After last year’s Lakeland 100 I was looking for a target race for 2017 and the Hardmoors 110 really stood out. A classic UK 100 miler and flagship of the iconic Hardmoors series on the North York Moors, 2017 was the 10th anniversary of the race. It offers the opportunity to run the whole of the Cleveland Way National Trail in one go, covering 112 miles and 6,000 metres of ascent.
This is actually the same ascent as the Lakeland 100, although the terrain is different with more short sharp climbs interspersed with very runnable sections, as opposed to the long climbs and descents of the Lake District. Having needed almost every minute of the 40 hours allowed for the Lakeland 100, I was concerned that with a maximum time of 36 hours for the Hardmoors 110 I could again be very close to the cut offs!
Start to Checkpoint (CP) 1 Osgodby (5 miles)
The usual Hardmoors humour was in evidence at the start in Filey as we were greeted by a sign announcing “Fun Run Registration”! It brought some welcome cheer to a very cold and bleak morning in the exposed setting of Filey Country Park. Thankfully the kit check and registration were nice and efficient and I was quickly fitted with the GPS tracker which would provide a continuous update of my position throughout the race.
The start was at 0800 and having followed the race director towards the start I somehow ended up on the front of the field and had to quickly backpedal to avoid being trampled by the elite runners as they set off! The early miles followed the headland on fairly flat and grassy tracks and inevitably the majority of the field set off at warp speed. I kept an eye on my GPS to keep my own pace under control and spent a lot of time looking at the ground and trying to ignore what was going on around me. A couple of runners behind did comment that we would probably see many of the runners again over the next day or so, and they were proved right!
In no time at all we had reached the first marshal at Osgodby who was there to stop anyone taking a short cut along the road.
CP1 Osgodby to CP2 Scarborough (2.7 miles)
We now had to negotiate a couple of quite steep climbs to reach the road at Osgodby and this was the first taster of the challenges to come. The field started to thin out here as everyone settled down and began to find their pace. As we reached the road I had the pleasant surprise of seeing my husband Neil who was acting as my support crew for the first few checkpoints. We hadn’t planned to meet until Scarborough, but he was so impressed with the performance of the trackers from Open Tracking and knowing exactly where I was, that he decided to stop here to see me as well.
I then followed a winding path through the gorse bushes and across a golf course to arrive on the edge of Scarborough. The spectacular gorse with an abundance of bright yellow flowers and strong sweet smell was a constant feature of the coastal sections of this race.
I arrived at the checkpoint at Holbeck Hill car park in Scarborough and Neil gave me some coke and sweets before I quickly got back on my way.
CP2 Scarborough to CP3 Ravenscar (14 miles)
There now followed a long section of road taking us along the seafront at Scarborough, around the castle and past North Bay to Scalby Ness. It was very surreal running along the promenade past all the arcades, spa and fairground rides, although thankfully it was still pretty quiet at about 10am so there were not too many tourists to dodge around. I met quite a few runners out for a normal Saturday run along this stretch and they were both fascinated and supportive of what we were undertaking. I admired the strikingly colourful beach huts and enjoyed watching the lifeguards setting up their zones, but the tarmac was hard going and it was a relief to reach the Scalby Mills pub and climb back up onto the grassy headland.
The next section provided some lovely grassy running which got the life back into my legs. As there was a long time between checkpoints we had arranged an intermediate meeting place for this section at Crook Ness. Here Neil was handing over to my parents who would act as support crew for the day, before Neil took over again for the night shift. I was therefore overwhelmed by a Formula 1 style pit crew here and plied with jam sandwiches, sweets and coke!
Shortly after this point was the start of one of the hardest sections of the coastal path, with the path climbing continuously to Ravenscar, including a tough stepped and laddered climb through Hayburn Wyke. I was continuing to feel good though and was now starting to pass lots of people who had gone off a bit too quickly. Arriving in Ravenscar, we now had to detour off the Cleveland Way for about half a mile to reach the checkpoint in the village hall; this being a Hardmoors event, this inevitably also involved a climb up an extra hill through the village! Ravenscar saw the first timing cut off of the race and it was a pleasant surprise to discover that I was already 1 hour ahead of my planned timings and 1 hour 30 ahead of the cut off – I was clearly going well.
