Pier to Pier - 2016

Lisburn Half Marathon, Northern Ireland, 15th June

Jonathan Hamill

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council host what is considered one of Northern Ireland’s largest sporting participation events (~6,000 runners), offering a mid-week Half Marathon, 10k, and 3K Fun Run.

An intense looking Start.

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express at Queen’s Quarter, Belfast, adjacent to Botanic train station, which is also a popular choice for Belfast running events. A half hour train journey to Lisburn places you within walking distance of the event.

Lagan Valley LeisurePlex provided ample changing and locker facilities. I completed my final preparations, carb-loading at a nearby café with a runner friendly banana crepe. Basking in the intense sun, I started to wonder if the inclusion of the famous Belfast Crown Bar in my hydration plan the evening before had been a wise choice.

I caught up with old friend Andy McClean and Team McClean, who run with seven-year-old Ethan, using a Hoyt running chair. Ethan has the terminal and life limiting illness Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Team McClean enable Ethan to enjoy as many running events as he can, and you can read more of his story on the Team McClean Facebook Group.

Before long it was time to proceed to the holding area adjacent to the start, where local radio station Cool FM, and the Mayor of Lisburn provided their encouragement.

I had opted for the Half Marathon option, lured by the ‘Flat & Fast’ route. I think ‘Flat’ would fall foul of the trade descriptions act! The route begins in the city and then leaves to do a loop around rural Lisburn. There are a number of inclines, but nothing mountainous. What goes up must go down too!

The event is well marshaled, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland close the roads. Five official water stations are distributed from the 1k marker onwards, mostly operated by local Scout groups. The event uses chip timing, with a sensor also at the halfway point. In addition, local community spirit prevails and a number of unofficial water and jelly baby stations feature along the route, with local residents providing encouragement aplenty, “Go on, you can do it, so you can!” The 10K race set off and a few minutes later, we formed up to allow the wheelchair race to start ahead of us. And we were off!

A schoolboy error, and a glance at my watch confirmed I was a tad eager setting an 8 minute/mile pace over the first kilometer. I steadied myself by the end of the third kilometer and concentrated on my plan. I was pleased (despite the abundance of water stations) that I’d taken my own water (two small bottles on a belt). The heat took its toll on some but I soldiered on, using a gel after I passed the half way mark.

Who needs safety pins? I felt tired at 17k and mentally pictured running Durham parkrun to get myself to the end. There were a couple of naughty bits in the last 5k, including an incline with a twist in the final few hundred metres to round into the finish funnel. Hearing the crowd cheer, I knew I could achieve my aim of breaking 2 hours and I picked the pace up, giving it some welly across the line!

A slick effort through the line saw me collect medal, water and a couple of Cliff bars. After the race, I compared notes with some members of Springwell Running Club (who operate near my home town) and met the RD of Portrush Parkrun, Mervyn Thompson, before heading off to catch the train.

I finished in 591st position from a field of 1141 runners and achieved a PB of 1:58:14, with three other PBs (15k, 10 miles and 20k).

Results

PosNameCatTime
179Stephen DuncanM4001:12:22
591Jonathan HamillM4001:58:14

1141 finishers

Swaledale Marathon, Reeth, 11th June

23.2M / 4,128'

Tamsin Imber ...

Excitement in Swaledale.Well this is the most exciting race I have ever done! I would highly recommend it!

This is meant to be a helpful account for anyone who has not done it before, as well as a race report.

So, it was a race I had hoped to enter but didn't get a place in as it fills up very quickly! ...but then a few weeks before the race, another Strider offered me their place as they couldn't do it-sorry for them but very pleased to get a place! So began a rapid preparation ... but what was the route? It is not on the Swaledale Outdoor club website. Hummm, there is a description but for someone who likes to know the detail it was a bit too short for me. Luckily I found a trace of the route from someone's Garmin on the Striders website from a past year-thank-you! You can find this by searching for 'Swaledale marathon' in the race reports section. I copied it onto my OS map and was able to mark on the positions of checkpoints and 'self-clip points' from the description on the Swaledale Outdoor club website. Closer to the event Jon got hold of a few copies of the route and Elaine photographed them and sent them to me. I can confirm that they were the same as the route I found on the Striders website, so it seems to stay the same each year.

Elaine and I were a bit worried about navigating our way! The weather forecast was thick cloud, fog and mist!! Hummm, Elaine had done a few reccies of the route but not of the middle section. I knew the first bit from walking in Arkengarth dale in years BC (Before Children). It was the unknown middle section of disused mining hushes that was grinding our grapes - didn't want to end up down a sink hole! ..I was also a bit unsure of the crack..other striders helpfully advised me and showed me the start time and registration times are in the SI entries system race information, but as far as I can see not on the Swaledale Outdoor club website?. There is a compulsory kit list on the Swaledale Outdoor Club website which includes compass and waterproof trousers. And importantly you need to carry a plastic cup to get additional water at checkpoints. Jon advised there is water at all checkpoints and food as well at one checkpoint. Also you get a free meal at the end if you like!

Arriving early doors in the outskirts of the pretty village of Fremlington, everything was very well signposted and organized. A big sign saying "marathon carpark" pointed to the entrance of a large grassy field, within which were lots of cars, runners getting ready and portaloos portable toilets and car park marshals. Registration was a short nip up the road in the Fremlington village Hall, the direction of which was signposted and easy to find. At registration my kit was checked and I was given a small yellow card and piece of string. The lady explained this card would be clipped at each checkpoints by marshals who would also record my race number. The card was labelled with numbers of the checkpoints and then with A, B, C and D. These are the self-clip checkpoints. You literally clip the card with a thing that looks like a staple remover exactly on top of the letter corresponding to the self-clip point. As the race starts and finishes in a different place you cannot leave a bag of warm clothes etc. at the start as they only have the village hall til 10am.

Another
bridge crossed.So... we were all crowded in a small field ready to start! The weather was as forecast and actually very warm as well. The race began! With a steep upward climb! There were lovely views across a very green Swaledale. I watched Penny, David and Elaine bound ahead! We soon reached the level of the mist, got to the wall and then we were running along top along Fremlington Edge! This was a grassy, boggy, misty fast section! Nice and soft on the feet! Because of the wall and as people were bunched up in the early stages, navigation was easy at this point. Then, at the end of the edge you go past a large cairn marking the highest point (which was not visible in the mist) and then the path zig-zags down the steep hill - except the runners did not!! I was in a group of guys who had done it before and they confidently charged over the side of the hill and launched themselves down the steep, wet, grassy slopes!! Ha ha this was exhilarating! My bum touched the ground a lot! Mainly on purpose as I didn't want to fall! Thoroughly enjoyed this bit, found it quite hilarious! A girl running whose name I didn't get who is from Richmond "ran" this bit with me before zooming ahead!

The route then follows the pretty stony path along the Arkle Beck into Langthwaite village. The girl from Richmond passed me again! (she had stopped in the village to use the public toilet there). It was lovely to be greeted by supporters Rachelle, Allan, and Vics plus kids here. After an undulating minor road section you head up a moorland track towards Great Punchard Gill and Great Punchard Head. This was a steady climb! Up and up and up! Fantastic views below mist level. I was running with two guys at this point. We came to a bit where the path divided, luckily just at mist level so we could see runners ahead. The path literally took two routes, which re-joined further up. We decided to split up to see which was fastest. I and one guy took the track and the other took the grassy zig-zag path. It was exactly 50 :50 ! Then higher up we were in thick mist. The mist kept changing from thick to thin, making it hard to tell how far away things were. There was a steep gully to the left, which in thick mist looked like it was really deep, but when the mist thinned the bottom of the gully was only 30metres or so away! (Hard to tell though as I was also moving). At the top of Great Punchard Gill I heard voices and laughter and as if from no-where a mountain rescue vehicle, 3 jolly mountain rescue men and a marshalled checkpoint appeared! After having my card clipped I headed onwards. The path does a sharp bend and is a narrow peaty/boggy/heather path with a sharp drop to the right. It then turns and heads across the top of open moorland. Another nice run across soft peat and bog. I tried to keep up with the group of confident guys I'd seen earlier but they were going fast and so eventually they were too far ahead to see. There was no one behind me for a bit, until footsteps behind me, it was the girl from Richmond! It turns out she had taken a wrong turn after the last checkpoint and descended steeply quite a way, then had had to climb all the way back up again! She was ok, but disheartened. We ran together for a bit until yet again she zoomed ahead! Then after a while another checkpoint ... bring on the banana cake!

The next bit was the 'moonscape'! The heather moor gave way to a high up rocky, barren area, devoid of all plants and peat! This was the hushes. Old mine building ruins appeared in the mist here and there, piles of rubble and a rusty old metal machine thing with a big wheel on it. Ahead I noticed a small red and white flag in the ground, about 30cm high with supporting rocks around it. It had definitely been planted there. Could this have been put there by a child on a family day out? The mist thinned at that moment and I saw a whole line of them! Waymarks, Wayhay! After that the gravel path was more obvious and led to self-check point A-a wooden stand with clips hanging from it. The path then wound back into grassy, peat area down and down, I saw runners ahead! More steep descents down grassy banks and we were down to Gunnerside Beck. I got a bit lost amongst the little gated fields but not for too long and then the path follows the Beck to Gunnerside where there is a checkpoint. Nice support from locals and others ...

The last stint is up and over fields and lowland moors. Where there is an up or a down it is steep! (This is the nature of Swaledale!) A final checkpoint at Surrender Bridge gave me much needed water. After a bit I was unsure of the way and was standing consulting the map when a runner caught me up and confidently pointed to a jumper with a stone on top of it and said the jumper was a waymark! He was right! Ha ha I love this marathon! The last miles are blissfully and painfully on the quads downhill funneling to a walled track where underfoot is stones with a layer of slippery grass on top! Negotiation of this leads to the final self-clip point on a farmers gate, then down and Reeth is there! Wohoooo! The finish is down the hill and round the corner in the Reeth village hall. Lovely to see Strider supporters cheering us at the finish! Afterwards, great to drink a cup of tea. And get a very nice bespoke Swaledale marathon pottery cup!

