Thirsk 10, 23rd March

Michael Ross

I entered this race on a whim late one Friday night back in November knowing a good few Striders had done it over the last few years and it was advertised as a flat fast course.

Not having ventured over 10k for races in the last 2 years due to injuries I was determined to make this race and after a steady away winter I started training for it in late February and training went well, having matched my 2.5 year old parkrun pb the week before I knew I was in decent shape for it and set myself a target of 80 mins for it.

Race day dawned sunny and calm thankfully and I headed down the A19 arriving in good time to pick up my number and sort myself out. The race HQ is at Thirsk racecourse but the start is about 10 minutes walk away, we were shepherded there about 20 minutes before the 11am start.

The race started on time and I eased my way into it, the first half mile fairly slow and then gently picking up pace as the congestion eased a bit, Steve Trout passed me at this point and we exchanged greetings as Striders do, my first mile completed in 8:04. The next couple of miles were on a closed country road and passed uneventfully at steady pace, turning onto A167 which was partially closed I felt my hamstring and glutes tighten and I eased back just slightly as I settled in behind a couple of runners for the next 2 miles, going through halfway in 40:10.

At about 6.5 miles we took a left up a closed road and was immediately faced with a stream of others coming back down the road which was slightly disheartening, the run up the road seemed to last forever and get harder, as we moved through mile 7 I checked my watch I noticed my pace had increased as I started overtaking more people and pushing on. Shortly afterwards Steve passed me coming back the other way and then the turnaround point came into sight thankfully, this gave me a boost as I picked up the pace more going through mile 8 in 7:49. Louise Barrow gave me a shout just after this as we passed in opposite directions. and then we were back onto the open roads again, mile 8 to 9 was my fastest mile at 7:46 and at this point I realised sub 80 was on if I could maintain my pace.

Mile 10 seemed to last forever and I was constantly checking my garmin as the distance slowly moved on, eventually the finish came into sight and as I caught up a lass from another club she gave me an encouraging shout as I went past her and rounded the corner back into the racecourse and over the finish line in 79:47, a pleasing 33 second negative split and a new pb over the distance by over 2 minutes.

Trimpell 20, Lancaster, 22nd March

20m

Gareth Pritchard

After running coniston 14 the day before this 20 mile race, it's fair to say I was pushing myself to new and untested limits. This was never the plan but I could not refuse the last minute chance that came up to run coniston for the first time. I had a plan for both races and was really looking forward to a great weekend of running.

As part of London marathon training, I was looking for a good flat 20 mile race and realised a few options are open this time of year. Trimpell is an out and back race, traffic free and good reports from previous years. After strong recommendations from striders I entered my first ever 20 mile race.

Now the important things for future runners, parking is well organised and free. Race HQ easy to find, with friendly and helpful volunteers. Changing facility's excellent and secure baggage area. Race t-shirt, medal (nice bling) sandwich/banana and chocolate bar at the end. All very good value for money,

The plan was 5 mile pace progression, starting slow then running the last 5 miles at marathon pace. As is quite normal for me, unfortunately the plan went out the window within the first mile. Despite yesterday's hard 14 mile race at quite a quick pace, I was feeling really good. I tried to hold my pace back but clocked my first mile at 7 mins 😟.

The next few miles flew past at the same pace and was enjoying the whole experience. Over the next few miles I was intending to slow up but my racing instinct kept me reeling people in as they puffed away, a very odd experience. The course is indeed flat and perfect for pace work. The miles flew over and I approached the 15 mile point with a sense of dread. I knew I had set off too fast for a training run and the next 5 miles at marathon pace we're going to be painful.

Somehow I managed to keep on pace which I'm hoping to run London speeding up to 6:30 min miles and quicker. I know the feeling well of being past in the last few miles of a race, so was a real joy as I sped past runners all the way to the finish. My pace dropped slightly for the last 2 miles but still on pace over the whole last 5 which was a nice surprise.

So ends my 34 miles in 2 day, almost feel like a crazy ultra runners. Maybe one day but for now I hear London Calling. A great weekends running and a nice challenge.

Results

PosNameClubTime
1Julian HatcherBorder Harriers01:53:49
20Michelle NolanGateshead02:10:40
43Gareth Pritchard02:16:48
322Alister Robson03:00:47
380Jacquie Robson03:12:31

530 finishers

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Coniston 14, 21st March

Katy Walton

It was a good turnout for the Striders on this warm spring day in the Lake District, not just runners but a good number or supporters too; The Bisson family, Anita Dunseith, our Sarah and The Seheult's on their wedding anniversary too.

The race started at 11am and over the timing mats the runners went. Immediately as the runners started off they were faced with the first of many hills still to come, feeling fresh on their legs it's hard for any fuelled runner to not go off too fast, but on a course like this holding back is key to being able to complete the second half of the race without a struggle.

The whole course is up and down testing all runner abilities on the flat, down hills and on the varying up hills, but somehow all that this course throws at you just adds to the fantastic experience of the beautiful scenic challenging route.

There was plenty of water stops on this course, I used these to gain a little recovery and a drink before hitting the tarmac again.

I took each mile by itself not thinking about an overall time/target of the full race. I have found this to be a good tactic recently on long runs which I do still find daunting, it stops me being anxious and relaxes me into a better running form.

At the half marathon point waiting was the Strider Supporters all cheering loudly giving the runner that extra boost for the last mile. A good number of other supporters now lined the roads of Coniston.

The finish was a lovely down hill part with The Bisson family shouting loud as I ran past into the school playing field. Water and a local slate coaster was handed to all finishers.

Excellent runs from all striders and 1st Female Team Prize for the first four Strider females Katy Walton, Elaine Bisson, Juliet Percival and Lucy Cowton. Well done ladies!

