It's been a long time since I saw the Jurassic coast. I came here with Gemma for my last nice relaxing weekend before I headed off to the States last year. Usually weekends on the Jurassic Coast are anything other than relaxing. Driving into Lulworth cove it reminded me of some of the pain I have felt in previous races. A couple of years ago I completed the ONER which involves running 78 miles of this coastline in 24 hours. It took 21 I think and I was delierious at the end, it was so muddy and hard.
A few years before that I did my first ever multi-day event here, the same course but sensibly breaking it up over three days instead of one. I forgot once again how tough this trail is. Today was a gloriouslysunny day, it had rained a few days before and the path was going to be muddy but we all very much appreciated the fact that it was not pissing it down.
I want to digress for a bit and go on about how brilliant I think Endurance Life are. I ran some of their events in 2008 and since then have loved them though I have not done as many as I would like. Their ambition is to create fantastic events in beautiful locations that are really challenging too. Every CTS event (there are now 11 throughout the year) has a 10k, half marathon, marathon and ultra marathon to pick from. The courses are well marked, the organisation is great and they are now filling up very fast and so would recommend getting in early.
I would say these events are great if you are looking to "step up" from road marathons to trail marathons and also if you are thinking of a first ultra. The fantastic format of the events is that for the ultra you will run the marathon course and then run the 10k course, so if you really needed to call it a day at that stage you can and still get a marathon finish. Not that you should be thinking like that of course....
I listened to the race briefing where they went through the normal saftey things and two things were said that struck me as nice. Firstly there was a request for each runner to pick up one bit of litter on the way round. Rarely do I see litter on these well looked after coastal paths but I thought that was a great touch in helping keep the coastline beautiful. Another request was that if anyone should run into any trouble and you stop and help and perhaps sacrifice your own race then you'll be given a complimentary entry to another event. I'd hope that this would not be a deiciding factor in stopping to help someone in distress but it added another nice community touch to the events.
I have been an ambassador for nearly a year now and love everything that Endurance Life stand for.
OK lets get onto the race. One of the things you should come to expect here is the "artistic licence" that is used when coming up with a marathon route. If you are a stickler for an exact 26.2 mile race then perhaps this is not the event for you. I think the Endurance Life trundel wheel might have a few dents in it that means it doesn't turn around all the time.
We all set off from Lulworth Cove at about 8.30, individually dibbed out and headed up some steps. The individual dibbing out is a great idea I think, we all set off one by one and relieving most of the crowding that happens at event on trails. Obviously there is always one who some how can't stick a small plastic thing into a hole, like those annoying people who spend hours at the cash machine trying to re-mortgage their house while you just want to withdraw some money for beer. Anyhoo, it all went off fine and soon I was bounding up some steps. And very soon after that I was walking up some steps.
I set off with Rob Westaway and Kris Duffy. Kris ran all of the CTS events last year and took some great photos that you can see here. There is so much climbing on here that I regretted putting on some weight recently. I figured with every step up this harsh terrain I was burning calories which I could spend in the pub later. That is the real reason I do this kind of thing.
We completed the first 10k loop in around an hour and were back at the start to head out onto another section of the coast. Some of the hills here are breaktaking and on such a clear cool day they were a joy to be on. You sometimes had to look back on what you had just climbed, the photos just don't do it justice. Looking is a good excuse for taking a break though and many people did. "I no I am not resting and struggling to breathe I am just admiring the view".
After CP two there was a flat section that was blighted by mud. It was much flatter than before but we were all slipping about all over the place. I still don't own any trail shoes, I really should invest in some. I have run my last trail races in some adidas running flats which were perfect when I ran the Greensands marathon a while ago, they offered good grip and thought I had discovered a new perfect trail running shoe but it was not to be, these were terrible and I may as well been in bare feet. I had some sense of humour failures as I made slow progress though the mud, almost feeling sorry for what I put the Piece of String runners through two weeks ago but at the turnaround at around 19 miles it flattened out a bit and we were treated to some lovely running along a ridge parallel with the coast. We could admire all the tough miles we had just run without having to explode a lung on them again.
This whole thing was taking me much longer that I was expecting and I doubted that I'd finish in daylight and decided to cut it short at the marathon stage. When I say cut it "short" the marathon was still 29 miles and took nearly 6 hours to run. I ran the final stages with Dan De Belder and Martin Cooper who came up with the quote of the race "you wouldn't want these buggers doing your tax return would you?" True. If Starbuck organised ultras they would be 1.5 miles long. I had to finish earlier anyway as I had no headtorch, Gemma was waiting and I was going home via the Badger Brewery that would be closed soon. Those are my excuses :)
But I have decided that the Jurassic coast is my favourite trail in the UK. I still have a lot to do but this takes some beating.