Wimborne Athletic Club

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The Stickler  - 28 October 2012

The three peaks, three views – Rich House, Wendy Kennedy & Steve Wyatt report.

Rich says

With a good turn out of Wimborne runners the pre-race banter at race HQ was not only around the pros and cons of a base layer to deal with the cool grey damp conditions but also race tactics, as vital club championship points were at stake. Needless to say those of us in the same championship category as Mr Swindlehurst kept quiet.

The start of the race is down a narrow lane that gives the runners a chance to get their legs warm before the first of the three peaks rears up and welcomes you to the event  properly. Myself and Andy Porter hit this one running and pass Iain Donnelly about a third of the way up, two thirds of the way up I’m walking and Andy is pushing on. At the top we pass by Okeford Hill Beacon and are on our way down to the woods.

The long fast descent is brought to an abrupt halt at mile 4 where another hill appears, this one doesn’t even count as one of the three peaks! After passing through a few villages at mile 7 the official second peak, Hod Hill, looms. With the desire and ability to run up the embankments of the Iron Age fort quickly disappearing, I am once again walking up the hill. Towards the top I look back and see Steve Guy hot on my heels.

Immediately after a crazy descent off this hill the runners face the insanely steep third peak of Hambledon Hill - I didn’t even bother trying to run this one. At the top of the hill it’s Jon Braund’s turn to chase me down and offer wise words of support regarding the steep descent off the hill, at which point I thought it prudent to have my shoe laces tied! Being supportive club mates, both Jon and Steve went past me, but support was just round the corner with Lynn and Sharon Hutchings cheering everyone on. Steve was more cautious on the descent, so there was another championship point back for me, but there was no catching Jon.

The final mile was along ankle twisting fields and a slippery footbridge towards the old railway line platform, where great vocal support was provided by fellow WACers at the finish. So good was the support that I think Mike Hilborne sprinted faster the louder the crowd cheered!

Well done everyone that ran and a big thank you to the support provided by others. It was a cracking race and definitely one for next year’s diary.


Wendy says

Most sensible people would look at the race profile on the Stickler website and quickly decide that it was not a good idea (think of a cardiac monitor going up and down), luckily for the race organisers Dorset is chock full of nutters who aren’t interested in a nice flat race. It’s also a worry when Ian tells you that its one of his favourites!  I usually steer clear of any of those, such as the Beast or the Grizzly.

After a quite a bit of humming and haahing about whether to run the Stickler, I made the decision to go for it, being the last club championship race of the year and the vain hope of snatching a few more points.  After a week of having a heavy cold, my preparations were poor, but at least I had rested and hoped for the best. Having done the second leg of the Ridgeway and also the TV10, I had a fair idea of what might be in-store.

Upon arrival at the race HQ the first sight was the figure of the grim reaper, just what you need to inspire confidence! It wasn’t long before the hall filled with runners and happily the usual WAC suspects arrived. There was a friendly but nervous atmosphere at the start line, which was a crowded narrow lane about 5 minutes away from the hall.

There is a short ‘on road’ section at the beginning leading you towards the infamous ‘Stickle Path’ which is accessed via a gateway, and from the entrance to the path it quickly increases in gradient and ascends into the trees – the path is rough and leaf covered so finding a good grip was difficult and within a short time the majority were walking (as briskly as possible), with a few die hards gamely running up on their toes I was particularly impressed by Mike Hilborne who went up the path like a mountain goat. 

At this point it was social and whilst chatting was hard, due to lack of oxygen, it was nice to exchange pleasantries with the other ‘runners’.  Angie Brown, from Poole Runners, had her not so secret weapon of Lulu, her fostered Staffie cross, who was nimbly escorting her as she cruised past me. The Stickler is one of the few races where dogs are permitted, although they must start from the back (however, I don’t think any were likely to finish last). 

The first hill continues for about a mile and once at the top there is a view point (apparently).  The only view I had was of the Littledown runner who stopped in front of me to adjust his black knee support, for some crazy reason it looked like he was losing his underpants which I joked to him with some hilarity. (Maybe altitude sickness had kicked in? or just hysteria) 

After running along a the crown of the hill the course loops down and then back up past the Okeford Beacon, which in my opinion should have been lit for the occasion.  We then had a brief period of flattish ground before the first downhill.  The course got muddy and as most people know I don’t do mud, so my pace slowed down while I tried to avoid losing my trainers in the gloop. Luckily it wasn’t long before we hit a firmer surface and the track went down a spectacular looping downhill path, one of the longest I’ve ever run down, inevitably towards a valley and again back uphill (this hill at 4m apparently doesn’t count in the three peaks, as its just a pimple!). 

