Once more unto the mud dear Striders, once more! Lest we close the walls with our dirty washing!

Northern Cross-country Champs, Pontefract, 24th January

Mudman

Mudman himself, on the way to being first Strider home at the 
	Northern XC Champs 2015Fifteen of us headed down to Yorkshire for the Northern X/C Championships on Saturday. The scene at Pontefract racecourse at 9.45am was one of green, pastoral tranquillity if a little damp underfoot - however it didn't stay that way! The tent was quickly erected in the grassy area provided but soon the grass became enveloped in a grey mud which had the consistency of thick gruel. But that is something we're all used to now and so our enthusiasm for what we were about to receive was in no way 'dampened'!

An early arrival on the Gateshead / Durham Harriers bus meant we were able to watch the early races and do a thorough recce of the flattish course which was inside the area where the horse races take place. There were a number of damp patches which it was clear would make the course a tough one in spite of the absence of any hills of significance.

We witnessed some brave performances by the youngsters in their races, on what was a bright but cold and breezy day, and soon it was time for our own youngster, Ari, to set off in the Junior Men's race. Now the fields in the Northerns tend to be of a high quality and some of those 'junior' men were pretty damn quick. Nonetheless Ari hung on in there coping well with the muddy conditions on the two 4k laps and showing real guts and determination to complete the course - well done Ari and good luck with those exams!

The senior women were next up and Striders were well represented by eight Striderettes one or two of who were making their debuts in a regional championship race. Our purple tide was surrounded by vests of many hues from far flung places such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds & Stockport but, as expected, they all battled hard and were led home once again by the ever youthful Fiona followed by a flying Mudwoman, the improving Steph P and a resilient Debs to make up the four counters. Jan had another fine run, after telling a younger rival on the start line to stop complaining, while Catherine and Denise seemed to be having a ball on their runs although Denise was overhauled by a fighting Diane! A great performance all round and it was wonderful that we were able to field enough women to make up two teams when so many clubs are unable to put out one - well done!

Strider ladies at the Northern XC Championships 2015 - 
	Diane, Catherine, Steph, Susan, Debs, Denise, FionaThe senior men had the final use of the 'heavy going' and as we lined up in our 'pens' I found myself with my toe on the line along with Alistair Brownlee and many other fine runners. I didn't stay with them long as the start was another mad dash and I was quickly enveloped and overtaken by hundreds of other runners including first Matt C and then Mike H. Roughly the first K or so was slightly downhill with a following wind - although progress was slowed by the first few sticky patches. Half way round the first lap we all turned into the wind, the going became slightly up hill and the sticky bits were more frequent. I managed to overhaul Mike early on and noticed a guy from Teesdale, wearing a cap, with whom I'd battled with on the North Easterns and so latched onto him. He was a tough opponent and invariably came back at me each time I passed him. There was a long out and back on each lap where you could see all the runners ahead of you and then all the runners behind you. I'd noticed on the second lap that both Mike and Scott were a comfortable distance behind and so concentrated on battling with my Teesdale friend. To my dismay he started to pull away from me at the start of the third lap (the race was 3 laps) but 150m or so up ahead I spotted a Striders vest that could only belong to Matt. And so it was game on.

Mike finished strongly to be third Strider over the lineWithout increasing my pace too much the gap to Matt started to narrow but those sticky bits were starting to take their toll on my legs. As I got quite close, with half a lap to go, Matt became aware I was there and, as I would expect from any X/C running Strider, he started to fight back with short bursts which prevented me from 'taking the lead'. With shouts from the marshals like "good packing" and from Jan of "oh, he's catching you" things were becoming intense. About 200m out, just before a short steep bank, I decided to make my move and managed to ease past a still determined Matt. Running was now agonising but I was managing to hang on and was quite close again to my Teesdale pal. A final sprint for the line, which I was praying would be enough, allowed me to once again to enjoy the almost forgotten honour of being first Strider home - phew!

Matt finished just seconds behind me and was quick to offer his congratulations. Mike came in third Strider with a weary Scott in fourth. After a really tough race at the North Easterns, and another one here, Innes battled round to finish as fifth counter with Ian S completing the full team as 6th counter. What a team effort - everyone counting enabling Striders to be represented among the clubs able to field a team at such a prestigious and tough event. Well done to you all and thank you for representing this great club!

