Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Guisborough Moors, 13th April

12ish Miles

Kirsty Anderson

It was a small but select band of Striders who gathered for the Guisborough Moors Fell race, with many others electing to either run or support at the London Marathon, or recovering from theatrical endeavours. It was a glorious day for running wherever you were though, spring has definitely sprung and about time too. Registration was at the local Rugby club so there was plenty of space to change and leave bags, and some decent toilets too, always a bonus. With monies (£8) paid and emergency numbers noted down we headed to where we thought the start was, only to find it was actually much further back down the road, so we headed back again nabbing a team photo on the way. The Magnificent Seven.

The course takes in quite a few climbs with a steep one to begin with and I sensibly decided to conserve energy by walking a fair bit of the first hill. It was glorious on the top of the moor, a bit windy perhaps but the views were stunning and the line of runners snaking away in front of me was quite a sight. It was a bit boggy on the moor and my shoes and socks were soaked and muddy by the end of the first bit of moor but it wasn’t too bad.

Jan had been saying before the start that she was planning to tail run as she’d been under the weather but she came leaping past me like a mountain goat on the first downhill section, a track with ruts as big as a person. I got past her again on the next uphill and we leapfrogged for most of the race like this with her much (much!) quicker on the downhills and me a bit better at plodding up the hills. Captain Cook’s monument was the next climb and a nasty fall for a guy in front of me on the subsequent downhill, he wasn’t actually part of the race and just out for a run with his dog but I made sure he was ok before carrying on, even though his dog was really annoying and spent the next 10 minutes trying to trip me up. At this point Jan reassured me that we were nearly there, but with another 6 miles or so still to go including Roseberry Topping I remained sceptical, which as it turned out was the right thing to do. I’ve not been up Roseberry Topping before and rounded the corner and stared in amazement at the Everest before me, I hadn’t realised it was nearly vertical! I was so slow up it that my Garmin autopaused and refused to start until I was going back down again, it was a real hands on knees and breathe job. There was then a really steep really slippery downhill which was nigh on impossible with wobbly legs and a slightly tweaked ankle, before another steep uphill back up to Little Roseberry. After that it was back on to the moors for a bit before another gradual uphill on some stones.

Report continues here...

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1James BulmanNew Marske HarriersM40182.58
13Paul EvansMO596.04
52Michael BennettM553113.21
55Michael HughesM458115.04
91Mandy DawsonF453127.49
114Jan YoungF601145.42
117Anita ClementsonF407153.14
123Kirsty AndersonFO14161.17

126 finishers

Hardmoors Wainstones Trail Marathon, Chop Gate, North Yorkshire, 6th April

26.8m

Dave Robson

Well prepared for the day ...

It was great to see so many Striders at Chop Gate on Sunday for this event. The weather turned out to be better than forecast with only a couple of light showers while Melanie and I were out there. Without a doubt, this was one of my toughest marathons. The first twenty five yards from the village hall were flat, then it was straight into one of the steepest climbs on the route. It took us 23min to cover the first mile. The first half was very tough, with six biggish hills. At halfway it felt like we had run a marathon already. The second half was a little easier, two biggish hills and two long drags upwards. The drags would have been runnable if our legs had not been so trashed from that first half.
 

There was some great performances, particularly Paul coming in third overall having started near the back with the rest of the Striders. Jules and David were next in, followed by Andrew Thompson (who has hardly run at all in the last four months). Then Melanie (completing her 25th marathon in less than two years !) and myself (gaining my age category prize as there was no other v60s running). Then Sue showing her usual determination and grit. George and Anne came down to watch and Phil was marshalling and Anna was helping with registration and giving out the medals. Anita and Mark did the 10k although they arrived after we had started and finished hours before we got back.

... and plenty of Striders to keep him company.

People had gone to a lot of trouble to acknowledge that it was my 100th marathon and I was very touched. Somebody had put notices around the village hall, it was acknowledged at the briefing and I was given race number 100. Somebody also arranged a card and got people to sign it. It was all a bit overwhelming.

Running wasn't a major part of my life until 2003. When I joined the club in 2005, I was of the mindset that at the age of 54, I was too old to contemplate running a marathon. However, I soon realised there were members of the club who were older than me and running marathons. I also started to learn more about running marathons through the running website fetcheveryone.com where I record my training and races and have met many of my running friends.

I heard stories of the London marathon but as I had completed the Great North Run many times, the thought of a crowded race in a city did not appeal. Then a club member, Colin Blackburn I think, sent round an email about a marathon that was being revived, the Windermere marathon. I think this was in October or November 2006. The thought of running round a lake was much more appealing and May 2007 seemed a long way away, so I entered. May 2007 came round and I was on the start line having completed a training plan ! It all went amazingly well until 22 miles when I started to struggle, but I made it to the finish. My children were there to watch and I uttered the words 'Never again'. I saw a few people with 100 marathon club tee shirts at that race and could hardly believe anybody could run that many marathons.

Well done mate!

I didn't run any more marathons in 2007, but once 2008 dawned I forgot the pain of the training and those last 4 miles and entered Windermere again, plus one or two other marathons. I also got a last minute place in London with ten days notice. And since then, it built up to 2011 when I did 30 marathons or ultras. I have cut back a bit since 2011.

I aim to keep running marathons and short ultras. Achieving 100 marathons to me is just passing a milestone by the side of the road, I want to keep running long distance events - I enjoy them, they keep me fit and I don't have to train for the events if I do them regularly. I am a poor trainer. I probably won't get great times doing it that way, but I am not motivated by obtaining personal best times. I have done one sub-4 marathon (Blackpool) and I am happy with that. Our next marathon is in less than three weeks and we have a double planned for May, so there is lots to look forward to !

For those of you who want to see what events have made up my 100, then you can see a spreadsheet here which is in the format required for the 100 Marathon club.

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Jayson CavillM13.35.56
3Paul EvansM34.08.37
5Charmaine HorsfallF14.12.50
49Juliet PercivalFV4036.11.42
50David BrownM246.11.42
67Andrew ThompsonM256.41.57
69Dave RobsonMV6016.48.30
70Melanie HudsonF76.48.30
75Sue JenningsFV40107.47.20

80 finishers

Lakeland Mountain 42, Askham, Lakes, 5th April

42m

Tom Reeves

The name of this race pretty much says it all. This is the higher level and longer version of the winter Tour De Helvellyn. As the blurb says "this is no tame trail race" "expect a very tough mountain trail route including the summits of Helvellyn and High Street".

Like the TdeH the route starts and ends in Askham. Its uphill from the start as you leave the village and climb up onto High Street for some high level running on pretty good terrain.

The route then decends past Angle Tarn to checkpoint number four in Patterdale where there is the chance of a cuppa. The route then heads up to Grizdale Tarn and down Raise Beck to Thirlmere. This is now when the going gets tough as runners turn round and climb steeply up to Nethermost Pike and onto Helvellyn there's a quick run along to White Side then a long decent down to Glenridding before a second cuppa at Patterdale. The sting in the tail is the climb up to Boarddale Hause and onward to Place Fell before tootling back along Ullswater to Askham and soup and cake. Easy!

This is only the second year of the running of this race and around 100 of us were stood in Askham at 6am on Saturday morning. Jo Faulkner said 'Go' and off we went into the drizzle which pretty much hung around all day. From Loadpot Hill to High Street we were in thick cloud and a head wind. I managed to drop too low when heading for Angle Tarn which meant a detour and extra climb! Doh!! The run down to Patterdale was slippy and the haphazard nature of hill running was on display when a fellow competitor trotted into the checkpoint with a deep gash on his knee and a loose tooth (he finished the race).

I was running on a two pie strategy so the cheese and onion pasty came out at the 18 mile mark heading up to Grizdale Tarn. At the tarn we were back in the cloud and the field was well and truly spread. I came upon two lost runners, one of which had followed the shore of Grizdale Tarn and completed a full circuit. We got down to Thirlmere and Checkpoint 5 before turning on our heels and clambering up the very long and steep drag to Helvellyn summit trig point. This was very tough indeed. A bimble into that damn head wind again took us to White Side. We then had a good long decent into Glenridding which battered the knees and the quads. It was 28 miles and pie number two a meaty one which went down very well. Re invigorated with food a plodded back to Patterdale and a sweet milky cup of tea and 3 jaffa cakes. This is my kind of running nutrition :).

