Running the Pembrokeshire Coastal path – Episode 4: Sunshine at last.

It was cold, dark and damp, as Elvira ran me back to pick up the trail at Abereiddy for a 6.30 start on day five. I was genuinely very cold as I climbed back up to the high ground of the trail. The terrain was still very hilly, as I made my way round slowly to Whitesands Bay for an early coffee break. Gradually, the skies started to clear, however, and, before long, I was bathed in glorious sunshine and started having to remove items of clothing on the climbs. Finally, I started to meet one or two people walking the other way and I sensed I was getting close to civilisation again, after 4 days of hardly seeing a soul on the trail. At first I wondered what they were doing on ‘my’ trail. Breaking into a jog again, I descended towards the glorious sight of Whitesands Bay, bathed in sunshine, and already populated by a fair number of holiday makers encamped on the beach for the day. As I descended, I chatted with a couple of joggers who were staying there. ‘How far are you going?’, they asked innocently. ‘Oh I’m doing the lot’, I foolishly replied. ‘No, I mean how far are you running ?’ they persisted. Well, you asked for it; ‘300 kilometres – I’ve done over a 100 kilometres so far – hoping to get to Amroth by Saturday’. They tried to stay calm and pretend like I was normal, chatted pleasantly about other matters for a few minutes, then made off in another direction towards their holiday home, shaking their heads as they went off for their breakfast, daily workout completed.

I sat down at Whitesands Bay with a cup of coffee and some healthy snacks this time and just drank in the view. I think this was one of the best beaches I visited – it certainly looked amazing in the bright sunshine. Then I reluctantly resumed my jog along the trail, towards the seemingly endless headland that surrounds the holy city of St. Davids. The scenery along this part is absolutely breathtaking and now I was lucky enough to be able to appreciate the full beauty of the wild flowers, against the backdrop of the beautiful blue sea, in golden sunshine. The bright colours and the quality of the light were amazing. Suddenly there walkers everywhere I looked – friendly smiling faces. It was as if I had emerged from the Hell of the previous few days and, appropriately perhaps, as we were near the Holy City, I had been reborn in Heaven! Beauty was everywhere and I remembered why I had originally decided to run this trail. Here I managed to run quite frequently, as it was less hilly than before, and I finally arrived at Caerfai, near St David’s for lunch – this time in the sunshine. Now, incredibly, I was covering myself in sun tan lotion everywhere, as I was already feeling the burn.

And the day just got hotter and hotter, but I was not complaining for a second -this was why I came and this was a wonderful, if very tough day, in the heat. I determined to make hay while the sun was shining and ploughed on relentlessly, with only short breaks. Finally I got to the magnificent little harbour of Solva around 4pm where I was just in time to cool myself down with an ice cream and a cup of tea in that beautiful spot. I must have looked quite a sight as I walked into the cafe there, drenched in sweat, stinking like crazy, frothing at the mouth, burnt to a cinder! They hurriedly made to start clearing away, dropping a strong hint that I didn’t look like a normal tourist and they’d rather I didn’t stop too long!

It was seriously hot now and my legs finally felt like they didn’t have much left in them. But I knew there was still a very tough section between Solva and Newgale Sands to be negotiated to meet the day’s target. I had done this section before and knew it was hilly. I was largely done running for the day now and it was a real effort to keep dragging myself up and down those interminable hills.This was one of the hardest parts, coming as it did at the end of a long hot day and with fatigue beginning to accumulate now. I was happy to see the long beach at Newgale finally and actually managed a brisk run down and along the front to the finish for the day.

A great day this one. 123 kilometres done in total now, according to the Welsh chart, although Garmin was telling me 130! It felt more like 250, but, by the end of the next day, I would be well over halfway and that felt good. What’s more, I knew much of the trail remaining and knew it would get easier now. With the sun expected to continue shining, I felt confident that everything was under control now. I slept much better that night.

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