March was enthusiastically welcomed, bringing the start of spring, hopefully an end to the storms and some good running and racing. Despite a promising start, dark clouds of a very different kind were brewing and soon everything would change. The speed with which the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic came upon us was shocking and within little more than a week everyone’s lives had changed in ways that most of us had never previously witnessed. With the personal hardships and tragedies, the heroic work of our health services and all those finding themselves in the front line of the battle, our normal everyday activities and interests seem unimportant. I questioned whether it was even appropriate to have a blog. However, we are rightly being urged to find ways to take exercise and maintain our health and wellbeing to help everyone get through this. Running, if practical and within the clear guidelines of social distancing, is seen as a good form of exercise and having something else to think about is important for mental health. I was therefore encouraged to continue with the blog for March as a record of these exceptional times, including some of the achievements early in the month and to share how the club members have adapted to running and exercising in different ways. I hope that people find this helpful.
The month got off to a flying start, especially for Nigel Haywood, who just as with the first race in February, was the first Purbeck Runner home in the Wimborne 20 (miles) taking an impressive MV60 age category win. He was joined by five other club members: Joy Norman, Megan Marshall, Tara McLintic, Trudy Allen and Rab Spurway who all completed the tough “undulating” course.
One week on and the Purbeck Runners were in action on several fronts. The Sika Trail 10k, postponed due to Storm Dennis, took place in Wareham Forest on the Saturday, with Martin Grimsdale representing the club and clearly enjoying the forest tracks. A bit further north, Christine Hart-Burke and Clare McDermott competed in the beautiful Larmer Tree 10 mile on the Rushmore Estate. The race takes in a mix of typical Dorset woodland and Wiltshire chalk down with added Peacocks as spectators! Meanwhile back in Swanage the once monthly KG5K in King George’s playing fields saw new member Julian Critchlow set a record time for the run!
On Sunday it was the turn of the infamous Grizzly, billed as “twentyish muddy, hilly, boggy, beachy miles of the multiest-terrain running experience you will find this side of the end of time.” On what was appropriately International Women’s Day, Abigail Baker, Rose Clarke, Liz Goldsack, Paula Lawton-Archer and Jenny White from The Purbeck Runners travelled to Seaton in Devon to take on the challenge. After all the recent rain, it was one of the toughest years on record for the race with outrageously wet and muddy conditions underfoot and under waist at some points! The fabulous five not only survived the Grizzly but appeared to relish the conditions finishing in grand style.
Away from the racing a very special Wednesday club night (which turned out to be the last one for the time being) saw the presentation of a cheque for an amazing £2,165 to the local Swanage Area Dementia Friendly Community, which was the club’s chosen charity for 2019. The cheque was received by Charity Chair and Swanage Mayor, Councillor Mike Bonfield. In thanking the club, he said “This is a truly amazing donation and shows yet again how wonderful Swanage is with groups like the Purbeck Runners so keen to support important local causes.” You can read the full News Post about the presentation on this website.
A week on and while concerns over Coronavirus were growing, races were still going ahead, but with various measures put in place following official guidance. On the Sunday it was the Bath Half Marathon, a classic race and very popular amongst the club’s runners with six competing, including a brilliant PB from Tish Alberry, while some other members were running a virtual half marathon back on the Isle of Purbeck. Meanwhile, Martin Grimsdale and Mike Barron took part in the Weymouth Bay 10k where the incredibly strong outward headwind along the seafront made for some interesting splits. And then the racing was over!
On the Monday everything changed. It had become clear that the Coronavirus was spreading more rapidly and the Government announced new measures for social distancing and limiting public events. In a dramatic week these measures were progressively ramped up and we were all now living in a very different world where the responsibility fell on all of us to do the right thing and look out for each other.
When you are in a club like the Purbeck Runners you are part of a close knit community and it sharply focusses situations like this with so many of our members playing key roles in tackling the crisis from front line health care workers, to pharmacists, social carers, teachers and nursey workers, those in food supply and the many other roles crucial to keeping life going. There are also those who are volunteering, isolating or dealing with challenging situations within their own families and businesses. In these hard times it is truly inspiring how people are coming together to help each other.
It is a wonderful distraction and tonic to see the shared photographs and stories on the club website of fellow Purbeck Runners who have managed to get out for a lone run in our wonderful countryside or come up with other novel ways to exercise, such as Rose Clarke who ran a 10k round her garden. Club Chair and Coach, Paula Lawton-Archer has been busy filming a series of strength and fitness sessions which she has shared with members via YouTube. They are seriously tough workouts with the bonus of competitions, so after this is all over don’t think about taking on a Purbeck Runner in a plank contest!
We are incredibly fortunate to live is such a wonderful place on the Isle of Purbeck and to be able to safely get out into the countryside for a run. Exercise is so important for one’s health and mental wellbeing. Below is a collection of members photographs which, whether you are a Purbeck Runner or not, I hope will pick you up and encourage you. Stay safe!
Once again thank you very much to all the club members who have provided reports and photographs that I have used in this article.