Results

Men
PosNameClubTime
1Andrew DaviesStockport Harriers & AC00:37:44
434Michael Thompson*Teesdale AC00:52:55
437Geoff Davis 00:53:03
438Matthew Crow 00:53:10
501Mike Hughes 00:55:33
514Scott Watson 00:56:03
655Innes Hodgson 01:05:36
677Ian Spencer 01:10:23
*Honourable mention for the Teesdale Pal

697 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubTime
1Elle VernonStockport Harriers & AC0:36:07
140Fiona Shenton 0:37:50
164Susan Davis 0:38:59
203Stephanie Piper 0:41:11
227Debra Goddard 0:42:31
264Jan Young 0:44:37
314Catherine Smith 0:49:11
323Diane Watson 0:49:59
325Denise Benvin 0:50:17

342 finishers.

Junior Men
PosNameClubTime
1Daniel JarvisLiverpool Harries & AC0:26:11
69Ari Hodgson 0:42:20

69 finishers.

Brass Monkey Half-Marathon, York Racecourse, York, 19th January

13.1 miles

Penny Browell

Penny, running hard to a PB at the 2015 Brass Monkey
I still have no idea why I signed up for the Brass Monkey this year. Last year's was my least favourite race of the year - flat, boring, hard work and just not my kind of thing. Yes I'd got a PB but even that hadn't really made up for spending 13.1 miles in drizzle and pain. So as I drove down to York this year I really wondered what I was doing...I'd agreed to go with my brother-in-law for a nice Sunday morning trip but he'd had to pull out at the last minute. So why was I still doing it? As I approached York it was a lovely, but very cold, morning. I saw one nasty accident where a van had gone over on the ice and realised the course was going to be icy which would probably kill my chances of a PB. Again I wondered why I was here...

Once I got to the racecourse I felt a bit better - there was a good show of Striders and as always it was nice to catch up as we compared notes on how much clothing we felt was needed in the sub-zero temperatures. As we lined up for the start I was struck by what a beautiful, crisp winter morning it was and actually began to look forward to the run. Before long we were off...

Stephen was first Strider home in a stunning time of 1:18:28
It's a big race, with about 1500 runners, and I found the first few minutes fairly stressful as I was stuck behind a gang of men who were all at least a foot taller than me. However, once I'd managed to dodge between them I felt a bit better. My legs felt strong and the cold weather was ideal for a nice long run. I set off a bit faster than I should have (as usual) but after a couple of miles settled into a really comfortable pace. The route is a lollipop shape and from a gradient point of view was, as I remembered, pretty boring. However, this year I found myself enjoying the scenery and the regular pace. I wasn't competing with anyone or stressing about people who I passed or who overtook me - I just enjoyed it. After a few miles we hit the first patch of ice. I have to admit I kind of liked the ice - as someone who enjoys the hills, I like having to think about where to place my foot and the risk of sliding was similar to the risk of slipping in mud on a downhill.

The ice came and went and all the way round there were fabulous marshals cheering us on, warning us about the icy patches and encouraging us through to the end. When we got to the 10-mile mark I realised I still felt good and that I wasn't going to suffer as I had the previous year. I actually managed to pick the pace up a bit for the last 2 miles (very rare for me in long races). At about the 12.5 mile point I was happy to see Allan waving us on although he seemed less happy to see me enjoying myself so much and shouted at me to get past the guys in front of me. I took his advice and managed an extra little burst for the final straight back into the racecourse and was delighted to finish more than 2 minutes ahead of my previous HM PB.

After changing, I saw Graeme who had also had a great run, along with Stephen who had finished in an incredible 1.18. From other people's reports it had obviously been a good day for a lot of us with PBs for many and a lot of very happy faces crossing the line. So although I'm still a hill-lover, I have to say I really enjoyed the race. I guess it's like everything else: variety is the spice of life! I'll be pleased to get back to cross-country in a couple of weeks though!

