My latest foray into the world of trail marathons was a trip down to Dartmoor and the first running of the ‘Something Wild Trail Running Festival’. The organisers, Wild Running, are a group of keen trail runners and outdoorsmen to take advantage of the taxing and beautiful scenery of Dartmoor.
I’d been tipped-off about this event earlier in the year by Kirsty, an old friend of mine living locally to the event, who was going to run the 10k with some of her friends, and with a half marathon option as well as the 10k and the marathon, there was a distance on offer for both LSS and I to run.
The weekend was to commence on the Friday night at the event base of the River Dart Country Park, where you could camp for the night to be ready for the morning’s run, with registration in the on-site bar and restaurant. On the Saturday would be the various races, a post-run curry buffet and in the evening a series of lectures given by various adventurers.
LSS, Spud and I took advantage of the combined camping and race entry ticket; me for the marathon and LSS the half with Spud to drag her onwards and we drove down to Dartmoor on the Friday afternoon. Having pitched-up in the lovely campsite, we registered and enjoyed a hearty dinner in the bar as the Rugby World Cup kicked-off on the big screen allowing us to watch England mediocre their way past Fiji.
|LSS prepping for her & Spud's run.|
|A short downhill before climbing to the distant moors.|
|Through the gate just before the 'halfers' caught-up.|
|Up to the first tor.|
|Over the moors.|
|Crossing the Dart.|
|The bridge at Bellever.|
|The old bridge at Bellever!|
There was a reason for LSS and Spud looking so fresh. It turned-out they had endured a nightmare time of it since I left!.. Due to recent heavy rain which had necessitated in course alterations, the start of the half marathon had been moved to a different location: the pub at Scorriton a couple miles away and all the competitors were to be transported there ready for the off… All of them it turned-out had been, apart from LSS whom the organisers forgot about and she was left stranded at the campsite with Spud all raring to run. One of the organisers finally realised, but the only possible transport was to attempt to squash herself and Spud in to an already full hatch-back, so knowing that the new start was on the marathon route, she decided that Spud and her would make their own way there… 3 uphill miles later she arrived in Scorriton at the pub for the start long after all the other runners had already departed!
|More moody landscape.|
I found the course almost as challenging as August’s Skyrunner and it was certainly as tough as it was both enjoyable and picturesque… However the marking of it was a little ‘hit and miss’ with the markers not being very clear at times, leading to you scanning the horizon for them and doubling-back on yourself as you are not sure if you were on the correct path. The idea of having the route on ViewRanger at least gave you the chance to double-check where you were on the course, although it still requires you to stop and take your phone out to look at it and as such breaks any momentum you may have.
|One final tor.|
The setting and location were first-class. I would recommend the River Dart campsite to anyone, and having hot showers at the finish line is always a good thing! The scenery through which you ran was great, however the organisation was poor to say the least. Communication about the change to the route of the half marathon and its new start location was poor and the logistics equally so - it seemed they did not have any effective ‘Plan B’ or contingency for this happening and they had to make it up over the couple of days before the event. Even with these changes they had to make, not forgetting about one of your competitors - one of your paying customers - and leaving them stranded is rule 1! On the communication front, as well as the website for the run, they had set-up a Facebook page for the event but did not update it, they also have a Twitter account, but this seemed to be scant on updates for the day - besides not everyone uses Twitter - and if updates are being made you should point those interested in the event in the direction of where information updates will be from other social media platforms. This was a missed opportunity for them to engage with their participants, as well as prospective participants and to clearly keep everyone clearly informed rather than just leaving a wall of silence and frustration for the runners, their customers, whilst winging-it and hoping everything turns-out ok!
|The valley into which we descend for the end.|
After finishing the 10k my friend Kirsty had to go back out on the course with some of her other friends to try and find one of their group who had lost sight of the course markers and had become lost. When Kirsty had approached marshals about this they just shrugged their shoulders and were disinterested rather than offering assistance or even co-ordinating an effort to locate her friend. Fortunately she was found after about 15 minutes, having managed to retrace her steps, but nonetheless it was another oranisational failing here.
Today was the first iteration of the event and in the course they have a challenging and good looking route with an exceptional event base at the campsite, so Something Wild has a sound footing to grow from. The folks behind it are keen, enthusiastic and decent sorts, however they need to learn from their weaknesses in organisation that today has highlighted and to tighten-up on this side of their operation. Once these kinks are ironed-out then there is nothing to prevent this event from becoming a popular annual outing on the trail-running calendar through its family-friendly setting. Will I be back? hmmm, I don’t know… Maybe I’ll give it another try in a few years once they have had a chance to iron-out the organisational side of things but until then I'll be finding something different to run in Septembers!