Hardmoors Trail Half Marathon – Osmotherley Race Report 2017

Set in the beautiful and sometimes brutal North Yorkshire Moors the Hardmoors Osmotherley half marathon is 16.3 miles long taking on over 3000 foot of ascent.

Starting from a quaint village – just off the A19 – the route heads to Lord Stones cafe following the Cleveland Way before doubling back with a horseshoe finish, the climbs are relentless but the descents a bag full of fun!


12 months ago I couldn’t dream of running 16 miles. Six months on I finished the White Horse half in 2 hours 30 minutes and 16th place. Now, a further six months on, I wanted to compete and go sub 2 hours 20 minutes in Osmotherley. This would be mission impossible back in April and yet, deep down, I craved a top three finish.


Race day began with my usual routine, downing porridge, a banana and plenty of water with Precision Hydration. The forecast promised wind and plenty of mud as storm Brian swept through the country, who comes up with these names, seriously. Anyway, with gusts reaching 38mph and heavy rain over the preceding days it promised to be less than ideal running conditions.

I arrived 90 minutes early, settled in and found my bearings. After greeting Nick and Sharon, my new fan club I also bumped into Alex and Steve, two of Jayson’s Athletes. It was great to meet in person and enjoy a good chat, both are great guys. Alex kept me distracted as we walked to the race start.

Approaching the iconic Cleveland Way acorn, Alex pointed to the front of a crowd and gestured “you’d better get to the front” smiling. I wished him luck and the reality of my goal set in as I took up station beside Simon Jones and Tony Holland, two great local runners I have admired over the last few years.

Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon Race Report

John Steel began the countdown and before I had chance to think we were off. Tony Holland flew up the 300 foot climb making his ambitions clear. Simon followed suit and I settled into 4th. That first climb averaged 8:30 minute/miles then the terrain levelled and the pack spread out. After some jostling for 3rd place I accelerated to catch Simon in 2nd and followed him for the next 8 miles with Tony always in site but developing a lead in 1st.

A Fast Start

The pace was frightening, here are the splits for my first four miles, 8:32, 7:25, 6:37 and 7:11 minute miles. Approaching the big climb to Carlton Moor myself and Simon were neck and neck with a decent lead on fourth. Next up, the 750 foot climb to Lord Stones. This is where Simon slowly developed a lead on me. I averaged around 10 minute miles here – which astounded me looking back – but it did take its tole, as I would later learn.

I summited Carlton Bank and descended to Lord Stones checkpoint, but my legs were showing signs of lactic acid. The wind warranted a slight lean and plenty of effort, so hell bent on keeping pace with Simon I had been short sighted.

Starting the climb back up that monster of a hill, trudging through heather, with the gusts wacking me back, I was reminded why they are called ‘HARDmoors’. But reaching the top with that beautiful view over Stokesley I felt a surge of energy, it was time for my favourite technique, the descent.

Flying Past Halfway In Pursuit Of 2nd

Over the next mile I passed so many runners – they were all climbing the same section I’d just done – all of which stepped aside appreciating my haste and some even clapped me on. That right there is what makes the Hardmoors so special, the support drove me on especially seeing Alex and his big grin! Alex later pointed to that descent commenting on my speed, I averaged 6:38 minute miles. Maybe a little reckless on wet, slippery rock but great fun.

With 6 miles and a lot of climbs to go I was conflicted. Simon’s lead had increased to about 45 seconds but so had my lead on fourth who was out of site. If you’d offered me the same scenario pre-race I’d have snapped your hand off, yet I couldn’t help feeling disappointed to hold my own for so long and then see second slip away. I plugged away and saw Simon brow one last climb before checkpoint 5. He was still running the ascents and that crushed me with four or so miles to go.

The Pain Chamber

I power walked that same ascent and ran the next big climb in sub 9 minute miles. But the lactic acid had set in and I was hurting. My last three miles were a mish mash of pain and suffering, I made some very weird noises through this section so apologies to all I passed from the 10K. Despite this I was still hitting the 7 minute mile mark while descending and sub 9:30 on the climbs. All in an effort to hold off the ghost of fourth place whom I hadn’t seen since the climb to Carlton Bank.

Here I am approaching the village hall and finish, thanks to Nick for the great photo. My time just shy of 2 hours 14 minutes bagging 3rd place. I was over the moon and couldn’t believe how hard I was able to push. Simon Jones had 3 minutes on me in second. Back in April he beat me by 30 minutes in the White Horse half, so I’m chuffed with my progress. Once the result had settled in I enjoyed the atmosphere, chatted with Tony, Simon and got my customary rub down from Karen.

Thank You’s

Karen (AKA Stadium Masseuse) has played a major role in keeping me fit. A lovely lass she deeply cares, I’d seriously recommend seeing Karen for general maintenance.

Here I am with Jon Steel collecting the 3rd place trophy. Having started the year an injury prone plodder and self confessed talentless runner this meant so much. I’ve been on a real journey and have Jayson Cavill to thank for some fantastic coaching. He’s not only provided me with great plans but indispensable mentoring, guess its time to throw more goals at him and see what comes back.

Thanks to all the marshalls who were fantastic in testing conditions. Jon and Shirley for putting on such a great series. The Mrs for all her support and of course Nick and Sharon Booker for their enthusiasm and turning up, it means a lot. I am surrounded by great people and wouldn’t be anywhere without every one of you. But this isn’t an Oscar so lets dull down the dramatics 🙂

Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon Race Stats

Kit List

  • Scotts Supertrac RC trail running shoes
  • Hilly cushion anklet socks
  • Ronhill Infinite Racer shorts
  • Salomon Trail Runner Tee (AW16)
  • Buff buff
  • Montane VIA Bite 1 pack
  • Montane 250ml soft flasks X 2

Nurtition Before

Leading upto race day I tend to consume more carbs like pasta, rice and bread. Saturday night featured pork and long grain brown rice followed by cake. I also munched on toast, porridge and all sorts through the day. 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 does the trick.

Come race day morning I had a massive bowl of porridge and raspberries around 6am. Then a banana while travelling.

Fuel mid-race

My fuel needed to be focused around mobility and speed. I needed something quick releasing but also easy on the stomach. Spring Energy gels hit the spot with me, they are all natural and you can tell from the release. Rather than a surge of energy followed by the inevitable lull other gels provide Spring Energy offers sustained release. I also opted for the minimum amount of water possible, keeping weight to a minimum was vital.

  • 4 Spring Energy Hill Gels
  • 2 Spring Energy Power Rush gels
  • 1/4 of a Precision Hydration HP1000 tablets in my 250ml soft flasks. Had two of these through the run then simply drank water from the cups provided at checkpoints on top.
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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.)

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