I have come to love the Cleveland Way. My initial reaction after running along it a few times was that it was designed for walkers, not runners. Lots of steps, some of them very uneven, stone slabs which can be slippery in wet conditions and lots and lots of climbs. However, after now doing many Hardmoors events, the Osmotherley Phoenix and other events there I have changed my mind. The view are gorgeous and the sense of satisfaction you get from running on the Trail is hard to beat. The trail goes from Helmsley to Saltburn on the coast and then goes follows the coast to Filey.
I had run the first half from Helmsley to Guisborough, the Hardmoors 55, in 2010 in pretty awful conditions. I had always wanted to do the second half from Guisborough to Filey and when the organiser, Jon Steele, put on the Hardmoors 60 I was very tempted to enter. However, I wasn’t confident of hitting the cut offs. This year the cut offs were extended and I thought I might make them. However, there was a nagging little voice inside me saying that maybe at sixty four years old I should have attempted it when I was younger. This was of course absolute rubbish and I wasn’t the oldest runner there.
Preparation included the 53m Crosses, which didn’t go particularly well and lots of climbs up Wainwright hills in August. I think both helped, particularly the hill walking.
The plan was that Melanie would support as her support made the Crosses so much easier, but a day before the event she came down with a bad cold. So I used drop bags and Denise Benvin, who was marshalling, offered to take a change of clothes to Ravenscar for me. That worked very well as the temperature changed dramatically after Ravenscar as the day changed from very hot to very cold.
Kath Dodd and I had agreed to run together. We and three Striders had run together at the Hardmoors Princess 31m two weeks ago and we had also spent some time running with Sara at that event. So Kath, Sara and I ran together in this event and it worked out very well. Sara had not run further than 36m and she did fantastically well finishing this event. Sue Jennings was the third Strider who ran the event, but she withdrew at Ravenscar having got there within the cut off time.
The event was 62m in total and is over 10,000 feet of ascent. I had set up the followmee tracker app on my phone which seemed to have little effect on my phone battery when the update rate was set to 15 minutes. However, at some point during the race I managed to switch on my flashlight. How I did this I don’t know and it has happened before. The result was that my phone died in Whitby, which was a shame as Melanie was using the tracker to see where I was. Luckily Flip and one or two others were able to post updates on Facebook and send texts.
Stage 1 Guisborough to Runswick Bay
I felt I knew this pretty well. We started slowly and after the first stile I was last for a short while. The climb up to High Cliff Nab was muddier than I expected, but better than on the Hardmoors Roseberry Topping marathon last December. The view down on Guisborough was beautiful.
Some of this section I had covered several times, but there were sections I had only covered once. I was also unfamiliar with the location of the Saltburn checkpoint. However, the race description helped us to find this easily. I was also a little unsure of one part of the Skinningrove diversion. However, Flip and Anna and the two organisers were there to make sure we took the right turn.
Skinningrove to Boulby I had done once before. There was many more hills than I remembered. At the top of them was my daughter and her husband with some very welcome supplies. It had developed into a hot day with little wind and we were drinking lots and lots of water.
Boulby to Runswick Bay goes through the attractive village of Staithes. It looked lovely in the beautiful weather. The next section was also one I had only done once a few years ago. Again there were more hills than I remembered. It was very hot and although it looked like we were going to get through our informal cut offs that I had calculated for lots of places, we didn’t have a lot to spare and I was finding the heat and hills very hard going. It did cross my mind to pull out at Runswick Bay, but we had about 30 minutes to spare at that point so I decided to just see how it went. Looking back I think I was just going through a bad patch which is just inevitable in a long event. There were others who were wilting in the heat and eleven runners withdrew at this checkpoint. In total there were 163 finishers and 32 runners who withdrew.
Stage 2 Runswick Bay to Ravenscar
I thought this would be by far the toughest section especially the very familiar Whitby to Ravenscar section.
Runswick Bay was as lovely as ever and the climb out wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I was rusty with the route to Sandsend, but it wasn’t too bad. We were taking it pretty easy, walking all the ascents and gently running the rest. We went through Sandsend and saw the young boy who was rescued from the sea by one of the runners being attended to by the rescue services. The runner carried on and completed the event ! We made it to Whitby where I came across Angela and John who were having a weekend away. At this point my phone was losing charge because of the flashlight, so I had a conversation with Melanie to explain before the charge slipped away. At the top of the steps to the Abbey in Whitby, Kath and I had an ice cream, which was a welcome break on a hot day.
We kept on seeing the lovely Quaker running club support team who were supporting their runners who were just behind us for most of the way. Sara’s partner Oliver and son Robin (eighteen months !) also popped up in lots of places and Flip also seemed to be everywhere. It is hard to explain what a difference this makes, but it certainly encourages me.
The Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay took us an hour and fifty minutes, about ten minutes faster than I expected. Flip was in charge of the checkpoint. The next section is only about four miles, but I have never done it in less than an hour. There are lots of climbs and descents. The descents aren’t ones you can run down with carefree abandon and expect to live. They are steep, large steps and there are some rock steps which can be uneven and irregular.
We went into Ravenscar more tired than we had been two weeks ago when we finished the Princess Challenge. The heat and the extra ten miles had taken their toll. We spent 35 minutes at Ravenscar. I changed everything apart from running shoes – Scott Kinabalu Supertrack – I still think these suit me very well. I also had rice pudding and coffee and consumed some of my food from the drop bag.
Stage 3 Ravenscar to Filey
I had expected this to be much easier than the other two sections. In reality, I found it as hard as the two other sections.
We came out of the Ravenscar checkpoint and it was very dark and although I was now wearing a long sleeved top, I realised that I was cold and shivering. I put on fleece top and that stayed on until the finish. It is amazing what a change of clothes and food can do, we ran well on the way to Hayburn Wyke, again familiar territory from the event two weeks ago. I had hoped that Hayburn to Scalby Mills at the north end of Scarborough would be straightforward. It wasn’t, it was much longer and more up and down than I had expected. I also made a minor navigational error, but that probably only cost us 3 minutes. Scarborough never seemed to arrive. We were walking more than running. When we arrived at the north end of Scarborough we were in danger of not making the cut off at the south end which was three miles of flat concrete away. We missed it by about four minutes but the marshalls seemed happy to let us continue. More coffee and flapjack were consumed.
We set off again and we walked almost all of the next section to the finish at Filey. I was a bit rusty on the Cayton Bay to Filey section but I had saved my Garmin (my battery only lasts seven hour now) for Stage 3 and I had the route on there and this helped enormously otherwise we might have been tempted to follow the group ahead who made two errors and seemed very uncertain of which way to go. We ended up finishing with them although they had run much more of this section than we had. It was lovely to see Flip waiting for us at 2.00 am on Filey Brigg signalling us with his torch 🙂
Would I do it again ? When I was doing it, I didn’t think so, it was too tough to be enjoyable and the roller coaster of emotions you get on such events I find hard to cope with. But now, a few days after I have finished, I find myself thinking it was very scenic, the organisation was first class and the marshalls were just fantastic. I am wondering what I will think in a few days ! We were 22 minutes late into the finish, but nobody seemed to mind and there were others who came in soon after. This was the longest time I have ever spent on my feet in an event – 18 hours and 22 minutes.
Thanks to Flip for the lift back to my car in Guisborough where I slept for a few hours 🙂