Northumberland Coastal Marathon, 24th August


Melanie Hudson

This is the first time I have the Northumberland Coastal marathon and it is now high up on my list of most scenic routes. The route is an out and back from Alnmouth to the river bridge just south of Beadnell. It mainly follows the Northumberland Coastal Run route, but with the vast majority of the road sections on trail instead. It passes the spectacular ruins of Dunstanburgh castle, the lovely seaside village of Craster and goes along some beautiful beaches.

There were only fifty five runners at the start line which is surprising since it is such a beautiful marathon. Amongst these 55, were Striders DaveR, JulietP and DavidB. The weather was a little cool and overcast at the start with a breeze which made for perfect running conditions. It did warm up a bit later as the sun came up but it never got too hot.

I ran the first half with Dave and it felt as if it was going well. The course was runnable which made it a challenge for us as we are used to courses with lots of hills that we walk up, we are not used to running constantly. At the halfway point Dave decided to slow a little and I went on ahead.

At mile 15 my knee started to hurt quite a bit and I slowed down but thankfully it eased off as I hit the firm flat sand. Up until mile 20 I was feeling pretty strong and enjoying the scenery. However I began to feel unwell with a slight headache and feeling sickly. It is not like me to feel sickly in a marathon and I thought it would just pass.

At mile 22 I caught up with Juliet and David and I ran the next 2.5 miles with them, however by now I was feeling pretty sick, my head was hurting quite a bit and I was generally feeling very tired. It was great to have Juliet and David’s company which kept me plodding on, rather than resorting to walking. Although my poor navigation skills did not help them. At one point I tried to send us all down someone’s back garden because I remembered at one point on the way out turning past some lobster pots, maybe not the best way to remember a route when in Northumberland and lobster pots are a common thing. Then we came to a confusing section in a caravan park, I thought I had remembered the way as Dave had showed me on the way out. However we ended up on the beach way too early and ended up having to clamber over lots of rocks to get back to where we needed to be. I guess it was a good distraction from feeling ill but I did end up adding nearly a quarter of a mile to our distance, sorry.

About a mile and a half from the end I told Juliet and David to go on ahead as I felt as if I might be sick and I needed to run/walk to the finish. They kept looking to back to make sure I was okay, so I had little rest walks but the thought that I would be seen walking in the last mile spurred me to run more than I would have done otherwise. Thank you Juliet and David for helping me get through those last four miles. I was very relieved when I crossed the finish line. It was only then I realised that I was feeling so unwell due to a migraine. I took some tablets then cheered Dave in at the end.

Dave and I had some food and I began to feel a lot better. We then joined Juliet and David in the pub for a quick drink before heading home.

It wasn't until the next day that Juliet and David realised that they had both come first in their age categories. Well done you two!

Fleetwood Half Marathon, 24th August

Alister Robson

Graeme Walton had run this last year and reported favourably on its PB potential. He kindly offered me a lift and so Katy, Graeme and myself set off from Durham at 6.30am on the long journey to Fleetwood.

After a quick stop at the golden arches for coffee and a hash brown, we arrived in plenty of time in glorious sunshine and next to no wind - perfect conditions for me. I say we arrived in plenty of time, but the queues for the toilets were already starting to snake around the leisure centre car park - this and the unsecured baggage storage area was about the only thing I can mark this down for.

After an amusing MC gave the briefing and a slight delay in the start caused by the previously mentioned toilet queue we were off and running along the wide sea front promenade, Katy as usual shooting off, Graeme (who I managed to keep in sight for most of the first small lap) and me slowly and steadily towards the rear of the 500 strong field.

After the first short lap of about 1Km, we set off further down the coast for a larger lap of about four and a half miles. All this time I felt great and was running comfortably at my goal pace of 7.15 mins per mile. The third larger lap of about 8 miles was even further down the coast (you could see Blackpool Tower in the distance), but there was a slight headwind and I felt I was working hard. The long straight did however let me catch sight of Katy and I knew then that either I was storming it or Katy was having a struggle.

When I went round the furthest corner at just short of 10 miles and I saw her standing still I knew, if I didn't already, that it was the latter. I encouraged her to join me but she wanted to stop (it turns out to take her shoes off). The last three miles were a real drag, friendly marshals and photographers excepted. I really did have to push myself to keep going, knowing that if I could hold to even 8 minute miles I'd have a new PB and that's the way it panned out. All too soon, I was back on the final lap making the turn into the centre and could see the race clock ticking down and hear Graeme urging me on.

That early start and hard work was worth it with a PB of nearly two minutes and 1.37. Katy came in very shortly after me, still breaking 1.40 despite her struggle and Graeme was already in, in 1.33. There was a medal (if no T-shirt) a banana and a wagon wheel or bag of mini cheddars and water on offer to finishers. Graeme even very kindly stopped off on the way home so that I could get some essential hop flavoured recovery carbs on board!

Strangford Festival 10K, 22nd August

Debbie McFarland

Knowing I was going to be home visiting family for a week in Northern Ireland I decided to look up Northern Ireland athletics to see if there happened to be any nice races I could sign up for. I have always wondered what it would be like to run back home as running doesn’t seem to have as big of a profile in Northern Ireland as it does in the North East, plus it would be a little something to keep me motivated with Great North Run and Redcar half marathon just around the corner.

For those who don’t know Northern Ireland well, Strangford is a little village at the mouth of Strangford lough in County Down. On the other side of the lough is another village called Portaferry and there is a ferry that runs regularly between the two villages.

I set off to Strangford with my Mum and Dad aiming to be nice and early as numbers had to be collected on the day, plus I didn’t have a clue where the pick-up point was for these and without the usual purple crew to direct me I was feeling a little more nervous than usual.

The race started at 7.30pm and thankfully it was a lovely dry evening. Standing at the start line without the usual banter from my striders friends was quite a different experience. The race began alongside the lough near the village square, it then went up through the village and out through Castle ward a National trust area. It was a mainly a trail run with lots of forest and narrow winding tracks along the way, a few small sections involved running on grass.

Debbie. The first few miles follow around the lough which was stunning as the sun was going down. It was one of those scenes where you wished you had a camera with you to capture it. This was by no means a flat race route and I quickly realised there would be no chance of beating my 10k personal best of 58:13. Miles 3-5 were predominately uphill and at the 4k point the girl behind me loudly stated “I wish I’d never started this”, I give her a little bit of strider encouragement and we were on our way again. The marshals were fantastic, they were at all the right points to avoid you getting lost and they provided great support. The race finished with the last half mile being on footpath and back into the village, at this point I was feeling strong (probably because I knew it was downhill from here), it was lovely to hear all the locals clapping and cheering you in and even better was the fact that my mum and dad were standing at the corner just before you turn into the finishing straight.

I finished in a not so amazing time of 62:23 however given the hills I was pleased enough with that. A lovely race, definitely one I would do again and recommend to others. Race entry was only £11.00 and the race pack included water, Lucozade sport, T shirt (although it was cotton and white) and a mini mars bar. It also had the added bonus of being chip timed.

