All I can say is “ I was conned”. I can’t remember who said it is all downhill or flat , but someone did. I entered this one only about 2 months ago, on a whim, and to have an excuse for a short Scottish holiday with my husband to incorporate him cycling and us walking in the Cairngorms.
So having driven all the bloomin way up to Inverness, with a stopover in Perth, it was fairly rude of the weather to be so lousy. The Event Village was already cold and muddy on the Saturday at registration but by the time we got back to the finish line Sunday afternoon , it was a quagmire. Before that though we had to get to the start by transport buses in the dark and rain , an hour’s drive to a howling moor at the top of a hill above Loch Ness in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve never stood in a toilet queue for 50 mins in a bin bag before, but the young Swiss chaps in front of me ( in kilts) gave me a nip of their herbal hooch to warm me up. I couldn’t find my fellow Striders, other than a quick wave to Sophie and Debra from the queue. So no group photo unfortunately.
Then a miracle happened: the start line assembly involved repeated plays of The Proclaimers 500 miles and the rain stopped and as we trotted over the start to the accompaniment of a piped band, we were off, downhill ( as promised).
Now I knew that the people weaving past me at speed would probably regret it later, so I kept a happy steady pace and tried to enjoy the moors, trees, greyness etc. Then we saw the Loch and the route runs beside it for several miles and this is where I was conned because it keeps undulating up and down. Nothing severe but my legs could feel it. I ran with a lovely young Scot called Iain for a while and we talked about his caber tossing and bagpipe playing amongst other things. Mile 17.5-18.5 is a hill that I knew I would run : walk so I sent my husband a text to say I was probably going to take 5 hrs and he could judge when to stand in the cold at Inverness. I had seen Karen for a cheery smile and Aileen and I had passed each other 3 times. She was looking strong and happy in her first marathon.
I was getting tired and properly disappointed when I saw the finish line over the river and knew the bridge was near BUT they only bloomin make you run on to the next bridge don’t they? I managed a hug with my husband at mile 25.5 then walked a minute when I was out of his view before a slow sprint for the line. Thanks Alan for the shout. We were incredibly lucky for a dry few hours in the middle of 2 weeks of rain. The event was very well organised and super friendly. The Baxter’s soup at the end was just what I needed. Aileen and Alan did brilliant first marathons.
Sitting in a lovely restaurant later full of marathoners in their medals with Aileen, Alan, Sophie and Debra who all got the memo about dress code but didn’t tell me(!) we celebrated the other Strider finishers, Peter, Karen and Craig as well as Carolyn Wendy and Mike’s marathons elsewhere. A good weekend.
The first half mile was spent adjusting my new running belt, taking it off, putting it back on then readjusting my new running belt. By the time I was satisfied with it, I was already half a mile in. Something still wasn’t right…
My quads, my quads were burning. Around half a mile downhill and my quads were already burning, that’s not right.
2 miles in and I knew that I was not going to get my target time and that this was going to be hell just to finish, if I finished it all!
I had finished.
I have given all the money I had on me to my kids so they would just leave me in peace for a moment as I watched other finishers and listen to the announcer talk everyone over the line.
I saw Sarah Fawcett and Aileen Scott pass in quick succession in a time that was well under five hours. I screamed and encouraged them as they passed, both had a steely, unblinking focus on the finish line and completely ignored everything I said, until I accidentally yelled “Come on Eileen!”
Sorry again Aileen.
As I stood watching the pain and joy on people’s faces as they achieved their marathon dreams, I was brought back to reality with the mind numbing spasms from my legs and the realisation that, shit I’ve just smashed that race, that was the hardest thing that I have ever attempted and I smashed it.
That’s when a big wave of emotion came over me and I shuffled off to find my wife as quickly as I could,( which was horrendously slow, painful and resembled the movement of a drunken new-born giraffe.) I gave her a hug and she could tell that I was a bit emotional and so she told me “Come on Peter, you are milking this now aren’t you, it’s time your manned up a bit!”
Probably half of the field hadn’t even finished the race, yet I’ve been milking this for too long!
In hindsight, a deep tissue massage, (elbows and all) followed by a day sitting in the car travelling is not good marathon prep and will never be repeated.
Why did we travel half way across the UK, so far North of the wall that John Snow would be scared, to run a race that was so clearly not a PB course I hear you say?
