Durham Dales Challenge, 27th June
I coughed and spluttered my way round the NN Long 'O' event and it was clear that I was neither fit nor well enough to do the Chevy Chase. I emailed the organisers of this always over-subscribed race telling them to give my place to someone on the reserve list.
A couple of days later I was back at the Doctor. "It's a sort of coughing fit", I said, "maybe a bit asthma-like, and it's always induced by exercise.". I gave her a pleading look and I could see that she felt a bit sorry for me. She said, "Perhaps you've got Exercise Induced Asthma". I gave a silent "Yes!" under my breath, and thought this must've been how Spike Milligan felt, briefly, when he realised that the inscription on his headstone turned out to be good value after all. So apparently I might have something, it sounded quite fashionable too. I'd been dreading that the diagnosis might be 'Hypochondriac', because apparently there's no cure for that. I tried out my shiny new inhaler in a midweek orienteering event and was pleasantly surprised to get a half-decent result with a minimum of splutter. Very chuffed. This was looking promising. I was beginning to regret cancelling my Chevy place. Perhaps for the best though: the Chevy has some very tough climbs but the Durham Dales Challenge, despite being 10 miles longer, bashes the climbs with a hammer so they're a bit gentler and there are more flat bits.
So this morning found me in the loos at Wolsingham High School with a late entry to the Durham Dales Challenge. It was 8:59AM and the race starts at 9. Not a problem - hold your nerve and leave going to the toilets until the last minute and they're always empty. Plus they'd be doing all that talky stuff at the Start which was only about 100 yards away so I had bags of time. 9AM found me at the Start. But there was a vast expanse of empty space where the runners and walkers should be! Not even a hint of a clicking Leki could be heard in the distance. I was suddenly quite alarmed. Surely if they've just started I should see some rucksacks receding into the distance. We all know what Swaledale is like - takes forever to get everyone moving.
I gave a startled yelp (no, really I did, a sort of short 'ah!' sound as in 'I forgot to lock the back door' not as in 'what a nice cup of tea.') and started running. Had the Start moved? Where was everyone? It was a good half-mile or so before I saw my first tail-ender, then round the corner to the big long hill, and there they were. Hundreds of them. What a relief!
About 20 minutes later I caught up with Christine and Margaret and we ran and talked together for a bit. Well, I did most of the talking, about my theory that the DDC is longer and gentler than the Chevy, which is shorter and sharper. This was Christine's first time on the DDC so I asked her to consider my words of wisdom and let me know her views after finishing because by then she'd have tried both. They also mentioned that the Start had been 3 minutes early. Hmmm, I learned a Valuable Lesson Today.
I clicked my heels and ran ahead. I wasn't feeling at all bad but was careful to not go too fast as it was a hot day and I was wary of being overconfident. Checkpoint 2 had been moved a bit further in to Hamsterley and last year's Checkpoint 3 wasn't there this year, so you had quite a long stretch (about 8 miles) to the next re-fuelling checkpoint in Middleton-in-Teesdale.
The stretch alongside the River Tees is one of my favourite parts of the route, followed by a climb up through some meadows before getting to Middleton, by which time I was ready for a drink and rest.
The Middleton checkpoint is indoors and wraps you in comforting arms and you don't really want to leave, but it has to be done. It does have the enormous psychological advantage of being the half-way point so you're running home now. Unfortunately it also has some of the main climbs of the day and I was beginning to feel hot and weary. As you leave checkpoint 6 (22 miles) things start settling down and there are no big climbs left and lots of nice runnable descending. But the reality was catching up with me by now - this race entry had been an impulse purchase and I wasn't properly trained.
From here I ran pretty much all the way to the finish but it was tough stuff - a lot tougher than last year and I had Jules and Mel hunting me down then. I concentrated on the patch of ground a few metres ahead and tried to keep the rhythm going using whatever remnant of a tune was kicking around in my head at the time. Unfortunately I'd been listening to the music for the spaghetti western 'The Good the Bad and the Ugly' on the drive to Wolsingham, and it wasn't really helping much. The bit where the base guitar goes DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM!!!!! wasn't too bad (although a bit slow), but then you get the WA WA WAAAAAA bit, and that really wasn't helping at all.
I caught up with some runners who were warily regarding a group of cattle at the gate they wanted to go through. They re-calculated their route due to updated traffic information and decided to climb over the wall, but I was pretty much past caring, and I think the coos knew too even they though did look a bit armed and dangerous. But there was no military coup (sorry) and I jumped over the gate unharmed, suddenly finding that my manoeuvre had gained me some ground. The runners in front had suddenly become the runners right beside me and they were an interesting crowd - I'd had them on my radar for miles but they kept jumping about, getting further away, then closer, as they all seemed to run at different speeds, like a dysfunctional peleton.
Anyway I was grateful just to tuck in behind them and hang on the remaining miles to the finish. I was very happy indeed to finally walk back into Wolsingham School and sit quietly for about 15 minutes waiting for my face to turn from tomato red to medium-rare. It was very hard towards the end and I wasn't really ready for a biggie race like this but I was very pleased to get round at all, something that I would've thought unthinkable a few months ago.
Club Handicap, Houghall Woods, 24th June
An Elvet Strider
Flip will be along in due course with a few words, but in the meantime, here are some photos ...
|position||name||bib||handicap||finish time||actual time|
|1 lap||Rebecca Embleton||16||3||31.10||28.10|
|1 lap||Lindsay Rodgers||91||12||34.30||22.30|
|1 lap||Becca Gilmore||137||9||37.30||28.30|
Lambton 10K, nr Chester-le-Street, 21st June
I'm a worrier, I'll admit that from the start and last week was no exception! As a brand new member of the Strider family I was excited to sign up for my first ever race: the Lambton Run. I started c25k in January; having signed up for the Great North Run and never imagined that I'd fall in love with running so completely. I already knew some Striders so came along to a session and knew by the end of that night that this was where I belonged.
