My first event of the year that wasn’t cancelled.
It was amazing.
And why? Because of the people. The people who organised it and the people who attended.
Upon arrival to Wilkswood Farm, our base for the day, the marshal gave clear instructions to drive fast up the hill and “…don’t stop until you’re on the level at the top as the grass is wet…” or basically I’d get stuck. For a short period of time thereafter revving engines could be heard as people piled into the field.
All around me people were getting ready, stretching, applying bib numbers and chatting with each other. The port-a-loo queue was slowly getting bigger and snaked near the latest parked line of cars. Light rain was fought back with distraction as we collectively all prepared ourselves.
Registration was straightforward although I did manage to confuse a member of staff, it transpired I’d entered twice. Once with a t-shirt package, the other without. It was agreed that just in case another Darren with the exact same surname also arrived I’d return later to collect the t-shirt if it wasn’t claimed. I checked my e-mail on my phone and sure enough, I’d entered twice but to two different e-mail accounts. My own defence is that I spent a lot of the autumn of 2020 booking events for 2021 and clearly responded to a mass mailing not even checking I’d previously signed-up.
The buzz from others could be felt. There was lots of excitement and frantic chatter between some making last minute arrangements for meeting up after the run. A few people were cani-crossing with their dogs expressing their own excitement in reaction to the swell of runners arriving to get started.
The Long Run departed first, this was me. Small pockets of 3 or 4 people waited patiently spaced out across the line setting off to the ring of a cow bell, about 30 seconds later another wave set off. And so it went on. When it was my turn it didn’t seem quite real. One moment I was stood, the next running with others up the first (of many) ascents.
Meeting the first marshal as I crossed a road between fields I cheerfully greeted and thanked her, she responded by telling me I was the most cheerful person so far. I think the fact the fast people has set off prior to my departure and launched themselves up the hill meant oxygen was precious and they were fully focused. I on the hand couldn’t have been happier to be out.
In spite of looming grey clouds and a moderate breeze the rain remained light and occasionally paused, even the sun appeared a couple of times. The Coast Path periodically narrowed herding us runners into a line which offered small pocked of respite and opportunities for chat, banter and laughter. Every now and then we encountered hardy hikers dressed for the elements, every time ‘hellos’ and ‘thank yous’ were shared. We must have looked a little crazy to them as most of us were clad only in shorts and t-shirts as our coats were squashed in our packs.
Having never run this side of the Jurassic Coast I kept stopping to take pictures. Admittedly I would have been better off leaving it until a summer’s day but I find rugged coastline and dramatic vistas addictive and captivating.
A few snaps below.
The route had some devilishly steep ascents and descents and I was fascinated to watch some runners launching off immediately while a few of us slowly, well, built ourselves up to getting back to pace. Aid stations offered good refuelling options, from what I could see, although I was happily chomping my way through flapjacks so passed these by. The marshals did a brilliant job of clearly keeping us on track even if they did look weighed down under many layers as well as being wrapped in a thick coat keeping the rain and wind at bay.
The final few KMs we passed many people participating in the Jurassic Coast Challenge, lots of greetings and much enthusiastic encouragement were swapped. Finally, crossing the finish line I was met with cheers and presented with my medal as well as a variety of drinks. Walking back to my vehicle I was buzzing, a marvellous feeling and sense of achievement which stayed with me the rest of the day.
For my first event of the year this was an epic and I cannot wait to be back out again soon.