A New Beginning?
Harrier League, Aykley Heads, 21st November
Striders' home x/c fixture at Aykley Heads saw an excellent turn out of purple clad runners - 68 in total, with no less than 16 making their debuts, and what a performance they put in! Cheered on by an army of high-viz clad Strider marshals the men's team finished in a magnificent first place in Division 2 while the women maintained their 5th place in their highly competitive Division 1. What a fantastic day!
First up for Striders was Sally Hughes in the junior women's race. Home for the weekend from Loughborough University, where she rubs shoulders with international athletes and coaches on a daily basis, fast packer Sally showed us all how it's done by floating over the mud and finishing in an excellent 24th place. Well done Sally and we'll see you again soon for the North Easterns!
Things were pretty cold on the exposed former police sports ground by the time the senior woman's race got underway. Some of our women had been marshalling for a couple of hours before the race and they must have been nithered! They didn't show it however, and Tamsin, on her debut, was quick to head the Strider charge. By now the course was in a well worn state - to put it mildly! Tight muddy turns and mini quagmires, interspersed with long up-hill stretches and nasty little ups and downs, were what the sadistic course planners had provided! Tamsin maintained her 'lead', was first Strider home & ran straight into the medium pack! There was a battle royal behind her with Mandy, Sarah and Jules fighting it out for the other counting places closely followed in by Penny from the fast pack (fresh from being presented with the Alan Purvis Cross Country Quaich for 2014-15 by the man himself shortly before the race).
But the main drama was being played out by the other 28 Striderettes seven of whom were making their debut on the toughest course in the league. So well done to Rachelle Mason, Victoria Brown, Kath Dodd (returning after a nigh on 30 year gap!), Laura Beacham, Helen Hall, Aileen Scott (wonderful finish) & Karyn Pyle (so relaxed). You all deserve a medal for completing that race – it was genuinely tough providing conditions normally only encountered in regional or national championship races and you were lining up with international athletes. I hope you are proud of yourselves because you should be!
Other performances of note included that by the 'evergreen' Jan Young - first v60 home, Louise Warner - a fine first run from the medium pack and Catherine Elliott showing she's made of stern stuff! A fifth place finish on the day for the team and fifth place for the season so far - a good platform to build on.
By the time the men's race was due to start at 2.15pm things were pretty cold and the course was at its muddiest. Striders men's team was also packed with debutants (9 no less!) and when one politely asked Mudman for 'any tips', years of x/c experience were called upon to offer up the gem of 'start near the front'! Anyway, it worked because the debutant asking for the tip was Michael Mason and he had an absolutely magnificent race finishing in 18th place overall, achieving immediate promotion to the medium pack and being first Strider home - what a start! Not far behind was another Michael (Littlewood) making his debut. Fairly new to running Michael too achieved medium pack qualification with his 39th place - an incredible performance that he should be very proud of. Well done to both of you! Third Strider was yet another debutant - Mark Warner. Mark didn't quite achieve medium pack qualification but it will just be a matter of time before he does. Could these three performances represent a new beginning for Striders men's x/c? Let's hope so.
Other counters included the more experienced heads of Jerry, Chairman Paul and Simon with Neil, Jack, Matt & Stephen (from the fast pack and fastest Strider on the day) not too far behind. Our other six debutants experienced various highs and lows in the mud - Paul Foster lost the soles of his 'well worn' fell shoes, David Browbank's shoes came off altogether and he completed the race barefoot! (how tough is that?!) while Peter Swinburne, Alex Witty, Peter Hart and David Beecham all got round with their shoes on!
There were some brave performances from our old hands throughout the field. Tom continues to return to the form of old while Alan Smith and Phil Todd showed considerable courage and determination to conquer the brutal unforgiving course. Well done to you all and what a team performance - first on the day in Division 2 and now third place for the season so far. The top two teams are promoted to Division 1 at the end of the season. Could it happen to us? It will take a lot of commitment and hard graft but come on Striders! Let's give it a go!
Aykley Heads was very much a 'Striders Production' in association with Derwentside AC (Mark Davinson) and Durham Harriers (Geoff Watson). Scores of Striders acted as course or car park marshals and event organisers. We also had dozens of Strider friends and family supporting on the day. So thanks to you all - in your own way you all contributed to making it a day to remember!
|position||bib||name||cat||pack||race time||actual time|
|1||1888||Kevin Calvert (Morpeth Harriers & AC)||MSen||S||36:59||36:59|
592 finishers.Top of Division 2 with 109 points.
|position||bib||name||cat||pack||race time||actual time|
|1||540||Hazelle Webster-Costella (Jarrow & Hebburn AC)||FSen||S||28:45||28:45|
398 finishers.5th in Division 1 with 99 points.
Under 17 girls and U20 women
|position||bib||name||cat||pack||race time||actual time|
|1||653||Holly Matheson (Heaton Harriers)||FU17||S||24:25||24:25|
Tour of Pendle Fell Race, Barley, Lancs, 14th November
Shortened course - 14m, 2700'
I'd been warned about this one - admittedly by a man so Yorkshire that he got a little bit nauseous at the thought of this year's charity relay straying briefly into Lancashire (it didn't, but was close at times), considers racing in anything other than a vest and very short shorts unseemly and uses Tetley's Tea as mouthwash. He just didn't like the location. More importantly, I'd been warned about it by Scott Watson, who rated it as packing a lot of punch for its relatively short distance in the pantheon of 'long' fell races and warned that very little time would be spent running on a flat surface.
On the approach, if discounting the squalls of rain intermittently lashing down from the overcast sky, and the fact that the top of Pendle Hill was hidden in the clag, things looked fairly benign, with the race leaving the sanctuary of Barley village hall at 1030 along the metalled reservoir road to the base of the first climb. Over 400 of us had set off on what we were told was a course shortened (to spare the marshalls on the tops too much exposure) by 3 miles, missing out two short but steep climbs and one descent, reducing the 17m course to 14m. However, the running was easy enough to work out that if the first mile was on an fairly level road, and so was the last, this meant that all 2700' would be packed into a mere 12 miles, meaning over 200' of climb every mile. Completing that thought occurred at about the same time that things got serious and we turned off the road onto the slopes of Pendle Hill itself for a long leg past the trig point and over to the northern edge. It was wet, unrelenting and at that awkward gradient that is runnable, just, unless you know there's a lot more to come, so most walked or did as I did and ran a bit then walked a bit, repeatedly, until the slope lessened and we could attack the trig and descend towards CP1. There followed an easy leg to CP2, if the fact that the top of Pendle is really good at retaining water and so was abundant in bog and lacking in grip is discounted - and the fact that a sharp drop to a stream then climb up the other side was thrown in unexpectedly (to those who had not looked at the map fully), with a steady downhill through the mist, followed by a sharp drop to Churn Clough reservoir and a relative rest as we ran along the access track by the water to CP3. By this time the race had settled down, with the leaders off ahead and a long column behind, with my usual pattern of dropping a few places on the descents and gaining more on the tops and climbs established.
The leg to CP4 was short but nasty, a steep climb up a sodden hillside covered in bracken and leaf mould making for inefficient motion, then a brief period on the top followed by all of the altitude lost on the descent to Ogden Clough, a descent apparently known as 'Geronimo.' The grass burns on my thighs testify to the fact I abandoned all pride and completed it on by bottom, at speed. From here (CP4) we turned left and followed the stream for a few hundred yards before climbing just as sharply to CP5, only to turn 90' and drop back to Ashendean Clough, the climb out of which was the scene of Tom's darker moments on the recent FRA relays and, on revisiting it, I confirm he wasn't imaginign how long it feels the drag up the greasy, grassy slope felt.
