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The Hardmoors 55 is billed on its website as ‘one hell of a race’, and that’s no exaggeration! Following the Cleveland Way for 55 miles from Guisborough to Helmsley, it has over 2,000 metres of ascent (including some pretty brutal hills) and takes in the highest, most exposed section of the North York Moors. Because of this, and because it’s usually in March, the weather always plays its part in the proceedings. In 2018 the race took place as the Beast from the East swept the country and was officially stopped halfway through during a blizzard. Last year featured torrential rain, freezing gale force winds and horizontal hail, and many runners dropped out – including me! The wind was so strong we couldn’t even run on some flat sections. Soaked to the skin and dithering with cold, I’d had enough after a horrible 20 miles that took me six hours. It was the first time I’d ever DNF’d in a race, and afterwards I felt really annoyed about it, even though I know it was the right decision at the time.

This year coronavirus had postponed the event from March to October, and I was back to attend to some unfinished business! The race was run under Covid guidelines, with masked, socially distanced registration, a staggered start, and hygiene procedures in place at checkpoints. We also all had our temperature taken on arrival. The weather forecast was for wind in the morning and rain later on. I felt my training had gone pretty well, so felt reasonably confident I’d make the finish as our group of six set off at 8.48 am precisely.

The first part of the route climbs steadily upwards, and after six miles comes the first ‘peak’ of the day: Roseberry Topping, aka the Yorkshire Matterhorn. My poles came out for the first time here! It’s quite a technical climb/descent, and with runners going both ways on an out and back route quite close to the start, it was pretty busy. The wind was really howling up there, and as I got right to the top (there are marshals, so you can’t cheat) I was literally blown onto the trig point! So I was pretty glad to get down again.

The first checkpoint was at Gribdale, eight miles in. Runners had to sanitise their hands when entering each checkpoint. Masked and gloved marshals distributed all the drinks, so we didn’t have to touch any bottles, and all the snacks were individually wrapped; so it all felt quite safe. I had a drop bag here, so drank my chocolate milk and took my pain au chocolat and sausage roll with me for later! Usually some checkpoints are at indoor venues, such as village halls, and have hot food and drinks, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible this year.

After Gribdale there’s a climb up to the impressive Captain Cook’s monument, then a nice long descent to Kildale. From here there’s a road section that goes uphill for quite a long way and seems never-ending! The second checkpoint was along here at Warren Moor (12 miles), but I didn’t stop as I was well stocked up at this point. The next eight miles or so are some of the most exposed on the course, and there was a gale force wind blowing against us, so progress was a bit slow; but at least it wasn’t a freezing wind like last year. I tried to suck it up and enjoy the views, although I could see the rain clouds coming in! It was also a good opportunity to eat, which is really important in a race of this length. As somebody once said to me “If you can’t run, eat!”, which is excellent advice for a ultra.

The next checkpoint came up at Clay Bank, 20 miles in. I was really pleased to get here, as this is where I pulled out, had my tracker cut off and climbed into the marshal’s ‘car of shame’ last year! This was another drop bag point, where I had more chocolate milk and collected a couple of gels, as I knew eating would be difficult over the next section. The rain also started at this point. Straight after this is the hardest part of the course; the infamous Three Sisters. This is a roller coaster of three huge hills with steep climbs and descents, including a scramble through the spectacular Wainstones. Rocky, technical descents are not my forte, so it was just a matter of taking things steady and getting on with it. The views are amazing though!

Then follows a gentle descent to Lordstones, followed immediately by another huge climb up Carlton Bank. At least the wind had died down a bit by this point!

The next section of the course, towards Osmotherley, is one of the nicest parts, with some gentle descent and pretty woodland. There was another checkpoint at Scarth Nick, just before Osmotherley (28 miles in) where I picked up some peanuts and a chocolate Freddo – haven’t had one of those for a while! From Osmotherley there is another big climb. It was still raining steadily and the light was starting to fade by now. I was still only just over halfway, and felt a bit fed up for a while. As I passed Square Corner at 32 miles, many runners had supporters parked up in cars and vans waiting to meet them. For a moment I thought it would be nice to sit down in a warm van – but then realised it might be hard to get going again afterwards!

There’s another steady climb from Square Corner up to Black Hambleton. Yes, another one! I had to stop and retie one of my shoelaces along here, so thought I might as well put my head torch on at the same time. At the top of the climb, where the path flattened out, huge puddles had formed that were impossible to avoid, so it was cold and soaking feet for the last 20 miles! My gloves were also wet by now and my hands were getting a bit cold, but at least it was possible to run quite well on this stretch, so I just got on with it and managed to warm up. It was pitch black by now, but there were lots of people around so it wasn’t scary. It was nice to chat to a few folk en route. As we entered Boltby Forest I felt quite positive, as I knew Steve was waiting to see me at Sutton Bank not far ahead.

My last drop bag was at the Sneck Yate checkpoint at 39 miles. I had more chocolate milk (magic stuff!) and tried to eat some of my sausage roll, but couldn’t, so cracked on. Or tried to – this was where the ‘fun’ started! The day’s rain had turned all the grassy tracks from now onwards into a mud fest. Trails that I would happily trip along on a fine, dry day became really hard work; so there was quite a bit of walking from here! I was pretty pleased to get a hug and some chocolate from Steve when I saw him. The temptation to just stop and get into the car was huge, because I knew how hard the route would be from here to the end at Helmsley, but I was determined to finish. Steve ran with me from Sutton Bank to the final checkpoint at the White Horse (support runners are allowed later in the race), where a fab crowd of marshals, including my friend Mandy, were cheering people in. A great boost, and the rain had even stopped!

However, there were still about ten miles to go and conditions were so gloopy it took me nearly three hours to cover them. Apart from a few short road sections, everything was so wet and muddy, sapping energy from the legs – it was like wading through treacle in places. When I tried to use my poles to help on a steep, muddy downhill they just sank in and got stuck! I tried to comfort myself by thinking we were all in the same boat. At one point I took a wrong turn that probably added on about half a mile – that’ll teach me to blindly follow another runner! Despite the tough conditions, everyone seemed in good spirits, encouraging each other on and having a laugh at times. I was really pleased to get the last climb out of Rievaulx finished, because I knew it was then all downhill to Helmsley. But when I ran downhill my quads began to hurt! I was really pleased to finish and also happy that I’d made it to the end this time. Unfortunately Covid restrictions meant that we couldn’t wait around and chat to people as we usually would, but had to leave straight away. Our hard-earned goody bags contained a technical t-shirt featuring the all-important Hardmoors crossed swords, plus some heavy, high-quality bling.

