report from sarah fuller: The Hardmoors series of ultra races on the North York moors are now well established and deservedly popular. Organised by the dedicated duo of John and Shirley Steele the races have a large and loyal following and a really friendly supportive atmosphere. The 110 race is essentially a jaunt along the whole of the Cleveland way from Helmsley to Filey. I ran the Hardmoors 55 race last year and didn’t enjoy it much due to being ill for most of the race so I’ve no idea what possessed me to enter the 110 as it was the 55 race again followed by another 55 miles of running!! But I’m so glad I did what a fantastic experience. As everything seemed to conspire against me even getting to the start line (what with injuries, illness and fatigue in the last few months) everything fell into place for the event. The weather was stunning, actually it was a bit too hot but after the spine race there was no way I was going to complain!
90 ish runners set off from Helmsley at 8am on Saturday in good spirits with lots of banter and catching up with people I knew from other races. I was running with my friend Elaine and due to a distinct lack of decent training I was trying to keep my apprehension well hidden, not sure I managed though! I shouldn’t have worried we were well matched and even seemed to have bad patches and second, third and fourth winds at the same time. Our strategy was simple a steady but quickish (for a 100 miler!) first 20 miles to build up a good cushion on the cut off times then slow but steady and finish, no finish time in mind just beat the race cutoff at 36 hours (which in the end wasn’t really applied). We ran into osmotherly (21 miles) just under an hour ahead of the 5.5 hour cut off and pretty much held that margin to the end so it was never stressful just had to keep plodding out the miles.
The first half of the race covers the beautiful moors to the east, the weather was amazing and even a slight tailwind. Spirits were high for most of the first 40 and we had settled into a good ultra shuffle pace, running everything that wasn’t uphill. Around blowarth I felt a nasty twinge in my knee, my IT band was really playing up and the long downhill run into Kildale (43 miles) was pretty painful. This is the point where it’s really easy to let doubts creep in and if they do it can easily magnify and lead to a DNF. I took some painkillers and put a knee support on and immediately tried to refocus on the job in hand, I try and remember to not judge myself on the time I do but the approach I take to tackling the challenge. We took about 20 minutes in Kildale to take on some food and change socks etc and headed off into the still warm evening onwards towards the magnificent Roseberry topping, standing proud on its own against a beautiful sunset. This is what ultra running is all about for me, moments like that live on and i felt privileged to be truly living in the moment.
Darkness fell just before we passed the track coming up from guisborough marking the start of the 55 race. 55 miles 14.5 hours on the clock pretty pleased with that and we still felt pretty strong and most importantly determined. I knew the second 55miles were tougher and were going to hurt and we would slow down a lot and need longer rests but the cuttoff times thankfully allowed for that. I was looking forward to seeing the sea (well at least hearing it!) and soon enough we jogged into saltburn about midnight in a group of about 5 of us.
I usually love running at night and enjoy the night sections of races but I had a pretty major low point for most of the night, I felt unusually sleepy and kept thinking I was nodding off (not a good idea in the dark on a narrow cliff top path!), my knee was very painful and my mental state had slipped into one of self doubt. A detour round skinningrove really got to me, the diversion signs were not obvious or non existent and we found ourselves taking a wrong turn climbing the wrong path up onto the cliff top, no choice but to retrace our steps. This had me in a real strop for hours!
In a race this long though there’s plenty of time for things to come good and they eventually did. The sun coming up was breathtaking and in a short time we ran (yes ran!) into sandsend where I knew derek and the kids were overnighting in the van. This was a major boost and an opportunity for some breakfast. Soon after leaving the checkpoint it started tipping it down but it only lasted an hour or so. We met the van again in robin hoods bay which was jam packed with support vehicles for the race and bemused tourists and we quickly moved on to the checkpoint up at ravenscar a surprisingly stiff climb up to 91 miles. We had a longer break here to eat and rehydrate before setting off with a guy called john on the never ending cliff top path to Scarborough. We tried to keep each other going but I really struggled again on this section and actually nodded off on my feet for a second, it really was Groundhog Day minutes seemed to last hours and every turn looked the same and another huge ravine to climb endless steps down into and back out again!
Scarborough eventually appeared, first the magnificent castle Headland in the distance then the town revealed itself as we got closer. It was pretty odd running (ok walking now) along the sea front on a bank holiday Sunday afternoon, let’s just say all human life was there! I started to believe it was in the bag now over the 100 mile mark 10 to go. That 10 felt like 50 it was a real death march but we slowly chipped away at it, feet very painful now, everything aching, the body was starting to shut down as the finish came closer and the mind had less and less hold over what the body could do. After an age the brigg finally came into view and derek and the kids had walked out to see us in which was pretty emotional. After 35 hours 27 minutes we crossed the line together as a group of 3 in 51st position. 91 started and 61 finished. Mission accomplished – I wanted to finish inside the 36 hours and most importantly enjoy it and we nailed it job done. Within 2 minutes of finishing my body did shut down in a shivering gibbering useless mess but a contented mess.