Running the Dorset Coast, Devon to Hampshire, border to border!
TLDR; Starting on Friday evening 12th April 2019 I ran and hiked the entire Dorset Coastline, 101 miles with 13,000 ft of ascent, in 23 hours 57 minutes 30 seconds, setting a Fastest Known Time
It was all the brainchild of Andy Palmer, the boss of White Star Running, that I would run the entire Dorset Coast, from the border with Devon to the border with Hampshire. And I’d set a benchmark Fastest Known Time by doing it. The idea of the Dorset Coast Running Challenge was born. In the months prior I increased my training (with a few minor blips), ran lots of hills and steps, and learned most of the route on numerous trips and recces. I worked out where I’d meet my support crew, Andy and Dave, from White Star Running, and divided the run into 11 sections. Target paces for each section were worked out and I carried a list of these during the run. Nutrition was sorted, I was rested, just had to get it done…
101 miles, here we go!
At 10pm on Friday 12th April I started from the Devon border, just west of Lyme Regis, and I felt fit and healthy – a big plus point!
I was joined by Sam Rose (of the Jurassic Coast Trust) and Bridport Runner, Adam Slater, for the first leg of 12.5miles from Lyme Regis to Freshwater Beach Holiday Park. I walked all hills and inclines, as I’d planned to do throughout, due to the hilly nature of this challenge. This leg went well and I was pleased for the company of these two guys during the first part of the night-shift. I arrived at Freshwater around 7 minutes quicker than planned, was met by Dave and Andy, grabbed a new soft-flask with Tailwind in, plus a few other goodies, and off I trotted along the coast towards Abbotsbury.
The leg to Abbotsbury was shorter, 6.5miles, and flat. It was demanding due to running a couple of miles of shingle beach. Still on target, a quick resupply of drink and food, and into the third leg of 12.6miles towards Ferrybridge, Wyke Regis.
It was now getting very cold, so I donned my gloves and tried to keep happy. The wind was also noticeable, an Easterly headwind, which I knew was going to be there throughout the whole run! Having recced this section once in the daylight (as I had with most sections) the navigation was becoming tricky in the dark. Numerous times I loaded Ordnance Survey maps on the phone to check I was taking the correct turns. Dew and frost was forming, some of the fields were muddy, and I was finding it a challenge to move along efficiently and smoothly. So this, together with predicting a faster pace, meant I was falling behind my target pace. I reached Ferrybridge about 4:25am, some 10 minutes behind schedule, having lost the time I had been ahead plus more. I didn’t fret it and had faith that I could make something up somewhere!
Onto the Portland loop of 12 miles and I was hoping to claw back a little time. No, no, no! Less than 2 miles in and I was having a stomach issue which meant I could barely walk let alone run. I’ll spare the details and say I sorted it out quickly but I did lose a little more time. By the time I reached Portland Bill it was between first-light and sunrise and I was pleased that I could now put the head-torch away.
The wind felt strong once I started to traverse the Eastern side of Portland. This was about 38 miles in and I knew the wind was potentially an issue for the rest of the challenge, the other 63 miles or so!
I made it back to Ferrybridge with no navigational issues but with some more time lost. I stuffed more food and drink in my Ultimate Direction Race Vest on it was onward, via Weymouth, towards Bowleaze.
Not now! Another problem. As I started to get running there was a sharp pain on the lateral side of my left knee and I was only 44 miles in. I walked a little and gently eased back into running. The pain went once I was running for a minute or two, this carried on and plagued me for a further 20+miles.
Then, probably mile 47 or 48, I bonked and blew up (went queezy and hypoglycemic). Plus the stomach issue reared up again. This time I was lucky and near a public toilet. But it meant I lost more time again! I arrived at Bowleaze somewhere around 45 minutes behind the predicted timings. Being confident in no more issues I told Andy and Dave I could bring it back on track over the next 30 miles, over the hilly section.
Still keeping to my plan of hiking all hills and jogging most flat and downhill sections I feel I made decent progress heading to Lulworth. I charged my running watch during this section with a small USB powerbank. Bev Trenwith, another stalwart of White Star Running races, joined me at the strangely named Scratchy Bottom for a couple of miles into Lulworth.
I was met by Andy and Dave plus my mum and dad at Lulworth Cove. Time for a sandwich and my secret weapon of gherkins! Dad joined me for a few miles whilst I wended my way towards the next stop, at 67 miles, Kimmeridge Bay.
This section and the next had many steep hills and hundreds of steps to walk up. Strangely I had looked forward to them and they weren’t too problematic, just slow going. Probably half way through this leg I had to sit down and refocus as I was about to bonk again. Problem averted with just a few minutes lost, but I’d been making good time against my planned paces so it was neither here or there.
It didn’t seem long before I arrived at Kimmeridge. For some reason the time was flying along, I wished I was!
Met by Andy and Dave again it was the same resupply drills again, we had it down to a tee now, we were cooking. I had made up some time over the last 7 miles so I quickly got going, hoping to make up even more time.
