All Creatures Great & Small
James Herriot Trail Race, Castle Bolton, 27th July
Geoff & Susan Davis
This race has been popular with Striders since its inception and Susan and I have run it four or five times - although not since 2011. As Sunday was forecast to be slightly less hot than we’ve become used to we decided to give it another go. Although it’s registered as a fell race it’s really a trail race with a bit of climb (1,000’) and is mainly run on stony farm tracks with a few grassy paths.
As advised for ‘on the day’ entries we arrived early and, after registering, we spent the time stretching, warming up and listening to the Commonwealth Games on the car radio. At the start we looked for other Striders and were pleased to see Richard Hocking, Phil Owen, Christine Farnsworth & Barrie Evans. However, Christine and Barrie were destined not to finish as Christine, just a mile or so into the race, took a heavy tumble on the unforgiving surface sustaining a cut lip and chin and a very swollen knee. Barrie, being the gentleman we all know him to be, escorted Chris back to the start and into the first aid tent for treatment.
Meanwhile the rest of us continued round the hard, dry and dusty course hoping the sun would stay behind the clouds and things wouldn’t get too hot. After a couple of recent tough training runs I was confident that I could hold a reasonable pace around the 8.5 mile course without having to walk any of the hills – and so it transpired. However, I started to ‘feel it’ a bit with about two miles to go. At this point I sensed another runner draw level with me. I glanced over, noticed a Durham Fell Runners’ vest and recognised a long standing adversary of mine from the fells. He went by me but I managed to ‘cling on’ and the gap between us never grew beyond 20 yards (that’s about 18 and a bit meters Rachael!). As we approached the last half mile I could see that the gap was closing. I increased my pace slightly and with around 150 yards to go I caught him. A final ‘eyeballs out’ dash took me passed him and on to the finish in a slightly faster time than three years ago. Brilliant!
Susan too had a fantastic run finishing third in her age group (just two seconds behind the second of her vintage) and a whopping two minutes quicker than her last outing here in 2011! Things are looking good for the fast approaching cross country season! Richard came home a couple of minutes later looking strong and comfortable after a fine race – another one of us looking forward to running in the mud. Phil continued his recovery from the West Highland Way Race (all 95 miles of it) with a steady run in the sun.
So, a good day out running a very pleasant race at a splendid venue. We hope Christine’s cuts and bruises heal quickly!
|1||Mike Jefferies||Billingham Marsh House||M||54.48|
|4||Julie Briscoe||Wakefield Harriers||FV||58.23|
|95||Richard Hockin||MSV + 60||79.39|
Rock and Rowell, North Yorkshire, 26th July
26M / 3000'
So, after avoiding writing the race report far too many times (Strider years = 4, race reports = 0), this one had my name on it!
If you are expecting a detailed account of the route, race tactics, pacing strategies etc etc, then stop reading now; I have the memory of a intellectually-challenged gold fish and the navigation skills of a blindfolded lemming, very happily but determinedly ploughing on in the wrong direction. So, why did I decide to do this race? Despite the navigation anxieties, this event boasted some really wonderful scenery and well stocked food checkpoints, ticking two of the boxes very high up on my list of long distance running must haves.
The day started well: Dave and Mel picked Rach and I up at 6am in the morning, for the drive to Dacre banks village hall, where we registered, were offered a second breakfast of tea and toast, and then applied enthusiastic amounts of sun cream for the miles ahead…the race started at 8.20 am but already it was beginning to feel a tad hot, and the predicted cloud cover had not materialised.
The first few miles to checkpoint 1 (water station but no nosh) were relatively uneventful…a pull up the hill to start, then trotting across fields, farms, stiles and paddocks, until we could see the village of Bishop Thornton on the horizon (note to self: fields spread with harvested hay are very slippy!). People seemed to be running fairly close together (runners had set off 10 minutes ahead of the walkers, there were perhaps 40 – 50 runners? and slightly more walkers) which meant that despite trying (and failing) to follow where we were on the written route description, I wasn’t too concerned about getting lost. Plus, Dave and Mel were in sight (and knew where they were going) and I had Rach as my guide, armed with enough maps and sat nav batteries to keep us going until Christmas.
Alas, it looked as though fate had something different in store, as a few miles later, Rach admitted that a troublesome niggle was causing significant discomfort, and completing her marathon was looking increasingly unlikely. She decided to reduce the pace to a walk, and as her dropping out at the next checkpoint was looking likely, she very unselfishly urged me to carry on with Dave and Mel. So, soon after checkpoint 2, on we went, expecting to meet her waiting for us the end.
The next few miles to checkpoint 3 seemed rather long….added to my disappointment of Rach’s departure, the few miles along a tarmac road (Watergate lane & Whicliff lane) before we reached checkpoint 3 were pretty tedious (extremely hot, interrupted by passing cars and not particularly scenic) but the jolly atmosphere, plentiful cake and egg sandwiches (slightly warm but yummy all the same) awaiting us the checkpoint 3 lifted our spirits, and shortly after that we turned onto the Ripon Rowell path.
Wow! I’d never even heard of the Valley of the Seven Bridges before! Felt a bit like I’d walked into a film set and kept expecting Bilbo Baggins to appear from behind a grassy knoll or Gandalf to come trundling over one of the old stone bridges with his cart full of fireworks. We lapped up the views, got out the cameras, kept our eyes peeled for deer, and I loved every minute of it. Just as breathtaking was the view across lake at Studley Royal and passing the church near Fountains Abbey visitor centre.
Elvet Striders Clamber, 23rd July
Phil Owen ...
Thanks everyone, my inbox is full to the brim this morning with the highest praise for Elvet Striders and the Clamber race from all the clubs this morning. As usual events like this can only happen with a great team effort and Team Elvet Striders did us proud.
Its been a lot of hard work, but our simple mission to provide a our local clubs with beautiful & challenging race that showed off the best of Durham trails, followed by a grand evening out seems to have been a great success.
I'll be penning a fuller report when my head clears from drinking Stephens Jackson's prize that he couldn't pick up last night. Sorry Stephen, we promise a replacement :-)
... Elinor ButlerThe Clamber!! I have heard much discussion about it over the two years that I’ve been a Striders member, but due to last year’s hiatus, I’ve not experienced it myself. Until Wednesday 20th July that is. In my typically well-organised style, I arrived with about a minute to spare to pick up my number. I was kind of chilled about this race – as it took place at the usual Striders time, I’d got it into my head that it was a normal Wednesday run. Until I put my number on and saw all the different club colours: then my determination kicked in, and I realised that I was going to push with everything I had.