My finish time was 14:48:05 – slower than I would have liked, but I think the conditions slowed everyone down. I was 181st out of 221 individual finishers (almost 40 people dropped out or didn’t make the time cuts along the way) and 4th out of the eight FV50s that finished. So not an easy day at the office! At the end I said “Never again!” but after a few days of recovery I’m thinking I could go faster in better conditions. Apparently good weather has been known at this race in the past! And I don’t have a major goal for next spring yet…

Hello folks, it’s been a while! How are we all doing? I feel like we’ve all been in running limbo for the past few months. In my last blog post, at the end of April, I wondered if things would be back to some kind of normality by the summer, but as it turned out that was a tad optimistic! So many events have been cancelled or postponed until next year that my 2021 schedule is already looking pretty busy.

When we were all in lockdown I kept my runs local, but as things eased slightly I ventured a bit further afield to parts of the Cleveland Way, Dalby Forest and the Wolds Way – always on my own to remain socially distanced. Although there have been no races over the summer I’ve been trying my best to keep fit.

I do like to have a goal to keep me motivated though, so entered the Boston (UK) Marathon. I don’t really do road marathons these days, but it seemed to be the only thing that was actually happening. I did more interval and threshold training than usual to prepare for this, and began to feel the benefits. The Boston organisers put all the appropriate Covid safety processes in place, obtained approval and were convinced it would go ahead… but then with less than three weeks to go it was cancelled. I was disppointed, but not totally surprised. At least I had a good block of training under my belt, and I do feel fitter for it.

The following week I took part in my first post-Covid trail race, the Temple Newsam Dash, organised by It’s Grim Up North Running. I’d entered the half marathon version of this as part of my Boston taper, and it was an interesting experience. Registration was oudoors and contactless, with staggered start times in socially distanced groups of six. I thought it worked pretty well, as no big groups developed and the course had plenty of space. The only refreshments were bottles of water, but I’d taken my own Camelbak so I didn’t have to touch anything. I must say, staggered starts make for much shorter toilet queues! It felt really good to be back out running with people and see a few familiar faces.

After that my thoughts turned to the Hardmoors 55 in October, which had been postponed from April. I’m fairly confident this will happen (barring a local lockdown) as a couple of other Hardmoors events have already happened (socially distanced, obviously) and seem to have gone OK. So I’ve moved from my road marathon training plan onto my ultra plan! This has seen me doing back-to-back runs of 10-12 miles over the last couple of weekends, with some bigger runs coming up over the next few weeks. First there’s Punk Panther events Reservoir Dogs in late September. I’ve been meaning to try one of their events for a while but the timing has never been right. This will be a 28 mile hilly run starting and finishing in Otley and apparently taking in seven reservoirs! Then at the beginning of October there’s the Endurancelife Northumberland marathon at Ravenscar. I’ve done this event once before and it’s really lovely. Ravenscar is one of my favourite places and I haven’t been there since the Hardmoors 60 a year ago, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Next week I’m going for a break in Scotland, and am looking forward to exploring some trails while I’m up there. I was supposed to be running the Highland Fling in April, but obviously that’s now happening next year. Looking further into autumn, I have the Hardmoors Goathland marathon and the Tadcaster 10 (miles) in November, then the Helmsley 10K (postponed from Easter) and the Hardmoors Roseberry Topping half marathon in December. Fingers crossed that these events will be able to go ahead. The future still isn’t totally clear at the moment, but hopefully 2021 will be slightly more normal than 2020 has been.

Keep on running!

I last posted here in mid-March, and in the relatively short time since then the world has changed beyond recognition. At that time I’d just run the Golden Fleece Circuit as part of my preparation for the Highland Fling race, my main target for spring. Not long afterwards we were in lockdown and everything was cancelled. One by one the events I was planning to take part in over the spring and summer fell like dominos: the Daffodil Dash, the Helmsley 10K, the Vale of York 10, the York & District clubs summer 10K league, the Fling, the Windermere Marathon, Race to the Castle, Endure 24… right up until July. I don’t have anything in the diary until the Hardmoors Farndale Marathon in August now. But who knows whether life will be back to anything approaching normal even by then? It was all totally understandable, but so disappointing.

Look, I realise this is very much a first world problem and I have such a lot to be grateful for. As far as I know I’m healthy, and so are all my loved ones. I’m still working (mostly from home) and not being laid off or furloughed. As a self-employed landscaper, my husband is struggling to work at the moment, but we can manage. I have friends in foreign countries who are properly locked down and not even able to leave the house at the moment, but we can still take our state-sanctioned outdoor exercise every day (thank God!). And yet… I found that not being able to run where I like, or run with other people, or take part in any events left a big hole in my life. Running makes a massive difference to my mental wellbeing, and I know that many other people feel the same.

So when we found ourselves in lockdown I was properly fed up to start with. It was a couple of weeks before Endure was cancelled, so at first I re-jigged my training schedule to lead up to that; even though I knew it probably wouldn’t happen I pretended it would to try and stay motivated. But deep down I felt there was no point doing any training, because what was I even training for? I was also eating too much cake and drinking too much wine, which made me not sleep very well, and that certainly didn’t help my mood. Something clearly had to change before I couldn’t fit into my clothes. So I decided to do something I’ve never done before – train for a 10K! This may sound surprising, as I’ve run many 10Ks in the past; but I’ve never specifically trained for one before. I’ve always done them just for fun.

