A local hero – Malcolm Law’s journey along the Coast Path

Malcolm Law is probably better known to many of us as the face behind Running Wild New Zealand. However a few weeks ago, he embarked on a journey on the Coast Path in the UK to help raise money and awareness for Mental Health Awareness in NZ. We caught up with Mal to find out a little more about the run, which was certainly an epic as well as some of the highs and lows he experienced along the way.

Mal and Tom on Day One – All smiles!

Why did you decide to run this trail? (as in why go to the UK and run that course?)

It’s an area of special significance to our family as this is where both my mum & dad were born and where they retired back to as well.They’d walked large sections of the Path and loved it. Sadly they both died within 3 weeks of one another early last year & it was while we were over in UK farewelling them that I found myself running a section of the Path and thinking “it’d be awesome to run the full length of this one day.”

How many kms (and vertical) did you cover in training for this?

Well over 2,000kms and 75,000m of vertical ascent (same again of descent) – time on feet and hill work the critical component to the training.

What kit did you use?

Inov-8 295 shoes were brilliant – not a single blister or lost toe nail and great grip when it got muddy. I used 3 pairs and rotated them over the days. We ran lightweight given frequent support van access to trail so mostly ran with small Inov-8 bumbag and a hand-held bottle. At times I used Ultraspire pack and merino socks were key to foot care too.

Mal taking a quick break before heading back out there

Did you suffer with injury at all in training?

Just the usual niggles that a 50+ yr old feels constantly when running (I gave up the idea of a pain-free run about 10 yrs ago!). The main worry going in was sciatic issues due to weak piraformus (or whatever that deep butt muscle is called) and this did flare up a week or so into the run. After that the main issue was shin pain – now diagnosed as acute tendinitis – that gave me constant pain for the last week & reduced me to a walk for most of the last 5-6 days.

What was the highest point of the actual run for you?

Lots of great moments to choose from. It’s a world-class trail with stunning seascapes, awe-inspiring cliffs etc… but probably my happiest moment was finishing a very tough Day 10 and meeting up with my wife & son who had just flown in from NZ – I needed those hugs pretty bad by then 🙂

Conversely what was the lowest?

Losing Tom to injury after 10 days was a major blow. It was his original idea and he’d been planning it for 3 years so I felt totally gutted for him and for the last year it had been planned as a 2-man adventure so it was tough leaving him behind. But to be brutally honest this was probably eclipsed by the hour or so on Day 13 when I was in such agony from my shin that I thought it was all over. Fortunately it wasn’t.

Was it harder than you imagined it might be?

Yes, much harder. I’ve run 370k in a week twice already but this was a whole lot tougher because of the cumulative tiredness effect & having to run through injury for much of the time.

What nutrition did you use?

Real food as much as possible – lots of sandwiches, chips, muesli bars, the occasional Cornish Pasty. Nuun for my electrolyte drink and then I backed this up as needed with Hammer products, which performed brilliantly, especially the gels (no more than 4-5 a day). I also used perpetuem (vital on days when I had stomach cramps) and electrolyte capsules on the few hot days. I also used Recoverite as a key part of the recovery routine too, as well as finding the odd place for the odd pint of fine English beer!

If you could do something differently, what would it be?

In hindsight I think we set out to do too many big mile days too early. The toughest terrain is along the north coast (our first 5 days) and we took a lot out of ourselves by trying to do successive 75k, 3500m ascent days over pretty rough trail. We’d probably have been better cutting those days back by 10-20% and making up the time on the slightly gentler south coast later in the run.

What was the terrain like? Similar to NZ or wetter?

A real mix from very steep, technical trail to tarmac seafront promenades (great for grabbing an ice cream on the run!). The hills are generally lower than most we routinely run here in NZ but they are relentless – wave after wave of up & down. The trail was generally fairly dry & free draining but late in the run after days of rain and moving to more clay-based soils it got pretty muddy.

Does it get much better? Reminds you of NZ and down at the Great Ocean Walk

What have you got planned next?

Focus right now is still on recovery, which is taking longer than hoped. I’m trying to take things easy for next 6 months while I catch up on life but have entered Kepler again in Dec and want to run a PB there. That said I’m already plotting the next big adventure in my mind – I’d like to do something that takes me back to my first love – mountains – and incorporate some significant peak bagging a long with the trail running. There’s a number of possible concepts that I’ll sift through over the coming months…. watch this space!

Mal has written up the run up in a series of blogs on my Running Wild website. You can start here http://runningwildnz.com/2012/07/13/epic-reflections-part-1/ and work your way through

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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