Hardmoors 55 – Race Report by Dave Boothroyd
“So it’s just a double marathon with a parkrun at the end – doesn’t sound that difficult when you say it like that! “. That was part of a conversation about 30 miles in when we doing the ultra shuffle somewhere on the North York Moors.
It all seemed a long way from the lonely plods around Buckley common when I was coming back from injury in December (much to the amusement of Eric on Strava). From zero to 55 miles in a bit over 3 months seemed like a bit of an ask, but I’d entered & I’m stubborn so I was going to give it a good go. The mileage slowly built until a couple of weeks ago when I did my longest run, a fair bit of the Excalibur route. Much to my amusement I met Steve Bellis one the way round who was training for the London Marathon – you can’t imagine two goal races that are so different, but it just shows that hill training is what you need for any kind of race (take note Eric).
Race week came. The forecast went from good, to mixed, to wet, to mixed, and thankfully back to just cloudy & not too much wind, with a bit of rain at the end of the day to give you an incentive to get a move on. So the heavy duty raincoat was ditched in favour of the lightweight one – was that going to be a good decision ??
Up at 0445 to catch a 0600 coach to the start was a bleary-eyed start to the day, and we were all registered & ready to go by 0800; unfortunately the start was at 0900, could have had another hour in bed ! But we all swapped stories about races run, and future races & it wasn’t long before we were on our way from the start at Helmsley.
I hadn’t managed to get across for a recce, so I’d printed out the route description to make sure I didn’t get lost. With another 400 runners around me it was maybe a bit of overkill at the start, but at least I knew what places I was running through. I assumed that all the others knew where they were going, but when I asked them they all seemed to be first timers on the route, so it was a good thing that the guy at the front was going the right way.
The first leg was pretty flat which eventually told as it was just too runnable. I’d been doing lots of hillwork so hadn’t had time to put in any longer runs & eventually I was just looking forward to a hill that I could walk up. Just before the first checkpoint there was an out & back, and it was interesting to see the leaders coming the other way making it all look easy, and racing rather than just running (it was only later that I found that the real leader was already off in the distance, finishing in a new course record).
16 miles down & things were already starting to feel a bit tougher – never mind, only another 39 miles to go, best not to that about that too much. The goal was just to get to the next checkpoint, and that was only 6 miles, and it came soon enough. Time to pick up my dropbag with its flat coke & cereal bars to get me through the next couple of checkpoints; they also provided food at this checkpoint, and boy that quiche was good (can’t imagine doing that in a 10k!).
Seemed to get a bit of a recovery from that checkpoint & things settled down for a while. Most of the people were running at a pretty similar place so there was a chance to talk to various folks as we went along. We were running along the edge of the moors & the views were absolutely stunning – unfortunately I forgot my camera so no photos this time L.
They alternate the direction of this race, with this year’s direction being thought to be the more difficult, the reason being that all the hilly bits were at the end this way. So now it was time to get the power walking going. I think it actually helped not knowing what was coming as all the talk from the local runners was about Wainstones, and the Three Sisters, and Bloworth crossing, but they actually weren’t that bad (but then the weather was quite good, I’m sure in windy/wet weather they might not be so pleasant). The hardest part was having to run down a newly tarmac’d road to the next checkpoint. For the first time ever I had a kit check during the race, normally they are just at the start. They wanted to see my waterproof trousers, which of course were right at the bottom of my sac (but did they know something ?).
We’d been a bit slow over that section & it was getting a bit murky so the headtorch came out to avoid having to look for it when it actually went dark. The nav is generally pretty easy, it’s along the Cleveland Way so there are lots of signposts, but the final part has a reputation for people getting lost, so when one of the guys leaving the checkpoint said he would show us the way & I could put my directions away we were happy to go with that. At the very first turning he went wrong ! So that didn’t fill us full of confidence. Then he put his headtorch on & the batteries failed within a couple of minutes. Then he said his back up batteries were no good, and they were a different size to the ones I had. Luckily one of the passing runners had some the right size so we were on the move again. Only then for him to get cramp !!! At this point we decided we were better off just running our own race & headed off down the trail.
The last main checkpoint was on the top of Roseberry Topping & the marshalls had decked it out with glowsticks & rope lights and turned it into a real happy grotto which made it a really welcoming sight. It was quite a steep up & down to get there & the trail of headtorches was quite spectacular too.
It was only a couple of miles from there to the finish. The rain came, but not too badly. The waterproof made an outing & proved to be the right choice so that was good. The final section was actually fine as they’d put glowtorches out at all the turns so you really couldn’t go wrong, and before we knew it we were at the finish in Guisborough. Took me 12 hours 25 mins, so not a great time, but probably about right given the amount of training I’d been able to put in.
Legs were a bit sore the next day, but I could go up downstairs facing forwards rather than backwards so that’s a good sign. May take a little while before I’m on Tip Lane again though J