After 6 months of training and quite a bit of wibbling, the day had finally arrived.
I was up at silly o'clock to collect Kenny R, and my OH dropped us at the Sea Cadet Hall in Guisborough. We'd hoped to get there before the organised bus, but instead got there at the same time! We queued to get our kit checked by Flip and received our race numbers. Once that was sorted, we visited the loo and drank tea and just hung around chatting. I found various running buds, including Emily, Richard, Louise A, Chris, Darren and Jason; and Mel. Plus of course all the Hardmoors faces I recognise but don't know by name.
It was a long wait, but I wasn't nervous, or scared. It was weird. Last night I could hardly eat my tea as I was sick with nerves and could feel my heart pounding in my chest, but now I just felt like I had a job to do so lets get on with it.
Jon the RD gave us the race brief and then we shuffled outside to the start on Belmangate. I am interested to see how many people turned up, there were 311 on the entry list, but there seemed to be an awful lot of numbers still on the table as we left.
Louise I was sweeping so I said 'hi' to her, but said I hoped not to see her again!!
The route starts out along the disused railway line then heads up into Guisborough Woods where it joins the Cleveland Way. Everyone was just jogging along nicely, walking the hilly bits right from the start!
These first few miles just rolled along nicely. Nice runnable tracks, odd climb here and there.
The official photographer was positioned about 6 miles and I managed to stand up straight and smile as I went by!
Soon after this we got to Roseberry Topping. This is a little out and back and it was great to see some of the faster runners who were already coming back. Most of my buds were in that faster group and we exchanged greetings as we passed! The climb up Roseberry wasn't too bad, it was over pretty quick and I gave my number to the marshal on the windswept summit before turning around and heading down. I had caught up with Louise A now and tried to stay with her on the descent, as you know this is not my strongest point, but the conditions underfoot were very good and I think I did ok. I managed to stay with her up Little Roseberry and along the flat mile to the next descent into Gribdale. They gradually pulled away from me as we climbed up Cockshaw Hill to Captain Cooks Monument and soon she was gone. I don't mind as she is a much stronger runner than me but it was nice to have had a brief chat along the way, plus I got to say hi to her cute little dog who was part of her support crew!
I love the path through East Cote Moor but the road part of the descent into Kildale is horribly steep. I trotted through the village and stopped for a drink at the Kildale check point before tackling the big long climb up the Park back onto the moor. I could jog the first bit, but gradually it got steeper until everyone was walking again.
I was needing a wee by now, but there was no where 'private' and I had missed one or two opportunities to hop over the wall. My tummy felt uncomfortable with a full bladder and I was getting desperate! At last I found a ditch deep enough to give me cover and had a pee! Unfortunately several people overtook me while I was there. I also felt very giddy after crouching, and the giddiness remained as I tried to run on, so I walked a while and ate my fruit bar and had a good drink.
I was able to run on again, but it was a long drag gradually climbing until at last we reach the self clip at Blowarth Crossing. It was too high and I had to unpin my number from my leg to clip it! So that wasted a little time. Darren and Jason were behind me now. We carried on along the moorland tracks, at last reaching Round Hill which is fairly unremarkable to look at but is actually the highest point on the North York Moors, all down hill from here then? No chance! I knew it wasn't that much further to the next manned checkpoint and our dropbags. Legs were a bit stiff already, hips mostly but I was ok running, with the odd little walk. That was til we hit the descent into Clay Bank, both knees decided to go. How very helpful. I had been careful on the descents so far in the hopes they wouldn't do this. It was very painful getting down, Darren and Jason had already over taken me but we met up again at the checkpoint and climbed the next hill together. I was annoyed with my legs, but a time check told me I was doing ok, it was 1.30-ish and so long as I got to Lord Stones (25miles) before 4.30pm I would still make the cut off at Osmotherly. I had planned to walk most of the next section over the Three Sisters anyway as it's all either up or down. Now with my sore legs, I didn't have much option. I tried eating some of the food from my drop bag but it made me gag. I was a bit miserable when I reached Flip's checkpoint at Hasty Bank, but I got a big hug which helped!
Still two more hills to get over before staggering into Lord Stones, I thought I was going to be sick as I got to the checkpoint, but it amazing what a cup of nice cold water and a 5 min chat can do! I had plenty of time to get to Osmotherly and set off up Carlton Bank with renewed spirit! I ran carefully over the stupid flag stones, and the descent of live moor was very painful but I felt ok otherwise and now managed to eat some of the food I was still carrying since Clay Bank. I jogged through the woods outside Osmotherly then the stiff climb over Beacon Hill, I thought it very unfair that the state of my knees meant I couldn't enjoy the descent of my favourite hill. Then for some reason as I trudged through the fields, only just outside Osmotherly I started to worry I wasn't going to make it. I was going quite slow, what if I got timed out? It wouldn't happen here, but further on and that would be worse. I have to confess to a self indulgent little cry.
However, I got to the village hall in Ossy with about 40 mins to spare, a bit closer than I would have liked but still within the cut offs.
I had a quick cup of tea and rearranged my things so my headtorch was to hand and picked up my next dropbag although how much of it I'd eat I had no idea and was soon on my again. Emily came with me and we climbed out of the village together.
I was now into new territory distance wise, Ossy marked the 32 mile point and my previous furthest run was 31 miles.
As I climbed up towards Black Hambleton I managed to eat the melon out of my dropbag, it was soo good, but I was still a bit emotional and it's difficult to eat, cry and breathe all at the same time! I'm glad I was alone as I must have looked a right mess.
