Dorchester. A little cluster of historic buildings, poets, authors, martyrs and legends. All enveloped by rolling hills, chocolate box cottages, Piddle (that’s a river btw), puddles, forests and enough fiddley-diddley-dee to last you a lifetime.
In only its second year, White Star Running’s only road race is fast growing, with over 2000 competitors taking the trip down West to take on the undulating courses and the much talked about Barn Dance after party.
Arriving early and making the most of the camping experience, most of our team pitched up in the sunshine with one eye on their weather apps as thunderstorms and flash flooding were forecast.
“I was more worried about my tent leaking than running the race haha” quips camping newbie Sarah Holmes
With heavy downpours during the night, the Roadrunners woke up to more rain which continued right upto about 15 minutes before the off. But right on queue, as the race briefing began, the clouds parted like the Red Sea and the sun dried off its hat and popped it straight on, burning away the clouds and raising the humidity despite the early 8.30 start.
Not too many nerves on the startline as our awesome foursome have run this iconic distance many a time between them. It was more a case of careful race planning to account for the unrelenting undulation and the heat.
After being given the off from the Towncryer, they, along with over 700 others, began their 26.2 mile journey. White Star Running is also famous for it’s love of hills, not slopes, not graceful increases in gradient, hills…. proper hills. It wasn’t long before our 4 marathoners were making their way up their first one, (before they even reached mile 1 to be more precise), as they made their way through the historic town centre before they began their journeys into the lush green countryside and toward West Stafford and Tincleton.
Meanwhile our half runners, Michael Douglas, Sarah Sharp, Caroline Curliss and Giorgio Marinelli lined up on the banks of the River Frome with a huge field of over 1200 other runners for the Casterbridge Half Marathon. Again set off by the towncryer, they embarked on a different route cutting through Puddletown Forest, before joining the marathon route at around 7 miles.
Picturesque cottages were a plenty, along with pockets of locals sitting on drives and front lawns in their camping chairs. Clapping and cheering and offering varying goodies to the intrepid runners. Welcoming they certainly were, embracing the event, seemingly making a day of it as the sun baked the Runners and spectators alike.
Perhaps the most welcome sight for both our teams was our very own Dan Williams who came along to help on the first water station.
“I’ve never done anything like that before” he tells me “it was great to see a race from a different perspective. It was much busier than I thought though. Proper hectic at one stage! We couldn’t keep up with getting the cups filled up”
Onward the marathoners went through the leafy shade of Oakerswood, but the undulation wasn’t letting up and neither was the heat as the temperature hit 27c. For every down there was another up, coupled with the increasing humidity, the runners began to flag. Themed aid stations along the way made fuelling more fun.
”They were playing some great tunes along the way” said Holmsie “It really picked me up in the second half”
Continuing forever up and down, up and down, past the 15th century Manor at Athlehampton, past the famous Tolpuddle Martyr Museum.
On to Mile 20 (mile 7 for the half) and the famous White Star Lovestation. Located in a real barn, complete with hay bales and stinky cows, a resident bevy of lovelies were there giving out ice cold wet cuddles, coke, sweets, cake and BEER!!
It was fair to say that our Half runners were in a more fit state to indulge themselves than the marathoners.
No hanging about at the Lovestation for our dynamo Douglas though.
The Lovestation provides a big mental marker for all of them as it signifies that there is only 10k left to run. At this point the courses converge and they run the rest of the route together. Up and down the most challenging part of the course.
The course saves the best hills for last, with a never ending rollercoaster of elevation, the runners tired legs start to slow as the Big Dipper at 24/11 miles does its damage. In the half, Michael Douglas held tight, pushing, pushing, pushing all the way up those final hills to smash his way into a magnificent 3rd place overall.
“I really enjoyed the route. It was a struggle with the heat toward the end, but I am over the moon to have come 3rd” Michael beams
Giorgio Marinelli was the next Roadrunner to return to Cokers Farm. In only his 2nd proper half marathon, he ran well.
“I probably could have finished quicker. I spent far too much time enjoying the Lovestation tucking into to all the goodies there. Somehow though, I missed the beer! How did I manage that!”
Next across the finish line was the first of our marathon quartet, Stuart Backhouse who ran a blinder of a race to arrive home in a fantastic 9th overall and 4th V45. No mean feat as the field had some top class athletes amongst them. Andy MacArthur was just 10 minutes behind him in 21st and 10th V45 as he also pitched it perfectly gaining ground in the second half of the race.
The half girls were home next having had the most fun out of everyone.
“We just chatted the whole way, it was lovely” said Caroline, who, like Giorgio was completing only her second proper half.
“We made the most of the Lovestation” said vice chair Sarah Sharp “It was great”
Next across the line was Michael Coultrup to claim 11th in his age category.
“I took it easy, chatting to people along the way. I really enjoyed it, despite my sunburn”
Last but by no means least was Sarah Holmes who was ecstatic to take 9th in her age category. Like Michael, she had run the inaugural event last year so she knew what to expect.
“I just wanted to beat last year’s time” she said. Mission accomplished, she took 11 minutes off last year’s time. “I am really pleased that I managed to run every step of the way as I had to walk lots last year. I was determined to not give in this time”
All home in one piece.
Time for a bit of R&R in the campsite before scurrying off to get changed for what they considered the main event….. The Barn Dance. Now there is only one thing that us roadrunners take more seriously than our running and that’s our fancy dress. It’s fair to say, had there been a prize for fancy dress, we would’ve rocked it! (Well to be fair we were the only ones in fancy dress but that’s a minor detail)
A prize for dancing… not so much!!
Fantastic weekend was had by all. We’ll be back next year without a doubt.
Stuart Backhouse – 3.12.22
Andy MacArthur – 3.22.06
Michael Coultrup – 3.46.16
Sarah Holmes – 4.15.38
Michael Douglas – 1.27.15
Giorgio Marinelli – 2.10.30
Caroline Curliss – 2.31.18
Sarah Sharp – 2.31.18
Thanks to DorsetBays Photography for their fantastic photos