Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Dorset Beast: Twelve Miles of Rain, Mud and Cliffs.


Today was Dorset Beast day: a gnarly, hilly, off-road fest of hills, mud, tree roots, nettles, cliffs, coastal paths, biting wind and driving rain. We were up early for breakfast and ready when our friends arrived to pick us up at 8.30 for the 10.30 start. There were five of us heading off for the run: two speedy-pants, me somewhere in the middle and two slower boys. The scene above greeted us as we arrived at race HQ. Oh Dear.

We traipsed across the sodden field in a downpour that was to last the entire day and collected our numbers from the tent, hovering inside it as long as possible as the combined warmth of so many bodies had momentarily stopped the shivering, then queued for the loo in the rain and started shivering again whilst wondering what the hell we were doing there.

I had my traditional pre-race tuna-mayo-with-salad-from-the-garden half pitta (in the rain) which helped me warm up a bit, then it was time to strip off and don racing kit (in the rain) before trotting down to the start (in the rain).

I elected to wear my waterproof, woolly hat and gloves for which I was teased. I did not at any point over the next nearly-three hours regret them. M headed off to the front of the field wearing nothing more than a racing vest and shorts (that man is made of steel), with Sue a little behind him and then me and the boys further back....



We couldn't hear the race director's instructions because, even with the use of a megaphone, the wind snatched his words and whipped them away before they reached our ears. All we heard was the applause and a nervous ripple of laughter. I later learnt this was caused by a warning about cows in the fields, deservedly so as it turned out: there was a small stampede when M got to them which concluded with one of the cows jumping through the hedge. Luckily, by the time I arrived at the same spot half an hour later they'd calmed down and were all standing quietly in a group sheltering beneath the trees.

We set off, 400 runners galloping down a lane jostling for position while the rain baptised us soundly. I've had a dodgy knee for the last six weeks and was therefore running the race today with caution, it being a 'test race' (according to Physio Steve) to see what was going on. It was perhaps not the best race to choose to run with a less-than-fit knee as it was all hills, and big ones at that, but I'd been wanting to run it since I first found out about it and you know there is very little that stops me. Look at the hardy souls in the pic below running in shorts and t-shirts on the most miserable day this side of last winter! Hats off to them.



On we went, over commons (can you see Corfe castle there in the distance in the photo above?), across slick wet board walks across streams, over stiles, along the railway and down along country lanes through villages heading for the sea. My knee was OK, registering 1-2 out of 10 on the annoyance scale and I was plugging on through the awful conditions relatively well, if slowly.



We took the path up to the top of the quarry, and there was the sea, spread out looking angry and agitated in front of us...



It was a grey, broiling sort of day, the waves whipped into a white-crested fury by the wind which was mercifully blowing in land, otherwise I think several of us may have done kite-impressions and ballooned out over the water. As it was I was nearly knocked over by a particularly strong gust at one point. I found myself dimly wondering just how safe it was for 400 people to bounce up and down on the cliff path in a rainstorm so close to the edge of the land. I tried not to think too much about it and concentrate on my running instead, which was more a mix of run-walk at this point because a) the path was narrow and b) it kept going up hill.

We were more-or-less at the half-way point by now, around 6 miles. Traditionally, this is where I get into my stride and start over-taking people, but the terrain made it impossible to do that and to add to my woes, my knee had started aching more. The chap in front of me was progressing through a series of slips and slides that were essentially a kind of permanently-suspened fall, and I had to bite my lip to stop the giggle that kept wanting to burst from me at the sight. I think the weather and the conditions were combining to make me a little hysterical. The wind whipped up again at that point and small needles of rain began to drive into my left cheek. 

Feeling slightly smug (and slip-free in my fell shoes), I overtook Slipping Man as soon as I could. I got into my stride as we went past the coast guard, perched high up on St Aldhelm's Head, and waved at the coast-guard chap who was warm and dry inside. He waved back, doubtless thinking what idiots we were to be running twelves miles of hideous conditions along the exposed coastal path near Worth Matravers.

And then this happened....



The path disappeared down one side of an ankle-breaking cliff that was slick with mud to reappear on the other side, where a lung-busting climb awaited......



If you look carefully, you'll see the tiny brightly-coloured dots in a wavering line to the right of the dark mass of trees in the pic above. These are runners. Here's a close-up version.



I paused briefly to gather my courage and determination and while doing so took the opportunity to take this photo. You can barely see the coastline, so bad were the conditions....



