Grab a coffee, and a comfy chair. Much like the run itself, this update is going to be a longer one!
Thursday 22nd June
We (me and Dean, my regular running buddy, who had agreed to crew for the weekend) set off late afternoon on the drive down to Jim (JP) and Wendy’s place, where we were going to be staying overnight. JP had graciously invited us (or did we invite ourselves maybe?!!) to stop there, as it’s only a 30 minute drive to Charmouth (our start point) from his.
Mark (Doddi) arrived shortly after us too. JP had cooked us an amazing Dinner, and we all had a beer to relax before an early-ish night.
Friday 23rd June
Up at 5.30am to allow plenty of time to shower, eat and go through a final kit check, before setting off just before 7am – we wanted to have plenty of time to get to the Charmouth before our planned start of 8am. We said our goodbye to Wendy, and piled into Deans transporter.
(Leaving for Charmouth. Left to right – Doddi, Me, Dean, JP)
The journey there was short, and we arrived on schedule. Jon was already there waiting for us, so that meant the ‘Fantastic Four’ were ready to go. The last person to arrive was Justin (The Brutal Squirrel !!) who would be another vital crew member. He would be with us for the next 24 hours.
So, just before 8am, we set off.
(Stonebarrow NT Car Park – The Start! Left to Right: JP, Justin, Doddi, Phil, Dean, Jon’s Dad, Me, Jon)
Start – West Bay: Checkpoint 1
We started at a nice gentle pace, conscious of the distance ahead of us. This 6 mile section is a fairly hilly start. We ran this, and the subsequent 20 miles on our ‘training run’ a few weeks ago, so it was still very fresh in my mind. Golden Cap was a decent climb, and the first proper challenge. I used my poles through this section, to try and conserve as much energy on my legs as possible early on.
We arrived in West Bay around 80 minutes later – a fairly slow pace really, but it was intentional – and the support teams were there waiting. David Miller had joined them here too, and would re-join us at several points over the course of the weekend. A top up of our fluids, and some quick snacks, and we were on our way
West Bay – Abbotsbury: Checkpoint 2
After a steep climb up East Cliff, heading out of West Bay, the course levels off a little, as we start to run on Chesil Beach. In a previous blog post I’d complained how much I disliked running this part, and today was no different! There’s no doubt it’s a beautiful beach, but it’s just so damned hard to run on! That said, the miles passed by quickly, and the banter was great between us. A short tarmac section saw us in to Abbotsbury, and the waiting vans with Justin, Phil & Dean at checkpoint 2.
The weather had stayed cloudy until this point, but the sun was starting to break through, and along with it the temperature was rising. Not ideal for a long run really.
Some more fluids and food ,and we moved on.
Abbotsbury – Fleet: Checkpoint 3
This 7/8 -ish mile section passes through lot of farmland, as the coastal path moves in-land for a few miles. Nice, runnable sections here. Pushing on through THE SWANNERY , we were met by Chris, who knew Doddi, and had driven out to wish us well.
Ben Royle, a veteran of THE ONER had kindly agreed to let us utilise his back garden and facilities as checkpoint 3. He knows just how challenging the course can be, having raced the Oner only a couple of months back. He greeted us along the footpath, and guided us in. Cold water a-plenty, and proper toilet facilities were most welcome! Ben treated us like kings, and we’re really grateful to him. It was nice to see him out on course again further in to the run.
Fleet – Ferry Bridge: Checkpoint 4
Just a short way to go until we reached our first marathon at checkpoint 4… only five more marathons to go after that!! The temperature was continuing to rise, and I could feel myself burning in the sun. I was consuming copious amounts of fluids, as were the other guys, in an effort to keep well hydrated. This is possibly one of the flattest parts we ran, and seemed to go by quickly.
First marathon complete. Approx 6 hours elapsed time.
We stopped and had some food and replenished fluids (again…. – you’ll have seen a pattern emerging here!) in the car park of the now-derelict FerryBridge Inn. I was paying more attention than usual to my electrolyte intake, and I’m sure it helped.
It Felt good, mentally, to have ticked off the first 26 miles, an everyone remained in high spirits.
Ferrybridge – Portland Lighthouse: Checkpoint 5
A couple of mile tarmac stretch along Portland Beach road was our ‘pleasure’ after leaving CP4. I would say it was nice to have some flat running, but the reality was it felt like hard work! We ran the length of this in a fairly good pace, before re-joining the coast path off-road, and starting the sharp climb up to Portland Cenotaph. We would then do a circular loop around the island, before dropping back down the same route, and returning to Ferrybridge. My poles came back out for this, and stayed out for the whole of Portland.
The view when we reached the top is spectacular, I have to say.
We ran a nice undulating 3 or 4 miles of rocks/grass, on our way to the lighthouse, which was our next checkpoint. The mood remained brilliant, and I’m fairly confident in saying we were all enjoying being out there. We weren’t setting tremendous pace, but were maintaining our estimated time schedule.