There was chatter a few weeks ago about the Lambton Run and, in a haze of newbie excitement I signed up thinking it would be a perfect warm up for the Great North 10k a few weeks later. It was only after I'd signed up that I began to read race reports on it: apparently there was a hill ...
As the week progressed I became obsessed with Googling reviews and reports; every single one mentioned 'THE HILL', it didn't sound good to a first timer with an aversion to hill training. Having been to the Blaydon Race to cheer Striders on, I realised how much I would need this support as it began to dawn on me just what I'd let myself in for. Too new to have my own racing vest the lovely Joanne Parkinson lent me hers so that I could be 'official'.
If you were on facebook on 'Lambton-eve' then you have my most sincere apologies. I was hysterical: "When do I pin my number on?" "How do I pin my number on?" to name just a few of the panic-fuelled questions I was screaming into my computer. Luckily there was an ocean of Strider support ready to calm me and remind me that it was "just a run"!
Race day dawned and my hysteria reached a new high, but again I was met with a reassuring hug and a calming word. After two visits to the portaloos [Nooooooooo, no, really, we get letters you know! They're 'Portable Toilets' - Ed.] it was time for the warm up - which to be honest passed me by in a haze of panic: wildly waving my arms in the air, in a vain attempt to prepare for what lay ahead. Again I must apologise to anyone who tried to make conversation with me at this point, as I'm pretty sure I wasn't making any sense.
And then we were off! I have to admit that it all felt like an anti-climax at first, as the crowd surged forwards. I knew from experience that I usually set off too fast for myself and pay for it later in the run, so I tried desperately to keep my pace steady. Through the woods and down to the bridge - it was all going rather well and I was even smiling, I think. That was, until I started to hear murmurings about a hill. This couldn't be 'THE HILL' I worried, as I'd read that it was at around the 8km mark. So what was this???? I dug deep and continued running up - some around me had slowed to a walk by now but I wasn't giving in at 2km! I was rewarded for this with a stitch that I had to walk to get rid of at the top of the hill, all the time worrying that this hill hadn't even warranted a mention in the reports I'd read: this didn't bode well for 'THE HILL' when it arrived ...
There was great support along the route, with shouts of "Keep going Strider" as purple-clad gazelles passed me. I loved the downhill stretch toward the river and before long I was running beneath the castle: it didn't disappoint - it was beautiful. But hang on where was the hill? Maybe they had changed the route this year, as I couldn't see any sign of it - I was in for a shock.
As I left the track and turned on to the grass, a cheery marshal suggested I walk, as it was quite a big hill. Walk? I wasn't about to walk it - didn't he know that I had 'held something back for this part'??? Ok, so I only got half way up by running (well, shuffling, but I overtook some people!) and admitted defeat. At the top I patted myself on the back for a good effort, turned and realised I was only half way up!!! I eventually made it to the top (why did it have to rain just before I reached the hill, making the grass really slippery!?!) and promised myself a 5 second breather before continuing on.
Finally I saw the 9km marker. Phew it was down hill: we'd driven this way on the way in so I knew what to expect. I ran as fast as I could towards the gates (and was really pleased with my final split when I got home). As I turned on to the grass, fellow Strider Lesley was yelling my name - 200 meters to go! After catching my breath again I burst through on to the final straight, towards the finish line. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I have never ran that pace in my life! I made it in 1:09:30, placed 614 out of 715 runners and I'm pretty chuffed with that considering I couldn't run for 30 seconds on the flat in January!
In the car on the way home my husband commented on the noise at the end. He talked about the cheers of "Come on Strider" as I raced for the finish line. I would love to tell you that I heard them; in truth I was in my own world running as fast as my legs would carry me. I know, however that somewhere in my subconscious the cheers and camaraderie registered because there is no way I could have sprinted that fast after running 10km with out it. Thank you Striders, you made my first ever race incredible.
|1||Andrew Powell||Sunderland Harriers||M||34.59|
|25||Sophie Marr||Tyne Bridge||F||43.07|
|43||Graeme Walton||M O40||43.32|
|62||Conrad White||M O55||44.37|
|87||Paul Swinburne||M O40||46.03|
|107||Louise Warner||F O35||47.16|
|135||Lesley Charman||F O40||48.43|
|147||Innes Hodgson||M O45||49.06|
|156||Fiona Jones||F O35||49.35|
|162||Andy Jordan||M O40||49.57|
|173||Ari Hodgson||M 2||50.23|
|180||Richard Hall||M O55||50.35|
|229||Debs Goddard||F O40||52.53|
|325||Angela Tribe||F O40||56.48|
|334||Clare Clish||F O40||57.09|
|347||Kate Macpherson||F O40||57.25|
|348||Katherine Preston||F O45||57.25|
|386||David Toth||M O45||59.14|
|389||Louise Simpson||F O45||59.24|
|442||Helen Hall||F O45||61.36|
|464||Gillian Green||F O45||62.15|
|477||Karen Hooper||F O35||62.43|
|496||Julie Trotter||F O40||63.47|
|520||Debra Thompson||F O50||64.34|
|546||Joanne Porter||F O40||65.55|
|547||Joanne Richardson||F O40||65.56|
|586||Sharon Campbell||F O35||68.05|
|614||Rebecca Embleton*||F O35||69.30|
|625||Jaqueline Wright||F O35||69.51|
|643||Louise Hughee||F O35||71.15|
|644||Neil Jennings||M O45||71.15|
|652||Laura Gibson||F O35||72.08|
|669||Laura Jackson||F O35||73.53|
|690||Alison Kirkham||F O40||77.44|
|695||Rachel Leigh-firbank||F O40||78.12|
|705||Elaine Jennings||F O50||81.08|
|706||Rachel Toth||F O40||81.21|
* New Strider, First Race Ever!
** New Strider
Settle Saunter, Settle, North Yorkshire, 13th June
We have never done this LDWA event before, but it seemed in a lovely area of the country and Melanie wanted to go up Ingleborough again, the last time she went up she was eight years old.
