Race Review – Hardmoors 30 Ultramarathon 2021

The Hardmoors 30 traditionally takes place on New Year’s Day, but was postponed this year for obvious reasons. The event usually starts and finishes at Fylingdale Village Hall, near Robin Hood’s Bay, but due to Covid regulations it started and finished on this occasion in the car park at Whitby Abbey. The route forms a kind of skinny figure of eight through Ravenscar, down to Cloughton then back to Whitby, following parts of the Cleveland Way and a disused railway line trail known as the Cinder Track. It’s 33 miles long rather than 30, but that’s Hardmoors value for you! There’s also a 15 mile option. Both are well marked and marshalled.

This was the first race I’d taken part in since I did the Hardmoors 55 six months ago and I was really looking forward to running and racing with other people. It was also my first day out at the seaside since I can’t remember when! It was brilliant to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for ages at the start. The weather was perfect for running: cool and fair, with not too much sun or wind. The race was organised under strict Covid event regulations and we were all warned to be on our best behaviour and remember to socially distance! All runners had been asked to predict how long the race would take them, then given a start time based on this. We were called up to the start in socially distanced groups of six, where we had our temperature taken and told to remain masked until we set off.

I actually think staggered starts work really well, as it avoids congestion on the course. The first few miles were along the Cleveland Way, and it was great to take in the coastal scenery and breathe some fresh sea air. The trails were really hard, as the weather had been dry with no rain for at least a couple of weeks. I’d worn hybrid shoes rather than full-on trail ones in anticipation of this.

The route undulates for a few miles, then descends into Robin Hood’s Bay, where we picked up the Cinder Track. The first checkpoint was seven miles in at Fylingdale.

The track is flat for a while, then starts to climb very gradually to the highest point of the course at Ravenscar, one of my favourite places. It’s fairly easy running for a while, although the Cinder Track can be a quite gravelly and dusty in places, making your feet and legs really dirty! After about three miles we turned off the track and onto a road – a really steep road – leading up to the ancient beacon monument above Ravenscar; the second checkpoint at 11 miles. This was hard enough to walk up, never mind run! So it was very slow progress for a bit, followed by a drop down through a field to the village. Here we picked up the Cinder Track again, and the terrain was very slightly downhill for about five miles. This is a good opportunity to make up a bit of time, and I clocked several miles at well under ten minute pace. Turning off here towards the coast leads to the checkpoint at Cloughton Wyke, which is just over halfway. I arrived here in just over three hours. All the checkpoints are well stocked with water and other drinks such as Pepsi and Irn Bru, as well as a range of sweet and savoury snacks. The Cloughton point also had Tailwind energy jelly.

One of the Hardmoors mottos is ‘Suffering = Fun’ and the ‘fun’ in this race really starts in the second half. Heading off up the Cleveland Way back to Ravenscar, the route is like a rollercoaster! It’s constantly climbing and descending steeply, sometimes right back to sea level, via steep steps or stony tracks that really give the legs a battering!

Technical descents are really not my forte, so it was slow progress along here for a few miles, and my calves began to complain. Spending lockdown in York with no access to big hills certainly wasn’t ideal training for this event!

From Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s bay the terrain is slightly more forgiving, mostly gentle undulations. Howerver, the descent into the village is immediately followed by a vicious steep climb up the hilly main street to re-join the Cinder Track for a couple of miles. This is uphill, but gently so, and quite runnable if you take it easy. A sharp right turn down a grassy track through a field then leads back to the Cleveland Way for the final few miles back to Whitby.

By now it was mid-afternoon and the trails were busy with walkers and dogs, but most were happy to let us runners pass and give some much-appreciated words of encouragement.

After a few more smaller climbs we were almost back at Whitby Abbey, and I realised that if I sped up a bit I’d come in at just under six hours. It’s amazing how you can find that extra bit of energy when the clock is against you!

My finish time was 6:58:34. I was 120th out of 222 runners overall, 29th out of 76 women and 5th out of 19 in the FV50 category. Considering my lack of hill practice I felt OK with that, but there is definite room for improvement now we can travel to train! We had a choice of a metal or wooden medal, so I plumped for wood in the hope that it was the more eco-friendly option. I also think it looks really attractive. There was also a choice of t-shirt colour, featuring the all-important Hardmoors ultra crossed swords.

Although I’d been cursing the tricky ups and downs in the second half of the race, I really did enjoy myself. The weather was perfect and for a few hours it felt like the world was getting back to normal. Hopefully it won’t be too long now before it does!

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