The race was a real challenge to pace: I didn't know the route, and my race-day-zone only started 10 minutes before the race started. To be honest, I was concentrating so hard that I can't give an accurate course route, but here's my best effort: we went up some hills in the woods, down some hills in a field, steadily up some hills in the wilderness (what do you call it if it's not a field?) [Wilderness is fine! Ed.], steadily down some hills in a field, up some hills in the woods, down them again, and then there's the finish. Can you picture it? ;)
However, I do know that we passed both the Wicker people, and that it went through Houghall Woods before climbing up and out near the sewage plant (thanks Dave Robson for enlightening me just before the start!).
One of the absolute pleasures of this race were the marshals – they did such a great job of cheering everyone on, and it was so ace to run in a race where people knew your name and supported you. As I passed them, they told me what position female I was - if I didn't have my game face on before, I certainly did then! I found my strength was running up the hills: I could power up them, and that where I did most of my over-taking (although my over-taking was pretty modest). On the flats less brutal hills, I really felt the effort of keeping my pace, and needed to really suck it up mentally. As I felt more tired, my footing wasn't as confident which in turn required more concentration. It was a tough race.
For the last three miles I had another girl in my sights, and I made it my goal to overtake her to take my mind off my legs, which were shocked at working this intensely. She was always about 300 metres ahead: I'd see her just up ahead, and then we'd turn a corner and she'd taken off. I'd see her walking up a hill, but by the time I ran to the top, she'd taken off (I'm terrified of running downhill, so I reckon I lost some time there). The last mile of the race is downhill and then on the flat, which made for a great finish as I found the energy to really sprint. I felt like my legs were pinwheeling, like the roadrunner, and I finished in 42:24. Did I catch the girl in front? No. But I did finish 4th female overall, so I'm mighty pleased with that. :) At the end everyone gathered around with water to cheer the other runners on, and then most people de-camped to the pub for much celebrations. Unless your car was full of Tesco shopping like mine was.
Overall it was the friendliest race I’ve run, was very simply and cleanly organized, and it was fun to see all the different local running groups. I felt like I was part of a North-East posse! It was a real pleasure to participate.
|1||Jonathan Evans||Jarrow and Hebburn AC||M||32:34|
|13||Elaine Leslie||Jarrow and Hebburn AC||F||37:31|
Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon, Bishop Wilton, 19th July
This was my third successive running of this event, but it was the first time I was going into it niggle-free! This, along with all the fell-running I’ve done lately, meant I was feeling pretty confident of tackling this lovely, yet demandingly hilly, course without too much problem. LOL. Complacency = error #1.
This course has something like 900ft of ascent. This year, the course was modified slightly – the route remained almost exactly the same, but the start/finish location had to be moved due to re-location of the Bishop Wilton Show ground. This meant that the most gruelling 3 mile stretch of relentless climbing was now between 10-13 miles, rather than between 3-6 miles. However, I put this to the back of my mind at the start of the race, which coincidentally, was a lovely long downhill stretch, some of it off-road – just my cup of tea. Unfortunately I enjoyed this a bit too much and must have been close to a 5 K PB for the first 5 K of the race…. = error #2. I totally knew I had over-exerted myself and was going to pay for this later on.
But I strided on, refusing to slow down, just in case this was to be my day! As we approached Millington village, I started duelling with a woman in pink. I WOULD NOT let her overtake me, even though I was really busting a gut to keep it that way and knew I couldn’t keep it up for much longer… = error #3. It wasn’t long before she zoomed past me on the downhill coming out of Millington – she must be a fell-runner! By 6 miles in I was pretty damn tired and now we had a huge hill to go up – this hill up to Givendale has been at around 10-11 miles into the race in previous years. I was expecting to find it easier at only 6 miles. But I was wrong, it was still horrible. I tried to make the most of the epic downhill from Givendale. But the downhill sections are quite steep on this course though, so even they take a lot out of the legs. As we hit the flattest section of the course around Meltonby, I knew that I needed to push hard and try and keep a nice rhythm, so that I wouldn’t be under too much pressure when I got to the last 3 uphill miles at the end. I felt like I was doing ok, but now a constant stream of runners was passing me and I was passing no-one. I took an energy gel on-board, hoping for a boost. They normally work pretty well for me, but sadly not today!! Now I was really paying the price for all those errors at the start of the race!
I was now dreading the last 3 miles, and I was right to! I felt totally knackered, but I was determined. I managed to overtake a few people for the first 2 mile stretch of uphill, but by the last mile or so of the race other runners seemed to have acquired a second-wind and quite a few overtook me during that final stretch. It was a nice surprise to see my parents cheering me on ~1/2 a mile before the end. The last mile took me about 12 minutes though…eurgh! I was really aiming for sub-1.50, and this was well within reach for much of the race, but my lethargy at the end pushed me well over to 1.54. However, it seems that many people found it much tougher than previous years with the new course configuration. And my time was 2 minutes quicker than my previous best so I can’t complain. Maybe one day I will learn to pace myself better….but I doubt it.
It is a shame that this race is always the same weekend as the Coastal run. Despite the hills, it is a lovely run, which seems to draw the same people back year-after-year. However, I’m sure there are some crazy Striders out there who would be up for attempting to double-up, running this one on the Saturday and the Coastal run on the Sunday…any takers?! [Try anyone with the surname 'Robson'. Ed.]
Coastal Run, Beadnell, 20th July
I've done a few Coastal Runs over the last five years but up until now I've always arrived from the south. This year when I entered I lived in Co Durham but by race day I'd moved to Berwick-upon-Tweed. It turns out that arriving from the north is quite scenic courtesy of the X18 bus. This great bus service runs from Berwick to Newcastle via the coast, including Beadnell! So an hour after leaving my house I was in a very sunny and very warm Beadnell collecting my number.
It wasn't long before I was bumping into more and more Striders as the sea of purple swelled. The afternoon start of 1:30 was pushed to 1:45 to create more of a start line by letting the tide go out a little bit more. That gave more time to sit in the shade and then take part in a Striders group shot.
