Coastal Trail Series – Dorset

December 12, 2012

As part of my plan to get into running more, I was persuaded by some of the Alpe d’Huez team to enter the Dorset leg of the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series. I always knew the race was going to be tough with its ‘Extreme’ rating making it one of the most challenging of the series, only sharing this rating with the Exmoor leg. Nevertheless I went ahead and entered the half marathon for better or worse, besides it couldn’t be as tough as Alpe d’Huez could it…

This was a month or so ago and it was mostly forgotten about since then, I made an effort to run more frequently but it’s been getting pretty cold and dark recently and I’d be lying if I said I’d trained as much as I should have. Also having the work Christmas party 2 nights before the event wasn’t the best preparation!

We were fortunate enough to have a friend who lives nearby that we were all staying at and we’d managed to get a large group of us down for the race which gave the whole thing a great atmosphere. We headed down on the Friday for the race on the Saturday so there wasn’t too much time to think about it all before I was at the desk signing in to the race. Luckily it was a beautiful day for it, if it’d had been raining it would been an absolute mud bath and treacherous underfoot.

On the course we had to be self supportive which meant running with a camelbak and carrying a first aid kit amongst other things, a novel experience if you’re not used to it. The race started in Lulworth Cove at did a big figure of 8 first looping out to the West past the famous Durdle Door before running back through the town and then along past the MoD firing range and back. The route can be see here, but as a taster here’s the elevation profile of the race and a few of the start of the course.

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The race started with about 400 people doing the (rather generous 15.1 mile) half marathon and an eager run up the first hill where I soon realised that because of the gradients, running was fairly pointless as you were climbing so much that it was quicker to walk quickly. As soon as we reached the top of the first hill we had a beautiful view of the sea and coast but it was straight back down a steep descent on the other side where you really had to watch your footing on the coastal trails to make sure you didn’t break your ankle. Then it was straight back up an even steeper cliff (and I’m talking using your hands to clamber up steep).

If you hadn’t got it by now there’s a clear pattern emerging of up down up down that epitomised the race. I learned it the hard way but I won’t bore you with all the details, suffice to say, I found the first quarter of the race the toughest. My legs were burning up with all the climbing and descending but luckily on the lag back to halfway it allowed me to get into a rhythm and stretch out a bit.

Once I settled into my strategy of running the flats and the not too steep downhills while walking the uphills I started to really settle into the race and just enjoy it while taking in the amazing views and scenery. The race had a really sociable vibe around it with people holding gates open for each other and chatting en route which meant that although in the end it took me 3h44, it didn’t feel that long, despite never having run for anywhere near that long before! To put that in perspective that was a comfortable mid table result, despite the winning time being a mind blowing 2h16.

392081_10100201409093292_956295010_nComing into the finish, photo: Olly Jeffrey

It was an amazing race and I’d recommend the series to anyone who wants to run in a beautfiul place, there was the full range of distances available from 10k up to Ultra marathon so don’t say it’s too easy/hard (delete as appropriate!). Now I just need to pick from next challenge from their bucket list

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