A fantastic adventure I would love to repeat! I'd like to do it in good weather mind to see more views!

... Jon Ayres

Gent emulation required.A year ago I'd crossed the line here with equal measures of Joy and Wonder. I'd broken my goal time, taken a decent chunk off my PB but I was left scratching my head pondering what I could get if I hadn't cramped up and had to take a forced break during the race to let my legs recover. I'd also watched the Ladies team take the prize in their category and thought it would be a very good thing indeed to encourage the Gents to have a crack at emulating this.

Skip forward a few months to November and a, hopefully, friendly persuasion campaign began as I tried to recruit others into sharing my ideas as to putting teams onto the podium come June 2016.

So to the day,grey skies hid the top of the first climb as the officials started the race, Michael Mason and Steven Jackson quickly disappeared from view as us mere mortals followed them up to the heights of Fremington. Myself, Jack Lee (pressed into action only a week prior to the race) and Elaine Bisson formed a group and tackled the road and then trail to the grassland that would lead us to the ascent.

Jack and I ran well together picking off runners and chatting occasionally,his enthusiasm was infectious and my plan of around 10 min miles saw us heading up Punchards mix of trail,track and bog and reaching half way a fair bit inside this program.As we descended into Gunnerside Jack started to pull away as he fell into a group that I couldn't keep with on the descent, a quick high five as we crossed paths into the checkpoint at Gunnerside village hall seemed to mark the unspoken thought that as of now it was time to dig in and head home.

 Disappearing from View. A quick glance at my watch as the last major climb began confirmed that a PB was on but there was still work to do to secure this,the long slow haul of besting Gunnerside began. The breaks from slow, tortuous hill climbing via a stumbling jog and slower, tortuous hill climbing via a hands on knees walk became more frequent as the yards up the incline increased I also became aware of pre-cramp pains in my legs and started a feeding frenzy of gels, pork scratchings and water in an attempt to stave them off. All the while as this carried on Jack became nothing but a smaller dot in the distance until eventually he disappeared, unfortunately the pains in my calves and hamstrings did not.

Gunnerside was finally beaten, or at least matched, and the levelling of the land allowed for quicker strides to be taken and the last major drop on glorious smooth tarmac into surrender bridge was embraced.The final stretch of the race a PB is on, runners are not so far ahead that they can't be caught and despite the fleeting shots of cramp I smile and offer my card to the official to be clipped. I'm passed here by a local runner whom I know well, she'll eventually be 2nd lady home, and I try to match her pace but there's nothing in the tank that allows the increase: it's head down now and a march/jog/whatever gets me home and only a few miles of attrition left. A drop in and out of a gorge and I see Elaine Bisson is now on my tail and closing quickly, machismo and panic hit me with equal measure and I lengthen my stride and hope to hold her at bay.

Then as in every other time I've raced this event cramp hits, it hurts, really hurts and I try to strectch out my legs. Nothing eases it and the acceptance that the race could be over, PB's lost with just over two and a half miles to go starts to sink in. A fading of the cramp starts and hope rises anew I can stand, I can walk, I can at least jog time to dig in and run hard for two reasons, I don't know how long I have until the cramp returns and a few runners have passed me. Fortunately the next couple of miles are mainly down hill and this allows for a good pace (my fastest of the day, maybe the sitdown helped) and that's it the race is done. Ten minutes are taken from last years run out and despite the enforced break during the race I don't think I could have run any harder or made any more time up and whilst a hugely improved field from last years race saw me finish further down than 12 months ago I'm content and settled with my efforts.


Fab Four.

The ladies of Elvet defend their trophy, Mandy Dawson and Penny Browell who takes second female vet were part of the team that won it last year with Elaine Bisson (third female home)and Tamsin Imber part of the unit this year too.The Male contingent take Third with three debutantes amongst their number,the aforementioned Micheal Mason,Steven Jackson and Jack Lee provide very strong placings as I make up the numbers.Tom Reeves continues a strong year of running since surgery breaking four hours whilst Mike Bennet,Jan, Barabara Dick, Juliet Percival and Camilla are amongst other striders who get to keep a bespoke hand made mug.

Mentions to the families who supported too must be given the Masons,Jacksons,Browells and Bissons were loud and plentiful many of them appearing at various points of the course.Whilst Allan Seheult and Matt Archer gave up their day to offer support and refreshment.This year was very much a team effort and the places whilst won by those out on the course belong to those who backed them too. Sincere thanks to all.

The traditional Swaledale Trophy.

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

Alwinton 3 Tops, 11th June

BL / 15m / 2461ft

Paul Evans

Group Photo.

A new fixture on the club's GP schedule this year, the Alwinton race was touch-and-go as to whether it was on for a while, last year having attracted only 29 runners. That runner gave it a thumbs-up, so in it went. then the organisers (North of Tyne MRT) changed the course, so it was into the unknown that six Striders, two of them NFR for the day, stepped, three on their first long fell race and one having spent a good chunk of the previous night on the Maiden castle track with Kath Dodd on her 24hr track session.

Pam's Paul.This was rather appropriate as once we'd found village pub, registered and made the starting line we then had only two miles or so of being able to see very much, commencing with a hard farm track that climbed to Clennell Street, dropping to a track junction, enjoying a few hundred yards of flat grass by a clear stream and then slowing to a walk for the sharp ascent of The Dodd that marked the start of the 'fun' and the end of the 'sun.' Once this was topped, three undulating miles in the clag, chasing shadows 20-50 yards ahead saw me reach CP2 at Wether Cairn before dropping down to a burn at the edge of the conifer plantation that forms the inner border of much of the race, feet getting wet for the first time due to misjudging the step across. The drag out of the burn and up to Cushat Law (CP3), still trailing a runner in a red and yellow vest was unforgiving, increasingly soft underfoot and saw both of us veer from the correct route at times, and from CP3 to Bloodybush Edge (CP4) was more of the same, but slightly worse, with one decent navigational error, a compass that actually had to be brought out of the bumbag for the first time in a couple of years and legs fatiguing due to the efforts of wading through and stepping around the boggy patches; the descents were also taken rather timidly as my left ankle still did not seem to have the strength or proprioception for lateral movement that it really needed on the tussocks.

Bloodybush Edge was the last of the three main tops in the race, and the leg from here down to the forest was fairly pleasant and uneventful, though by now I'd lost the red-vested runner and been over-taken by a couple of others; it was around here that I realised that this was the longest I'd been out on the hills in four months, pre-fracture, and my fitness was not what it should be. Nonetheless, the grassy, moist trod skirting the forest was nice underfoot, until the point that a few yards short of CP5, at a track junction, I managed a little skid down the bank, having switched off my brain a moment too early. Still, boggy ground rarely hurts and my ego had already taken a beating, so no harm done.

The next two miles, all on forest track were hard underfoot and blister-forming, as well as being, with their gentle undulations, a little tedious, though the near-silence in the cool, misty air was very enjoyable. From CP6 there was more of the same, then at CP7 another two miles or so later I grabbed a cup of water and hit the Border County route, a grassy path that wound mostly downwards and, with a mile left, brought Alwinton into view. From Clennell Street it was downhill all the way, back onto hard track and eyeballs-out, though my legs didn't have much pace in them and I was overtaken by two runners in the final few hundred yards, with Geoff ,only a couple of minutes behind, joining me for a wash in the stream whilst we heard Paul Foster, who'd taken on the 10k course, lament that signing confusion seemed to have thrown off-course every runner in the shorter race. Susan wasn't too far behind and Steph Piper completed her first big race in a highly-respectable time, just over 3 hours. Finally, also testing themselves on new terrain, Gareth Pritchard and Catherine Smith, Blaydon-tired, came in around the 4-hour mark to collect their Tunnocks wafers, sporks and socks (Start sponsored this one, incongruous as it is to get a bag of stuff at the end of a low-key race like this).

Paul's Paul. Geoff.

Today, I ache, and am very much aware of what needs to be done to regain fitness fully. yesterday, however, was still a lot of fun. It might have been even more so if we'd been able to see where we were going.

Calderdale Way Relay, 15th May

Paul Evans

synchronized. Mid-May has been a special time of the year for this club for years: six of them, to be precise, when a particularly brutal winter froze much of northern England and forced Halifax Harriers to move their flagship relay tour of the Calder Valley to a more clement time of year. Those who had the 'pleasure' of setting off in the dark on a frozen December morning are unlikely to forget the experience, but the May setting certainly makes the race a little less niche interest, to the point where we were close to being able to field three teams this year; as it was, I had hopes of Elvet A carrying the baton for the first time in two decades, and Elvet B gaining further race route knowledge and having a good run into the bargain.

Things augured well from the beginning, with the day dawning crisp and bright at Heath RFC on the outskirts of Halifax. No last-minute injuries were reported and we had a solid transport plan in place to ensure runners were distributed at the handover points in good time. Better yet, Penny, Nigel and Mandy all had a certain competitive look about them as we lined up in a small park and were set off for the initial scramble around a field, over a wall and into a long climb through the woods, Penny somewhere behind me after she was gracious enough to let me take the pace on my first competitive run since injury. The ascent was unremarkable bar a Barlick FR runner snapping their achilles, the classic triad of 'gunshot crack, scream and drop' in evidence, thankfully directly in front of two marshals, and once onto the open moor we made our way past a few pairs we'd been stuck behind on the narrower woodland path, dropping onto the road briefly to the vocal encouragement of Striders before heading down into Ripponden, back up again, round some farmland, then down into the western edge of the same town, this time to climb out through verdant bluebell woods and onto a road section. It was at this point that I realised we might have over-done the aggression in our desire to give Tom and Jon as much time in the bank as we could (also, in honesty, to overtake a pair we'd been playing leapfrog with) and we had a brief walk before heading into the final moorland section, past an old pillbox then onto the long descent into Cragg Vale, idyllic in the sun and with a baying crowd outside the Hinchliffe Arms. Baton was thrust out in the sprint finish, narrowly pipped by the we'd raced for the last 5 miles, and Tom and Jon were gone.

shrewd use of the pavement there.

