Roger’s Jurassic Challenge
Long-term hospice fundraiser Roger Cross and his colleagues took on the full Jurassic Coast Challenge in 2018 and trekked an epic 100km from Poole to Bridport – raising over £2,000 to support local families.
In his blog, Roger shares his experience, stunning photos and some words of wisdom for anyone looking to take on the challenge!
It started in autumn when I received an email beginning: “You know you want to go for a long distance walk.” A work colleague had come across a company organising 100km challenge walks and thought this would be a suitable group challenge. Fully waymarked, with food and water provided, all we had to do was put one foot in front of the other – for 100km!
There were a number of events to choose from but one caught my imagination – the Jurassic Challenge, starting at Poole and heading west over the Purbeck Hills, past Weymouth and on to Bridport. There were 50km and 25km options available but they were never seriously considered.
Our employer generously agreed to cover the costs of registration and by November we had about 20 people, including some friends and family, signed up. Most of these, like myself, chose the 100km distance but some opted for the shorter distances. An initial burst of enthusiasm for the Jurassic Challenge was followed by a considerable show of interest in the more local Cotswold Challenge, from Bath to Cheltenham, so we divided our forces between the two routes.
A number of us had charities we wished to support and we eventually decided to divide all donations equally between all the nominated causes – including John Taylor Hospice.
We now had seven to eight months to build up our fitness for the events. The first big day came at the end of June with the Cotswold Challenge. Nine walkers started from Bath, four going for the full 100km and the others going for 50km. Despite gruelling temperatures only one walker had to retire. Three of these walkers were using the Cotswold event as part of their training for the Jurassic Challenge in three weeks’ time and were probably wondering just what they’d let themselves in for.
At last the date of the Jurassic Challenge came round. Two of us arrived in Poole on Friday to pre-register before getting an early night. It was going to be a big day tomorrow.
We arrived at the start point in Whitecliff Harbourside Park at 6.15am. There was a final briefing, a short Zumba session to warm up, and we were away. It was already hot as we set off on the 5km stretch to the ferry crossing.
Views started to open out with the long sweep of the ness enclosing Poole Harbour leading the eye round to the ferry crossing to Studland. Then we disembarked and were off the roads for the first time and on the sands bordering the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. Everyone was relieved to find the tide going out, giving us a strip of firm sand to walk on.
At 7km I was surprised to find the Running Man overtaking me – he had just missed one ferry crossing and had to wait, giving me time to catch up. He slowed up just long enough to take a selfie before storming off into the distance.
We continued down the coast to Studland Village and the first ascent to Studland Hill, followed by a descent to the first checkpoint at Swanage. Here I briefly caught up with the Running Man again, who delayed setting out just long enough to recommend the ‘awesome’ pastries. A break to take on water and a couple of the aforementioned pastries, then up onto Godlington Hill and a long stretch, with expansive views to left and right, and Corfe Castle ahead marking the next checkpoint.
The checkpoint was on a spur off the main route and I met the Running Man again, descending from the checkpoint, as I was ascending. I was still going strongly but a touch of light-headedness reminded me of the dangers of heat stroke, so I took on a couple of energy bars and splashed some water over my head and arms to cool down before setting off again. I was now 24km into the challenge and still feeling good.
The next stage was a long one, and an extra water point had been established half way along. Just past this we entered the Lulworth military range, and then …
An imposing limestone sea cliff ahead, but my attention was caught by the descent towards the shore followed by a long climb up which looked more and more intimidating with every foot of height lost. I came to the foot of the slope and found it every bit as hard as it looked. The sun was blazing and I was 35km into a long day. Beyond this, a narrow trod slanted down the side of a steep rocky slope to Lulworth Cove.
To holidaying families this is a beautiful spot. To a man who has walked 38km and now has to slog across shifting shingle, dodging recumbent sunbathers, it is something out of Dante’s Inferno. The following slog up to the checkpoint above Durdle Door was easy by comparison.
I was slowing up and the stops were getting longer. Even the fruit and energy bars were becoming difficult to digest. The views of Durdle Door were spectacular – possibly the most memorable of the day, but I had to turn my back and continue along a roller-coaster route west. After a while the long peninsula of Portland Bill came into view and after a walk along the Weymouth seafront I reached the halfway point.
I had joined forces with two other walkers and we set off along Weymouth prom past a pub with jovial drinkers cheering us on. It was early evening as we came round to a view of Chesil Beach, seeming to be only a few yards offshore. Darkness was falling as we continued and a reddish moon laid a trail of blood across the open sea. By the time we reached Abbotsbury and the next checkpoint it was full darkness.
I must have looked spent as one of the race marshals talked to me, obviously concerned that I might be over-extending myself. But with less than 18km to go, there was no way I was withdrawing. We followed a trail of glowsticks down to the beach and along a 3km stretch of shifting energy-sapping shingle. But after that it was a steady plod along. I no longer felt fatigued although my speed had dropped considerably. Past a final checkpoint, up one final slope, down a steep incline and we were on the outskirts of Bridport.
The streets were silent as we walked the final 3km to the finish. We collected our medals and t-shirts, posed for pictures and made our way to a designated quiet area to rest. It was 4am and we’d been moving for over 21 hours but now it was over and we knew we had achieved something really special.
Of the rest of our group, three retired at the halfway point and the remaining four, one with a twisted ankle, finished by late afternoon. All of us very proud of what we had achieved.