Cross the UK: Lets Run Adventure’s Hanging Stone Leap Race Review

Sunday the 8th August 2021 saw me take on The Hanging Stone Leap in the North York Moors.  Although this has been a long-established route as part of the Long Distance Walkers Association, 2021 marked a transition with the event organised for the first time by the Lets Run Adventure Team under the expert stewardship of Shelli Gordon and Lee Kemp.

The event sees participants select a route of either 13 miles or 23 miles through the scenic North York Moors.  Both routes are self-navigated and start and finish in Guisborough.  This year’s event started and finished at Guisborough Rugby Club.  Having opted for the 23-mile route I knew I was about to encounter not only 23 miles but also around 3500ft of climb. Lee’s GPX file of the route is available here.

The route begins with a climb through Guisborough Woods to Highcliffe Nab before veering south across Codhill Heights providing great views of Sleddale as you descend to Sleddale Slack and then climb to Percy Cross Rigg. 

A short permissive track provides access to Quarry Hill before coming tantalisingly close to Kildale but turning south once more and heading up Green Gate Lane.  (It’s this turning that marks the deviation for the shorter route where those taking part in the 13-mile vent continue on to Kildale)

As I had been in training for the Hardmoors 55 I was feeling relatively comfortable at this point.  Even seeing the eventual winner Anthony Gerundini seemingly glide past me on the uphill did not dampen my spirits.  Following a brief exchange about what #FYB meant on my running vest (I hope that understood I was explaining it rather than aggressively responding with a “F&ck you buddy” the call to arms of the Bad Boy Running Club), I watched him and another fast mover ascend Kildale Moor in a seemingly effortless trot.  I arrived at Hob Hole to be greeted by the fabulous marshals and refreshments.  The weather had warmed up significantly by this point, so the water and Chia Charge were of great relief. 

When I joined the Bad Boy Running Cult Club I realised I would likely be in for either:

  • some stick (So you think you’re a bad boy) or
  • lots of questions

After de-bagging to fill my water bottles, I exposed the logo on my vest and today it was the questions that won out!  If you didn’t catch my responses (Yes girls can join, it’s an online running club and community spawned from the Bad Boy Running podcast, no Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are not members)

Moving swiftly on from the questions and less swiftly from the station I climbed the road to the next self-clip checkpoint at the John Breckon Road and began following the route west via the Skinner Howe Cross Road.  We then dropped down to Baysdale Abbey before scaling the bank of Warren Moor and meeting the road that is also the route of the Cleveland Way and heads back to Kildale.  This section offers a gentle descent on the road which is either a blessing (if you want to run downhill) or a curse (if your knees prefer the softer ground of the trails).

Smiley, friendly marshalls, and a well-stocked checkpoint at Kildale made for a welcome respite from the route.  The sun was now in full force, and I realised that I’d actually taken on very little food. I wasn’t feeling hungry, but my stomach wasn’t feeling great either.  I picked up another mini Chia Charge and started to walk uphill to our next checkpoint of Captain Cook’s monument.  After a brief stop for a photo, I jogged downhill to the car park at Gribdale Terrace.  I was greeted by the warm smile and huge calves of Dan (a superb Lets Run Adventure Team member and sweeper of the 13-mile course) which was a welcome site as I was beginning to feel like the tank was empty.  After imparting some pearls of wisdom and reminding me not to miss the Hanging Stone Woods I turned west to Roseberry Topping and missed the Hanging Stone Woods (a mistake I came to regret).

Roseberry Topping is an unforgiving mistress.  I obviously surprised some of the leading runners as appeared ahead of them despite never overtaking them.  Many of them climbed like mountain goats up the side or Roseberry Common and then flew like accomplished fell runners down the bank.  I momentarily joined another runner who was experiencing a similar pain to me but then told him I would push on.  This push was short-lived as he passed me once more whilst I was contemplating why I hadn’t come across the Hanging Stone.  After a brief conversation he continued to Guisborough and I crawled 100m up a sharp incline to ensure I reached the Hanging Stone marshals before re-joining the correct route. 

After feeling motivated to maintain my position (having been in 6th at Kildale) I was now brutally disheartened and had clearly not fuelled well enough to maintain my pace.  The path reached the road beneath Hutton Village and then joined the old railway line from Hutton Gate back to Guisborough where runners were warmly received by the Lets Run Adventure crew and treated to their hot soup courtesy of the fabulous Christina.

Hanging Stone Leap Profile
Hanging Stone Leap Profile

The route is absolutely stunning and takes in some spectacular vistas.  The organisation of the event was superb too. Considering this was one of the Lets Run Teams first race events it was very well organised, very well marshalled and a very friendly atmosphere.  Shelli and Lee should be proud to have breathed new life into an iconic event (which ended as an LDWA event in 2017) and for making the first experience of this event under the Lets Run banner such a success.  Shelli continues to raise the profile of mental health by making sure it is part of the conversation in Lets Run events and by raising money for CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably .  If you are not aware of the reasons for her advocacy of this charity and topic then I strongly recommend you view the excellent short film Through the Pain which details her epic Spine Race journey. I shall certainly be back race it again I’m excited to see the further development of races from the Lets Run Adventure Team.

Mick Fenwick

Mountain Leader, D of E Co-Ordinator, Deputy Headteacher

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