Half marathon start - © Gareth Hayfield
On a cold, crisp Saturday morning in December close to a thousand people gathered in the car park at Lulworth Cove for the Dorset leg of the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series. With four races to choose from, ranging from 10k to ultra distance there is something for everyone, provided hills, mud and hard running are what you are looking for.
Endurance Life as usual had everything well organised; registration was quick and simple; complimentary CLIF bar and free t-shirt in hand we headed off to change.
We were signed up for the half marathon, which it turns out was the popular race of the day as over 400 participants lined up at the start. Endurance Life can’t count too well and so our Half Marathon was in fact to be held on a 15 mile route.
Late as always I was stood by the car getting ready as we heard the countdown, luckily the queue to cross the line was such that we had plenty of time. No standard start possible with this many people, each runner dipped their timing chip as they crossed the start.
The course started as it meant to go on – with a hill. Fast walking was the order of the day, this hill was just about run-able but with so many people in front of us walking was easier and a good warm up for the fun to come.
There followed an undulating path along some of the most beautiful coastline this country has to offer, passing the famous landmark of Durdle Door along the way. After three miles the course turned inland, passing the first checkpoint. Here we were treated to rolling hills leading gradually back to the start. Passing back through the village we headed east into the Lulworth firing range.
As it turns out the first few hills were just a warm up; now the main challenges of the course began. A five hundred foot slog up the first serious climb with a thigh-busting descent back down was compensated by incredible views to Lulworth Castle from the summit. This pattern was repeated until we found ourselves at Tyneham village, evacuated during the war, the residents never allowed to return after the land was requisitioned by the MOD. I tried to run the gradual hill out of the village to checkpoint two but by now fatigue was starting to kick in and soon I was walking again. At the checkpoint I stopped to top up my water and helped myself to some jelly babies on offer.
My Garmin told me we had come twelve and a half miles, so just under three to go. We had seen the leaders returning along the way they had come and I had assumed that we would reverse our tracks, and therefore all of the hills, on the way home. Thankfully the course remained on top of the ridge line after the first hill, which was a great relief. As fifteen miles approached though, there was still no sign of the finish. Telling myself not to worry, just keep running, I concentrated on closing the gap on the runner in front of me. Eventually we dropped into Lulworth. With only a few hundred yards to go I tried to sprint up the hill before my legs rebelled and I was forced to return to a slow shuffle across the line. My Garmin read 16.2 miles.
All in all a great day out was had on a wonderful course. If you fancy a challenge, I’d recommend you give an Endurance Life event a try sometime, you might just surprise yourself. The next leg is in Angelsey which is a bit far for me but I’ll be back in February for the South Devon Half Marathon.