Gateshead Harriers & AC / Quayside Business Forum 5K, 21st August

Simon Gardner ...

Simon in the final kilometre.
Any race that has the magic words flat and Fast in the description gets me interested so despite costing £15! I entered hoping for a reasonable time and a desperate return to some sort of form.

I had been struggling recently, my times in track sessions had been very good but the mental side of running was once again something I was struggling with during recent races. I had recently done the Darlington 10K in 38:53 but the first 2 miles were way off pace and felt like slowing to a jog until mile 2 then ran really well for the reminder of the race. I really should have PB’d in that race but at least it showed that I was in fairly good shape.

After getting there very early (as normal) I was soon joined by Dougie, Alister, Rebecca and Richard “Ironman” hall along with the fast lads from Crook AC. It was obvious from the start this was going to be high calibre race with several runners from Morpeth including Ian Hudspith who still holds the Newcastle parkrun all time PB.

The course starts on the Newcastle Side of the Quayside just near the pitcher and piano and heads up river past all the bridges. The turn around point is just short of the half way point and you head down river back to the Millennium Bridge with finish on the Gateshead side.

I decided to not look at my watch and just run to feel, it is a fairly narrow start but it’s not long before it opens out a little, to be honest it was probably ideal as it stopped me going off too hard.

After the turn around I decided just go as hard as I could and if I ran out steam then at least I could say I gave it everything. Thankfully it was the best I have ran in months and was I delighted (and exhausted) to cross the line in 18:13.

Thanks to all the Striders there and especially to Allan for the track and Grass sessions they have really made a difference.

... Dougie Nisbet

At over a pound a mile dearer than the Great North Run I imagined for a second that I could sense Danny's incandescence sizzling quietly in the evening sunlight. Ordinarily I wouldn't pay £15 for a 5K that I could do £15 cheaper any Saturday of the year in parkruns all around the country. But I work next door, and I've not done a road race for a while. A fast, flat 5K would be useful in providing me with some no-nonsense feedback about what sort of shape I was in.

Daniel Buren - Catch as catch can: works in situ Just after 6pm I wandered out of Baltic, registered, then wandered back to my desk and had a nice cup of tea. I looked out of the window and saw a splash of purple so wandered out again to meet my fellow Striders who'd also decided to give this new race a whirl. As 7pm approached we made our way across the Millennium Bridge to the Start of the race in Newcastle. The race started right on time, even if the starting hooter didn't, but we all got the message, and we leapt away up the River Tyne.

Plenty of marshalls, signs and tape kept us right. It was a straight out and back and it was no time at all before the Scarily Fast runners could be seen coming back downriver. Simon, Alister, and Rich were mixing it up with the SFRs but I wasn't so far back myself and feeling exhausted but upbeat. Short races are just so much harder than long races, and you have to keep concentrating or your pace slips, and in a short race, you pay for that lapse of concentration. I grabbed the lampost at the turn and birled round and I was heading home. A slight tailwind and, because you're going downriver you can tell yourself you're going downhill, and I kept my pace up.

I tried to not keep glancing at my watch but I realised I was in danger of getting a half-decent time. There was just the small matter of the hill at the end. A sharp right onto the Millennium Bridge then keeping to the right to take the shortest line possible - over the summit to hear Alister's commanding voice encouraging me to shift it downhill to the finish. A cheeky little chicane through the gates and bollards and then a few yards sprint to the line with some convenient railings to hang on to while I waited for the world to stop spinning.

I was pretty pleased to finish 1 second the wrong side of 23 minutes given that my last parkrun a few weeks ago had been nearer 26 minutes. A flat fast and furious race. Everyone needs to do one of those every now and then, even if it does cost £4.84 a mile.

Helen, Alister, Rich, Dougie, Rebecca, Simon, Hugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew ...


1Ian HudspithMorpeth HarriersV40100:15:03
22Heather SellarsAbbey RunnersFemale100:16:57
50Simon GardnerV40600:18:13
101Alister RobsonV401600:20:45
116Richard HallMale5900:21:33
129Dougie NisbetV501100:23:01
135Helen Todd*Female2000:23:26
165Rebecca FisherFemale3200:26:31

179 finishers
*No club. But if she were to be in a club ...

Cock Crow 5K, Jarrow, 19th August

Alister Robson

Surprisingly just Jacquie and I representing Striders for this very low key event. It took next to no time to get there being just off the A194 Leam Lane roundabout and so we had plenty time for me to have a coffee and for Jacquie to talk Masters track and field athletics with the evergreen George Routledge.

Evergreen George, indeed!

We even had time for a recce/warm up - the course had changed slightly from last year and now started and finished at roughly the same place.

It's a mainly flat course heading out on an old railway line (Waggon Way?) before a cheeky little hill takes you to the highest point of the course just before 2k. (Great views though). There's a small stile to hop over and that's what I blame for my time being slightly slower than expected over 5k, although quicker than last year.

After the stile there's a pleasant diversion around the fishing lake, up a country lane, along a very quiet road, a very short piece of grass and back to the railway line for a nice fast finish.

No medals, tees or goody bag here but no-one robbed either at only £7. Jacquie was just outside 25 mins and her times are once again heading in the right direction off the back of marathon training so we celebrated with a slap up meal in the eponymous pub where we didn't trouble the results presentations.

Summer Cross Country Relays, Durham Racecourse, 18th August

Simon Gardner

After the success of last year’s relay I once again volunteered to organise the teams for the event which is put on by Durham City Harriers. Last year we had 24 runners (8 teams) but this year the demand was even bigger and we had an excellent turnout of 33 runners which made up 11 teams.

Imagine holding crisps between your thumb and forefinger, and look slightly ahead and down ... -- Allan Seheult

We only had one team in the senior category and that was also our fastest team consisting of Gareth Pritchard, Rob Everson and Stephen Jackson and they did not let us down finishing in 11th place which is fantastic considering the really high standard of the senior runners running on the night. Rob was also the fastest strider of the night coming home in 10:37 for 2 mile which is very impressive and shows the fantastic progress he has made over the last year.

While no-one let us down the weather most certainly did. It started to pour down around 6:30 and didn’t let up for a good 30 minutes, so by the time the Vets race started we had 30 wet ,cold but determined striders ready to go.

The rain thankfully had stopped by the time all our first leg runners assembled on the start line in the Vet race.

Just picking out a few striders for special mention, Matthew Crow continues to improve massively and managed an excellent 11:38 for the 2 mile circuit and looks in great shape for coming XC season, thanks also to Penny Browell and Clare Galloway for stepping in late in the day and giving it their all.

Finally many thanks to everyone came down to run and support.

Ray Harrison Memorial 10k, Billingham, 17th August

Alister Robson

I've often wondered why this race isn't more popular with Striders and can only conclude that it's the timing, coming as it does immediately after the hugely popular Darlington 10k and before the not quite as, but almost as popular Middlesbrough Tees Pride 10k. This year it was also the day before the DCH Summer Relays.

That's the only thing I can think of as otherwise it ticks a lot of boxes. Fast, flat, cheap, chip timed and with a tech tee and goodie bag. This year if you'd entered in a advance your name was also printed on the number, giving spectators a chance to shout your name which is always nice.

