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Hardmoors 60 Ultramarathon

21/09/2015

 

Four races, 260 miles, 13,000 metres ascent – the stats don’t begin to do justice to the Hardmoors Ultra series on the Cleveland Way.  Organised by Jon and Shirley Steele, both extraordinary ultra runners themselves, with a team of exceptionally friendly and caring marshals, the races have a real family feel, whilst also being run with professional efficiency.  Last Saturday 19th September saw the last race of the series.  Seb Pflanz was one 195 starters on what promised to be a stunning, if rather hot, late summer’s day.

 

 

Starting in Guisborough and joining the Cleveland Way after a muddy 2 mile climb the route followed the northern escarpment of the North York Moors to Saltburn-on-Sea.   From there a steep climb took the runners onto the spectacular cliff-top path, which the Cleveland Way follows all the way south-east to Filey.  Seb’s primary aim was to finish, completing the Grand Slam of all 4 races in one year, and to enjoy the scenery, particularly the sections he’d only once run before in the dark, in the Hardmoors 110 in May.  Conversations with other runners soon made it clear that the hot, cloud-less conditions were taking their toll on competitors.   Following a mid-day top-up of fluids, food and encouragement from wife Mary – the best ultra supporter in the world – Seb crossed the beach at Runswick Bay and found the continuation of the path without difficulty; 4 months ago in the 110 he had made a navigational error here and climbed the wrong path. 

 

From there the route went on to Sandsend, north of Whitby.   Having descended a tricky set of rough steps without putting a foot wrong Seb started along a flat cinder path and in a moment of inattention tripped and sustained grazes to elbow, knee and hands.  After some wound care from nurse Mary at the Sandsend check point he managed to carry on – a bit shaken but no major damage done.  Passing through the crowds of people enjoying the sunny afternoon in Whitby proved a different challenge, but having climbed the 199 steps to the abbey the course was back on the clifftop path.  Like other runners Seb struggled with the hot conditions and keeping up fluid and food intake. 

 

Going through Robin Hoods Bay and onto Ravenscar it started to become cooler, and Seb focused on maintaining a steady pace for the last third of the race.  As he met Mary north of Scarborough, with 15 miles to go he realised there was something left in the tank for a strong finish.  The route follows the entire Scarborough sea front, which meant some more dodging around people.  One more “service” point south of the town centre, as night fell, with a shoe change and last fluid top up and on to the last 8 miles.  The sting in the tail of the course is a long set of rough steps down into Cayton Bay; Seb overtook several runners on this section, who were clearly struggling with painful quads.  And of course the descent was followed by a similar, if less steep climb back up to the cliff top route.  As he reached the end of the Cleveland Way at Filey Brigg, with around 1 mile to go to the town centre finish, Seb had a minor navigational hiccough, but thanks to a town plan on a notice board he quickly got back on course. 

 

He finished 62 mile course in 12 hours 58 minutes, in 24th place, 4th Vet 50.  The race was won by Martin Murray in 10 h 03 min, followed by Ian Symington (10 hrs 10 min) and Steven Lord (10 hrs 12 min).  First lady, and fourth overall, was Kim England, who ran a fantastic race in 10 hrs 35 min.  Shelli Gordon and Heather Mochrie finished joint second ladies in 11hrs 33min.  The scoring for the Hardmoors Grand Slam series is awaited (race organiser Jon Steele is on his way to Athens to compete in the Spartathlon).

 

No report on the 2015 Hardmoors 60 would be complete, however, without the story of the true hero of the day.  As he stopped in Sandsend Dennis Potton heard distressed screams from the beach below.  He realised that a child was caught in the undertow of the waves, and ran into the sea to rescue him.  There is little doubt that without his quick thinking and selfless reaction the child would have perished.  After the rescue Dennis was, not surprisingly, rather shaken, but he gathered himself together and pushed on for the remaining 36 miles.  He arrived in Filey to a deserved hero’s welcome, sometime after midnight.  His actions epitomise all that is good about the ultra-running community – a bunch of slightly eccentric individuals of all shapes, sizes, ages and speed, respectful of the challenges they undertake, humble about their achievements, but above all caring for those around them.

 

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