the long side, but I guess I could have got a taxi. Penzanze is a great sea-side town so well-worth spending time in, so I would 100% recommend staying here vs. near the finish unless you go for the camping option. Top tip – you can get a double decker bus from Land’s End at the finish back to Penzance (they leave every hour) for £6 which is a great way to unwind after the race and save the back and forth between the start and finish.
You can drop a finisher bag off at the start for the finish. I did realise until late in the day that the collection point was uncovered so ensure your bag is waterproof.
With a COVID tweaked rolling start we were out running by 9am with a couple of wades through the sea before heading inland and up towards the northern side of the Cornwall peninsula. There was nothing particularly amazing about this part of the course, but it was on some nice country roads. After the first pit stop at around 10K the real beauty of the route kicked in. To begin with a 2-3K stretch through some moorland before hitting the South West Coastal Path that would take us all the way to Land’s End.
WOW! WOW! WOW! Not only were the views incredible, but the technical running was really challenging. You really had to focus and concentrate. I loved this, and it was great that Rat Race took us off-piste a few times to scramble on some rocks too. We also ran through an abandoned mine that felt majestic and dystopian in equal measure.
On Sunday we had one cliff jump (I believe there were two on Saturday) and as we got closer to the finish there was some more scrambling, plus rope bridge traversing, sea swimming, beach running and boulder hopping. The latter two were incredibly difficult on very tired legs, but a challenge regardless. The sand especially felt like every step was seemingly not taking me anywhere.
The final 2K or so brought us some valuable support from the tourists near Lands End as we approached the finish. It was another hilly section, indeed my Garmin clocked over 1000 metres of elevation across the whole course, so be prepared.
What a route, despite forecasted rain we were even blessed with sunshine for most of the day. The South West Coast Path simply has to be run, either as part of an organised event like Man vs. Coast or as part of your own adventure. Put this on your bucket list.
I took on the course with the aim of going fast and really testing myself against the terrain and finished it in just under four hours. This is certainly not a race though, indeed finishing times are listed alphabetically to highlight this. The majority of people went out for a relatively chilled day of adventures.
But there were a few of us looking for race as I told my Sam Smuts at registration to beat Saturday’s times. From the start I quickly arrived in first position and found myself with a decent lead on a few other ‘racers’. At around 12K I felt the person in second getting closer and this helped me to push on through the technical running stretch and gain a healthy 1-2 minute lead. However, as we pushed past the 30K mark I could feel my pace slowing and with technical running continuing and tired legs, it made it harder and harder to keep a solid pace. He finally caught me around 32K in, and while graciously running with me for a K or so he took off never to be seen again. I was also caught by one other runner on the final beach so ended up in third spot on the day. While I never like to be overtaken I was happy with how I had pushed myself and massively enjoyed the adventure. This said in the battle of Man vs. Coast, the coast has certainly beaten me as it was certainly not a strong finish!
There were three well-stocked pit stops along the route. I didn’t really use them other than for water top-up and a slice of watermelon on the last stop, but I know that they are well-regarded and beyond some mandatory nutrition you could quite easily use these pit stops for the majority of your fueling needs.
As I was aiming for a relatively fast time I ran with:
- Veloforte gels – I really love the new blackcurrant flavour (Feel free to message me for a discount code)
- Two to three salt sticks taken along the route
- One bottle for water
- One bottle for Tailwind
One thing I wished I brought was something savoury – my go to is usually a cheese sandwich on longer runs. I was certainly craving this around the 3 hour mark and while the Veloforte gels are much better than most on the market as they are 100% natural they were feeling a little too sweet for me. A cheese sandwich would have been a nice compliment.
I should also give a shout out to the Veloforte recovery shake here (both flavours are amazing). A relatively new addition to their line up, but they are fantastic and have massively helped my recovery since the run.
Mandatory Kit List Tips & Tricks
Remember mandatory kit requirements do change, so please refer to the latest information from Rat Race. Everyone is different too, so remember to train with your kit, and run fully loaded so you get a sense of how you feel when you run. Take what you need and what is required, but don’t overpack – training with your kit will help you make these decisions. This is what I took, with some tips from what I learned along the way.