Results

position name club cat cat pos chip time
1Harry StaintonBlack Combe RunnersMOPEN101:20:34
33Eleanor FowlerNuneaton HarriersF35+101:29:01
17Stephen Jackson MOPEN1101:26:33
57Gareth Pritchard MOPEN2701:31:52
71Graeme Walton M40+1601:33:38
125Katy Walton* FOPEN601:39:30
144Elaine Bisson* F35+401:40:43
201Marc Jones MOPEN6601:44:47
227David Brown MOPEN7501:46:15
249Juliet Percival* F40+1001:47:39
440Lucy Cowton* FOPEN2801:56:25
446Fiona Jones F35+1101:56:39
658Stephanie Walker FOPEN4802:06:14
659Mark Dunseith MOPEN17502:06:15
696Ian Spencer M50+9202:08:08
846Denise Benvin F45+4102:17:43
964Christine Farnsworth F60+802:26:38
1093Kerry Lister F40+9702:51:55
* 1st Ladies Team Prize

1123 finishers.

Cragside 10K, 21st March

Sophie Dennis

A trio of Striders turned out for the Cragside 10k.

A trio of purple Me and Lindsay Craig left at 7am to beat the traffic because the race started at 930 am. We thought we were the only striders racing but then we bumped into Becky Fisher just before the start. The traffic wasn't too bad, just straight up the A1 and not long after Morpeth turn left to Cragside. Lindsay was full of cold but what a trouper she was . As we collected our numbers we were looking at all the hills thinking OMG what have we let ourselves in for?

The first task was to climb a very steep hill to meet the 356 Runners at the start , we kept saying "Hope we don't have to run up here at some point", but luckily it was the down hill sections of the race. The race started down hill, we went past the car park and passed Cragside House. Me and Lindsay stuck together all the way round. The first 3 miles we did in around 31 minutes , then the hills appeared, some short ones but one really steep and long one (Bloody Hell).

The scenery around us was gorgeous, very picturesque with waterfalls and lakes. The last 1 and a half miles was a steep down hill all the way through the start line again, Me and Lindsay gathered up speed so much so we thought we were going to be sick!

We ran like hell down that hill to the finish line with me I think, with my arms up in the air as we crossed the line.

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1MatthewBoyleSenior Men100:36:05
13Georgia CampbellSenior Women100:39:19
227Becky FisherW351200:56:51
322Lindsey CraigW452601:08:23
323Sophie DennisSenior Women4801:08:26

356 finishers

Charnwood marathon, Quorn, Leicestershire, 21st March

26.8m

Dave Robson

Melanie and I have run this race once before - in 2013. The event was in March as usual but on the day of the event there were several inches of snow on the ground and it snowed for most of the time we were out.

This time the weather forecast was for cloud, temperatures between 6 and 9 degrees with a northerly wind of about 12 mph which would probably only affect us in the last few miles. Photostop - Melanie first... We stayed overnight in Loughborough and got to the start in Quorn at about 8.00 and just missed the walkers setting off.

The runners were leaving at 9.00 and we had time to chat to a few people we know from the 100 marathon club. Runners could choose from two distances 15m and 26m and there seemed to be a preference for the 15m, which had the same route as the 26m for the first 6m.

We started at a different point to avoid a narrow road and there was only one other change from 2013 near the end where the route had been changed to avoid a very boggy section. Photostop - and now Dave The route meanders along quiet roads, tracks, alongside fields for the first three or four miles and then we started the first climb. Then past the first self-clip and down to the bottom of Beacon Hill before another climb up the summit. Soon after that we were at the 6m checkpoint where the routes divide.

The conditions underfoot were much better than two years ago and also there was very little mud compared to the Belvoir event we did three weeks ago.

In the first part of the event there were lots and lots of kissing gates. Later they thinned out to be replaced by stiles. To find our way we were using the I had amended from 2013 which we had downloaded to our Garmins. There was the occasional sign, but we could see others who were using the route description and not having any difficulties.

There were more undulations and we went through another checkpoint at a monastery and after a moor type section, we came downhill again before starting a climb to the highest point in Leicestershire. The self clip was on the trig point so we had to go all the way.

Chilled-out Sheep

Then it was more gentle undulations before the final climb up through Bradgate Park, where there was another self clip before reaching the final check point in the car park at the bottom. Just four and half miles of relatively flat countryside after that before a road section to the finish, where there was an excellent choice of soups with cakes to follow. I do love LDWA type events :-)

We were pleased with our times, just over 5hr 30min, a whole 1hr 20min faster than in 2013!

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Striders see it through to the end!

Harrier League, Wrekenton, 14th March

Mudman

Hurtling Greta. It was still all to play for at the final fixture of the 2014-15 HL season held at Wrekenton on Saturday. Relegation was staring the men’s team in the face, as it had been all season, while the women were still in with an outside chance of a podium finish. Things were tense as other clubs too had their potential triumphs and disasters to contemplate. Striders were well placed to deal with theirs though as both teams had good turnouts of strong and experienced runners eager for the fray.

Sally. Proceedings were opened by ‘rising star’ Sally Hughes – the ‘parkrun Princess’ – and sole Strider in the U.17 / U.20 women’s race. In a small field, and running from the fast pack, Sally cut a lonely if determined figure in a race for which no one seemed to be clear beforehand of the exact route. Nonetheless, our NE Counties runner held her own and finished in a creditable 11th place and 8th fastest on the day – well done Sally!

Kelly. Next up was the final show down for the 25 Striderettes. Three of their number went out quickly from the slow pack – debutant Louise Warner, our country convert Lesley Charman and the Flying Archaeologist Steph Piper. The unfamiliarity of it all (new spikes, new surface, new opponents, bad back) took its toll on Louise but Lesley and Steph had an epic battle with Lesley clinging on for grim death until being finally overhauled by Steph. Their reward was to finish as third and fourth counters respectively. They had plenty of support from the slow pack including Roz, making her first appearance this season (where have you been?), the ‘Purple Sisters’ Greta & Karen, Jean Brad (risen from a sick bed), an effervescent Kelly plus many other brave and determined performances from Jo x 2, Claire, Anja, Jan, Sarah, Debs, Denise & Diane.

Claire and Joanne.

