Hardmoors Roseberry Topping Trail marathon, Guisborough, 14th December


Dave Robson

Start Believing.This event claims to be a marathon, but it turned out to be a marathon plus a parkrun, a total of 29.3m and I don't think we made any navigation mistakes. But Hardmoors miles are said to be a new form of measurement ... It was the second running of this event, but it was a bit of a different experience from last year - the route was different and had more ascent and was a bit longer but also I didn't have any difficulties with public conveniences this year ....

Melanie was away for this one and I ran with Jane Ives. There were three other Striders running the marathon - Stew Mcconnell, who finished in an excellent 11th place, Denise Benvin, who had a fabulous run and covered 31.2m and Sue Jennings, who sadly had to pull out at about halfway because of an injury.

It was an early start, up at 4.45, pick up Jane at 6.00 and we arrived in Guisborough at about 7.00 for an 8.00 start.

Dave and Jane. I have done quite a few Hardmoors events over the past few years and I do love them. They are all tough events and this one was not the toughest of the marathon series, Wainstones has that distinction, but I think it is second toughest - 4012 feet of ascent. Most of that is in the first half. There are climbs to Highcliffe, Roseberry Topping (not once but twice - the route send you right down to the bottom and up then up by a different path), little Roseberry, Captain Cook's monument and then the climb out of Kildale. Some of the time we also had a strong wind in our faces, so this made the first half even tougher. I was feeling very blown about on the summits of Little Roseberry and Roseberry Topping. Once we stopped heading south and turned north we had the wind behind us, it was much less testing. There were still hills, but they weren't on the same scale. The underfoot conditions were tougher than the first half, but you could still make progress.

It took us 3hr 50min roughly, for the first half. The second half took us 3hr 25min roughly - with the hills in the first half, this was a perfect course for a negative split !

We went over part of the same course as the Eskdale Eureka but by the time we got there, that event had finished.

I had a bit of a tough time at about 21m, there seemed to be no end to the undulations between Castleton and Commondale. My solution was to eat more food - I had plenty of Quorn picnic eggs with me - my savoury food of choice for marathons. I also managed to demolish an entire Chia Charge banana flapjack at the next checkpoint. It all seemed to help and when Guisborough woods came into sight I knew we are almost there, just a few more miles of slippery, boggy path to negotiate. We finally reached the woods and started the steep, muddy plunge down to Guisborough. It was getting dark by the time we finished and there quite a few runners behind us who had to use head torches.

Sue, Jane and Dave. Everybody seemed to enjoy the event, the other runners were very friendly, the marshalls were helpful and encouraging. If you have not taken part in a Hardmoors event yet, I would encourage you to do so, they are great fun !

Eskdale Eureka, Castleton, North York Moors, 14th December

BM/12.6 km/470 m

Penny Browell

Elvet Striders at the Eskdale Eureka Fell Race 2014After the freezing horrors of the Hexhamshire Hobble the week before I was a touch apprehensive about the Eureka. However I convinced myself that it was going to be fine - further south, better weather forecast, less exposed route ....Scott even declared it would be a "vest only" run on the drive down. Once we'd parked up at Castleton I think he changed his mind quite quickly. The biting cold winds were back...again...this time without snow but no less challenging. This registration and starting point of the Eureka are what I'm reliably informed could be described as those of a 'proper' fell race - you pay your money through a car window, get changed whilst using the car boot as shelter and the facilities are a few gorse bushes. The freezing wind made it all the more interesting and even after an attempt at a warm up I was very reluctant to give up my hoodie...

After a quick group photo and a race briefing (which I heard none of), we were off. Unusually this race starts with an off-road downhill. Great for some people - I saw Paul and Scott disappear ahead of me and Phil flew past me - but this is where I struggle the most. I failed to get going properly and then found myself stuck behind a group so that once we reached the narrow uphill path I couldn't overtake. I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this wasn't going to be my day and trudged up. But fairly soon the path widened out and I gradually managed to get through and stretch my legs out. The route is a lollipop shape and included a good mix of bog, heather, fields and footpaths with none of the climbs or descents too difficult.

At about the half way mark I spotted a purple shirt ahead of me and realised it was Scott! On the uphill he was getting ever closer but I decided to tuck in behind rather than take him on. But then I heard someone coming up behind me... I can always tell the difference between a man or woman catching up with me and this was definitely a lady. Now I don't mind men beating me but I'm not keen on girls overtaking so I put on a little burst to make sure I was ahead of both of them. Scott looked truly surprised [horrified - Ed] to see me but it wasn't long before he was back ahead of me, along with my new lady friend. Crossing a field I managed to take a slightly shorter route which put me in front of Scott, but still behind the other lady. As I was just wondering whether I could catch her again she suddenly lost her footing and was flat out in the mud! She was quickly back on her feet and I shouted a quick "Are you OK?" as I ran past then heard Scott encouraging me not to care too much about her! [this is not painting me in a very good light - Ed]

Penny & Anita collect the Women's team prize after Jan had to make an early exitA fast-ish section followed which Scott and I ran more or less together. Then a Pickering runner just ahead of us claimed to know a good short cut off the main path so we took his word for it and followed. Unfortunately this took us through a lot of heather with hidden ditches and boggy bits which meant I slowed right down. Several runners got past us (Scott was gallantly holding back..) [no I wasn't - Ed]

The climb back up wasn't easy but the cars on the top of the hill gradually got closer and I was delighted to eventually see Paul and a crowd of others cheer me in with Scott just behind me. Paul had had another fantastic race in spite of battling a winter bug and it wasn't long before the rest of the Striders gang returned. Jan stormed in as winner of her category and along with Anita we were all over the moon to be crowned winning ladies' team (which in the fell racing world means lots of wine!).

All in all I thought it was a great race - proper fells and proper biting winds but completely runnable and beautiful scenery. Strongly recommend the Eureka to anyone who fancies trying fell races but make sure you take plenty of clothes - it's cold up there!

Out on the Wiley, Windy Toon Moor

109th Annual Cross Country Championships, Town Moor, Newcastle, 13th December


Elvet Striders' Men's Team at the 109th NE Counties XC Championships 2014
After pitching the tent over what we thought was a mole hill, but turned out to be a large cow pat, things could only get better – and they did! Twenty-six mud loving Striders managed to find their way to the Moor through all the Christmas shoppers and associated traffic. As a reward they had a thoroughly enjoyable day running over the moor’s vast open expanse, chased, or opposed, by a cruel cold wind and requiring an ascent of two tough hills on each lap.

After helping put up the tent and flag Sally Hughes was the first to test the course in the u.17/20 women’s race. With parts of the course still frozen and her legs still recovering from shin splints Sally still put in the brave performance we’ve come to expect so well done Sal!

Rob Everson was first man home for Elvet Striders
As this is the North East Champs the men’s race still starts before the women’s! Striders had eleven blokes on the start line and they all made it round the three laps and six hills. It was a harder course than it looked and I could have done without the traffic noise and the ‘encouragement’ from one or two pedestrians, but nonetheless it was an ‘enjoyable’ race and we were all severely tested by the course and conditions.

Rob led the team home in spite of losing a shoe, followed by Simon and the ever improving Matt Crow. As I got to the top of the very first hill I heard a spectating Sally shout “come on Dad” shortly after I had run passed her. I knew then that I’d have yet another battle on my hands and so it proved, although by lap three I could hear no shout for “Dad” on the hill so I knew I’d ‘won’ the skirmish.

Conrad seems to be returning to some form on the mud (no more tempo runs?) and it was good to see Ian Spencer giving x/c another go. Innes appeared a little weary at the end of the 12k but recovered sufficiently to put on another ‘grass session’ on Monday night! Well done to you all and thanks (including to Denise for coming along to support)!

Susan Davis, first lady home for Elvet Striders
As the clouds turned black we knew it must be time for the women’s race and the extra distance must have suited Mudwoman because she stormed round the now very muddy hills to earn a top 50 place and first Strider home! Elaine wasn’t too far behind and the other eleven Striderettes all made it to the finish in various states of dishevelment! A fine team performance though with Debs continuing to impress, Sarah well up in the top half of the field and Jan showing the younger ones from other clubs how it’s done.

It was a tough challenge in that wind and over those hills so it was great to see relative new comers such as Catherine S and Diane come through unscathed and wanting more! Anna was back in the mud and I suspect she was glad she only had to go around the moor twice instead of the 50 million laps required on the Town Moor Marathon!

Well done to you all – can’t wait for the next HL and the ‘big’ races in the New Year! See you all there.


1Jonathan TaylorMorpeth Harriers & Ac38:03
83Rob Everson 47:29
164Simon Gardner 51:34
166Matthew Crow 51:44
184Geoff Davis 53:07
194Dave Gibson 53:44
196Mike Hughes 53:50
216Conrad White 54:58
264Scott Watson 57:33
266Eric Green 57:37
345Innes Hodgson 66:42
349Ian Spencer 69:19

356 finishers.

1Rosie SmithDurham City Harriers29:23
49Susan Davis 37:59
51Elaine Bisson 38:06
68Fiona Shenton 39:33
74Sarah Davies 39:53
101Lesley Charman 41:28
104Stephanie Piper 41:48
116Debra Goddard 42:32
120Jan Young 42:56
126Anna Seeley 43:18
136Jean Bradley 44:02
145Anita Clementson 44:53
160Joanne Porter 47:57
166Catherine Smith 49:47
169Diane Watson 50:32

179 finishers.

Under 17/20 Women
1Lydia SharpeDurham City Harriers21:32
11Sally Hughes 25:33

A Cold Day at the Beach

Blyth Sands Race, Blyth, Northumberland, 7th December

5 miles (approx)

Conrad White

Jan lines up on a chilly beach at Blyth for the start 
	of the 2014 Blyth Sands RaceJan had helpfully sent an email about this race after we discussed it at the Wallington Harrier League meeting. I was the only taker - so we went up together (thanks ever so for the lift Jan). We have both been doing this age-handicapped race on and off for over 20 years. Sometimes there have been loads of Striders and it may have been in the grand prix at one time. It seems to have fallen off the radar over recent years but despite any of my words below I would highly recommend this - it is only three-quarters of an hour away from Durham and because of the age-handicapping, Striders have and may again win prizes.

The principle is straightforward. You set off in age groups, starting with the older females and ending with the younger men. The course starts outside a new coastguard building which is a vast improvement on the old sea cadets building of years ago. When I first ran, the start was at the end of the beach and it was a straight run south (keeping the sea on your left) to an oar at Seaton Sluice, round the oar and back (keeping the sea on your right).

There was a brief interlude (due to a building change) where the race started at Seaton Sluice but the premise was similar - sea on the right to start and left to come back. Now, as the start is some distance from the end of the beach there is a bit of both, as you run initially north around a flag, then south around the oar and back north to the finish. And I forgot to mention that there are also three groynes to navigate each way - unless the tide is far enough out to allow you to run on the sand.

On the drive up, the weather didn't look too promising with dark clouds and rain and we knew it was going to be chilly. However the sky cleared to blue with a bright low sun. The icy offshore wind was no help at any point in the race and the sand was the consistency of granulated sugar. The sea had also contrived to take chunks out of the beach with huge inlets of cold water to navigate. I think it was the toughest going of the many sands races I have done and I was not alone judging by the comments at the end (I would suspect that it was nothing in comparison to some of the race reports I have read for "ultra" this and "tougher" that though!).

As the years have gone by I have graduated from starting at the back to starting about halfway down the pack. Hopefully it means you can catch those in front and try and keep ahead of those behind. Although the going was tough I seemed to manage to do just that, as only a few came past and I managed to catch a fair number. I even managed to achieve a top twenty finish (18th fastest on the day) with Jan not far behind. Roll on another two years and I will start nearer the front - but then again, I suspect I will be slower.

After the race it was back to the car to put on as many layers of dry clothing as possible, a hot drink and then home. I'm hoping I didn't drag Jan away from a prize as although I knew I didn't make an age prize it would appear Jan was first in her age category.


PosRace TimeNameClubCatActual Time
100:27:23Nina CameronHeaton HarriersF/4500:38:23
2000:32:48Conrad WhiteM/5500:37:48
3400:35:03Jan YoungF/6000:48:03

150 finishers.

Hell Freezes Over at the Hobble!

Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale, 7th December

CM/16.8 km/379 m

Diane Watson

Elvet Striders gather in the sports hall 
	for the 21st Angus Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble in Allendale, NorthumberlandThis was my very first fell race: I entered on the day with relative confidence that I could finish it without getting lost but had no idea about how long I would take. It was 0°C when we bundled out of the car into the school sports hall where I was worrying about the kit check. I had all of the essential kit with me, but if I'd been asked any more than could be written on a postage stamp about how to use the compass, I would have failed miserably although my appreciation of the route was helped by having taken the time to study the course map and Google Earth at home.

After a brief pre-race talk we filed out to the start and were off pretty quickly, straight up a viciously steep hill then, after a fairly short section of road, we reached the first check point and turned left onto the fell for the first time. I started off trying to avoid the inevitable foot soaking, but once my feet were wet, there was little to lose, which made navigating through the mud and puddles much easier as I could stop dancing around as much to avoid the water.

It wasn't long before a vicious snow storm descended upon us, carried on a biting arctic wind. The snow, alternating with hail, was being driven with force horizontally onto the side of my head and face and I was forced to stop and dig around in my brand-new bumbag for some warmer gear. I could see why we had to carry it all. If anyone had to stop with an injury in this, they would become dangerously cold very quickly.

Many were putting on jackets but all I wanted was my hat, which provided as much protection as I felt I needed. Off I went again and was constantly trying to find decent footing. There were huge icy-cold puddles - some almost knee deep - and slippery mud (though not as slippery as Aykley Heads cross-country mud I thought), with the track deeply rutted with loose stones in places making it frequently easier to run on the heather.

Soon I was descending to the first burn where I was protected from the wind, with the snow no longer falling as little ice swords, but as fluffy, fairy-tale, flakes. Then it was steeply up the other side to continue on the exposed track. Although the route was pretty obvious and there were always others to follow, there was at least one place where I could easily have taken a wrong turn but I had my trusty map with me and knew exactly where I was...no compass required!

With the snow blowing horizontally, runners make 
	their way over the uninviting moor in the 21st Angus Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble
Not much further along the track we were marshalled back onto the fell where deep ruts seemed to be too narrow to run along the bases and also too narrow to run along the tops so it was a constant battle to keep going. Eventually though, I saw the small plantation that signalled the start of the next road section after which it was a long run along the road to the steep track that led to the final section of exposed fell.

I knew I was more than half way but could not relax into the run because once again, the vicious horizontal snow started, this time full into my face as I was now heading back towards the start. The combined snow and wind was so bad that my face was freezing and incredibly painful. I tried to protect it with my map at the expense of my hands but managed to keep running.

I found this section more challenging than the first and was constantly trying to choose the best line, which was difficult with reduced visibility due to the snow. My legs were starting to feel quite fatigued and I could feel another spectacular face plant coming on (to go with the one I did on the Hardmoors half at Goathland)!

But before anything drastic happened, I'd reached the marshalls on the edge of the fell who were reassuring us that it was "nearly done...all downhill now". The road ahead seemed to go on for a very long way and I was perturbed not to see any signs of a village. I was overtaken by some runners who seemed to be enjoying the dreaded tarmac that is my personal nemesis.

Then Scott, my husband, appeared as a welcome friendly face to cheer me on and tell me that I didn't have much further to go. I took great delight in running down the field to the finish line to see Penny and Flip, on their way to the car, cheering me in.

Back in a nice warm sports hall, I was taking off my shoes as requested and whilst my sausage-like fingers were struggling with my laces I was trying desperately to tell a woman who was offering to help runners with their shoes that there was a pin on the floor as lots of runners were in stockinged feet; my frozen face and lips would not respond however, and I couldn't say the words without gibbering!

I was never so pleased for a warm cup of tea. There were a few pretty sickly looking runners in the hall, shivering in space blankets so I felt quite lucky that I was not hypothermic in such extreme conditions (despite having not used my jacket or gloves) and it was only my face that had felt the cold. Even my hands were warm when I first got back. I did manage a chuckle when I overheard one runner in the hall say that he couldn't understand why he had to have a compass as he would ever need to draw a circle on the fell!

I was well impressed with the marshalls who were standing around in very exposed places in the same blizzard conditions that it was cold enough running in. They were all friendly, encouraging, and positive. I am really grateful to them for being there for us, and for everyone who baked scones and cakes and fed us hot drinks. I won a nice buff as a spot prize (donated by the race sponsor - the Ultra Runner Store) and it was good to meet the chap who provided them.

I shall never forget the first of what I hope will be many fell races. It was an experience and a half, and I am assured by my husband that I will probably have to do a lot of fell runs to encounter such conditions again.


1Ben AbdelnoorAmbleside ACMSEN01:13:22
34Emma BainNorthumberland Fell RunnersW4001:25:09
48Scott WatsonM5001:29:49
63Penny BrowellW4001:32:51
109Camilla Lauren MaattaW4001:47:06
124Phil OwenM4001:50:09
134Innes HodgsonM5001:55:38
145Melanie HudsonWSEN02:04:31
146Dave RobsonM60+02:04:36
156Kate MacPhersonW4002:07:37
159Diane WatsonW5002:09:35
167Sue JenningsW4002:27:48

168 finishers. Penny Browell 2nd W40

Norman Woodcock Road Race, 6th December


Simon Gardner

This is a race that I have wanted to do for a while, 2 years ago I was injured and last year I had the very good excuse of being in Australia so thankfully no excuses this year so despite missing the Chelsea home game (thanks a lot BT!) I managed to make the start line for once.

After a comfortable journey in I bumped into Stephen Jackson at the number collection point and was soon joined by Gareth Pritchard. The race is set on the race course at Newcastle and uses the ambulance track which runs around the inside perimeter of the course.

I had been in great form but wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, I had been unwell during the week and had not ran since Mansfield parkrun the week before and I had also lost a lot of motivation since my Leeds 10K. A steady Durham parkrun in the morning showed that my stomach was thankfully settled. During the warm up I decided that I would try for an opening 6 minute mile and then try and maintain that hopefully getting a sub 30 minute for the 5 mile and therefore a shiny new PB.

After the normal elbows out start I was able to find some space and settle down into what I thought was a steady pace. The first half of the opening lap probably is a little up and down but not bad at all. My watched beeped for the first mile and showed 5:48 which was way too fast, god what a start! I decided to slow back down to 6:00 to try and leave something in the tank for the end but after doing a 6 min mile I had started to pick off several runners so I knew deep down I was stepping onboard the pain train.

Miles 3 & 4 were back under 6 minutes and I was hurting big style but by this point I knew I was on the last lap of 3 and only had a mile to go and boy what an uncomfortable mile that was! As normal I was having some very negative thoughts (just drop out, slow down – I find it such a mental battle) but I managed to hang on to clock a new 5 mile PB of 29:21 which I’m delighted with.

Very well done to Stephen Jackson for a an excellent 28:55 and Gareth for a sub 30 with still very heavy legs after Brampton to Carlisle

Back next year? , yeah probably!

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Striders Answer the Call!

Wallington X-Country (NEHL), Cambo, N'thlnd, 29th November


Ladies mass after a rushed arrival for the obligatory group photoNo I don't mean the one on Lucy's i-phone but the 'call to arms' - the one for the blood, sweat, tears and hard graft needed, not only to finish at the sharp end, but simply to get round these tough, merciless courses. Well done to you all, Mudpeople are proud of you!

Despite a magnificent 30th place overall 'MudWoman' misses out on promotion to the Medium pack by the narrowest of marginsThere was no Sally this time, because of sore shins, so the senior / veteran women were first up. With the bus taking a scenic route to Wallington it was touch and go whether a large proportion of the team would arrive for the start - but arrive they did and a brave and determined effort ensued. A varied course provided many challenges - perhaps not so many as last week - but challenging nonetheless. Mudwoman became the leading Strider towards the end of the first lap and stayed there till the end. Missing medium pack qualification by the narrowest of margins her vast experience, including thirty years of 'hill training' in the Scottish Highlands, took her to a 30th place finish. "Not bad for an old woman" was the limit of her self-congratulation!

A muddy but fast course posed no problems for Claire Galloway!Sarah Davies had one of her finest x/c runs on the gloomy overcast day to finish second counter, while Fiona K-J and Camilla showed true fighting spirit to finish as third and fourth counters respectively. This busy time of year plus one or two 'bugs' meant the women's team was down somewhat on last week's record turnout. Nonetheless it was heart warming to see the effort put in by our 'girls'. To see Nina back competing after a couple of years away from the tent was wonderful (I'm sure you'll catch your Mum before season's end!) and I was truly humbled by the effort and determination displayed by Helen Williams and all those Striderettes who stayed the course through the mud, up the hills and over the bumps to cross the finish line. Well done! 7th team on the day and 5th place for the season maintained.

I suspect my 'home truths' may have received a mixed reception across the club this week. Mudwoman thought I'd overstepped the mark but, rightly or wrongly, I wanted the team to know how I felt. Whether it made any difference I don't know but the Men's team put in a performance that had bags of character. From Rob's powerful run from the medium pack to lead the team home, to Stan's brave debut in getting round three tough laps and cross the finish line in gathering gloom to the cheers of the Striders 'massed bands' including Kelly on megaphone! I couldn't have asked for any more.

Rob Everson crosses the line just in front of Gareth Pritchard for the privelege of being first Strider home in the men's raceThe team suffered in terms of numbers from the 'two in two weeks' factor, but the counters (Rob, Gareth, Matt C, Jerry, James and Dave) all finished in the top 200 (more or less!) and were closely supported by a determined team one or two of whom had risen from sick beds to run! Ian Spencer was there for the first time I think - or the first time for some time anyway. Well done Ian for getting round! We all know the Harrier League attracts the tops runners in the North East and finishing ahead of some the bigger, highly competitive clubs is not easy. However, the men have clawed their way out of the relegation zone with an 8th place finish on the day and we now sit in 8th place for the season as well. There are still tough trials to come!

...and Stan White

Stan makes his way up the final straight after a tough raceFollowing in the running steps of many a strider before me, I finally made my cross country debut. I'd been mulling over having a bash at one of these for quite sometime .........say 6 or 7 years. Geoff, aka Mudman, had asked me to run one all those years ago when the men's team were struggling to field a team of 6 counters for a fixture in Cramlington and likely to incur penalty points. I agreed to be a last minute stand- in. However, at the eleventh hour, a couple of diehards stepped up and I was able to stand down. Slow forward to 2014 and this past Saturday I found myself on the coach to Wallington, fully intending to toe the start line however ill-prepared I was.

At the club AGM in October Geoff's report had mentioned the sharp end and the blunt end of the cross country field. Riding on the bus up to Northumberland, I felt quite relaxed. I was under no illusions that, despite being a parkrun veteran with some 140 runs under my belt, the XC would be way, way, way out of my comfort zone, especially after my close up view of the previous weekends events at Aykley Heads whilst marshalling at 'the chair'. I would surely be looking at the blunt end!

I had a plan: it was a 3 lap course ... Lap 1, have look at the course;, Lap 2, try to stay in touch with the race;, Lap 3,...... SURVIVE. I'd told Ian Spencer on the bus up that I would be happy with getting round in 70 to 75 minutes. The ladies race was off very soon after our arrival at the course and it was a wonderful distraction as I watched and cheered some strong and gutsy performances. I did a few stretches and warm up jogs and, to be frank, I didn't feel too good ......Nerves? I was a little concerned as I had passed out only a few days previously on a club run. Soon enough, I was at the start with some 500+ others and, once again, I felt pretty relaxed.....I could always drop out after a lap or 2 if my decision to start had been wrong. BANG! and the race was off: I was pleasantly surprised that I was running comfortably through the first kilometre and the rest were not disappearing into the distance.....so far so good.

After about 2k, some of the speedy chaps from the medium/fast packs started to float effortlessly (or so it seemed) past......I'd expected this so did not let it worry me: I was happy at this point with my own pace which was around 6.30 per K following in the running steps of those ahead. The first circuit was completed in about 22.30 and I felt ok.

Lap 2.....the going got a bit tougher for me as my legs began to tire rather suddenly, the underfoot conditions seemed to become more tacky, and I was having difficulty getting my feet out of the ground and selecting the best line......mentally it became tougher too as I was being passed by clumps of men in bunches who appeared to have boundless energy......and they were on their final circuit. I'd told myself beforehand that a fair few would do this but I hadn't expected them to be breezing past and looking so strong.....DAMN..... Emerging from the woods on lap 2, I was getting great support from fellow striders lining the course........ However, as I approached the hill up to the finish line (for them) and they split off into the finish funnel, I have to say that I considered quitting. At this point, I was passed by Graeme Walton, as he was finishing his race, and, as he offered a shout of encouragement, I spotted my sister and a couple of other supporters on the brow of the hill, with this all thoughts of stopping evaporated...... my watch was showing around 47 mins and, still under 7 min per k, I was still on target.