The climb up to Boarddale Hause was short lived but hard work as was the climb to Place Fell. Now only 5 miles to go from Howtown to Askham and a couple of crispy cakes saw me through the steady climb home. I scraped in, in 10hrs and 50 minutes I'm not sure if that's a particularly good time for this race but it was about as good as I could do, so I'll be pleased and probably come back next year for more pie, tea and cakes. Oh and some mountains.

Terry O'Gara Memorial, Wallsend, 30th March

5Km

Alister Robson

After the debacle that was Coniston 14 I was determined to get back on the proverbial horse. Having failed to sort myself out early enough to get into the Hartlepool Marina 5m, unlike almost every other Strider, I was left with the choice of this or nothing much. That sounds worse than I intended - I ran this last year (when there was no clash with the Marina 5) and thoroughly enjoyed it - recording my second fastest 5K time of 2013.

The course runs from Segedenum Roman fort down and around the Hadrian's Way Cycle Path. There's a small incline you do twice which is gradual but you lose the elevation again quite quickly.

The great attraction here isn't the scenery but the quality of the field. This was also the North East Masters 5K championships and although I qualify, I'm not (yet) a member so am ineligible for any prizes. That last point is a bit irrelevant anyway, I finished 108th of 194 finishers in a reasonable 20.30. To illustrate the quality of the field 93 runners broke 20 minutes - the top two runners broke 15 minutes!

The only other Strider there was Rob Clark, who didn't have the best of runs - being dragged off too quickly at the start is no disgrace in a run like this though and I know he bounced back to have a good one at Blyth 10k.

Good value and a tech tee for all.

A Tale of Two Cities, Durham, Gala Theatre, 8th April

2hr 55

Kirsty Anderson

More than 25 Striders made the trip to see the Durham Musical Theatre Company perform a Tale of Two Cities at the Gala Theatre in Durham on a warm Tuesday evening. After pre-show nutrition of pizza and some very large beers, we settled in to our seats to enjoy what was to be an excellent evening.

A Sea of Purple at the Gala? Is this a first??

Top of the billing were the Waltons - both looking resplendent in blonde wigs with Katy just pipping Graeme as the more glamorous of the two with ringlets and a succession of excellent capes (although has anyone else noticed that Graeme with a blonde bob is the spit of Robbie Savage...)? We were entertained by the story of unrequited love intertwined with the French Revolution and were carried along by both rousing and heartfelt songs performed magnificently by the leads and the cast whose number also featured Richard Hall (also resplendent in a number of different wigs) and Sarah Watson.

Special mention goes to an honorary Strider - Heidi - who performed solo twice during the show and didn't leave a dry eye in the house, although I am sure some of the more manly Striders will be attempting to blame the smoke machine.

Thoroughly recommended for an evening out, it runs for another week so if you haven't been then get your tickets and go - you won't be disappointed!

City of Durham Duathlon, Meadowfield, Durham, 6th April

5k run, 25k bike, 5k run

Kirsty Anderson

In the past I have always left the biking to Jon (who is pretty good at it) but over the last year or so I have gradually been sucked in to the world of biking and actually started to rather enjoy it, especially since I bought a beautiful road bike last summer. This summer with some triathlons and long bike rides planned I was keen to get back out on the bike now the winter has gone, and the City of Durham Duathlon seemed the perfect opportunity. The event, run by Durham Tri Club (whose illustrious membership list includes many Striders (or is it vice versa...?!)), was billed as a friendly event for beginners who are up for a challenge - and sounded right up my street. Almost literally since it was only 10 mins cycle from my house, rather a nice change from some rather long haul races in the recent past.

Before the off ...

The weather forecast was not good, and after not a very good night's sleep due to newbie nerves we awoke to lots of water underfoot but no actual rain, which was good. A quick Shreddie breakfast and kit check later we made our way to Meadowfield Leisure Centre where the event hub was. Registration was easy, pick up number, timing chip and stickers for bike and helmet. There was some confusion over where one's race number should go as it turns out number belts are de riguer for triathlons and neither of us had one, but a very friendly and familiar marshal (hello Jacquie!) set us right - and so we pinned the numbers to our backs and went to get our bikes racked in the transition area. This done and helmet and clippy shoes (in Jon's case) laid out neatly we headed back in for the race briefing. Compared to road races, there are a lot more rules in bike races and my head was spinning about putting your feet down at junctions, which order to put your helmet on and where you can get on and get off the bike but there were marshalls everywhere advising you what to do which was much appreciated.

The actual race involved a 5k run, a 25k bike ride and then a 5k run. Written down it doesn't sound too bad, but the first lap of the first run (a three loop XC-esque course around the sports centre) was a nervy affair, partly because I wished I'd had trail shoes on, and partly because it was hard to concentrate when you know you have a 25k bike ride and another 3 loops of the course to come. The run was a loop of three halves, the first bit hilly and muddy, the second lap on tarmac but into a headwind, then a downhill off-road section. The course had friendly marshalls shouting encouragment at every point which was greatly appreciated, especially as I was pootling along at the back of the pack. Rachel in the money! First transition was ok - helmet before bike, chuck my waterproof on the floor (the sun had come out so it was clear I wouldn't need it), grab bike, run with it to the mounting point, jump on, pedal. After a load of hills it was actually bliss to sit back and let the bike take some of the strain and I really enjoyed the first half mile or so before having to put some work in up the Stonebridge hill. The bike route is pretty straightforward and only involves one evil hill (Button Bank) then the rest is a lovely long downhill, so as bike routes go it is one of the nicest and again there were plenty of marshalls out on the course showing you where to go and shouting encouragement. I did ok on the bike and negotiated my way safely back to the transition point, stowed my bike away and then set off for the final 5k. There weren't many people left on the course by the time I arrived but the marshalls were still as cheery as ever and I managed to catch up and pass two people, despite the fact that my legs had forgotten how to run. The lovely Kerry and Rob had also come down to do some spectating which gave me the boost I needed to crack on with it and I finally finished in around 2hrs 10 - not a great time but a great achievement! I have no idea of my split times as the results have not yet come out but I think I was about 5 mins quicker on the bike than I had been previously which I am pleased about.

Some excellent Strider performances including great debuts by Jon Steed and Lindsay Rodgers, but star of the day is Rachael Bullock who was first senior woman home and won a rather nice trophy and gift voucher. A lovely event and highly recommended for first-timers and those looking for a challenge close to home.

Derby 10K, 6th April

Claire Readey

An eerie calm.My running goal for 2014: no more marathons, but instead focus on getting my 10k time down. After running a tortuous 52:32 at Saltwell just before Christmas, followed by an 'uncomfortably hard' just under 49 from Broom Park with hard taskmasters Neil and Martin on New Years' Day, my dream of a sub-45 felt a little ambitious. I started a 12 week plan with North Tyneside 10k in my sights.

In the meantime, post-Christmas dinner race surfing had led me to book the Derby 10k. Not too far from lovely friends in Sheffield, I enjoyed an evening of wine and sushi on Friday before driving on to Derby on Saturday. I stayed in the Pride Park Holiday Inn Express - exceptionally clean and super-accommodating (not to mention cheap and moments away from the stadium start). Race day was damp and drizzly but warm and without much wind.

The race was well organised, with runners penned from A-F depending on expected finish time. There were 4229 runners, plus a wheelchair race which went off first, and a 3k fun run scheduled for later that morning. We were asked us to assemble before the wheelchair race went, so there was quite a bit of hanging before our 9am start.

The best thing I can say about this 10k is - it's flat, and it's fast. Not only is it flat, but there's even a bit of downhill too. They even close the roads! The race wound its way through the city centre and was well supported with plenty of cheering throughout the route. The final stretch is less picturesque, but it's flat, as I may have mentioned, so I forgave them that.

Everyone I came into contact with was lovely and polite. I was cut up by one runner, who immediately apologised. Later on I was overtaken by an amicable toilet (supporting clean water for some charity I can't remember). I was thrown by there being no obvious km markers - just a lady at what must have been roughly the 5k mark handing out water and cheerily shouting 'you're about half way there!' My 5k split was comfortably under at that point, so I just hoped she was right.

