What to say….you guys were impressive. It has taken me many years to devise a route that links up my favourite trails in East Devon; from the route along the river at the very beginning, the view from Danes Hill through Dalwood, the forest on the way down to Lyme, the magical Undercliffs, the climb out of Southleigh to Blackbury Camp (I know you liked that one Jane), the valley before Sidbury with the steep flint track up, the wee bridge and the bluebell carpeted steps up to East Hill Strips, all before you get a go round my most immediate running of Egland, Pen Point, Hartridge and Dumpdon, and the old green lane taking you high out of Honiton, and the vibrantly blue woods of Offwell to take you home. I hadn’t quite factored in snow when marking the trail on the day, and the unintended barbed wire fence at Old Wolford Farm gave for a more Barkley marathon experience than I planned. Frustratingly Covid route changes gave us a bit more road (we won’t be going through Sidbury Manor again), and the aim for me will be to cut more road where possible, but I genuinely don’t think we need any more hills! If any locals have suggestions, just let me know. New maps will be printed for 2022, not sure they can be edited any further!!
Depending whether you were exposed, or under trees, high up, or in a valley depended how you faired after being soaked through and pelted with hail. Running for a day gives you all the emotions of life compressed into a short space, but I hadn’t predicted the 4 seasons of weather too. I had my concerns regarding hypothermia, and the doctors at Combe Raleigh village hall insisted one competitor could only carry on if he was accompanied home, which his wonderful sister and friend did. The grit and tenacity to get oneself finished when all you want to do is curl up and warm up is mind blowing. Into the night the thermometer was -1 and -2, but the tail end of competitors were completely unwavering (even as I tried to blast them with hot air from our car), and it was a true lesson in having the right gear, and the right attitude to getting the job done. The bromance between Jono and David lived on (with them having originally met on the Cape Wrath Ultra, they have now also tackled the Dragon’s Back and as of this weekend the East Devon Round), Martin and Richard took all the course had and tackled it together throughout (the latter setting 50k, 50 mile and 100k PBs in the process), and Martin still graced us with his customary faint at the end...It was a privilege to see Ian and Ziya who met for the first time in 2019, also go round the course as one, getting each other through the lows and sharing the highs of the day. It is a highlight for me seeing so many good friends complete something so brutally beautiful and beyond the comprehension of the average person.
There are a few performances I want to draw attention to – Patrick and Rachel raced hard all day, and the idea for me of genuinely racing for that long fills me with fear. They left everything out there, chopping and changing the lead throughout the day, with Patrick eventually gaining a few minutes to take the win. (11hrs 46 winning time with Rachel 12hrs 4 mins) Patrick has done so much in his running career, whilst also helping many other runners in the process. I look forward to hearing how he gets on with a personal challenge he has set for June. Rachel will be back, and I struggle to see anyone else out there being able to beat her.
I’m hoping Jodie Gauld’s feet (2nd lady in 14hrs) don’t take too long to repair and special mention to Isman Cooper who was behind the pack in 2019, put in a monumental shift to finish at 23:32 (32nd place). The joy of seeing Andrew Ruffer’s (11th) , Colin Clark’s (7th) , Liza French’s (42nd and top 10 lady) and Judy Davey’s (15th and 3rd lady) family there at the end is something that will stay with them for life. David Smith who has recced the course, raced it twice and run it as a summer fun run last year had a fine outing and now needs to recover alongside David Mooney and myself for taking on the West Highland Way in Scotland at the end of the month. Talking of short recoveries, Rich Gilyatt, having been 14th this weekend in a measured performance, now needs to prepare for the cross Devon 140 miler in a few weeks, collecting all 10 UTMB points in 3 weeks! Darren Drew (20th) hasn’t raced for 2.5 years, and hasn’t been injury free since May 2018 had one of those days where he had the fire in him all day, and that magic feeling he knew he was going to more than get it done. Andrew Ferguson and Charlie Lowis (21st and 25th respectively) put in good miles in prep for the Dragon’s Back this year, and I Iook forward to meeting another husband and wife team in Rachel and George Mahood (27th) that can complete the course still looking fresh and with smiles on their faces…Our youngest finisher was 22 (12th) (Jake has completed the EDR twice now) and the eldest was 64 (46th and 11th lady). If I am doing this at 64 I will be flipping chuffed…For those that didn’t make the finish line this year, you all made the right decision. Muchos respect friends.
The East Devon Half Round had a particularly strong performance from Stuart Maclean (1st and 6hrs 35 mins – Only 2 faster times for this route and one of them an ex professional marathoner) with Rob McDougall surprising himself to come in 2nd in 6hrs 46 mins. Sarah Marjoram looked particularly fresh back at Race HQ with a 1st place and 7hrs 5 min). Particular qudos to Ian Morris who was 5th, before coming to marshal until 1am at Checkpoint 8 and Lucy Shipley (10th) who pushed her dog over stiles for the 1st 10km and whose furthest previous run was 20 miles. Peter Telford at 63 (11th) not only completed the course but did so after knee injuries and surgery last year.
Next year the event will be April 30th 2022 5:30am start. I will be placing a cut off at the Otter Inn once more with those in after returning to Offwell via the Tim Howarth route, and therefore still crossing the finishing line (80km route). I will place a link to photos on the website once I sort, as well as the drone video from Hartridge, and UTMB points are being submitted today.
Only other things I have been asked for are – where do I buy those soups? – well here you are www.rodandbens.com and click on soup shop, and are there other similar events? – I’d recommend looking up http://mudcrew.co.uk/ with their SW Traverse on 30th May.
The money raised from the event will be going to Combe Raleigh play group, the fund for a new play park at Offwell Village Hall, Devon Mind, and each of you will also be receiving a certificate from Trees Not Tees https://treesnottees.com/ of your tree planted as a memento of your day at the East Devon Round.
That’s all folks,
Alasdair, Esme, Charlie, Tim, Bec, Bebe, Doug and Freddie, Sam, Ali, Bella, Bill, Bruce and Tracey, Chris Davey and Chris Davis, Ed, Emma, Georgie, Helen Hux, Helen W, Ian, Jo, Tom Cook and Tom Angel, John G, Katie, Katy, Lisa, Louise, Jonny, Paul, Rachel, Steve, Sheila, Richard and Bella
‘When you run your first marathon, more things seem possible. When you run your first ultra marathon, everything seems possible’ Michael d’Aurelio
“Athletics is not so much about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind.” Eliud Kipchoge