Race: The Beast, Corfe Castle 2014 (Inc a Walk Through of the Route)

The Beast is part of the Purbeck Trail Series which comprises several off-road races in the calendar; Studland 5k, The Beast, the Purbeck Marathon and the Studland Stampede. I missed the Studland 5k last week and am definitely not doing the Purbeck Marathon as it’s too hard for me but was rated the best UK marathon by Runner’s World! So I did The Beast because… Hang on, why did I do The Beast?!

No idea where this was taken but I’m smiling so must be early on!

Me running The Beast 2014

A Walkthrough of The Beast, Corfe Castle

The Beast begins on the edge of the common in Corfe Castle, before swooping round and along open fields for the first 3 miles. As we were running through one of these fields a herd of semi wild horses decided that they didn’t like humans passing through their field. As a group they galloped towards the line of runners, choosing to intersect right in front of us and forcing me to stop and veer round them – scary!

View over Corfe Common towards Corfe Castle

At mile 4 newbies to this race get their first taste of why it is so named, as the route presents it’s first hill. This isn’t just a nice easy road climb, it’s a rocky, muddy, thorny, overgrown path that at times felt like running up a pebble laden ice rink. TIP: don’t wear sunglasses as in the many shaded, treacherous paths you can’t pick out the lumps and bumps. I spent half the race holding mine just so I could see.

When you finally reach the top of this climb the old legs get a chance to refresh as the path winds downhill for about a mile. Unfortunately the top of this path was where I downed my first gel and two cups of water, followed by an agonising stitch which made me slow right down when I should have been making the most of the downhill!

At the bottom of this slope you nip up the first of several sets of steps to the right, and find yourself following the World Heritage Coastpath. Glorious views greet you if you’re inclined to look up, which I did for about five seconds.

This Coastpath section takes you ever closer to dah dah daaahh… THE STEPS. Not even the race leaders can run these steps – Mo Farah himself would have to walk them ; ) The Steps are at about the seven mile mark after several small steep leg busters before them. You run down a scarily steep hill into a valley, before looking up and seeing The Steps in front of you:

Top of Emmetts Hill (THE STEPS) looking back from the top

This was where I had major water envy as the guy in front of me walking up The Steps was carrying a water bottle. Oh how my eyes greedily followed every slosh and splash of the water in that bottle!

Once at the top of the steps you cut inland past a coastguard tower where it levels out for a bit, all the time taking you closer to the finish. Then, at mile nine, just as you’re congratulating yourself on making it this far, you hit the penultimate reason why this is called The Beast. My stats tell me that it’s only a mile long and has an elevation of 300ft – but it feels like this final uphill path goes onwards and upwards forever. And ever. And ever.

Finally at the ten mile point the path levels out as you run into a lovely village called Kingston. You turn right out of the village, down through a small wood before exiting into sunlight with the most amazing panorama ahead.

Looking down towards Corfe Castle from Kingston

At this point you know you should be speeding up to take advantage of the final downhill but I just couldn’t, my legs wouldn’t listen to my brain or gravity, they just kept plodding!

Then, finally you think you’re at the end but just as you hit mile eleven – boom – another two hills, these are the final two beasts. Swing down a grassy hill, turn right up a little wooded path for 20 metres, over a style, and there it is in front of you – THE BLESSED FINISH LINE!

Dehydration Sucks
And then, I won’t bore you but I had to lie down and be treated by The Doc for 90 minutes suffering from dehydration and then went home to rest it off in bed. I will say here and when I see you next but thank you so much Steve, I was actually really scared about what was happening and you just calmly talked me through it and back to (near) health!

If you ever see someone in difficulty with dehydration, get their legs up high, prop up their head slightly, tell them to take calm long breaths and feed them lots of energy drink / lucozade / water / sweet tea. Obviously before you do any of that send for the first aider / medic.

Distance: 11.8 miles
Time: 1:43:32
Elevation gain: 1,616ft
Average pace: 8:43/miles
Average heart rate: 162bpm
Max heart rate: 213bpm

You can see how my heart rate jumped up above 200bpm as I climbed The Steps and stayed up there for a good 3-4 miles. This running business can’t be healthy?!


Full results for the The Beast in Corfe Castle 2014 are now here

Training: Easy 5k

I didn’t realise until mid way through last night’s run that I’d done something every day/evening since Saturday. Ten miles on Sunday, seven miles Monday, swimming Tuesday, hill repeats session Wednesday… no wonder my legs felt like lead! I know many elite runners clock 50+ miles per week but it’s all relative to what your body’s used to. Plus that hills session on Wednesday was brutal!

So I headed out for a 5k run that turned into a very easy 5k run when I realised that my legs ached. ‘Oh God’, I thought, it’s only two days until The Beast – I’ve over-trained. This route is a loop near my house and is fairly hilly.

