Forum vs Dartmoor Vale Marathon

Find out what happened when a hardy contingent of RW forumites took on a trio of classic race distances through some of Devon's most beautiful countryside

Posted: 23 October 2007
by kittenkat and Catherine Lee

Hashette, kittenkat, Cookie!, Tri Taffia, Jungle Dave and Nam

It all started six months ago. Forumite regular kittenkat laid down the gauntlet, employing all her persuasive feline charm to tempt fellow RW members to the South West for an upcoming marathon across Dartmoor.

And sure enough – proof that RW members like nothing more than rising to a challenge (especially when accompanied by the prospect of pre- and post-race socials) - come October 21, more than 80 RW members found themselves assembling on Newton Abbot Racecourse to participate in a trio of classic race distances through the rural environs of Newton Abbot.

Some were out for PBs, some to simply take on what promised to be a real test of both mental and physical endurance. Others, including renowned marathon runner Shades, faced more unusual challenges still. "I’ve agreed to pace a blind runner round," she posted during the weeks leading up to the big day. "I haven’t done it before - we’re using a piece of rope and voice. He’s done 156 marathons so will know the score – in fact, he’ll be teaching me what to do. He can also run faster than I can in a marathon, but this time I’ll be setting the pace!"

The sun shone bright over the racecourse

The Challenge

After only four previous stagings, the Dartmoor Vale Marathon may be a relative newcomer to the UK marathon calendar, but given the positive feedback in these RW race ratings, it’s definitely one to earmark for the future.

Marathon first-timer and local runner Tickety Boo explains its appeal: "A very special race, surpassing all expectations, and it deserves to be up there as one of the better road races in the South West. The route itself - a combination of long, flat and hilly sections, together with great views of Dartmoor - represented the heart and soul of the Devon countryside. Blue skies and mild weather blessed the occasion - it couldn't have been better. See you next year!"

Not that all runners were equally smitten by the continuous climbs. "Certainly not a PB course, but a lovely route with fantastic views." says BlueWombat. "The hills killed me - I thought the long slow ascent into Chudleigh was bad enough, but then the steep climb out of town was even harder. Plus, I had the joy of knowing they were coming along again, second time around!"

The guts and the glory

RW forumites scooped a handful of prizes over the trio of races, including the much-coveted title of marathon winner, after a rather surprised OuchOuch stormed home to victory in 2:53:46.

"I’ve never been in front in a race before and it was beyond my wildest dreams to win one. In short, I ran most of the first half in third place but at around mile 16, the runner in second place appeared in the distance, struggling. I snapped him at mile 18, then as I turned to run up the quaintly named Cemetery Hill, the lead runner was 50 yards ahead, struggling big time. Got my nose in front, and thought 'What do I do now?' Cue a huge adrenaline rush - I sped up, followed the leader’s car (this was very cool) and counted down the miles at around 6:40 pace. I expected a challenger but no-one appeared and I won by around 3 minutes. Bit choked!"

OuchOuch wasn’t the only one to run away with a prize. Despite a stretch "of off-piste running when he got lost on the route", Dull Napoleon ™ led the male veteran field (MV50) home in 3:09:15 (12th overall), while local runner 200 minutes proved to be the "fastest old man" (his own admission) in the 10K event, crossing the line in just 41:02.

Dull Napoleon™, OuchOuch and Blisters

Experienced marathon runner Blisters agrees. "If you're after a time trial, forget it. If you want a tactical race, look no further. Even the bits billed as flat were rolling, and all the undulations seemed magnified second time around. However, the organisation was professional, the marshalling top-notch, and the racecourse start/finish very special. The scenery "up top" was glorious, and I think that the organisers managed to mix the 10K, half-marathon and full marathon events extremely well."

The View from the Sidelines

As well as a high turnout of competitors, the promise of post-race entertainment attracted many other RW locals, ensuring a hearty support crew for all taking part. Here kittenkat – forced to withdraw from the race following an untimely broken ankle – shares the highlights of the weekend from a more social point of view.

"A couple of months ago, it was decided by forumites to hold the third SW social in conjunction with the Dartmoor Vale races (marathon, half-marathon, 10K and fun run). Forumites from near and far started congregating on Saturday afternoon at my house on the edge of Exeter for a weekend of racing and socialising.