I began to up my pace from 7k, aware from an earlier recce that the course looped past the finish at the stadium for another 1.5k, so I knew not to get my hopes up too soon. The finish is inside the stadium but you have to run most of the way around it before you enter - and as I approached the stadium I began to panic my carefully worked out times were at risk of going down the proverbial toilet (which, I might add, remained just a few runners ahead of me). As the seconds ticked away I pushed for all I was worth, and was delighted to finish the (10.1k) course with a chip time of 44:48.

25th Anniversary

Allendale Challenge, North Pennines, 5th April

25M (26+ once you've fallen in the mud a few times)

Dougie Nisbet

David flying the Elvet Striders colours.Florance Nisbet ... I like it!So there I was, on the start line, chatting to my boss about email problems we were having at work, as you do, when I noticed the starting gadgie was talking. Probably saying important stuff that I should be listening to. I looked around and saw David Catterick a few yards away who, like me, was about to embark on his first Allendale Challenge. Old-hands Geoff and Susan had disappeared in the sizeable field of runners for this 25th anniversary of the event, but Florance Nisbet was expected.

May I see your papers Sir?It's been a long time since I've done any race of this distance and I'm not remotely race-fit so I set of nice and steady. As way of preparation my literature search had indicated that mud and peat were key features of the adventure ahead.

Specific route information was sketchy but everything you need to know is on Shaun's map from 2012. Forget any other maps you see - this is the one you need. The definitive guide. It is accurate in all the crucial details, except the dragons were not to be seen on Killhope Law this year. That may have been because the mist was down, or, more likely, they were scared away by the man with the trombone and the marshall with the spiky hat.

Puff the magic dragon, lives on Killhope Law.

After several hours of sucky squashiness it was a blessed relief to be descending from Killhope Law and running again. I was overtaken by a runner who struck up a conversation and it turned out he worked and was living in Dundee, but didn't know Colin Blackburn, or my brother, and was a graduate from Napier College in Edinburgh, just like me. We were just marvelling at the small-worldness of it all when I heard someone shouting my name from behind and I swirled round to see my workmate Emma and her walking partner Michael. This was a fantastic opportunity to walk for a bit and blame it on someone else. Later I could put it down as a magnanimous supporting gesture on my part but in truth it was great to take the foot of the gas, chill out, and simply enjoy the view.

Winning Smile.We drank and walked and chatted for a while, but here's a top tip. You won't find this simple weird tip on any other running websites – this is the sort of quality advice you'll only get on the Striders website. Here it is: when you take a drink from your drink bottle, always remember to open your gob first. Or you will, as I discovered, smash your drinks bottle into your front teeth, with hilarious results.

My walking buddies didn't seem to find this quite as fascinating or traumatic as I did, but we were all in pretty broad agreement that it was a decent sized chip. I'm not sure what other walkers thought of my impromptu gurning as I sought confirmation of my fears, or indeed, what my dentist is going to think of my explanation.

Soup came at the next checkpoint, and then I started getting chilly, so bade farewell to Michael and Emma and started running again. I'd hoped it would be easier on the last few miles as the surfaces improved and the weather brightened. But I was pretty spent by now and just concentrated on staring at the few yards of the ground in front of me and forced myself to jog steadily as much as possible. Into the Finish and, initially mistaken for a walker, they added two hours onto my already sluggish time, but then noticing the horrified expression on my face, they noted, “oh, you're a runner?”. I looked down at my fetching mud-splatted Lycra shorts and Sportivas and thought, Do I look like a walker? (sorry if that sounds 'walkerist'). Geoff and Susan appeared from nowhere with my leggings that I'd left beside their kitbag earlier, and I think, but hope not, that they'd been waiting patiently for my return for some not inconsiderable time so that they could return them, before dashing off. I hung around for a cup of tea and collected my beer and t-shirt. One of the classiest race t-shirts I've received – black, like the grouse, and just the name of the race and the year. No fuss. No adverts. Like it.

They think it's all over. They're correct!

Howgills Barn Weekend, Nr. Sedbergh, 29th March

Shaun Roberts

Yes, that is Angela in that thing.

Many thanks to Nigel for once again organising a great weekend in the Howgills! And this time he organised some decent weather as well, which really helped. The north-east may have been lost under sea-frets from the east, but the Howgills were warm, dry and even sunny. The barn was all very civilised, and there was good food and crack on the Friday night. On the Saturday a decent group headed off to the west for the day, and seventeen miles of hills, including Randygill Top, Yarlside, Cautley Spout and The Calf, whilst three walkers had it just slightly easier, on a good day out.

The Howgills!

The new choice of pub, the Dalesman in Sedbergh was a good one, with great food and a good selection of beers: many thanks to Angela and Mike for driving the lot of us over there.

Lunch stop in an artwork by Andrew Goldsworthy

More good crack after that, then Sunday brought a now-traditional climb through the 'Clouds' (i.e. limestone pavements) and on up to Wild Boar Fell in balmy conditions. After a rest on the beach at Sand Tarn, we reached the top, with earily atmospheric views across the Mallerstang valley, through cloud and sun. Then down the hillside for bacon, eggs and beans, helpfully cooked by Mandy this time, standing in for our usual chef, this year sadly elsewhere. Great stuff ... so many thanks, Nigel, for once again doing the honours.

Here are a few more of his excellent photos for a taste of proceedings ... see link below for the full set.

Still snow up here.Setting off up Yarlside. Life's a beach.Scene at High White Scar.

NEMC Handicap Marathon, South Shields, 30th March

Dave Robson

The North East marathon club specialises in cheap marathons. When they were being formed about five years ago, there were no marathons in the North East. There are now plenty of marathons in the area, but the club survives as its prices are low for its no frills events.

Smiling through the haze.

The cost of entry to the club itself is just £8 and included in that is a discount for entry into the club's races and today's marathon was for members only and was free to enter. There was also a free buffet afterwards and all finishers received a medal. A bargain !

Today's route took us from the South end of South Shield's promenade and up onto the Leas (familiar to many people as that is the finish area for the GNR). The route followed the coastal path past Marsden Grotto and Souter lighthouse to a car park where there were drinks. A slightly different way back across the Leas and back to the start, where there were more drinks and bit of food. Repeat another three times.

I was expecting it to be pretty flat as I have run round there before in events such as Pier to Pier and the South Shields parkrun, but on shorter races you don't notice the undulations. Melanie and I were fine with them on the first two laps, but I noticed them more on the third lap and I was very aware of them on the final lap !

The weather wasn't great, fairly thick fog which never lifted. It was also pretty cold as Phil Owen found when he came to give us some support - thanks Phil !

I tried out some baby food in sachets as a new approach to fuelling. Not a success, I felt a bit sick after the second one. Melanie also didn't like them.

A small field, but everyone was very friendly and waved as they went by. The route wasn't marked, though we had written instructions, but many people weren't looking at these and managed to go wrong. We made one minor error on the first lap, but we still ran more than marathon distance.

Two elegant medals.

Melanie did well on her first marathon since her stress fracture on 1 January and as she was feeling fresher than I was, she went on ahead on the final lap and came in with 4h 33min. I did 4h 51min.

Shame about the weather, it would have been great to have seen more. This was my 99th marathon, which is hard to get my head round. My 100th and Melanie's 25th will be next Sunday at the Hardmoors Wainstones event.

There will be more than just gentle undulations at that one ...

Coniston 14, 29th March

14M

Simon Gardner ...

My normal start to the new year is usually just track and speed work with a little cross country thrown in but this year I wanted to do something different and get out of my comfort zone so when Katherine mentioned she had entered Coniston 14 I thought this would be just the thing.

I haven't done any half marathons since 2012 so I thought this would push me to get out and run up hills , do as many XC as possible and also get some distance training in none of which come easily for me. I also had the thought that if this went well I would have a good endurance base for the shorter distances which I am much happier with.

I'd travelled up on the Friday and after a day touring around Keswick and Coniston I had arranged to meet Katherine and Mark for a bite to eat. We had a great night in a fantastic pub that was full of springer spaniels for some reason and I'm happy to report that Katherine's springer Florence was impeccably behaved.

'Look! No running shoes!' Marc finds out what running 14 miles in VFFs feels like ...