Years ago, when I started taking running a bit more seriously than just jogging to lose half a stone (my original goal!) I had three road times that I thought I’d like to achieve; a sub four hour marathon, a sub 1:50 half and a sub 50 minute 10K. I managed to achieve the first two, but never the last. The closest I came was 50:26 at the Leeds Abbey Dash in 2016. After that I started doing mostly ultra training, so not much speed work. As I can’t really do long or hilly runs at the moment, improving my pace is at least something I can focus on. The Leeds 10K in July isn’t cancelled yet, so I might even enter that if it goes ahead. I doubt I’ll ever break 50 minutes now, but hey ho, I’ll have a go! So I’m doing a couple of speed sessions a week from a sub 50 10K plan I found on the UK Athletics website and I feel a lot better for having a new goal. We have an airfield in our village with a public footpath alongside it, which has a perfect flat, Tarmac surface for intervals – almost like a track!

I’m still doing a longer run at the weekend, and I’m really enjoying discovering local trail routes I never knew about until I recently bought an Ordnance Survey Explorer map of our area. I’m also improving my map reading skills, which are pretty much non-existent!

The other thing that’s been keeping me going is that the instructor at my regular circuit training group, Liam from Courage Fitness, has been sending us home workouts via WhatsApp twice a week. These are really good (very testing!), and at the end of each one we have a challenge to do, for which we get points and have a league table to keep us entertained. At the moment I’m surprised to be in second place. Apparently I’m not brilliant at anything, but am consistently average! So with extra strength training and more cake (but less wine now), I’ll probably come out of lockdown fatter but fitter. Also, unable to see where I’m going as I can’t get a haircut!

Hope everyone is coping OK with the restrictions. Hopefully things will start to regain some sort of normality by summer. Stay strong, folks!

(Rainbow courtesy of my friend Nicola!)

I love running ultras, but preparing for them properly does involve doing quite a few long training runs, which can sometimes be a bit boring. So I love it when I can find an event to enter that’s about the same length as the long run I need to do on that weekend. It’s far more interesting to run a new route with other people than to just go out and plug away by myself. Last weekend’s Golden Fleece Circuit was a great opportunity to combine some Highland Fling training with a good day out.

I heard about the Fleece last year, but unfortunately only when it was already full – a good sign! So I made sure to get in sharpish this year. It’s based in the lovely village of South Cave in East Yorkshire, and is organised by the Scouts there. Apparently it was created in memory of a chap called Bob Gunby, a keen walker and scouter who passed away in 2010. What a lovely, lasting memorial that also raises money for the scouts. The Circuit winds its way on mixed terrain through the southern end of the Yorkshire Wolds, with a choice of 15 or 27.5 mile options. I obviously plumped for the longer one! I was slightly nervous about it as the route isn’t marked and I’m a bit navigationally challenged, but printed off the map and route description and hoped for the best. I even printed out the description in large print so I could read it without my glasses!

The weather looked quite promising as I left York at 7 am and was forecast to be dry after what seemed like months of wet, windy weather. The event starts and finished at the community centre in the village, near the impressive backdrop of Cave Castle. There was plenty of parking, both at the venue and on nearby streets. Registration was very fast; we didn’t get a pin-on number, but a laminated card to get punched at the checkpoints.

I wasn’t sure what the ratio of runners to walkers would be, but I think there were probably more runners. It was nice to say hello to a couple of people I knew as I queued for the toilet. We could probably have done with more than three portable loos at the start for 500 people. Luckily I managed to get in just before the start – others were not so lucky!

A hooter sounded and we set off bang on time at 8.30 am. I had no aim other than to get round, spend time on my feet and enjoy the day. I thought it might take me about five hours, but didn’t mind if it was more. The first few miles were quite easy and mostly flat trail, so a nice warm-up.

From about six miles in the course was more undulating, but nothing too taxing. There were nine checkpoints along the route, six of which had refreshments. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so had brought a couple of cereal bars and gels, but needn’t have bothered; there was a great range of sweet and savoury snacks, and at various points I had sausage rolls, a tuna sandwich, scones, cookies, lemon drizzle cake and some fabulous date and walnut loaf. Possibly the only event ever where I’ve consumed more calories than I expended! I did pass on the spicy chicken wings though…

At about seven miles the short and long routes split, so runners were a bit more strung out after that. I could still see people ahead and behind though, and was fine with that. I trotted along, walking up the steep bits and even taking a few photos. The scenery was fantastic. The Yorkshire Wolds don’t seem to be as popular or famous as the Dales, so are often overlooked by tourists, but I think they’re just as stunning.

From about halfway I began to have a few issues with navigation. A couple of times I got to junctions and wasn’t sure which way to go, so had to wait for someone to catch me up! Yes, I had the map and route details with me, but as I wasn’t sure where I was it was easier to wait for someone who knew where they were going. Lazy of me really! I got the impression lots of the participants had done the circuit before, sometimes several times, and I could understand why.

I eventually fell in with a lovely group from local club Pocklington Runners (one of whom had the route on her fancy watch) and ran about the last 10K with them. They were so friendly and chilled, and we spent the last few miles (which had a couple of steep hills) run/walking, chatting and taking photos of each other. I had a great time!

The last mile or so of the route was a lovely, long downhill, then through the village to the finish back at the community hall.

At the end there was more food (hot and cold) and drinks. We were also awarded with a certificate showing our time and a fab sew-on patch that made me feel like I was back in the Girl Guides! My time was 5:25, but would probably have been slightly quicker if I’d had better knowledge of the route. I came 62nd out of 149 people who completed the long route – not that it was important. 268 people completed the shorter route. The results don’t differentiate between runners and walkers. I imagine a lot of people did some of each. I’d definitely do this event again. It only cost £16 to enter so was great value. And next time I’ll know where I’m going!

I’m now on week 14 of my 20 week Highland Fling training plan. It’s a cutback week, so I don’t have any big runs to do this weekend. I’ll still be going my midweek circuits class though, as I think it’s definitely helping me to become stronger. And I love it! I’m also really looking forward to going to the première of the Hardmoors film Always Moving Forward in Helmsley on Sunday evening and catching up with a few running friends. Then I’ve got a big three weeks of training coming up before I start my three week taper. I can’t believe the Fling is only six weeks away now! I’m slightly nervous that events I’ve entered in the spring and summer might get called off due to the coronavirus outbreak, but trying to stay positive and carry on as normal. Fingers crossed!

 

 

How’s your new running year going? I’ve had quite a hectic start to 2020 with house renovations continuing and a busy time at work, as well as fitting in training. First world problems, hey? I’m not complaining!

