When it comes to White Star Running races, location really matters to us. We don’t want to put on a Race just anywhere. We want to take the best bits of Dorset and show them off, especially if it’s areas where you can’t usually access. Andy Palmer explains more…
The Ox creation story
We recently went for walkies over at the Larmer venue to look at a new route for our Winter Larmer races. Our connection to the Rushmore Estate and Larmer Tree Gardens is a long one. Here goes…
We hold the Ox Races and Larmer Tree races on a very old estate in Dorset called Rushmore. The history of the Ox is a funny one. One day I was bored. It was about a month after the first Giants Head Marathon and I picked up a random OS map and laid it out on the table. I noticed two long green lines: they were Ox droves running from Shaftesbury to Salisbury.
A quick Google told me it was a perfect running area. The next Google search took me to the AONB Cranborne Chase office.
So, I made a phone call to them explaining that I wanted to create a race, and I was given the phone number of the Rushmore Estate. The next day I met Ruth Mason, the boss at Rushmore, and we came up with a plan. She came up with the immortal quote: “This is Rushmore; we do steep very well”. And the Ox Races were born.
We created an event with a marathon, half-marathon and 35-mile ultramarathon. The routes were epic scenery wise.
Year one was in 2014 and it was the wettest winter in living memory. Everything was flooded and it was blowing a gale on the hillside we used for camping. Flooding made the ultra two miles longer… not that the ultra runners seemed fussed – funny bunch. We met the Luptons for the first time as well, so it wasn’t all bad.
Building an epic event
We learned a lot from that event. In year two we tailored the race and persisted with it. We added the Dark Ox and Light Ox races. Remember the rain?
The one thing we did learn, and a circle we could not square, was that the marathon and ultramarathon were not safe events. It took us a 60-minute drive to travel 6 miles because of the road layout. A lot of the route was inaccessible for emergency vehicles; we had no radio comms over half the route. For safe mass-participation events we need good access and comms.
The races had to change, but we were so stretched by the original routes. So, we created the Ox 50, the Ox Frolic, Light Ox, Dark Ox and Ox Half. We had now full use of the Rushmore Estate, and it’s so big that there’s still massive chunks you runners haven’t seen.
The Ox Half became the hardest race per mile that we do. We discovered ‘MOSSH’ – Mother Of Sheep Shit Hill. You’re welcome.
The Mexican theme was purely because year one of the new Ox fell on a Mexican national holiday… obviously.
There are many great things about the Ox Races: the smell of wild garlic, the scenery, the sunsets in the camping field, the medals (I designed them, obvs), the Lovestation™ in the woods and some impressive hills. Also, there’s some amazing running; the Ox Epic is a hard and strict race with the cut-offs – as some of you have found. I will never forget Mark Gibbs having a meltdown, and watching Carol Hayes finish her furthest run ever.
Not that much has changed really over the years; a few reroutes but that’s all. The Ox Epic is a challenge that we set in year two of the new revamped Ox Races. The idea is you sign up for the Ox 50 and then add in other races over the weekend to get on the Epic scoreboard. For the Full Epic you need to do the Dark Ox (quarter marathon), Ox 50 miler, Light Ox (quarter marathon) and Ox Half. Lots and lots of miles over the whole weekend. In 2020, because of the special Friday Bank Holiday, we had intended to run a one-off extra marathon, ‘The Ox of Two Halfs’. But Covid put paid to that! For 2021, however, it will appear as a one-off fun race with silly things to do over 26.2 miles. Find out more here.
I think the races we have put on here over the years are a great showcase for running in our county. For us, the location is key. I don’t see the point in running in a place that’s boring or lifeless.
We work with someone wonderful landowners like the Rushmore Estate, or the Meaden family at the Cider Frolic, or the Wallis family at The Crafty Fox races. They all love their land and want to see other people love their love their land too.
Covid has made us realise how much we cherish the great outdoors. Races like GHM where we work with the whole village show us what can be achieved by working together.
Read more about the history Rushmore here: www.rushmoreuk.com/about-the-estate/
Also, if you get a minute, read this on Bloody Shard Gate, an unassuming part of the estate: https://thedorsetrambler.com/2017/05/07/quirky-dorset-part-11/