I woke at 6am the next morning and felt very nervous about the run. My training had gone as well as I could have hoped and i had managed to run 3 times a week since January which is very rare as I am often injured . I felt I was in decent shape and had one fantastic 14 mile training run with the biggest hills I could find and managed it at 7:17 per mile which left me shattered but happy.

I met up with Katherine and Mark and we were soon joined by several other striders at the John Ruskin school which served as the start / finish and race HQ . The weather was good just a slight wind but warm enough for vest and shorts.

So at 11am we were off , my biggest worry was the pace because it wasn't flat I really wasn't sure what pace to run at but thankfully going up the first hill I spotted Graeme Walton around 100 metres ahead so I thought if I could keep him in sight I knew I would be doing well as he is in great shape and a better endurance runner than myself.

The first 2/3 miles have some fairly testing climbs but they are thankfully short and as they are near the start I felt ok climbing up them . After the the initial climbs you have some steep descents so you really make up some time going down . It was at this point you get a really good view of the lake and I have to say it looked bloody enormous at this point. I still felt physically good but mentally it was a bit daunting seeing that we had to do a full loop of the lake.

At around the 6 mile point you start to cross over to the over side of the lake and I had closed the gap to Graeme a little but I felt the pace I was running was good and i could sustain it and it wasn't worth the risk of increasing the pace especially with the big hill at around 11/12 mile although it would have been nice to have some company.

At around 8 mile I started to feel the pace a bit but thankfully I managed to grab a couple of jelly baby's from a family supporting and had my one gel (I should have used 2 with hindsight) . We were now running on the opposite side to the town of Coniston and it's much quieter it terms of support but what there was was very welcome , this side of the lake is initially undulating but nothing to severe .

I had been warned about mile 11 to 12 and it didn't disappoint , not hugely long but it was steep and on tired race legs i could really feel it both mentally and physically. After 12 I knew I had the worst of the hills behind me and I also knew that the half marathon point was exactly outside my hotel. I was very surprised to pass that point at just over my half marathon PB so it was an eyeballs out and very painful blast to the finish . Myself and Graeme managed to cross the line nearly together and we are both really chuffed with our times averaging under 7 minute miling. I need to thank Graeme as it was trying to keep him in sight that helped me drive on to a 1:36 finish which I'm thrilled with (we both are to be honest)

We all waited and cheered in all the other Striders and of course they were plenty. Katherine deserves a special mention as she was 15 minutes quicker than she expected to do and also everyone who did the barrow parkrun and Coniston double (you're mad!). It's a great challenging race and I would definitely recommend it.

... and Alister Robson:

Now you've read how Simon and Graeme ran the race properly and professionally I thought I'd add a few lines on how not to do it.

1. Probably best not to have a skinful of ale and one of the Duke of Wellington's famous burgers the previous evening even if Jacquie's parents are up for the weekend.

2. Coniston 14 starts at 11am. Although that means there is just time to squeeze in a parkrun beforehand that doesn't mean it's a good idea. It's definitely (with the benefit of hindsight), not a great idea to leave Durham just after 6am as Kirsty, Emma, Jacquie and I did in order to squeeze in Barrow-in-Furness parkrun* beforehand. It's then an even worse idea to compound your original mistake by running Barrow parkrun harder than you intended.

3. Effective race nutrition is a must. What usually works for me beforehand is a couple of slices of toast, a banana and a coffee or my trusty McDonalds Big Breakfast meal. It turns out (who knew?) that gulping down a garage bought chicken and bacon sandwich ten minutes before 11am on the way to the start is not great nutrition. I also usually run with SIS gels for anything more than 10k, usually one every 30-40 mins. Not a good idea to forget those and many thanks to Graeme for giving up one of his Lucozade ones which I managed at half way.

It was something of a miracle then that I made it to 8 miles in one piece and at intended pace, 8 minute miling too. This was my first Coniston 14 and I have Bill Ford to thank when he gets back off holiday for the privilege as it was his double booking error that led me to be there. At 8 miles there was a water station and I stopped to walk for a bit and take on some water. I was already starting to feel some pangs of discomfort in my stomach, but got back running again until the hill just before 10 miles. At that stage something weird happened, I just knew I wasn't even going to attempt to run it, so I settled into a walk. And on I walked.

After the top of the hill there was a photographer so I broke into an unconvincing jog - very much like Peter Kay's dad hurrying to cross the road, but actually no quicker than walking pace. I haven't dared look for the photos.

I kept on walking, as Rich Hall (senior), then Jean, then Lisa and Alan and Katherine and many more too numerous to mention ran past me - all asking if all was OK, and me re-assuring them that indeed it was. I walked past Pam, whose encouragement was most welcome but unfortunately futile, and it wasn't until Mike Gill of Blackhill Bounders caught me up about half a mile before the end and being the lovely chap he is encouraged me to run home with him.

Of course the good thing about having expended little or no effort over the last 4 miles was that as soon as I was finished I was fresh and ready to cheer the last few runners in as well as catch up with those who'd done so much better.

Coniston 14 ... we have unfinished business.

*Barrow parkrun was lovely - friendly but hilly, all on pavement around a lovely park. I chatted with the first finisher at the end he was from Crook AC - small world!

Blakey Blitz Fell Race, Lion Inn, NYM, 23rd March

10.6M

Anita Clementson

Two Mikes (Hughes & Bennett) along with Danny and myself represented the striders in one of the many scenic races put on by the Esk Valley Fell Club.

The only way is ... up.

Standing in the 'queue' for registration (in the car park of red lion pub, somewhere in North York moors!) with some hardy looking fell runners and was told this was the hardest of the fell series runs ran by Esk Valley. The no frills approach of these races is quite appealing, only £6 for entry handed over to Race organiser Dave sat in his warm car! I did take his mobile number for emergency use as the echoes rang in my ears of what I heard in the queue!

Looking up at the blue sky it could be quite easy to think that the kit required is overkill, but the weather can change very quickly and dramatically on the hills and I actually quite like running with my small rucksack, if I ever fell backwards it would be a soft landing if nothing else.

We all set off down hill and the main running field I could soon see snaking off in the distance. For me today this was just all about getting round and enjoying being out in the elements, getting away from it all and to keep at least one runner in front to follow the route! I soon got into a comfortable pace and footing was a little precarious on that first downward section. Soon we were climbing up and I took the sensible option of walking the hills, of which there were 3 notable ones in this race. The views were fantastic which the climbs rewarded you with.

Surprisingly there were a couple of marshals out there and navigation wasn't too bad as red tape was at points where there was a turn. The terrain was a mix of bog, stones, stoney paths, heather and farm track, the weather was full of all elements with some light hail snow thrown in.

However near the end I took a silly turning and ended up doing an extra mile. The field was so spread out by this time there was no one ahead to follow. I realised my mistake and got on the right track and was happy to see the odd runner still in the race so I wasn't quite last!

That last hill was a killer, really sapped you of all energy. Was pleased to meet Dave again, yes sat in his warm car taking the numbers of the finishers. Mike H & Danny also got slightly lost and Mike Bennett had a good race with his 35th position and 2nd in his age category. Worse ways to spend your Sunday morning.

Overall a very enjoyable Sunday morning and hope to do more of these series.

Hardmoors 55, North Yorks Moors, 22nd March

55M / 2700m

Aaron Gourley

"I want to get to the end and feel I’ve enough in me to turn around and head back," said Phil Owen as we chatted at race HQ in Guisborough Rugby Club. For many, running an ultra of 55 miles is simply incomprehensible, but for Phil, this was merely preparation for the Hardmoors 110 later this year, and that is a distance beyond even my imagination can stretch to.

Mmmm ... lovely bit of downhill ...

My day had started at 4am, for the drive to Helmsley where three coaches picked up nearly 200 runners to be taken to the start in Guisborough. Following a thorough kit check I bump into a nervous looking Anna Seeley, probably more nervous of someone stepping on her broken toe than the challenge ahead before I meet up with some of the guys I’ve been training with over that last few months for a chat. I’d arranged to run the race with one of them, Russ who is of a similar pace to me.

For this race I’d decide that I would gauge it by how I felt so stripped myself of any watches or GPS devices. My aim was to go steady but try to get as close to the White Horse check point (45 miles) before it got dark. All I knew was that sunset was at 18:22 and would have approx 20mins following that before I would need a headtorch.