Working hard early on ...

Katy described the route well in her report from last year - one small 3k loop and a larger 7k route. The wind was strongly in your face for the last bit of both, though it's strange how it doesn't feel as strong when it's behind you!

I bumped into Ari and Innes Hodgson beforehand and Ari was ahead of me for nearly all of the first lap. I tried to encourage him to tuck in behind me into the wind but perhaps he paid the price for slightly too fast a start. I had a good strong run, only a few seconds slower than my time at Darlington a week earlier on a much less windy, if perhaps slightly hillier course. I was also pleased to track down and overtake the three orange DCH shirts that were ahead of me for most of the first 9K. Ari finished just behind me as I got my breath back with a very strong and competitive kick at the very end coming into the stadium. Innes was just after him and looked pretty comfortable considering.

Unfortunately I didn't see Laura Jackson at the start and hence didn't know to wait for her. It was her second race of the weekend following from Saturday's Gateshead trail 10k - looks like someone has got the bug :-)

A potential Sprint Grand Prix race for future years?

St Levan 10K, Cornwall, 15th August

Jenny Search

This race is organised by Mounts Bay Harriers and takes place in the West of Cornwall just a few miles from Lands End. It’s not a long drive from my parents’ house and as it was a beautiful evening I managed to persuade my husband to come with me and run too. The entry process was well organised and I was chuffed to be able to put ‘Elvet Striders’ on my entry form for the first time. We checked out the map on a board, giggled at the fact we would be passing through Bottoms and Brew and tried to ignore the other runners complaining about ‘that hill’ so we could remain in ignorant bliss. The description of the course on the website is brilliant so I’ll quote it here:

“The route is described as ‘undulating’ by most Cornish runners, many of whom have recorded their PBs on it. Visitors from East Anglia tend to describe it either as ‘hilly’ or ‘bl**dy hilly’ while Northern fell running types tend to consider it a bit ‘soft’. True, there are a couple of pulls around the course, but these are more than compensated by a couple of descents and a great deal of fast level ground.”

I never did any running when I lived in Cornwall and I’ve obviously not become truly ‘Northern’ yet as I thought it was pretty darn hilly! The first mile was pleasantly undulating but then the second mile was all up hill and very steep followed by another long steep climb at the halfway point. We managed to run up all the hills but got overtaken by a few people on the downhills so I need to work on that. The route was inland and there weren’t many views due to the high Cornish hedges along the lanes but it was very pleasant, quiet running and the glimpses of sea and countryside were lovely with plenty of uplifting support from marshals and a few residents along the route.

Jenny changes coasts.

I can’t imagine recording a PB on this route due to the hills so I dread to think what the other local races are like but I really enjoyed it and it was a good challenge. Over 300 runners took part, mostly club runners from all over Cornwall. We were pleased to finish (together) in under an hour (56.28). We ended the evening by driving to the coast and watching the sunset over the sea with a bag of chips. So if you’re down in Cornwall one August, I’d recommend looking it up.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Darlington 10K, 10th August

Greta Jones

This is one of my favourite road races of the year, firstly because it is relatively flat and secondly because I work in Darlington and there is always someone on the sidelines to give a cheer. I had achieved a PB at Tyndale this summer and following this, Alister Robson commented on what I could potentially achieve on a fast flat course like Darlington, well that sent the thought process in to overdrive and gave me a goal to aim for.

My sister Karen (a recent recruit to the Striders family) and I set off for Darlington early, as her daughter Issy was running in the fun run, Issy as usual had a great time and the fun run acted as a good warm up for Karen.

Following the fun run we managed to meet up with a rather large group of Striders for some pre race support and a couple of group photos. In the absence of Bill Ford, YP asked the usual question, "Jonsey, what are we aiming for", there then followed a discussion on what he achieved last year and what I achieved and a compromise that we aim for somewhere between the two, (58.44 and 59.53) We now had a goal, so we made our way to the race start and were soon underway. The start was a little congested but I soon managed to get to the pace I required and felt quite comfortable. Now I am not the best at evenly pacing, I have a tendency to run too fast and pay for it in the later stages. So although I was surprised to pass Chris Hedley and Debs Goddard, I fully expected them to catch me later in the race.

Surprisingly the first lap felt good and my average pace was on track, I forgot, to check my 5K time, but was happy that the average pace remained pretty steady. The second time on Carmel Road slowed me up a little, but some encouragement from Michael Ross as he passed me and some excellent motivational speeches from a gentleman in a Swift-tees top gave me enough encouragement to pick up the pace and keep going.

Turning in to High Row I could hear Alister Robson cheering me in, a quick smile for a colleague with a camera and I crossed the line in a time of 47.38 over 2 minutes off last year's time. YP was just behind me, as was Nicola White both of whom also achieved 10k PBs.

Having finished my race it was then time to add to the Striders cheering squad, and I couldn't have been more please to see my sister completing only her 2nd race in a Striders vest with a 10k PB of 53 minutes, thanks should go to Jacquie Robson for pacing her round the first lap and the proverbial kick up the backside on the second, but I think the highlight of the day was watching Kirsty Steed pace Debs McFarland to her first ever sub 60 10K race.

I think I can safely say that we had a successful and enjoyable race with the additional bonus of a purple T-shirt for all finishers.


PosName Club CatTime
1 Wondiye Fikre Indelbu Ethiopia M 00:30:45
6 Kate Avery Shildon Running & ACF 00:33:05
36 Gareth Pritchard M 00:35:45
52 Stephen Jackson M 00:36:53
61 Rob Everson M 00:37:19
99 Simon Gardner MV40 00:38:53
154 Matthew Crow M 00:40:31
163 Graeme Walton MV40 00:40:54
217 Katy Walton F 00:41:58
298 Alister Robson MV40 00:43:45
357 Fiona Jones FV35 00:44:42
365 Paul Pascoe MV40 00:45:09
415 Jonathan Steed MV45 00:46:04
428 Martin Welsh MV50 00:46:11
468 Anna Seeley F 00:46:53
475 Claire Readey FV35 00:47:16
506 Jackie McKenna FV45 00:47:40
523 Michael Ross MV40 00:47:26
535 Greta Jones FV45 00:47:38
559 Paul Beal MV50 00:47:56
564 David Spence MV65 00:48:01
572 Richard Hall MV55 00:47:59
587 Nicola Whyte F 00:48:08
670 Debra Goddard FV40 00:50:03
676 Stephanie Piper F 00:50:16
841 Karen Jones FV40 00:53:00
894 Dave Robson MV60 00:52:26
924 Jacquie Robson FV35 00:54:17
1000Clare Clish FV40 00:56:14
1101Angela Coates FV40 00:57:26
1168Kirsty Anderson FV35 00:58:12
1169Debbie McFarland F 00:58:13
1230Jane Baillie FV35 00:59:32
1300Helen Hall FV45 01:00:14
1334Laura Chapman F 01:02:09
1387Mike Elliott MV65 01:04:26
1453Sophie Dennis F 01:07:14

1531 finishers.

