Women Show the Way on the Dorset Stickler
The 10 mile Dorset Stickler, with 1500′ of climbing, was run on the 28th October 2018. The weather gods dropped the temperature by degrees. As my wife Ann and I left Christchurch that morning, it was 7C and it was little warmer when 549 runners streamed up the hill above Shillingstone. Runners were challenged over what to wear. Most athletes love just a vest and shorts; they want to feel light and flowing. I wore two vests, and leggings, with a beanie and gloves. Ann wore a jacket. As this was my first race in decades, I was surprised at the number of women on the start line; later, I became aware of how women show the way on the Dorset Stickler.
The first climb; six hundred feet up a chalk footpath, is no easy matter. I climb well but at the top my legs no longer belonged to me. Women runners were all around me, in fact, 41% of the field were women. Back in the 1980’s, my heyday, a few dozen women, at most, would be in such a race. On the ridge, women steadily passed me (being chicked, they call it!), men passed me, and dogs too (being ‘woofed’ they call it!), on leads. At least they were all young and nobody said, ‘well done granddad’ as they pulled away. Down through the towering beech woods, more runners passed me.
The village of Stourpaine is a little over half way. The overtakers were now few but Emma, with her dog, eases alongside and we chat. As I climb Hod Hill, I catch and pass many of the overtakers who now walk the steep bits. Confidence increases, as does the cold, a brisk wind puckering our faces. Through the Roman Fort, then down and up Hambledon Hill, the final of four climbs. I tuck in behind a strong woman runner and switch off my brain; just keep going forward.
The last mile is across the Stour water meadows. I am shot and another dozen runners pass me. We finish at the end of the platform, as if running to catch the last train axed by Beeching. I am 257th and the first over 70 male, a shock. A woman was second overall, and many women, some in their 60’s, are way in front of me. I wait until Ann finishes, another pensioner at 69 years old. When we see her photograph, runner no. 186, her elbows are up and she looks really comfortable on Hod Hill. Looking at this photo, it’s not women or pensioners that I see, it’s social change. That’s because women show the way on the Dorset Stickler.