Well the legs feel fine today and I’m definitely not doing any more running until Sunday so I’m sure it’ll be fine.


Distance: 5k
Time: 20:47
Average Pace: 4:09/km
Max heart rate: 166bpm

Next Training

None! The Beast on Sunday – 13(ish) miles of hell

The Beast course / route. See where it says ‘Raynet 5’? That’s a set of the most evil steps you’ll ever find in a run!

The Beast



My First Race Prize For Running (and how I got there)

So back in 2012, I went along to a few races that my dad was doing to try and get a bit fitter, I was technically a member of Purbeck Runners but never really took running seriously. At some point towards the end of 2012 the running bug bit me. I realised that the more I ran, the happier I was. It really was that simple a correlation! Running gives me more energy, a better general mood and it makes me feel more positive about life in general. Sounds a bit hippy-ish when I write it down, but it’s true and I really notice it now when I don’t run for a long period of time (like, 3 days!)

Running Bug Bites

Once the running bug had bitten me I started to make sure I was entering ALL the runs my dad was doing and, eventually, trawling the Runner’s World events section for any others I could do… I was hooked. Unfortunately I then got tonsillitis for three months in Spring 2013 which put a dent in my progression, however it was this enforced break that really made me be able to appreciate it when I WAS able to run. So, back to it in June 2013 I began upping my weekly runs from 1-2 runs a week totalling 10 miles, to at least three per week and 20 miles. My times started improving, for example my Parkrun went from 22:18 in 2012, to 18:46 at the end of 2013.


So to 2014 and the commencement of Training a Runner to record my trials and tribulations. More structure was added to my running again as I began doing speed sessions on a weekly basis, either on the track with Poole A.C or on my own on a flat road. Hill sessions were added to the mix with intervals and the long run on a weekend. My run count went up to 4-5 per week and by June my Parkrun was down to 18:17.

Category Winner

In May we saw the beginning of the annual Upton Summer Time Trials. A 3.5 mile race around a country park, where runners from all the local clubs come along on a Friday night to compete. The series consists of six runs and the person with the fastest time and has run a minimum of four races is then wins their category. Last year my best time at Upton was 22:10, in the first race this year it was 21:51. In the very last race of the Upton series I managed to somehow run 20:27, so winning the 20-39 age group category! A certificate and £20 voucher are all mine. I didn’t even realise I was in contention as we stayed to watch our son pick up his category prize and then left, not knowing that my name would shortly be read out!


Ok so I didn’t win the WHOLE race, just my category but a prize is a prize and when you’re halfway through the year, it’s a nice reward for all the training and some good motivation for the rest of the year.

Improve Your Times with a #Running Strategy! Here’s Mine…

Some people run to lose weight, some for a challenge and some as a social activity. However, if you want to keep running and keep on improving then it helps to have a strategy. What is is you want out of running and how our you going to achieve and then measure that? Having a set of goals within your strategy will help with your motivation as you reach and then surpass them.

Here’s my strategy:

Insight (why I run):

I’m a very goal orintated person. I like to have targets and challenges and feel satisfied when I meet or exceed these. I’m also a very active and energetic person – I NEED to have some form of sport or activity to counter balance sitting down in an office all day. When I was younger I played a lot of football and hockey, but when I broke my nose badly playing hockey, I turned to running (although this still has it’s dangers!) I enjoy all the friendships I’ve made through running however I am just as happy to head out for a run by myself, so the social side isn’t a huge priority for me.

BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)

You gotta have a BHAG, something just at the very edge of reality. something that could maybe one day happen if you just put your mind to it. Like when you first pick up a guitar, your BHAG is to play Wembley Stadium or you first kick a football and dream of playing up front for Manchester United.


…is to win an affiliated road race and I don’t care what distance or what time I do it in. It might happen in 6 months or 10 years but that’s my dream and what keeps me going out into the sleet after a long day at work in the middle of winter.


These are more realistic and you can have a few of them, although still keep them pretty high level though. These objectives will contribute to reaching my BHAG.

               My Objectives

1) To come in the top three in my club championship
2) To come in the top three in the Dorset Road Running League
3) To do an Olympic length Triathlon
4) To run at an organised athletics meet

Goals / Tactics

Your goals are shorter term and will help you towards reaching your objectives

My Goals

1) Run at least 20 miles per week
2) Do at least one speed session per week
3) Do one long run of 70+ minutes each week
4) Run a 5k in under 17:30 minutes
5) Run a 10k in under 37 minutes
6) Run 10 miles in under 65 minutes
7) Run a half marathon in under 90 minutes
8) Run 400m in under 55 seconds
9) Take part in three sprint triathlons followed by an Olympic distance triathlon

That should just about do me for the time being! See how my goals link directly back to my insight. I like targets and challenges so my goals are very time based. If you run for social reasons then your goals may be around attending running club events or even marshalling for a race.