A trio of Strider ladies at the 2015 Brass Monkey: 
	Katy, Karen and Nicola

Results

Striders POS Name Club Cat Chip Time
MDaniel JenkinDurham City Harriers(M) Open Senior1:08:57
FShona McintoshHunters Bog Trotters(F) Open Senior1:16:13
1Stephen Jackson (M) Open Senior1:18:24
2Gareth Pritchard (M) V351:22:19
3Graeme Walton (M) V401:26:41
4Penny Browell (F) V401:31:44
5Helen Tones (F) V351:41:28
6Brian Ford (M) V451:43:10
7Lesley Charman (F) V401:44:16
8Helen Williams (F) V351:44:24
9Lucy Cowton (F) V401:46:17
10Greta Jones (F) V451:46:32
11Jackie Mckenna (F) V451:47:01
12Paul Beal (M) V501:49:04
13Jean Bradley (F) V551:49:19
14Katy Walton (F) Open Senior1:51:29
15Karen Jones (F) V451:51:29
16Nicola Whyte (F) Open Senior1:51:40
17Claire Readey (F) V351:53:00
18Eric Green (M) V451:53:25
19Kathryn Sygrove (F) V451:56:30
20Jacquie Robson (F) V352:04:06
21Gillian Green (F) V452:06:05
22Christine Anne Farnsworth (F) V602:13:21
23Laura Jackson (F) V352:13:47
24Jane Baillie (F) V352:16:28
25Helen Allen (F) V402:17:29
26Jill Ford (F) V452:25:49
27Alister Robson (M) V402:25:49
28Margaret Thompson (F) V652:27:30
29Barrie Evans (M) V65 QUERY

Note: POS shows relative Strider position. Not overall position.

1465 finishers.

South Shields parkrun, 17th January

Dougie Nisbet

A week after my gusty Ormskirk parkrun I decided to give South Shields a try. In sharp contrast to last week there was no shelter or toilets although you could park about 5 yards from the start line. I could imagine that on a windy day this exposed location could be a bit bleak but the morning had dawned fine, fair and frosty with clear views out over the sea.

A cold and frosty morning.

I listened to the briefing and thought I'd misheard. It wasn't what he said, it was what he didn't say that caught my attention. I whispered to a nearby volunteer, "you mean, there are no laps?". With so many parkruns having to squeeze their 5km into a small space laps are often inevitable, but the South Shields parkrun course is just one large anti-clockwise loop that starts at the top of a hill and finishes outside the Sanddancer.

Fast Finish.Off we went heading south along the pavement before turning left after a mile to head down to the sea. There's a bit of GNR, Pier to Pier, and Sanddancer 10K all rolled into one here. The descent was fast and fun with a few frozen puddles to watch out for before a long wide tempo section to the finish flag.

It was a calm day on a course with an overall drop so I should've expected a better time than last weeek. Even so I was pleasantly surprised to get just under 24 minutes - three minutes faster than last week! It's a good event, about £49 cheaper than the GNR and no problems with the traffic getting home from South Shields afterwards.

Great Winter Run 5K, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, 10th January

Laura Jackson

Laura Jackson - Elvet Striders' Ice Maiden!I signed up for this event in August last year as I was frightened I would stop running once the Great North Run was over in September 2014. Although it is only a 5K it takes in historic Arthur's Seat and being an escaped Scot it was too much to resist. My sister and two of her friends also signed up so we had a team of four when we arrived in Edinburgh on Saturday morning, on what turned out to be a perfect winter's day - sunny but crisp with a little frost underfoot on the grass.

Whilst waiting in the obligatory portaloo queue, fellow Strider Till Sawala came to say hello. He was also doing the event, having been in Edinburgh for work a few days previous to the event. We were given coloured "waves" to start in, a bit like the GNR. I was in green but my sister and her friends were in pink so I dropped back to pink with them. Each wave started about a minute or so apart but as it was chip timed it wasn't an issue. Soon it was our turn to go.

A lovely flat downhill start quickly turned into a 2km gradient, up the right hand bank of Arthur's Seat. The gradient got gradually steeper then it flattened out to some amazing scenery. Travelling round the back of the mound was something I've never done before so was unaware of the "loch" and also the scenery of Edinburgh and beyond.

Hailstones batter the runners around Arthur's SeatAs we continued around it became completely surreal. A big dark cloud which seemed to have appeared from nowhere released hailstones at such a force that it felt like we were being fired at with small missiles. Luckily I had decided not to ditch my Striders hoodie for my rain jacket as this gave some protection against the cold pellets that were firing in all directions. Some runners in front of me simply stopped as visibility was poor. I tied my hood up as high as I could and with my glasses as eye protection, I continued on my way.

