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Cerne Giant 30 – 1 April 2012

Three go mad in Dorset. Can Phil consume more calories than he can burn?

Phil waits for Ian at the top of one off the more severe climbs.

Back at the beginning of the year, Ian posted me with an interesting suggestion – how about this? And a link to the Cerne Giant 30 miler, organised by the Dorset Long Distance Walkers’ Association (LDWA). Within half an hour, I’d signed up as thinking about it too much would probably put me off. Roll on a few months, and after some rather nice training runs in the Purbecks, April 1st comes up all too quickly.

Ian and I arrived at Cerne village hall at around 8:45, and registered. It was freezing cold but bright sunshine fell out of a sparkling cloud free sky. It looked like perfect running conditions. We had hung around for Rob Greenhalgh, our third team member, because he forgot his shoes, and had to turn back when he realised half-way to Cerne…

9:15, and we finally got going, up the first hill, round the back of the giant.  Scenery instantly became the number one part of this run, and was only to get better and better as we went. The route profile is distinctly hilly. Slow jogs/fast walks to each crest, then fast, fast, fast into the next valley – only to meet another major climb!

Reading the course notes while running was interesting, but we made it to 7 miles in, and the first checkpoint. Here were drinks and cake for the not-yet-weary and a lovely setting at Lyscombe village, an old ghost village dating back to the plague…  still, we were still feeling healthy, and off we went. A minor course mistake but only another couple of 100m added at this point, and we made our way around a stunning ridgeline, to drop down to a farm, and some nice smooth road for a few miles!

Next we came to Bingham’s Melcombe House, a gorgeous old manorhouse, a run through woods, fields and villages to part of the Wessex Ridgeway trail, a big climb and descent.  We caught up with former WACers Jill Harsent and Louise Lucas, who had started earlier and were walking the route, they informed us that team-mate Pete Lemon was someway ahead of us and going well. The three of us headed off the Ridgeway to Buckland Newton, 17 miles and checkpoint 2 and all its goodies awaited.  Those goodies turned out too tempting for Rob and I.  Two sausage rolls, a sandwich, a slice of pizza and two slices of cake later, I rolled out of the village hall and got on with this running business. It was a nice extra workout with that ‘rock’ in the stomach for the next 3 or 4 miles.

The big climb out of Buckland was rewarded with amazing views again, and we continued until we crossed the Cerne valley again, heading for Sydling St Nicholas, again on the Wessex Ridgeway. This was where Ian’s familiarity with that route added an extra mile to our journey, as we took Ian’s way to Sydling instead of following the route notes!

Blancmange and tinned peaches awaited us there though, along with Coca-Cola and giant jelly sweets. I decided to stick with the sweets here, as lunch was a bit of a lesson in eating versus running.

Out of Sydling, there were more climbs and descents, until the final climb up to the ridge west of Cerne, where a walker thankfully corrected us just as we were about to make the next route mistake …  we were now at about 29 miles, and the descent to the river was getting tricky for me, as my left knee kept cramping up on the heavy downhill sections.

A final jog along the Cerne valley up to Cerne Abbas, and the welcome hall awaited us after over 7 hours on our feet!  A really nice three bean stew, apple crumble and custard topped off the day perfectly.

With less than a mile to go and we cajole a local into taking a group
photo in Cerne Abbas. Left to right: Rob, Ian and Phil.

All in all, the route and the scenery were outstanding, and the organisation excellent.  Unexpectedly large amounts of food, tea and coffee were on offer at each checkpoint, and the LDWA were very friendly and welcoming. 

The most amazing thing was the price - £10 per person!  It has to be one of the best value events in the country, and definitely one you should look at if you want to test yourself beyond marathon distance. The distance itself is actually easily achievable by anyone who can run 20 miles well – the changes of pace and the necessary walking sections all add up to a lot less leg damage than a regular marathon, I was quite surprised to be running comfortably within a week of this event!

Total distance (Our route): 32 miles

Total time on feet (excluding the lunch stop) : 7 hours 9 minutes.

If I don’t get into London Marathon again next year, I’ll definitely be signing up for this one!

Phil Whitehurst

PS: We never did catch up with Pete, even though he clocked up a few extra miles due to a few off-piste excursions. Easily done!

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