By Luke Kennedy
Originally the Hardmoors 55 was meant to be going ahead in March and training leading up to this was going so well; I'd never felt fitter. I planned to use the 55 as a training run for the Hardmoors 110 at the end of May. Unfortunately the 55 had to be postponed because of the lockdown, Sarah and I quickly made the decision to run a local 60 circular walk (which passed our house within a couple of yards) the week prior to when the 55 should have been. Even though this wasn't the event I was training for, I still went out to test myself. We carried on running through lockdown, running just over 1000 miles in two months. This definitely showed us how well our training had been going as every day we laced up our shoes and headed out for another long run. After two and a half months on furlough I got the call to go back to work, normality resumed and I felt as though my fitness dipped slightly as going back to shift work felt tough. It's always my plan to get an early night before a big race, making sure I feel fresh for the next day and giving myself every little bit of help to make my day more enjoyable. Well, that didn't go to plan when I woke up at 2am wide awake after working a week of night shifts. Whilst sat in the kitchen watching YouTube videos, drinking large cups of tea to pass the time, I thought to myself 'at least I won't be late' . After crewing Sarah on her Cockbain Coast 2 Coast ultra, she offered to crew me for the 55 to pay back the favour. I took up her offer and gave her my plan to follow. The 55 goes through small villages along the Cleveland Way and with current Covid restrictions, crews were not allowed in various places which made it difficult for crew to be of much use. Mile 20, mile 31 and mile 44 were the only locations Sarah could attend. We changed the plan to suit the instructions. A few weeks prior to the race, we all received an email asking for our predicted finish times. This is to help with social distancing allowing only a small number of people, in this case, five runners to start every two minutes. I looked at my last previous 50 and just added a little more time on for the extra five miles. I soon started to panic and started questioning my ability to finish the race in the time I predicted and this was made worse when I was setting off six minutes after the first runners. I really messed up the last 50 mile run I had done in September (The Lap). They also started in social distancing waves but in groups of twenty, which placed me at the front. Straight away from the go I was running alongside the front runners, feeling comfortable but knowing I was pushing a little too much for a 50 mile race. The enevitable happened and I blew up, having to drag myself around the rest of the route to the finish line. I was still very happy with my time and position but was disappointed that I went off too fast. This was a mistake I was determined not to make in the Hardmoors 55. 8:06am and Jon and Shirley shouted 'GO'! It felt like the slowest start to a race ever but I knew if I just kept along with this group we were all aiming for the same time. Stephen Kirk started in the same group and we chatted all the way up to Rosebery Topping overtaking a few who started in front of us and also leaving those who we started with. The wind was howling and was going to be pretty much in our faces for the whole race. Standing on top of Roseberry Topping was a little exciting when all the wind was trying to do was throw you off the other side. Up to the top, touched the trig point and back down again we went, joining on at the top again to follow the rest of the Cleveland Way to Helmsley. One thing I love about running ultras is how friendly everyone is. This was also something we chatted about as I ran alongside Stephen Kirk and another guy (I didn't get his name). "You wouldn't get this in road races," we all laughed getting to know each other. We all happily stuck together until we hit the hill out if Kildale passing checkpoint two. Stephen Kirk and I pushed on comfortably passing a few more runners. Bloworth Crossing was approaching, a very exposed part of the route that seems to go forever. This was when I had a massive issue and only 15ish miles in. The pain in my stomach was excruciating, it came from nowhere and hit me so hard it stopped me in my tracks. As I looked up, I could see Stephen slowly disappearing into the distance and he seemed to be getting further and further away. I couldn't run, or walk, I was shouting out in pain holding my side - I had no idea what had happened. I looked back and there was no one, I looked forward and there was no one. I walked a bit, stopped, walked a bit more until two people approached me and asked if I was ok. I struggled to talk, I felt winded. I tried to explain the pain but I couldn't get any words out. We'd pushed on past Bloworth Crossing as I tried to stick with the other guys and I was looking forward to the hill to walk a bit and let my stomach settle. Luckily by the time I got to the top my stomach had settled and I could run again, but I was disappointed at the time lost and kept thinking where I could have been. ' I should have been past Clay Bank by now,' I kept thinking to myself. 20 miles in I reached Clay Bank where Sarah was waiting. I was 20 minutes behind schedule but I was just happy I had made it there feeling better. Stephen had passed the word on to Sarah that I had drastically slowed down, he didn't know what had happened and I just kept thinking where we currently would be if I had kept up with him. I knew once I was over the Three Sisters and up Carlton Bank I had a lot of runnable sections coming. I'd saved my legs for after these hills. Up Carlton Bank I was back into the full force of a strong head wind. I remember laughing to myself as I picked my leg up and the wind pushed my leg away from my next step. This happened a few times with occasionally running into the heather off the trail as the wind kicked me about.
Mile 32 I was approaching Square Corner and the second location I was meeting Sarah. I had planned to be here in 6 hours and I was a little too excited when I got to Sarah bang on my time. I grabbed what I needed and had a little chat whilst walking up the trail for a few yards as I left Sarah and told her I'd see her in 10 miles. I was still in my windproof at this point, I could see the clouds; they were big, dark and at the same level as me - I thought I best put my waterproof on. The rain came down so hard I was soaking within seconds, I moved as fast as I could along the runnable section. I'd given up avoiding the puddles at this point as I was soaking and the tracks had turned into rivers. I was warm but the rain was freezing as it was hitting my legs and getting into my shoes. It was strangely satisfying and keeping me at a good temperature. Mile 44 - I predicted 8 hours at White Horse checkpoint and that's what time I made it. I thought I felt alright at the time but looking back, even shortly afterwards, I realised how out of it I was. Christina Selmi and Alan were jumping around the route supporting their friends and I just remember staring at her as she congratulated me - it was a real blur. Up the steps to the top of the White Horse I was on the home stretch. I'd given myself two hours for this next section with my ten hour predicted finish time and I just wondered if I could knock a minute or two off and get under that. I know this route like the back of my hand and I knew I still had at least 10 miles left, a little less if I was lucky. Most of the trails in this section were just rivers at this point and I ran through them like a little kid in his wellies with my hood up tight. The miles felt like they were flying by and I was happy I still had it in my legs to put the pace down. The final approach and I could see Helmsley with half a mile to go. I flew down the grassy hill, pushing as hard as I could. I kept trying to calculate the times,'can I get 9:35, no it'll be longer, no more than 9 hours 37 maybe?' Hitting the road I approached the final corner passing a crazy marshal in a t-shirt and Hi-viz in the pouring rain. I shouted some nonsense at him and he stared back at me blankly. I'd pushed so hard in the last section that the last tiny little hill felt enormous, I thought I would have to walk. I decided to push harder and run faster until I saw the Hardmoors flags and Sarah waving at the entrance to the finish line. I had made it. Just the car park left to run. As I crossed the line I was met by around six masked women congratulating me as I wrung my gloves out of all the rain they had soaked up. I had finished in 7th place in a time of 9hours 38 minutes and 21 seconds. I was over the moon. Time for home, shower, food and bed.
By Summit Crazy ambassador Luke Kennedy
This week, Luke will be all about the recovery so that we can get out on the trails together soon. We'll soon be posting some of our #summitcrazy recipes that we think are perfect when you've finished a big event. 🏃♀️🏃♂️❤️