After many weeks of umming and ahhing, I eventually hit the enter button, and committed myself to a tough fell race on Dartmoor.
The Dartmoor Volcano is brought to us from Outeredge Events, headed up by Mark Brooks. They offer a great selection of trail races in Devon, you may have heard of some them. There’s the popular Tsunami and Hameldown Hammer, as well as Race the Tide (yes please, I’d love to do this one!) and Race the Dark.
I must admit, I was unsure about entering the Dartmoor Volcano. At 10.5 miles, it’s the longest race I’d considered since sustaining a back injury 6 years ago. Running has been hard to sustain since, with a catalogue of injuries cropping up every time I seemed to make progress. It would’ve been wiser to go for a 10k but there were no races of this distance on a date I could do. Also, the info on the Dartmoor Volcano lists river crossings and bogs. What can I say? It had me at “hello”.
With my entry booked just days from the deadline, I went over the border into Devon (shocker, I know), and made my way to the village of Scoriton for race day.
The Dartmoor Volcano start and opening miles
Once I’d collected my number at the village hall, I made my way to the start. It seemed pretty chilled with just over 100 runners taking part. People were just chatting – it was all rather relaxed.
Here, I spoke to another runner. The Dartmoor Volcano has been an annual event for about 7 years but like me, this was her first outing too. She’d managed to cover some of the route as part of her training. I found out that the first half, or 6 miles, is pretty much uphill. While I wasn’t surprised, I had no idea how hard I was about to find it.
I was expecting to start the Dartmoor Volcano by walking, but I found the gradual climb of the first few miles okay, and managed to run at a steady pace. Quite soon was the first river crossing. I saw a runner head off the path and assumed he was having a toilet stop. I ended up following the runner in front and realised it was all part of the running route.
Heading onto Dartmoor
After the river crossing, I noticed no one was even attempting to run up the grassy hill. With every turn, and reaching what I thought was the top of the hill, I swiftly realised why. It went on and on and on. Literally, I thought it was never going to end. The top of this climb was marked by some large boulders and we were gifted with an easier section. It didn’t last long though!
To be fair, the next bit is a bit sketchy. Hats off though to those who walk and hike on Dartmoor though. If it wasn’t for the marshalls and well marked route, I’d still be out there trying to find my way around.
It wasn’t long before it was time to navigate the bogs. I’ve never run through bogland before and it’s tough. You can’t take your eyes off where your feet are going to land as the ground is really uneven. There’s small mounds of grass poking up from the bog. After trying to traverse these small patches of nobbly grass, I figured it was probably easier just to run through all the wet, mud and sludge, and who knows what else. I’m not sure if it was or not. At one point, the bog was deeper than expected and I jarred my back. It was ok, no harm done. To be honest, I was just happy that I didn’t lose one of my shoes.
The race details states there are 2 bogs on the Dartmoor Volcano course, but I’m not entirely sure where one ends and the other begins. There was a little break when I reached another peak, before more bogland appeared and major concentration continued. This came to an end when I crossed a stream or river. It was time to scale another peak and reach the top of a clay tip (I think).
It’s all downhill from here…
Time wise, I’d been running (ok, moving) for longer than I’d like for the distance. When I entered the Dartmoor Volcano I wasn’t expecting it to be my best performance. I was acutely aware that I while I’m relatively fit, I’m not at my ideal level for such a challenging course.
The views from this peak are fab. Naturally, I had to stop for a little photo taking – thank you marshall! I wasn’t sure how far into the race I was, I was guessing 4.5 miles. I was pleased to be informed that it was almost 6 and I was over half way.
Rumour had it that, from here, the course would be easier. There was a fuelling station at 6.5 miles and I indulged in the pink and white squishy things. I could’ve eaten the lot! The chaps at the water station assured me the reaminer of the race “was pretty flat” and “I’d be flying” from here on.
Hmmmm, not entirely true.
Don’t get wrong, it was easier, but certainly not flat. From here, there was a gentle incline and a further crossing (with a little bridge). This bit of the course is quite pretty. Actually, it’s all pretty and scenic, there are some amazing views from the highest points.
I ran along a little brook and over much uneven ground. After scaling a stile, there was a lengthy climb (flying, yeah right). After this, the inclines eased off. The downhill fun was about to begin.
The thing is, because the last 2+ miles are downhill, I kind of wanted to tank it. Aside from tired legs, my mind kept going back to the last time I tanked a downhill section during a race. I face planted the ground and ended up in minor injuries 😂!
With that in mind, I decided to go as fast as I could manage, coupled with a bit of caution. The course led us back to the first climb and the river crossing, with the welcome downhill trail to the finish line feeling like it lasted an eternity.
I was so pleased to finish – I was tired and the Dartmoor Volcano felt like a true accomplishment.
The Dartmoor Volcano is a smooth, well organised event. It’s challenging, interesting and absolutely stunning. On a clear sunny day, the views must be wonderful. This was my first Outeredge event, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last!
If you’d like to learn more about trail races in the south west (ok, mostly Cornwall), you may like the Godrevy Summer Session from Freedom Racing.