I spent the late May Bank Holiday weekend crewing my friend Dee Bouderba at Hardmoors 110. The weekend was very rewarding and I also learned quite a bit.

Originally I had planned to crew Dave Cook, however Dave withdrew from the race due to injury a couple of weeks beforehand but he’d told me that Dee was being crewed by our mutual friend Jo Barrett and Dee’s daughter Leila and they would probably appreciate the extra help.

I first met Dee and Jo during Hardmoors 60 last September when I ran alongside them both for a short while and about 800m behind them for around 15 miles. Since then I’d run with Dee a couple of times finding that our paces were roughly similar in races, notably Osmotherley marathon where I spent most of the second half of the race in close proximity and the first 10 miles of Hardmoors 55. Jo was a regular running partner of Dee but has spent the majority of this year injured, however I’d spent some time marshalling various races with Jo and knew we had a similar outlook on racing.

I contacted Dee and Jo and shared with them my initial plan for crewing Dave. We spent a week or so kicking other ideas around between us before we had a loose, flexible idea of what we were going to do.

The Hardmoors 110 is run in tandem with the Hardmoors 160. The 160 started at 5pm on Friday at Scalby Mills in Scarborough, running along the Tabular Hills walk to the start of the Cleveland Way in Helmsley which the race would then follow on a clockwise track to it’s end in Filey. The 110 started at 8am on Saturday at Helmsley and ran the length of the Cleveland Way.

Map of Hardmoors 160/110 as shown on the Open Tracking website

Map of Hardmoors 160/110 as shown on the Open Tracking website

Our general plan as a support crew was to have a planned route that visited all checkpoints both compulsory and voluntary as well as every point that the Cleveland Way crossed a road or was accessible by road. Apart from the compulsory checkpoints that we were obliged to check into as crew we decided that it would be entirely Dee’s decision where she wanted us to be on a stop by stop basis allowing her to run her own race and have us available with all her food and equipment as well as moral support as much or as little as she wanted.

We’d also discussed pacing alongside Dee and Jo, suggested that we kept this flexible and as late as possible in the race. Dee was worried about navigating through Guisborough Woods in the dark and because I’m very familiar with the area I was confident that I could get her through that section without difficulty so I planned to park up somewhere near the woods and run back towards Roseberry Topping to meet Dee and pace her through the woods to the next checkpoint at Slapewath.

As a general summary before the race, Jo said that we were organised and both equally bossy, in a good way, enough to get Dee around the course.

Dee had told me that she intended to travel to Helmsley on the morning of the race, aiming to arrive at 6:30am to register, Jo was unable to arrive until lunchtime and planned to phone me to find out a convenient place to meet up. My original plan was to also travel down on the morning of the race but two days beforehand, I’d worked out that I’d have to get up very early to get on site for 6:30am so decided to travel down and sleep in the car somewhere near Helmsley on the Friday night.

Over the course of Friday, a friend of mine told me he was marshalling the 160 at Cropton, about 10 minutes drive from Helmsley so I decided to meet him there and assist at the checkpoint before finding somewhere to sleep. On the way to Cropton, I saw race director Jon Steele at Helmsley and let him know my plan. Knowing there were already people at the Helmsley checkpoint I decided to sleep in the car outside the checkpoint later on.

I arrived at Cropton at the same time as Stew Mcc and Ady Benn, which was around 20 minutes before the checkpoint was due to open, we were just in time to see the eventual 160 race winner Shelli Gordon breeze through the checkpoint with a huge smile on her face.

Once we were set up, I got my camping stove out and brewed up. I stayed at the checkpoint until it closed shortly after 1am and headed off the Helmsley somewhat later than expected. I arrived to find that Shelli had just departed the checkpoint. I had a chat with Jon and Shirley Steele before getting ready to go to sleep and Shirley kindly suggested that I sleep inside at the checkpoint rather than in the car which made for a more comfortable night.

I woke up naturally at about 4:30am as it got light and started the day with a cuppa courtesy of Shirley and had some porridge and a banana to fuel myself. I spent the morning chatting with the 160 runners and crews passing through the checkpoint, getting a feel for the sorts of things they’d had to deal with during the night. Almost all of them had said that the night was warmer than expected and having been outside I could tell the day was going to follow suit.

As runners and crews began to arrive for the 110, I chatted with people I hadn’t seen since the last race and got my car ready to receive Dee’s kit. Dee arrived with Leila around 6:30am and we quickly got her clothes, food and first aid kit loaded into my car. Dee got registered and we milled about waiting for the race brief.

