The day of the big M dawned, and as usual I was too nervous to eat my breakfast before the hours drive to Goathland. I got signed in, then met a few people, finally meeting Darren from the We Love a Challenge group on Facebook and had a quick natter with Ray and Flip. We all had a good chuckle at the marathon route sweeper who was dressed as Death, complete with robes and a scythe...
The weather was cold but sunny as we gathered on the start, and soon enough we were off! The gentle downhill start was just to lull us into a false sense of security I'm sure!! The first mile or two were sublime. Narrow, rocky path alongside the playful West Beck led us directly below the Mallyan Spout Waterfall, I thought to myself as we crossed several little bridges back and forth over the water that I will have to come back here with OH and doglett...
There were plenty of muddy steps thrown in, well of course, this is one of Jon's route, there's always steps! At least this way we got them out of the way early on.
Now we climbed up onto the moor, there was to be lots of moor. But the going was good underfoot, and I ran behind Shirley for a while before overtaking her before the first check point. Here the half marathon runners turned off to cross the river on stepping stones, us full marathoners and the 10km guys instead turned uphill for a stiff climb to Simon Howe. Here some cheery marshals were directing 10km runners back home and us marathoners out along the rigg, we had a long way to go yet!
The field was beginning to spread out a little now, but there were plenty of runners close by both ahead and behind. We entered Cropton Forest. I stopped for a drink at the checkpoint here, about 8 miles in now I think. We travelled on good tracks in the forest and I soon recognised where I was from the Levisham Saltergate fixture in the Esk Valley series. My left knee was starting to twinge and I took the steep descent very carefully. We crossed the railway line at Needle Eye before entering the wood again, gosh it was dark in here! Up the steep grass bank and along the cliff edge, being careful not to look down, then a long undulating grass track all the way along Levisham Bottoms, almost to Levisham itself. By the next checkpoint, my knee was really hurting. Not good at just about 12 miles into a marathon. Another girl was also having knee problems, she's taken a tumble and both knees were bleeding badly. A competitor who was also a nurse had a little look, but they seemed to be starting to scab up and she was determined to carry on! A few people caught up with me here, including Shirley, they went on ahead as I was busy faffing about refilling my water. I ran alone across Levisham Moor to the next check point, just after crossing the A169, my knee was forcing occasional walk breaks now which was very frustrating as I felt fine otherwise. At the checkpoint, Tim Taylor caught up with me and said 'Come on Fran, we'll run together!' We ran/walked together for a couple of miles. He was happy to walk a while but I hope I didn't slow him down too much. He ran on as we got closer to Fylingdales (I miss the golfballs) and I couldn't keep up. My knee was very sore, I managed the odd jog but was mostly walking. The route was now on a boring track that felt like it was going on forever and I had a little mardy with myself. At least the track was easy to walk on I suppose, if I'd been running I would have got off it sooner! I spotted a lonely figure dressed in Hi-vis and it was a marshal who took my number and pointed me onto open moor once more. The track was more interesting now, but still painful! I still managed the odd jog where it wasn't to tricky underfoot. There were a few boggy patches here and there but nothing too bad. I felt aware time must be getting on and I wanted to get finished in daylight, so I kept pushing the knee into a jog for as long as I could before having another walk break.
At one point the route crossed a stream, it was too wide to jump cleanly and I could see where everyone else had slithered down the bank, I got a muddy foot and a thistled hand but didn't fall in! The stream was crossed again, this time by a metal sheet, hmm.
Now I could see cars on the A169 ahead, I could still see Tim too in his day-glo orange top. I knew once I crossed that road again I'd just about cracked it! Pressed on down the hill to the road crossing check point, stopped for a cup of pop and a caramel shortbread thingy before pressing on, I knew there were other runners closing in behind. Across the road, over a stream on some flooded steps, over the railway line once more and up a steep bank to get back onto the moor. It was a gentle gradient and after a while I thought, that's the cairn from earlier in the race. Indeed it was Simon Howe, the two marshals looking slightly more windswept than before, but they managed a bit of banter and pointed me towards home. 'Three miles and it's all downhill' they told me. I've learnt not to trust marshals when they say things like that, but for once they were right! There was another runner in view ahead, also employing a run/walk strategy but I never managed to catch him. My pained periods of running were actually getting longer, I wanted to get finished now, I wanted to finish in daylight, I could see my shadow getting taller.
Annoyingly, in those last three miles, after having seen no-one apart from Tim for the best part of 10 miles, I was now over taken by no less than 9 other runners. They did however say well done and check I was ok.
The last group overtook with Goathland village in sight, in fact the 'leader' of the little group had a brief chat and I managed to run with them down the last grassy hill into the village, the hall was just around the corner now and the other runners really picked up the pace. To hell with my stupid knee, come on and I pushed hard to keep up, blowing like a train, we crossed the grass into the hall and Annabomb was there to record our times.
For a brief time I was a little annoyed that the final push never made my knee any worse, could I have run more those last few miles? Then I thought no, 'cos at the time it bloody hurt! The last thing I wanted was to push it too far then have a long hobble home in the dark and be last. So I cheered myself up with the fact I'd actually beaten my target time (official results aren't out yet) but I got round in about 6hrs and 40mins, even with an uncooperative knee. I saw Flip in, then got some warm clothes on and had some tea, pasta and cake. Hung around for a bit chatting before getting in my car to come home.
So a little disappointed at the walking bit, but over all I think it was a job well done! And really, I must be getting stronger as I was tired and sore but I was 'OK' at the finish.
Other things of note - Shirley mentioned above completed her 100th Marathon today, and she got her 100 Marathon Club vest and whatnot after the race. Also, a chap called David completed his 1000th Hardmoors mile to be the first person to enter the Hardmoors 1000 mile club, for this he gets a trophy and fleece. (I think I have another 927 miles to go...)
So well done to both of them!
Incidentaly, the knee thing is from when I twisted it many moons ago coming off a mountain in Wales. Just slipped on a wet rock. When it starts to hurt it's right in the joint, like it's going to pop apart. What was so annoying is that is hasn't bothered me in ages, not on any of my long training runs nor in any recent races. It just started. And 8 miles into a 26+ mile race is not very helpful at all!