The Oner is an ultra marathon which takes place along the South West Coastal Path starting in Charmouth, heading east, looping around Portland and finishing at South Haven Point in Studland Bay. The route involves 10,000 feet of elevation and offers some stunning views of the coastal path.
The race is primarily about The Oner which covers the full 82 mile distance and an event I completed in 2015 (see event report here). We (the family) and I quite liked ‘holidaying’ in the area and so we decided to visit again and I entered the Half Oner which I could use as a good build up event for future races in the summer. The Half Oner starts at the same time as its bigger brother but finishes at Portland which was absolutely perfect for me as it was a stones throw from where we were staying for the week.
I travelled down the night before with fellow Reading Jogger Paul Beechey who had entered The Oner for the third year on a trot. The club have experienced some recent successes with Barry Miller winning the Viking Way Ultra last week and Wendy Shaw 1st Lady at the British Ultrafest 24 hour run, so there was some pressure on us to continue the clubs success this week!
Statistically, I had a much greater chance with only a handful of Half Oner entrants (7 or 8 on the list) and a bit tougher for Beechey with 60-70 runners and double the distance (he had also run at a 24 hour track race the week before but this was a slightly aborted attempt). Beechey spent most of the journey down trying to persuade me to enter the big boys version of the race at the last minute which I refused.. stick to the plan, stick to the plan!
Paul Beechey and myself at the start. Photo by Hannah Beechey
We registered, collected our dibber, tracker and checked our kit over before embarking on the mini bus trip to the start. The Half runners have to carry the same amount of kit as the full Oner’s as the cut off for the half is around 11pm is at night so I was carrying a bit of kit (top, waterproof, head torch etc). Unfortunately on the way our mini bus was caught up and traffic and arrived late resulting in a 15 minute delay but the time was passed with some pre-race banter with other members of the coach (hello to Thomas who I sat next to).
The weather was looking glorious at the start and it promised to be a warm day although running along the coast meant we had a cooling breeze in our faces for most of the day.
Beechey and I had decided to run the first miles together. Whilst, this was a training run for me I had a note of last years finish time of 6hrs 40mins as a target. As we were also staying very close to CP5 and we could see the runners from our holiday cottage. My dream goal was to finish, get back to our holiday cottage, jump in the hot tub, crack open a beer (well.. cup of tea) and see Beechey trundling past with another 40 miles to go and I would be finished. Yes, a nice thought to look forward to.
Physically, I was still recovering from a piriformis muscle strain (buttock and lower back) and I could feel it pulling for the first few miles of the run before it seemed to settle down.
We knew the first few miles were really up and down with a early climb at Golden Cap Hill which was probably the highest climb of the route. We started off mid-pack and overtook a few people before settling into a steady run and then hiked the hills. After Checkpoint 1 at 8 miles it was fairly flat and perfectly runnable all the way to Portland before another climb. We elected to take it steady for the first few miles and jogged along together for most of this with Lee Sydenham not too far behind us.
The race photographer was positioned halfway up Golden Cap Hill and caught some great photos of us.. walking!
Beechey and I at Golden Cap Hill. Photo by Charles Whitton Photography.
As we approached West Bay, we could see the Checkpoint van and I stopped to top up my bottle, grabbed a few snacks and carried on. At this point I thought we were near the front but wasn’t really sure exactly where to be informed we were 2nd and 3rd. We had spotted one guy ahead in the distance (perhaps a mile up after the first few miles) who had dropped down from the full to the Half Oner and had gone off pretty quick. Despite a very small field, it wasn’t necessarily going to be an easy jog for first place which is the way it should be and it was good to have something to target ahead.
Beechey and I pressed on together and I started to increase the pace a touch on the flats. Beechey decided to stick with me and we covered most of the next leg together. The navigation on this leg was fairly straightforward although there were a couple of errors when picking the right gate to exit (Beechey and I went long on one and he gave me the heads up on another a short while later) but these didn’t cost me very much extra in terms of distance and were pretty minor in nature.
I was by myself for a section along Chesil Beach and must admit to fast walking along the shingle beach as I wasn’t making much headway when trying to run along this in all honesty. The weather was still glorious but thankfully the headwind breeze kept me cool.
I arrived at CP2 (14 miles), refuelled briefly as Beechey and Lee also arrived and we all departed pretty close to each other and ended up covering the next few miles together.
Yes, I stopped running up the hill immediately after I passed the camera. Photo by Charles Whitton Photography.
The route goes away from the coast at this point and it was around here that I moved ahead of the other guys. With only half the distance to complete I could afford to push a bit harder and the other guys had to conserve some energy for the second half and so I drifted ahead over the next few miles before arriving at CP3 (19 miles). The checkpoints weren’t too far apart so I had planned to carry 1x500ml bottle which I kept filling with Tailwind and a handful of gels and was also going to snack and drink at each Checkpoint. If I had been doing the full distance, I would probably have taken and eaten a bit more.
I headed out from CP3 with one person ahead who I had seen in the distance from time to time but he looked about a mile ahead. However, within a few miles I had started to spot him again which was a good incentive to keep the effort level up and within a few more miles had eventually reeled him in and then passed him with a brief “How’s it going?”. He asked if I was doing the Half to which I replied yes before deciding to push on. It’s pretty rare that I’m ever in this sort of position but having spent a while catching someone, I wanted to continue with the effort and put a bit of distance between us.
Pictured midway through the run. Photo by Charles Whitton Photography.