Katy. As the medium pack grows so do the number of Striders running from it and there were six on Saturday plus Penny from the fast pack – a wonderful reflection on the quality of our club. Two sparkling performances from the medium pack came from Elaine and Katy. Elaine, ever improving in her quiet and understated way, and Katy, showing the blistering form of old and providing Simon with the photo image of the day. They both had powerful runs with Elaine leading the team home closely followed by Katy – fantastic. Penny too had a brilliant run; lining up with international athletes she more than held her own in that company finishing with the fastest time of the day for a Striderette. But would it all be enough to win that bronze position? Sadly not – we were just one point for the season behind the third place team! But a thoroughly satisfactory season nonetheless, with great performances, fantastic new team mates and enjoyable days out during the dark days of winter!

It was now the men’s turn. Could they cling on to Division 2 survival or would they be condemned to the fiery pit of the dreaded third division?! The purple painted faces of 32 Strider men showed that they wouldn’t be going down without a fight and battle commenced with the elbowing and shoving we’ve all come to crave. Debutant Andrew Podmore adapted quickly in the sink or swim environment and the pace seemed blistering on the dry and fast course - it was certainly ‘eyeballs out’ from start to finish for me!

That eloquent appeal I had issued back in November for team members to “throw the kitchen sink at every race” was clearly being taken up with a vengeance as familiar purple streaked faces flew by me with alarming / encouraging regularity. Once again there were some incredible performances including one from Rob who screamed round from the medium pack to be first Strider home and earn the club representation in the Fast Pack for 2015-16. A wrecked fence and a dodgy Achilles had kept Simon away from the previous two fixtures but he made up for it here finishing second counter followed in by marathon man Graeme, medium packer Gareth, the ever improving Matt C and our new face in purple Chris W. Nothing more could be asked from these guys nor of those who followed them in – from Stan’s victory over a yellow vested rival to Ben’s outsprinting of Innes for the line - they all did their utmost to keep us afloat. But did they do it? You bet they did! We finished one place and four points above the drop zone for the season - well done!

Results

Men
Pos Name Club Race Time Pack Cat Actual Time
1 Sam Brand Gateshead Harriers 32:36 S Msen 32:36
50Rob Everson 37:45 MMsen35:15
92Simon Gardner 38:16 SMV4038:16
100Graeme Walton 38:29 SMV4038:29
145Gareth Pritchard 39:03 MMsen36:33
169Matthew Crow 39:20 SMsen39:20
182Chris Wade 39:30 MMsen37:00
187David Gibson 39:42 SMV4539:42
191Paul Evans 39:44 MMV3537:14
192Jerry Lloyd 39:44 MMV4537:14
196James Garland 39:49 SMV3539:49
204Till Sawala 39:49 MMsen37:19
243Scott Watson 40:33 SMV5040:33
244David Brown 40:33 SMV3540:33
245Matthew Archer 40:33 SMsen40:33
247Dave Halligan 40:33 SMV5040:33
251Jon Ayres 40:40 SMV4040:40
260Geoff Davis 40:53 SMV5540:53
277Michael Hughes 41:12 SMV4541:12
292Conrad White 41:30 SMV5541:30
309Danny Lim 42:02 SMV3542:02
324Mike Bennett 42:34 SMV6042:34
370Eric Green 44:15 SMV4544:15
374Andrew Podmore 44:15 SMsen44:15
418Nick Jones 46:01 SMsen46:01
420Richard Hockin 46:04 SMV6046:04
437Craig Walker 46:40 SMV5546:40
440Ben Ford 46:47 SMU2046:47
443Innes Hodgson 46:58 SMV4546:58
454Ari Hodgson 47:33 SMU2047:33
455Lindsay Rodgers 47:45 SMV4547:45
475Mark Dunseith 49:42 SMsen49:42
497Stan White 60:31 SMV5560:31

502 finishers.

Women
Pos Name Club Race Time Pack Cat Actual Time
1 Alyson Dixon Sunderland Strollers 26:04 F FV35 22:04
44Elaine Bisson 29:31 MFV3527:31
46Katy Walton 29:31 MFsen27:31
57Stephanie Piper 29:31 SFsen29:31
62Lesley Charman 29:31 SFV4029:31
100Penny Browell 30:24 FFV4026:24
128Rachel Terry 30:46 MFV4028:46
130Juliet Percival 30:46 MFV4028:46
145Sarah Davies 31:03 SFV4531:03
153Debra Goddard 31:09 SFV4031:09
162Susan Davis 31:17 MFV5029:17
190Roz Layton 31:54 SFV6031:54
200Greta Jones 32:05 SFV4532:05
202Karen Jones 32:11 SFV4032:11
207Louise Warner 32:18 SFV3532:18
209Jan Young 32:22 SFV6032:22
234Fiona Jones 33:21 MFV3531:21
260Jean Bradley 34:49 SFV5534:49
261Joanne Porter 34:52 SFV4034:52
264Anja Fechtner 35:00 SFV3535:00
278Catherine Smith 36:01 SFV3536:01
282Denise Benvin 36:29 SFV4536:29
291Diane Watson 37:30 SFV5037:30
302Kelly Collier 38:40 SFsen38:40
315Joanne Richardson 43:25 SFV4043:25
318Claire Galloway 44:42 SFsen44:42

319 finishers.

U17 girls and U20 women
Pos Name Club Race Time Pack Cat Actual Time
1 Sophie Burnett Birtley AC 26:09 F FU17 23:39
11Sally Hughes 30:19 FFU2027:49

18 finishers.

Locke Park 20, Redcar, 15th March

Graeme Walton

Graeme.
This was to be my one and only 20 mile training run during my London Marathon program! The "Jack Daniels" program I'm following is designed around not running any further than 150 minutes (two and a half hours).

I guess Wrekenton XC the day before isn't the greatest preparation for a 20 mile race but my intention was just to run it at a comfortable pace... I'd read Rachel Terry's report from last year and had spoken to other Striders who had recommended the race, in previous years I'd gone across to Lancashire to run the Trimpell 20 but I fancied something more local this time around.