Eventually at the top, I seemed to walk for a long time. I was pissed off with myself as I needed to run. I had to have a good talk with myself and now, out loud I'm chuntering away to myself like Golem from LOTR. I knew that Tim (Chia Charge Tim) was at High Paradise, and my self talk included the fact that seeing Tim would cheer me up! I think it was the thought of a familiar face, although I didn't want anyone to see me now.
I managed to run, well more like a power walk, but it was faster than walking and not as painful as running. I am very familiar with this area and passing known landmarks spurred me on. At last it got dark and the disjointed line of runners switched on headtorches. I had wondered who would break first, but we all did it simultaneously.
As I felt the emotions well up once more, I told myself are you going to cry? Or are you going to run a little? So I ran.
At last Steeple Cross, through Boltby Forest and a set of headlights swam into view. It was Tim's checkpoint! Hurrah! He asked me how I was doing and I told him I was utterly bollocksed. He was more confident in my abilities than I was, 4 hours left to do 15 miles. It seemed barely possible. I had a hug, a drink and a chia flap jack before finally moving on. Passing quietly through the farmyard, I ran with another lad who seemed to appreciate the fact I knew the way. He said he was struggling a little and I felt a bit bad when I ran on without him, but you have to run your own race. I was joined again by another chap further along the escarpment, I had chatted to him briefly on the Three Sisters and he said he'd underestimated that part of the route and it had really tired him out. However, he was still going and soon he ran on into the darkness. I managed to run a little more, but that was pretty much it for running.
The cliff top, and the Cleveland Way takes a sharp turn, and I could see headtorch lights bobbing off at what seemed an odd angle? As I got a bit closer I realised the runners in front had taken the bridlepath to Dialstone Farm, turning off the route! I managed to shout them back, including 'Trust me, I live here!' to which one of them answered 'You must be Fran! Emily said to look out for you cos you knew the way!' They continued to follow me on along the cliff top, I didn't mind and their chatter was quite amusing to listen to.
Soon though, we came across a pair of walkers on the path and as our torches lit them up, I realised it was my club mates Gavin and Hilary!! I was over the moon to see them! We had a massive hug and I asked if they'd come to carry me home!! We strode along together until we got to the carpark at Sutton Bank top. Gavin and Hilary went back to their car, me and the three lads carried on into the dark.
This bit to the White Horse is another out and back and I was happy to see Darren and Jason still trotting along.
We reached the top of the Angle Path, I had been dreading this as it is steep and slippery at the best of times... The four of us cling to the rail as we each hefted our aching bodies down the rocks, the air was filled with some very colourful language indeed. Then we strode on once more through the very familiar territory of Kilburn Woods, it didn't take long at all to reach the White Horse car park, the gate was decked in lights and there was disco music pumping out of the marshal's cars!! It's amazing how such a little thing can cheer you up!
It was approx. half 9, we were 30 mins inside the cut off, which left us 3 hours to do the last 9 miles. All of a sudden it was achievable.
We heaved ourselves up the 151 steps, we split into two pairs as we strode along the escarpment back towards Sutton Bank top. We passed a few more runners, but no sign of the sweepers at this point, so that was good.
The bloke I was running, well, striding with and I chatted as we passed through the exercise paddock on the way to Cold Kirby. Everything was hurting, from the soles of my feet, my leg muscles, my reeling tummy, my back and shoulders from my pack, everything.
Another club mate lives in Cold Kirby and she had come out to greet us where the lane entered the village! It was lovely to have so much support, don't think I have ever had quite so many hugs in one day!
The drop from Cold Kirby into Flassen Dale slowed us down a little and it was becoming harder to maintain our pace. The short road section through Rievalux set my sore feet on fire and I was glad of my companion to hold me together.
At last we passed the finger post informing us we had just 2 miles to go, we can do this! Just a small matter of the climb up into the woods. We dragged ourselves up that and it was flat again. I had been texting my OH throughout the day with updates on my progress and he now rung me to inform me he was at Helmsley. I said I'd see him in a minute. Then laughed when I hung up, a minute? Yeah right, we had to get through Blackdale Howl and the steps of doom yet!! Still, it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be and we made it. As we turned out of the wood we got our first glimpse of the bright lights of Helmsley and just for a moment I forgot how much I was hurting. I told my companion 'Come on, we can do this!'
As we crossed those last couple of fields together, I thanked him for his company, it really was appreciated. I think I could have quite easily sat down in a heap and just gone to sleep if I'd been left to my own devices! I have never been so desperate to sit down! I found out his name was Ed.
My OH met us at the Cleveland Way finish marker, along with Chris, and walked with us back to the town hall where we found Shirley and the race finish!
That was it, we were done!
Now just the small matter of taking our shoes off (!) and climbing the stairs (!?!?!?!) to collect our t-shirt and medal. There were still people hanging around relaxing upstairs, I made sure to shake hands with Emily, Louise and my new best mate Ed. I was offered some chilli which smelled amazing, but I knew OH was waiting for me outside so I declined.
As I passed back outside, Shirley was checking in two more runners, and their time was 14:48 so although I don't know exactly my finish time, I do now it is under 15 hours so I am very pleased with that! (The cut off was 15:30)
While running, I decided I never wanted to run this far ever again.
Now it is Monday and that was Saturday and I am wondering if I could do better...
I do think though, I need to look at what is going on with my knees before I attempt this sort of distance again.
I still hasn't sunk in yet, despite sitting here typing this in my finishers T-shirt.