Written by James Campbell - https://jamescampbell78.wordpress.com
I came into the third race of the Hardmoors Superslam feeling really strong, which in a way is a good thing since it involved running further than I ever had in a single stage race in my life.
The training I put in had been really solid and during the taper I was feeling like I could go forever at a decent pace. The final week of taper was a nervy and edgy affair where I tiptoed around life trying not to over exert or injure myself. I spent the time pulling my kit and food for the race together. My primary worry was how a piece of temporary dental work would hold up over the weekend rather than anything related to my general preparedness.
Food for the race assembled in the car prior to setting off
The travel plan for this race was for Natalie and myself to check into our hotel in Helmsley on Friday afternoon then my crew, Dave Cook would meet us and load the two boxes and one bag of kit/food into his car before Dave and I headed off to an Air BnB he’d booked about 15 minutes from the start at Filey. All of which went pretty much like clockwork.
Over food in the Londesborough Arms in Seamer (highly recommended) Dave and I went over the plan of what I wanted and when for a final time. In a race like this, you can’t really plan pacing, certainly not beyond the furthest distance you have run, but I pulled together a rough plan to give myself something to aim for. The high level one in the written instructions I left Dave was:
- Ravenscar (33km) by 1240:12:45 (4h:40m-4h:45m)
- Saltburn (85km) by 21:00 (11h:00m)
- Kildale (110km) by 02:00 (18h:00m)
Afterwards by discussion, but aiming for……
- Clay Bank (124km) by 05:30 (21h:30m)
- Lordstones (129km) by 07:00 (23h:00m)
- Square Corner (146km) by 10:45 (26h:45m)
- White Horse by 14:30 (30h:30m)
- Finish by 18:00 (34h:00m)
This was based on my usual system of slightly handicapping my worst times from training and recce runs with a slightly bastardisded version of Naismith’s rule. I’d tested some of the assumptions out on the route either solo or running with Dave and was fairly confident in the detailed splits (below) which I then factored in time to be spent at checkpoints. As well as giving this plan to Dave, I gave a copy to Craig Davie who’d agreed to meet me at Kildale and pace me to the end and he’d be the one having to make me stick to the pacing.
The general plan in terms of food/drink was to start with 2 Chia Charge bars and 2 Snickers bars and just top up my supplies with what I felt like each time I met with Dave. The crew plan was as follows:
- Scarborough/Holbeck Hill – Quick sense check for kit adjustments (e.g. if too hot, drop clothes off, if too cold, put some on)
- Scalby Mills – Pick up poles
- Ravenscar – Have a Pot Noodle and a few minutes rest, drop off poles
- Robin Hood’s Bay – Pick up poles
- Saltwick Bay – Drop off poles
- Sandsend – Top up food and drink supplies, use toilets if needed
- Runswick Bay – Compulsory CP but plan to spend as little time as possible here. Just another health check
- Staithes (Cowbar car park) – Health check, pick up poles and any kit needed for early evening weather changes
- Saltburn (Cat Nab) – Hot food (porridge or Pot Noodle), hot drink (hot chocolate or coffee), change into night clothes and top up food and drink supplies. Drop off poles
- Fox & Hounds (Slapewath) – Pizza, pick up poles
- Gribdale Gate – Food/drink top up
- Clay Bank – Welfare check
- Lordstones – Hot food and drink, change into fresh clothes for day and stock up on food/drink
- Square Corner – Food and drink top up
- White Horse – Food and drink top up
After food, Dave and I went back to our Air BnB (a nice caravan behind a farm house on the main road in Seamer) and got settled in. I laid all my running kit out on the bed and went through a last minute check before bed.
Having gone to bed planning on waking up at 5am, I woke up at 1am, Dave woke up at 3am (he had a crewing nightmare) and I woke up again shortly after. At which point I got up and decided to make a cuppa and we both got a head start on getting ready for the day. I took my time taping my feet up and cutting up spare sections of tape to patch my feet up later if needed while having a breakfast of porridge and banana.
We headed off down the road to Filey and arrived around 6:30am, I was quickly checked in, picked up my race number and tracker and we now had an hour or so to kill before the race brief. We nipped to the Filey Brigg cafe for another coffee and mingled with other runners, keeping our distance from Race Director Jon Steele who kept telling us he was poorly.