Once we'd regained breath and seen Mandy and Nigel come in, just missing the mass start at the cut-off time in which Steph and Richard Hall were despatched up the reservoir track to Stoodley Pike and beyond, it was on to Todmorden for Penny to meet with Paul Foster and Nigel with Jan, both doubling up for the short third leg. We weren't there long before Elvet A thundered down the track to the school having gained more places and time, and set off to Blackshaw Head with high hopes, albeit hopes nearly scuppered by a little care struggling with steep gradients, tight curves and the combined egos of Tom and Jon, who knew they'd run a near-perfect leg. Having made it to the hilltop village with ScottGraeme (A) and Camilla/Dave S (B) off in good time into the wooded valley between Heptonstall and Blackshaw, A's baton still present, we took advantage of the tea stall set up by the parents of a local school and moved on to the leg 4/5 handover. Alas, this was where the dream ended this year, the time banked on previous legs not quite enough to cope with the very tight cut-off at this point (a cut-off set when this was a winter race and getting runner home early mattered for safety reasons), Mark W/Jack L (A) and Kerry/Sue J (B) all off in the mass start, though the former pair's strategy of chasing a pair in local vests served them well enough to see them complete the leg in just over an hour (for comparison, the fastest time of the day for this leg was only 8 minutes fewer). As for Elvet B, let's just say that Kerry has GPS traces of all her runnings of this 7.5m leg and none of them look particularly similar; for the record, this year was a 9m run!

On to the finish at the rugby club for seeing in Mike B/Louise W (Elvet A, both looking fresh from the fast, largely-downhill 10m leg) and Angela/Diane W (Elvet B, less fresh but without last year's added canal mileage), pie, peas, tea and a brief post-mortem in the sunshine. Conclusions: 1) Great race. We need to do it again. 2) Given the interest we had, Elvet's A, B and C are distinctly possible next year, A aiming for baton-passing and B/C roughly equivalent teams. 3) There will be recces next year (not overly-fast, for anyone from any team who wishes to join in). Tom and Jon in particular showed the value of knowing a route inside-out and gained us time and places. 4) For all that I enjoyed this race when in December, actually being able to see the Calder Valley helps one appreciate it all the more.

2017, ladies and gents...

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Blaydon Race, 9th June

5.7M

Group photo by Tim Skelton.

Results

pos bib name category gun time chip time
- 2 Peter Newton (Morpeth Harriers & Ac) 19-39 27:11 27:09
- 32 Alyson Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) 35-39 29:48 29:44
1 921 Gareth Pritchard 19-39 31:00 30:40
2 637 Stephen Jackson 19-39 31:24 31:05
3 714 Michael Littlewood (M) 40-44 33:35 33:14
4 1186 Mark Warner 19-39 34:27 33:35
5 606 Andrew Hopkins (M) 40-44 34:47 33:58
6 132 Matthew Archer 19-39 34:46 34:27
7 474 Simon Gardner (M) 45-49 35:23 35:02
8 1118 Paul Swinburne (M) 40-44 39:56 37:15
9 1044 Tim Skelton 19-39 40:02 38:08
10 875 Mike Parker (M) 40-44 40:33 39:21
11 4595 Alex Witty 19-39 41:45 39:42
12 2140 Louise Warner 35-39 40:23 40:23
13 324 John Coulson 19-39 43:31 40:42
14 1477 Sarah Davies (F) 45-49 42:56 40:58
15 1858 Louise Morton 19-34 42:06 41:21
16 592 David Hinton 19-39 47:46 41:25
17 1724 Fiona Jones 35-39 44:18 41:34
18 753 Michael Mason (M) 40-44 43:34 41:54
19 1806 Rachelle Mason 35-39 43:35 41:54
20 1204 Martin Welsh (M) 50-54 43:41 42:00
21 984 Michael Ross (M) 45-49 45:28 42:27
22 368 Colin Dean (M) 55-59 43:48 42:36
23 978 Lindsay Rodgers (M) 45-49 45:22 43:05
24 1722 Karen Jones (F) 45-49 46:02 43:17
25 1415 Lesley Charman (F) 40-44 46:06 43:25
26 1532 Catherine Elliott 35-39 44:21 43:35
27 1378 Victoria Brown 35-39 46:37 43:39
28 4608 David Case 19-39 46:23 43:43
29 1076 Ian Spencer (M) 55-59 45:33 43:46
30 1761 Roz Layton (F) 60-64 45:48 43:49
31 2163 Nicola Whyte 19-34 46:53 44:10
32 431 Stephen Ellis (M) 60-64 46:18 44:16
33 1028 Chris Shearsmith 19-39 46:14 44:43
34 1921 Stephanie Piper 19-34 47:09 45:07
35 4604 Victoria Walton 35-39 47:11 45:12
36 1307 Louise Barrow 19-34 46:49 45:22
37 429 Craig Elliott 19-39 46:18 45:31
38 564 Peter Hart 19-39 49:14 45:35
39 356 Andrew Davies (M) 40-44 48:53 45:36
40 851 Richard Hall (M) 50-54 48:56 45:49
41 1840 Karen Metters (F) 40-44 48:52 45:52
42 546 Jonathan Hamill (M) 40-44 48:16 46:02
43 1983 Jill Rudkin 35-39 50:51 46:33
44 711 Robin Linton 19-39 49:26 46:35
45 1627 Lesley Hamill (F) 40-44 49:46 47:22
46 243 David Browbank 19-39 49:40 47:36
47 2000 Jenny Search (F) 40-44 49:50 47:48
48 2091 Kate Thompson 19-34 50:52 48:01
49 1723 Debbie Jones (F) 45-49 50:58 48:14
50 1790 Kate Macpherson (F) 40-44 51:08 48:25
51 2187 Fiona Wood 35-39 51:41 48:44
52 2025 Catherine Smith (F) 40-44 51:35 48:55
53 2088 Helen Thomas (F) 40-44 50:47 48:57
54 1648 Helen Hedley 19-34 52:07 49:01
55 2136 Faye Ward (F) 40-44 51:47 49:22
56 1534 Janet Ellis (F) 50-54 52:18 49:37
57 1491 Rebecca Devine 19-34 53:00 50:07
58 1058 Alan Smith 65-69 51:37 50:22
59 2198 Jill Young 19-34 53:14 50:24
60 1364 Stacey Brannan 35-39 52:09 50:24
61 1513 Jane Dowsett (F) 45-49 53:14 50:28
62 1623 Lisa Hall 19-34 52:48 50:29
63 1558 Rebecca Fisher 35-39 53:12 50:33
64 270 Gareth Cardus (M) 40-44 53:41 50:45
65 580 Mark Herkes 19-39 54:07 51:10
66 1655 Lucy Herkes 19-34 54:08 51:11
67 913 James Potter 19-39 53:17 51:13
68 849 James Nicholson 65-69 54:19 51:22
69 1556 Katie-Louise Finney 19-34 54:23 51:32
70 1826 Debbie Mcfarland 19-34 54:29 51:39
71 1710 Sue Jennings (F) 50-54 54:34 51:52
72 1331 Louise Billcliffe (F) 50-54 54:40 52:10
73 1674 Karen Hooper (F) 40-44 55:02 52:13
74 2105 Ann Towers (F) 55-59 53:10 52:13
75 1142 Andrew Thurston (M) 55-59 54:59 52:40
76 411 Andrew Dunlop (M) 40-44 54:57 52:43
77 2011 Nicola Simpson 19-34 55:59 53:09
78 1639 Emma Hart 35-39 56:52 53:12
79 1996 Aileen Campbell Scott (F) 45-49 55:24 53:19
80 1488 Sophie Dennis 19-34 58:26 55:43
81 1482 Katie Davison 19-34 58:44 55:48
82 1707 Julie Jarratt (F) 45-49 59:01 55:51
83 1461 Lindsay Craig (F) 45-49 59:01 55:52
84 848 George Nicholson 65-69 58:32 56:12
85 1408 Karen Anne Chalkley (F) 50-54 58:32 56:13
86 1324 Kathleen Bellamy 35-39 59:33 56:22
87 2009 Alison Simms (F) 40-44 1:00:03 57:58
88 1537 Rebecca Embleton 35-39 1:00:04 57:58
89 1533 Pauline Elliott (F) 50-54 1:00:22 58:21
90 1276 Teresa Archer 19-34 1:01:15 58:33
91 1586 Laura Gibson 35-39 1:01:39 58:51
92 2124 Bev Walker (F) 50-54 1:01:20 59:15
93 1548 Amy Farquhar (F) 40-44 1:02:34 59:46
94 1743 Alison Kirkham (F) 40-44 1:04:08 1:01:16
95 1440 Kelly Collier 19-34 1:04:09 1:01:18
96 2075 Kate Talbot 35-39 1:04:42 1:01:34
97 1682 Louise Hughes 35-39 1:04:40 1:01:37
98 1717 Natalie Johnson 35-39 1:04:56 1:02:09
99 1529 Karrie Eilles 35-39 1:04:56 1:02:09
100 1290 Jane Baillie (F) 40-44 1:07:18 1:04:09
101 1411 Laura Chapman 19-34 1:09:52 1:05:18
102 1353 Clare Botone 35-39 1:08:39 1:05:51
103 1844 Elaine Mills (F) 45-49 1:08:51 1:06:01
104 1773 Helen Lintron (F) 55-59 1:09:25 1:06:32
105 1593 Rebecca Gilmore 19-34 1:09:24 1:06:32
106 1576 Claire Galloway 19-34 1:10:57 1:08:05
107 1696 Laura Jackson 35-39 1:11:40 1:08:49
108 2101 Helen Todd 35-39 1:09:51 1:09:51
109 1765 Rachel Leigh-firbank (F) 40-44 1:15:06 1:12:12
110 646 Neil Jennings (M) 50-54 1:15:09 1:12:14
111 1709 Elaine Jennings (F) 50-54 1:15:10 1:12:16
DNF 426 Mike Elliott 65-69 19:36 19:36

4130 finishers.

