Hoad Hill Half Marathon

7th August 2016


I always fancied running a trail race and came across Hoad Half randomly one day. The views looked amazing and I convinced my friend Scott to come along with me. I got a few hilly miles in on the weeks before but anyone that knows me knows I dread hills. My knees do not like hills so I got a little nervous as race day came closer.

Hoad Hill is in Ulverston the lakes and was a couple of hours drive from me. We arrived at around 8.15am at Ford Park and paid £3 for parking on site which was right next to the start line. This gave us time to pick up our numbers and our t-shirts before the race. We decided we wouldn’t wear these for the race although I absolutely love the bright orange t-shirt. We also collected our timing device which was an SI chip which was worn around your neck and had to be swiped out and back in. I fashioned it around my wrist instead.

Before the race started I headed over to the portaloo’s (a couple of times) and we chatted in the car until the race briefing at 9.45am. At the race briefing we were told to follow the yellow and black signs on the road and red flags across the fields. There would be no mile markers on the course.

It was incredibly cold and windy. The mandatory kit list for inclement weather included a waterproof jacket so I decided I would wear this to start the race.

Right on schedule, 10am, we set off and headed out into Ulverston turning left then right through country lanes. The first part of the course was mainly roads/paths until we turned off the road and ran through a farm just after 3 miles, the farmers shouting us encouragement as went.

As the roads weren’t closed there were a few times we had to stop to cross roads but this wasn’t a problem, it was a nice opportunity to get my breath back or stop to take in my surroundings.

The grass route across the farm land was undulating and there were a number of stiles and rocks to climb over. At point I shouted to Scott, I didn’t realise we were doing an OCR. At around 4 miles the grass turned into a path again we continued running along country lanes. The fifth mile was uphill and hard work, by the time I reached the top I could see Hoad Hill in the extreme distance and I joked with Scott just how far it seemed away.

There was the first checkpoint here, it had water in cups and jelly babies.

I was so busy trying to take a photo of Hoad Hill in the distance that I nearly ran the wrong way and missed the turning up the grass verge, another hill. When I was cursing some more about how horrendously hilly this race was and how I was never going to do it again we hit the views of Morecambe Bay and I was blown away. The coastal views were breath taking, in fact all the views were breath taking. It wasn’t long before we were hurtling down the other side of the hills we’d just come up and were hitting a couple of miles of the coastal path. There was quite a varied section here with some path and some stony beaches. Although I found the beaches really quite difficult to run on the views were incredible. I wanted to get my camera out and take photos but I was worried I’d trip up. Shortly after we were running through the woods dodgy stingy nettles and then back on the roads. Scott nearly took a wrong turning this time and I had to point the markers out to him.

There was a checkpoint at mile 9 with more snacks and drinks.

People were so incredibly friendly they were even pointing the direction we should run in. When it looked like we were going the wrong the way a couple of cyclists pointed us around a corner. Unfortunately, his shoes were locked into his pedals and he’d come to a standstill and his bike completely toppled over. We nonchalantly ran by. Many apologies and thanks if you are that couple.

By mile 10 we had hit the canal and we were running back into a head wind. There were lots of people clapping and saying well done along here. It was lovely and flat and all I could see was Hoad looming in the distance, thinking ‘Oh My Days, how am I going to make it up there on tired legs?’  The canal seemed to go on forever and in fact it was only a mile, it veered off through a lane to the right, across a road (watching for traffic) and down another country lane. Around another corner and here there was a checkpoint at mile 12 with more snacks and drinks. I chucked my 2 gel wrappers away whilst scott had a drink of water and we headed on .

At the end of this lane was a main road. A couple of marshalls shouted out our next set of instructions to follow, to cross this road and to turn right into the gate and follow it up the Hoad Hill. The police were there stopping traffic so we could pass. A couple in the car shouted out ‘we’re are going to miss our flight because of you but good luck’ I’m not entirely sure if they were being serious or not but the queue of traffic was incredible along that road. I really appreciated all the support that the police and organisers make for the race. It was great.

We crossed over and I looked into the first right, no gate. We carried on and turned up the second turning into the gate (there were signs that also said run route) and saw the start of the hill, eeeek.

I took a deep breath and started running. Within a couple of minutes, we could see someone on the path ahead as we got closer we realised someone was with a first aider. As we got closer we slowed down to a walk as we had to walk around. She didn’t look in a good way (hope she’s ok).  We passed and carried on running and got to the first turning and then it got steep. As I started running my calf turned to fire and my quickly turned to a hobble. I ran, hobbled as much as I could but the more I went on it became a walk. I realised that the steeper the gradient the more my calf was pulling. So I scrambled up the best I could and people were shouting well done, you can do it. It gets flatter as you get to the top. Eventually (it seemed like forever) we made the top and the views are spectacular. You can see for miles around and the monument is also glorious. The marshalls told us to run down the other side following the flags. Scott immediately ran the wrong way and the photographer had to shout ‘no not that way, go left’ at him. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t see the flags. Further down he did the same and I had to tell him he was going the wrong way.

At the bottom we were directed towards the finish line and a hefty sigh of relief and a few choice words were had when we saw the finish line. We bleeped our chips at the finish line (but I did forget to stop my Garmin). What a tough but incredibly rewarding course. Immediately after the race we handed in our chips and got a print out of our race time. 2:22:31. I was aiming for a sub 2:30 for my first hilly trail so I am pleased with that. I don’t feel battered and bruised either and I really did enjoy it in a masochistic sort of way. The medal is also very nice.

The co-op in Ulverston sponsored the race so were giving away all sorts of free sports drinks, water and bananas post-race which are always welcome.

Inside the race village tent there was beer, tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and cakes for sale all at a very reasonable price. (Tea £1, cakes £2) There was also a bit of a seating area.

There was a stall selling spicy chicken or veg wraps for post-race which were really tasty and great for fuelling at £4 each too.