Commondale Beacon Fell Race, North York Moors, 16th November
When we got the Commondale, I felt a warm glow as we registered in the Cleveland Inn. There's something about the atmosphere at these fell races which is so comfortable, informal and yet exciting. As we got ready the weather miraculously lifted giving us lovely views of the countryside and with no wind it became pretty much perfect running conditions. After catching up with Phil and a few others, Dave's race briefing was given, "It's muddy and don't get lost" and we were off.
Having been promised heavy mud I've got to admit I was a touch disappointed: yes, it was muddy but I had been looking forward to completely losing my feet in the bog and in reality there were only a couple of occasions when there was any danger of that happening.
The race is around 8 miles in length, undulating through the moors. Highlights for me were completely mistiming a stream crossing, which resulted in a very wet left foot and leg, and managing to attack the downhills with more courage than I'd managed previously. I was still doing my usual - overtaking on the uphills and getting overtaken on the downhills - but at least I was running rather than crawling and even got the sense of flying that Danny had described so well in his recent article.
The 8 miles seemed to be over in a flash - although a couple of the hills were tough, none of them were long and before long we were back on tarmac which I realised meant we must be close to the finish. Someone shouted "well done, you're third lady" as the pub came back into sight which gave me a massive boost, and so, after a final push, I was done.
After chatting to a couple of the guys I'd been to and fro-ing with for the last few miles it wasn't long before Camilla arrived, closely followed by Phil, Anita and Jan. We all retreated to the pub where we enjoyed a mix of hot drinks and Guinness and almost all of us were rewarded with bottles of wine (sorry Phil!). Again I was struck by the warm and friendly atmosphere and we all went home with smiles on our faces. I think it's safe to say I've got the fell running bug now - but where next?
Leeds Abbey Dash 10K, Leeds, W.Yorks, 16th November
Just after the Darlington 10K I was approached by Allan Seheult asking if I would be interested in following a 10K training plan. I immediately said yes but deep down I was worried about if I could physically and mentally follow a tough training plan.
I think it's fair to say I have had a very up and down year so far; I had a great run with Graeme Walton at Coniston 14 in March but since that point I had been having chronic problems with my left calf and achilles which culminated in a terrible run at the Pit Stop 10K in June at which I should have achieved a PB but missed out and totally trashed my achilles. I really thought at the time that was probably it and I would never improve my 10K time.
Thankfully with the help of Trevor and Neil at Platinum I scraped a new 10K PB at Tees Pride of 38:24. While I was pleased with the time it felt hideously painful and the thought of going for my ultimate target of under 38min was very intimidating but as they say "Rome wasn't built in a day" and 10 weeks of hard training was about to start.
It's weird how the training works, you go for several weeks not feeling much quicker but gradually it starts to kick in. I had managed to chip away at my parkrun PB then managing my fastest ever 5K and had also beaten my target for Leeds at the Town Moor 10K. So armed with a new 10K PB of 37:14 I was ready for the Abbey Dash. I had a discussion with Allan and he suggested that I should go for a 36 minute 10K. The thought of a PB in the 36 minute area was kind of scary - could I do sub-6 minute miling for 6.2 miles? - and God only knows how much it would hurt!
The Abbey Dash is well known as a very fast 10K. It attracts some of the fastest 10K runners in the country so my thinking was that I would get pulled along with everyone else. It's basically a flat out and back and as quick as you will find. As it was a 9:30 am start I travelled down on the Saturday so I could get to the start rested and ready to go.
Even though it starts on the road you actually congregate in a square which is set up according to the time you originally gave; they then walk each pen down in order, to the start line. It's a basic system, but one the likes of the Blaydon race could and should learn from. The start was very swift even though I set off bang on 6-minute miling I had loads of people flying past but that never bothers me as I know I have to run my own race.
Approaching the turnaround point at half way I knew I was quicker than Town Moor but I was finding the very slight climb at that stage very difficult. After the turnaround I did start to have some negative thoughts and did wonder if I should ease off as it felt very hard. Thankfully at this stage I got a shout out from Debbie McFarland and it was just the boost I needed. I said to myself that it might be my only chance of hitting my target so just run as hard as possible.
I had a quick chat with Jason Allison from Crook AC before the run who showed me the only the only real climb which was just before the finish: it's very short and not that steep really but on desperately tired legs it felt horrendous. However, just over the brow of the hill I could see the finish and the clock was still in the 36 minute mark and I knew at that point I had done it.
I'm thrilled at a new PB of 36:36 for 10K, averaging 5:54 per mile. I might never get close again but 10+ weeks of hard work and sacrifice have been worth it. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Allan for his support - I couldn't have done it without him.
I know this race generally clashes with Brampton to Carlisle but I would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a fast 10K run.
Tour of Pendle Fell Race, Barley, Lancs, 15th November
Apologies for having my ugly mug all over this report but perhaps not unsurprisingly I was the only Strider at this excellent fell race in deepest, darkest Lancashire. This is actually one of the few races that I've taken the trouble to pre-enter and was part of a gradual process of re-introducing myself to the demands of fell-racing being the first AL event I had done for many years. Pivotal in my decision to pre-enter was the £7.00 fee which was less than half the EOD fee (£15.00) making, as far as I could see, the highly desirable t-shirt free!
