Hurrah! It’s my favourite multi day ultra! I first did Jurassic Coast Challenge in 2017 and it remains one of my complete faves. 3 marathons (if a marathon is indeed between 28-29 miles), in 3 days across the Jurassic Coast - one of my favourite places on earth. The route takes you from the Golden Cap on day one to the HQ at Weymouth sailing school. Day 2 runs from Weymouth sailing school around Portland, and then back out through Weymouth finishing at Lulworth Cove. Day 3 takes you from Lulworth Cove all the way through Swanage and over Old Harry Rocks to the finish on Studland beach. Glorious. Especially when the sun is shining - which it always does, right? WRONG.
The week before had been that snowy ice week which everyone was freaking out about, so it was always going to be a little damp underfoot, but with all the rain the previous week I was actually wondering if it would be cancelled. Some of the trails on those cliffs are dangerous at the driest of times, but surely if they were muddy the likelihood of flying off the end of them was slightly higher? It was all OK though, and I got to Weymouth on Thursday night in time for dinner with my caravan mate for the week, lovely Richard Palmer. Rich is a much better runner than me, but I had told him that and he seemed to accept that if he wanted to run with me, he’d have to take it down a notch or 20.
People doing all three days of the challenge (you can also sign up for them individually) have the option to stay in a caravan for the weekend, at Chesil Vista which I love because I am weird. It has a bar where they do bingo every night and families who hate each other go in there so they don’t have to interact. It’s also where tribute acts go to die. It’s the best. It was me, Rich and my sister in our van. My sister and I have a habit of behaving like teenage boys but really clean and tidy ones. Rich was so lucky he got to share with us. SO LUCKY.
We trotted down to the HQ early and registered, got our maps, got a our chippy dibby thing and had our kit checked. They are super thorough at these events. Like SUPER thorough every day and you have to carry a lot of shit about with you. Then we had the briefing which, again, is very thorough (self nav yay!) and jumped on the buses to take us to the start of day one. I was in group 2 who go out first - the walkers and ‘joggers’. I made a hideous mistake last year and put myself in the running group because I was being a twat. It was SO harsh. I was literally the last on on the course. They put the speedy runners out a couple of hours after the slower people have started because they obviously RUN UP THE GOLDEN CAP BECAUSE THEY ARE MONSTERS.
There she is. Day 1 - The Golden Cap.
And here she is from the top. What a lovely way to start a 3 day ultra. Said nobody ever.
It was pretty cold and windy and rainy - perfect JCC weather - but I was running with my sister and that made the whole thing way more fun. First part of the race is, as I said, up the Golden Cap - a hill so big you can’t actually see the top of it - then it trots its way along the “undulating” (fucking hilly!) coastline towards West Bay (or Broadchurch as it should rightly be called).
BROADCHURCH! (Or West Bay as the locals call it)
Checkpoint 1 done and it’s up that MAHOOSIVE hill where little Danny died (again see Broadchurch) through fields of lambs, up and down and up and down and mud and mud and I fall over, and on to the beach (literally onto the beach). The death beach. The beach made of tiny, deep stones.
The death beach.
Only 2 miles along that then. FFS. About 3 miles before checkpoint 2 my sister is all “OMG I FEEL AWESOME! 13 miles in 2 hours!” I am all “no, it’s 8 miles in 2 hours, your watch is measuring in kilometres”. Meltdown time. Checkpoint 2 done, sadwiches, crisps, tactical poo, and we are off on the beach AGAIN and then they throw in some proper sticky mud for another few miles. Nice.
There was a lot of this….
And some more of this……
My glorious sister, trotting it home to Weymouth.
Back on the icy mud hills and cow shit fields, checkpoint 3 - MORE SANDWICHES - and along the sea to Weymouth - it starts raining about 4 miles before the end, but day one is done in a not stunning 7 and a bit hours. I’m knackered and I need a beer, but we have had a good day and taking it easy is exactly what I need to be doing. Rich is already back at the caravan. He did it in 5.40. Fuck my ACTUAL life. I go to the bar and win a bottle of Lambrini because I am so good a quizzes. More good at them than Rich is at running.
Here we go. Here we fucking go. I wake up feeling terrible. I am chronically depressed. I know I am and I start to panic. Anxiety, feel sick. Best have some food. I make eggs and toast for everyone and eat mine only to promptly throw it all back up again. One of the things about depression is you never know when it is going to hit you. You can be doing the best thing the world with people you love, running through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, but if he decides to come, he will come. All I want to do is curl up in bed and die. Sometimes when I feel depressed, I am physically sick. It’s like my body is doing everything it can to make me stop doing something that will heal it. It’s horrible and I hate it and I try to explain to my caravan crew - my sister knows and deals with it accordingly - but I can’t explain because I think I might cry. Again, my body doing everything it can to stop me going out. But fuck you, depression, I won’t let you do this. Relentless, Forward Progress. So off we go to Weymouth. I try and get a banana and some coffee down me but I am scared of being sick again so I am hungry. Today we run from Weymouth sailing school to Purbeck - all the way round Purbeck and then back through Weymouth and onto “The Rollercoaster". The hellish hills that lead to Lulworth Cove. It’s raining as we set out and it makes for some pretty epic foggy Purbeck pictures. As soon as I take the first step I know that I will be ok. This fucking illness will not rule me. I will rule it. I will. But I will walk up this epic hill first.