The course is used for the Redcar parkrun I believe, which is simply a one mile lap around Locke Park. So 3 laps for the parkrun and 20 laps for this race! The thought of laps hadn't put me off, lots of track sessions in recent months had gotten me used to them! On arrival with my cheering squad (Katy and Heidi) we bumped into The Fords who were also running and the lovely Louise Barrow and Maddie who had very kindly come along for Strider support.

Before long we were off in nice conditions, cool with a gentle breeze. The laps consisted of a few twists and turns, 2 bridges crossing the lake and some stretches where you could pick your pace up if needed. I ran a lap with Caroline Teasdale from Crook AFC who was looking very comfortable as was her husband Rob who lapped me twice during the race! You're never on your own due to the nature of the race because you're always either passing or being passed. It was nice to exchange a few cheery hellos with The Fords, Katy and Heidi along the way.

As always my pace was ever so slightly a bit to quick but hey I felt good so I decided to follow the Jon Ayres school of negative splits and I managed to push on a little in the 2nd half. I finished in around 2:24 and gladly accepted a very snazzy medal!

A special mention to some of the best marshals I have come across, they were constantly cheery offering support throughout which is no easy task bearing in mind they see each runner 20 times! Don't be put off by the laps folks, this is a fantastic, well organised run.

Worsley Woods parkrun, Parrin Lane, Salford, 14th March

Paul Swinburne

One of the great joys and benefits of parkrun is being able to sample parkruns further afield whilst visiting friends and family. I'm lucky enough to have a brother in Manchester who likes parkrun too and we decided to take the latest round of our sibling rivalry to Worsley Woods in Salford.

It was a pleasant, if chilly Spring morning so we decided to take advantage of the uncharacteristically dry Manchester weather and cycle the 10km from Chorlton to Salford. Luck was with us. I suffered a puncture just as we were pulling up to the parkrun, any earlier and we'd have missed it, as our timing was spot on.

Worsley Woods has an interesting course. It starts off with a long straight, elevated path. Initially slightly gritty and gravelly which eventually gives way to new tarmac. It has a very slight uphill gradient. This carries on for about 2km before diverting through a very muddy and boggy area leading into a wooded cross-country section. There are a few twists and turns in this section and a couple of stepped areas to mess up your rhythm! Eventually this empties you back onto the path again and it is another straight 2km blast back to the finish line. Gravity is on your side this time though.

It's a reasonable sized parkrun with 224 runners there the week that we did it.

I was very happy to finish in 10th place and finally beat 20 minutes for the first time on a parkrun. I also managed to hold off my little brother and even up our head to head at 4-4.

He got his revenge though. He hadn'tt remembered to pack a bicycle pump, so we had a 30 minute walk to the nearest bike shop afterwards to get the puncture fixed!

Glaisdale Rigg, 8th March

8.5M 1844’ BM

Mike Bennett

very little separating the Michaels and Mikes.
2 Esk valley regulars Mike Hughes and Mike Bennett were the only purplies in attendance at this event, another race in the Esk Valley series.

Course was longer but considerably drier than Captain Cooks with 2 good lung busting climbs and some superb scenery. Mixture of road, bog, heather, pine forest tracks and farmland. Course was well marked, (not always the case with these events), even so a few runners still managed to miss crucial turns.

You need to remember to save something for the very short but sharp uphill bit at the finish, with spectators and earlier finishers watching you feel you have to push right to the end before you can collapse.

A good friendly atmosphere from start to finish and the familiar sight of Dave Parry clipboard in hand to greet you at the finish. £6 EOD with a generous prize list, 3 bottles wine for my first in age group made the day.

Age UK 10K Series, Harewood House, Leeds, 8th March

Stephen Jackson

Stephen and Pete My marathon training plan, carefully designed by Alan Seheult, was structured to incorporate a 10k ‘race’ on this particular weekend. As luck would have it the family diary meant that this goal could be achieved in a ‘two birds with one stone’ scenario that also involved a catch up with my cousin and her family. I entered the race with my mate Pete [Culmer – 10th place] who is my Cousin’s husband and also a keen cyclist and runner. We both had our respective wives and children cheering us on at the finish line and despite starting off as a drizzly, chilly sort of day the sun had emerged by a slightly delayed start time of 10:10.

The setting was fantastic and the course was challenging for someone who generally enters fast and flat 10k races. That said, there was as much down as up so until 7km there was ample opportunity to make up for the lost time climbing the trails around the grounds of Harewood House. Checking out the competition on the start line I recognised eventual winner Frank Beresford of Otley AC from his strong performance at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon. I knew that although the race would probably be described as a ‘fun run’ there were more than enough strong club runners at the sharp end to make it competitive.

By 2km I’d settled into a bit of rhythm and started the first ascent of the race. By this point the front runners had disappeared and I’d passed a few runners who’d possibly started too quickly. From this point until the end I only encountered one runner, from Hull AC, who I had a ‘tussle’ with from 5k to the end. Other than that it was me vs. the watch, or more appropriately, me vs. the hills.

Chocolate or Gold, it doesn't matterMy splits were looking pretty even despite the climbs until I got to the top of the final, unforgiving, steep hill. My penultimate km was quite a way below my average race pace as my legs were feeling drained. I recovered enough to finish strongly and just ‘pip’ a Hull AC runner on the line – it emerged later his ‘chip time’ was faster than mine but a moral victory nonetheless.

Afterwards there was time for a massage and a bit of flapjack before a 1 hour wait to exit the ‘car park’ [one tick in the negatives column].

Overall, I would certainly recommend the race as the setting is fantastic and the course was a great workout for a spring marathon and another summer chasing PBs

Sheffield Castle parkrun, 7th March

Mike Elliott

Whilst in the wilds of Sheffield last Saturday morning at 0800 what does one do but get ready for parkrun. Woke up the woman in sat nav who located the Castle parkrun starting at York House on City Road sat the top of a hill in the east of the town.