On the day the main feature of the weather throughout northern England was FOG and sure enough, thick, persistent mist covered much of the event area throughout the race although the HQ in Barley itself was clear. Conditions underfoot were very boggy and the ground had been well saturated. Consequently many tracks were quickly turned into black, peaty mud slides after they'd been worked on by the feet of several hundred runners.
The event area is quite isolated and compact and the tour follows a figure-of-eight course to achieve its 27 gruelling kilometres with a punishing and unrelenting amount of climbing. The longer the race goes on the tougher the climbs get and the last three come in quick succession with the toughest being the very last. The intervening descents are long and extremely steep, for the most part on tussocky grass and rugged, muddy tracks that offer unnervingly little grip in wet conditions.
The first mile however, alongside the reservoir, is deceptively flat until the race turns onto the moor and encounters the first of the six climbs. From being quite a way towards the back I was able to consistently pass people as we made our way remorselessly upwards. After what seemed like an eternity we passed the mist-shrouded beacon on 'Big End' (with no other indicator of the considerable altitude) and headed downhill to the first of the eleven checkpoints we would visit that day.
Brampton to Carlisle, 16th November
So I guess I should put this into context and hopefully add some colour to what was another great day on the beautiful tarmac for the Striders. Almost 2 months ago I injured my achilles quite badly and have struggled ever since then. The run/walk half at Haltwhistle finally shot it to bits in September where I came 2nd from last and had to walk over the line.
Even after this it took me another 3 weeks of failed self-taught rehab before I finally admitted defeat and went to see a physio like I should have done from the start - some big lessons learned.
Race day was almost perfect for running: fresh, dry and guaranteed to be mud free for my fellow PB hunters. Striders always put on a bus for this race which I highly recommend to everyone thinking about this next year. It's a great chance to catch up with fellow striders and a well earned pit-stop for Sunday lunch on the way home (they do a great chocolate cake).
After only managing 2 training runs and having to tape up my achilles for the race, I was trying to be realistic with my goals. So a slow start, then build to 5 miles and if my achilles is OK, push hard to hopefully be home in around 65 mins. That was the plan but as I always expected, it went out of the window as soon as the race began.
I started near to my fellow speedy striders, Grahame, Matt and Stephen then my natural racing instinct got the better of me. After clocking a suicidal first mile at a 5K PB pace I finally caught up with the marathon king, Stephen (the start is downhill so you have to take advantage, but we both suffered from this super speedy start).
I reigned myself back in and started to clock 6 minute mile pace. Still faster than I planned and I knew I was not in shape to hold it but no way was I pulling back from a race. Half-way came in about 29:30 and my achilles still felt good but my lack of fitness was really showing on the undulating course as my pace started slowing towards the end.
As I slowed and people passed I kept expecting to see a purple strider top and was mentally getting ready to dig in and race hard. Thankfully the last mile is all downhill but I had no real idea of my race time until I heard Alister's booming voice saying that sub-60 was still on as I neared the finish. A last mad sprint and and I was home - in 59:58! First strider home and still able to walk! I was very happy to say the least and only 45 seconds slower than last year - a total shock!
Stephen was 2nd strider home in 60:36 and looking a dead cert to break sub-60 next time after another massively impressive run. PB's were had by multiple striders so a big well done to all. Congratulations to Fiona Jones as first female strider home with an impressive sub 1:15. A special mention also for Sophie Dennis who had a horrible fall in the first mile but continued for another nine to finish. Two bloody knees but she was still smiling as she crossed the finish line showing true strider grit and a credit to the club.
There was no t-shirt or memento but there were two pairs of running socks in the goody bag, so I can't complain. As always, it was a well organised event, not all the roads were closed off but that really didn't make a difference. Another great day and one I will definitely be looking forward to again next year.
|1||Tadele Geremew||Elswick Harriers||1||49:48|
|56||Alex Sneddon||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||L||1||59:42|
|637||Anita Dunseith||L 2||205||1:48:52|
|638||Sophie Dennis||L 2||206||1:49:43|
Town Moor 10K, 9th November
Having missed the Darlington 10K due to family commitments I wanted another 10K before the end of the year. The Heaton Memorial 10K was on my radar and happened on a “free weekend”. It is also now part of the striders grand prix and a race I had last run in 2005. Definitely one to do.
As it was remembrance Sunday the road through Low fell was diverted by the cenotaph, leading to a slow diversion around Gateshead. However the day was fine, the roads thereafter clear and the organisation in registration at RGS went smoothly, allowing me to arrive at the start in ample time, but unfortunately not in time for the purple team photo.
We were given our instructions – basically - follow the bicycle for 10K and if you can’t see the bicycle follow the train of runners and don’t wear headphones. We respected 1 minute of silence at 11.00 and then we were off. Chip timing takes some of the rush out of the start but there seemed to be some very keen runners off like whippets and disappearing rapidly around the town moor. I took it a bit more sedately but was trying hard. The course is not flat but far from hilly, over two laps with a section where you double back on yourself and can see who is either a bit in front of you or who is on your tail. On the first lap I was able to cheer on Rob, Simon and Matthew (in front of me) and see Katy behind (I missed Graeme) and on the second lap, Katy and Graeme. With them behind me there was no letting up.