That, however, was largely that - we climbed, we followed a wall through some summer grazing fields, now abandoned and saturated with calf-deep water and then we dropped slowly, then rapidly, to Ogden Clough again, had a relatively easy half mile downhill to the road and then race the last mile for a final couple of places. I finished in 2:16, 30 minutes behind the winner Rob Hope of Pudsey and Bramley, in 82/409 finishers. Emma Bain, John Duff and John Tollitt of NFR were not far behind and during post-race chat Emma confirmed that she's going to rejoin Striders to run XC, so the day was actually rather productive.
Summary - £9 got you 14 miles of quality, largely-runnable fell-running in a course where the imagination has been used well to ensure that you're:
a) never bored
b) never entirely oriented
It also got you a t-shirt, which is always a bonus, and the satisfaction of completing a race rightly regarded as a bit of a winter classic. Is it ever going to be a race we take a coach to or tell new runners is a must-do? No. It's unashamedly niche, but for the fell-runner not quite ready for the Lake District monsters, I'd strongly encourage giving this one a go. For me - I've not yet done the full course, so back next year it is.
Brampton to Carlisle, 15th November
Morpeth Harriers & Ac
Dumfries Running Club
Northallerton parkrun, 7th November
This parkrun has the same vibe as Durham parkrun in the early days. A small, friendly group on runners gathering to run a flat, mainly grassy course around a few football fields. And maybe this is why I have gravitated to this particular event although I now live equidistant to 4 parkruns.
Of course, I had to choose the wettest day this season to run it. We were all soaked before we set off. It was more like running a Harrier League fixture! It was a bizarre, but I found myself in second place right from the start. But I'm no faster than usual, it was just a small field.
I ran this course last month and I promise, it is a very pleasant run in the park. So if you are ever in North Yorkshire, give this a go. Hope to see a few Striders some time.
Guy Fawkes 10, 1st November
Just over an hours drive from Durham lies the quaint little village of Ripley, North Yorkshire. We three striders cladded in purple find ourselves here one foggy Sunday morning. From the allocated field for parking, we make our way to the village hall, today known as Race HQ. It's buzzing with excited club runners topping up on caffeine, stopping off at toilets and pinning numbers to vests.
As we near 10:30, we start to assemble outside Ripley Castle, pushing near to the start line...this race is not chip timed, every second counts! After a quick race briefing, the nominated Guy Fawkes fires the gun and we are off. There is a brief and frenzied downhill dash until the road turns and climbs up and up. I know this is a challenging course, I reckon it's similar to the Tynedale Jelly Tea Race. My race plan, run as hard up the hills as I can, run as fast down the downhills as I can...oh and remember to enjoy the surroundings while coming down. As soon as we start the fog clears, the sky is blue, there's not a cloud to spoil the view...only the hills.
I set off with tired legs, feeling a bit heady from dehydration, the first major climb, the 'Birstwith Brute' takes its toll, but as I reach the crest my legs start to loosen and I actually start to enjoy myself. 5 miles in and the worst is over and the views are beautiful. I remember how I quite enjoy the challenge of hitting a hill as hard as I can, to feel my legs burn and then to enjoy the relief on the glorious downhills.
There are two other big climbs, 'Swincliff Swine' and 'For Fawkes Sake'. A few smaller ones are mixed in for good measure, not big enough to warrant nicknames. I'd caught glimpses of purple along the way but on the final hill I could actually read the words 'Penny' emblazoned on the vest, this really spurred me on in those final miles. I started to overtake quite a few runners. The last mile, mostly downhill, was a crazed race to the finish, picking off as many women as I could until I hit the final climb and up through the gateway to the finish line. I actually managed in this race, a good negative split. I will ignore the fact my mile splits are hilarious and revel in my achievement.
And so me and my fellow purplies, now a bit red and sweaty, meet up to collect water and round the corner to the wondrous sight of our goody bags. Bags, we were told, would be heavily laden with chocolate bars. 15, if we were lucky. We visually weigh them up, trying to guess the best filled. We are like kids with Christmas stockings. Eagerly we open them up, we've earned those 15 chocolate bars. Yet low and behold only 4, 4 measly bars are in our bags. Nevertheless, we have our orange T-shirts to prove we conquered those hills.
Will we be back? £12, easy transfers, 10m, 1000ft climb. Good parking, lots of toilets, pretty surroundings, lovely tea shops, chocolate(only 4 bars and for some only 3), and yet it was a good one, not for the PB chaser, but to feel alive, yes, you bet.
Castles Half Marathon, Bamburgh Castle, 25th October
Another Sunday, another half marathon starting in a castle. Seems to be becoming a habit for me. This one was on the East coast and very beautiful the setting was too starting in Bamburgh Castle and with a very relaxed atmosphere. It is one of the Run Nation series - I’ve only done one of their races before and both this and the previous one were beautiful routes and very friendly but just a touch chaotic.
There was a good splash of purple for the half marathon and a lone purple vest for the marathon which was scheduled to start half an hour before the half. Due to various mishaps with the chip mats the marathon actually started about half an hour late and the half sometime after that. Elaine and I were shivering as we waited but finally we were off. Unlike my last half I had no particular goal for this race and just wanted to enjoy it which is exactly what I did. All on road it’s not a difficult race although there were a few climbs and descents to keep it interesting. I spent a good part of the race running alongside two men and chatted to them for a while – it was all very relaxed.
After winding through the villages the route turned back towards Bamburgh and we were greeted by a fabulous view of the sea and the castle. The final mile or so was an easy descent into the village, running past the pubs and teahouses where there were plenty of people cheering us in. The race finished in a field below the castle and in contrast to my previous half I was able to enjoy crossing the line without the stress of needing to get a specific time. Ironically, despite my different attitude my times were within 10 seconds of each other.
Elaine was just behind me and we were both proud to bring home prizes for the club (second and third lady). We also had time for a visit to a lovely tea-house with great carrot cake. All in all, a lovely morning out and one well worth remembering for the future.
NE Night Championships, Durham City, 24th October
5.0km / 165m (6.7km actual)
I always think it's harder on the fast guys. If you've never done an orienteering competition before it's hard to describe that mind-numbing, crippling-frustration that descends when you're cruising along, in control, then suddenly things aren't where they're meant to be. The clock is ticking, and the control must be nearby. Mustn't it?
For us slower runners it's bad enough - the vocabulary-expanding exasperation knowing that time is bleeding away while we try and work out why the world has everything in the wrong place. That time draining away should be time spent running. And if you're a fast runner, then the damage being done, the distance being lost, is correspondingly greater than that for a slow runner.
So I didn't say much when Tom checked in at the Finish, looking stony faced and, probably not in the mood to be met with a merry quip. I've lost count of the times I've finished an orienteering competition with a severe sense of humour failure, and recognised that this wasn't the time for a jolly jape. Mind you, Tom had showed up on the Start line armed with a head-torch but no glasses. That was never going to end well.
Joan, on the other hand, had a great run, having responded to my pre-race goading and tried a harder course than she'd originally intended, and finishing third in her class.
