The number is gradually creeping up but I am still not setting myself a target as I do not want to end up being all consumed by marathon running, believe it or not I do have other priorities; holidays!
So #53 was to be another inaugural race for White Star Running. It was low key due to the race being a trial event but it still had all the qualities I love about WSR. The race was advertised as following:
‘A new race for White Star and new place to run.
We are starting and finishing in the village of Ansty – bang middle of Darzzet
In the bottom of a valley…that’s the critical word…bottom’
They weren’t wrong when they said that the critical word was ‘bottom’ in the context of valley! I discovered that very much last Satuday!
I set off from home 6.30am and it was a lovely drive down to that Darzzet; lots of narrow winding country lanes, daft pheasants to negotiate and stunning scenery! One vista was so stunning I wanted to stop and take a photo, as I was looking out for a place to pullover I saw the tell tell WSR signs already there; no need to stop then as I’d be running along and ‘enjoying’ this stunning vista twice it seemed that day!
I arrived at the race village a little after 8am and as always it was a relaxed affair, none of this queuing and not knowing where to go as everything was there for you a few minutes from where I’d parked my car, at the top of a hill; there was even a hill in the race village! Ready to go at 8.55am for the race briefing which was basically; follow the signs they are arrows, don’t get lost, don’t touch or lick the electric fence just crawl under it, be careful with the cows the bull should have gone by now, it’s steep in parts and technical and you run it twice! Simples then! With just about 150 runners it was a small field but fortunately with the terrain and immediate hills it was a long time before the runners started to thin out so there was a lot of banter to begin with. Here we all are just setting off:
At the first hill the majority of us were walking, commenting on how early on in the race we were walking (less than 2 miles!) and feeling generally relieved upon hearing someone else exclaim that their calves were screaming! The scenery was indeed stunning and I would say the most scenic of any race I have run and that is saying something. However to be so scenic you often have to be high up and there seemed to be a lot of up! At around mile 6 I met up with Caroline and we ran along easily together and the conversation flowed, we also had the same race strategy; run when you can and walk when you have to. The miles ticked by nicely and we decided to stick together unless disaster struck! The route was certainly varied!
There was a pointless hill ( you could have stuck to the road and ended up in the same place) and what a downhill it had!
The electric fence….with of course a cow pat suitably placed!
A field of curious cows which took some negotiating! We hooked up with Laura who was absolutely terrified of cows and was waiting for someone to run with. They were just young and fortunately they weren’t that interested in us except for blocking our path and the gate to exit the field!
After then it was another steep climb where we caught up with a poor lady who was suffering horribly with asthma and I know how awful that can be. We made sure that we got her to the next first aid point and left her in their safe hands, we later learnt that as expected she had dropped out but has said she would certainly be back!
Then onto the views I had encountered on my drive to the race; Bulbarrow Hill which is the second highest point in Dorset. The vista is indeed stunning overlooking Blackmore Vale with views of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Devon! There was also a large, fairly new wooden cross that has been placed within the hillfort which I can’t really find out much about.
Here we are starting our descent:
There were then a few more climbs, fields and a little road before we did it all over again! Sadly (!) the second lap missed out the first massive climb; oh the disappointment! Myself and Caroline kept plugging on; running when we could and walking when we had to. We found the visitors book on the route and signed this, negotiated the pointless hill, the electric fence, the cows, the brutal climbs but around mile 20 we did start to lose momentum and were walking more than we perhaps should have been and the back markers caught us up which gave us our running mojo back (I did mention there was only a small field of runners!). Even though we had been out for many hours before we knew it were back running up to Bulbarrow Hill.
There was a group of runners who were just in front of us who every time we near enough caught up would pull away again. Most noticeably was a guy in a green top who on numerous occasions we nearly caught and when we were just within touching distance he would then just speed up or start running again! We didn’t take it personally!
There were some stiles and numerous styles of gates to negotiate and as tiredness set in our ability to work out how to open them became more like the Krypton Factor! One gate we gave up on and actually climbed over (fortunately there was nobody around to witness our stupidity!). Another gate said to lift the handle, so I did and it came off in my hand!
Finally Caroline and myself could sense the finish line and pushed on, we were still chasing the guy in the green top so ran the final uphill through the field, apparently many didn’t but Mr Green t-shirt did when he saw us closing in! After 27.5 miles, 3,800ft of ascent, a field of cows twice, one medical assistance, an electric fence twice, numerous baffling gates, cooling streams, some Schnapps, various food delights, endless uphill flat sections, knee breaking downhills and near enough non-stop conversation we crossed the finish line truly elated!
Even though this is now the toughest marathon I’ve run, even more than Giants Head in my opinion, I absolutely loved this race and the two laps were not at all repetitive! I must have the mind of a goldfish as I did spend much of the 2nd lap questioning whether I’d been there before, I can be let off though for the field where the grass had been completely cut down between lap 1 and 2 so therefore did look entirely different, however there are certain parts of the course that I couldn’t forget!
A massive thank you to Caroline for your fantastic company and of course to WSR! I’ll be back!
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