I decided to start way down the beach to find a line through the first lot of rocks and to get my feet wet early - there's not much more fun in running than splashing through the surf! For those who don't know the race - are there any Striders left who don't? - the Coastal Run starts on a beach, ends on a beach and is a real multi-terrain race in between. It's relatively flat but has a few telling little climbs once off the beach. But on Sunday the biggest challenge was the heat! A clear sky and an afternoon start provided the hottest run I've done for a long time. With a pretty much total lack of shade there was no escape.
By Craster I was completely shot and started to slow, I certainly felt I was being passed more than I was passing. By the third and final water station I was feeling so bad that I had to stop and stand just to get enough water down. The last couple of years I'd had pretty bad Coastal Runs where I haven't performed anywhere as well as I thought I should have. At the water station, as I stood at the side of the road watching others run past, I guessed this one was going to be even worse. What the heck, I still had to get to the finish so I plodded off along the road looking forward to at least a bit more soft beach running.
As I jogged those last couple of miles I was passed by so many people I was pretty much expecting to come last. The odd thing was that looking at my watch I couldn't figure out how it was going to take over 15 minutes to get to that finish flag just over there! For some inexplicable reason as I finally crossed the line I found I had taken 12 minutes off last year's time and even managed a PB! Heat, what heat?!
|1||Kevin Jeffress||Sunderland Harriers||M||1:18:57|
|34||Debbie Appleton||Havering Mayesbrook AC||FV40||1:31:21|
|634||Barrie Evans ?||MV60||2:18:32|
|758||Karen Anne Chalkley||FV50||2:31:10|
Great North 10K, Gateshead, 13th July
On a very wet Sunday morning Alison Kirkham turned up at my house (20 mins early while I was still in me PJ’s) to collect and deliver me and others to the Great North 10k. We had a bit of a round trip to collect everyone from various locations in Durham County so we had plenty of time to psych ourselves up. Arriving at the stadium for about 9.30 we had loads of time to get absolutely soaked to the skin apart from Helen Goodram-Page who was dressed as a waterproof Grey Elephant (I kid you not ... I’m only jealous).
To amuse ourselves before the race we took numerous "before the race photos" including high jacking (it didn’t take much persuading them) a few of the 200 or so gurkhas who were obviously desperate to be part of the purple army.
Anyway back to the race. Focus. Focus. Off we went to the start. It was a staggered start with the elites going off in Orange followed by white, green and finally pink setting of at 6 minute intervals. "We" had a mixture of colours but all decided to drop back to the pink section and start together.
So after a brief warm up ... a tiny green person way in the distance moving to the music. We sort of just did our own thing for the most part and then we were off. Splitting up into smaller groups. I don’t really remember much of the first mile or two as this is always the bit I struggle with. I remember zigg zagging up a hill and I could see Kelly Colliers bun ( I said bun) in front of me bobbing up and down dodging in between people who had already stopped to walk.
As we passed the Baltic the faster runners were coming back the other way. There were lots of shouts and cheers when passing fellow striders and some other clubs too. The Bounders seem like a friendly bunch. We passed Anna Seeley looking like she could have run this course about 6 times over no problem. The water station was a welcome sight at about 4k. Although it had been raining (it had stopped at this point) it was still very warm and I remember Laura Gibson mumbling something about wanting to take all her clothes off at one point. She didn’t go through with it thankfully otherwise we might just have ended up in the paper again!
Chevy Chase, Wooler, 5th July
20M / 4,000'
As Aaron explained in last years report ones experience of this race can vary hugely depending on the weather conditions. This year my experience varied hugely all in the same race. Even before the start I felt a certain amount of trepidation having never run a proper fell race and having had limited training as I returned from best part of a year out. This was compounded by the requirement to run with full survival kit including waterproofs, fleece, food, water, map, compass, whistle, flaregun, crampons and a St Bernard. Oh and it's 20 miles up and down mountains. Well very big hills. Driving up to Wooler through rain and mist did not give me any cheer, although I knew the course had been shortened in recent years when the weather was bad and I admit a repeat of this would not have upset me. Arriving at HQ it was optimistically reported that the mist would clear, which was good as at the time I couldn't see Cheviot to navigate to.
The distance can be walked or run with the walkers heading off an hour earlier. It was a friendly hustle and bustle at the start where I arrived in time to see some friends off on the walk. An hour later I still felt a little nervous as it was our turn. I ran with a friend who turned up at the start with shoelaces untied and backpack spilling over. I at least felt organised if daunted. I had been a little surprised to see no other Striders at the start, a rare occurrence these days, so was pleased to have some company.
Steady away for the first hour of undulating tracks I began to feel comfortable, even a bit cocky. As we approached the bottom of Cheviot I decided a sub 4 hours was potentially possible and I upped my game. The heavens opened as I tore (trotted) past some of the slower runners and straggling walkers. I caught my walking friends just before the summit fulfilling my threat from the pub the night before ( I left after a nursed pint, they stayed til 1 and hit the shots).
I lost my shoe in the deep peat bogs at the top and spent some unpleasant time retrieving it before charging (sliding) down the other side. This appeared to be an technique underused by the runners around me that I found quite successful. At least you get a rest. As I climbed Hedgehope (nearly as high as Cheviot) the clouds began to clear and I arrived at the summit knackered but dry. I had intended to stop for a rest here, but still optimistic for a good time I took a quick snap of the target in front, framed by a simply stunning panorama, and pushed on.
This is the halfway point, which if you think about too hard is quite unsettling. Luckily I have a talent for not thinking too hard about things and my confidence was growing. All downhill from here! There remains a lot of uphill for downhill, like an impossible scenic Esher print. The temperature steadily rose and stints along rabbit tracks, through gorse bushes and across bogs and rocky outcrops took there toll. A stretch along wooded riverside was stifling and I began to rapidly fade. This was around the 15mile mark, and every footfall required attention. As I (briefly) overtook the lass in front I saw her face was covered in blood. A hardy local type, she explained she had cut her lip falling on a rock. Fair play to her, she won a trophy later.
From here it was walk, jog, walk, jog back to Wooler. I did manage to pick off a few that could by now only manage the walk bit. A sprint (crawl) finish for the camera's brought me home in 66th place sneaking under 4 hrs 30. I'll definitely take it. Never ever again I thought. This is a blinking hard race, the hills which one assumes to be the hardest bit are actually relatively straightforward as long as you don't try to run up them. It's the long drag home you need to be prepared for. After 6 cakes and a coffee my friends trickled in and we enjoyed a pint in a sunlit beergarden down the way. By the end of the beer we had all agreed it was the hardest thing we had done, and that we would all be back next year.
