So it’s been a few weeks, I’ve been pretty beat from ‘the ONER’ an 82 mile ultra marathon in Dorset taking in 10 000 feet of elevation. I’ve been resting, I ended up taking a week off, I still haven’t run outside, but more of that later….
I don’t know what I was really expecting from my first ‘proper’ ultra, this was totally uncharted territory for me. Even in the marines I think the furthest I ever went in one go was the infamous 30 mile speed March.
So it was with baited breath that I turned up at the HQ of the ONER on Portland Dorset, kit packed and emergency numbers given in, on to a mini bus and ferried to the start line at Charmouth. I got chatting to a couple of chaps on board and the mood was jovial, you could feel the excitement of the impending race ahead of us.
The weather was picture perfect, blue sky’s and sunshine. Green fields on one side and sea on the other. Really just perfect. The route stretched 82 miles from Charmouth to Studland.
We brave runners gathered in a loose group as the starting horn was sounded and then we were running down hill, down to the coastal path that would take the finishers to Studland.
I went out pretty quick, but I felt good, I was soon up at the front with some pretty serious looking guys, I spied an iron man tattoo on a leg. I thought maybe I should start to pace myself, so I settled into a rhythm.
I didn’t do my research, I should have been down running parts of the route, I had already run two races in Dorset, the Portland marathon and the jurrasic Coast ultra, so I thought this would be enough. I was a bit surprised with the amount of flat at the start of the race, after a couple of big hills we settled into flat rolling countryside, after an aid station I started running with a very competent lady, I was struggling keeping pace with her and thought it prudent to drop down a gear, I didn’t realise she was in the 50 mile event, by the time I got to Portland I had been on my feet for about six hours and was feeling the strain.
Then I got lost.
I’m not sure how but by the time I had found the Portland HQ (by finally asking in a hotel) that doubled as aid station 4 and 5 I had dropped down the field. This was very frustrating.
Coming out of aid station 6 I found myself running with two runners Wayne and James. It soon came clear that we were pacing each other well and we agreed to try to stick it out together, James was a local man and knew the route well. We ran out of Portland at a good pace, a lot faster than I had run in!
We passed through Weymouth and were soon in to the hills. It was now dark and our head torches came on.
It was a real treat running through the night, and I’m glad I had these two guys for company, we gave each other encouragement and made good time. The terrain now became really hilly, head torches illuminating the paths we climbed hill after hill after hill.
I think it was around mile 60 I started to feel my left hamstring tightening up, by mile 65 my left knee was in bad shape too, James and Wayne were also struggling, both with blisters.
The Sun came up, we limped on, our mood darkened but we kept on putting one step in front of the other. We had been on our feet for 20 hours now, the temperature was warming up. The sun started to feel like a nuisance, I now also had blisters and my shoes were falling apart. Stones were getting in and I could feel my blisters bursting, I was hurting.
By mile 80 I could only limp, I started to get passed by other runners who had been catching me up slowly but surely all through the night. It was a bit demoralising watching them jog by, limping along the track behind.
James and Wayne sensing the finish ran on, I crossed over the finish line 30 minutes behind them, I had been going for 22 hours and 45 minutes. 25th out of 66, and at least one of the 39 finishers.
It was a bitter sweet pill.
Yes I had finished, but not in the fashion I would have liked.
Im not down though, my knee is still giving me problems but I’m rested and hungry for more, the ONER taught me so much, so much hard earned lessons that I will now take into my future races. I’m itching to get back on the horse.
It hurt, it almost broke me, but I loved it. I reckon I have unfinished business at the ONER…..
Thanks for reading.
Ben Wood. (Hop along)