While I was milling about, Jon asked me if I would help marshal the start of the race so that runners could get safely from the town hall to the start of the Cleveland Way so I donned a high viz vest and marshalled the road crossing just outside the town hall where I had a great view of all the runners as they set off.

Gareth Barnett, Dee Bouderba and Tom Stewart all raring to go.  I had the easy job.

Gareth Barnett, Dee Bouderba and Tom Stewart all raring to go. I had the easy job. (Photo courtesy of Ann Brown)

After the off I chatted with Jackie McGoldrick who was crewing her partner Jason Hayes. Jackie, being from Liverpool was not familiar with the area and we’d previously agreed for her to follow me from checkpoint to checkpoint, as Jason had run Hardmoors 55 alongside Dee, we were confident that we’d be in a lot of the same places at the same time. We gave it a few minutes for the rush out of the town square to die down before heading off to our first checkpoint, White Horse (the car park beneath the Kilburn White Horse near Sutton Bank) which was about 10 miles up the road. When we arrived, the car park was packed with other crews and there was a bit of a party atmosphere. Setting the tone for the day, I got the stove out and got a brew on and made a Pot Noodle. I was expecting to have to be on the go for 30 hours or more so I was adopting the army philosophy of eating and/or sleeping when there was a lull in activity.

White Horse Car Park packed with crew vehicles

White Horse Car Park packed with crew vehicles

I’d eaten and had some time laid down with my feet up when the first groups of runners arrived. I took some photos while I had opportunity to do so then got ready for Dee’s arrival. At this point, I was only expecting her to need a water top up so I grabbed a bottle of water to quickly top up the bottles.

Dee arrived running alongside Jason shortly after 10am and I quickly got her bottles refilled and made sure she didn’t linger at the checkpoint. We decided to meet again at the next official checkpoint which was Square Corner on the hill above Osmotherley. As soon as Dee and Jason were away, Jackie and I were off to Square Corner which took about 25 minutes to drive to.

Dee and jason arriving at White Horse checkpoint.

Dee and Jason arriving at White Horse checkpoint.

When we arrived, the car park was packed and there were a line of cars parked by the side of the road. There was already a stream of runners passing through, mostly runners from the 160 who’d passed through Helmsley before the start of the 110.

The temperature was already rising so I squeezed some fresh lemons into a cup of water to drink and keep myself hydrated. I also got into a pair of lighter shorts and T-shirt. I laid in the back of the car trying to relax and anticipate what Dee might need when she arrived. Every now and again, I’d grab my binoculars and look up the hill at the next group of runners coming down. Time passed quickly and it seemed like the entire field had passed through the checkpoint but there was still no sign of Dee or Jason. Jo phoned to let me know she was on her way and I told her that Dee was due at Square Corner shortly so she might be better meeting us at Lord Stones country park.

After about 20 minutes there was still no sign of Dee and runners were coming in dribs and drabs but the field had definitely thinned out. Many of the runners were commenting that the heat was a pain.

Conscious that Jo had to drive past Osmotherley to our agreed meeting point, I rang and diverted her to my current location at Square Corner then began to prepare for Dee’s arrival as I recognised the faces of the runners who were immediately ahead of her coming through the checkpoint.

I decided that when I saw her on the horizon I would take a bottle of water and jog out to fill her bottles on the go to allow time for her to have some food at the checkpoint. A couple of minutes later, I could make her out through my binoculars running alongside Jason in her distinctive pink calfguards. I grabbed a bottle of water and started jogging up the hill, immediately breaking into a sweat and getting an appreciation for just how hot it was.

After filling Dee’s bottles I jogged down the hill with her and as we got to the checkpoint we were both pleased to see that Jo had arrived. At the car, Dee got some food on board then I started rushing her off on her way feeling that she’d lingered long enough. To our surprise both Dee and Jason started happily jogging in the wrong direction, up the road to Hawnby and Jo had to turn them round and point them towards Osmotherley.

We’d agreed to meet Dee at Lord Stones, but both of us felt that this was a lot of time and distance along the route so changed the plan after Dee had left and drove to Scarth Nick which was one of the places we’d initially identified as a good meeting point during planning. We parked up by the cattle grid where the Cleveland Way crossed the road at Scarth Nick and I yet again got a brew on and also made myself some couscous.