Welcomed by Diane and her crew in clear, cool and breezy conditions. Not a large number turned up as compared with Durham. 32 to follow all tarmac paths along the perimeter of this crater, left turn down a little slope then right up a little slope then weeee down into the bottom the park over the discreet bridge and onwards and upwards. Why discreet? Do not know. Could be a Yorkshire thing, memo ask Paul.

The cauldron of the park is of grass land with very few trees to act as a wind break. then a long drrrragggggg up hill to complete the first of 3 laps. The long drag is not as bad as it sounds due to it levelling out about half way up for 30 yards with Manor Field allotments on the right. Crunching the numbers 1st home was Robert Foster (25-29) unattached in 18.27, running at 69.92 %, 12 seconds outside his pb. I finished 23rd checking in with 29.50 @ 57.82% also first in my age group. It was easier than the original Gibside route.

Unfortunately I could not stop for cake and coffee at York House, as I had a meeting at 10.30. Back to the hotel showered, changed and a 3mile trip to town with 10 minutes to spare. How about that for a running schedule?

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Purple Pride!

Alnwick XC (NEHL), Jarrow, 28th February

Mudman

Kelly offers Gareth some gentle motivationSaturday's penultimate HL fixture of the season at Alnwick saw a desperate fight for 2nd Division survival by Striders' rejuvenated men's team. A first place finish on the day means the men have clawed their way to 7th position (out of 11 teams) for the season but are still only two points clear of relegation. It's going to be a hell of a battle at Wrekenton!

The course, in the shadow of Alnwick Castle, was amazingly dry and relatively mud free providing fast going for our speedy lads. Gareth Pritchard was determined to do his bit for the team and do it he did with a fantastic run to finish in 21st place as first Strider and gain promotion to the medium pack. Till's long miles in training also paid off to earn him 2nd placed Strider plus medium pack promotion as well. We also saw perhaps the best Strider debut at a HL ever with Chris Wade also gaining promotion to the medium pack while running with a suspect knee although he has a good grounding in x/c from his Monday lunch-time training sessions with us Mudpeople! Rob Everson sped round from the medium pack to be fourth Strider home while Graeme Walton, with all those awful track miles under his belt, was fifth Strider and an ever improving Matt Crow completed the Strider counters.

Gareth was first bloke home in Elvet Striders' battle to retain their place in Division 2But that's not the whole story! Those six lads were supported by another 16 Striders fighting to push the other clubs back and battling for every yard. There were some great runs particularly from Matt Archer - probably his best HL so far, Dr Evans (first time as a non counter) and a battle royal between the Fire Service and the Parachute Regiment (in the shape of Davey Lumsden and Scott Watson respectively) with the paras prevailing by the narrowest of margins. We also had a brave debut by Craig Walker and an equally brave run by Mike Bennett who has run more HLs than he probably cares to remember. Innes was there too, after nearly provoking world war three on facebook during the week, as was Richard H, John H and all the other Striders too numerous now to name individually! What a great performance - well done and thanks to you all - I am extremely proud!

Let's not forget the women's team though! Another bumper turnout of 20 of our slow packers, medium packers & fast packers produced a great performance in a fiercely competitive league. Our 'Flying Archaeologist' Steph Piper had a brilliant run on the fast course to come home as first Strider, followed by Elaine B storming round from the medium pack, Sarah D (another determined performance) and Penny - our airborne fast pack heroine (the Welsh rugby team may have a 'Halfpenny' but we've got something twice as good!) But of course they were supported by a huge turnout of Striderettes each of them committed to play their part and succeeding in doing so. We had medium packers such as Rachel, Katy & Mudwoman powering through fast packer Rachael flying round and other fantastic performances from Lesley, Kelly (loving it as usual), Kerry, Jo P, Denise (great concentration), Catherine, Camilla, Claire, Jen & Jan plus a very welcome return from Sue J & a wonderful debut from Steph Walker. Well done to you all - 6th on the day and now 5th for the season. With a super-human effort at Wrekenton you could all be standing on that podium yet!

Thanks also to the Striders who came along to support - Keith, Mike E, Anita C, Allan S, Jo R & Diane - such enthusiasm is most appreciated.

Cross country in the grounds of Alnwick Castle

...and Steph Piper

Steph on the way to leading the Striders' ladies homeThe nerves kicked in for today's XC race earlier than usual. Sat waiting for the bus, my stomach turned over and over. The stakes felt high for today. The women's team were in good contention for a podium finish at the penultimate race of the season, we'd had several new promotions to the medium pack (our very own captain Susan among them) and some of the stronger finishers were conspicuous by their absence.

At Alnwick, the tents were up and the banners flying high. The nerves had subsided but it was simply the calm before the storm. Innes had declared this day "Beat a Bounder" day. The men were fighting for survival to stay in Division Two - Blackhill one of their main rivals. The Bounders had retaliated swiftly by raising a call to arms. Our teams were heading in to a great battle.

The day was reminiscent of conditions at the beginning of the season - bright, warm with a brisk wind. The course was bone dry, perfectly suited to the alter-egos of our Mud Captains, Arid Man and Dustbowl Woman. Toes on the line and with very little warning we were off in to the wind, surging down the field towards the first pinch point. This first part of the course was quite flat. At the farthest point we rounded right and up the first of the steady inclines. From the road on other side of the wall, a disembodied voice roared a battle cry - "COME ON STRIDERS!!!" Spurred on, and with Sarah Davies in my sights, I continued upwards to the woods.

Once under the tree cover we were sheltered from the wind. There were deep ruts through the mud and most kept to the right of the track, favouring the drier ground interspersed with gnarly tree roots. I was looking forward to the downhill section which seemed to arrive after no time at all. Soft knees, relaxed shoulders, pick a line and go. It was like flying. I rounded the corner which hailed the start of the second lap with the shouting of our men ringing in my ears.

The second lap seemed to pass just as quickly. I could hear Sarah breathing down my neck, regardless of whether she was there. As the medium and fast pack runners streamed past I kept checking my shoulder for signs of Penny or Elaine, hubris fighting with nemesis over the glory of being first Strider home.

