Signing up for a Marathon so close after Beachy Head was never the plan, but as you all know standing round after a parkrun chatting is a dangerous thing! I should have realised that when it is Dave Fawkner doing the talking it would be very dangerous!
I have been on a race before that has a recommend kit list but never one that resembles an SAS survival pack and is actually checked before the race by the organiser! I am glad I spent 4 hours on Friday hunting down a foil blanket.
So it was that at 4:47pm as dusk started I found myself lined up on the start line with four fellow Massey runners – Mary, Lee, Clare and Dave (Signed up for the Ultra) – all wearing head torches as we would be running through the night although at 5pm it really is late afternoon! My head torch was new and untested as in the morning packing the backpacks Mary had damaged the battery compartment of her torch so a last minute panic and purchase was needed! How did we manage in the days before Google and SatNavs.
Of the five of us, only Mary and I had dressed in Halloween costume. However, after 1 mile my cape was quickly binned to be followed by a witches dress and Dracula top ½ a mile later there will be some very confused bin men in Buxton this week – TOP TIP 100% polyester is the equivalent of a boil in the bag rice for people.
After starting the race with the fab four at the back Dave ran off to do his Ultra, so at the back of the pack Mary and I followed Clare and Lee (Singing Step Songs?) a little way back.
After running Beachy Head we thought we knew hills and trail runs. Dusk Til Dawn put this into perspective! To say it was hilly would be an understatement. The first 3 miles to the Cat and Fiddle Pub where totally uphill at this point I should have followed my early advice to Clare and stopped for a drink and a meal before walking back! As that hill was nothing to what we had to face later!
The run up to Shining Tor gave us a glimpse of what was to come, wet boggy ground, lumps of hidden rock, bunny holes and yet more slopes. The views from the top I am sure would have been magnificent however the Peak District is a dark part of the world with minimal lights so at night under a head torch you can see nothing but the few lights of towns miles off.
Having adopted an early walk the hills, run the flat and down hills parts we made reasonable time to the first check point at 7 miles only to find Dave had waited there for Lee and Clare – eating almost the whole supply of Haribo in the time he had waited. So under the guidance of Dave’s lighthouse of a head torch we ran on as a ground (Using the word run loosely).
Although it was like being followed by a car under his luminescent glow it still didn’t stop Dave running into a quagmire of unimaginable gloop – but only one leg! Literally knee deep! So for the rest of the run Dave was running with one white leg, one brown and a rather pungent odour!
I managed to live up to my moniker of Mr Bump, by catching my foot in a rabbit hole and rolling over squashing my fudge! That isn’t a euphemism I literally squashed my fudge cubes I was fuelling my run with! As well as other falls that meant it wasn’t only Dave that was wearing the new cologne – ‘Au de nature’ a smell that will get you noticed in all social situations!
The trail was marked by strategically placed small yellow flags with reflective tape. Hunting for these on route became critical especially in large fields where the path wasn’t so clear. After Dave’s dung dip, Mary and I led the advanced Massey party across the field following the reflective markers. I was feeling very confident that we were heading the right way, as there was a long line of reflected dots on our route. Then Mary exclaimed, those flags are moving! Maybe she had too many gels! I looked again and she was right the flags had got up and walked away blinking! The trail we were following was the refection for the eyes of the sheep! Luckily we were heading the right way.
At the second manned checkpoint we were being followed by the sweepers who told us we were doing fine and were 25mins ahead of time. After conquering steep hills on the first 14miles of the route so far we felt confident we would make the last sweeper cut off at 19 miles, so we set off chewing the chocolate Brownies and Flapjack as we crossed the railway bridge and turned – again upwards.
Slippery road surface from the moss and quad burning hill did nothing to dampen our spirits in fact after we crested the seemingly endless hill we cruised down the tarmac on the other side.
Once back onto the footpath at the foot of an enormous hill Dave gave us the reassurance, ‘It’s okay I think we just go round this hill!’ We didn’t! On and on the hill went. Just as I though we had finished the climb the path turned back on ourselves! Hairpin bends to keep on climbing. I am sure at this point Clare showed a sign of poor vocabulary as she looked on at the continued climb. After the monumental climb we were ready for a long steady decent. But we were soon to be disappointed. The downhill was narrow, with sharp drops to the right, with a wicked camber and boggy with the odd rock hidden. With a choice of safety or speed we chose safety – although Mary took a tumble.
After finally getting to the bottom over stiles and through gates we forced a climb up to the road to the next check point at 16½ miles only to be greeted by the organisers wife timing us all out! We missed the cut off!
What followed was a long drive back to the school – I feel sorry for the car owners with the mud and smell! – and a welcome mug of tea and a pasty. Although we all knew the rules and times we were still disappointed not to have gone the distance even with Dave’s excellent encouragement and navigation. For Lee is was to be unlucky 13 (Marathons) but I think we all felt most for Clare whose this was to be her first Marathon.
When I first signed up for Beachy Head I was told it was one of the toughest in the UK, well having done (well nearly) both I can easily say Dusk til Dawn is the harder; the hills, the terrain, the camber and run at night add up to make this a Beast of a run even on a warm clear dry night. But the real question is would I do it again? The answer is a qualified Yes… Yes if I am lighter, better trained and no Beachy Head the week before.
Most pleasingly we did get a medal. Not a Marathon one as we didn’t earn it, but after a cheeky ask to the organiser we each got a ½ marathon medal. Well we had run a tough 16 ½ miles