“The Hardmoors 60 route follows the Cleveland Way from Guisborough to Filey passing through coastal resorts and fishing villages such as Saltburn, Staithes, Robin Hoods Bay, Ravenscar, Scarborough and Filey while following cliff tops for the main duration of the race.” That’s how the Hardmoors 60 is described on their website, sounds idilic doesn’t it?
What better way to spend a Saturday in September. Fresh from training in the Italian Lakes and having put in pretty good runs already at the Wall and the Lakeland 50, I’d never felt more prepared for an Ultra.
My bag had been packed and sitting ready to go next to the front door for a week by the time race day came around. I’d have to be up at 1am to get dressed and have a bit of breakfast before taking the 3 hour drive down to filey in time to catch the bus the 60 miles back to the start in Guisborough for registration at 7am.
Driving down to Filey you pass through Guisborough, Whitby and Scarborough, I couldn’t help but wonder at the enormity of what I was about to do. The 60 mile drive had taken well over an hour in the car, and soon i’d be running it.
We had permission to park at Filey School over the weekend, where the race would finish later that night, but when I pulled into the car park at 4.45am there were only a dozen or so cars dotted around the outside of the car park. I got out to stretch my leg, some of the other runners were trying to catch a last few moments sleep in their cars while others seemed to be changing into their race kit or sorting their packs.
During the next half hour, still in the dark before dawn more and more cars arrived and those runners that had been sleeping when I arrived started to stir. Judging by their gear, these guys looked like pretty serious runners, I’d be surprised if any of them hadn’t ran a bunch of Ultras already. This hunch has confirmed on the bus to Guisborough as the conversation inevitably turned to talk of previous races, current form and todays route.
The race starter from the Sea Cadets in Guisborough, where we had our kit checked and left our drop bags. This was the first race I’d ran where food would not be provided at the aid stations. I’d be responsible for making my own nutritional choices. I thought back to the Lakeland 50 and the wall, trying to remember what i’d eaten, ensuring I packed enough sugars, salts and electrolytes. It turn out the aid stations were very well provisioned anyway and I really didn’t need to take a fraction of what I took, but i’d rather have too much than too little. In the end the bigger problem was that on the day I just didn’t have an appetite and struggled to eat at all during the race.
The race got off to a slightly delayed start (140 starters and only 2 toilets having lead to a bit of a queuing problem), but they added 35 minutes to each of the cut offs and it gave me a chance to chat to a few people that i’d spoken to on facebook but never actually met. At this point I was still hoping to get around in 12 hours and even with the 1/2 hour delay would just about get around in day light.
The first 10 miles of the route take you up through Guisborough Woods up to HighCliff Nab then back on yourself down the Cleveland Way to Saltburn. While it was wet though the woods and part of the route took us through a housing estate, I really enjoyed this section of the trail with its gradual climbs and fleeting views out over the woods to the sea.
My strategy to use bright orange sea to summit sacks for drop bags worked well. I barely stopped at Saltburn, grabbing the drop bag and clipping it to the front of my pack I was off along the coastal path that would take me the remaining 50 miles to Filey.
We couldn’t have asked for a better a day to be running. There were clear blue skies with a light breeze at our backs, and the trails were good. So I really had no excuses for not putting in a fantastic performance. But I guess that some days I run well and other days I don’t and unfortunately today was just was one of those days were i was going to struggle. My calfs were tight from the start, I seemed to have no energy and I was struggling to eat, today was going to be a long long day. Slowing to a sustainable pace, this race was going to be ran in my head more than on the trail, it was going to take a lot of will power to keep going to the finish but I’d ran longer races and I would make it one way or another.
Running a coastal trail sounded idealistic. I mean love the beach. So what could be better than stunning sea views and dramatic coast cliffs. After several hours of running along those cliff tops the novelty began to wear off though, and the coastal route began to play tricks with my head. You rarely got a clear view of where you were headed, seeing only the next headland and when your destination did come into sight there were inevitably several hidden sets of stairs to go up and down before you got there.
That being said, the route 60 mile route was undeniably beautiful. There were some real high points, a winding path along a stream bed coming off the beach at Runswich, some of the quaintest little fishing villages, Whitby Abbey, Scarborough sea front, and the sight of the full moon reflecting over the sea was stunning.
[side note: while you would be forgiven for thinking that a 60 mile runs is possibly not the most romantic of occasions the couple in the photo above managed to celebrate every sytle fence or gate they crossed with a kiss and he even raced up the 199 stairs to Whitby Abbey to be waiting with an ice cream for her at the top!]
As with previous ultras I found myself chatting to fellow runs on many sections of theroute and was very thankful for the company of James Penson for much of the secondhalf, without who’s company it would have seemed a much longer day.
The finish was a very welcome sight with only 15 minutes to go before the 16 hour cut off and I was very happy to settle for joint 77th place in a time of 15 hours and 46 minutes.
All in all, I had a great day. It just wasn’t my race on the day, but I’m a believer that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I obviously wasn’t the only one to find harmoors lived up to its name with 48 of the 140 starters not making it to the finish.
As ever many thanks to the organisers, marshalls, supporters and runners.
You may also like to see Tim’s , Phill’s and Alistair reports.