I fared better than most of my fellows scrambling down the cliff path, thanks to my beloved Mud Claws (fell shoes with grippy bottoms that chewed the mud with a kind of disdainful Huh! Take That!). The screams and yelps of those behind me told their own tale. I didn't risk looking back; I just hoped they weren't going to free-fall all the way down and take me with them :o)

The climb up was not actually too bad. I've learnt not to look up to where you're going as it's just too distressing, plus the path was littered with bodies, casualties in road and trail shoes who were slip-sliding hopelessly down and sideways as they battled the slick mud of the path and the gradient. To my surprise, I reached the top relatively quickly and in good condition (blessed be the Mud Claws) and managed to overtake about five people on the next downward stretch because I had absolute faith in my shoes to hold me up, which they did, while people all around me were sliding and falling over.

The course dipped into a hollow and then began a long, arduous climb up a surfaced track. I lost heart here: I suddenly felt very tired and very heavy in the leg department, so I walked. Then ran on once we reached the top. I knew we didn't have far to go but my knee was starting to seriously hurt and I wondered if I'd be able to run for much longer.

At 11 miles it gave out entirely and all the people I'd worked so hard to overtake began streaming past me. It was the most disheartening moment I've yet experienced on a run. I had one mile to go and I just couldn't run without it hurting. So I walked. I hobbled. I rang M to tell him I was walking the last mile, then I saw some marshals ahead and as I was by now limping quite badly they asked if I wanted a car to drive me to the finish.

Well, OK, I might be in bits unable to run anywhere even slowly, but there is no way I'm running eleven and a half miles of a really tough race only to get a lift home for the last half mile. I'd have to be dead or unconscious. I thanked them, shook my head, gritted my teeth and carried on. I turned right off the field and onto a lane which wound uphill and walked up it sobbing, I was feeling so sorry for myself. A lovely marshal asked if I was OK and when I nodded miserably and told her I was determined to finish the race, she said you've got less than a hundred yards to go. Determined to cross the line not walking, I broke into a pathetic hobbling run, crossed the line in just under three hours and promptly burst into tears. It was my worst result time-wise since I began these longer-distance runs but even worse than that I was now consumed with the thought I might never run again.

M, as usual, was my hero.You did brilliantly, he said, wrapping me in a big hug. Your knee will mend and you'll race again. He should know, as he reminded me later, he's had two enforced significant rest-periods from injury in the last ten years and came back to run a marathon in his best-ever race position afterwards. He dried my tears and gave me a bacon butty. Friend Sue collected my t-shirt (bright yellow with a red roaring lion's head) and between them they got me back to the car, wrapped a warm towel round my shoulders and helped me pull off my sodden kit and replace it with something warm and dry. The boys came back not soon after and there was just time to take a final photo before heading home to a bath and a half-hour ice pack.




So there we have it. What a day! Should anyone kind enough to read the above experience the temptation, at this point, to tell me that I'll ruin my knee if I ever run another step, please resist it. I'm afraid it will fall on deaf ears. I'm just not the glass half-empty type and I don't give up easily.

Hope you're all well and have had a good weekend?

CT :o)

50 comments:

  1. Fantastic achevement, looks a great course but too tricky for me!

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    1. You could do it, Si. You ran a marathon so 12 miles along the coastal path would be a breeze :o).

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  2. Hope the knee is better soon. I think you may have been doing too many races close together.

    We had similar weather as you here today so it wasn't difficult to resist the temptation to go for a run. Instead I did an hour steady on my trainer. Tomorrow morning will dawn sunny and hopefully I'll be out running after a light breakfast.

    If you're looking for a 'Beast' for next year here's one in mid-Wales called the Preseli Beast. I think they run from somewhere in the Preseli hills down to the sea at Newport and back. I think you're guaranteed mud, rain, clag, - in fact everything your Mudclaws can desire!

    Good luck and speedy recovery.

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    1. There could well be something in that, Gwil. I'm having a fortnight or thereabouts off now to rest it then will see how I go.
      Have a great run tomorrow and thanks for the race recommendation- sounds brilliant. I will put it in the diary.

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  3. Well I wont say it then but I am thinking it. Being the owner of a terribly arthritic ankle which totally handicaps me now I am in my eighties, I felt similarly about my ankle years ago - to my cost.

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    1. I think you'll find that's the same thing as saying it, Weaver.

