Forum vs Dartmoor Vale Marathon

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!