Following the race brief, we quickly assembled at the race start and we were off, a mere 3 minutes later than the advertised time, which was really an indicator of how poorly Jon was, usually he manages to talk for another 7 minutes or so.
The going out of the Brigg for the gentle uphill towards Blue Dolphin was very firm and it was easy to get caught up in a faster pace than planned. I ran for awhile chatting with Aaron Gourlay who is usually a lot faster than me, but for now the average pace of around 6m:30/km suited me and felt good and just before Blue Dolphin, I stopped for a walk break and to just take stock.
I got going again, and kept the pace about the same, but noticed that something was rubbing between my shoe and the top of my foot, so stopped to address it. It seemed that my calf guard had rode up slightly and the tongue of my shoe was pushing on the folded material, easily corrected and worth stopping to make sure it was nothing serious.
I hit the cut from Cayton Bay caravan park to the beach (7.2km) at 46 minutes and felt comfortable, as I entered the field ahead of a group of runners, I took the chance to scope out where the cows that normally inhabited the field were. Confident that they were all well away from the path, I pushed on up the hill to where the first set of supporters were.
Cayton Bay – Photo, Scott Beaumont
I pushed on down the steps and was followed by a runner with a southern hemisphere accent who caught me on the climb back up the steep steps to Osgodby and we discussed briefly the challenges of training for a hilly race in his current town of London. At the top of the steps, I was greeted and cheered on for the first of many times by Keith and Kristy Wise and I got a jog on up the road before turning right onto the overgrown path back down towards the clifftop. I was overtaken here by Duncan Bruce who I’d met and overnighted with at Hardmoors 55 and we passed each other back and forth all the way into Scarborough.
As I approached Holbeck Hill, I took stock and decided that I had dressed about right for the weather (overcast and cool) and that my food supplies were OK, so shouted instructions to Dave about what I wanted at Scalby Mills and kept running. I passed Scarborough Spa at 1h:26m, 9 minutes ahead of plan.
Holbeck Hill – Photo, Dave Cook
I’ve never enjoyed running through Scarborough. I find the concrete surface unforgiving and usually the crowds are an impediment to running well. Thankfully, at 9:30am the latter wasn’t much of a problem and a lack of traffic meant that I could run much of the seafront on the softer surface of the road, hopping back onto the path when a car approached. To pass the time, I played an often used mental game of running for 10 lamp posts, then walking for 5 which allowed me to maintain a reasonable running pace, while keeping my mind off all of the negative things I associate with running this stretch. As I arrived at Scalby Mills, it was starting to spit onto rain, so as I topped up my bottles with water and Lucozade Sport, I asked Dave to pass me my armwarmers with my poles. This gave me the option of a warm layer in case the exposed clifftops became windy. I left Scalby Mills at 01h:56m, still tracking 9 minutes ahead so I decided to take the next section easy and walk a little more using my poles to protect my knees on the frequent steps up and down on this stretch.
I ran for awhile with Angela Moore who was going well and again passed back and forth with Duncan Bruce but, apart from being over taken by several groups, I was mostly running alone all the way to Cloughton Wyke where I was caught by Aaron Gourlay who’d taken an unscheduled stop in Scarborough. We chatted as we moved along, both noting that the weather had warmed up and I was now giving myself regular showers with my water bottle.
