A weekend in the life of Ultra Marathon distance runners

Contributed by April Corbett

It’s the eve of the Hardmoors 60, we go to the supermarket searching for inspiration of what we can buy that may tempt the taste buds and encourage our runners to eat proper food to fuel their bodies to get them to the finish. The hundreds of unevenly spaced steps and thousands of feet of ascent and descent add to the challenge of moving their bodies a total of 62 miles to get from Guisborough to Filey.

The alarm is set for morning to wake us at 05:00, it doesn’t need to be. The mind plays games and knowing we have to get up so early we don’t sleep properly just in case we sleep in!

We quietly pack the car with more clothes and food that we would take on a long holiday weekend. The driver taking clothes for all conditions whilst trying to leave as much space in the car for the runner’s kit as possible.  We have boxes of strawberries and melon, crisps, sandwiches, cocktail sausages, flavoured milk, meal replacement drinks, yoghurt, cake, millionaire’s shortbread and fruit scones as well as coke that we would normally never drink.  Today we have two support cars and are looking after the three runners we have taken plus a couple of others who haven’t support with them and there will be others that we pick up along the way.

We sit in the hall the runners nervously waiting for the ticking clock to reach 08:00, they listen to the race director giving them information about the route before congregating in the road outside, the director counts down and they are off.  The supporters stand around asking each other which locations they are going to.

There are eight official checkpoints but we have eleven that we intend to meet our runners at.  The first will be around six miles. We drive to the first unofficial point and wait, the sun is beating down and it is warm just standing around, we feel sorry for the runners because of how hot it is. We meet a lady who is supporting her husband and chat about how we expect our day to go and how our runners will do. We laugh when she says people think we are crazy but in our minds this is ‘normal behaviour’.

We drive to the official checkpoint and wait for our people, as they approach we shout to see if anything is needed and run to the car to get it ready to make the stop as short as we can.  One of the support crew run off with them, they have a long time to go and welcome a change of company and some different conversation.  A couple of the support crew will run some of the legs with the runners to keep them amused. As soon as the runners leave, the support cars are off. We need to be at the next meeting point as soon as we can, it is better to be there waiting ahead of time instead of worrying in case the runners have already been.

As the day goes on there are ups and downs, the weather and the challenging terrain gives the runners a tough time. The emotions change from meeting point to meeting point, where someone may be having a wobble and feels dreadful at one meeting place at the next they are smiling and in a much better place.  The support team in this situation feels empathy for them and is worried until the runner’s spirit is lifted again.  At the same time repeatedly telling them the food that is available, you can’t run a car with an empty tank of fuel and the body is the same. If there is the slightest hint that a runner thinks the distance will not be completed the support are positive and optimistic and give encouragement in the hope that it will. Whilst the support know only too well how tough it is out there it is all too easy to say you only have ten miles to go when it isn’t your body that is feeling the stress of having already done over fifty miles.

The day as support has flown over, the sat nav has treated the support crew well to be in all the right places at the right time. Our runners have had a tough time, having ups and downs over the day but have shown immense mental and physical strength.

Approaching 02:30 Sunday morning everyone is tired. Support are waiting for the runners to appear in the distance at the end of a long street. It is dark and there are few people around but some head torches appear, we count the lights to see if it could possibly be our runners. The number matches and we become excited, as they get closer we see they are ours, they see us and have huge smiles on their faces.  They check in at the final checkpoint and it is all over.

The support crew are relieved, everyone is ok. We feel incredibly proud of “our runners” whether they complete or not it takes a special kind of person to even consider taking on this kind of challenge.

The runners have much appreciation for the support they have had throughout the event.  There is a great deal of mutual respect.

The day is not quite over, we all get into the cars and travel back from Filey arriving home at 05:00 Sunday. As we walk into the house the alarm clock bursts into life, we realise that it is a full twenty four hours since we were woken to go on this incredible journey.

Would we do this again? Oh yes!

No names have been used in this telling, what occurs on the moors stays on the moors.