The Hardmoors 55 is the normal sadistic run organised by Jon & Shirley Steele and their growing band of fabulous helpers. It takes in 55 miles of bonkers hill climbing rough and ready moorland steep descents and normally weather to keep even the maddest interested.
I arranged to camp with the others at the cricket club in the delightful town of Helmsley. Joined on the Friday night by another runner whom utilised the camper with Nikki and I we got off to sleep early, very early!! On Saturday morning the alarm went off and it was on the coach and the drive to Guisbourough for the start of the race. The race start was in the sea cadets and this meant a very large and long queue for the toilets. Utilising my Subway card I and a few other runners set off in to town to use their facilities.
With kit checked again and again and again for good measure the race director gave about instructions and we were ready to go. Not before that I had managed to locate the other Strider in the event and the ultra running legend that is Chris Brumby. I was so pleased that another strider had taken it on and hoped that the race would live up to the praise I give the Hardmoors series down at our club. It was great to see someone of Chris’s experience there too as this meant that I could get his thoughts at the end and measure the toughness of the course against some of the other events he had done.
Soon after and away we went heading off up the road to join the Cleveland way and head out towards Roseberry Topping. For those that don’t know Roseberry topping is similar to our own Cloud 9 but just about twice as steep so with the first of the many hill climbs out the way we continued merrily on our way along the Cleveland way to the first checkpoint at approx 6 miles. By this time I was feeling rather good and running with a few of the other Hardmoors family I have gotten to know over the past few years of taking on these events.
Eventually we came in to the village of Kildale which was meant to be the first drop point for the first bags and at 12 miles. Unfortunately the bags decided that Clay bank at 20 miles was far nicer place to be and went there instead. Still there was some coke and sweets and that was that of we set on yet another steep climb towards Blowoth.
As we set off toward Blowoth crossing which is basically a track for miles along some exposed moorland I began to loosen up a bit and found myself singing to myself and cheering up the merry little group of people I was running with, for those that know my singing they will know the torture that I was putting these poor people through. At Blowoth crossing which was a self clip Jon Had decided to put the self clip high up on a post. Now if you were the height of Chris brumby this would not be a problem, if however, you were the size of me and your number was on your leg then this meant that A Karate kick type moment with your leg and then utilising another runner to stamp you was the only way forward.
As soon as Blowoth was conquered there was a long downhill stretch towards clay bank and the drop bags. Fortunately this meant that I could put some Black Sabbath on my music player and sing loud and proud to Paranoid and various other tracks as I took off down the hill. Eventually arriving at Clay bank and drop bag emptied and my new power food of pickled eggs taken I was off again on what was the first of I think 4 monster climbs towards Osmotherly. Before this came the brave marshals in a tent at Lord Stones. It was this point last year that I went wrong and I could see the chap in front of me about to do exactly the same and with a shout out to him managed to put him back on the right route. Passed Lordstones and more and more monster climbs came and went with the normal brutality. At approximately 27 miles I heard a shout out from behind me, as I looked around it was Chris, he had just missed a turn off and ended up adding half a mile on to the route. We had a quick chat and I gave him a rundown of where we were and what as next. I was surprised to see him again as I kept seeing him and his illouminous ruck sack climbing the hills in front of me and Chris is pretty quick up the hills with his long legs but normally extremely fast down the hills. So with this little bit of encouragement we set off towards the main checkpoint at Osmotherly Village hall. This stands at about 33 miles and is normally well stocked. Chris was in fed and watered and on his way out again. I unwrapped my second batch of pickled eggs sank a red bull and got on my way.
My plan was to break the race in two. First was a 33 mile dash to Osmotherly and follow this with a 22 mile jaunt and battle of attrition with body and brain to the end. At this point I was feeling weary and I started to panic as I left the checkpoint. I ran a little with another runner but then came the dreaded long drag and climb up to high Paradise check point. This was located at approx 40 miles and was the point I collapsed the year before. As I began climbing I was troubled by the exact same thoughts, give up its over, it’s too tough etc etc. This time though I was spurred on by the failure of last year. So many people told me that running 40 miles wasn’t a failure but I had left last year with no medal and no T-shirt and therefore to me in my head I failed. As I struggled on to the checkpoint I began with a 30 second sprint followed by a 30 second power walk and just kept that going. Eventually I reached the check point. However this last 5 miles had brought something new to the table. The ability to be sick and continue running all at the same time, i was simply throwing up and keeping going all in one go. Once I hit the checkpoint a sign was on the support wagon which simply said, “give up now and you can be in the pub real soon”. This year was different, there was no way I was quitting at this point and I forced myself on to the next checkpoint which would be a further 8 miles away at the White horse. As i plodded on, darkness fell and that meant head torch time although I might have been better to remember to charge mine before I started! As it got darker and the distance seemed longer than ever I was greeted by being told that we were to run a long downhill stretch that seemed to go on forever to the checkpoint. Eventually on arriving at the checkpoint this could mean only one thing. Yes this meant a huge climb up steps and back on to the Cleveland way and I or should I say my quads were in no mood for this at all. However hanging on to the rail and dragging myself along I eventually made it back to the level and this meant one thing. I was now closer to the finish than what I was to the previous checkpoint and giving up was no longer an option, finishing was the only option. Sadly due to head torch failure I now had to run with a couple of other guys at their pace which was not too shabby and a chat helped passed the time through the next 4 miles. With only 3 miles to go I heard a voice behind me, I looked around to see Chris and another guy who had gone again slightly off track. All I could think about was that I might actually finish a race within the same hour as the Striders ultra legend that is Mr Brumby. I was just so proud to be finishing and I know Chris could have probably wiped the floor with me on this race but just to be there at that distance with him made me feel quite proud.
Chris commented that If he shot my legs off I would still make it which made me smile, it also meant that I could use his and the other guys head torches to keep going at their pace. However they soon went back off in to the distance and with my head torch being equivalent to a candle from Wee Willie winkies gas lamp I had to back off over the rocky path until I reached the road. Then in front of me I could see the town and the church spire and a marshal shinning up a bright light. I headed for the light and then down the road to the applause of some of the supporters still out. I don’t mind admitting that at this point I shed a tear of emotion; I was just so pleased with myself and the strength I was experiencing at the end.
Through the finish I went and that was that, job done all over, proud as punch. Taking the times at the end was Shirley Steele. Shirley just knew that despite my smiles last year I was gutted to of not finished. She was magnificent then and she was again this time upon me finishing. I went up the stairs of the hall and in to the food room where Nkki had come to meet me and a round of applause ensured. Again inside I was crying but outside I was so happy, Jon then presented me with a spot prize of some great socks and a hat, again this was his and the hardmoors family’s way of rewarding the determination I had to come back and have another crack at a bonkers race that I just could not believe I dreamt of entertaining. I had a chin wag with Chris at the end and he seemed to really enjoy the experience and I do hope he comes back with other club members to experience some of the other great races that the Hardmoors has to offer including the err, 110 mile ultra......mmmmm, 110 miles, now there a thought.