Shortly after this, the hail morphed into big fat snowflakes and this signalled the final 2k descent which was without a doubt the best feeling ever. Running 2km completely downhill as the snow disappeared and the sun came back was a beautiful end to the event and on completing we were given a packed goodie bag, medal and long sleeved, non-tech, t-shirt (the Drumstick Squishies were eaten en route back to the car!) .

Goody bag minus Drumstick Squishies!I really enjoyed the race and will definitely use the route again as a casual run or perhaps for preparation for a hilly route as the hill itself was very difficult. This was a lovely 5K event and local to my parents so I'd probably do it again next year. My finish time was 38.39 which, given the weather and the mountain to climb, I wasn't too bothered about, I was just pleased to have done,it and most importantly, enjoyed it. Well done too to Till, who finished a whole 20 mins before me and also in an amazing 22nd place- what a hero!

The race also provided the fringe event for the Great Edinburgh Cross Country that was being televised and as I was waiting on my sister to finish, I watched Chris Derrick doing his final preparations before then going on to win the men's event later in the day. We would have probably stayed to watch if we had not been like snowy, wet icicles at the end.

Results

PosNameClubCatCat PosTime
1Nathan CoxMorpeth Harriers & AC16:32
7Annabel SimpsonFife AC19:16
22Till SawalaElvet Striders18:42
1844Laura JacksonElvet Striders38:39

1881 finishers.

Cathedral Relays, Durham City, 11th January

Ben Ford

Cathedral relays
Striders poised, ready steady
1 2 3 and go

Ormskirk parkrun, Edge Hill University, 10th January

Dougie Nisbet

Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

The decision to read Shelley instead of TS Eliot had been a controversial one given that the timing of the parkrun was so close to the 50th anniversary of the passing of TS Eliot. However the wild and squally wind sweeping over the campus at Edge Hill University for the Ormskirk parkrun had necessitated a change of text for the run briefing.

It was certainly one of the more unusual parkrun briefings I've listened to. Apart from the usual stuff about the route there was the poetry and some up and coming announcements about the next parkrun where the 19 minute pacer wasn't sure if they could get round in 19 minutes, and was there a pacer for the pacer?

The wonderful thing about parkrun is that no two are alike. You can turn up, as I did, at an unfamiliar venue, locate the familiar flag, and that's all there is to it. The Ormskirk parkrun I like. Heated changing rooms, toilets and coffee just yards from the start/finish and plenty of parking. The course was tough though; one of those multi-dimensioned lap-type parkruns that always seem far further than 5km. The wind, hills and stairs(!) resulted in a very sluggish 26minute+ parkrun, but it got me out of bed on Saturday morning and I learned a bit of Shelley.

OH NO IT ISN'T!

Not the Christmas Handicap, 4th January

Pam Kirkup

What a fantastic turnout we had today – and the sun was shining on a perfect day for running!

You wouldn't mess with this pair. Six weeks ago I thought it wasn’t going to happen. Too many GP races and other events were crowding in so the entry for my original date was pitiful – a whole 6 people. Today we had 10 times that number with only a few withdrawals – all for viral infections or injuries. So at 10.55 this morning we all gathered together on the field for the annual group photograph. And the costumes were amazing! We had pirates, pantomime dames, princesses, several Red Riding Hoods (at least one male version!), Rudolph the red nosed …, a wicked witch, Cinderella, a host of other characters including Scott as the Wolf from Red Riding Hood who terrified runners and passers-by with his antics.

If you go down to the woods today. We congregated in MC before we ventured out into the cold and I noticed a line of men queueing for coffee and looking with astonishment at the stream of people arriving dressed in bizarre costumes. It was priceless!

So we got started at around 11.00am and thankfully everyone was ready for their start time. The finish was a bit busy to say the least. Thankfully a group of Striders and marshals managed to funnel finishers into the right order. It worked perfectly! I’d like to thank everyone who helped. Tom & Joan Reeves marshalled at crucial turning points – and Joan decorated a couple of places with tinsel. Phil & Anna were a huge help with the course, leading new runners and helping at the finish. Sue did a great job registering runners and helping me with the timing and of course a huge thanks to Santa and his elves who came out of hibernation in Lapland for the day to support the race and help at the finish. Thank you again to MC Tom who did the presentation in the pub – sorry about all the e-mails!!

Panto Villains, the lot of them.

