18th Gibside Fruit Bowl Trail Race, 19th October
Who was it that suggested doing Gibside Fruitbowl again?!! Laura C says it's nice but there are a couple of hills. The night before the race and I'm sitting debating whether to have a glass of wine and whether it's shorts or crop trousers and just a race vest or T-Shirt. I'm nervous as I haven't run the miles since the GNR. So I have a glass of wine and get my kit ready. Crop trousers and vest it is.
Next thing I know the alarm goes off and I have to clamber over my 3 year old and peel myself out of bed to switch it off before her and the husband wake up. Why oh why do I put myself through this. I feel sick, I need to eat, but I'm excited at the same time. Then I see Laura Chapman's car pull into the street. I give the kids a kiss goodbye and pile myself into the car with Laura C, Natalie J, Joanne T and Tracey S. Luckily the girls kept my mind off the race taking about puppies (As in dogs, Natalie is getting one) and general chitchat.
We arrive in the carpark and get out the car deciding what to take with us and what to the leave in the car. Then the heavens opened. Great!! Just what we need, cause I know Gibside from going with the kids and those lovely hills will be fun when wet!! We run past Dave Robson and Mel who are safely sat in their car keeping dry, then head to the toilets to meet up with lots of other striders. Do I need a wee or don't I. Of course I need a wee.
Then we all line up at the start. The obligatory race photo is taken. Announcements are made and the claxon goes. 'Oh sh*t' I announce to Kelly and we're off. I'm quite happy trotting along the long walk with my fellow striders then we turn the corner to see the faster runners coming up a lovely grassy hill to the left. Meanwhile, the marshals are shouting at us, 'Don't look' and so we start on up the first hill. I know this one and it's tough walking it. Alister's friendly face and gentle voice greets us at the top! We turn the corner and head downhill to then head DOWN, yes down, a grassy stretch. I'm feeling ok and I'm keeping up with Kelly. I've lost Natalie and Tracey by this point and I'm wondering whether to take it really steady and wait for them to catch up or just keep it steady behind Kelly. I keep it steady mindful of Tracey and Nat behind. They'll be ok, though Tracey is so going to kill us for the hills. We head on up the grassy bit. Kelly says, 'are we going for it'. Well of course we are now you've said that. We get to the top with cheers from the marshals. I have to say the support en route was great.
We're a mile and a bit in and we're ok. Until we reach the next hill. Then there on in it's hills hill hills. We catch up with Laura C and Joanne T and basically stick together the rest of the route, walking the hills until a holler from Alister, 'Kelly Collier get running'. We ran our little socks off and smiled for every camera. I spotted Natalie and Tracey over the other side of a hill so screamed encouragement hoping they were ok and not feeling like giving up like I did. We reached the river banks and I knew what was coming. Kelly had gone off ahead and I was keeping up with Laura and Joanne, just I was shattered. One last muddy climb and we were on the last stretch. My fellow striders, as always, were encouraging and helped get me round. We met up with Kelly again and we're on the home straight. The longest home straight I've ever done. (Except for that last mile at the GNR). We did it together, until the competitive streak took over and we started to sprint. 'Let's hold hands Laura says' Kelly being Kelly says' I'm not holding anyone's hand. We did it!!!. That was the worst race I've ever done!!! The views were beautiful, but it was flippin hilly!!! I'll probably say I loved it tomorrow.
We just had time to get our water and flapjack and put on our t-shirts when in came Natalie and Tracey. Awesome!! I'm so proud of Tracey completing that hell. She did amazing. Then we had just got our jumpers on, when in comes a disabled girl Natalie had given up her medal for at Gateshead 10k trail race. The girl was greeted over the finish line by what looked like her partner and collapsed in a heap. We all burst into tears. What an inspiration. It all puts it into perspective. And here's me moaning.
So we head home not before Kelly tries to get me to go to the pub for a bevvie, I was tempted, but I was good and headed home. Banter in the car was all about hills and Tracey announced, 'that was hell on earth.' I must say I'm inclined to agree.
Oh and I forgot to mention the rainbow. That was ace. We doing it next year girls?!!!
Fun in the Sun!
Harrier League, Cramlington, 11th October
Mudman & Mudwoman
The 2014-15 x/c season kicked off to most unseasonal weather on Saturday - warm sunshine & light winds - much to the delight of many and the frustration of a few old diehards (like your x/c captains!) The overall turnout at Cramlington was slightly up on last year although, disappointingly, it was slightly down for Striders' men. Nonetheless there were some great Strider performances and a host of Strider debutants.
First up was u/20 woman Sally Hughes our own 'parkun Princess' making her x/c debut. After a tentative start Sally powered through the field picking off her rivals to finish in an astonishing 10th place - earning her immediate promotion to the fast pack. Well done Sally!
The Senior / Veteran women were next up and yet another record field of 333 runners lined up for the start including Strider first timers Penny Browell, Lesley Charman, Helen Williams & Steph Piper. Inspired by their purple vests and the cheers of Strider men and other supporters they all had wonderful runs. Penny was magnificent - thundering round the two lap course to finish 9th overall, first Strider home and going straight into the medium pack for the next league fixture. Lesley too was a team counter, in her first outing, along with Katie W (from the medium pack) and Fiona K-J. Best x/c performances for sometime were put in by Debs and Anna and there was a welcome return to the HL for Louise B after her 'maternity absence'! Well done one & all (20 Strider women in total ran the race) on a fantastic 5th place on the day in Division 1 - what a start!
After the women had churned up what little mud there was to be had it was the men's turn. A massive field of 590 runners assembled for the start including 24 Striders. As in the women's race there were a number of debutants including Scott Watson, Danny Lim (where have you been?!), Matthew Archer, Nick Jones, Martin Welsh, Eric Green & Stephen Ellis. They all came through relatively unscathed and appear happy to give it another go!
Cheered on by some non running Striders, including the Sage of Shincliffe himself, Rob Everson surged round the three lap course, from the medium pack, to have probably his best ever x/c race and lead the team home. Captain Paul was another counter from the medium pack with James G, Till S (making a welcome return), Gibbo and Matthew C (for the first time) making up the other four counters. The hot weather took its toll on this old-timer but, along with the rest of the team, I was delighted to be out there in the purple vest flying the flag for Striders.
However, the competition this season is going to be fierce and Striders could only manage 9th place (out of 11 teams) in Division 2. Not the best of starts I must admit but looking down the names of the registered runners, who couldn't make it on Saturday, I know we can do much better with an even bigger turnout. So come on the Purple Men - let's see you gather in strength for the rest of the season and really do your club proud - I know you can do it!!