I was looking forward to getting to Hayburn Wyke, where the diverted part of the Cleveland Way (to avoid a landslip on some steep steps) ran in shaded woodland and by a stream. I arrived at Hayburn Wyke at 3h:14m now 13 minutes up on my plan and could hear a familiar voice behind me. I was caught by Matthew Swan who is another runner I know is a bit quicker than me and I took as a sign that I needed to rein myself in a bit. I knew that my plan already involved putting in a fast first 80km so being ahead of plan meant I needed to slow up a bit. I let Matthew and another runner pass me and slowed to a walk through the cool woods, stopping by the stream to soak my buff, which I kind of regretted as it left it feeling a bit gritty as it dried, but it did the job of keeping my temperature down as I tackled the long road climb out of Hayburn to the farm buildings at Staintondale on the diverted section of the Cleveland Way. I was passed by Paul Munster, which gave me a bit of comfort as Paul and I often run similar times in races. Glad to be off the road and back onto the grass clifftop path on the Cleveland Way proper, I picked the work rate up again on the draggy uphill section that Dave and I had run together just a few weeks ago. Running this section fairly recently had allowed me to remember cues in the landscape to measure distance and regulate effort well. Just before Ravenscar, I was caught by Dennis Potton and we chatted all the way into the village. Dave was parked on the road near Raven Hall, but the checkpoint was up the hill in the village hall. This allowed me to let Dave know what I needed as I passed which was the planned Pot Noodle. I walked towards to the checkpoint with Dennis, who met his wife on the way in and checked in. I grabbed some coke at the checkpoint, a couple of cheese and pickle sandwiches and a bowl of rice pudding while my bottles were filled up with water and coke. I then jogged back down to the car and eat my Pot Noodle while Dave topped up my food supplies with more Chia Charge bars and added some Wine Gums to the supplies. As soon as I finished the Pot Noodles I downed a can of Red Bull, then dumped my cap and armwarmers as it was now way too hot for both and decided to wear my buff around my head to keep the sun off if needed. I got Dave to apply some BodyGlide to my back as my pack had started to rub. I ran out of Ravenscar at 4h:45m, still ahead of plan.
Running down through the woods away from Ravenscar was pleasantly cool and after spending almost an hour moving uphill, it was nice to open the legs up and run a bit. Coming off the hill I passed last year’s 110 winner Jason Millward who was spectating, but so quickly I didn’t recognise him until I had gone past and continued down towards the clifftops again.
I was now aware that it was really hot and the top of my head was feeling the sun a little, so I put my buff over my head to give it some cover while soaking it periodically with water from my bottle. As I made the road that led down to Stoupe Beck, I remembered I had put some money in the side pocket of my pack and decided to make a stop at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel for an ice lolly. The promise of this kept me going down the steep steps. On the way back up the other side of Stoupe Beck, a group caught me up, just in time for me to slip on some wet rock and take a slight fall. The runners were treated to my choice language before making sure I was OK and passing me as we got to the top of the steps. I jogged the short distance to Boggle Hole and took the steps down very cautiously, mentally assessing my left foot (which had taken the brunt of the fall) as I went. Things seemed OK, so I pushed on down to the youth hostel passing people enjoying meals, beer and ice cream on the way in. I grabbed two Calippos, paid for them and stuffed one down the front of my shirt while I started up the steps out of Boggle Hole, the ice cooling my skin nicely, while I ate the other.
By the top of the Boggle Hole steps, I’d switched the Calippo from the front of my shirt to down the back and under each arm while finishing the first. I gave it a few more minutes against my skin before eating it, which took me nicely to the top of the slippery wooden steps that drop you down into Robin Hood’s Bay. I took these nice and slowly, breaking into a jog/trot at the bottom for a short period before the turn left up the fearsome steep section of road that takes you up to the next trail section of the Cleveland Way. I jettisoned my empty ice lolly and Chia Charge packets into a bin and pushed on up the bank arriving at the top at 5h:43m, just 4 minutes ahead of plan.
At this point I’d planned to take my poles from Dave, at the same time, I took the chance to get my water and coke bottles topped off and got him to apply some sun cream to my ears which had started to feel hot and are prone to burning in the sun. I moved out of Robin Hood’s Bay after a longer than planned stop of 3 and a half minutes at 5h:46m and pushed on towards Whitby.