The weather was perfect for a good time – sunny and dry, but not too hot and barely any wind. I reached 5K in a time similar to my recent Durham park runs (so that was good) and held on for a just negative split second 5K to record a PB 10K on the Run Britain rankings and my best 10K time since before I got my Garmin in 2008 (which was even better). The fact that the last ¼ mile (400 meters for modern folk) is slightly down hill probably helped, along with being chased by Caroline from Crook (ex Run Director of the Shildon Park Run)- with whom I had had a close race in the Darlington 10K last year, and the thought of the Waltons not far behind! Thanks for the purple support at the end, and as usual striders were pretty vocal as our runners came into the finish. From the results it appears many had good runs with a number of both PB’s and SB’s on the Run Britain results. Simon I think taking the best part of a minute of his time – great performances all around.
The town moor has been having its fair share of running recently – we were able to see some of the marathon marking on the pavement and the “mo” run over the same 10K course was later the same day.
|1||Tadele Geremew||Elswick Harriers||Sen Male||30:55|
|36||Rob Everson||Sen Male||36:27|
|43||Simon Gardner||(M) V40||37:14|
|76||Matthew Archer||Sen Male||39:13|
|139||Conrad White||(M) V55||41:42|
|178||Katy Walton||Sen Female||42:54|
|180||Graeme Walton||(M) V40||42:50|
|267||Brian Ford||(M) V45||45:58|
|271||Sarah Davies||(F) V45||46:04|
|292||Anna Seeley||Sen Female||46:52|
|314||Nicola Whyte||Sen Female||47:48|
|316||Eric Green||(M) V45||47:51|
|438||George Nicholson||(M) V65||55:01|
|440||Denise Mason||Sen Female||55:08|
|470||Karen Anne Chalkley||(F) V50||56:49|
|484||Denise Benvin||(F) V45||57:09|
|492||Gillian Green||(F) V45||57:48|
|515||Debbie Mcfarland||Sen Male||59:44|
|544||Sophie Dennis||Sen Female||1:03:21|
|556||Helen Allen||(F) V40||1:06:25|
|562||Kerry Lister||(F) V40||1:07:48|
|570||Lindsay Craig||(F) V45||1:11:01|
|571||Kate Talbot||Sen Female||1:11:37|
Hardmoors Goathland Trail Marathon, North Yorkshire, 8th November
This was the one Hardmoors trail marathon that Melanie and I missed last year and having heard lots of good reports about the scenery, we were looking forward to it. However, the weather forecast looked a bit grim. Light rain from 11.00 and then heavy rain from 12.00 for the rest of the day. With a start time of 09.00, we needed to be ready for some heavy weather. We had already been warned that that the ground was wet and boggy in places.
The start is a lovely downhill stretch to a river which you follow (and clamber rather than run) passing a spectacular waterfall - Mallyan Spout. Then it is up on to the moors where the trails were muddy, but not too bad. After a while we ran into forest and ran close the the tracks of the steam railway from Pickering. We crossed the line and then climbed back up again and at that point (about 11m) the rain arrived. It was out with the waterproofs and hoods up as the rain started to come down more heavily.
We really felt for the marshalls who were out in those conditions. We continued on to the Hole of Horcum and then skirted past RAF Fylingdales with its strange shaped buildings. From here we were on hard packed forest road for a while, but then we veered off on the Lyke Wake path. This section was completely flooded, boggy, muddy and streams were much wider and difficult to cross. After the first mile of the race we had given up any hope of keeping our feet dry, but here there was no choice but to run down paths which were streams. Finally, having crossed the railway again and climbed out of the valley, we turned for Goathland and warmth. Phil Owen was waiting for us half way up the final descent having stood out in the pouring rain for half an hour and is was great to see him and realise we were almost back. The village hall which was the race HQ was a very welcome sight. Phil ran back with us and then veered off to a coffee shop to get us life saving cappuccinos.
It wasn't quite our slowest marathon - see the Keswick Mountain Festival marathon earlier this year, but it was pretty close. I cannot recall having such tough underfoot conditions before. But in spite of that and the weather, it is an event we enjoyed and may well do again.
MoRun 5K, Town Moor, Newcastle, 9th November
One 10k race on a sunny Sunday wasn't enough for Helen Allen, Vicki McLean, Laura Jackson and me so, after the Heaton Harriers Memorial 10K, we signed up for the Newcastle 5k MoRun while Denise 'the Machine' Benvin joined Kirsty 'looks like her dad' Steed in the 10k.
The race is run in support of 'Movember' to raise money and awareness for Prostate Cancer so, yeah, it was expensive compared to the Heaton Harriers race in the morning but you get an awesome moustache medal, and I'm fairly sure our 'running outfits' may well have been frowned upon on by those in the more serious earlier run. Fancy dress and moustaches were optional but when my number came through as 118 then my fate was decided!
We lined up with hundreds of other people, young, old, dressed up, moustachioed, bare faced - all were welcome - then we were off! With many moans and groans we started on our 3rd lap of the Town Moor, then our legs finally loosened up and we began enjoying our MoRun. It wasn't fast, it wasn't particularly comfortable but, hey, it's not every Sunday you get to be a Mo Sista!
Local Level D orienteering event, Jesmond Dene, 9th November
Orange Course (3.3km 105m 13 controls)
My diary was looking worryingly empty for the weekend – no cross country competitions or fell races. Inspired by my recent orienteering experience as a vampire with a blank map (courtesy of the Northern Navigators’ Halloween Club Night) I decided to try out a NATO event. I had previously thought that these events had something to do with defence and camouflage clothing, but it turned out to just be an event arranged by Newcastle and Tyneside Orienteers. There had been a Saturday night event the day before, no doubt populated by vampires and ghosts, so this time I chose a civilised Sunday morning event.
