Hardmoors Trail Marathon – White Horse Race Report


After the awful conditions at the Wainstones Marathon, like everyone else I was hoping for some decent weather for the White Horse Trail Marathon. Mother Nature on the other hand had different ideas.

Helmsley weather forecast
Grim looking forecast for the Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon

It started raining sometime on Saturday evening at home in Harrogate, it was still raining when I got up on Sunday morning and set off to Sutton Bank Visitor Centre where the race started and finished.

I was there nice and early so signed on, got my race number  and then treated myself to a coffee whilst I sat in the car out of the rain waiting for the race briefing.

After the briefing we lined up at the start ready for roughly 28 miles through the North York Moors in torrential rain and strong winds. What a way to spend a Sunday morning!

After a good result at Wainstones with 3rd I decided to try to improve on this at the White Horse Marathon so planned get into the lead group from the start and see how long I could stay there and see if I could improve my previous result.

Although I hadn’t been able to get any long runs in since the Wainstones Marathon I had managed to get a decent amount of shorter runs in and felt I was running pretty well so set off with high hopes of finishing well.

We set off and I tucked myself into the leading group as we ran through some twisty hardpack trails towards Sutton Brow where we should have dropped down through Garbutt Wood to Gormire Lake. We somehow managed to miss the turning and ran too far down the path. It was only when we reached the cliff  we realized and had to turn around to pick up the correct path. This was the first of 4 wrong turns or detours I made throughout the day.

After I picked up the right path and started descent through the woods I was way down the order so I pushed hard where I could to get past so I lost the minimum amount of time after the navigational error.

By the time we rounded Gormire Lake I was back up into the top 10, I think, but it was at this point I made my second navigational error and went straight past the turn which would take us back up the bank and onto the Cleveland Way. If it wasn’t for another runner shouting me back I would have ended up in Thirsk, so a big thank you to the person who shouted at me to turn round.

Not the best conditions to be running around the Moors
Not the best conditions to be running around the Moors (Photo credit – Debbie Mutton)

At the top of the climb we turned back onto the Cleveland Way and started the long grind towards the first checkpoint at High Paradise Farm and the eventual right turn that took us through Thorodale and North Moor Wood to checkpoint 2. It was during this section when I became aware of how bad the weather was again after leaving the shelter of the woods.

It was horrible to say the least with heavy, driving rain and strong winds which provided my waterproof jacket its biggest test to date. In all honesty i’m not sure it passed but then again i’m not sure many jackets would have keep me any drier in those conditions. I think a combination of water getting down the sleeves and neck and sweating had it well a truly beaten on the day.

I put my head down on this section and managed to pass a few more runners and eventually I came to the marshall, I asked how I was doing and got told I was  about 5 minutes behind so I was fairly happy to back in a decent position.

The headwind when you turned off the Cleveland Way was brutal but thankfully it wasn’t long before the track dropped through Thorodale which I’m sure would have been beautiful on a nice sunny day but the conditions made it feel very bleak, still at least we were out of the wind.

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon Bleak
I’m sure this would have been beautiful on a good day (Photo Credit – Debbie Murton)

This next section to checkpoint 2 was really enjoyable, I was running well and really pleased I had gone for the Fellraisers again as there was some muddy sections and they just bit through and gripped to keep me upright.

I got into my fueling routine of a Hammer Nutrition Gel every 45 mins and a piece of homemade flapjack on the hour along with a S!Cap roughly every hour as this worked for me previously. Looking back i’m not sure I was drinking enough water in the first hour or 2 of the race as I wasn’t filling up my water at the first couple of checkpoints

Leaving checkpoint 2 I was still about 5 minutes behind and in third place so pleased with my pace. My intention was to keep going steady until we rejoined the Cleveland Way after Rievaulx Abbey and then put the hammer down and finish quickly.

Just after leaving the second checkpoint and a short climb into an open field I saw a lamb on it’s side, foaming at the mouth and twitching/spasming. It was obviously in some considerable distress. I’m a big animal lover and it was an awful thing to see, I didn’t really know what to do – should I stop and help it, I’m no vet so decided to head back to the marshall point and let them know about it and see if they could locate the farmer who owned it.