This section was the hottest of the day in terms of weather and one I always find hard going no matter what the weather. The track undulates and there is rarely a flat section, however today had the added bonus that the trail was not ankle deep in slippy mud. I jogged what I could and walked the uphills making sure that I ate and drank regularly. I chatted to several runners as they passed, including Keri Lewis, who I’d run with for awhile during HM30 in January. As the temperature rose, the coke in my bottle began to taste too sickly sweet and I needed something else more palatable to drink. I decided to use the stop at Saltwick Bay to grab a bottle of Erdinger Akoholfrei beer and drink it while walking through the caravan park so I could dump the bottle in a bin before pushing on. Erdinger Alkholfrei is isotonic and is really good for dehydration, which I knew was now an issue. Running further along, I tried to think what else I could have instead of coke. I toyed with the idea of pouring some Erdinger into one of my bottles, but experience told me it would fizz up while I ran and most would overflow out of the bottle. I decided I’d see if Dave could pick some lemonade up en route and let me have some at Sandsend. By now, I was really feeling the heat and looked for an opportunity to soak my buff at the next stream, however this was teeming with tadpoles, so I had to wait until the next one a bit further along where I dipped my buff, carefully avoiding getting my feet wet and pushed along further.
On the approach to Saltwick Bay, I looked over my shoulder to find a topless Dennis Potton had caught me up. We chatted our way into Saltwick where we arrived at 7h:18m a quarter of an hour behind plan (I didn’t know this as I didn’t check at the time). While Dave stowed my poles and opened my beer, I topped up my pockets with salted nuts and tried to eat a pot of rice pudding. I got a mouthful in, but my stomach warned me that if I forced any more down, it would be coming straight back up. I let Dave know this and walked with him through the caravan park drinking my glorious tasting beer. I was passed halfway through by Matthew Swan who had bought himself an ice lolly at the park shop and on the way out of Saltwick I left my beer bottle with Gareth Barnett who’d set up a pop up water station in the car park.
Coming into Saltwick Bay with Dennis Potton looking like a pair of Englishmen in the midday sun – Photo Dave Cook
Coming out of Saltwick, I picked up my pace from a walk to jog and ran alongside Matthew Swan and Emily Beaumont on the abbey approach. I dug out a banana from my pocket and managed to get it down me without any complaint from my stomach, but still did not like the taste of the coke in my bottle. Going through the church grounds at the top of the 199 steps was frustrating as I has to dodge, weave and sidestep through the crowds. Going down the steps was worse, it seemed that no matter how careful I was descending and picking a seemingly empty line, that somebody climbing the steps with their head down, would weave into my path at the last minute. As I reached the bottom, I headed into a shop and bought an orange ice lolly to get me through town, which was positively heaving and almost impossible to run through. Going up the Khyber Pass towards the Whale’s Jawbone, I spotted Emily Beaumont buying a slush from a kiosk and I followed suit with the last of my change. After climbing up the steps to the Whale’s Jawbone I could see Matthew and Emily about 100m in front of me and I tried to jog along and catch them up, but couldn’t seem to make ground. Drinking the slush was a great change from coke in both flavour and consistency and just before the descent to the slipway behind the golf club, I decided that the slushy texture might make the coke more palatable, that and I’d be able to bin the cup while there were still bins to use. So I poured my slush into the coke, binned the cup and had two paracetamol and a protein gel at the same time.
I walked up the bank behind the golf club, giving myself a good shower with my water bottle and trying to make ground on Emily who was still in sight, but she pulled away running at the top of the climb. I again followed her example and began to use the long downhill drag to power an extended run into Sandsend.
On the approach, to the checkpoint, I decided what I wanted again. I decided against taking my poles, but wanted some savoury food, so opted to take a bag of Pom Bear crisps with me. I also ditched the foul mix of coke and slush on the run in.
Arriving at 8h:27m I wanted a quick turnaround, so I nipped to the gents while Dave filled my coke bottle with the desired lemonade. i had another stab at eating, but nothing appealed and I jogged out of the checkpoint and was halfway up the steps before I realised I’d forgotten to pick up some crisps. I looked back down and decided against going back for them and pushed on.
The section of disused railway line ahead looks flattish and runnable, but experience has taught me that it’s a false flat that is best approached with a fast as possible walk, saving the legs for the climb back up the steps at Deepgrove Wyke onto the clifftops. I used this time to chat to a passing runner and eat a couple of nuts and wine gums, but again, just the attempt unsettled my stomach. The lemonade however, was a Godsend. Climbing the steps in the shade, I decided to try and force more food down and managed half a Chia Charge bar. I knew from the top of the steps, there was a bit of an uphill drag before a decent runnable stretch. I fast walked the bank then got moving into a nice jog/walk pattern. I was again caught by Matthew and Emily who noted that my crew stops were getting like formula one pitstops. I passed the home-made waymarker on the Cleveland Way and remember thinking that it was wrong. In my mind, I’d mis-read it as saying 45 miles had passed since Filey and spent a couple of kms trying to puzzle it out, but this was clearly a symptom of poor concentration as the sign clearly says 37 miles.