From the moment we arrived, there was a steady stream of runners, some were familiar faces who stopped a moment to chat, others moved quickly through but appreciated the encouragement. Already there were runners suffering with sunburn and stomach troubles, one such runner was a 160 runner who was talking about packing in. Jo gave him some food and water and encouraged him to keep going.

It wasn’t long before Dee arrived, still in good spirits and still alongside Jason. Jackie got some food into Jason, his trademark cold Burger Kings as we got food into Dee and I refilled her bottles again.

Once Dee and Jason were off, we made the short drive to the Lord Stones country park which sits at the top of the road route over Carlton Bank, around 100m or so below the summit of the hill the runners had to traverse in order to reach us.

I spent some time getting my running kit together for the night time section through Guisborough Woods then Jo, Jackie and I went to the Lord Stones cafe for some food. We grabbed a table outside where we could see runners passing through while we ate.

After I’d finished I chatted with Gary Thwaites who was crewing another runner and for the second time that day he tried to persuade me to enter the race next year.

Jo had arranged for Leila to meet us at Lord Stones and she arrived with Dee’s husband Halim, son Oisin and grandson Kai. When Dee arrived, it was a visible boost for her to see her family.

While Dee chatted with her family and had some food, I topped up her water bottles again as well as giving her a tangerine to eat on the way to help keep her hydrated over the three tough hills the next few miles had to offer. Soon they were off again and Jo, Jackie and I waited with the family of our friend Emily Beaumont to see her through the checkpoint before heading off to the next checkpoint at the top of Clay Bank which is where the road crosses into Bilsdale at the foot of Hasty Bank.

While we waited I got another brew on for everyone and sorted out my drinks and food that I needed for the night time run. While we waited I also got another Pot Noodle on board.

When Dee and Jason arrived Jo took the opportunity to have a look at Dee’s feet changing her trainers and giving the feet a clean, dry and talcum powdering. Dee also gave her feet a change and swapped trainers at this point. Jo also took care of Jason’s feet, reporting that his feet were as manky as Jackie had warned us they would be.

I told Dee that I would swap the kit into Jo’s car at the next checkpoint, Kildale and check in with the marshals as was a compulsory checkpoint before heading off to park the car at Slapewath and running to meet her.

Having had some food and drink as well as having feet sorted out, the runners were off for the most remote part of the course, up onto Urra Moor and on to Bloworth Crossing before descending into Kildale.

Jo, Jackie and I drove on to Kildale where we transferred all the kit into Jo’s car. Jo told me she was going to heat up some stew at Kildale so that she could have some warm food before going into the night section. Jo and I ran through a checklist of things we knew Dee would need before she left the checkpoint, including warm clothes and having her head torch within reach for when it got dark.

Kildale was busy at this point with lots of crew cars present and a steady stream of 160 and 110 runners going through. Some runners looked in poor shape due to the heat, others were complaining of stomach troubles, others looked remarkably fresh. I managed to grab a few words with Paul Burgum, who once upon a time was a rugby opponent of mine during his spells playing for Stockton and Billingham. Paul seemed in good spirits despite struggling a bit with his knee so I wished him well and got my running kit on.

I then left Jo behind and drove on to the Fox and Hounds pub at Slapewath which was also very busy. It was hot so I took off my t-shirt and stuffed it into my race vest and put on my lightweight cycling jacket so that I could carry my food and torches within reach.

I set off running, my plan was to take the disused railway lines to Belmangate in Guisborough then head up the Cleveland Way at Highcliff Nab and hopefully meet Dee somewhere between Highcliff and Roseberry Topping. As soon as I started running I was leaking sweat, I rolled up my sleeves and stashed my cap into my back pocket through Spa Wood and was drinking every couple of minutes. Once out of the woods it felt like the evening sun was hammering down on me.

I quickly reached Highcliff Nab and made my way across Black Nab towards Roseberry passing Andy Petford whose support crew were running with him and Paul Burgum again along the way. As I was ascending Roseberry Topping, the temperature dropped by a noticeable margin (I was later told that in the hour before sunset it dropped 8 degrees) and even with the effort of climbing I felt cold. As I hit the summit, the wind slapped me in the face and I could see how strong it was because the Union flag that marshal Tim Taylor was flying up there was at full stretch.

I quickly ditched my pack and stripped my jacket off so that I could get my t-shirt back on then got my jacket over the top before finding a space between the rocks out of the wind.

A windswept Roseberry Topping checkpoint.

A windswept Roseberry Topping checkpoint.