The Yomp Mountain Challenge, Kirkby Stephen, 5th June

23M / 4,000' (with 11.5M and 6.25M options)

Dougie Nisbet

aka Mallerstang Horseshoe & Nine Standards Yomp

The nice thing about these sort of hybrid walking/running events that have mixed start times is that there's not a massive queue for the bogs. I sat in the changing rooms in splendid isolation adjusting my dress and thinking I should probably get out there. I wandered out into the brilliant sunshine to see the rather scary vision of Shaun standing, arms astretch, in some sort of weird crucifix like pose. Didn't Michael Jackson do that on stage once? And things didn't work out well for him.

But all was ok. Shaun wasn't trying to annoy Jarvis Cocker, just offering a maximum surface area for Ros to spray him down with SunScreen. Good advice. Wear sunscreen.

Left looks tempting.

Staggered starts are nice but the downside is, as I know from doing orienteering events, is that you can be at a race and not know that your clubmates are also there as you don't see them. I glimpsed Margaret and Christine who were doing the Half Yomp, and Geoff was there too. And me. Probably more. Who knows.

Shaun and I part company.Off I went on my lonesome to tackle the Full Yomp, something I'd wanted to do for years. I'd been at a wedding the night before, but so had Penny for the Salomon Trail 10K last week and she'd done pretty well, so by that logic, I'd do just fine too. I tootled south through Kirby Stephen in good spirits and deliberately kept my pace down knowing that I "didn't do hot", chomping on a Shotblok or two and feeling pretty chirpy. I was expecting to do well. Shaun caught me just in time for us to part company as he took a left for the tantalisingly tempting Yomp-Demi.

Just sheep for company.At the top of Wild Boar Fell (where I have an 11 year old geocache BTW, really must check it's ok sometime. Not today though) I was flagging a bit. But onward, and, apparently, ever upward, and I continued to wilt. I decided it was time to check the Garmin. I'd done 17 somethings. That was OK wasn't it? Oh hang on, I'd changed to Kilometres for some reason. So 17, was er, well a 10K is six miles, so 17 km is er, well less than 12 miles. No that couldn't be right. Because right now I had that 90% through a race feeling, and according to my Garmin, I was lucky if I'd gone half way.

Still, My Garmin Can't Lie, so I plodded on. The descents off that hill that Paul mentioned were pretty much as described, but they were the last ones I did with any control. As I crossed the road to push on to the next bit, it was all becoming all a bit functional. I did have the good grace to pause while traversing Hanginstone Scar to admire the view westwards where you see the railway line snaking up towards Kirkby Stephen.

On to High Seat, High Pike Hill, and probably some other fells with 'High' in the name somewhere. Then my weariness became apparant. As any fell runner knows, to descend well needs skill, not-sore feet, and, energy. It takes energy to descend fast, it's not like being on a bike where you just stop peddling and gurn into the wind. So I hobbled down to the road, took a deep breath, then onto the last bit up to Nine Standards Rigg.

Well that was that bit done, then down. Going downhill isn't fun when you're stuffed. And your feet are hot and sore and blistered. I arrived back at the school and had a look at my time. Ah ok. A bit pish then. Very pish in fact. No surprises there.

Not a cloud in the sky. Apart from the two you can see.

An interesting day, and a reminder that I'll probably never stop being naive about races. I did the Wensleydale Wander last month, which is an identical distance. And I was fine after that. So why was today so much harder? Possibly related to the Yomp involving twice as much climbing. I was also intrigued that my feet gave me problems - hot and blistered in my Walshes. This happened to me once in Swaledale, and I put it down to wearing Walshes on a course that has so much hard surfaces. Now I'm not so sure. I'm now thinking it's not the surfaces, or the shoes, it's the heat. I was strangely re-assured to get an email from Shaun in the evening asking me how my race had gone as his had been 'absolutely awful'. Not just me then!

David Gibson and Geoff Davis were 36th and 16th respectively in the Full Yomp.

Penshaw Hill Race, 1st June

3 miles

Nigel Heppell

photo by Phil Owenphoto by Phil OwenNot a run; definitely a race; mostly hardcore speed merchants competing;

A short sharp 3miles starting with a climb up to and around Penshaw monument; two undulating laps of the woods and fields; finishing with a stiff climb to the monument again.

After this, lots of runners seem to need to lie on the ground making weird noises and grimacing.

89 runners; Race winner - Nathan Reed Sunderland Harriers 16.24min; 69th Nigel H 24.46min; 78th Jan Young 26.50min.

Unusually for me I had a warm-up/down regime, 3miles from home and back again; made for a decent night out.

Newspaper report and a chance to find Jan in the photographs

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race, Threlkeld, 29th May

15m / 4338' / AL

Aaron Gourley ...

I’d be lying if I said I was wasn’t feeling nervous about this race. As I drove over from a dull and damp north east across the A66 I was worried about low cloud. However, as I dropped into Cumbria my worries faded as blue skies appeared and the temperature started to rise.

The Professionals

Pulling into Threkeld Cricket Club, I made my way to registration, handed over £7 then dashed straight over to Pete Bland’s mobile shop to purchase some emergency equipment - a race map, blok shots and a spanking new pair of Walsh’s.

All set and ready for the off, Tom and Penny appeared and after a quick group picture it was time to run.

The first mile winds its way along a track then through a soggy field before we hit the base of Clough Head, here starts the long and torturous climb to the first check point.

For the next mile it's a near vertical climb. My heart rate has hit 89%, and all I’ve seen for the last 10mins are the heels of those in front - Inov8, Salomon, La Sportiva - I pass the time studying each person’s shoe choice. All the while in my mind I’m thinking that this is going to be a horrendous descent, will the Walsh’s I have on cope? Will my legs cope? I need to keep something in the bank for this.

Briefly looking up for a moment to savour the views the summit of Clough Head is reached and its a long run down then back up to Great Dodd, via Calfhow Pike before skirting the summits of Watson Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd before dropping down to Sticks Pass.

From here it’s a slog up to Raise and the ground gets rockier and the crowds of walkers bigger. It’s also getting hotter.

From Raise the route drops down again before rising back up to the summit of White Side, It’s here the race leader of this out and back course, Carl Bell, comes flying past. He looks so strong, is minutes ahead of the chasing pack and as it happens, managed to break the course record by oner 2 minutes.

Dropping off White Side there’s a small climb up to Helvellyn Little Man and it’s here I hear words of encouragement from Penny and Tom as they make their way back from the summit of Helvellyn, the turn around point of the race.

I guess they’re around 10mins ahead of me at this point as I take my time up to the summit of Helvellyn. Turning around the race retraces itself back up and over each peak. I’m still feeling good but the temperature really starts to take it’s toll and I being to flag,

Approaching the final climb to the summit of Clough Head again I hit the wall and have to stop for a bit. There’s a paraglider about to begin his take-off, I wonder if he’ll take a passenger and drop me off at the finish.

The final descent is as torturous as I’d imagined. the lactic acid builds up in my legs and the heat has become unbearable as I reach the bottom for the final run in back to the cricket club.

3hr29mins of torturous beauty in the high fells of the Lake District on a simply stunning day. What more could you want from a day out running? Well there was lots and lots of cake at the end and the ginger flapjack was a real treat.

I wish I could smile and run uphill at the same time!

... Tom Reeves and Penny Browell

Descending Fast

TR: Although I’ve covered the ground of this race many time on various Bob Graham expeditions, I still studied the map which Penny kindly provided very carefully, as she drove me across to Threlkeld Cricket Club and the start of the race. This is a category A fell race for good reason with 4388 feet of ascent over a 15 mile out and back route covering long hard high ground. The day looked good for navigation with clear blue skies and sun. My main aim of this race was to get round in good form as it was my first lakeland race for quite some time.

PB: My aim was purely survival! Although I’ve done little bits of running and walking in the Lakes I knew this was going to be harder than anything I’d tried before so I wanted to get round without getting lost and ideally without completely dying on the second half.

TR: We bumped into Aaron who had also ventured over to take part and we headed for the start on the road beside the cricket club. After a quick photo opportunity we were off and soon spread out as the fast guys at the front pushed on. All too quickly we left the road and started the long thigh busting, back breaking climb to the summit of Clough Head (728 metres). Penny and I swapped places several times on the first half of the climb before she began to pull away from me. I just couldn't keep up with her.

PB: I found the first climb hard but really wanted to get it done. Whilst we could see the frontrunners pulling away it was still quite congested in the middle of the pack and it was hard to get into any kind of rhythm so I kept overtaking people to find some space. I’d been warned it was probably the hardest climb and was delighted to get up it unscathed and feeling good. The view at the top was breath-taking - I don’t care how hard climbs are when you’re rewarded with landscapes like that!

TR: At the summit Penny was about 50 metres ahead and I gradually caught her on the long grassy very runnable descent from the summit toward Great Dodd and another slightly less steep climb. The sun was well and truly out by now and I was beginning to feel the pace a bit.

The pattern for the race was pretty much set by now...Penny would get ahead on the climbs and the flattish stuff; I would get ahead on the descents (being less sensible) On the drop down from Whiteside (863 metres) before the final rocky climb to Helvellyn the race leader passed us. I gasped a well done and pushed on to the summit as more and more runners ran past me on the way back!!

PB: The frontrunners were incredible as we made the final climb up Helvellyn. They seemed to literally fly down the mountain. The leader (who broke the course record) seemed never to touch the ground – as someone who struggles with downhills I was in total awe. Although out and back races sometimes seem less exciting it was an absolute joy to see such incredible runners show us how it’s done.

TR: There were quite a lot of people at the summit cheering us on which really does help. The views from the top were stunning as I felt a new injection of energy as I headed back. The run back is obviously a bit easier as you are generally heading down, but there are still a couple of naughty climbs which Penny was still blasting up.

PB: I think blasting up is an exaggeration – although there is less climbing on the way back it seemed a lot harder! I was starting to feel quite weak and sickly but managed to get some food into me and was spurred on by Tom and a Swaledale friend who were both still running well. It was also good to see Aaron heading up Helvellyn and to exchange tired “well done”s with other runners.

