The dust has almost settled on yet another unforgettable weekend of Ultra running at the Hardmoors 110 and 160. Conditions were almost ideal as runners from all over the country and further afield came to take on the challenge of completing the full Cleveland way and in some cases the Howardian hill route combined – all in the aid of “fun”
Here is an inside glimpse and interview with first time 100+ plus miler and ladies winner Kim England.
Congratulations on your first ever 100+ mile Ultra! And also being the first lady across the line..
A couple of days have passed now, how are you feeling?
A bit dazed! It still hasn’t sunk in that I won my first 100 miler and that I did the 100 in under 24 hours but people keep telling me how well I’ve done, so it must be true!
I am still a bit sore: my feet are still a little swollen and tender because the ground was so hard and I think my shoes were done up a little too tightly for such a long race. I’m walking slowly too as my legs are stiff and my appetite hasn’t really come back yet but I’m sure it will.
I’m just really pleased that I was able to finish with relatively little damage, and to do it in a time that I was pleased with.
It was really interesting to see the race unfold from a support point of view, but how did it all look to you? What was your strategy for the event?
I was really nervous at the start because I knew that it was a tough route and that a lot of people didn’t complete it. My main focus had just been to do it to achieve the Hardmoors Grand Slam but secretly I did want to win and believed that I could if everything went right.
My strategy was to run within myself but not burn out. I started very slowly on the 60 last year and I don’t think it did me any favours, as I was continually playing catch up. On the 55, I pushed myself a bit more and it worked, so on the 110, I did something similar. The plan was not to stop at any checkpoints for long or to sit down, as I had seen others do this and how much time, momentum and focus they lost. I also knew I had to keep eating as much as possible for as long as possible as several more experienced runners had told me that I would reach a point where I wouldn’t want to eat anything. This did happen, so I was glad I had taken in a lot early on. Basically, I just planned to keep moving at a reasonable pace, walk the ups and enjoy it while I could!
A question that many people “outside” the sport ask – What on earth made you want to do a 100 mile run?
Several things really. The clichéd answer is I read ‘Born to Run’ and it just struck something in me. The idea that humans can be capable of something like this but have lost it because we have such an easy life now made me wonder what I could do personally. I like the thought that I can do something that most other people consider impossible.
Also, I went to the start of the Hardmoors 110 about 4 years ago just to see what these people were like: did they look like a bunch of weirdoes? Were they all super fit and muscular? I was pleasantly surprised that they all seemed pretty ‘normal’! It was a really electric atmosphere and it got under my skin. Then a friend – Lorraine Laycock – signed up to run it the year after and I went to marshal at Scarborough and to see her finish. I saw the impact it had on her and even though she told me never to do it, the next week she had totally changed her mind!
How did you prepare for this type of event, where there any specific things you did for this?
The main thing was a slow build up for me. I have had problems with my ITB and it is a constant concern. I ran the Edinburgh marathon a few years ago and the flat, hard surface put me out of running for almost 6 months. It was incredibly frustrating and I never wanted to have to go through it again, so I have been very careful to not step up my distance too quickly. After a couple of years of doing regular Hardmoors trail marathons and LDWA events, I felt confident that it could hold up on something longer.
My weekly mileage probably topped out at about 60 running miles and often I was doing less than that, maybe 45. It consisted of some speed work and threshold runs in the form of Parkruns, long slow runs and recovery runs. I also started doing a bit of swimming and have been doing Kettlercise classes for a while now. Strength and conditioning work is also really important to me for keeping my wonky gait in check and making sure I am strong enough to compensate for it. The 55 was my last big test and I also did a run through the night with The Man of Steele (Hardmoors RD) on his own 110. This helped a lot as I had run at night plenty of times but never gone right through without sleep.
What was your nutrition plan? What did you do leading up to the event and during?
I try to eat healthily all the time but like things like cheese, cakes, ice cream and sweets so I don’t deny myself: I just don’t eat them every day. Leading up to the event, I tried to eat more than usual and bulked my meals out with pasta and rice. I also started drinking fresh beetroot juice about a month beforehand as it’s meant to open up blood vessels and get more energy into your muscles. I have chia seeds in smoothies most days too, as I am a bit paranoid about not getting enough protein when training hard.