The weather forecast for the day was reasonable although I was conscious that at some point we were in for a soaking, but given last year’s conditions I wasn’t too concerned. As 9 o’clock approached we made our way to the start line on the disused railway and without a moment’s hesitation we were off. What seemed like most of the field passing me, I plod along conscious not to get caught up in the excitement by dashing off. After a mile along the old railway line we were directed off up a track for the first climb of the day and onto the Cleveland Way.

At this point the weather took a turn pelting us with snow and rain but it didn’t last long and as we gained height up into Guisborough woods a wonderful rainbow appeared. Russ and I maintained a steady pace as more people continued to stream past us as we made our way to Roseberry Topping for the first really big climb of the day. The field was well stretched at this point as we headed out and back to the summit check point. On the climb back up to the gate I’m greeted by the shout of "elite athlete coming through!" as Phil surges in the opposite direction followed by Anna tentatively making her way down behind him.

Report continues here...

Muddy Mayhem, Hardwick Park, Sedgefield, 23rd March

10K

Nigel Heppell

Lovely day for a run ...

I suppose it turned out much like I expected. The 10k event was two laps of a 5k course. Lots of things to climb over and lots of boggyness to wade through (just like a fell run) and a few wet and/or dry drainage pipes to crawl through for first 1/2 lap; then it got a bit more serious with full body immersion in the lake to pass through a semi-submerged tunnel under a path, crawling prone in thick mud under tightly pinned netting, long distance waist-deep wading around the edge of the lake, carrying weights up and down hill, scrambling over a complex of metal barriers, ducking and weaving through a web of tightly strung ropes in the woods, more forced muddiness going over and under felled tree trunks, running up a steep slope on watered plastic sheeting, plunging into iced water containers, more skips filled with water, skips filled with soft mud, run though blazing pyres, hummocked ground, slithery drainage ditch, see-saw into a pond, cross water on tree trunk and then a wobbly bridge, run though ford, downhill slide, steep hill up, back through underpass and then ... do it all again.

Help!

The original idea, I thought, was to have a team of 10 (maybe that was just to get a discount on entry fee) and we set off together after the enforced totally unnecessary warm-up routine (first time I've had a dance with Dougie - could well be the last). But by about the third obstacle we were so spread out it was impossible to act as a group. I found myself in the company of Susan Davies, my daughter Esme putting in a guest appearance, and the wonderfully excitable Lucy Cowton. Lucy excelled in somehow being chosen to be 'The' person to wear the sponsors' headcam goggles which seemed to work well until she drowned them. We all tackled the various challenges in our own way and needed only an occasional steadying hand or a brief push through the mud although there was one memorable 'assist' that I will let Susan relate.

... small matter of the washing now.

I have to say it was a real challenge after the first lap to decide to carry on to the second round, we were pretty numb and borderline hypothermic by that time but Susan made us do it. Lucy offered some gummy sweets from her back pocket that had been only partly digested by the wet and off we went.

Something strange happened here; the first lap seemed to take forever and comments like 'this has got to be more than 5k' were heard on more than one occasion; but the second lap flew by; I know we dodged one or two of the nastier obstacles but that doesn't account for it, maybe my brain had frozen.

The field was very thin as we came to the final obstacle - a rugby team who put their all into the task of beating us up - and then a steady trot to the finish line. We heard Susan and Lucy were 2nd and 3rd ladies in, with Esme 4th, and I think I was 12th man.

We timed it right, it started to rain and hail just as we finished - wouldn't have wanted to get wet would we?

Thirsk 10, North Yorkshire, 23rd March

Kathleen Bellamy

I have been wanting to up my distance from 10k to a half marathon so thought a 10m race would be a good distance to put in for. The Thirsk 10m grabbed my attention with its description of a 'fast and flat' course, I thought great sounds like a nice one to do for my first attempt.

We got to Thirsk race course & the car park was clearly sign posted. I picked up my number & had ample time for several loo breaks, the biting cold wind and pre-race nerves will do that to a girl. There was a baggage drop off point but the car park was very close so I did not need to use this.

Kathleen well-wrapped up before the off ...

I bumped into some of my fellow Striders there who all offered me kind words of encouragement which gave me a huge confidence boost, you guys are the best!!

At around 10.45 we were ushered down to the start, I thought well this is it no backing out now. We set off at 11am & it didn’t take too long to warm up as the sun was blazing, so I was grateful of the water station at mile 3, after that I was plodding along quite happily & the course was lovely with some minor inclines, nothing too taxing on the legs. I was looking forward to the next water station at mile 6, but, to my horror it wasn’t there, I kept thinking oh it will be just around the corner, but no, this made my motivation dip a little but I kept going with some encouragement. Then came the loop just before the 7 mile mark, it was nice to see some fellow Striders coming back the opposite way so I didn’t mind this bit too much, and low and behold the 6 mile water station was on the way back down at around 8 miles, hallelujah!!

The last 2 miles were mainly downhill so I was pleased as my little legs were getting very tired by this point. Typical British weather the sunshine changed to hailstone at the 9 mile mark, running this last mile seemed to last forever but I could see the car park where we had started our day so I pushed on, the finish line was just inside the race course & I still had a smile on my face as I crossed it.

Woohoo, I had done it, my first 10m race and I have to say I enjoyed it. This has given me a huge confidence boost as I finished under the time I had in my head to get round and now have my first race T-shirt!

I would recommend this race to anyone wanting to do their first 10m. All in all a good day & I am looking forward to getting a half marathon under my belt. Things learned from this race: eat more than a bowl of rice crispies for breakfast, take a gel and don’t wear too many layers as the long sleeve top had to go half way through (behind some bushes), taking up precious race time!!

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

The Last Hurrah!

Harrier League, Wrekenton, 22nd March

Mudman & Mudwoman

Saturday saw the final HL x/c fixture of the season at Wrekenton (sob, sob) and Striders finished with a spectacular performance! The women's team achieved a season's best 3rd place on the day and 7th for the season - well clear of the relegation zone. Not only that, but a further three women, Rachael B, Claire & Jules, qualified for the medium pack! The men too equalled their season's best position of 4th on the day and they also finished in 7th place in their Division 2 with Jerry achieving promotion back to the medium pack!

Most of us were disappointed to lose the Prudhoe fixture this year but were nonetheless pleased that Vicki Thompson and her team, at the last minute, were able to arrange a second fixture at Wrekenton to replace it. Saturday was bright and breezy with a distinct lack of mud on the course, in fact, if it hadn't been for the hills, you'd have thought you were on the track at Maiden Castle! And that's what some of the women must have thought as Claire, Rachael, Jules, Fiona K-J et al sped off on the first lap and a battle royal ensued. Claire led the way for Striders for much of the race but Rachael had her locked in a steely glare and managed to overhaul her half way round the second lap to finish first Strider after, what she later acknowledged to be, the race of her life! Jules finished not far behind Claire to join her two club mates in the medium pack for next season - well done!

There were some great performances elsewhere in the race with our three medium packers battling through the field of over 200 runners. It was also pleasing to see Fiona K-J and Sarah complete a full set of six HL races in their first season along with Jan and Mudwoman. What a race and what a grand day out for the 13 strong women's team.

Will celebrates the end of a cracking season.Lucy in full Striders war paint.

Another big field in the men's race of over 400 runners saw the Striders team, safe from relegation, put in a great performance. Once more Will swept through from the medium pack to finish first Strider, 26th overall and a full house of six races for the season! Jerry ran his best race of the season followed closely by Adam in his final x/c race for Striders. James continued his return to form and Rob, another 'ever present' for 13-14, enjoyed his first run from the medium pack - I'm sure they'll be many more to come! Gibbo was our final counter powering round as of old to pip the much improved Dave Halligan on the line.

As always there were some fine Strider performances throughout the field. Graeme completed his six races for the season as did Mudman and Innes (just 40 seconds behind his 17 year old son Ari). It was good to see Nigel running for the first time this season (without a head torch!) and Dougie as well - taking time off from the camera. Well done everyone!