My wife and I have talked about this considerably in the last few days and we have come to the conclusion that…
We don’t know!
I think the seed may have been sown by the fact that my fabulous wife was 40 years old on the 8th of January this year and so because of this she decided that she would arrange a trip to coincide with every possible marathon I had my eye on for the rest of 2019!
Berlin marathon – she was in Las Vegas.
Manchester marathon- she was in Dublin.
Liverpool marathon- She ran the half.
London didn’t want me, AGAIN!
Errrr, are there any more?
bout 53, Loch Ness? Errrr, why not Anna Seeley says it’s a Pb course! (Whatever Anna!)
I had achieved two good times in 2018 and it was getting infectious. I wanted a sub 3hours 30 minutes Marathon.
Loch Ness it is!
So it was I found myself rummaging around at 5.30am in a dark Airbnb somewhere in Inverness, on a windy and rainy Sunday morning. I had to walk the 1.8 miles to the bus pickup point and be there for 7:15 am. It goes without saying that I was late, so I ran down until I bumped into a bunch of striders making their way along the finish line towards the army of buses.
I have never seen as many buses in my life. It was like a Scottish bus armada. I pictured some marathon organiser sending out a spirited, Dunkirk-esc message to all Scottish bus companies, stating that we need your buses. However, when you Bring your buses please make sure that you are horrendously early, just so we can leave all of our runners abandoned on the top of a mountain, probably the highest point in Scotland, for one hour 20 minutes before the race starts, in the pissing rain and wind! They all obeyed, to the minute.
I was quite the Fountain of knowledge on the bus journey as we had taken a cruise around Loch Ness looking for Nessie the day before. Arriving at Scotland’s highest point with the excellent addition of Scotland’s worst weather, there was literally nothing there apart from the start line, about eight portable toilets and three or four small tanks of hot water to make free cups of coffee and tea. The planning of this was exceptional as we had about 80 minutes to wait for the race to start and each queue looks like it would take about 79 minutes until you reach the front…
I had a dilemma at this point, do I go to the queue for the toilet or do I go for the queue for the free hot drink? I didn’t have time to queue for both.
I wisely chose the hot drink and then proceeded to wee in a bush as the announcer kept telling us not to wee in the afore mentioned bushes. If they did not want us to wee in the bushes then they should’ve probably given us more than eight portable toilets for 5000 people!
It was time to get serious and the race was about to start. I split the race down into four sections:
The first 10 miles was substantially downhill. (Apart from the uphill sections!)
Miles 10 to 18 are the nice, flat, easy section. (Apart from the uphill sections!)
Miles 18 to 20 there was a quite decent and protracted Hill section.
Mile 20 to 26.2 was slightly downhill or flat section.
As previously mentioned, I knew in the 2nd mile that I was in trouble and by mile 11 I honestly was ready to give up.
The 10 miles’ downhill section had much more uphill than I had expected and I also had to put more effort in to this section than I expected. By the time I got to the flat section between mile 10 and mile 18 it was game up. Whenever I got a flat bit of road and tried to get up the target pace the burning return to my legs, it was the same whenever I ran uphill. So I had a decision to make.
Give up, jog round or give up!
This decision got me to thinking about my team Hart that consists of my little girl Vesper, (aged 4) my boy Carter (aged 7) and my wonderful, supporting and very long suffering wife Emma. (Aged 40!)
I thought about how they had travelled to the edge of the arctic circle to support me. Then the guilt started…
How dare you think about quitting when your family have travelled 300 miles just to watch you run past for 10 seconds.
How dare you think about slowing down just because it hurts a bit when they have stood in a muddy field for hours just to get a glimpse of their dad running past.
How dare I not give every last bit of effort I have in my body when my wife is currently trying to survive and control my two troubled angels and no doubt be using some sort of Jedi mind tricks to persuade them away from their daily fight to the death!
All of this just to be there for me…
Come on Peter, man up and get this done!
The next couple of hours were a blur of thoughts regarding making my Kids proud, Emma and what she has sacrificed for me, various Striders and how they have helped me, trying to make my Dad proud hahaha that literally can never happen and the 7 months of training that I had endured. All of this while Slim shady or Eminem as he likes to be known was banging out “Lose yourself.”
