What could be more pleasant on a sunny July day than a little trot around a Cider Farm in deepest Dorset? Sounds idyllic right? However the reality was tinderbox dry, open fields, unrelenting 30c sunshine and not a single dapple of shade to be seen. Not so idyllic….
However, it didn’t stop team IWRR giving their usual 100% effort. The awesome eight all rocked up on Friday to set up camp and prepare for the early 8am start the next day.
Set in the grounds of Cranbourne Chase Cider near Wimbourne, this is White Star Running’s most popular Frolic race. What is a Frolic I hear you cry? Well a Frolic is an endurance (or not, depending on how you want to play it) event. A short course that entrants can run, walk or jog as many or few times as they wish over a set period of time. For this particular Frolic, it was a course of 3.9 miles to be run again and again over and over for 12 hours…. it was just unfortunate for our trusty team that it was on possibly on the hottest day, of the hottest summer for nearly 20 years!
8am came and they all set off. Different goals, different game plans, different day at the office for every single one of them. Julie Salter and Paul Butcher were the only two roadrunners to set off as a relay team, Paul taking on the first lap. The other 6 all set off as solo runners. Darren Dollery and Sean Williams both aiming to complete 7 laps of the course to complete their first marathons.
Hot already despite the early hour, it became really obvious, really quickly that this not going to be a walk in the park. Not hilly by any stretch of the imagination, but not flat either, the undulating loop was tough underfoot. Rutty and rock hard in places, scratchy thigh high crops and matted thick dry grass to negotiate.
Everyone set out well. Dan went to the front from the start, clocking the 4th fastest lap by any competitor in the whole race, whilst the others tried to pace themselves accordingly.
Halfway on each lap was the welcome sight of the infamous Lovestation or as it was renamed for this event Fernando’s Disco. Manned by some moustachioed macho men in some rather familiar looking vests, it was complete with blaring disco tunes, sangria, cider and the usual array of coke, water and munchies.
The cool sponge station also located there was an essential part of surviving the searing heat as morning turned into midday and midday turned into scorchio o’clock.
On the other side of the course, team IWRR had set up their own private aid station on the course to provide a safe haven to rest in the shade and hydrate after making the most of the ice cold run through shower.
Paul and Julie ran alternate laps exchanging their squeaky baton each time and enjoying watching everyone else come through.
Darren Dollery and Sean Williams were aiming for 7 laps of the course to give them their first marathons each. They both ran brilliantly for the first 20 miles, rarely stopping and keeping up a good pace. However the heat started to take its toll, as they both considered giving up after 5 laps.
“I was done” said Darren “I really wanted to do it all in one go but I was just so hot I felt I couldn’t go on. I got a talking to from Holmsie in our aid station. She said take a break … you’ve got all day to do 2 more laps… whatever you do DO NOT QUIT! You’ll kick yourself later. I did as she said, took a little break then I cracked on and got my Marathon after all, I am so pleased”
Similar story for Sean, he also took a break before completing his marathon distance, but unlike Darren he didn’t hand his chip in… he hopped on the free bus down the pub to watch the England match.
The others were still out there. Dan was in the lead lapping the field in his seemingly effortless style, putting in the graft lap after lap. Andy, Michael and Sarah were still chugging out the miles as they also passed their marathon distances but carried on into ultra territory.
“I’ve never run any further than 27 miles before, so I had no idea what I could do” said Sarah “I had a figure in my head that I wanted to reach, but had no idea if I was physically capable” said Sarah
Distance supremo Michael suffered cramp from 16 miles onward.
“I was going to quit after I’d run the marathon distance, it was agony!”
But after a little rest he decided to run a few laps with his little protégée Holmes.
“I knew this would be the hardest couple of laps for her. She hadn’t eaten anything other than gels so I knew she might need a bit of support”
Onward they all went, ticking off the laps, Andy calling it a day after 10 circuits and a whopping 37.5 miles. Michael had gotten a second wind, Holmsie hanging on in there.
Sean had reappeared on the course, refreshed after England’s triumph over Sweden, blasting his way around to complete another 2 laps giving him more than he came for, 33.5 miles his first Ultra! Paul and Julie managed a fantastic 20 miles each. Phenomenal considering they both hadn’t run for weeks due to Julie’s broken hand and Paul working away.
Dan ran his 15th lap and retired
“I had a wobble at the Lovestation. I knew no one would be able to catch me in the time remaining so I decided that I would make this my last one”
He’d done it again! He’d won! With an hour and a half to spare, he’d proved his class as an endurance magnate despite the extreme conditions. 56 miles behind him.
That left just Mick and Sarah out there. The heat was finally starting to wane as the final hour approached. Sarah had reached her goal of 40 miles but after checking the leaderboard after her 11th lap it emerged that she may or may not be in 3rd (internet updates were slow in the fields of Dorset). Despite having already been on the course for 11 hours and 45 minutes, she made the decision to go out and do 1 more lap to try to ensure that she got on the leaderboard. Michael went out with her.
“I never entered the event expecting to place at all, but as soon as I realised that it might happen I was determined to push until the end and give it everything I could. I am so greatful to Mick for helping me through the tough miles”
And boy was it worth it! That last lap put her not just third but elevated her into 2nd place lady and a staggering 5th overall and put Michael into 3rd place Male and 4th overall. A 1,2,3 for the roadrunners. A masterclass in the power of the mind, of determination and of the pure stubbornness to not relent.
Veni, Vidi, Vici. Time for a cider.