The relentless rain didn’t deter 250 of Dorset’s most dedicated runners this morning who ran the Gold Hill 10k Race.
ThisIsAlfred’s Keri Jones went along and discovered that the event offers more than a physical challenge. He found a strong sense of camaraderie amongst participants and there’s an important community fundraising element to this well-established Shaftesbury fixture.
It’s just before 11am on a miserably, wet and windy autumnal Sunday morning. A crowd of hooded spectators are huddled around two Gillingham Trotters Race Club pendant flags, fluttering in the breeze in the far corner of the Shaftesbury School playing fields. They’ve come to cheer on friends and family who have travelled from all over the westcountry, to run in this challenging race. This morning’s rain-drenched route will take runners around Enmore Green, Guys Marsh and on an exhausting climb up the steep, slippery, iconic cobbles.
“It’s 5k downhill followed by 5k uphill with a slight glitch – you have to go up Gold Hill during the first 2k and you’re not even warmed up. That can be quite tricky because of the cobbles,” said Sandra Hamilton, a member of Dorset Doddlers Running Club. “You also have to ‘go for it’ because everybody is standing on Gold Hill cheering you on. It’s not as if you can let the brakes off. You have to go up, at speed if you can. It really is quite a tough race.”
Sandra’s done the 10k before. She says that Gold Hill isn’t the hardest part. “The worst bit is one of the last hills. As you come up towards Hawkesdene Lane it is particularly steep and you are sapped of all energy at that point. You know there’s one more hill coming just before you reach the finish. And then, when you hit the grass, it can be quite slippery on a day like today. You’ve been running on tarmac and it’s the change in surface which can be quite disorientating.”
So why do people put themselves through this? Sandra says that Dorset is simply running mad. “It’s massive. There are so many clubs. There’s the Gillingham Trotters, the Motcombe Runners, Dorset Doddlers. There’s Run Blandford, which is the new one. In this part of Dorset we have half a dozen clubs. There are dozens more in the Bournemouth and Poole area. We are a massive county for running and very few races are not sold out.”
Sandra was getting ready for recording the runners’ times. She took her place with her clipboard next to the finish line. The Gold Hill 10k is an event arranged by the Gillingham Trotters Club. Sandra’s club is centred on Stur but she says it’s normal for Dorset’s running group members to help out neighbouring clubs.
“Everybody supports everybody. People help out at each other’s races. All the guys from here will come and help us at our race, the Sturminster Newton Half,” said Sandra. “The atmosphere is cracking and it’s nice camaraderie. I know all these guys from doing things like standing around here today. If it wasn’t for people like us standing on a finish line and the marshals and the others who give their time for free then these races would not happen.”
Then on the stroke of 11am, on Race Director Ines Braun’s orders and a blast of her air horn, they were off. And just over 36 minutes later, Iain Trickett was back on the school field where the runners had started. And he wasn’t even out of breath as he glided, seemingly effortlessly, between the finish line flags.
“Today’s course was really tough,” said Iain. “It’s very hilly anyway and the downs are so steep. When you get any speed you get an absolute pounding on the legs. Being wet, you get worried about slipping as well. It’s the first time I’ve done this and I didn’t know what to expect at all.”
Will you do it again, I asked Ian, winner of the recent Bournemouth Marathon? “Yes I probably will. I’ll have twelve months to forget how horrible it was and how much pain it causes,” Ian said.
A few minutes later, as the driving rain continued, Clare Martin turned off Hawkesdene Lane and the applause swelled as she ran onto the playing field. This Purbeck Runners Club member was the first woman to finish.
Clare’s knew what she was in for. She ran the Gold Hill 10k two years ago. “It was so painful I decided to give it a miss last year and then I came back this year.” Clare said she was quite pleased to wake up to a wet race day. “When you’re very pasty and ginger, it’s not good to run in the heat,” she laughed. “I’ll take the rain any day. It’s amazing that so many people are out spectating and sharing. It’s not even nice to be out, but it keeps you going, especially on the second half when you are going uphill.”
Sadly, Clare won’t be back next year. “I’m moving away next February, further along the coast towards Brighton. This was my last race in the Dorset league this year and I fly to Australia tomorrow. I thought I’d go out with a bang,” she said
The Gold Hill 10k isn’t just for adults. 7-year-old Lucas Jolliff won his Children’s Race category, as he powered around the ½ mile long circuit set around the school playing field. He said that he was motivated by chillier, damp starts. “I am normally cold so I hope that a run will warm me up.” Lucas says the longest run he’s undertaken so far is a 7K and he informed me that he is fast!
