the number of WACers who have chanced their arm (and indeed the rest of
their bodies) on the Ridgeway over the years has increased. 2007’s race
had been our best yet and gave us a great platform to build from. The
girl’s recorded a WAC Ladies PB of 12:11:09 and our men had come 4th
for the third year in succession and for the first time we managed to
field a third team who posted a 10th place too. There were
still some WACers though who had managed to resist the challenge – for
many of you that was to change this time around.
is not just about outright speed and I have felt for the past four years
that we had the resources to win this event. It requires preparation,
planning, commitment and desire – if the team has that, a big result is
achievable – and if it doesn’t come you still have the satisfaction of
knowing it you have given it your all.
time I started to believe this race was winnable for us was back in 2005
when WACers Jon Braund, Andrew and Jane Douglas, Neil Hopkinson, Nick
Solomon and Graham Whiffen came fifth. Some fairly modest improvements
in our times would have got us into the top three.
the men’s teams we have put together have been progressively stronger –
but each year our competitors have done much the same. Could 2008 be
breakthrough year? First of all we needed to find out exactly who was up
for it. An e-mail
was sent out back in January and we had a fantastic
response. There were 36 names to work with, a few were carrying injury
niggles that they hoped would be cleared up by May, and from past
experience I knew that with so many people we would inevitably need
reserve runners, so decided to enter five six-man teams instead of the
six. We also knew that legs had to be recce-ed in advance. In previous
years we have seen teams tumble down the placings when getting lost, or
even record a ‘DNF’. With no markers or marshals, and armed only with
route notes which have comments along the lines of, ‘go through the gate
that used to be there’, ‘fork right at the ash tree’ and ‘go over the
hidden style’ navigational mistakes will occur. But I am not
complaining, it is all part of the unique charm of this glorious event.
By early February the teams were drawn up, and then I
discovered that at best, the team I deserved to be in should, by rights,
be called ‘Wimborne D’, so I decided we would use team names instead!
The first two men’s teams were selected in a bid to find a race winner
and were called the Wimborne Worldbeaters (no pressure there then) and
the Wimborne Whirlwinds, the ladies became the Wimborne Wildcats. We had
two mixed teams the WACky Racers and the Wimborne Wolves which hopefully
would be evenly matched on the day.
Inevitably we suffered a few withdrawals and this altered
the balance of the teams a little. When we had exhausted all our supply
of reserve runners, it was a matter of talking to WACers who hadn’t
stepped forward in January. The teams finally seemed settled and we had
our last meeting 10 days before race day. That weekend, we lost three
more runners and at the 11th hour into the breach stepped
Denise Craddock, Jools Maskell and Julie Mead. To sign up at that late
stage is commitment to the Club in the extreme. Denise had not really
run for around three months since going out to Africa, Jools had only
just come back from injury, they were both faced with two recces in
a week and then a race. In last year’s Ridgeway Jools had an off-piste
excursion and had said at the time that she would not ‘Ridgeway’ again
unless she was fit and really knew her route – but the team needed her,
so she was there. Julie Mead was going into the race in good form but
would only have the opportunity to recce one leg, so Cathy volunteered
to run three legs as she had recce-ed Mark’s legs as well as her own.
With five days to go the teams were finally nailed down – I couldn’t
wait to lace up my shoes and just run.
Meanwhile for one WACer a ‘normal’ Ridgeway wasn’t a big
enough challenge. Andy Horsley had decided that a real challenge
would be to run the entire 100km route over some of Dorset’s most
demanding terrain as a one-man team. Andy had recce-ed the entire route
since his return from the Marathon des Sables despite the fact that his
feet had still not fully recovered from the battering they took out in
the desert. Naturally, Andy would need to take the route at a steady
pace and so, while the rest of us were still tucked up in our beds, at
4am Andy set off from the Duck Pond at Tollard Royal. But he wasn’t the
first runner that morning as the formidable Ines Braun of Gillingham
Trotters was also doing the whole 100km trip and had departed an hour
Everyone else arrived at Tollard Royal at 7am for a 7.30
race start. As race numbers and other paperwork were distributed you
could feel the tension mounting. Our five Wimborne teams lined up
alongside 15 others. After all those months of hard work from our teams
the runners were finally off.