I chatted with Tim for awhile and greeted runners as they arrived, many of whom were having the same experience as me going from hot to cold very quickly. Jo rang me to let me know that she’d just met Dee and Jason at the Gribdale Gate car park beneath Captain Cooks Monument and I estimated about half an hour to their arrival at Roseberry. To keep warm I walked up to the trig point, took some photos and did some jumping from rock to rock as well.

When I sat back down, Andy Nesbit who I ran huge stretches of Osmotherley marathon and Hardmoors 55 with reached the summit and I took a photo of him before he headed back down. Next up was a runner named Jeremy Sylvester who was feeling ill but determined to push on. Another couple of runners arrived, both were shortly followed by Dee and Jason who I made sure spent the minimum of time at the top before descending.

As we got off Roseberry and onto the Black Nab path a group of 5 or 6 runners formed. My target for this section was to get Dee moving quickly and to take away the job of thinking from her. From experience, this point of a race, when darkness is falling and in a place where navigation is tricky can be stressful. Stress is a big energy waster and motivation killer, so my job was to make it seem really easy. As I was going I also gave her verbal prompts to ensure that she was eating and drinking enough, anything to remove the need for Dee to think about anything else but putting one foot in front of the other and moving relentlessly forward.

I pushed a pace that I was confident that Dee was comfortable with and I’d told her to stop me if it was too fast. Quite quickly a couple of runners dropped off the back of the group. As dusk turned to dark we all had our head torches on during the approach to Highcliff Nab. To pass the time I was pointing out the locations of various towns we could see beneath us.

One of the runners in the group (I think a 160 runner) indicated that the pace was too fast for him but I kept it up, my logic for this was that my only concern was Dee, anyone else who wanted to stay with her for company had to match her pace or drop off and run alone. With that in mind I pushed the same run/walk pace all the way through to Spa Wood. Having run through Spa Wood earlier I was able to point out the slightly boggy patches and tree roots/rocks as we approached them to ensure that Dee didn’t trip, slip or otherwise lose her footing. This way we made good time and eventually we could see the light worn by Jeremy ahead of us.

The group ran into Slapewath to find Jo and Jackie armed with pizza and Emily’s support crew still waiting for her but I found that now she’d have the bonus of one of them running all the way to the finish with her.

The route the race took from Roseberry Topping through Guisborough Woods.

The route the race took from Roseberry Topping through Guisborough Woods.

While I towelled, dried and got into warm clothes, Jo saw to Dee. Jeremy headed off on his own but said he’d be going slow enough for the group to catch him. I had talked Dee through a couple of tricky navigational points on the next section, so was happy with this but I also arranged to drive ahead and stand at these places to ensure she couldn’t go wrong as I knew the 1am cut off in Saltburn was close but manageable, however, if a wrong turn was taken, that cut off would get very tight quite quickly.

While the runners got off running, Jo told me that a running friend of Dee and her’s would be joining us at Saltburn. Jo said she was going to get more pizza for Dee before meeting him so I said I’d have a coffee to warm up before driving into Skelton to help with navigation before meeting up at the Saltburn checkpoint.

While I was brewing up my stomach gave the first signs of trouble by turning over several times. By the time I’d finished my coffee, packed up the car and drove to Skelton Green it was positively churning.

I was only there a few minutes when I saw head torches in the distance and I walked out to meet the group. Happy that they were OK with the road crossing and the route into Skelton proper I let them pass and dived into the bushes to deal with my stomach situation.

I jogged back to the car and drove to the next tricky point, a turn into a housing estate just off Skelton High Street that had caught a few runners out last year. The problem being that the path didn’t look like a part of the Cleveland Way anyway (being a residential street) but also the signpost was well above eye level on a dark coloured sign which could be easily missed.

I met the runners on the High Street and got them through the corner before driving on to the checkpoint at Saltburn bandstand. There were a few cars dotted around and the first person I saw was Andy Nesbit who looked tired but was being seen to by his crew.

I then checked in at the bandstand around midnight and got talking to Gary Thwaites again while I waited for Jo. Gary didn’t seem as keen on running next year as he was earlier in the day, having heard the disappointing news of Gareth Barnett’s DNF at Kildale and rumours of others along the way from things ranging from stomach trouble, to sunstroke and injury I could understand why. Especially seeing some runners coming into the checkpoint looking very tired and battered.