Most of us were going for the long course, down as being 5km with 165m climb. Striders made up a noticeable chunk of the entrants and I found myself hovering around the Start with Tom, Paul and Geoff nearby. Tom went off first, picked up his map, then paused, publicly, to look perplexed and bewildered. First Mistake. I always advocate grabbing the map, sprinting around the nearest corner, then pausing to ponder the map in private. It's not the best approach, admittedly, as you may have sprinted 180 degrees in the wrong direction, unless of course, you'd watched starters before you to see which direction they headed.
After a suitable gap, Geoff and Paul also disappeared. And then it was my turn. I grabbed my map, looked at the map for the big pointy building with the jaggy bits on top so I could get my bearings, then identified the location of the first control. Right next to the toilets. That's always handy.
I always find Urban orienteering a bit tricky as the navigation tends to be reasonably straightforward, but there are often a lot of controls, and a lot of rapid thinking to be done. You can't really switch off - you need to be concentrating all the time. On the way to Control 1 I was already looking ahead to Control 2 and working out how to get there. And so on.
My control 8 was a couple of hundred metres south of Prebends Bridge and it's where I bumped into Kerry and Sue. They were pretty chirpy given that they seemed to have no idea where they were. I looked at their map to point out their location, but discovered they had gone so far off-piste that they were no longer on their map, so I showed them on mine. They were having none of it. They were so adamant that we were not where I insisted we were, that I even began to doubt myself, despite having just checked in at Control 8.
Sue and Kerry had interpreted the rules in an impressively creative manner. Rather than visit the controls in order, as you're meant to, they had visited them in an order and manner of their choosing. When I pointed out that you had to visit the control in order, they looked at me as if I was mad, insisted that I was joking, insisting so insistently that before long I was unsure myself of whether I was joking. I suggested they get themselves back to Prebends Bridge and review the situation from there. I led them part of the way, being shouted back as I hurtled down the hill, feeling how a pilot boat must feel as it gently leads an uncertain ship in unfamiliar waters out of harbour. Once I was happy they were heading back to Prebends Bridge I dashed off to get back to the business of finding controls on my course.
Back into town and I would see Paul and Geoff occasionally. Paul kept appearing at high speed from increasingly surreal directions and my self-doubt kicked in again. I was pretty sure I was doing ok, and it was the rest of the world that was on the blink, but perhaps they knew something I didn't. I kept finding myself snipping at Paul's heels all the way to the Finish, and knowing that he started a few minutes ahead of me, knew that the result would be close.
I had indeed done OK, and now found myself in the rare, no, exceptional, no ..., unprecedented situation of finding myself ahead of Tom, Geoff and Paul in the results table of a race. Tom had abandoned, Paul was disqualified, and Geoff was 18 minutes behind me (not that I was paying much attention you understand). I needed that warm glow however as everyone bogged off to the pub, and since it was my orienteering club running the event, I hung back in the cold waiting for all the competitors to arrive back on Palace Green so I could go out again and bring in the controls.
British Fell Relay Championships, Pendle Hill, Lancashire, 17th October
A big event well organised and smoothly run by this years' hosts Clayton-le-Moors Harriers. Weather mild and cloudy with a bit of a breeze and good visibility at all elevations, ground conditions probably drier than usual.
LEG 1: Solo leg7K approx with 450m of ascent over mixed terrain: farm tracks, pasture and open moor. Winning time: 30 minutes approx.
LEG 2: Pairs leg15K approx with 630m of ascent over pasture and open moor. Winning time: 75 minutes approx.
Tom Reeves & Paul Evans
LEG 3: Pairs navigation legWinning time: 70 minutes approx
Scott Watson & Nigel Heppell
A windswept Paul and Tom charged up the slope into the changeover area and set us away off up the hill. A few paces later I realised Scott was in trouble; something had popped in his calf muscle. Rapid assessment time - abort or press on?
The sensible thing to do was to call it a day; so we carried on. A horrible sensation of being overtaken by all these other teams as we walked and limped across a couple of fields to the corner of some woods where the navigation maps were handed out. Scott found a way to maintain forward motion and gradually increased speed by putting a big demand on his good leg while using the bad one as a prop.
First checkpoint at the bottom of Boar Clough (evidently pronounced 'cloo' in this part of Lanc's) was easily found, followed by a stiff clamber up a track and then over the broken ground of Barley Moor; funny stuff this, lots of heather mixed with tussocks of grass masking surface rocks and a few leg-deep holes plus a scattering of peat hags and bogs some of which would support your weight, and some that wouldn't. I managed to face-plant in style at one point and my knee came out in sympathy with Scott's leg but we still managed to overtake a few teams, including NFR's ladies.
Checkpoint B in Ogden Clough was manned by a Clayton Harrier who gave us a shout and said he'd seen us on the Howgills a few weeks earlier - I think Jan had spoken to him en-route to The Calf - more open moorland came and went before a very long and steep descent to checkpoint C. Not surprisingly this was followed by a long and steep ascent back up the hillside but we did claw back a few more places. A trundle around the edge of Pendle Moor led to checkpoint D and off we went to find E, somewhere out of sight just over the top of Spence Moor. Somehow our navigation went badly wrong here and it took a while to realise our mistake. In the rush to get back on course we went through some really broken ground and poor Scott took a tumble that really put his bad leg out of action. As this was the furthest point from the finish the only thing to do was to walk back and that is pretty much what we did. Before we reached the end section the leg 4 runners started coming past! Not the best run ever but at least we got round and completed the navigation.
LEG 4: Solo leg8K approx with 400m of ascent over pasture land, open moor and farm track. Winning time: 39:20 minutes approx. Mike Bennett - 1:00:20
Having competed in last years event I was looking forward to this relay. Arriving at 9:30 and being down for the 4th leg meant I had a lot of time for the anxiety to set in, (no matter how many races I compete in the butterflies and anxiety are always there on the start line). This was not helped either as the first teams were finishing before I had started. Eventually I set off and was at last able to concentrate on the race itself with the main objective to not get lost then to get round in one piece. Race info stated the course was marked and marshalled. I am pleased to report this was the case. The sun was out at this point and I was able to take in brief glimpses of the stunning scenery as I picked my way around the course. At this point in the race there were very few runners still out so it became very much an individual race with just the occasional runner ahead to try and catch. With 2 long climbs and 1 steep descent then the final more gentle slope back to the finish it included most elements of a short but testing fell race. The few remaining spectators at the finish included Striders male captain and chairman, I could not be seen to be taking it too easy and tried to push right to the line. All in all great relay that lived up to expectations, hats off to Clayton Harriers for a well organised event.
Elvet Striders - 133/147
... from TomAfter the mass start of leg one leg two was a case of waiting for your leg one runner to arrive and get moving. Myself and Paul watched our watches and listened to Denise Parks announcing runners as they dibbed in at the top of the field before the descent to the change over.
Mike duly arrived looking strong and we were soon on our way. There was a short climb out of the start to warm up then we were soon in pursuit of our first team in front of us. Checkpoint 2 was at the top of a woods on a hillside and I was very quickly gasping (and this was to be a theme) holding Paul back. This was my first competitive fell race in 18 months and boy did I know! The distance for leg 2 was around 15 K and the hardest section was between checkpoint 3 and 7 with several steep climbs and immediate descents. I was doing pretty well on the descents lacking in brain cells and utilising gravity I could switch off and go. Unfortunately on the ups I was lacking in something else ... lung capacity.