Oh and not to forget the searing pain in the front of my legs!
The course is very beautiful, but also hard. The road that you run down is closed and so apart from sporadic water and energy gel stops and two villages the course is very, very quiet.
Long story short, I did it!
I was about 6 minutes slower than my Pb and a good 10 minutes off the time that I was aiming for, but I am so proud of myself for not quitting and literally putting every bit of energy I could muster into getting the best time that I possibly could.
My legs were/are absolutely wrecked during and after the race. I could not stand up, sit down, walk, lean, lie down or act in any way shape or form how a normal human would. The kids made fun of me because it looks like I had pooed myself, I got stuck in the bath and couldn’t get out, in short, I was an absolute mess. I laid it all out on the course that day.
After the race I made a new rule.
The distance travelled to a race may equal, but would never be greater than the time taken to run the race.
Marathons get you, they really do. I love the emotional and physical rollercoaster ride that is a marathon. It can take over everything, most of your time, all of your energy, your weekends, your evenings, your family time, your conversations or you will wake up on the middle of the night and have to do some more calculations regarding average minute mile pace. It never ends.
Also, this is the biggest secret of running a marathon.
Anyone that has ever ran a marathon will tell you that it’s not easy to bring up in every conversation you ever have that you’re running a marathon soon. You have to be on top of your game to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to slip it into a conversation.
Marathons can take over your life, (just ask my wife!) But there is something magical when you cross the finish line of a marathon. Until you’ve done it you don’t understand, you can’t understand yet and you will never understand, because you haven’t earned it yet.
We went to Loch Ness in search of something, what I found was that I have a deep, burning desire to make my kids and wife proud of me and in the pursuit of that I have found that I can go far beyond what I previously thought was possible. Who knows what the future holds…
Often a popular Striders event, and this year saw 11 of us brave the elements – heavy rain at times, and breezy in places. I didn’t mind the weather (preferable to sunstroke!) though it made it a little miserable for those spectating – thank you to our supporters.
This was my 19th outing, and I was aiming for sub-4hrs (a personal target that over the last few months has grown out of all sensible proportion in my mind) and anxiety had built up over the previous week. I felt ridiculously stressed at the start, and all the way through to Whaw. I started enjoying myself more on the climb up to Punchard – partly because it’s not easy, and the weather became pretty bad here (so I had other things to think about) and also because I shared this section with Robin, who made me run when my legs didn’t want to, and was good company as we headed into a claggy section over the moor. I was seriously thinking at this point that mum had paid him off to pace me, he was so good at pushing me on, and he didn’t seem tired at all.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the descent into Gunnerside. I got there just after my planned time and I thought 4hrs might still be on, though by this point I had remembered that running should (must) be fun – goals are a good thing, but not if they detract from the pure enjoyment of what we do. The pull up to Blades hurt (as always) and the odd cramp here was also pretty unpleasant, but I always like this section; getting to Surrender Bridge and knowing you’re almost home, you’ve just got to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I think I remember the weather improving slightly from Gunnerside. Great to see mum and Tony supporting on the stony track back down to Reeth – my favourite finish!
I didn’t quite get that elusive sub-4 but still very happy knocking a minute off my 2011 PB, and enjoying the company of others throughout, and the bogs and the rain!
Some superb performances by Striders – a ‘comfortable’ win (10 mins clear) for Fiona in the ladies race, both Michael and Stuart in the top 10, and some excellent times and positions for others, particularly given the conditions. Well done to all, whether first-timers or Swaledale ‘veterans’ – I hope to see you all there next year
Back in 2009, with a few Great North Runs under by belt, I thought I might fancy London one day. I think it was still 5 refusals, then you get a place back then, so I threw my name in the ballot with a long-term plan. Surprisingly I got a place first time! But it wasn’t to be, and I had to defer a year. By April 2011 I had a 2-month-old baby, so marathon plans were shelved for a long time…
I suppose it’s about time I wrote a race report, I’ve been a member now for 2yrs and so far, managed to dodge that obligation, well I can dodge no more…
In my mind the Marathon is the pinnacle of running achievement, it is what I have aspired to since being a child and witnessing my Grandad knock out several as an Elswick Harrier. But as life unfolded, and my only running achievement since school was a 2:01 GNR in 2004, it appeared that particular ‘dream’ would elude me.
