Hardmoors White Horse Marathon 2015 Race Report

It only feels like two minutes ago I was writing the race report of the Hardmoors Wainstones Marathon, and yet, here we are again reporting on another tough race in absolutely disgraceful Bank-Holiday weather!!

And since that race, my running training has comprised of just two runs – both of which came the weekend before. I spent a long weekend in Menorca, celebrating a wedding anniversary, enjoying some sunshine, with the objective of putting in some running mileage. But within the first mile of my first run I took a fall, and suffered some cuts and bruises down my left side; the knee, elbow, hand and shoulder taking the brunt of it.

But I’m feeling incredibly fit: Loads of good-quality bike training, core sessions, and a good diet are really paying off. Bike fitness isn’t always transferable to running though…

My (Boring, Uninspiring) Race Objective

The forecast was bleak, but it wasn’t expected to be so torrential. I spent an hour sat in the car after race registration. I really wasn’t sure if I had it in me to endure another 4+ hours of misery. But with five minutes to spare, I manned-up, dashed to the parking machine (£4 to park at Sutton Bank! That’s a fortune!) and toed the starting line.

Again, my goal was to get around the course without getting injured. It sounds crap to have it as a goal, but my priority is all on preparing for my Spanish bikepacking effort in June.

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon Complete Map

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon Complete Map

Hardmoors WHITE HORSE Marathon 2015 Race Report

The race started strangely. Our lead pack stupidly missed the first turn and added around half a mile on. A good number of runners had to back-track and the next 1.5 miles were winding woodland trail on a narrow singletrack. Of course, with the number of runners all passing through at different speeds, the trails bottle-necked in many places. I’m sure it was unpleasant for everybody – fast runners slowed down by slower runners; and slower runners were probably getting annoyed by faster runners looking to squeeze through.

My morale has been massively boosted in recent long-distance races by running with others, so I made a conscious effort to run in groups or partnerships. My run comprised of this for the bulk of the race, and I didn’t get that ‘this is fucking shit’ feeling like I normally do. Conversation, laughter, and everything that comes with meeting new people and sharing experiences, really took my mind off how bad the weather actually was. I had four layers on the top and was drenched through to the skin within the first hour.

The clouds were low and made it impossible to see any horizon. The rain hit runners from the side, repeatedly whipping any exposed skin with each gust of wind.

The great thing about the course was that there were frequent woodland sections where we could take refuge from the weather. It took the attention away from the constant undulation of hills and fells.

Hardmoors White Horse Marathon Climb

One of the ‘unrunnable’ sections – Image courtesy of Andy Petford

A Second Wind

My race was very uneventful. I stuck with a lad, Adrian Potter, I ran with during last month’s Wainstones for the first 21 miles. I thought I was slowing him down, but when I upped the pace and encouraged him to speed up too, he seemed content to stay back.

We were in 12th and 13th respectively at that point, and over the next six miles I really dug in. Although my water bottle was almost empty, I ignored the final checkpoint in favour of keeping momentum. I would see a runner in front and would make it my goal to pass him. It became a pattern, and I enjoyed maintaining a solid pace so late in the race (normally, it is the very opposite!).

I had passed 7 runners in less than 7 miles, and crossed the finish in 6th place. My legs were heavy, but I took pride in completing the race strong.

Hardmoors White Horse Marathon Race Statistics

  • Distance covered: 27.9 miles (44.9km)
  • Elevation: 4,729 ft (1,441m)
  • Time elapsed: 4:29:45
  • Moving time: 4:26:39
  • Pace (9:39 minute/mile

    Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon Elevation Profile

    Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon Elevation Profile

Kit used

Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon 2015 - Lee Firman (outdoorfirmo)

Just as the weather started to improve!

On the bottom:

On the top:

My feet stayed warm enough during the run, but although I had three layers on the top, I wish one of these had been something warmer, like a Merino Wool layer or fleece. The SealSkinz gloves were shockingly bad, but the Montane Minimus Smock and Salomon trousers stood up to the task well. The Minimus V2 trail shoes were the perfect choice for this event.

Food / Drink carried

  • MuleBar energy gel (Cherry Flavour)
  • 2x MuleBar Energy Bars (Hanza Nut) x2
  • Water 500ml carried, topped up once during race

Extra Food / Drink taken at checkpoints

  • Jelly Babies during mile 10

Final WordS

It only goes to show how much of a fair weather man I am! The rain reduced to a mere fog/shower over the last 90 minutes of the event, which coincides with exactly when I started to feel stronger. I can handle 40+ Celcius, but am a complete wimp in cold, windy, wet conditions on high mileage!

A few days on, and I’m struggling. The run has aggravated the knee I fell on during my run in Menorca last week, and the kneecap is surrounded by fluid. A week of rest will probably do me good.

The event itself is incredible. There are some steep climbs that require walking, but most of the hills are runnable and almost all of the descents are not too technical. The race was, as always, so well-organised. The marshals are just incredible; their commitment to stand in that weather all day just to point us runners in the right direction and offer encouragement is the most impressive feat of all.

So if you’re looking for a marathon-distance trail run, that’s almost completely runnable, I strongly urge you to check out the Hardmoors White Horse Trail Marathon.


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