The ups and downs of the Hardmoors 55 - Women's Running

The ups and downs of the Hardmoors 55

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  April 28, 2015

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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 runs down to the Helmsley, a historic market town. It is one of the ultras which I’ve always looked at, but knew I had to approach with caution. The reason being 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 was happy that the forecast was only windy; positive thinking always helps. 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 better of me and I thought of a million excuses why I should pull out. But then the ultra runner part of my brain kicked in. I knew I could finish and it would 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 were 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 an 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 that 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.

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After the first ten to 15 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 best time to make new friends, because you know as the race progresses, 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 how much you learn doing these events. Other runners have an 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!

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Leaving the last checkpoint at mile 45 (White horse), we were greeted by very steep stairs. I knew it was there but I don’t think any training prepares 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 passed by we were trying to spot Helmsely’s lights. We started guessing what colour the finishers t-shirts would 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 from 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 had the most amazing views. As for the motivational signs along the route, well you are not really suppose to like race directors too much during the race anyway….

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