A reminder of the distance covered and that still to come
Pushing along the clifftops, I managed to stay in contact with Matthew and Emily until just before the descent to the Runswick Bay steps, which I again took very cautiously and feeling sympathy for the walkers coming the opposite way up these steps, from experience I know they’re hard work, even on fresh legs. Having tiptoed across the beck at the bottom of the steps and made my way onto the beach, I carefully navigated my way to the hard sand at the edge of the water, trying to simultaneously keep my feet dry and prevent the ingress of sand into my shoes.
Coming off the beach, I spotted Kathryn Hammond, who was supporting her husband Tim and got a boost from the familar face. I pushed hard up the steep hill that led to the checkpoint at Runswick Bay. On the way up, I ran through what I wanted in my mind. I wanted crisps and additional fluids. I decided to take my soft flask with some Lucozade Sport to carry in my hand, then put in my pocket when done. I was also going to have another go at eating something more substantial here. I arrived at the Runswick checkpoint on 10h:03m now around 18 mins behind plan. While Dave sorted me some bottles and crisps, I tried some more rice pudding and failed to get more than a mouthful in, so drank another can of Red Bull and headed out in under 2 mins.
Arriving at the top of the steep bank at Runswick Bay – Photo, Dave Cook
Once back onto the trail, I got a decent jog going and the now familar pattern of being overtaken by faster runners who’d spent a little more time at the checkpoint repeated itself with Kelly Felstead and Lisa Bainbridge overtaking me in quick succession. They were shortly followed by Emily who caught me just before Port Mulgrave, but there was no sign of Matthew, which didn’t surprise me as he’d told me earlier in the day that he was having a long stop at Runswick. I upped the work rate pushing along towards Staithes and was quite pleased to note that the temperature was dropping fairly rapidly, the breeze coming off the sea was also picking up a little. Just before Staithes, my concentration faltered again and I nearly took a wrong turn along a farm track while talking to some walker, thankfully, they corrected me and I gave myself a mental slapping about focus. I pushed on down into Staithes, which was still quite busy and managed to push hard up the climb to Cowbar where my next meet point with Dave was. As Hummersea cliff came into view ahead, I could see that it was shrouded in low cloud, so as well as my poles, I decided to ask for my armwarmers. I reached Dave at 11h:14m, which at 70km I knew was 56 minutes behind plan. I told Dave I’d walk on while he ran back to the car to get my armwarmers and he took my now empty soft flask in return for the poles and armwarmers. I confirmed to him that I wanted porridge, hot chocolate and my change of clothes at Saltburn while I put my armwarmers on, then pressed on harder in pursuit of a runner I could see crossing the field ahead towards the next big climb.
As I got to the bottom of the climb, I stuffed some crisps into my mouth and worked hard up the first section, slowly reeling in the runner ahead, I caught him at the cottages that signal the end of the paved section where he had stopped to sort his feet and I used the first section of slightly flat trail to get some running done. At the foot of the climb, I pushed harder than normal to try and make some time up and just before the top of the climb, I was breathing heavily. I was again caught my Matthew at this point and mentioned it to him. He expressed the opinion that it was more the hill than any reflection on form. Matthew slowly pulled ahead into the gloomy mist, which at times provided a worrying empty void by the side of the trail where the cliff face dropped off. I was trundling along, making sure I munched on a crisp regularly, at 12 hours I made sure that I had another protein gel and popped another couple of paracetamol, despite not feeling I really needed them. I was now at 75km and realised that I was only a moderate effort 5k away from a 50 miles personal best. I pushed on over the last section of the high clifftop and started on the descent, again being pleased that the trail was nice and firm, unlike the last time I was here a few weeks ago, when just staying upright was a challenge.
