The Beast was more challenging than usual this year. Running in what felt like a furnace, it was important to stay hydrated. Sunburn and heatstroke were possible for the unwary and unfit. Perversely recent heavy rain had left many of the rough stony sections muddy, slippery and treacherous and the odd steep grassy descent was very also slippery.
There were only three Bournemouth AC runners this year. In the absence of JC, Stuart Nicholas contested the sharp end, with Zak Preston and Geoff Newton further back.
The Purbeck based course features some spectacular views, due to the 1,850ft of climbing that the runners had to get through along the way. Starting on Corfe Common, it then heads out torward Worth Matravers before linking up with the coastal path, bringing the sea into view. After that it’s back to Corfe with a few more very challenging ascents along the way.
The race was won by James Baker of Chichester Runners and AC, like JC, an M40 who is a serial winner of multi-terrain and trail races. His time was 1:27:33 which was amazing in the conditions although slower than JC’s winning time of 1.24.46 last year. James was well clear of 2nd placed Stuart Holloway of Salisbury and District who clocked 1:34:13. Stuart Nicholas was exactly 10 minutes behind the winner in 1:37:33.
Even Stu found it tough and said that the race certainly lived up to its name. It is one of those courses where you never really get a decent rhythm going (unless of course you are JC!!) and it’s just a case of hanging on as best you can. That stretch of the coast path is an absolute brute and the soaring temperatures didn’t help either, since the race didn’t start until 10:30am.
This was Zak Preston’s first run in The Beast and he was hoping for a sub 2 hour finish which is probably well within his capabilities. However, he probably started too fast, underestimating both the course and the conditions. He really appreciated the few sections of the course which run in the shade of trees. Zak finished 71st in 2:10:53.
Geoff Newton had been hoping for a significant improvement on his 2022 time, but because of the heat, he ran more conservatively and was reasonably content to just knock a minute and half off last year’s debut time. This year he finished 93rd of 352 finishers in 2:16:06. Last year he was 123rd of 267 finishers which perhaps gives some indication of the effect the conditions had on many runners. The 93rd finisher last year clocked 2:06:50.
In the past The Beast has not recognised age categories older than M60 but in recent years M70 awards have been made. However, they are still using the old computer programme and determining M70 awards manually, so the results show Geoff as 6th M60, although he picked up the trophy for 1st M70. Last year they, for the first time, also awarded a trophy for the oldest finisher which Geoff picked up as well as the 1st M70. Perhaps unsurprisingly no trophy was awarded this year for the oldest finisher.
There were no BAC female runners this year. The first woman home was Jenny Marshall of Purbeck Runners, 10th overall in 1:45:59. Purbeck Runners were first women’s team as they had the first three female runners to finish.
The Beast was the third race of the Purbeck Trail Series, with the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon being the first and the Coombe Keynes 10k being the second. Stu won the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon and JC won the Coombe Keynes 10k. Both Zak and Geoff have done all three of the fixtures so far and will likely look to complete the remaining two as well. They are the Black Hill 10k, which takes place this coming Sunday, and and the Studland Stampede which is on 15th October.