Purbeck looking pretty Game of Thrones
Purbeck looks stunning in the mist, and the going is good - I am even enjoying the rain. It’s beautiful up here and as we get to the first checkpoint by Portland Bill lighthouse, I realise Rich, who was in the fast group behind us, has caught us up. Jesus fucking christ the shame. I eat a jaffa cake and some crisps. I am starving. Rich decides to stay with us as we navigate the chalky hills of Portland - it like an OCR course and there are a lot of steps, hills and chalky mud. We’re a good little group though, and we have some good chats with other runners. Some beautiful sights up here - a petting zoo with wallabees, the epic ocean and a young offenders institute (or children prison as I like to now call it) NICE.
I hope that doesn’t fall down……
We decide not to go down the hill we came up at the start and opt for the road route down to the sailing school for checkpoint 2 where we spend 20 mins eating sandwiches. I am confident I won’t throw up again now, and I am starving. Then we are off again down the road towards Weymouth, along the promenade (where we meet an pick up a group of kids running to Lulworth who prove to be extremely annoying) along more beach and then up the first hill towards The Rollercoaster. It’s muddy AF and really hard going and I am tired, but it’s stunning. My sister starts slowing down - she knows we are nearish the end, but I know what is coming up - unrelenting hills that looks a lot like this……. 3 of them.
The Rollercoaster. That’s the threes hills you see in the background of this photo. Glorious.
What goes down….
Even going down them is hard as it’s slippy and the tracks are narrow and the drop is sheer, but it’s here that I feel my best - I love this part of the coast and I am happy to be alive and running. Fuck you, depression. The climbs up are SO severe and the kids we picked up earlier are like mountain goats running up them. I want to kill them. When my sister asks one of them what he training for and he says “life” I actually almost punch him and call him a virgin. And then the final climb, and it’s down the hill to the end.
Durdell Door marking the almost end of day 2…..
It’s my sisters last day today, as she can’t do tomorrow, and as much as she says I let her win I actually didn’t - I was shagged. Hard rock steps all the way down to the finish which I found extremely annoying and she was well ahead of me on those - so fair play Janey - you smashed it! End of day 2 - 7 hours - back in the coach to HQ to have a shower, a pint and a sleep. Day 3 tomorrow and it turns out it was worse than I remembered. But in my own head I had won today.
Running besties. Two sisters at The Door!
So I though Day 3 was the most glorious of all the days. I don’t know why I thought this - I have done this before. It’s horrendous. In the best possible way.
Day 3 starts……
Turns out this one has the most hills, the most elevation (4,500ft) and the most fucking steps. This goes out from Lulworth Cove, where we finished yesterday, to Studland beach, and it’s up and down the whole fucking way. You have the stairway to heaven/hell thrown in the middle - over 200 steps down and another 200 up and its BRUTAL. It was windy and cold and I still felt depressed and nauseous, but I had Rich with me so at least I had someone to say my last words to should I actually die or throw myself off a cliff. To summarise the day I shall use pictures and the following word. Hills, lambs, mud, hills, hills, hills, mud, lambs, wanting to die, losing direction. cheese sandwich, hills mud, hills.
One of the only flat bits of the day….
Hills. Actually watched a bloke fall down this and it was quite funny. (He was fine)
Stairway to Heaven/Hell…… those are god damn STEPS.
And from the other side…..
As I a walking up the stairway to heaven, dying, a deer runs up the hill next to me completely effortlessly. Its one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I am a vegetarian, but suddenly I have a craving for venison because I literally HATE how fit that deer is.
Once you get to Swanage you know you’re almost there, so to celebrate we had an ice cream because we are professionals. The general public are bused my me and Rich running along easting ice cream. I am amused by this. Another little beach stretch, then it’s up the final climb towards Old Harry Rocks, across the top and down to Studland beach where its a 2 mile run across the sand.
The trail up to Studland. More mud. Which is good because I hadn’t seen much of that this weekend.
Old Harry! We be coming for ya!
The longest 2 miles known to man. Felt like 20.
I was struggling a bit to keep momentum at this point, but having Rich with me made all the difference. He actually did keep me from walking too much and eventually, after 7 hours, we made it to the end - I felt bad he had stuck with me the whole time but made myself feel better by telling him it was good practice for the Dead Sheep Ultra he is doing in a couple of weeks. Yeah.
So all in another brilliant race by VOTOW. Great aid stations and staff, great runners and hardly a Salomon man in sight. I would like to apologise to the marshall that, when he asked where I wanted my water bottle I replied to with “up my bumhole”. That was a joke and I am sorry (ish). So I am signing up for the ACC - Atlantic Coast Challenge in October this year. Let’s give that one a go shall we? 85 miles, 3 days and 10,000ft elevation on the JCC done. One of the most beautiful races on earth. Up next - Ultra Tour of Arran in 2 weeks!
Thanks for being a pal and running with me, Rich! Good luck at Dead Sheep next week!