Having completed the Hardmoors 50 the previous Saturday, and just about regained movement and feeling in my legs by the Wednesday on Saturday the 23rd of March I found myself on the start line of the Trail Outlaws Dark Skies 26.5 @ Kielder.
In contrast to last weeks storm Hannah, the weather at Kielder looked good, and there were mutterings of the Northern Lights making an appearance around 9 pm. It was looking promising to be a great night for some star gazing, plus a little 26.5-mile run.
In 2017 I had completed this event as my first ever Marathon. Having entered 2016’s event and broken my foot three weeks before. Back then (for the 2016 event) a storm had hit and I was actually pleased to be injured. The 2017 event provided clear skies and fantastic star gazing opportunities but sadly I didn’t make the most of them. This was my first marathon and I wanted to push hard to prove I could do it.
2019’s event was to be a different experience altogether. No pressure, just go out and enjoy it; taking in the ‘dark skies’.
The route itself runs in a clockwise direction around the perimeter of the Kielder Reservoir, which is, strangely enough, 26 miles (it’s like they planned the reservoir around a marathon route!). Starting out at the Hawkshead Scout Centre a quick loop around the grounds allows the field to thin out from the mass start and the fast lads (and lasses) can fight their way to the front. We were doing no such thing and started out at a comfortable pace, although this was somewhat faster than I had planned in my head. I say ‘We’ because I was joined on the start line by my better half Jill, Dave Toth, Crook AC’s Bill Ford and Sunderland Harrier Tony Erskine. Fellow Striders Eric Green and Club Chair Jonathan Hamill were with us on the start line, but within seconds of the off, they had disappeared.
Starting with a mile’s loop around the Hawkshead Scout site where you then run back through the start ‘funnel’ and head downhill towards the road before taking a right which takes you onto the lakeside path (Technically its a reservoir path but lakeside is easier to spell!). The first 6.5 ish miles to the first checkpoint follows the lakeside path up and down, up and down. I should point out that on this course you are either going up or going down, there are almost no fully flat sections.
The first three miles we’d been running at a quicker pace than I would have liked, and at some point, I knew I’d need to slow. It wasn’t a fast pace by any means, but the weekend before’s efforts had taken its toll. Heading up one of the (many) inclines I remember saying to Dave that I thought we were going a little fast, Dave agreed, but we didn’t seem to slow. Both Dave and Tony had also completed the Hardmoors 50 a week earlier. Gradually as we approached CP1 we did slow down and arrived at the Checkpoint in good spirits ready for some of the famous ‘Trail Outlaws Red Kola’. At least that was what I thought. After getting my cup of ‘Kola’ a very green looking Bill declared that he’d had enough and was off home. He did not look in a good way. We tried the usual “Come on”, “You’ll be fine” things, but his mind was made up. We later found off that Bill did continue for another couple of miles before turning around and returning to the Checkpoint. Something I was very great full for later on.
On we pressed out of CP1 and up the hill. Five had become four, and we had slowed things down. Anything bigger than a slight incline was now being walked.
Just after 7 pm at around 9.5 miles the light was fading and with dusk well and truly upon us, I made the decision to get my head torch out of my packs front pocket and onto my head. I turned it on to try it. It came on. Seconds later it went off again never to come back to life. I still haven’t looked at why the head torch failed on me.
I’d changed the batteries in my head torch just the day before, having used it extensively the week before. I couldn’t believe it, no head torch. Just what I needed. Part of the mandatory kit for the race was a head torch and spare batteries. Fortunately, I had a spare head torch, this was just at the very bottom of my race pack, having put it there on purpose since I hadn’t planned on needing it. As it was not yet fully dark we headed on to CP2 with the intention of using my spare head torch from there onward. None of the others were yet using their head torches, so I was ok for now.
At CP2 my priority was to get to the spare head torch and get it on my head, I did this, repacked my bag, refuelled with more ‘Red Kola’ and pretzels and we were off on our way. I tested my head torch to make sure it worked and thankfully it did. What I hadn’t done with this torch though was changed the batteries. I’d used it in the past but not for long periods, so hoped it would be ok. With this in mind, I opted to allow the light from others torches guide me round to save the batteries in mine for when I really needed it. This worked great for me apart from in the darkened forest parts when I really needed the extra light.
