My first Hardmoors event and the big question going through my mind was would it live up to it’s name?
Before the event I was starting to get seriously worried that I would be able to go the distance. Apart from a couple of 15 milers in Sctland in January all my runs since The Round Ripon Ultra in October had been less than 10 miles for one reason or another.
Saturday before the race came and I packed my bags with every possible combination of running attire I had so I could be ready for any conditions that the North York Moors might through at us. I packed my race bag full of the mandatory kit, High 5 Energy Gels and a couple of Chia Charge Flapjacks and tried to get an early night.
6am Sunday morning I awoke to the sound of the alarm going off and after forcing myself out of bed had a pre-race breakfast of porridge with blueberries and bananas and a couple of slices of peanut butter toast and then jumped in the car and set off towards Osmotherley.
I arrived just before 8 o’clock to find the carpark already filling up with other runners. I had heard about how friendly the Hardmoors crowd was and it wasn’t long before I got chatting to the guys parked next to me on both sides.
After a 10 minute walk to the village hall where the registration took place and I had my first introduction to the Hardmoors efficiency and friendliness, something that would repeat itself at all the checkpoints during the race.
With 45 minutes to go the nerves started to kick in and I started thinking race tactics. Before now I had decided to just get round and use it for a longish warm up for the Hardmoors 55 in March but I’m very competitive by nature so on the start line decided to change my tactics and go for a top 10 place or at least see how far I could go at a decent pace before I collapsed.
With the race briefing over we walked up to the start line and then after a few minutes when everyone had gathered at 9am we were off with just under 30 miles around the North York Moors ahead of us.
After a fairly uneventful few miles which served as a nice warm up we cam to the first downhill section that later in the race, coming the other way, became known as ‘those f**king steps’ but it gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs and just let gravity take over and charge down them at speed which was great.
Through Clain Wood, over a grass field and through the ford at Crook Beck and we were at checkpoint 2. This was going to be easy I thought to myself, how wrong was I?
It was just after checkpoint 2 where things got a bit ‘Hardmoors’, after a gentle climb along the side of some woods the path took a sharp right and straight up the tree line. I think I was in around 5th place at this point and the guy in front was running up this section but I just thought conserve your energy and get walking which it turned out was just as quick as running anyway so no time lost here, just the beginning of 25 miles of pain.
We climbed Round Hill and up onto open moorland and along a few miles of very slippery flagstones which the Salomon Speedcroos shoes I was wearing just hated. I don’t think I would have had any less grip if I had ice skates on but never mind, nothing I could do about it just had to push on as best I could without breaking my neck on the wet stones.
The next 7 or 8 miles consisted of lots of steep uphill climbs followed by equally steep descents which to be honest I really enjoyed. Coming from a downhill mountain bike background I like to think I have a good technique on the downhills. In face a few years ago raced at Carlton Bank scoring a 2nd place so I recognized some of the scenery.
The loop around Broughton bank and back up to Wainstones was the first introduction we had to the snow which hadn’t fully melted from the heavy snow of a few weeks back.
At checkpoint 4 the group of us running together in around 3rd place started to break up and I got left for dead by 2 guys on the climb up to Wainstones so I decided just to run my own race and aim for a top 10 finish rather than chasing after them.
The big descent to Chop Gate was a lot of fun running through the moors and then onto very muddy paths before emerging in the village of Chop Gate and checkpoint 5. After a quick refuel with some jelly beans and water I headed off for the most miserable 4 miles of my life.
The climb out of Chop Gate to the next marshall was horrible. It was steep, slippy and full of un-melted snow so the gong was some of the toughest I have encountered in my short running career. The relief of getting to the top and out of the slushy strength sapping snow was amazing.
The weather was good, the sun was shining, the views were amazing and it was a pleasure running along Barkers Ridge and back down to checkpint 6. The only downside was I got passed by another runner and although the temptation to go with him was strong I just decided to get round. Hardmoors was certainly living up to it’s name.
Checkpoint 6 to 7 was back along the same path we had already run down and i’m pleased to say those wet flagstones had started to dry out so were much more grippy so I just let my legs go and enjoyed the run. I was in the zone at this point and just enjoying myself running at my own pace with a big smile on my face.
After checkpoint 7 we went back up the steps which somehow seems to be 10 times longer and much steeper than when we ran down them a few hours earlier in what seemed like seconds. These bastard steps broke me, they just went on forever and I was doubted that I would ever reach the top at one point.
From here the course dropped back down to checkpoint 8 / 1 and headed off along the road towards the final checkpoint along a gentle climb along High Lane.
Checkpoint 9 meant only about 2 miles to go which consisted of a nice gentle downhill followed by a couple of short hills before emerging in the village of Osmotherley with only a short run to the village hall and the finish line.
I stumbled into the village hall to be told I had finished 6th which I was very happy with and well in my goal of a top 10 finish. A quick coffee and I decided to head back to the car and get a change of clothes.
A big thank you to Jon and Shirley Steel, the marshalls and all the other runners for making my first Hardmoors experience one to remember and for living up to it’s name. So many of these supposedly hard events fall short of expectations but this certainly lived up to it’s name.
Now on to the 55 in March – better get training!