In short: the best event of the year - ideal for your first Ultra - but beware YOU WILL GET SERIOUSLY HIGH In full: OPEN LETTER TO PHIL HAMPTON - RACE DIRECTOR Dear Phil Thankyou once again for a wonderful race! It was only really when I got back home that it hit me how well the Discovery is doing. After the cancellation of the 2001 event (extreme circumstances – Foot & Mouth!), the 2002 DD had the lowest number of finishers (69 including just 6 ladies) – this was surely partly due to the World Cup that was on at the same time – remember? the England v Germany match on the same day.
When I got online at www.runnersworld.co.uk early in 2003 I was determined to start a thread on the Discovery to try and boost numbers. Then SHADES & others got involved. We had started the ball rolling! Then Thanks to forumite RichK, and his excellent website www.richk.co.uk I was able to find a home online for my photos of the 2003 event. It was the first time I had really seen the moor, and I was so glad I had a camera with me! (91 finished including 15 ladies – the female finishers had more than doubled!)
So then it was apparently thanks to my photos that persuaded Rich to take up the challenge in 2004 and ofcourse along with him came quite a few others, with travelling distance no impediment! (welcome the macs!!) If 2003 gave a boost to the female percentage, then 2004 was even better (100 finished including 24 ladies).
Having had the “best year yet” in 2004 – what then?
AN EVEN BETTER EVENT IN 2005!! (123 finished including 27 ladies) CONGRATULATIONS!!
The Discovery’s excellent reputation will carry it onwards (see the Runners World homepage!) Please thank all the people involved – at HQ, feed stations, the marshals, the time-keepers, the back-up vehicles, the lead car & radio car, the ambulance, the masseurs, catering helpers and the “all year” work involved; all those “small” gestures that mean such a lot, especially later on when you’re tired and a bit spaced out, eg. when the guy in the back-up vehicle went ahead, parked beyond one of the cattle grids, leapt out and ran back to open the gate for me – and closed it behind me! Everyone was friendly, encouraging, stoical, witty, marvelous! We’ve now had the gamut of weather changes – 1999 was very wet, with several flash floods to wade through; 2000 was dull & misty; 2002 was chilly & windy, but warm & muggy in Ashburton, then windy & raining back on the moor; 2003 was the first year of “better” weather, it was WARM; 2004 was actually HOT & sunny; this year, 2005, was almost perfect weather for runners – cool, breezy – but with just a little too much of a headwind in the last 5 miles!
It’s difficult for others to appreciate how different an Ultra Marathon is until you’ve done one – how special you are made to feel; but not only that, in this Ultra – how exceptional it is to be running a “road race” through a protected National Park which is home to many different animals that roam freely (mainly sheep, wild ponies and cattle) and who WILL eat gel wrappers, lucozade packs, plastic bottles & plastic tops, sponges and paper cups. The Rules for Human Behaviour on Dartmoor are simple, but essential:
1. TAKE YOUR LITTER AWAY 2. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS – VIEW FROM A DISTANCE 3 IF YOU OPEN A GATE – ALWAYS CLOSE IT BEHIND YOU 4 DO NOT CROSS CATTLE GRIDS (GO THROUGH THE GATES)
It is remarkable that we are able to enjoy being in the wild spaces on the Moor, there is an atmosphere unique to this place that I tried to get my head round in the 2002 event when I was at my slowest. (“gentle ruggedness”; “magic and mystery of the moor”; “sheer serenity” - might sound a bit over the top – so don’t take my word for it - just come and find out for yourselves!)
It is truly running in the wild places, often alone, but with the knowledge that every few miles there will be friendly & helpful folk manning water stations, marshalling junctions, driving back-up vehicles, others waving as they pass, cheering you on in your solitary quest – it’s always a privilege to participate.
I very nearly didn’t come this year, but no sooner had that thought occurred, I knew I would regret it rather badly. “OK, I’ll definitely go, but maybe I should not run.” How about going round on the bike? Well I reckon that would be just as hard as going round on foot – if not harder. The severe downhill sections would scare the shorts off me – and I’d be pushing the bike up most of the hills!
When you next go to Princetown, make sure you find time to go to the High Moorland Visitor Centre. (Tel: 01822 890414 for the excellent free information newspaper “Dartmoor Visitor”) This rather grand looking building is an information centre which includes exhibitions of paintings & photography, a “History from Neolithic times” with displays of landscape, wildlife and Dartmoor’s ancient woodlands. There is also film footage, with separate seating, and a range of books, postcards, clothing, maps & gadgets to help you safely explore the moor. I came away with a few souvenirs and one remarkable poster which you have to see to believe – when I took it to the local printers here in Penzance to get it mounted – they all wanted one!
The poster is a map of Dartmoor, which has been enhanced to show the relief in 3-D (you can easily follow the race route, recognizing all the varied scenery on the way). It’s almost an aerial view but from a southerly angle. It’s an artwork in itself and confirms what I have been suspecting since 2002 – that the moor itself is an ancient slumbering creature; and if you respect it, you will have a positive, maybe even a mystical, experience; but if you mistreat it – watch out!
Kind Regards, Lize (aka Paskha)
PS. There is just one further challenge which still has me beaten – and that is getting the Race Director (you!) on to the dance floor at the disco!