After the Nottingham Christmas Marathon I realised my legs were really tired from all the long events (and associated training) I did last year, so over the Christmas holidays I basically ran for fun and ate/rested a lot. By new year I was feeling a lot more energised and ready to start training for the Highland Fling in April, which is my main spring goal. I’m currently on week 12 of my usual 20 week ultra plan and feeling OK, and I’ve done a couple of fun events recently. Firstly the Temple Newsam Ten last month, which I’ve done three times now and really love as a way of getting going again after the festive break. It’s ten miles of good, hilly training. They do a really good long-sleeved t-shirt too, which is really handy for winter training and this year was the brightest shade of pink I’ve ever seen!

Then a couple of weeks ago I did the No Ego Challenge head torch run at Dalby Forest, which I did last year and is five miles of dark, very hilly fun. Last year it rained, but this year the weather was pretty perfect, cold and dry.

 

Last weekend I ran Endurancelife Northumberland. I love Endurancelife events; they’re not cheap but are really well organised and supported, with a choice of distances: 10K, half/full marathon or ultra. Last year I did the ultra at Northumberland as I wanted the UTMB points, but this year I ran the marathon as training for the Highland Fling.

What a difference a year makes, weather-wise! Last year we ran in brilliant sunshine on one of the warmest February days on record. This year it was like a totally different event with lots of rain, hail, mud, water and a brutal head wind in the second half. Even the sand was more difficult this year, soft and energy-sapping rather than firm and easy.

Obviously the scenery was still as beautiful as ever, but I must admit I was pretty pleased to finish. A great training exercise though!

I have a few more events planned before the Highland Fling:

The Golden Fleece Circuit – a low-key, local (but very popular) 27 mile run/walk event at East Cave on 7th March. It isn’t signed, so I’ll probably get lost!

The Daffodil Dash at Temple Newsam at the end of Mach. I’ve done this a couple of times before and it’s a great training event with a choice of distances – I’m doing the marathon. Always a great goody bag too!

The Helmsley 10K on Easter Sunday. A really fun, hilly off-road event that I did last year. You get an Easter egg and a mug at the end!

I’ve entered our summer club league of 10K evening races, the York and District Road Race League. I love this, but only managed once race out of the series last year, as the others were either all too close to long events I was doing, or I was on holiday. Must try harder this year!

The Vale of York 10 (miles). This is the weekend before the Fling, when I really shouldn’t be running ten miles, but I can’t resist as it’s in my home village and a few friends from our circuits class there are also doing it. I’ll just have to take it very steady!

Speaking of circuits, I’ve been going to a weekly class for some time now and think it’s really starting to help my running. I feel stronger than before, but although I’m a lot better at planking and burpees than I used to be, I still don’t seem to be very good at press ups. Must keep trying. It’s hard work but good fun, and our instructor (Liam of Courage Fitness) mixes things up every week to keep it interesting. I’ve also made a few friends there (running and non-running) and would really miss it if I didn’t go now. We’re using the school hall for now, but will be back outside when the evenings get a bit lighter.

 

Looking further ahead this year, I’ve also entered the new Race to the Castle event in June and Endure 24 (as a solo) in July. I’m not sure if I’ve taken on too much with these two events being only a month apart, and after the Highland Fling too. I might have to defer one (luckily I can do that with either), so will see how I feel and decide nearer the time. I don’t have a particular goal for autumn yet, so will have to think of something.

Hope your new running year is going well!

 

 

 

I’m not the sort of person who obsessively logs all the miles I run – I’m not on Strava and I hardly ever download stuff onto Garmin Connect – and that’s partly why I like to have a bit of a running review at the end of each year, thinking about how things went and how they might have been better. I’ve entered more running events this year than ever before, but a lot of them were just as training exercises.

It was only when I was compiling a list of these that I suddenly realised that, of the 22 times I’ve run marathon distance or further, seven of them have been this year; and it would have been eight if I’d completed the Hardmoors 50 too. That wasn’t planned, but it’s quite good to know I’ve got to the point where I can hack that sort of volume without getting injured. So here (as some sort of record for me as much as anything else) is the list for this year, with links to reviews where I’ve done them – although I’ve been so busy studying for my sports massage therapy qualification and renovating a house that I haven’t blogged as much as I’d like recently.

January

Yorkshire Cross Country Championships.  I was a bit scared to enter this, but actually loved it.

Temple Newsam Ten (miles).  Third time I’ve done this, a fun event for the new year.

No Ego Challenge (head torch run), Dalby Forest.  First dark run I’ve ever done, very rainy but fun.

February

Hardmoors Saltburn Marathon.  Fabulous coastal trail, very muddy, but a great day.

Harewood House Half.  Great hill training!

Endurancelife Northumberland.   A beautiful coastal trail ultra. Review here.

March

Hardmoors 50 (DNF).  A horrible day!  Unfinished business… Review here.

Daffodil Dash Half, Temple Newsam. Always a spring favourite.

April

Vale of York 10 (miles). My home village race, so I have to do it!

Helmsley 10K.  Fab trail race with an Easter egg at the end.

Pocklington 10K.  The only one of our summer 10K series I managed, I was so busy.

May

North Lincolnshire Half.  First road half I’ve done for ages – a great PB course.

Hardmoors Wainstones Marathon. Tough but fabulous!

Ravenscar Half.  One of my favourite races, spectacular coastal scenery.

Hardmoors 110 Relay.  Part of a team of four, great fun.

June

Top of the Wolds 10K.  Massive hill in this road race, excellent cake.

The Wall.  70 miles across the north of England. Amazing, loved it! Review here.

July

Conquer the Forest Half, Dalby Forest.  Beautiful woodland trails.

Yorkshire Wolds Half.  A lovely undulating road event – great mug!

August

Hardmoors Farndale Marathon. My favourite Hardmoors event so far, beautiful course.

The Princess Challenge (17 miles).  Where else can you run in a tiara and tutu?!

September

Hardmoors 60.  Probably the hardest run I’ve ever done – but very pleased to have done it! Review here.

November

Tadcaster 10 (miles).  A bit of fun after taking it easy for a while. Review here.