As we draw breath and assess the season we can only conclude that it's been a great success. No less than 85 Striders have taken part in one or more x/c races this season. We've been represented at the English Nationals, the British Masters, the Northerns, The North Easterns, the North East Masters and, of course the Harrier League where we broke our attendance records in both the Women's and Men's races. There've been some great performances at both the sharp end and the blunt end, as Shaun would say, by newcomers to the mud and old lags as well. We've had some great days out and we're pleased to say there's always a happy and lively atmosphere around the tent. Long may it continue.

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Robert Foster Tynedale Harriers 33:04
26 Will Horsley 35:53 *M
32 Jerry Lloyd 36:09
50 Adam Walker 36:29
110 James Garland 37:38
120 Rob Everson 37:44 *M
165 David Gibson 38:20
166 Dave Halligan 38:20
203 Geoff Davis 39:06
246 Michael Tait 39:57
248 Mike Bennett 39:59
257 Graeme Walton 40:13
270 Matthew Crow 40:39
295 David Brown 41:33
316 Michael Hughes 42:28
345 Marco van der Bremer 43:33
392 Nigel Heppell 46:42
400 Innes Hodgson 47:18
412 John Hutchinson 48:00
420 Dougie Nisbet 50:26

*M Medium pack - 2m30s handicap, *F Fast pack - 5m handicap.

437 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Kim Simpson Durham City Harriers 26:55 *M
11 Rachael Bullock 28:00
20 Claire Readey 28:23
26 Juliet Percival 28:36
29 Rachel Terry 28:41 *M
38 Fiona Jones 28:54
47 Lucy Cowton 29:14
48 Susan Davis 29:15
63 Sarah Davies 29:35
83 Camilla Lauren-Maatta 29:52
90 Katy Walton 30:00 *M
96 Helen Tones 30:07 *M
115 Roz Layton 30:39
162 Jan Young 33:29
168 Barbara Dick 33:43
174 Joanne Porter 34:02

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap, *F Medium pack - 4m handicap.

209 finishers.

Trimpell 20, Lancaster, 16th March

20m

Alister Robson

All eyes on London. Graeme and I ran this last year as part of our marathon training, following a lead from Shaun a couple of years ago. This year we were also able to tempt Jane Ives and also Debs Goddard for whom this would be her longest run so far in training for the London marathon in company with much of the field. It was a bit of an early start but it didn't take us that long to get there, despite me overriding Graeme's Sat Nav and taking us the wrong way round Lancaster's ring road for the second year running.

Race HQ is also the club hut for Lancaster& Morecambe AC, which is right next to the running track at Salt Ayre Sports Centre where the Trimpell 20 starts and finishes. Everything you need (changing, toilets and a cuppa) was right there and although there was no official baggage store we felt fine to leave our bags in a quiet corner.

Debs had told us that she was a fan of the Marathon Talk podcast on the way down so it was a great pleasure of mine to be able to introduce her to one of the hosts, and parkrun UK MD Tom Williams, who was also kind enough to take a group shot of us.

The run itself was pretty uneventful, a larger than last year (I think) field set off on the track then out through the cycle circuit and onto the river (Lune) path via a quick loop at the Trimpell end. I'd always thought Trimpell was a place or an area but on doing research for this have since found it was an amalgamation of companies, Trinidad Leaseholds, Imperial Chemical Industries and Shell Oil who provided a Sports and Social Club for their employees.

The river path has the virtue of being sheltered which was a godsend as it was quite a windy day. Graeme and I were aiming to get me round at marathon pace (8.12 miles), while Jane and Debs were aiming for a slightly more gentle pace.

Graeme has to be one of the easiest runners to run with and we soon clocked up the miles - this was a lot easier than the previous week's Locke Park 20 for which I ran long stretches alone. Just after 13 miles you turn again and head for home. I wasn't intending to speed up in the second half but I now know just how competitive Graeme is and that every runner ahead is a target to be beaten - especially the ladies, I guess that's how he still manages to keep ahead of Katy too.

Anyway the last few surges didn't kill me and we finished just under our goal time, with a nice little positive split. I'm not sure I'd have liked to run another 6.2 miles at that stage but I guess that's what the taper is for.

Jane and Debs followed shortly and we collected our T-shirts, only cotton sadly but more than made up for by the first medal of 2014 for me. There was also a sandwich, a chocolate bar and a banana so all good value. The race was also chip timed with plentiful water stations and absolutely great, friendly marshals. We hung around for the presentations then relaxed while Graeme drove the long way back - he certainly earned the full mixed grill in the Duke of Wellington that night!

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Ian Mcbride Royton Road RunnersMS101:51:16
26Treena JohnsonDewsbury Road RunnersFV50102:11:37
191Alister RobsonMV403502:43:40
192Graeme WaltonMV403602:43:41
431Jane IvesFV402903:23:27
432Debs GoddardFV403003:23:33

496 finishers

NATO Orienteering Event, Slaley Forest, 16th March

Brown (8.2km)

Dougie Nisbet...

Despondency – there's a word that's heard surprisingly infrequently in running. But what other word describes that nasty cocktail of tiredness, disappointment, irritation, despair, annoyance, and utter de-motivation that follows a poor performance in competition.

I was feeling pretty upbeat as I stepped over the Start line and wandered into a lush-looking Slaley Forest. Last week at Hamsterley I'd been quite pleased with my run and the results table showed that I was dangerously close to being almost average. Today Colin had started a few minutes earlier and I'd rather un-sportingly paid particularly close attention to his initial choice of direction so that when I started I could just pretend to look at the map and follow in his footsteps. (They don't hand you the map in orienteering until you start). But Roberta had just started too on a different course, so I jogged off in her direction to see how she was and have a quick chat. When I looked at my map I realised that I could go this way anyway to the first control, albeit involving a bit of a climb and a bit of a detour. My mood improved even more when I realised that despite taking the scenic route I'd actually managed to catch Colin up on the second control. The third control I happened to pass as I was on my way to find it. This was slightly troubling – I hadn't expected to reach it for another 100m or so. But there it was, chirpy and bright, and asking to be dibbed.

Control 4 set the tone for the rest of the event. It was not where I was expecting it to be, but handily it was right next to Roberta who I bumped into again and she confirmed my suspicions. I was troubled. When you find a control through luck rather than skill, it's a bad sign. Controls 5-21 were all pretty horrible really. Just a mess. It should be said to any Striders thinking of having-a-go, you are rarely ever really genuinely lost in an orienteering event. You usually have a pretty good idea of where you are; it's the getting from where you are to where you want to be that's the tricky bit.

Close, but no cigar.Take Control 15 (right): it was never far away really. Just behind that tree, next to that rock. I knew it was close. But it just didn't want to shake hands and say Hello. And then the frustration and exasperation becomes too much and the red-mist descends, and you feel the uncontrollable urge to shout and swear at anything close (usually trees) about the unfairness of it all. That's ok. That's normal. (Well it is for me anyway).

Somewhere post-control-17 found me leaning against a tree looking at my map and trying to work out the quickest way back to the car. I was totally fed-up. I was going to quit. Another orienteer stopped to ask me if I was ok (I thought I was the last one still out there), and when we established we were both heading for the same control I let him go ahead as he was clearly a faster runner. It also meant I could follow him. Soon he disappeared and I was alone again, except for another head-scratching orienteer I bumped into who I managed to point in the right direction. That was my good deed done for the day.

Best thing to do with the Results Printout.After a few more desultory and unenthusiastic controls the Finish eventually appeared. After commenting to the volunteers that a Bad Man must have designed that course, I discovered there was still a good km or so to walk back to the car. A good three hours after starting I opened the car door and slumped into the driver's seat. Roberta greeted me with, “Where have you been?”. I gave her the sort of hard stare that would have made Paddington Bear jealous, and in way of an answer gestured, vaguely, in a sort of 'out there somewhere' kind of way.

But there's a twist to the story. Have a look at Colin's and my race routes. Colin was over an hour quicker than me round the course, and his navigation was far superior to mine. There are times when I think I might be snipping at his heels but today I was completely outclassed, both on speed and navigation. But he made one mistake on control 4. He punched the wrong control. And orienteering is an unforgiving sport; one wrong control and that's it; DQ'd.

And finally, I notice with some pride, that despite the Brown course being described as 8.2km I managed, through some ingenious route choices, to run almost double that distance. That's over 3 hours of ups and downs and sprints and rests. That's some serious intervals.