Portland Lighthouse – Ferrybridge: Checkpoint 6
We arrived at the lighthouse and found the support vehicles, but couldn’t find the crew! Turns out they were all grabbing an ice cream (is hot work following us around you know). The tracker we had was a little behind it appears, as they thought we were a mile or so away still….
Another water and food top-up,, and we were on our way.
The wind had started to whip around a bit, and it was a relief to be on the other side of the island, which was a bit more sheltered. A couple of nice, slightly technical, rocky miles followed. Really enjoyable running sections like this. We did miss out ‘The Goat Path’ ( much to JP’s annoyance – he swore we were cheating!) but this meant at the top of one climb, just as we were about to re-join a short road section, we were unexpectedly greeted by Rab, Emma & Jon (and their 2 dogs) They live locally, and know the paths extremely well, with both Rab & Jon having completed the ONER in the past – They had some ICE COLD water (which was AMAZING at the time) and other treats waiting for us. This was the first of many times we saw them over the remainder of the route, and their support became invaluable. Was a real boost to see them.
Onwards we went, and after less than a 1/4 mile, we bumped in to Ben and Chris again (both we’d met earlier on) – they’d come out to see how we were doing, and spur us on.
We skirted the prison on the top of Portland; another small tarmac section, before continuing round and back toward the point we joined the top of the island. We even managed to collar some tourists in to taking our photo by the olympic rings sculpture that were put there following the 2012 olympics
Re-tracing our steps along the steep climb down the cliffs again, we re-joined the causeway back toward Ferrybridge.
Just before we reached the checkpoint, we were met again by Ben – he wanted to take us in to his local Crossfit club, which was along the route, as he’d been telling them about our daft little adventure. We were greeted by applause, and words of encouragement, which was a really nice touch – thanks Ben
Ferrybridge – Smugglers Inn: Checkpoint 7
Reaching Ferrybridge again felt like a really important marker. We were now just over 40 miles in, and thus a QUARTER of the way along our planned route. High 5’s all around!!
Yet more food…more fluids….a quick Facebook Live update (!!) and we carried on. I also changed socks at this point. Fresh feeling feet was good. Dean left us at this point, to head of to get some sleep at the Premier Inn. He was scheduled to be with us all day and night on Saturday, so it was important he got his head down.
From the Ferrybridge, it’s a 4 or 5 mile section of tarmac, that takes you along the seafront in Weymouth. By now it was around 6pm, and the pubs along the seafront were starting to fill with Friday night revellers (who must have wondered what on earth we were thinking of!!) The unspoken rule is that you have to run the whole of the seafront, no matter how tired you are….. we (just about) stuck to this, only stopping briefly for a photo opportunity at the clock tower
The monotony of the tarmac was briefly interrupted when Rab, Emma & Jon appeared at the end of the prom with Pizza and fluids for us. (and, of course, words of encouragement) and then, to add to the picnic Davz arrived with chips too! Cheers to all of you for the treats. It was all a bit much for JP though, and he had to have a lie down to eat his!
Only a little further, and we thankfully re-joined the softer ground of the coast path for a couple of miles, to see us in to the Smugglers Inn car park, checkpoint 7. Was good to be back off-road, and actually a relief to have some hills to climb again!
Smugglers Inn – Lulworth Cove: Checkpoint 8
The sun was beginning to set as we reached the Smugglers Inn. We all utilised the facilities here, and grabbed some more fluids. At this point, there was a plethora of people waiting to see us through. Justin, Phil ,Davz, Rab, Emma & Jon were joined by David Streeter, who has had a couple of go’s at the ONER, and lives fairly local. (apologies if I missed anyone – was starting to become a blur a bit at this point!)
We ran downwards through the grounds of the Smugglers, envious of the people sat in the beer garden, and climbed up the next hill. JP was feeling ‘vocal’ at this point, and ‘sang’ across the small valley to the crew at the other side… a sight and sound to behold!!
Six miles of fairly demanding terrain followed. Lots of ascent/descent, and great scenery with the sun setting. All four of us seemed to keep moving well despite the terrain, and this was, again, an enjoyable section.
Coming down several steep steps, we arrived at Lulworth Cove, to be unexpectedly greeted by JP’s wife Wendy – another morale boost. And here, we had reached 2 marathons!
Lulworth Cove – Kimmeridge: Checkpoint 9
Night had arrived, and it was time to get our lights out. We were about to pass through 6-ish miles of the MOD firing ranges, and had pre-arranged for someone to guide us through them. Jon, who had been out on the course supporting had kindly agreed to be with us, and Davz joined us for this segment too.
So, 6 headtorches set off in to the night….
