Sunday, 6 August 2017
Bridport Jurassic Coast Half Marathon: The Toughest One Yet
We were up at 6.30 this morning to drive down to the Bridport Jurassic Coast Half Marathon with friend B. This is the race which next year attains Fell status because of the ginormous hill half way round (which the half marathon runners do twice. Yikes!). You can see some of the hills in the photo above.
Sarah, whom many of you will know from her wonderful blog Down By The Sea lives in the area and we were hoping we'd be able to meet up at the start of the race, which we duly did, with Tavi, her Westie, present as an identifying feature :o)
This is the first blog friend I've met in real life and it was a lovely way to start the race off. Sarah is as lovely in real life as you'd expect and Tavi is gorgeous too :o)
The race kicked off at 10:30 and we set off along the seafront at West Bay, which is where Broadchurch is filmed. The weather was glorious- bright sunshine, a bit of wind, not too hot, not too cold. I went very slowly for the first six miles, mindful of the knees, but realised after a while that this course is either uphill or downhill, and if I continued walking all the downhills and most of the uphills (which were cliffs so I have some excuse) I would hardly run at all and I'd also be out on the course for hours, so at the halfway point I picked up the pace and cracked on. Before I'd reached that there were these to contend with.
Hill Number One:
And hill Number Two:
The second is the hill that gives the race it's Fell status. My Lord, it was Hard Work. Absolutely no one was running up it, we were all heaving away with our hands on our thighs wishing it would end soon. I seem to recall describing a hill on the Ridgeway Half a few weeks ago as a monster, well I take it all back, that was a pimple in comparison. And the worse bit was that the half marathon runners had to do these hills twice, the second time after running about nine miles over other cliffs. I put the thought away and decided not to worry about it until I had to.
The view from the top was stunning....some consolation for the climb :o)
But there was little time to stop and admire it, because this lay ahead.....More hills.
By now I was seriously down time-wise because I was walking down each hill and starting to fret that a single loop (6 miles) would be all I could do. I realised I was either going to have to stop at the halfway point, or pick up the pace and see what happened. Stubbornness kicked it and I started to run down the hills. I caught up with and overtook five people which felt good, and realised I was feeling strong and that the knees were coping fine, so I decided to run the rest of the race as I normally would, stop worrying about the knees and just get on with it.
I reached the halfway point in 1:17 hours feeling relatively confident that I'd get my 2:30 hours time because I knew I would be running the second half faster. At that point I saw Sarah waving at me and that lifted my spirits again.
The huge hill second time around was hard work, I won't lie: it was tough. I don't think I've ever stuffed so many jelly babies into my mouth in a race before, praying to the sea gods that they'd give me the energy to get up the hill and do the four miles that lay beyond to get back to the finish. This time I knew what was ahead too, a mix of hills and more hills. I grabbed a water bottle at the top, drank half of it then tipped the remaining half over my head as the sun was warm by then.
The course turned inland away from the sea and through fields, and still I was gaining on people and overtaking them, feeling strong with a decent amount of energy left in heart, lungs and legs....
As a result of the field being relatively small (200 runners across the two disciplines of 10k and half marathon), I ran the majority of this race on my own, something that I would have really struggled with only a few weeks ago. At The Ridgeway I relied on the ultra runner I met at mile 3 to get me to mile 7, then Sally to get me between miles 8-10. At Adderbury, I had help from another runner when we ran miles 8-10 together, and from Pop when I imagined her running with me during a hot and empty stretch between 5-7 miles. Today, I used the thought of Pop running with me to get up a hill in the later stages of the run, but otherwise I was fine: running alone wasn't a problem. These hilly, off road races don't attract crowds out on the course so there was no spectator support either. This is something that many runners depend on- they use the crowd and one another to get them through energy slumps and to help lift them when they are tired and drive them on to the finish. For large stretches of the race today I saw not another soul and I actually rather enjoyed it. That was my learning from today: that I can run an endurance distance alone over pretty tough terrain and cope fine. It felt good.
The final stretch of the race takes you back out towards the cliffs along the seafront away from the finish. Mentally it was tough- you're off the lovely springy turf and back onto remorseless concrete going in the wrong direction apparently forever. I dug deep and kept going, feeling huge relief when the course turned and took us back in the direction of the finish. Here there were crowds clapping and cheering and then I saw B waving and cheering me on, and a moment later M wearing a medal and a huge grin. He ran along beside me to the finish which was lovely, and then I left him as I sprinted the final 100 metres to cross the line somewhere around 2:30 hours (my GPS kept stopping and starting so it's a rough estimate), having climbed a total elevation of 583 metres. It was undoubtedly the toughest run I've done yet and we all agreed it was hard but brilliant.
When I got back it was to hear that B had run a superb time in her 10k (she's not a natural trail runner preferring roads where she regularly runs marathons and the odd ultra - and I'm sure she won't mind me telling you that is retired too, so that is one tough lady), and that M had done brilliantly too, beating my 2:30 hours by about 45 mins. We had all really enjoyed the race and the course and had a fantastic day.