TR: We had a fantastic run down off Great Dodd and soon found ourselves at the summit of Clough Head and clearly the most difficult of descents after 14 miles of hard running.

PB: I’d been dreading this from the start – everyone told me the final descent was a killer and I knew I was going to lose some time here. Fortunately I was feeling a bit less sick and knowing this ridiculously steep and long hill was taking me back to tea and cake definitely helped. I knew Tom was going to get away from me but I just didn’t want to lose too many more places on the way down.

TR: I managed to overtake a good handful of runners but by the final road section my quads were little more than jelly and even though it is a gentle run down the road to the finish I was also finished and was nearly caught on the line by a woman! My stubborn male pride could not allow this of course and I crossed the line gasping.

PB: In the first half of the descent I was overtaken by a couple of runners and Tom gradually disappeared into the distance. But I felt slightly less wobbly than I’d expected and once we were off the really steep stuff I managed to get past a couple of people so I think ended up finishing in the same position as I’d started the descent. OK I was way slower than Tom but for me this was a minor victory!

TR: Penny arrived shortly after me and I gave her a congratulatory hug knowing it won’t be long till I'm following her in. Tea, sandwiches and cakes awaited us in the pavilion and it was a very pleasant prize giving out on the grass in the sun. All in all a very good race.

PB: Finishing the race was tough – the road seemed to go on forever but the sense of achievement crossing the line matched any marathon I’ve finished. I’d been pretty scared going into it as these Lakeland races are so much harder than the small fell races I’ve done in North Yorkshire and Northumberland. But it couldn’t have been better. For a mere £7 we got the most incredible climbing and running and stunning views in the most beautiful part of our country. I’ll never forget being half way up Clough Head and seeing runners spreading out into the distance both ahead of me and behind me. The atmosphere as we recovered after the race was fantastic and the cheese and pickle sandwich, Bakewell tart and tea were exactly what I needed. I’ll definitely be back to the Lakes for more…

Edinburgh Marathon, 29th May

Paul Swinburne

Now that's a medal.This was my second marathon. I was supposed to do this last year but developed a chest infection in the week before and had to pull out. My punishment for missing out was to take part in Kielder. Kielder is a beautiful but hilly marathon. I managed to get around that one in 3 hours 36. Not bad for a first attempt. My garmin logged that effort at 42.1 km! Frustratingly I didn’t have a marathon distance to my name on Endomondo or Strava.

My training is split between running, cycling and swimming as I try to keep my hand in with all three. I guess I was hoping that some of the fitness from the other disciplines would be transferable as I probably hadn’t done as much training for this as I should (and certainly nowhere near the Herculean training efforts that Matt, Michael and Stephen put in lately). I’d done two long runs of about 2 hours along with the regular striders training nights, parkruns and a couple of 10k’s here and there. I guess I was hoping that the atmosphere of the race day and support of the crowd would get me through those added miles that I hadn’t trained for.

Organisationally, I’d made a bit of mess of it. I tried to book hotels about 6 weeks beforehand and there was literally nothing left in Edinburgh. All of my old Uni mates have either moved on from Edinburgh or didn’t have room to put me up. Also, there were no trains departing on Sunday morning that would have got me to the start in time. (Either that or they were all full up?)

As luck would have it, I managed to bag a single room in a lovely hotel called Carberry Tower near Musselburgh where the marathon finishes. This place was picture postcard pretty and my single bed was really comfortable. It’s been a really long time since I slept in a single bed. It felt really decadent having a little bed all to myself. Is that weird? Anyroad, I slept really well. I woke a bit early when my watch buzzed at about 630 with Graeme W wishing me good luck. He’s away in Florida so presumably was having a late one ;)

Breakfast was great, muesli, bacon, eggs, a Swedish style cinnamon roll and loads of coffee!!! My old uni mate kindly came and picked me up. I was really worried about how to get from this rather isolated hotel to the start. Thankfully I arrived at London Road in good time. I met another old Uni mate in the starting pen. I knew he’d be there and was looking out for him.

We discussed strategy. He’s done about 7 marathons and had ran them in different ways according to the conditions. “How will you run it?” He asked. “I’m going to start off a bit faster than my ‘M’ pace and keep going for as long as I can – just try and hold on at the end”

The marathon started and I stuck to my plan. Holyrood park came and went. The descent through Leith. Turning onto the coast and running past the crowds at Portobello. I got a nice shout out there from my uni mate who gave me the lift, along with his family.

‘M’ pace for me is 4.40/km. My first 10k all came in below 4.30/km. So far so good. I was up to 19km before my pace slackened to my ‘M’ pace. I was approaching Musselburgh by this point. I thought ‘I could bag a half marathon PB here if I get my finger out’ – so I put on a bit of a burst and beat my last GNR time.

21km – 4 more Parkruns to do – ‘you can do that’. I’d decided to run without music this time. Don’t know why really. I really liked running with music at Kielder. I think I just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere from the sidelines and I didn’t want to miss any shout-outs if I got any. Anyway, I’d been thinking I may turn the music on at half way if I needed a boost, but I didn’t bother in the end.

I started to see the slower finishers from the half marathon on the other side of the road. A big shout out from Jacqui Robson! Her and Alister were there in the tough bit of Kielder and gave me encouragement then. Is there anyone that does more for running locally? I doubt it...

14miles gone - 12 more to go. ‘Bugger – this is a long way’, ‘why am I doing this again?’ ‘When is the turning point?’

A mile or two more. Police outriders on the other side of the road. There go the race leaders. 3 Africans then a chap with Polish looking name. Shortly afterwards the first female.

30km – ‘Two more parkruns to go. You can do this!... Err, no – it’s two more parkruns to go when you get to 32km’. ‘You weren’t forgetting about those last 2km were you?’ ‘Did you think you’d just breeze home on the crest of a pb wave?....’

Finally, the turning point. I don’t know why this was important but it felt like it was another checkpoint to be reached. I passed a grand old stately building – no idea what it was. The macmillan support there was noisy and welcome. Oh no! The ground underfoot is a bit loose now. Any pebbles are excruciating. I’m bothered at times with ‘hot toes’ – ‘They’ve been ok so far. Hope this doesn’t set them off’. An African looking lady overtakes me. Her bum looks like it’s carved from marble.’ I’ll follow her for a bit..’ Bugger she’s too quick for me...

34km – pace has dropped to 4.50/km. Not much I can do about it. Time to try and hang on.

37km – An African looking lady is receiving treatment on the verge by paramedics – wrapped up in foil like a banana on a barbeque. ‘Hope that wasn’t the same lady’.... 1 more Parkrun to go. How hard can that be? 1 Parkrun in just under 25 minutes and you’ll bag a 3h 15 finish. Come on!!

Err – no. Come back when you’re fitter...

Ashamed to say I walked a few times in the last 5k. I’ll have to admit it. I was caught doing it by Alister and David. “go-on – get it finished! You’ve done the hard part!” I guess he was right but I was really spent.

The last 5k was purgatory. The end couldn’t come soon enough. I rounded the last corner. The crowd was noisy and vociferous. The finish was about 200m away. I felt like 2000! Come on – keep going...

At last.

I can stop. 3h 18m 53s. An 18 minute improvement on Kielder on an easier course. Honours even? The chap I met in the pen had overtaken me in the last kilometre and finished about 40 seconds in front of me. Damn! Tortoise wins this time.

I pick up my medal and goody bag. It’s pretty hot and sunny now. I need to sit down. My god – that seems impossible. How do I sit down? I do some stretches and buy some porridge from a porridge van (who knew?)

Sitting down is agony. Standing up is agony. Don’t get me started on stairs right now. I just had to use the lift at home to get me up one flight!

After a rest I need to walk the 2-3 miles back to the hotel. ‘This isn’t easy but it’ll do me good’ I think.

Halfway to my destination a car pulls up ‘Do you want a lift?’ ‘Do I ever!’ The kind of altruistic act that reaffirms your faith in humanity!

Just the small matter of the drive back now. Will I get cramp? Nah. It was fine...

Keswick Mountain Festival

Salomon Trail 10K, 22nd May

Penny Browell

Plink, plink, fizz!

A few months ago I received an invitation to a wedding in the lake district and the groom (a fellow runner) mentioned the wedding was taking place the same weekend as the Keswick Mountain Festival so I might want to get a race in whilst I was there. It struck me as slightly unwise to race the day after a wedding but once the idea had been planted I couldn’t resist booking myself in. However at 1am on Sunday morning after too many drinks to count and 4 hours in my dancing shoes I (for once) agreed with my husband that maybe racing wasn’t a great idea.

Sunday morning arrived and due to road closures we had to get up early to drive from Hawkshead to Keswick. My head and feet were sore but it was shaping up to be a beautiful day and when we arrived at the festival village there was a lovely atmosphere with plenty of coffee and porridge on sale (thankfully). The festival included a massive range of sporting events including triathlons, ultras, open water swimming and more. It was great to see some of the other competitors taking part and crossing the finishing line but before long it was time for me to set off for the 10k. The race was slightly unusual in that there were multiple starts across the day with each heat only around 100-200. But part of its appeal had been the fact that you have to get a boat from Keswick to Low Brandelhow to get to the start. The boat was bustling with nervous and excited runners and I finally started to feel like I was there to run rather than nurse my hangover.

Penny.

I’d read up a little on the route and knew that the first half was harder than the second and they weren’t kidding. After about a mile of lovely lakeside trails we turned sharply up some monster hills to then contour the side of Catbells. Views were fabulous and the terrain rocky and uneven but dry so fairly easy to run on. The paths undulated up and down and eventually we were back on easier lakeside paths which I recognised from many holidays around Keswick. The last mile or so included some road I knew well through Portinscale and then onto a footpath into Keswick. We were close to the 10k mark and I knew the quickest way back but the race organisers decided to give us an extra bit of fun by taking us off road for a couple more twists and turns before returning to the festival village a lot closer to 7 miles than 10k… The finish was fabulous with crowds cheering you in and especially special for me as I got to see my kids for the first time in over 24 hours.

