An extended course length of 27.2 miles… Numerous long, steep climbs with the elevation gain reaching 1,169 metres… Many gates and stiles to negotiate… Some difficult hillsides to traverse… That might sound like hell to most people, but to Kirsty Drewett, it was her idea of heaven.
In running terms, Kirsty tends to be of the more adventurous persuasion. She’d only completed one marathon before in her running history prior to the Hellstone and that was the Purbeck Running Festival Marathon – not an easy one to negotiate for your first attempt.
She loves a challenging course though and often looks for events that she feels will push her to the limit. The Hellstone Marathon certainly fell into that category.
Making a spontaneous, last minute entry just under a week before the event was scheduled to take place, Kirsty had well and truly jumped in the deep end.
Ever since she did the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon, the sister event to the Hellstone which is also organised by Badger Trail Events, the idea of doing this inaugural event had appealed to her. And after plucking up the courage and taking the plunge to enter the Hellstone Marathon – it didn’t disappoint.
The race HQ was the cricket ground at Little Bredy and with the weather turning out to be fabulous on the day, Kirsty couldn’t help but be excited about what was ahead.
The fact it was quite small, low key event gave it an added charm and made for a great atmosphere at the start.
The race started from the cricket field next to Brinehead House and the route headed straight uphill from the word go. It then followed windblown hilltops, farm tracks, small footpaths, bridleways and steep fields, both up and down.
It took the runners past ancient stones, a forgotten chapel and a wishing well and was virtually all off-road with constant undulations.
For the first third of the race Kirsty felt a bit warm and was anxious about whether she’d be able to get through it in those conditions. Thankfully though, the sun went in and the breeze picked up as she hit the ridgeways. It was still a lovely bright day though and that suited Kirsty just fine.
The route had everything. Fields, ridgeways, villages, farms, monuments, styles, gates, views over to Portland and beautiful woodlands. It was good to run on for the most part as well, aside from a couple of patches of flatter sections with quite long grass that required you to actually pick your feet up!!
Finding herself running at a similar pace and using a similar race strategy as another lady she found around 8 miles in, Kirsty and her newfound running buddy trundled on together.
They chatted away as the miles went by and Kirsty began to feel much stronger than she’d expected. They seemed to be making their way steadily through the field as well.
From miles 22 to 24 though, it started to become tough going for Kirsty and she realised she hadn’t been taking in her fuel. Since she had been flagging the past couple of miles, her running buddy pushed on.
After stopping off for a short break at the aid station at 24.5 miles, Kirsty was soon on her way again and at the top of that hill, she got her energy back and managed to find her rhythm again.
Finishing really strongly, she gave it everything she had from that point on. She perhaps should have realised it was going to be slightly further than the official marathon distance, given that the aid station was so late on.
The last long descent was challenging on weary and tired legs but Kirsty made it and she was thrilled to put in such a good effort. Sadly, she was outside the five hour mark again, just as she was at the Pubeck Marathon last summer.
Crossing the line in a time of 5 hours and 58 seconds, Kirsty finished in 38th place overall out of 134 competitors and even more impressively, she was 7th placed female put of 50.
Covering 27.23 miles in total, she’d wracked up an elevation gain of 3,120ft and finished with an average pace of 11.07 minutes per mile.
The winner of the race was Adam Slater of Bridport Runners, who finished in a time of 3 hours 46 minutes and 18 seconds. Tracy Cook of Dorset Doddlers was first female and second overall, completing the course in a time of 3:47:08.
Mark Bennett of Egdon Heath Harriers took third place in 3:55:19, with Steve Reading the only other person to finish inside four hours, clocking a time of 3:59:06.
The atmosphere at the end of the race was memorable, with everyone lounging around the village enjoying a mug of steaming coffee and consuming their fair share from the vast array of cakes on offer.
The organisation of the race had been excellent from start to finish and the aid stations were stacked, the marshals were incredibly kind and the signage was perfect. It was a fabulous event all round and one that Kirsty is most definitely keen to do again.