The Cleveland Way

By Tompky - 6:02 AM

August, and challenge number 8 brought about my ‘local’ challenge, the 109 mile run around the Cleveland Way.  I had one of my friends, Rob, gamely volunteer to do the whole way with me, with a couple of friends coming along and doing short stretches to keep morale high.  Again this was an independent challenge, rather than being part of an official team, but I again had my trusty support team with me, with my girlfriend Ellie following me the whole way, and my mam and dad meeting me throughout most of it too.

I set off with the thought that I would move at a fairly consistent 5mph, which is about how quick I have done with other ultras, with an estimated finish time of 5/6pm on Sunday evening.  I had taken the elevation into consideration which was similar to what I had experienced in the Spartathlon, and I was confident that I had fully prepared.  The plan was to start in Helmsley and finish in Filey, which is the opposite way round to the Hardmoors 110.  We set off at 6am Saturday morning, and were aiming to cover around 70 miles on day 1, finishing around 8/9pm on the evening.

The first 20 miles went well, we had arranged to meet Ellie after about 10 miles, then again at Osmotherley.  A group of mates also joined in after about 15 miles to run the 5 miles to Osmotherley which was a nice break.  We all arrived there in good spirits, still feeling fresh and making good time.  Ellie met us with food and drink, and after a 5 minute stop we pressed on, feeling strong.  We arranged to meet her another 8 miles down the road.  It was at this point that the true task became apparent.  The way from Osmotherley to Carlton bank was littered with constant elevation and then steep downhills which pretty much killed off all of our pace and ambitions of progressing at 5mph.  We quickly had to re-think our targets, and decided if we got to over half way we would be pretty pleased with our efforts.  The steep up and downs continued until Clay Bank, when we got a bit of an 8-10 mile stretch that was a bit flatter and we could move a bit quicker. 

This soon came to an end just past Roseberry Topping, and through Guisborough Woods felt a lllllllooooooooonnnnnnnggggggg stretch as the night began to draw in and the temperature dropped a few degrees.  It had been really hot all day, but with the temperature drop it soon became very cold and the vest I had run in all day felt slightly inadequate.  Although we had hoped to at least get to Saltburn and be on the coast by the evening, we finished about 3 miles short in Skelton, covering around 53/54 miles on day 1 in just short of 15 hours.

We agreed we would get a good night rest, and aim to be back out and running by 7.30am, again finishing around 9pm which we had hoped would get us to the finish line.  We started on time, and made good early progress getting through Saltburn by 8.15am, and then on toward Skinningrove where again Ellie would be waiting at our first stop of the day.  Between Saltburn and Filey is a really beautiful part of the country, and the path mainly goes along the cliffs, hugging the coast.  It is wonderfully scenic, and whilst it maybe does get slightly tedious after 12 hours of dragging your feet along the path, it really is a wonderful spot.

We had anticipated that the day 2 elevation would be less than the first day,, but unfortunately it continued in much the same vein.  As mentioned in previous blogs, when I am tackling a long distance event like this my tactics mainly revolve around walking the uphills, and running the downhills and flats.  I am very strict on this as ultimately I know I need my legs to be just as fresh after 100 miles as they are after 1, so any incline is walked.  Unfortunately with the Cleveland Way, the inclines are pretty relentless, and often the downhill sections are so steep that they are too steep to build any pace down.  This meant that it consistently felt slow going, which did feel a bit frustrating at times.  We continued through some lovely seaside towns, and Sandsend, Robin Hoods Bay and Whitby all looked stunning locations, which were packed with tourists with it being a boiling hot bank holiday.  We kept a slow but steady pace but felt it was always going to be a battle to get to Filey before the sun went down.  I have always said with the challenges everyone’s safety is of the utmost importance, including those in the support cars.  We reached Burniston, approximately 13 miles from the finish just as the final rays of sunshine disappeared from the sky at about 9pm.  Although the pace we were going at would have got us to the finish by 1am, and even with our head torches, we felt the pace may drop further still and we might not get to the finish until 2/3am.  Still being 2 hours from home we felt it was in everyone’s best interests if we called it a day, and came back on Monday to complete it.

We headed back out early Monday morning, and were back on the trail by 9am.  The route drops down into Scarborough with about 10 miles to go, and you pretty much loop around the outside of the Town, covering 3-4 miles on the outskirts of the town.  This was an interesting stretch right along the sea front, and again with it being a national holiday there were plenty of beachgoers to keep us entertained.

The route then climbs back into the cliffs, and the last 8 miles again hug the coast as you move towards Filey.  Morale was starting to fade a little at this point, so we agreed to meet the support team a couple of times in this last stretch to provide water and a snack and some all important encouraging words which were duly delivered.  At this point it is much more a mental battle than a physical one, and just as tiredness really felt like it was setting in, the town of Filey appeared in front of us which gave a much needed boost!  The last mile and a half were a strong run/shuffle/waddle to our final destination point, with a good outpouring of relief, beer and champagne waiting for us at the finish line.

This was probably the hardest challenge to date, with the continued elevation making it a real test.  With the pace slowed right down it became very frustrating at times, and mentally was the most difficult to conquer.  The scenery is stunning, but after 50 miles the last thing you want to see is more coast/moors.  Massive respect to anyone who does the Hardmoors 110.  Our total moving time for this was 32.5 hours.  Roll on the Berlin Marathon!

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