Unlike pure bred runners, orienteers are a relaxed breed happy to start their treks at flexible points of time, which at this event was anytime between 10 and 12 a.m. I did not read the instructions for how to get to the start very thoroughly, so drove around in circles near Jesmond for a while. There were people of various ages running around with maps but I had no idea where they had appeared from. I asked one of them and he didn’t seem to have a clue either, but eventually I did find the car park.
When it came to what to do during the event itself I had done my homework (the NATO website has a collection of FAQs that are really useful for newbies). The courses at Jesmond Dene ranged from 2.1 km (yellow) to 6 km (blue), so weren’t exactly taxing in terms of distance. However, the longer courses are more difficult to navigate so I decided to just do an orange course (3.3 km).
Like the Esk Valley fell races, there was a man in a van taking registrations in an equally cheerful manner, which made me feel at home. I also borrowed an electronic dibber which was to be used at the start, controls and finish so that I later could check my split times for each distance. At this point Dougie (Strider, experienced navigator and race report editor) also kindly assisted me so that I didn’t get lost on the way from the registration to the start box. Kate and Nigel from Northern Navigators had also arrived with their children including Maya (W10) who despite her young age and big smile is a fearsome competitor to have in the same race (she was also doing the same orange course as me).
As a runner, it felt rather strange to stand on my own in the start box with nobody else at the starting line. I was told to just get started when I was ready and then dib my card and pick up an orange map. Off I went picking up the map which had a scale of 1:7,500 (meaning that each cm on the map was equal to 75 m so it was rather detailed compared to an OS map). The start was where the triangle was – I knew that much. Control 1 was at a spring which seemed to be just after a path junction – but in what direction? And was there a building in the car park behind me that I hadn’t noticed as there was a building marked on the map? Could the pavilion on the other side be the round black dot? No, that wasn’t right at all, but it took me a while to figure out that I had run into completely opposite direction to what I was supposed to do. A marshal felt sorry for me and pointed me in the right direction.
Ok, at least I knew where I was going now. I soon found the spring and then the foot of the cliff and the SE corner of the building. On the way between controls I met Saskia and then Debbie from Northern Navigators who both were doing more complicated routes. Control 4 was nicely placed on the other side of a bridge, but what about Control 5? That must be a hill, but there were no hills in between these two footpaths – so maybe it’s the hill higher up (never mind the footpath in between). Suddenly I had strayed far too high up – this was Control 9 not Control 5. Back down again – and there it was at last, Control 5 (by this time I had spent about 15 min wandering about). What a joy to be able to dib at last. I later figured out that the light brown dotted line was a dry ditch not the top of a big hill – and the height difference between each contour line was only 5 m so one line doesn’t make a massive hill. [You can view all the maps, courses and controls on the Routegadget website and follow Camilla's descriptions - Ed.]
The next controls were luckily easier to find and after my slowest 3 k ever I dibbed at Control 13 at the East side of a round building and then followed the tapes to the Finish and then went to the download point to record my results. The receipt that popped out of the machine mercilessly told me my splits (including 15:35 for Control 5) and total time (58:20). Maya won the orange course in about half the time (29:44) but I wasn’t last (4th place out of 6, but it’s possible that the other ones didn’t run). Northern Navigators did brilliantly overall, with Nigel and Dougie in 1st and 6th position respectively for the Blue course, Saskia and Debbie in 2nd and 6th place respectively for the Green course and Maya’s big sister Jeneba in 6th position for the light green course and little sister Yolanda 7th for the yellow course.
I finished off by buying a coffee from the café van and sitting down on a bench to enjoy the sunshine and the wildlife (fat rat crossing the path purposefully and without using a map). Now, should I be doing a light green course next time [Absolutely! Ed.] and when can I fit in the next orienteering event?
Leg It Round Lathkil, Over Haddon, Peak District, 9th November
BM/11.5 km/290 m
The Leg It Round Lathkill fell race was my first fell race and given my new location in some place in South Yorkshire that used to make a lot of steel, the lure of the Peak District was too strong. With a little push from the Dark Side, namely Sheffield University Orienteering and Fell Running club (ShUOC), I found myself crossing the border and ending up in a rather unfamiliar place, Derbyshire I think it's called but don't quote me on that. Once at the destination, a little hotel surrounded by farmer's fields on one side of a river valley, time to get kitted up and ready, unfortunately that meant the black and gold of my university kit (whilst not purple, the vest does match my usual running shorts and when you've no coordination normally, colour coordination does matter) [Are you having a laugh? - Ed] and then we were lined up and off, embarking on the first of no doubt many a fell race.
