CTS North York Moors ultra marathon, Saturday, September 30, 2017

33.6 miles / 4227 feet

Emma Backhouse

So a summer of training, two weeks of tapering and a week of self-doubt had come to this… my first entry into the mad world of ultrarunning at the endurance life CTS North York Moors ultra marathon. Surrounded by professional-looking lithe runners, I nervously made my way across a freezing (literally, a balmy 10 degrees in Durham had fallen to 3 in Ravenscar) field to collect my number, receive my timing tag and be given my t-shirt. Should I just leg it and tell everyone there was no medal and the t-shirt was the prize? Three loo trips later and suddenly briefing was upon us and it became apparent that numerous runners had come from London to do this thing…. I was feeling more and more out of my depth, and I was beginning to doubt not only my ability to finish but even my ability to run at all. The high place finish at the recent Clennell marathon must have been a fluke. Complex instructions (do not follow the 10k signs! Do not follow the half signs!) were issued and for the first time I saw doubt on my fellow runners’ faces. We had numerous loops to navigate, not least a final one, past the finish with the last 7 miles following the 10k route. Thankfully we were offered one final loo trip before a super quick countdown and then we were off!

As expected, being a snail, I was overtaken by nearly everyone, immediately. Race plan screaming in my head “stay calm, stay slow, you are a metronome” I tried not to let it upset me, but on a single track, covered in mud, hearing people tut and puff behind you and with few places to stop and let them pass it did become demoralising. However, within a few miles, we were spread out, alone, left to our own devices, facing the distance in our own ways. At 11 miles, the marathon leaders (who set off around an hour behind us) started to overtake us. They were fast, but friendly, glad to hear of their position. By this point I was beginning to believe that as long as I could hear the miles tick by the challenge would be completed.

I came through the finish for the first time at around 14 miles, heading towards boggle hole and Robin Hood’s Bay. It was here that we met the half marathoners on a different route. The terrain became more challenging with steeper hills and seeming more like the trail marathon I had done in the summer. I slowed to a walk…. knowing walking was necessary if the distance was to be done.

Miles ticked on, passing and passed by marathoners and halfers, although there were few ultras to be seen. A long moorland hill ended in a big muddy puddle miscalculation and one trainer would be significantly heavier for the remainder of the run. The “one mile to go sign” came into view and I could sense the anticipation from those around me. As we approached the finish, I was directed away from the funnel, heartbreakingly and had to stop. At this point, a distance pb was starting to result in nutritional issues. Needing something, I looked around for my support crew (chowing down on ice cream in the local cafe I later found out!) hoping they could get me the coke that was in the car. The cp only had water and with too much being drunk and no food being taken on, my stomach had started to complain. Loudly. Another ultrarunner was also waiting, desperately and eventually we both gave up, smiled at the poor marshal directing us away from the finish and headed on the lonesome 10k route. 2 miles in, the wheels, axle, doors and roof fell off and I limped into CP 5 an unknown distance later. Smiley faces and “less than a parkrun to go!!!” They sent me off and with a walk/run strategy along the railway line I came into the finish for the third and final time as fourth lady.

7 hours and twenty odd minutes. 35 miles by my garmin. Still getting over it but signing up for the Northumberland one at the end of February.