I was very pleased to reach checkpoint 7 as the going from this point was very runnable, even the uphill section.
On the final 2k descent I unfortunately disgraced myself by waving to one of the official photographers and was roundly told off by him. I do believe Paul muttered some impolite comments about me but we wont repeat them here!
We made it back to the changeover in a shade over 1hr 35m and had gained probably 12 places or so. This wasn't bad I reckon.
Shaun Lee Johnstone Memorial Multi-Terrain Race, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, 18th October
This was one of those low-key, very friendly but efficiently run races. The start was a farmyard near Boroughbridge. From there, we ran through 10 miles of muddy farm tracks, interspered by bits of boggy grass and the ood patch of tarmac; in short, it was proper cross country terrain!
Every turn had a friendly, cheery marshal, and some of the locals turned out in force too. It only cost £8 to enter, but all finishers got a medal, a banana and 10 tea bags of Yorkshire Tea! What more could one ask for. From Durham, it would take just under an hour to get here.
But perhaps the one thing I will remember was my chat with the race director. The race is named afer his son who died of a brain tumour aged 16. Although 17 years ago, his sadness still showed.
Perkins Great Easter Run, Peterborough, 11th October
This is a race that I would never have entered, were it not for my brother Gerard marrying a lass from Market Deeping, a market town in Lincolnshire - just a few miles away from Peterborough. He was combining the run with a family trip and asked me if I fancied joining him.
I was initially unsure as it was just a few weeks after the Great North Run but I thought it was a good chance to have a catch up so I signed up during the latter part of the summer. I'd initially thought about running with my brother, with the general idea of pacing him to his sub 90 minute goal. However, as the race drew nearer it became apparent that my brother had probably undertrained and I felt in good shape to go for another PB attempt.
The race is very well organised and highly competitive; with three or four elite, professional athletes in the field along with a strong contingent of talented club runners. To put it into context, running 1:20 would have put you in 86th place. My final placing was not that far ahead of where I finished in the Great North Run which had approximately 30 times more entrants.
It's clear to see why the 'sharp end' is stacked - this is a race you enter to run a half marathon PB. Much like the Brass Monkey in York the course is very flat and with good conditions (which we had on the day) and the right training it's a great race for shaving off a few seconds for the Power of 10.
I've been really lucky in 2015, with no injury or illness since January I've really had a sustained spell of quality training under the guidance of Allan Seheult. I always train six days a week, sometimes seven, and occasionally twice a day. On this sunny morning in Peterborough I felt the benefit of every session as I actually felt stronger as the race progressed. This, I also put down to a little bit of race experience - I now make a real conscious effort to make sure my first mile is at goal pace and no faster - I'm not quite as naïve as I was this time last year.
So it was to be a half marathon PB of 1:16:16 and, I think, a 10km PB somewhere in the second half of the race. That was enough to put a smile on my face for the journey back up the A1.
Great Run Local, Gibside, 11th October
As the preparation for Marathons next year begins so the thinking of how to incorporate long runs into family time starts. The chance to take the Jr members of the clan for a day out at Gibside hall and for a few miles to be clocked up running there, followed by a harder end to the run appealed.
Having never done a "great local" run before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but am happy to confirm that they feel very much like the parkrun of 5 years ago, friendly and well organised with the group totalling around 60 or so.
There are two runs - 2 and 5k - with the longer set off a few seconds earlier. The course starts flat but there are a couple of "lung busters" with the terrain being a mix of hard and softish trail. Marshalls are spread around though both I and Elaine Bisson managed to take wrong turns at separate points, fortunately these were soon corrected. The last mile or so is a long drop with a sharp short climb and a flat finish (very fast).
A great course in a terrific setting, definitely worth a visit.
For the record Elaine finished first Woman about ten seconds ahead of me, due to some really strong hill running, however as her wristband hadn’t arrived (a bit like the parkrun barcode, just a touch fancier) she wasn’t registered in the final results.
Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, 10th October
The second cross country fixture of the season saw the day bright, warm and dry. Conditions were firm to soft with little mud, distinctly very un-XC like. Perhaps just as well the Mudpeople were seeking less stable conditions up Kirk Fell in Wasdale.
Twenty Striderettes took to the start line, of which five were making their cross country debut. The scratch race nature of this fixture made for a scrappy start as 320 women jostled for position up the first incline. Elaine Bisson shot off in to the distance to become the first Strider home in 33rd place and first veteran counter. Fifty places back was Fiona Kinghorn-Jones, second Strider and veteran counter over the line, followed not far behind by Fiona Shenton who completed the trio to finish 10th in the Vet's competition - congratulations ladies!
Hot on Fiona S’s heels was Catherine Elliott in a storming run at her second XC race, with Camilla Lauren-Määttä next. Steph Piper had them both in her sights for much of the race but was unable to catch them, finishing as first senior counter. Jan Young, Jenny Search and first-timer Sue Gardham were the next to finish, strung out across the field ahead of Kate MacPherson and Helen Thomas who battled it out to the end, only two seconds adrift of each other.
A tightly-packed bunch of Striders ladies followed in their wake. There were strong performances from debutants Vics Jackson and Karen Metters, who led in a pack of nine Striders ladies within the next 50 places. Vics pipped a rival DCH at the line in a sprint finish, Karen outperformed several competitors along the back straight.
They were followed closely by: Clare Metcalfe as second senior counter; Diane Watson's whose long days training in the hills made for a time 1:32 quicker than last year; first-timer Lucy Herkes' Monday grass training clearly paid dividends to make her the third and final senior counter (well done to you both - 19th in the Senior's competition!); Rebecca Devine's storming sprint finish knocked back ten other competitors to finish two places above Helen Hall who also performed admirably in her XC debut. Jan Ellis and Jenny Cooper rounded up the team, both running well.
Before long, the men were away. The field was huge, well over 400 streamed out along the course where we cheered them on from the top of the big hill. Rob Everson led the team of 18 Striders men and looked strong for the first two laps but unfortunately had to pull out due to a niggling injury. So it was that Simon Gardner became the first Strider home by a wide margin (120th place and first veteran counter). Matthew Archer, Jack Lee (first and second senior counters respectively) and Scott Watson (second vet counter) followed in quick succession after that. Jack in his second XC looking like the terrain suits him well with Simon, Matt and Scott all producing the admirable performances we know and love.
Next to follow was Dave Halligan as the final veteran counter, placing the men's veteran's team 20th overall - excellent! Andrew Rayner as the third senior counter was not far behind, the senior gents finishing 25th in the table - a job very well done indeed. Steve Lindsay and Shaun Roberts put in strong performances as the Striders men began to come in thick and fast. Malcolm Sygrove, in a long-awaited XC debut, heralded the arrival of a close group which included Richard Hockin, determined to the end; Richard Hall Sr; Ari Hodgson who put in a great finish; David Case in a spectacular sprint but was overhauled by a rival from Crook; ultra-man Dave Robson who managed to pull five places clear of Dougie Nisbet in the final lap; Steve Ellis still looking strong and not-last Gareth Cardus, paced in by Richard Hall on a cool-down lap of the field.
Well done to all who ran and many thanks to those who provided much-needed shouts of encouragement and, of course, cake. See you all on the battlefield next month at Aykley Heads.
|1||833||Lewis Timmins (Morpeth Harriers)||MSen||F||30:18|
|1||1113||Emily Stewart (Newcastle University)||FSen||F||21:36|
Howgills Weekend, 3–4th October
Nigel has taken a lovely set of photos from the weekend available via the link below, or click on any of the images to be taken to the gallery.
