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Running across the North York Moors

Sunday 17th with a 5am start Jim and I crossed the North York Moors in a day.  It didn’t end as I hoped, but we did it and in the process I learnt more about what I can do.  For me I was left impressed with the amazing scenery, perhaps it’s the company I keep but this place always seems the poorer cousin to Scotland or the Lakes… or for that matter the Tour de France that has elected to take in industrial parts of the county in preference to the amazing vistas across these moors, an odd decision.

The original plan was to break this up in to a two day trip, but accommodation options were scarce around the half way mark – due in part to it being Valentines weekend.  The experience on the That’s Lyth event made me think we could just pull this off in a oner.  Yep That’s Lyth is 24ish miles and what we had planned was 50, so with an early start and a healthy dose of stubbornness I thought it was do able.  In the past I’ve done a few 50 milers in a day, in New Zealand and the Long Mynd, but they were pre-diabetes.

As the weekend drew near the weather was looking really good with a high settling over the moors on Sunday.  That was just what we needed. I was keen to pare down my kit – lugging full waterproofs and a stack of spare clothing would have its impact and if it was not all needed I was keen to leave it behind.  I left my car near Northallerton and Hilary, Jim’s wife, drove us to the youth hostel at Robin Hoods Bay.  The journey took well over an hour, it’s at that time you start doubting the plan.

Boggle Hole YHA
Anyone not been to Boggle hole should go, it’s a quirky youth hostel nestled in a little bay.  We were in a little bunk room with 2 other guys, we bagged the lower bunks and grabbed dinner which was a mighty feast for £5 each.  An early night as the plan was to get up at 4 in the morning. There was a false start for Jim who read his watch wrong and got up to get changed at 2am.  Oh those poor other guys in the room… not sure they had the best night’s sleep.

4am arrived and we were out getting ourselves sorted in the self catering kitchen, instant porridge for me and we were out the door.  It was a clear sky and the temperature was barely above freezing, leggings, thermal, t-shirt, windstopper (which doesn’t do a great job of stopping much wind) jacket and my Haglof shield, a thin running jacket.  Add a fleece hat, buff and Sealskinz socks and I was dressed up as a fast running machine, err NOT.

At the Start

At the Start

It was 5am when we left Robin Hoods Bay and headed around the coast to Hawkster.  When you look at the map it seems a tad cruel to take such a circumvented route, but Mr Wainright had his reasons. I’m not totally sure we appreciated them in the dark.  I think what shocked us was the patches of snow.  This was the coast! What was this snow doing here?

Early morning

Map 1 - Round the coast

Map 1 – Round the coast

Our pace was good and as we moved inland we were thankful of the freezing weather when crossing some of the boggy sections of the route which had now frozen.  We descended past Falling Foss waterfall and a little shock was the hermitage – an amazing little room hollowed out of a cliff in the 1700’s

We arrived a Grosmont just as the village shop had opened so grabbed a coffee. The route then follows the river to Glaisdale, it was here when I realised I was out of water (1.5 ltrs in 5 hrs).  We asked a dear old couple gardening if we could have some water.  All good, but Jim topped his up a bit too much or something didn’t seal as before long he had a wet arse.  The track is a gentle slope up on to the moor, a fell runner sped by us at quite some speed putting us in our place.


All was good until on top of the moor where we took a bridleway and then spent a good hour plodding through the snow.  Its tiring and takes the rhythm of out of any movement. I then started to notice that I was losing my zip.  I was wearing a heart rate monitor and my plan was to keep it around 150, but for the life of me 130 was all I could get it up to.  I stopped, checked my blood – just over 6. I decided to give myself 2 units and quaffed a gel.  30 mins later still no good.  We were heading along the road to the Lion Inn at Blakey, our original plan was to grab a drink, refill water and move on.  I suggested to Jim who was definitely moving faster than me to run on ahead and order a jacket spud.

When I arrived the pub was heaving and Jim was hanging his arse over the fire trying to dry it out, much to the amusement of the other customers. For such a remote spot (not his arse the pub!), trade was good.  Jacket spud did the job and 45 mins later was ticking along the old railway line at a healthy speed and my HR was back up to 150.  What was that about?? I’d been quaffing food every 30 mins since the start of the day and had probably consumed twice as much as Jim. I’m confused.