Nottingham Christmas Marathon.  First road marathon for ages. Sooo cold and foggy! Review here.

There are two other things I’ve done this year and really enjoyed. In February I attended a trail running training day with Kim and Jayson Cavill, two amazing Yorkshire runners and coaches. This was held at the Yorkshire Cycle Hub in beautiful Fryupdale, which I can really recommend if you’re in the area. Great café there too! Since the summer I’ve also been attending a weekly circuit training group. I feel very lucky that Courage Fitness set this up in my home village, and I really think it’s helped me to get a bit stronger over the last few months. I’ll certainly be keeping that up in the new year, and also hope to investigate a local yoga for runners and cyclists class I’ve heard about.

So, what’s in store for 2020? (Am I just old, or can anyone else not believe it’s actually 2020?!) I’m repeating the Temple Newsam Ten, No Ego Challenge head torch run, Endurancelife Northumberland and Vale of York 10 because I love them all. In March I’m doing the Golden Fleece Circuit – a local event I’ve discovered that will be a good training run. My main event of the spring is the Highland Fling, which I’m really excited about. This race covers the first 53 miles of the West Highland Way and is so popular there’s a ballot for entry. In May I have the Windermere Marathon, then in June it’s Race to the Castle, a new event from Threshold Events. They also organise Race to the Stones, which I did a couple of years ago and really loved. In July I’m planning to take on what might be my biggest challenge yet, doing Endure 24 solo; basically I’ll see howmany five mile laps I can do in 24 hours! In August I can’t resist Hardmoors Farndale again. At the end of August it’s UTMB, the holy gail of trail running. I have the points to enter either the OCC or the CCC, and the ballot is open from now until early January. I applied for entry to the OCC last year and didn’t get in, so that means that if I enter this year I’ll have double the chance of getting in – the London Marathon folk could learn a thing or two from this system! In September I have the Hardmoors Fryupdale marathon, which I didn’t manage to get into this year, but am getting a place this year in return for marshalling at the Wainstones event in May. That’s it for now!

I feel very lucky that I’ve done so many fabulous runs this year and not had any injuries – touch wood. At my age I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to keep doing this sort of thing. Hopefully for a while yet! Over the Christmas holidays I’m going to be running for fun and would like to get some hills in as I haven’t done much hilly running over the last couple of months. Then I’ll knuckle down to some Highland Fling training in January.

I hope you all have a great Christmas. Happy running in 2020!

 

I really have no idea what possessed me to enter a road marathon this autumn. After the hellish heat of last year’s London Marathon I vowed never to do another one; but then a few of my friends did them in the spring and I must have got a touch of FOMO! Anyway, for no particular reason I found myself heading for the Nottingham Christmas Marathon last weekend.

My training for this event hadn’t exactly been ideal. For a start, I’d done hardly any road running in the last eighteen months. I’d done lots of long trail running though and had plenty of miles in my legs, so at least the distance shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, this would be the tenth time this year I’d run marathon distance or further! After the Hardmoors 60 in September I had a week off and then thought I’d get stuck into some road training. My legs begged to differ though, so I had an easy week after that. Then I caught a horrible cold thing that hung around for about three weeks and wouldn’t let me do anything that involved breathing heavily (like interval training!) without coughing. So I’d been playing catch-up with the schedule ever since. I knew I wasn’t in anything like PB shape when race day came, but thought I’d just go off with the four hour pacer and see how long I could hang on – which I guessed wouldn’t be very long!

The marathon was part of a weekend of running events taking place at the National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepoint Country Park, with the 10K and marathon on the Saturday and the half marathon, 5K and one mile fun run on the Sunday. The routes all consist of the corresponding number of three mile laps of a Tarmac path round a lake, so the marathon is about 8¾ laps. I set off from York at about 7 am on Saturday as the sun rose on what looked like it would be a beautiful day… until I got about a mile from the venue, when a thick, freezing fog descended! Ah well, I go better in the cold anyway. I arrived quite early and had no problem parking (although it cost a fiver!), but apparently things got a bit fraught later in the day and on Sunday. The 10K was already underway, with the marathon due to start at 10.15 on the opposite side of the lake, so I thought I’d better leave the car in plenty of time, especially as the fog meant we couldn’t actually see that far!

A arrow sign at the lakeside indicated it was 500m to the marathon start, so we obviously all followed it. Quite a long way. Obviously a lot further than 500m. When we eventually got to the start, it transpired that some wag had turned the sign round, so we’d all gone the wrong (long) way round the lake. Hilarious! I made it just in time. At least I’d had a good warm up! The start was slightly delayed as a result, but I know some people (including a friend I was supposed to be meeting) didn’t make it before we’d set off. Someone was speaking through a megaphone, but although I was only a short distance away it was so muffled I couldn’t make anything out. Suddenly we were away!

I trotted off with the four hour pacer and chatted to a couple of people en route. Runners had been encouraged to dress in festive attire, but very few seem to have bothered – although one woman had made a top effort in a full-length Christmas cracker costume! I made a gesture with a festive scrunchie and some tiny clip-on antlers.

Running a lapped course is not the most exciting thing in the world, but I was OK with that. In fact, I thought it might be good practice for next year’s Endure 24. There was one refreshment point at the place where we went over the timing strip at the end of every lap (i.e. every three miles) with water, electrolyte drink and snacks such as cake, chocolate and cheesy biscuits. We were handed paper cups (good) that had about an inch of water in them. At first I thought it would be good to have more, then I realised the water was so cold it was giving me brain freeze!

The pacer was a little erratic. Four hour pace is 9:09, and although you can’t expect people to get it spot on every time, my mile splits varied between 8:45 and 9:15. I was OK for about three laps, then as we got to about ten miles my legs began to feel really tired for some reason, and my enthusiasm/mojo/will to live started to drain away. I wasn’t feeling cold in my base layer, tights and gloves, but the fog made things a bit damp and depressing. You couldn’t see very far so there wasn’t really anything to interest or distract you. Spectator support was understandably a bit thin on the ground, although the event marshals were great at encouraging everyone on.