It's well known that I have tendency to go off far too fast at the beginning of a race, ask Geoff, Scott and Graham so I tried to reign it in a bit and thought I was doing okay trying to save some energy for an uphill finish. (That brings me on to the first piece of advice I received during the race day, warm up at the finish so you know what to expect should it come to a sprint finish.) Returning to the race events, I thought I was going off tamely by my standards until the coach of ShUOC came into sight. Quick double check and I remembered she'd said she was mildly hung over for a night out the night before (Pop Tarts, I was dragged once, I have Finnish flag on wall as a result), all things considered I was probably going at comfortable pace then the queues hit post a rather technical road descent (I must thank Arid Man and Dustbowl Woman for teaching me not be afraid of risky lines and bringing out the elbows through the Harrier League). To say there was many a style, gate, wall to climb over would have been an understatement but it was all part of the course, the very wet, slightly flooded and quite traily (that's a word now, use it well) opening half of the course. Those queues however were nothing compared to the one at the "stairway to heaven". Steps, lots and lots of very steep, very slippery steps going, what felt like straight up for quite a while, given the queue to even get near them, walking up them, unfortunately was the only way up given my position in the pack at that point.
Hardmoors Trail Half Marathon, Goathland, North York Moors, 8th November
I entered this off-road half marathon, which was part of the Hardmoors 26.2 Trail Marathon series of races, with trepidation having never run a trail or fell race before. I had gone over the course on the map with a little help from my husband Scott, and felt sure I stood little chance of getting lost, but it was nice to have the reassurance of a backstop runner just in case.
After meeting up with Phil, Juliet and Anita, who were also doing the half marathon and Anita's husband Mark together with Lyndsay and Helen Rodgers who were all doing the 10K (Dave Robson and Mel Hudson were doing the marathon but I never actually saw them), we set off on what was a chilly (six degrees) morning with a promise of rain by the afternoon.
Following a gentle downhill start, the steep steps of the first incline got the blood pumping ready for the action at the top. Through the woods, we passed the spectacular waterfall of Mallyan Spout then crossed the river via stepping stones that were about 6 inches below fast flowing water (I had thought at the race brief that the stepping stones had been a joke and so it seemed did the runner behind me).
Then, after a tough climb out of the woods, we were onto the fell sections which were pretty muddy (up to the knee at times) but the views were great. The two jelly babies I took from the 1st checkpoint were carefully tucked away in my pocket but they were a sorry state when I eventually took them out at home! The later sections of forest track however were not my thing at all: they were fast (I'm not) and long and not at all enjoyable as several runners caught and passed me.
Scott came with me for support on the day and was running around with the dog taking photos. He cheekily told me later that he was disappointed about his failure to get a photo of me belly down in the mud after I made a full-length 'face plant' courtesy of the effect of muddy, rocky paths on tired legs. However, the resulting face decorations seemed to delight many back at the village hall!
I was really pleased at how I went overall - particularly over the last fell section - not fast but nice and steady, catching other runners every now and then. Unfortunately, as soon as I hit the road on the run into the finish in Goathland, quite a few passed me, some of whom had overtaken me on the previous road section and who I'd then caught on the fell.
I was chuffed to get back in time for the presentations having previously laughed at how early they were (I expected to be out much longer than I was) and for the fact that I was never close enough to the back to be able to see the backstop runner (hallelujah!).
We had escaped all but the slightest sprinkle of rain, but the marathon runners including Dave and Mel were not so lucky. By the time we were chomping on well-deserved quiche and cakes (very nice!) the rain was falling heavily and it was still only one degree higher than the morning. I can see now why waterproofs were compulsory but was quietly pleased that my race had ended.
Guisborough 3-Tops Fell Race, Guisborough, North Yorks, 2nd November
AM/13 km/655 m
On yet another unseasonably warm day in November with autumn glowing rich and golden in the weak sunshine, seven Striders gathered in the grounds of Guisborough Rugby Club for the third in the Northern Runner/NEHRA Winter Series fixtures; this time a roughly 13 km jaunt taking in the lofty features of High Cliff Nab, Roseberry Topping and Hanging Stone all lined up along the northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors and waiting silently to receive the briefest of visitations from 128 frenetic fell-runners.
Contenders for Elvet Striders on the day were: Camilla Lauren-Maatta, Rachael Bullock, David Selby, Penny Browell, Danny Lim, Paul Evans and Scott Watson. Rachael was coming back from an innocuous but nasty cycling injury and Penny was attending her very first fell race as part of a meteoric debut season with Elvet Striders. For everyone else (to the best of my knowledge) it was just another day at the fell-running office.
The race briefing on the upper reaches of Belmangate was longer than its title suggests with emphasis placed on the consequences of trespassing and the potential effects of fallen trees (cleared away as it turned out) on the race start. Then with a faintly disinterested 'off you go' from the organiser, Dave Parry, we were away up the path and into the wood.
From my position somewhere in the middle of a jostling pack I could see Paul starting steadily as he is inclined to do. Penny was just ahead and everyone else appeared to be behind me. As with so many fell races, the uphill starts are demanding and we were soon strung out in a long, gasping line as the track narrowed to a muddy trail. Then it was just one long, lactate-producing, ascent out of the woods and up to High Cliff Nab.
Guy Fawkes 10, Ripley, 2nd November
We had been down South for a few days prior to this race and rather than drive all the way back home and having to head back down to Ripley again the next day we thought we would instead treat ourselves to a night in a local inn. The Boar's Head in Ripley looked nice and had the bonus of being right next to the start - so with a lie-in and car parking on offer it was a no brainer really. It was lovely too, we had a cracking meal in the restaurant the night before and had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching runners arrive and register, we could also grab our numbers before it got too busy and use the bathroom as many times as we liked before the start, sheer luxury!
