Runners taking part in this morning’s Gold Hill 10k race overcame an unexpected obstacle. They had to wade through a pool of floodwater that had collected during the last three days of downpours.
Alfred spoke with organisers and the race winners.
Just five minutes before the start of the Dorset Doddlers’ annual event, the only people standing on the vast Shaftesbury school playing field were three marshals. Their lime green fluorescent jackets gave them some extra visibility through the fog. One runner, who jogged out onto the pitch, shouted, ‘Where is everyone?’
It was in contrast to the 2018 event, when the field was filled with runners warming up for thirty minutes before the start. The driving rain meant that the race briefing had been held indoors, but with minutes to go before the 11am start, a stream of runners charged out onto the grass.
Numbers were down slightly on last year’s turnout of 250. 127 people completed the challenge. The weather didn’t help and there was another race on the south coast. But Race Director Ines Braun had encouraged an international entrant – from Montpellier. “She is on holiday and she went out for a little run and saw the signage along the course. She called me and we spoke in French. She is from quite a hilly part of France, so the hills won’t be a challenge for her,” said Ines.
Ines sent the runners off on the gruelling circuit from Shaftesbury School, along Layton Lane, up Gold Hill, down Tout Hill to Enmore Green, round to St James, down along Guys Marsh and returning to the school along Gascoigne’s Lane. “Gold Hill is not a personal best course. The name tells you that,” laughed Ines, adding, ”It’s probably one of the toughest races in Dorset.”
This morning it was even harder. Race marshals scoping the route found a lot of standing water near Twyford, in the Whiting’s Bridge area. “There’s quite a deep flood at around 5k. I went and tried it out this morning and it’s basically knee-deep,” said Ines, who was right in her assumption that runners would take this surprise lake in their stride. “I’ve been to races before where you basically have to hold on to a rope to go over a bridge, so this is nothing really,” she laughed.
The water proved an interesting challenge for the first woman home, 5ft tall Sian Thomas. “The water was up to my ribs. When you’re running through it, you’re splashing it. It wasn’t so much the depth, it was long, but I’ve done it now,” Sian smiled.
Sian was the fastest woman in 2014 and today she was happy to finish in 42 minutes and 25 seconds. “I used to come down from Hertfordshire to come and do it but now I’m only in Salisbury,” she said. Sian runs with one of the city’s clubs. “I love this race,” added the daughter of Teddy Bear Corner owner and former Shaftesbury Mayor, Win Harvey.
The first man to complete the 10k was a visitor from Bath, Max Hazell. It’s the first time he’s entered the Shaftesbury race. He was pleased with his 36 minutes and 33 seconds timing, again, despite the flood. “They did warn us at the start and I thought they were exaggerating a bit but it turns out that they weren’t,” Max laughed. “I thought that my shoes would be heavy on the other side and you have then got to lug your soaking wet shoes up the hill, but I really enjoyed it,” he said.
Eight-year-old Lucas Jolliff, a Shaftesbury School pupil, was first to complete the half-mile children’s race around the school playing field. Dad Howard was proud that his son had defended his 2018 title. “He’s a local winner. It’s the second year running but he’ll move up categories next year because he’s eight at the moment and he’ll be nine in December. He did it in 2 minutes 50 seconds, which is two seconds slower, but the ground is stodgy,” explained dad.
Lucas told ThisIsAlfred that he enjoys fitness challenges. “Yesterday I started a new athletics club in Wimborne,” he said. He is keen but he assured me that he isn’t training to complete a marathon in under two hours.
14-year-old Isabel Walker is slightly older, so she had to complete two rounds of the pitch for a mile-long children’s race. She runs with the Wells Harriers and travelled from her home in Street to take part. “My dad is doing the 10k today so hopefully he will do well,” she said.
Once again, every competitor was awarded a unique ceramic medal, designed and made by Charlotte Davies and Des Alner. Charlotte says that handing out the awards gives her some satisfaction. “It’s nice to see the reaction of people and to give them something for what they’ve achieved. It recognises all of the hard work put in preparing for the race.”
Making the medals has kept Charlotte occupied. “I made around 200, but we’ve had fewer participants in the race this year. I wanted to make sure that we were stocked up and ready,” she said.
Category winners were also presented with one of the 25 bowls handcrafted by Des. “It’s a few weeks work in the sense of throwing them, letting them dry, turning them, firing them for a ‘biscuit’ firing and then glazing them,” he explained. “Then we fire them again up to around 1250°C, then I write the wording around as well.” The wording describes the award. Des says it’s quite repetitive work but not as bad as making the medals.
If you want to beat the all-time record of 36 minutes 22 seconds for men or 41 minutes 13 seconds for women, set by Jacek Cieluszecki and Joanna Hanna in 2016 and 2017 respectively, you had better get training. You’ve got just under a year. “And those hills are tough. It doesn’t matter how much you do them. I teach at the Abbey School and I practice on those hills and it didn’t make it any easier,” advised Sian.