Due to the race being run in heats I was unable to be absolutely confident of my position but I knew I was first lady in my heat and that I’d run a good race so I celebrated with a cider ice lolly whilst cheering my brother in law in from a 1500m swim in Derwent water. Later in the day I found out I’d won first place for the ladies overall and even broken the course record for women (although I think the race has only been running a couple of years!). I’m now wondering whether I need to drink heavily and dance for hours the night before every race….

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Pier to Pier, South Shields to Sunderland, 22nd May

6.9M

Jonathan Hamill

Purple to Pier? Perhaps we need to request a new name for this race; 71 strong, we were a formidable purple army on the beach at South Shields!

Time Skelton's photo of a literal sea of purple.

I was a lucky late entrant to Pier to Pier and a first timer. Reveille at 0630hrs provided time for some pre-race sustenance, and then on the road to drop our three children off and shatter the Sunday morning tranquillity for the in-laws.

Trained in the model of 5 P's, I had studied well the many options that would see me navigate the road network, to arrive around 0845hrs at Roker seafront. The excellent execution of Pier to Pier started here, with a marshall stationed on the roundabout, directing cars into the car-park adjacent to Sunderland Yacht Club. Parking was free! A short walk saw me queue for only a few moments with some other eager participants, and having pre-paid for the bus shuttle to the start, a minibus whisked us away, to arrive at the car park adjacent to the South Pier at South Shields.

After a bit of chat with some other early Striders, and some last minute lace adjustment, the remainder of the Purple posse arrived by coach, including my Minister for Home Affairs, who must have enjoyed some respite from the kids (and me!). Having had some debate about the athletic fit of men's vests (I shall avoid disclosing more!), and after pointing a few folk in the direction of the loo queues, we proceeded onto the beach.

We assembled on the beach for a team photo. This ended up being a series of photos as more and more Striders appeared over the hill, and perhaps the final shot may not have captured the full might of the Purple army? Tactics for a fast start fell to Mike Parker, who advised that the premier racing line would start from the furthest point at/in the water! A race briefing ensued and having confirmed Bill Ford had a satellite fix, we were off!

Across the beach, through the water, through more water towards the Sand Dancer pub, I decided to abort the beach invasion option to re-join the main throng. With feet feeling a kilo heavier from the sand and water, we climbed onto the top, following part of the Sand Dancer route, climbing gradually towards Souter Lighthouse and enjoying the sea views. The path was part gravel, part grass and fairly flat with a couple of interesting choices, resulting in a temporarily split pack at a couple of points (I'm not sure if there was any merit to any particular diversion but my ploy was to follow the fittest looking runner in front of me!). Souter Lighthouse was just past the 5km point and water was served on the grass just past the wall enclosure. Shouts of encouragement emanated from the play area in front of the lighthouse and by the inclusion of, Striders, and Purple I deduced they were familiar supporters but did not delay to acquaint myself further!

Continuing on, we rounded the headland at Whitburn around which point I remember seeing a pier, and looking at my watch which confirmed around 8km. I subsequently realised this was not the pier I was headed for and mentally dealt with the reality that I had a bit more distance to run. Not long after this point, I remember seeing the welcome sight of Allan Seheult on the coastal path in his Striders t-shirt, encouraging us onward.

The finish flags in sight, we passed benches and people eating ice cream, dropping down onto the beach, to traverse the clumps of seaweed which cleared to pretty clear and firm sand for a bit of an increase in heart rate and a sprint finish. I remember hearing Alister Robson shout, keep the arms going and my head told me to also ensure my legs kept going too.

Across the line, I joined those already finished and our supporters to cheer others on. Having managed to snap a decent action shot of Lesley and her flying feet, I then went to claim my race bag. The handcrafted glass finisher ornament was a really nice touch and the contents of the race bag of high quality but in my rush to see the last few Striders home, I missed the free crisps on offer.

We assembled at the promenade nearby for essential rehydration and calorie replenishment activities, marvelling at the light lunch ordered by Kelly Collier (I'm not sure if they provide step-ladders for those burgers but I did notice that Ally Dixon opted for an alternate menu choice). The proximity of our car allowed us to escape without much delay to recover our children, whilst the others waited for the bus return.

I thoroughly enjoyed the scenic aspect of this race and the weather conditions were kind being warm and fairly still. The organisation of the race by Sunderland Strollers was faultless and should provide a template for others to follow. We should all be proud of the camaraderie of our club, which was a great boost throughout the day, and an evident source of encouragement to the many first timers and more experienced participants alike.

I ran 11.1km and my chip time was 1:01:50 - lets see if next year I manage to break 1 hour! I'd recommend Pier to Pier to anyone and road shoes are fine!

Photo by Nigel Heppell

Results

pos bib name gender age group time
1 862 Andy Burn (Jarrow & Hebburn AC) m men 37:15
14 1111 Alyson Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) w Women 41:29
9 93 Gareth Pritchard m Men 40:30
22 293 Michael Littlewood m Seniors M40 43:05
38 767 Simon Gardner m Seniors M40 45:25
80 371 Matthew Archer m Men 47:39
89 208 Paul Swinburne m Seniors M40 48:30
107 269 Tim Skelton m Men 49:48
153 556 Stuart Barker m Men 51:15
164 83 Andrew Rayner m Men 51:35
198 324 John Hutchinson m Seniors M60 52:42
210 188 Louise Warner w Women 53:02
212 768 Shaun Roberts m Seniors M50 53:09
296 755 Sarah Davies w Seniors W40 55:37
322 702 Louise Morton w Women 56:40
342 50 Lucy Cowton w Women 57:20
343 134 Lesley Charman w Seniors W40 57:24
388 444 Peter McGowan m Seniors M50 58:19
397 91 Craig Walker m Seniors M50 58:32
434 26 Andrew Davies m Seniors M40 59:23
436 78 Tim Matthews m Seniors M50 59:25
449 783 Douglas Nisbet m Seniors M50 59:44
453 297 Chris Shearsmith m Men 59:49
457 64 Alex Collins m Men 59:53
464 553 Stephen Ellis m Seniors M60 1:00:13
486 3 David Spence m Seniors M60 1:00:46
534 917 Jonathan Hamill m Seniors M40 1:01:50
555 142 Laura Jennings w Women 1:02:22
557 245 Mike Parker m Seniors M40 1:02:29
559 1047 Mark Herkes m Men 1:02:32
578 243 Katie Davison w Women 1:03:16
591 31 Karen Metters w Seniors W40 1:03:37
611 82 Robin Linton m Men 1:04:09
651 1124 Claire Hunt w Seniors W50 1:05:21
692 405 James Potter m Men 1:06:28
694 59 David Browbank m Men 1:06:30
727 96 Lesley Hamill w Seniors W40 1:07:28
756 361 Catherine Smith w Seniors W40 1:08:22
769 116 Angela Robson w Seniors W40 1:08:48
783 1093 Stan White m Seniors M50 1:09:17
794 248 Gareth Cardus m Seniors M40 1:09:28
796 223 George Nicholson m Seniors M60 1:09:29
809 100 Kelly Collier w Women 1:09:58
837 128 David Beacham m Seniors M50 1:10:53
838 127 Laura Beacham w Women 1:10:53
852 939 Jane Dowsett w Seniors W40 1:11:34
853 97 Carla Clarke w Women 1:11:36
859 1114 Karen Chalkley w Seniors W50 1:11:53
860 554 Janet Ellis w Seniors W50 1:11:58
865 1002 Debra Thompson w Seniors W50 1:12:11
872 125 Christine Farnsworth w Seniors W60 1:12:22
881 592 Andrew Thurston m Seniors M50 1:12:47
903 260 Aileen Scott w Seniors W40 1:13:23
909 473 Alison Heslop w Seniors W40 1:13:36
919 22 Jill Young w Women 1:13:49
920 133 Nicola Rogers w Women 1:13:49
921 779 Lucy Herkes w Women 1:13:49
923 1049 Victoria Downes w Women 1:13:57
924 30 Helen Thomas w Seniors W40 1:13:57
930 7 Andy James m Seniors M60 1:14:10
958 439 Louise Simpson w Seniors W40 1:15:29
990 427 Sharon Campbell w Women 1:16:52
1012 567 David Arnott m Seniors M60 1:19:21
1027 780 Alison Simms w Seniors W40 1:20:00
1065 778 Rebecca Gilmore w Women 1:23:07
1066 1033 Diane Soulsby w Seniors W50 1:23:10
1067 790 Laura Jackson w Women 1:23:11
1094 784 Pauline Elliott w Seniors W50 1:27:56
1095 11 Katie-Louise Finney w Women 1:28:07
1096 77 Caitlin Mooney w Women 1:28:07
1107 776 Karen Middlemiss w Seniors W40 1:30:37
1121 234 Neil Jennings m Seniors M50 1:35:27
1127 235 Elaine Jennings w Seniors W50 1:41:34
1128 103 Laura Gibson w Women 1:41:34

1128 finishers.

Clive Cookson 10K, 18th May

Stephen Jackson

Clive Cookson 10K This was a very well organised, two-lap race on a relatively flat course, with great PB potential; what’s not to like. The atmosphere was very friendly, from the GB international at the front to the 90 minute plus 10k runner towards the rear – everyone was given a warm welcome. Add to this a mild, early summer evening with little or no wind and I was in my element – I fancied a new 10km PB.

The race started at 7.15pm prompt and it was tight at the beginning, even though I’d managed to position myself fairly close to the start line. However, it didn’t take long to find a rhythm as the lead pack(s) quickly broke. What I hadn’t quite appreciated is that the beginning of the race is on a slight incline, nothing too severe, but certainly noticeable on the second lap when the legs are slightly less fresh. The upshot of this is after 2km the road gently rolls back downhill and the pace naturally quickens.

I’d planned to run quite sensibly, split halfway at approximately 17:30 and increase the pace, if possible, towards the end – and so it was to be.