Trotting along, I realised why I hadn’t done a road marathon for so long; they are actually very hard work, in a different way to an ultra. In an ultra you work hard, but there’s variety; you run a bit, walk uphill, stop at checkpoints etc, and this is what I’ve become used to over the last couple of years. In a road marathon there’s no let up – they are relentless! So the problem here was me rather than the event. With 16 miles still to go, finishing was probably going to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Luckily my friend Katie (aka RunYoung50) who lives nearby had come out to support me, and seeing her popping up from time to time really gave me a lift. She’d even made a special sign to encourage me – what a star!

I decided to take my foot off the gas a bit and just try to enjoy it. I began chatting to people and also made an unscheduled loo stop at one point. There were portable loos at two points on the course, which was very handy! I’d never done a lapped event before, and it was interesting to see all aspects of the race as much faster runners raced past me and I passed some of the slower runners. My own laps gradually became a bit slower too, and my pony tail slowly transformed into what felt like a ball of tangled wool.

I was pleased to finish, although not particularly pleased with my finish time of 4:23, which is almost 30 minutes off my PB. There were only four FV55 runners in the field but I was the first, so I guess that’s something!

At the end we were presented with a fabulous snowflake design medal and a lovely felt Christmas stocking with a little Cadbury selection box inside. T-shirts cost an extra £15 and could be ordered in advance or bought on the day. I decided to get one as I can now wear it for running at Christmas every year!

Afterwards I wanted to treat Katie to a hot chocolate as she’d been so lovely and waited to see me finish, but unfortunately the onsite café had run out of milk! Seemed a bit of an oversight on a day when hundreds of extra people were visiting. I put on some warm clothes and got a recovery burger from the outside catering van while I waited for my friend to run her last lap. This closed about half an hour later, before everyone had finished running. If we’d been in the middle of a town this wouldn’t really be a problem, but as the venue is miles from anywhere else it seemed a shame that the last people to finish couldn’t get any food or a hot drink after being in the freezing cold for hours.

I seem to have done quite a bit of moaning in this review, but the event itself was fine. On a better weather day I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable, the parking issues weren’t the fault of the race organisers, and it’s certainly a good course to aim for a PB if you don’t mind the laps. I was initially disappointed with my time, but later realised it was probably because I hadn’t done enough specific training. If I ever want to achieve another Good for Age time I’ll have to knuckle down and do more of the right kind of preparation. But I’m not sure I want it that much when there are so many fab trail races to run!

So that’s my racing done until 2020. I’ve had a great year of running and taken part in some brilliant events. Time for a bit of fun running now until I start training for the Highland Fling.

I think this sign could definitely come in handy at Endure 24 next summer by the way…

 

One of the best decisions I’ve made this year was to join Tadcaster Harriers. It’s such a friendly and inclusive club, and everyone I’ve met from the chairman down has been lovely. As well as all the usual club training stuff there’s a brilliant Run and Talk for mental health session on the first Thursday of each month. Non-members are welcome to attend, there are running groups of different distances/abilities, and there’s cake and chat at the end! Years ago the Harriers used to organise a run in Tadcaster called the Tad 10 (miles). For some reason it stopped, but has recently been revived and is now organised by Racebest. My marathon training schedule for the day said twelve steady miles, so I thought ten miles at a slightly quicker pace would be a fair substitute, and it would be fun to be there with other Harriers.

 

The weather leading up to race day had been quite rainy, but fortunately the event is all on road and we were lucky enough not to get rained on. There was plenty of free parking in Tadcaster, as the organisers had arranged for the car parks of the town’s two breweries to be available in addition to the usual parking. Number pick-up was at The Barn, a community hub in the centre of town. You had to find your race number from a sheet on the wall before picking up your bib, which was a challenge for me as I hadn’t brought my glasses – luckily someone with better eyesight was able to help me! I arrived fairly early so got my number quickly, but the room became a bit congested later on. There were outside portable loos in addition to the Barn’s toilets, so queues for these weren’t too long. Billed as fast and flat, the Tad 10 attracts a lot of speedy runners. There was a great atmosphere, with around 700 people taking part altogether, including a good turnout from the Tad Harriers! The start time is a very civilised 10 am.

The race begins with a loop around the town, then heads out into the surrounding villages along quiet, winding country roads. I was planning to run at my target marathon pace, but ended up setting off too fast in all the excitement! I clocked my pace at the end of the first mile and reined it in a bit – not that I’m exactly in road PB form at the moment anyway after all the ultra running and training I’ve done this year. The race is promoted as flat, but that’s certainly not how I’d describe it – I think undulating would be more accurate. The course goes out of Tadcaster alongside the A64 to York for a short stretch, then turns left and takes a circular route through the villages of Catterton, Healaugh and Wighill, before heading back to Tadcaster. There are a couple of steady climbs along the way, but the last couple of miles are pretty much downhill.

Lots of Tad Harriers were marshalling, and it was great to see friendly faces and hear shouts of encouragement along the way. There were two water points at 2.5 and 5.5 miles. The finish was at the opposite end of town to the start, with lots of folk clapping and cheering us in. Runners received a very colourful medal together with a banana, flapjack (very good award-winning flapjack!) and a bottle of water. I really enjoyed myself and had a great time coming in a smidge under marathon pace at 1:29.

 

I thought this was a great event; a later start time than most road races, easy parking, interesting course (very similar the Vale of York 10) and a friendly atmosphere, with around 700 runners from super-speedy to first-timer taking part. My only small gripe is that another water point somewhere would be good, as five miles is quite a long way to go without a drink in a road race. Not the end of the world in cold weather though! I did hear someone complaining that there was no t-shirt, as apparently they’d been really good in previous years – I presume the organisers must have decided to do away with it for some reason. I’ve already got too many race t-shirts anyway, so wasn’t really bothered. Highly recommended!

Since the Tad 10 I’ve been tapering for the Nottingham Christmas marathon this weekend. This seems like a really fun, festive event and the weather forecast looks promising, so fingers crossed!