Between CP2 and CP3 there are a lot of quite steep climbs followed by descents, so by now the pace was definitely slowing and I could feel the high mileage in my legs. Power walking uphill was fine, running the descents was destroying my right knee with each step. I could feel my body changing the way I was landing to minimise the impact. I started to drop back from the other three in our group at times downhill, catching them up as they slowed to a walk on the up.
Fellow Strider Sarah Fawcett had joined our little group by now, and I can’t recall if we’d caught her or her us, but she was not having a good race. We all stayed together to CP3, at 16 miles and the Dam. Sarah set off ahead of us. Over the Dam is the only fully flat section of this race and makes a nice change from constant climbs and descents, but for me, by now the damage was done. I was tired and could feel myself slowly falling behind the others, but then pushing on a bit to keep with them. On towards the 17-18 mile CP we went. We had again caught up with Sarah, who seemed to be really struggling. She would admit this though. I wasn’t going to admit that I was tired and starting to need to slow the pace even further.
The five of us (Myself, Tony, Jill, Sarah and Dave) reached CP4 almost as a unit, though Dave and Tony were ahead of us. Jill was sitting comfortably in the middle of the pack and I was at the rear with Sarah. I recall saying to her that I wasn’t going to get any faster than this, so she should just try and stick with us to the end.
Leaving CP4 as a group Dave and Tony were pressing on ahead and I knew that we needed to just let them go, for a few miles the distance was only metres, but as the miles increased they got further and further away. Sarah was still with us though and although struggling we stayed together with Jill and I overtaking Sarah, then her passing us.
Somewhere between mile 20 and 21, Jill hit a wall. Not the mental ‘I can’t go on’ kind of wall, but her body had clearly depleted all of its energy stores and she was feeling sick. Despite refuelling, at each checkpoint, your body depletes energy faster than you can put it in during a marathon and Jill’s was definitely depleted. Jill was stumbling, almost falling into a ditch. Fuel was needed and fast. Fortunately, Jill had picked up a banana at the previous checkpoint and ate this and some cashew nuts she was carrying. We walked whilst she tried to get fuel into her body. Jill wasn’t giving in though and despite us walking she was power walking. Please just slow down for a bit I was thinking, as much for her as for my own tired body (I can’t walk as fast as Jill either).
We walked and ‘ultra’ shuffled for a couple of miles, still with Sarah nearby. Dave and Tony had by now long since left us, and were happily running their own race. I’d said all along that I wasn’t leaving Jill and despite her still struggling we pressed on. Not finishing was never an option.
By the time we had reached the woods that bring you into Leaplish and the 24 mile CP Jill was again feeling strong and we were run (shuffle) walking. By this point we had lost Sarah further behind us, she was by now really struggling. In order for us to finish, we had to do what was best for us and kept moving. Not at a fast pace, just moving forward.
At the Leaplish CP, we had a quick water refill and were off 1.7 miles to go. By now Jill had replenished her energy supplies and was again feeling strong. I, on the other hand, was tired and starting to really struggle. I didn’t let on though. From what I can recall we ran large sections of the last 1.7 miles to the finish, Jill was leading me along. At the final hill to the Scout site, Jill was about 10 meters ahead of me shouting “Come on”. I’ll not say what I was thinking at the time.
Up the hill, around the corner and into the hall to finish. We had done it. 5 hours 47 minutes. Nowhere near PB times, but the end goal had been achieved.
At the finish, we were greeted by Tony, Dave and Rachel Toth who were conveniently standing next to the Jelly Babies. I ate a lot of Jelly Babies! Bill Ford joined us looking rather refreshed. He’d been changed, had a massage, watched the first finishers come in, but most importantly of all he’d been to collect Jill’s car from the overflow car park and brought it to the finish meaning we could make a quick getaway. We said our goodbye’s, saw Jonathan Hamill eating cake and were off for pizza and drinks.
I found out the following morning that Sarah had made it to the finish after stopping for some rest at Leaplish. Sorry we didn’t hang around!
As a footnote, the Northern Lights didn’t show up and we saw very few stars since it was cloudy.
“Please can we go to Saltburn in February” is a phrase few will say whom are of sound and rational mind and there are many good reasons for that……however as a trail runner and lover of Hardmoors
it is a necessity to arrive bright and early on a Sunday morning, at that time of the year and in that very location.
