Race Review – Hardmoors Goathland Marathon 2021

Hardmoors Goathland was an event I’d really been looking forward to, mostly because it was the only Hardmoors marathon I hadn’t yet run. I was supposed to do it last year, but like many events it was postponed due to Covid. At that time I ran a virtual Goathlands half marathon with my friend Jason, which was a great taster for the real thing.

Goathland is a beautiful village near Whitby on the North York Moors, and will be familiar to those of a certain age as the setting for the TV series Heartbeat. It seems very remote, and I was surprised it only took me an hour to get there from home near York. The race starts and finishes at the village hall, and it was fab to have indoor registration/kit check and toilets – just like old times! As usual at Hardmoors events, half marathon and 10K options are also available. The marathon route is only 27 miles, probably the closest marathon to 26.2 miles Hardmoors do; but the route had to be changed slightly this year to take account of a car rally going on nearby. Unsurprisingly this added a couple of miles to the distance!

We set off at 9 am. The weather was dry to start, but forecast to turn showery and very windy later on. After a nice downhill start the route started to climb through some woods, before a descent and slippery, rocky scramble past the Mallyan Spout waterfall.

This looked great, but I was too busy concentrating on not falling over to appreciate it very much!

A climb up out of the woods was followed by a short road section, then a long stretch of moorland track, including the first of two visits to the standing stones at Simon Howe. The sections on top of the moors were definitely the hardest part of this route; the combination of really soft mud, water and hard tussocks of grass made it difficult (sometimes impossible) to run in places.

There was another woodland section after this, including a lovely descent, followed by another muddy stretch alongside the North York Moors railway line. Whilst eating a snack along here, and not paying full attention to where I was putting my feet, I managed to fall over sideways into a big muddy puddle. I was unhurt, just pleased nobody had seen me!

A short, steep climb then took us up to the edge of the spectacular Hole of Horcum, where we maintained our height for a while. A steady climb on good, grassy ground led to the romantic ruins of Skelton Tower. The views over the moors in every direction from this high point are quite spectacular, and I stopped for a moment to take them in. I was feeling pretty good at this point and optimistic of finishing in just over six hours.

The route then undulated through the woods around the village of Levisham before climbing up to Levisham Moor, partly following the route of the Tabular Hills Walk. We passed by the Hole of Horcum once more, on a different path this time, before heading back in the direction of Goathland.

Much of the last few miles followed the same paths over the moors as on the way out, but even tougher this time as the ground was now more churned up! It started to rain, so I stopped and put my jacket on – obviously it then stopped about two minutes later! But the wind was getting up and making it feel quite chilly, so I was glad of it anyway.

We climbed back up through the woods we’d descended through on the way out, then retraced our steps across the boggy moor. This included a long, hard drag uphill into a strong head wind for about a mile and a half that seemed to take ages, finishing with our second visit to Simon Howe. I was feeling really tired by now and realised my finishing time would be closer to seven hours than six! At least from here the route to the finish was mostly downhill, albeit on very rough narrow tracks.

I couldn’t see anyone in front of me or behind, just miles and miles of moorland. I’m quite happy with this on a route that’s well marked. Remote but beautiful! However, at one point I accidentally kicked a rock with my toe and tripped over – into soft heather, so again unhurt – but immediately got really bad cramp in my left calf. I sat at the side of the trail for a couple of minutes, swearing loudly as my calf spasmed painfully. Luckily there was nobody around to hear me! After giving it a rub for a bit I managed to walk it off and carry on running.

Trail turned into road as I arrived back in Goathland and trotted through the village to the finish. It was around 4 pm by now and daylight was starting to fade. My eventual finishing time was 7:12:21 (damn cramp!), a bit disappointing, but it was quite a tough day. I did a fair bit of walking in this race and felt I’d been really slow, so was surprised not to be nearer the back. I was 52nd out of 79 finishers, 11th out of 21 women and 3rd FV50 out of seven. Despite this being a tough race I was really glad I’d done it. The scenery was amazing, the weather better than forecasted and all the Hardmoors marshals as brilliant as ever. This isn’t an easy event to get into, as capacity is quite small, but well worth the effort if you love big, rugged landscapes. Or mud!

This was my last event of the year apart from the Tadcaster 10 next weekend, which I don’t know if I’ll do yet due to the niggle I’ve had in my right hip for the last few months. I’m not sure a ten mile pounding on the road would do it any good. I’m following a strategy of running a lot less miles and doing more strength work until the end of the year in the hope that will help it. I have some big plans for next year, so want to be right for starting training in the new year!

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