|1||Mark McLeod||Elswick Harriers||M disq.||34:52|
|115||Rob Everson||M Sen||40:55|
|164||James Garland||S Sen||41:40|
|188||Paul Evans||M Sen||42:04|
|198||Till Sawala||S Sen||42:21|
|208||David Gibson||S Vet||42:29|
|233||Matthew Crow||S Sen||42:54|
|240||Geoff Davis||S Vet||43:06|
|247||Jerry Lloyd||M Vet||43:15|
|248||Graeme Walton||S Vet||43:15|
|271||Scott Watson||S Vet||43:40|
|310||Michael Hughes||S Vet||44:32|
|312||David Brown||S Sen||44:36|
|325||Mark Payne||S Sen||44:58|
|340||Dave Halligan||S Vet||45:16|
|352||Mike Bennett||S Vet||45:40|
|362||Danny Lim||S Sen||45:54|
|421||Matthew Archer||S Sen||47:32|
|455||David Selby||S Vet||48:41|
|471||Richard Hockin||S Vet||49:16|
|495||Nick Jones||S Sen||49:46|
|504||Innes Hodgson||S Vet||50:04|
|506||Martin Welsh||S Vet||50:13|
|557||Eric Green||S Vet||54:49|
|570||Stephen Ellis||S Vet||57:52|
|1||Rosie Smith||Durham City Harriers||M Sen||26:02|
|9||Penny Browell||S Vet||28:52|
|55||Katy Walton||M Sen||31:36|
|75||Fiona Jones||S Vet||32:00|
|81||Lesley Charman||S Vet||32:12|
|91||Susan Davis||S Vet||32:29|
|111||Nicola Whyte||S Sen||32:54|
|149||Debra Goddard||S Vet||33:48|
|159||Juliet Percival||M Vet||34:06|
|160||Rachael Bullock||M Sen||34:08|
|167||Camilla Lauren-Maatta||S Vet||34:14|
|183||Sarah Davies||S Vet||34:44|
|184||Helen Williams||S Vet||34:46|
|187||Anna Seeley||S Sen||34:50|
|214||Stephanie Piper||S Sen||35:37|
|224||Jean Bradley||S Vet||35:54|
|276||Jan Young||S Vet||39:06|
|283||Louise Barrow||S Sen||39:32|
|301||Louise Billcliffe||S Vet||41:16|
|309||Debbie Mcfarland||S Sen||41:49|
|330||Anita Dunseith||S Sen||47:19|
U17 & U20 Girls
|1||Zoe MacDonald||Newcastle University||S U20||20:21|
|10||Sally Hughes||S U20||22:27|
Matfen Hall 10K, Northumberland, 12th October
5 Striders turned out at Matfen 10k Sophie Dennis, Lindsay Craig, Jean Bradley and Helen and Richard Hall. I didn't think I was going to manage this one because I’m suffering from the flu but painkiller fuelled we set off for Matfen.
As we walked to the village hall to collect our Race Numbers there was a nip in the air and some mist here and there. As we stood at the start line we clapped home the 5k winners then off we went. I had Lindsay running with me both encouraging each other to breathe. The Race was a very hard undulating course, (mustn't have read this when entering the races). The temperature rose, the sun came out and the mist started to clear. We had beautiful surroundings but those hills were a Bugger. Jean came in first followed by Helen and Richard. As I came towards the finish with Lindsay not far in front I had snot coming out my nose and I could hardly breathe, I looked up at the clock and realised Lindsay and I had just done A 10 k PB. Once our noses had been blown and our breath slowly coming back we forgot our goodie bag but that bacon sandwich went down like a treat. Some of us said the Great North Run seemed easier and more Hill training is needed but we all agreed to be back next Year.
The Wee Toughie
Eyemouth 10K, Coldingham Sands, Berwickshire, 12th October
Today I was meant to be running the Aviemore Half. Unfortunately work had other ideas and I had to be in Liverpool by 10am on the Monday, not something I could really do even with a blistering PB. I resigned myself to staying at home and I looked around for an alternative. By the power of social media I came across the Eyemouth 10K, a multi-terrain race that styled itself as The Wee Toughie. It also turned out it was its first running. Eyemouth is about 12 miles from our house so very much on the doorstep with the advantage of being somewhere Elfie and I had yet to explore. The race was organised by Run Eyemouth and the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust. As I'm in an English club I got to pay the extra £2 for not being Scottish but £12 is still not too bad these days.
It turned out that the race started a little way up the coast on a beach - ring any bells? - in the absolutely beautiful little bay just down from Coldingham. And just to add stunning to beauty it was a glorious day. Crisp autumn sunshine making for the perfect conditions, I ditched the second layer. There was a pre-race briefing, outside the Beach Cafe which housed registration, where I got the gist of the route but as I wouldn't be leading and the course was marshalled and marked I thought I'd be okay. As the start time approached the 40-50 runners gathered behind a line in the sand. I moved down to the firmest sand, Coastal Run experience kicking in.
The beach section was a little shorter than at Beadnell! Just a few hundred yards and then we were up some killer steep steps to the cliff-top path. This is a really painful start to a race. The footpath then follows the headland, opening up to some stunning views, round to St Abbs. (St Abbs is a pretty little fishing village but appears to be a made-up Victorian name as there is no St Abb.) Through the village and after a short section of road and some roadside paths it is through a farm and down onto narrow woodland footpaths. Before long we're out onto the grassland around the top of Mire Loch and I assumed back down towards St Abbs.
That would be too easy! A sharp left takes us up a line of telegraph poles on what can only be described to the sassenachs as a fell section. Tussocky-grassy steep, then bare-hillsided steeper. Over the summit the sea views open up again, this coastline is nothing short of spectacular - at times like this I wish I carried a camera. Then it's down some rocky steps before a long tarmacked and tracked section taking us back towards St Abbs from where the race retraces its path along the cliff, down the steps and across the beach to the finish.
Did it live up to its name? Certainly, it was a wee toughie and I was very pleased with 50:50 - though it my have been a wee shortie too. But beyond that it was a very friendly, well-marshalled, well-organised race with stunning views and a bit of terrain to suit everyone. Of course next October it'll be driech but if this race is back then I hope to be too! It's a long way from Durham but I can't recommend this one highly enough.
Kielder Marathon, 5th October
Waiting somewhat nervously in the Duke of Welly car park at 7am, it turned out that the most danger to my heart rate that day was Sue Jennings' Formula One-style driving over the frost-tipped tops of Tow Law. Sue and Andrew Thompson chatted about their previous marathon experiences in the car; Sue is doing the 100 marathon challenge and has a few ultras under her belt; Andrew is also a seasoned marathon runner, but this was my first attempt at the distance. I had put in the training, albeit rather haphazardly, and managed the longer runs at 15, 18 and 20 miles, but would it be enough? The idea had first taken root during Greta and Sue's winter Sunday morning group runs of a couple of years ago - if I could manage a gentle jog/run from Broompark to Lanchester and back, could I possibly run the full 26.2 miles? Further encouraged by Anita Clementson telling me that she had run Kielder as her first marathon, I decided to make it my autumn goal.
Now in its fifth year, Kielder is billed as 'Britain's most beautiful marathon', and it was easy to see why upon our arrival at Leaplish Waterside Park, even with the lake still shrouded in white mist. The volunteers in the tents by the lakeside offered a wonderful array of home-made cakes and coffee, and we had a quick chat with some of the other Striders before being herded into our pens for a 10.15 start.
The first half was pleasant, and I was glad I had put in some hill training, as the trail zig-zagged up and down through the forest, the lake almost always visible on our right. The course is described as 'undulating', and this is a fair assessment - you go up a lot, but there are also frequent corresponding downward stretches. Susan Davis darted past me early on; I didn't see her again for the rest of the race! I managed the first half in 2:15 but after that everything fell apart a bit as my legs just couldn't keep up the pace.
I was greatly heartened to see Mel and Dave, and the majority of the other runners, walking up the hill past the half-way point, and found that long strides up a hill can be just as efficient as determined head-down trudge-jogging on tiptoes. (I couldn't help recalling the old men at the bottom of the big hill at Prudhoe Harrier League, waving their walking sticks at us and shouting "Ee, any bugger can run downhill! But can tha' run oop the hill?")
|1||Ceri Rees||Wild Running||M||2:39:43|
|34||Myra Jones||Valley Striders||F||3:17:58|
Hellhole 10K, Stanley, 5th October
I was in two minds as to whether I wanted to do the Hellhole 10k right up till Sunday morning. I had been planning a longer run but I do love a hilly 10k (in a masochistic kind of way) and I’d heard good things about this one. When I realised there was also a fun run for the kids and we woke up to a nice crisp morning I decided to drag the family over to Stanley to give it a go.