Results

Santa's Striders
Pos Name 5 mile time Start Time Finish Time Actual Time Prize
1 Adam Walker 28.8 33min30 65min13 31.43 fastest male
2 Neil Sleeman 30.4 32min 64min17 32.17 2nd fastest male
3 Katy Walton 32.3 30min 65min23 35.23 fastest female
4 Conrad White 32 30min30 65min19 34.49
5 Elaine Bisson 34.032 28min15 64min18 36.03 2nd fastest female
6 Scott Watson 33.6 28min45 66min07 37.22 F.D. Prize
7 Keith Wesson 34 28min30 66min59 38.29
8 Eric Green 36.944 25min30 64min06 38.36 F.D. Prize
9 Michael Ross 36.8 25min30 64min39 39.09
10 David Spence 36.112 26min15 66min06 39.51
11 Richard Hall (senior) 36.8 25min30 65min37 40.07 F.D. Prize
12 Lesley Charman 35.84 26min30 67min05 40.35
13 Andrew Davies 37.6 25mins 66min10 41.1
14 Jan Young 45 17min30 59min12 41.42 1st finisher
15 Erin Keeler-Clarke (J) 40.5 21min30 63min56 42.26 1st junior
16 Jean Bradley 40.368 22mins 64min38 42.38
17 Stephnie Piper 41.6 21mins 64min27 43.06
18 Ian Spence 44.064 18min30 61min45 43.15 F.D Prize
19 Debs Goddard 39.2 23min15 66min40 43.25 F.D Prize
20 Jane Ives 39.2 23min15 66min40 43.25 F.D Prize
21 Lucy Cowton 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
22 Fiona kinghorn Jones 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
23 Nicola Whyte 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
24 Melanie Hudson 40 22min30 66min38 44.08
25 Mandy Dawson 42 20mins30 64min33 44.33 F.D Prize
26 David Case 40.8 21min 65min33 44.33
27 Anita Clementson 45 17min30 62min42 45.12 F.D Prize
28 Diane Watson 46.4 16min 63min15 45.15
29 Debbie McFarland 44.96 17min30 65min30 46
30 Steve Ellis 41.84 20mins30 67min10 46.4 F.D Prize
31 Karin Hooper 46.4 16min 64min45 46.45
32 Denise Mason 44 18min30 65min28 46.58
33 Karin Younger 48 14min30 61min35 47.05
34 Barbara Dick 45 17min30 64min37 47.07
35 Gillian Green 43.968 18min30 65min44 47.14
36 Denise Benvin 48 14min30 61min52 47.22
37 Catherine Smith 45.392 17min 64min32 47.32
38 Helen Hall 51.2 11min15 62min20 51.05 F.D. Prize
39 Mike Elliott 52 10min30 62min08 51.38
40 Stan White 45.04 17mins30 71min27 53.57
41 Dougie Nisbet 44.8 17min30 71min27 53.57 F.D Prize
42 Aileen Scott 49.904 12min30 66min32 54.02
43 Margaret Thompson 51.2 11min15 66min16 55.01
44 Joanne Parkinson 54.4 8min 63min50 55.3
45 Shelagh Barton 53.392 9min 65min 56
46 Joanne Richardson 51 11min15 68min03 56.48
47 Katharine Bartlett 56.848 5min30 62min25 56.55
48 Claire Galloway 51.792 10min30 67min41 57.11
49 Kerry Lister 49.6 12min45 70min01 57.16
50 Victoria McClean 49.92 12min30 70min04 57.34
51 Sophie Dennis 49.616 12min45 70min25 57.4
52 Laura Jackson 54.448 8min 67min29 59.29
53 Bev Walker 62.4 0 61min20 61.2
54 Mike Bennett 40 22min30 DNS
55 Anita Dunseith 50.4 12min DNS
56 Ann Towers 50 12min30 DNS
57 Dave Robson 40 22min30 DNS
58 Mark Dunseith 39.5 23min DNS
59 Lyndsay Rodgers 37.104 25mins15 DNS
60 Malcolm Sygrove 35.68 26min45 DNS
61 Lucy Butt 33.6 28min45 DNS

53 finishers.

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

Captain Cook's Fell Race, Great Ayton, N.Yorks, 1st January

BS/8 km/318 m

Steph Piper

Elvet Striders pose for a photo with Great Ayton's WWI commemorative sculptureAt some point in December, following Jan and Paul's deceptively encouraging description of this race I made the decision to tackle the Captain Cook's fell race - what better way to bring in the New Year than with a new running challenge?

