Beautiful Dorset. Rolling hills. Hidden coves. Glorious beaches. Stretching from Devon to Hampshire the southern coastline stretches some 101 miles from Lyme Regis to Chewton Bunny.
It’s quite some way, even as the crow flies. So throw into the mix the coastal path, mud, shingle beaches, darkness, frost and a easterly headwind and it becomes quite the mission impossible. So to try and run it, all in one go seems unrealistic and quite possibly ridiculous.
But the impossible and the ridiculous have never been obstacles for our ultra king Dan Williams. Teaming up with Andy Palmer from White Star Running, this feat of endurance became a reality. Hours of training, recoinasence and meticulous planning ensued as the pair set about setting the record for not only running the entire coast but setting the fastest known time record.
Starting at 10pm just west of Lyme Regis Dan embarked on this race against the clock.
He went out into the darkness feeling good and up for the challenge, knowing he had a very very long road (or lack of it!) in front of him. He smashed the first leg of 12 and a half miles, arriving in Freshwater Beach ahead of schedule. A very quick pit stop and he was off again on one of the only flat sections of the route to Abbotsbury. Flat didn’t mean easy though, as he negotiated the shingle beaches in the dead of night. He continued onward to Ferrybridge. It was cold now and the Easterly headwind was biting. The reccies they’d done in the daylight suddenly seeming pointless as the terrain looked so different in the dark.
“It was hard going on that section” the mileage mogul tells me “it was frosty, dewy and muddy”
He fell behind his carefully planned time schedule as the logistics of running in the dark took their toll. He reached Ferrybridge at around 4.30am. Knowing he could make the time back somewhere along the route, he started to make his way around the Portland peninsular. Already 30 odd miles into the challenge but still so,so far away from his destination. It was along this stretch that Dan had hoped to make up his lost time. But a few nasty tummy cramps put paid to that idea.
He reached Portland Bill at first light and managed to keep it together, fighting the headwind and made it back to Ferrybridge for another pit stop.
The next leg took him to Bowleaze via Weymouth. With 44 miles behind him, poor Dan felt a sharp pain in his knee.
“I ran walked for a bit and it did ease off, but it plagued me for the next 20 miles or so”
As if that wasn’t enough to contend with Dan then hit the dreaded wall. By the time he got to Bowleaze he’d recovered but had lost 45 mins.
“I was still confident I could bring it back on track. I made decent progress on the leg to Lulworth”
Maybe it was the knowledge that his mum and dad would be there waiting for him with his secret weapon of gherkins which spurred him on? Who knows? But it certainly did the trick as he clawed back some of the lost time despite the undulation in the area.
After a sandwich (and gherkins of course) he ran a couple of miles with his dad (cute eh?) as he wound his way up and down the many steep hills and hundreds of steps in the area
“Strangely I had looked forward to them” he tells me “they weren’t too problematic, just slow going”
Nevertheless he made it to Kimmeridge in good time and raring to keep momentum for the journey to Peveril Point in Swanage.
Just after Dancing Ledge, Dan hit the wall again. Worse this time. He had to lie down at the side of the path for a little while, hypoglycaemic, unable to function. Somehow he pulled himself back and managed to run the next 5 miles to meet Andy at Peveril Point where he was greeted with a nice cup of coffee.
“I was feeling better than I expected! I knew I only had one notable hill left to conquer and my knee had eased up”
Riding the crest of this rollercoaster he went onto just about make the 6.20 ferry from Studland to Sandbanks. In fact he had to pull out a bit of adrenaline fuelled race pace for half a mile to ensure he didn’t miss it! Unbelievable considering he’d run 87 miles!
“I’d have been happy with that pace in the middle of a 10k” he chortles “I was one happy soldier to make it with seconds to spare!”
Dan had 15 minutes to kill on the ferry. Most people having run 87 miles,(well … let’s face it … most people wouldn’t run 87 miles … but IF they did…) would have taken advantage of the rest on board the boat. Not our Dan though! Ooooooh nooooo! He used that 15 minutes to recalculate his pace for the last leg of the journey to get him to his final destination in 24 hours.
Maths done, arrived at Sandbanks to a welcoming committee of pacers, there to see him to the finish in one piece. He had 14 miles left. 14 flat miles! 14 miles of tarmac. No more hills, no more mud, no more shingle. The support on this last stretch was fantastic. In addition to the pacers, that dropped in and out during the last leg, Dan was lifted by passers by, some holding banners, aware of the challenge he was undertaking.
Dan pushed on. Giving it everything he had left to claw back the lost time and complete the task on target. Dark again by now, he had just 3 miles left. 3 miles of promenade. One eye on the clock the whole time and the other on the miles left to go, Dan knew he just had to hold on and keep putting one foot in front of the other. With less than a mile to go he got a huge rush of adrenaline. He politely dumped his pacers and ran ahead hammering it through the dark. A sprint finish! Yes really!! Motoring now at 5k race pace he was just metres away but with only minutes left on the clock. Tick, tock, tick, tock, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
Dan turned left for the last time. Chewton Bunny and the Hampshire border. He’d done it! He’d made it! 101 miles. 13000 feet of elevation behind him, (that’s 3 times up Ben Nevis) A small crowd have gathered to cheer the hero home.
“They had champagne waiting for me”
Time on the clock …. 23 hours 57 minutes and 30 seconds … he’d done it!!! That last sprint had made all the difference and brought him in under the 24 hour mark.
The Fastest Known Time… in the world… EVER!!
“I was gobsmacked! I’m STILL gobsmacked”
And so are we!!! The only question that remains is what is next for Superman Dan???