Osmotherley Phoenix, Osmotherley, 12th July
The Osmotherley Phoenix race is where I did my first marathon two years ago. Strangely, it did not put me off and now I was about to run my 31st marathon/ultra. I decided this time to do the 33 mile route.
It was clear before we even started that it was going to be very hot day.
We started slowly uphill out of the village which meant that we had to dodge round walkers once we started to run. Then there was a climb up to the radio mast on the Cleveland Way, down to cross the road and along to Scugdale. Then another tiring climb up to Carlton Bank and the steep descent to Lordstones. At this point the 17m route cuts off and one the great things about this event is that you can decide when you get to the checkpoint which route to take. We were both fine, so the 33m was what we continued with.
After Lordstones there is a choice, you can go up over the three sisters (including the Wainstones) or contour round. We have always contoured round, there are more than enough big hills in this event and we did not fancy tackling them again having done them earlier in the year on one of the Hardmoors races. This year there seemed to be more people doing the three sisters which surprised us a little. However after chatting with people along the way some of them said that they had not realised how difficult the Wainstones would be and had regretted having taken that option.
On to Clay Bank and then the slog up the other side to eventually reach the trig point which is the highest point on the North York Moors. Down into Chop Gate and the 17m checkpoint there at the Village Hall, where the Wainstones marathon had started. We spent a little longer at this checkpoint, putting on more suncream and preparing ourselves for 'that hill' the one that hits you straight away after leaving Chop Gate. It is just so long and steep and to get that after 17m is just a killer. We had to take a couple of breaks in the climb up and Dave was concerned about an attack of cramp which he seems to get when climbing big hills well into races on hot days. He made it over the most difficult bit, but then the cramp set in. Having just recovered from his second calf injury of the year and two long races in the next two weeks he decided to play it safe and slowed down.
We discussed what to do and we agreed that at the 20m checkpoint where the 26m and 33m routes diverged that Dave would do the 26m and I would do the 33m. I had the route on my garmin, a map and the route description, however after Durham Dales two weeks ago I was a little worried that I would get lost. Thankfully there were quite a few people around to either figure out things together or reassure me that I was heading in the right direction. At a couple of quieter spots I did nearly miss a turn but my Garmin beeped to tell me and I back tracked.
At mile 25 I started to get a bad head from the heat. At this point there was a long slog from Arden Hall to Little Moor to rejoin the Cleveland Way and I was really regretting not dropping down to the 26 mile route. My headache grew worse and I felt a bit out of it. Even when it flattened out a bit I struggled to run for very long before having to walk again. Eventually it started to descend to Square Corner. I thought that was all the hills out of the way, however this was not the case. Although the remaining inclines were nothing like ones previously, when suffering with heat exhaustion, they felt like mountains.
Half a mile from the end one poor guy in front of my started throwing up from the heat and I imagine he was probably not the only one that day to have done so. Everyone I spoke to seemed to be suffering to some extent.
It was great to eventually get to the village and know that I was going to make it. I turned the corner onto the main street to see Dave cheering me in. I was so glad to get to the finish and get out of the heat.
Sunderland 5K, 16th July
The weather took a turn for the worse and I wondered what the turnout for the Sunderland 5k road race would be like as I set off from Durham on Wednesday night. In spite of the downpour that greeted us on arrival at Silksworth there were nigh on 350 runners prepared to face the torrential rain. They didn't have to! On the whistle, glorious sunshine and high temperatures were the conditions the six Striders (plus former member Adam Walker) were facing on the "fast" course. Gareth Pritchard led our Striders home, closely followed by Rob Everson. The male contingent was completed by Stephen Jackson and Alister Robson. Rebecca Fisher and Kathleen Bellamy rounded up the Striders representation at a well organised and fun event.
We were greeted at the finishing line with a Start Fitness discount card and Bibfix clips - bonus goodies. In the heat, I could have done with having the water distributed to us first!! Easy to get to, local, very friendly and an easy course to follow.
Kilburn Feast, North Yorks Moors, 13th July
Having mainly stuck to park runs and a few 10K races, I thought it time to push the boat out and try something a little longer. Not quite ready for 10 miles yet so when I saw the Kilburn race, I thought why not. It was in the afternoon so no early start; it is called undulating so no serious hills (supposedly); it was in North Yorkshire (almost as nice as County Durham); it was a village fete so the family could come along and best of all there was a public house at the finish line!
So all the Rodgers family headed off with the constant call from the back of the car, are we there yet and will there be ice cream. We arrived to find plenty of parking and even toilets in the car park. We then bumped into Alister on the high street so I did what was right and let the kids pester him, while he tried to get them to become parkrun volunteers. So far so good as race time approached the kids went off and attacked the tombola and Mr Robson and I found our respective places in the pack.
With the words of Alan Sehault in my mind about pacing, I set off at a steady 5.00/Km with the intention of running round in a less than an hour. First mile done and then I started to appreciate the reminder from my wife to put sun block on as it was getting very hot and very sunny. The first portion of the race is quite gentle, a small couple of hills and a nice descent, then you realise that 'undulating' has a different meaning in Yorkshire, I would read it now as very hilly! Thank goodness for the helpers at the 3 water stations and 2 sponge points, they even had a car driving round offering water to those of us at the back.
So back to the run, I will admit to drifting to a powerwalk on one of the big hills and the constant changing of the running line to find shade. There was a chap of senior age running with me, never found out his name, but thanks to him for dragging me round the undulating bits.
At mile 6 I thought one more to go and managed to pick the pace up again especially when I found out that the last portion was downhill. Then a shock as I passed the 7 mile marker with no sight of the finish line, it seems that in Yorkshire racing they are generous with the distance and so I 'sprinted' the last 700 odd yards to be cheered in by Alister and my family with the best thing of all, a photo by Helen of me with both feet off the ground.
Now to the key point, the pub at the finish line allowed for 3 pints of carbo loading and an understanding wife to drive me home! Time just a tad over 1.03 so very happy given the hills and the conditions.
This is a great race and is worth a larger strider turnout, wonderful route, brilliant organisation and plenty for the family to do while they wait, although I am not sure what Alister will do with the coconut the girls gave him. Oh and there is a pub at the finish line.
