Tag Archives: Mark Kearney

Hardmoors Saltburn marathon, Saltburn Leisure Centre, Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mark Kearney

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……

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Hardmoors 30, Ravenscar, North Yorkshire, Tuesday, January 1, 2019

30 miles

Mark Kearney

Epilogue

The plan was coming together in early 2018. A friend and I were talking of taking on the Hardmoors Marathon series in 2019 after several 10k and half marathon races in 2017 and 2018. The aims of increasing the distance, the elevation, the number of events over a 12-month period were all challenges we believed we were up for….and as part of the training in advance of the first ‘Chapter’ of the Hardmoors series we thought it would be good to take on the New Years Day Hardmoors 15. 15 I hear you say, but the title says 30…. there must be a mistake, a typo in the report which needs correcting…..alas no. The only error occurred by me failing to log on in time to secure a spot in the 15 being forced to sign up for the 30. The cursor hovering over the payment button longer than usual given this was on New Year Day…..however it was not enough to deter me, we pressed proceed and we were in, booked up for 30 Hardmoors miles.

Mark Kearney running along coastal path with lighthouse behind him.

Generally having a good weekly mileage behind me I was confident I could manage the distance but with little hill work other than races in December I went into Christmas wanting to know what I was getting into. A recci of the route a week before helped me understand the areas I thought I could gain time against the ‘mountain goats’ in the race and have a better understanding of the terrain and stages of the race.

An early morning start as usual for the race with the long drive to Robin Hoods Bay for the 9:30 klaxon. As usual the registration area was already busy, seeing some familiar faces and already feeling the warmth and positivity which these races and the runners seem to have in bucket loads. I collected my number, passed the mandatory kit check (and was asked if I was running with my travelling back pack…scary), packed up the hydration vest and started to go for the warmup and congregation on the starting line.

As the competitors gathered on the starting line around me I often reflect on the why, the what and on the where did all this seem normal. A near 40 year old man, wearing compression tights, a race vest, hydration pack and even packing walking poles and a compass…. On New Years Day in 2000 if I could have saw into the future of 2019 I would have reached for another beer to take the image from my mind.

I knew the route, I had completed the research, first 6-7 miles was along a cinder track to Whitby, through the town and up the steps to the abbey. I new this would be a good stretch for me, solid footing, slight incline but steady pace would have me in a good position I hoped a quarter of the way into the race. As the race started there were 4-5 of us in a pack for the first mile…. steady pace until the lead runner picked up the pace and started to kick out 6:30 min/miles towards Whitby. I responded by increasing slightly but knowing we had 27+ miles to go wasn’t interested in a foot race this early on in proceedings and stuck to a slightly revised version of my plan.

After the climbing of the steps I had opened up a gap behind me to the third placed runner but had no sight of the leader. Thinking he had kept his pace going I kept the best rhythm possible on the contours of the Cleveland Way on the route back to Robin Hoods Bay for the half way check point. The ground and weather to us were kind in equal measure as we ran along the cliff tops, the ground hardened since the previous weeks recci which I was extremely glad of which allowed me to make good time over the first 13 miles.

Back into Robin Hoods Bay check point at mile 13/14, shouted out my number, gave a wave to the marshal, grabbed a handful of jelly babies and off I went. Next stop Ravenscar and Hayburn Wyke for the third quarter of the route. Again I knew this was back on the cinder track, firm footing but a steady climb to Ravenscar before flattening to Hayburn, chance to push on to see if I could see the leader…..all to no avail but knowing I had tried left me confident I shouldn’t have lost time on third place. Here I filled up my water for the first time since the start before the last push back along the coast and the Cleveland Way to Robin Hoods Bay. Taking on more fuel I prepared for the technical part of the race, a series of climbs and descents from cliff top to bay, down stone steps, boggle holes and the like as we raced back to Robin Hoods Bay; wind in our faces as we made our way over the cliff tops and through the tree lined trail.

Running down through the steep descent through Ravenscar to the Alum works, remembering this on the recci and the route to go through the works on the Cleveland Way through to Robin Hoods Bay…. or was it straight past the Alum works? I kept going knowing it shouldn’t be that much of a detour, only to come out and turn around and see third place behind me…. from nowhere. Immediately the pace picked up as I passed multiple tourists walking along the coast for a New Year’s Day stroll, a million ‘excuse me’s’, ‘runner coming through’ and ‘sorry’s’ later I was down at the base of Robin Hoods, no sign of third place…..on reflection given how bad I thought I would smell after the best part of four hours running you would think they would move quicker out of my way. Ill forgive them though due to the breeze and the fresh sea air combined with the previous nights copious amounts of alcohol.

One last push I knew, a sting in the tail, a steep climb on tarmac from the bay to Flyingdales community centre. A push and drive of the legs up to the crest and a turn back to see no one behind me…a chance to relax, gather and refresh the legs before the climbs levelled off allowing a few minutes to find rhythm before the finish line and put on a brave face….. and finally seeing the first placed runner again.

The clue is invariably in the race series title that these will be Hard but the spirit of the organisers, competitors, marshals and supporting families make these fantastic races and extremely popular for all ages and abilities and something I would recommend to anyone.

Overall a great race, great day and great way to start 2019. 4 hours of running, over 2000 foot of climb in a beautiful part of Northern England….and happy to come away with second place.

p.s. it was also great to see Dave Toth picking up his 1000 Hardmoors Mile in the 15 event…impressive if punishing running!

results

posbibtimenamecat
11394:04:30Phil Jones (Shropshire Shufflers)MV40
21404:09:27Mark KearneyM
581145:50:08Eric GreenMV50
621135:52:09Aaron GourleyMV40
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