- 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.