The women put in a storming performance. The remaining counters of Elaine, Sarah and Penny coming in quick succession with the ever-present swift feet of Katy, Rachel T, Lesley, Susan, Camilla and Rachael B not far behind. Finally out of her foot cast, Steph Walker put in a sterling return to racing and Denise came out on top of her friendly rivalry with Catherine Smith. Superb running from our 20 ladies, which will be required again at Wrekenton to climb back in to a podium placing.

The 21-stong men's team put up a ferocious fight round the three laps of the course, which paid dividends. Our fast lads never faltered and Gareth, Till, newcomer Chris (sorry about missing your bus stop!), Rob, Graeme and Matthew Crow earned top spot in the team placing. A phenomenal performance by all of our gents, with individual promotions guaranteed and rising well clear of the relegation zone. You beasted those Bounders!

Results

Men
Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Francisco Martinez Sevilla Derwentside AC S MSen 37:29
21Gareth Pritchard SMsen40:18
30Till Sawala SMsen40:44
48Chris Wade SMsen41:12
104Rob Everson MMsen42:26
145Graeme Walton SMV4043:06
180Matthew Crow SMsen43:36
191Paul Evans MMV3543:45
222Matthew Archer SMsen44:21
244Scott Watson SMV5044:46
246David Lumsdon SMV5044:46
252Marc Jones SMsen44:55
262David Gibson SMV4545:08
269Dave Halligan SMV5045:15
279Geoff Davis SMV5545:35
303Michael Hughes SMV4546:16
324Mike Bennett SMV6047:12
369David Selby SMV4048:43
431Richard Hockin SMV6051:27
433Craig Walker SMV5551:30
457Innes Hodgson SMV4553:08
472John Hutchinson SMV5554:30

510 finishers, overall team placing 1st, Division 2

Women
Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Magda Grinsdale Tyne Bridge Harriers S Fsen 28:22
38Stephanie Piper SFsen32:46
44Elaine Bisson MFV3532:58
47Sarah Davies SFV4533:03
74Penny Browell FFV4033:30
85Katy Walton MFsen33:43
94Rachel Terry MFV4033:48
101Lesley Charman SFV4033:48
136Susan Davis MFV5034:27
144Camilla Lauren-Maatta SFV4534:52
155Rachael Bullock FFsen35:01
174Jan Young SFV6035:46
192Stephanie Walker SFV3536:34
231Joanne Porter SFV4038:43
247Denise Benvin SFV4541:03
248Catherine Smith SFV3541:12
258Jennifer Cooper SFV3542:17
276Kelly Collier SFsen45:55
279Sue Jennings SFV4546:53
280Kerry Lister SFV4046:55
283Claire Galloway SFsen48:22

288 finishers, overall team position 6th, Division 1

English National Cross Country Championships, Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath, 21st February

A member of the very dirty dozen

It has been difficult to escape cross-country chat on a Wednesday evening for months now (by a rough calculation, at least seven of them), for the simple reason that it is a winter sport that is at the core of what we, as a club, are and do. However, the emotional baggage from school-days, the fact that is too long/ too short, the Saturday afternoon scheduling designed to clash with many other weekend activities, the mud, the often-terrible weather and the inescapable realisation that, when it comes down to it, you are choosing of your-own free will to run to the point of nausea around a park can combine in various ways to put runners off it a little, despite the undoubted thrill of competition and sense of togetherness that it never fails to deliver. I like XC, but for me it has always been a little too short and fast; fortunately, Geoff had a suggestion...

So, lined-up in a pen with the other five male Striders, ready for the gun that would send 2000+ of us up Parliament Hill, what did I feel? A little disappointed that according to the programme listing all runners a certain Mohammed Farah was not returning to his roots and showing us all how it was done? Absolutely. Also excited - and apprehensive, having seen the bog that the sinuous course had been turned into by the waves of juniors and women preceding us, many of them walking at times and a few in tears (not, I hasten to add, the Strider ladies, who had utterly dominated the course in spirit if not in time, with great runs through the clart from Rachael through to Denise).

The gun went, a few seconds passed before we shuffled over the line and the masses surged upwards. As a spectator for the ladies' race, this was a breathtaking sight, a huge multicoloured wave pouring upwards; as a participant, dodging falling or faltering competitors, pausing briefly at the top as we hit a bottle-neck and then sliding downwards towards the ponds, it was painful quickly and stayed that way. To give the course designers credit, this was a very pretty course and one which did not permit rhythm to be established, with frequent changes in gradient, line and terrain, the course throwing runners up, down and around every hill possible, the homeward leg sometimes running parallel to the outward. I cannot describe my progress in the race due to the fact that numbers, pace and the concentration required to stay upright, as well as taking in the stunning views of the city, made it impossible to gauge where I was - somewhere in the middle, gaining slightly with each mile was about as close an estimate as could be made.

The first lap finished and a downhill section took us past the ladies and Lucy's partner Phil, on snapper duties, then back to the opening hill. With a slightly better-spaced field there were no pauses this time, so no respite from the pain other than that gained by actively concentrating on breathing as deeply and slowly as possible without falling back. The same bog, the same puddles and the same bends as on the first lap all appeared that little bit harder this time; relief came in a form from hitting the harder track at the halfway point woodland section, then back to the bog.

Purple flashed past occasionally, with brief sightings of clubmates, but focus had to remain on the final mile or so. Approaching the penultimate summit I broke for home and pushed the pace as hard as possible: great racing, which saw me gain twenty or so paces. It would have been better if I hadn't thought it was the final summit and was forced by lactate to give back a good few of them on the actual final climb. Down once more, then it really was the end, Geordie and Scouse voices clearly-distinguishable from those baying for Sale, Leeds and the other elite clubs as we ploughed through the final metres. An unforgettable 2 laps, 7-8 miles in total. Solo, on a quiet morning it would have been a nice run; together with my 2000+ rivals it was a great race, over too soon and yet not soon enough.

