The Hamsterley Moon Runner Race is organised by Greener Miles Running, which hosts several events around the North East with distances ranging from 10K to ultra. The concept of the moon race seemed quite novel to me. The idea is to start after the sun sets and run entirely in the dark, with only the light of your head torch (and the torches of those around you) to guide you around the course. The course has a total 800ft elevation gain, with most of that occurring in the first 2 miles. It’s a real mix of trail and tarmac.
Upon checking the entries, I found that I was the only Strider to participate this year (Ed: but see results table below), though I managed to persuade some friends to join me. They have yet to learn that my idea of a ‘fun’ race usually involves at least one hill and a water obstacle, and if lucky, both. I arrived at Hamsterley around 5 o’clock and collected my number. Unfortunately, there were some issues with water pressure in the area, which meant the café was unable to serve any hot drinks, and a cold fog seemed to roll in as soon as the sun set.
We lined up at the start at around 5:50 after a briefing from the run director. I managed to take a couple of pictures as I looked behind me to see all the twinkling head torches. Some people had also dressed in notable outfits; I saw a woman in a light-up tutu and someone wrapped in fairy lights.
The bell rang for the start of the race, and off we went. The route starts outside the visitor centre and veers off to the right as it hits the first steep incline. I had mentioned to my friends that I was hoping for a PB, but any hope of that was dashed when I realised this hill just kept ascending. However, the race did follow part of the Gruffalo trail. If you have kids of a certain age, you’ll know what I mean. So, I had a little chuckle as I passed the fox in his underground house. I also kept a couple of ‘wise’ sayings in my head to help me get to the top, reminding myself that anything that goes up must come down, and that it was ‘just flat at different angles.’ However, at 1.5 miles, I had to admit slight defeat and walk a little. As I hit mile 2, the descent began, and what a descent it was. This was also the first of many terrain changes, going from soft ground to much harder gravel. There was also a section as we headed down towards the beck that was quite a sharp descent with a lot of rocks. I was quite pleased that this had been mentioned in the run briefing, as I was able to slow down/panic appropriately.
After the 5k point, the second ‘smaller’ incline began. This section was the part of the race that made me question why I love races like this. The British weather has not been kind, and the runoff from the hills had left a lot of standing water, as well as eroded the path in places. Normally, in the light of day, you’d be able to spot this and plan appropriately to avoid the water. However, with a head torch, it was less possible, and on a couple of occasions, I ended up running through the deepest sections. Though a Marshal around mile 3.5 did tell me to stick to the left to avoid the sticky mud (thank you).
After the incline, you are treated to another lovely downhill and a tarmac section before the route joins part of the parkrun course. This section was the most unnerving. As we headed back into the woods, the person in front of me took a tumble. I shouted a quick ‘are you okay?’ He got himself up, said he was surprised he hadn’t fallen sooner, and ran on.
Unfortunately, medics don’t carry plasters big enough for your ego. The reason this section became unnerving, or was for me at least, is that there were no Marshals and limited markings (we were told if you don’t see markings, carry on straight). I was in the position where I was far enough behind the person in front of me not to see any light from them, but I was also very aware I had runners behind me who would likely be relying on me to run the correct course. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of a light through the trees, which I hoped meant I was still on course.
Finally, I encountered more marshals and realised, thankfully, I had not led several runners astray as I joined the downhill path through the trees towards the finish. I crossed the finish line in a respectable 1 hour and 1 minute (finishing in the top 10 for gender and age) and collected my medal. The medals for the event are fully compostable and contain wildflower seeds, so I look forward to planting that in the spring.
Overall, the Hamsterley Moon Runner is a tough but enjoyable race if you are a fan of trails and hills. It’s well organised, with a lovely team of supportive volunteers who cheered everyone on as they passed.
|Durham Fell Runners
|Jarrow & Hebburn
176 runners completed the race.
Full results at webscorer.