Rolling hills, roman roads, roman walls, Maumbry Rings and a neolithic henge. Castles, country piles, manor drives and chocolate box cottages. Poets, authors, martyrs and legends. Tolpuddle, Briantspuddle, Affpuddle, flipping gurt puddles. Piddle,(a River), Piddle, (the beer), fiddles, diddles, dancing, laughing, do-si-do, and stripping the willow. Lovestation, sweeties, cider, kisses, wet cuddles, lipstick, dipsticks, cheers and tears. Winners, dinners, camping and damping.
Welcome to White Star Running’s inaugural Dorchester Marathon and Casterbridge Half.
1400 runners made the trip down west to road test this brand new event. Known for their superbly organised races, White Star are the kings of off road trail events. But this was on tarmac.. TARMAC!! No wonder 13 of our little Roadrunners were curious enough to sign up and embrace the experience.
And what an experience it was. Seamless from start to finish. Andy Palmer’s attention to detail was evident everywhere.
“There’s a barn dance!” Exclaimed our excited runners, seemingly more interested in the after party than anything else!
“You know what this means………” squealed the social secretaries Zoe Elliott and Sarah Holmes “FANCY DRESS!!! YAY!”
But business first, they had a small matter of 26.2 miles to negotiate first (or 13.1 for those tackling the half)
Relieved after the recent warm spell to wake upto an overcast sky, the 9 marathoners were bright eyed and bushy tailed (well… most of them were! Naming no names!) for the early 8.30 start.
Nerves were jangling on the startline, none more so than for Lisa Upstell who was running her first marathon. but it wasn’t long before they were on the move, along with 700 others having been given the off from the Towncryer.
White Star Running is also famous for it’s love of hills. Not slopes, not graceful increases in gradient, Hills. And it wasn’t long before our 9 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 awesome foursome of Julie Salter, Bridget Keyte, Sally Trotman and Zoe Elliott were lining up on a slightly different startline for the Casterbridge Half Marathon. Again set off by the towncryer, they embarked on a slightly different route, cutting through Puddletown Forest.
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, seemingly making a day of it as the sun started to peek through the clouds and the temperatures rose.
Onward the marathoners went through the leafy shade of Oakerswood, but the undulation wasn’t letting up. For every down there was another up, coupled with the increasing humidity, the runners began to flag.
“The elevation was far greater than was stated on the course profile” said hill virtuoso Michael Coultrup “it was more the constant undulation that got to you rather than the usual big dippers that White Star normally dish up” And he would know, he’s completed most of their other events.
A welcome surprise at the 15 mile mark in village of Briantspuddle was a plethora of jelly sweets, cakes, fresh oranges and a live band.
“I can’t tell you how glad I was to see that little stall, it was like an oasis appearing in the desert” said Sarah Holmes “I was so hot by then it was a welcome little pit stop I felt really good after I left there, it was a real pick me up”
Onward they went, up and down, up and down, past the 15th century Manor at Athlehampton, past the famous Tolpuddle Martyr Museum and on to Mile 20 (mile 7 for the half) and the famous White Star Lovestation. Located in a real barn, complete with hay bales, a bevy of lovelies were there giving out hugs, kisses and stickers. Ice cold sponges and CIDER!!
It was fair to say that our Half runners were in a more fit state to indulge themselves here, than the marathoners, but still 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 the run the rest of the route together. Up and down the most challenging part of the course.
The Half girls negotiated their way along the last 6 miles of more ups than downs to all cross the line smiling together in just shy of 2 and half hours.
“We’ve had such fun along the way” said Zoe
Less fun though for the marathoners, as the real test of endurance starts to kick in at this point. For some “the wall” appears from nowhere like a sinister shadow. But not for everyone, as it seems. Our Bill Goozee got a second wind at this stage after running alone for quite some distance
“I had been struggling mentally from about 13 miles onward” he said “its hard running that distance alone. As soon as I hit the back of the Half Marathon runners I picked up. I started picking people off as I went. I got to about 1/2 a mile from the finish and I suddenly realised I was in second place and I may have got this! I sprinted the last downhill section and turned into the finishing straight and zoomed past the leader”
Yes that’s right … our Bill only went and won the damn thing!!! What a superb run from him!
“I didn’t come here to win, but what a bonus!”
Next across the line was Michael Coultrup in 3.31.13.
“That was harder than I thought it would be. I went wobbly at about 21 miles”
Next, in quick succession were Tim Keyte, Paul Butcher and Kev Rann. Paul ran a superb race taking a whopping 26 minutes off his previous best time and on that course that is no mean feat.
The girls were next in crossing the line triumphantly together in 4.26.52.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done” said Lisa “I really struggled in the last 6 miles. I was so relieved when Sarah caught up with me at mile 23. I felt her hand on my back. She really led me to the finish line, I may have given up without her”
“I could see Lisa in the distance, I could tell she was not feeling good. It was a pleasure to run that last stretch with her. I could never have left her behind”
That’s part of the marathon journey, that you are in it together. That every one of you is striding for the same goal. It’s an emotional rollercoaster every time, heightened by a million percent when it’s your first. The power of friendship is so important when the going gets tough. Memories and bonds are made.
Next in was Keith Ruth, getting cheered in by the rest of the crew as he powered in for a sprint finish. Then bringing the IWRR team back to completion was our chairman Pat Harris.
“I am pleased with that” he said “Considering I was treating it as a long training run for my upcoming ultra, I am delighted with my time”
And with that they all scurried 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!
A prize for dancing… not so much!!
Fantastic weekend was had by all. We’ll be back next year without a doubt.
Michael Coultrup- 3.31.13
Tim Keyte- 4.12.14
Paul Butcher- 4.15.30
Kev Rann- 4.15.38
Sarah Holmes- 4.26.52
Lisa Upstell- 4.26.53
Keith Ruth- 4.43.45
Sally Trotman- 2.28.13
Zoe Elliott- 2.28.15
Julie Salter- 2.28.15
Bridget Keyte- 2.28.16