When we got there it was all very well organised and the kids were delighted to get their own race numbers and to hear there were goody bags if they managed the whole mile! We wondered over to the start where I met a couple of friends who also had kids running and we were soon off. The mile run was an out and back along a fairly easy footpath. My husband went ahead with my oldest two whilst I set off with my 4 year old. Almost immediately we were at the back and we spent the entire mile there. I did feel a little sorry for the sweeper who had to endure some fairly repetitive conversation about how far we had to go and the fact Becky was going to get a goody bag at the end but we finally made it back to the finishing line in about 15 minutes (not my finest time for a mile..). All three of my kids were over the moon with their race and medals and for me it was lovely to see them enjoying running as much as I do.
Anyway on to the main event. Because we’d been slow on the fun run I only had about 10 minutes to go till the start. I spotted a couple of other Striders and lined up with Conrad, Michael and about another 140 runners. The start of the race is a bit of a bottleneck so we couldn’t get going but once you’re out on the footpath it soon spreads out starting with a little uphill but then gradually going down. The first half is definitely the easy half. I think I clocked a PB at the 5k point but just after 3 miles we turned off into the woods where it got a bit trickier. Great fun weaving around the paths and in and out of the mud though and the Derwentside Athletic Club had done a great job painting the awkward roots and rocks to avoid accidents. My pace definitely slowed down but that was the highlight of the course. After a couple of miles we were back on the footpath for a climb back to the finishing line. The finish on the field was great and I think I just about managed a sprint finish but my legs were certainly ready to stop.
All in all it was a tough but great race and a fantastic morning out with the family. I always really appreciate races which have mini-events for kids to make it more inclusive and this one worked well on every level – good parking, good facilities, great organisation and marshals and a varied and fun course. Hope to be back next year when Becky and I can aim for slightly better than last in the fun run!
Coxhoe Trail Run, 14th September
I was feeling anxious about the Coxhoe 10k for many reasons. Firstly I’d had a bad hamstring all week and wasn’t sure if I should be running at all, secondly I’d realised at the last minute it wouldn’t make sense to bring the family so was feeling guilty about leaving them and finally it was my first race as a Strider and I wasn’t sure if I would recognise anyone or who would be there. Although I’d been to a couple of Wednesday night sessions I was aware that there are so many Striders it was entirely possible I wouldn’t see anyone I knew!
My concerns disappeared as soon as I got into the registration hall and saw Steph Piper who, despite injury made me feel part of the Strider family as always. Outside I bumped into Anna and Flip and we walked from the Coxhoe Leisure Centre to the start of the race (about 1km away). I was glad to have some company as I suspect I would never have found the start by myself! At the start I met several other Striders and a few other friends and most of us commented on how we didn’t know the area at all and yet it seemed to be a great running area. Somebody later mentioned to me that there had been a Coxhoe race several years ago but it had had to be cancelled due to problems with closing roads so I was glad to see good support for a new race which had obviously taken a great deal of effort to get off the ground.
After a few safety announcements we were off. The race started with a steep downhill which was fun but quite hair-raising given the number of runners very close to each other. We then spread out fairly well for what I’d describe as a toughish but very enjoyable undulating course. For the first couple of miles the path was quite easy and very pretty. As we came off the main path up a steepish hill there was a cameraman poised ready to get us looking our absolute worst (but also giving us encouragement up the hill). The course takes you round the quarry and then back along the path you went out on. It’s generally an easyish path but with a couple of roads to cross. On the way back Danny Lim was encouraging us all and taking photos. I’d read that the course had a sting in the tail and they weren’t kidding. At what I thought was the end we could see people cheering us up the steep hill which we’d begun by going down. It was tough after nearly 6 miles of hard running but as I thought it was the end I was happy to give it one last push. Little did I realise that wasn’t the end after all and we had another half a mile or so to go up through the woods to a field higher up where the finishing line was. That climb through the woods really got me and I even had to walk a little but I have to admit it was a clever route. We finished in the field above the start which meant we could cheer runners on as they came into the last half mile.
At the finish there was plenty of water and mars bars on offer and there was a lovely atmosphere with runners cheering each other on and chatting to each other. I enjoyed catching up with the other Striders and went home buzzing. All in all I thought it was a really good race – well organised and challenging without being too painful. The negative for me would be that the registration was quite a walk from the race (just because it puts you off bringing young supporters) but other than that I couldn’t fault it.
All Creatures Great and Small
Saltergate Levisham Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 5th October
BM/17 km/430 m
Only two Striders represented the club at the second race in the Northern Runner Winter Series organised by the fantastic Esk Valley Fell Club. I hadn't done this race before and was encouraged to make the extra-long journey after reading Shaun's report from a few years ago (always an excellent source of info is our Striders website).[We aim to please. Ed..
We were at the south end of the Yorkshire Moors for this event in the hamlet of Levisham (nr Pickering). Camilla and myself arrived at the delightful village and parked on the green near the village hall (race HQ). I just love these small low-key races; no fuss, no frills but a great day's running guaranteed and you get to meet some lovely folk! Entry on the day for £7 and a chance to admire the lovely home-made cakes and soups on offer - enough to encourage one to try just that bit harder to make good time back before all the grub has gone!
Anyway onto details of the race. Dave, the race organiser, gathers us all together at the head of the green (approximately 70 runners from a quick headcount) and shouts out some details, with most of them sounding quite alarming, i.e. mention of highland cattle with calves, and navigation that sounds quite difficult to follow, before closing with the comment 'but don't worry about that'.
A fast start, up a gradual incline and I make the mistake of trying to keep up with Camilla but after about the first half-mile I give up as my stomach comes up to say hello. Mile 1 and it's 'the highland cattle' - coming down a hill you can see them in the distance dominating the path! My heart rate goes even faster! I'm not a big fan of cattle and have had some unfortunate encounters when running in isolated places. As I get closer their horns seem to get bigger! 'Oh bloody hell!' I just run as fast as I can to swerve past the one standing right in the path, staring runners in the eye… Well, I'm still here to tell the tale!
After that 'excitement' the rest of the race was a delightful mixture of trail and fell, quite a lot of steps ('Angel Staircase' being one particular flight) and a circumnavigation of the 'Hole of Horcum'. The visibility was ideal to admire the rolling countryside - 'God's country' - as were the weather conditions.
Following some other runners, I ended up taking a wrong turn but was rounded up by the back marshal eventually! So I ended up at the back, but did manage to pick a few off at the end which was a lovely long stretch for the last 2.5 miles.
Camilla had a good race and even had an encounter with an adder! We took advantage of the cakes and applauded the endless recipients of wine for the various category winners. This race can be highly recommended and is suitable for runners of all abilities, who have a passion for the great outdoors and are up for a bit of adventure in their running.
October Odyssey, Hamsterley Forest, 5th October
Short Brown - 7.7km - 17 controls
This was the second day of a two day event hosted by Northern Navigators in Hamsterley Forest, County Durham. Although I was disappointed at having had to miss the first day, it was the second day's event, to be held over the moorland area of Cabin Hill, Doctor's Gate and Gull Quarry, that would have been my preferred option anyway - a glorious day on the fells with map and compass with only the sky for cover as opposed to charging through thick undergrowth where the light is so poor that without specs map detail disappears in a blur.