Lap 3 commenced in good spirits but, after about a further kilometre, my legs really started to complain with my left distal quadriceps hurting considerably and my shoes becoming heavy with mud. I had to begin interspersing walking with running to ease the discomfort in the quads and attempt to clean some mud off my shoes. This was the story for the rest of the race as a few of the other tail-enders eventually caught and passed me. Once off the fields and onto the path through the woods, I managed to run at a pace which felt quite brisk for a while but I just could not keep it up and I was making no impression on those ahead of me. Now, severe pain started quite suddenly in my lower right quads.......I was hobbling now but knew I would get to the finish. I was reduced to a walking pace and hoped that this would allow the quad pain to ease so that I could at least run jog up the final hill.

In the fading light, I approached that final hill where a whole hoard of striders were gathered to shout me on (I follow in the footsteps of many others in thanking them for such fabulous support). I found the energy to high five Kelly on the megaphone as I passed but now, fearful of creating a long term injury, I could not muster that final run up the hill...... and was accompanied to the finish line by Susan: the final lap had indeed gone according to plan SURVIVAL. A finish time of 76 mins and 15 seconds only a little outside of what I had wanted and obviously a little disappointing but not so much as to prevent me having another go and hopefully I won't be leaving it another 6 years!


1James CripwellGateshead HarriersS Sen37:37
79Rob Everson M Sen43:48
81Gareth Pritchard S Sen43:50
152Matthew Crow S Sen45:08
190James Garland S Sen46:11
199Jerry Lloyd M Vet46:23
202Dave Halligan S Vet46:30
212Graeme Walton S Vet46:45
238Matthew Archer S Sen47:25
246Geoff Davis S Vet47:39
255Marc Jones S Sen47:56
273Conrad White S Vet48:29
285Scott Watson S Vet48:46
303Michael Hughes S Vet49:28
331David Lumsdon S Vet50:28
425Eric Green S Vet53:47
481Ian Spencer S Vet58:43
507Stan White S Vet76:15

508 finishers.

1Maxine CzarneckaJarrow & Hebburn ACS Sen29:39
30Susan Davis S Vet33:43
53Sarah Davies S Vet34:31
68Fiona Jones S Vet34:40
82Camilla Lauren-Maatta S Vet34:55
96Elaine Bisson M Vet35:11
118Rachael Bullock M Sen35:42
131Stephanie Piper S Sen36:00
143Lucy Cowton S Sen36:24
151Debra Goddard S Vet36:39
156Helen Williams S Vet36:52
164Jan Young S Vet37:07
192Anita Clementson S Vet38:06
207Nina Mason S Vet38:54
220Joanne Porter S Vet40:03
242Anja Fechtner S Vet41:48
243Jacquie Robson S Vet41:54
251Catherine Smith S Vet42:27
263Diane Watson S Vet44:16
275Denise Benvin S Vet46:15
281Helen Allen S Vet48:37
286Kerry Lister S Vet50:30
288Claire Galloway S Sen53:21

292 finishers.

Simon's the Man at Mansfield!

Mansfield Parkrun, Mansfield, Notts, 29th November

Simon Gardner

A trip down to my sister's often ends up with a bit of parkrun tourism and this time it was no different: I had a quick look about and my original plan was to go to the Rushcliffe parkrun but a last minute change of heart meant a trip to Mansfield won the day as it was only a 30-minute drive away.

The run is based in a park about 2.5 miles outside the town centre and is a 3-lap flat course on concrete paths with a bit of muddy, gravel track thrown in. The start was like nothing I'd encountered before: it is a path which isn't very wide, so several runners, myself included, congregated on a grassy bank adjacent to it, and of course this meant it was elbows out a bit while the two groups came together on the path, however it soon settled down.

I had over-indulged somewhat on the Friday, so arrived not exactly in prime racing condition and my first mile was around 6:16, putting me in about 7th place. I was tempted just to take it steady but I thought, "let's start to run hard and see what happens". I soon managed to catch everyone else, and overtook the first-placed runner at around the 2.5 mile point.

However, with it being laps you can get caught up with some of the later runners, which duly happened on this occasion. One runner accidentally blocked me off, but we both shouted our apologies and I still managed a somewhat weary but very welcome first place! (it's fantastic to finish first but the other runner's 30 minute parkrun was just as important as my 18 minute one).

I like the smaller parkruns as they have a family feel and Mansfield fitted the bill nicely.

Harrier League X-Country Returns To Durham!

Aykley Heads X-Country (NEHL), Durham, 22nd November

Anita Dunseith

Anita prepares herself for the REALLY hard bit ahead!As the majority of people who know me will be aware I unashamedly and vociferously love XC and Saturday's 'home' fixture at Aykley Heads was the best XC race I've ever been lucky enough to compete in.

I acknowledge I'm utterly biased but I thought the course was absolutely brilliant. It had everything, even a Grand National style jump that my hubby has christened 'The Chair'. There were a surprising number of hills crammed into the 2 mile lap; 'brutal' is the word I've heard repeatedly to describe the course by its competitors; 'unrelenting' and 'a proper cross country course' are a couple of others.

The initial part on the field was tricky given the large mounds of grass, then we descended quite gradually for a while enjoying the view over the railway and across the valley. Turn left and it was up a surprisingly steep hill to then turn right and along to 'The Chair' (a jump Desert Orchid would have felt at home with). Down again, this time VERY muddy and with a great hairpin right turn at the bottom, disappointingly few seem to have fallen here though! A long gradual ascent along the railway then a steeper climb (with you guessed it, mud!).

We turned left on the ascent to more of the thick brown stuff and struggled through the quagmire desperately trying to keep our shoes on until we reached the 'piece de resistance' of the course - a short steep descent put in purely for the privilege of running (crawling) back out of it again four seconds later! A true lung buster with the kind of mud XC is renowned for (Mudwoman's rain dancing has worked wonders this week). After the ascent it was time for recovery back on the divetty (if it's not a word it should be) field and on to the second lap!

The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant - the tents and banners were out in force and with pride as usual. There was purple and green face paint (war paint or go faster stripes depending on your outlook), the sun was shining, there was loads of mud, friendly marshals, many of them in purple, offering support all the way round, hugs, chats, so many laughs and even some tears.

Course marshals gather before the action begins at Aykley Heads

One of the really great things about XC for me is that there's competition at every point in the field. From the pointy elbowed whippets at the front to the super enthusiastic springer spaniels in the middle and us strong determined bull mastiffs bringing up the rear (thanks Kerry for the dog analogies), we all have someone we're keeping an eye on at each fixture to pit ourselves against. Some days you come out on top and others it's your nemesis who goes home grinning but (usually!) as you cross the line it's a handshake or a quick hug of 'well done' before more hill reps in time for the next fixture.

There are many times in my life I have complained about how easy gents have it compared to us ladies - they can wee standing up, they don't have crazy hormones to deal with and will never have their whole day's mood dictated by whether their 'bum looks big in this'. But, as I was midway through my second lap on Saturday I looked up at the clear blue sky and heaped thanks on the running gods and the wonderful officials at Harrier League that I wouldn't have to do a third gruelling lap.

I didn't run any faster than normal, nothing was particularly different to anything I'd normally do but Saturday was one of those days where everything 'clicked' and I absolutely loved every step.

I, Anita Dunseith am a XC addict.

...and Danny Lim

Danny conquers the pain and the last tough climb at Aykley Heads
Say 'cross-country' to me and I get hit with flashbacks of forced running at boarding school with my house-master barking orders from the rear. Yesterday, I was dreading another brutal experience. At the car park entrance, I was greeted by a smiling David Shipman. "You're not allowed in Danny". If only he meant it!

Aykley Heads was transformed into a running festival. A city of tents had sprung up and yards of marking tape snaked around the course. I arrived just as the women's race was under way. Their faces were etched with grim, unsmiling expressions: "Second lap?" I asked a fellow spectator, "no, just the first!" she replied. The ladies were clearly pulling out all the stops. I was inspired (terrified) to see them cross the finish, as if they were about to pass out.

It was a great course with obstacles to challenge the most seasoned runners. There was the "bad step", a three-foot vertical bank we had to vault up. In true Grand National style, there was "the bench", though no runners had to be put down yesterday. "Hairpin Corner" saw many a runner take an impromptu mud-bath. And who can forget the "Slide of Death", where I suicidally sprinted down before slamming into a fellow runner and crashing into the bushes. This was finished off by that final hill, reminiscent of Geoff Davies' "Burma road" hill sessions. At the finish there was quality male bonding as I dry-retched with Jon Ayres and David Brown, knees on the ground.

But the pain was neutralised by the phenomenal support from spectators and marshals. There seemed to be a cheering Strider at every turn, really it was unbelievable! My name was being called out so much that my fellow competitors asked, "Are you the famous Danny?" For a moment, I felt like Mo Farah as he raced to Olympic gold at London. A wall of purple chanted loudly in unison as I made my final muddy climb to the finish. I was embarrassed by it all but it made the pain all so much more bearable. Thank you all!

Most memorable of all was the hard work made by the small army of volunteers from the club, including parking attendants, marshals and course constructors, many of whom had been there since early morning. You are the unsung heroes of the day. What an honour it is to be part of such a warm and supportive club.

Car-parking marshals can't wait to start putting up their signs at Aykley Heads

Stephen Jackson, in his XC debut, was the first Strider to storm back home followed closely by Gareth Pritchard. Paul Evans who started in the medium pack, came in at an impressive third place. In the ladies' race, Penny Browell made a stellar performance, coming home seventeenth, from a medium pack start. She was followed closely by Elaine Bisson and Susan Davis.

Sally Hughes made her debut in the fast pack and gave it her all in the women's U17/U20. But youngest Strider award must go to Zak McGowan in the U13; way to go Zak! Helen Allen, Claire-Louise Wells, Laura Jackson, Stacey Brannan and Karen Hooper also made their first XC appearances, and what a tough start it was!

The senior ladies team put in an excellent performance which saw them promoted to third in Division One. Although the men had improved slightly, we are perched precariously near the bottom of the second divison. In the words of Geoff Davis, XC captain, "things are very tight at the bottom of the table and we've got to pull out all the stops to stay afloat!". So come on then, see you all at the next fixture, it's all hands to the pump!

...and Geoff Davis

There was a magnificent turn out of current Striders at Saturday's event but Aykley Heads was also graced by a posse of former, or less active, Striders who were once as familiar a sight at Maiden Castle as Jacquie Robson and Phil Owen are today! They included:

Alan Purvis - the founder of Striders' website and one of the initiators of the club's involvement in the Harrier League. Alan was a frequent 'counter' in the HL keeping us out of the 3rd Division right up to his late 60s.

Kim Hall - once the queen of triathlon winning many prizes at events in the UK and abroad. Would tour Europe with husband Mike picking up gongs as they went!

Linda McDermott - wonderful Linda - a veteran of the HL when the women's field was no bigger than the Striders' committee. Competed in road races all over the place including the Coniston 14.

Peter McDermott - Linda's other half and a man of many, many marathons. Always happy to help new runners with his vast experience.

Tony Young - Jan's better half and a top notch runner in his day. Achieved Fast Pack status at the HL, something most of us just dream about, and a keen runner over the fells. A man still missed by all who ran with him.

Pam Kirkup - a now retired teacher and Striders' secretary for many a year. Kept the club on an even keel while the rest of us were busy running up and down mountains. If she was a stick of rock and you snapped her in two - you'd see the words ELVET STRIDERS running right through her!

It was great to see them all - let's hope we see more of them at other races or Strider events.

...and Paul Evans

Paul tackles the mud of the 'Hairpin'
Flags; tents; chat; inclusion; happy, smiling faces. This, for many, epitomises cross-country and we, as a club, do it well. The best comparison I can give, personally, for the lovely pre-race scene is that of being lulled almost to sleep by the rhythmical beating of rotor blades, knowing that in a matter of minutes the helicopter will flare and you will leave the false comfort of its insides. Every passing minute brings the certainty of pain and the possibility of injury closer. Bowels churn, feet tingle and rituals such as lacing and re-lacing footwear are undertaken to occupy over-active mind and idle hands. As you may have worked out, my feelings for XC are distinctly mixed.