Hardmoors Saltburn Marathon, Saltburn-By-The-Sea, 10th August


Melanie Hudson

The first thing I did that morning was to check the weather forecast, hoping that it had changed since the day before. I was sadly disappointed as they were still predicting very heavy rain for most of the day. So when I arrived at Saltburn leisure centre I was feeling apprehensive about what was in store. Although it was reassuring to see the familiar faces of Flip and Denise B who were both there to marshal and Sue who was also running the marathon. Just before the start I also spotted Lindsay R who was there to run the 10k.

The marathon began and at this point the weather was warm and dry but very overcast as if it could start raining at any time. We began by running up the road, however the climb did not last long and we were soon descending towards Saltburn seafront. We ran along the front before reaching a long set of steps to get onto the Cleveland way.

Queueing at Registration.

Once on the cliff tops the path was on a gradual incline which was pretty runnable. There were lovely views of the coast along this path which we were on for about five and a half miles. The seven mile point which took us off the coastal path and headed back towards Skinningrove. At mile nine the route took us onto a climb out of Skinningrove and the heavens opened. The rain was quite cold but I felt really warm so I had to make a quick decision as to whether I should put my waterproof on or not. I decided that it can be hard to warm up again if I got really cold and that there was a long way to go so I put my coat on.

I got to the check point at mile 12 where Denise was marshaling and she cheered me on my way.

Since putting my coat on I had been uncomfortably hot and I eventually made the decision to take it off at mile 15. At this point I had entered Slapewath woods which had become pretty muddy underfoot due to the heavy rain and made for slow going. However I did spot some raspberries and blackberries that were ready to eat so I munched on a few of them on the way past.

I was then in Guisborough Woods where the rain had started to ease a little and I was glad I had taken off my coat earlier. At mile 18 there was a brutal climb up to Highcliff Nab, not what my tired legs really wanted at this point. The top of The Nab was where Flip was marshaling, he was ‘entertaining’ runners on the way up by ‘singing’ to people on their way up. It was lovely to see a familiar face at the top of such a climb. Flip checked if I was okay for food and water, it must have been quite a feat hauling such supplies up there with him.

I then descended onto the moors, where the rain was very heavy again. It was also very misty which made the moors pretty eery and I was glad that there were other runners around me. By now we were heading into a cold wind, I was wet and chilly. There was a mile uphill and the ground was very wet, however I kept running to try and keep warm.

On the Cleveland Way.

Eventually I came to a road which I crossed. The route description now said for me to head in the direction of a TV Mast. This would have been a useful instruction had it not been so misty ! Thankfully there was a clear path to follow which lead me to the mast which only appeared when I was only several feet from it.

At mile 26 I was running through Skelton Green where I saw Denise again. It was a real boost to see her as by this point I was feeling pretty cold and miserable and it was still raining heavily.

At mile 27 I entered Saltburn woods and followed the path down to a lovely waterfall. I then took the footbridge over the beck and underneath a viaduct. They are attractive woods. Then there was then a bit of a climb to get back to the top of Saltburn. I was then out of the woods and onto the road. I knew I had to be quick if I wanted sub six hours so I ran as fast as I could. I was not quite fast enough and missed the sub six hours by 15 seconds. However I was not too bothered, I was just relieved to be inside where it was warm and dry. The advantage of this race’s HQ being in a leisure centre was that it had warm showers. After a shower and a cup of coffee I was warmed up and feeling happy to have completed the marathon in such unpleasant conditions.

Forest Burn Fell Race, 10th August

3.5M / 492'

Jan Young

Forest Burn fell race; traditional country fair race of 5.6k/150m climb over gates, pastures, streams, fell. Striders Will Horsley has organised this since 2007; he did everything, taping the course, took entries, ran, sorted results. Simonside Country Fair and hay show (all a tad soggy) small affair with dog show, falconry, wrestling, exhibition tent (victoria sandwiches the size of hay bales), egg throwing. Well attended despite weather. Nice to chat to familiar (running) faces; Stuart of DFR/Quakers? provided registration tent, promoting outdoor clothing, very lightweight down sleeping bags/ gilet. Race is short with little climbing, so good for fell running intro, as well as family day out.

Turner Landscape Fell Race, Lakes, 10th August

10.6m / 2986'

Danny Lim

Gale force winds buffeted me in every direction and visibility was down to 50 yards. I was somewhere on the Coniston Masiff, looking for my second elusive checkpoint. This was a world away from the sunny Duddon valley from which I had started an hour ago. The runner ahead was just about visible and I really didn't want to lose him.

Then through the mist, a lone waif-like figure stood. Facing the blustery wind, he held himself upright with two walking poles. "Well done!" he called out. As I approached, I saw a weathered, gaunt face framed by white eyebrows and a long, narrow nose. His beady eyes carried a piercing gaze, a distinctive look which I recognised instantly. "Joss Naylor?". "Aye!", he replied.

It was a surreal moment, meeting him atop a desolate peak in the mist when I least expected it. Here was the legendary "Iron Joss", breaker of so many course records, some of which still stand decades on. And here he was in his seventies, marshalling a remote checkpoint, encouraging runners including the ones at the back. And all for a good cause, as all race proceeds were going to the Alzheimer's Society. For a second, I forgot I was in the middle of a race. A quick handshake and I reluctantly carried on.

From Dow Crag looking into Duddon Valley.

I had lost my quarry and found myself alone in the mist. It was a disconcerting feeling, but I carried on in the bearing I was supposed to take. Eventually, I joined a pack of runners and followed them towards the next checkpoint, the summit of Old Man Coniston. On descending from the "Old Man", I veered away from the main path, followed a sheep trod which eventually petered out. I found myself on the side of a steep, grassy slope dotted with crags and boulders. I also had a great view of the big, precipitous drop into the valley below. As I fumbled through, trying to traverse the slope, I realised that the runners behind had taken exactly the same line. "You don't have to follow me, I'm making this up as I go!", I joked. Nobody had a sense of humour.

We soon reached the next checkpoint at Dow Crag before making our way to White Pike, the last climb of the race. From here it was 20 minutes of exhilarating, quick-stepping, knee-jolting descending through the sheep folds towards Turner Farm Hall. What added to the thrill was knowing I was being chased. I had managed to get ahead of the pack and I could intermittently hear heavy footsteps behind. A last cruel perimeter of the field and I was across the finish.

If you have managed several fell races in the North York Moors and want a step up, this will be a good one to try, though navigational skills is a must. I was initially fazed by my fellow runners. They have thighs that show every sinew of muscle, craggy weathered faces, frames devoid of body fat and a determined and confident expression. But everyone really is friendly and up for a bit of banter, especially after the race. This is only the fourth running of this race, but the route is a horseshoe run over a mountain ridge and boasts great views throughout. It certainly has potential to become a Lakeland "classic".