Next year, the rumours say Donnington, a little closer to home. We hope to see you there.

Results

Men
PosNameClubTime
1Charlie HulsonSale Harriers Manchester0:39:12
874Paul Evans 0:53:21
1245Geoff Davis 0:57:32
1314Mike Hughes 0:58:22
1524Dave Gibson 1:01:31
1657David Selby 1:03:54
1963Ian Spencer 1:18:15

2005 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubTime
1Lillian Partridge Aldershot Farnham & District0:30:07
330Rachel Bullock 0:40:56
422Susan Davis 0:42:38
525Lucy Cowton 0:45:16
807Denise Benvin 0:56:29

808 finishers.

Junior Women
PosNameClubTime
1Rebecca Murray Bedford & County AC0:22:48
110Sally Hughes 0:31:06

130 finishers.

Belvoir Challenge, Harby, Leics, 28th February

26.3

Dave Robson

Time for breakfast. My fifth Belvoir Challenge and Melanie's second. What makes this event attractive is the variety of routes they come up given they have to use some village halls as checkpoints. Also it is a very friendly laid back event with proceeds going to the local primary school. The children from the school design the excellent finishing certificates.

The other big bonus is the home made cakes at the checkpoints :-) The scenery is also good without being spectacular.

It can be muddy and this year it was very muddy. The weather can also be unpredictable in February and this year we were pretty lucky. Grey and a little drizzle to start and the wind picked up a little but nothing too bad.

It is three months since Meanie did a marathon and I did the Hardmoors Osmotherley less than two weeks ago so neither of us felt very confident. Melanie wasn't sure she had enough recent training and I was concerned I might not have recovered.

The start was busier than usual and the start was delayed by fifteen minutes. There seemed to be lots of people opting for the shorter distance (17m). We had already been waiting for a while so we decided to do something different - start before everybody else. I had seen people do this at this event before so I knew it would be fine. We left eighteen minutes before everybody else.

Melanie unphased by the mud. We soon discovered the first muddy section. It was very, very muddy but it wasn't too long before underfoot conditions improved a bit. But that was only temporary and mud soon returned and it was pretty muddy for the remainder of the route.

Temperance Bar. The faster runners caught us up well before the first checkpoint and we eventually overtook other people who must have started very early. The first checkpoint was just water, but after that the checkpoints were laden with food and drink.

Melanie was feeling a bit tired from the start, but I was fine until halfway when I realised that I was still tired from Osmotherley. Melanie kept up the same pace, but I slowed a bit. At 21m Melanie went on ahead and finished about 15 minutes ahead of me. I ran along the escarpment and had some good views before I descended and had some more mud to run through (and what was almost a small pond)

The course was superbly marked. We also had maps and a GPS trace on our watches provided so there was no danger of getting lost. We had seen a course marker running round the route checking everything on the way to the start, so the organisers had done their usual excellent job.

After finishing we had the usual soup and dessert provided which filled us up nicely. Melanie's 40th marathon/ultra which is some going since her first one was July 2012.

Done and Dusted.

Inov-8 High Cup Nick, Dufton, 28th February

9.3M 1509ft BM

Nigel Heppell

High Cup Nick is just that; a nick in the western Pennines escarpment not far from Appleby-in-Westmorland; not any old nick but a long, deep, glaciated valley cut through many different layers of rock laid down over eons and characterised by an impressive ledge of dolerite/basalt Great Whin Sill delineating the perimeter. For the last nine years the quiet little village of Dufton has seen fit to cause people, including me and Phil Owen on this occasion, to run from the village green along a short stretch of road then farm track before squelching across undulating fields and tussocky boglands on a gentle ascent followed by a grin-making steep descent into the valley bottom and a wade through a stream(river today), turning to view the long haul up the cleft of the Nick.

Runnable at first, this soon breaks down into a run-walk for all but the hardened fellmongers disappearing ahead (my personal run/walk moment came earlier; much, much earlier than expected, legs and lungs just did not want to know for the first mile or two). Ultimately everyone is walking as the valley narrows and the track steepens into a boulder field; then a strenuous scramble up the rock face alongside the backwards-flowing waterfall; yes, the breeze which had been comfortably caressing our backs up the valley was now blowing seriously hard as the funnel of the nick narrowed down and the temperature dropped accordingly. Just as well the cloud came down to obscure the dramatic drop back into the valley. One or two competitors ahead of me did seem to experience a 'moment' on the wet slippery rocks but I saw that as an opportunity to overtake a bunch of queuers.

Once I'd hauled myself out of the shelter of the Nick the bitter wind really hit hard, blowing sideways across the track we were to take, and with jelly-legs from the climb I was joined by others in a comedy parade of silly walks to amuse the marshals. Eventually persuading all four limbs into some kind of vaguely coordinated lope we stumbled off down the track of the Pennine Way (also traversed by competitors in the mid-January Spine race under very much colder conditions) concentrating hard on picking a safe route along the rock-strewn path.

Some interesting trading of places occurred within my cohort on this long steady downhill section and I was fully expecting to be overtaken on the short uphill sections nearer to the finish but it would appear that my stategy of walking early on in the race had paid off as I regained places lost to early downhill overtakers and even overhauled a few others I'd not knowingly seen before, finishing with a dash across the village green and into the community hall for a cup of substantial home-made veg' soup and a roll.

Results:

Rocks - about 480 million years;

Runners - N Heppell 1hr 45min(ouch!)177/211 - P Owen about 1min longer - Race winner in a new course record of 1hr 01 min 03 secs, the approriately-named Ricky Lightfoot of Ellenborough.

Nigel adds ...
Special mention for James, who ran with us for the first time last week and also competed in this race. He finished in a very respectable time of 1hr 18min and was placed about 37-40th in the field.

and a 24second video of the start was filmed - just possible to make out Phil O at the rear.

Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon, North Yorkshire, 15th February

16m

Penny Browell

Striders ladies at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015The Osmotherley Half 2015 is one race I will never forget. In fact I get quite emotional even now, nearly a week later, thinking about it. It was one of those days when everything seemed to go the right way - great weather, lovely company, a beautiful course and (for me ) a LOT of luck.

The weather forecast actually hadn't been great and as Camilla and I drove down it was quite foggy. With my navigational skills I was a touch worried but a couple of months previously I'd run an Esk Valley race which ran parallel with the Hardmoors for a bit and I'd noticed how well their race was taped so I was quietly confident I wouldn't need to navigate much today. Anyway as we approached Osmotherley the sun started to burn through the clouds and before long it was a lovely sunny morning. We parked about 10 minutes out of the village and walked to the village hall. This was my first Hardmoors race and the organisation and atmosphere in the hall was fantastic. We'd just missed the start of the full marathon but caught up with Anita who had waved them off and the hall was buzzing with the anticipation of about 200 half and 10k runners.

Lucy clearly enjoying a great race at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015Once we'd changed and met up with the other Striders girls running the half it wasn't long before the briefing. I'm not good at listening to briefings due to race nerves and was vaguely aware there was something about signs with acorns at the end of the race but didn't manage to hear the details. We walked round to the start of the race and Lucy and I both commented on the fact that whilst we had done longer distances and had done hilly runs, the combination of a long and hilly run was a bit of an unknown quantity. I told myself I had to try and take the pace easy but at the same time knew I was feeling quite fit and the competitor in me wanted to see how well I could do.

We were soon off - I'm not great at remembering courses but we were quite quickly onto our first hill and the field was spreading out. I passed a few people and was following a woman with a springer spaniel who was managing a very good pace. As someone who runs with a springer regularly I was amazed at her having to deal with a dog on a lead for such a long and hilly race. Eventually I got past her and then felt quite happy following the path on what I presumed was an easy course. At one point the path split so I stuck to the main route but then realised I couldn't see anyone ahead. I turned round and saw a man (no. 203) going the other way so turned back and followed him. At this point I realised I maybe should have studied the map more…

The path continued undulating, with varying levels of steepness and I kept no. 203 in my sights. On a longish climb I passed him and fortunately could see someone ahead to keep me on track. As we got to a steep descent my pace slowed drastically. The terrain was tough with quite slippy paving slabs and I almost completely stopped a couple of times for fear of falling. I lost sight of the man in front but then my friend no. 203 came bounding past me so at least I knew I was still in the right place. The course has an out and back section and at about 7 miles I started to worry that I hadn't yet seen anyone coming back so wondered exactly how much over 13 miles this "half" was going to be. Happily I soon saw the first man on the return leg and noticed that in third there was a lady going well. Then after another couple of people, to my surprise I saw no.203 coming back and realised I was already at the turning point. Totally bemused as to how I was so near the front I also noticed Phil, Lucy's other half, who pointed his camera in my direction just as I was downing a few jelly beans!

The view that most of the field had of Penny at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015The "back" part of the out and back was great fun. The Hardmoors crowd are very friendly and we all congratulated each other as we passed and it was good to see the other Striders girls - Lucy not far behind me and the others spread throughout the pack. Having realised the course wasn't quite as easy to navigate as I'd thought I became intent on keeping no.203 in my sights even though I knew he was going a bit faster than my natural pace. At one point a lady going in the other direction encouraged me on telling me "You're second lady, only about a minute behind the first lady". I had no designs on beating her and really just wanted to get to the end without losing sight of my friend in front. I was doing pretty well as we undulated along the Cleveland Way but then we hit a steep descent and again my brakes were on. No.203 sped off into the distance and then a new friend (no.171) flew past me and was my new guide. I was very grateful for him being there as there were a couple of spots where I would no doubt have gone wrong without someone leading the way.

At about 12 miles we came out onto a road section. Whist I wanted to continue to be led I knew I could get past 171 so for a while we ran together discussing how far we thought there was left to go and then I took the lead. I could just see my old pal in front so sped up a bit to keep him in sight. We were soon on a slowly climbing muddy track running into the wind. It wasn't the easiest but I was enjoying myself and before I knew it I was right next to 203. I really didn't want to pass him as the other leaders seemed to have completely vanished and I knew there would still be a few wiggles before we got back to Osmotherley. Fortunately we turned off the path and downhill so he pulled away from me and I was happily following again and dropped back to a comfortable pace with him about 100m ahead of me.

At one point I saw him struggling with a gate which I thought he'd left open for me. "Thank you" I shouted, only to realise he hadn't left it open and I therefore sounded like I was being sarcastic! I struggled for a bit and he shouted something about pulling and upwards but whatever upwards and pulling combination I tried I couldn't get it to open. Eventually I gave up and climbed over. Congratulating myself on an elegant landing I realised 203 was now out of my sight. I had a couple of tense moments when I thought I could have gone the wrong way but soon saw him again and before long we were coming back into Osmotherley. As we came into the village we wound down little paths and there was the acorn sign I'd been warned about at the briefing. There were 3 possible ways to go. 203 had obviously gone the right way but I had no idea which that was. I turned left and realised he wasn't ahead of me… Fortunately some walkers were there and pointed me in the direction of the village hall.

Absolutely delighted to be back, Shirley told me I was first lady and third overall. "No I'm not" I told her quite matter of factly. I knew I was in the same position I'd been when we'd turned at the halfish way point - second lady and about 5th or 6th overall. But she and Flip Owen (who had been marshalling the full) seemed adamant she knew the result so slightly baffled I accepted the result. After a few pieces of cake and cups of tea I went to change and the lady who had been ahead of me joined me. It turned out she and 2 others had taken a wrong turning. She'd realised quite quickly but the two men (who had been the leaders) hadn't taken her advice to turn back and therefore still weren't back.

So there is my confession - it was undoubtedly my best result ever in a race and one I'm very proud of but I owe a lot of thanks to no.203 (who turns out to have a name and not just a number - Chris Dale) who kept me going and to the lady who went the wrong way (Helen Cross). Without them it would have been a different story!