Saturday was a long day, with the anticipation spanning many hours thanks to our hosting of Durham's first cross-country fixture in over a decade. A true club effort in the car park and around the course saw us provide the vast majority of the volunteers needed to make it happen and, logistically, the day ran smoothly; it did, however, prolong the pre-race agony, as did the delights of seeing the thundering pack of Striders ladies attacking/churning-up the course. The pain etched on their faces did not bode well.

A further two and a half minutes extended the wait further as the male race began; as a medium pack runner I find it impossible to watch the starting pack disappear into the distance without mentally calculating how far they will have gone and how long it will be before even the smallest inroads can be made into them. The time dragged...and then it didn't. As a slow starter I struggle to keep up with what is always a rapid burst of effort in the first few hundred metres, knowing with my head that 3 x 2.1m = 'a long way to catch people' yet feeling with something else that the pack must be stayed with (fellow Striders particularly), even if it goes against the way I run in any other environment.

Aykley Heads is not just any environment and this was not just any day. This was a perfect course, long enough to stretch people, well-watered enough to suck shoes from the ill-prepared, hilly enough to sap legs on the ascents and destroy balance on the downhill and overwhelmingly beautiful, lit by a low, wintry sun. This was a course that beckoned you to attack, whatever your relative strengths, and rewarded you when you did so; both relentless plod and downhill gamble saw me gain places throughout the first lap, eventually catching the first Striders with Jerry Lloyd on my shoulder and Rob Everson somewhere ahead.

Jerry Lloyd - 'the Nemesis'
Running was exhausting, sustainable only by not thinking about anything other than the next vest in front and Jerry behind, then - shortly into the second lap - ahead. This was not good: the 90-degree downhill turn manned by Sophie saw him pull ahead and on the uphill stretch shortly after, Jacquie's bellowed shout for him was coming several seconds ahead of that for me. Aggression over 'The Chair', down 'The Mudslide' and around 'The Hairpin' saw us both gain several places with fell shoes proving their uncomfortable worth. However, he remained ahead and pulled further away as we descended to the railway line, up the hill, around the 'Bad Corner' and back to the start for the third and final lap.

There was still no sign of Simon, James, Geoff or Rob in front and Gareth and Stephen were clearly flying from the slow pack, but more and more purple vests continued to be caught and passed, one by one, a brief grunt was all the breath that could be spared in encouragement. Danny, Scott, David, Mike, Jon and Graeme were all running well but were peripheral to what was now a very personal run-off, conducted to what seemed to be a solid wall of noise from the spectators with Strider voices loudest amongst them.

Elswick; Tynedale; Gosforth; Blackhill; Crook; Alnwick; Strollers; Birtley; Jarrow: runner by runner, vest by vest, we worked our way around the course, same but different by now, as each turn was all the more treacherous on the last lap of the day. Jerry still led me down to the hairpin, though he was less steady on his feet by now. Unfortunately I was no better and slightly rolled an ankle whilst dancing past a competitor for the privilege of reaching the grabbing tree one position ahead of him. I stayed upright and the dance went on - down to the railway (where Anita drowned out the passing trains), up the drag where I caught and overtook him, then on, up the big climb (which had finally turned some runners into walkers) and into a new contest with Geoff now in sight.

Paul overhauls Geoff in 'the decisive moment'
A forward lean into the nasty corner descent (knowing he'd be doing the same and letting gravity work for him), a slight over-shoot and up the hill, aware that Geoff, Jerry and an Elswick Harrier were somewhere not far away. Then the final grassy stretch opened up: one right hand turn, with lungs and legs competing but failing to scream louder than the purple horde and it was over!

This was not a nice race. It was a perfect race that demanded all you had and asked for more. It was hard, brutal, elemental running, elegant in its simplicity, treating all who competed equally. Several runners did not finish with falls and sprains demonstrating the risks of this form of running. This was no parkrun or ultra trudge with tea and cake halfway round. Fine margins gained by single runner contests decide Harrier League places and the efforts of both ladies (an outstanding third on the day in the first division) and men (an improved eighth, by a mere 260 points to Elswick's 263) were just reward for the suffering endured - though we're still second-bottom in the second division and more will be required if we're to stay up.

This is a personal account and says nothing of the trials of Helen Allen, Laura Jackson, Karen Hooper, Catherine Smith, Stacey Brannan, Claire-Louise Wells, Stephen Jackson (first male counter) and any other newcomer who picked both the best and worst of XC races in which to make their debuts. It says little of the lovely camaraderie post-race and is not in any way a comprehensive account of a day which will probably prove the best XC fixture of the season in many ways. Finally, it also says nothing of what Jerry Lloyd experienced; Jerry, my thanks for an unforgettable (I hope for you also) 6.3 miles.


1Tim GouldingBirtley ACS Sen37:04
36Stephen Jackson S Sen41:33
63Gareth Pritchard S Sen42:44
175Paul Evans M Sen45:15
182Geoff Davis S Vet45:26
191Jerry Lloyd M Vet45:32
209Matthew Crow S Sen46:08
216Graeme Walton S Vet46:24
239Scott Watson S Vet46:59
252Matthew Archer S Sen47:22
255James Garland S Sen47:27
268David Gibson S Vet48:02
270Michael Hughes S Vet48:02
277Dave Halligan S Vet48:15
281David Brown S Sen48:22
283Jon Ayres S Vet48:27
302Danny Lim S Sen48:56
327Conrad White S Vet49:52
329Marc Jones S Sen49:56
344John Metson S Vet50:18
354Jon Steed S Vet50:36
406David Lumsdon S Vet52:19
424David Selby S Vet52:55
430Eric Green S Vet53:08
478Ari Hodgson S Sen55:23
490Innes Hodgson S Vet56:24
500Andy Short S Vet57:12
508Mark Dunseith S Sen57:50
512Phil Owen S Vet58:09
517Peter McGowan S Vet58:31
519David Spence S Vet58:34
528Nick Jones S Sen60:09
538Dave Robson S Vet61:39
541Lindsay Rodgers S Vet62:41
544Stephen Ellis S Vet65:15
549Andrew Thurston S Vet67:19

557 finishers.

1Jo RitsonDurham City HarriersS Sen28:23
17Penny Browell M Vet32:31 *
23Elaine Bisson S Vet32:49
38Susan Davis S Vet33:23
48Rachael Bullock M Sen33:40
53Lucy Cowton S Sen33:44
58Mandy Dawson S Vet33:53
70Camilla Lauren-Maatta S Vet34:09
81Helen Tones M Vet34:31
93Sarah Davies S Vet34:48
96Fiona Jones S Vet34:54
111Rachel Terry M Vet35:21
116Lesley Charman S Vet35:23
130Fiona Shenton M Vet35:37
137Debra Goddard S Vet35:53
151Juliet Percival M Vet35:58
160Melanie Hudson S Vet36:13
174Helen Williams S Vet36:44
177Stephanie Piper S Sen36:54
198Jane Ives S Vet37:36
200Jan Young S Vet37:36
246Jean Bradley S Vet39:32
248Nina Mason S Vet39:38
264Kate MacPherson S Vet40:22
268Katherine Preston S Vet40:31
280Joanne Porter S Vet41:22
286Anja Fechtner S Vet41:53
287Claire-Louise Wells S Vet41:56
295Jacquie Robson S Vet42:14
300Stacey Brannan S Vet42:37
311Catherine Smith S Vet43:56
317Louise Billcliffe S Vet44:27
321Karen Hooper S Vet45:27
322Denise Benvin S Vet45:43
323Diane Watson S Vet45:57
334Helen Allen S Vet46:51
347Kerry Lister S Vet51:14
348Anita Dunseith S Sen51:18
353Claire Galloway S Sen55:40
354Laura Jackson S Vet61:32

* Promoted to Fast Pack

354 finishers.

U17 & U20 Girls
1Lydia SharpeDurham City HarriersS U2019:49
27Sally Hughes F U2028:02

34 finishers.

U13 Boys
1Ben WardleGateshead HarriersS U1313:51
27Zak McGowan S U1316:29

52 finishers.

Commondale Beacon Fell Race, North York Moors, 16th November


Penny Browell

Elvet Striders at the Commondale Beacon Fell Race 2014
I approached my second fell race with a sense of determination...I had suffered some disappointment at my inability to fly down Roseberry Topping like the real fell runners had done a couple of weeks previously and was keen not to be overtaken by quite so many on today's downhills. It wasn't a great morning to wake up to - thick fog threatened to hide the beautiful Yorkshire scenery but nevertheless Camilla, Anita, Jan and I happily set off, all looking forward to getting muddy and hopefully not getting lost.

When we got the Commondale, I felt a warm glow as we registered in the Cleveland Inn. There's something about the atmosphere at these fell races which is so comfortable, informal and yet exciting. As we got ready the weather miraculously lifted giving us lovely views of the countryside and with no wind it became pretty much perfect running conditions. After catching up with Phil and a few others, Dave's race briefing was given, "It's muddy and don't get lost" and we were off.

Penny runs home into 38th place overall and third lady at the Commondale Beacon Fell Race 2014 Camilla running into 77th place at the Commondale Beacon Fell Race 2014 Phil running into 84th place at the Commondale Beacon Fell Race 2014
The race starts with a steep uphill on grass which certainly warmed us up, although almost as soon as we got started we ground to a halt as the path narrowed but we were soon speeding away again. The hill continued steeply but on road. My new fell shoes weren't particularly happy with the tarmac but the views as we climbed were impressive and it wasn't long before we turned off into the proper stuff.

Having been promised heavy mud I've got to admit I was a touch disappointed: yes, it was muddy but I had been looking forward to completely losing my feet in the bog and in reality there were only a couple of occasions when there was any danger of that happening.

Anita running into 86th place at the Commondale Beacon Fell Race 2014 Jan running into 87th place at the Commondale Beacon Fell Race 2014
It was a lovely course though; compared to my previous attempt at The 3-Tops, the hills were much less challenging but there was still plenty to think about in terms of footing and dealing with varying terrain, with a mix of rocks, mud, heather and 'traily' paths. I realised this is what I enjoy about off-road running. Instead of thinking about how fast I am or should be going, I actually have to think about what I'm doing and where to put my feet. Somehow that's more satisfying but less physically tiring for me.

The race is around 8 miles in length, undulating through the moors. Highlights for me were completely mistiming a stream crossing, which resulted in a very wet left foot and leg, and managing to attack the downhills with more courage than I'd managed previously. I was still doing my usual - overtaking on the uphills and getting overtaken on the downhills - but at least I was running rather than crawling and even got the sense of flying that Danny had described so well in his recent article.

The 8 miles seemed to be over in a flash - although a couple of the hills were tough, none of them were long and before long we were back on tarmac which I realised meant we must be close to the finish. Someone shouted "well done, you're third lady" as the pub came back into sight which gave me a massive boost, and so, after a final push, I was done.

After chatting to a couple of the guys I'd been to and fro-ing with for the last few miles it wasn't long before Camilla arrived, closely followed by Phil, Anita and Jan. We all retreated to the pub where we enjoyed a mix of hot drinks and Guinness and almost all of us were rewarded with bottles of wine (sorry Phil!). Again I was struck by the warm and friendly atmosphere and we all went home with smiles on our faces. I think it's safe to say I've got the fell running bug now - but where next?

Leeds Abbey Dash 10K, Leeds, W.Yorks, 16th November

Simon Gardner

Just after the Darlington 10K I was approached by Allan Seheult asking if I would be interested in following a 10K training plan. I immediately said yes but deep down I was worried about if I could physically and mentally follow a tough training plan.

I think it's fair to say I have had a very up and down year so far; I had a great run with Graeme Walton at Coniston 14 in March but since that point I had been having chronic problems with my left calf and achilles which culminated in a terrible run at the Pit Stop 10K in June at which I should have achieved a PB but missed out and totally trashed my achilles. I really thought at the time that was probably it and I would never improve my 10K time.

Thankfully with the help of Trevor and Neil at Platinum I scraped a new 10K PB at Tees Pride of 38:24. While I was pleased with the time it felt hideously painful and the thought of going for my ultimate target of under 38min was very intimidating but as they say "Rome wasn't built in a day" and 10 weeks of hard training was about to start.