I passed through the farm buildings that signalled the end of the cliff proper and the start of an undulating descent that leads to the steps that drop into Skinningrove. Coming off the farm track, I could see a pair of runners about 400m behind me. I decided that I needed some motivation and gave myself the goal of getting through Skinningrove ahead of them. I pushed hard down the bank and to the top of the steps, again descending these carefully. Once at the bottom of the steps, I gave myself the goal of running all the way to the next section of beach, passing several crew cars parked up.
I walked carefully through the sand dunes, again trying to ensure no sand got into my shoes and reached the bottom of the steps up to the clifftop. I checked my watch and 12h:50m and 79.8km. That meant I was certainly going to make a 50 mile PB at some point along the clifftop. I took it easy going up the steps and jogged through the 50 mile mark at exactly 13h:00m:00s then slowed to a walk up the next long drag of a hill. I remembered from doing this section at night a couple of years ago, that it feels quite a long climb, so just took it at an easy pace. I was passed by a the pair of runners who’d followed me down to Skinningrove and as they approached, I realised that dusk was falling quickly and my head torch was in the car with Dave. I suddenly got worried about being benighted on the clifftop and marched a little quicker, arriving at the charm bracelet sculpture on the clifftop. I indulged my superstition and climbed up to the sculpture touching the start charm and giving the hammer a clang against the frame, which must have amused the runners in front before following them down the path alongside the railway line. As the path started to point down, I could finally see the bright lights of Saltburn and Redcar and surged forward with longer spells of downhill running. It was almost dark when I arrived at Saltburn at 13h:42m. Upon seeing Dave, my mood rose and I bounded to the car and started getting changed while Dave prepared my food and drink. I stood chatting with Paul Burgum’s brother while liberally re-applying BodyGlide and getting changed, then stocked up my pack with food for the night section. I grabbed my head torch and also my battery charger and wire for my watch and set it away charging while I tried and failed to eat my porridge and drank my hot chocolate. I moved back onto coke in my bottles and was delighted to see Dee Bouderba and Jo Barrett in the car park. Having had a quick chat and picking up my charging watch, I asked confirmed my pizza order for Slapewath with Dave bounded out of the car park and headed over to the offical checkpoint to check in with them before leaving Saltburn at 13h:53m, much quicker than planned. There was a loud kareoke playing at Vista Mar and I remember leaving the checkpoint singing along and telling everyone I was going to sprint the steps back up onto the top, which I actually tried to do before realising and telling myself to get a grip halfway up. I was absolutely buzzing at this point and walked on checking that my watch was charging nicely.
I joined with a group just before the woods dropping into valley gardens, but slowed and dropped behind while I re-adjusted my night clothes, which felt a little uncomfortable. Dropping into the woods, I felt too warm and I wasn’t the only one as a runner in front had stopped to take a layer off. I pushed on knowing things would cool soon enough and found myself in between two sizeable groups. As we climbed out of the woods heading towards the Skelton bypass, I was overtaken by the second big group and held onto Kelly Felstead and Stephen Gibson as we passed into the housing estate in Skelton. I was soon gapped as we climbed up the steps and across Skelton Green. As we passed onto Airey Hill Lane, a thick fog descended and I soon found myself alone and unable to see much more than a few metres front and back. I walked on, but it was hard to judge pace in the fog, which closed in further the higher I climbed. It seemed to take forever to make it to the last farm houses before what I knew was a flat section followed by a downhill. But the flat section never seemed to come and what was worse, the surface seemed to be muddier than the farm track I remembered. I suddenly went deep into some mud and realised that in the fog, I’d somehow wandered off the track and dragged myself back left to pick up the trail again.
As the farm track turned down and into the section of field I knew I needed to cross to reach a stile that led to a better running surface, I tripped and fell, cutting my thumb. It was a tiny cut but seemed to bleed a lot. I sucked my thumb to clear the blood and more came and the blood had a weird taste. I decided to just let it bleed and pushed on along the trail, now descending out of the thick murk. I hit the top of the steps down to Slapewath and felt pretty knackered. I was looking forward to my pizza and I had decided to make sure I ate at least one whole slice, no matter how bad I felt. I was also looking forward to getting my poles to give my legs some respite.