Haven Point Triathlon, 10th August

400m pool swim, 20km cycle, 5km run

Megan Bell

Due my continued lack of form, I decided against Darlington 10k this year knowing I was nowhere near my 45:50 time from last year. Having completed my first sprint triathlon in June on the back of absolutely no triathlon training (hadn’t been swimming since February) and enjoyed all of it except the run (very ironic), I was recommended Haven Point by Peter Brooks from Durham Tri. So I entered but again failed to do any proper triathlon training (I managed one trip to the pool and went out on my bike 4 times …)

I hadn’t realised it was the inaugural event this year (means I have to do them all now ..) but Haven Point sprint triathlon (400m pool swim, 20k 3 lap undulating bike and 5k run finishing on the beach) was organised by Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service Triathlon club based at the very new and shiney Haven Point Leisure centre in South Shields.

After an early start (roads shut at 6:30 for the closed road bike course) my bike and I made it to South Shields for 6:15. Parked and registered, I set about racking my bike and organising things in the transition area. This is when I realised I’d managed to lose my timing chip … luckily for me it had been handed in and was waiting for me poolside! After thinking I’d lost my (husband's) car keys, I managed to get myself just about ready for the swim. The swim involved 16 laps but instead of doing them all in the same lane, you had to do two in each of the 8 lanes of the pool, ducking under the plastic lane ropes after every two laps. Based on this, I couldn’t work out where to leave my garmin (which may or may not be waterproof, so I’d rather not chance it). Most people who know me know I am a bit of a slave to my garmin so the idea of going without was a bit odd. But I was running out of time so I locked it (with my now found car keys) in one of the leisure centre lockers and made my way poolside.

The bloke next to me was 6’4” and built like, well, like a very good swimmer. He started chatting with the marshal and it emerged he was just back from completing an Iron Man distance triathlon in Tenerife … why was he starting his swim after me??

My swim was pretty good. 9:30 which included the 200m run to transition. The Iron Man did, not surprisingly, overtake me but only just and I spent 5 laps swimming in his wake, my hands touching his feet (I think you’re supposed to move if this happens but I wasn’t going to argue with him!). I managed to catch the bloke in front of me too (which isn’t bad considering I can’t do front crawl) but he shoulder barged me out of the way on the exit from the pool …. Not very friendly! But it made me determined to overtake him on the bike (admittedly a challenge seeing as I “hate” the bike). That and the fact he’d racked his bike the wrong way round and in my space so I’d had to move it earlier.

Report continues here...


parkrunathon, Manchester, 9th August

8x5km (YMMV)

George Nicholson

Pieces of eight.To boost my Great North Run Fundraising I undertook yet another parkrunathon. This year deciding on 8 parkruns courses in the Manchester area. Rather than attempt it on my own I ‘volunteered’ Sam Nightingale to accompany me. Before she married, many Striders knew her as Sam Brown, former Event Director of Sunderland parkrun, & the young Lady who started up the Netball club, Wearside Wildcats.

It was Sam of course who introduced so many of us to parkrun, organising our Televised Santa Run and our annual Netball Tournament, which is now in its 4th year. Sam and her hubby Oli now live in Manchester.

zero down, eight to go.The schedule of events was decided upon and contact was made with each of the Venues and promoted on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Vodafone JUST TEXT GIVING also helped me along the way with promotion by designing ‘posters’ and promoting it via Twitter. From that we were contacted by Chorlton Runners and 2 of their Members Leona Beaumont and Lorraine Pang elected to accompany us on ‘our journey’, and what a difference they made. Apart from being delightful Company, they turned out to be invaluable help and support in so many ways. Arriving at the first venue - Woodbank ( more of that soon ) 2 other ‘unattached’ parkrunners Karl Downing and Jason Ridgeway also decided to come along for the ‘fun & runs’. At the 3rd venue ( Bramhall ) Sam’s Hubby arrived with 2 of his friends , Neil Grice and Gazz Pashley. From then on, we were a ‘TEAM WITH A DREAM’ travelling in convoy to each subsequent parkrun location, enjoying many laughs and providing morale boosts for each other whenever the going got tough, making it a most memorable day for me.

The omens were favourable from the start. Weather forecast was good and at 7:15 am we arrived at WoodBank park to be greeted with an amazing reception of friendly faces. There were approx. 18 parkrunners who had turned out at this early hour to run with us, the course had already been laid out, signs, cones flags etc. - Wonderful. My aim was to attempt to run each parkrun in about 30 mins, but that soon proved to be unattainable on some tough hilly courses on a very hot day. Survival and enjoyment became far more important than ‘times’.

Run #2 was the Official parkrun at Cheadle Hulme. This was only their 7th Event, but the 60 other runners and all the Marshalls & Organisers had put out the ‘Red Carpet’ for our arrival and again we were given VIP treatment. Of particular note here was a delightful youngster called Annabel who had a bell, and must be the loudest Voluncheerer in the Manchester area.

Event Director Janine met us at the magnificent Bramhall park for run #3. A most scenic run through woods & hill around a magnificent Stately Home

Run #4 was different again, 2 laps & flat around Burnage RFC and the very pleasant riverbanks. E.D Katherine & other ladies did an excellent job here of marshalling the ‘Dream Team’ at some critical junctions.


Run #5 was back to another magnificent stately home – Wythenshawe park. We were escorted round by 2 of their runners, but unfortunately became quite a spread out Team and several took wrong turnings at key points. one of us, namely me, took a major wrong turn and ended up running almost 5 miles rather than 3.1 L - a major fail.

Run #6 at South Manchester park was known by most of the team as it was their main local run and we were met there by another regular runner. However I never got to see any of it. The major fail on the last run resulted in me getting severe cramp in both calves and I simply could not walk, never mind run. It was also on this course that Jason went ‘down’ with a bad leg injury, which meant both he and Karl had to pull out. Each of them did however a credible 6 runs that day.

I at least had 2 hours to recover and was able to continue at Worsley Woods for run #7. Despite being quite late on a Saturday afternoon 6 ‘Locals’ turned up for us and were proud to show us round their scenic route.

At 6:30 pm we arrived at our last venue for run #8 – the magnificent Heaton Park. We were met by E.D. Damian, who explained the course and ran with us. Despite being desperately tired by then, not even twice up ‘Angina’ hill would prevent me from completing this one.

So by 8:00 pm we were ‘done’ – literally and physically . Although I missed out run #6, I’d still covered 25 running miles in the 12 hour day. Thankfully for me it was Sam that had driven the 90 miles in between. It was also worth noting that it was only the 3 Ladies who had completed all 8 of the 5k’s – Girl Power at its best.

A great day however, many friends made, but most importantly a lot of money raised once more for my chosen charity, Acorns. Big thank you to all who contributed and made this possible. Next stop for me Great North Run #34

Absent Friends.

Druridge Bay Inaugural parkrun, 9th August


Jacquie Robson

Normally, I miss out on local inaugural parkruns to stay behind at Durham while Alister gets to go and enjoy a bit of parkrun tourism as part of his NE parkrun Ambassador role. The large number of volunteers at Durham (thanks, folks) last week, however, meant I could accompany Alister to the first running of the (now) most northern parkrun in England.

