As race routes go they don’t come much tougher than the Maverick Jurassic Coast Ultra. 56km in distance, with 1,466m of elevation. It’s certainly a daunting prospect for your average runner but for those daring enough to try it out will come the greatest of rewards, if they manage to complete it. That was exactly what Tom Ralph and Aidan Marlin were hoping for as they stepped up to the plait to tackle the monstrous task ahead.
The race was staged on the Purbeck, so the hills were pretty much constant the whole way. But with the steep climbs came the promise of stunning scenery and epic views, so there was bound to be some pleasure as well as some pain.
It had been quite an interesting season for Tom. He did the New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon, finishing in 5th place which was his highest ever finish in a race. Then he went on to tackle the Swim Serpentine Two Mile race London’s Hyde Park, which he did really well in as well, finishing quite high up even though he hadn’t been swimming all that intensively in training. He also battled the dastardly slopes of the Portland 10 over the summer, giving him some good ascending experience. The Maverick Jurassic Coast Ultra was an altogether different prospect though.
He’d done the South Downs Way 50 though, back in 2021 so he’d had some experience in ultra running. That was a much further distance than the Maverick Jurassic Coast 56km one, so it wasn’t something he hadn’t trialled before.
Aidan Marlin was fairly new to running so it was all a learning experience to him. That included the fuelling during races, the preparation and the training. He’d been regularly attending the Tuesday and Thursday might training sessions with Bournemouth AC though and had been progressing well since then.
The weekend before the Jurassic Coast Ultra he was competing in the Run Bournemouth Half Marathon where he finished in 1:34:08 despite overdoing his water intake. He hadn’t really done any long training runs in preparation for the 56km Ultra though so it was very much a ‘suck it and see’ approach from him.
The course started from just outside Corfe Castle, heading out towards the coast. It then went right down to the tip of the Purbecks at St Aldhelm’s Head before moving onto a 20km stretch of the coastal path. The breath-taking views across the English Channel and the white chalk cliffs ahead would provide a welcome distraction from the harshness of the steep slopes.
Running it with his mate Bobby Beale – not the one from EastEnders – a different one, Tom tackled the climbs well, no matter how humungous they were. And he kept going all the way to the end, ultimately completing the full 35 miles in 6 hours 54 minutes and 37 seconds. That put him in 96th place out of 264 participants.
It was a brutal course but Tom did his best to enjoy the beautiful scenery around him despite the challenging nature of the route.
Considering he was a relative novice in these sorts of races, Aidan paced his run pretty well and he was still producing some very good split times toward the end of the race. Reaching the finish line in 7 hours 13 minutes and 15 seconds, Aidan finished 129th overall.
That was a cracking result for him and he’d shown great bravery and character to overcome all the hurdles that came his way in the form of those formidable climbs. He was pleased with how it went and although he’d found it tough at times, it was an ultimately rewarding experience.
The winner of the 56km race was David Hill who showed he was very adept in the hills, clocking a time of 4:48:07. Ryan Preece took the runner up spot in 4:53:36 and Sam Harper came 3rd in 4:55:05. They were the only participants to get in in under five hours.
Jen Clark was first female and 6th overall in a time of 5 hours 10 minutes and 16 seconds and Charles Sykes for first vet, crossing the line in 5:12:43. The second placed female was Grace Benham who was a long way behind the winning woman. She reached the finish in 5:55:36.
Next up for Tom it was the Gosport Half Marathon which he was doing as a little sharpener before he heads over to Spain for the Valencia Marathon. Since he’d been doing a lot of cross training over the summer, as well as this ultra, he hadn’t really had a consistent block of running training for it. Hence, he wasn’t planning on going for a sub three hour time which is what he’d aimed for in the 2022 London Marathon. He was probably looking to go for a time of around 3:20.
The day after completing a 56km ultra with 4,600ft of elevation you would think would be a day of rest but not for Aidan. He went out and ran a 10k in his fastest ever time of 41 minutes, demonstrating powers of recovery that were verging on magical. He’ll be in action at the Christmas 10k after taking a number off Rich Brawn who accidentally entered the race twice.