Updated: Aug 19, 2020
It was with great excitement that I set my alarm for 5am Friday night. Not so much when it went off Saturday morning. However a quick wash and a coffee and my excitement levels were restored. Maverick race, a very cool and very well organised outfit hailing from Dorset were putting on their first race since we were told, 'it's probably best just to sit this year out.'
I have ran many a maverick event before, and there is a real community feel about these races as you enter their slick event villages. Think pizza vans, coffee houses and house music. So after a two hour journey from London it was great to be greeted by smiles as I parked my car.
The smiles hid a determination to show the masses that running races are still alive however. I was hugely impressed with the organisation and level of detail to make sure everything complied with government advice and runners were kept safe.
Sanitizer was readily available, we were under strict instructions to only register ten minutes before the start time to stop runners congregating. We also got to pick a wave to run in. There were four waves spaced out so as to stop too many runners running together. I opted (foolishly) for the first wave only realizing after I would have to be up at dawn. But I did want to be there at the start and I had a traffic free journey.
What what probably the biggest change however was the time trial structure of the event. Runners were 'released' every 15s (a bit like a downhill ski event) and I really enjoyed it. True you didn't really know how you were doing in the race, but I enjoyed the space as you ran, and the personal battle to get round as fast as you could.
The course was beautiful with stunning coastal stretches and some very intense steep hills to tackle. The weather was a bit cloudy and drizzly but in all honesty this was perfect to run in. I don't do heat very well. The staggered starts and 15s time intervals also meant the course didn't get saturated with runners, and I didn't experience any problems with other trail users.
The aid stations were manned with sanitizer and there was a mask on policy. The volunteers were briefed on how to safely fill water bottles with minimizing risk to either party. I didn't use an aid station (tough guy) but from what I saw they were working very smoothly.
The whole atmosphere was one of defiance and joy. Defiance to both Covid and fear, and joy to being once more part of something positive and worthwhile. You could see on the faces of runners how relieved and happy they were to be racing once more. Everyone I spoke to felt the same. I didn't feel unsafe once during the whole event.
Ben and Justin, the race directors did a fantastic job of putting on a top event under such conditions. I could see in their eyes how much work they and their team had put in to make sure this event not only went ahead but went ahead right.
If this is the future of racing post Covid (for a while) I'll be more than happy to toe the line, and I don't think I will be the only one.
Ben (Bandito) Wood.
Photos thanks to Jake Baggaley