A convoy of cars headed for the change-over point, via
the picturesque village of Ashmore where we cheered each of the WACers
through. Having got to the start of leg 2 we waited with anticipation
for the runners. The first through were the Dorset Doddlers. The first
WAC team were the Whirlwinds in fifth place after a good run from Graham
Whiffen, but with the Worldbeaters further back down the field – perhaps
it wasn’t going to be our year after all. The Worldbeaters were always a
bit sheepish about the name that had been bestowed on them, and with the
Whirlwinds ahead of them, perhaps they now had some reason to feel so.
The Whirlwinds were always going to present a formidable challenge to
any team, especially as they had our two top WAC Wessex League
cross-country runners, in Graham and Daryl Davies, and probably the
club’s two most improved runners of recent months – Craig Dixon and Pete
Lemon – in their ranks.
Becky Wood put in one of the finest performances of the
day with a superb Leg 1 for the Wildcats. With a number of teams through
there were anxious looks down the road as there was still no sign of
Derek Sainsbury in Phil Burgess’ car. He had Denise with him who would,
theoretically, take on the baton for the Wolves. Thankfully they turned
up in the nick of time. With all five WAC teams through, it was upwards
(especially for the runners who faced Hambledon Hill and Okeford Beacon
in the next 4-plus miles) and onwards to the next change-over.
At leg 3 both of the men’s teams made up time thanks to
great runs from Pete Lemon and Tim Harris. Claire Newby and Denise
arrived together for the Wildcats and the Wolves and WACky Racer Rona
Kelly put in a battling performance on what is probably the toughest leg
of the race.
Leg 4 - Ian
takes over from Daryl
Having watched the hand-overs we then drove to leg 4 for
the next change-over. I had to do a double take, Daryl was there already
and had handed the baton on to Ian Buckingham. The combined efforts of
Daryl and Pete Lemon over the previous legs had catapulted the
Whirlwinds into second place overall. Clearly it would take a decent
team to live with the Whirlwinds today and the Worldbeaters had their
work cut out if they were to become Wimborne’s top dogs.
The leg 4 start is where the last of the WACers joined up
with the teams, with Trudi Carter and Stewart Little entering the fold.
Trudi is a WAC athletics coach, a fine pole-vaulter, 400m runner and a
former rugby player who trains with us on Tuesdays. From those Tuesday
sessions it was clear to me that Trudi had great stamina as well as
speed. She had been repeating, mantra-like, ‘I am not a distance
runner’, but by the end of her leg 4, another of the day’s outstanding
performances, she couldn’t find anyone who would believe her, and seemed
less convinced herself! Stewart is an old hand at the Ridgeway. He has
run as a WACer on the Ridgeway before but was also a member of a
Blandford Striders team that won the race a few years ago setting a new
course record in the process. He was set to run the anchor leg for the
Worldbeaters later in the day.
Trudi’s superb effort on leg 4 denied Cathy some much
needed recover time. Remember, Cathy had volunteered to run three legs,
but she had been under the weather with a cold and sore throat for much
of the previous week, and she had run leg 3 and now had to set off on
Our teams started to split up with the Whirlwinds and
Worldbeaters disappearing over the horizon and the Wildcats in pursuit.
At this point the Wolves and WACky Racers entered into a duel which was
to continue for most of the day. The Wolves had pulled ahead, but when
we started to see other teams come through ahead of us, I spoke to
members of two Axe Valley Runners teams who had been some distance
behind us as they approached the change-over for Leg 4. ‘Have you seen
any red shirts’, I asked. ‘Yes, two, running in opposite directions
along the ridge’. Oh well! It’s all part of the Ridgeway experience I
suppose! Eventually our two red shirts appeared with Derek in first and
around 200m back, having made up quite a margin, Jeff Hinsley. So we had
what amounted to a match race between Jools and Tim Box over leg 4.