I was really excited in the run-up to the Hardmoors 60. I’d done several of the Hardmoors marathon series over the last couple of years, but had never completed one of the ultras. I did start the Hardmoors 55 in March, but DNF’d due to the horrendous weather conditions – you can read about that here. But the weather forecast for the 60 looked great (if a little too warm!) so it looked like it would be a grand day out. The Cleveland Way national trail in Yorkshire runs from Helmsley to Filey. In a nutshell, the Hardmoors 55 follows this along the North York Moors from Helmsley to Guisborough, then the 60 takes in the second ‘half’ from Guisborough to Filey, mostly along the coast and featuring around 3,500 metres of elevation. There’s also a Hardmoors 110 for anybody brave enough to do it all in one. These are all miles by the way, not kilometres!

My only aim for the 60 was to finish, and having done lots of hilly training and events this year I was reasonably confident of doing that. So imagine my disappointment when, three days before the event, I was struck down with a horrible sickness bug! I spent the whole of Wednesday in bed, throwing up and unable to eat – only the second sick day I’ve had off work in about five years. Great timing! My goal was then readjusted to making the start and just getting as far as I could!

I travelled up to Guisborough after work on the Friday, as we were able to register at Race HQ (Guisborough Sea Cadets) and have our electronic trackers fitted the night before the race. This is great, as it gives you an extra half hour in bed! Steve and I stayed at a B&B just a couple of miles away. It was good to meet up with my friend Mandy at the race briefing in the morning; she is an awesome runner who had already done the Highland Fling and Lakeland 50 this year.

As we set off at 8 am the weather was already sunny, but still nice and cool. The first mile was a little frustrating as we all had to queue to get over two stiles, resulting in a 17 minute first mile for me; but hey, it’s a long day out so not that important in the grand scheme of things. The second mile includes probably the toughest section of the day, up the Tees Link footpath to Highcliff Nab; this is a steep climb up to the Cleveland Way, gaining lots of height in a short space of time. Early in the day, but at least our legs were fresh! My poles were really useful there. By the time we’d hauled ourselves up there we were all certainly well warmed up.

After this baptism of fire we headed out to the coast at Saltburn along some lovely undulating woodland trail, heading ultimately down to the coast and the first checkpoint (9 miles). I had a drink of Coke and a handful of peanuts and cracked on. Almost immediately there’s another steep climb out of Saltburn up Cat Nab, after which we were up onto the coastal section of the Cleveland Way, where we stayed for almost all of the rest of the race. The scenery along here unfolds into one spectacular view after another, mostly featuring huge cliffs dropping down to beautiful beaches. Possibly not a great race to do if you have a problem with heights, but the path is always a safe distance from the edge.

I settled into a good rhythm and was really enjoying myself as the miles ticked by. The sun grew warmer, and I was very grateful that quite a strong breeze was taking the edge off the heat.

The route passed through some lovely fishing villages such as Staithes and Runswick Bay, where there was another checkpoint (21 miles) with the first of our two drop bags. The marshals at Hardmoors events (or Hardshals, as they are known) are always brilliant. As I approached, someone called out my number and someone else immediately presented me with my drop bag – fantastic! I’d packed a bottle of chocolate milk to drink here, as I think it’s a good way to take on calories without feeling too full. I don’t like to stay or sit at checkpoints for too long, otherwise I find it hard to get going again. So I took some crisps to eat on the hoof and headed off across the beach towards another steep climb.

We spent pretty much the whole day gaining height and then dropping down again. A lot of this up and down is done on steps, which I think makes climbing a bit easier, but descending a bit harder. The steps are mostly either rough and uneven or narrow and wooden, so not really possible to run down for most people. They’re also quite energy sapping and hard on the quads! I tried to remember to keep eating and drinking plenty and trundled on.

Just before the halfway point we passed through Sandsend and arrived at Whitby. By now it was afternoon, the sun was still shining, and the streets were crowded with people enjoying a day out at the seaside. We wove our way through them down into the town, then out the other side and up the famous abbey steps. I chatted with another runner who’d just bought some chips and kindly offered me a few – they tasted great! I saw another couple of runners queuing for ice creams by the abbey – great idea!

The third checkpoint was just past here at Saltwick Bay (31 miles). It was then only a few miles of gorgeous clifftop running from there to the next checkpoint at Robin Hood’s Bay (37 miles). Lots of walkers were out on the Cleveland Way, and most of them were lovely folk who were happy to let us runners pass and give us some encouragement – although they probably thought we were crazy! At Robin Hood’s Bay there was some fabulous lemon cake on offer, which was just what I needed to power me up for the next section. We climbed up more steps out of the village, followed by a bit of level running before a big uphill hike to Ravenscar. Luckily this is on a good quality path, so wasn’t too tough, but it did occur to me at that point that we were still only two thirds of the way to Filey! We deviated slightly from the Cleveland Way here to go to the checkpoint at the village hall (41 miles) which had our second drop bag. Hot food and drinks were also available here. I took advantage of this stop to go to the loo and change my socks, before grabbing some pizza to eat as I set off walking down the road.

With fresh feet and some food inside me I felt great, and seemed to be going quite well on the next stretch between Ravenscar and Scarborough. There was a lot of slight downhill incline along here, which obviously helped! Daylight began to fade after about an hour, so I stopped and put on my head torch. Over the next half hour or so there was a spectacular sunset, the sky aflame with pink and orange; then shortly afterwards the moon rose over the sea. It all looked quite amazing, and phone photos don’t really do it justice!

Runners had become quite strung out by this point, and I didn’t see anyone else – runner or otherwise – for quite some time. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about running in the dark so high up; but the path was clear and well-marked, I have a good head torch and the moon was bright, so it was actually OK and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It was very quiet and I could hear the sea lapping gently far below, which was quite soothing. Eventually I caught up with a man and woman who were running together and stayed a little way behind them until we reached Scarborough. My Garmin died before that, so from then on I had no real idea of what time it was. The route goes along the seafront road at Scarborough, with about three miles of flat pavement. Sounds good in theory, but actually a bit sapping for the legs! I managed to run almost all of it. It was now mid evening and all the bars and restaurants were in full Saturday night mode. Right at the end of the seafront, the route went across a bit of beach, then up a hill to the final checkpoint at Holbeck (53 miles). I had to sit down to remove some sand from my shoes, then grabbed a quick snack before the final stretch to the finish at Filey.

