Dorset Ooser medal

Dorset Ooser – Race Report

The Dorset Ooser is in its third year and starts in an ancient thatched barn in the tiny hamlet of Turners Puddle, Dorset. It is named after the ‘Ooser’, a horned and bearded wooden mask used in the ritual of ‘skimity riding’, a way of punishing those who had behaved immorally!

As with many races this year, since the start of the pandemic and the first sad email from Badger Trail Events it was iffy whether or not the Dorset Ooser would go ahead. The race was originally planned for May but postponed until Sunday 16 August and deferrals accepted up until 8am on race day.

Beginning of July, entrants got the email we’d all been waiting for, subject to last minute cancellation – the race was on! Following the initial excitement was the terrible dawning realisation that my running DEFINITELY wasn’t what it had been in March, when several of us followed Anne-Marie Delrosa for 19 miles over the beautiful Malverns. A few hasty 15 milers late July with the lovely Jo Creed, a bit of hopeful optimism and I was good to go…probably. In any case, a generous 8 hour cut off for the marathon and 1000m elevation meant there was no real pressure on time, so I went with the plan of having a lovely day out in the countryside. Sadly no new entries were allowed after Covid hit so I was an Allrunners team of one.

Covid restrictions were applied to all aspects of the race. After parking our cars in the field, runners were called to the start in three groups depending on predicted finish time. Most people, like me had given themselves 4.5-5 hours and so the majority of us went off in group 2 to the start and then away in groups of 6 over the chip timing mat. Straight away, it was up a long hill and then off into the woods. The route was well marked through farm tracks, fields, ancient woodlands, old hidden holloways (sunken trails following historic drovers routes), short road sections through picturesque hamlets, heathland, and all in the glorious Dorset countryside.

The early August heatwave had thankfully broken and although very humid and drizzly, temperature was a comfortable 22 degrees. The aid stations came every 5 miles and were very well stocked with biscuits, salty snacks, sweets and bananas. As it is a completely cupless race, one cheerful marshall was on hand to pour drinks and another giving out squirts of hand sanitiser. Everybody was PPE’d up and the majority runners putting face masks on as we approached.

Around 18 miles I got the familiar ‘why would I have done this to myself again?!’ thoughts, so cracked out the long run secret weapon as a distraction (don’t judge til you’ve tried it!) – Harry Potter read by Stephen Fry. My brother Tom and his lovely girlfriend Sophie were lurking around a corner at 22 miles which was a great cheer up point. At 22.5 miles I started seeing finishers with medals walking towards me and the route went right past the car park and then out on another 4 mile technical loop through windy woodland paths and heathland.

Finally a long downhill to the finish and into the finishers’ tunnel for a piece of carrot cake and fabulous medal.

Liz Halley

The organisers clearly had had to make a lot of changes to the way the race was run due to covid restrictions and did an incredible job to put on a fabulous race in difficult circumstances. My original plan was 3 marathons this year and I’m so pleased I was still able to do this one.

A few notes if you’re thinking of signing up next year:

  • This race is moderately hilly, not a good PB course!
  • Organiser (Badger) and his wife Denise are lovely and very responsive to emails.
  • It’s a 2 hour drive from Stroud.
  • There’s also a half option with a 4.5 hour cut off.
    Would definitely do again!

Thanks Liz Halley for a great race report. The website is Dorset Ooser – but no details yet on next year’s race.