We went over the night before and stayed in Burnley. We wondered round Thompson Park in the evening The park is fairly close to the middle of Burnley and we were amazed to see a deer about twenty meters away from us, It checked that we weren't getting any closer and carried on feeding.
We left Burnley at 6.45 am for an 8.30 start in Settle. The parking wasn't close to the start in the Victoria Hall and we checked in at registration and received our tally cards with all the checkpoints listed. We managed to buy a sandwich from the local Booths and had that before we started. We weren't expecting too much food at the checkpoints, they were described as 'light refreshments'. We were also told there would be no water at the checkpoint at the top of Ingleborough which seemed perfectly reasonable.
It was clear from the numbers in the hall that there would not many people participating (about 80 runners or walkers over four different routes - 9m, 12m, 16m and 27m). There were only 32 people on the 27m route.
We knew we had to go down a very narrow ginnel (alley) very soon after the start so we made sure we were fairly near the front (this is very unusual for us) and we were about fifth into the ginnel and were able to get through with no delay.
The first two miles or so were in Settle and were easy going. The next bit I had struggled to match the route description to the the GPS route from a previous year. There was a good reason, they had changed the course and then the route description made much more sense.
There was a small climb before Fizor, the first checkpoint but on the whole the first seven and a bit miles were easy going through beautiful countryside which was reasonably flat. However, there were quite a number of gates to open and close and stiles to climb over. We passed through some attractive villages, Fizor, Austwick and Clapham.
After Clapham we started the climb up Ingleborough. It was long, rocky and tiring. We had cloud cover, but it was warm and very humid which made things a bit more tricky. We reached the summit (11m), checked in and started the steep descent, which got much more runnable after a while - we flew down some of it, trail running at its most enjoyable. Then after we had descended, the stiles (particularly ladder stiles which just sap your energy) started to come in numbers.
We made it back to Clapham (a different way) and started to head back towards Settle. The way out had been pretty flat but this time we were sent up several hills. After leaving Clapham, the route description talked about passing through two tunnels. We were a bit doubtful they would really be tunnels, but they were. I have no idea why they were there.
After Austwick we entered a site special scientific interest - Oxenber and Wharfe Woods. They were full of bluebells which were just past their best. A few weeks ago it must have been an amazing site
At the Fizor checkpoint we were told we were joint 7th. I don't think we have ever been so high in the field before. We managed to hang on to this position until the end. Exactly seven hours it took us, but my total count was 44 stiles, 34 normal gates and 4 kissing gates. They all disrupt your running and deplete your energy. Then of course there was Ingleborough, which took quite a while.
At the finish there was tea and a meal - pie and peas followed by peaches and rice pudding. How they make any money out of a £10 entry fee is amazing.
Durham parkrun, 13th June
20:20:100 - A personal parkrun challenge
We all have aspirations and goals and I am sure striders have many of these. Goals as you know should be "SMART" - the S being "specific" and the A being "achievable". I have three running goals - some of you may already know them. Other people - goals may involve foreign countries or long events - one of mine was much nearer to home. Having run at the inaugural Durham parkrun in August 2011 I had felt that maybe with a bit of luck and some training a sub 20 at Durham might be possible. Age is working against me, but training seems to be working for me. Last year I was tantalisingly close with a number of runs below 20:10 - but the sub 20 Durham did not materialise. I did manage it at Riverside and again at York earlier in the year but could not find the extra oomph needed to get round those tight corners and over the bridge fast enough. I have had lots of encouragement mind for which I am exceedingly thankful. Loads of people knew of my goal. I was regularly asked if "today was the day".
The parkruns were counting up and Saturday was to be my 100th parkrun - a mention at the start much appreciated. Could it be a double celebration? Leaving home for my usual jog down the Garmin ominously said "low battery"!!!!!! Thank you Katy for lending me what must be a much lighter version - saved my bacon. I had also invested in new, more padded shoes - would they have anything to offer. Many, many thanks for all the encouragement from too many to mention - I would hate to miss anyone out.
I set off (fairly) sensibly. I tried hard. I pushed along the back field. I attacked the railway turn, the bridge and the “Horsley turn” (if it is still known as that). The watch was looking good but perilously close. My legs were sore and I had tried as hard as I could. Stopping the watch I was hopeful, but I have been caught out before with a slight difference in my time and the officially recorded time – we all know something for £19.99 seems a better bargain than something for £20 – so a 20:00 would not have fitted the bill. Andy behind knew how much I wanted it and was encouraging with his time being close (I knew my time could not be corrected up and not be a Durham PB) and Graeme when he finished had clocked me across the line, also just sub 20. The wait for the official results seemed never ending. I’m not sure if there were issues but they did not arrive until Sunday. Huge thanks to all the volunteers who work with the run behind the scene getting the results out.
As for the title – 20:20:100 – 20th position, in sub 20, on my 100th parkrun. A memorable day. Again thank you all. Have your goals, make them SMART and one day you will hopefully achieve them. If I achieve another goal – you will all be first to know about it.
Swaledale Marathon, Reeth, 13th June
23.2M / 4,128'
Twelve months ago I’d limped over the finish line at this race cursing my lack of preparation. I’d cramped up badly at seventeen miles and from that point on saw my goal time, which looked in the bag, drift away leaving me feeling drained, dreadful and for a few moments up on the moors wondering if there was any point in putting on a pair of trainers.
From January this year, once my entry had been confirmed, my plans had been more methodical, lots more miles , more off road runs, practicing with food that might prevent the same issues and when possible getting down to the area where the event was held but still chattering away were the nagging doubts.
So to race day and registration, kit check, hello’s to the multitude of striders at the start, loo queues and last minute alteration of attire. And then the doubts returned: negative gripes, memories of when training hadn’t been good and good Lord boy what are you doing wearing road shoes? The start, up Fremlington went Ok, my plan of averaging 10 minute miles was put on hold, as expected, the slow hilly clamber eventually lead to the top and then time to push on across the top of Frem’ for a couple of miles until a quick descent and time to head out to Langthwaite with tarmac and smooth(er) surfaces. Around here Penny Browell and I joined forces and started to pick off a few runners and drag down our mile times.
