Wanting to see the sea is possibly not the best reason for choosing the longest route of the three on offer, but it seemed a shame to travel down to Dorset, get so close to the coast and not experience my first trail race sea view (the Short and Middle Routes turn back before the coastline). Never mind the fact I’d recently completed my first half marathon, then given blood (which always takes it out of me for a week or two), oh and I’ve never run 22km.
The Maverick inov-8 Original Hampshire in March was so picturesque I was gutted I didn’t have a camera to capture the day. This time I came prepared with an inov-8 Race Ultra 5 Vest and a Canon EOS M10 tucked safely inside. Knowing that I’d be slower than usual, but with a generous 5ish hour cut-off, I could enjoy the scenery and take lots of photos along the way.
Anyhow, I arrived at Purbeck Valley Farm nice and early, clear blue skies and a great view across Dorset towards Corfe Castle. Quite the setting. Registration was quick and easy, the race number doubles as your timing chip, which is a nice touch.
Although it’s an intangible thing I loved the atmosphere surrounding my first Maverick race last month in Hampshire, and it was no different here. The start area with the various pop up stores for different gear (and all stuff that’s actually relevant and interesting), the hay bale seating area, the drone buzzing overhead shooting video. It’s super relaxed but at the same time feels like a proper professional event.
Inov-8 were on hand with lots of their trail shoes, so I got to try some on and figure out which size would be best for me (I’ve been considering buying a pair for a while). The guys from Inov8 were great and full of knowledge. It was strange feeling walking off with a pair of brand new £110 trail shoes that didn’t belong to me, especially knowing they were going to be returned in ‘less than new’ condition! I opted for the Trail Talon 275s which fit perfectly in an 11 and apparently were ideally suited to the conditions.
After a quick briefing, mainly to make sure we all knew that the course splits twice (you could sign up for one of three routes, a 9k, 14 and 22k) we headed off.
The early stages of the course consisted of farm tracks, lovely narrow bridleways and a very steep hill (which most of us walked). Despite the narrow tracks everyone was super courteous and there was no jostling for position. The Short Route runners peeled off at the top of the first climb but we continued on up, thankfully rewarded with beautiful views of Swanage and the coast in the distance. A steady descent led to a quiet road crossing where the Middle Distance split occurred, for those of us on the Long Route we worked our way (up) through some beautiful woodland which gradually opened up as we neared the coast.
After the Middle split the race became very quiet for me with few Long Route runners nearby (I assumed I was pretty much last!) As I reached the fantastic technical coastal path I could see runners in the distance, I gradually gained on these as we climbed further until we were hugging the cliff edge with amazing views out to sea. By this point there were plenty of walkers out on the paths, but it was wide enough for everyone. As Old Harry Rocks came into view the route turned off to follow the cliff path, I caught up with a few runners at this point and we all left the route for 5 minutes to take pictures on the cliff edge.
We headed in-land and into Studland village along a few quiet country roads, by this point a group of Canicross runners had caught up with me so it was nice to have company for a little while! As a group we reached the first hydration station, which was a welcome sight if only for a breather and a chat with the volunteers.
I did hear a few minor complaints about the lack of hydration on the Long Route (hydration stations were at approximately 8 and 12 miles). The course map did indicate that the Long Route would not have a hydration station until quite far into the route (and the pre-race email recommended having your own food and drink), but even so lots of runners had nothing with them. The stations themselves were excellent and staffed by lovely folk; they included water, Skratch Labs drink, sweets, oranges, watermelon, bananas etc.
I headed off before the canicross runners and after a lovely little stretch of woodland the course opened up into sandy (and occasionally boggy) heathland. The climb out of this section was easily my lowest point, the sandy surface sapping my energy and no runners in sight ahead or behind. As we climbed further past a golf course I felt some nasty twinges in my calf muscles so eased off quite a bit. The canicross runners sailed past, it was a lonely slog through woodland before the welcome sight of the next hydration station. A number of runners caught up with me at this point and most of us headed off together for the final few miles. We climbed and climbed, with a brutal final ascent through some picturesque woodland before we found ourselves joining the first mile or so of the course in the reverse direction, thankfully downhill.
Having eventually reached the finish line in what is by far the longest time I’ve ever been running I was greeted by a lovely medal (that doubles as a bottle opener), a bottle of Maverick Trail Ale and a Jimmy’s Iced Coffee. No complaints there, I’m a big iced coffee fan (my Dad had the ale, I’m not a drinker!)
I handed back ‘my’ now damp and dirty inov-8 Talon’s and had a good chat with the inov-8 guys again. It was a brave (and potentially foolish) decision to run my longest ever race in brand new shoes, but they were excellent. So much so that when asked for comments, I had absolutely nothing to say as I never really noticed them. They were comfy, my feet stayed remarkably cool and they gripped brilliantly on the many, many surfaces. My shopping list has just grown.
The result was an irrelevance for me but for completeness times seemed to be posted online pretty much live via Results Base (Maverick add a link to their Facebook page), tidied up results were then added later on to the Maverick website, nicely sorted by distance and gender. For the record I was 175th out of 186 runners on the Long Route, with runners crossing the line between 1hr 33mins (!) and 4hrs 35mins.
Being a photographer myself race photography is a particular frustration of mine. It’s usually either non-existent, rubbish, or expensive (or rubbish and expensive). Maverick forgo the volume approach and employ photographers who really make the most of the beautiful routes (Sue Hill Photography has covered both events I’ve attended), then give you them all for free. It means you may not necessarily feature in them but when you do, wow, they’re properly good (and even if you don’t, they’re fab to look through).
The photo album can be found here.
So yep, great event, basically. I’d try and offer some balance but Maverick Races absolutely nail absolutely everything I look for in a race, so I don’t really have anything to moan about. I wasn’t planning on repeating any events but I’ll definitely be back next year. I heard a few people mention that they are planning to only run Maverick events next year, I can see why.