The Hardmoors 55 race takes place on the Cleveland Way. The Cleveland Way is one of the National Trail routes in England and runs through the North York Moors. The Hardmoors 55 starts at Guisborough and run down to the Helmsley, a historic market town. It is one of the ultras which I’ve always looked at but knew that I have to approach it with causation. The reason for being cautious about this race is that I know that steep downhill running is not my strong point and with 2700m of accent I am definitely going to get a few downhills.
With a chilly northerly wind from behind we set off. It seems to rain in most of my races so I’m happy that the forecast is only windy, positive thinking always helped. My winter training was good but the month leading up to the race I barely manage to get two runs in per week. Nerves got the best of me and I though of a million excuses why I should pull out. But then the ultra runner part of my brain kicks in. I know I can finish, it will be good training for my other races. Getting to the start line is the hardest part, doing the race is the reward for all your hard work.
The scenery was amazing. The views from the top of the hills was breathtaking! I was doing quite well, managing a good pace and was pleased but then I suddenly thought that I will have to do this for at least ten more hours. Any thoughts like that in a ultra is enough to make you stop and cry. I pushed on, trying to use every mental strategy to keep going. I’ve done enough ultras to know that every race has it ups and downs and that eventually you will feel better again. Now one thing which I’ve learnt very early in my running career is that my mental state responds well to food. My brain becomes a lot happier when I supply it with nutrients.
After the first ten to fifteen miles you start to see the same runners. I will pass them and then they will pass me, constantly playing a game of cat and mouse. This is the the best time to make new friends because you know as the race progress you will need the camaraderie and companionship. Having people to talk to makes the miles go by a lot faster and you focus less on your aches and pains.
The first half of the race took its toll on my sciatic nerve. It was playing up a lot when I tried to speed up running downhill. It was quite clear who was used to this type of downhill racing so I was trying to follow their feet. It’s amazing on how much you learn doing these events. Other runner has extensive amount of knowledge which they are more than willing to share. For the second part of the race I started to run with John. Talking, telling stories and motivating each other was a great mental boost. He knew the area well and I enjoyed listening to all the local knowledge of the area and the route. As the sun started to set more and more runners started to group together. A few tired minds looking at the route makes it easier to spot the route markings and prevent us from getting lost.
Leaving the last check point at mile 45 (White horse) we were greeted by very steep stairs. I knew it was there but I don’t think any training prepare you for climbing stairs after 45 miles. Feeling nice and warm after that we tried bursts of running. They didn’t last very long but every bit of running got us closer to the finish line. As the miles slowly passes by we were trying to spot Helmsely’s lights. We started guessing which colour the finishers t-shirts will be, anything just to push through the last few miles. With the sight of Helmsely’s lights we all started to run, although I’m sure it looked more like a jog but to us it felt like a sprint finish. We didn’t push too hard, we had a lot of fun so the aftermath of this ultra wasn’t too bad.
This race was so different form my other races, it gave me a mental boost. I will strongly recommend this race to anyone. It was well organised by race director Jon Steel, staffed with friendly marshals and the route has the most amazing views. For the motivational signs along the route… well you are not really suppose to like race directors too much during the race! (See picture below)