Running Training: Hill Repeats (Resistance Work)

I think I got wetter last night doing our rain soaked hills session in Swanage, than I did whilst swimming the night before! Kind of nice though training in the summer rain, once you’ve warmed up…

Hill training is excellent for building cardiovascular fitness. You can really feel it in your chest at the end of the session, gulping down great desperate breaths to try and feed enough oxygen to dilapidated leg muscles. It’s a form of resistance training, pushing muscles harder to overcome gravity. In fact:

“Runners who train on hills have much higher concentrations of aerobic enzymes – the chemicals which allow your muscles to function at high intensity for long periods without fatigue” Runners World

Hill Session

I stupidly forgot to hit ‘start’ on my watch so the distances will have to be approximate. The session went as follows:

– 2k warm up

– 3x 150m sprint uphill, 3x 100m, 3x 75m, 3x 100m, 3x 150m

– 1k warm down

During the middle section of 100m sprints it got a bit competitive and I ended up sprinting all-out at 100% effort, up what is quite steep hill. So by the final set of 150m I was running on dead and empty legs – this was the point at which I felt like my chest was going to burst! I wish i’d had my heart rate monitor on my watch switch on jut to see what it peaked at.


Distance: (Approx) 5k
Time: about 35-40 minutes we were out for

Next Training

A nice easy 10k run tonight as I start to taper down for… THE BEAST Arrrghhh! 13 miles of hell.


Cross Training For Running: 1 Kilometre Swim

I did a lot of research into cross training for running back in February, when my feet got so blistered in a Half Marathon that I couldn’t run properly for two weeks. I love swimming and did a lot of it up until the age of 18. Perhaps that’s why I can not swim for six months and dive straight in and do 40 lengths?

Anyway, my reason for adding swimming to my training mix is that I’m toying with the idea of doing my first triathlon. I don’t own a bike, goggles, swimming hat, tri suit or any of the required tri apparel, so am currently trying to track down bargains on Gumtree and eBay! On the triathlon entry form it asks what your 400 metre swim time is, in order that they can allocate you in to the correct ‘wave’ of swimmers. Looking down the results of a previous race, I noted that swim times for the 400m ranged from the very speedy 5:30, to the much more realistic 9-10 minutes. So part of my reason for swimming last night was to gauge how fast I might be able to swim 400 metres in!

The Swim

I began with a warm up of ten lengths or 250 metres (it’s a 25m pool). Quite a long warm up but I figured better be safe than sorry, as I hadn’t been swimming for so long! Then, using the clocks at either end of the swimming pool, I swam 16 lengths (400m) of front crawl as fast as I could. It’s just like running in that the first part is the worst, as your body gets into exercise mode. My arms felt on fire after two lengths and I realised I must have gone off far too quickly! So I slowed it down a bit, got into a nice rhythm of arm, arm, breathe, arm, arm, breathe and managed to keep going for 400 metres. I did this in just over 8 minutes, however this included stopping every other length to empty the water out of my (five year old son’s) goggles! I think I could quite comfortably swim 400 metres in 7:30 under race conditions, so I’ll put that down on my form. By this point i’d done 26 lengths so I carried on swimming (breaststroke) to reach 40 lengths (1km)

Next Training

Running club tonight with Purbeck Runners – who knows, it could be an easy run, a speed session or hill repeats! It’s The Beast (13 miles) race on Sunday so probably be taking it fairly easy…

Running Training: 1k Intervals Session

I’m going to try and temper my fury at my TomTom GPS watch. It froze midway through this session, started working again only to now refuse to upload the session to the app. Technology eh! So I will have to recount the session from memory…

I’ve really been feeling the benefit of speed sessions recently, I love how you can almost feel yourself getting fitter as you do them! Whenever I can, I go to Poole AC’s track session however I can’t make that this week so had to do a self imposed speed session using my watch as a guide.

Intervals – 1k Fast, 500m Slow

The TomTom has a ‘training’ section that includes intervals – you just set a time or distance for the warm up, each set, rest period, number of set repeats and cool down. This was where I made a small error that resulted in me running 11k instead of 8k! I set the warm up for 2km, following this with 5 sets of 1k repeats at 3:30 m/km pace. I then set the rest periods between each at what I thought was 50 seconds, but what turned out to be 500 metres. So instead of a 50 second stop-and-rest between each 1k sprint, I ran at a slow pace for 500 metres between each. I then finished the session with a 1.5km jog back home/cool down and some static stretches.


Distance: 11k
Time: 55 mins
Average pace: 4:30 m/km

Next Training

After a long run on Sunday and a speed session last night, my legs are noticeably tired so I’m still deciding what to do. I need to use some different muscle groups, so may do some really short sprints OR go swimming… Will see how the evening pans out!