Druridge Bay parkrun, the first Northumberland parkrun, is a welcome addition to the NE parkrun family. It starts and finishes at the visitor centre and the route consists of two laps of the beautiful Ladyburn Lake on good quality trail and path. It was fairly dry and suitable for road shoes even after a good downpour overnight, and the route is pretty flat with only a few gradients on the way around the lake. Warm and pleasant conditions meant that the run times were pretty good for most participants, and it was great to see lots of friendly faces. Event Director and Alnwick Harrier Mark Doctor has a great team established and already there's a friendly and community feel to the event. The visitor centre cafe is also rather fantastic, supplying top notch bacon butties or(and?) full English breakfasts as well as a wide choice of cake!

Alister attempting to fly.

Plenty of other Striders came along for a spot of parkrun tourism, and it was no surprise to see Paul Pascoe and Angela Coates among them, as they needed to complete Druridge Bay to keep their 100% NE parkrun completion record going! There is a £1.40 car park charge when visiting this parkrun, but we made the most of our visit with a kayaking trip out on the lake before we left. Other parkrunners had taken along their wetsuits and fitted in a bit of triathlon open-water swimming training, whilst more sedentary types brought their dog and went for a walk along the beautiful beach afterwards. I'll definitely be back to Druridge Bay - but next week it's a return to Durham parkrun to celebrate the 3rd Anniversary.

Long Tour of Bradwell, Peak District, 9th August

33m / 6500'

Paul Evans

For the third year in a row, I stood in the centre of a small Peak District village, looked around at the crowd of lean runners in ultra-light racing kit and thought deeply pessimistic thoughts. The sun was already out and the day was going to be long. I wasn't even sure why I was here, other than that I had a gap between shifts that seemed ideal for it: the first time I ran it was simply to see if I could manage an ultra whilst I still had both legs, the second to relish still having them after completing my final tour and this one? It was there, I suppose, and now we were amassed and someone was wielding an airhorn...

The first mile was easy and slow trough an overhung lane by the enormous cement works, deliberately placing myself mid-pack to get dragged along at a gentle pace to the bottom of the first climb, where the track widened. The climb went well, the descent of Cave Dale was as dreadful as ever and the long drags up to Hollins Cross and then from Edale up Kinder were taken at a steady pace, a mixture of walking and running helping me gain a few places. Ominously, navigation to the Druid's Stone control was made easy by the lack of cloud, the sun having burned this away, and a hard, fast descent off Kinder led into a pull up Lose Hill, where the runners I was chasing were lost amongst the Half Tour runners we joined, on which I started to feel the heat, developing a thirst despite having taken on water and squash at both opportunities so far.

Once the Lose Hill trig has been touched, just after control 6 (of 16), the biggest climbs are over and the descent to control 7 is fast and grassy, with the knowledge that shade awaits for much of the run around Win Hill and the edge of Ladybower. This is a relatively easy section, not unlike an Esk Valley race in feel, and it seemed to pass quickly, broken only by another stop for water and banana at control 9, where I was told that at halfway I'd taken just over three hours. Anoter easy mile took us down to Bamford, by which point I realised that I was now part of a group that was likely to stay fairly close for a while. Electricity works meant that the dreaded 'escalator' track was out of use and we were instead forced to use a longer, though less severe, climb up a wooded lane to the road below Stanage Edge - this would have been better had the five of us not collectively mis-read which road junction we emerged at, costing us another half mile before we realised our error and hit the track for the edge itself.

As a runner, I'm beginning to understand my strengths relative to others, as well as my weaknesses, and I ran the 2 miles along the gritstone edge hard, knowing that there were now 6 or 7 runners not far behind, most of whom were probably better descenders than me and so needed to be shaken. Two were dropped, not to be seen again, and the splits show that I ran the third fastest time of the day for the leg, a pace maintained after water and food at control 12 down the stony track to Burbage Bridge, where due to the growing thirst I gave in and took my first drink of the day from a stream; delicious and probably not too riddled with pathogens. Another short, flat section took us along the stream past crowds of walkers and children playing with their dogs in the shallow water, which was utterly delightful, though we broke away from the path to cut through bracken-filled millstone quarries and thick woods showing the effects of a hot, damp summer, the path barely visible at times. Control 14 punched, the descent down to the railway line achieved without making the same error as last year and it was now a slog to the control 15 along the riverside path, a final banana and a long climb through the lush Abney Clough, control 16 and another refill of water from a stream along the way, to the bare hillside overlooking Bradwell. By this point I'd hauled myself into 10th, albeit without realising it, and knew that breaking 6 hours was still possible, so took the downhill as recklessly as I could force myself to, losing only two places before hitting the tarmac of the last kilometre to the finish...which was lovely - soft, warm grass to flop on, as much soup, bread, squash and tea as borderline ischaemic GI tracts could handle and all the early finishers sitting by the finish line, applauding in every new arrival, including interruptions to the prize-giving to do so. A fourth year probably beckons but, worryingly, minutes after finishing it occurred to me that I could probably have gone on a little longer, the word 'addiction' beginning to answer the question posed five hours and fifty five minutes earlier.

Devil O’The Highlands, Scotland, 2nd August


Mark Dunseith

*This is a long one so I’d read it with a cup of tea in hand! When I was young my friend and I used to spend all summer at Loch Lomond with our parents. Our campsite was on the West Highland Way so we would always meet walkers stopping at our campsite and for years I’ve wanted to walk it myself. However, my friends all scoffed at the idea. It wasn’t until I read a race report by Flip that I realised I could run it instead of walking. I looked into the West Highland Way race and read that you have to have participated in another race that would show a capability to complete this. One of the races listed as a suggestion was the Devil O’ The Highlands. However, the race was already full and the waiting list was already over 30 people meaning 20% of the field would have to drop out in the months to come for me to get a place. Again on Flip’s advice I was assured this would happen and if all else failed I could turn up on the day, money in hand, and they wouldn’t turn me away. I booked accommodation with this in mind and waited for my name to move ever so slowly up the waiting list. The week before the race I was allocated a place. However, I had one major injury concern going into this race, my trusty Garmin. Unfortunately it had been for a little spin in the washing machine and was failing to pick up any satellites so it was left behind as we headed up to the Motherland.

Mark on the long and winding road ...

We arrived to spectacular views in the village of Killin and after a quick pub dinner and carb load* (*beer) we went to bed in preparation for the next day.

Race day:

3.35am alarm (that extra 5 minutes were very much appreciated), up and out of the door just after 4am.

We got to registration and managed to get some breakfast from the Green Welly Stop (the staff starting work at 2am for us was hugely appreciated!) before heading to the start line just before 6am.

During the countdown I had a moment of thinking about how far I still had to go, only this time I was thinking I had at least 8 hours of running left. I really must stop thinking this sort of stuff at the start of races. Anyway, the shout went up and we were off and running. I thought about going to the front of the race and sprinting the first 50 meters just so I could say 'I'm winning' but despite wanting to be that person, I didn't want everyone else to think I was that person. So I stayed with the crowd and waved to Anita and my brother-in-law Neil as I ran past.

Report continues here...

