Julia Davis and Ry Webb might not have raced multi-day stage races before, but both showed they were more than capable of enduring three glorious days and 80 miles of Cornish coastline as they took victory in the Coast Ultra Xtreme.
The duo led from the front throughout, with Surrey Hills carpenter and ultra-running coach Webb posting the fastest time on each day of the men’s competition to finish in a total of 11hrs 40mins 11sec – almost an hour ahead of his closest challenger, Cornish-raised Matt Knight.
Webb, 35, said: “I feel good. My legs are a bit stiff, but I’m really pleased with the result. I didn’t know how it was going to go. Having never raced multi-day, it was a new experience for me, but it was a good distance. I could push myself quite hard each day, but not to the point I couldn’t recover for the next day.
“The highlight was getting to see more of this coastline. I’ve been to Cornwall a bit over the years, but I went through so many coves and beaches that I’ve never seen before. So, coming back in the future, I’ve plenty of places I to visit and spend a bit of time rather than skipping through and back out the other side.”
Davis from Portsmouth, who grew up in Cornwall and is shortly moving back to the county to work and study, was no less impressive. The 34-year-old was 13 minutes clear of Anna-Marie Watson by the end of the first stage from Trevose Head to Perranporth and continued to extend the advantage for a finish time of 13:09:45, which also placed her fourth overall.
Having completed the 27-mile final stage from St. Ives Bay to Land’s End, she said: “The terrain today was the toughest of all three days. There was a lot of boulder-hopping and bog-dodging and a lot more ups and downs. It was not as runnable as the last couple of days, but it was fun to have a bit of a different challenge. I didn’t know that part of the coastline at all and it was like a little adventure.
“Everybody is so supportive of each other. Everybody started in different groups and you could chat to people as you were going along the trail. It was really well organised. Everything logistically was really spot on and in these times of Covid it was just really nice to do a race where you felt really safe and at ease.
“The highlight was just how special the Cornish coast is on a sunny weekend in October. We were so lucky. There is not one moment in that whole race where you look around and it’s ugly. When you are really tired, you look out to the ocean and think how powerful it is and you can absorb some of that strength.”
Rugged and picturesque
The Coast Ultra Xtreme, which this year was incorporated with the Atlantic Coast Challenge due to Covid, took place on some of the UK’s most rugged and picturesque coastline, where competitors had to master dunes, boulders and almost 5,000 metres of climbing on the trail, with any pain eased by a quick glance right enjoy the view to the ocean horizon.
Starting by the lighthouse at Trevose Head near Padstow, day one’s 26-mile route followed the South West Coast Path past Newquay to finish at Perranporth. Day two continued on another marathon trail to St. Ives Bay where the holiday park headquarters marked the end of the stage. The toughest was left to last, with another 1,900m of ascent on to Land’s End and the finish.
Age is no barrier
It wasn’t just at the front of the field where the endurance feats impressed. Land’s End marked Judith Chubb-Whittle’s 200th completed marathon and great grandfather Fred Streatfield was the Coast Ultra Xtreme’s oldest finisher at 68 years young.
Organiser Ryan Sosna-Bowd commented: “Just like the resilience and dedication shown by the athletes, Ben, the team at VOTWO and I decided not to let Covid win but to forge opportunities and create the Coast Ultra Xtreme this year. With the amazing support of partners Clif Bar, Endurance Sports TV, myRaceKit, and Precision Hydration, we were able to get the event on, and even provide a prize pot for the front runners.
“Next year we are aiming to expand the event to a five-day stage race along more of the Cornish coastline with some unique format elements to grow the experience for all. We’ll also hopefully add to the prize pot to further support the athletes that make our sport what it is in the UK.”
If friendships blossomed over the three days, then so did the weather, with Friday’s blustery winds turning to blue skies and sunshine by Sunday afternoon. Oxfordshire-based Slovakian Robert Gunar could not speak more highly of his experience. He said: “Looking out into the ocean is too good to be true. Look at these colours, they are so vibrant, blue, grey, turquoise – everything is just so vivid. What more do you want from life? You just need to come and take in these moments and count yourself lucky… especially now, during a pandemic, when everyone is so down. It is one of the best moments in my life!”
The Coast Ultra Xtreme was supported by its sponsors Precision Hydration, Clif Bar, endurancesports.tv and myRaceKit.
Coast Ultra Xtreme: Overall result
- Julia Davis 13:09:45
- Anna-Marie Watson 14:04:56
- Sarah Hill 15:06:17
- Rebecca Vaughan 16:13:05
- Melanie Clark 16:18:06
- Ry Webb 11.40.11
- Matt Knight 12:38:46
- Robert Mann 12:43:18
- Josh Hignell 13:45:38
- Sean Rice 14:07:31