The Half Marathon at Saltburn in 2017 was my first ‘trail’ run and was perhaps the hardest 15 mile I had ever ran. Yes, I had completed Marathons and events in the past, but nothing compared me for the climbs, mud, sleet, hail, rain, snow, wind with the occasional presence of sunshine over a 2-hour period.
Now we fast forward two years and after the mental and physical torture of 2017 we have added multiple Hardmoors experiences to the locker and now think its big and clever to double the distance
and take on the marathon series.
Training had gone well, a good result in the HM30 the month before and I felt confident going into the race with some good miles behind me. A recce in the snow the week before had given some knowledge of the elevation and terrain of the back half of the route and on checking the weather forecast no more snow was due; only winds provided by some storm called Eric.
The morning of the race was surprisingly calm, the wind had gone, no rain, no snow, no hail…was this Saltburn? The conditions near perfect weather wise as we parked up and registered for the event.
As usual, seamless teamwork from the Hardmoors family as we registered, smiley face for the kit check and we packed our bags in readiness for the race briefing and the call to go outside and toe the line. Walking out we passed Striders Simon Graham and Jill
Young, happily saluting us with coffee cups and wishing us good luck…..with the caveat that they are not as crazy as us and are happy to be taking part in the half marathon, due to start at 10am.
We walk outside on mass, traffic stopped, marshalls in place and Jon says we’re off; so we’re off…. down a main road (at least in force so some element of safety) until we hit the track into the
dene to drop to the coast. The leader seemingly intent to break away, hitting a fast paced first mile to the coast before the coastal trail path sections and the first flight of steps….slowing us all down as we walk the climb. The course taking the scenic
coastal path route, along the cliff tops into the bay and then back up for the climb to the top of Loftus before a fast paced tarmac section. A chance to open the legs after a firm but damp section along the trails. Seeing friends and fellow runners marshalling
and exchanging in general banter as we continue on our merry way.
In a true fashion the trails continued to undulate, generally following the bows of yellow tape placed in many part by our very own Dave Toth in the days before. Climbs followed drop, drops and climbs, stairs, steps and hills with few flat and fast sections in between before we start to reach mile 18-19 and the Tees Link up to High Cliff Nab. For those not familiar with this section of Guisborough woods I would encourage you all to have a trip out and take in the elevation and views at the summit, the climb can be challenging in the best of conditions and after the recent snow this climb was the hardest I have experienced in running these events. Unfortunately, the view from the top was one I couldn’t appreciate during the race but looks good on google.
This was the hardest and biggest climb of the race with a long run back through the woods and over to Quakers Causeway before heading down to Boosebeck and climbing to Skelton. The taping of the
route and support of the marshals was impeccable throughout the route with fully stocked refreshment points and supportive encouragement throughout. The views, freedom and lack of people and animals on the moors is one of peacefulness; no noise, traffic and
only the voice in your head to talk to as you cover the boggy moor landscape. Michelle likes to comment that listening to me have a conversation with myself is her idea of torture; I quite like it as I generally turn out to be right when I’m finished my discussion.
Reaching the other side of Boosebeck enables the Marathon race to join the end of the half marathon route and it was good to see runners again, to be able to say hello and not continually look for
yellow tape as I could follow the pack, to target people to try and reach and have a little competition with myself for the final couple of miles. Dropping down the steps I had expected to see Dave Toth at his marshalling point but apparently, he had popped
to the shop for refreshments so we continued on back into the dene and the final climb to the main road where the finish line and the leisure centre awaited.
Running into the hall, stopping the watch and desperate for a shower I was happy to end in a time of c3:48 minutes and take first place. Happy the race had gone to plan, pushing on when required and all in better conditions that we could imagined.
I would encourage anyone to take part, try a 10k(ish) if you’re not sure and I would be surprised if even a little bit of you didn’t enjoy the event and people involved.
Grab a cuppa, maybe some cake, and enjoy a light-hearted read. ‘Running My Way’ is a celebration of taking life by the horns. It documents…
What happens when Tamsin, a busy working mum of two, immerses herself in the joy of running and discovers running ‘her way’. From the curiously meditative experience of running hard on a track, to the adventures of running 30 miles across the North York Moors sustained by frozen Jaffa Cakes.