The white bits are mostly from multiple foldings.

...and Colin Blackburn

Slaley is the closest orienteering area to my house, just a short one hour run away. Luckily Dougie had offered me a lift so the one hour run would have to wait for the return home. I stepped over the start line a few minutes before Dougie, picked up my map and looked at the two possible routes to the first control. I decided to crash straight down the hill and pick up a lower path. Everything was going so well as I neared the area I was aiming for. Then suddenly things didn't look quite right. The control should be there in that reentrant. It wasn't. This is a regular first leg nightmare for me. Go off too fast and too confident and then stuff up. I never learn. So, I relocate back to somewhere I know and come back in again. Nope, still not there. One more try, damn, wrong reentrant! Just as I punch I see Dougie leaving the control. However many minutes he started behind me, well he's now that many minutes ahead of me. I take a straight compass line to the second and notice Dougie drifts slightly off to the right and so make up a few seconds as I get to a worryingly deep pond and find the kite.

From then on it's plain sailing, as good as it gets, 3, 4,... 10 all found with no problems. Too good to be true? You bet. At 11 it unwinds a little and I have to stop, think, and start again a few times. At 12 the wheels come off. This one was my Dougie-15. It should have been easy but I just make a complete hash of it by never quite running far enough before panicking and restarting. I'd like to blame the map but that's too easy. After that I make steady, but slightly slower, progress as the effort of running over broken ground, jumping ditches, clambering over wind-blown trunks and fighting through young plantation take their toll. I love it really but managed forests do make life hard. Just coming out of control 14 I pass Dougie and assume he's looking for that one and is still on my heels. A snatched conversation and I realise he is four legs behind and possibly a little off-course. I finally finish - although I nearly failed to find the finish itself! - in just short of two hours. With a cleaner run I'd have taken 15 minutes off that and been very happy.

I jog back to the car to find Roberta relaxing after her outing in brand new Walshes, now muddy! After a coffee - thanks Roberta! - and adding a couple more layers I head to the download to check my results. DQed! It turns out that control 4 wasn't that easy after all, I'd inadvertently found a nearby control on a similar feature, a small crag, and not double-checked the number. My fault and a silly mistake to have made. After that it was just the hour's run home, turned out to be a very tiring 75 minutes but at least I didn't get lost!

Lightwater Valley 10K, North Stainley, Ripon, 16th March

Sophie Dennis

Sophie being closely shadowed. Four Striders turned out at the Lightwater Valley 10k Challenge in Ripon, North Yorkshire with about 500 competitors running on the hottest day of the year so far.

It was an undulating course through fields, along gravel paths, around quarries and then winding through Lightwater Valley theme park itself. For a mile and a half though the park you were running right next to the main roller coaster (The Ultimate) but luckily the park wasn't open yet.

It was a good day out, well worth the drive down and you could say “The ultimate running experience” on such a lovely morning!!!

Well done to everyone!

Run Northumberland Half Marathon, Ponteland, 16th March

Gareth Pritchard

This is the second time for me doing this race, last year was a late decision when a number came up. This time it was all set up within my marathon plan with the aim of a fast time on a challenging course. I had it down as a potential pb effort of 1:21 and training was going ok, even with an Achilles problem bugging me last few weeks.

The race was much better organized than last year, proper baggage area and good transport to and from the event. Its held at kirkly hall on very open and undulating grounds and is about as challenging as a road race can get with lots of long hills, turns and a very fast field.

I understand some people being put off by road racing but for me its the only true measuring stick of running ability. It removes most of the variables such as shoe choice, racing line, mud, spikes, obstacles. These non pure running ability factors can all be a big influence on your finish time and can skew the time you run. The road its a fair reflection of running ability. Only track can top the road but who wants to run 13.1 miles on the track?

There is no getting round the downside, it takes a lot out of your body. This is part of the challenge and why I sacrificed a weeks marathon training to taper correctly for the race. In the past I tried to continue my training with a few days taper before the race, which left me feeling sluggish on race day. The one non running factor remaining for road racing times is the weather and this hit hard today with avery strong wind. So the race became all about finishing place and racing the field. You have to accept that a pb is not possible when the wind is this bad, but it's the same for everyone so the race was on.

I was about 35 or so last year so that was my goal, the start was up hill, over a cattle grid then into the hills. They covered the cattle grad this year so much easier. A slight delay at the start and we were off. The difference in my legs was apparent from the off, almost gliding from the start. First mile was on pace at 6:20 mins and away from the pack at last. This is when I start to enjoy the race, time to wind the pace up and pick people off. The pace was good till miles 5-7 where the wind hit full in the face driving me to the 7 min mile mark. Even here I had the strength to pick some more runners off. I had a good battle with the lead female runner and her running partner at this stage. It took me a good mile to pull them in and they drafted behind me for a while too. A fast 6 min mile 8 lost them and held good speed right to the end. Still 2 people passed me at the last mile where I hit 6 min pace again? Always confuses me as I was not slowing up.

End result? 22nd place with a sub 1:24 time boom as someone might say. Very happy and looking good for sub 3 hour marathon which is still my dream goal. Some other good running today by striders as well as a 30 min pb in a amazing run for our female strider. Well done everyone on a great days run, a fantastic day all round.

Durham Tri Club Duathlon, High Shincliffe, 16th March

Run 2M, Bike 11M, Run 2M

Mark Dunseith

I had taken part in a DurhamTri duathlon training session shortly before joining striders in 2012. I had only taken part in one running race before this and spent very little time on my bike so I had jumped in at the deep end. I started first last time and finished a couple of people from last so I was keen to return and see if I could do any better this time. I had planned to make this a regular event in my diary but it has taken me 18 months to fit another one in.

We arrived around 9.15am and went to the registration car to get signed up. We paid our £4 and signed a waiver form and were given information and instructions of what to expect during the event as well as a safety briefing. When you take part in a handicapped duathlon you get a time based on your previous result. There is an imaginary athlete called John Doe and they start at 0.00. Everyone else starts after this time depending on their perceived time or previous results. I was given a start time on 1.00 so only a minute after the clock started. Anita and another female participant (along with her dog) started before me on 0.15 and I was starting with 3 other male athletes. So off I went and quickly got in-front of the other three guys I started with. I quickly caught the other lady as her dog had decided that 30 seconds after starting the run would be a good time to stop for a toilet break. The run route, of 2 miles, starts from the entrance of High Shincliffe where you do a figure of eight round the village before starting the bike section of the session. I caught Anita in the top half of the figure of eight then had what felt like a good run for the rest of the way. Into transition where you shout your number and the organisers record your time.

I had a decent transition, getting my trainers off and cycling shoes on. The rules of duathlon says that you can’t touch your bike until you have your helmet on, so I quickly got my helmet on and grabbed my bike. As I was leaving the transition area two of the three guys that started with me were just entering. I jumped on my bike and off I went.

The bike part of the session is 11 miles long. You leave the transition area and ride along the main street in High Shincliffe and out at the junction closest to Bowburn. You turn left out towards Bowburn and turn left towards and past Bowburn Hall. At the T junction you turn left down to the roundabout at the new road and turn left. Lots of left hand turns in this event which we were told is to try and keep riders as safe as possible. Inevitably there has to be a right turn and that happens at the Sherburn roundabout on the new road where you do a 180 and head back down the road you came down. At this point the first person overtook me and my visions of running across the finish line in first place were so cruelly dashed. Shortly after this number 2 and number 3 also passed me and my vision of standing on the podium and watching my national flag flutter in the wind was also ripped from my grasp (I had the last laugh however as there was no podium or flags at the finish). When you get to the original roundabout you go straight over and down to the roundabout at the bottom of the road, again performing a 180 around it and heading back to the top. Once you get to the top of the road at the Sherburn roundabout you turn left and head down that road as if you were going to Maiden Castle. When you get to the traffic lights, at which you have to follow the normal highway code rules, you turn left and climb that awful hill back up to High Shincliffe. One more person passed me on the hill and I was off the bike and back into the transition area. My stop took a bit longer this time and when I started to run my legs felt like jelly. My second run seemed to be so much slower this time but checking my Garmin it seems it was only 20 seconds slower than the first time round.