The thing I particularly like about orienteering events is that they are so relaxed. For one thing there are few absolute deadlines to stick to; instead there's a registration window of a couple of hours with starts about half and hour afterwards lasting for another couple of hours. I also find it slightly weird that although there might be lots of people entered, you could end up seeing very few of them and maybe even feeling that you're doing it on your own. You rock up any time after registration has opened and off you go (although to be reasonably sure of a map for your chosen course you might not want to leave it too late).
Whilst I've done a few events over the years there's always been enough time between them for me to have pretty much forgotten the procedure - and it's a procedure not for the easily dissuaded. In the 90s, when I was orienteering as training for mountain marathons, it was all punched cards but now the dibber is king and I confess that I still find the starting sequence slightly intimidating. 'You'll need to clear your card at the first station - there's nothing after that' I was constantly and mysteriously being told.
My technique in these situations is always to deal with one thing at a time and ditch any pre-conceived ideas so I decided to discard all advice relating to scenarios after the card-clearing one and I'd take it from there. Fortune however smiled on me when on returning from registration £13 poorer, I found that Mr (Dougie) Nisbet was parked right next door! Not only was this my passport to starting success but I'd have someone to photograph!
After Dougie had made his own pilgrimage to registration we set off on the long walk to the start where we diligently cleared our cards and dumped our extra clothing in an unsheltered area marked off for that purpose (a waterproof bag might be an idea next time although it wasn't needed on this occasion). From there it was another hike along the path then up the stony track known to many County Durham fell runners as the 'Doctor's Gate' track. At long last we were onto the fell and approaching the actual start...
Haltwhistle Half Marathon, 28th September
The new 'Haltwhistle Half' will be part of our Striders GP as of next year so as one of the striders at the event I will step forward with a small collection of my thoughts.
I always scan reports for mentions of good performances - Matthew Archer @ 1:27 was a great run, Jean winning her age group, and it was nice to see Anna running well as she struggles with injury. And a special mention to fellow striders battling problems but still running. Also, doing her second 'half' ever, was my much better half, Kathleen, who did fantastic again, a real inspiration and credit to our club.
This was always going to be my race sharpener before the York marathon. Advertised as a flat/fast half, it seemed ideal. I had already done the GNR and almost signed up to Redcar, as all were on about the same time. But with this being in a great location, local, flat and with a small field - ideal for first timers - I decided to enter with my partner.
Training was going great and then I heard that you had to walk a section, being disqualified if you didn't. I innocently emailed the organiser about the issue, to confirm details, but got quite a short, blunt reply. I have to wonder how long they knew about this and was amazed when he said the walking section was actually quicker, as normally you go up and down the steep steps. I also did not appreciate being singled out by the organiser in front of fellow striders for having the cheek to even ask about it.
Now I have run lots of races for fun, experience, a good day out etc. but all I ask is to be honest with the race description and the race will still draw massive support. Rant over and onto useful information for next year's runners.
Great location Haltwhistle, on good tracks and well organised on the day. It was great seeing the open green areas while plodding over the bridges on the way. I would not describe it as flat - the first half is a slow steady climb where you only realise how bad it is when you come back along the same route. There was free parking, a nice Haltwhistle mug and friendly helpers with sweets on the course.
As fate would have it I was injured badly before and during this race/walk, finishing 2nd from last (should never have even run it thinking back). I had to walk the last 4 miles and for most of the race. Call it karma or whatever, but it was a new experience for me, walking over the finish line - something I hope never to experience again. Still, at least I did not DNF and got a nice mug to go home with.
I would still recommend this race to everyone, but on a personal level I will be doing one of the other 2 half's next year.
Ikano Robin Hood Marathon, Nottingham, 28th September
I decided I wanted to run a marathon having completed the Great North Run in a decent time in 2013. I was slowly but surely getting into running and it seemed like the obvious progression; I suppose a bucket list type box to tick.
I was aware that the Robin Hood Marathon was about a month after the GNR and heard that it was flat so I decided to sign up - once I'd done that there'd be no turning back! That was before I joined the Striders and before I really started putting in the mileage and training hard.
I'd always anticipated just completing the iconic distance would be an achievement in itself. However, running has re-ignited my competitive nature. I ran my first parkrun in 2012 (about three stone heavier) which took me just over 32 minutes to complete, and before I knew it anything other than a sub 3 hour performance was to be deemed as failure (only by me, I must add). This was, of course, a rather ambitious target for a first marathon but encouraging PBs throughout the year had led me to believe it was possible.
The app I'd used on my phone for my first ever parkrun had measured my splits in kilometres (seemed logical for a 5k run), and I'd subsequently programmed my Garmin to do the same. That's why I still get a tad confused when people talk to me in min/mile speak. I know that a 4min/km is 20 minute parkrun pace and have always just worked up or down from there as a benchmark. I knew 4:16 km splits would bring me home at the three hour mark - if I had the legs.
My Great North Run time meant that a sub 3 marathon was certainly possible if, and it's a big IF, I'd trained for the distance. This was where I had a niggling doubt as I'd only actually done one 20 mile training run, one 18 miles and a few around the 12-15 mile mark.
The race morning was great, I'd bumped into Alister, Jacqui and Rachel for a group photo and words of encouragement. The river-side location of the start was quite picturesque and the sun was shining. Having travelled to Nottingham the night before I'd made it to the race village with plenty of time to spare and managed to time things nicely with regards to fluid, nutrition and last minute toilet stops.
Loch Ness Marathon, 28th September
Not since London have I trained so seriously and systematically for a marathon. The training had gone well and I was reasonably confident of finally getting a sub-4 and being able to stop doing marathons.
And so into the taper, and just the small matter of a few old favourites that I would slip in as, I told myself, 'part of the taper'. GNR, well it was a half-marathon and I needed to do that distance a few weeks before the marathon anyway, and then the LDMT, that was all hills and an endurance slog, so that didn't count, and perhaps just a cheeky little fell race the week before. I'm sure it'd be fine. What could possibly go wrong?
Through the half-way point of my 5th Loch Ness Marathon in around 2:01, pretty much on race target and on schedule for a negative split. Still feeling fine. This was looking good and I was confident that this was going to be sub-4 day.
In the Loch Ness Marathon they quite conveniently provide a physical as well as metaphorical wall for you around the 19th mile. It's not a particular big hill, but it's not really what you want to see around this stage of the race. The wheels on the bus stopped going round and round and I knew with certainty that the game was no longer afoot. Rather than hit the wall head-on I sidled up to it gently, put an arm around its shoulders and said, "Look, I'm sure we can sort out a deal here. What if I accept the race is blown and just concentrate on getting to the finish in as little pain as possible?". I think the reply was along the lines of "Whatever". I took my foot of the pedal, stopped running and started jogging.
It was still pretty tough but it could've been far worse. My tactical defeat saw me shuffle over the finish line in 4:21, (remembering not to 'Garmin' the finishing photo Alister!), almost exactly the same time to the second as two years earlier, where, co-indidentally, I'd done the LDMT and GNR and a fell race or two during the taper too. This year the lesson has been well and truly learnt though. I lost 20 minutes in the second half of the race due to running out of energy. All that careful marathon training down the drain. Don't waste the training. Respect the taper.
