The Purbeck marathon has it all … narrow technical trails with mud and stones to negotiate, coastal hills (with amazing views) and inland hills (with amazing views). The 26.7 miles were a tad longer than a standard marathon but that’s trail running for you 🙂
My running buddy Paul and I travelled down to Dorset to find a sleepy Swanage. Our first sight was the sea lapping up against the beach and the second was the promise of the rolling hills that we’d driven past being our challenge for the day. Registration was at the foot of our first hill and as we made our way up to the start the scenic views had begun before the race had !!
Today we were joined by fellow Fareham Crusaders Dave, Kate, Nikki and Thom as well as Dean from Pompey Joggers and Ben from Gosport Runners.
The sun was shining on a perfect early Autumn morning and after our race briefing I couldn’t resist a photo with the official starter. My pre race anticipation was slightly tempered with knowing I haven’t done the volume of miles recently but when determination is required, I’ve got buckets of it 🙂
Our first sight of the coast and the endless sea that really did look like it stretched out for ever was at about 1 & 1/2 miles. The lighthouse was an impressive sight but very quickly we had to concentrate on the trail ahead of us. The track was only two feet wide in places, there were numerous stones that jutted out from the soil and the cliff edge was quite often uncomfortably close !! It was certainly noticeable that the banter and chat between all the runners around use quickly changed to focusing on the job at hand.
Once through the worst of the technical section the path widened out and I joined Kate and Dave queuing for one of the frequent gates and styles that are a feature of this area which combined National Trust land and military firing ranges.
With better running conditions underfoot we could start to appreciate the stunning landscape more. The deep blue sea contrasted with the light blue sky and both were offset with the lush green cliff top.
Our first significant hill took us inland at about five miles. As trail runners you are often presented with big hills, the accepted practise is to try and combine some running and some walking because you can be sure there will be lots more ahead !! The sheep and cows that we passed would also be a common feature for the rest of the race.
A section of narrow country lanes then brought us out again onto the coast by about the eight mile mark and from then on we steadily climbed up and away from the coast. The views here were once again stunning.
Another feature of this part of the area are these yellow poles that you need to stay between as they mark the route through the firing ranges !!! Thanks to Dave Fuller for this photo.
Dropping down to Tyneham (a village that was taken over by the army for training purposes) we were past half way and approaching a very steep climb that lasted well over a mile. I considered taking a photo but to be honest I decided getting to the top was my priority !! Luckily Paul and Ben took a photo so thanks to them for this one.
At around 16 miles my spirits were lifted by running along the top of the downs and Nikkie Yeo catching me up. By 18 miles Nikki and I had combined with 100 marathons Nigel, Julie from Billericay and her running partner (it’s good to talk to strangers !!)
Running as a group, offering encouragement and collectively feeling the pain of our challenge meant that the miles passed quicker and in no time were approaching Corfe Castle. I have to say Julie’s constant talking was a delight, … one of Essex’s finest 🙂 and just the sort of personality that inspires you to press on.
Running through Corfe village itself I lost Nikkie for a while (she stopped at a shop to buy a bottle of coke), the rest of us laughed that this was where Julie was staying for the night but she couldn’t drop out as the accommodation key was in the car at the finish. Next we crossed a railway line. Yes, that’s right, a railway line !! There’s an old steam train which runs down to the coast.
“All that remained now” were miles 21 to 24 that had three long gradual hills and then we’d drop down to the seafront. The three miles of hills took their toll on me and even though I made some ground up on the downhill I joined the seafront with a likely five and a half hours finish time.
In true running club tradition Paul, Kate and Nikki were waiting at the finish line and ran with me in the last couple of hundred metres shouting encouragements. I was impressed with the medal, t shirt and even a bottle of cider that came in the race goody bag. We celebrated with a burger and coffee, I thanked the runners who’d I ran with in the latter stages and on reflection our times ranged from 4.29 to my 5.33 so I wasn’t too far off the pace on a tough course.
Great running by all of our local runners that headed down to Dorset. The other positive to take from today was that five and a half hours of effort will be a great springboard for future weeks.
Many thanks to the organisers for “so many” marshals, a fantastic course (ever hill is a challenge that makes you stronger) and the stunning scenery.
For those of you that are on Strava here’s the link to the 26.7 miles Strava Download
This is the Purbeck marathon course profile . Trail running can be tough but it’s a pleasure and a privilege to experience our Great British countryside with like minded souls. If this post has inspired you to try trail running then my job is done. Join us, but beware, once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked like us 🙂