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Jurassic Coast Challenge – Alison Jones tells of 3 tough days on the Dorset coast

As a regular marathon runner, I thought three marathons in three days, how hard can that be? I am about to tell you, so anyone who has a weak heart or is squeamish stop reading now!

Alion with friends

Day 1: Registration closed at 08:30hrs so an early wake up but the transport did not leave for the start line until 11:50hrs so lots of sitting around “relaxing” then a problem arose regarding transport and getting to the start so we were late arriving, no big deal really!

No big starting line-up here, you activate your “dibber” and off you go, downhill, my favourite kind of hill, so far so good, and that’s where the good fortune ended.

I am not a particularly fast runner (no sniggers please) especially in the first few miles of a distance race and considering the surface was not concrete (my favourite) I was quickly passed by just about everyone, or so it felt. I expected to see the sweeper any minute, very disheartening so at this point I thought I had made a bad decision, but the next decision I made was that it did not matter, this was about me and I was going to finish what I had started.

Coastline

Then we met the hills, I say hills because I mean HILLS; 600 meters of elevation so after the first hill I thought well that’s the elevation out of the way, not a bit of it, down the first hill and up the next and on it went, I still did not see the sweeper so felt okay.  There was a worse problem than the hills and that was the mud, it was ankle deep, where it had been snowing and had melted it was lethal which drained your energy just trying to keep upright, which I just about managed.

Mud

After Check Point 2 I met a guy who was really struggling and wanted to quit at the next checkpoint so I decided to stay with him and try and help him finish, so we ran together and walked for a bit when he was struggling but finish we did, in the dark and rain, I was totally frozen by the end of day one, he did not come back to start day 2.

Day 2: Earlier start today since we would be running from HQ around Portland Bill and CP2 was back at HQ.  I took a detour on this section, as it was inland I don’t like to call it getting lost, that’s such a feminine word, so detour it was, which added on another mile, I was with 2 other runners at this point so when we got back to the CP at HQ we were told there was a really strict cut-off at the next checkpoint and we would not be allowed to go on if we did not make it so we had over nine miles to cover in 2 hours, which in normal circumstances would be easy, not whilst you are having to navigate, but we made it and I can understand why they were so strict, you would not want to be on that last 10k in the dark. This day was the day for hills, I thought you have got to kidding, what about yesterday?

More steep hills

But this time the elevation was 1000m with one hill (I say hills they were more like mountains to me) 1km up, which I was coping quite well with, to my surprise, the downhills were another story with the added mud, this is where Sasha Kendall-Woods came along for a run. Max and Sasha were helping the organisers and it was great to see some friendly faces. Sasha ran on ahead and assured us that when we got past a certain point there would be no more mud, when I spoke to her the next morning she apologised there was mud everywhere. My running buddy this day was finding it tough, especially since I had insisted we ‘hare’ it to CP3 to make the cut-off, I was determined I was not going to be timed out.

Day 3: An even earlier start and the clocks went forward so too knackered to even think about what was ahead, after every day I reassured myself that that particular day was tough so the next day would be easier, what a mug I was, but still here I was going into day 3.

Coastline

I looked for my running buddy from the day before, his name was Dick, he was a no show and a guy I had given a lift from the accommodation a few days before was in hospital with a suspected heart attack. I was starting to get a bit paranoid, maybe it was the fact I was wearing the same jacket for 3 days or sleeping in my compression gear then running, who knows?

I was determined to finish this thing I had started, so a long coach trip to where we finished the day before then off we set, by this time I knew the format, hills, death defying descents and more mud than I have ever seen in my life. Even the obligatory “nutter” was struggling, you know they are mad when they are competing in a nylon kilt, a shirt with unicorns on it and sandals, his sandals would not stay on in the mud, there is no answer to that dilemma really!

My legs started to feel really heavy by this point, it could have been tiredness or the fact I had about a tonne of mud in and on them, but relentless forward progress was made, albeit slowly. As we neared the finish we had one further hurdle to cross, the last 2 miles were along a sandy beach, hooray said my shoes, my feet and lastly my legs, but I did it, I finished 3 days of 28 miles, 30 miles and 29 miles in terrain I would avoid at all costs.

Muddy feet

252 people started this challenge and 155 completed all 3 days, including this old woman, I was 142nd overall with a time of 26.51.58 but I could not have cared less, I wanted to challenge myself and I am so pleased that I had the mental fortitude and physical fitness to complete it, this was the hardest thing I have attempted in my life.

Medal

Give it a go, you’ll love it!

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