Cattle Bells And Rollie Pollies – Hardmoors Wainstones Trail Marathon Race Report 2018

In October of 2016, after years of injury and half assed running, I reached out to a running coach called Jayson Cavill. We discussed my problems and what Jayson could do to help. After an hour he asked me one very important question.

“What do you want from running, what do you want to achieve?”

That question put in motion a landslide of transformation. My answer – at the time – was to simply finish the Wainstones marathon in 2017. Eight months later I completed the race in 4 hours 50 minutes. Every race since my expectations have grown.

One year on and I’m here, again, at the start line waiting for Jon to finish his customary half digit countdown! The route is the same, but I couldn’t be more different. Both physically and mentally, my body is strong and my new answer to the opening question? I want to compete.

Hardmoors Wainstones Trail Marathon Race Report 2018

Stepping alongside Craig (a Cavill Coaching teammate) I felt surprisingly calm. We met during a few recce’s of the course and I got to know him both as a person and runner. I certainly felt like he had the edge on me.

My pre-race ‘A’ goal was a top 5 finish in 4 hours 5 minutes. That would have been utopia considering last years performance, but I was determined not to be ruled by my watch and just run on feel.

4, 3, 2 and a half, 2 and a quarter, 2, 1……oh come on Jon! Go!

Four In The Pack

Climbing the first 800ft ascent Craig shot off in front, I followed. Behind us were Shaun Butterfield and Andrew Price. As the ground levelled out Craig had long gone and Shaun blew past me soon after. Andrew was hot on my heels but a sizeable gap had opened to fifth.

The four main climbs begin around mile 6, taking in 2000ft of elevation over 6 miles. The heavens opened at this point as the wind picked up. It was at the Wainstones – as the rain gave way – that I caught Shaun. As I did Andrew kicked on leaving me in fourth, so I followed rising to third.

Turning Point

The descent of Clay Bank is clunky and marks mile 12, those stones are hard work in the wet. Crossing the road I caught Andy (now in second) and considered my options. With every step my confidence grew but racing is very different to training. When you pass a competitor you have to leave them demoralised by your pace, so I waited.

Sure enough, I got my sign around mile 15 on the long ascent to Bloworth Crossing. Jayson, Kim and Indie (their dog) awaited with a show of support.

This provided a huge boost and urged me to kick past Andy into second. Jayson ran with me for a minute suggesting I keep pushing to catch Craig. Just 3 miles back I was playing for third, now I started to think about first! I pushed hard to Bloworth and then put my foot down on the flat hitting sub 7:20 min/mi pace.

It was here I dropped Andy for good and felt secure in second. I still truly believed Craig would win, surely I couldn’t match him on the flat.

Race To The Summit

Hitting sub 7 min/miles I reached Cockayne and knew the climb to follow could swing things. Upon reaching the road Craig appeared, walking. I asked if he was OK but it was clear his legs had gone. We exchanged well wishes and I started running up the 650ft climb.

If I could run this climb, the gap should be big enough. But I knew Craig’s speed on the flat and despite his condition it urged me on.

I averaged 10:30 min/miles on that climb but I was spent. My legs were screaming and my heart was hanging outside my chest. 3 miles now stood between me and 1st place. I was in disbelief, but the race was not over, I had to dig deep.

Cattle Bells and Rollie Pollies

Consuming the last of my gels I hit top speed down a dusty descent. Just a few miles from the finish its a twisty dirt track, which lured me into a false sense of security. I went too fast and lost my footing.

My legs gave way as I hit the dirt, hard. My knee was gashed and bloody but I’d been here before. Months of falling on the Fells had played their part and I rolled out of it back into my stride. Legs battered I started to worry, do I have enough left for the finish?

Heading up the final ascent I heard cattle bells – in the middle of the Moors – I’m losing it! I looked up and sure enough Jayson and Kim were ringing me home. Jayson walked alongside and said I held a three minute lead. But we both knew sub 4 hours was possible so he urged me on with a big grin.

