Friday, 13 December 2013

CTS 2013: Dorset

After waiting for a bus load of Dutch runners to arrive and then listening to the most thorough (read: longest) pre-run briefing I have ever listened to, we finally made our way to the start. I was itching to get going; it had taken me a long time to get here. It was over two years ago when I first heard about the Coastal Trail Series and this was the first time that I was both fit and available at the same time.

There was a 400-strong bunch in the half marathon, and as we were due to start we could see the first of what I think were the ultra-marathoners just popping up over the crest of the hill and making the steep, grassy descent back into Lulworth look like a breeze. We waited until the first few came storming past to rapturous applause and then the gun went.

Normally at this point I would make a joke about setting off too fast, but when 400 people attempt to run up an enormous hill at the same time, there's nothing very fast about it whatsoever. It was however, a lovely opportunity to get warmed up and have a bit of a chat.

The pack didn't really spread out much until about 5km in, where we turned inland from West Bottom. This was the first real opportunity to stretch the legs out and actually get some good running in; in fact, the next two kilometres turned out to be the fastest of the whole race.

Looking back to Durdle Door
The descent back into Lulworth Cove was as steep as it had looked, but thankfully the ground was dry and with a bit of zig-zagging, it was completely runnable. A short section of tarmac through the village led to a sharp left turn into the School Lane staircase. I felt very sorry for the small number of walkers who had obviously just gone out for a nice Saturday morning stroll completely unaware of any large-scale event that was happening. They were trapped against the side of the narrow path as they gave way to a long stream of 'runners' trudging up the hill.

The path emerged from the trees and another flat section led along the fence line, but with a single-file line of people, the pace didn't quicken. There were a few chaps behind me who were kicking off about it being too slow and ranting about why people were walking, but there wasn't any way of getting around so moaning wasn't going to get them anywhere. Personally I was glad for the rest and took the chance to gaze into the stunningly beautiful blue waters below.

The flatness was broken with another steep descent on a staircase. I got into a lovely little rhythm of hopping quickly downwards, whilst the ranty men who had been behind tried to overtake everybody on the less-trodden slope to the right. I couldn't resist a wry smile as they both fell on their backsides and got left for dust.

I was surprised how slowly people were tackling the hills. As a runner, I like to walk as little as possible and if I do have to walk, I'll hike as energetically as I can. I loved trekking up the steep climbs, balancing precariously on the edge of the path as I teetered past the less enthusiastic.

After a lot more up and down, we hit a flat section. At least I thought it was a flat section but a review of the garmin data tells me it was definitely still uphill, which is a relief since I ran it like a granny (an unfit granny). This track led to the bizarre little village of Tyneham and onto the Monastery Lane climb. It was somewhere just after the long, toe-crunching descent that I realised I had just done a half marathon and was still nowhere near the end of the race.

Fortunately soon after this realisation I picked up a new running buddy and we jogged and chatted our way through the next couple of miles. The final section was an absolutely leg-sapping descent back down School Lane. By this point my thighs, knees and feet were screaming and I probably would have walked to the finish line if it wasn't for the crowds of supporters urging us on. A last surge took me through to finish to a very well-deserved medal.

Frankly, getting 16.5 miles for the price of 13.1 is an absolute bargain. It was a really fabulous event and definitely lived up to it's 5/5 severity rating!

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