New Year's Eve came around. I dug out my Camelback rucksack and stuffed it with three different waterproof jackets, trousers, map, compass, whistle and penknife - just in case I needed to cut my arm off. Emergency jelly babies also went in as a precaution. The FRA kit-list was a little intimidating - all this for a five mile yomp up a hill and back? Yikes.

I travelled down with Scott and Diane Watson, who were also running, and their daughter Kathryn who had come to spectate and take photographs. Once registered it was time to sort out the bag. Scott kindly (ruthlessly?) vetted the contents (out went two of the jackets, the trousers, the jelly babies and the knife…). Ready to race? You betcha.

As a GP race, fellow Striders were out in force. We had just enough time for a group photo with the wicker soldier before bunching up at the start line. Despite having read the last few years' race reports and studying the route I really had no idea what to expect, so I simply focussed on getting round the race and set off at a steady pace.

Once out of the village and off the tarmac, the trail soon became narrow and muddy. The frost and snow from the past few days had thawed in the balmy 12 degrees and turned the trail thick with clarts the Mud Captains would have been proud of. It wasn't long before the steady running pace turned to a walk as each step tried to claim a shoe, an ankle, a competitor.

Hidden within the depths of the woods was the steepest ascent. I craned my neck upwards to see the legs and feet of several Striders disappearing from view. Mel Hudson appeared at my side and we trudged upwards before finally breaking out of the trees to be buffeted by a strong side wind across the tops. Mel put her head down and started on ahead, towards the monument itself, which was miraculously close - I'd almost forgotten we were meant to be running! I kept close as the route turned downhill across slabs and track, picking up plenty of speed past the fir trees decorated with tinsel and baubles.

A flying Steph on the downhill leg towards the finish The descent steepened and deteriorated into even thicker mud, resembling the Aykley Heads XC course - but on steroids. Choose a line: through the middle, ankle deep? Jump from side to side? I tried the latter, pinballing between trees and the sides of the ruts, but these were covered in the slick mud churned up by the runners in front and far too unstable. Through the middle it was then, praying I tied my laces tight enough.

We skirted the old mines before descending on to tarmac and past the houses of Gribdale Terrace and Dikes Lane. Almost every inhabitant had come out to watch us, waving, cheering and wishing a "Happy New Year" over the garden wall. The sharp right hand bend and short, steep uphill section took me by surprise. I walked again, not recalling how much was left of the race from the map and how much energy I might need to conserve. Mark Dunseith thundered past, shouting over his shoulder I was under the hour mark and disappeared through a gate as the course headed back off-road. I followed suit, determined not to let him get too far ahead as the route took the occasional twist and turn through more woods and fields.

Suddenly I heard shouting and looked up from my detailed study of the still-clarty trail to see that a sea of multicoloured people were stood around the next corner. Was this the end? Surely not. It couldn't be over already? I crossed the line, bewildered, into the laughing and clapping throng of far speedier Striders. What had just happened? My first fell race was conquered, and the seed of a new running curiosity was planted. That was what happened.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1Paul LoweNorth York MoorsM45/1/50/5032.49
4Bronwen OwenScarborough ACFJ/1/50/5033.53
25Paul Evans MO/12/37/12037.29
70Scott Watson M50/8/41/13141.13
73Mike Bennett M60/1/50/5041.26
111Michael Hughes M45/18/31/3143.52
113Penny Browell F40/3/46/19444.02
141Eric Green M45/27/22/2246.05
159Mandy Dawson F45/4/45/4547.12
164Lucy Cowton FO/7/42/4247.52
182Jan Young F60/3/46/19449.40
197Camilla Lauren Maatta F45/5/44/18651.42
210Ari Hodgson MJ/2/48/4853.08
217Melanie Hudson FO/15/34/3453.50
218David Shipman M55/14/35/3553.51
232Stephanie Piper FO/20/29/2955.03
233Ian Spencer M50/31/18/1855.06
250Diane Watson F50/5/44/4460.04
263Denise Benvin F45/11/38/3864.57
264Phil Owen M45/38/11/8565.14
265Gillian Green F45/12/37/3767.10
268Anita Dunseith FO/26/23/6674.17
269Kerry Lister F40/13/36/3679.20
271Claire Galloway FO/28/21/2186.00

271 finishers.