Morpeth 10k, 5th August

Alister Robson

My 6th go at this race which is almost always the first back after our holidays. After two weeks all-inclusive holiday I didn't have great hopes. It's a great warmup for Darlington 10k, also 2 laps and with a long drag up a gradual incline. Morpeth also throws in a couple of small hills.

Megan Bell and I travelled up together and Becky & Richard Hall (2) were already there. registration had changed slightly this year, although you still park at the Piramol chemical factory and register at the Football Club, this year you didn't get the mug beforehand and have to go all the way back to the car to keep that safe before making your way to the start (another good walk/warmup).

As I explained to Megan on the startline, the name of the game with this one is pacing, take a nice steady first lap and then speed up slightly for the second, picking off those who'd gone off to fast and getting a psychological boost in the process. I almost managed to follow the plan, just went out a little too hard towards the end of the first lap, no harm done though as I still managed to run all the way up the long drag that starts the second half (something that has to my shame defeated me in previous years).

Chasing Kirstin of Durham City Harriers who was having an absolute stormer kept me going and I only managed this in the last couple of Km. I gave her a few encouraging words which must have worked as she held, despite being tired for a massive PB and crossing the line with the same time as me. I initially thought that we'd both dipped under 45 mins, a course PB for me and a massive 2 minute PB for Kirstin but we were robbed a bit by the official results giving us 45.13.

Megan came in quickly after me in a season's best time, and Becky and Richard (fresh from his Ironman exploits) followed in shortly after. A nice run and a good omen for the weekend.

NEMAA #5 2014 Track and Field, Monkton Stadium, Jarrow, 21st July

3000m, Shot Put

Alister Robson

Having seen Jacquie dominate the competition in the previous NEMAA meeting, and in the recent 2014 Championship meeting I was keen to give this a go myself, especially as my NEMAA membership had just come through. (You need to be an NEMAA member (over 35) to take part). You can enter up to 3 events for a single fee of £3 on the night, although sometimes it speeds things up to pre-register. I chose the 3000m, Shot and High Jump.

First up was the Shot and the 7.62Kg weight felt very heavy in the hand. Jacquie kindly ran through the basics with me and I managed to get all three allotted throws away, improving bit by bit to 5.86m which was enough to win my age category, MV40. If I'd met some other higher standard I could have had another 3 throws.

Buoyed by this it was off to the track for a brief warmup and my first track race in excess of 25 years. I had a great run, knocking 40 seconds off my previous 3Km best, but this was only enough for plum last in the race of about 11, and which was made up mainly of older runners. I got lapped by the leaders and to be honest most of the field :-)

It also meant I missed the start of the High Jump competition and had to come in at a height of 1.35m, which I stood no real chance of clearing.

Jacquie meanwhile convincingly won her Shot and High Jump, having gallantly dropped out of the Discus in order to make sure I was OK in the Shot.

Still all great fun, and held in a great spirit. This is something any Strider over 35 can have a go at, you do however need to join NEMAA first, however this has other fringe benefits as other races throughout the year have an NEMAA championships within them exclusively for NEMAA members. I was astonished but happy to find I'd won a Silver medal for my age category at the Saltwell Fell Race.

Anyone interested in taking part in Masters or indeed Seniors Track & Field Athletics please speak to myself or Jacquie, who has a wealth of experience in this regard. It would be fantastic to put out a full squad for this next year - imagine if we could take on the likes of Durham City Harriers at Track & Field too!

Lakeland 50 (UTLD), Lakes, 26th July


David Gibson and Tom Reeves

The race briefing to this event stresses two unwritten rules. First, never refer to the race as "just the 50" (as many will know there is a 100 mile event as well)-it’s a tough event and an arduous route. Second, if you have a time in your mind –forget it. You never know what is going to happen out there so do not be disappointed.

Tom: I missed most of the briefing due to the overcrowding in the school haal and the heat which was already apparent even at this early part of the day.

The ability to follow instructions is something I struggle with-as my family will testify as I wrestled with building an IKEA desk for my son on the afternoon of my return from the race-so...

Usual milling around at the start, posse of Sunderland Strollers and a quick good luck to Tom. As we set off it soon became apparent that this was going to be a sweltering day and suffice to say that although the first 20 miles cover some beautiful Lakeland scenes-it felt like running in a desert (or doing the Coastal Run the previous week). By the time I hit Mardale Head and checkpoint two I was nervous that the next 30 miles were going to be a very unpleasant slog. Severe cramps (despite a ready supply of nuts, crisps and water) did not really help the negative mind set. Coming out of Kentmere –Checkpoint 3 –I met up with Tim. It was at this stage that rule 1 was broken. Tim was doing the 100 and had wanted to finish in 24 hours. It was not going to happen for him today but he was fighting on. Tom in previous reports has outlined the emotional rollercoaster of the 100 so there is no need to repeat it. Suffice to state-compared to the 100 –it is just the 50. Rule 1 broken.

Tom entering Ambleside flanked by his sons.

Tom: bumped into Dawn Metcalfe a DFR runner and chatted to her at the start line. She is a very good ultra runner as i would soon discover. The run to the first checkpoint was warm but manageble. The wheels satrted to come off for me big time on the trudge up Fusedale and then along the shore of Haweswater. By the time I reached Mardale Head i was finished interms of my hopes to break the 11 hr barrier. From now on it was going to be a long grind to the finish and finsihing was all i wanted to do. Dawn raced off after Mardale head never to be seen till the end when I eventually crawled in.

Into Ambleside and I started picking up the pace and felt fresh helped on by some kind words of encouragement from Joan and the lads. Lovely round of applause at The Wainwright pub and then a trot across the fells after the steps at Tilberthwaite. A jog to the finish and checked the watch – 1-2 minutes outside my intended goal. Rule 2 broken.

Tom: It was a long old run to Ambleside and it was nice to see the boys and Joan they gave me words of encouragemnt and told me Gibbo was only 10 minutes ahead of me. I hooked up with a couple of runners, one from Germany and one from Manchester and we finsihed the run together in the rain and the cold. Yes I'd gone from mild heatstroke to being chilled to the bones in the space of 10 hours. running in the mountains is not to be underestimated!

A quick debrief with Tom the following morning. In agreement that the conditions were tough and that perhaps we should stick to cross country. As I walked away I remembered I’d signed up for another 50 in October and no doubt Tom has similar, challenging plans in mind. Will we ever learn? Hopefully not ...

Tom: That is it for me with the 50 and the 100. I feel I've done this enough times and it will be races anew next year. watch this space :-)

Outlaw Iron Distance Triathlon, Nottingham, 27th July

2.4m swim / 112 miles bike / 26m run

Richard Hall

Rewind back to August 2013 and I decided to bite the bullet and enter the Outlaw iron-distance triathlon. I had done a few triathlons in the past and with my lack of love for the bike, I picked out the Outlaw with a relatively flat bike course. For £285, an undoubted bargain too? Whilst I toyed with the idea of wanting to do an official Ironman branded event, the hilliness of Ironman UK put me off and an overseas event seemed like a lot more could go wrong just getting there!