I put in a solid shift between CP3 and a temporary drinks point at Ferry Bridge (which used to be the old Race HQ but the pub has now closed down) and then ran the flat section from Ferry Bridge to Portland before taking it easier and hiking up the next section to get to the highest point at Portland. I took a look behind me and couldn’t see the second placed guy at all so guessed I must have a bit of a lead now but wasn’t really sure by how much.
I headed to CP4 (which was also Race HQ and CP6) and paused briefly for a last refill of the bottle and half a banana before pressing on.
After leaving CP4, I rejoined the Coastal Path and skirted around the edge of Portland. After an initial rocky path most of this next section was pretty flat and grassy and easy to run on and there were only a few miles to CP5 at Pulpit Car Park near the Pub. We were staying close by so as I head down to the CP, I could see Sally-anne and Annabelle walking to the CP. I checked in and gave the girls a quick hug before pushing on as I didn’t want to lose much time. One last push of a few miles to go and the race would be done.
Leaving CP5. Photo by Sally-anne Ali
If I’m being honest, I was starting to flag a bit now. The reliance on gels for most of the race resulted in me starting to feel a little queasy in the stomach plus there were the factors of a warm day and generally making a bit of an effort. I was pretty happy with my decision just to run the Half at this point as I was now only a couple of miles from the finish.
The next leg followed the coastal path around Portland and involved a rocky and stony section where you had to pick your way around the path. Despite a near ankle roll, I plodded the next couple of miles following the up and down path. Part of the route was shaded from the sun and it suddenly started to feel a lot cooler. My hips were noticing the physical affects of the run, the hard ground here was probably having more of an effect.
I carried on and found some Brutal Events marking indicating I should head left up the steps towards the cliff face and then followed the markings which led all the way back to Race HQ. I thought I had followed the exact route here but Beechey informed me later that the actual turn was located beforehand and I had arrived at some emergency markers to indicate I had overshot the course which may have added a few minutes to my last leg. I’ll have to double check the route instructions to see where I missed the turn.
As I hiked up the last steps towards the old prison, I was no more than a mile or so from the end. A quick look along the coast and no other runners could be spotted but it didn’t mean I could slack off and I ran the last section along the road following the markers back to the Race HQ and finish.
The finishing straight. Photo by Sally-anne Ali.
I turned to last corner and ran strongly up the steady incline to the finish to see the a couple of marshals and Sally-anne & Annabelle at the finish applauding me in. I quickly entered Race HQ, dibbed in to finish in 6hrs 9mins, a pretty good effort overall. I clocked the distance at 38 something miles overall for the Half.
Being awarded my medal. Photo by Sally-anne Ali.
I had finished first in the Half and was awarded my medal and a small plaque before grabbing my gear and heading back. Second place finished about 25-30 mins behind in the end so the push between CP3 to CP5 did open up a bit of a gap.
I was pretty tired, still felt a bit queasy and didn’t fancy anything to eat and drink at the point. As soon as I stopped running I was starting to feel the cold as my core temperature dropped so we headed back to the holiday cottage where I felt much better after a shower and putting on some warm clothes. It was a good decision to just do the ‘Half’ with another 40+ miles and double the elevation for the the second half then I was pretty satisfied with my afternoons effort.
Thank you to Claire and the Brutal Events team for an enjoyable and well organised event with some stunning views. Aside from the traffic issues at the start (not the event organisers fault of course), the race event ran flawlessly from the runners perspective (admittedly I only saw half of it) and the marshals were all helpful and enthusiastic. The GPS tracker also worked well so supporters could follow the race. Despite the full distance event having around a 50% DNF rate, I think it’s fairly do-able for most ultra runners within the 24 hour cut-off.
I heard nothing but positive feedback from the runners involved in the event. I would definitely consider coming back to the do the event again (I do owe a decent go at the full event after a ‘so so’ finish a couple of years ago in 20 something hours).
After the race, the hips were a bit sore but felt ok the next day. The physical effects of the race were sore quads which took a couple of days to recover and a slightly tender achilles/ankle. The piriformis muscle strain is still there but gradually disappearing thankfully as I’ve had this over a month and it’s been a pain in the… (sorry I think I used the joke in my last report).
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it into the hot tub before Beechey passed CP5 as he wasn’t too far behind me (25-30 mins?) when I finished. However, I should add that I woke pretty early the next day (4.30am) and tracked Paul Beechey to the finish. He did amazingly well finishing in 1st place in a pretty quick time of 17hrs 37mins which is probably a top 10 finish time on the course so an exceptional effort a week after running 80+ miles at Crawley the week before and another good weekend for the Reading Joggers with a double win weekend.
Well done to everyone else who finished the ‘real’ event within the 24 hour cut off limit.
My next event is London Marathon in 2 weeks but this is now a planned fancy dress ‘fun run’ as I thankfully managed to crack the sub 3 a bit earlier than expected in the year and to be honest I’m not quite in marathon speed shape having not been able to do any quality running since the muscle strain.
A quick shout out to Martin & Jim who were crewing for the entire event and put together a ‘behind the scenes’ video of the race which can be seen below (I’ve embedded the link) which is well worth a view. Nice video guys!
Strava link of the run can be found here
Race website can be found here
Race results can be found here
Update: Having checked my route on Strava, it looks like I did overshoot the course on the South Coast of Portland and do an extra zig zag loop (losing 1-1.5km?). However, I also appear to have gone south around the Quarry onto the Coastal Path instead of north around the quarry just after CP4 (gaining 500m?) so I guess these things even themselves out in the end.