Angel View Run, Gateshead, 10th July
This is a nice low key local event organised by Low Fell Running Club over varied terrain with hilly off road sections up behind the Angel View Hotel then under the A167 to the Angel of the North and back again. It was nice to see they had some junior races with U11, U13 and U15 all getting medals.
I must admit the race was longer and harder than I thought and it turned out to be nearer 6 miles after a change in route from last year. As it started at 7.15 I stopped en route at M&S for a coffee and scone (not recommended pre race food but tasty!!!). I met Alister in the car park and for once Striders were low in numbers with only myself, Alister Robson, Gareth Pritchard and Kathleen Bellamy running together.
Alister went flying off and I never really caught site of him, he had a strong run coming in 35th. Due to the low numbers I ended up being 4th Lady and winning the over 45 category (yes I know it is hard to believe). [It certainly is, Mandy. Ed.]
I’m not sure if it was a one off but there was a lovely buffet on afterwards in the Hotel, a feature which often attracts Striders (not mentioning any names) and also a birthday cake for an 82 year old runner competing from Low Fell Harriers ... wow, hope I am still going then. Overall a very friendly event and well organised.
Duns Reivers Week Fun Run, Duns, Berwickshire, 10th July
I moved up to the English side of the border - I can't afford to have to get a new passport - a couple of weeks ago and had hoped to take part in the Berwick Curfew Run shortly after the move. Unfortunately while Alister travelled up to a race right on my doorstep I travelled down to Manchester for work! It looks like I missed a good one. Looking around for a local race I found this little gem hosted by runduns. It's a few miles over the border in the small Berwickshire town of Duns and forms part of their summer festival, the Duns Reivers Week. The town seemed to have numerous events every day for a week or so. Thursday evening included the 5K run, a shorter run for the kids, a marching pipe band and a torchlight procession followed by fireworks.
Registration for the run was pretty informal, in the town square outside Hugo's Bistro. Four quid, no numbers. At 6:28 the field gathered at the start line. At 6:29 some of the seniors, me included, were asked to step forward so the the all-too-eager juniors didn't get bowled over at the start. At 6:30 we were off. At 6:30:05 the all-too-eager juniors overtook the front-row seniors! A short closed road section took us out of the town and into the grounds of Duns Castle. After that it was a very pleasant multi-terrain run around the castle's woodland paths and meadow tracks, including running alongside a lake called Hen Poo (I didn't leave the el off). The race ended with a run back down into the town to finish just outside Hugo's.
I was pleased to get my medal after the announcement that due to the large number of entries they may not have had enough - what is it with races in the Borders in July? I'm not sure of the results but I was happy with 22:56 on a slightly undulating 5K. After the race I got a chance to chat with a few Tweed Striders, my now local club, before Elfie and I went for a Chinese. While we ate a marching band went back and fore on the street outside the restaurant window playing various Scottish classics. All a bit surreal. We didn't have time to hang around for the procession but maybe next year we'll plan ahead.
It's not exactly an easy race for Striders to get to but if anyone is up here in July for, say, the Kelso 10K, then this little race is a nice warm up and a great evening out in Duns.
Carlton Midsummer Meander, North Yorks Moors, 9th July
The sun was still shining over North York Moors and there was a slight breeze as we lined up on Green Bank near Lordstones Café just outside Carlton village. According to the dictionary to meander is ‘to move aimlessly without fixed direction’ which is what I usually do in fell races, so I felt confident that I had the skills needed for tonight’s little race (6.6 km, 390 m climb). The only Striders taking part this time were Scott and I, but I would recommend the Esk Valley Summer Series races to anybody wanting to dip their toes into fell running. These short midweek races are the perfect introduction and not much more strenuous than the Striders handicap as you will probably be walking a fair bit on steeper sections.
The race started on a grassy slope and then followed the Cleveland Way past two marshalled checkpoints. It had all looked quite straightforward on the map with the footpath continuing until the woodland by Broughton Bank, but suddenly I was lost in a sea of bracken with no visible path under my feet. Surely the Mountain Rescue would find me here within the bracken sooner or later? Bracken is poisonous even to sheep so I wouldn’t be able to live on it, but I could live on bilberries and on water from the stream sipping through the bracken until they found me – and I did have a big lunch so could even survive for days.
Ok, maybe it wouldn’t be necessary – my heart lifted as I noticed the line of fell runners further down the bank. But how did they get there? I looked behind me and there were more lost fell runners in the tangle of bracken – maybe I had misled them and we would all have to be rescued together. I did feel very guilty about risking to use the Mountain Rescue’s limited resources for this, so I meandered skilfully through the bracken and, magically, in front of me there was now a grassy footpath. I was on track again, turning left by Broughton Bank and turning back by the stile/check point at Toft Hill.
Hooray, I was catching up with a line of runners struggling uphill through the head high bracken following a clear footpath. The marshal at the top of the hill told me there wasn’t much left now of the course. Going downhill, I concentrated on placing my feet on the flagstones without braking too much and at times I ran along the narrow grass verge. After a while the path turned right and the finish was grassy and only slightly uphill.
It was a great little race, with no free t shirts or mugs or PBs, not requiring superman/superwoman skills, just a little bit of everyday stamina; a mini-adventure keeping your mind and feet busy, which is sometimes all that is needed for a good day out. I’m sure the Mountain Rescue would have found me eventually had I not found my way out of the bracken.
Bridges Of The Tyne 5, Newcastle Quayside, 8th July
Mike Elliott, who wishes to remain anonymous
Along with two other Striders was driven by an excellent chauffer who did not know the way and was very good [of course] following the directions to park at the Newcastle cycle hub arriving at the same time as Paul on his vroom vroom.
A story that was related on the way from Maiden Castle to the start was how this person managed to change out of working clothes into running gear whilst driving to Maiden Castle. Wonder if the other drivers managed not to crash watching this sight.
Goody bags and numbers picked up [really no need to do the race as we had the T shirt]. The smell of burgers at race HQ in the Tyne Bar certainly puts you in the mood for running on a nice warm evening. Forgot how far the start was from the HQ so ended up at the back of the field then heard a whistle which everyone thought was for the briefing but bugger me it was the start, so off we went like the clappers. Within the first mile we had passed all the 6 bridges of Newcastle. There was no more architecture to see, the only two sights left were the muddy banks of the Tyne which had turned into a piddle little stream cos the tide was out and the other being a little more difficult to see through as it was the low sun dropping out of the sky [looked as the females of any household had forgotten to switch the light off]. The best part of the race before reaching this point was seeing the field being split up by large patches of purple.