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  4. Oh good gracious. And this is supposed to be fun! ??????????? Aaaaaaaaaaghh !!!!!!!!!! Sounds terrible. Hope you've warmed up. Hope your knee has stopped hurting. Hope, whenever you stop running, it will be because you decide to, not because you have to. Mud claws sound good. Having fallen on muddy Dorset paths three times this year - simply pottering along, not running, maybe they would be good for trepid walkers as well as intrepid runners.

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    1. Definitely fun, yes! That's not a bad idea re the mud claws and walking. They have minimal padding but I find them very comfy. might be worth asking a local running shop about fell shoes :o).

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  5. That looks like a run and a half! Huge congrats for pushing on to the finish. I hope your knee feels better after a good rest. X

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    1. Thank you, Jules. I'm so pleased I didn't give up. The knee is feeling much more comfy now. X

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  6. Wow, what a race. Amazing, dramatic scenery. I'm so sorry your knee wasn't happy, I do hope that it improves soon. The human body is very resilient and always trying to heal itself and it sounds as if you have been doing all the right things. I have great faith in your physio, he seems to know all the things you should be doing so hopefully you can see him soon. Sending you a cyber hug CT, and very well done for conquering that cliff, amazing. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks, CJ. This year was always going to be a learning curve, running-wise, and it's certainly teaching me vast amounts. A fortnight off running now, with exercises to strengthen the muscles. M is confident it'll heal as is Physio Steve and I rely on them and their greater experience to guide me. Thank you so much for the hug- I got it :o) xx

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  7. Thank goodness for mud claws I say. Wow, what a determined lady you are. Those Dorset cliffs are killers walking in the dry never mind running in today's conditions. Glad you made the finish line but do make sure you give that knee a bit of a rest :). No doubt you will be back in the fray very soon with even more determination. I'm routing for you. B x

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    1. It was a real test of determination for everyone who took part yesterday. Immense hills in the rain, not sure I'd have gone out unless it was a race! Two weeks rest now and then a gentle run to assess recovery. I'll be back to it xx

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  8. Good on you for finishing, despite your pesky knee! It looks like it was an amazing race with fantastic scenery. I'm sure that M and your physio are right and you'll be running again in no time. xx

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    1. Thanks, VM. It was certainly an experience- one I hope not to have in quite the same way again! But this is running I guess, it's very much a warts and all sport. Really chuffed I finished xx

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  9. Sounds awful but you will get over it and run many more miles, even if at my age (a month off 78)and with a replaced knee, I couldn't do it. Reminds me of the time I had a bad fall skiing and a badly wrenched knee and they wanted to bring me down in the aka, I refused and some how got down that high, steep mountain I should have been skiing down fast and hard, instead skiing along sit somehow throw myself over and ski back. Those were the days.

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    1. Wow, Penny- huge respect to you for that. I love to hear these tales of bravery. The human spirit really is unquenchable. Good on you for doing it yourself and not getting a lift down the mountain. You are one intrepid lady. I shall remember your story whenever I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself and grit my teeth and get on with it x

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  10. You are a fabulous writer and as I was feeling the cold wet. By the end I was in tears with you.
    A huge hug for you and the gud dugs. I hope you got lots of cuddles from them,

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Thank you, Parsnip, for the lovely words and the hug. The dogs have been very sweet, Ted sitting leaning against me and Pops curling in a ball on my lap. They always know when we need a bit of tlc, don't they? X

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  11. Oh my goodness, it sounds absolutely awful. Such a pity the weather made it all worse. Well done for making it to the end. x

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    1. In some ways it might have been worse if the sun had shone- at least in terrible weather there's a poetry to feeling rubbish :o) x

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  12. Years ago, my wife and I had a romantic weekend in Dorset around about February 14th. It is fair to say that the ups and downs of its coastal paths are a good metaphor for Life. And we were just walking. Best Wishes for a speedy recovery.

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    1. And probably for running too. A beautiful part of the world though. Thank you for the good wishes.

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  13. My brain is conflicted! One side is in awe and the other is saying...bugger that for a game of tin soldiers!
    Well done! Great work... hope you okay and beautiful Corfe, Jurassic coast and my old stomping ground at Uni!
    ❤️ xxx

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    1. It's a wonderful land along the coast there. Feeling much more cheerful today day. Have seized victory from the jaws of defeat and planned my recovery properly. Much love to you guys. See you in a few months. We'll go for a quick run before the cake, shall we?! Xx

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    2. A walk but run? Only if there is a zombie apocalypse will you see me run.!!!!! ;o)

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  14. You just proved how tough you are, well done for getting to the end of the course. Our bodies are amazing, we heal and go forward, I'm sure with rest and the correct advice you will be posting about running again. Your running shoes sound perfect. We climbed Pen Y Fan mountain, training ground for Welsh Guards, it rained all bloody day, got to the top and could not see a thing and the wind was horrible.

