The one with hills and cows!
After a completely manic few days involving work, of course, and a trip to Luton to an old friend’s wedding reception on Friday evening, we found ourselves in Swanage in the early afternoon on Saturday. The day had begun with an enjoyable parkrun at Eastleigh, a nice little stretch of the legs in preparation for the little bit more than a marathon on Sunday. Swanage was a bit grey when we arrived and pottered about but the bay is so gorgeous and the ice cream a delicious way to carb load and the weather was forgotten.
There was a walk and a ride going on as a part of the Purbeck Marathon Festival and wandering along to the finish line to collect my number I felt the first wave of butterflies and excitement about the marathon. I did the marathon last year with my friend Martin, it was his first ever marathon and a sort of baptism by fire!! He ran the 16 mile this year and I went back for more of the marathon!
Sunday morning and the alarm went off and the pre marathon fussing started: kit check, breakfast, coffee, kit check, kit on, hydration pack filled, trainers on, pack checked again, Vaseline on, banana eaten and at least three trips to the loo and I was ready to walk the 5 mins to the start. The sun was shining and it was warm already. Runners were milling about drinking coffee and using the toilets and chattering away. I met up with Martin and his wife Yasmin and we headed to the start area where I met fellow Fareham Crusader runners Mel, Paul and Trevor as well as our friend Ros. Numbers pinned on, bags dropped and the run brief held and the race started with the Town Crier ringing his bell and the marathon runners set off uphill at exactly 9:30am.
This marathon has the most spectacular scenery and after a mile we were on the South West Coast Path heading past Durdle Door towards Dancing Ledge and Kimmeridge. This section is pretty much single file on track with a small piece of wire separating the runners and the cliff!! I try not to give it much thought and focus on where to place my feet although I did fall over about two and a half miles in!. I was running this marathon alone and listened to the chatter around me and joined in when I felt the need! There are plenty of styles to climb over and gates to open and shut in this run and in particular this section. The views are just stunning that you just can’t help looking and smiling, it feels like a privilege to be running along these paths with cows and sheep for company.
The route turns in land for a bit and goes through the village of Kingston. There were a few people cheering us on here which was a great boost. It is here that the 16milers take a right turn and head towards Corfe, the marathon runners head back to the coast road and Tyneham. This section is where the ups really are quite steep in places, a great opportunity to top up on fuel as it was really very hot and fuel was essential.
At the top of one of these sections was a herd of cows, literally in the middle of the route. Cows and me are a bit of an interesting thing and I have had the odd melt down when faced with them on a run (cried like a baby!) I let a few others walk through them first before very bravely having a go myself. Despite the fact that they seemed to stop chewing the grass and look at me, I made it! I had to take a photo to prove it to myself and others.
A few more ups and downs on the route and we headed into Tyneham a village that has been deserted since the second world war. This was a check point and also the point at which I got cramp in my quads, never had it before so was not great. Knowing the route helped me from here on in as I knew the hills and where I could walk up them and manage my cramp. Fellow runners were also complaining of cramp and the heat so I wasn’t alone. Heading up and over the hills towards to Corfe you pass lots of people walking and cycling and admiring the views and the sunny September sunshine. At one point you can see the tank tracks at Bovington and across to Brownsea Island one way and the Isle of Wight in the distance and back across to Kimmeridge that is a wow moment for sure! Corfe Castle looks majestic in the sunshine and again there were families looking around. We pass through a pub garden with enticing smells of lunch, luckily there was a drinks stop here. I took on my flat coke as we walked across the steam railway and headed up for the final albeit long climb!
By this time cramp was in my quads and hamstrings and I was quite grumpy about it! After the final bit of trail that sees you emerge onto the road at Ulwell I was dragging and hopping along the road to the seafront at Swanage and the finish line. The sun was string and there was still heat, think it was 21 when we got in the car at 4pm to come home. My wonderful support crew Mr eGlove was there at the end to take care of me at the finish and also to laugh at me and my cramp faces!!
This marathon is such a challenge and can be hard work but it is so lovely and one of my favourite runs. The scenery is second to none, the marshals are fab, the finish team are great and you get ice cream and cider! I felt wrecked and had cramp for ages afterwards, not great! Chips and tea and a paddle on the sea is a brilliant way to end a run. Well done to each and every person involved on the day, thank you, I will be back.
Editors note: If you are inspired by this brutal, but beautiful run, you can find more details HERE