The Coastal Trail Series Dorset marathon course is rated as a 5/5 difficulty and labelled ‘Extreme’ by the organisers Endurancelife. This has to be one of my favourite courses out there: Yes its hard, but it also rewards you with the beauty of the views the tricky nature of the course throws your way.
Underfoot the course never seems to be too heavy-going even after prolonged bad weather with the majority of it covering the grass-covered chalk cliffs of the area which drain well and the only mud really to be found is the crossing of a farmer’s field at the most easterly point of the route… Rather than overcoming slippery conditions underfoot, the difficulty of this course is found in getting up and down the very steep and numerous cliff hills along the way.
Over the preceding week we had been warned by the Met Office about gale-force winds blowing-in that would make life interesting on exposed parts of the south coast, but at least it was forecast to stay dry for the duration, although with it supposed to be overcast all day and with the shortest day approaching, light may prove to be an issue for any late finishers on the marathon, with those in the ultra & ultra plus, bar the quickest in the field all but guaranteed a finish in darkness.
All registered in the simple quick, effective and painless Endurancelife ‘conveyor belt’ manner, I joined the throng awaiting the start in the relative shelter of Lulworth Cove, although the howl of the wind on the hills above could already be heard even from down where we were!
|The upwards procession from Lulworth.|
|Looking back on passing the 'Dor|
|A good 10k of these to conquer!|
|The slow upwards slog.|
|Along here I was blown sideways mid-air :)|
|About to descend to the visitor centre.|
|Around Lulworth Cove itself.|
|Another tricky descent!|
It was a case of safety specs on again, lean in to wind and make as quick a pace as I could. The downhills were very amusing being almost blown back up them, allowing you to lean ridiculously far forwards without losing balance; the blast so strong as to catch your cheeks and blow them out. At times I was struggling to breath with the force of the wind at my mouth so had to cup a hand over my face as I went to cope better. Along the ridge and over the hills, another respite was offered with our descent from the ridges north side towards the abandoned village of Tyneham, mercifully affording us some more shelter. although the pay-back was the long slow ascent to the final aid station, the most exposed of the day, and the last leg to the finish line.
|Counting the bumps to the finish.|
|Cloud descending onto us blown in on the gale.|
|Damned sight more than '39 Steps'.|
|Leading to the Cove below.|
As a rule I don't normally 'do' selfies, as these runs are about the landscape in which I am plodding, but I couldn't resist: as you can see in this very unflattering image, I'm doing my impersonation of a dog with its head out of the car window with my jowls flapping away inflated by the wind!