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    1. Thanks, Marlene, those are exactly the positive, fightIng spirit type words I need to hear. Pen Y Fan is one of those places the weather changes at a drop of a hat, isn't it? I've walked up and got lost in a sudden fog before. It was quite terrifying. Glad you got back ok

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  15. Hey CT,
    I'm hoping your glad half full attitude has kicked in, and your'e now feeling terribly proud of yourself. You finished a really tough race in hideous conditions and in pain. Talk about mind over matter!! Rest is the key, dear CT. you'll be back out there before you know it. Congratulations!!!!
    Leanne xx

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    1. Hello lovely. I am feeling better today, thanks. And determined to go back next year and do justice to the course. Thank you for your lovely words of encouragement- just what I needed to hear. Hope all's good with you, family, running, honey and work xx

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  16. Well done CT. I've walked up that killer hill (where everyone kept falling in a heap) and I can only take my hat off to anyone who can manage it at better than the crawl I took it at!

    I hope that your knee is soon completely mended, but you did give it a bit of a challenge - well done for gritting those teefs and carrying on.

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    1. Thank you :o). Yup- proper Dorset hills, you gotta love 'em xx

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  17. Oww, poor you! Disappointing, I know, but you'll bounce back. That's one tough race. Take care of the knee and do as the physio tells you! ps you look really quite chipper in the final pic, I'd have been in a big sulk!

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    1. Thanks my dear :o) it's actually my friend Sue in the photo. She got round in well under two hours, hence the grin! X

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  18. What a contrast to your other Dorset run in West Bay and I thought that was a difficult course. The weather was dreadful here yesterday and we know the area you were running in yesterday too so can appreciate a bit what it must have been like. You are amazing to have finished well done as M said you did really well especially with the injury to your knee and those difficult conditions. Hopefully your next run will be easier. Sarah x

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    1. I was thinking the same thing re the difference in weather :o). Couldn't have been more different. I do love that coastline xx

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  19. All I can think when I read your post is 'You're nuts!!!', haha:) To run a difficult race like that in atrocious English weather... Well, I wouldn't do it!
    All the same, I really hope your knee will be better soon so you can go for more nutty runs, haha! <3

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    1. I think all runners probably have a healthy dose of madness in them :o). X

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  20. brilliantly well done!! good lord but that looks a nightmare of terrain -- and the teeming rain and mud? bloody marvelous! You could be an advert for those Mud Claws! I don't see how any knee, dodgy or otherwise, wouldn't be tested by all that mud...you did brilliantly and deserve a lovely recuperating rest - with cake.

    I'm the sort of person who would advise you not to run anymore and then do precisely the opposite myself...so I totally *get* it. ;) Which is why I'll be back riding tomorrow after 8 weeks off with a thrice-dislocated shoulder. *grin*

    oh, and I wouldn't have got a lift, either. ;)

    onwards then? xoxo

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    1. Not the least surprised you'll be back on board and hooray to you for doing so. Life just wouldn't be the same otherwise, heh? Onwards my friend xx

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  21. Well done for finishing this crazy race in extreme conditions (and I've made a note of your shoes, should I EVER be tempted to do anything similar – unlikely!). I hope your knee is feeling better; I'm sure you'll do all the right things to get it back to full strength and be whizzing along in no time. But take it easy! xx

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    1. Thanks Sam. For once I'm not chaffing at the bit about having to rest. Mind you, ask me in a week and it'll probably be different! Just popping over to catch up with your news xx

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    2. Champing. Not chaffing. What goes on in the mind of auto-spell checks?? x

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  22. Amazing to keep going with a bad knee in those conditions, massive well done :) Hope you got some bling?!
    Jillxo

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    1. Thank you, Jill. No race medals on this one, just the t-shirt. They have something of a cult status among runners so I'm chuffed to have got one. x

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  23. Greetings from Chester. Looks fun. I like the rain.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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    1. I like the rain too, but could have done with a bit less of it on thIs run! Thanks for the comment.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x