Sandbach Striders

It’s no secret to many that I have not been at my best lately. With Winston Churchill’s black dog banging my door down there could be no better cure than to exercise (as per what I would tell clients). 

The start of the run
However, there’s exercise like going for a brisk walk around your housing estate maybe a swim at the gym? or for the really brave taking part in the couch to 5k. I can’t see in the NHS wellbeing site anywhere that taking on a marathon along the canal network of the west midlands canal network one week and a 31 mile ultra as being the cure.  And for those of you that have recently completed the couch to 5k and are now fully fledged members of our wonderful club a word of warning. It wasn’t so long ago when I couldn’t envisage running a 10k in fact this weekend celebrate my 6th year of running. The 5ks’ turned to 10s to half marathons and then to Marathons and ultra running. This was to be my 30th finish at the Marathon distance or more including 7 ultra runs. 

Yes this is my best foot
Please note I call them runs not races. A race is something that you have a chance of winning, I know that I will never win an ultra race and I also know that for me the fact I can get this lump of lard around the course is in itself an achievement. I know the usual manly banter will go on and take place but for me at my age I am simply happy to be getting to the start and then going through the finishing tape. 

This ultra was to be special and in many ways completely change my outlook on running. Firstly let me tell you a bit about the “group” of people that make this special. This particular run was associated with the Hardmoors name but only really in name. This is because the organiser Kelly Jackson (and her helpers) make this race a very worthwhile event by donating all money raised to the local mountain and fell rescue people, the very people that will come out and rescue you should you find yourself short on the fells and moors. Secondly because it’s associated with John and Shirley Steels Hardmoors series it means a real sense of family even for Nikki and I and our 4 hour journey over to the wonderful moors. 

This route was really quite simple and had missed out the normal John Steel’s sadistic approach of making you scramble up and down hills that made your thigh muscles pop out but nethertheless a real beautiful and challenging in its own way course. The route started in Ravenscar which in itself is a really picturesque village approximately 10 miles from Scarborough. It  left the village hall to its normal shouts of enthusiasm and took off south east along the Cleveland way. This in itself bought out some terrific scenery, the sort you would place on a postcard and send it home to mum saying “wish you were here”  
The Train Rail
The route at approximately 5 miles changed NW and headed back to Ravenscar village hall. There at 8 miles was the first checkpoint, and I had found myself reaching this CP at approximately 9-50 MPM. I was quite pleased with that but not as pleased as I was when I saw the spread on teh table at this checkpoint and the availability of a proper loo. So after a 10 min break, off I set now continuing North east toward Robin hoods bay. This took in what in effect was an old railway called the “cinder trail” and before I knew it there I was stationed at Flip (fellow organiser) checkpoint. Now with a bit of encouragement from the ever so friendly marshals off I went again, this time carrying on the Cinder trail all the way up in to Whitby. This trail climbed for some miles gently and was rather similar to our own rail trail but with more climb and far more undulating. 
Kelly's spread
At this point between 15 and 20 miles I found myself mostly overtaking people as the gentle downhill stretch in to Whitby came along. The runners were sporadic but I found it quite assuring that I could see someone ahead of me and rein them in step by step over a couple of miles given the wonderful views ahead. As we dropped off the trail and in to Whitby (my favourite town ever) cp 3 appeared, again manned by enthusiastic and encouraging marshals who then sent us on the worst part but worst in a positive way through the wonderful town of Whitby.
199 steps to the abbey and me smiling, that’s not been for a while
This was absolutely packed with people, not people there cheering the runners through, but more people looking really bemused as to why I was running through the town on a hot and windy day dressed in shorts with a OMM bum bag on and a Sandbach Striders t-shirt. When they found out ( a few asked) and I explained they simply said WHY? That I couldn’t answer. At this point I had managed to navigate my way through the town by running with Shirley (Mrs John steele) and we approached the 199 steps up to the top of Whitby abbey. I once ran these against my son when he was about 8 and now I was going up them after completing 20 miles previously in hot weather with screaming feet and it hurt. A few Japanese tourists clicked away and eventually at the top we were to join the Cleveland way coastal path back to Robin hoods bay and eventually the end. As i ran with Shirley for a little while, I felt real rude. I told her that I just wanted to put in my headphones and keep plodding on and that she could take off if she wished and leave me to my own devices. I think in a great comeback she said she was too knocked out to talk anyway and was to just ask me if I wanted to take off and leave her. So it basically meant I let her get away and followed her keeping her insight. 