Three Shire Fell Race, Lakes, 15th September
"T'isn't a fell race till you've got sheep's turd under yer fingernails". That phrase came to mind as I was holding on for dear life on all fours on the approach to the summit of Wetherlam. Behind was Langdale valley; picturesque and terrifying at the same time. A lady fell-runner was struggling to climb over a large rock. The gentleman behind placed his hand on her bottom and gave her a good shove. "Oh, thank you!" the lady replied gratefully with a hint of embarrassment. A surreal, quintessentially British scene at the mountainside.
Grateful at reaching the summit in one piece, I knelt and punched the ground like Iron Man, or more precisely, placed the dibbler through the reader. It was a horrid climb, my calves and thighs were burning from the accumulated lactic acid. I glanced at my Garmin, only 2 miles into this 11 mile race! Not even a parkrun!
Only 30 minutes ago, Mike Hughes and I were at the start, admiring the muscular, sinewy legs of our fellow athletes. We were both a tad nervous. This was my first AL race and one of the Lakeland classics.
It was a hard, hard race, not just because of the distance and elevation. The terrain was often rough, the ground uneven and hidden in a thick layer of vegetation. I had to keep concentrating, it was very easy to go over my ankle. Large crags and boulders were strewn everywhere, some so big I had to scramble down on all fours or find a way around.
But it was a great day out. I was grateful for Mike's company along the way and it was nice to see a familiar face on the fell side. Though he did motor ahead towards the end. I was just happy to finish.
Simonside Fell Race, Thropton Show, 20th September
6.4M 1200' Cat BM
For me the first part of this race was just getting to the start line on time. What should have been an easy journey turned to a frustrating dash after joining stationary traffic on the A1, diverting along the backroads of Gateshead towards Newcastle only to see traffic queuing to cross the Redheugh bridge to St James', leaving no option but to push a way through the throngs of happy shoppers winding their way through Dunston to the Metrocentre. One whole hour for the first 9 miles - I could have run there just as fast, well, once upon a time, maybe. Fortunately not much on the roads beyond Newcastle so managed to arrive in Thropton, park, change, pay entry, register for race with about 5 minutes to spare. Joining Mike B, Susan & Geof(NFR) and Sally H, I was wearing the last-registered number when we started.
Safety briefing highlighted the potential hazards of wading through the river, running through recently felled forestry, along with scambling up and down crags, and included the words 'what do you expect, it is a fell race you've entered'. Nice steady start along road out of village, down along streamside then a refreshing paddle across River Coquet before another level stretch of field gradually rising to uphill lane, double bend through farm buildings and onto steeper pasture land before entering woods where aforementioned forestry vehicles had churned up the surface.
Mike B had long since disappeared ahead and Susan passed me on the climb. I noticed Sally having to hold herself back to keep Geoff company a little way behind. Not so much of a scramble up the rocks to Simonside as steps have been constructed since I last ran here in 2008 but the descent from the ridge seemed trickier and I left a bit of shin skin on a boulder up there as a memento. Downhill through the heather and then the woods is always the most enjoyable part of this race for me and from time to time I do get to overtake a few other runners too, then the pressure is on to maintain the advantage down the lane and across the open ground back towards the river. A quick glance back saw the red-shirted runner I overtook falling further back, but what was that purple vest coming into sight?
I'm gratified to be able to say I had been ahead of our club captain for 6miles of the 7mile race - but only because Jan and Paul suffered transport problems that gifted the rest of us a 10min head start! Paul flew past and continued to draw out a considerable lead in the last stage of the race through a field of long grass, a short stretch of road and an impressively large finishing funnel. I thought about giving chase but after a few paces filed that idea in the folder marked 'futile'.
Striders were in the (bottled) prizes today with, in no particular order, 1st in age group wins for Susan, Sally (non-alcoholic), Jan, and Mike B.
Next year, 2015, is the 100th anniversary of the Thropton show, a date to remember for anyone planning that far ahead. After serious critical appraisal of the exhibits Mike and I reckon we could clean up in the drop scone, sponge cake, and jam making categories; with a bit more training we could improve our placings in the fellrace and would then be suitably warmed up to do alright in the Cumberland wrestling. We might have to enlist help from Angela for the funniest-shaped vegetable though.
Great Langdale Marathon, Lakes, 20th September
This was an event I have always wanted to do, but for various reasons the timing has never quite worked out. The event website has the following on its front page "And Englishmen (and women) now a'bed will think themselves cursed that they did not run with us on that day - Henry V and Rocket Rod" on a background of the lovely Langdale valley. It was also billed at the UK's toughest road marathon. They know how to sell an event ! Jane Ives had run this a couple of years ago and had also recommended it (see link at the bottom)
It was a fairly low key event, almost all on road - there was a about a mile on a very smooth track. There was a half marathon as well, which was one lap and the marathon was two laps. It was up and down almost all of the way. The one exception was the first mile which lulled you into a false sense of security. It was flat, but then you turned up the very steep climb to Blea Tarn. This was followed by a lovely descent into Little Langdale and a climb out and past the start and finish of the fell race that Danny and Mike were doing. More climbs and descents before we reached Skelworth Bridge and a very steep 25% climb out of there. Then an undulating run back to the start/finish where many people finished.
I wasn't doing too badly at this point, but I realised I hadn't put enough vaseline on my nipples, so I looked around for a first aider, but I couldn't see anybody, so we carried on. It was much quieter on the second lap. The roads were open but the traffic wasn't too bad. We had met a few friends from fetcheveryone at the start and one of them said that the second lap will feel shorter than the first and that this was true even when you have done the race more than once. I was hopeful this was correct, but didn't really believe it. But that is the way it worked out. We ran past the fell race presentations and got to about 18m when I felt I was tiring. I knew I was well within the 5hr 30min cut off and Melanie went on ahead to finish with two laps equal in time which was very impressive.
I bimbled along, walking all the inclines and running everything else. I got to Skelworth Bridge to find they were giving out Galaxy chocolate bars at the checkpoint (checkpoints up to here had been water and haribo). I took half a bar gratefully and as I climbed up that massive hill again, I came up with a novel and not really recommended solution to my sore nipple issue. I melted the chocolate in my mouth and then applied it. It worked !
I finally arrived at the finish where the event was winding down, collected my medal and lovely little shoe momento. I also collected a bottle of wine, all over 60s finishing the marathon got one,a lovely gesture and one which I hope will be copied by all events in future ...
Northern Athletics Men’s Road Relays, Warrington, 20th September
Two things hit me when I turned up for this event, first was how similar it looked to a harrier league event. Over 100 northern running clubs with tents set up on the grass and flying their flags with pride for all to see. Second was what a shame only 4 lone striders were here to experience it as really exceeded all my expectations.
First leg was Rob Everson posting a respectable time for a fast lad of 22:48 and leading the team well. Considering the first leg was won in 18:07, you can see the competition was extremely high. Rob is still fighting off a ongoing cold that's derailed his training massively, so this was a great effort and showed true dedication which bodes well for what is going to be an impressive HL season for rob I'm sure.
Second leg was me 😄 posting a 21:40 which I'm happy with, raced a young lad round the 6k and out kicked him in the end 😄 very enjoyable. Tainted a bit when ex strider Adam pointed out the bloke runs a easy sub 17min parkrun and just coming back from injury. But great banter on the way round and all smiles at the end. Really made my race.
Third leg was Simon Gardner posting 23:38 and gaining another 2 places for the strider team on another impressive leg. Showing great form of late and knocking out PB's for fun. Really gave 100% and posted a last mile split which would have seen him pulling away from me. Great stuff.
Forth and unfortunately our last leg was Matthew crow posting another quick time 23:48 and keeping our team in a respectable overall position. Mathew is another up and coming strider who seems to be getting quicker all the time. Fantastic commitment shown on his leg, that sub 40min 10k will fall in no time I'm sure. Well done.
