Hoopster Duckett wins the Devon Coast to Coast Ultra

And here's his race report:

"I signed up to Devon Coast to Coast (DC2C) fairly last minute – about three weeks before the start… I’d been training hard since January for another event which frustratingly (though after 2020 I really should have learned to expect this by now…) had been postponed to later in the year!


Not wanting good training to go to waste I started looking around and made a last minute decision to sign up to DC2C - I loved the idea of travelling 117 miles from Devon’s South coast to the North, taking in both Dartmoor and Exmoor in one ‘run’, however was less keen on the 4,500m+ elevation gain! The last time I’d been to Dartmoor was 2007 (back in the day for my Silver D of E Award) and when checking the event out I distinctly remembered how bleak the landscape was and how the weather rapidly changed from bright sun to heavy rain (and back!) within minutes. It’s safe to say that Dartmoor hasn’t changed…


The event start window was 6am-8am, with participants asked to self-seed based on their predicted finish time: bad memories of Dartmoor flashed back and having been watching the weather all week I knew it was going to be pretty soggy under-foot! This combined with not having been on the route before left my hopes of a ‘quick’ finish pretty low: I estimated a predicted finish time of around 30hrs and left at 7am.


Setting off feeling (and looking!) much fresher than the next Coast…


The first portion of the route up to Dartmoor was good under-foot and, not wanting good ground or daylight to go to waste, I decided to run whilst I could! I made it to the second aid station running with the leading lady and our pace surprised both ourselves and the organisers! We arrived at the second aid station before it was properly set up, but thankfully were able to grab half a Cornish pasty (god I love ultra aid-stations) before setting back off!

Celebrating finding my first navigational flag – about 35k into the race…


Some epic Dartmoor climbs before things got bad…


The weather took a turn for the second half of Dartmoor - whilst it had been showering most of the morning, I got up to Hameldown Tor, 61kms into the race, and the temperature dropped and hail started coming down hard – like painfully hard! Progress was slow, I was freezing and getting pummelled by hail. I decided I’d quickly stop to put on more layers, which turned out to be a bad decision: I put on literally everything I was carrying but on trying to clip my pack back up my fingers wouldn’t work – I couldn’t clip it back up!


After a good 5 minutes of messing around with fiddly clips I gave up, wrapped my jacket up around it and just ran as fast as I could to try to get warm again! Thankfully I made it to the next aid station pretty quickly - the food on offer here consisted purely of homemade baked cakes (best thing about ultras really is the aid stations…) which, whilst it definitely didn’t fit into my fuelling plan, was perfect emotional refuelling…

Soggy off of Dartmoor


After Dartmoor came ‘the bit between Dartmoor and Exmoor’ – which consisted of a 7km detour (multiple people who were eagerly watching the tracker rung me to tell me I’d gone off course!) followed by 45km of wiggly trails and farmers fields to be navigated in the dark.


In the light the fields were bad enough, mainly because of overly aggressive cows blocking the route, however in the night the navigation was tough – the path wasn’t clear and picking the right line across the field wasn’t easy – tiredness was setting in and I was kicking myself with the amount of time I was wasting skirting perimeters trying to find gates!


No chance of getting to that gate…


Coming into Exmoor delirium really set in – my head-torch was mainly lighting up mist and evaporating sweat, so visibility was poor and I spent a good 5 minutes thinking I had to wade across the River Barle before realising there was a ginormous bridge meters away which my malfunctioning mind wasn’t picking up! Following the bridge the route followed the river for a while – under-foot it was rocky navigating the right path was nearly impossible, I spent a lot of time kicking rocks (I’m now two big toenails down…) and clambering up the river bank following realisation that I’d taken the wrong route. The lowest point of the night was when my watch told me I’d ran this stretch, just 10km, in 2 hours! Thankfully the next aid station featured more homemade cake for more great emotional nourishment…


Coming towards the finish, I knew I was in the lead however wasn’t sure how my early start in the start window would affect me: I knew whoever was in second place would have up to an hour following my finish where they could come through and take first place. This was a huge play on my mind through the night and, coming into Exmoor, providing a bit of extra motivation (with help from a lot of caffeine bullets!) to pick up the pace, run the hills and push when I could. Whilst the final stretch of Exmoor was beautiful, coming through Long Chains Valley, Watersmeet and into Lynton, I was conscious of time – pushing hard to the finish, paying complete attention to the route to make sure I didn’t make any stupid navigation mistakes which could cost time.


This came to ironic fruition when arriving at the finish – a statue called ‘The Walker’– 24hrs 45 minutes after starting the race and I was completely alone, no one was there! All doubt crept in – have I got the wrong finish location? Is this all one big hallucination in the night? After half a minute or so feeling very perplexed a crowd came around the corner to congratulate – it turned out I was so focussed on following the right route that I didn’t realise that the event GPX file diverted slightly from the route of the Two Moors Way, and I’d bypassed everyone waiting for me to finish!


Thankfully the organisers confirmed that second place was more than an hour behind me - so they could award me first place without the dread-filled wait! Exhausted but relieved I received my medal and finishers prize of a huge cheque box of sports nutrition smoothies and crashed – allowing myself to sit down for the first time since the start of the race! (though the real caffeine/sugar crash came about an hour later when I fell asleep at the table of a local café mid-fryup).


Looking back on it, Devon Coast to Coast really was an awesome event: definitely one for the more experienced ultra-runner (the event had a brutal finish rate of 52%) but the organisation was great and the route is absolutely stunning. If you are tempted, but aren’t quite ready to cover the whole 117 miles in one go, there’s a summer event where you can cover the route over 4 days!