As I continued with a bit of Neil Sadaka playing through my head set I got my head down and simply pushed on by admiring the views. As I came through the marathon distance I realised that I had just literally passed marathon distance quicker than I ran the canal marathon the week before. My blisters were still painful but in a really strange way my head felt better than it had for some weeks. Here I was running in the present, not the future or the past but just the here and now and taking every little moment of it in. All of a sudden I was experiencing something that no amount of medication or drug could ever provide me with- complete mental calmness. 

As I continued along the Cleveland way overtaking one or two burnt out runners I really felt a sense of “struggle” Not something I hadn’t felt in many other races but just something whereby I wished I knew how far the next CP was as I was hot and had ran out of water. Just at this point a runner overtook me and this was to be the only runner to of done so since mile 15, she asked how I was getting on and I said “ok” but desperate for water. She said she had plenty and gave me half a bottle and carried on. I thanked her then and later and she looked fit and good and ready to accelerate away.  I on the other hand must have looked baked cooked and ready to stumble over one of the cliffs. Before long however I had come back in to Robin Hoods Bay and the checkpoint. With a couple of cups of coke taken and a fresh water bottle I was informed I had 4.5 miles to go 
I will never tire of this view
Off I went again- Running down the hill in to Robnin hoods bay before swinging back on to the Cleveland way. This part of the route had become far more Hardmoors with plenty of ups downs and steps and steep climbs especially as we went down something called “boggle hole”. As I began the ascent up from Boggle hole I was asked a question by a lady I am sure I recognised. She said “are you doing a fun run?” I replied “no I am doing and ultra marathon” and we gossiped about how far it was and she was quite taken back. Now this lady was fit with a capital F and yes Fit in that sense but Fit in the “jees wouldn’t like to race her over a 100 meters”. I cannot be sure but I am sure I recognised her as either Denise Lewis or another Great British athlete that I had seen on TV.  She gave a few words of encouragement and off I went.  I now felt that I was on the stretch of my life and instead of getting weaker was actually getting stronger, no hill became unrunnable and no downhill hurt my chronic blistering feet, I just knew I had this in the bag. Up ahead on top of the hillside I could see the wonderful Ravenscar hotel and although it was in the distance I just knew if I could reach it I had succeeded.  I pushed on some more and before I knew it I was chasing someone up a 1 in 10 hill trying to catch him by the end. At the top of the hill was my wonderful lady whom had walked the huge 500 yards from the camper to see me finish. 
The long road ahead
 At the finish I was chuffed, well chuffed. Not only because I had completed what I set out to do but because how strong I was feeling in that last post marathon distance. I had achieved a total time of 6hrs 39 which for a distance of around 30 miles was a personal best by a long shot. I spent some time thanking Kelly for her organisation and then chatted to a few of the other Hardmoors family members before setting back in to the motorhome and being taken off to Whitby for some of the best fish and chips in Britain. 

I do hope you have enjoyed the report and the pictures. The Hardmoors series is a fantastic series of runs through the best countryside in the world as far as I’m concerned. It has great leadership and great camaraderie pretty similar to what we find in our own club. I would love to thank the support I have had from some members of our own club over the past few weeks too and can’t wait for the next Hardmoors event. The next one I am attempting is the Goathland Marathon through the picturesque Heartbeat country. 

There is also a 10k and a half marathon too, a great chance to book you a hotel room have a run and treat the family to a nice bit of time in the moors. 

See you soon.  
Random my dog and her friends at the beach following the run.
Proof you can tie in two hobbies in one weekend.
 For more information visit the race website.

Paul N.