I crossed the line in 1 hour and 21 minutes with no further place changes. I was pleased with my running performance but struggled on the bike. Last time I took part I was on a £99 mountain bike whereas this year I had a fancy new hybrid so thought I would have gained more time in this section however the windy conditions made the ride a real slog.

This duathlon takes place on the third Sunday of the month throughout the winter, however, this is the last one until the new Thursday night summer sessions start in May. Checkout their website for more details and updated times.

Locke Park 20, Redcar, 9th March

Rachel Terry

Rachel getting dizzy ...

I was a little hesitant in entering this race – a 20 lap course didn’t really appeal to me but it was close to home and would be a good preparation race for my spring marathon so I thought I’d give it a go. PeterMac, Steph and Alister were also entered so we travelled over to Redcar together on a lovely spring morning. There was plenty of parking at the college just opposite the park and within a few minutes we had collected our numbers and commemorative mugs from the bowls club and had plenty of time to relax before the race started. The race was capped at 125 people so it had a bit of a Parkrun atmosphere about it as everyone lined up at the start.

After a few minutes delay we were off on lap one. The route follows the parkrun course, is very flat and winds in and about the park. There are a couple of tight turns, two small bridges to cross and a duck pond with fountain to run around. After the first lap the sun came out and I realised I was going to boil in my thermal layer so quickly stripped down to my vest, dropping my top on my bag as I passed. I figured I could always pick it up again later if it got cool!

To my surprise I really enjoyed the laps and looked forward to seeing the girl handing out jelly beans by the café, taking the first tight corner out of the breeze into the shelter of the trees, heading to the bottom of the park and the half-mile marker that seemed to come round so quickly, along to the marshal shouting out encouraging comments by the first bridge, over the bridge to the smiley marshal who clapped for me every single lap (thank you!), glancing across the pond to try and spot familiar faces to wave and shout encouragement at, over the second bridge to the two lovely ladies, running around the pond past the fountain and then taking the second tight bend and heading back up to the start and water stations. The great bonus of the course was the constant support you had all the way round, not only from the spectators but from locals taking a walk with their kids and all the other runners who passed me or who were passed by me. It really was a great atmosphere. It was also good to know I could grab a drink or pop to the loo at every mile! It was lovely to see fellow Striders Jacquie, Greta, Issy and Bill who came along for the last few laps to cheer us on and hand out Haribo and Freddie frogs! Thanks to you all!

Peter in the Park.

The race really did exceed my expectations - it was so very friendly, well organised and I’d certainly do it again. All four Striders performed brilliantly with all of us coming in under 3 hours!

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Dentdale Run, Dent, Cumbria, 8th March

14M 379Yards

Graeme Walton

My second attempt at this one after last years' effort was hindered by a lack of mileage due to injury in the weeks running up to it. In my car I was joined by Mark D, Kathryn S, Alan S and Fiona KJ and so across we travelled to the picturesque Dent arriving in good time before meeting up with more Striders. A refreshing cuppa together with some of Fiona's homemade flapjack had me ready for the 14 or so miles ahead.

11 o'clock bang on and we were off, starting off downhill before a beast of a hill arrived after half a mile. This didn't cause too much trouble however when looking back on my splits you could certainly tell where the uphill sections had been. After the uphill a lovely quick downhill section helped quicken the pace up. Now I could describe the rest of the course in detail but basically it was up, down, a little bit of a flat section, down, up, up, flat, down, etc etc. A longer hill at about 8 miles and some little steep killer hills in the last couple of miles. The views - if you had the energy to lift your head up were absolutely breathtaking.

I came home in an improved time from last year so I was very content. There were some stunning Strider performances - I won't single anyone out as everyone did fantastically well. Our reward was a cuppa, sandwich, cake and some flapjack. Poor Kathryn was poorly on the way home - more down to the effort she had put into her run rather my driving I hope! A great run, cheap and always well supported by Striders, I'll be back again next year.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Ian McBride Royton Road RunnersM 1 1:18:01
29Catriona Probert Edinburgh ACF 1 1:31:32
78Graeme Walton MV40 1:40:23
187Alister Robson MV40 1:53:38
211Fiona Jones FV35 1:55:48
236Mark Dunseith M 1:58:37
306Kathryn Sygrove FV45 2:06:43
315Jean Bradley FV55 2:08:15
355Alan Smith MV60 2:14:23
370Jan Young FV55 2:16:52
420Brian Ford MV40 2:30:52
424Jacquie Robson FV35 2:31:08
426Jill Ford FV45 2:31:16

438 finishers.

Far From the Madding Crowd

British Masters XC Championships, Wallsend, 8th March

7.3K/5.3K

Mudman

A small but strong field assembled for the 2014 North East Masters Athletics Association Cross Country Champs at Wallsend (of all places) on Saturday. Striders representation was also small and strong and took the form of Will Horsley, Mike Hughes, Conrad & Mudpeople.

Mike, Susan and I arrived quite early - early enough to see George Routledge and his mate still marking the course! George, of Heaton Harriers, is quite a hero; the event had originally been scheduled for early Feb in Darlington but was called off because of a waterlogged course. It looked like that would be it for 2014 - no championship race - but George managed to find another venue, another course, arrange another permit etc. all in the space of a couple of weeks! Well done George and the NEMAA!

Our recce of the course showed it to be fairly dry, flat and fast but without the scenic delights of last week's Alnwick HL. However, we did spot a few crocuses on the field and there was a blue sofa strategically placed close to the course should anyone need a sit down - well it was a Veteran's event!

And the winner is ...

There were to be two races: the first, for all the women and men over 65, would be three laps and the second, for the rest of the men, would be four laps. Susan's race unfolded under a cloudy sky accompanied by a keen, chilly wind. Nonetheless, she powered round the deceptively tough little course and, to prove the old adage that you only need to beat those who turn up, finished first in her age category and, as "women's champion V50 runner for the North East of England", was later awarded the gold medal!!

In the 'longer' race (7.3k as opposed to 5.3) Will, in celebration of his recently acquired veteran status, shot off with the front runners up what had seemed a fairly gentle slope during our recce. However, by the fourth lap it was feeling decidedly steep to me particularly as the first couple of laps had been run at a blistering pace. Given the relatively small field of runners I spent most of the race trying to stay in touch with a Low Fell runner of similar vintage to myself. With no 'technical' sections, such as thick mud, running water, fallen trees, steep descents etc, to use to my advantage I just couldn't close the gap and trailed in 3 seconds behind. But not to worry, Will finished 2nd in his age group and Mike and Conrad both had excellent runs!

Well done to everyone and thanks to the NEMAA for putting on an event that was very well organised on the day. Although the course may not have been particularly challenging, like a Prudhoe or a Wallington, you were still running hard and fast for the whole race with no respite - if you wanted to do your best. I would discover the consequences of this the following day!

Results

Men (35-64)
PosNameClubCatTime
1 DUFFY, Patrick Blackhill         MV35 26:16
4 HORSLEY, William MV35 26:43
27 DAVIS, Geoff MV55 30:43
31 HUGHES, Michael MV55 31:30
35 WHITE, Conrad MV55 32:06

47 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 WALLER, Tracy Hartlepool Burn Road 22:32
14 DAVIS, Susan FV50 26:08

34 finishers, including 13 over-65 Men. [Yes, this is confusing, Ed.]

Cambridge parkrun, 8th March

Kirsty Anderson

Getting popular, these selfies ...

Jon and I were in the Cambridge area for the half marathon the next day and thought we would do some parkrun tourism while we were there. We were staying with family about 20 mins drive away so headed out on Saturday morning and found the site easily (it's just off the A14). We were then directed to a parking space in the car park attached to the Country Park (note this costs £2, so you are better off parking in the supermarket car park across the road which is free!) and followed the other lycra-clad people into the interior of the park.

It was rather cold and windy but there was a good turnout and as usual the locals were very friendly, several people stopped us to ask where we were based and I had a nice chat to a chap from Bowburn who recognised my hoody. The beginners briefing lady had a massive loudhailer thing, Alister would have been very jealous although it wasn't really needed as we were all huddled together in a small area because of the cold.

The course was one small loop to the right then two big loops of the lake. It was a bit muddy and narrow paths in the main and I did a lot of dodging of small children, dogs and fishermen's tents but the marshalls were excellent and a good time was had by all.