Setting off from here, I realised that my quads and hips were starting to hurt quite a bit, and it was gradually becoming more difficult to run. Shortly afterwards we reached Cayton Bay, where a huge set of concrete steps go down into a wood, then shortly afterwards straight back up again. We’d been warned at the race briefing that anyone who missed this bit out would get an extra hour added to their time, so I sucked it up – and I think this section just about finished me off! I hauled myself up the steps with my poles and took a gel at the top, which I hoped would power me on. I knew there were only about six miles to go (hey, just a 10K!), but it became more and more difficult to keep moving forward at anything other than a walk. At one point I saw a light shining on the path ahead of me and thought it was a marshal, but lo and behold it was Steve with a torch! He’d popped up to give me a bit of encouragement and it was lovely to see him.

From that point I had to pretty much walk all the way to the finish. I wasn’t lacking in energy, but my legs were giving up the ghost. Now and then I broke into a bit of an ‘ultra shuffle’ but it never lasted for long, as my hips and quads were really giving me some grief. It was just a matter of toughing it out until the end! I thought maybe I should have used my poles more than I did, as I hadn’t bothered to get them out for all of the climbs. A lesson learned maybe? After what seemed like forever the path began to go down into Filey, where the final ‘treat’ awaited – another massive set of steps to go down, which my quads did not appreciate at all!. If I hadn’t had poles I think I would have had to hold someone’s hand! The official end of the Cleveland Way is at Filey Brigg, but the race finish is at the Methodist Hall, a short distance away up a hill. Steve met me at the seafront and encouraged me to run the last bit to the finish, but I could only manage a few yards as we approached the hall. I looked up at the clock on the building and was amazed to see it was half past midnight. Although I’d had a fantastic day I was very glad it was over!

People applauded as I entered the hall, which was great. My tracker was removed and someone handed me a medal and t-shirt. Food was available, but I really didn’t feel like eating at that point. I took a couple of snacks to have in the car on the way home, where I’d also stashed some more chocolate milk. I finally got to bed a 3 am!

Scores on the doors? My finish time was 16:31:53. So this 62 mile race took me over half an hour longer to complete than The Wall in June, which was eight miles further but had only about a third of the elevation. 250 runners started the race; 202 finished within the cut-off time of 18 hours, with a further eight finishing after the cut-off. So 40 runners dropped out along the way. I came 136th overall, 30th woman out of 60 (only about a quarter of the field were women) and 9th out of 15 FV50 runners.  There were some very strong athletes in the FV50 category, a couple of whom finished in the top ten women overall. So nothing to set the world on fire from me, but considering that three days before I’d been too poorly to even get up I was happy with that. Would I do it again? Probably not, as there are lots of other races I’d like to do, but I am very glad I did it – not only because I now have a very cool Hardmoors crossed swords ultra t-shirt, but also because there is a certain satisfaction in having completed such a tough event, no matter how slow I was towards the end! I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a first ultra, as it is pretty tough – the fact that it carries four UTMB points is an indication of that. But if you love a challenge and a day out at the seaside, you should definitely do it! Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

 

I’ve been a bit slack on the blogging front this year because life has been really busy. Between work, training, doing up a house and studying sports massage therapy at college, there hasn’t been much time for writing. But I’m still here and still running! So here’s a bit of a catch-up post. I haven’t had time to blog about most of the races I’ve done this year (although some I have reviewed in the past), but if you have any questions about any of them, please feel free to shoot them over.

 

I did quite a few events in the spring as training for the Hardmoors 50 and The Wall ultras. I wanted to pack in as many long, hilly runs as possible, and doing those as events means you get variety, support and people to chat to, which I think just makes training much easier and more enjoyable. Among these were regular favourites such as the Temple Newsam Ten, Harewood House Half, Daffodil Dash, Vale of York 10, Ravenscar Half and Top of the Wolds 10K; plus some new races like the Hardmoors Saltburn and Wainstones Marathons, Endurancelife Northumberland Ultra, Helmsley 10K and the Hardmoors 110 (as part of a relay team). I also did the North Lincolnshire Half (a road event) for fun with a friend who hadn’t run for a while.

 

 Sadly I DNF’d for the first time ever at the Hardmoors 50 in horrendous conditions (more on that here). I felt bad about it at the time, then discovered that many others had also pulled out, so fortunately got over that pretty quickly. However, I had a great day out at The Wall and really enjoyed it. My review of that is here.

 

 So what’s next? I had a week off after The Wall followed by a couple of easy weeks, because I think it’s really important to let your body have some recovery time after a long event like that. Even when the DOMS have faded, your system is still recuperating. But I have the Hardmoors 60 coming up this month, so did a couple of hilly half marathons for fun to get me back into the swing of things; the Conquer the Forest Challenge at Dalby Forest and the Yorkshire Wolds Half, which is part of Bishop Wilton country show. This is such a great, low key event, and you get a lovely handmade pottery mug at the finish. I can’t think why more people don’t do it!

  

Last month I did the Hardmoors Farndale marathon. I say marathon; this is a Hardmoors event, so of course it was actually 30 miles! It wasn’t an easy day, as it was really hot and there was lots of climbing, but it’s a beautiful course so the amazing views make it worthwhile.

 I also did the Princess Challenge at the end of August with a friend, because it’s great fun – and when else will I get the chance to wear a tutu and tiara at my age?!

 

Back in the spring quite a few of my friends did road marathons and I must admit I suffered slightly from FOMO. After the furnace that was last year’s London Marathon I said I’d never do one again, but I now have a bit of a hankering to have one last shot at Good For Age and have entered the Nottingham Christmas Marathon at the end of November. Over the last year or so I’ve focused on endurance rather than pace, so after I’ve recovered from the Hardmoors 60 I’m going to have a go at switching that around a bit. I got my PBs at 10K, half and full marathon in 2016 and I’m not sure I’ll ever better those, but maybe it will be fun trying – or maybe not, we’ll see! Oh, and I’ve entered the ballots for the London and Tokyo Marathon, although I don’t hold out much hope of getting into either. Now I’m really looking forward to autumn, my favourite season for running. I’m currently enjoying tapering for the 60 and making some plans for next year – and hopefully now blogging more frequently.

Anyone else up for a Christmas marathon?!