I went through 5km in 17:24, I think, and then had to dig in between 5km and 7km, I was passing people even though I was running slightly slower – I had no one at that point to drag me along. I then got in a small group which carried me through towards the finish, gradually feeling stronger; I knew I was going to be somewhere close to my sub 35 minute target.

I finished a second ahead of Jason Auld of Crook AC for the second time in a week, no mean feat as he’s one of the better Vets in the North East.

So, a new PB of 34.44 (chip time), a nice new t-shirt (albeit orange) and home in half an hour whilst the sun was still shining.

What could be better than that?

Stephen on course for a PB

Summer Handicap, Round 1, 18th May

photo by Malcolm Sygrove

Results

position bib name finish time actual time handicap for May (group) handicap for June (group)
1 226 Andrew Munro 48.10 39.10 9 21
2 217 Rachel Turner 48.48 45.48 3 15
3 222 Laura Jennings 49.36 40.36 9 18
4 236 Helen Parker 49.42 40.42 9 18
5 221 Angela Williams 50.09 41.09 9 18
6 227 Kirsten Fenwick 50.31 47.31 3 12
7 225 Karen Metters 50.50 41.50 9 18
8 240 Elizabeth Clish 50.55 44.55 6 15
9 229 Anita Wright 51.46 42.46 9 18
10 214 Emma Alderson 52.31 43.31 9 15
11 228 Debbie Jones 52.52 43.52 9 15
12 114 Steve Ellis 53.24 41.24 12 18
13 47 Catherine Walker 53.26 47.26 6 12
14 243 Justin Hemming 53.28 41.28 12 18
15 224 Stephen Soulsby 53.53 32.53 21 27
16 234 Faye Ward 53.55 44.55 9 15
17 220 Mike Parker 54.19 42.19 12 18
18 182 Matt Claydon 54.33 33.33 21 27
19 235 Jonathan Hammill 54.35 42.35 12 18
20 36 Aileen Scott 54.49 48.49 6 12
21 233 Alan Smith 54.53 42.53 12 18
22 70 Helen Thomas 54.56 42.56 12 18
23 48 Jan Ellis 55.00 46.00 9 15
24 239 Dave Forster 55.02 40.02 15 21
25 45 Sharon Campbell 55.20 52.20 3 9
26 102 Kathryn Sygrove 55.32 46.32 9 12
27 215 Chris Shearsmith 56.12 41.12 15 18
28 223 Diane Soulsby 56.22 56.22 0 3
29 232 John Moran 56.33 56.33 0 3
30 49 Debra Thompson 56.40 47.40 9 12
31 107 Isobelle Grant 57.00 45.00 12 15
32 166 Mark Payne 57.02 36.02 21 24
33 96 Dave Toth 57.23 42.23 15 18
34 241 Antony Clish 57.25 57.25 0 3
35 211 David Browbank 57.35 45.35 12 15
36 162 John Hutchinson 57.38 36.38 21 24
37 147 Shaun Roberts 57.53 36.53 21 24
38 200 Francis Timson 58.14 43.14 15 18
39 50 Helen Hackett 58.22 49.22 9 12
40 242 Huw Dixon 58.30 37.30 21 18
41 142 Camilla Lauren-Maata 58.43 40.43 18 18
42 75 Diane Watson 59.10 47.10 12 12
43 184 Conrad White 59.32 38.32 21 21
44 219 Joanne Parkinson 59.52 53.52 6 6
45 26 Alison Simms 59.52 53.52 6 6
46 218 Steven Comby 60.01 45.01 15 15
47 29 Phil Todd 60.02 51.02 9 9
48 106 Andrew Dunlop 60.02 48.02 12 12
49 98 Angela Tribe 60.17 45.17 15 15
50 68 Louise Simpson 60.18 48.18 12 12
51 76 Caitlin Mooney 60.27 53.27 12 6
52 120 Claire Hunt 60.29 42.29 18 18
53 81 George Nicholson 60.56 48.56 12 12
54 93 James Potter 60.57 45.57 15 15
55 82 Karen Chalkey 60.58 48.58 12 12
56 238 Jim Nicholson 61.00 49.00 12 12
57 126 Alex Collins 61.11 40.11 21 21
58 74 Andy James 61.12 49.12 12 12
59 97 Stacey Brannan 61.20 46.20 15 15
60 172 Richard Stollery 61.38 40.38 21 18
61 116 Sarah Fawcett 61.52 46.52 15 12
62 148 Lesley Hamill 62.58 41.58 21 18
63 59 Jennifer Cowan 63.29 54.29 9 6
64 154 Simon Hackett 63.30 42.30 21 18
65 137 Becca Gilmore 63.30 54.30 18 6
66 73 Sophie Dennis 65.23 53.23 12 6
1 lap completed 136 John Greathead 18
1 lap completed 216 Carla Clarke 3

66 finishers.

Hardmoors 110, 30th April

110 miles

Sue Jennings

Finisher's Medal I first started to run Hardmoors marathons in 2013 – I think Osmotherly was my first one. At the time, it nearly killed me – 29 miles and 5000 feet of climb taking me about 8 hours. I didn’t think that I would do another one but you soon forget the pain and get carried away with everyone else and before I knew it, I had entered a few more. In 2014 I first attempted the Hardmoors 60 which I didn’t manage to finish and I attempted it again in 2015 again not finishing. So you are probably thinking why would I then decide to enter the 110 miles?

Well it started when I was running around a muddy field on a dark, Monday night last November with Denise doing Tom’s grass session. Just very much in passing she told me that she was going to enter the Hardmoors Grand Slam in 2016 (the 30, 55, 60 and 110). I had never really aspired to the 110 or the Grand Slam even though I had seen others who I had met through Hardmoors achieving this and watched their immense satisfaction at what they had done. However I also knew that it would be much easier to do something like this if I had someone to train with so the next week, I entered the Grand Slam myself.

Denise and I decided that the best way to train for something as challenging as this was to follow a training plan and Denise found a 100 mile race training plan on the internet. She adapted it to fit the races that we were planning, starting with the Hardmoors Roseberry Topping marathon in the middle of December ...

Report continues here...

Madrid Half Marathon, 24th April

Tamsin Imber

This is a lovely road run in a smart, clean city! Marathon and 10k options are also available. My brother Tim lives with his wife and baby daughter just outside of Madrid. Tim got into running a year and a half ago, just after me, and had been training for this (his first) half marathon for a while. I was going to do it with him, combining it with a catch up. He had had problems with his knee on and off on the run up to the race so was hoping it would be OK. My sister and family were staying in the centre of Madrid and she was going to do her first 10k.

What we need is a PURPLE Flamanco Dress!

Race morning! We crept out the house at 6.30am, Tim laughing hysterically at my flamenco dress! He promised to dress up next time (I’ll get him a flamenco dress :). Outside the air was cool and the sun rising orange in a clear sky. Tim drove us into Madrid. His driving is more Spanish than it used to be! But we arrived alive and he parked down a side street that he knows of near to a metro station. The metro was packed with runners and the air was buzzing with excitement! We took the metro to the stop near the Retiro park where the races began. What an amazing atmosphere, runners everywhere and a Spanish rock band playing! And, now the sun had risen and was shining and the sky was clear blue! 20 degrees!

Just before the race started, 3 parachutists appeared holding huge Spanish flags! They parachuted down and landed at the start! Tim and I joined the crowds at the start of the half marathon. It seems the Spanish don’t do dressing up! - I was the only person I saw all day dressed up and at the start 5 other runners wanted their photo with me(!!).

The crowd started to move forwards, so I guessed we must have started! The pace increased and we were over the line! The route was lovely-a lovely way to sight-see a beautiful city! We went along wide tree-lined avenues, the tall buildings either side casting cooling shade. The city is clean and smart. The roundabouts had beautiful fountains on. There were pretty pedestrianised squares. The whole route was closed to traffic. It was not a flat course, many gradual inclines and declines but this added variety, plus the main uphill was at the start. And, a plus for me, the spectators were mainly only at the start and end (I didn’t like the noise at Manchester). There were a few rock bands along the course rocking out. Fantastic comraderie all the way round (didn’t understand a word of it but Spanish runners are extra enthusiastic and vocal! I just smiled back) As I approached the finish people cheered on Andalucia and Seville as I went past (Go me!, how Spanish do I look? Ha ha ha, ...so undercover). Then the finish ended in Retiro park-a beautiful lush green city park with formal gardens, lakes with boat hire and play areas for kids. After crossing the finish I was handed a lovely sparkly medal and bag of goodies :) I was pleased with my time of 1.43, and really chuffed as Tim finished it despite his knee and my sister did a fantastic 10k time of 1hr 1min :) It was great doing it with them both, must do it again!, .. ummm.. Amsterdam?, Paris? We celebrated with a top meal out.

Virgin Money London Marathon, 24th April

Stephen Jackson ...

Ready.Ready. The day before I travelled to London I was informed, via Facebook, that my 2015 PB from the Greater Manchester Marathon was no longer recognised by England Athletics as an official marathon time. Suddenly, the trip to the Capital had a little more pressure attached to it.

Fastforward three days, and I'm inside a portable toilet in the Blackwall tunnel, about fourteen miles into the Virgin Money London Marathon, again cursing my luck as my dreamof emulating that time from Manchester isslipping away before my very eyes.

There is undoubtedly a metaphor I could shoehorn into this report (hopes and dreams down the toilet related), but I won't. Safe to say my race plan did not involve a portaloo stop (*other portable toilets are available).

However, I emerged from that tunnel with a new focus, running a sub 02:45 marathon - slightly slower than my 'dream' time for London - but enough to earn a Championship place for the following year and a symbolic two fingered salute to the organisers of the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Just after the toilet stop I passed Alyson Dixon, leading the charge for the GB women, going in the opposite direction; this lifted my spirits as I was able to manage a "go on Aly" as she flew by me. Not long after that I saw my lovely wife Vics, our two girls and my Mam and Dad who'd made the trip to London to again meet the newest member of our family, my Nephew Seb.

