24th Jul 2013
The Dartmoor Discovery has become a classic event in the ultra-running calendar. At 32 miles, its not the longest ultra, but the undulations of the Dartmoor National Park certainly don't make it an easy one (A look at the course elevation profile shows a height difference between the high and low points of over 1,000 feet). The event is almost entirely on roads, which are not closed and are busy in a few places, so the field is limited to about 200 which fills very quickly. Its organised by Teignbridge Trotters, who do a great job with marshalling, etc. There are 10 drinks stations on the course and you can put personal drinks out at some of them if you wish. There are cut-off times around the course, which can make it a bit tight for slower runners or if the conditions are hot (as I found to my cost a couple of years ago!). This years event took place on Saturday 1st June, which was warm and bright but not sweltering. The race starts and finishes at the Plume of Feathers Inn in the small town of Princetown, notably home of H.M. Prison, Dartmoor. The pub has bed & breakfast, bunkhouse and camping facilities, so we travelled down on the Friday and camped over for 2 nights. This makes a good weekend of the event.
After a hearty breakfast to keep us going through the day, the race started at 9.30 on a beautiful morning. The first 12 or 13 miles through Two Bridges and Dartmeet to Ashburton is downhill overall but with a few interesting climbs thrown in! The rugged scenery is stunning and it was a real reminder of why most of us run. There's a long, steady climb out of Ashburton before further undulations en route to Buckland and Widecombe in the Moor. Despite walking up some of the steeper uphill sections (I kid myself that I choose to walk!), I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the race. The marshalls and other runners were all as friendly and supportive as I seem to find in all ultra events. After the marathon point near Postbridge, the course turns left back towards Two Bridges before finally climbing back to Princetown and the finish. The whole finish area team take good care of you. There are complimentary sandwiches and cakes, hot and cold drinks, showers and massage facilities. There's even a race disco in the evening if you feel up to it. After gets cleaned up and having a well-deserved beer, we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon relaxing before the festivities in the evening. I think the only down side of the whole weekend was that it was a bit cold at night in the tent (Princetowns about 1,400 feet above sea level, so tends to get a bit colder at night than nearer the coast). I should have brought a warmer sleeping bag (or maybe go for the b&b next time and there definitely will be a next time). I would definitely recommend this event.