Monday, 29 March 2010

Jurassic Coast Challenge

It’s all gone a bit 'Hound of the Baskervilles', said Gareth and he and Steve drove the truck up onto Ballard Down yesterday afternoon. He was referring to the thick, swirling fog that suddenly enveloped the hills much like in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel set on Dartmoor. (Ok Ok so there’s no big killer dog roaming around but you get my drift. - by the way if you haven't read the book it's Stapleton who's the baddy)

'Yes', shouted Steve. 'It is a bit foggy'

On top of Ballard the visibility was down to 5-10 metres.

A number of runners appeared out of the fog and approached the truck asking for directions. It quickly became apparent that approximately 250 runners and walkers were competing in the Jurassic Coast Challenge – a 78+ mile event along the coastline run over 3 days. The chaps were understandably cold and tired and disorientated by the fog.

To be fair they were all well prepared, but the Coastguard view was that tired people making decisions in thick fog on narrow cliff paths was a serious cause for concern. Any fallers or those injured would probably, despite the checkpoints on route, result in a major search and rescue operation. Given the fog there would be no helicopter search assistance either.

After speaking to the event manager a marshal was ferried to the top to provide an intermediate checkpoint and guide people away from the danger area. Steve and Gareth then dropped down to the Peveril Point in Swanage to brief competitors on the deteriorating conditions before they were sent out in one final wave of runners that could be monitored before night closed in. The final 30 runners finished in Studland safe and well about an hour and half later. All in all it was a long day for the patrol but well worth it.

Well done to all the competitors who took part and finished the race.

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