After a long 2.5 mile we reached the hill with its turn around point. Back along the river passing the ever encouraging marshals and walkers who were out for a stroll. Now two mile back to the Pitcher and Piano [must be the only pub that allows a race to go through its lounge bar as it is on the quay side]. Then the last 1/2 mile to the blown up finish and the cheering the sea of purple plus a cool bottle of water.
Oh not to forget the burger and pint in the Tyne Bar and the canny crack. See you there next year.
|1||Andy Burn||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||M||25:54|
|8||Alyson Dixon||Sunderland Strollers||FV35||27:27|
Hamsterley 10K, 6th July
Everyone had been going on about how tough this was for weeks, so I'm not sure whether it was the slightly revised route, being mentally prepared for much worse or least likely, a spot of good form that led to this being a pleasing performance and race.
The start is tough, I'll give you that, before you're even properly warmed up they take you up a big hill, before a short section of flat to get your breath back (quite narrow, so no real opportunity for overtaking), then a rapid descent to get back to the same level.
A couple of miles of flat but scenic track lull you into a false sense of security before the really tough bit. Just after the water station, there's a shallow stream crossing, with steps if you don't fancy getting your feet wet, but then you turn a corner and there's the big hill at three miles.
This just drags on, I ploughed my way up it but have to admit towards the top, as it twisted and rose, just as you thought you'd summited i,t I had a little walk. I'm not ashamed, I've seen some proper fell racers do it and I only lost one place, which I quickly picked up (plus a few more) when I started running again at the top having had a breather. By now all thoughts of a good time have gone, but what I didn't know is that it was all down hill or flat from here. The last three miles flew by, pushing and being pushed by a regular XC foe, before abruptly the finish loomed into sight.
I'm not sure if the course was short, my Garmin registered just over 6 miles, but they really aren't that accurate on twisting terrain with lots of altitude changes. On finishing I watched and encouraged loudly first Marco then John Hutch, Lisa Bryson and then Jacquie come in. I can only apologise to Paul Towers and Kathryn Larkin-Bramley for not hanging around to cheer them in but by that stage I'd worked out the big drawback with this event - flies, bugs and midgies - millions of them everywhere - not surprising in a forest, by a river in July really.
I was pleasantly surprised to be just outside the top 50 and the tech tee and goody bag justified the (late) entry fee. Recommended, but use some bug repellent!
Summer Fan Dance Race, Brecon Beacons, 5th July
So, after cheering my hubby on in January at the Avalance Endurance Events Winter Fan Dance, he and his friend booked for the summer one. Unfortunately The friend got a bad back following the Durham Coast Half Marathon a few weeks back, and as it was so near the event, no money back or deferral til next time, there was, however, an opportunity to transfer the place for the sum of £10. Weellllll, I had done Swaledale, Penshaw, Roseberry Topping, Round Sheffield and a couple of other half marathons so surely I'd be ok for 'a gruelling 24km non-navigational race over two sides of Pen Y Fan, the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons. This infamous route has long been a part of SAS (Special Air Service) and SBS (Special Boat Service) Selection and is considered the yardstick of a candidate's potential to perform well on Test Week and ultimately pass the Special Forces Selection programme.' taken from the website.
Took the option to go 'clean fatigue' or non load carrying to the uninitiated. Rob went for the load bearing option (as expected). Borrowing Denise's fell shoes and waterproof jacket, off we went on the 6 hour drive to Brecon.
As we approached Rob kept pointing out very high points on the landscape. Not sure if he was trying to scare me or prepare me. anyhow we arrived safe and sound, settled into our hotel and set the alarm for 615am.
The morning came around and in silence we prepared separately for our upcoming challenges. The weather looked okay, the tops were shrouded in mist and the weather forecasts said 20/30% chance of precipitation. Not bad odds really.
At the red phone box of the Storey Arms 830am came and the rufty tufty load bearers had their briefing from former SAS fella Ken Jones and off they went . I had another hour to wait til my set off time so, as you do, started chatting to anyone around me. The folks at the Fan Dance are a good bunch of people, unpretentious, all 'bricking it'. Finally 930am arrived, we had our briefing, well the folks at the front did, at the back ( my natural place) we couldn't hear, however, me being me I forget instructions very quickly so probably funny miss much.
Off we went, the sun started coming out, the first hill was long, the first 2 miles were all climb, too much for me to run, and in fairness I didn't see much running at this point, I did however start overtaking people and eventually found my pace with a lovely lady called Sue (who had suffered a back problem, had surgery and found a new love of all things fitness) and her nephew Ashley ( who was training to run 6 marathons in 6 days for charity). I managed a little jog at the bottom of the summit (if that makes sense) of Pen Y Fan and left them behind for a short while, and reached the summit (886 m) in about an hour. Considering the climb I was well pleased with that, and of course had to have my photo opportunity.
Off we went again, to Jacobs Ladder, well all we saw was a precipice, fortunately there was someone who knew what he was doing to show us the way, imagine Roseberry Topping on steroids on top of another mountain and that's Pen Y Fan and Jacobs Ladder.
Once down there we hit the Roman Road, the main challenge here being not breaking an ankle or face planting (again). Plenty of 'well dones' and 'keep goings', eventually passed Rob on the return journey with his bumbag full of burst gels and massive blisters on both his feet.
Just after mile 7 was RV2 also known as the turnaround point, good glug of water and some flapjack for the return journey, a quick check by the DS that I was fit to continue and off the three if us went again, a bit of a jog here and there as terrain allowed then there it was. The monster that is Jacobs Ladder - part 2. Bigger and uglier than going down was going up. Load bearers were struggling to stay upright and keep moving, it was long, very long then that little steep scramble at the end to reach the Pen Y Fan summit for the second time. Now we knew from here it really was all downhill, well apart from the little up hill bit. 4 hours passed, which means we did not managed to complete the course in the time required for SAS selection, secretly we were all pleased about this as we didn't really want to join the SAS anyway.
With the thought of collecting our patch and enjoying the promised hog roast we practically skipped the last stretch, seeing the red phone box of the Storey Arms and Rob standing there we knew our journey was complete, we had done it!
