How time flies, I can’t believe it was a month ago, and I still can’t believe I completed the Hardmoors 60. It was my biggest challenge to date and after running a marathon for my 40th birthday last year, I thought what can I do this year? So, after running a Parkrun PB back in January, I stood in the café at Rother Valley and signed up for the Hardmoors 60, wondering if it was a good idea.
After months of training and recceing the second half of the course, we made our way north for me to take the challenge on. Being a cheapskate, I had found hotel straight from the 80’s, about 20 minutes from the start, but it was a bargain! We drove across in the evening to get registered and then found some pasta to get the last carbs in.
It was a strange start to the race, where you have to take your own packed lunch for the two bag drops at miles 20 and 40, as well as stuffing as much food into my bag as I could to get me to the check points.
I know the race is advertised as 60 miles, but I run in Kilometres, so I counted it as 100km; this makes it easier for me to work out and understand what’s going on. Just after 8am, we set off with a gentle jog and I found it strange that less than 1km in we are walking as we queued to get through the first gate and some competitors were already starting to eat!
Just after we hit the first hill, and it was a good one! It was a struggle to even walk up it… Such a relaxed start to a race, then once at the top the views were amazing as we headed to the coast. As a first timer I was enjoying talking to some experienced ultra runners and getting their advice — it was all the same — eats lots, eat early and keep eating– I was liking the sound of this!
Then less than 5 km in, we got to the first set of steps, I wasn’t paying attention and ended up down on all fours, with an experienced Ironman telling me I should have practiced steps before… and there were many more to come! I managed to get up and down all the steps over the next 60 miles, although I did mange to trip on the very last set of steps as well, hopeless!
Once we hit the coast the run was brilliant and beautiful, the views just get getting better and better, and I was ticking off the towns and villages waiting to get to Whitby which was half way. Debbie and the support crew kept popping up along the course to provide me with more food. I was feeling comfortable and had just about got my head around walking up any hill and eating whilst racing – normally frowned upon whilst racing but everyone was at it.
After going through 20 miles and getting to the first checkpoint, I met Debbie along with Vicky and Allan for a stroll on the beach at Runswick Bay whilst I was having my packed lunch, before setting back off up the cliffs to continue down the coast before I met them again in Whitby.
I arrived in Whitby feeling surprisingly good, apart from my knee which started hurting whilst running downhill at Sandsend, and continued to be an issue for the rest of the day (and still is now, although my fault for not resting it, strained ligaments apparently). It was strange running through the middle of Whitby on a Saturday afternoon with all the day trippers. I managed to confuse the runner behind me as I popped into the sweet shop to get some jelly babies for me and sugared almonds for Debbie – a must whenever we pass. As I climbed to the top of the steps I was met by Debbie, who’d grabbed me a beer from Whitby Brewery, along with Richard, Tracy, Vicky and Allan, which was a great boost.
After a quick shoe change at the top of the steps, I set off again for the second half, with a quick stop at the ice cream van. This was the furthest I’d ever ran in a day (50km), and I was only half way… So I set off into the unknown; could I keep moving and repeat the distance I had just covered?
I kept moving on one step at a time, the scenery was stunning and throughout the day the weather was great, after another food stop at Robin Hood’s Bay and a chat with Debbie, Lesley and Jim, it was the bit of the course I thought would be the worst — the trek up to Ravenscar, which is basically 5km constant uphill. After getting to the village hall I decided on a decent break, so had about an hour getting some food in, along with about 4 glasses of IrnBru and 3 cups of coffee. When I set off, it took a while to loosen off and get moving again, but I was able to keep moving at a decent pace and was feeling good.
As I got into Scarborough I knew I had 10 miles to go, the light was fading and I knew it would be interesting up on the clifftops around Cayton Bay as it would be pitch black and there are some steep steps and narrow paths. The hill out of Scarborough was tough, and I think that messed with my reasoning a bit.
As the sky got darker it made life interesting, but I decided not to use the headtorch until it was properly dark… just in case the battery didn’t last, even though I had a spare in my bag! Before I got to Cayton Bay it was undoubtedly needed, but despite the dark the views were still stunning, making the course a completely different experience.
I was now on the final stretch, but Filey didn’t seem to be getting any nearer. After passing a few people along the cliffs, I caught a couple of guys I’d been running with earlier, and decided to run in to the end with them as it was safer to have three torches along the tops than running off on my own when I was starting to flag.
I also had no idea where the finish line actually was and one of the guys had completed this a few times so as there was a hill at the end of sea front to get to the finish, we ended up walking in together — there was never going to be a sprint finish. I don’t think I’ve ever been so pleased to see a finish line or finished a race walking the last 500 meters … But after 13 hours and 22 minutes I was finished.
I don’t think I ever really thought I would finish, but it was done and after spending the last few miles thinking about a bag of crisps and a beer once I’d finished, I only managed about 4 cups of tea, and then a very, very slow walk to the car.
4 weeks on and I’m still in recovery mode, the knee still isn’t right, but that’s my own fault for running 2 sub 19 minute parkruns when I said I would take it easy. Hopefully in a week or so I will be able to push on and get ready for my next challenge in December with the Valencia Marathon. I’m already looking for ultra’s for next year and have one big adventure booked, but what else can I find…
Thanks to a last minute decision to run a sweepstake to guess my finishing time, I also managed to raise £250 for the MS Trust (and find out exactly what my friends thought I’d be able to achieve!).