As dawn broke on 2013 I was enjoying a stunning drive over to Whitby. My bags were full, my lycra was figure hugging, and my tummy was doing loops in anticipation of what was to come. Above me a huge moon loomed in the clear and lightening sky, and moments before reaching Ravenscar Village Hall the sun finally popped its glorious glowing head above the tree line. It was cold though, the clear night meant some ice on the road, and a breeze bought temperatures down to just one or two degrees. Arriving in the village hall I signed in and collected my dibber card to be clipped at all the checkpoints.
I was probably visibly nervous as I sat in the hall pondering the next few hours of my life, though I tried to chat with other runners as though this might be an everyday experience – for some of whom it probably was :-) As RD Jon Steele gave his pre-race briefing in which he advised most wholeheartedly the use of the luggiest shoes available I panicked a little that my Cascadias wouldn’t hold (me) up. I finally stripped off my toasty warm hoody, loaded up my waist pack which had about everything you could possibly think of taking in it, and headed outside to the start line. I was instantly concerned about my lack of clothing as I had a compression top and then long sleeve shirt over. Fears were put to rest once moving as I warmed up quickly.
This might have had something to do with a rather quick first mile. Every book I have ever read about running forewarns of the pitfalls in running with the group at the start. With a downhill profile and a slight tailwind, and among a bunch of runners a sub 9 min/mi was easily done, and a little silly. I honestly don’t think it did me any harm though at the end of the day, but I really need to focus on being sensible from the gun in these longer races to come.
The start of the route heads south from Ravenscar to Hayburn Wyke and the self-clip checkpoint at 4.5 miles via the clifftop paths of the Cleveland Way. Instantly I am in awe of the beautiful scenery, and aware that today is going to be a very special day. I can’t focus too much on the views though, already the ground is quite churned up, and it is obvious that mud and slipping is going to be a real issue today. We had been warned of the opportunity to accidently pass the Hayburn Wyke checkpoint, and in our hasty caution three of us went 20m off course as we took the early left turn. We quickly realised that path led to the beach and turned around. As it turned out, the turn off was easy to see and we climbed up the steps to the checkpoint. 4.5 miles done, I was feeling really good.
From here we joined the cinder track which uses the old railway line to connect Whitby to Scarborough. Though not muddy, the track was tricky to navigate as it was strewn with rocks and uneven terrain. The killer thing about this 4 mile portion of the race back to Ravenscar was the nature of the hill. From Hayburn Wyke the track wound its way entirely up hill, not really sufficiently to warrant walking, but enough that it felt like a long old drag back up to the checkpoint.
Back at the Village hall it was time to refill bottles, grab a cup of orange squash and a delicious sausage roll before heading back out again. I had tried to text Lynds to advise that I was on target for her to meet me in Whitby, but somehow I rang her instead, so I had a brief chat as I ate my sausage roll and then got running back down the hill to rejoin the train line path.
This next 5 mile section to Robin Hoods bay went without a hitch and continued to provide some lovely views to enjoy as I made steady progress along the route. I checked in at the checkpoint, ignored the food and water and headed for the loos. This was probably a mistake, as the option to take on something other than gels would have been nice, but I was busting, and I wasn’t going back to the checkpoint!
The next 6 miles or so were not particularly pleasant at all. Largely uphill, the headwind that was slowing progress made for really hard work. Also, all my clothing and waist pack had moved around during the loo stop and was no longer very comfortable so I had to stop at one point to sort myself out. That wasn’t pleasant in what was, by now, a bracing wind. At about this point I was also starting to be bothered slightly by the tab on my toe socks rubbing the heel of my right foot. I readjusted it, and it stopped, so I carried on.
The sight of the abbey was fantastic at first. I soon got a little fed up of seeing it, as it seemed never to get any closer. This was of course crazy, I was slowing, but making good progress and I was really happy as I came into the Whitby checkpoint at 19 miles feeling strong. I got some Rola Cola from the volunteer there. It was not pleasant at all, but I drank it up, added some to my water, and carried on – a little gasier than when I entered the checkpoint.
At this point I phoned Lynds again, as I knew she was somewhere in Whitby waiting for me with her Mum and Dad. As I saw them stood on a bench looking for me I had a big smile and crossed the road to see them. I reordered my pack very briefly, was told I’d missed the fish and chips, and sent on my way.