Rucksack/Race vest: This year I purchased the Harrier UK Curbar 5L for £55. While it does look a lot like a life vest I 100% recommend it. It has seemingly endless space and comfortably carried everything I needed. Make sure whatever you buy has a whistle built-in too, another piece of mandatory kit and essential in an emergency.
Dry bag liners: While you take off your bag for any swims or cliff jumps your bag may still get wet when in the water, so probably a good idea to protect your stuff. It’s also a mandatory kit requirement. I bought a selection of bags for less than £15 from Amazon and used one for the race. I tested beforehand too and nothing got wet.
Rat Race also gave you a small dry bag for your GPS tracker and I used this to keep my phone, event card and money dry too. TOP TIP!
Running vest, shorts and socks: Technically not mandatory… haha… I went with my Nuclear Phoenix OCR top, 2 in 1 Nike shorts, and Nike running socks. Usually a winning combination that has been combined in many wet and muddy obstacle races over the years. I don’t know if it was because of the salt water from the sea or because I (the proverbial ‘I’ here) had sewn a small hole in the shorts liner, but I got some nasty chafing where you don’t want it! Something to watch out for, and worth testing your kit in sea water if you can.
Trail shoes: You’ll need grip, but equally it’s ‘summer’ so in places it can be relatively hard under foot, plus there is a decent stretch of road running to consider. I opted for the VJ Maxx’s. These were amazing. Comfortable, no blisters and importantly felt great on the rocks. VJs are not cheap coming in around £115, but well worth the investment.
Full leg cover: I just went for the lightest running leggings I could find at home. Useful to put on at the finish for recovery too.
Gloves: I went with the same approach for the gloves too, and didn’t use them.
Hat: I did buy a cheap running hat from Decathlon in advance, but given the weather forecast I just used a buff/rag that doubled as a face covering too.
Waterproof Jacket (With taped or welded seams):I run hot, so I knew that unless I was in trouble I wouldn’t need a waterproof. This said, I’ve got a decent waterproof designed for water sports, and although it’s not super light or designed for running it will do the job in an emergency situation. So not much help from me here, I just couldn’t find a good running jacket at a price I was prepared to pay.
Reusable cup for hot drinks: I wasn’t going to buy a collapsible cup I didn’t need, and equally I wasn’t going to carry a cup that didn’t collapse. Thankfully I had hit upon a wonderful tip to cut the bottom off a tetra pak. Perfect, and fully tested with hot drinks. Reuse. Reduce. Recycle.
First aid kit: I went with the mandatory requirements, adding some antiseptic wipes that doubled as hand sterilisers too.
Survival bag: I have a bag from a previous race that I used and hopefully I can reuse again and never have to open it.
Water: I had four Decathlon water bottles to hit the 2L requirement. I only filled two of them as 1L is more than enough for my needs (especially given the weather), and refilled one of them at each stop. Admittedly, it wasn’t super hot – but I probably used about 2 litres of water in total including pouring some over me to cool down.
Food: You are required to have a mandatory amount of food with you at all times and the kit list suggested four gels. While I’m not sure gels would be amazing in a survival situation I decided to bury this as the required food at the bottom of my dry bag. This was in addition to the nutrition I used for the race.
That was it. While I didn’t think everything was necessary. The mandatory kit list is mandatory for a reason. Equally, while this wasn’t a race, it’s important to have the same kit as everyone else. You can of course run faster than others if you don’t take all the kit you are supposed to have.
I did love the race, and really looking forward to Man vs. Lakes in a few weeks, but perhaps more than anything I loved the South West Coast Path, put this on your bucket list, and if you use Man vs. Coast to do it then you won’t be disappointed.
- Did you run Man vs. Coast? What did you think?
- Have I missed any top tips for future runners?
- What was your best part of the course?
- Are you planning to race Man vs. Coast 2022? What questions do you have?
Photo credits: Rat Race, James Ball, Stuart Neail, Jaroslaw Grabny and Colin Lee