Sunday 12th January 2020 saw my first race of the year. I took part in the sell-out, Oh My Obelisk trail race, which is organised by Dawlish Coasters. You leave Dawlish to run up and see the Obelisk and then you make your return.
About Dawlish Coasters
Dawlish Coasters is a running club based in Dawlish in Devon, 20 minutes from the city of Exeter. They organise various races throughout the year. From the hills of the Oh My Obelisk to the 4-mile Coastal Dash which includes beach running. My favourite race of theirs is their Forest Flyer which takes on the trails of Haldon Forest on a Friday evening in August. I love this race because it’s on a Friday evening, so a great way to end the week. Plus it’s relatively flat, except for the mile-long hill to the finish.
Oh My Obelisk
The Oh My Obelisk is tough hilly, trail race of two distances. There is a 9-mile or half-marathon route to choose from. Both start and finish at Dawlish Leisure Centre, but only the half passes the obelisk at the top of Mamhead. This year the race was celebrating 25 years of the event. In 2012 I ran the old race, which was 11 miles long; in 2019 they changed the distance.
The race split
Both races follow the same 4.5-mile route that takes you from the field of the Leisure Centre. From running through housing estates and on to the footpaths leading you to the base of the forest.
There was one section that was hell; the worst part of the whole route. We had just passed the photographer and we hit this track. How I stayed upright or didn’t twist an ankle, I do not know!! The mud was so slippery and slimy, it was like running on ice. I had no grip and spent the entire time with my feet sliding to the side, that it must have looked like I was walking like a duck!
Running down the middle of the path was a mud-free grass bank, which I tried to run on. However, I soon discovered that it was too narrow and I was drifting back in to the mud. If I had persevered with running on the grass bank, then I definitely would have taken a fall.
For reference, for the half-marathon runners, there is a time cut-off. You need to get to the split at 4.5 miles within the hour, otherwise you will be asked to drop down to the 9-mile race.
The recent wet and windy weather had made the forest floor like a bog and the wind had brought down numerous trees. What should have an easy downhill run through the forest became a technical descent.
With sticky, slippery mud to tackle and having to jump over or crawl under fallen trees, I felt like I was running a steeplechase! The mixture of the mud and the climbing soon sapped your energy and hindered your ability to get in to a steady pace.
Being at the Obelisk with beautiful views towards the sea, you are lulled in to a false sense of security. You think that once you leave the forest it is all downhill – this is true to begin with. However you’re soon faced with the first of a few tough climbs. The worse is the penultimate hill, which is short but steep to bring you back to the Leisure Centre.
Going in to this race I had two aims: one to walk the hills; and the second, to not speed up at 10 miles. I had these aims because this race was the first of three half-marathons in seven days. Therefore, I needed to save my energy and save my legs, especially with this race being extremely muddy and hilly. To help my body and legs recover in the coming week before my double half-marathon weekend.
I completed my aim, as I walked the hills – well, some were safer to walk anyway. Even in the last mile I was strict with myself and walked all but the last hill. It was an alien concept to walk the hills, as many of them I would normally have run up.
With a half-marathon when my watch bleeps at 10 miles I start to increase my pace and push myself more. On this occasion, even though it was hard to do, I kept to my pace and relaxed slightly more.
Keeping to my aims meant that on Monday my body and legs felt fresher than they normally do post half-marathon. The challenge will be sticking to my aims when I am running a flat road half.
For your efforts you were awarded with a sparkly 25th commemorative medal with the obelisk on. This is useful if you were one of the many runners who at the drinks station didn’t look behind them to see the obelisk. The table at the finish line was covered in chocolate bars ,which was a beautiful sight. I choose one of my favourite, the Crunchie!
Oh My Obelisk – the verdict
This is a tough trail half-marathon with an elevation gain of over 1,600ft. With the weather proceeding in making it harder underfoot than previous years. But don’t let this put you off, as it is a really fun race and you truly feel you have earned your medal. The views as you run across the top of the forest are spectacular and make the climbing worth it.
I would definitely recommend Oh My Obelisk – if the half-marathon distance is too long, then there is the 9-mile race. Click here to stay up to date with all of Dawlish Coasters races.
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