We had feared that Whitby would be dead on New Years Day, and that they would have nothing to do whilst waiting. We needed have worried, as the place was heaving, and the run to the Abbey Steps was littered with pedestrians getting in my way. I got there though, and am not ashamed to say I did not run up them! There are about a gazilion steps, and at the top I took a chance for a breather whilst enjoying a flapjack bar.
Just beyond the Abbey is where the real fun started. It was soon obvious that the Cleveland Way had taken on a lot of water recently, and the going underfoot was tricky. At about 22 miles though, I had had enough of the rubbing on my heel and resigned myself to a sock change. I sat on a tuft of grass and set about changing socks. No blister had formed, it just looked a little red. I applied lots more Bodyglide, and put a fresh sock on. Instantly I felt better. I didn’t waste time changing the other foot though, as that one had felt fine.
The next five miles were actually pretty horrible. Running was difficult, and as a result I was definitely slowing. With a few miles still to go before reaching Robin Hoods Bay again I was getting a little chilly, but on the exposed clifftops I didn’t fancy stopping to faff around getting kit out. The miles were ticking by really slowly at this point and I was feeling quite dejected; marathon distance (the furthest I’ve run) passed without fanfare. I finally made it to the checkpoint though, and the smiling marshalls were very welcoming. I set about trying to open my bag with cold fingers; it wasn’t easy. I put on my jacket, and my second layer gloves. It took a couple of minutes, but I soon warmed up nicely. I grabbed a sugary donut and headed out of the checkpoint and down the hill. Now the fun really began.
Four miles to go. I texted Lynds and advised I’d be about an hour and a half if current pace was kept up. The drop into the bay is a steep one, and one tired feet it was quite a painful one too. But it was the punishing steps on the way back up that really hurt. By now the flat bits were just about runable, but walkers must have wondered why I was running so slow. I felt like I was going at a manageable pace, but mile splits suggest it wasn’t that great. The route merely undulated at this point, rather than the hills evident between Whitby and Robin Hoods, but it was the muddy and wet steps down into the valleys and back up that were really taking their toll.
There was a couple in front of me for most of this leg. I could never quite catch them, but was just about keeping up. Climbing back out of Boggle Hole I remember questioning Garmin and their GPS satelites, surely they don’t take into account the distance climbed, and miles are simply measured as the crow flies, this is not fair. I also remember swearing at the steps of Boggle Hole, I told them they would never beat me and at the top I ran away from them, so pleased to have gotten up them.
At about this point I noted that I only really had a parkrun left to do. This cheered me slightly in that a parkrun isn’t all that far. But then I started thinking about how I could run a parkrun in 21 minutes. My 27th mile took 21:14. I was not feeling so strong any more. I saw someone on facebook describe it as ‘whipped mud’ and that is a fairly accurate description of the sludge we were running through.
The final few miles took forever, light was disappearing quick, and had I not been within touching distance of the finish I would have needed my headtorch. As it was though, I didn’t want to stop and try searching for it, so I ploughed on, the final horrible climb up to Ravenscar. I managed to run the last bit in to the village hall. Stopped my watch, and entered the hall. Lynds, Colin and Barbara were all waiting and even clapped when I got in. I checked in with the girls on the checkpoint and dashed for food. That was possibly one of the best cups of tea I have ever had!!
I was just in time for the presentation ceremony. I hadn’t won anything, but that’s not surprising when the winning time was the same as my Milton Keynes Marathon time!! Having never set out with a goal in mind other than to complete the race and enjoy it, I was over the moon with my 6:38. Had the ground been a little more forgiving in the final ten miles then I might have achieved closer to 6, but you gotta take what the day hands you, and I couldn’t care much less about the time really. New Years Day was all about enjoying myself.
If I have any regrets, it is simply that this post is not laden with pictures of the vistas I enjoyed to share with you all. Despite not aiming for time, I made a conscious decision not to stop at every pretty scene and take a picture – this was a race after all.
I must just make a quick mention of the race organisers and the fantastic volunteers they had pulled together (surely no mean feat on 1st January). From first registering for the event, the Hardmoors team have been great and they continued this in a seemingly effortless fashion yesterday, though I am a little sad there is no finishing memento (no medal, t-shirt, certificate) I’ll just have to try and remember that I finished it!. The 30 was a fantastic event, and part of a grand slam series which also takes in 55, 60 and 110(ish) miles of the Cleveland Way. If I didn’t live so far away I’d consider each and every one of those races at some point too.
EDIT – I did get a certificate, it’s just that I was too dopey to notice, so I walked away from them. The lovely people at Hardmoors contacted me straight away and will be posting it!!
Also, the results were posted super quickly, and can be found here