From previous runs along the course, I knew this was possibly the toughest section of the route, with a couple of particularly relentless climbs. I was pleasantly surprised how much of it I was able to run though, which I guess is testament to my fitness level now, compared to a year or two back. Davz and I were chatting, and unwittingly gained a bit of ground on the others – this wasn’t intentional, but without realising we got a bit of a pace on. Was good to run with Davz, as he’s a genuinely nice chap. And, he tolerated listening to me waffling on extremely well!!
Saturday 24th June
Kimmeridge – St Aldhelms Head: Checkpoint 10
It was past midnight now, as we approached the deserted beach car park. This was checkpoint 10. Greeted again by Justin, Wendy, Rab & Emma. Topped up water, and headed off again. It was starting to rain at this point, and the wind was increasing too. Another couple of steep climbs, near Worth Matravers, with the wind howling as we passed the Royal Marines Commando Memorial, almost knocking you off your feet…. and then it was the affectionately known STAIRS OF DOOM awaiting us. This is a ‘lovely’ steep climb down countless steps followed swiftly by a climb back up steps the other side. (photo below taken on an earlier training run).
Tired legs, and very uneven, mis-shaped steps make this a tough little climb, especially in the dark, and with the weather turning a little sour. Thankfully, our checkpoint was virtually at the peak of the climb.
This segment had taken us a while to navigate through, and it was now approaching 2.45am. Justin was on his own at the checkpoint, as the others had very sensibly gone to bed for a few hours. We tried to find shelter around the back of his van, but the wind was really whipping around us…. Time to move on!
St Aldlelms Head – Swanage: Checkpoint 11
7 miles stood between us and Swanage. On a ‘normal’ run, with fresh legs, this should be easily achievable in around an hour. This is no ‘normal’ run though, and at this point we were around 70 miles in. Inevitable tiredness was setting in amongst the group, which is to be expected after nearly 20 hours on the trails, and an amount of negativity seemed to be rearing it’s head with me. Looking back now, it’s easy to see it was purely due to sleep deprivation, but at the time I was beginning to doubt my capability of carrying on to even the half-way point. I don’t think I was alone in feeling this way at the time either.
We took nearly 2 1/2 hours to move along the coast here, before running downhill in to the edge of Swanage. To me, it seemed a lot longer.
We all fell in to the checkpoint where Justin was waiting for us with his usual cheery face, and words of encouragement (taking the piss out of us might be a better description really!!) This had been such a positive run so far, but for me, this was the lowest point I reached…… I was tired. I even updated my social media with some stupidly negative comments, which in hindsight was a daft thing to do, and I should know better! Justin made us a hot drink, and after a comfort break (which was tricky as the public toilets were closed!!!) we pushed onwards.
Only around 7 miles to the end of the ONER course, and our half-way point.
Swanage – Studland : Checkpoint 12
Half-way was always going to a huge milestone to reach, and despite the fact we’d stopped quite a lot at checkpoints we were still on schedule (just) to reach here in our intended time of 24 hours (which is the same as the cut-off time for the ONER) As is always the way when reaching the end (although I appreciate this wasn’t the actual end) of a course/race, the last section always seems a long way, and this was no different.
We ran along the seafront in Swanage, which is a lovely little seaside resort, and through some houses, before getting back off-road on the coast path. A nice climb up again, and we were on top by Old Harry Rocks.
We started winding back down towards Studland Bay, and the beach. When I ran the ONER I was particularly broken at this point, and I have a distant memory of this beach feeling around 250 miles long! We tried to adopt a run/walk strategy, although I admit I was dragging my heels more than the others. Jon in particular was looking strong here. Only 2 1/2 miles of sand and we would be there.
The 24 hour point was fast approaching as we turned the corner at the end of the long flat, where we would come off the beach in to the car park, and checkpoint 12. Friendly faces of Rab, Dean & Justin were waiting for us on the beach to bring us in. Mentally, achieving around the 24 hour mark was a big bonus, and I did so just 1 minute over.
We all felt a big surge in positivity as we ate, drank and changed clothes to freshen up. Dean, Davz, Emma and Rab had re-joined us after a bit of sleep, and Jons brother Karl had come along now to take over from Justin – he was heading off to crew another Brutal Events run in the Brecon Beacons later in the day! – Thanks Justin; you were superb all day and night, and I know we’re all really grateful for you being there
Studland – Swanage: Checkpoint 13
After a considerable stop of around 40 minutes !! we set off back towards Swanage. We were now in to unknown territory, and if you’d have asked me 2 years ago when I completed the ONER if I’d have wanted to re-trace my steps I’d have told you where to go!! I did feel an amazing sense of re-gained positivity now though, and in all honesty I felt awesome. The running endorphins were definitely kicking in, and the LONG stop at Studland seemed to have helped, as we managed to move fairly well back along the beach
We wound our way back to Old Harry Rocks, and down the hills toward Swanage seafront.