As I came into Slapewath, I saw Dave and he asked how it was. I shook my head and told him it was really tough. He re-assured me that everyone else who’d passed had said the same, this was normal. It was just a hard section. I eat my pizza and chucked my watch charger back into the car as my watch was now 100% charged. I think Dave offered me some Red Bull, which I turned down and I went to get my poles, but they weren’t in the back of the car. Dave had a look and couldn’t find them either and after a minute or so, we’d come to the conclusion that I must have left them leaned against the car while I got changed instead of putting them in the car as I’d done all day when I hadn’t physically handed them to Dave himself. Dave told me he was going to head back to Saltburn to find them and that he’d find a way of getting them to me before Roseberry if he found them. I told myself that I couldn’t change this and that I could only deal with it positively, but as I trudged through Spa Wood, these thoughts felt empty and I let negative thoughts push their way in. I was overtaken by a pair of 160 runner going up the concrete hill to the top of Guisborough Woods and was caught by a large group containing Elaine Wilde at the top. This gave me a boost, as I’d paced this section for Elaine last year and running with this group seemed like a really positive thing, but going up the next hill, into yet more thickening fog, I just couldn’t hold their pace.
As I dropped down through the heather to the foot of the climb that takes you back up to the fire road which the Cleveland Way follows all the way to Highcliff Nab, I heard my phone ringing. I pulled it out, it was Dave, he’d found my poles and was asking where I was. I told him about 2km after Spa Wood, which meant little to him, but a voice in the background told him it was “too far”. He handed the phone over to someone else and they asked where I was. I looked around and couldn’t see anything but thick fog and told them I’d just dropped through the heather section. I got a reply to the effect that he knew where I meant. I then asked “Who’s this?” and got the best reply ever, “It’s Craig you divvy, I’ll meet you at Highcliff with your poles”. I was over the moon, Craig was exactly what I needed to get me moving again. I told him the fog was grim and that I’d meet him behind Highcliff and pushed on.
The fog was so thick, that it didn’t feel safe to run as I couldn’t see anything around my feet that I might possible trip on. I was passed by Andy Pickering and Joanne Abbott and we didn’t even recognise each other. I told them I was looking for the path that forked off to Highcliff, but was worried I’d miss it and was told it was awhile away yet before they pulled off. I got another phone call from Craig asking where I was and I told him that I thought I should be right on the fork but couldn’t see it. The next thing I knew was that the path was heading downhill and I could see a torch ahead. I knew then, I’d missed the turn for Highcliff, no idea how given the number of times I’d run these woods in the dark and in all weathers. When I reached Craig, my mood lifted again. He told me that other people had missed the turn and he’d even turned some people back from the path leading down the Tees Link towards Guisborough.
We had a bit of a walk to the paved section of path that leads to Black Nab and got a good run on, overtaking Andy and Joanne. We slowed again at the next climb and again, the fog came down making it hard to push any sort of pace. Craig was trying to encourage me to eat, but I fancied nothing. He offered me some chicked and cocktail sausage which I had and took my time over, forcing myself to eat it. As we approached Roseberry he even risked his fingers to feed me a Jelly Baby. As we dropped down the side of Little Roseberry, several groups were on the way up and they all told us the wind was bad up on Roseberry and that it was cold. I tried to make good progress down the slope, but each step was an effort, by the time we started climbing, each step was like lifting dead weight. We passed a few more runners coming down Roseberry and were overtaken by a couple going up, it felt positive to be in amongst traffic but even then it was hard going.
Climbing Roseberry Topping – Photo, Craig Davie
We eventually reached the top of Roseberry to find Tim Taylor inside a tent marshalling. I remember feeling good and having a couple of minutes chatting and stretching my legs, before checking time and heading back down. We left Roseberry at 18h:32m and I thought that given this was 102km into the race, around the same distance as Hardmoors 60 which has a final cut off of 18 hours, that this wasn’t so bad. As we got to the bottom of Little Roseberry, Craig was a little more switched on and told me that we needed to start moving faster as we were going to start running close to the cut off at Kildale.