Steve recovering after leg 7
Meanwhile at the sharp end of the field, the Doddlers had
a healthy lead over the two Wimborne teams that had by now clawed their
way into 2nd and 3rd positions. The WAC men’s
teams were a minute apart at the halfway stage and so it was
gladiatorial stuff for Whirlwind Graham and Worldbeater Steve Guy on Leg
7. Photographs show just how hard they pushed.
The Wolves got away on Leg 5 with Richard Davies going
off at a decent lick, but once the WACky Racers’ baton had been brought
in by Jools a determined Dave Pearson began to hunt down his prey,
passing Richard between Up Cerne and Batcombe. Annmarie Pearson had
about a 100 metre start on me for Leg 6, so I set off to catch her and
try and put some distance into the WACky Racers before the summit at
Breakheart Hill where Phil Burgess would take the baton on for us
against WACky Racer Robin Hughes.
Pete Lemon, job done leg 8
Ahead of us, if anything the battle for WAC supremacy was
intensifying on Leg 8 with Tim Harris and Pete Lemon mano a mano
pushing each other to the point of destruction. The pair of them
collapsed on the side of the road, having completed their work for the
day at the end of this leg. At last the Worldbeaters were coming to
terms with the stiff challenge the Whirlwinds were putting up.
The leg 8/9 change-over was also the point where the
men’s teams caught Andy Horsley, who was going along quite nicely on his
long haul to Uplyme. Pat Robbins was there too. He had been operating as
Andy’s support crew since 4am at Tollard Royal.
Peter and Jerry applaud Andy and Pat
at Mintern’s Hill
There was still little between the Wolves and the Racers.
Derek took up the baton for the ‘King of the Mountains’ leg which drops
into Beaminster and then climbs out again. Bearing in mind his
navigational difficulties earlier in the day it was with some
nervousness that we saw him disappear down the footpath from Mintern’s
Hill. Our concerns were unfounded as Derek ran a great leg. He arrived
at Sheepwash Lane and got a mighty ironic cheer, undeservedly, as it was
a job well done.
While the Wolves were at last putting some distance into
the Racers, the Worldbeaters were slowly building a gap over the
Whirlwinds. By this team our two men’s teams were so far ahead of us we
were relying on mobile phones for updates.
Then the news came through that the Dorset Doddlers’ leg
12 runner was in trouble with a severe hamstring injury. Stewart,
running for the Worldbeaters had passed him. The Doddlers had sent out
another runner to retrieve the baton and carry it on to the finish line
– it was appalling bad luck for them, and for us not the way we would
choose to take a victory. Hopefully their man is making a decent
recovery from injury. Whirlwind Jon Braund had also passed the stricken
Doddler and was now being chased down by the Doddlers’ replacement
Stewart crossed the finish line at Uplyme to a rapturous
reception and Jon managed to hold off the pursuing Doddler to claim
second place. Shortly afterwards my phone came to life with a text
message from Jerry, ‘WAC 1st and 2nd’ it read.
It’s a message I won’t be deleting from my mailbox any time soon. I feel
sure it was the fierce competition between the Worldbeaters and the
Whirlwinds that put is in a position to catch the unfortunate Doddlers.
Most of the time difference the Doddlers pulled out on the Worldbeaters
was gained on Leg 1, and after that the first three teams were very
evenly matched until that fateful leg 12.
Stewart raises the baton in the
final few yards
Meanwhile the Wildcats had continued to make good
progress. Claire was one of only two WACers to revisit the same legs as
in last year’s race. She seems to have discovered the happy knack of
finding something extra on the big occasion. Today was no exception – on
Leg 8 she improved on her 2007 time by a staggering 16 minutes! At the
final change-over (11/12) the Wildcats finally caught up with Andy.
Having just tackled the climbs to Lambert’s Castle and Coney’s Castle he
was dead on his feet and had decided that he was going to walk the final
6 miles into Uplyme with Pat. The girls arranged to drive Pat’s van to
When the Wolves support car arrived at the final
change-over there was still plenty of activity as the girls where still
there along with five other teams, and we were soon joined by three more
teams including the WACky Racers. Nicki Roe took off for the final leg
into Uplyme for the Wildcats and on finishing the girls set a new PB for
a Wimborne Ladies team, improving by almost an hour!