Before long I was again hitting on or around 03:53 per km (06:15 minute miles) and things were, sort of, back on course. I felt better at 16 miles than I did at 6, I felt like I was back in control. 19 - 23 miles were, as expected, a struggle. My pace dropped off slightly and I really needed to dig deep to keep the dream alive. That said, I was passing people, I wasn't thriving but I was struggling less than those around me. At 24 miles, I started to work towards the finish line. I had a wrong to right from Manchester, I wanted my Championship place back.

Statistics.

The last two miles were everything I hoped they would be, I didn't really give a monkeys about the iconic landscape, I was more interested in the fact I was finishing strongly. I did the maths in my head with 1km to go and new it was in my grasp, only just.

02:44:06 - 54 seconds to spare; maybe I didn't need to rush that toilet stop after all. I have unfinished business at this distance; I can and will go faster, no doubt about it. But the feeling as I crossed the finish line was as satisfying as I've had in my short running career.

Cops and Runners.

I'd barely paused for breath and I saw Michael Littlewood heading towards me - a HUGE PB for him on the day, taking 12 minutes off in 12 months - impressive to say the least. I only mention Michael by name as we've travelled the length and breadth of the UK together over the last 9 weeks, united in a common goal under the stewardship of coach Allan Seheult. We were in this together and I got just as much pleasure out of Michael's time as I did my own.

All the Elvet Striders in London did the club and the North East proud.

Now, I have a taste for the Marathon majors; what to do next?

... Elaine Bisson

Driven by the excitement surrounding last years VMLM, I gained a place with a GFA entry. The hotel and train tickets were booked months in advance. I travelled down on friday, staying in Lewisham (ideal 20min walk from the start line at Blackheath). Registration was at Custom Excel VMLM Expo, here there was a buzz of excitement from fellow marathoners and stewards.

I spent the remainder of the Saturday being very lazy and finishing off my carb loading. That night was the first in a long time when I slept until the buzz of my alarm clock heralded the start of race day. Fuelled up with porridge heavily soaked with maple syrup, I made my way through the magnificent surroundings of Lewisham to locate the green blip in the sky, marking the start for the GFA and celebs! By the Hare and Billet Road there was no doubt in my mind that I had found the right place, it was absolutely teaming with runners as they too made their way to the start.

A highlight for me was running into some fellow striders and being sneaked into the Virgin tent, with its warmth, bean bags, chairs, pre race fuelling, and most importantly pristine toilets with no queue (thank you!)

Baggage buses were loaded by 9:25, we headed to the start pens with 10 minutes to spare. 10am and we were off. Our route collides with the blue and then the red masses and the paths get busier and busier. So busy I narrowly escaped being tripped many, many times over as runners pushed to get past, or to stick strictly to the thin blue line marking the shortest route, or to dash in front to grab water. It felt like mayhem. I did not like it. I cursed a lot.

Honestly, I don't remember much. If you asked me about Kielder or of Windermere, I could tell you so much about the surroundings, the rise and fall of the road, this was very different. It was an assault on all of my senses.

The noise from the spectators was incredible, throughout the entire 26.2 miles, and as the day wore on the voices seemed to get louder and louder. There were numerous bands along the route, pubs playing music, an insane 100m stretch filled with people in blue frantically ringing bells.

The smells were pungent from takeaways preparing food, beer, smoke... The sights of thousands of people shouting, the Cutty Sark, miles upon miles of roads that could be anywhere in the UK, the dark grotty tunnel, the shard, no. 10, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the most amazing finish line ever. We experienced all seasons, from a cold chilly start, hot sun, hailstones, rain, wind.

With 5miles to go, I had had enough. The buildings were encroaching on the sky, the spectators were becoming more raucous as the pubs were drunk dry. My ears were ringing and my heart no longer singing. The wheels were quickly falling off, I tried to imagine running along the quiet road to the finish line at windermere, I summoned all my strength to get this thing over. I clung to two women and forced my legs to keep in time with theirs, finally the mall was in sight and my heart began to leap, 1000m to go, 800, 600, I round the bend and see the finish line, with its 3 entrance ways and large clocks tick, tick, ticking. It was quite spectacular, I should have enjoyed it more. Expertly herded through to receive the biggest, heaviest gold medal (sorry, no, i hadn't won), to get a picture taken (and try to smile and stand upright while my legs start to cramp), along to pick up my bags and then out of the barriers and into even more mayhem.

I tackle my way as quickly as I can through the masses swarming St James Park, up and then down a footbridge to find Victoria Station...then the long journey back to my hotel to pick up my bags, back to Kings Cross to fill a waitrose bag with utter rubbish and then on the train home. My phone turned on and there is pandemonium as it beeps and buzzes signalling facebook conversations, messages and voice mail from friends and family who have excitably followed my small red running figure on a computer screen and watched trying to spot my purple vest on TV...I wonder if they have had more fun than me.

I have the most hilarious trip home, filling my tummy full of goodies, and sharing prosecco and daft stories with an actress who is off to dress as a cyborg for her next movie. I fall out of the station with legs unwilling to move and perhaps having had a little too much bubbles. The taxis are all taken. As I stumble towards the hill that I will have to climb to get home, the wonderful Simon saves me and gives me a lift (another highlight of my day!)

So, what did I think? I wonder if I've missed something. I'm not sure how much I enjoyed it, if at all. There were parts that made me grin, but when I thought the cheers would spur me on, I longed for the solitude, for countryside, for air that I wanted to inhale, for the sound of my breathing and of my own trainers tapping the floor.

However, I also know I have unfinished business. With every marathon under my belt, I learn more about how my mind and body work, Ill come back stronger and smash that PB next time...

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Sean HehirIRL02:17:20
501Stephen Jackson02:44:06
671Michael Littlewood02:47:31
4316Elaine Bisson03:17:32
5130Penny Browell03:22:51
9345Fiona Jones03:43:28
9780Lucy Cowton03:45:04
13264Jane Ives03:57:18
14269Ian Spencer03:59:55
15593Kevin Williams04:05:22
19422Katherine Preson04:20:11
19423Kate Macpherson04:20:12
20527Chris Shearsmith04:24:19
21703Jenny Search04:28:53
22443Andrew Davies04:31:41
26005Debbie McFarland04:46:20
26970Jayne Freeman04:50:46
27959Christine Farnsworth04:55:00
32195Kelly Collier05:19:11
32613David Case05:22:06
34779Sophie Dennis05:40:35
34860Hellen Allen05:41:19
34895Lindsay Craig05:41:19

finishers

Blackpool Half Marathon, 24th April

Gareth Pritchard

This is the 2nd time I've raced at Blackpool but my first over the 13.1 miles distance. It's a good 2 1/2 hours drive away so requires a hotel stop a large commitment to do it justice. My road to Blackpool started last year when my body fell apart in the build up to the Yorkshire marathon for a second year. I decided after that big disappointment, committing to a marathon again the following year was not for me, instead I decided to make 2016 a racing marathon free zone to allow for some real speed work and recover from the demands marathon training requires.

Blackpool Half Marathon. A surprise come back 1/2 marathon PB at brass monkey was the boost I needed, so I started looking round for a fast flat 1/2 that I could target. Due to work and other commitments I was left with Blackpool as the best option. A course I sort of knew after racing the 10k there last year, the dates worked and the chance of making a weekend of it meant it was the perfect choice.

So with the help of our club super coach Allan, we drew up a training plan with Blackpool being the end goal. It was based on the marathon program but allowed for exciting distractions and other races along the way without the pressure that the formal marathon program brings. One such adventure being the kielder dark skies marathon with my secret training weapon and number one fan/coach/supporter and most colour coordinated strider, Catherine. I strongly believe the long and short runs we have done together have helped improve my running in countless ways. This is something I would never have done before, heading out for a run well below my slow calculated recovery pace or spending 5 hours 10 mins time on feet round kielder.

Training had gone really well with a sub 17 Sunderland parkrun and a 10k PB at the sand dancer in the build up. With a current 1:17:30 pb I was hoping for at least sub 1:17 and ideally a top 3 finish if the last few years results were anything to go by. But as always it depends who shows up on the day, as the coach said, concentrate on my running and the race result will take care of itself.

Blackpool Half Marathon.

I felt really relaxed at the start line, confident and waving to Catherine who was still suffering from the kielder race and had to pull out of the 10k also on at the same time as the half. The target pace was 5:50 min miles but I knew I was capable of more if I felt good. So after the first couple of splits at 5:30 and 5:34 I tried not to panic too much. I deliberately slowed my pace but still well below goal pace. What worried me was how far back I placed in the field, only just top 10 after 4 miles and the leaders well ahead. You run past all the Blackpool piers, to to the roller coaster then loop back past the start at about mile 8. This is when the fast pace, slight climb and wind started affecting me. Thankfully I had Catherine shouting me on at this point from the tram tracks sidelines and I snapped back into life.

I had slowly picked my way back to 5th after dropping the 6th place runner who wanted me as a wind breaker. The only time I clocked my race time was at the 10 mile point - it read 58 something which was a really pleasant surprise (shock). Either side of that I just concentrated on trying to close the gap to the next runners. The last 3 miles were back along the coast, away from the wind and 3 miles of mad racing I won't forget any time soon. The feeling was amazing as I caught 4th 3rd then 2nd placed runners and just kept going. This last 5k was the fastest of the race for me and a total dream. As the finish line came into sight I knew 2nd place was mine and the joy just exploded as I did a crazy hand dance to the end. My number one supporter cheered me home and I had some how achieved it, 2nd in a major half marathon race. Only then did I check my watch which read 1:15:15. I just assumed it was wrong and still did not quite believe it till the official results come out online.

For me this was the perfect race with a fantastic flat course, a really good training plan and the best support from so many people within our club. A special feeling I felt privileged to be able to share with them all.

The only slight disappointment came with the prize for 2nd place being another t shirt and that's about it. Nothing for the mantlepiece, nothing to display leaving 3 very confused and disappointed runners at the so called 'prize giving ceremony'. A shame after what was without doubt my best ever race and a running highlight I may never top.

Now onto the next challenge.....