If we had a full team We would have finished about 70 to 75th in a massively talented field of over 110 teams. A great effort and we can all hold our heads up as a club. I'm sure many local clubs will have taken note of our efforts and was nice seeing others doing well too.
I will Finnish this off with an early call for both Male and Female striders to keep an eye out for this event next year. The club will hopefully help promote this early when we get the dates through. This really is an event suitable for most striders and would be fantastic to get a few teams together next year and show everyone what a talented and friendly club we striders are.
Dale Head, Rosthwaite, 20th September
4.5M 2215' AS
We crossed over the M6 and continued west to Keswick. It was around this point I realised that my Walshes were not sitting on the back seat but were in fact sitting next to the back door back in Durham where I'd cleverly placed them so that I couldn't possibly forget them when we left the house. A quick detour via George Fisher was required, where I said I wanted a pair of Fell Shoes, size 43, and I needed to walk out the door in them in 10 minutes. This was becoming a habit. I tried on a nice pair of yellow La Sportiva Bushidos that felt just fine so I kept them on and made my way to the counter. "That'll be £110 please", she said nicely. My jaw clanged on the counter. This was about twice as much as I've ever paid for a running shoe. But they were a very nice yellow colour and I didn't have any time to spare so I handed over the dosh.
The Borrowdale Show has had several years of bad luck with the weather and this entirely volunteer run event was now financially threatened. Roberta had signed us up for a couple of tickets earlier in the year via the Indiegogo website. This scheme along with some sponsorship appears to have saved the show and this year the weather was looking fantastic. As it turned out we had bags of time and I was standing staring absent mindedly at some carved sticks when the announcement came over the PA: "Would anyone wishing to enter the Fell Race please make their way to the cattle truck."
Ah, fell racing! I'd missed this. It was good to be back! It's not a proper race unless you're filling in an FRA entry form in the back of a cattle truck. I found myself at the front of a queue of 1 and was given my number which was, oh excellent, 1! I've never been number 1 before. No pressure then. I had a look at the race details and noted it was an AS. Roberta noticing the worried frown that passed across my otherwise tranquil features asked, "What does AS mean?". "Er, well basically, short and brutal. Usually.". I paid some closer attention to where the race actually went and noticed that it marched right up to the top of the hill, the hill being Dale Head, then marched right down again. This wasn't looking such a clever idea the week before the Loch Ness marathon.
The race briefing had an unusual twist that I hadn't come across before. To check everyone who had registered was actually starting we all had to shout out our numbers in sequence. No. 26 having registered mere minutes earlier, must've decided not to bother, possibly having noted the lithe mass of sinew that was assembled for the race. I was having serious doubts myself - there were no tourists here. This was a serious bunch.
What's to say about the race itself, apart from it was slate-shatteringly hard. It was hot and I struggled, feeling drained, weak and puzzled, much as I felt in last week's LDMT. I should've been feeling fantastic as I approached the end of my marathon taper but I felt terrible. I stopped for a good drink both ways at the Dalehead Tarn beck (the 'water stop' in the Anniversary Waltz) and with some great encouragement from the marshalls managed to get round.
The weather was so warm that there was no need to fumble for post-race jerseys or shelter. I got a cup of tea and found a quiet patch of grass and we just sat quietly for a while soaking up the atmosphere of the show. It was a brutal little race and I should've treated it with far more respect than I did. I guess if you want to race well in a race that involves running up hills, then you need to train by running up hills rather than along railway lines. Clearly just buying expensive shoes and wearing the number 1 wasn't going to cut the mustard.
Lake District Mountain Trial, Patterdale, 14th September
Classic Trial - around 16 miles and 7000ft climb
I'd been nervous for last year's cancelled event but this year I was in much better spirits. Conditions were good, bordering on the perfect, and I was feeling fit. I reckoned I was fitter than two years ago when I'd successfully got round the LDMT ahead of the cut-offs so I was reasonably confident as I stood at the Start in Patterdale waiting for the three minute countdown. I wonder where we'd be going?
A taped route led 1200m after the start to map collection and all became clear. For starters we'd be heading straight up St Sunday Crag and make our way to the first checkpoint; a sheepfold at the bottom of Fairfield. Up over the top of St Sunday or do some clever contouring around the side? Hmmm, I decided on the more brutal but easier to navigate over the top route. It was hot and hard but an hour later I was skirting the summit of St Sunday and planning my descent. Conditions were clear and I was lucky to spot the checkpoint from a distance so took a direct line to it. 90 minutes in and I was at checkpoint 1, 7 to go. This was harder than I had expected and although still comfortably within the cutoff I'd hoped to be going faster and feeling more comfortable than I was.
Checkpoint 2 was easy navigation. Hole in the Wall, so back over St Sunday and down to Grisedale Beck, where a fellow runner bid me a cheerful good morning and asked me how I was doing. I was pretty sure I recognised this chap.
“It is you, isn't it?”, I asked.
“Oh, yes, it's me.”, Joss replied.
Introductions over, we chatted for a minute, during which time Joss said he was retiring because his knees were giving him trouble. He seemed remarkably upbeat and spoke of seeing his specialist next week to get them fixed. Joss was running with two fantastic sticks that looked hand chiseled and customized – I'll never look at my Lekis in the same way again. He headed off down the valley back to Patterdale and I headed upwards to the Hole in the Wall.
It was a long hard climb up the wall line during which at some point Andy Blackett from DFR passed me and somehow managed to make me agree to make up a 'B' team at the FRA relays, before he pushed on ahead into the distance. Checkpoint Two eventually arrived and I was feeling far more tired than I expected to be, and only half an hour inside the cutoff time. This was beginning to look ominous.
Checkpoint 3 was a fair trek away, somewhere NE of Hart Side. I descended down Red Tarn Beck then crossed over towards Greenside Mine. I was very pleased with my direct route up the beck and across the shoulder of Sheffield Pike to Nick Head, where I picked up a path that contoured all the way round to Brown Hills. My speed was slow but my navigation was fine. I left the path to begin contouring round Brown Hills towards the checkpoint at Coegill Beck. I realised that time was now against me and that if I got to the Checkpoint 3 before being timed-out I'd retire there anyway.
Unfortunately I decided to contour by following my instincts rather than following the compass and it wasn't too long before I found myself in the wrong beck wondering where the checkpoint had hidden itself. I checked my watch. It was academic. I was out of time. I'd drifted too far east and the checkpoint was out of reach. Five hours and 10 miles into my race, and only two checkpoints visited. Time to admit defeat. I retired. It took me another hour and a half to get back to registration to find Andy Blackett sitting comfortably watching the runners finishing.
“Retired?”, he asked, without preamble.
“Yeah, me too”.
For those who don't know him, Andy Blackett is no slouch, so I did feel slightly better to hear this news. He too had contoured round Brown Hills making a similar mistake to me but managed to relocate and push on to Checkpoint 3 where he retired. A look at the (extensive) list of 'rtd's on the results shows that most people who retired did it at this point.
It was a tough event and sadly, it was too tough for me. I suspect it was a harder course than two years ago, but that's neither here nor there. It's advertised as a challenging event and LDMT are entitled to set the bar high, but I doubt I'll be fit or confident enough to tackle the Classic again.
Roseberry Topping Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 10th September
After you lot pounded thirteen miles at the GNR, I thought I'd buck the trend with 2.3k. Scoff not, that short stretch climbs 217m. Picture that angle; can someone do the maths for me?