It's weird how the training works, you go for several weeks not feeling much quicker but gradually it starts to kick in. I had managed to chip away at my parkrun PB then managing my fastest ever 5K and had also beaten my target for Leeds at the Town Moor 10K. So armed with a new 10K PB of 37:14 I was ready for the Abbey Dash. I had a discussion with Allan and he suggested that I should go for a 36 minute 10K. The thought of a PB in the 36 minute area was kind of scary - could I do sub-6 minute miling for 6.2 miles? - and God only knows how much it would hurt!

The Abbey Dash is well known as a very fast 10K. It attracts some of the fastest 10K runners in the country so my thinking was that I would get pulled along with everyone else. It's basically a flat out and back and as quick as you will find. As it was a 9:30 am start I travelled down on the Saturday so I could get to the start rested and ready to go.

Even though it starts on the road you actually congregate in a square which is set up according to the time you originally gave; they then walk each pen down in order, to the start line. It's a basic system, but one the likes of the Blaydon race could and should learn from. The start was very swift even though I set off bang on 6-minute miling I had loads of people flying past but that never bothers me as I know I have to run my own race.

Approaching the turnaround point at half way I knew I was quicker than Town Moor but I was finding the very slight climb at that stage very difficult. After the turnaround I did start to have some negative thoughts and did wonder if I should ease off as it felt very hard. Thankfully at this stage I got a shout out from Debbie McFarland and it was just the boost I needed. I said to myself that it might be my only chance of hitting my target so just run as hard as possible.

I had a quick chat with Jason Allison from Crook AC before the run who showed me the only the only real climb which was just before the finish: it's very short and not that steep really but on desperately tired legs it felt horrendous. However, just over the brow of the hill I could see the finish and the clock was still in the 36 minute mark and I knew at that point I had done it.

I'm thrilled at a new PB of 36:36 for 10K, averaging 5:54 per mile. I might never get close again but 10+ weeks of hard work and sacrifice have been worth it. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Allan for his support - I couldn't have done it without him.

I know this race generally clashes with Brampton to Carlisle but I would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a fast 10K run.

Tour of Pendle Fell Race, Barley, Lancs, 15th November


Scott Watson

Some poor guy gets roped into taking my picture outside race HQ after the race!Apologies for having my ugly mug all over this report but perhaps not unsurprisingly I was the only Strider at this excellent fell race in deepest, darkest Lancashire. This is actually one of the few races that I've taken the trouble to pre-enter and was part of a gradual process of re-introducing myself to the demands of fell-racing being the first AL event I had done for many years. Pivotal in my decision to pre-enter was the £7.00 fee which was less than half the EOD fee (£15.00) making, as far as I could see, the highly desirable t-shirt free!

On the day the main feature of the weather throughout northern England was FOG and sure enough, thick, persistent mist covered much of the event area throughout the race although the HQ in Barley itself was clear. Conditions underfoot were very boggy and the ground had been well saturated. Consequently many tracks were quickly turned into black, peaty mud slides after they'd been worked on by the feet of several hundred runners.

The event area is quite isolated and compact and the tour follows a figure-of-eight course to achieve its 27 gruelling kilometres with a punishing and unrelenting amount of climbing. The longer the race goes on the tougher the climbs get and the last three come in quick succession with the toughest being the very last. The intervening descents are long and extremely steep, for the most part on tussocky grass and rugged, muddy tracks that offer unnervingly little grip in wet conditions.

The first mile however, alongside the reservoir, is deceptively flat until the race turns onto the moor and encounters the first of the six climbs. From being quite a way towards the back I was able to consistently pass people as we made our way remorselessly upwards. After what seemed like an eternity we passed the mist-shrouded beacon on 'Big End' (with no other indicator of the considerable altitude) and headed downhill to the first of the eleven checkpoints we would visit that day.

Report continues here...
Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Brampton to Carlisle, 16th November


Gareth Pritchard

Gareth speeds towards a sub-60 minute finish at the Brampton to Carlisle road race 2014
Running the race is normally the easy part - getting to the start line injury free and in good shape is the real challenge. After the race our weekly club roundup email started like this: "Still injured; out of shape; a few weeks off the pace; aiming for sub-70 [are] all phrases issued by Gareth Pritchard in recent weeks!".

So I guess I should put this into context and hopefully add some colour to what was another great day on the beautiful tarmac for the Striders. Almost 2 months ago I injured my achilles quite badly and have struggled ever since then. The run/walk half at Haltwhistle finally shot it to bits in September where I came 2nd from last and had to walk over the line.

Even after this it took me another 3 weeks of failed self-taught rehab before I finally admitted defeat and went to see a physio like I should have done from the start - some big lessons learned.

Race day was almost perfect for running: fresh, dry and guaranteed to be mud free for my fellow PB hunters. Striders always put on a bus for this race which I highly recommend to everyone thinking about this next year. It's a great chance to catch up with fellow striders and a well earned pit-stop for Sunday lunch on the way home (they do a great chocolate cake).

After only managing 2 training runs and having to tape up my achilles for the race, I was trying to be realistic with my goals. So a slow start, then build to 5 miles and if my achilles is OK, push hard to hopefully be home in around 65 mins. That was the plan but as I always expected, it went out of the window as soon as the race began.

I started near to my fellow speedy striders, Grahame, Matt and Stephen then my natural racing instinct got the better of me. After clocking a suicidal first mile at a 5K PB pace I finally caught up with the marathon king, Stephen (the start is downhill so you have to take advantage, but we both suffered from this super speedy start).

I reigned myself back in and started to clock 6 minute mile pace. Still faster than I planned and I knew I was not in shape to hold it but no way was I pulling back from a race. Half-way came in about 29:30 and my achilles still felt good but my lack of fitness was really showing on the undulating course as my pace started slowing towards the end.

As I slowed and people passed I kept expecting to see a purple strider top and was mentally getting ready to dig in and race hard. Thankfully the last mile is all downhill but I had no real idea of my race time until I heard Alister's booming voice saying that sub-60 was still on as I neared the finish. A last mad sprint and and I was home - in 59:58! First strider home and still able to walk! I was very happy to say the least and only 45 seconds slower than last year - a total shock!

Stephen was 2nd strider home in 60:36 and looking a dead cert to break sub-60 next time after another massively impressive run. PB's were had by multiple striders so a big well done to all. Congratulations to Fiona Jones as first female strider home with an impressive sub 1:15. A special mention also for Sophie Dennis who had a horrible fall in the first mile but continued for another nine to finish. Two bloody knees but she was still smiling as she crossed the finish line showing true strider grit and a credit to the club.

There was no t-shirt or memento but there were two pairs of running socks in the goody bag, so I can't complain. As always, it was a well organised event, not all the roads were closed off but that really didn't make a difference. Another great day and one I will definitely be looking forward to again next year.


PosNameClubCatCat PosTime
1Tadele GeremewElswick Harriers149:48
56Alex SneddonJarrow & Hebburn ACL159:42
58 Gareth Pritchard 59:58
69 Stephen Jackson 1:00:41
131 Matt Archer 1:04:16
163 Graeme Walton V40 29 1:06:11
313 Fiona Jones L35 9 1:14:03
335 Elinor Butler L 47 1:15:15
340 Michael Downes 1:15:33
354 Lesley Charman L40 8 1:16:07
368 Jackie McKenna L45 9 1:16:55
379 Richard Hall 1:17:25
396 Anna Seeley L 65 1:18:33
408 Mark Dunseith 1:19:19
422 Greta Jones L45 16 1:19:54
426 Jean Bradley L55 5 1:20:10
440 David Spence V65 11 1:20:48
462 Paul Beal V50 42 1:21:39
489 Brian Ford V45 56 1:23:51
542 Lindsay Rodgers V45 61 1:28:28
557 George Nicholson V65 12 1:29:46
558 Sarah Fawcett L50 21 1:29:47
560 Rebecca Fisher L35 18 1:29:51
569 Andy James V65 13 1:31:03
582 Karen Chalkley L50 22 1:34:04
585 Claire Hunt L50 23 1:34:14
603 Christine Farnsworth L60 4 1:36:49
606 Denise Benvin L45 41 1:36:58
611 Jacquie Robson L35 20 1:38:30
612 Jill Ford L45 42 1:38:30
613 Victoria Downes L35 21 1:38:30
625 Karin Younger L50 27 1:39:32
632 Karen Hooper L35 26 1:42:10
635 Margaret Thompson L65 2 1:46:59
637 Anita Dunseith L 2205 1:48:52
638 Sophie Dennis L 2206 1:49:43
639 Sue Jennings L45 44 1:50:07
640 Kathleen Bellamy L35 27 1:50:08
641 Laura Gibson L35 28 1:51:35
642 Natalie Johnson L35 29 1:51:36

646 finishers.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Town Moor 10K, 9th November

Conrad White

Having missed the Darlington 10K due to family commitments I wanted another 10K before the end of the year. The Heaton Memorial 10K was on my radar and happened on a “free weekend”. It is also now part of the striders grand prix and a race I had last run in 2005. Definitely one to do.

As it was remembrance Sunday the road through Low fell was diverted by the cenotaph, leading to a slow diversion around Gateshead. However the day was fine, the roads thereafter clear and the organisation in registration at RGS went smoothly, allowing me to arrive at the start in ample time, but unfortunately not in time for the purple team photo.

We were given our instructions – basically - follow the bicycle for 10K and if you can’t see the bicycle follow the train of runners and don’t wear headphones. We respected 1 minute of silence at 11.00 and then we were off. Chip timing takes some of the rush out of the start but there seemed to be some very keen runners off like whippets and disappearing rapidly around the town moor. I took it a bit more sedately but was trying hard. The course is not flat but far from hilly, over two laps with a section where you double back on yourself and can see who is either a bit in front of you or who is on your tail. On the first lap I was able to cheer on Rob, Simon and Matthew (in front of me) and see Katy behind (I missed Graeme) and on the second lap, Katy and Graeme. With them behind me there was no letting up.

The weather was perfect for a good time – sunny and dry, but not too hot and barely any wind. I reached 5K in a time similar to my recent Durham park runs (so that was good) and held on for a just negative split second 5K to record a PB 10K on the Run Britain rankings and my best 10K time since before I got my Garmin in 2008 (which was even better). The fact that the last ¼ mile (400 meters for modern folk) is slightly down hill probably helped, along with being chased by Caroline from Crook (ex Run Director of the Shildon Park Run)- with whom I had had a close race in the Darlington 10K last year, and the thought of the Waltons not far behind! Thanks for the purple support at the end, and as usual striders were pretty vocal as our runners came into the finish. From the results it appears many had good runs with a number of both PB’s and SB’s on the Run Britain results. Simon I think taking the best part of a minute of his time – great performances all around.

The town moor has been having its fair share of running recently – we were able to see some of the marathon marking on the pavement and the “mo” run over the same 10K course was later the same day.


1Tadele GeremewElswick HarriersSen Male30:55
36Rob Everson Sen Male36:27
43Simon Gardner (M) V4037:14
76Matthew Archer Sen Male39:13
139Conrad White (M) V5541:42
178Katy Walton Sen Female42:54
180Graeme Walton (M) V4042:50
267Brian Ford (M) V4545:58
271Sarah Davies (F) V4546:04
292Anna Seeley Sen Female46:52
314Nicola Whyte Sen Female47:48
316Eric Green (M) V4547:51
438George Nicholson (M) V6555:01
440Denise Mason Sen Female55:08
470Karen Anne Chalkley (F) V5056:49
482Jane Baillie VF3557:31
484Denise Benvin (F) V4557:09
492Gillian Green (F) V4557:48
512Karen Hooper VF3559:27
515Debbie Mcfarland Sen Male59:44
544Sophie Dennis Sen Female1:03:21
556Helen Allen (F) V401:06:25
562Kerry Lister (F) V401:07:48
565Vicki Mclean VF351:08:06
567Laura Jackson VF351:10:16
570Lindsay Craig (F) V451:11:01
571Kate Talbot Sen Female1:11:37

574 finishers.

Hardmoors Goathland Trail Marathon, North Yorkshire, 8th November


Dave Robson

Dave and Mel at the start of the Hardmoors Goathland MarathonThis was the one Hardmoors trail marathon that Melanie and I missed last year and having heard lots of good reports about the scenery, we were looking forward to it. However, the weather forecast looked a bit grim. Light rain from 11.00 and then heavy rain from 12.00 for the rest of the day. With a start time of 09.00, we needed to be ready for some heavy weather. We had already been warned that that the ground was wet and boggy in places.

