The Princess Challenge is simply a marvellous event, which raises much-needed funds for the Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team. It sees a range of distances offered – the Short n Sweet, the One in the Middle and for me, the Ultra. I ran this event in 2017 as part of my training for a longer event and followed a similar plan this year.
The summer had been warm, and although I had run plenty, it had been a blend of shorter distances. On holiday in France, I knew the Princess was indeed going to challenge me if I didn’t prepare adequately, so I started to step things up. Upon returning to the UK, and some two weeks out I did a long training run of 30km, having gradually worked my way up. Training was going well, and I felt confident.
To throw another couple of things into the mix, I had decided to buy some new shoes (Hoka Speedgoat 2) and christened them on a 6km trail run during the week running up to the Princess. I also had just taken delivery of a new watch (Garmin 935) and the evening before the race, I experimented with it walking a couple of km to and from the car park at Kynren.
I wouldn’t say I was that well-rested – apart from the late evening before the race at Kynren, I had also just returned from a mid-week work trip to Germany. On the morning of the event, I woke, got some porridge down and set off to the event nice and early (the rest of the house still in bed).
After parking up I entered the village hall and saw Carole helping with the registration – I must have looked a sight, and felt still half asleep. I submitted myself to the necessary kit check, fastened my number and settled my head, reflecting on the announcement of the day before, “…there will be cattle movements on part of the Ultra and Middle route! This will be at 10 am on part of the diverted route! If you get there after that you will be held by the marshal at Pittard Point until safe to proceed. It means you have to run the first miles…Sorry”.
So, in contrast to my original plan that this was to be ‘just a training run’, I decided to set off a little more swiftly to ensure I didn’t encounter the cattle. I was definitely a bit further up the field than I should have been as I looped back to pass the Village Hall (start point) when I remembered I’d forgotten to put my gels in my vest – I had a 30 second argument with myself about whether I could make do, and then to the amusement of Kelly and the team, left the road, to dash into the hall, grab my gels and run back off down the road.
I soon caught up with runners from one of the other races that was underway and plenty of encouragement was exchanged along the first bit of the Cleveland Way, and then I was running solo for quite a while – without my wingman this year.
I think it was after CP3 I met a chap who I ran with for a while towards Whitby. He had a groin strain but was ok to continue. The temperature was getting up, and I remember running into Whitby which was in full swing with fish and chips, wasps and ice-cream (in no particular order).
I knew that 199 steps lay ahead up to the Abbey and also that they would hurt. I decided my treat would be an ice-cream at the top – motivation aplenty! I made short work of the ice-cream and pressed on along the cliff path to CP4 at which point, I thought I was hearing things when the marshal told me I was 5th – ‘from last’, I quipped but he set me straight. Now, I knew I’d been pushing on a bit early in the race, and I also knew it was now warm and the terrain was to get a bit more challenging on the return. At CP5 (was CP3 on the outbound) I paused for more water and some amazing dandelion and burdock drink.
The descent into Robin Hoods Bay total torture on the legs, I’m sure I looked a real sight to tourists seeing me thunder past, resplendent in my rather bright compression socks (and other clothing thankfully). No rest for the wicked and once at the bottom, the Cleveland Way beckoned again, past the aptly named Boggle Hole and Stoupe Beck with the many, many steps.
With the benefit of having run the route before, I pressed on and was passed by a couple of runners at some stage – most notably on the final ascent past the Alum Works to Ravenscar by a very capable lady who was no stranger to ultrarunning. I could not maintain her pace, but kept going, climbing past the National Trust Café and up to the Village Hall – I rounded the final corner to see Kathryn again who hastened me towards the finish.
The finish – it was confirmed I was 6th male, 9th overall with a time of 6:17:42 and a PB of over an hour! To say I was delighted was an understatement.
Thanks to the SRMRT, marshals and organisers who give up their time to run such an amazing event.