Race Review – Ravenscar Coastal Half Marathon 2015

I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about the Ravenscar Half, which is an off-road event on the Yorkshire coast. I’d entered because I thought it would be good training for the Calderdale Way Ultra, but as it was only three weeks after the Manchester Marathon I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare for it. In the end I decided to take it easy for a couple of weeks, then took myself out for eleven miles the Sunday before just to make sure I could still cover the distance! My main concern was the hills, as I’d spent the last four months training for a flat road marathon. The event website says Ravenscar is ‘not for the faint hearted’ and the second half features a ‘killer of a down and uphill section that will make your legs and lungs burn’, so my main aim was just to enjoy it and not be last!

This was probably the smallest event I’ve ever entered, with around 160 runners of all abilities taking part. It’s organised by the Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team, and all proceeds go to them. The race starts and finishes at Ravenscar Village Hall. Parking was really well-organised (Harewood House Half, take note!) and there were plenty of toilets. I was dithering about what to wear as it seemed a bit cold, despite predictions of up to 16 degrees from the weather forecast. In the end I plumped for capris rather than shorts and even took a top layer, as did many other people. Luckily you can wait inside the hall before starting, which was nice, as a bit of a chilly wind was blowing. I perused a giant OS map of the route and noted a place called Beast Cliff, which did nothing to make me feel any less nervous!

Race HQ

We set off at 9.30 sharp, heading straight to the Cleveland Way along the cliff edge. Many years ago I walked the Cleveland Way over several days, and couldn’t quite believe I was now running along it! The views for most of the route are absolutely spectacular, but as you’re running on trails you do also need to keep an eye on your footing.

After a while we turned onto a disused railway line for a couple of miles. The first half is actually pretty easy, on good trails with a lot of downhill. The fun starts in the second half! We turned back towards the coast and it was up and downhill all the way home – but great fun! There were a couple of places where most of us had to walk a bit, but I coped better than I thought I would. I actually feel better going uphill than downhill, as I’m not very good on steep, technical descents, and there were some sections with smooth, slippery stones that were a bit dicey! I definitely need to get better at that. I felt stronger than I’d expected towards the end – although the last half mile, uphill into a headwind, was a bit of a killer! I finished in 2:13 and was 96th overall (out of 165). It’s certainly made me feel more optimistic about Calderdale.

Looking windswept, but having a great time! Photo courtesy of the official race photographer, Chris at Reaction Photography.

At just £10 for entry this was certainly the best value event I’ve ever taken part in – no unnecessary bling or t-shirt, but some very welcome tea and flapjack in the village hall at the end! It was also really well marshalled by the mountain rescue folk. There were even running marshals carrying first aid kits, so we really did feel pretty safe despite the sometimes tricky terrain. All in all I’d highly recommend Ravenscar if you like a bit of trail, and I’ll definitely be back next year.

So next up is my first ultra, the Calderdale Way, on 6th June… just over three weeks away – eeeek!