With lockdown rules easing, my have a go at daft things over Dartmoor Partner (Andy Vallance) and I set off for a nice gentle plod around the 600 route. It was our first attempt of the year, the last was in the week between Xmas and New Year a day after one of the many named winter storms. Strangely after one of the driest Aprils ever the conditions on this run were somewhat different. We didn’t really give it a thought how dry the ground actually was until we made it to the first check point at Cut Hill. We were 5 mins up on our personal pb’s after taking it relatively easy to that point. Right gloves off for the rest of the round, smashing our pb’s and ending only 4 mins behind the FKT we all thought was untouchable. This was obviously FKT season. If I was going to get near the FKT then I knew I would have to throw my hat into the ring early as there’s plenty of better runners around gunning for this title.
My first and best opportunity of getting near the FKT came 9 days later. With a break in both the weather (high winds) and firing times on the Dartmoor ranges, I set off from the car park at 1730 on a glorious sunny evening. The run is basically split up into 4 sections. The first is the long drag out to Cut Hill, 5 miles of long ups, small downs over rough moorland grasses with no one best route but many bad ones. Finally, the summit of Cut Hill looms small in front of you (the only way you can tell which of the peat cuts in that area is the highest is a few granite rocks placed on top of one, which makes you wonder where these rocks have come from. When you go there you will know exactly what I mean.) Cut Hill gives you the first opportunity for a time check and see how the round is going. A quick look at the watch and then a second as I thought I was seeing things.50 mins still hadn’t ticked by which meant I was 7 mins up on my previous best from the week before and on for a flyer.
Spurred on by this news I headed out across the next section with a spring in my step. This section between Cut Hill and the White Horse/Hanging stone ridge is by far the hardest bleakest section of the run. The good thing Its only around 3 miles, the bad thing its only around 3 miles and its certainly no parc run. This section is home to the head of Dartmoor’s name sake the River Dart, and some of it’s more famous features ‘Bogs. If you try to straight line it, Bogs. Go east, long grass then Bogs. Go North, uphill, long grass and you guessed it Bogs. There is a route through which eventually leads you up onto the next two 600 points White Horse and Hanging Stone Hills. Another time check and another minute gained.
Right now onto the fast bit. Section 3 from Hanging Stone to High Willhays (The highest point on the course, in fact the highest point in southern England) is as different as you can get from the previous two. You just follow the hard firing range gravel track that snakes off into the distance with only the final half mile or so back on open ground up to the summit of High Willhays. 4 peaks down with no 5 Yes Tor only a hop and a skip away you start thinking well it’s all downhill from here. Well the next mile is, 900ft of it down into the West Okement Valley. Unfortunately, there’s 600ft of climbing back up the other side in only half a mile. Finally, you hit the old Rattelbrook tramway and a final check of the watch sees I have 15 mins to cover the last two and a half miles to break the 2hr 30 mark and 4 mins inside the FKT. I thought I am never going to have a better chance and went for it. 14 minutes and 44 seconds later and 2.5 miles further down the course I was touching the gate which marks the finishing line not believing I had just set a new pb by by 10 mins and a new FKT of 2 hrs 29 mins 44 sec.