I couldn’t wait to run Hardmoors Fryupdale. Postponed from last year due to Covid, it was one of the few Hardmoors marathons I’d never done. It has a smaller capacity than the other events, so I was delighted when I eventually managed to get a place. Driving over the moors to the tiny hamlet of Fryup on the day the sunrise looked amazing and the weather forecast was perfect. It’s one of the longer Hardmoors ‘marathons’ at 31 miles, so I was set for a great day out!
The race starts and finishes at the Yorkshire Cycle Hub; a perfect venue with loads of parking, showers and a great café. There was a real buzz at the race briefing, and we set off bang on 9 am straight into a zig-zag uphill via the Cycle Hub’s mountain bike track.
After a couple of miles of undulating trail, with a fair bit of slightly congested singletrack, we launched into a huge hill. That got the calves burning, but was the only really steep climb of the day. Although there’s over 1,000 metres of elevation on the course, most of it comes from longer, more gradual inclines, which actually suit me better.
After the second checkpoint, the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge, there was a bit of quiet road until we turned off on to High Blakey Moor. This was one of my favourite parts of the course; good quality trail that went very gradually down then up, accompanied by amazing views. With bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine, but a cool temperature and a slight breeze, I really couldn’t have been happier. I felt very lucky, as apparently the last time this race happened it rained all day!
We continued along moorland tracks, through fields, over streams and railway lines, skirting the edge of Castleton and passing through the village of Danby. Quite a bit of the route followed the Esk Valley Walk, waymarked with a fish symbol. I would love to explore this more some time.
Just before Danby a small group of us started running together and having a bit of a chat, which is always a great part of any ultra. From Danby we all jog/walked up a long, steep road climb to Danby Beacon, which was really impressive. The 20 mile checkpoint was here.
After this our group fragmented a bit – some dropped back and others tried to push on, leapfrogging each other and exchanging a few words from time to time. From the Beacon there was a fantastic gradual trail descent for a couple of miles to the village of Leaholm. After that was a rollercoaster of three (or was it four?) long, gradual climbs and short descents – the kind of terrain that I’d probably run the whole of in training, but that really saps the legs when you’ve already been on the go for about 25 miles. There was some walking! But the reward was then another long descent to Glaisdale Rigg.
From the last checkpoint at 29 miles I could see another descent coming up and was really looking forward to coasting to the finish. But this turned out to be a steep hill of slippery mud and rock that was impossible to run, so not really any respite! It had probably been churned up a bit by the faster runners in front. This sort of stuff is really not my forte, and I minced down super slowly. The final mile or so was along the road back to the Cycle Hub, but with more uphill, and then a final steep little grassy climb to the finish line – no let up until the very end! Steve had cycled out from home to meet me and was at the top shouting encouragement, but my legs were finally out of running.
It’s always hard to know how you’re doing in a long race where runners get quite strung out. I was absolutely knackered at the end of this and, because I’d done quite a bit of walking, thought I must be somewhere near the back. However, towards the end I’d been determined to get under seven hours and pushed as hard as I could. My official finish time was 6:55:58, so I just made it! I was surprised to learn that I’d come 44th out of 87 finishers overall and 11th woman out of 28 – better than expected. And I’d missed out on being 1st FV50 by just 46 seconds. I might have pushed a little bit harder if I’d known that! But all in all I was happy with the result.
Just like most Hardmoors events, this was a tough but fantastic race and I really enjoyed it. Half marathon and 10K options are also available for non-masochists! Fryupdale is a bit of a hidden gem that I’d recommend visiting even if you don’t want to run round it, and the Yorkshire Cycle Hub is well worth a trip if you love cycling. I’m now really looking forward to the Hardmoors Goathland marathon next month, another one that I haven’t managed to run yet. Then that’s me done for this year!