Around 7 ½ miles all seemed OK and the protracted and lingering ascent of Punchard was embarked upon. For those not familiar with the course this is mixed terrain that doesn’t seem to allow a regular running rhythm (it’s bloody hard work) but by the time we reached the checkpoint at 13 miles we were still, just, inside my schedule.
The run from here down to Gunnerside split Penny and I up and also saw me sliding down the steeper descents backside first. The countryside and its fantastic views not really being appreciated as I constantly glanced for time checks.
Then the climb, the one that last year had led to me face planting to the ground screaming, really screaming, as both my legs seemed to set firm and muscles freeze hard. As someone more used to tarmac and getting upset about slight inclines I find Flemington’s a tough climb, Punchard really hard work but Gunnerside is cruel just plain cruel, the start of the ascent’s rocky, it twists and deceives and then just for good measure it’s got a second part to destroy hope and legs. Here my pace slowed to a shuffle and slow walk the miles seemed to take forever to pass but finally the top was reached and the road, trail and blessed quick drop on Tarmac that lead to surrender bridge saw me a few seconds over my time plan. A bit of work on the rocky trails and surely I’d get back to where I needed to be.
A small ( though by now it felt enormous) ravine type area, that had to be dropped into and climbed out of was passed and I felt OK and started to think that this year was the year then with about 5k to go I cramped, just one leg this time but all I could do was drop to the floor and howl. I screamed out that it wasn’t fair and punched the ground in frustration, I’m not ashamed to admit I wanted to cry. Six months work wasted and this time I’m not coming back.
A stream of profanities and a couple of futile efforts to get up and then silence and negative thoughts. I lay still hoping that my leg would ease, I grabbed salt drops from my pack and poured them neat onto my tongue and still no relief, then slowly the pain started to rescind and a fellow runner offered a lift up. Remembering how last time my legs had repeatedly froze if I jarred them I took short soft baby steps expecting stabs of pain but nothing my legs were holding out. A gentle increase in pace and still all held well and with two Km to go I’d 18 minutes left of my allotted time, hope rose anew. Then( and I promise this is the truth) as I approached the final self check point, it’s less than half a mile from the end, and reached for the string on which was attached my check card I realised it had fallen off.
A couple of sickening moments of panic took over. I’d last used the card about 3 miles ago would I have to head back and find it? Could I convince the judges that I’d been through all the points after all folk would have seen me on the course and my number had been taken. A deep breath and rational thought led to me checking the pocket where the card should be and a resultant sigh of relief as it nestled snugly underneath my water bottle.
From here I glided home yes the path was awful and hidden jagged stones attempted to turn my ankle but my goal was attainable, a drop onto the road ,a jog to the village hall and that’s it job done home with six minutes to spare a plate of food, lots of orange juice, congratulations to friends and all problems were forgotten.
Penny came home in a very respectable 4.05 despite getting lost and the Elvet ladies recorded a famous victory (aided by Mandy’s protestations and a belief in all that is fair) . So next year? I lost three minutes, at least, pinned down as my leg seized and if I learn how to run downhill there’s time to be found but for now just relief that I’ve not wasted the first half of this year and that the choice of foot attire worked.
Lakeland Trails Marathon Challenge, Coniston, 5th June
I booked the marathon challenge which had a 8 hour completion as I did not know how long it would have taking me it complete it. The only thing was it was an 7am start and you have to pick up your number the day before the race. We were going to camp on the site of the race start point but thanks to ( Brian Bill Ford ) he had a spare room in a guest house in Ambleside .
On race day it was not a bad morning for running slightly cloudy with sunny intervals . I have been struggling to get my hydration and energy right so I made a decision to run with water and chia bars. I saw Dave Robson and Melanie Hudson at the start of the race which was good to catch up before the race started.
The race started from Coniston hall heading into Coniston then started climbing on the road for a mile or so . I was feeling pretty good at this point and managed to run the whole hill without stopping which saw me pick up a couple of places. At the top of the hill the views were fantastic and the sun came out too so I started taking pictures of the day. The route was undulating for several miles after that.
Soon I was running around Tarn Howes which was a two laps of the lake and on my second lap a bumped into Dave & Melanie again on their first lap. I started climbing out of the tarn where I soon found myself in Grisedale forest running on very good trails. The miles were going well by now and soon the forest came to a end and revealed a mountain top where the views were spectacular. The route started slowly dropping down to the lake and at this point I was still feeling great and picking up places as people were getting tired or I was still strong. At this point I looked at my watch and realised I could break 5 hours so I just put my head down and ran the last couple of miles along the lake side path .
I saw the finish line in the distance which give me a lift and I managed to finish with a time of 4.52 and my position was 42 / 220 runners.
I finished the race and got my seat out of the car and waited to see Dave and Melanie finish,Melanie finished ( 5.20.27) followed by Dave in ( 5.21.47).The half marathon was on also with Gillian Green and Brian Bill Ford where they were taking part and they came in together with a respectable time around 2.33.28 position 287 /390 runners.
It's a fantastic race and I will be doing it again next year.
The Yomp Mountain Challenge, Kirkby Stephen, 7th June
23M / 4,000' (with 11.5M and 6.25M options)
aka Mallerstang Horseshoe & Nine Standards Yomp
Let's not pretend otherwise: I adore this race. It's got the lot: entry on the day, indoor changing, unlimited tea before and after, well-marked, hours of fun on the green and empty Howgills and, very importantly, probably my favourite descent in any race I've yet done (the death-stumble down from Ringing Roger at the Skyline does not count, as that was relief as much as pleasure). I grant that it is not a race to everyone's taste but, for the distance runner wanting to try the fells, I would mark this as the long one to go for.