Along the way we met Mike and his dog, a friend of JP’s , who’d been tracking us and decided to come out and say hello, (and we persuaded him to take a great shot of us too, as shown below) and shortly after, David who we’d met at CP7 earlier joined us to run several miles too, which was great. Gave us all a nice morale boost again.
Moving back along the seafront of Swanage, we rolled in to checkpoint 13
Swanage – St Aldhelms Head: Checkpoint 14
We were greeted at checkpoint 13 by hot pizza from Davz (thanks again) at a perfect spot overlooking the sea. The crew looked after us brilliantly again, and we spent a few minutes eating and prepping for the next segment. David and Davz joined us to run the next part, which would be around 7 miles.
Continuing to re-trace our steps from only a few hours ago, that now seemed a distant memory, we headed back up out of Swanage, on towards St Aldhelms. We had most definitely adopted a run/walk strategy by now, but having fresh legs (the 2 Dave’s) with us certainly helped to keep us moving (even if it was slowly!), and it was good to chat with both guys.
Our average pace had REALLY slowed down, which was expected at this stage, and it was around 1hr 50 of moving when we arrived at the next Checkpoint. A combination of sleep deprivation and physical exertion was starting to show
St Aldhelms Head – Kimmeridge: Checkpoint 15
People were starting to look tired here. We knew there was the return of the 2 toughest sections ahead of us, and I think mentally that was playing with our heads. A hot cup of coffee and a biscuit saw me done here – although keeping on top of nutrition was obviously important, I was starting to feel fed up of eating so much if I’m honest.
David left us at this point – was great of him to come out and join us.
Pressing onwards, our first challenge was the aforementioned STAIRS OF DOOM… coming down them felt harder this time. Jon and Doddi flew down though, and were back up the other side in the blink of an eye! JP and I encountered some walkers out on the path who were really interested in our challenge, but thought we were crazy too!
The hills seemed to go on, and on and we were reduced to hiking pace for most of the section. We did, however, reach the 100-mile point shortly after leaving St Aldhelms – this felt great. The weather was rubbish along here though, with thick coastal mist/fog and wind most of the way
With around 3 miles to go to Kimmeridge, something changed in the group. Looking back, I can only put it down to tiredness, leading to a lack of self-belief.
A decision was reached to end the challenge at our next checkpoint….
We arrived at Kimmeridge 32 hours after setting off from Charmouth. Tired; a little jaded; but still a ‘team’.
We all headed to the Lulworth arms for a pint and a rest…….
Whilst there is an obvious big negative to take from our attempt, in that we didn’t achieve the full mileage intended, I need to focus on the positives….
We covered 104 miles; that’s 4 MARATHONS…. That in itself, especially on the demanding terrain we were on (nearly 15,000ft of ascent over the distance) , is worthy of praise.
Although I was obviously worn-out when we stopped, I hadn’t totally emptied the tank. I recall how broken I was when I completed the ONER a couple of years back (so much so I didn’t run at all for 2/3 weeks afterwards, and even then it was a very slow ‘phased return’), and we’d done a further marathon distance on top of that this time – I did feel I had something left in my legs, which bodes well for the return (more on this shortly), and I’ve been getting round ‘normally’ this week, and resumed training too.
We had fantastic support: I said this before we started, and I can’t express it enough now. We are so, so grateful to everyone that came out and supported us. Those who were at a checkpoint – you were amazing every time. Very attentive to our needs, (even you Justin!! ), which can’t have been easy with 4 tired sweaty men, and we couldn’t have asked any more of you. Also to those that came out on the course, and ran a section. That was great, especially in the latter stages where we appreciated the boost. And those that came out on course to meet us and ‘cheer us on’, and/or let us use facilities at their houses. Again, this was so good of you all. Finally, to those who sent messages of support or watched and commented on any of our social media activities. That was really kind of you.
So, turning thoughts to what we could have done differently… Although the checkpoints were great, we spent FAR too long at each one. so much so that the last 3 or 4 checkpoints took around 2 hours of our time in total! Admittedly, a lot of that was down to tiredness, but it’s something we have to address next time. Certainly earlier on, we should have been ‘in and out’ much quicker. Also, our kit was too muddled at the checkpoints, which made it difficult for the crew to find things, so we need to organise that ourselves in advance in a much better format. Whilst we all enjoyed updating our social media during the build up to, and during the run, and keeping friends and family updated on our progress, I do wonder if this put too much pressure on us? We have all agreed on the return that this will take more of a back-seat.
The return then…… We have pencilled in a date toward the end of August (which will coincide nicely with my Birthday!) to tame this beast. It may seem fairly soon, but we have all trained hard to this point, and have a decent level of running fitness; It would be a shame to not utilise this now.
Once more; thank you so much for all your support, and for reading my garbled blogs in the build-up.