March Madness – Jurassic Coast Challenge

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The Jurassic Coast Challenge 22-24/03/2013

When the briefing on day one stated that this event was not a race, but an endurance challenge, they were not wrong. Given the weather, this has been mental and physical torture. I don’t even know what hurts at the moment, given half my body is in pain and I can’t feel the other half!!

Arriving on the south coast on Thursday afternoon in huge winds and gloomy skies, you knew day one of this event on Friday was going to be entertaining. When the first sentence uttered by the Event Director at the day one morning briefing was “you’ll have to forgive some of the staff if they look a bit tired, we had to get them up in the early hours because half the main marquee collapsed and the wind has picked up even more this morning,” the following sentence about being nervous if you hadn’t done the event before wasn’t really relevant. You were more nervous that you were standing in the marquee!!

Everyone said I was mental for entering this event, and they were all right. Three days of not much running, but generally walking and slogging through the mud, up brutal hills and across quad sapping shingle beaches has proved absolute hell. Add to that getting generally lost a few times just to add a few more miles to the distance and my body has officially died!!

The event takes place over three days with day one starting in Charmouth and finishing at the Ferry Bridge Inn in Weymouth, day two from Weymouth to Lulworth Cove via a complete loop of Portland, and day three going from Lulworth Cove to Shell Bay which is just past Studland, opposite Sandbanks. It involves navigational skills and is a cross between off road and fell running and mountain walking.

I had to pick the worst year ever weather wise to do this challenge (according to the organisers). Even the experienced fell runners who have done the event before had taken an hour longer than their usual four to finish each stage. To put that into context these guys would cover a road marathon in 2hrs 20, which just says something about the terrain and weather conditions. Stage one took place in a storm with 40mph gusts and stage three had a wind chill which made it feel like -2C.

The coastal path has eroded in so many places along the route and is such a quagmire it is going to take ten years for it to fully recover and many of us on this event have commented we doubt it ever will.

For those who have taken part in the Suicide Six, Stourbridge Stagger or any of the other muddy local events, the first and third stages of this event have included around 10 miles of leg sapping mud each. Add to that the diversions due to the erosion and day three alone turned into nearly 30 miles!! I will never worry about a marathon again.

As for the hills, day one is pretty bumpy with 4,083ft (1244m) of up hill. Day two starts with a complete loop of Portland, the flattest part of the whole three days, but still manages 3,607ft (1099m) of up hill, that is over the height of Mount Snowdon. And not to be out done, day three has a staggering 4,755 feet (1449m) of climb.

As for the views, I think it would be hard to find a more spectacular place to run in the UK. The support has been excellent and given the weather the organisation, in very challenging conditions, has been good.

Should day one have even taken place in the middle of a storm with 40mph gusts and driving rain four hundred feet up on the edge of cliff faces five feet from shear drops? Probably not, many didn’t think so and it was the source of much discussion as many had finished in the dark, which just shows how mental I am.

Running a marathon is challenging enough. To run one off road in terrible conditions with so many hills is daft, but to get up the next two mornings and do it again is, quite frankly, stupid.

So, if any of you aspiring fell runners or seasoned marathon runners, or even 50 mile ultra runners fancy a real challenge, this has to be one of the hardest events around. Some of the top male and female runners i met at this event are true athletes for whom I have the highest regard and utmost respect, not least because it is (more than) three marathons in three days, it’s the ultimate running endurance event.

Stuart.

P.S. Please donate at http://www.justgiving.com/crazyroadrunner2013 if only to make the foot ice bucket and loss of toe nails feel better.