Sunday morning: the sea of purple showed that either I was not alone or that people were out to bag some GP points in this first outing for the Full Yomp in the club championship; a lot of familiar faces were present, though Joan, Camilla, Debs, Anita and Diane were opting for the half course in order to keep their legs fresh for Swaledale six days later. We talked, stretched, taped and lubed whilst drinking hot tea from proper mugs, our numbers augmented by Steph Scott of NFR but slowly falling as Striders headed out in ones and twos to the starting control, runners on the full course having a window of an hour to set off (making it impossible to judge your position in the field). I watched Danny, Juliet, Sue, Maggie, Christine, Ian, Scott and David go, was suddenly having photos taken with the Half Yompers and then bid all goodbye to begin a long few hours.
To all those considering this race next year, an obligatory warning: this race starts easy, with a downhill to the main road, a flat half mile or so to an old railway bridge and then another mile and a half of gently-undulating concrete farm track luring you in to an unsustainable pace. I felt good here, though checked myself slightly as I overtook a handful of runners and a lot of walkers, maintaining a pace at which I could chat if I had anyone to chat with. The gradients became slightly steeper and the track rougher after crossing the Settle and Carlisle railway tracks then, all of a sudden, the tarmac was gone, to be seen again only at a brief water stop before the contour lines got closer together and Greenlaw Rigg beckoned. I climbed this at a slow run, sped up a little then slowed again on the climb to Little Fell, passing Sue, Maggie and Christine who were running as a group at this stage. The Nab followed in this series of 'climb, flattish bit, climb again' and forced me into my first walk of the race which gave chance to admire the drop off the crags and the perfect views in the clear, sunny weather, of the other side of the valley - the intimidating back half of the race. Finally Wild Boar Fell was summited, David and Scott passed on the way (both of them happily chatting, a racing activity they profess to disdain ordinarily), a drop to a boggy hollow completed to soak the feet thoroughly and Swarth fell ascended at a semi-traverse, the anticipation building. THE descent was around the corner.
I dibbed at the electronic box, took the offered cup of water from a marshall asking why so many runners from Durham were there today and began: forward-lean, knees never locked out, gravity doing the work and with arms used for balance. That was the idea, anyway, though I suspect video analysis would show there may be a way to go before I challenge the better descenders.
Nevertheless, the mile of grassy hill down to Aisgill was everything I remembered it to be - soft but not boggy, forgiving of the odd slip and encouraging you to lean in and trust the grip of your shoes. It felt fast and without fear, which is not the case on the rockier stuff at times. It felt incredible. Aisgill gained and the railway and minor road crossed for the only taste of tarmac in over a dozen miles I used the portaloo to offload unnecessary fluid weight, took on more water and hit the farm track alongside the steep, rocky Hell Gill, the clear waters very tempting as the day got warmer. Farmland gave way to moor, track to trod and Hugh Seat, gregory Chapel and High Seat were knocked off in succession, each a little tougher than the last but with frequent water stops to reward the effort. Descent to Tailbridge Road was smooth and fairly quick, High Pike Hill the only relatively minor climb to interrupt it and, after dibbing and taking water again at the road crossing, the near-solitude of the last few miles was no more, as we now joined the Half and Mini Yomp courses, the latter starting from the road which participants had been bussed out to (note: the junior Evanses do not yet know they're probably doing this next year). Despite the fatigue beginning to creep into my legs at this point, this was really enjoyable, the walk-running family groups clearly having a grand day in comparison to the suffering long course runners; actual smiles were seen. They also, in addition to the copious tape markers and the lone Howgill Harriers runner I was chasing down, served to mark the remainder of the course very clearly, the long line of them snaking gradually to the Nine Standards, though the stones themselves remained out of sight until we were almost on top of them.
From the Nine Standards the only way is down - both literally and in terms of terrain, as the lush grass and soft earth was replaced by rocky track until we hit road at Fell House, though this allowed a final burst of speed to be attempted on the curves around Hartley Quarry and the view into Kirkby Stephen showed it appearing closer rapidly when seen through the aromatic sun-heated yellow-flowered gorse. Howgills man dropped me here, his approach to gravity clearly better than mine, though he remained in sight as we entered Hartley village over the beck then took the narrow path to the Eden river and Kirkby Stephen. A final effort along the quiet main road and a left turn up to the school, shouted in by Joan (7th lady in the half), Debs(10th), Camilla(9th), Diane(13th) and Anita(12th), and it was all over - second place (3:24:42) showing on the screen in the school hall. Unfortunately, one cup of tea and a very good shower later, two faster runners had come in after me, relegating me to fourth, which was not entirely a surprise and still left a definite sense of contentment as Diane and I drank yet more tea and watched Scott and Danny (31/32nd), Danny and Juliet (61/62nd), Ian (96th) and Sue (129th) run to the finish and take a deserved rest. As I said at the beginning, I do not attempt to hide my liking for this race but it is always useful to re-visit one's assumptions and challenge them - re-running the Yomp served to re-affirm to me what a great race this is.
|1||Charlie Lowther||Eden Runners||M||03:09:33|
|25||Heidi Dent||Howgill Harriers||F||03:35:25|
|1||Tom Flynn||Howgill Harriers||M||01:37:26|
|25||Elizabeth Leason||Glossopdale Harriers||F||01:52:59|
Durham Coastal Half Marathon, 7th June
This was a brilliant event. The start was simple and no confusion as to where runners needed to be. This day saw plenty of striders looking forward to take on the course, a photo was taken and then we were all ready for the off.
The course was well marked with tape, highlighted hazards and ample Marshall's on the route so no chance of getting lost. There were three water stations along the way to enable the runner to catch a few seconds and a much need drink in these warm conditions.
The route was picturesque, challenging and perfect for the off road runner. My favourite part was after descending down some steep steps and across a narrow bridge as you climb the other side you look out towards some railway arches and the view of the sea through the arches was spectacular, this made me not think about the climb but enjoy the moment which on a glorious day that we had, was perfect.
Underfoot the course was grass, woodland paths, gravel, steps and for the last mile or so Tarmac through the caravan park.
The finish was lined with ample supporters offering a t shirt, water, tea and homemade cake.
Great efforts were given by everyone and even though the steps proved challenging I am sure each and everyone who ran it would do so again. Definitely a race I would recommend. Thank you David Lumsden for the number.