The passion and friendliness of the running community, united by the simple act and immense liberation of putting one foot in front of the other (lots of times).
The joy of running with wild abandon through the bogs, moors and woods of the countryside.
Why the challenge of competitive running is truly addictive. And why you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a Personal Best.
Why CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is a serious and life restricting illness.
As follows is an extract from this book by kind permission from Pitch Publishing.
The ‘Hardmoors ‘White Horse Marathon’ North Yorkshire Moors. (28miles, hilly), May 2015.
Driving down the A19 was like driving through the sea! The heavy rain beat down hard and bounced straight back up off the road. The wind came in gusts and repeatedly slammed rain into the side of the car. The car air conditioning roared loudly at full blast as GH (gorgeous husband) battled to demist the windows. Through all this noise the words of James Bay were occasionally caught as the song ‘Cry me a River’ played on the radio! No need to cry, we already had a river! I half wondered if it would be cancelled. Had I met the organiser of the Hardmoors series, I would have known how unlikely this was! For now, I really hoped it was on. I was buzzing with excitement!
After our little white Fiat Panda had struggled up the steep angles of Sutton Bank, GH and the kids dropped me off and made haste to warm indoor places in York. The warm inviting car drove away and I was abandoned in the heavy rain in a deserted Sutton Bank visitor centre early on a dim morning in May. In a moment of inspiration I had grabbed my ancient, ‘car-to- work- entrance’ umbrella from the car just before it drove off, and I now tried to shelter underneath it. This umbrella was useless as the spokes on one side had been bent a long time ago and the thing turned inside out whenever it knew a big blast of wet wind was coming my way. I skidadeled to the visitor centre, hoping to find some shelter. As I got closer I noticed a small group of runners sheltering beneath the roof between the two visitor centre buildings. They were all smiling! Had they not noticed there was a gale outside? One guy was even stripping off in an act of defiant optimism! I was slightly cold! One lady had come all the way from Norway to experience the North York Moors. I think she was going to get a true experience!
I realised I needed to collect my race number so asked for directions. They pointed me towards the front of the visitor centre. There in small field was a small white tent flapping about for dear life in the breeze! Umbrella up, I braced myself to the elements and made a run for the tent, slip sliding on the mud. My umbrella laughed at me mockingly and used it as another great opportunity to turn inside out.
In the tent I found another group of sheltering runners and marshals giving out numbers. I collected my number and cowered in the tent for a bit. It got closer to the start time, so I joined everyone now congregating behind the start and I shivered beneath my merciless umbrella as the heavens delivered further onslaughts of sheets of water. In a sudden big gust my umbrella then whacked me in the face. I tried to show it who was boss by throwing it into a nearby bin. Soon a big, strong and tough looking man appeared. He looked like he had come from the army! This turned out to be the Hardmoors organiser. He gave a strict briefing in true style, one that I would come to know and love over the next year, rounding off with a “ OK you ‘orrible lot. Five, four, three, two one, go suffer!”
There was nothing left to do but to embrace the heavens! First along the top of a wood along the top of the escarpment. It was slightly more sheltered with this tree barrier. I didn’t have a hood as I hadn’t been able to find a cheap water proof jacket with hood in my copious spare time, just a thin wooley hat on my head. My hat soon became soaked through, but it was a warm, heavy wet thing on my head which was better than nothing on my head. We ran along a rutted, rocky footpath, which necessitated sighting ahead to find the best foot landings without falling over. This was difficult through my rain streaming glasses. Then it was down a steep mud bank and around Goremire lake, which is a very nice hidden gem. There were marshals around the lake which helped as there were a myriad of little muddy paths here and there. Once round the lake it was a steep mud bank, back up on to the moor. The mud back was churned up by all the runners ahead and I was on my knees at times!
Then we ran away from the edge, and higher up on to the open wild exposed Moors! It really could not have got any wetter! I cannot report on the views. I just saw a watery scene with some heather in it. Due to my impaired vision it was hard to navigate. After five or so miles, there was a path off to the right. Was this our path? Luckily my map was accessible and cling-filmed, stowed in my new, still cheap, but larger, running rucksack. I could not see the map, but others could, and this confirmed we did indeed need to take this path.