The weather was once again glorious, there was a bit of a nip in the air but the sun was shining and it was just lovely. We bumped into Graeme Walton and Jon Ayres at the start but despite the reasonably small field I missed both Jackie McKenna and Helen Williams - sorry! There was an attempt at a briefing before the race but either the directors megaphone wasn't working or I was too far back as I didn't hear a word of it and only knew we were off when everyone in front started moving. It was a bit congested for the first half-mile or so, on a track through the grounds of the beautiful Ripley Castle.
I hadn't done this race before but Jon Ayres had warned that it was a bit hilly and not to go out too fast. This isn't a problem at the moment for me anyway but the congestion helped dictate a pretty sensible pace to begin with and as tarmac turned into rocky trail I was just concentrating on where my feet were going. We ran through a farmyard (which did NOT smell good) and then back onto the road for a bit of an incline.
We then turned off onto a much smaller road and another climb before a lovely mile of downhill and before I knew it I was at the first water station at 4 miles. After this came the first of the named climbs, the Birstwith Brute. And brute it was, I decided at this point to walk the named hills and try and run the rest. The brute was long and unforgiving and the majority of folk around me were doing a mix of walking and complaining about the hill, much like I was, but eventually it finished and it was off downhill again in glorious scenery.
The next named hill was the Swinecliffe Swine, another hands on knees drag but a chance to rest the quads before the next downhill. There was another water station at 8 miles before the final hill - "For Fawkes Sake" - love it! I walked this one too and was overjoyed when the marshal at the top confirmed that it was the last one and that there were only 1.5 miles to go until the end, although he did say it was undulating rather than flat. This was indeed the case, the last mile wove its way through the castle grounds before a final sprint uphill to the finish, and I was pleased to still have enough in my legs to finish strongly.
I had remembered halfway round that the reason we had signed up to this race was because I had heard it was a goody bag of delights and that proved to be the case with no fewer than TWELVE chocolate bars (Graeme got 16!) and a t-shirt, well worth the pain of the hills! Good performances all round from the Striders too, on what was a tough but fun course.
It would have been rude to visit Ripley and not try some of its famous ice-cream so we treated ourselves to a large cone in the shop and soaked up a bit more of the sunshine before heading home to a chocolate fest.
I really enjoyed this race, yes it was hilly but there were some glorious downhills and the scenery was stunning, and I really enjoyed making a weekend of it too, I think this will definitely be going on the calendar for next year, Brute or no Brute!
Stranraer 10K, 1st November
This was a fixture I was keen to do as a test of how far I've come because this was my first 'proper race' a year ago.
The weather was a quite windy but a lot nicer than last year (thunder, lightning, hailstones, rain and wind) which made for a positive start.
If ever a route was made for a negative split this is it, the whole first half of the race is a steady climb up onto the fields above the town with a gorgeous view of the loch to the left and the endless fields of 'coos' to the right. 3km has the infamous Gallow (Galla) Hill which is a stinker, not dissimilar to Redhills bank in that it just keeps going, ever upwards! Last year I walked this beast. My lovely mother-in-law took pity on me and kept me company as I dragged myself up it. This year she was waiting at the top to cheer me on, I didn't quite manage to run all the way today but I got up it in a fraction of last year's time.
Once at the top it was a case of dodging the farmers and their trailers while taking in the view and making the most of the descent back into town and the rather less scenic industrial estate. The final mile and a half is a long straight road (it feels about five miles long) that takes you back to Stranraer Academy. The lovely thing about this race is that because it's quite small (less than 200 runners) you get a personalised cheer from the Race Director as you enter the running track for the final 100 metres.
I was chuffed to bits to overtake two people who had been ahead of me for quite some time with about 1.5 miles to go and one lady in the final 200m. As I ran the final straight listening to Mark, his mum and her best friend cheer me from the left I (very randomly) heard 'Oh! She runs for Elvet Striders'. I thought no more of it until I crossed the line and a guy came over to Mark and I and asked us to name check him because he loves reading Elvet Striders' race reports so much and thinks our website is great! So here you go - David Beattie, Secretary of Galloway Harriers, this is your shout out! [David is also namechecked in Colin Blackburn's 2011 Kielder Marathon Report - Ed.]
Although the official results aren't out yet I'm over the moon to have knocked about 15 minutes off last year's time and about two and a half minutes per mile. It's been a hard year but this has helped put a couple of demons to rest and shown me that hard work and determination do pay off.
Ashton Court parkrun, Bristol, 1st November
A trip down memory lane in Bristol (I spent six years there as a student) led us to Ashton Court on what the run director quite aptly named "the sunniest November parkrun ever". It was blazing sunshine and 18 degrees according to the car temperature gauge - bonkers! The setting couldn't have been nicer either, the blue skies contrasting with the green of the rolling hills and the stately home that sits in the grounds.
I hadn't really had a chance to look at the course or description before we turned up, I knew it was an out and back but that was about it. The very helpful beginners briefer confirmed the out and back nature of the course but also told us that it was a bit of an unusual one in that it was 1.5 miles uphill followed by 1.5 miles back down. My hill running of late has been pretty non-existent so I was a bit scared, but the thought of sailing downhill for the last half sounded pretty nice. No pain no gain...