Great Scottish Run, Glasgow, 4th October
My first official half marathon as a Strider, this was the race I had been training for ... my target race I think the professionals say! It was a cool (but dry) morning - perfect conditions for running. I was a student in Glasgow so love the place and still have many friends there.
The weekend had started with kids' races on the Saturday which were fab. On
Sunday morning I arrived in Glasgow city centre with my sister and best friend
and managed to cheer a few friends on in the 10k before heading to the start
line. It was well organised, the different waves went in different side streets
to accumulate on the road leading to the start line. There weren't enough
portaloos portable toilets
but we managed to get to the start just a few minutes before the gun.
You could see the long uphill stretch of St Vincent street ahead - about a
km or so of hill to get you warmed up! After a busy start, the runners thinned
out and I found it easy to run at my own pace. The crowds were great and there
was a piper at every mile ("Just count down the pipers" I was advised at the
It was an experience to cross the Clyde by running over the main motorway (M8) sliproad with traffic still whizzing by on the main carriageway – although most cars slowed down and beeped their support for the runners! Then onwards through the "South Side" through parks and along roads with plenty of crowds to cheer you on. Finally back over the river and along the riverside to finish on Glasgow Green.
I ran my last unofficial (ahem) 'training run' with a few other people from Newcastle to South Shields a few weeks ago in a time of 2h10. I was hoping to knock about 5 minutes off by not having to weave in and out the crowds so much. It was cooler and flatter and I felt great. As the race went on, I thought I might be able to break the 2 hour mark if I could keep my pace up. I ran this race once as a care-free student in 2002 (my only other half marathon) and got just under 2 hours – could I get a PB 13 years and 2 kids later? Well yes I could! Thanks to the excellent training I have had with Striders and Durham Mums on the Run, I was absolutely over the moon to finish in 1.53.16.
Great Cumbrian Run, 4th October
I don't usually set myself time targets in races - partly because I do a lot of hilly races where you can't predict your pace but also because I always feel I should just do my best and see where that gets me. This race was a bit different. For the past few weeks I'd become somewhat obsessed with getting a sub-90 half marathon time. I spoke to a couple of people about it, all of whom recommended I do Redcar, the well-known PB half marathon in the North East. However as that fell on the same weekend as cross country it wasn't an option for me. I spotted the Great Cumbrian was just a week later and although it's far from flat it sounded like a good race in terms of atmosphere and route. So I signed up.
As race day approached I realised the target I'd set was a touch foolish. Based on previous race results at other distances there was no reason to think I'd be anywhere near sub 90. And that was before I factored in the hills. However the believer in me kept spurring me on and I have to say I trained harder than ever for the two weeks leading up to the big day.
Race day arrived and the conditions were perfect. As Pete Matthews and I headed over from Durham it was foggy but when we got there it was cool, dry and with no wind. For anyone considering doing this race it really is fabulous. You start in the castle and then run out through the city and into the local countryside. I'd been told the worst hills were in the first 4 miles so was delighted to get through these all within my target pace of 6.52 minute miles. I started to think the big sub 90 was going to happen but at 6 miles another hill appeared, a wave of tiredness hit me and I looked down at my watch to see my pace had slipped considerably. Constantly doing maths in my head I worked out what I needed to do and pushed on getting back on target. At 10 miles the same thing happened - a hill appeared and my garmin told me I was losing pace fast. I knew to stay under 90 minutes I was going to have to work hard and I also knew there was one more short sharp hill at 11 miles which many people had mentioned in reviews as being a killer. The last few miles are a bit of a blur now. The 11 mile hill resulted in me actually walking for about 10 seconds while I tried to re-group and tell myself I could get back on track. The last couple of miles are through Bitts Park and whilst I'm sure it's a lovely place to run I spent the entire time looking at my garmin, telling myself I had to do it and wishing the finishing stadium would appear.
Once I finally got onto the track I still didn't know whether I could do it. I'd already been running over 89 minutes and I wasn't sure how much of the track we had to run. I passed a couple of guys as I pushed on and at last saw the finish line and the clock which still started with a 1.29.. One final push and I was through as the man on the loudspeaker announced I was finishing in under 1 ½ hours. The feeling was incredible - total exhaustion and euphoria wrapped into one. Days like this are what running is all about. Pete also finished well with 1.51, a massive improvement on his GNR time. It was a shame not to have more purple vests with us as it is a really lovely race and an easy drive from Durham. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone - although I guess I would as I'll always remember it as one of my best race days ever!
Saltergate Circuit, Stape, North Yorkshire, 3rd October
There is also a long route at this event (24m), but Melanie and I opted for the shorter 16m distance. The event is organised by the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue team and it is for runners and walkers. All proceeds went towards funding the team.
The event started at the small village of Stape. There had been a route description on the web site, but it was vague in places. I spent a bit of time going over it and plotting it out to find when we arrived that the route had changed. Also as it turned out it seemed possible to just go from checkpoint to checkpoint whichever way you fancied.
An added complication was the mist which meant you couldn't see very far in some places and this added an interesting dimension to the navigation. I was lucky to have done parts of the route before on the Hardmoors Goathland marathon, but there some sections I had never covered before.
It started reasonably easily, a flagged section through a forest and a road section before we got onto the moors. Here we made our first error, we followed another three runners down towards the Wheeldale Lodge stepping stones. We had left the main path too early and had to fight our way up the banks of the stream to find the stepping stones. Then across to Simon Howe and heading towards Newtondale, which is well known as the Pickering steam railway line follows the valley. Runners were heading off in all directions at this point, but I think we picked a reasonable line missing out the boggy bits, but there was a little of forcing our way through some heather.
We dropped down to Newtondale successfully and up to Saltergate where the routes split. Many of the runners went on to the 24m route and there were only three other runners ahead of us that we could see (and a quite a few behind, some had got a bit lost). Crossing Levisham Moor the three in front who had previously looked uncertain of the route went off to the east and we opted not to follow them. As it turned out they made a good decision as they finished before us. We made it to the next checkpoint at Levisham Elbow and went across the railway line again at Levisham station. Here we made our next error climbing too high up the hill. We ended up in a cows' barn and had an eight foot gate to scale to get back to the route. After that it was straightforward and we arrived safely back at the finish, but we were surprised to learn that the first runner of the 24m route had finished twenty minutes before us.
I think we shall do this event again now we know what to expect and know the area a bit better. It is a beautiful part of the country to run through. There were lots of well stocked checkpoints and a jacket potato at the end. There was also a certificate and you could buy a badge if you wished.
The Debutants Ball!
Harrier League, Tanfield, 26th September
The grand opening of this season's Harrier League saw Striders field no less than 17 fresh faced debutants out of the 52 Striders who competed - that must be a record! The weather gods smiled on our newbies providing a mild, calm & dry day for them to get to grips with cross country for the first time. The fields around Tanfield were choka with club tents & flags making it look like a medieval battle was about to take place (if you ignored all the cars!) and when the cavalry charge of the 300+ senior women's field set off at 1.15pm that's exactly what it resembled!