Brilliant! We were now running south west, the rain behind us with a downhill trend. Lovely! On a steep muddy descent my road shoes were a bit like ice skates and I had to gingerly slow down to a tip toe. There were six guys just behind me at this point. They waited patiently, offering encouragement! I felt very bad holding them up though so let them past as soon as I could find a vaguely firm surface to stand on. Then it was to a forest. I put on a surge and managed to catch the guys up. I was surprised to find I wasn’t so keen on people passing me! I kept up with them along the wider track through the edge of the forest. They put on a good pace! Hooray, it had stopped raining now! Eventually the guys out-paced me and disappeared into the distance.
I was now running alone through private land. (The organiser had negotiated with the land owner to enable us to run through this area, due to a problem with the original route). This felt nicely well off the beaten track! It was a wooded area of recent tree felling and machines and vehicles had churned up the land. Spindly tree branches lay across the path spiking me through my leggings. Underfoot was soft rutted mud. At one point I had to haul myself up a bank of tree branches! I hadn’t had so much fun for ages! Eventually I came to the other side of the dendrous*obstacle course, to meet a smart little road. Tarmac felt like a luxury product! At a junction I was unsure of which way to go. I admit to being very lazy and instead of wrestling my numb fingers with wet zips to get the map out I just waited until the runner behind caught me up. He seemed surprised to see me standing there. He was very polite and also confident about the route. We ran on together and enjoyed some conversation. The bit on the road was not for long and we soon found ourselves running across a flat valley bottom through grassy and boggy fields. We talked about the possibility of trench foot. The valley was steep sided and wooded. Then ahead I saw the most beautiful sight! It was Riveaux Abbey, shrouded in the low mist which blended into a white sky. The Abbey looked eerie and majestic. Given the weather, the Abbey grounds were deserted and we had this peaceful sight to ourselves. A lone marshal directed us over a stone hump back bridge and we headed back West, admittedly still a fair few miles to go, but West nevertheless which uplifted my spirits and gave the legs a new boost of energy from places unknown.
It was round further woods and grassy fields we went, more ups and downs, to reach a final checkpoint. The Hardmoors series is entirely run by these amazing volunteers who stand in bad weather at wild outposts for hours, who are always smiling and encouraging and some even bring home baking! Some are runners, others are friends. I thank them, and did no more so than at this point when I was feeling the distance. I was offered a cup of delicious cool water and home made shortbread! It was nice to chat and stay a while! Then back to the task at hand, to get to Sutton Bank Visitor centre. After more knee wrenchingly muddy paths, came a rather less attractive track, with less attractive views. I guess we were right off to the south of the Moors now. It was past featureless ploughed fields. It was very long. I was felt really hungry and had a craving for meat. As I passed a lone grass pasture I eyed up the sheep.
I caught up some others and we walked up a hill, discussing the gravity of the situation to justify walking! Groups of walkers with dogs appeared in the wooded area a mile from the Visitor Centre. Then at long last the Visitor Centre was ahead! Just a case of getting round to the tent! The sun shone down warmly and the car park was now full and a buzzing scene of happy picnickers and families! I stumbled along the side of the car park to be cheered on by a few runners, (some of whom I recognised from earlier) who had already finished. Finally I was back in the tent and a marshal took my number down. I was a bit stunned at how much of the North York Moors you can see in a morning if you want to! My family returned from a good morning seeing the museums of York and we went to the Visitor Centre café to exchange experiences. I also got a sausage sandwich!
The next day was a Monday and I turned up at the women’s running group! I had heard the word ‘recovery run’ bandied about, but wasn’t sure really what it meant. A slow run to ease the legs maybe? I’m not sure I could do that! My legs were so stiff I had to kind of walk down the stairs like a robot without bending my legs. Sitting down was painful, and at home the repeated sweeping of the floor necessitated by children meant flipping myself from standing to press up position without bending the legs, sweeping up lying down, then snaking to the bin! At the track I decided to cheer people on, then enjoyed the café! I told the woman’s running group leader about my post race mobility. She looked at me wryly and said well done. She asked me how the route had been. I’ve no idea, I replied I hadn’t seen 95 per cent of it what with the rain on my glasses!
If you wish to read more, Tamsin’s book is available to pre-order from Waterstones and Amazon websites. It is available from these websites and in bookshops from 17thDecember 2018.