Chapter 1; Saltburn Marathon
“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.
Round 1 completed, 6 to go……