I wandered off to find Jo and surprised myself by walking into the stone footing of a bench. It was unlike me to be so clumsy. I phoned Jo to find that she was sat on the opposite side of the road to me. I wandered over and was introduced to Ed, who’d come to help out. Ed said that he’d run the next stretch with Dee, something for which I was grateful.

I sat on the kerb waiting for Dee to arrive and my stomach was still feeling iffy, I decided to walk into the woods to see if I could see head torches in the hope that walking would settle my stomach. I stopped to pee and saw that my urine was very dark. Belatedly I realised my problem, I was dehydrated from my run.

I walked back to the car to get my water bottle and electrolyte tablets. At the car I sorted myself a drink out then decided to put my phone on charge.

I found that my phone charger and hand torch were both missing and I rifled the entire car looking for them before I realised they were in the front footwell in a place I’d searched 3 times already.

At this point I gave myself the mental slapping I deserved, I’d let my concentration go to shit through dehydration. The stomach problems, walking into things and losing things that were in plain sight were all classic symptoms.

I stopped and started sipping the electrolyte mix immediately. I walked back over to Jo who gave me a slice of pizza and I checked the time. There was about 25 minutes to cut off and I was starting to worry, I needn’t have. Within a few minutes, Dee and the rest of the group appeared, Dee looked remarkably lively compared to some of the runners we’d seen come through. Jo saw to Dee and to be honest, my mind was still a bit muddled at that point and I can’t remember much of what went on but we agreed that we’d park just outside of Staithes at a point I’d previously identified at home as where Cowbar Lane joined the Cleveland Way but at that point I couldn’t remember it’s name.

Ed set off running with Dee and the rest of the group while Jo and I headed off in cars. Jackie had split from us as she wanted to get to Runswick Bay for some sleep.

I lead off along the coastal road and pulled into a left hand track where I thought we needed to be. When we got to the end of the track I found we were at some farm houses at the opposite end of the field to where we needed to be (co-incidentally about 200m from where I’d first met Dee and Jo during Hardmoors 60). We got back onto the main road and I spotted the sign for Cowbar village, we turned off but yet again I missed the turn due to it being signposted as unsuitable for motors. We ended up driving through the edge of Staithes were I was certain I’d seen some teenagers sleeping on the grass outside a house.

We got to the main car park in Staithes and I told Jo what I’d seen and she asked if I was maybe hallucinating. I, personally wasn’t sure.

We checked the map and realised our mistake so I drove slowly out of Staithes. I was grateful to see the teenagers on the floor again in that they were real. I pulled over to check they were OK and found that they were drunk but otherwise in good spirits and capable of looking after themselves.

We got to the end of Cowbar Lane in time to find Andy Norman and Sarah Booth who were running the 160 coming off the field onto the path. They stopped to chat and Jo gave them some of the leftover pizza.

Satisfied that we were in the right place we decided to stop and get some sleep. I looked back from the path to where our cars were and realised that it was so dark that our cars were invisible from the path even at a distance of 10m or so. I decided to pull onto the path so that runners had to pass within a metre of the car and to be doubly sure, I put a strobe light on top of my car.

The stretch from Boulby to Staithes.  The kink in the Cleveland Way track, where it meets the road marks the spot where I parked my car.

The stretch from Boulby to Staithes. The kink in the Cleveland Way track, where it meets the road marks the spot where I parked my car.

Jo got her head down for some well deserved sleep, I couldn’t rest. I sat sipping water and watched lines of head torches proceeding down Boulby Bank and wound the window down to greet and encourage runners as they passed.

I settled my chin on the windowsill of the car and closed my eyes, dozing but waking each time a runner passed, making sure they weren’t Dee and sending them on with some encouragement. I set my alarm clock for 3:30am allowing me just over an hour of sleep then leaned back against the door and closed my eyes again.

The next thing I knew, it was light. I’d been vaguely aware that my alarm clock had gone off and that I’d disabled it. I checked the time and I was horrified to find that it was 4:18am. My head was fuzzy from sleep but in my mind I knew the maths didn’t add up. Even at a slow jog/walk Dee should have been past by now. My mind raced, had she somehow missed the car? Had she seen me asleep and just let me sleep, surely not? Was Jo awake and seen to Dee and let me get some rest? I looked at Jo’s car, no sign of movement, I phoned her, I’d woken her up too. We got up and realised that we’d both fallen into a deep sleep. There was no way Dee or anyone else could have missed my car so we adopted the position that they were still somewhere between Saltburn and Boulby. Jo tried to ring Ed, but not having his number programmed into her phone, she dialled the most recent unsaved number waking up an innocent member of the public by accident.