Louise and Katy were first to show in the 'fight' hotly pursued by Sarah, Steph, Debs and a host of others. With Penny powering through from the fast pack to finish as fourth counter (behind Louise, Katy (both promoted to the medium pack!) & Sarah) the women's team finished 6th on the day to get the club off to a solid start.
But that was only part of the story; there were some fantastically brave and gutsy performances from all the ten debutants and the other Striderettes behind them. Joan Reeves impressed on her long (very long) awaited debut together with Caitlin Mooney (more confident after running the tough Aykley Heads course on Wednesday), Joanne Parkinson (watched by a proud daughter), Rebecca Devine (nursing a dodgy ankle), Marita Grimwood (tough and determined behind her demure exterior), Jenny Search (striding impressively), Jan Ellis (joining the rest of her family in the mud), Helen Thomas (wearing the purple with pride), Clare Metcalfe (battling with so many experienced runners) & Catherine Elliott (with an impressive finishing position for 'first time out').
Please be aware all debutants that Mudwoman and I are very proud of you and grateful to you for joining us in what can be a tough and, at times, unforgiving arena and for wearing your Strider vests (the colours of the Suffragette movement) with pride! Well done to you all.
Well, after that emotional rollercoaster it was the men's turn to run on what was a fairly dry course, apart from the wide water 'jump', a few 'undulations' rather than mega steep hills (they will come later in the season!) and a thick grassy surface. Dr Paul was first to show, in spite of his flu symptoms, only to be overhauled by a 'canny' Simon and an outstanding Stephen (finishing in 25th place, first Strider home and qualifying for the fast pack - as the kids say: "awesome"!). Other counters included Matt Archer (achieving what we know he can do), Jack Lee (perhaps the most impressive Strider debut of the day & after being given a gruelling workout by young Erin (Jo Richardson's daughter) at Aykley Heads on Wednesday) & the 'ever green' James Garland. A seventh place finish for the team on the day which is solid enough but I know we can improve as the season progresses.
These 'brave boys' were supported by numerous other outstanding performances including Rob (making his fast pack debut and looking as good as ever), Chairman Tom & Shaun the Sheep (both making welcome returns after long layoffs due to 'knee problems') & Alan Smith (returning after being told what we all dread hearing: "you'll never run again") - well done the lot o' ya! And then there were the other six debutants: Adam Bent (going from water polo to a water jump and loving every bit of it), Andrew Rayner (looking like there's plenty more performances to come); Alex Collins (toughing it out all the way round); David Case (enjoying that water jump); Tim Matthews (another triathlete seeing mud as the way to go) and Richard Stollery (finishing ahead of many experienced rivals). Great performances all round and a wonderful reflection on our expanding club that so many newbies want to give x/c a try and see for themselves what all the fuss is about - you are very welcome!
A final word for all the Striders unable to run but happy to come along, watch the races, cheer their club mates, take photos and eat cake! Thanks for coming and I hope you all enjoyed your day. A further final, final word - Mudman and Mudwoman are unable to attend the next fixture (The Sherman Cup, South Shields, 10th October) but we'll leave the tent, flag, race numbers etc in save hands - we're sure you'll be fine although we'll be thinking (and worrying) about you.
|position||bib||name||cat||pack||race time||actual time|
|1||1555||Michael Edwards (Sunderland Harriers)||Msen||S||38:15||38:15|
|position||bib||name||cat||pack||race time||actual time|
|1||1094||Joasia Zakrzewski (Dumfries RC)||guest||S||26:31||26:31|
The Clampoons Adventure
Redcar Half Marathon, 27th September
Today was Helen Hall's very first Half Marathon so we all went down to support her. She was excited but nervous as we drove down to Redcar with we me sitting beside her shovelling pasta down for my breakfast. We set off this morning, all in one car with fog all around us hoping for a "personal most boring", (we'd been told it was quite a boring race.) How wrong were we.
As we arrived at the start where the fog started lifting and the Sun came out, it was also nice to see some other Elvet Striders comrades. We set off at 10am with Me and Helen out in front with Lindsay, Julie, Sue and Kathleen not far behind. You ran though the docks then up the dual-carriageway. At the 3/ 5 mile marker I had a shout out on the radio both times I passed them.
As you went up the Dual-carriage way to the turning point you had the fast runners coming back down on the other side which was nice because the other Elvet Striders comrades gave you a shout out too. As you left the Dual-carriageway back to the docks for the half way point more people had started to line the streets in support. There was even a crowd of residents from a near by Nursing home with their carers waving their flags and cheering us on.
You then ran though the Start /Finish line then onto the sea front. As I ran along the sea front past the arcades I heard George Nicholson shouting my name cheering me on from the side lines Thank you George.
The heat was intense. I stopped at every water station sometimes even pouring it over my head to cool me down, which has now led to chafing that really hurts :(. I hit the wall, as they say, at 11 miles so started to run / walk but another runner close by spurred me on to the finish. Helen Hall crossed the line in at about 2 hours 13 which is awesome for her first Half Marathon. I crossed the Line at about 2 hours 20 which is a 12minute PB from two weeks ago at the Great North Run. Sue, Lindsay, Julie and Kathleen came across the line at about 2 hours 26 all holding hands as they finished.
After we had all finished, collected our medal and T-shirts, we walked back along the sea front to find food but we were stopped in our tracks and asked to talk live on 105 FM Radio about our races. Eventually we found Weatherspoons and sat down for lunch where I had a massive panic because I had lost my purse and had to wait till we got back to Durham before I found it safe in my car.
As I write this report I find out that my Chip has not worked so my PB will not be recorded!!!! Gurrrrrrr so annoyed :( I have sent them an email. Well done to Every Strider who Ran Today Awesome efforts all Round.
Jon AyresHaving had my face-deservedly-ground into the dirt at Langdale a couple of weeks ago, panic training set in. Hard efforts, quick miles and generally bucking up my ideas in order to let me have a crack at what I'd been told was a flat, fast course. A quick word with a few other folks in purple, caffeine ingested, toilets visited and it was time to get to the start. Despite being a fairly small field (800 or so) it took a couple of minutes to cross the timing mats, for some reason I have a thing about trying to start at the back of the field, fine here but not good at X-C.
The miles seemed to pass OK and once the first switchback had been rounded it was good to see lots of purple vests and exchange pleasantries, all those I saw looked to be enjoying the conditions which had turned to warm and sunny after a misty, cloudy start. I'd had a mental timetable of trying to run 6.52 mile pace and was pleasantly surprised to see at 5 miles I was slightly ahead of this and tried to concentrate on form and catching the next vest in front.
Seven miles saw a return to the start point-the course is an out and back in opposite directions and crowds which had been sparse (it's not the most scenic of courses) built up along the seafront.Fortunately there was little wind to hamper progress. This part I did find a bit dull it seemed a long way from seven to ten miles. Final switchback negotiated and it was time to head home,savour the scent of fried food and gasp encouragement at fellow club members coming the other way. A last frenzied look at my Garmin and the run home was all about "giving it some beans" (© Tom Reeves).
