500 Mile Charity Challenge 2017 by James Middlebrook

20 March 2017

A trail runner from Selby will celebrate his 50th birthday by tackling 500 miles of gruelling terrain to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research. James Middlebrook, who lost his first wife Lynne to cervical cancer in 2002, will complete a series of some of the country’s toughest trail running events throughout 2017.

James began running in 2005 after a friend bet him £50 that he couldn’t complete the Great North Run, a half marathon that takes place in Newcastle every year.

You can make a donation to James’ challenge at www.ycr.org.uk/jamesmiddlebrook.

1st January – Hardmoors 30

What a fantastic way to start the year, and bag some miles for the challenge!

6.30am saw a car full of us leaving Selby to go to Robin Hoods Bay. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, completed the mandatory kit inspection and registration, signed on and grabbed a coffee. It was lovely to see so many friends at the event, be it marshalling or competing in the two races.

All too soon it was 9am and we were off! Heading along the cinder track towards Whitby it became apparent that the weather wasn’t going to be kind, so a quick stop was called for to put my waterproof top on and away we went again.

On leaving the cinder track in Whitby it was lovely to see my parents, Paul and Pam, at the checkpoint. A fleeting chat, some peanuts and jelly babies for fuel and off I plodded through Whitby. The 199 steps are always “fun” when running, but even more so when there are lots of tourists out for the day.

The coastal path from Whitby back to Robin Hoods Bay was very wet underfoot, which made some of the ascents and most of the descents interesting! At several points along this part of the course I was drenched by waterfalls being blown uphill onto the Cleveland Way.

Robin Hoods Bay marked the half way point, so it was a visit to the village hall to have my number recorded, then back out again. At this point I paired up with Stephen, and we ran the rest of the course together.

The route now consisted of the old railway line to Hayburn Wyke, where there is a lovely looking pub hosting a checkpoint, sadly we didn’t have time to stop! Stephen’s calf was not happy along this section, so we walked some of it. From Hayburn Wyke back to Ravenscar is along the Cleveland Way again, climbing and descending numerous steps. I will get used to this over the year, as Hardmoors events always seem to include as many steps as the Race Director can find. This section was dry at least, but we were starting to tire by now.

From the final checkpoint at Ravenscar it is only 4 miles or so back to Robin Hoods Bay, again along the Cleveland Way path, more steps, and passing through the fabulously named Boggle Hole. Finally we were back in Robin Hoods Bay, and our final challenge was to run up the hill from the bottom of the village to the village hall. Discretion being the better part of valour, we elected to walk, but managed a final run to the finish and a very welcome brew. Time for a chat, some food and to collect our t-shirts and medals.

Distance: 31 miles
Finishing time: 7 hours

1 down, 14 to go!

28th January – Waterways 30

This is a new event for 2017, so I had no idea what to expect. The day didn’t get off to the best of starts as I felt exhausted on the way to the event. The lesson learned from this is to try and plan races on Sundays, as Friday is my busiest and longest day of the working week and experience teaches me that I don’t sleep well the night before an event.

I arrived in plenty of time, registered and said hello to a few people I know. 9am brought the race start and we were off. 2 miles in and we had to traverse a very wet, freshly ploughed field. The pace dropped considerably!

After about 4 miles we headed out along the Chesterfield Canal towpath. The field always starts to settle down by this stage in an event and I often end up running with the same few people for the rest of the event. From the first checkpoint to the end I ran with Nick and Esther, both of whom were running their first ultramarathon.

At the end of the canal we found checkpoint 2, again in a pub beer garden. Again, sadly, no time to stop! Then it was out onto the Trent riverbank which went in a great loop around Gainsborough, passing through checkpoint 3 (pub!) and then past the power station to checkpoint 4 where we headed inland back to the finish.

The route itself was not terribly inspiring, but the company was great. What could have been a disaster of a day turned out well, although I was mildly hypothermic at the end and had to divert to McDonalds to sit somewhere warm for 45 minutes until my core temperature returned to a level where I felt comfortable enough for the drive home! No problem when you recognise the symptoms, and learn the lesson of changing out of wet running gear immediately after you have finished. Lesson learned the hard way!

Distance: 31.9 miles
Time: 6 hours 39 minutes

2 down, 13 to go

25th February – Bolton Abbey Trail Marathon

Another early start! I arrived at the start at 7.30am, signed on and got myself ready.

Another event I’d not done before. This one was 3 laps of a course around the Bolton Abbey Estate. I’m not a fan of laps, but thought I’d have a go.

The route itself was very well marshalled and good underfoot in general, apart from a small loop at the bottom end which was through some muddy fields. Given the weather in the lead up to the event this became more and more like a school cross country with each lap. The southernmost point of the course, the old bridge, featured the best course marking I have ever seen – crates of beer!

I soon settled into a rhythm and met up with Rachael, whom I’d run much of the Round Rotherham 50 last year. We had a good chat going round lap one, but Rachael had to divert to the WC and said she’d catch me up. That was the last I saw of Rachael!

I was then flying solo for the next two laps, apart from when I encountered Andy and Sarah Norman, fellow Hardmoors runners, who were doing the ultra distance. I decided to settle down, concentrate on my breathing and just enjoy the day. The weather was okay most of the time, with just a few light showers, but I kept my waterproof on due to the wind.

Before I knew it I’d completed my 3 laps, collected my medal, got changed and was heading home, which is when I saw Rachael, who was walking to the finish, having had “runners’ tummy” since mile 8. Never fun and well done her for not giving up!

Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 4 hours 57 minutes

3 down, 12 to go

18th March – Hardmoors 55

Next up is the Hardmoors 55 on March 18th, the biggest challenge I have taken on so far. This is a race not to be taken lightly – running the Cleveland Way from Helmsley to Guisborough in a maximum of 16 hours, with some fairly tight cut offs along the way. A few of us have recce’d the whole route, so we know where we are going, particularly important when it is dark and we will be very tired towards the end. My wife Kate and my friend Ray will be operating as chase car on the day, keeping us motivated and restocking supplies of Cornish pasties, sausage rolls, flapjack, Victoria sponge and lemon drizzle cake.

You can make a donation to James’ challenge at www.ycr.org.uk/jamesmiddlebrook.

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