Whilst this would be a great name for a swimming contest, it is in fact a running event, peppered with such edible local luxuries as clotted cream rice pudding, artisan bread, and fish and chips. This 15 mile off-road sojourn (pushing 17 miles if you actually plot the course) takes mid-run refuelling to a whole other level, and one that I feel should be maintained in all other runs( if only my pockets were spacious enough). It’s really just a 14 course tapas meal that you have to work hard for (the only kind of diet I’ll ever be willing to try).
If you’ve never done a race of this sort, I urge you to try one. It is the perfect training event for the world famous Marathon du Medoc, albeit with a slightly less wine heavy menu and a considerably cooler climate. And this year we had a strategy. We were not going to miss out on anything. Last year, due to crazy costumes, a late start time (over ambitious with our forecast finish times) and a bit too much merry making at the first few stops, we reached The Red Lion at Dittisham only to find that the plum liqueur had been completely polished off. This was a major disappointment and one that we weren’t going to let happen again. Armed with more sensible costumes (ahem) and a more reasonable estimate of when we might finish, we stormed across the start line, bellies pleasingly full of porridge from the Tideford Organic stand by the registration desk. It was a good start.
The day was cool, but we had already built up a sheen of sweat by the time we hit Totnes for croissants at the Waterside Bistro. I had never thought of putting mushrooms in a croissant but luckily Totnes had. At this point, we were still missing the majority of our group. We were 2 lost playing cards in a sea of fairytale creatures, the rest of the Alice in Wonderland cast having started even earlier (you have such luxuries when you live in the area). By the next stop, we had already found them. Tweedledum and Dee were sampling fine cheeses, whilst the mad hatter, 2 Queens, 2 Flamingoes, and Alice herself were quaffing excellent wine. We’d had the sneaking suspicion that Sharpham would be where we’d find them.
Reunited with our fellow characters we trundled on towards The Durant Arms where toad-in-the-hole and ale awaited (not quite the vegetable samosa that the menu promised but well received by the carnivores), The Waterman’s Arms for fruit cocktails and more sausages, The Maltster’s Arms (gosh- what a lot of arms!) for a smoked haddock croquette (the Ace of Clubs’ favourite) and… a rhubarb pavola macaroon thing from the Riverford Field Kitchen which tasted like summer, dreams and unicorns all rolled into one squishy delicacy.
It was a hard trudge to the next stop, increasingly brambly and muddy, and the lanes becoming little riverlets when they pleased, so I was very chuffed to find sparkling Luscombe rosewater (delicious) and a stash of fruit awaiting us daintily on the lawn of Fingals Hotel. It must be noted that Fingals Hotel has the best bathroom I have ever seen. If you’ve ever wished for a butler to hand you your toilet roll and a mirrored wooden panelled room with enough knickknacks to keep your eyes occupied for the lengthiest of toilet visits (what have you been eating?) then you really must see it.
Fizzing with excess rosewater, we eased our way along the lanes, over hills, through the kissing gate, sliding along mud paths until we arrived at the Red Lion with one goal in mind: Plum liqueur. And there it was. Oh wow, it was worth the wait. Incidentally it is now obvious why we missed out last year, since it is almost impossible to have just one shot of this. Well done to Bramley & Gage for that delight. There were also venison pies which pleased the masses (except for me and the incredibly strong willed vegan Queen of Tarts who had been carrying a plate of jam tarts all day that he couldn’t have). We pelted down the hill towards the boat that would take us across the water, full of paella from Moby Nicks (another high scoring dish) and Otter ale, over to Greenway House, home of Agatha Christie and the Dart Ice Cream co. cart that serves the cider apple ice cream… mmmm.
By this stage, those doing the 10 miles rather than the full 15 (17) had gone to be transported to the finish, and only the most courageous athletes remained (don’t laugh- under those costumes we’re all ripped). We had a long wooden stretch to complete now before we would reach the next stop, and I was ready for the clotted cream rice pudding from Langage Farm, after stumbling down the rocky banks of the valley towards Kingswear.
Following the steamtrain line, we arrived into colourful Kingswear and threw ourselves into The Steam Packet Inn for our Burts crisps and chilli chocolate rfom the South Devon Chilli Farm. The locals turned around on their stools unphased whilst the barman eyed our spears suspiciously.
Dartmouth was now in sight, and we tripped onto the ferry that would take us there and ran all the way to the queue for the chipshop. I am always amazed that the Rockfish Takeaway is happy to hand out so much hot food for free to a gaggle of animals, fairies and what-the-hell-is-that-meant-to-be?s. And they all do- all in support of the CHICKS charity. We ate our chips, collected our hot drink of choice from Cafe Alf Resco, and finished with the sort of sprint that very full people do, all the way to the market square for a fig cake shaped finale from Saveurs.
It was a truly delicious day.
It was a truly delicious day.