CP3 Ravenscar to CP4 Robin Hood’s Bay (4 miles)
At least having climbed up the hill to the checkpoint we now had the benefit of an easy run back down, before a steeper descent down to the headland. I took it steadily down here, trying not to do too much braking and to save the quads for later in the race. There is then some easy flat running, before a demanding approach to Robin Hood’s Bay with steep steps down and climbs through Stoupe Beck and Boggle Hole, before the big climb up through the town.
As I climbed up through Robin Hood’s Bay, a group of lads decided it was time for a bit of banter to suggest I should be running up the climb, but when I replied “I think walking will do as I’ve still got about 80 miles to go” they quickly changed their tune and gave me a big cheer! I checked in at the checkpoint and then made my way into the carpark where my support crew had cooked up some hot pasta for me – much needed having now completed a marathon distance.
CP4 Robin Hood’s Bay to CP5 Sandsend (10 miles)
I had a nice run on the undulating headland between Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby, but negotiating my way through Whitby was a nightmare. I don’t have much patience with crowds at the best of times, but trying to dodge around the hordes of tourists in the narrow streets was incredibly frustrating. I kept muttering to myself “they don’t know what you’re doing” over and over in an effort to stay calm. I had not been looking forward to the 1.5 mile road stretch to Sandsend, but it was such a relief to be clear of Whitby that I actually enjoyed just being able to get into a good running rhythm on the gentle downhill and my mood had improved by the time I reached the Sandsend checkpoint. I sat down here to change my socks and this felt great when I headed out again on refreshed feet.
CP5 Sandsend to CP6 Runswick Bay (5 miles)
A reasonably short stepped climb led from the Sandsend car park to a gently climbing track and I made good progress, before an innocuous gap in the trees brought me to the foot of a very long and steep set of steps up through the trees. I caught up with another runner here, which gave us the opportunity to curse them together, before joining forces for a very enjoyable run and chat around to Runswick Bay. The 110 was unfinished business for him, having previously made it to 80 miles before pulling out, but he seemed to be going well at this stage.
At Runswick Bay a lovely descent down a gully to the beach was great fun. The high tide was long gone and there was good firm sand for us to run on, while admiring the beautiful view of Runswick Bay village ahead (and the not so beautiful sight of the cliffs we needed to climb). I attacked the big climb up through the village; I still felt good after the first 40 miles and it was nice to be able to catch and pass people here. When I reached the top there were lots of weary bodies stretched out on the grass at the checkpoint, recovering from the climb!
CP6 Runswick Bay to CP7 Saltburn (12 miles)
As this was a long section I had arranged to meet my support crew just after Staithes for more hot food. The couple of miles to Staithes passed quickly and I stopped here for a large plate of pasta. Big mistake! I felt very full and I now had trouble getting moving again. I had gone from happily running to slow walking as my body struggled to digest the large amount of food I had just eaten.
As I headed up towards the quarries I was caught by two runners who were suddenly going at quite a pace. They explained that they were worried about the cut off at Saltburn. I told them that they were actually hours ahead of the midnight cut off time, and once they realised that they had got themselves muddled they were able to relax and slow down again!
As we headed towards Skinningrove I was still struggling with tummy trouble and nausea which was forcing me to slow right down. I took the climb out of Skinningrove very slowly on the soft sand, trying to let everything settle, but it wasn’t working and I hadn’t really managed to eat or drink anything since the pasta at Staithes 2 hours before. I had been looking forward to running the lovely gentle descent towards Saltburn, but couldn’t manage more than a shuffle without feeling very sick. Shortly before Saltburn I started to retch, but nothing actually came up. It was a relief to come down into Saltburn and see my support crew waiting for me. I was 3 hours ahead of the cut off, but the wheels had now come off…
Read Part 2 of my Hardmoors race experience here.