I took the baton on for the Wolves and after a mile or
two caught one of the teams – the ‘Barneys’. Although there were another
four teams tantalisingly close, I couldn’t make any ground on them. With
around a mile to go I caught Andy and Pat, paused long enough to shake
their hands and headed off to the finish line where my team mates were
waiting. Andy, was the next WACer in, he was given a rousing reception,
but looked totally shattered – his time, 15hrs 18mins 15 secs.
We were now waiting for Annmarie to bring the baton home
for the WACky Racers. Dave received a phonecall from her saying that she
was struggling as she was cramping up, but she also made it clear she
intended to push on regardless. At around 7.45pm Annmarie arrived at
Uplyme to a standing ovation. Quite a girl, and also a cheap date, as
today was Annmarie’s and Dave’s wedding anniversary and he had managed
to give her a day she will never forget – and for just £9 (including
bangers and mash)!
In truth, it was a day none of us will forget. A quick
dive into the showers and then into the pub for our meal and pint and
then it was time to head home for some very weary WACers. All that
blood, sweat and tears seemed worth it at the end of a very long day.
Well done Wimborne! At most there are around 70 active
(some more so than others) roadrunners in the club. To get almost half
that number out there on Ridgeway day is extraordinary.
See you same time, same place, next year.
Huge thanks must go to Gillingham Trotters, and Chris
Cussen and his family in particular, for the commitment and hard work
they put in each year to make this one of our running highlights of the
Somehow Andy Horsley recovered sufficiently to return the
favour to Pat the following weekend. He was Pat’s support team on the
‘Grand Union Canal Run’ (145 miles – yes really!!). Andy
ran with his mate through the night for 50-odd miles. Pat won the race
and beat the course record by half an hour! How do these guys do it!
It took me
a few days until I felt up to lacing up my shoes again, but on the
following Thursday there was a good number of us for the QE run.
Afterwards at Morag’s Lymphoma – Great British Tea Break we had a
terrific turnout. We were able to hand over £875 to Morag for the
As part of
the fund raising we auctioned a Wimborne Athletic Club shirt bearing
signatures from the six members of the winning Worldbeaters team. Thank
you to Robin - he successfully bid £40 for the shirt and has presented
it to his 9 year-old son as a reward for the progress his lad is showing
as a young runner.
Annemarie at the end of a memorable day
1 – Wimborne Worldbeaters - Steve Guy (1/7),
Tim Harris (2/8), Peter Wood (3/9), Jerry Shield (4/10), Mark Hitchcott
(5/11), Stewart Little (6/12) – 8:36:52
2 – Wimborne Whirlwinds - Graham Whiffen
(1/&7), Pete Lemon (2/8), Daryl Davies (3/9), Ian Buckingham (4/10),
Craig Dixon (5/11), Jon Braund (6/12) –
3 – Dorset Doddlers A –
4 – Marlborough –
5 – Axe Valley ‘A’ –
6 – Axe Valley ‘B’ –
7 – Wells City –
8 – Wells City Ladies – 10:20:59
9 – Gillingham Trotters A –
10 – Gillingham Trotters B –
11 – Wimborne Wildcats - Becky Wood (1/7),
Claire Newby (2/8) Cathy Hartle (3/5/11), Trudi Carter (4/10), Nicki Roe
(6, 12), Julie Mead (9) – 11:14:16
12 – Dorset Doddlers B –
13 – Axe Valley ‘C’ –
14 – Damsels –
15 – Knights –
16 – Long Suffering Friends –
17 – Wimborne Wolves - Phil Burgess (1/7),
Denise Craddock (2/8), Derek Sainsbury (3/9), Tim Box (4/10), Richard
Ian Kennedy (6/12)
18 – Team Barney –
19 – Axe Valley ‘D’ –
20 – WACky Racers - Robin Hughes (1/7), Rona
Kelly (2/8), Jeff Hinsley (3/9), Jools Maskell (4/10), Dave Pearson
(5/11), Annmarie Pearson (6/12) –
Ines Braun – 15:09:11
Andy Horsley - 15:18:15