His dad, Howard, watched on as both a proud parent and as a running partner. The pair have found a passion that they share. “I’ve started so I can keep up with my son and I am not too embarrassed,” said Howard. “We went to Carr Fest in the summer and we entered, as I started running just before that. We’re thinking of starting him at running club in a few months, when he is eight. It may well be that me and the wife enter next year. We’re starting to take it a little more seriously!”
Nobody leaves the Gold Hill 10k empty handed. Every runner received a unique, ceramic medal, designed and made by Charlotte Davies and Des Alner, who where handing them to the runners as they ended the race. “The mould was carved by Des and the medals have a picture of Gold Hill on them, so you can tell it’s taking place in Shaftesbury,” Charlotte explained.
Charlotte is Des’ apprentice at Twyford-based Higher Green Farm Arts and she had to make around 260 medals. “It wasn’t very boring,” she said, which surprised me. “It was a different side of the work. Rather than making for yourself, it’s an order for other people. It was a big step for me. It took about a month but that’s because it was picked up and put down with other jobs as well,” Charlotte explained.
Charlotte has had a difficult year. Her art and Des’ support and encouragement over this medal-making project has been important to her. “Last year I was struggling with problems with my health,” said Charlotte. “I was in hospital last year but Des came to see me and brought my work to me. There has been something about clay which I have stuck to.”
And good things have come as a result of the project. “Last week Charlotte had a meeting with the organisers of the Abbey Museum in Shaftesbury,” explained Des. “She is taking over making the souvenirs for children. They will be made of clay. She’s already started production on that. Next, I will get Charlotte into the Cygnet Gallery in part of my unit and she will be making commissions for things like door plaques.”
Runner Clare Martin says the special awards are appreciated. “They always have the best medal at the end,” Clare said. The medal making is important, but it is just one of the tasks organisers need to oversee when arranging such a popular event. The 10k requires a great deal of planning and preparation to ensure that marshals and medics are in place. Facilities at the school need arranging too.
And the buck stops with Race Director, Ines Braun.“The Race Director puts on the race,” said Ines. “You have a team of people. It’s a bit like being in an orchestra. I am the top person. I make sure that everybody underneath me does what they are supposed to be doing. There’s three people in the committee who organise the race and then probably about thirty marshals out there today. And there are lots of scouts helping with parking. They’ve been fantastic.”
Ines has been the Race Director for over a decade. The 10k was initially founded by a former Shaftesbury mayor. “Mervyn Jeffery, who sadly passed away recently, started the race 25 years ago. I started with the race around 13 years ago. It’s been going for quite a while,” she said.
The Gold Hill 10k is a not-for-profit venture and once race costs are met, good causes are awarded the surplus cash collected from runner entry fees. This year, the Explorer Scouts, a club for local teenagers aged between 14 and 18 years, will receive a sizeable donation. Assistant leader Sarah Elkins says some of that money will fund travel to an international scout camp – a 3-week event in West Virginia.
“Every four years there is an international jamboree where scouts from all over the world meet in one specific place. There will be 50,000 scouts there. Our fundraising funds our scouts along with helping scouts from less able countries to go as well,” said Sarah. The Explorer Scouts were selected for the US experience earlier this year and each youngster has had to help raise around £3,500 towards their trip.
Sarah says the Scouts from Shaftesbury and Blandford that travel to the states will also gain an insight into real life in America. They’ll stay with a host family for seven days. “Home hospitality is where they will live with the family for a week and experience everything there is to experience in The States,” Sarah explained.
By 12.40pm most of the runners had finished and Ines could relax – a bit. The event has been a success. Soon the work of arranging the 2019 race will begin. Unlike some Shaftesbury events, Ines says her committee are not looking to expand or grow. The Gold Hill 10k is at capacity. “We are restricted because of the car parking. There are not quite enough spaces to get any more people, so 250 is the maximum.
This year the event was fully subscribed with runners from well beyond our county boundary. “I’ve got people from all over the place – Wiltshire, Devon, Somerset and Dorset of course. Because it’s running up the famous Gold Hill, it brings people in who come here for holidays,” said Sarah.
So the event will remain capped at 250 runners, but if you want to run in 2019, there could be an opening. As Clare has said, she’s not taking part next year – you might want to keep an eye out for entry details on the race website and grab that space! You can learn more about the Gold Hill 10K at goldhill10k.co.uk.