I thought I’d seen the glint of a head torch on the crest of Boulby Bank in the improving dawn light but whoever it belonged to must have switched it off (assuming I was right). I grabbed the binoculars and swept the track I’d seen countless head torches follow during the night and was convinced I could see movement but not make any bodies out.

I told Jo we’d give it 5 minutes then I’d jog out towards the bank. Soon we could see the group making their way across the fields towards us.

It turned out that a section of the Cleveland Way that we knew was diverted due to sea defence works was really poorly signposted and the group had got lost in the dark. They’d ended up wasting nearly an hour before phoning Jon Steele who been out to put them right.

We got them moving again quickly and told them we’d have hot drinks waiting at Runswick Bay. As we arrived at Runswick Bay, the heavens opened and it rained for about an hour. Jo stayed in the car to keep dry and had a sleep, I didn’t have that option, I needed to use the fact that Runswick had civilised public toilets to finally sort out my stomach problems and have a bit of a wash.

I came back and got the kettle on, made tea and porridge for breakfast and prepared brews for Dee and Jason. When Dee arrived, I was expecting her to be down and a bit grumpy due to lack of sleep, miles in the legs, the lost time and the rain but she was still her positive, upbeat self.

We made sure that she had a warm drink and Jo checked her over, getting her ready for the stretch ahead to Sandsend where there was another cut off to beat. Ed was going to continue running with Dee, I pulled him to one side and asked him to keep her pace constant and if anyone in the group, other than Dee wanted to slack off he should keep her moving ahead of them.

We drove on as Dee, Ed and Jason moved off along the beach ahead of the others they’d arrived with. We arrived at Sandsend and checked in with the marshals before donning waterproofs to protect from the rain. I got the kettle going again and had a tidy round in the car to restore order in my mind and to make sure that the things that had been flung in and out during the night wouldn’t prevent us from finding things we needed quickly.

I sat and chatted with Jo about the day ahead. Jo wanted to run the final stretch with Dee but we weren’t exactly sure where that final stretch would begin. I told her that I’d happily bring her back to her car regardless and that Robin Hoods Bay was probably a good place to run from.

At the same time I was texting my wife Natalie who gave me orders not to attempt to drive home after the race and sleep over somewhere. With the pressure of getting home off, I felt a bit better. I felt even better when Natalie said she was organising for me to stay in a caravan overnight in Filey.

As I sat drinking tea and sweeping the cliff paths with my binoculars another band of rain came over, but on the plus side, my body and mind pulled round a bit. For some reason, it had never occurred to me that crewing someone in such a race would have been as demanding as this but on reflection, I’d not had a lot of sleep or proper food and had run 14 miles the previous day as well as being preoccupied with making sure everything went well for Dee.

Eventually I got a glimpse of the runners through the trees on the clifftop and I got the kettle on for their brews. As they descended the steps into the car park, Dee looked a little stiff (who wouldn’t be?) But otherwise, OK. Jason descending the steps after her looked worse.

Dee and Jason on the descent into Sandsend.

Dee and Jason on the descent into Sandsend.

After checking in with the marshals, Dee headed over to the cars, but Jason went straight past and continued on the route saying he was going ahead because he’d struggled to keep up. I started to try and persuade him to stop and eat, then realised that Jason wasn’t my priority and left Jackie to go after him.

Dee stopped for awhile and had a warm drink and some food while Jo yet again had her shoes off, dried, powdered and otherwise looked after her feet.

While this was happening I chatted with Ed who was looking really well for having run overnight. Ed said he was happy to continue on to Robin Hoods Bay with Dee, which I was over the moon at. I gave him a quick overview of the route to ensure that anything Dee had forgot from the 60, Ed would have at least have had an idea of. For me, this is a particularly hard section of the Cleveland Way, between Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay, there is little in the way of flat terrain and you are either descending or climbing. It’s also psychologically hard because Robin Hoods Bay is hidden out of site until you are almost on top of it.

With Dee and Ed fed and watered they jogged off in high spirits while Jo and I discussed next steps. We decided that we’d use the facilities at Sandsend to have a wash, to feel human again, nip to a shop for some food and Jo was going to get her running kit on so that she was ready to go.

After about half an hour of sorting out, we were back on the road and we arrived at Robin Hoods Bay around 9:30am. I laid down in the back of the car alternating between snoozing and watching the world go by as well as getting some food (soup) on board.