The start is on a path by Ashton Court house and was a bit congested to begin with, however the start of the hill spread the field out nicely. I didn't really have much of a plan in mind other than trying to save my legs for the following day's event but decided that I would try and run the entire way uphill and then try not to get overtaken on the downhill. It really was quite steep and relentless, first on tarmac and then on a gravel track where the wind had picked up too, ouch. I made steady progress though and was overjoyed to see the first of the fastest runners tearing downhill past me as that meant the end of the hill was nigh. Shared a quick high five with Jon as he whipped past me and then round the turning point with a very smiling marshal - he really was a vision of loveliness!
Then the downhill - and what a downhill it was. The gravel track was a bit uneven, one runner did quite an impressive Steph Walker in front of me but picked herself up straight away and continued. It wasn't too long before gravel made way to tarmac and one of my most favourite running experiences ever - storming downhill in glorious sunshine. That is the joy of a hill out and back because you know you can just let yourself go, and very nice it was too.
It might not have been my quickest parkrun (just under 31 mins for me) but I achieved both goals of not walking and not being overtaken on the downhill so I was pretty pleased, and Jon had done well too in just over 23 mins, not bad for a self-confessed hill-hater. Even better was the massive IKEA breakfast we consumed afterwards, an excellent antidote to the previous night's pub crawl. What a nice parkrun anyway and something a bit different, we will be back!
Northumberland Castles Marathon, Alnwick, 26th October
Lining up on the start line at Alnwick Castle to complete my second marathon in 2 weeks with only 73 other people was a daunting start to a Sunday morning. Still I knew I could do the distance, not quickly but it could be done.
After a quick briefing, basically don't get run over because the roads aren't closed, we were off. Most of the other runners disappeared quite quickly into the distance. I could see a man in front of me and a lady behind me, both far enough off that I could see but not communicate with them. I was on my own.
Sticking to my run/walk race plan I plodded on, stopping at about mile 6 to loosen my right shoe as my toes were hurting. Mission accomplished - pain dissipated - I continued on.
Mile 10, getting a bit lonely so (against race rules - sorry) popped a single earphone in and enjoyed the company of the Marathontalk boys for a good few miles.
The man in front had now disappeared, leaving me and the lady behind. Plodding on, up inclines and hills, sideways rain lashing for a short time, reaching the halfway point 2:31 - not bad considering both my GNR times had been significantly more than that.
At this point the young lady, Nicola Hall, overtook with a smile (or was it a grimace?) - her first full marathon and she was trotting along nicely.
Then the wind started. Confirmed the next day by the Met Office as consistently 25-30 mph with 50mph gusts I was mighty pleased I'd done the fell run the week before - I knew I could do this. Time for an entertainment switch - bit of Barry Manilow (don't judge me) kept me going.
By mile 20 into the headwind I was doing 50-100 steps running, 10-20 steps walking but the miles were being eaten up and, I'm proud to say, I overtook a group of 4 of the half marathoners.
Regular interaction with the marshals made the journey more pleasant and a car full of lovely ladies with signs supporting Nicola kept appearing 'touch the flash for power', I'm grateful for the hugs and the fact that although Nicola was now in front of me they waited to cheer me on.
The water stop at mile 24 got me emotional, there the ladies were with a new sign 'you're a marathoner' and a little pep talk from the marshal while I stopped my hyperventilating sobs and I was off again for the final uphill stretch.
Coming into Bamburgh was awesome, Helen and Phil Allen cheering me on, my sister and hubby at the finish line. The lovely Nicola and her ladies drinking champagne. I'm not ashamed to say I was tearful, although I'd been proud at the Yorkshire Marathon, today I'd been alone for 5:33:58 and 26.2 miles, I had accomplished this all under my own steam. So I was last, I was number 74 out of 74, probably the first time the first Strider in was the last runner. But I did it, I'm proud of me.
Quote of the day from an older lady in the pub 'I've never met a marathoner before', well, I told her 'you have now' .
Blowin' in the Wind
Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, 25th October
'The times they are a'changin' for Striders as no less than 7 women made their cross country debuts for the club at South Shields on Saturday! In total there were 27 Striders in the senior / veteran women's team plus our own 'girl from the north country' Sally Hughes in the u/20 / u/17 women's race. What a turn out! The men too managed to muster 21 of their number including Ari Hodgson and Peter McGowan donning the purple vest for the first time at the HL.
The 'buckets of rain' we'd been praying for never materialised so rather than providing 'shelter from the storm' our perfectly pitched tent made do with keeping us out of the wind. And how it blew - although not hard enough to keep Sally from a top ten position in her race. Hers was a gutsy performance - 'just like a (Striders') woman' which must have had Dad Mike thinking 'you're a big girl now'. Well done Sally!
The ocean of purple then flooded onto the start line for the women's race. Another huge field of over 300 runners waited for the off making me reflect on how 'things have changed' for women's x/c over recent years. This was wonderfully illustrated by the presence of our debutants: Elaine Bisson, Jennifer Cooper, Kelly Collier, Kate MacPherson, Kay Cairns, Claire Galloway & Diane Watson. What 'simple twist of fate' brought them all to this spot on this day? Was it parkun, C25K, tales of daring do from HLs of old – who knows? Whatever it was the team would have been much the poorer 'if not for (all of) you'!