Kimmeridge to Peveril Point was probably the longest leg at just under 13 miles. I just got on with it, more steps, more hills, and more bonking! Just after Dancing Ledge, maybe mile 73, I was shot to pieces, I royally blew up. And had to lie down for 5 minutes as I just couldn’t function. Some drink, energy food and a brief rest and I felt totally different and was making forward progress again.
78 miles in and I arrived at Peveril Point, Swanage, I grabbed more food and drink taken and a nice cup of coffee. The knee had now eased up and I only had one noticeable hill left to conquer! I was feeling better than expected.
It was about 7 or so miles to the Sandbanks ferry at Studland and I was probably down to a 50/50 run-walk ratio on the flat now. I was happy with this as it meant most mile splits were below my target pace, and that meant I was still clawing back at the time.
A short jog around Swanage was followed by a climb, then down to Old Harry Rocks, into Studland, and onto the sandy beach. After a mile or so I rounded the corner on Studland Beach and saw the 6:20pm ferry to Sandbanks a few minutes from arrival at Studland. I was nearly half a mile away and was determined I was not going to miss that ferry and wait another 20 minutes or more for the next crossing. During mile 87 I somehow found pace I’d be happy with in a 10km race. I made it fueled solely on adrenaline. I got on that ferry with seconds to spare. One happy soldier!
Somewhere around 15 minutes later I arrived on the Sandbanks side to be met by a number of pacers, some I knew, some I didn’t. Andy, Gary, Lucy, another lady (?), Becky and maybe one more joined in. I got a chuckle when I apologised for my slow 10:30 minute miles running pace and off we went. 14 miles to the finish, 14 FLAT miles, 14 paved/tarmac miles – the terrain was behind me, thanks for that!
The support I was now getting was surprising me. On a few occasions there were people cheering me on and people holding up banners, a few times I’d see someone on bike or stood by a road junction to hear “Come on Dan!”. This really lifted me. I had running left in me but didn’t want to overcook things now. So I kept to some sort of run-walk routine.
A few miles in to the home-run Lydia joined in the pacing/company group and a few left. One or two others briefly joined in later on too.
I knew what paces I needed to be hitting to complete this challenge in 24 hours or quicker because during the Sandbanks Ferry crossing I had accurately worked out the remaining distance. All the maths had been done. I was going to give it my utmost to get under the 24 hours target for this tough route.
There was a minor issue with a change of shoes I didn’t receive at the mile 95 aid point so I carried on with a bit of foot pain, not wanting to waste more time, and did the shoe change a mile or so later on a roadside verge. I’m grateful for the all the effort of the support crew and pacers around this point, it worked out.
A re-check on the time, distance, pace calculations and I told the chaperones (pace-group) I’m still going for sub-24. I wouldn’t have lost much sleep if I was slightly over. But under 24 hours finish would make this run all the more sweeter.
The last 2-3 miles were promenade and beach and we were all still running well. It was very dark and none of us could see the finish so I kept my eye on the mileage. With less than half a mile to go I let the others know that I’d be passing them, that I’ll leave them. It was only polite. I wasn’t going a different route. But I was about to drop the hammer, and I did! That was the biggest adrenaline moment I have ever had, to be running at 5km pace after 100 miles, I would never have believed it.
I made it! I made it to Chewton Bunny, the Dorset Hampshire border. There was a small crowd to meet me, watch me lie down and offer me celebratory Champagne. See the facebook video below from the finish – I even give a brief, slightly comical, interview. Cheers folks!
I completed this supported run of 101 miles with 13,000ft ascent from Devon to Hampshire, along the entire Dorset Coastline in less than 24 hours (23:57:30).[Update 16/04/19] The Fastest Known Time for running the Dorset Coast supported has been verified and approved.
During the day after the run it became apparent to me how many people followed the challenge. This was online, on Facebook, via the live tracking (Race Drone). I was gobsmacked, I’m still gobsmacked! There have been hundreds of comments, through different posts, congratulating me on this run. I am still very overwhelmed by the support, comments and messages. Thank you, and thanks to everyone that has donated to the Jurassic Coast Trust too.
Read more about the Dorset Coast run
Stats & Record Listing
- Dorset Coast Fastest Known Time…, Strava entry – splits, stats and route
- Daniel Williams – Dorset Coast (UK) – 2019-04-13, FastestKnownTime.com entry
Articles & Press
- UK ultrarunner runs Dorset coastline in under 24 hours, at Run Deep Magazine
- Ultrarunner Dan Williams runs the Dorset Coast in 24 Hours, by Jurassic Coast Trust
- Dorset Coast Challenge, by Sarah Holmes – Isle of Wight Road Runners
- Dan the top man in Dorset coastal challenge, by Isle of Wight County Press
- Dan Williams runs 101-mile-long distance of Dorset coast in under 24 hours, by Dorset Echo
- Dorset Coast Running Challenge is completed in less than 24 hours, by Bridport & Lyme Regis News
- Done and done-in!, my facebook post the morning after
- Dorset Coast from Devon to Hampshire 23hrs 57mins, Instagram post & pics
- Superman Dan sets another record, Isle of Wight Road Runners’ facebook post
Facebook Video The Finish