Alwinton Fell Race, nr. Rothbury, Northumberland, 6th June
BL/22 km/884 m
Day one of my Paul Evans-inspired 'big weekend' saw me heading to Alwinton, a tiny little village tucked neatly under the chin of the Cheviot - to the left of Rothbury and up a bit. I'd done this race once before, but long enough ago to have forgotten almost everything about it - including how hard it was. Basically it's a 14-mile partial circuit of Kidland Forest that looks like a half-eaten stick of candy floss on the map. The climbing starts straight out of the gate and is almost continuous to its high point, approximately half way around at Cushat Law (616 m) just to get you thinking that it's all downhill to the finish - which of course it isn't.
Weather-wise, the most significant feature on the day was undoubtedly the WIND! Banks of cloud were being intermittently blown over thanks to a howling south-westerly gale. Although the temperature in this remote valley was comfortable, on the tops in the wind it was pretty cold and the organisers had warned that full body cover would need to be carried and possibly worn.
So it was that everyone gathered on the start line, all 29 of us, with me the only Strider in the smallest field I'd been part of for many years (although the quality at the sharp end was as high as ever). Off we went and it was straight uphill which was to be the theme for the first half of the race. I felt pretty good and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was staying in touch with Karen Robertson from NFR who I've rarely been anywhere near and so, careful not to overcook it, I just sat in and hoped. When the gradient got steeper I seemed to close the gap to Karen but couldn't see the point in overtaking because she just ran away from me where it levelled off or went, all too briefly, downhill.
The game continued when we hit the first bit of forest track about half-way up but by the time we turned onto the fell on the flank of Yarnspath Law I had taken a slightly nervous lead. It stayed this way as we descended the panoramic slope towards the climb of Bloodybush Edge where, without a map, I wasn't entirely sure where I was going. On the climb we realised that we needed to be on the other side of the fence so I attempted to quickly squeeze between two parallel strands of wire which I'm sure I would have achieved expertly had I taken into consideration that I was wearing a bumbag. After thrashing around aimlessly for a bit, during which time another NFR runner passed me, I eventually managed to extricate myself.
By this time both NFR runners were well in front and my hopes that I might catch them were quickly dashed although I managed to stay in respectful contact with Karen who appeared to be flowing well over ground that had become wet and horribly haggy and which was only made worse by the howling gale that constantly broke your rhythm and threatened to send you flying sideways. At one stage I looked up from the point that I had become fixated on, about 5 metres ahead, just in time to avoid a 'head on' with a black Labrador that was no more in charge of its direction than I was.
The climb to Cushat Law was not pleasant: the going was very heavy and it was a constant battle with the wind to keep moving. The ground beneath your feet was all over the place and you were forced to make a judgement at almost every step - 'do I try to jump this or is that bit in the middle more solid than the rest of it looks?' 'Oops, too late, I'm in it up to me knee - oh, and I'm in that one as well!' The relief at finally reaching the checkpoint at the top was miserably short lived however. It took me two goes to cross the stile in the teeth of that hurricane and once over, the descent was immediate, steep and long, back into what would have been the forest had it not been cleared to leave just the nasty sharp bits that makes running through it so 'character forming'.
On the few occasions that I could clear the tears in my eyes (caused by the wind, not my emotions) I could see that there was no-one else in sight (and I could see for a long way). The descent was literally a blur and how I got down without chinning myself I have no idea, but with the wind now blowing me backwards towards the slope, it was helping me to stay upright even if I did feel like a skydiver in one of those wind tunnel whatnots.
With some relief I came to another forest track which, after a short while, continued to descend very steeply. My knees are not what they used to be and were taking a bit of a battering and to be honest I was praying for the climb that I knew was coming. But that was a long way off and it was a lonely run through what used to be a thickly wooded coniferous forest and which for now looked like it had just been given a 'number one'. As the descent eventually began to ease I took the opportunity to look back (not something I do very often) but the track was devoid of human presence; I seemed to be very much on my own. Were it not for the occasional, encouraging bit of tape I would have been having my doubts.
I was surprised that I actually felt in pretty decent nick (knees not withstanding) and was thinking that maybe I hadn't tried hard enough on the outrun, when I saw the car and the figures on the side of the track ahead, pointing to the left, indicating the final climb. I knew that it was only a couple of kilometres to go now. Glancing upwards I could see Karen more or less where I expected her to be on what is a long, but fairly constant transverse climb up the massive spur that separated me from my final objective. I chanced another quick look behind but all was clear so up I went with the pressure now off, content to focus on enjoying myself for this last bit.
And that's exactly what I did: in fact I was enjoying myself so much that on the final fast and rocky descent I flung myself headfirst down the trail, aware, in a detached sort of way, that the rock my hands and body were now being battered on had been spewed from an extinct volcano millions of years ago - which makes this part of the country so interesting, geologically speaking. Actually, it flipping well hurt but at least I managed to keep rolling and I was quickly back on my feet and making progress again, thinking that I really needed to pull the flapping piece of skin off the palm of my hand now or it was going to hurt if I left it till after.
Soon I arrived at a very low key finish, where I was pleased to find myself in 12th place although relatively in the same part of the field that I would usually occupy. The intention had been to run this conservatively bearing in mind that a much longer effort awaited me tomorrow but that plan was, almost like me, blown away in the wind.
Later, at the presentation in the pleasantly comfortable Rose and Thistle pub it turned out that this year was to be the organiser's final year at the helm and that the race in future years might change slightly in character. In order to avoid having to use so much forest track, it seems that it might be slightly longer. Admittedly there was a bit too much track for my tastes but to be honest after the fell in that wind it was a relief to get back on to it!
The excess of forest track apart, there is nothing to dislike about this race: parking was excellent, the drive up and down was beautiful and the venue including the race HQ was everything you would want from a fell race including decent beer. Definitely one worth supporting! Anyone know a good masseur to get me ready for The Yomp tomorrow?...
