The Purbeck Marathon claims to be one of the most scenic marathons in the world. I can say now, without question, that it is the most scenic l have ever done.
It is set in the beautiful county of Dorset in the South West of the UK. This area is known as the Jurassic Coast because the exposed cliffs date back to that period and are filled with dinosaur fossils.
It is such a shame that my running buddy Richard had too much of the falling down water the night before. He messaged me around 6am to say he wouldn’t be able to make it.
Luckily I wasn’t relying on him for a lift as I was already in Dorset staying with family. We still had to be up quite early for the journey to the race start at Swanage. I’ve been so lucky with the weather for my races this year. Yet another sunny day made it an easy decision for the whole family to make the trip to this pretty seaside resort.
Marathon race registration was just beside the pier and the start was on the hillside overlooking the pier. In addition to the Purbeck Marathon there was also an inaugural 16 mile race.
In 2012 and 2013 the Purbeck Marathon was won by Steve Way. Last year he came second but this year he was not planning to run which was a shame. As you may know if you read my Salisbury 50k race report, Steve and I are literally best mates these days…..If you haven’t read it, go do that now. I made a bit of a tit of myself videoing him on the start line there.
Anyway, back to the Purbeck Marathon. After the usual humorous race briefing involving talk of litter, gates, mud and cows, we were off along the Dorset Coastal path. It was almost immediately stunningly beautiful. The hills seemed such a deep green and the sea and sky such deep blue. It looked perfect. Perhaps they should rename it the Purfeckt Marathon (see what I did there?).
The coastal path was the muddiest section of the course and I did slip a few times, catching my hand on some brambles at one point and bleeding from my hand for the next few minutes. I soon recovered though. The view got me through the first 7k before we turned off the path and claimed up the first significant hill and on to the villages of Worth Matravers at 10k and Kingston at 14k.
Then came the most stunning views as we headed towards Swyre Head, to pass Heaven’s Gate and Kimmeridge and then along the ridge towards Tyneham Cap and Warbarrow Bay from kilometre 17 to 23 before reaching the deserted village of Tyneham. During the week Tyneham is actually part of a military firing range and has been since it was acquired by the ministry of defence in 1943. The villagers were given just a month to leave and many of the properties today are much as they were back then. In recent years Tyneham has been open to the public at the weekend and you can visit the old buildings including the school and post office. I must admit I didn’t see too much as I ran through the checkpoint there.
Out of Tyneham comes the major challenge of the Purbeck Marathon. Tyneham Hill seems to go on and on and it’s quite steep too. I was very impressed with Tracy, from Purbeck Runners, who ran up the entire thing. Although she did say at one point that it seemed like I was walking it faster than she could run it. She did finish 12 minutes ahead of me in the end so kudos to her.
The route leads on up the hill and across the ridge for 8 km towards the next major landmark, Corfe Castle at 33kms. I, and a few other runners actually took a slight accidental detour just before reaching Corfe Castle. We were supposed to drop down a little earlier, but because we stayed on the ridge we got a better view of the castle as we approached. The route took us through the village and across the railway line. I timed this very well because just as I arrived at the crossing, the steam train passed. What a wonderful addition to the run.
Feeling the Pain
By this time I was really starting to feel the pain. Having not run a marathon for a few weeks and with a rather lazy August behind me, my fitness was not up to scratch. I was beginning to flag and kilometre 35 was my slowest of the marathon as I walked up the next hill out of Corfe. It took me over 10 minutes.
It was a long shallow climb for the next 4k back towards Swanage. I chatted with Paul Coe from Tone Zone Runners and Tim Mcintyre from Sutton Runners on the run in. I would have liked to sprint down the hill for the final 3 kilometres but the ground was rather uneven and, given my level of fatigue, I thought there was a good chance I might take a tumble. So I trotted down and hit the seafront with just a few hundred metres to go.
It was nice to see my wife and children cheering me on as I brought it home and a photographer en route even shouted out ‘Hey it’s Film My Run!!’ which felt nice. The Purbeck Marathon finishes in a different place to where it starts. I ran along Shore Road and turned right up Victoria Avenue to finish on the green there in 4 hours 48 minutes in 90th position. Not my best run in terms of time, but such a gorgeous route I will be very happy to do that marathon again next year.
I won’t lie, Purbeck Marathon is a tough ask. It’s not for the first timer or the inexperienced runner. Or if it is to be your first, make sure you are fully aware of what you are letting yourself in for. You need to be training on hills and trails for a long time before you go for this. There are lots of aid stations and the route is well signposted and marshalled, but just be aware that if you are not up to it, you will find it very hard going. I would put the Purbeck Marathon in the same league as the Beachy Head and Giants Head marathons. All three are stunningly beautiful but very tough races.