As part of the build up to the epic upcoming TWOR challenge (which at the time of writing is only 25 days away!!) JP suggested a training run on the SWCP. Being a bank-holiday, and no work, I jumped at the opportunity, as it seemed a great way to condition my legs, and to remind me (as if I need reminding!) just how demanding the terrain is.
We planned to cover a double marathon (just over 52 miles), starting from Charmouth, and running to Ferry Bridge, on the edge of Weymouth, then turning around and running back to our start point. These sections represent the beginning and end sections of the TWOR route. I was intending to try out my cheating sticks, as I’d not yet used them, and hoped they’d be of benefit on the hills.
JP and I Started the day nice and early. Up at 3.30am for some breakfast, and out on the trails by 5.00am. Jon, who is also running the TWO’R started the opposite end to us (at Midnight, as he was busy during the Bank Holiday afternoon so he had only able to run with his ‘Boyfriends’ – his wife’s description – during the morning ) and he ran to meet us as we started. This meant he also covered a double marathon distance.
The route starts off running downhill (just to lull you in to a false sense of security) before starting the climb up to Golden Cap. This is the first of many serious climbs on the route. The mist/cloud was heavy when we reached the peak, so we couldn’t make the best of the views unfortunately. We adopted a ‘Power hike up the hills, run the flats and downhills’ approach, so we didn’t ruin our legs straight away
After dropping down the other side, we carried on up and over a few other smaller climbs, before reaching West Bay, at approx 6 miles in (apparently the TV programme Broadchurch is filmed here?!) We will be using this spot as our first aid station when we come to the TWOR.
After West Bay, it’s straight up another big climb (East Cliff), with some fantastic views when you reach the top.
Folowing more climbs, we dropped down in to Burton Bradstock, then headed out toward chesil beach…. this is a deep gravel beach, and is HORRIBLE to run on!! Trying to find some harder ground was tricky, although the path does come slightly inland for a short section, allowing running on the grass for a break…. We won’t mention how I managed to fall in a ditch at this point however! After what seems like an eternity, although in reality is only a couple of miles, you reach the end of the beach, and to Abbotsbury – approx 14 miles in, and the point that we will be using for our 2nd aid station.
The coastal path then winds inland for a few miles, and levels out a little, with the climbs becoming smaller, allowing the opportunity for some ‘quicker’ running. We encountered a short sharp rain shower, which was sweet relief, as the temperature had been gradually rising.
Staying inland for a few more miles, we came back down toward the sea again, and reached the point we will be using as our third aid-station, Langton Herring (although I think we may utilise a friends house/garden somewhere near to here).
Our final section on the outward journey is approx 7 miles, toward Ferry Bridge (our planned Fourth aid station), at which point we’d complete our first marathon. This is again a relatively flat part, with plenty of runnable sections. Along here, we met Dave, a ONER veteran, and a big part of our support team for the TWOR and he ran the last five or so miles in to Ferry Bridge with us.
We stopped for 20 minutes or so to grab something to eat, and a much needed hot drink (cheers Dave, you don’t know how much of a boost that gave us). If nothing else, the days adventure was making me realise how important regular food and drink is going to be if we’re to complete the whole 164 miles in a few weeks time.
I applied some BETTER YOU magnesium spray to my legs which JP, and others, have been advocating for some time now – it definitely seems to help with recovery I must say.
At Ferry Bridge, Jon left us, as he’d completed his run. He looked knackered, but hadn’t slept for around 36 hours. He was still running faster than me for the last mile or two though!!
Back on the trails, and feeling re-energsed following our food break, we started to re-trace our steps. I’ve run sections of the SWCP a few times now, but never in this direction, and it felt a little disorientating! The return journey was likely to be slower, as we wouldn’t have fresh legs. Dave continued to run back a further 5 miles or so with us, before shooting off home, leaving just myself and JP to complete the last 20-odd miles.
We maintained a steady consistent pace, running much of the trails while they remained fairly flat for 10 miles or so, and time seemed to pass really quickly, as we chatted all the way along. It rained a fair bit during this time, but because it was fairly warm it didn’t have an adverse effect.
Before we knew it we’d returned to Abbotswood, and the dreaded gravel beach loomed. I know I need to get rid of my ‘fear’ of this before the main event, as it’s such a small section in the grand scheme of things.
Along the route, JP had a great suggestion about us stopping for a few minutes at West Bay on our return to purchase some chips (with LOADS of salt on them!) – I can safely say, chips have never tasted as good as these. They really hit the spot, and helped to motivate me to tackle the final 6 hilly miles.
Despite the ‘chip-break’ the last section seemed tough. A combination of tired legs, and general fatigue made the hills feel higher than they did on the out-journey. Pace slowed a little, but my spirits remained high, as JP is such a positive person when talking.
The final major climb, back up to the peak of Golden Cap again, seemed monumentous….I do think there is a psychological effect with me, when coming toward the end of a long run, as I know I’m soon able to rest, as I tend to slow down my pace. I need to work on that.
We returned to the car park after 11hrs 53 minutes of moving, having covered 52.3 miles and 6706ft of ascent – a good days work!
In summary: A fantsatic day out. GREAT company. Some good runnable sections. Some hard, non-runnable sections. A few things to think about with nutrition and fluids for the big day, but nothing major to tweak.
I’m intending to start a gradual taper from now until the event, and this will have been my last ‘big long run’ before it – this may seem pretty early to start a taper , but I want to be properly rested for it. I’ve ran over 240 miles in the last month, so know I’ve been putting in the time as much as I can.
Thanks again to JP, Jon & Dave for the company today