With Hugs and handshakes from everyone we had encouraged, passed, hi fived and raced we made our way back to the car for a well deserved bath and Fan Dance Race beer. The photo with the patch and the red phone box - 2 icons of the Fan Dance Race experience, had been taken.
Was it a challenge? For sure. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Will I do it with a full load next time? Probably.
Skiddaw Fell Race, Lakes, 6th July
9m / 2700' AM
As I hurtled down the mountainside, my poor legs were turning over as fast they could. Slap! Slap! Slap! Each foot plant was taking place just in time to avoid falling flat on my face. At the speed I was going, I was acutely aware that I was one bad step away from badly twisting my ankle or rolling all the way to oblivion! I glanced at my Garmin; 10 minutes and I had descended 600 feet. Not that I had much choice in the matter!
Then, a flash of colour; a young lady had just overtaken me. To my horror, a few dozen yards ahead, she fell flat on her face. For a few seconds, she lay motionless, then started groaning in a way that left me in no doubt she was in agony. "Don’t panic!", I told myself. I was trained in Advance Trauma Life Support. Airway clear? Yes! Neck, broken? Does it need to be held still? Before I could ascertain this and to my horror, two fellow runners hoiked her back up to her feet. Blood was poring from the gashes in her arms and knees. With a quick pat on the back, they sent her on her way. I stood and watched in awe as she hurtled downhill, as if nothing had happened. Clearly, these fell-runners are made of different stuff.
I continued my descent, at a more sedate pace. By the time I reached the bottom of Skiddaw, my legs didn’t feel like they belong to me and as much as I willed them to, they were stuck in second gear. My lower back was aching from the relentless pounding. An hour of non-stop climbing followed by that brutal descent had taken its toll. Like Rocky Balboa, I kept moving forwards, though I was in no position to give chase. As I struggled to the finish, it was the girl I stopped to help earlier that was cheering me on.
So, any takers for next year then? I had a friendly welcome and plenty of banter with fellow runners. And for the grand sum of £6, got an afternoon’s entertainment and memories to last a lifetime.
Tynedale 10K, Ovingham, 2nd July
The summer seems to be full of races and the Tynedale 10K - if you have space in your race calendar - is one you could/should/maybe add to your agenda if 10K is something you want to do. This year the road bridge to Ovingham was shut to cars but not to pedestrians, which made some of the coming and going different, but the organization seemed to work efficiently. Once you have collected your number and chip it is the best part of a mile up hill to the start. Despite the pre race information I made the major navigational error and ended up with my car on the wrong side of the river so by the time I had it on the correct side, I was a bit short of time to get to the start. It was not so much as “hitching” a ride but demanding of the only van to pass for a lift - which thankfully he did for some of the way up the hill - so I arrived at the start with at least two minutes to spare.
If you want a fast start, this is the one - hell for leather down hill for the first mile (not sure when I last did such a quick mile). I think there is a prize for the first to 1 mile. The roads were closed and the course undulates to Wylam before doubling back, over the river Tyne and back along the river bank with more undulations. I have been running a bit faster recently and was hoping for a recent “best”. Personal bests happened many years ago but it’s good to know I am not inexorably slowing down year on year and there is improvement. With the advantage of that first downhill mile the times were looking hopeful. The legs were maybe not quite so sure about some of the up parts of the undulations, but there were a couple of runners who seemed to be going my way at my speed so I just hung on - especially a lady from Morpeth who seemed to be around for the last three miles (5K in the new terminology).
As it happened it was a Garmin 10K best for me (by one second over the Newton Aycliffe 10K of 2008). So felt very pleased. It also came out at nearly the same age graded percentage as I am doing in the park runs.
After I finished I went to cheer on some of the many striders, then joined some of the cheering band of purple. Unfortunately I could not stay for the pie and peas and missed the last of the striders. Apologies for not cheering everyone home.
I think this may have been in the GP years ago and with 26 striders in the results could it be one to reconsider as an option for the future?
Saltwell Harriers Fell Race, nr Stanhope, 1st July
6m 1000' BS
I was really looking forward to this race for multiple reasons: 1) I love fell running; 2) It's a GP race so there would be lots of friendly faces there (plus some added motivation!); 3) I had fond memories from last year after finishing 5th lady (although I put this down to the appalling weather which meant a poor turnout!); 4) It was a gloriously sunny evening and 5) I REALLY love fell running.
There was indeed a pretty decent Strider turnout, including the mean machine that is Katy Walton! Seeing as Katy had just run a pretty amazing PB at the Humber Bridge half marathon just 2 days beforehand, whilst I had had a relatively restful weekend, I was vaguely hopeful that I may be in with a rare chance of giving her a run for her money!
I felt reasonably comfortable as we set off up the hill - a long but quite gentle climb, and I managed to overtake quite a few people. Sadly, my legs weren't feeling particularly rested at all, but despite that I felt like I was going ok and making good progress, so when it started to flatten out I tried to keep going strong. Soon we started a long and gentle descent, although the ground underfoot was pretty rough - gotta keep your wits about your footing at this race. With the lack of rain recently, I was expecting pretty dry underfoot conditions, but it wasn't long before I was greeted by a rather large boggy puddle. And for some stupid reason (I guess I'm just a huge pansy) I dithered for a good few seconds trying to work out how to negotiate it! It was at this point that I heard Katy's menacing voice behind me - I can't remember what she said, but it sure struck the fear of death into me as I now knew she was right behind me and those seconds of dithering could cost me dear. This prompted me to just splash through the bog any which way, as I should have done in the first place, and surprise surprise, it did not kill me.
On I trotted, well aware that Katy was close behind and a little surprised she hadn't overtaken me yet. But then I thought ... I know her game plan ... she is just gonna let me pace her comfortably round and then overtake me on the uphill finish at the end (I had failed miserably to keep up with her during the hill session she put on last week). The descent is long and after crossing the road it gradually gets steeper and steeper, and rougher and rougher, and also pretty damp in places. I fell over in some bog at one point and witnessed several others doing the same. All the time I was convinced Katy was just behind me but I never once looked back, because that rarely works for me, it just makes me nervous and I prefer just to focus on what I'm doing. Katy didn't pass me on the descent but fellow Strider Scott did - we had passed each other a few times already and he was clearly tiring of this child's play and looked pretty comfortable on the descent.