My favourite section followed, a bit of downhill road into Durweston and across a pretty mill and weir and then alongside a brook, although it was running downstream as we were going up! The second peak then began, again up a rough streambed, which was hard to get purchase of in my road trainers. The surface is largely chalk, and in the drizzly conditions, quite slippery. The climb was shorter that the first but just as steep with an additional sting in the tail of a further short climb at the hill fort at the very summit. The wind and rain now started to become noticeable and my sympathies were for the marshals who were bravely trying to avoid hypothermia. 

The downhill at 7m (Hod Hill) was tricky, the narrow track was cambered and steep, but going onto the grass was equally treacherous, having been made slick with several hundred runners already going down. It was sobering to see across to the next hill in the distance, knowing that it was soon to be next. Immediately you hit the bottom, with only a brief moment to cross the road, then you commence Hambledon Hill, peak No. 3. 

By this time my calves and lower back had started to complain, and my energy levels were feeling low, the gel I’d had at 5 miles already seemed a long time ago. I opted to use the path rather than the grass, which gained me a little momentum on some of the other ‘runners’, as it was drier and less slippery. At the barn near the crest the marshal told me the usual porky of it being the top (when it clearly wasn’t!) with a rise for a further half mile around the corner.

This section had the worst conditions, the wind and rain biting hard, the track was very narrow and we progressed single file for a little time, dodging the cowpats. This led to the most challenging part of the whole race, the last downhill, the course steeply descended with grass and mud giving no grip and making it very scary. The momentum carried you forward but I was constantly trying to check my speed as I knew it would be suicidal to risk ‘running’ this section. I opted to using an odd gallopy action (it seemed to work) but I kept suppressing the images of broken legs, splints and air ambulances out of my head, there was also a fair amount of language.  Eventually after what seemed a very long time, the path goes into thick mud which thankfully slows your descent a little, although I still had to bounce off of a marshal at the bottom to avoid running into the middle of the road.

Yay! At last a bit of road, shame my legs were like jelly and my trainers were covered with half a field of mud. With just around a mile to go and I was now getting a second wind and even managed to pass a few runners, whilst negotiating through a last bog and a herd of sheep (a first). The last 600m is on a section of railway trackbed and thankfully the easiest portion of the race, with the finish at the pretty restored railway station. The cheers from across the tracks of the other WACers were greatly appreciated, along with the support from the Hutchings family who were out en route. Well done to all the other WAC runners, a really good turnout.

The Stickler is probably my slowest 10-ish miles and was definitely my hilliest.  The route takes you over the most beautiful Dorset countryside (on a good day you might even get to see it), and presents a host of challenges, mud, downhills, more mud, but its very satisfying and I might even do it again (maybe).

Steve says

With this being the last run out for the Club Championship this year, there was a good turn out of runners in and around the top of their age category as we quietly tried to seek a few extra points on a final push for minor glory. Dropping that sub-40 score for a high 40s score proved to be a popular way to spend this particular Sunday as we gathered in the church hall. Of course no one wanted to admit that’s why we were there but what other reason could there be to discard the coffee and Sunday papers for a drizzly morning in Dorset?

Amongst us were both veterans and virgins, (a bit like vicars and tarts only with red vests on). As a self confessed virgin I did my usual kit on-and-off thing and waited nervously for the main event. So did 400-odd others and in another type of recreational event this would be called an orgy. In Dorset though they call it The Stickler and a very satisfying experience it was too …

I normally only see two peaks but on this occasion three appeared before my eyes as we run, nay climbed, three significant hills in the Shillingstone environs. The first one, Okeford Hill almost laid me to waste and a small amount of power walking was required before we’d even got to mile 2. Our reward was the most fantastic run down a forest track between miles 3 and 4. No restraint was shown in my group as we reversed life and enjoyed the downs far more than the ups!

After a small climb there was another good long run down into Durweston, across the river and on into Stourpaine. After some earlier shuffling for position I had settled into fourth spot, next to a Gurkha from the local Signals Regiment. He didn’t say much but let his legs do the talking. I had to ask him to stop shouting each time we got to one of those hills as he was running like a machine each time we went up one. (I suspect that it may be hilly in Nepal?!?)

At Hod Hill he pulled away again and the relatively short respite we got on the downhill leg made Hambledon Hill even trickier. It was great though to get a cheery ‘gee up’ from Lynn Hutchings somewhere near the top.  In my race plan I’d noted that after 8 miles it was mainly downhill to the finish. This of course seemed so logical from the comfort of the kitchen but the reality was a 1-mile bog soaked stretch of field, the world’s most slippery footbridge and the most delightful finish in the old station at Shillingstone. I’d come under pressure from the fifth- and sixth-placed runners late on, but for the first time in a long while I had the legs to see them both off. Perhaps turning that concept of training into some actual training is starting to pay off?

On a sunny day we might even have been able to see the view from top of some of those hills!  A challenging 10 mile course with a real mix of terrain, good organisation and simply great fun (in retrospect!).

Well done to one and all with your championship points calculations when you arrived home!


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