After an hour or so, I began to get edgy about time, a number of crews and some runners had visited the car park, but I wasn’t expecting many because it wasn’t an official checkpoint.

I had a chat with Jo, expressing my concerns about the cut off at Ravenscar getting ever closer and we decided that when Dee did appear, Jo would get moving with Dee quickly and I’d get all the kit from Jo’s car into mine and take Ed and myself off to Ravenscar.

More time passed and no sign, so I decided to jog back along the route, about 400m along, I came across a runner who was chatting with his crew about binning it. I asked if he’d seen anyone behind him and he replied in the negative. I jogged further along and saw Ed and Dee round the corner into view. I voiced my concerns about the Ravenscar cut off to Dee and it was like someone had stung her. Her eyes sparked up and she began to move faster than she’d moved all race. I let them get ahead and move off to the car park and jogged further back to Jason who looked, in all honesty to be in very shit state. I spoke to him and asked if he was OK, he told me he was struggling with his chest and I said something to the effect that he’d struggle to finish if that was the case. Jason gave me a hard look and told me that there was zero chance of him not finishing, the look of determination in his eyes convinced me that he was right. We jogged back to the car park where Dee was getting ready to move off with Jo.

When they moved off, Ed and I swapped the cars over and flew off to Ravenscar. Worried that Dee would be very close to the cut off I hurtled into the checkpoint to check in and let them know that Dee was well on her way and looking strong. I was told that there was plenty of time for the cut off yet so I decided to run back along the course and jog in with Dee. I grabbed some kit from the car and Ed told me he was knackered. I told him to get some sleep while I was gone.

I had a few words with other runners who were at the checkpoint then moved off back along the course looking for Dee. I was less than 5 minutes out when I found Dee and Jo jogging along chatting and laughing. It was obviously a huge shot in the arm to be back running with her racing partner, this was evident from both the look on Dee’s face and the pace at which she’d covered the ground from Robin Hoods Bay to Ravenscar.

As we made our way up the hill to Ravenscar I decided to let Ed sleep in the car a bit longer so that he’d be fresh for the final run in. I told Dee and Jo that I’d run with them as far as Hayburn Wyke then come back to the car and meet them at the Scarborough checkpoint. Again, we’d arranged to meet Dee’s family so I gave them a rough ETA for Scarborough while Dee had some food, drink and banter with the race director and marshals at the checkpoint.

As we left Ravenscar, I realised I was drastically overdressed with my base layer on in the midday sun, the day was shaping up to be another hot one but there was a nice breeze blowing us along too. We jogged, chatted and joked. Dee and Jo were trying to work out why I hadn’t come across Jason before them as he’d left Robin Hoods Bay ahead of them (it later transpired that he’d taken a wrong turn).

The hour that it took to get into Hayburn Wyke seemed to pass in no time at all, I followed them into the Wyke and halfway up the far side before wishing the ladies well and turned back round. The run back over was mostly uphill and into a headwind. By the time I crested the ridge above the Wyke I was leaking sweat and stopped to remove my base layer. I jogged a bit further on, using my poles to practice ascending with them and eventually came across Jason with his pacer Rachael. Jason looked in better shape but was struggling with the heat too. I wished him well then cracked on again. My legs definitely felt the previous days miles.

Soon I came across Jeremy again, I was pleased to see him because I thought he might have dropped out somewhere but when I saw him, he was going well. Eventually I came across Andy Nesbit and Emily Beaumont alongside Emily’s pacer and the sweepers. At this point I estimated the back of the race at being around 30 minutes behind Dee.

I moved at a steady pace back to Ravenscar and found the checkpoint totally closed down and abandoned. Ed and I packed the car and drove along to Scarborough, we decided to drive along the seafront to see if we could see any runners. We spotted John Hamnett in a small group but that was all. The traffic in Scarborough was horrendous, as was the sheer volume of pedestrians. I certainly wouldn’t have fancied weaving through them 100 miles into a race.

We met up with Dee’s family at the Holbeck car park and I chatted with the marshals while our kettle was boiling. This time it was Pot Noodles for Ed and I. Leila offered me some chips but I didn’t think I could stomach them.

Ed was steeling himself to run from Scarborough to Filey as Jo phoned to ask where the checkpoint was. She told me they were at the Spa, just a few minutes down the road.