All in all a good day at the office. A course with heaps of PB potential (I think a few Striders got one)the only disappointment was the results not initially showing mine and a few other folks time (it's since been fixed, quickly, in my case, not sure about others) but otherwise well organised and worth a crack at.
|position||name||cat||gun time||chip time|
|1||Tadele Mulugeta (Elswick Harriers)||M 17-39||1:10:12||1:10:11|
|8||Justina Heslop (Elswick Harriers)||F 35-39||1:16:20||1:16:19|
|80||Jon Ayres||M 40-44||1:29:29||1:27:30|
|128||Elaine Bisson||F 35-39||1:34:03||1:33:45|
|163||Steve Trout||M 45-49||1:36:16||1:36:09|
|257||Malcolm Sygrove||M 45-49||1:42:32||1:41:50|
|289||Fiona Jones||F 35-39||1:44:21||1:44:03|
|406||Karen Jones||F 45-49||1:50:43||1:49:47|
|440||Helen Williams||F 40-44||1:52:45||1:52:03|
|456||Andrew Davies||M 17-39||1:53:58||1:53:05|
|487||Jess Willow||F 17-34||1:55:42||1:54:45|
|541||Ian Spencer||M 50-54||1:57:53||1:56:58|
|614||Mark Dunseith||M 17-39||2:03:35||2:02:36|
|617||Robin Linton||M 17-39||2:04:07||2:03:14|
|633||Jayne Freeman||F 40-44||2:05:41||2:04:44|
|704||Diane Harold||F 40-44||2:11:42||2:10:12|
|726||Helen Hall||F 45-49||2:13:50||2:12:00|
|739||Lucy Cowton||F 17-34||2:15:19||2:14:23|
|740||Debbie McFarland||F 17-34||2:15:19||2:14:22|
|*741-856||Sophie Dennis||F 17-34||2:20:pb||2:20:pb|
|857||Sue Jennings||F 50-54||2:28:29||2:26:36|
|858||Kathleen Bellamy||F 35-39||2:28:29||2:26:36|
|859||Lindsay Craig||F 45-49||2:28:29||2:26:36|
885 finishers.* chip failed to register
Viking Chase Four Peaks, North York Moors, 20th September
8m / 1800'
Despite it being a GP race only a handful of Striders made it over to Carlton in Cleveland for this friendly and scenic race. A shame as at £8 which goes towards the local mountain rescue team it's a bargain and the weather was perfect for it, clear and calm with a bit of sunshine but not too hot.
I'd been warned it was a race of two halves and it certainly was. For me the first half was a chance to display my strengths and extreme weaknesses as an aspiring fell runner. With four tough climbs and descents I felt strong and confident on the uphills. I was within spitting distance of Paul at the top of the first one and near the front of the pack. However descent 1 and I was overtaken by at least 15 people, including two ladies who were to become my nemeses for the duration of the race. Up the next hill and I overtook most of those who had flown past me on the way down (including the two ladies) but down again and past me they flew again. This happened on each of the four climbs and descents. So I finished the fourth descent rather further back than seemed fair after all of my successful uphill battles (and well behind the two ladies I'd already overtaken 3 times each!).
However the race was not over and as we moved into the second half it was time to go into more of a cross country mindset as we moved from climbing up and tottering down (in my case) to more of an undulating muddy course. This half was not without its climbs but the descents were more within my capability so I dug in and set about finding the ladies. Within a mile or so I could see nemesis 1. She was doing a good pace and it seemed to take forever to catch her but as we reached a slightly steeper hill I knew it was doable and went past her slightly more out of breath than is ideal with 3 miles still to go. However I sensed her dropping back once I was past so ploughed on in search of nemesis 2. I passed several men but it seemed ages before I spotted her black ponytail and she was moving very confidently without any signs of tiring. We ran through some gently undulating bracken (I think) and I just couldn't get closer to her. Eventually with a slight climb I managed to make up some ground and eventually passed her with about ¾ of a mile to go. Unlike her predecessor she, however, put up a fight and I felt her behind me every step of the way. Having been caught on the line at my last race I was determined not to let her get me but it took all I had to hold her off. When we finally crossed the line I was just two seconds ahead of her. We hugged and congratulated each other - there is nothing better than a good battle to the line (especially when you win!). Paul had finished well ahead of me in spite of battling a horrible lurgy and it wasn't long before Mike and Till came in within seconds of each other. Jan looked disappointed as she crossed the line despite a strong time which won her age category. New Strider Lorna Simpkin also completed the race despite being unwell for most of it.
All in all it was a fabulous morning out and although the descents were tricky (for me anyway) this is a lovely introduction to fell racing for anyone thinking of giving it a go. It was well organised, friendly, raises money for a good cause and (most important of all) impossible to get lost.
Hardmoors 60, Guisborough, North Yorkshire, 19–20th September
I have come to love the Cleveland Way. My initial reaction after running along it a few times was that it was designed for walkers, not runners. Lots of steps, some of them very uneven, stone slabs which can be slippery in wet conditions and lots and lots of climbs. However, after now doing many Hardmoors events, the Osmotherley Phoenix and other events there I have changed my mind. The view are gorgeous and the sense of satisfaction you get from running on the Trail is hard to beat. The trail goes from Helmsley to Saltburn on the coast and then goes follows the coast to Filey.
I had run the first half from Helmsley to Guisborough, the Hardmoors 55, in 2010 in pretty awful conditions. I had always wanted to do the second half from Guisborough to Filey and when the organiser, Jon Steele, put on the Hardmoors 60 I was very tempted to enter. However, I wasn't confident of hitting the cut offs. This year the cut offs were extended and I thought I might make them. However, there was a nagging little voice inside me saying that maybe at sixty four years old I should have attempted it when I was younger. This was of course absolute rubbish and I wasn't the oldest runner there.
Preparation included the 53m Crosses, which didn't go particularly well and lots of climbs up Wainwright hills in August. I think both helped, particularly the hill walking.
The plan was that Melanie would support as her support made the Crosses so much easier, but a day before the event she came down with a bad cold. So I used drop bags and Denise Benvin, who was marshalling, offered to take a change of clothes to Ravenscar for me. That worked very well as the temperature changed dramatically after Ravenscar as the day changed from very hot to very cold.
Kath Dodd and I had agreed to run together. We and three Striders had run together at the Hardmoors Princess 31m two weeks ago and we had also spent some time running with Sara at that event. So Kath, Sara and I ran together in this event and it worked out very well. Sara had not run further than 36m and she did fantastically well finishing this event. Sue Jennings was the third Strider who ran the event, but she withdrew at Ravenscar having got there within the cut off time.
The event was 62m in total and is over 10,000 feet of ascent. I had set up the followmee tracker app on my phone which seemed to have little effect on my phone battery when the update rate was set to 15 minutes. However, at some point during the race I managed to switch on my flashlight. How I did this I don't know and it has happened before. The result was that my phone died in Whitby, which was a shame as Melanie was using the tracker to see where I was. Luckily Flip and one or two others were able to post updates on Facebook and send texts.
Stage 1 Guisborough to Runswick Bay
I felt I knew this pretty well. We started slowly and after the first stile I was last for a short while. The climb up to High Cliff Nab was muddier than I expected, but better than on the Hardmoors Roseberry Topping marathon last December. The view down on Guisborough was beautiful.
Some of this section I had covered several times, but there were sections I had only covered once. I was also unfamiliar with the location of the Saltburn checkpoint. However, the race description helped us to find this easily. I was also a little unsure of one part of the Skinningrove diversion. However, Flip and Anna and the two organisers were there to make sure we took the right turn.
Skinningrove to Boulby I had done once before. There was many more hills than I remembered. At the top of them was my daughter and her husband with some very welcome supplies. It had developed into a hot day with little wind and we were drinking lots and lots of water.