In hindsight i’m not entirely sure how I thought the marshall would have been able to do anything as finding the owner would have been like finding a needle in a haystack, especially with all those runners to look after so apologies to the marshall who I told, you had enough on your plate already. I can only hope that nature took it’s course quickly and it didn’t suffer too much.

Back to the race and I had lost a few places with my little detour and added a bit more to the total distance so I put my head down and began to chase after the 2 runners in front of me, I think I was down to sixth at this point and had lost around 5 minutes.

The route from the marshall point at the Cleveland Way until Hawnby, with the exception of a small road section, was fantastic, lots of technical climbs and descents and, on a clear day, great views of some stunning countryside.

I made up a few places on the section from checkpoint 3 to Bilsdale West Moor despite nearly breaking my neck jumping onto the wet foot bridge and sliding most of the way across it, just managing to grab the hand rail before I landed flat on my back.

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon Murton Bank
Twice up Murton Bank didn’t help

Through the field just before Hawnby I managed to kit a sniper rock hidden in the grass square on with my big toe. I thought for a split second I might have broken it but after a few steps the pain subsided a bit and I hobbled on and before I hit the road it was ok, just a little sore so I carried on. The end result when I got home was a black toenail which looks like its going to fall off  and a nice blood blister where I presume the nail got pushed back into my toe when I kicked the rock but nothing serious thankfully.

As I started the climb up Murton Bank another runner in front of me was heading back down thinking we had gone the wrong way and missed a turn. We looked at the map and it did indeed look like we had missed the turning so we started to head back down to where the map showed us we should have turned off presuming some shit had been messing with the signs.

I forget the name of the runner who told us we were using an old version of the course map and we were going the right way after all but thank you for that. We did a quick about turn and headed up Murton Bank for the second time that day.

It was after checkpoint 4 at the top of Murton Bank when my day started to go downhill, I just couldn’t seem to get started again after a quick stop for water a cup of dandelion and burdock and bottle refill.

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon Steep Climb
Steep, muddy climb (Photo credit – Andy Petford)

The section on private land was very muddy and featured a steep climb full of broken branches that I think did me in. The next section was really tough, despite being fairly flat and I just couldn’t settle into a decent rhythm and had to keep taking walking breaks. No matter what I tried my legs didn’t want to move. I had another gel, some flapjack, water and another electrolyte tablet but nothing worked.

As I  ran/walked past Rievaulx Abbey I knew it wasn’t that much further so tried to get my head down and keep going on the road section but even the slightest slope seemed like a mountain at the time. Once we were back onto the Cleveland Way it I knew it was a gentle climb over 4 or 5 miles up to the visitor centre and the finish.

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon
Suffering towards the end (Photo Credit – Marion Bets)

Position wise I just kept going backwards, people kept coming passed me but there was nothing I could do about it, the tank was well and truly empty! I’m not entirely sure why as I had followed the same nutrition strategy as I did for the Wainstones Marathon and which had seen me finish easily in a good position. Just not sure I had the fight in me for this one like I did for Wainstones so that’s something to look at for next time.

Through Hambleton House, I could hear the road so knew it wasn’t much further and when yet more runners came passed me I managed to muster some strength in my legs and got moving again, determined not to lose anymore places I managed to re-pass them through Hambleton Plantation.

It’s a long time since I’ve been that pleased to see a finish line, eventually finishing in, I think, 13th place. The course was great, very varied and testing. Not as much total ascent as the other 2 but certainly tougher, mainly due to the conditions. I can’t wait to go back and run it again as part of my training plan. Some of the trails were great and what I really like to run on.

A disappointing finish after running really strong in the first two thirds of the race but it’s made me more determined to train harder for the next 2 at Rosedale and Saltburn where I want to come away with another trophy. The Wainstones one looks very lonely on its own on the mantelpiece.

Thank you

Once again a big thank you to all the marshalls and helpers who stood out in such horrible conditions. These races couldn’t happen without people willing to do this and I think I speak for everyone who took part when I say you are the best offering support and words of encouragement as well as filling water bottles etc. Also Jon and Shirley for putting these events on and introducing me to the Hardmoors family, such a great bunch of people. Until the next time, happy running!

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