Dartmoor Discovery, 7th June 2014

Race report from Steve Rawson

This is well and truly a fantastic experience, and I mean it:

  • Welcoming and really friendly start and finish
  • Great organisation
  • Well marshalled – they have a list of runners to give you personal encouragement on the run
  • Drinks, bananas, sweets, gel packs at all feeding stations
  • Free after race massage (thanks Bruce)
  • Free food after race – great cheese sandwiches
  • Great prizes  – a crystal glass for me

The only trouble is you have to run 32 miles to get it!

So to the race report. The drive to Dartmoor is always a thing of beauty but a thing of foreboding also – the weather can change in a moment, and you pass the prison gates as you drive into Princeton – ‘welcome to Dartmoor Prison’. But the views, the tors, the clear air …

We change in a school, so tiny chairs in a classroom and tiny toilets, although plenty of them. People nervously chat, as always, not quite sizing each other up but a lot of nervous banter. I drink my water to keep butterflies at bay, and don’t talk to anyone – bah humbug …

Its cold and raining outside so we huddle, then move to the start. I see a few familiar faces; I get advice to walk every hill, even from the start. I see the Mud Crew people, and a lot of Trotters.

Then the start, a countdown by the godfather, Steve Edwards who has over 500 sub 3.30 marathons to his name. (check out http://www.runbritainrankings.com/runners/profile.aspx?athleteid=82680). He has overtaken me at mile 24 on two previous occasions, but today he is all fleeced up and comfortable. A flurry of confetti and we’re off.

I try to start slow but I’m already in the leading 20 runners, except for some chap who shoots off – he will finish an hour and a half ahead of me! It seems all downhill and it is, pretty much to Ashburton, about 10 miles. Well there’s one stiff climb, which I don’t walk, and I need a toilet stop – all that nervy water, should have stuck to my gum. I cruise along with Pat and Di from the Mud crew, all well – but Pat tells me we are at half marathon pace, a word of warning maybe.

Into Ashburton and it seems like the finish, the city centre, the crowds the atmosphere, but no, there’s 20 miles to go and we then begin to climb. I am suddenly on my own, no one in sight and I feel a little chilly. The sun’s out but I shudder a little.

My feeding seems OK, I have a fruit bar and sweet drink, and there’s the bananas at each station, but as the run goes forward I see that it’s not right. I am hungry but can’t face eating –I grab a Mars bar but spit it out, then a flapjack from a spectator, but can’t eat it. Bad signs I know already.

The field separates, I am number 32 in the race, then 40, (I finish 56). Di and Pat move ahead, the experience shows, a spectator admires Di’s trademark mascara (she breaks the age record in this race). Three Okehampton guys move smoothly past me, as I make half marathon in 1.45, then marathon at 3.55. I’m feeling OK still, my marathon time would be more like 3.30 I think on this course, then bang, slow slow slow. I start walking the hills, I start walking the flats, I start walking down the hills. Runners pass me asking if I’m OK, two drivers stop to ask if I need water. I must look desperate!

The usual thoughts – I’m never doing this again, I’m not going to make it, why do I do this, just some proof that I’m still alive and am worth something, why do I need to prove that to anyone (or maybe it’s to me). And so tired, so tired. Runners still pass me, going slowly but I’m slower. I hear the finish line commentator but it’s still a mile uphill, I’m passed by a Tamar Trotter – the third time he’s pipped me at the post this year. But I have a warm glow of forgiveness for him suddenly as I realise that I will make it, and it doesn’t matter about who is where or what time, just doing it, and feeling it, a kind of Tolstoyean moment for me. You know that moment when Prince Bolkonsky is lying in a field hospital, badly wounded and he realises that the guy next to him having his leg sawn off without anaesthetic is the guy who seduced his fiancée leading to all his hopes and dreams coming to naught, but he forgives, he forgives him. The classic epiphany of an out of body moment, looking at myself from above, not judging, but just awesome purity of feeling. Man and his body, nothing else. Wow!

And of course I finish and everything suddenly seems so easy. Friendly runners everywhere, the massage, the sandwiches, all seems so worthwhile, whereas 10 minutes before even, I was desperate. It’s a bit like a tea party, people in space blankets milling around eating egg sandwiches and carrot cake, and drinking teas and I make 5 hours 5 minutes and I am very disappointed – put it down to poor feeding and poor training, but I am already crazily thinking about next year …

I gather my things and get to the car. Still runners finishing, always strange that, as you drive away and see that people are still on the course – some finish in 6.30. Respect!

A great race. It opens in early January and sells out in days – go for it!

Steve

 

 

 

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