The start is a lovely downhill stretch to a river which you follow (and clamber rather than run) passing a spectacular waterfall - Mallyan Spout. Then it is up on to the moors where the trails were muddy, but not too bad. After a while we ran into forest and ran close the the tracks of the steam railway from Pickering. We crossed the line and then climbed back up again and at that point (about 11m) the rain arrived. It was out with the waterproofs and hoods up as the rain started to come down more heavily.

We really felt for the marshalls who were out in those conditions. We continued on to the Hole of Horcum and then skirted past RAF Fylingdales with its strange shaped buildings. From here we were on hard packed forest road for a while, but then we veered off on the Lyke Wake path. This section was completely flooded, boggy, muddy and streams were much wider and difficult to cross. After the first mile of the race we had given up any hope of keeping our feet dry, but here there was no choice but to run down paths which were streams. Finally, having crossed the railway again and climbed out of the valley, we turned for Goathland and warmth. Phil Owen was waiting for us half way up the final descent having stood out in the pouring rain for half an hour and is was great to see him and realise we were almost back. The village hall which was the race HQ was a very welcome sight. Phil ran back with us and then veered off to a coffee shop to get us life saving cappuccinos.

It wasn't quite our slowest marathon - see the Keswick Mountain Festival marathon earlier this year, but it was pretty close. I cannot recall having such tough underfoot conditions before. But in spite of that and the weather, it is an event we enjoyed and may well do again.

Dave and Mel at the finish of the Hardmoors Goathland Marathon

MoRun 5K, Town Moor, Newcastle, 9th November

Kerry Lister

'Mo Sistas' suitably attired for the MoRun 5K at NewcastleOne 10k race on a sunny Sunday wasn't enough for Helen Allen, Vicki McLean, Laura Jackson and me so, after the Heaton Harriers Memorial 10K, we signed up for the Newcastle 5k MoRun while Denise 'the Machine' Benvin joined Kirsty 'looks like her dad' Steed in the 10k.

The race is run in support of 'Movember' to raise money and awareness for Prostate Cancer so, yeah, it was expensive compared to the Heaton Harriers race in the morning but you get an awesome moustache medal, and I'm fairly sure our 'running outfits' may well have been frowned upon on by those in the more serious earlier run. Fancy dress and moustaches were optional but when my number came through as 118 then my fate was decided!

We lined up with hundreds of other people, young, old, dressed up, moustachioed, bare faced - all were welcome - then we were off! With many moans and groans we started on our 3rd lap of the Town Moor, then our legs finally loosened up and we began enjoying our MoRun. It wasn't fast, it wasn't particularly comfortable but, hey, it's not every Sunday you get to be a Mo Sista!

'Mo Sistas' done it for themselves - complete with 'tash' medals!

Local Level D orienteering event, Jesmond Dene, 9th November

Orange Course (3.3km 105m 13 controls)

Camilla Laurén-Määttä

My diary was looking worryingly empty for the weekend – no cross country competitions or fell races. Inspired by my recent orienteering experience as a vampire with a blank map (courtesy of the Northern Navigators’ Halloween Club Night) I decided to try out a NATO event. I had previously thought that these events had something to do with defence and camouflage clothing, but it turned out to just be an event arranged by Newcastle and Tyneside Orienteers. There had been a Saturday night event the day before, no doubt populated by vampires and ghosts, so this time I chose a civilised Sunday morning event.

Unlike pure bred runners, orienteers are a relaxed breed happy to start their treks at flexible points of time, which at this event was anytime between 10 and 12 a.m. I did not read the instructions for how to get to the start very thoroughly, so drove around in circles near Jesmond for a while. There were people of various ages running around with maps but I had no idea where they had appeared from. I asked one of them and he didn’t seem to have a clue either, but eventually I did find the car park.

Camilla checks her dibber.When it came to what to do during the event itself I had done my homework (the NATO website has a collection of FAQs that are really useful for newbies). The courses at Jesmond Dene ranged from 2.1 km (yellow) to 6 km (blue), so weren’t exactly taxing in terms of distance. However, the longer courses are more difficult to navigate so I decided to just do an orange course (3.3 km).

Like the Esk Valley fell races, there was a man in a van taking registrations in an equally cheerful manner, which made me feel at home. I also borrowed an electronic dibber which was to be used at the start, controls and finish so that I later could check my split times for each distance. At this point Dougie (Strider, experienced navigator and race report editor) also kindly assisted me so that I didn’t get lost on the way from the registration to the start box. Kate and Nigel from Northern Navigators had also arrived with their children including Maya (W10) who despite her young age and big smile is a fearsome competitor to have in the same race (she was also doing the same orange course as me).

Now, which map is mine?As a runner, it felt rather strange to stand on my own in the start box with nobody else at the starting line. I was told to just get started when I was ready and then dib my card and pick up an orange map. Off I went picking up the map which had a scale of 1:7,500 (meaning that each cm on the map was equal to 75 m so it was rather detailed compared to an OS map). The start was where the triangle was – I knew that much. Control 1 was at a spring which seemed to be just after a path junction – but in what direction? And was there a building in the car park behind me that I hadn’t noticed as there was a building marked on the map? Could the pavilion on the other side be the round black dot? No, that wasn’t right at all, but it took me a while to figure out that I had run into completely opposite direction to what I was supposed to do. A marshal felt sorry for me and pointed me in the right direction.

Ok, at least I knew where I was going now. I soon found the spring and then the foot of the cliff and the SE corner of the building. On the way between controls I met Saskia and then Debbie from Northern Navigators who both were doing more complicated routes. Control 4 was nicely placed on the other side of a bridge, but what about Control 5? That must be a hill, but there were no hills in between these two footpaths – so maybe it’s the hill higher up (never mind the footpath in between). Suddenly I had strayed far too high up – this was Control 9 not Control 5. Back down again – and there it was at last, Control 5 (by this time I had spent about 15 min wandering about). What a joy to be able to dib at last. I later figured out that the light brown dotted line was a dry ditch not the top of a big hill – and the height difference between each contour line was only 5 m so one line doesn’t make a massive hill. [You can view all the maps, courses and controls on the Routegadget website and follow Camilla's descriptions - Ed.]

The next controls were luckily easier to find and after my slowest 3 k ever I dibbed at Control 13 at the East side of a round building and then followed the tapes to the Finish and then went to the download point to record my results. The receipt that popped out of the machine mercilessly told me my splits (including 15:35 for Control 5) and total time (58:20). Maya won the orange course in about half the time (29:44) but I wasn’t last (4th place out of 6, but it’s possible that the other ones didn’t run). Northern Navigators did brilliantly overall, with Nigel and Dougie in 1st and 6th position respectively for the Blue course, Saskia and Debbie in 2nd and 6th place respectively for the Green course and Maya’s big sister Jeneba in 6th position for the light green course and little sister Yolanda 7th for the yellow course.

The Finish of an Orienteering Race can often be quite a lonely affair.

I finished off by buying a coffee from the café van and sitting down on a bench to enjoy the sunshine and the wildlife (fat rat crossing the path purposefully and without using a map). Now, should I be doing a light green course next time [Absolutely! Ed.] and when can I fit in the next orienteering event?

Leg It Round Lathkil, Over Haddon, Peak District, 9th November

BM/11.5 km/290 m

Ari Hodgson

The Leg It Round Lathkill fell race was my first fell race and given my new location in some place in South Yorkshire that used to make a lot of steel, the lure of the Peak District was too strong. With a little push from the Dark Side, namely Sheffield University Orienteering and Fell Running club (ShUOC), I found myself crossing the border and ending up in a rather unfamiliar place, Derbyshire I think it's called but don't quote me on that. Once at the destination, a little hotel surrounded by farmer's fields on one side of a river valley, time to get kitted up and ready, unfortunately that meant the black and gold of my university kit (whilst not purple, the vest does match my usual running shorts and when you've no coordination normally, colour coordination does matter) [Are you having a laugh? - Ed] and then we were lined up and off, embarking on the first of no doubt many a fell race.

It's well known that I have tendency to go off far too fast at the beginning of a race, ask Geoff, Scott and Graham so I tried to reign it in a bit and thought I was doing okay trying to save some energy for an uphill finish. (That brings me on to the first piece of advice I received during the race day, warm up at the finish so you know what to expect should it come to a sprint finish.) Returning to the race events, I thought I was going off tamely by my standards until the coach of ShUOC came into sight. Quick double check and I remembered she'd said she was mildly hung over for a night out the night before (Pop Tarts, I was dragged once, I have Finnish flag on wall as a result), all things considered I was probably going at comfortable pace then the queues hit post a rather technical road descent (I must thank Arid Man and Dustbowl Woman for teaching me not be afraid of risky lines and bringing out the elbows through the Harrier League). To say there was many a style, gate, wall to climb over would have been an understatement but it was all part of the course, the very wet, slightly flooded and quite traily (that's a word now, use it well) opening half of the course. Those queues however were nothing compared to the one at the "stairway to heaven". Steps, lots and lots of very steep, very slippery steps going, what felt like straight up for quite a while, given the queue to even get near them, walking up them, unfortunately was the only way up given my position in the pack at that point.

Report continues here...

Hardmoors Trail Half Marathon, Goathland, North York Moors, 8th November

13.2 miles

Diane Watson

Elvet Striders at the Hardmoors Trail Events, Goathland, North Yorks: Jules; Mark; Anita; Phil; Diane; Helen; LyndsayI entered this off-road half marathon, which was part of the Hardmoors 26.2 Trail Marathon series of races, with trepidation having never run a trail or fell race before. I had gone over the course on the map with a little help from my husband Scott, and felt sure I stood little chance of getting lost, but it was nice to have the reassurance of a backstop runner just in case.

After meeting up with Phil, Juliet and Anita, who were also doing the half marathon and Anita's husband Mark together with Lyndsay and Helen Rodgers who were all doing the 10K (Dave Robson and Mel Hudson were doing the marathon but I never actually saw them), we set off on what was a chilly (six degrees) morning with a promise of rain by the afternoon.

Diane on the muddy trail over Simon Howe RiggFollowing a gentle downhill start, the steep steps of the first incline got the blood pumping ready for the action at the top. Through the woods, we passed the spectacular waterfall of Mallyan Spout then crossed the river via stepping stones that were about 6 inches below fast flowing water (I had thought at the race brief that the stepping stones had been a joke and so it seemed did the runner behind me).

Then, after a tough climb out of the woods, we were onto the fell sections which were pretty muddy (up to the knee at times) but the views were great. The two jelly babies I took from the 1st checkpoint were carefully tucked away in my pocket but they were a sorry state when I eventually took them out at home! The later sections of forest track however were not my thing at all: they were fast (I'm not) and long and not at all enjoyable as several runners caught and passed me.

Scott came with me for support on the day and was running around with the dog taking photos. He cheekily told me later that he was disappointed about his failure to get a photo of me belly down in the mud after I made a full-length 'face plant' courtesy of the effect of muddy, rocky paths on tired legs. However, the resulting face decorations seemed to delight many back at the village hall!

Finished with a face-pack!I was really pleased at how I went overall - particularly over the last fell section - not fast but nice and steady, catching other runners every now and then. Unfortunately, as soon as I hit the road on the run into the finish in Goathland, quite a few passed me, some of whom had overtaken me on the previous road section and who I'd then caught on the fell.

I was chuffed to get back in time for the presentations having previously laughed at how early they were (I expected to be out much longer than I was) and for the fact that I was never close enough to the back to be able to see the backstop runner (hallelujah!).

We had escaped all but the slightest sprinkle of rain, but the marathon runners including Dave and Mel were not so lucky. By the time we were chomping on well-deserved quiche and cakes (very nice!) the rain was falling heavily and it was still only one degree higher than the morning. I can see now why waterproofs were compulsory but was quietly pleased that my race had ended.

Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race, Guisborough, North Yorks, 2nd November

AM/13 km/655 m

Scott Watson

Elvet Striders at Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race 2014 On yet another unseasonably warm day in November with autumn glowing rich and golden in the weak sunshine, seven Striders gathered in the grounds of Guisborough Rugby Club for the third in the Northern Runner/NEHRA Winter Series fixtures; this time a roughly 13 km jaunt taking in the lofty features of High Cliff Nab, Roseberry Topping and Hanging Stone all lined up along the northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors and waiting silently to receive the briefest of visitations from 128 frenetic fell-runners.