We passed more runners who were on their way down Little Roseberry as we climbed out onto Newton Moor. Back out of Roseberry Gate, it took a few moments to find the path, that was how thick the fog had become again. Once we found the path, we got running for a short while until we could see an odd shape up ahead. It was a runner laid by the path. We stopped and encouraged him back to his feet and fast walked on. Although the path was downhill, it was foggy and it dented what little will I had left to run. I tiptoed down the steps to Gribdale Gate and told Dave I was pushing straight on to try and beat the cut off at Kildale, I’d stock up on whatever food I needed there.
About 100m up the bank towards Captain Cooks, I stopped and told Craig I needed to sit down. He tried to encourage me up and I said I was packing it in. He told me I wasn’t. I wasn’t injured, I was moving OK, I was just having a rough patch. I told him I’d meant to pick some paracetamol up from the car, so he ran back and got some. We then moved off at a crawl. There were several times I laid down and refused to move, but each time Craig got me up and going again. I stropped, moaned and grumbled all the way to the top. Just before the top, we were passed by Lynsey Blyth the eventual First Lady in the 160 who was full of energy. We followed her past Captain Cooks and started on the descent. On the way down the steps, I slipped and clipped my ankle on a rock, which didn’t help my already shit mood. As we passed through the woods it started to get light. Craig had talked to me about trying to run this bit, but my legs just felt empty, devoid of anything. We were passed by single runners and groups. I was very surprised to be passed by Kim Cavill and almost took her to be one of the many odd illusions and hallucinations I’d had climbing Captain Cooks until she spoke and told me she’d heard about me losing my poles. Soon Kim and her runner were off into the distance.
We hit the road descent into Kildale at 20h:31m, I wanted to run down the hill, but the legs were still not playing and the feet were hurting. I kept telling Craig there was no way I’d make the 21 hour cut off and if I did, I had a hard day in very hot weather to deal with. I was 100% Mr Negativity. Despite Craig, cajoling, encouraging and trying to bully me (he couldn’t bully me, he’s too nice) I ambled into the Kildale checkpoint with a minute to spare. Andy Norman gave me the option of a few minutes to sort myself out and get back on the road. Craig and I looked at each other, I had a moment of “maybe” then common sense kicked in and I called it a day.
I was looked after at the checkpoint by Emma Davie, Phil Owen and Sue Jennings. I received a pep talk on the village hall steps from Karl Shields and as the cup of tea I’d had kicked in, the positivity returned. I’d just ran the furthest I’d ever run and picked up a 50 mile PB along the way.
Jo Barrett gave me a lift to Clay Bank and re-united me with Dave and he helped at the checkpoint before I had a sleep in his car. After a couple of hours kip, Dave took me back to Helmsley where I had a bath and a sleep, while Dave went out and supported Emily, running the final 20 miles with her.
Later in the afternoon, Natalie and I went to the race finish and were able to watch most of the people I’d run with the day before finish.
Although I didn’t finish the race myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend apart from that short time between Slapewath and Kildale, even then, there were so many funny moments and weird highs to counter the lows that it was also enjoyable in a perverse way. I love the 110 weekend, this was my fourth consecutive year involved either as marshall, crew, pacer and finally runner. I hope to be involved next year and as many years after as possible, even if I don’t run. I currently have no desire to have another go, I’m at peace with my DNF (unlike my previous DNF’s of the 60) and have realised how much I enjoy racing 50-60 milers. I now want to see how fast I can do those distances in. However, I would encourage anyone who can, to get involved in whatever way suits them. The 110 is like a massive all weekend party that moves around the Cleveland Way. As I’ve said hundreds of times before, the Hardmoors family is special.
To Jon, Shirley, all of the marshalls, volunteers, runners, crew and everyone else involved, thank you for a fantastic weekend.
Special thanks go to Dave Cook and Craig Davie, without whom, I could not have got as far as I did.
Super special thanks go to my wife Natalie, your support is what keeps me going and this year has been a fantastic set of birthday presents.
Finally, I’d like to dedicate this one to the memory of my good friend’s Elliot and Kerry Gowland’s dog Taz who was cruelly taken from them in the days before the race.