Morpeth 11k Road Race, 1st January

Aaron Gourley

After a hit and miss 2014, I really was looking forward to getting 2015 going. A family and friend week away in Alnwick meant that my usual NYD Captain Cooks fell race was out of the question so I set my sights on Hillforts and Headaches in Northumberland only to find out it had been cancelled for this year. But in its absence was Morpeth 11k road race hosted by Morpeth Harriers.

After a few too many on NYE and a very late bedtime, the 1pm start was a bonus. Having roped my non-running friend to join me we set off from Alnwick to Morpeth with families in tow. Arriving at Morpeth Rugby club it became apparent to my friend that only club runners are mad enough to run on NYD and with the weather not particularly good for spectators below the ages of 6, our wives drove off and left us.

A large contingent of Elswick Harriers were present and I'd pointed out who was most likely to win. Then I spotted Fiona Shenton as she made her way to the start but didn't get to say hello. The start was midway up a steep hill heading downwards. Before long we were off, down the back roads of Morpeth and under the A1. The road was undulating until about the 3km mark when it started the long drag upwards.

Up until this point Fiona was never more than 50 meters away but on the climb I slowly closed the gap. About three quarters of the way a guy who had been passed by Fiona asked who she was, stating what a runner she was. I agreed and pressed on determined to catch her. A strong crosswind accompanied us to the top of the climb at around the 6/7km mark before a change of direction put the wind behind us and sent us downhill back to Morpeth. At this point I was within 5ft of Fiona and hoping to let her know she wasn't the only Strider present, but she seemed to find another gear and had quickly opened up the gap. I tried to keep pace but couldn't on the fantastic downhill back into Morpeth.

Back in town we were swept left into Carlisle Park and up a really short but nasty hill before a fast, flat out run along the river to the finish line.

I never did get to say hello to Fiona as I waited for my friend to finish, but he never did, he'd dropped out at 9km and got a lift back to the finish from one of the marshals which was a real shame.

In all, this was a fantastic race, quite tough but one that should be given more consideration by our road loving members.

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Tadele GeremewElswick HarriersSM 34.58
31Jacqueline PennNorth Shields PolyF42.29
82Fiona ShentonV5547.52
86Aaron GourleySM48.06

182 finishers

Guisborough Woods, North York Moors, 28th December

BM 6.8M 1358'

Jan Young

Jan kicking through the snow.

My last race of 2014 and three and half minutes faster than last year, due to calm day, no wind.

This year a perfect winter's scene, thin snow cover and bright sunshine on moor, so calm.

In the woods, frosty air hanging white against green conifers.

The juniors ran to quarry top and back, a mile outing for them, while two lap senior race covered wide woodland tracks and moor edge.

These NEHRA series races are always well supported, 117 runners shunning sales shopping.

Where were you?

My purple vest was lonely.

Charity Score Orienteering Event, Durham University Estates, 26th December

60 minutes

Oskar Määttä

Oskar at the finish. It was an early start being at Collingwood College car park by Durham University for 10:30, having been used to getting up for 12 every day of the holidays. Nevertheless I managed to haul myself out of bed for the orienteering event, gearing myself up with running clothes to complement the cold weather and a choice of trail shoes to combat the mud of Houghall forest. Although I have been a passionate runner for a few years now (at the age of sixteen) I have never exactly done orienteering, so it would be fun to try out and learn how different it actually is from regular cross country running.

Looking pensive.

I went down with my family, and we had agreed to split into two teams, composing of me and my brother Emil for one team and my parents Camilla and Arto forming the other. For my team, we had come to the agreement that Emil would do all the map-work and work out where to head next and I would run off to the controls to scan our E-tag when we spotted them. My parents had gone for a similar approach of tactics, with Arto mainly reading the map and Camilla mainly running to the controls.

Camilla keeping an eye on race winner Duncan Archer.

