My first post and my first race in a terribly long time…
The Hardmoors Princess challenge is a 31 mile run which follows the Hardmoors 31 course traditionally run on New Year’s Day. It is spread across the beautiful Cleveland Way coastal path and the disused Scarborough to Whitby railway line. I had a bad year last year with injuries and so took time out to get healthy. I spent the whole summer getting strong, built a good base of fitness and decided it was time to test it out.
This was a small event to raise funds for the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team with a field of approx. 70 runners. I was lucky enough to be given a lift to the race start by a kind volunteer who gave up her morning to help register runners.
The atmosphere at the start was much like other local races. Some folks jovially catching up with each other, whilst others were quietly get focused and ready. I didn’t know anyone and so happily did the latter. Looking at the runners there was lots of brightly coloured kit from Hokas to huaraches and there appeared to be plenty of experienced capable runners. They didn’t need to be intimidating as I psyched myself out, self-doubt passed through my mind at the start line, I picked apart my preparations and imagined these guys running off leaving me in a cloud of dust. But as soon as we set off this faded and I happily settled into my rhythm.
I know the course well, living in Scarborough and so I knew the first part of the run would be fast. Beautiful singletrack following the cliff top trail descends to the Hayburn Wyke. This section quickly passed, I soon reached the bay where treacherous steps descend before climbing steeply at the other side. Dry weather made this much less hassle and checkpoint 1 arrived quickly, I just ran straight through.
The next section was to follow the old railway line back to Ravenscar. This was a steady gradual climb back to our start point for checkpoint 2. The path was straight, surface hard-packed and much less interesting than the coastal path but I had the company of another runner to pass the time. It was nice to have company and we chatted all the way to checkpoint 2. Skipped it again and carried on.
Back onto the railway line and down to Robin Hoods Bay, we made quick progress to the third checkpoint. We separated for several miles, coming back together just before Whitby checkpoint 3. Here I topped up my soft flasks, grabbed some melon and carried on. To get through the busy streets my running partner ran behind me in the space I carved through the crowds. We headed up the iconic 199 steps to the Abbey then back onto the Cleveland Way. Again to pass the walkers I led and bellowed “excuse me!” in my friendliest voice. This section was a real highlight for me looking over the cliffs, the shipwreck broken on the rocks and the hidden caves. Just beautiful!
I became aware of my thirst, so gulped from my soft-flask. A short while later I realised I was running low. I eased the pace a little to make my fluid last till the next aid, as I didn’t want to blow up. My partner then pulled away slightly but remained in sight. The streets of Robin Hoods Bay came into view as I felt my left calf doing strange things. I wouldn’t say it was cramp, nothing seized up but the muscle was in spasm. I paused looked at my calf and it appeared to have the arms of a typewriter or the hammers of a piano drumming away inside. I was sure this was the result of not enough fluid and I hadn’t used any electrolyte tabs but I stayed at a steady pace and it soon passed.
Into Robin Hoods Bay and the final checkpoint. I topped up my water, this time added electrolytes but I think the damage was done. The crew fed me Jaffa cakes, told me I was 7th gave me my splits, they encouraged me saying I was guaranteed a top ten place. This picked me up and I pushed on, I had ran fairly fast up to this point because I knew that the end was tough and the climb would slow most folk to a walk whatever they had left in the tank. The last mile or so was steep as expected but the steadier pace earlier had settled the calf issue and before I left the Cleveland way for the road I felt strong again. I pushed up the final bit of road with the end in sight. I entered the hall to a round of applause from the crew and other runners, I felt a great and for a moment thought I could carry on running but that passed as my thoughts moved to food and water. I had arrived in 5 hours and made 7th place which far surpassed my expectations, I had only hoped to finish injury free.
After the race those in the village hall were warm and welcoming sharing their race day experiences, as more runners came in everyone stopped to applaud their efforts. It was beautiful race with stunning scenery, and I enjoyed racing on my local trails. The winners were presented with their awards and I was offered a lift home with a fellow runner. The Hardmoors family were a friendly bunch; the runners were supported well by a dedicated team of helpers and I’m looking forward to coming back and challenging myself further!
(I do not own and did not take the photographs in this post, they were kindly taken and shared by a volunteer, thank you to the photographer for this race memento)