My only chance of making it to the finish was if I gave the whole preparation thing a good go so I gave up hockey for the season and pretty much gave up any booze at all from January onwards (I was even more dull than normal on nights out). I thought I would get to the day and think I had done nowhere near the training I wanted but I did pretty much what I set out to do. Everything I read about training scared me in terms of the hours they suggested you did. I did train most days but never really got to any more than 12-15 hours a week even at the peak. I would swim on lunchtimes at work and force myself out to cycle at weekends. It was still the cycling I could not seem to love and the furthest I had cycled by race day was 95 miles. I couldn’t swim 1 length 3 years ago but completing the 2 mile Great North Swim in June gave me the confidence that I could do the 2.4 miles on the day. Running was always the most enjoyable part of the training and I entered a few races as it was always great to get encouragement from the Striders. I had worked up to comfortably(ish) running 20 miles by the time July came around.

So the weekend of the 27 July arrived and I made my way to Nottingham after a relaxing week off before hand. I was in a complete panic about getting injured so close to the event and also panicked about my bike malfunctioning, about being ill for the event and of course the weather for the weekend which I checked approximately 25 times a day from a week out! Registration and bike racking was the day before on the Saturday along with a 1 hour 15 minute briefing (all you do is swim a bit, cycle a bit and run a bit eh?) I paid £20 for my bike to be checked at the venue despite having already had it checked twice in the previous 2 weeks! It was all very slick but my nerves were only increased by the procession of fancy bikes and very fit looking people!!

Report continues here...

Tees Barrage and Riverside Colleges CLOK event, Stockton, 31st July


Melanie Hudson

This was an urban orienteering event. The course centred on the Uni site at Stockton, which was south of the river and the Tees Barrage area to the north of the river.

I felt quite nervous on the way there as navigation is not one of my strong points. However I reassured myself that I had managed the couple of practice sessions I had done previously with the Northern Navigators. It was Dave's first orienteering event as well.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it ...

The event used the Sportident system where you put a dibber in a machine to record that you had visited a control and what time you got there. The entry fee was only £3 and the hire of the dibber another £1, so it was a bargain. We were given a map at the start which had the controls marked and a straight line between each one (so it went through buildings and the river).

There were twenty three control points on the long course (advertised as 4K, but I learnt afterwards that was measured as the crow flies between controls, I think I covered about 6K and Dave a bit more because of an error - see below). There was also a short and a medium course.

You can start any time between 5pm and 7pm. We got there quite early as I wanted to give myself plenty of time incase I struggled. We registered and were each handed an electronic dibber. I had not used these before so I had to admit that I was new at this and got the lady at registration to show me how to use it. I dibbed in and opened my map to work out where I had to go, there were 23 controls in total that we had to find. Dave was going to set off after me however I lost my nerve and we headed over to the first control together. However after this I decided to go solo and Dave went on ahead.

I made a minor error at control 6, I ran past it and dibbed number 9 instead. I suddenly realised my mistake when I turned around and saw control 6 behind me! I thought that was it and I was out on my first event, however another entrant told me not to worry that if I backtracked to 6 then continued from there that I would be okay, phew.

When I got to control 10 I was surprised to see Dave coming back my way. Dave explained later "I was going from control 9 to 10. There was a line drawn on the map (shortest distance) and the line continued in the same direction from control 10 to 11. I glanced at the map at control 9, followed the line and headed to the end of the line which was control 11. When I got there I realised my mistake and it was back across the Tees Barrage. Most of the time it took me 2min or so to get to the next control. Control 9 to 10 took me nearly 6 minutes !"

Once we both had control 10 Dave again went on ahead. I made a point of reading the map myself rather than just following him as I really wanted to be able to learn to do this myself.

She found it!

I did not see Dave again until I got to the last control. I thought I was catching him up and that I might beat him because of his mistake. My smugness was short lived when I realised that Dave had actually been back to the car and got changed and was heading back to see me finish. Dave finished in under 45 minutes and I finished in just under an hour. Even though I was slow I was very pleased to have successfully completed the course. I did get quicker towards the end as I started to grow in confidence. I think the fact that there is a river really helped me to navigate as I always knew which way the map should be facing. I would love to try another course with less obvious landmarks. I would really encourage people to give it a go. I feel that if I can manage to find my way around anyone can. I find it really fun, it is like a grown ups version of a treasure hunt.

Sadly, most of the local events are on Thursday evenings when we are both working in the surgery, so it may be a while before we can do another event. However we will definitely do more of these in the future when possible.

All Creatures Great & Small

James Herriot Trail Race, Castle Bolton, 27th July


Geoff & Susan Davis

This race has been popular with Striders since its inception and Susan and I have run it four or five times - although not since 2011. As Sunday was forecast to be slightly less hot than we’ve become used to we decided to give it another go. Although it’s registered as a fell race it’s really a trail race with a bit of climb (1,000’) and is mainly run on stony farm tracks with a few grassy paths.

Castle Bolton Castle in the sunshine ...

As advised for ‘on the day’ entries we arrived early and, after registering, we spent the time stretching, warming up and listening to the Commonwealth Games on the car radio. At the start we looked for other Striders and were pleased to see Richard Hocking, Phil Owen, Christine Farnsworth & Barrie Evans. However, Christine and Barrie were destined not to finish as Christine, just a mile or so into the race, took a heavy tumble on the unforgiving surface sustaining a cut lip and chin and a very swollen knee. Barrie, being the gentleman we all know him to be, escorted Chris back to the start and into the first aid tent for treatment.

Geoff on the climb.
Photo courtesy and © Peter Richardson

Meanwhile the rest of us continued round the hard, dry and dusty course hoping the sun would stay behind the clouds and things wouldn’t get too hot. After a couple of recent tough training runs I was confident that I could hold a reasonable pace around the 8.5 mile course without having to walk any of the hills – and so it transpired. However, I started to ‘feel it’ a bit with about two miles to go. At this point I sensed another runner draw level with me. I glanced over, noticed a Durham Fell Runners’ vest and recognised a long standing adversary of mine from the fells. He went by me but I managed to ‘cling on’ and the gap between us never grew beyond 20 yards (that’s about 18 and a bit meters Rachael!). As we approached the last half mile I could see that the gap was closing. I increased my pace slightly and with around 150 yards to go I caught him. A final ‘eyeballs out’ dash took me passed him and on to the finish in a slightly faster time than three years ago. Brilliant!

Susan too had a fantastic run finishing third in her age group (just two seconds behind the second of her vintage) and a whopping two minutes quicker than her last outing here in 2011! Things are looking good for the fast approaching cross country season! Richard came home a couple of minutes later looking strong and comfortable after a fine race – another one of us looking forward to running in the mud. Phil continued his recovery from the West Highland Way Race (all 95 miles of it) with a steady run in the sun.

So, a good day out running a very pleasant race at a splendid venue. We hope Christine’s cuts and bruises heal quickly!


1Mike JefferiesBillingham Marsh HouseM54.48
4Julie BriscoeWakefield HarriersFV58.23
45Geoff DavisMSV69.31
83Susan DavisFSV77.11
95Richard HockinMSV + 6079.39
163Phil OwenMV90.16

218 finishers