At the beginning of September I went from a hurricane in Orlando to the hills in Dorset and finally took part in my first-ever White Star Running event, the Crafty Fox Half Marathon. It was a hilly trail half-marathon, but the toughness was eased by it being a beautiful, hot September day. This would be my last race as a MISS and as a Higginson, as in six days I was getting married and here is my review told with the help of song titles.
Crazy like a fox
The Crafty Fox half-marathon is long trail half-marathon set in the countryside around Ansty in Dorset, with its sister race, the full marathon, taking place on the day before. The Crafty Fox races are organised by White Star Running who organise fun, sociable trail running events in the Dorset countryside. Their motto is, ‘keep running rural’ – and they definitely stick to it! Their races cover everything from five milers to ultras, and 24-hour events to children’s races. They are known for their beautiful but challenging routes, fabulous medals, and their extras like beer and barn dances. I discovered that with White Star Running events the distance, ie marathon, half marathon, 10K, is just a word and the actual mileage is longer than the distance you’d expect!
Like a virgin
I was really excited to try out my first White Star event, but I hadn’t had the best preparation for a hilly half-marathon. When my alarm went off, I could have easily stayed in bed. I had jet lag, which had not been the plan when I booked it. We had flown in from Orlando and landed Friday morning, having been delayed by two days due to Hurricane Dorian. On the Friday night I had slept for a mega 14 hours, however on the Saturday night I just could not get to sleep. I tried going downstairs, reading my book, changing my PJs and swapping ends in bed. Eventually I think I might have fallen asleep around 2-3am – my alarm sounding at 6.30am was an unpleasant shock! I rolled myself out of bed, had breakfast and off we went to a Dorset farm.
Sign your name
After leaving the farm and you climb up to the Wessex ridge way. After running along the ridge with a view of hay bale stacks, you drop down in to a woodland clearing called the Dorsetshire gap. There you find a box and in it there is a visitors’ book for runners and walkers to write in. This is a first for me but a really nice touch; something different and appropriate for a trail run. We were told about it at the race briefing and quite a few of us stopped to write in it. It is tough to think on the spot what to write, so I just wrote what was on my mind – a fact.
Fields of gold
As it was early September, the fields looked stunning, bathed in sunlight. The weeks of heat had turned the vegetation dry and crisp. The straw fields looked like a golden carpet and the towers of bales stood proudly, towering over you as you ran past. Their shadows were large, but not long enough to shade you from the September sun.
On the way to the Love (feed) station we ran alongside a wild field that was filled with all tall sunflowers that looked like a field of scarecrows from a distance. I was imagining that they were like Little Weed from the cartoon Bill and Ben and they were pointing me towards the feed station. Motivating me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to follow them along this long, long field and to the double-digit mile mark.
End of the road
How I got to the end of the this half I do not know! My body was tired, my legs were heavy and the three hours felt like five. I only started to feel like I had some energy once I had stopped at the Lovestation and Mr Fox had sent me on my way, which was at the 10-mile mark. This burst in energy was either caused by the handful of mini flapjacks I munched, or by me reaching ten miles and knowing the finish was in sight. My energy lasted for about three miles, which on a road half would have meant the finish line. However, as soon as my mind realised that this half would be longer, my energy left me in a blink. I just had to keep looking at the runners in front of me, try and not let the gap between us get bigger, and walk along the baled field and the hill. Eventually I could see the colourful flags of the finish in the distance – just two fields left to cross and then I will be rewarded with my medal.
I was also rewarded with a hug at the finish line! At White Star events you are greeted by ladies offering you a hug; these are official volunteers, as they have it on their t shirts! Clearly White Star events are so tough that you need to be embraced and congratulated. This is really lovely touch, especially if you are at an event by yourself, and having a hug made me quite emotional.
All events tend to have onsite caterers, offering the usual of tea, coffee, cakes and snacks, but at this event you could also get a freshly made smoothie, which was the most delicious smoothie in the world. A mix of calcium, carbohydrate, protein and sugar, everything you need post-race. The best thing is that you could have it in the glass that you were given at the finish line, thus reducing single-use plastic waste. What I loved is that you could borrow a mug to put your drink in if you didn’t have a reusable coffee cup, which was useful before the race or if you wanted a hot drink at the end. I think more outside caterers should provide this service.
I have to admit that I had already seen last year’s medal at my running club’s medal show ‘n’ tell evening earlier in the summer, so I knew how beautiful it was. It was still a great feeling to see it at the end of the race and it was more spectacular seeing it for a second time. The attention is detail is amazing: the fur on the fox, the sparkle in his eye and the small foxes running around the top.
White Star has a reputation for the medals being big and beautiful with fun designs – some of their medals have won awards. Because of this we did not get a medal to take home because the medals that were sent by the company were not up to scratch and you could clearly see that the design and paint was smudged. They had already reordered and we would receive our medal in the post.
Even though we didn’t have a medal to take home we did get to leave with a bottle of beer (or drink it on site) and a crafty fox pint glass, which brings back fun memories every time I use it.
I can’t believe it has taken me so long to try a White Star Running event! I have heard so many good things about them and everyone recommends their races and now I am a huge fan of the company. The organisation is top notch, the feed stations cover all tastes, the volunteers are extremely friendly and the medal is epic.
I would definitely recommend this race or any of the races that are organised by White Star Running. The Crafty Fox half and full marathon is on the 11th-12th July 2020 along with a new addition, the 5.5 mile cub run. CLICK HERE now to enter.
See my route here: https://www.strava.com/activities/2691722385