Contenders for Elvet Striders on the day were: Camilla Lauren-Maatta, Rachael Bullock, David Selby, Penny Browell, Danny Lim, Paul Evans and Scott Watson. Rachael was coming back from an innocuous but nasty cycling injury and Penny was attending her very first fell race as part of a meteoric debut season with Elvet Striders. For everyone else (to the best of my knowledge) it was just another day at the fell-running office.

The race briefing on the upper reaches of Belmangate was longer than its title suggests with emphasis placed on the consequences of trespassing and the potential effects of fallen trees (cleared away as it turned out) on the race start. Then with a faintly disinterested 'off you go' from the organiser, Dave Parry, we were away up the path and into the wood.

From my position somewhere in the middle of a jostling pack I could see Paul starting steadily as he is inclined to do. Penny was just ahead and everyone else appeared to be behind me. As with so many fell races, the uphill starts are demanding and we were soon strung out in a long, gasping line as the track narrowed to a muddy trail. Then it was just one long, lactate-producing, ascent out of the woods and up to High Cliff Nab.

Report continues here...

Guy Fawkes 10, Ripley, 2nd November


Kirsty Steed

We had been down South for a few days prior to this race and rather than drive all the way back home and having to head back down to Ripley again the next day we thought we would instead treat ourselves to a night in a local inn. The Boar's Head in Ripley looked nice and had the bonus of being right next to the start - so with a lie-in and car parking on offer it was a no brainer really. It was lovely too, we had a cracking meal in the restaurant the night before and had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching runners arrive and register, we could also grab our numbers before it got too busy and use the bathroom as many times as we liked before the start, sheer luxury!

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, my Goody Bag came to me. The weather was once again glorious, there was a bit of a nip in the air but the sun was shining and it was just lovely. We bumped into Graeme Walton and Jon Ayres at the start but despite the reasonably small field I missed both Jackie McKenna and Helen Williams - sorry! There was an attempt at a briefing before the race but either the directors megaphone wasn't working or I was too far back as I didn't hear a word of it and only knew we were off when everyone in front started moving. It was a bit congested for the first half-mile or so, on a track through the grounds of the beautiful Ripley Castle.

I hadn't done this race before but Jon Ayres had warned that it was a bit hilly and not to go out too fast. This isn't a problem at the moment for me anyway but the congestion helped dictate a pretty sensible pace to begin with and as tarmac turned into rocky trail I was just concentrating on where my feet were going. We ran through a farmyard (which did NOT smell good) and then back onto the road for a bit of an incline.

We then turned off onto a much smaller road and another climb before a lovely mile of downhill and before I knew it I was at the first water station at 4 miles. After this came the first of the named climbs, the Birstwith Brute. And brute it was, I decided at this point to walk the named hills and try and run the rest. The brute was long and unforgiving and the majority of folk around me were doing a mix of walking and complaining about the hill, much like I was, but eventually it finished and it was off downhill again in glorious scenery.

The next named hill was the Swinecliffe Swine, another hands on knees drag but a chance to rest the quads before the next downhill. There was another water station at 8 miles before the final hill - "For Fawkes Sake" - love it! I walked this one too and was overjoyed when the marshal at the top confirmed that it was the last one and that there were only 1.5 miles to go until the end, although he did say it was undulating rather than flat. This was indeed the case, the last mile wove its way through the castle grounds before a final sprint uphill to the finish, and I was pleased to still have enough in my legs to finish strongly.

Hot enough for ice-cream. I had remembered halfway round that the reason we had signed up to this race was because I had heard it was a goody bag of delights and that proved to be the case with no fewer than TWELVE chocolate bars (Graeme got 16!) and a t-shirt, well worth the pain of the hills! Good performances all round from the Striders too, on what was a tough but fun course.

It would have been rude to visit Ripley and not try some of its famous ice-cream so we treated ourselves to a large cone in the shop and soaked up a bit more of the sunshine before heading home to a chocolate fest.

I really enjoyed this race, yes it was hilly but there were some glorious downhills and the scenery was stunning, and I really enjoyed making a weekend of it too, I think this will definitely be going on the calendar for next year, Brute or no Brute!

Stranraer 10K, 1st November

Anita Dunseith

This was a fixture I was keen to do as a test of how far I've come because this was my first 'proper race' a year ago.

The weather was a quite windy but a lot nicer than last year (thunder, lightning, hailstones, rain and wind) which made for a positive start.

So what does this year's T-shirt look like?If ever a route was made for a negative split this is it, the whole first half of the race is a steady climb up onto the fields above the town with a gorgeous view of the loch to the left and the endless fields of 'coos' to the right. 3km has the infamous Gallow (Galla) Hill which is a stinker, not dissimilar to Redhills bank in that it just keeps going, ever upwards! Last year I walked this beast. My lovely mother-in-law took pity on me and kept me company as I dragged myself up it. This year she was waiting at the top to cheer me on, I didn't quite manage to run all the way today but I got up it in a fraction of last year's time.

Once at the top it was a case of dodging the farmers and their trailers while taking in the view and making the most of the descent back into town and the rather less scenic industrial estate. The final mile and a half is a long straight road (it feels about five miles long) that takes you back to Stranraer Academy. The lovely thing about this race is that because it's quite small (less than 200 runners) you get a personalised cheer from the Race Director as you enter the running track for the final 100 metres.

I was chuffed to bits to overtake two people who had been ahead of me for quite some time with about 1.5 miles to go and one lady in the final 200m. As I ran the final straight listening to Mark, his mum and her best friend cheer me from the left I (very randomly) heard 'Oh! She runs for Elvet Striders'. I thought no more of it until I crossed the line and a guy came over to Mark and I and asked us to name check him because he loves reading Elvet Striders' race reports so much and thinks our website is great! So here you go - David Beattie, Secretary of Galloway Harriers, this is your shout out! [David is also namechecked in Colin Blackburn's 2011 Kielder Marathon Report - Ed.]

Although the official results aren't out yet I'm over the moon to have knocked about 15 minutes off last year's time and about two and a half minutes per mile. It's been a hard year but this has helped put a couple of demons to rest and shown me that hard work and determination do pay off.

Ashton Court parkrun, Bristol, 1st November

Kirsty Steed

A trip down memory lane in Bristol (I spent six years there as a student) led us to Ashton Court on what the run director quite aptly named "the sunniest November parkrun ever". It was blazing sunshine and 18 degrees according to the car temperature gauge - bonkers! The setting couldn't have been nicer either, the blue skies contrasting with the green of the rolling hills and the stately home that sits in the grounds.

Typical sunny November. I hadn't really had a chance to look at the course or description before we turned up, I knew it was an out and back but that was about it. The very helpful beginners briefer confirmed the out and back nature of the course but also told us that it was a bit of an unusual one in that it was 1.5 miles uphill followed by 1.5 miles back down. My hill running of late has been pretty non-existent so I was a bit scared, but the thought of sailing downhill for the last half sounded pretty nice. No pain no gain...

The start is on a path by Ashton Court house and was a bit congested to begin with, however the start of the hill spread the field out nicely. I didn't really have much of a plan in mind other than trying to save my legs for the following day's event but decided that I would try and run the entire way uphill and then try not to get overtaken on the downhill. It really was quite steep and relentless, first on tarmac and then on a gravel track where the wind had picked up too, ouch. I made steady progress though and was overjoyed to see the first of the fastest runners tearing downhill past me as that meant the end of the hill was nigh. Shared a quick high five with Jon as he whipped past me and then round the turning point with a very smiling marshal - he really was a vision of loveliness!

Then the downhill - and what a downhill it was. The gravel track was a bit uneven, one runner did quite an impressive Steph Walker in front of me but picked herself up straight away and continued. It wasn't too long before gravel made way to tarmac and one of my most favourite running experiences ever - storming downhill in glorious sunshine. That is the joy of a hill out and back because you know you can just let yourself go, and very nice it was too.

It might not have been my quickest parkrun (just under 31 mins for me) but I achieved both goals of not walking and not being overtaken on the downhill so I was pretty pleased, and Jon had done well too in just over 23 mins, not bad for a self-confessed hill-hater. Even better was the massive IKEA breakfast we consumed afterwards, an excellent antidote to the previous night's pub crawl. What a nice parkrun anyway and something a bit different, we will be back!

Northumberland Castles Marathon, Alnwick, 26th October

Kerry Lister

Kerry celebrates her success after the Castles MarathonLining up on the start line at Alnwick Castle to complete my second marathon in 2 weeks with only 73 other people was a daunting start to a Sunday morning. Still I knew I could do the distance, not quickly but it could be done.

After a quick briefing, basically don't get run over because the roads aren't closed, we were off. Most of the other runners disappeared quite quickly into the distance. I could see a man in front of me and a lady behind me, both far enough off that I could see but not communicate with them. I was on my own.

Sticking to my run/walk race plan I plodded on, stopping at about mile 6 to loosen my right shoe as my toes were hurting. Mission accomplished - pain dissipated - I continued on.

Mile 10, getting a bit lonely so (against race rules - sorry) popped a single earphone in and enjoyed the company of the Marathontalk boys for a good few miles.

The man in front had now disappeared, leaving me and the lady behind. Plodding on, up inclines and hills, sideways rain lashing for a short time, reaching the halfway point 2:31 - not bad considering both my GNR times had been significantly more than that.

At this point the young lady, Nicola Hall, overtook with a smile (or was it a grimace?) - her first full marathon and she was trotting along nicely.

Then the wind started. Confirmed the next day by the Met Office as consistently 25-30 mph with 50mph gusts I was mighty pleased I'd done the fell run the week before - I knew I could do this. Time for an entertainment switch - bit of Barry Manilow (don't judge me) kept me going.

Conjuring a smile for the camera during the Castles Marathon 2014By mile 20 into the headwind I was doing 50-100 steps running, 10-20 steps walking but the miles were being eaten up and, I'm proud to say, I overtook a group of 4 of the half marathoners.

Regular interaction with the marshals made the journey more pleasant and a car full of lovely ladies with signs supporting Nicola kept appearing 'touch the flash for power', I'm grateful for the hugs and the fact that although Nicola was now in front of me they waited to cheer me on.

The water stop at mile 24 got me emotional, there the ladies were with a new sign 'you're a marathoner' and a little pep talk from the marshal while I stopped my hyperventilating sobs and I was off again for the final uphill stretch.

Coming into Bamburgh was awesome, Helen and Phil Allen cheering me on, my sister and hubby at the finish line. The lovely Nicola and her ladies drinking champagne. I'm not ashamed to say I was tearful, although I'd been proud at the Yorkshire Marathon, today I'd been alone for 5:33:58 and 26.2 miles, I had accomplished this all under my own steam. So I was last, I was number 74 out of 74, probably the first time the first Strider in was the last runner. But I did it, I'm proud of me.

Quote of the day from an older lady in the pub 'I've never met a marathoner before', well, I told her 'you have now' .

Blowin' in the Wind

Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, 25th October


'The times they are a'changin' for Striders as no less than 7 women made their cross country debuts for the club at South Shields on Saturday! In total there were 27 Striders in the senior / veteran women's team plus our own 'girl from the north country' Sally Hughes in the u/20 / u/17 women's race. What a turn out! The men too managed to muster 21 of their number including Ari Hodgson and Peter McGowan donning the purple vest for the first time at the HL.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.

The 'buckets of rain' we'd been praying for never materialised so rather than providing 'shelter from the storm' our perfectly pitched tent made do with keeping us out of the wind. And how it blew - although not hard enough to keep Sally from a top ten position in her race. Hers was a gutsy performance - 'just like a (Striders') woman' which must have had Dad Mike thinking 'you're a big girl now'. Well done Sally!

The ocean of purple then flooded onto the start line for the women's race. Another huge field of over 300 runners waited for the off making me reflect on how 'things have changed' for women's x/c over recent years. This was wonderfully illustrated by the presence of our debutants: Elaine Bisson, Jennifer Cooper, Kelly Collier, Kate MacPherson, Kay Cairns, Claire Galloway & Diane Watson. What 'simple twist of fate' brought them all to this spot on this day? Was it parkun, C25K, tales of daring do from HLs of old – who knows? Whatever it was the team would have been much the poorer 'if not for (all of) you'!