During the event, I ate a lot of white baguette and Edam, as I find that quite bland food goes down easily. I also enjoyed oranges, melon and apples, as when I got a bit sick of Snickers, gels and sweets, they were very refreshing. I like Kendal mint cake as it cleans your mouth out a bit and Gin Gins, a ginger sweet that settles your stomach if you’re feeling a bit queasy.
I drank Hi5 orange cherry electrolyte drink, water, coke and one can of Red Bull. Chai and Earl Grey tea was also really good, especially in the night when I needed something comforting.
After the race, I drank Forever Ultra chocolate protein shake, which has huge amounts of minerals and vitamins in it and it tastes really good mixed with coconut milk. When you’re not feeling like eating but you need something, this is excellent as it is tasty and feels like it’s doing you some good. I had a couple of servings on the Sunday and I genuinely think it aids recovery.
What was your choice of kit and why?
Normally I use a Salomon backpack and soft flasks, but my sponsor, The Ultra Runner Store, had sent me some new kit the day before, so after a quick test I decided to use it. The Ultimate Direction SJ backpack was fantastic. It fit really well for a unisex pack and even though it was a hot day, it felt comfortable. The pockets are easy to get to and there is just the right amount of space for a supported run. The UD soft flasks were great too: they have a really wide mouth so are easy to fill and the lids also lock so you don’t lose anything by accident.
I also wore Injinji socks for the first time, another piece of kit from the Ultra Runner Store. They were so cosy and I didn’t change them once. I only got a few blisters because of my deformed toes and I think my feet would have been a mess if not for these socks.
My shoes were the Scott Trail Rockets – a quite minimal shoe with a fairly light tread. The ground was so dry and firm that these were perfect. I had intended on changing into my Hokas when it got light but couldn’t bear the thought of having to put my feet into something different! It’s a good job as I don’t think they would have fit, my feet were so puffy from so much time on them!
Was it everything you expected it to be?
It was. These events are so special because of the way they are organised and the support they get. Jon and Shirley love the sport and it shines through and spreads to everyone involved. My support made it almost easy too! Even when things went a little wrong, I felt very calm and trusted that they would make it okay.
Yes, the atmosphere was almost like a festival on the Saturday, lots of enthusiastic energy. The support van breaking down in Guisborough could have been a disaster, but you just cracked on and seemed to speed up, how much were you aware of things going on in the background?
Garry Scott, who we crewed on the 160 last year, was due to meet me at Slapewath and run until midnight with me. In Guisborough woods, I had a weird feeling that he wasn’t going to be there, but I got onto the descent down to the road and he was coming up to meet me. That was where he told me that the van had broken down and you were going to have to get a tow back home to pick the car up. At first I thought it was going to be a disaster but knew that you all would do everything you could to keep me going. It turned out fine, as Garry just took over in his car until you met us at Staithes when it was dark and Garry finally joined me. Luckily, I was still feeling good so didn’t need any extra motivation at that point. In some ways, I think it was better that I was on my own for that bit longer as I was enjoying listening to my music!
What was your lowest point?
I had a really slow leg somewhere on the coast that was about 5 miles, but it seemed to take an eternity. I can’t even remember where it was. I could feel a blister on my little toe and got a bit obsessed with wanting to pop it, so I stopped and took my shoe and sock off and just started stabbing my toe with a safety pin! Steve, my support runner, had to get me moving again. I didn’t ever feel like I would give up but that just slowed me down a bit. Also, the stretch between Scalby Mills and where you round the corner on Scarborough seafront hurt my legs a lot. That was really the only time I had to have a few walk breaks.
What was your highest point?
The whole first day was fantastic, as I spent time chatting with other runners – Heather Mochrie, Jason Ellis and their supporters – and enjoying the scenery and weather. There are not many things better than being out there meeting other people who love the experience like you do. The marshals are always brilliant too, so seeing so many familiar faces, willing me on was great. Seeing Shelli just before Cayton Bay was lovely too. We had a hug and a tiny almost sob before I left her to complete her phenomenal run. Obviously, the end was amazing too. I could hear the whoops from the finish line before I could even see anyone, and finally being able to let myself go emotionally was a massive relief.
Will you do it again?
Probably! It would be nice to break 24 hours for the whole race. I would still like to try the UTMB and a 100 miler in America too. I don’t think I would want to do more than one 100 a year though, so Hardmoors may have to wait if I get into the UTMB in the next couple of years!
And finally; have you given any thought to how you will reward your amazing support crew?
Some beer for one, lots of gratitude for a few more and probably returning the favour at some point for a couple or more!