Marathon 13 – LDWA Chagford Challenge 30 miles – March 2011

Good news is that this is a local event, Bad news is that I worked the evening before, and with the clocks going forward an hour, I had 4 1/2 hours sleep after working 2 double shifts Friday and Saturday.

Got picked up by Mark Brooks (ultra-marathon runner who has completed at least 3 x 100 mile races) at 0820 and we duly arrived half hour later for a cup of coffee and register our names to confirm attendance. This event is a walking challenge of 30 miles over Dartmoor and all walkers/runners need to be accounted for, after all it was a misty morning and it’s easy to get lost. Walkers start 08:30 and runners 09:30.

Leaving Jubilee Hall and onto the Tarmac meant a quick pace but before long we left the lanes and onto steep bridle paths and footpaths to open Moorland. I would never have completed the route by myself and get to work for 6pm so I followed Mark all the way. Heat of the day and lack of sleep meant I was struggling early on.

We finally reached the first checkpoint and a quick bite to eat (great cakes and biscuits at all checkpoints). A superb run to Hookney Tor and Grimspound (a large circle of stones) and then a long run down at along Hameldown Tor to join the Two Moors Way and the next checkpoint. We were now running as a team of 4 as word got out that Mark knew the route without checking maps or directions.

It was an up to Bell Tor corner and then a superb down to Spitchwick but a huge up towards Top, Pil, Chinkwell and Honeybag Tors. For all of this I was about 20-50 yards behind struggling with the others shouting at me to get a move on! Walking I could manage but running any incline was tough. The best part was Heathercombe and running through the woods – I love trail running through the woods the most. Here we found a guy in purple Running tights who was lost, we showed him the way and he duly followed and overtook us, without a thank you. Across plenty of fields and through farmyards to the last checkpoint and here I found the benefits of Fizzy Cola for a tired runner.

Some road for a mile then another big climb to the top of Chagford Common and the finish in sight. Mark and I were slightly behind the other 2 and they chose the wrong way. We also saw ‘purple tights’ so, with Mark having the bit in his teeth, we started to reel him in. Flying down the steep hill and with Mark encouraging me, we managed to overtake ‘purple tights’ on the road with 300 yards to go. I was digging in and looking over my shoulder to maintain the advantage.

Mark and I finished ahead of him and when we entered Jubilee Hall we found one other person had finished ahead of us! Great news though, she started and hour earlier, as a walker. We had a won, a ‘podium’ finish!!! The time was 6:14 and ascent was 1786 metres for 30 miles. The Chagford Challenge is NOT a race but an Event.

I would recommend this Event to any budding Ultra or Marathon runner as there is no pressure and a great way to explore new areas of Dartmoor. It’ll be on my list for 2012 as it is local, cheap and counts towards by goal of 100 marathons before age 50.