• Eden Project Half – by Clare Evans

Eden Project Half – by Clare Evans

When I won a place at the Eden Project half, I genuinely did wonder whether to take it up. It was a long way to go for just a weekend and I knew my training time would be limited with my holiday to Canada, but on reflection I’m very glad I went. It was a really fun weekend with great people, in a great location, on a great course, all raising money for Five Talents.

The weekend started on Friday evening with a welcome meal, where we could meet the others and got a brief introduction to the Eden Project. Our meal was in what is known as the Core, so I took the opportunity after dinner to have a little look around; the main attraction here is “Blue”, almost 9 metres tall and a representation of cyanobacteria, which, 3 billion years ago, first developed the oxygen we still breathe today. 

On Saturday morning, we arose bright and early ready for parkrun. Eden Project parkrun is one I’ve wanted to do since I heard about it, just because of the unique location. Over breakfast, we were all watching the Ineos 1:59 challenge and bemoaning the fact that we would miss the end, so much so that a couple of people from our group were watching it on their phone as we were running the parkrun. The parkrun itself starts at the “Banana” car park (all the car parks are named after types of fruit) and you have a downhill start as you run down into the basin. The rest of the course is on the paths around the biomes and gardens and, although it’s a net downhill course, involves a couple of tricky uphill switchbacks. All in all, it’s a really fun, unique place to do a parkrun and you get free entry to the biomes afterwards (although I believe you have to stay ‘parkrun fresh’).

As part of my prize, we had free entry all weekend, which meant I could go back to the Youth Hostel and change before going exploring. I had been to the Eden Project before back in 2005, so I was aware that a lot had probably changed. We also enjoyed a guided tour with the CEO, Gordon Seabright on the Saturday evening which as an amazing opportunity to see all the different displays and plants. One thing that has been added since my previous visit is the Rainforest Canopy, which allows you to ‘climb’ through the rainforest rather than staying on the forest floor. You can also ‘experience’ the cloud bridge and we went up to the Rainforest ‘lookout’ (thank God that wasn’t after the race!) which allows you to look down on the biome below. Following on from the tour, we attended a Q+A with Marathon Talk host Martin Yelling and 2:10 Kenyan marathoner, Bernard Rotich (who had breezed past me at parkrun that morning on his way to a new course record) and enjoyed a pasta party with some traditional Kenyan Ugali. We also heard some fantastic stories about the work Five Talents does in rural East Africa, providing savings schemes, small loans, and business training for those in need. One story that stuck with me was about a pregnant woman in Sudan who had lost everything in the fighting and had to move and start her life afresh. When she first tried to set up a business, she was unable to count as she hadn’t been to school, so she didn’t know if customers were paying her the right amount. Five Talents taught her all the skills she needed and now, less than a generation later, she has been able to put her children through school and the oldest is at University.

Sunday morning dawned drizzly but overall, with good weather conditions for racing. With the race start being literally across the road from the hostel (possibly the closest race start ever) and not starting until 10am for the half-marathoners, I was able to enjoy a leisurely start and pre-race breakfast. The first mile of the race was pure downhill before turning to follow the river for about 3 miles. At this point it was a steady climb on muddy trails, which had me wondering if I had worn the wrong shoes, and quite narrow in places so it was hard to overtake others. Given that I wasn’t really going for a time, I didn’t let that bother me and was quite happy to stop and take a couple of pictures. At 4 miles we turned into the village of Luxulyan before going along country roads for approximately 10km. At this point I tried to pick up my pace, but there was a fair amount of up and down, in fact it reminded me of Liversedge half closer to home, so was hard to get a constant pace. I also got a few confused comments about being a Londoner as I overtook people on the hills (Ah, the joys of the Hyde Park vest)!

The last 5km was back on the trails (although these weren’t as muddy as the earlier ones) before the final mile was another downhill one through the Eden Project estate to finish in front of the biomes. Regardless of how I run the first 10miles of a half, I always try and finish fast in the last 5km so I was really pleased to cover this section in 23.25 (first 10 miles were about 89 mins). I was almost sorry not to do a proper section around the biomes but I guess that would have meant getting in the way of all the visitors so probably not very practical. We finished in front of the ice rink before going into a tent to get our tshirt, medal and a voucher for a free beer and Cornish pasty (Winner!). Despite the challenges of the hills and mud, I really enjoyed the whole course as I like a challenge and downhills can give you a bit of a break, even if only for a minute, rather than a completely flat course. It’s definitely a race I would recommend if you fancy a break away and don’t mind the long journey down. 

If you want to sponsor me for Five Talents (I still need a bit to get my target of £500), please do! fivetalents.charitycheckout.co.uk/pf/clare-evansHPH

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