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Map 2 – staying high on the Rosedale Railway

Have to admit the views are amazing up here and we were going great guns but this disused railway line was about 10 miles long – should be ridden on a bike, rather than be run or walked.  We had reached familiar terrain with Blowith crossing being a location I’d used on an Open5.  I knew what was ahead and felt good it was achievable.. then we started to slow down.  Both of us.. I’m pretty sure this was not the diabetes it was more about legs not being happy about the situation.  We should have run down to Clay Bank but instead we slowed to an ungraceful wobble.

Descending to Clay Bank

Descending to Clay Bank

What was ahead was the ridge line of Carlton Bank, it was getting dark – both of us had done this route before but in daylight, going the other way.  The question of what could be achieved was being raised. Our plan had been to get back to the car near Northallerton, but the last section went through numerous farms and I felt that we shouldn’t be doing this after 9pm so a renewed end point was Ingleby Cross.

Up and down the ridge line we were both slowing, we were moving but more an amble than that of the trail runners we were dressed as.  We dropped down to Lord Stones Cafe and flipped the map over to see we still had another 10-12K, at our speed at least another 2hrs.  Jim was keen to bail and reluctantly I agreed, we then headed down to Carlton in Cleveland and settled down in the Pub where Hilary came to pick us up.

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Map 3 – we actually only made it half way across this before bailing.

It seemed to be the best place to grab food so we settled down in the warmth reflecting on the day.  As we left, we walked across the car park and by the time I was in the car I was shaking in the early stages of hypothermia.  What’s that about? Jim was pretty much wearing the same kit as me and he was outside still faffing around in the boot, oblivious to the cold temperatures.  Car started and warm again.

I was dropped off at my car and was keen to head home with mixed emotions about the day. With it being a 2.5 hour drive and a 2 hr limit before I have to test my blood sugar I stopped at Scotch Corner to grab a coffee.  Wondering if I was cold because of damp kit I got changed. On returning to the car, just 30m from the door of the service station I was suffering the effects of mild hypothermia again.  A fleece, Windstopper jacket, cotton tee, fleece hat… something not right here!

So… it seems I run out of steam after 6 hours and I’m susceptible to hypothermia.  Nice! But North York Moors is a great place – go visit, you won’t regret it.  Thanks to Jim for the company and to Hilary for the taxi runs.

Oh finally my geeky stats for the run are here unfortunately stopped the watch for a few hours.  So its more like 9000 calories!! really??  67km or 42 miles in old money about  1800m of ascent or a long way up.


So did I take enough?  Yep got that decision right, I had a TERREX primaloft gillet in the bag which didn’t get used, would have preferred something that had arms though.

Big decision for me was shoes.  Fell shoes tend to work well when crossing fields but I know after about 25 miles I find wearing my Salomon SpeedCross’s a bit like wearing a pair of slippers and my feet suffer a little.  I have a pair of Hoka One’s which apparently are the bees knees for ultra long trail runs, but I’ve only been out in them once so a 50 miler maybe a tad stupid.  Hence the decision was to wear my Sequence4 adidas road running shoes.  I knew that the 2nd half of the run was on hard pack trails, the first half I’d have to risk it and do the Bamby thing, as it turned out it was the right decision – yep places where more grip would have been good but not at the expense of the cushioning on that disused railway track.

I only just got my replacement Sealskinz (waterproof) socks back in the week before from Castleberg, last pair had started to de-laminate.  Have to say wearing them was definitely best decision of the day.  Stepping through snow and frozen marshland I thanked the good James Kenyon a 100 times for sending them to me.

Rucksac – the good Mr Duncan at Haglofs lent me a Gram25 rucksac.  Top bit of kit, recommend this without question.  Pockets in the right places, hip pockets that work and you don’t need to loosen the belt to put food back in.    Love it!!

TERREX thermal is good if not very flattering, free wick tee shirt that is very light, TERREX Windstopper jacket and my faithful Haglofs Shield Jacket.

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