I was going for a really good time (sub 24hrs) and trained really hard for it in the run up to it, but a cold, tonsillitis & a chest infection all in the three weeks beforehand put paid to any hopes of that. Follow that with the burglary the week before & no subsequent sleep & having no sleep the night before the race, (put that down to pure excitement about it) lead me into going into it absolutely knackered & only about 80% ready. Normally you can struggle through a short race or marathon without this showing, but not on a race as tough as the Hardmoors with well over 15,000ft of ascent & an average of 60% attrition rate, it is a beautiful but brutal event.
Made it to Helmsley about an hour before the start so had plenty of time to sort my gear out, say hello & have a chat to a few familiar faces. Just after the race briefing we were on our way down to the start line in the casual way I so love about Ultra Marathons.
At 5pm Jon Steele the Rd set us underway, I didn’t want to set off to fast so reined it in just to make sure I wasn’t too enthusiastic. I quickly settled into a reasonable pace that I thought would do me for the first few hours or so & then ramp up the speed slightly to get me home in the time I wanted. Had a good chat with Phil Owen in the first hour who was responsible for getting me involved with this race two years ago, he seemed to be going well at the time but suddenly dropped off my pace about 6miles in. I found out later he’d DNF’d due to illness.
I’d cleared the first CP & was heading towards Osmotherly where I was due to fill up my water but about 3miles from there I saw George Reid who was crewing another runner & he advised me to fill up at an impromptu aid station as the water station wasn’t in place in the village. Very glad I saw him as being unsupported I had to make sure I kept on top of my hydration levels. Through Osmotherly & a quick grab of some food at the CP, turned up the track & into a field of cows, a field of cows who were running, yes running towards the gate I was running towards. Oh bugger, what do I do here? Normally they just move out of your way but a couple of the buggers seemed intent on trouble & moved up to me, a little butting ensued & I was getting a little nervous about getting kicked! Luckily enough they moved away enough for me to get through the gate & on I ran. Thankfully that was the most exciting part of the race, well exciting part involving cows anyway.
Once through the cows I tried to crank up the pace a little but quickly realised I wasn’t able to & then resigned myself to the fact that my target time wasn’t going to happen, ah well Plan B then, just a finish will do thank you very much. It was about here I met up with Ashley Innes who had done this race in 2011, I’d seen Ashley the previous year when I was crewing a friend of mine & kept bumping into his brother who was crewing him then & we’d shared many a cup of coffee waiting for our respective runners to turn up. Ashley was also going for a time but his was a couple of hrs slower than mine, we were both having an “Off” day though so it was nice to have the company.
We managed to get through the night stage quite well & hit the coast section at Saltburn, the CP was in the Spa Hotel & what a cracking CP it was, it’s not often you walk into the middle of a load of banter between the marshals & the RD about his lap dancing & stuffing pound coins into his Speedos…. Really made my day & was laughing so much I just didn’t want to leave, however after about 30mins & a cup of coffee in there I had to go & said my goodbyes to everybody there. Rest stops like this make all the pain worthwhile.
Onwards along the coastline & the section that a lot of folk find harder than the moors, I find it the other way around. Thankfully the weather along the coast was much better than it was when I ran it in 2010; we kept up our steady progress & even made up a few places with catching & overtaking some runners. The only downside we had was when we caught up & passed three runners only to see them ahead of us again about 45mins later, we’d taken the Cleveland way path whereas they’d had local knowledge & stayed up along the cliff instead of heading down to the beach & back up again. Seeing them, Ashley blew his top & was saying about their cheating, I was slightly more positive & came out with the old line that they’re only cheating themselves. To be honest with you, these races are meant to test you beyond your endurance levels & if you start cutting corners & knocking a few miles off here & there then what’s the point in doing them? Plus you don’t get value for money……. I did however say to Ash that we should just run the buggers down & not let them beat us. We did!
Running on & the next big milestone was Whitby, we managed to get through the town without killing any of the tourists who just seemed to wander into our path when we were running along or stopping for any of the fantastic smelling Fish & Chips from one of the many chip shops there. Up the steps, past the Church & back onto the Cleveland Way again. Next stop Scarborough! It was here I started to get a few issues with my feet, I’ve never had foot problems before but having trashed them on the Viking Way the other month they seem to have become a bit ”weak”. I could feel the blisters forming with every step & all I thought was uh-oh, not another DNF due to bad feet!
Bugger it, time to get out the man suit & knuckle down to the task in hand. Man suit zipped up & on I ran, the feet were getting worse & worse & I decided that I would take action with them when I got into Scarborough, I’d forgotten exactly how far Scarborough was away & was cursing myself for saying I’d wait until then, but once you have it in your mind to do something you have to stick to your plan. Made it to the promenade after what seemed like hours out there & managed to get around the first bay when I stopped to sort them out. Some of the blisters on my right foot had popped & were looking pretty horrendous, my left foot was more painful but the blisters were still intact. I smothered both my feet in Vaseline & cracked on towards the last cp at the car park. Into the last cp & was surprised to see how far up the field I was, there’s life in the old bugger yet!
Through the CP & onwards towards Filey & the finish line, only 11 miles to go. We were both really tired at this point but managed to keep up a slow jog nearly all the way home, we met up with another runner who was coming back towards us saying that he couldn’t find the self clip near Filey Brigg, I told him that he has to go nearly all the way to the end of the headland to find the sign & the clip which was attached to it. He didn’t believe me & ran with us for the remaining few miles only leaving us when we finally reached the Cleveland Way sign & saw the clip hanging there.
All clipped up & onto the last stretch, the last couple of miles went nice & quickly & we plodded along as best we could having a chat with the local dog walkers & folk walking home from the pubs & restaurants, quite a lot of jaws dropped when they found out what we had just done, which always brings a smile to my face.
We made it to the finish seven hours over my target time in 31hrs 6mins but I was the first Shire home so very pleased with that. Yes, there’s life in the old bugger yet……