All Or Nothing

I had about 10 minutes to cover 1.5 miles and not a second to spare. The win meant everything but in that very moment absolutely nothing. Going sub 4 would pull me alongside a great group of runners.

I gave it my all, passing numerous 10K runners who cheered me on but the pain was intense. Let me pause for one second to express how much I hate cattle grids! Clambering over each bar was excruciating, my legs were seizing with every step and my lungs cried for rest.

I turned the final bend with a minute to go, I could see the village hall but seconds remained. One badly placed car at the crossing would cost me dear. I burst through the village hall and staggered to a table as my number was taken.

“What was the time?” I pleaded

“Sub 4!” a smiling face replied.

With that I breathed, staggered a few strides and smiled. Jon (the race director) asked for silence and announced;

“The first marathon runner has arrived.”

A round of applause followed and I felt completely out of place, do I wave? Say thank you? I was just too tired to think. This was new territory for sure.

My legs were cramping and the shock of what I’d just done was overwhelming. After all I’d finished the same race in 4 hours 50 minutes just 10 months prior, I’d knocked 50 minutes off an already decent time.

Looking back, I averaged sub 6:30 min/mi pace over the final mile. Its surprising what you can muster when it means so much.

Race stats

Kit List

  • Scotts Supertrac RC trail running shoes
  • Hilly cushion anklet socks
  • Ronhill Infinite Racer shorts
  • Salomon Trail Runner Tee (AW16)
  • Inov All terrain peak cap
  • Montane VIA Razor 15 hydration pack
  • Montane 500ml soft flasks

Nurtition Before

Leading upto race day I tend to consume more carbs like pasta, rice and bread. I use Precision Hydration which helps get my electrolyte levels right. One of their PH1500 tablets in 500ml of water the night before and morning of the race is recommended.

Come Sunday morning I had a big bowl of porridge and Raspberries at 5.30am. Then a banana upon arrival 2 hours before the race itself. Its important to allow at least a few hours for any food to settle.

Fuel mid-race

I struggle with conventional gels, the go to race fuel for this distance. I have a delicate stomach and the sugary, syrupy consistency doesn’t agree with me. Last year my pace was slow enough to warrant natural food such as bananas and malt loaf, this year I’d be going too fast.

Then I found Spring Energy gels, an all natural gel which is kind on the gut…I haven’t looked back. Below is my fuelling plan, but a review of Spring Energy will follow.

  • 1 Spring Energy Gel every 20 minutes. Equating to two hill gels and one power gel every hour.
  • Jelly Babies when my stomach goes off gels.
  • 1/2 a Precision Hydration HP1000 tablets in my 500ml soft flasks. Had about 2 litres of water in total.

Thank You’s

Just want to say a huge thank you to all who have supported me so far. From the blog followers, to my Mrs’ and friends who all listen to me drone on about the Sport. Jayson and Kim Cavill have provided me with amazing guidance and training plans, I’d be no where near the runner I am today without them and appreciate their help. Thanks to all the Marshalls, time keepers, Jon and Shirley, pretty much anyone involved in the Hardmoors family, you are all awesome.

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Darren Smith

Training with purpose since October 2016 Darren has gone from trailing the pack to winning local races and the times keep on falling. A true believer in hard work over natural talent he writes to help others realise their true potential. Darren's race schedule for 2018 includes the Hardmoors Wainstones marathon (1st place), Keswick Mountain Festival (10th place), Scafell Skyrace and Salomon Ring Of Steall (World Championship race.)

6 thoughts on “Cattle Bells And Rollie Pollies – Hardmoors Wainstones Trail Marathon Race Report 2018

  • May 5, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Absolutely amazing!! You are an inspiration

    • May 5, 2018 at 7:34 am

      Thanks Jenny, it was one of those days where everything felt right. Hope I get more to come. Hope you’re getting on OK.

  • May 5, 2018 at 8:10 am

    A good read, fantastic time and run. Well done.

  • May 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. excellent improvement, much respect.


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