The oven died quietly just as I was about to feed them all but in pioneering spirit we coped. Sunday morning arrived with beautiful crisp cold air; the view over the farm was spectacular. I released Maggie (our 11-month-old German Shepherd dog) to do her alarm clock duties – she swiftly began jumping on motionless forumites strewn about the house. Immediately everyone was up and tucking into porridge, toast and coffee.

It all started six months ago. Forumite regular kittenkat laid down the gauntlet, employing all her persuasive feline charm to tempt fellow RW members to the South West for an upcoming marathon across Dartmoor.

We arrived at the race start with plenty of time to spare, which was handy as I instantly had to drive back and pick up all the things we had forgotten! The atmosphere was building as we affixed the RW banners and filled our balloons with helium, resisting the urge to sing a couple of verses of ‘Rule Britannia’ while sounding like Pinky and Perky.

And then they were off! Some admittedly in the wrong direction, but I think that nature inappropriately called for some. MikeFrog strolled nonchalantly to the 10K start with a cup of tea in his hand just as they were about to go; we half expected him to finish the same way.

Supporting was great fun, it was impossible to keep a straight face as Nam and I tried and failed to photograph forumites finishing. We were left with lots of photos of empty space, the camera shaking from our laughing. We cheered the 10K and half-marathon runners home (with Maggie barking most of them in) and then patiently waited for the marathoners. At 3:15 hours it looked like Blisters was a bit behind his predicted time, which gave us the perfect opportunity to work out an appropriate way to welcome him home. We discounted a rousing chorus of "Why are we waiting?" in favour of blowing hooters and jumping about madly, which raised a fair few smiles.

Overall, there was a great atmosphere and it was a very successful day. It was great to see so much forumite support, and we soon decamped back to the farm for post-race celebrations.

Runners and spectators alike enjoy a well-deserved drink

Monday morning arrived all too quickly, though a steady stream of bacon, sausages, eggs and toast ensured forumites were fuelled and capable of getting home. It was a fantastic weekend with some great people... roll on the next one!"

Find Out More

A full list of results is now available from the race website, or you can also check out more pictures, courtesy of Nam.

Don’t forget to make a note of the event for next year too. After all, if previous forum challenges are anything to go by, you can guarantee there’ll soon be talk of bigger and better!

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Discuss this article

Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:26

Sounds like a good warm up for BHM, PH?
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:31

I shall do the half..done it a couple of times, good course for a good time BUT very quiet for a marathon and a 2 lapper.....I wouldnt !!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:33

No not at all..I have always managed to get near a PB time there ..
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:37

makes note in diary and hopes nothing else clashes

GCR should be the week before
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:39

Bearing this one in mind as an alternative, but travel for Limpette and self will be harder to organise.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:40

No wouldnt have thought you would have a problem entering ..fairly quite as there is a half AND 10k at the same time..
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:48

I do the first lap with you KK then wave good bye !!!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:48

It wont be bloody quiet if all the abingdon lot turn up here!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:48

could newton abbot cope?
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 12:53


I have GCR half the sunday before and Derwentwater 10 miler the week after so if i go down i think the half would be better, espcially as it is a strong likelihood that i'll be trying for a half PB around Carlisle the week before and again around Derwent lake the week afer for a 1o miler.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:04

Oh now I'm really torn. I'm originally from Devon, but had almost decided to run Abingdon. What to do?

Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:05

well, it doesnt look like you CAN run abingdon-so---------------
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:05

I just have this idea that Fetchies and Forumites will club together and rescue Abingdon, and the world will see what a gloriously collaborative community the running world is, and all the non-runners will start running because they're so inspired by us all.

No? Oh alright then.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:11

would be lovely wouldnt it

but they need a locally based course director and water station coordinator
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:14

It would be fantastic if such a thing happened.

Must go and study my road atlas.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:24

Of course the other thing is that I did FLM in 2005, Abingdon last year, and doing another one this year would mean that I'll have done one every year since turning 40. Although this sets a dangerous trend it might be fun to find a different location each year.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:31

why stick at one a year;)
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:43

mmmm, pasties and beer for me and cream teas and scenery for my OH, sounds perfik.

