The end of January seems to be a long time coming but it’s finally here. I started the first day off with the Brown Willy Run. It sounds rather rude but it’s just a nice run from the Jamaica inn in Bolventor. The very same Jamaica Inn that was made famous by the Author Daphne Du Maurier. From this pub (which is an old coaching inn) you can actually see Brown Willy in the distance as it’s the highest point in Cornwall on Bodmin moor. The summit of Brown Willy is 420 feet above sea level or so I’ve read.
On our arrival in Carl’s shit heap of a work van, there were so many other vehicles scattered everywhere around the A30. The place was busy with all the grass verges filled. I wasn’t sure how many people did this free run every year but they had a record number of runners of 473 this year and £2730 was raised for the two charities.
We were very lucky to get a clear day, visibility was good and it was dry. It was referred to as “Benign” and “Tropical” for this run (not race) by the run director.
After my mate Carl had whacked his head a few times on the low beams in the Jamaica Inn, we managed to sign in and donate some money to the local charities.
Carl had never ran 7 miles before so was shitting himself a bit. I knew he’d be fine once we got running though. The plan was to jog round and clear our heads a bit from last night’s alcohol. Although Carl’s head was probably throbbing a lot more than mine now! We didn’t have too much by our standards anyway, so all was good and I felt like I was going to need a dump halfway around - which can sometimes be a problem with me and the booze.
The run director directed and then we were off with a nice downhill start. Immediately you’re thinking about the finish line being all uphill. It was lovely underfoot for a mile or so ans we did our best to smile at the photographers en route. Marshals guided us along and there were little orange flags that said Brown Willy on them. You really couldn’t get lost, just follow everyone else and head for a big mountain.
It was tough to decide what to wear but after a couple of miles I knew we’d be warm despite being on Bodmin Moor. My conclusion was that it’s only 7 miles, therefore you only have to keep warm for 7 miles and if you get cold, simply run faster.
I should have really thought about the prospect of getting injured. The ground becomes very uneven and rutted. The grass could be quite long and you couldn’t always see underfoot. You just kind of prayed that you were making good judgement. There were muddy areas, but a lady next to me pointed out that you were usually running under water by now. We were so lucky (apparently). My feet were still getting wet anyway because of the bogs that you couldn’t see. I nearly lost a shoe but thankfully did my laces up nice and tight in a double knot. No school boy errors for me!
The sights were wonderful out here. Such a vast open space that made you feel so small and insignificant in this world. Lots of greenery all around. It was a brisk walk when we approached a face of Brown Willy. It seems more of a hike now as we clambered upon granite rocks and hosited ourselves up to the summit. I took a moment to stop and look back. The view was incredible. Probably one of the best I had ever seen. You could see for many miles and the runners below me looked like a colony of ants crawling towards me. Sadly I had no phone with me to take that photo but the picture is still very vivid in my mind.
Meanwhile I was slipping on some of the mossy boulders. Trail shoes would have been a better idea. Carl was running in his walking boots and not long after we got to the top and slapped the trig point with our hands, he took some Haribo from a stranger and left me for dead on the descent. The problem for me was that it was too rugged. It’s roughly 3.5 miles to the top and 3.5 back to the pub and boy did I want to get back to the pub. This was a tough 7 miles. That’s if it was Seven miles. It was a rough estimate. I always like to add on a bit in my head so as to not disappoint myself after having reached 7 miles only to find I was not at the finish line or even worse.. lost.
I was very cautious as I knew my ankles were weak and often rolled on themselves easily. Now I couldn’t even see Carl, what a deserter! We were running together remember? This thought soon left me as I saw a man in front of me make one of those bad judgements with the foot placing that I was talking about. One of the bogs ate up to his knee and the weight just pulled him over. He was covered in dark, thick mud now. I did my best to help him by not putting my foot in the same place and laughing as I ran past.
Many folk have told me that the Cornish for Brown Willy doesn’t actually translate to Brown Willy anyway. A bit like Popty ping not meaning Microwave in Welsh. I can’t remember what the translation is for Brown Willy as I have a memory like a… I don’t know what. Let’s just say it’s not too clever.
A campaign was launched in 2012 to try and change the name back to Bronn Wennili to try and gather more interest from tourists and appear more attractive to the residents. Surely the name “Brown Willy” would attract more people because of its name or is it just me that likes to seek out these funny place names. Anyway, the majority of residents declined the idea and told the campaigners to keep their hands off their Brown Willy and so the name remains. After a bit of research though, it appears that it has been named many things over the years:
Brunwenely c.1200, 1239;
Brown Wenely 1239;
Bronwenely, Brunwely 1280;
Brounwenely 1350, 1362;
Broun Welyn 1386;
Brownwenelegh 1450, 1470;
Brounwellye, Bronwelly 1576;
Menar Brownuello 1754
The ground continued to be lumpier than my Nan’s gravy but now we were on the return route which I knew as it was an out and back course apart from the loop around the top of the Willy. We weren’t racing right? Yet the competitive side was getting the better of me. Oh my god, Carl is going to beat me in his first ever race! (It’s not a race). As soon as I got to more agreeable terrain I picked up the pace quite a bit. I was sweating and panting at this point. I still thanked all the marshals though and followed the orange flags which now said “Jamaica Inn” on them. Well it took me two miles to even spot Carl who was still wearing his big coat and woollen hat like it was minus 5 degrees.
We were now on road and less than a mile from the finish. A nice big downhill where I passed Carl and told him how hard it was to catch him. Carl was with this guy (his new running buddy) and he had asked how many Weetabix I’d had for breakfast as I passed them running at about a six minute mile pace. I do love my downhill.
Under the A30 bridge and up a long, slow climb to the pub and finish where all the supporters cheered us in with great gusto and spirit.
I waited for Carl who wasn’t far behind and we decided that we needed to change our clothes and drink a few pints of Rattler. The pub was open and serving food to the masses but it was very busy now. Food would have to wait. Such a great way to start the new year though. I was on such a high afterwards and so proud of Carl for finishing in an impressive time despite being in such a fearful state at the start. It’s just the unknown isn’t it? I still get it at the start of every race. I once heard Mo Farah on T.V saying that if you lose that fear/anxiety at the start of a race then you’re not passionate enough and won’t do well or something like that. Anyway, it always kind of stuck with me and pops up and calms me when I’m nervous at the start line of a race.
I couldn’t really tell you if I’d ever run it again. The views were incredible on Bodmin moor but I found the uneven lumpy terrain very frustrating at times. What else are you going to do on a New Years Day in Cornwall? Well, some crazy people did the Eden Project parkrun at 9am and then came to Brown Willy to race again! And those pints of Rattler were very refreshing and rewarding at the end. We’ll see…