Boulby to Runswick Bay goes through the attractive village of Staithes. It looked lovely in the beautiful weather. The next section was also one I had only done once a few years ago. Again there were more hills than I remembered. It was very hot and although it looked like we were going to get through our informal cut offs that I had calculated for lots of places, we didn't have a lot to spare and I was finding the heat and hills very hard going. It did cross my mind to pull out at Runswick Bay, but we had about 30 minutes to spare at that point so I decided to just see how it went. Looking back I think I was just going through a bad patch which is just inevitable in a long event. There were others who were wilting in the heat and eleven runners withdrew at this checkpoint. In total there were 163 finishers and 32 runners who withdrew.
Stage 2 Runswick Bay to Ravenscar
I thought this would be by far the toughest section especially the very familiar Whitby to Ravenscar section.
Runswick Bay was as lovely as ever and the climb out wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. I was rusty with the route to Sandsend, but it wasn't too bad. We were taking it pretty easy, walking all the ascents and gently running the rest. We went through Sandsend and saw the young boy who was rescued from the sea by one of the runners being attended to by the rescue services. The runner carried on and completed the event ! We made it to Whitby where I came across Angela and John who were having a weekend away. At this point my phone was losing charge because of the flashlight, so I had a conversation with Melanie to explain before the charge slipped away. At the top of the steps to the Abbey in Whitby, Kath and I had an ice cream, which was a welcome break on a hot day.
We kept on seeing the lovely Quaker running club support team who were supporting their runners who were just behind us for most of the way. Sara's partner Oliver and son Robin (eighteen months !) also popped up in lots of places and Flip also seemed to be everywhere. It is hard to explain what a difference this makes, but it certainly encourages me.
The Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay took us an hour and fifty minutes, about ten minutes faster than I expected. Flip was in charge of the checkpoint. The next section is only about four miles, but I have never done it in less than an hour. There are lots of climbs and descents. The descents aren't ones you can run down with carefree abandon and expect to live. They are steep, large steps and there are some rock steps which can be uneven and irregular.
We went into Ravenscar more tired than we had been two weeks ago when we finished the Princess Challenge. The heat and the extra ten miles had taken their toll. We spent 35 minutes at Ravenscar. I changed everything apart from running shoes - Scott Kinabalu Supertrack - I still think these suit me very well. I also had rice pudding and coffee and consumed some of my food from the drop bag.
Stage 3 Ravenscar to Filey
I had expected this to be much easier than the other two sections. In reality, I found it as hard as the two other sections.
We came out of the Ravenscar checkpoint and it was very dark and although I was now wearing a long sleeved top, I realised that I was cold and shivering. I put on fleece top and that stayed on until the finish. It is amazing what a change of clothes and food can do, we ran well on the way to Hayburn Wyke, again familiar territory from the event two weeks ago. I had hoped that Hayburn to Scalby Mills at the north end of Scarborough would be straightforward. It wasn't, it was much longer and more up and down than I had expected. I also made a minor navigational error, but that probably only cost us 3 minutes. Scarborough never seemed to arrive. We were walking more than running. When we arrived at the north end of Scarborough we were in danger of not making the cut off at the south end which was three miles of flat concrete away. We missed it by about four minutes but the marshalls seemed happy to let us continue. More coffee and flapjack were consumed.
We set off again and we walked almost all of the next section to the finish at Filey. I was a bit rusty on the Cayton Bay to Filey section but I had saved my Garmin (my battery only lasts seven hour now) for Stage 3 and I had the route on there and this helped enormously otherwise we might have been tempted to follow the group ahead who made two errors and seemed very uncertain of which way to go. We ended up finishing with them although they had run much more of this section than we had. It was lovely to see Flip waiting for us at 2.00 am on Filey Brigg signalling us with his torch :-)
Would I do it again ? When I was doing it, I didn't think so, it was too tough to be enjoyable and the roller coaster of emotions you get on such events I find hard to cope with. But now, a few days after I have finished, I find myself thinking it was very scenic, the organisation was first class and the marshalls were just fantastic. I am wondering what I will think in a few days ! We were 22 minutes late into the finish, but nobody seemed to mind and there were others who came in soon after. This was the longest time I have ever spent on my feet in an event - 18 hours and 22 minutes.
Thanks to Flip for the lift back to my car in Guisborough where I slept for a few hours :-)
Birmingham Canal Canter, 19th September
26 or 18 miles
With the Hardmoors 60 taking place on the 19th September I needed to do something that would take my mind off it having decided to give it a miss this year. So going completely opposite to hills I went for the Birmingham Canal Canter, a 26 or 18 mile jaunt around the city's canal network. I was running with Gary Thwaites of Sedgefield Harriers so picked him up on the way down.
Arriving in Birmingham on Friday evening at our accommodation at Ackers Adventure Centre which was included in the total cost of this race (£25) we were plied with pizza and coffee. There was even wine on offer but managed to decline it.
The next morning we awoke to the smell of bacon, mushroom and tomato sandwiches being rustled up for everyone taking part. This was beginning to become an eating challenge too. After breakfast and registration we made our way to the start over the Grand Union Canal armed with a very comprehensive route guide. The sun was shining as we set off at 9:30am (walkers set off at 8:30am).
The first 7miles were tricky to navigate but there were handy little course markers at key turning points to reassure of the direction. The route wound its way along the River Cole, before we finally dropping back on to the canal heading to the first checkpoint which had toast and tea on offer. A fine checkpoint.
Leaving here the next checkpoint appeared after 13miles with more food on offer. The next section took us through the Gas Basin in the centre of Birmingham. It was great to see all the narrowboats lined up along the canal. From here we looped out towards Winson Green Prison where there was a checkpoint (17miles) which was stocked with some fine cakes. The carrot and ginger cake was magnificent. (Did the inmates make it?)
Back into the centre of Birmingham we followed the lock system through the city and out towards Spaghetti Junction. The canal network gives a glimpse of England's industrial heritage most of which is derelict now and a real shame to see. By 20miles I was starting to flag a little and the many, many little hump bridges were really starting to become a pain. Running beneath the brutal Spaghetti Junction has to one of the highlights of this race, oddly.
Pushing on we finally reached the last checkpoint with 2miles left to run. Before long the finish was in sight and awaiting us was any amount of hot and cold drinks and a delicious baked potato with cheese and beans. It was also a bonus to get a nice hot shower at the end before tackling the long drive home.
This was a fine, well organised race taking in some amazing sights around England's second city. At £25 for all food, accommodation and race entry (even cheaper if you're an LDWA member) I can't recommend this race highly enough and felt I should be giving them some more cash.
Simonside Fell Race, Thropton Show, 19th September
6.4M 1200' Cat BM
See the small white bar-shape in a distant field near the centre of photo 1? - that's the marquee at the start and finish.
To get to this viewpoint you go up here - see photo 2.
and then you descend this - see photo 3.
You also run across some fields and through a river before being entertained by wrestling children, barking dogs, giant leeks and all the fun of this traditional show.
Results are interestingly presented, nobody gets a time, just a placing:
1st Man - Nick Swinburn, NFR 1st woman - Karen Robertson, NFR, position 24th
1st Associate strider - Susan Davis, NFR, 76th
1st Strider - Steph Piper, 86th
2nd Associate strider - Geoff Davis, NFR, 87th
2nd Strider and 3rd Associate strider - Nigel & Esme Heppell, 102nd