Gypsy Lou. Pressing On. At the front Katy flew round, closely followed by Elaine, to finish first senior Strider & first veteran Strider respectively. Other 'counters' included Fiona K-J & Mudwoman for the Vets team and Lucy and Steph P for the seniors (well done Lucy & Steph – first time as counters). But what support they had from the rest of the purple tide! Kelly - seeming to love every minute, Kate - grimly determined, Barbara - with the 'dignity' we come to expect & Jan - who will surely stay 'forever young'! Well done to all of you – 6th team place in the Vets competition and 13th in the seniors!

The men were last to go but we say to the Striderettes 'don't think twice it's all right'! A huge crowd of blokes in club vests of every hue set off round the still dry, firm and relatively flat course. Rob once again flew across the grass 'like a rolling stone' to make it as first Strider home followed by Simon as first vet in what was perhaps his best ever x/c performance(?) . Neil Sleeman was next senior home and I suspect many Striders watching were pleased to see an expression of pain etched on his face – no prizes for guessing why! It was also good to see Neil's family there but I did wonder to myself: 'Corrina, Corrina' why aren't you running? However, I suspect budding Strider Georgina must have said 'it's alright Ma' not to run!

A trio of Striders, locked together, were to follow Neil to claim the remaining 'counter places'. Scott had been glued to Mudman's shoulder 'most of the time' put pulled away at the last to overtake Matt Crow as well. Mudman tried that too thinking 'when you gonna wake up' as his sprint brought him ever closer to a seemingly ambling Matt – who did wake up just in time!

Masters of War. Once again there were great performances by Striders throughout the field. Mike Hughes had a great run storming round like a 'hurricane' for his best ever finish – upwards and onwards I think! Young Ari just piped his old man, Phil O avoided the 'desolation row' of Cramlington, poor Eric was robbed of 385th place and it was good to see Mettie in the mud again and thinking of those 'summer days' in the medium pack! Well done to you all – 13th team in the Vet's competition and 21st in the Seniors! To each and every one of you I want you to know 'I believe in you'!


1Nick SwinburnMorpeth Harriers & AC M Sen28:55
54Rob Everson M Sen34:09
120Simon Gardner S Vet36:51
160Neil Sleeman S Sen37:57
199Scott Watson S Vet39:03
200Matthew Crow S Sen39:04
201Geoff Davis S Vet39:05
209Michael Hughes S Vet39:23
218Matthew Archer S Sen39:51
240David Brown S Sen40:20
253Graeme Walton S Vet40:45
259Aaron Gourley S Sen40:52
260Conrad White S Vet40:53
318John Metson S Vet42:37
319Jon Steed S Vet42:39
374Richard Hockin S Vet44:13
379Ari Hodgson S Sen44:20
383Innes Hodgson S Vet44:48
386Eric Green S Vet45:02
420Peter McGowan S Vet47:24
424Phil Owen S Vet47:41
446Stephen Ellis S Vet51:54

453 finishers.

1Alyson DixonSunderland StrollersF Vet22:05
34Katy Walton M Sen26:39
46Elaine Bisson S Vet27:25
63Fiona Jones S Vet28:28
79Lucy Cowton S Sen28:54
91Susan Davis S Vet29:13
118Camilla Lauren-Maatta S Vet30:08
143Debra Goddard S Vet30:46
176Stephanie Piper S Sen31:42
184Jan Young S Vet32:04
187Jean Bradley S Vet32:12
191Stef Barlow S Vet32:18
212Anita Clementson S Vet33:15
231Kate MacPherson S Vet33:59
239Jacquie Robson S Vet34:27
241Anja Fechtner S Vet34:30
242Barbara Dick S Vet34:31
265Kirsty Steed S Vet36:13
272Joanne Porter S Vet37:04
277Diane Watson S Vet37:29
279Jennifer Cooper S Vet37:33
280Louise Billcliffe S Vet37:36
283Kelly Collier S Sen37:43
285Denise Benvin S Vet37:53
294Joanne Richardson S Vet38:26
309Anita Dunseith S Sen41:56
310Kay Cairns S Sen42:42
312Claire Galloway S Sen45:09

314 finishers.

U17 & U20 Girls
1Ellie MahonGateshead Harriers S U2022:56
8Sally Hughes S U2022:56

25 finishers.

UKA Fell & Hill Relay Champs, Middleton & Barbon Fells, Kirby Lonsdale, 19th October

Scott Watson

Sally & Mike B before the offThis year, this prestigious event in the fell-running calendar was held on the little-known (to me at least) Barbon and Middleton fells, a very compact but no less hilly venue between Sedbergh and Kirby Lonsdale. Conditions-wise, wind was to be the main feature of the day but at least in Durham it remained a generally pleasant day; over the Pennines there was no sun to be had and the weather deteriorated persistently as the day wore on, leaving later runners to contend with driving rain and mist.

The event was well organised as always, this time by Dallam Running Club and Howgill Harriers, and the first runners representing the 213 registered teams were marshalled together on a wind-blown field at the foot of Middleton Fell for a 10 o'clock start. Elvet Striders were able to field two teams: Team 'A' comprised Sally Hughes (Leg 1), Mike Hughes & Paul Evans (Leg 2), Camilla Lauren Maatta & Scott Watson (Leg 3) and Jan Young (Leg 4); Team 'B' was Mike Bennett (Leg 1), Kerry Lister & Nigel Heppell (Leg 2), Anita Clementson & Phil Owen (Leg 3) and John Metson (Leg 4). Of course, it shouldn't be forgotten that 'Mudman & Mudwoman', Geoff and Sue Davis (running for that 'other' club on this occasion) were there first thing with tent erected and waiting to receive guests!

As I mentioned before, this is a prestigious event that always attracts the very best fell runners in the country to compete for their clubs, consequently the course is 'challenging' to say the least. Legs 1 & 4 were for single runners and were effectively the same course run the opposite way round. Leg 2 was a longer course for pairs and Leg 3 was a navigational course for pairs...

Report continues here...

18th Gibside Fruit Bowl Trail Race, 19th October

6M (approx)

Laura Gibson

Who was it that suggested doing Gibside Fruitbowl again?!! Laura C says it's nice but there are a couple of hills. The night before the race and I'm sitting debating whether to have a glass of wine and whether it's shorts or crop trousers and just a race vest or T-Shirt. I'm nervous as I haven't run the miles since the GNR. So I have a glass of wine and get my kit ready. Crop trousers and vest it is.

All together: It's Not Flat!

Next thing I know the alarm goes off and I have to clamber over my 3 year old and peel myself out of bed to switch it off before her and the husband wake up. Why oh why do I put myself through this. I feel sick, I need to eat, but I'm excited at the same time. Then I see Laura Chapman's car pull into the street. I give the kids a kiss goodbye and pile myself into the car with Laura C, Natalie J, Joanne T and Tracey S. Luckily the girls kept my mind off the race taking about puppies (As in dogs, Natalie is getting one) and general chitchat.

We arrive in the carpark and get out the car deciding what to take with us and what to the leave in the car. Then the heavens opened. Great!! Just what we need, cause I know Gibside from going with the kids and those lovely hills will be fun when wet!! We run past Dave Robson and Mel who are safely sat in their car keeping dry, then head to the toilets to meet up with lots of other striders. Do I need a wee or don't I. Of course I need a wee.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, Striders up high. Then we all line up at the start. The obligatory race photo is taken. Announcements are made and the claxon goes. 'Oh sh*t' I announce to Kelly and we're off. I'm quite happy trotting along the long walk with my fellow striders then we turn the corner to see the faster runners coming up a lovely grassy hill to the left. Meanwhile, the marshals are shouting at us, 'Don't look' and so we start on up the first hill. I know this one and it's tough walking it. Alister's friendly face and gentle voice greets us at the top! We turn the corner and head downhill to then head DOWN, yes down, a grassy stretch. I'm feeling ok and I'm keeping up with Kelly. I've lost Natalie and Tracey by this point and I'm wondering whether to take it really steady and wait for them to catch up or just keep it steady behind Kelly. I keep it steady mindful of Tracey and Nat behind. They'll be ok, though Tracey is so going to kill us for the hills. We head on up the grassy bit. Kelly says, 'are we going for it'. Well of course we are now you've said that. We get to the top with cheers from the marshals. I have to say the support en route was great.

We're a mile and a bit in and we're ok. Until we reach the next hill. Then there on in it's hills hill hills. We catch up with Laura C and Joanne T and basically stick together the rest of the route, walking the hills until a holler from Alister, 'Kelly Collier get running'. We ran our little socks off and smiled for every camera. I spotted Natalie and Tracey over the other side of a hill so screamed encouragement hoping they were ok and not feeling like giving up like I did. We reached the river banks and I knew what was coming. Kelly had gone off ahead and I was keeping up with Laura and Joanne, just I was shattered. One last muddy climb and we were on the last stretch. My fellow striders, as always, were encouraging and helped get me round. We met up with Kelly again and we're on the home straight. The longest home straight I've ever done. (Except for that last mile at the GNR). We did it together, until the competitive streak took over and we started to sprint. 'Let's hold hands Laura says' Kelly being Kelly says' I'm not holding anyone's hand. We did it!!!. That was the worst race I've ever done!!! The views were beautiful, but it was flippin hilly!!! I'll probably say I loved it tomorrow.

Beaming Striders. We just had time to get our water and flapjack and put on our t-shirts when in came Natalie and Tracey. Awesome!! I'm so proud of Tracey completing that hell. She did amazing. Then we had just got our jumpers on, when in comes a disabled girl Natalie had given up her medal for at Gateshead 10k trail race. The girl was greeted over the finish line by what looked like her partner and collapsed in a heap. We all burst into tears. What an inspiration. It all puts it into perspective. And here's me moaning.

So we head home not before Kelly tries to get me to go to the pub for a bevvie, I was tempted, but I was good and headed home. Banter in the car was all about hills and Tracey announced, 'that was hell on earth.' I must say I'm inclined to agree.

Oh and I forgot to mention the rainbow. That was ace. We doing it next year girls?!!!

A quick costume change before a final photo.

Richmond Castle 10K, 12th October

Karen Hooper

Karen and Gill.So, I booked this race as a birthday present for a good friend of mine who was moaning she hadn’t done much running since Blaydon, her response "what kind of a friend buys you pain for a present!." As it happens she was ill & so another friend stepped into her shoes – Gill only started running a few months ago & her furthest run so far was 7 miles so this was a challenge for her 1st ever race. We set off with a couple of friends in tow as cheerleaders, everyone I’d mentioned this race to had a wry smile & murmured something about hills so I was slightly nervous. I also felt quite underprepared having done little running since GNR, but anyway – a sunny day, child-free with good friends lay ahead. Not many Striders signed up to this one so it was a pleasant surprise to bump into John Hutchinson & Jackie McKenna in the car park (they also mentioned the hills!) Got our race numbers, tried on some trail shoes, sat in the sun & then wandered down to the start in the park next to the river. All the other runners looked a bit professional so I did think this might be the race that I actually did finish last.

We were off – Jon Ayres running past me at the start wishing me luck. I ran with my friend for the 1st mile or so, there were a couple of narrow single file points, then we separated & the hills started. It was hot & there definitely were hills – should’ve had a camera placed at the little bridge at about 7 or 8k to capture the looks on faces as we came down out of the tree-lined road to see a pretty little bridge & a mahoosive steep long hill after it!

My Garmin failed to find a satellite at the start so I didn’t have much idea of my distance or pace. The race was mainly on roads with some traffic so there was a bit of on/off pavements, there were some little loops into the local neighbourhood where it was lovely to see plenty of support from residents & children. The water halfway (at the top of a hill) was very welcome. Richmond is a very beautiful area, lovely streets & walls, tree-lined roads, hills, pretty bridges & views of the Castle & river.

The last push up to the castle up a long hill, on cobbled streets would’ve been hard had it not been for the amazing support – loads of people lined the Market square clapping & shouting which was fab & kept me from walking, the finish was lovely just through the castle gates (thanks to English Heritage) & the memento of running socks was great!

So, not a PB but a fantastic day out – finished a bit beetroot faced thanks to the hot & sunny October weather & headed off to sit outside the restaurant we’d booked in the sunshine to enjoy a nice lunch – bumping into the family Ayres at the same restaurant! My friend Gill was absolutely over the moon that she’d finished her 1st race, in a very respectable time & can’t wait for the next one!

PS. Did I mention there were a couple of undulations on this run?