After having stood about at the car park for half an hour (and gotten somewhat chilly) it was time to set off, so everyone queued up to scan their E-tag and then grab a map and set off on their hunt - whether they be aiming for their fastest possible time or taking it as a relaxed walk. Emil and I weren’t taking it all too seriously, being it our first time properly orienteering, but we were still going to give our best efforts. Anyway, I scanned my E-tag to signal the start of our 1 hour time limit and then prepared to grab a map, but lo behold disaster had struck; they had ran out of maps! It may not have been the end of the world, but our 1 hour limit was already ticking down while we had no idea where to go, which is pretty near. We ended up admitting defeat and joining our parents to borrow their map (don’t tell them that this made it a defeat (only joking, it didn’t really make it a defeat)). However, before we got anywhere we found Scott and Dianne with their daughter, who had a spare map and were kind enough to give it to us, enabling us divide into our original groups again (they mustn’t have been aware that I am in fact from Jarrow & Hebburn AC rather than a fellow Strider, or they may not have given it to us!). We had lost a couple of minutes by this point, but it didn’t matter – we were just glad to be able to start properly.

My brother had plotted out a journey varying to that of our parents, as we had decided to trek out the furthermost control on the map in the edge of the forest, getting only a couple on the way, and working our way back collecting as many controls as we could in a steady loop, finishing with the ones around the colleges. This contrasted to Camilla’s and Arto’s plan as they started getting the nearby ones around the colleges first and slowly worked their way out to the forest, but with a longer run back at the end.

A good Strider turnout.

Report continues here...

Saltwell 10K, Gateshead, 20th December

Innes Lemon Souffle

I have run this race many times, using a variety of different routes but in its current form it's fair to say that it is gently undulating, apart that is, from the two big, steep, hills that you have to climb on each of the 3 laps! Despite the route being described as 'flattish' it's safe to say that, it's not a PB course - but it does reward effort!

The weather on the day was bright and dry with a gentle breeze - okay, a strong breeze - okay, it was quite windy - but fortunately there was plenty of shelter out on the course. A handful of striders had made it to the start line: Ari and I, Richard Hocking, Colin Dean, Fiona Shenton and Claire Galloway. Stacey Brannen was also hiding somewhere. The final strider would best be described as being "far from hitting top form" and apparently had entered the race for 'the hair of the dog' on offer at the finish. To maintain his anonymity we'll call him 'Bill'.

For the first lap, Fiona and Ari were battling for the honour of being the first Strider. Then Fiona broke away to take first place by nearly 2 minutes. Further back Richard, Colin and I were changing places regularly as we strove for the final place on the podium. Mine was the glory, closely followed by Richard and then Colin, although none of us were on form and the bronze could have gone to any of us. Bill crossed the finishing line looking as fresh as a daisy - you would never guess how rough he was feeling inside. Claire did well too and at the finish she was definitely ready for her whisky: I have never seen a bottle top removed with such grace, ease, and above all, speed!

The event marshalls were fantastic: every point on the course that could have remotely required a marshal had one, plus a couple places that didn't! They were highly visible, clear with any safety instructions, extremely supportive and very vocal with their encouragement which was greatly appreciated. I've had a love-hate relationship with this race over the years: once, after running this event, I stopped racing for 7 years! I'm glad I came back so why not join me next year!

P.S. We even had a world champion cheering us on!

Results

PosNameClubCatCat PosTime
1Philip WylieCheltenham HarriersMS131:50
7Rosie SmithDurham City Harriers & ACFS135:06
125Fiona ShentonElvet StridersF50+46:06
165Ari HodgsonMS48:06
188Innes HodgsonM4549:22
191Richard HockingM60+49:37
210Colin DeanM5550:37
327Stacey BrannanF3558:22
357Bill FordM451:01:33
387Claire GallowayFS1:13:20

389 finishers.

Hardmoors Roseberry Topping Trail marathon, Guisborough, 14th December

29.3m

Dave Robson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BM/12.6 km/470 m

Penny Browell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out on the Wiley, Windy Toon Moor

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

Mudman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results

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

356 finishers.

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

179 finishers.

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

A Cold Day at the Beach

Blyth Sands Race, Blyth, Northumberland, 7th December

5 miles (approx)

Conrad White

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results

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

150 finishers.

Hell Freezes Over at the Hobble!

Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale, 7th December

CM/16.8 km/379 m

Diane Watson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results

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

168 finishers. Penny Browell 2nd W40

Norman Woodcock Road Race, 6th December

5M

Simon Gardner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back next year? , yeah probably!

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Striders Answer the Call!

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

MudMan

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

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

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

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

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

...and Stan White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results

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

508 finishers.

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

292 finishers.

Simon's the Man at Mansfield!

Mansfield Parkrun, Mansfield, Notts, 29th November

Simon Gardner

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

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

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

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

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