Edinburgh Marathon, 31st May
Sunday morning did not look quite as bad; blustery but dry. We had found a B&B right next to the London Road start, so after a short walk to the baggage drop, we still had a bit of time to reflect at home.
The atmosphere of the race began to have its effect, so layer after layer was discarded: first the jacket, then the hat, and even a last minute decision to ditch the long sleeves. I still felt unsure about my pace in the pen and stood quite a way back, but when the time came to cross the start line, I just did not have it in me to run slowly.
The first two kms involved quite a bit of weaving and sprinting, but once we got to Holyrood park, the field had stretched out enough to get into a rhythm. I followed a group of Spaniards who seemed to bring out cheers from every spectator - calling them crowds, even before we left the city limits, would be an exaggeration.
Once we hit the shore, the wind really began to make an impact - it was blowing mostly in our back, but whenever we got to sample the headwind after a turn, we knew we would have a battle on our hands on the way back. 10k were passed in about 41 minutes, and I decided that, if I wanted to have a go at running under 3 hours, I needed to build a cushion up to the turning point, and then hope for the best. I had taken two gels with me, as I knew there would only be water until more than half way - something that the organisers might want to reconsider. When we reached Musselburgh, the road was shared with the half marathon runners going in the opposite direction, and I got the first sight of a purple Striders vest - always a good sign. At this point, most of us must have thought "what a great day for a half marathon", and we ourselves passed the half marathon mark in around 1:26:30, feeling deceptively fresh.
The turn came just after 28 kms, and immediately, the pace began to slow. I was desperate to find a group to run with, but although my own pace had dropped, everyone around me appeared to struggle even more.
Whenever I had made up the distance to a runner in front, he seemed to slow down to a jog, while every group I spotted far ahead on the road soon dispersed like a Fata Morgana once I got closer. At least battling with the wind, and picking off other runners one by one made the miles go by without too much time to think about what lay ahead.
At 32 km, I finally found a companion, and we traded the lead for about a mile, until he too decided to stay with another runner whom we'd passed, and I tried to press on.
I remember reading Gareth's report about his first sub 3 in Edinburgh exactly one year ago, which together with the fast times run by other Striders like Stephen and Simon really made me think that I could do it, too. While you're out on your own running, and perhaps never more so than during the last part of a marathon, I feel that being part of the Striders makes it as close to a team sport as it can be.
Inspiration doesn't just come from the "fast lads" though, and thanks must also go to Geoff and Susan whose perseverance finally paid off, ensuring I kept running properly this winter and, not least, Jacqui and Alister, who drove me to my first parkrun, before I even joined the club.
|1 (F)||Joan Kigen||2:39:42|
|82||Till Sawala||Elvet Striders||2:56:25|
|3115||Jane Ives||Elvet Striders||4:05:04|
|4717||Angela Robson||Elvet Striders||4:31:41|
|5660||Brian Bill Ford||Elvet Striders||4:51:28|
|5851||Joanne Porter||Elvet Striders||4:56:11|
Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge, 23rd May
W55, 16 Hour Time Limit
Intro & Background
The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge (JNLC) is a self organised mountain challenge for veteran fell runners over 50. The time allowed increases with age (I had 16 hours) and runners must be accompanied over the route and raise at least £100 for charity. The course crosses the Lake District from Pooley Bridge, in the north east, to Joss’ home at Greendale, Wasdale in the south west – a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent over 30 Lakeland peaks including High Street, Fairfield, Bow Fell, Great End, Great Gable, Pillar and Seatallan. Only two women in the V55 category had completed the JNLC prior to my attempt.
For those who don't know, Joss Naylor is probably England’s best known fell runner. He has lived all his life in the Lake District valley of Wasdale where he worked as a sheep farmer / shepherd until his retirement. Joss is well into his 70s now but still does some amazing runs and held many very impressive fell running records and was victorious in many, many very tough fell races. Chris Brasher (Olympic gold medallist and organiser of the London Marathon) described Joss as "the greatest of them all", having "sinews stronger than any man made substance and a will harder than a diamond.....the toughest runner in Britain".
My JNLC Day
Leg 1- ‘Cuckoos, Larks and Deer’ (Pooley Bridge to Kirkstone Pass)Geoff and I left our friends house in Bothel at 4.30am and collected Juliet Percival (leg 1 pacer) en route to Pooley Bridge. The rest of my team, Paul Hainsworth (navigator) plus pacers Allon Welsh and Mike Hughes had already assembled in the square on our arrival. My clothes, food and drink were distributed and so we made our way on to the bridge, a few photos were taken and Geoff gave us a ten second countdown. We are off at 5.30am on a beautiful morning.
The pace was brisk due to a combination of nerves and excitement as I just could not wait to be on the fells. The morning and the weather were wonderful; bright sun and a cool but gentle breeze with the sound of cuckoos calling. Paul surged ahead as we made our way to the first summit. I was aware that I was probably going a bit too fast and Mike & Allon did a fine job of steadying the pace a little. We ran on with lark song ringing out over the fells, the heavy dew on the grass glistened and sparkled like diamonds and we could see for miles as the tops came and went with relative ease. A lone deer stood to greet me on High Raise and this was followed by Jules exclaiming "check out the view to your left" as we headed towards Kidsty Pike and enjoyed a wonderful panorama.
A further herd of deer scampered off High Street as we approached. It just felt great to be alive and my heart was full of joy. I knew there would be tough times during the day ahead but I was 'in the moment' and feeling good. In what seemed like no time at all we were ticking off the last three summits of leg 1 and speeding down to Kirkstone Pass to be greeted by a large group of my support crew with beaming smiles, arriving 27 minutes up on schedule!.
5 minutes to rest and re-fuel ...
Bottoms Up Cup, 31st May
I was supposed to be lining up at the Middlesbrough 5K but constant injury problems and not mentally able to push myself hard I decided (or bottled it) to give a new race a go and not chase a time.
The recently reformed Washington running club had put this 5K on to help publicise the club. The race HQ was based at Biddick school which meant excellent parking and facilities. After picking up my number I had a quick chat with John Hutchinson and then made the 10 minute walk from the school to the start.