When they arrived, we took as much of Dee’s kit as possible off her and put it in the car. I told them I’d drive to the finish then run back over to meet them so we could all run in together, then the group of 3 were off running again, in such a manner that you wouldn’t believe that Dee had done over 100 miles and Jo and Ed over 20 each and all 3 had been on the go for over 30 hours.

Dee and Jo arriving at the Scarborough checkpoint.

Dee and Jo arriving at the Scarborough checkpoint.

At Filey I had a chat with Jon and Shirley as well as some of the runners who’d finished before having a slow jog along the course having a few words with each runner I passed. At this point I was in awe of them all. After 30 minutes or so I found Dee, Jo and Ed at the north side of the Blue Dolphin caravan park.

We jog/walked until Filey was in sight then we jogged. I spend my summer holidays in Filey, so was able to point out a bush in the distance that signalled the top of the last uphill section before the finish, it was all downhill from there. As we got closer to it, Dee began to increase the pace, I’m not even sure that she was doing this consciously. A check of the watch revealed that she was in good form to come in a comfortable 25 minutes or so ahead of the cut off, meaning that she’d actually made up a lot of time since Robin Hoods Bay. We kept moving, the pace stronger again and soon we reached the sign signalling 109 miles to Helmsley, then the marker that signified the end of the Cleveland Way before finally dropping behind Dee as she ran across the finish line in 35h:30m, a full half hour ahead of final cut off to a well deserved round of applause.

Final Thoughts

Being part of something as special as this, helping someone achieve an ambition that not many people succeed in was brilliant. To have worked with people at friendly, organised and dedicated as Jo and Ed was a pleasure.

What struck me about the whole experience though was Dee’s own strength and positivity throughout. Over the weekend I’d watched strong and experienced runners unravel and have really bad times, quite a few DNF’d. Dee never seemed to have a bad patch. Because of this, our job was made a lot easier. In short, Dee was (as with every other aspect of being around her) an absolute pleasure to work with.

Things That Went Well

Being organised, having a flexible plan beforehand that we could have changed had we needed to.

Having the facility to make hot drinks, this was a great pick up several times over the weekend.

Having capable pacers. Ed was a lifesaver during the night section and ran really well. Jo brought a new lease of life for the final 25 or so miles.

Guisborough Woods, I didn’t really appreciate just how much stress that not being having to navigate that section removed until I was at Filey chatting to one of the runners who’d descended from Roseberry with us then dropped off the back of the group. He told me they’d got lost in the woods and wasted time and energy worrying about it. He said it contributed to his DNF. I think having Ed run through the night would have also allowed Dee to switch her brain off at times, saving mental and physical strength.

Having a crew made up of similar paced runners, I think if I was crewing someone faster than me, they’d soon get sick of me holding them back instead of pacing them along. Likewise, if a runner was significantly slower than me, there would be the risk of the pacer pushing them too hard. It certainly helped that we’d all run with Dee before and had a good idea of how she preferred to run.

I think we had a great mix in the crew. Jo and Ed knew Dee better than I did and I was confident that they could manage her and encourage her in a way I couldn’t if things got tough. Jo and I beforehand proved we were equally well organised (and bossy). All of us are easy going and friendly. The chemistry was just right.

Things To Improve

From Jo and Ed’s perspective I don’t think either of them put a foot wrong all weekend. I made my own life difficult by staying up late on Friday night, I could argue that I’d have had a poor nights sleep anyway, I’d probably have been lying to myself. Having discussed things with Jo afterwards, she said that she would have probably tried to sleep more often, particularly earlier on Saturday if she’d had the time again.

One thing Jo did differently to me was to take a toothbrush and clean her teeth periodically, which she said helped her feel fresh.

I’m not sure any of us ate particularly well over the weekend but Jo and Ed fuelled themselves adequately. On my run to Roseberry, I underestimated the heat and allowed myself to become dehydrated. Also the sudden temperature drop lured me into a false sense of security and I didn’t drink enough on the return run. As a result I spent an hour or so being slightly confused and several hours sorting out a dodgy stomach. This meant I was less use to the crew than I should have been.

Overall it was a great weekend and a great experience to be around so many athletes who were achieving so much.

Gary Thwaites has subsequently told me that he does want to do this race. Myself, I’d have my name down tomorrow had I not promised myself that I wasn’t committing to doing anything longer than 60 miles until I’d cracked Hardmoors 60.

I’d like to thank everyone who organised, marshalled and otherwise participated in the Hardmoors 160/110. You all made it an excellent weekend.