Runners have been getting mucky and loving it in the Dirt Half Challenge by trail specialists Dirt Running. The latest edition on Saturday 16 November was another 1,000 sell-out event with 809 finishing within three and a half hours and there was a men’s course record – just.
The route is mainly off-road on country trails and towpaths from Leighton Buzzard with a significant hill at halfway. Competitors pass through Tiddenfoot Waterside Park and head north to Stoke Hammond before the 200-foot climb to Great Brickhill Woods, returning via scenic Rushmere Country Park, along Greensand Ridge and the canal towpath.
The course record fell to Matt Sims (1:16:49) – by two seconds! Precision pacing took the former Oxford University student 69 seconds clear of Harry Smith (Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers, 1:17:58) with Jed Noblett (Luton, 1:18:34) third in his longest race to date. Paul Williamson (M50 Leighton Buzzard Tri Club, 1:23:47) impressed as the leading master and 28 runners beat 90 minutes, including women’s winner Charlene Jacobs-Conradie (W35 Luton, 1:25:53) in an excellent 10th overall.
The women’s rostrum was completed by W45 masters Dawn Godwin (Windle Valley Runners, 1:33:04) and Jennifer Sangster (1:1:34:35) who was part of the winning combined team with Redway Runners.
Ironically for a race that revels in muddy conditions, it was a lovely fresh, dry day with a gentle breeze and ideal running conditions. There was still plenty of muck to be found between miles seven and 10 due to the amount of rain that had fallen over the last few weeks.
There is a superb YouTube aerial film of a previous event that captures the atmosphere and shows off the brilliant course. Many positive comments were received and this from Anna Mead (W45 Leighton Fun Runners, 2:36:02) represents the majority view: “An amazing course with a variety of beautiful scenery. Fantastic marshals, loads of encouragement and plenty of water. And a great medal and Coke at the end! Brilliant race.”
A final word from Race director Andy Hully: “Feedback from the runners regarding the course, support from the marshals and the organisation of the event was once again outstanding with many runners vowing they would be back next year. A word of advice: enter early!”