“Who said that was the Rollercoaster? Rollercoaster are meant to be fun… that was more like the Hills of Hell!”
Two weeks after completing the Jurassic Triple, the team have just about recovered from what has been the single hardest challenge to date. Running a marathon is often regarded as one of the hardest physical and mental endurance events a person can undertake, dragging oneself around a 26.2 mile course is not for the faint hearted. Late last year it was decided that the team needed a proper hard challenge, which could only be achieved by subjecting themselves to not one, but three backbreaking marathons in three days!
With the challenge set, the team soon set about finding a suitable location to complete such a feat. When thinking about the ideal running environment many places come to mind; namely Norfolk… the Cheshire Plain… Holland! However, all of these just didn’t quite seem tough enough and given the team wanted to try and replicate the extreme physical and mental pressure they will be undergoing in the Antarctica, completing a flat road marathon simply wasn’t going to cut it.
After much deliberation the team choose Dorset’s Jurassic Coast as the ideal location to really test themselves, settling on a stretch of the South West Coastal Path between Charmouth in the west and Studland Bay in the east. Breaking the coastline down into three distinct sections, the routes worked out at just over a marathon each day.
Having been held up in rush hour traffic the team starting their first marathon on Charmouth Beach at 11am on Friday 6th May, just as the sun was reaching it height for the day and Mercury was rapidly rising. The team set off at a good pace up the first hill, eager to try and make up some lost time, however acutely aware of the need to not burn out too soon.
The first half of the day was relatively hilly, however the team made short work of this on fresh legs, soon reaching soon passing through Seatown and West Bay. After a quick pit stop just outside Burton Bradstock the terrain eased off and the team found themselves running dangerously close to energy sapping shingle of Chesil Beach. Picking there through the loose shingle, the team soon found themselves in heading in land, away from the beach, where the going was much easier.
Given they spent most of the day running through the heat of the day dehydration was a big problem on Day 1. No matter how often they were stopping to take on water, they just couldn’t seem to taken enough on, despite drink around 5 litres by the third checkpoint. This seem to have a noticeable effect on the teams profamance, which noticeable dropped in the afternoon, but determined not to fall at the first hurdle the team worked together to help each other get through their wall.
Finally rounding the last corner the finish line at Chesil Beach Centre in Weymouth finally came into view and the team completed their first 28.2 miles.
Keen to avoid the mistakes of the first day, the team decided to set out early on day, setting out for a lap of the Isle of Portland at 08:00. The team made much better time in the cool early morning temperatures, completing the first 13 miles in under 2 and half hours, reaching checkpoint two 20 minutes before our support crew had anticipated.
After the enforced break, the team set out for the second part of the day, which would see them run through a busy Weymouth town centre, to Ringstead, where they were joined by Clare Symonds and Fi Durrant, who would run the last 5 miles with the team… the infamous “Rollercoaster”. This section of coast is constantly undulating, which coming at the end of the day of Day 2, when legs are already suffering is a real killer and mental torture, especially when you realise you’ve already completed over a marathon for the day!
However, battling mental demons the team were spurred on by the encouragement from our new companions, and were soon relived to be making our way down the final slope into Lulworth Cove, marking the end of the second day. With another 28 miles under their belts the team had just enough time for an ice cream and quick dip in the sea to relieve tired legs.
Despite the promise of the Day 3 being the hottest of all three days, the day started with the team setting out from the Lulworth Cove in the driving rain. With heads down, the team ventured into the Lulworth tank ranges, where the terrain carried on in the same vain as finish of pervious day, with the team making slow progress along the steep, undulating terrain.
Having spent the previous two days running in glorious conditions, the change in the weather brought some fresh challenges for the team, with the ground much slipper underfoot, making for some treacherous descents down the steep slopes.
After the first of the hour and a half the conditions improved, with the sun making an appearance and the team soon dried out, which combined with the stunning scenery massively helped to raise spirts.
However that was short lived and given the pounding the team had been subjected to over the previous two days, individuals feet had started to swell, making each footstep particularly challenging. Chris was suffering particularly badly, with his shoes which normally fitted perfectly offering no room for expanding feet, making each step nearly unbearable. Given the slow progress and time constraints facing the team, once they reached checkpoint two they decided to slip into two teams; with Joe, Ollie and Matt heading off in front; and Chris, supported by Dave, following behind at his own pace.
Both teams made good progress during the second part of the day, with the terrain becoming much flatter and more familiar given the amount of time the team has spent climbing along the sea cliffs near Swanage. Arriving in Swanage the team could sense the finish line which, after a quick ascent of Studland Hill, was finally in sight. The last 2.5 miles along Studland Beach passed without incident, with the two team finishing with 45 minutes of each other.