Having decided to stay in the UK, rather than to head for France, I now wanted (i) see my parents, (ii) go away in the van and (iii) find some different events. Scouring the LDWA site I found not just a weekend event but a mid week just a few days later. We drove to Swanage and arrived to find a typical English seaside resort- wind, drizzle and people out determined to enjoy themselves. Having checked out the location for the event and the parking we walked the last bit of the Doddle route.
Neither of us wanted to be dithering at the end of the race and if the forecast was correct we would have hundreds of tourists to negotiate our way through. Content that we understood the route we explored Swanage, which didn't take long, and found a cafe for hot chocolate and cake. Our 'campsite' was easily resolved when we asked if we could stay in the pub car park once we had eaten our meal and had a few drinks.
The race is linear so in the morning we drove back into Swanage and awaited the coaches that would take us to Weymouth. By the time we arrived the early morning rain had stopped and it was fairly warm. We collected our tallies and surprise, surprise bumped into Sarah and Andy. Living in Leeds and Preston we were all a long way from home!
Minutes before the start the rain clouds vanished and the sun came out...... and stayed out all day. We gathered under the clock tower and suddenly we were off. Making promises is one thing but the flat prom soon meant we were running at a cracking pace and worryingly I found myself in the front pack of 8 or so. The coast path itself would be easy to follow but there were going to be at least three diversions due to cliff falls and more confusingly some of these had now been mended and so could be run by mistake. The 'new' route would apparently be slightly longer but without some of the climb. By the time we reached the first CP at Osmington Mills it was clear it would be a very hot day. The overnight rain had made some of the paths during the first 5 miles greasy but after this the ground was well drained and dry.
We settled into a more reasonable pace and I started to admire the views. As we climbed over huge grassy headlands we passed busy campsites and were taunted by the smells of cooked breakfasts. It was great to run somewhere so different and also with different people. Most of those in our loose pack were locals, although some knew the way better than others. I think the last time I was here was briefly in 1990 to rock climb on the cliffs we would see later and also as a ten year old on holiday. My maps stayed in my sack but I was pleased to have the written description to hand.
As we came to the end of our first diversion and headed back to the cliff tops we were treated to the classic view of Durdle Door but then had another small diversion to reach Lulworth Cove. Chatting to the guys around me I was now starting to worry about the pace as it seemed we would finish well inside 6 hours. It was a relief to reach the CP and fill up with water and take a breather. Again we diverted from the true coast path and followed a ridge running due east to the next bays. This took us along the edge of the army ranges and following the 'safety' markers was easy. The sun was blazing now and the ups and downs were starting to take their toll. Our 'group' got more strung out and I made a pairing with a guy from Weymouth.
He knew the area well but not the intricacies of each diversion. With the thought that two heads are better than one we made a silent pact to stick together. It also kept the pace strong as we each felt the other person could go faster and we were perhaps slowing things down! The detour around Kimmeridge was the largest and took us furthest inland. It meant we missed some of the coastal scenery but instead by running on higher ridges we got more distant views. Not long after Kimmeridge we climbed to the highest pint in the area at 203m. It seemed insignificant compared to some of the very steep climbs of ??? steps that we had flogged up already. We did a circuit of the burial mound and headed for the next CP. It was a short gap between CPs here but we were glad of the water. Although I did not relish a couple of kilometres on lanes it was easy running and we did get the shade of a wood that was pleasantly cool. Leaving Kingston we headed due south for St Aldhelm's Head and met the coast path again just east of Chapmans Pool. The rest would be easy to navigate as it is so popular and so well marked. Running out to the Lookout Station we had the breeze in our faces for the first time.
No complaints though as without the breeze the day would have been much hotter. From the end of the headland we could now see Anvil Point. It looked tantalisingly close but was about 8 miles away. Despite being tired I really enjoyed this final section of the run and pushed myself quite hard. (no photos along here) The path got a little more crowded along this section with walkers from Swanage and some climbers from the campsites in Langton Matravers. Everyone was extremely pleasant and jumped out of our way; a few even knew what we were doing and shouted well done. Anvil Point was the last CP. The friendly marshalls pointed us down the rocky path and we were off into Dunston Country Park. A quick check of watches showed we were still on course for sub 6 hours so we charged on. The wooded path was cool and I knew the way from here to the end. In no time at all we were racing down the park and towards Swanage Pier area. This was perhaps the hardest stretch of the day. It was heaving!! The mass of people seemed oblivious to anyone moving at more than snail pace. There were toddlers, dogs on,leads, prams, beach paraphernalia making more obstacles than seemed fair. It was a relief to get off the pier without having caused anyone to fall into the harbour. All that remained was the run along the front and up the hill to the church hall. On our reccee yesterday the hill had seemed quite big but today the steps and headlands we had met dwarfed it and I ran the whole way. 33.5 miles and about 1845m climb. Completed in 5 hours 47. First lady and 8th overall so I was more than satisfied. The Dorset LDWA catering was excellent and we were soon refuelled and lying in the sun cheering in the next finishers.
In place of an ice bath I went for a long and very deep paddle down on the beach, plus the treat of an ice cream.
I spotted Andy and Sarah on their run along the prom and cheered Bob in on his final 100 metres or so. A grand day out.