It's steep! But it's a very tolerant Topping; allows you to walk up/ climb up/ cling on to it's grassy, rocky bits. On summitting, kiss the graffiti obelisk, turn around and throw yourself into mid air, leaping athletically over the heads of still ascending runners. As your feet are now moving far too fast for your brain to consider route choices, many follow blindly and wish they'd practised 50 degree upright stance before. No injuries; oldest competitor, seventy five, in Bingley vest.
Prize giving equally entertaining and challenging; organiser Dave invited anyone not awarded prize to come forward and claim spares. Always results in embarrassing 'scrum'. Third lady, Lucy- DCH/DFR, yes I've named you, dived into the fray clutching her three bottles of wine, emerging with sweets! She did share them! All part of the fun, camaraderie and challenge.
Pieces of 8 10K, Penshaw Monument, 31st August
Mark Brodie ...
So like all races I enter, I never find them myself, in fact my very presence on the start line is almost always a product of peer-pressure and this was no different! A situation I came to regret very quickly (in a sort of pleasantly knackered sort of a way)!
Looking around the car park at the start, there seemed to be a strong field of 'folk in the know' but the sprinkling of 'strider purple' was very reassuring.
I decided to run the 10km route; a very wise decision indeed! The race starts with sharp climb up towards the monument, sweeping round the back to the top and then dropping down. There is a series of steps and an exhilarating down-hill through the paddock to follow. I enjoyed it while it lasted but I knew only too soon would I be crawling back up it!
The route drops down to the river and follows it along towards the A19. Heading along the river you get a brief glimpse of fellow competitors running the half-marathon route on the opposite bank. The pleasant trot is soon interrupted with a sharp right onto the ‘infamous’ steps. As we were told at the briefing, they are steep and they just keep going! A selection of ‘witty’ quotes mark the route up the steps, offering a brief reprieve!
A short flat section breaks up the hills, but worry not the next hill is soon to follow. Reaching the brow of the hill I was greeted with the smiley faces of Mark & Anita, grabbing a cup of water on the move and I was ready for the final slog; I mean hill! A pleasant section along a disused railway and then for the ‘biggie’! It was a slog; but a satisfying one! The reward was for sure, to finish on the monument! Awesome! So how would I describe the race in a nutshell, well the word ‘brutal’ was thrown around a lot at the finish. Over the top you might say; most definitely not! My only advice for anyone thinking about this next year would be to make sure you to get to the start line sharpish; they don’t hang around after the briefing!
... and Anita Dunseith
We often see race reports from runners but hubby and I realised not much is said from the perspective of the marshals without whom the race couldn’t happen so here’s my experience of marshalling the first ever Pieces of Eight Penshaw Monument trail race.
Sunday 31st August 2014 saw the inaugural run in a new urban trail series from Phill Turton and Tim Bateson, part of the Hardmoors family. From what I understand their aim for this series is to promote trail running in the North East and show runners routes (and hills!) they may not have been aware of before.
Mark and I arrived at race HQ nice and early to get our marshal kit of hi-vis vests, route description, jelly babies and LOADS of water. We also received a bottle of wine each (NB this isn’t guaranteed every time you marshal!)
We pulled up to our checkpoint and had a conversation with the local farmer about where to park our car (and ended up moving it to avoid his wrath!) set up our table; filling the cups with water, setting out the jelly babies and Pringles and putting a handful of peanuts in some more of the cups (we always like to bring a few alternative treats because it’s easy to get sick of jelly babies and savoury snacks are always appreciated after supping on gels during a run). The day was really warm and sunny so we sat on our camping chairs and waited for the runners to arrive. They didn’t disappoint and started to arrive steadily, some of the fast runners flying through without even looking at our beautifully laid out table, others stopping for a quick drink and a handful of jelly babies and others for a good long chinwag. Aside from our lovely Striders friends our favourite runner was a guy in a Sunderland Harriers t-shirt who’d ironed his name STEVEN across the front yet was genuinely perplexed as to how we knew his name as we cheered him through!
After Megan and Katherine went through we waited a while for the final runner and tail runner but to no avail. We rang the RD to check they were still running to be told yes but we would have to time her out because it would take her too long to get to the finish and the first aid cover had to leave. We were genuinely gutted to hear this, especially as we were the last checkpoint and it was only a couple of miles to the finish. On a personal note I am often last and have made friends with a number of sweepers and know how devastated I would be to get timed out. I know this has to happen and for all the right reasons but it’s sad when it does. The final runner arrived and I had a quiet word with Jon the sweeper to tell him this to which he responded “no way, I’ll get her in” and off they went.
Mark and I packed up our table, did a sweep of the village to check for rogue plastic cups and headed back to race HQ in time for the prize giving. We were over the moon to hear the final lady did finish, particularly when we heard she’d left Manchester at 4am that morning to run her first ever trail race (cue me crying my eyes out when I heard this!)
For me running is the best thing in the whole world and it’s nice to help out sometimes to give other people the chance to run their race and experience how awesome this sport is. Be nice to your marshals and SMILE because there’s always a good chance we’ve got a camera. Oh, and DON’T DROP YOUR PLASTIC CUPS/BOTTLES!! If for whatever reason you’re unable to run; injured, resting or just having a day off; marshalling really is the next best thing ;-)
Keswick parkrun, Keswick, 6th September
We had booked places for the Lakeland Trails race in Keswick later that day, so it seemed a good idea to try out the Keswick parkrun. Malcolm and Kathryn also had the same idea. We thought there might be lots of runners doing the same thing and there were a few, but not as many as we expected.
The route is very simple, 2.5k up the old railway line and then come back down. The route is definitely not flat, but the ascent is not too bad. You cross the river a couple of times and go under various roads and the scenery is very good.
We got the usual friendly parkrun welcome and there is a lovely cafe in the Museum close by where it was possible to sit outside and relax in the sunshine
Lakeland Trails Keswick Trail Race, Keswick, 6th September
After the Keswick parkrun it was breakfast, a bit of window shopping and on to the trail race. It has been a year since we last did a Lakeland Trails race. Can't think why it has been so long, but it was lovely to be back, I had forgotten what a lovely atmosphere there is at these events. What also had attracted us was that a friend Kev Kendall was performing after the race.
Kathryn was doing the 10k and we were able to see her finish before we started. She seemed to enjoy it. The children's races were on after that, these Lakeland Trails events always have them.
I have been having calf problems recently and they seem to occur when it is hot, there are hills, we are going a long way and when I go a bit too fast. Luckily we weren't going too far, but I wanted to ensure I got round with no issues. So I took it very easy. I couldn't resist going a bit faster when I reached the downhill section of the trail race, but I got away with it. Melanie pushed on from the start and had a fantastic run !
The route goes up the old railway line that we had covered a few hours earlier in the parkrun and then turns into the hills where the ascent is much more serious. We went up the east side of the Glenderterra valley between Lonscale Fell and Blaise Fell, then came down the west side of the valley. The views are outstanding and it was a lovely day. The famous Glenderterra bog was as wet as ever !
A bit of a surprise was to come across Mike Hughes who wasn't in either race who had just come out for a run in the hills. He was coming up the west side of the valley into the race, unaware it was on.
Afterwards Kev played for an hour and we relaxed on the grass with some runners from Fetcheveryone who were there. It was a lovely day and Kev did great.