The course is based in princess Anne park and after a short briefing we were on our way with a flat straight first 1K which then went down into the woods. They did say part of the course was on trail and with the overnight rain this made it very slippy in places. Obviously what goes down must come up and my heart sank at the sight of more steps to climb (I'd had my fill of steps at George ogle). This just about reduced most people to a walking pace.
Once out the woods it was back on to the paths with several undulations I was struggling to find any rhythm (running mojo lost please return to me if found ) but thankfully with being just 5K it wasn't long until we were back on the finish straight crossing the line in 11th place.
It's a very cheap race £5 and very well marshalled so if you fancy a good challenging 5K then it's definitely one for next year.
Roseberry Romp, 26th May
I really enjoyed my first fell race, the Roseberry Romp, which is organised by the National Trust as a fund raiser. The weather was great, course well marked and the race itself was very well organised. Being used to the pricing structure of the more high profile road races, with medal and technical t-shirt etc., the entry fee seemed a bargain at four quid (with a bit of flapjack thrown in). I was pleased to see a couple of familiar faces in the car park before the race and had a chat with Kerry Lister and Helen Allen.
I planned to use the race as a training session with some hill work. I was, I must say, completely unprepared for the demanding nature of fell running and having led the race for the first mile really struggled with the ascents. I naively thought I'd be able to 'run' from start to finish - something I realised wouldn't be possible during the first climb. Once I got used to this idea and felt the pressure was off a little bit as I'd been passed by a half-a-dozen or so runners I started to relax and enjoy the experience.
I remembered from a session with Geoff that he'd told me to 'attack' the downhill sections so I used this to my advantage for the last mile or so. I finished the race strongly, close to 5km pace, in eighth position.
The experience was useful if only for the fact that I now have the utmost respect for fell runners. I do see fell running as an important way of complimenting my training for races on the road and will most certainly give another race a go this year.
|1||Paul Crabtree||Wharfedale Harriers Harriers||MV45||35:49|
|25||Kay Neesam||New Marske Harriers||LV45||40:33|
Ormskirk parkrun, 23rd May
"Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt."
-- William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
The weather was calm, the first time for weeks, and the quote was for the benefit of PB hunters who might like to consider, contrary to most advice, actually going off a bit fast at the start. Interesting advice, and on another day I might have given it a go, but today I settled in at the back of the runners and waited to see how I'd get on in my first parkrun since January. I'd been quite encouraged by the Pier to Pier and decided to see how I got on with something short and fast.
This is my second time at the Ormskirk parkrun and it might just be my favourite parkrun. It's set in the campus of Edge Hill University and it's great to see it promoted so positively. It's warm and welcoming, with changing rooms, toilets, tea and coffee, a nice course, and best of all, you get some culture on the start line. The usual briefing also included the reminder that under 11s must be accompanied by an adult. "Why must under 11s be accompanied by an adult?", we were asked. "To slow them down!", came the instant reply.
How we laughed, but it was no joke. It was great seeing so many young children out today; it wasn't so great being convincingly beaten by so many of them. You'd think they'd at least have the decency to look as if they were struggling or trying. No respect, kids of today.
I wouldn't say it's a fast course, given that it has hills and circuits; two little ones and two big ones. I think. It didn't matter as the marshalls seemed to know exactly where to send us, or maybe I just have that 'still on his first lap' look about me. I got round all the laps and up the hills and finished in under 26 minutes; when I say 'under' I mean in much the same way as £3.99 is under £4.00.
Still, the year is young, and perhaps next time, with some suitable cultural inspiration pep-talk, I can get that down a bit more.
Club Handicap, 20th May
This is my fourth year organising the handicap, the last three years with Ladies captain Anna Seeley. As a level three coach now, Anna had a bit too much on this year to organise with me so Anita Dunseith has kindly stepped. We'd like to thank Anna for all the hard work over the last few years.
For the past couple of years, when the handicap has come round, I've wondered how popular it would be and every year I've been surprised just how many are still up for it. After all it's a far from easy option and can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. We have tried to address that by putting runners in groups and having lead runners for those new to the route. This seems to work well and numbers have been up every year. However, as the emails came in beforehand with 5k & 10k times it was clear, the handicap was still a popular option but I hadn't envisaged the massive purple posse made their way over to the start. Over ninety runners, a club record by over twenty stood waiting the off! A good omen for XC in the winter, something I think the handicap is good training for in many ways. (lapped circuit, timed and being watched )
Anita and I had disused making the first handicap more of a time trial , as Anna an I had done on a number of occasions and with so many new runners we decided to implement that although still roughly in time order. It worked well. The fastest male on the evening was Michael Littlewood with a fantastic time of 31:57 very closely followed by Graeme Walton 32:21 and James garland 32:24. Conrad wasn't far off with 33:21
The fastest lady was Helen Tones with a nifty 36:04 with Sarah Davies not far behind in 37:16. Katy and penny take note...
The handicap isn't about the fastest and we had some very gritty performances right the way through the field, particularly from some of our new runners, at least one of who shed a few tears but ground a great run out. As I said earlier, the handicap is never the easy choice. Lots of folk had some excellent runs but to pick just a few out, Debbie MacFarland knocked two minutes from last year's time and Denise Benvin continues her storming progress. Laura Jackson dug deep and continues to improve all the time while Phil Todd also had an excellent run. The night's performance goes to Shaun Roberts who I'm sure a few of you will never have heard of. A club member for many years and until recently our webmaster, Shaun has had an injury hell and not been able to run for 14 months. He ran a superb 38:52. It's good to see you back Shaun and we hope the recovery continues.
A big hand to Anita for dealing with the huge numbers and getting the results out very fast. Dave Robson and Anna Seeley were also a huge help, and many more lent a hand. The chocolate all went but all the talk was of the fantastic water melon-apparently it's the new chocolate. A fantastic strider evening, long may the tradition continue. See you next month.
|position||name||start time||race time||actual time|