Nearly two years ago I wrote a blog about running in Dorset and what was on offer as far as organised events were concerned. I had just started my return to running then and over the last two years I have been out and about enjoying the Dorset coast and countryside for training and joining in events. I took part in an event a couple of weekends ago which encouraged me return to the subject in the form of an update on my experiences.
I have entered many races this year, but I have not made the start line for all of them due to family and/or injury. I have never left the county for an event and I have only ever run in a road race once.
So my personal choice is to Trail Run, this allows me to get off the roads and see some of the countryside and sometimes the sea. I am no longer made for speed and so I am not obsessed with times and what I have learnt is that most trail runners aren’t either. I do not think that I have ever witnessed a road runner stopping to take a photograph of a view, or take a selfie with an iconic landmark in the background. Trail Runners do so even in the middle of an event climbing up a gruelling cliff!
My running year started slightly differently. I found myself standing in the middle of Bovington Tank Training Area on a very cold Sunday morning about to compete in a mud run through the Army’s tank training grounds. The Dirty Devil Stampede is a fun event and the perfect way to freeze off the Christmas turkey whilst waist deep in ice cold muddy water that is “Tank” made. Fancy dress is optional but getting soaking wet and muddy is not!
Summer had arrived early on a very fine and sunny morning outside Corfe Castle for the start of The Original Maverick Race; this was a true baptism of fire for my first journey into a Trail Running event. Running a half marathon over the Purbeck Hills to Old Harry Rocks and back through Studland Heath – not forgetting back over the Purbecks a second time – was a shock to the system. I stumbled and fell numerous times and had to limp/hobble the last mile as I was unable to run another step. But, I had the addiction now. It was fun running with others who were all there to enjoy the great outdoors.
This was my first introduction to White Star Running and what a great group of people. No wonder they are becoming legends of Dorset Running. It’s just a brilliantly simple idea – organise events in great countryside locations, where everyone is there for fun and have a cider or two afterwards. I had come to run the Chase Half Marathon starting at a cider farm, what more do I need to say? Apart from the fact that they have Love Stations where a drinks station is taken to a whole new level, with hugs, 80’s pop music and cider if you feel up to it! If you want to have fun then join one of their events, it’s not serious at all, it’s just about doing it.
Three weekends in a row in in the wilds of Purbeck:
1. The Beast: back at Corfe Castle, but this time in torrential rain, running on the other side of the valley from the Maverick Original. I slipped and slid my way round one of the most scenic routes in Dorset.
2. Bad Cow: back again to White Star Running and another great event this time on the Studland Heath Nature Reserve.
3. The Purbeck 16: Start and finish in Swanage by the sea, having run along the coast path and the hills of Purbeck. This was a scenic day of running and fun to be part of The Purbeck Outdoor Weekend.
The Bournemouth Marathon: it was an amazing day, very well organised and following a beautiful seaside course with locals and holiday makers cheering you on in the sunshine.
It feels like the rest of the year had brought me to this one event and it was the closest one to home, only 3 miles up the road at Lulworth Cove – Endurance Life Dorset. This was truly amazing, there were over 1000 runners competing over the various distances on a Saturday in December. The showcase of the
iconic Dorset landmarks of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door in winter sunshine was glorious. But the knee-bending, muscle-crunching climbing was hell. This an event that is not for the faint hearted. I chose the half marathon, 16 miles long and 3,559 feet up. It is the equivalent of running up Snowdon and down again.
The running has been fun and I have picked up a few injuries on the way. I have learnt Trail Running is great just for the camaraderie and scenery, not forgetting the odd cider or two at the end.
Dorset Running (hiking)
But, if you do really want to have all of these things, then there is one event that out-classes them all for friendship, coastal views and the chance to do some good for others – and I have not even attempted it.
I sat above Durdle Door in July with my three children watching a never-ending stream of hikers with green T shirts on waiting for my wife and her friend to march past us. This was a truly humbling thing to watch. Over a thousand people out there trying to raise funds for a life changing cause.
Tam and Liv both finished the course and both were still smiling over a week later. So, if there is any one event that you should sign up for, it should be the Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike; or try part or the whole of The Jurassic Coast Ultra Challenge – or any of their other challenges – you won’t regret it!