Saturday, 5 January 2013

Hardmoors 30, 1 January 2013

“I was going to go to Ravenscar for my summer holidays but the walk to the beach was down a steep cliff…”.  The steep cliff which ruined the dreams of the developers defines Ravenscar as it gives you sweeping views from the top, and it is the impressive bulk which you head towards as you approach from Whitby.  Ravenscar was fortunate in that it escaped the developers’ grasp.  Twenty years ago, I camped at Bent Rigg Farm walking from Scarborough to Whitby along the Cleveland Way and went back many times as I was drawn to the place.

Ravenscar, the bare outline of a village, coupled with the remote Raven Hall Hotel perched on the top of the cliff directly above Wine Haven and with sweeping views of Robin Hood’s Bay.

The Raven Hall Hotel was looking a little tired until recently it was given an injection of life and is now a popular wedding venue.  The photographs on the walls of glamourous gatherings there in the glory years gone by, put me in mind of The Shining.

Inspired by beautiful pictures of the coastline by Ultrarunner Moorsman on the Hard Moors Facebook page in September 2012, I signed up for the Hard Moors 30, having previously felt the route looked a little tame.  A disused railway features a lot in the figure of eight route, which might be ideal for cycling with children but for running, for me it is too enclosed.

Steve and Andreas joined me on a recce of the route in December and we were treated to a lovely day, the rugged majesty of the North Yorkshire coastline splashed in bright colours courtesy of brilliant sunshine.  Setting off from Leeds in the dark, we had driven through the dawn to arrive at Ravenscar at 9 am in daylight.  We had coffee and cake in Robin Hoods Bay, and later enjoyed coffee and chocolate in the church yard of St Mary’s church at the top of the 199 steps (or 398 for Steve).

The Specials’ eponymous first album was the first CD of the year, on the early morning drive to Ravenscar, followed by the Smashing Pumpkins.  I arrived in Ravenscar in a good mood having driven through a dawn again, the light was bright on arrival, the road frosty, a nip in the air.

In the village hall I was greeted by very efficient and very young marshalls who registered me and gave me my race card.

The race organiser cheerfully advised us that if we had brought fell shoes or road shoes choose the fell, as the muddy sections after Whitby were ‘bad’.  Oh well, that was about 4 or 5 hours away for me, not an immediate problem.

Having been told to “bugger off” by the race organiser, we were off.  I set off at a fairly good pace, my race plan was to “put some effort in”.  I don’t know why but I cannot go fast.  My body just resists being pushed on the speed side.  It is probably worried it ‘might hurt’ but I just chug along gaily at a steady pace most of the time, for hours.  The plan for today was, “try a bit harder than normal”.  In fact, I had told myself: try so hard that you feel ill at the end.  I have read blogs where fell runners run so hard they vomit in the race, and I feel ashamed that I just jog around and breeze up at the end beaming, saying “that was great, I really enjoyed that”.

It’s just such a great feeling setting off on a long run, knowing you have 5 or 6 hours of this ahead of you, savouring every step, every turn, every new view, warming up and getting into the rhythm.  It really is like being on a train with a bit of a thrill of running thrown in. 

We run round Blea Wyke Point, and head down to Hayburn Wyke where we leave the Cleveland Way, and head inland.  Just after the first check point, a self-clip, I was running across a boggy field, when I heard a man cussing loudly. I laughed thinking he had just got wetter than he expected – I felt a little sheepish when another runner told me he thought the first one had lost his shoe. As I looked back he seemed to be searching for his shoe in the bog, assisted by another so I felt bad.

From here, you turn onto the disused railway, and keep going along that until Whitby.  The long stretches along the disused railway could in theory get a bit tedious at times, but I don’t expect entertainment on a 30 mile run. I imagine what it would have been like to travel along that track, on a train and forget I am propelling myself.

Check point 2, having completed the Hayburn Wyke loop, is at the village hall, then trotting off back on the disused railway, this time heading up to Whitby. This stretch of the disused railway is the scene of a previous disaster around 20 years ago when I found myself walking along this stretch, with Tony, in the dark without a torch…  it’s a long story. 

Check point 3 in Robin Hood’s Bay, food and drink and friendly marshalls.  No time for coffee and cake this time. I plough on along the disused railway, still, heading for Whitby.  You are treated to glimpses of the sea to your right if you are heading in the right direction. Whitby Abbey comes into view sooner than you think it will and running into Whitby and through the throng of daytrippers and up the 199 steps and through the church yard and onto the coastal path. I don’t think breaking the lucky duck all those years ago mattered after all.  This is going so well.

Leaving St Mary’s, the coastal path was fine, hard pack terrain. A little mud a bit further along then the small patches of mud became larger until I was running through swathes of mud, which turned into channels and then tracts of land which were fields of mud.  The mud was frothy and bubbly, churned and whipped and a really lovely light brown colour.  It was difficult to get a grip and easy to fall.  Ahem.  Past Far Jetticks.  Clock Case Nab.  Craze Naze.  Calf.  Castle Chamber.

Back in Robin Hood’s Bay, the marshalls check you in and keep you going.  Then, I find myself running down the hill to Robin Hood’s Bay laughing and beaming from ear to ear. 

I call out to a pair of runners, “isn’t this great, are you enjoying this?”  And they look at me like I am the most annoying person they have encountered ever.  What on earth is she on about?  I run down the hill wondering if this unbreakable descent will end in tears.  Surely it must, I can’t stop or slow and this is too fast for me!  I’m going faster and faster, momentum is gathering yet I manage to stay upright and then swerve to the right and up a ginnel, past the chippy, and up to the coastal path again.

More mud, more slipping and falling.  Down the steps to Boggle Hole, up again, past Tinkler’s Stone, then it’s that lovely finger post saying “Ravenscar 2 miles” and I think ok, that’s 20 minutes left, damn.  Up the hill to the Raven Hall Hotel, it’s nearly dark, I power walk and try to fall forward to see if I can fool my body into running.  Remember your race plan.  I am tired, but not ill and certainly nowhere near vomiting.  Turn right at the top, hook up with a runner in pain, but he joins me in our combined attempt to finish this running.  We count down the seconds and lurch into the village hall beaming from ear to ear.

All the prizes await – hot coffee, a lovely baked potato, crisps.  Then a presentation of trophies, and heading home in the dark, a perfect start to the New Year.

HARDMOORS 30 Category winners
1st Robin Carter 4hrs 21mins
2nd Neil Risdale 4hrs 23mins
3rd Anthony Gerundini 4hrs 30mins
1st Lady Sophie Crad 5hrs 32mins
1st 50 vet David Jelley 4hrs 41mins
1st 50 vet Lady Alison Brind 6hrs 15mins
1st 60 vet Dave Thompson 6hrs
1st Shire Darren Gillman 7hrs 39mins

Sarah Smith 6hrs 15mins 

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