Dan Williams has completed his epic challenge to run the entire length of the Dorset coastline from Ware, Lyme Regis, to Chewton Bunny, Highcliffe on Sea. The 101-mile journey took him 23 hours 57 minutes 30 seconds, with over 13,000ft of ascent on his journey from the Devon border to the Hampshire border.
Dan has also received verification for his Fastest Known Time running the Dorset coast supported, drawing a line in the sand for other ultrarunners to attempt the challenging course. His run was crewed by the team at White Star Running, and he was cheered, supported and even joined by fellow runners along the way.
“It was all the brainchild of Andy Palmer, the boss of White Star Running, that I would run the entire Dorset Coast, from the border with Devon to the border with Hampshire. And I’d set a benchmark Fastest Known Time by doing it,” explains Dan. “The idea of the Dorset Coast Running Challenge was born. In the months prior I increased my training (with a few minor blips), ran lots of hills and steps, and learned most of the route on numerous trips and recces.”
The journey begins
Dan had already mentally divided the route into 11 key sections, with support crew points mapped out and rough timings for the whole event.
At 10pm in the evening, he set off strongly from the Devon border, just west of Lyme Regis. He had the company of Sam Rose of the Jurassic Coast Trust and Bridport runner Adam Slater for the first leg, 12.5 miles taking him from the border to Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, where he met his support crew 7 minutes ahead of schedule.
The second leg to Abbotsbury was only 6.5 miles, and while it was flat, it did have a couple of demanding miles on a shingle beach. Still on target, he headed into leg 3, a 12.6-mile jaunt to Ferrybridge, Wyke Regis.
As the night drew on, Dan naturally started to feel the cold at this point. “The wind was also noticeable, an Easterly headwind, which I knew was going to be there throughout the whole run,” Dan remembers. “Having recced this section once in the daylight (as I had with most sections, the navigation was becoming tricky in the dark. Numerous times I loaded Ordnance Survey maps on the phone to check I was taking the correct turns. Dew and frost was forming, some of the fields were muddy, and I was finding it a challenge to move along efficiently and smoothly.” Despite arriving at Ferrybridge 10 minutes behind schedule, Dan remained positive that the time could be made up elsewhere on the course.
The Portland loop, some 12 miles, saw some issues that led to a little more time lost, but Dan pushed on and first light peaked over the horizon as he headed back to Ferrybridge for the second time around a third of the way through his challenge.
Daylight and problems
Now running in the light and heading towards Bowleaze, Dan had his first big problem. He was starting to feel pain in his left knee, just 44 miles in. Between that and recurring stomach issues, Dan headed into Bowleaze to meet his support crew around 45 minutes behind his schedule.
He managed to push on, keeping to his race plan and heading towards Lulworth. He had company for a few miles into Lulworth, and his mum and dad were waiting at this key checkpoint to cheer him through. Dan’s Dad ran with him for a few miles towards the next stop in the gorgeous Kimmeridge Bay, the 67-mile point.
Anyone who has traversed this section of the Jurassic Coast will know that it is famed for its stunning views, steep hills and hundreds of steps. It’s demanding for even the most experienced of ultrarunners, but Dan was making good progress: “It didn’t seem long before I arrived at Kimmeridge. For some reason the time was flying along, I wished I was!” He made up some time on this leg, spurring him into the final third of the route.
He now had to face the longest leg of the journey, 13 miles to Peveril Point. At around 73 miles in, Dan had to take a moment to rest, take on fuel and recover before continuing on his way. Arriving at Peveril Point, Swanage, 78 miles in, the next step was to get to the ferry that would take him from Studland to Sandbanks. Missing a ferry and having to wait for the next one could lose valuable time at this point.
Ferry and finishes
“I rounded the corner on Studland Beach and saw the 6:20pm ferry to Sandbanks a few minutes from arrival at Studland. I was nearly half a mile away and was determined I was not going to miss that ferry and wait another 20 minutes or more for the next crossing!” Dan says. “During mile 87 I somehow found pace I’d be happy with in a 10K race. I made it fuelled solely on adrenaline. I got on that ferry with seconds to spare. One happy soldier!”
One key logistical hurdle overcome, the end was now in sight for Dan. The 15-minute crossing gave him time to get ready to finish the course. A small support crew and a few runners were waiting to give him a boost to complete the next leg. At this point, he had just 14 flat and paved miles left to the finish line.
He received a lot of support along this route from local runners, and had his team of runners keeping him on pace. With a 24-hour target on his mind, he kept pushing through avoiding anything that would waste time. “A re-check on the time, distance, pace calculations, and I told the chaperones (pace group) I’m still going for sub-24. I wouldn’t have lost much sleep if I was slightly over. But under 24 hours finish would make this run all the more sweeter.”
Somehow, in the last section, Dan managed to pick up to his usual 5K pace, even after 100 miles bringing him to Chewton Bunny less than 24 hours after he started, with a small support crew cheering him in – not to mention the hundreds watching his tracker and the support crew’s social media updates!
Dan undertook this epic challenge to raise money for the Jurassic Coast Trust, and you can still sponsor him here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/dan-williams-uk
You can read Dan’s full account of the event here