The fourth Hanger’s Heroes ‘Challenge’ Cross Country full & half Marathon took place in breezy but favourable weather conditions on Sat 12 Sept. As always, the event started and finished at West Fleet Farm in Chickerell – Weymouth. The undulating course is almost exclusively off-road and predominantly follows national trails and bridal paths, whilst incorporating over 2400 feet of climbs. Some self-navigation of the route is required, sadly more so this year due to a high proportion of the race markers having been removed by unscrupulous individuals. Fortunately this did not dampen the spirits and enthusiasm of the race competitors and, by and large, all showed their true navigational skills by sticking to the intended route.
The combined field of full and half distance competitors headed out simultaneously on the first leg along the famous Fleet towards Abbotsbury Swannery, monastery and St Catharines Chapel. The runners were quickly exposed to fresh head wind but this was usurped by the stunning scenery of the Fleet Lagoon. Ed Coleman, the official run event race photographer was busily snapping away at one of his many chosen photo spots on the course.
The second leg includes a lovely loop around the outskirts of Abbotsbury, and a particularly tough, thigh burning short climb out of the village onto the ridgeline toward the half marathon finishing point, and full marathon refreshment stop, at Hardy’s Monument. This is the highest point on the course at 772 ft. Men’s full marathon entrant Jon Sharkey was first over the top in a time of 1:58 hrs. Jon was soon followed by a delighted Quentin Brocklebank, the men’s half winner in a time of 2:16:10hrs. The ladies’ half was won by Sarah Hyde in 2:27 hrs. On arrival at the checkpoint all half marathon runners were transported back to the start point and treated to a well-earned, hearty hot pasta lunch, cup of tea and delicious home-made cakes.
Unfortunately for the rest their work was only half done and they had to push on, although everyone took advantage of the bananas and jelly babies on offer at Hardy’s. By now Jon Sharkey and Diane Roy had clocked up a very healthy leads in the men’s and women’s races respectively. Despite taking a heavy tumble near Abbottsbury ‘The Legend’ that is Danny Kay displayed typical true grit and dogged determination by refusing to waste any time to get his blood caked face and shoulders cleaned up.
From here the field followed the easterly rolling ridge-line before dropping down the valley to the Wishing Well at Upwey (18 miles). By now legs were beginning to tire but there was some escape at the site of the ‘Heroes Challenge’ Walk entrants, a concurrent sister event which heads in the opposite direction over an almost identical route.
From Upwey, another short, steep climb back up out of the valley onto the opposite, westerly ridge-line took the runners out to Corton Gap. This is the third and final course check-point and water stop at the 21 miles point with no change in the men’s and women’s race standings.
The final push to the finish at West Fleet Farm took the runners through Buckland Ripers and on to the outskirts of Chickerell. A last loop around the Fleet led the field to the final ascent of the day, a steady mile long climb up to the finish and the opportunity to enjoy a well earned hot meal at the Farm having climbed a mightily impressive total of 2425 feet. First over the line for the men was Jon Sarkey (3:37:37) followed by Paul Masters (4:40:50) and Pedro Rodrigues (4:45:06). Diane Roy, the ladies race winner soon followed (4:51:08) with Elaine Falcus/Lucy Wyman (5:26:20) and sisters Lesley and Helen Nesbitt (5:56:55) finishing joint 2nd and 3rd respectively.
A special mention goes to 73 yr old Danny Kay who, having completed what was his 587th marathon in a superb time of 6:56:00, was quickly cleaned up and heading home to prepare for the Farnham marathon…the following day! Legend!!
Congratulations and thank you to all of those who took part and who volunteered their spare time in support of this event. Each and every one of you contributed to a hugely successful day’s fundraising. We look forward to seeing you all at next year’s event.
Please click on Challenge 2015 Race Results below to see timings.