Vale of York Half Marathon, 7th September
Looking for an alternative on GNR weekend I stumbled across the new Vale of York Half Marathon and the promise of a flat fast course on closed roads appealed so I entered wondering how quick I could run off marathon training. I later found out that the Hardmoors Princess Challenge was the week before and having destroyed my quads on that I figured I might as well finish them off altogether with the Pieces of Eight 10K the following day so didn’t quite manage to get to the start line as fresh as I would have liked.
It was feeling decidedly chilly as everyone lined up on the start line at Sherburn Aero Club but it didn’t stay cool for long and very quickly the temperatures were rising. The first mile was a little congested as everyone jostled for position and tried to settle into a comfortable pace but once we were out of the air field and onto the roads crowding was no longer an issue. Two miles in and any thought of a fast run went out the window as the early splits weren’t encouraging, it was getting hot and the legs were already protesting. Considered DNFing but figured it would make a good long run if nothing else and decided to try and stick as close to marathon pace as possible.
3 miles in and up the only “hill”, a bridge over the railway line, and onto the long straight roads through Bishop Woods. Rather than following the “racing line” the race snaked its way across the road towards the blissful shade, no one was caring about the extra distance, we just wanted some respite from the sun. Out of the woods and we were onto a 3 mile loop before returning the way that we came back to the airfield. Marshalling was great with fantastic support from both the organising club and lots of local cyclists who seemed to appear from nowhere to cheer us on. Water stations every 3 miles meant that you despite the heat you didn’t need to worry about dehydration.
The last few miles started to hurt as the hamstring which still hasn’t recovered from the fateful night at the relays began to tighten but I was having fun trying to chase down a friend from Blackhill Bounders when all of a sudden with a mile to go I realised my shoe lace had come undone. After more races than I care to remember I should really be able to tie them properly, stopping to re-tie it I watched the black and yellow vest drift into the distance. Tried to chase him down again but didn’t quite make it finishing in 1:44, quicker than marathon pace and considering the 37 miles I’d raced the weekend before promising for the rest of the autumn. Phil Owen finished shortly afterwards, again quicker than marathon pace in 1:56.
For the first time of running this was a very well organised race and the goody bag contained a decent T shirt and medal. This is definitely one to look at for those chasing a fast autumn half marathon time or looking for a more scenic alternative to the GNR.
Experiences of a 1st timer
Great North Run, 7th September
My running journey started in Autumn 2013, on the 7th October I completed Week 1, Day 1 of my Couch-5km App, a total of 6 minutes running (split into 1 minute intervals) over a 25 minute workout. I'd decided to follow the program myself and after staggering home the App flashed up on my phone with 'The longest journey begins with a small step taken by a brave person'.
Forward 11 months and I'm very proud to say that, with the help from Striders, I completed my 1st GNR. The excitement started on the very packed Durham-Newcastle train, leaving Durham at 7.44 and whizzing through to Newcastle. We met up close to our green start zone with other members of the club and spent most of the time close to the toilets while we waited for others to queue, then join the back of the queue again, and then queue again aka. the circle of weeing. The nerves were kicking in and we just made it into the pen at 10.20, after Alison sweet-talked the security man into letting us in. The warm up began and then the Elite athletes were off. We shuffled forward 20 metres, then another 20 metres, then another 20 metres until we finally crossed the start line about 11.15. The 1st couple of miles were mainly spent trying not to go too fast as we were quickly overtaken by lots of people, being in awe of the crowds & the support, high 5-ing children and shouting 'oggy oggy oggy' through the tunnels. The 1st band at the roundabout below the Gateshead Highway were playing rock anthems; we both turned to each other and agreed it was the most surreal experience.
Before we knew it we were on the Felling Bypass at about Mile 4. Our pace had dropped a little but Laura and I agreed we were comfortable and happy to keep going and see how we did. By this point it was midday and there was no escape from the sun. Laura was pointing out all the places of interest and mentioned that she was known as Google Maps within Striders...I had no idea where we where but there was no worries about getting lost as the sea of people in front of us were just amazing. The climb up to 5 mile was difficult and lots of people were walking but in comparison to the hills of Durham it was a nice gentle incline. Miles 5-9 passed in a blur and I started to flag on Mile 9 but we positioned ourselves on the left coming up to Mile 10 to take advantage of the Jelly Babies promised to us by some amazing Striders. We spotted the fantastic banner and started waving like mad fools.....the feeling of support was unbelievable at a particularly tough part of the race. I'd heard the John Reid road was a hard part but for me the Prince Edward road seemed like a never-ending hill. Laura kept me going with words of encouragement but I started to wonder if I'd ever make it to the end. We met quite a few Striders en route and helped each other on. The promise of a glimpse of the sea just didn't seem to come and a few tears were shed in feelings of defeat. But...onwards we went and the words from the crowd kept me going. Mile 12 had the best bits......a roundabout with some brilliant tunes, a gaggle of Striders on the right hand side waving and cheering at us and the '1 mile to go' sign. I'd been warned that the final mile felt like forever and it certainly seemed to be at least 5 times that distance. I thought the 20km banner was actually a 20m sign and got a little bit giddy, swiftly followed by slight disappointment that the 800m banner looked so far away. But...as Laura put it....''Find your Inner Strider'' (I looked long and hard and I think I found her) and 800m became 400m. At this point we could hear the announcer say that they were close to their millionth finisher....well if that didn't put a spring in my step...I don't know what would ! A final push meant that we finished about 10 people behind a lovely lady from Darlington called Tracy...who was the millionth runner. Laura and I crossed the finish line to ticker tape and fireworks which was brilliant...but meant we weren't really sure what was going on as everything ground to a halt while they whisked her away. A shout from Jacqui R to ask if I was the millionth runner and a cheesy grin from Alister finished the day off nicely.
So then.....a time of 2:48:07. If I'm honest then I'd have liked a little bit faster but I'm not sure I could have given any more and it's certainly given me a goal for my next half marathon. Advice for any 1st timers and newbies to running......they really do close the pens at 10.20, there are porta-loos in the middle of the central motorway so if you're desperate you can pop out of your pen and pop back in, that last mile seems like forever and if you hear them talking about the being in the red zone for the two-millionth runner, go just that little bit faster.
|1||Mo Farah||Newham & Essex Beagles AC||01:00:00|
|31794||Barrie John Evans||02:37:28|
Durham Three Peaks, 3rd September
2.53M to infinity
I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. It's like being a child again. Like all the best children's games, they have the simplest of rules. The first runner to reach the tops of three local hills and return wins.
As the main horde of runners rushed for the gate, I was feeling rebellious and clambered over the fence. After narrowly missed being run over, I trespassed through Houghall College before reaching a gap in the hedges; seems like everyone had the same idea!
Earlier, I did a recce and had a cunning route in mind. But all that went to pot when I saw Geoff Davies going off-piste up a steep bank, several runners in tow. Like a bull to a rag, I gave chase (Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!). I thought I was being smart by cutting them off, but ended up sloshing around in the mud, wrestling with a pine tree followed by a prickly holly. Eventually, I hacked my way through the undergrowth only to find Geoff barrelling towards me, having already reached the first checkpoint. I charged ahead, only to have an uncomfortably close encounter with Scott Watson in a slap-stick pantomime way.
This set the tone for the rest of the race, with me recklessly making it up as I went along, getting hopelessly disorientated and being afflicted by a minor mishap. I'm sure I would have done a better time if I stuck to my planned route, but I enjoyed getting lost and making friends with the undergrowth. There was something liberating and maybe that's why it was so much fun! Next year, I'll stick to my plan (uh huh).
Thanks very much Paul Evans and all the volunteers for such a fun evening.