Sunday, 28 March 2010

Hardmoors 55 Race Report

I knew I was pushing my luck by actually just signing up to attempt this race. Having never done a marathon before, the Hardmoors 55 miler (88km in English) would be the longest run I had ever done, so I was more than a bit apprehensive. But an ultra marathon along the Cleveland Way that finishes two minutes from my home – you’ve no excuse not to enter really. That was the thinking, anyway.

So come daft o’clock on Saturday morning, March 20th I found myself walking up to Guisborough Cricket Club wondering about the day ahead. I soon met my first runner of the day who couldn’t find the cricket club and got a lift with him (thanks Nigel!). Standing at the start I recognised a few of the other runners from the official website photos and linked blogs. Now I was getting a bit nervous. When the poshest bus I’ve ever travelled on arrived I grabbed a seat upstairs and tried to clear my mind. This wasn’t easy when all I could hear around me was West Highland Way this and MDS that! I might have felt fit around my non-believing work mates, but around this lot I was feeling truly inadequate!

When we drove past Roseberry Topping and all I saw was a wall of fog I knew the day was going to be a tough one. Anyway, cheers to the bus driver for dropping us off in the middle of Helmsley, rather than at the actual race start – the walk to the Race HQ in the rain was much appreciated (knob). I enjoyed the atmosphere while I was getting ready, and really can say that ultra runners are far friendlier than a lot of other sportsmen. When a few people found out this was my first ultra they genuinely seemed chuffed for me, and that includes the eventual race winner.

So after the pre race brief and talks we were officially off on the inaugural Hardmoors 55! After many years of dreaming about doing an ultra, here I was in the pissing rain attempting to run from Helmsley to Guisborough in under 15 hours! I was happy as a pig in the obvious.

Which after a few hours of running was how I looked and smelt as well. I was now running with my new best mate Mark, the official sweeper. I could’ve told you this would be the case at the start, as I’m not fast at the best of times, let alone over 88km. My longest run had been a slow 47km from Guisborugh to Whitby in 8 odd hours, so I was still very worried about making the cut-off times. Mark was brilliant in getting me to Checkpoint 2, and even had to help dress me in the woods, as I had foolishly taken off my base layer at the start, thinking the weather would be clammy as the day went on. Fool! The moorland stretches were brutal with the rain and wind just torturing you.

I caught up with 2 other runners, who turned out to be brothers, and would be my new best mates for the rest of the race. I then got into Osmotherley 10 minutes after the cut-off, but the marshal didn’t seem too concerned because of the weather. I had 7 hours to the next cut-off in Kildale, and from there I knew I would be able to finish as I knew that area pretty well, and had run it dozens of times during the few months before that. So far so good, I would just replenish with food and drinks, change my socks and head off after a quick rest. That’s when I had my first hiccup – my drop bag wasn’t there, and had probably been taken to the wrong drop off point! That would be one of my few criticisms of the race. Not ideal for a first timer, but I was offered some scoff by the marshal (which I didn’t bother with).

After that everything went tits up. I lost 15 minutes running around a tiny chapel in the woods out of Osmotherley, and then lost more time with the two brothers trying to find the TV station. After that we ended up in another wood and went off for about 4 miles in the wrong direction, before asking directions off two farmers we happened to pass. So more than an hour later we were back where we started! Why didn’t we use a map or GPS? Well, we did, but the older model GPS seemed to be affected by the weather, and showed North to be in at least three different directions, and I think at first we just found stopping and map reading too cold to do too often. Looking back we should have just run back to the start of the woods before the TV station and just took our time and made sure we went along the correct route. Maybe we would’ve finished later than 15 hours, but at least it wouldn’t have been a DNF.

By the time we got to Wainstones above Great Broughton it was decision time. To carry on would’ve meant finding our way to Bloworth Crossing in the dark with only two head torches between three of us, as one numpty had left his head torch in his drop bag at Kildale to save on weight in his pack (I won’t do that again!). I didn’t have much isotonic drink left and we were already 2 hours behind schedule. That and it was awful weather. I decided that the sensible thing (though I wasn’t happy with myself) was to get down into Great Broughton and bum a lift to Guisborough off my uncle John, who happened to live there.

And so ended my dreams of ultra glory. After 12 hours of running (best guess of 40 miles/ 60 km) through mud, moors, rain and wind all I had to remember was a big fat DNF. I was gutted! To be honest with myself I could’ve done with another 3 months of serious running and more discipline throughout my training. On the other hand, on a glorious day, barring crap map reading I know I would’ve made Kildale by around 7pm. From there I probably would have finished in around 15hrs or so. I did learn a few things along the way about better kit preparation and I obviously need more mapping reading experience! After chatting with Mark and Jon the director after the race I am more determined than ever to finish both versions of this brilliant race. I am glad I took part and could never go back to ‘normal road running now!’ What a snob!

Thanks to Jon, Mark & the rest of the marshals for taking the time to put on an excellent event!


  1. Well done Andy.

    That was a tough ultra to start with! It can only get easier!! It was my 10th in the last four years and by far the worse weather wise I've run in.

    Stick at it and that first finish will feel so sweet!


  2. Great report. I'm thinking about crossing the pond and doing this!

  3. Do it Laura! The views are great (depending on the conditions!), the course is challenging and the organisers and other runners are top notch!