Think this is No. 1 alternative to Abo so far.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:46

That's a v. persuasive argument KK.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 13:54

true, very true KK

& Totnes has vegan/vegetarian/macrobiotic versions of all the above.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 14:25

It's the 'very quiet' bit that puts me off races like this. I remember the first time I did Southend Half and being stuck out in the middle of Essex with the only support coming from the occasional cow! Blinking hard work and that was only a half.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 14:44

Upsides - drivable from Mouse Mansion on the day of the race (and yes I have space for guests). Exceptionally affordable entry fee.

Downsides - small field? Reported as undulating (though not according to NN) and multiple laps. Bath Half was two laps and it was boring.

All things considered though, £17 for a marathon that I can drive to on the day is a bit of a billy bargain to me.

I am probably in.

I don't talk to anyone when I run anyway! Just as long as I can find out where I'm going and the field is large enough so that I'm not completely alone at the back. I'll need to look at the times for last year's results.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 14:59

Yes, but Kaz you'll have a far greater chance of coming in the top 1000 in Dartmoor, than in almost any other marathon apart from Abingdon!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 14:59

Ms. Mouse, I'll be at the back :)
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:03

oh hello is this where all the Abingdon exiles are?

at least Newton Abbott is a bit nearer for me

Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:07

Could be the one and only time an iPod would come with me on a race (in fact on any run these days).
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:08

Ooh hang on I might just like this one. Looking at last year's times I'd probably have been first home in my age category!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:11

Id have to beat my marathon PB by 30 minutes to get an age related prize

yeah thats do-able
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:16

Hmm, location and date is good for me. Not hot on the idea of multiple laps though. Does anyone know how many we're talking about? If it's 52 or something daft then count me out.

(I'll have to check this is ok with mara-buddy before signing up to this as we've got a bit of a challenge going on. I'll wait for the defo red-light before doing anything though.)
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:16

Last year's field was 134 entrants (with a max field of 1,000). Now given that my only other maras have been FLM it's like the sublime to the ridiculous!!!!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:20

My running partner did this one last year and was second to last but said the atmosphere was lovely and everyone was very friendly.

Kazz - the smallest marathon I did was one in Majorca last Dec - only 50 entries! I came last but got interveiwed by local tv and had great support too. Probably my favourite ever finish to a rce.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:25

kk was hoping that if I don't go sub-4 at London that Abo would be the one.

Cas, 50? Blimey that's a small field!!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:26

well we could go on the p"ss the night before and then we could be last
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 15:29

Please don't take all the places - until Abingdon refund I can't afford to book Limpette and self on this.

Any decent camping nearby?? That will still be open in October that is. [In my neck of the woods camp sites generally close after half term holiday].
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 16:13

limper - there's camping less than a mile away, (you will have to check re dates) good rail links if you don't want to drive.

Well if all you forumites are going to invade my home town of Newton Abbot I'll have to take you to the Cider Bar for a swift half or two of Diesel - that will put paid to any marathon PB's...

<evil cackle>
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 16:28

kk - No, I haven't.

I usually check around the forum now and then for other threads, except for Clubhouse
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 16:38

just a quick word of warning, did the half last year, the route sent out took us through Chudleigh and up a pretty mean hill (that would have been twice for marathoners) but it was changed last minute which resulted in a pretty flat and quick route. i understand from organisers that they have a couple of routes up their sleeves and will decide later in the year which they will do ... fingers crossed its the one i did the half of last year as i plan to do the marathon ... that aside, lovely atmosphere, friendly marshalls and plenty of them.
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 16:45

limper, max field is 1,000 but there were only 134 last year. Even with an influx from Abo I doubt there'll be a prob leaving it till the last minute to enter.

Not sure that I like the sound of Chudleigh! Given that there are almost no hills in my part of Essex I'm not great on hills!!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 17:40

Hi kk, I'll cautiously join this thread in case Abo goes t*** up. Very worried about the undulations though, normally wouldn't be a problem (ran Stratty) but after a PB.

Mr Lizard drives to Newton Abbot with his job frequently and likes the place, so he'll probably rather stay here.

Any nearby Travel Lodges or suchlike?

If we all do this one instead of Abo, we're gonna have to try and book en-masse somewhere and have a right old party Sunday night!
Posted: 12/04/2007 at 17:42

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