Soon I reached the stream, where we had to go into the stream to clip our numbers! It's a VERY steep descent down to the stream, not everyone's cup of tea (including mine!) but I loved the stream! So refreshing! I wished I could have stayed in there for longer! It was pretty deep - I had soggy knickers when I came out! I wouldn't advise carrying any valuables in your pockets for this race! It wasn't until I was clambering out the stream that I realised Katy was nowhere to be seen! Turns out the purple vest I could sense behind me was that of Graeme! I was quite relieved at this point but I didn't want to relax too much as I figured I must have been doing quite well and it would be a shame to let things slip at this stage.
So I pushed on up the next hill (brisk walk rather than running at this point!) and onto higher ground again where we had to contour around the hillside - I remember hating this bit last year as again the ground is very uneven and you are running on a slant. This year I didn't find it too bad but I had a steely determination about me by now! In addition, I was still stupidly furious at myself for dithering earlier on at the bog...I couldn't stop thinking about how ashamed mudman and mudwoman would have been!! So I was feeling the need to punish myself! A short descent followed (in fact quite a horrible one for those of us who don't like steep, loose ground!) before the final uphill push to the finish. A marshal at the bottom of the hill informed that I was 3rd, or maybe 4th lady ... YAY, I thought! But then I realised there was another lady not too far behind me and so if I was going to retain my position I was going to have to run all the way up this hill with a fair amount of conviction! And with some words of encouragement from Graeme, that's what I did. I gave it my all and finished comfortably ahead of her. Turns out I had been in 4th position - I would have loved a podium finish but at least I was one place up on last year! I was completely knackered at the end, I had found it a very tough run. I would say that most finishers looked suitably knackered after the uphill finish, but some great results from fellow Striders nonetheless.
This is a great race and very friendly and fun atmosphere. There is a good amount of marshalling and taping for a fell race, so although it's not the easiest of courses (in my opinion anyway) it is still pretty beginner-friendly.
Rachael neglects to mention that the Striders Ladies (Rachael, Katy & Camilla) were first ladies team :-)
Lambton 10K, nr Chester-le-Street, 29th June
The Lambton run is set within the private grounds of the historic Lambton Estate and proceeds from the entry go to the Foundation of Light – Sunderland AFC's official charity which supports and encourages families and young people to engage through footballing activities. The Lambton Estate is usually closed to the public, so this annual event was a great opportunity to get inside the grounds and explore what is on the other side of the walls.
The day dawned overcast, but with sunny intervals and by the time the claxon sounded for the start of the 10k race the weather was set fair. With a record attendance of 660 runners over both races, the first 2km were a scramble over the start line and out through the woodland along a narrow grassy track. Over the bridge the field finally thinned around the 3rd km where a long, steady climb out of the valley allowed an opportunity to pick off a few who had managed to get ahead early on. Once out of the shady cover of the trees the gradient – and the temperature – rose. The scenery was absolutely magnificent and the rural setting made it the quietest race I have ever run. I had finally settled in to a rhythm, albeit a little slower than planned, and felt good with the sunshine overhead and nothing but the sound of birdsong, steady breathing and the patter of the runners feet.
The water station was situated at 5km, although I didn't pause for a drink. My split for the halfway marker was well over 25 minutes so I had to do some work if I wanted the sub-50 I was aiming for. Fortunately the next two kilometres were for the most part downhill and afforded a chance to gain some valuable seconds. With only 3km to go I was back on track and feeling confident that the sub-50 was in sight. "There's a big hill to the finish, mind" cautioned the lad I had been running alongside for most of the race. Naively I didn't think much of this at the time and pressed on back over the bridge and along the river, below the towering heights of the castle walls.
Then the hill appeared. And what a hill it was. Up ahead, most runners had been reduced to a walk and disappeared around a corner as the marshal at the foot warned it got much worse there. He wasn't wrong. I was determined not to walk but my pace was reduced to baby steps. A final false summit and it was over, the 9km marker within sight but I was done. The last 1000m seemed to take forever as the seconds ticked on, almost at double speed. Through the trees I could hear the crowd cheering and doubled up with stitch finally burst through the gates in the wall to the finish line. A high-five from Samson the Black Cat and a gun time of 51:32.
It was lovely to see so many familiar purple vests milling around the finishing field, delving into the goodie bag for a well-earned technical tee and bottle of water. Matthew Crow led the Striders home in 41:47 (pos 33) and Sarah Davies the first lady Strider home in 45:57 (pos 89).
In the days following the race, numerous press articles appeared in the Echo, Advertiser and Chronicle, many with pictures of Striders and Strider Juniors who had taken part in the 3km Fun Run which followed the start of the 10k route. An excellent – if challenging – morning of running. Well done all!
Berwick Curfew Run, 2nd July
The Curfew Run is only 1.3 miles and Berwick is 86 miles away from Durham so it was lucky I was already in Berwick that day on parkrun business.
The curfew bells strike at 8pm every evening, and last 13 minutes. Berwick was a walled city and the bells were originally to warn its residents to return to the city before the gates were closed for the evening. The Curfew Run's challenge is to complete the 1.3 mile course before the bells finish (and the gates lock).
The course runs along the walls and for all but a very short section is entirely on path - one small section crosses the old road bridge which was marshalled for the occasion.
Entry was on the day from 6.30pm and it was doubly lucky I was there early as the 150 limit was reached very shortly after I handed over my form and £4. Last year's entry was only 120 and so you can easily excuse the run organisers from Berwick's Tweed Striders for not expecting the demand - in the end there were so many disappointed runners, including those who'd run many times in previous years, that they agreed to put on a second wave at 8pm.
I made the first wave and on the startline felt a bit like Gulliver surrounded as I was by schoolchildren, many no higher than my waist. The start was a bit narrow but very soon the field spaced out and I was able to progress through the overkeen juniors who had a tendency to go off too quick. having said that so did I and as you cross just before the old bridge, I remembered about the climb back up to the walls. This wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, certainly nothing after Saltwell Harriers Fell Race the previous evening, and I picked off a few more of the little 'uns. The last section is again flat, even slightly downhill and I eventually crossed the line just after one junior lady and possibly even in the top 10. I was well pleased to have beaten the bells, crossing in about 8.30 although I'm not sure if results are published, aand I was even more pleased to see the goody bag - a decent shoe bag, Tech Tee, Medal, drinks bottle, snack bar, banana and a bottle of water - not bad at all for £4.
Just remember to get there early if you want to be sure of a place.