At the front Katy flew round, closely followed by Elaine, to finish first senior Strider & first veteran Strider respectively. Other 'counters' included Fiona K-J & Mudwoman for the Vets team and Lucy and Steph P for the seniors (well done Lucy & Steph – first time as counters). But what support they had from the rest of the purple tide! Kelly - seeming to love every minute, Kate - grimly determined, Barbara - with the 'dignity' we come to expect & Jan - who will surely stay 'forever young'! Well done to all of you – 6th team place in the Vets competition and 13th in the seniors!
The men were last to go but we say to the Striderettes 'don't think twice it's all right'! A huge crowd of blokes in club vests of every hue set off round the still dry, firm and relatively flat course. Rob once again flew across the grass 'like a rolling stone' to make it as first Strider home followed by Simon as first vet in what was perhaps his best ever x/c performance(?) . Neil Sleeman was next senior home and I suspect many Striders watching were pleased to see an expression of pain etched on his face – no prizes for guessing why! It was also good to see Neil's family there but I did wonder to myself: 'Corrina, Corrina' why aren't you running? However, I suspect budding Strider Georgina must have said 'it's alright Ma' not to run!
A trio of Striders, locked together, were to follow Neil to claim the remaining 'counter places'. Scott had been glued to Mudman's shoulder 'most of the time' put pulled away at the last to overtake Matt Crow as well. Mudman tried that too thinking 'when you gonna wake up' as his sprint brought him ever closer to a seemingly ambling Matt – who did wake up just in time!
Once again there were great performances by Striders throughout the field. Mike Hughes had a great run storming round like a 'hurricane' for his best ever finish – upwards and onwards I think! Young Ari just piped his old man, Phil O avoided the 'desolation row' of Cramlington, poor Eric was robbed of 385th place and it was good to see Mettie in the mud again and thinking of those 'summer days' in the medium pack! Well done to you all – 13th team in the Vet's competition and 21st in the Seniors! To each and every one of you I want you to know 'I believe in you'!
|1||Nick Swinburn||Morpeth Harriers & AC||M Sen||28:55|
|54||Rob Everson||M Sen||34:09|
|120||Simon Gardner||S Vet||36:51|
|160||Neil Sleeman||S Sen||37:57|
|199||Scott Watson||S Vet||39:03|
|200||Matthew Crow||S Sen||39:04|
|201||Geoff Davis||S Vet||39:05|
|209||Michael Hughes||S Vet||39:23|
|218||Matthew Archer||S Sen||39:51|
|240||David Brown||S Sen||40:20|
|253||Graeme Walton||S Vet||40:45|
|259||Aaron Gourley||S Sen||40:52|
|260||Conrad White||S Vet||40:53|
|318||John Metson||S Vet||42:37|
|319||Jon Steed||S Vet||42:39|
|374||Richard Hockin||S Vet||44:13|
|379||Ari Hodgson||S Sen||44:20|
|383||Innes Hodgson||S Vet||44:48|
|386||Eric Green||S Vet||45:02|
|420||Peter McGowan||S Vet||47:24|
|424||Phil Owen||S Vet||47:41|
|446||Stephen Ellis||S Vet||51:54|
|1||Alyson Dixon||Sunderland Strollers||F Vet||22:05|
|34||Katy Walton||M Sen||26:39|
|46||Elaine Bisson||S Vet||27:25|
|63||Fiona Jones||S Vet||28:28|
|79||Lucy Cowton||S Sen||28:54|
|91||Susan Davis||S Vet||29:13|
|118||Camilla Lauren-Maatta||S Vet||30:08|
|143||Debra Goddard||S Vet||30:46|
|176||Stephanie Piper||S Sen||31:42|
|184||Jan Young||S Vet||32:04|
|187||Jean Bradley||S Vet||32:12|
|191||Stef Barlow||S Vet||32:18|
|212||Anita Clementson||S Vet||33:15|
|231||Kate MacPherson||S Vet||33:59|
|239||Jacquie Robson||S Vet||34:27|
|241||Anja Fechtner||S Vet||34:30|
|242||Barbara Dick||S Vet||34:31|
|265||Kirsty Steed||S Vet||36:13|
|272||Joanne Porter||S Vet||37:04|
|277||Diane Watson||S Vet||37:29|
|279||Jennifer Cooper||S Vet||37:33|
|280||Louise Billcliffe||S Vet||37:36|
|283||Kelly Collier||S Sen||37:43|
|285||Denise Benvin||S Vet||37:53|
|294||Joanne Richardson||S Vet||38:26|
|309||Anita Dunseith||S Sen||41:56|
|310||Kay Cairns||S Sen||42:42|
|312||Claire Galloway||S Sen||45:09|
U17 & U20 Girls
|1||Ellie Mahon||Gateshead Harriers||S U20||22:56|
|8||Sally Hughes||S U20||22:56|
UKA Fell & Hill Relay Champs, Middleton & Barbon Fells, Kirby Lonsdale, 19th October
This year, this prestigious event in the fell-running calendar was held on the little-known (to me at least) Barbon and Middleton fells, a very compact but no less hilly venue between Sedbergh and Kirby Lonsdale. Conditions-wise, wind was to be the main feature of the day but at least in Durham it remained a generally pleasant day; over the Pennines there was no sun to be had and the weather deteriorated persistently as the day wore on, leaving later runners to contend with driving rain and mist.
The event was well organised as always, this time by Dallam Running Club and Howgill Harriers, and the first runners representing the 213 registered teams were marshalled together on a wind-blown field at the foot of Middleton Fell for a 10 o'clock start. Elvet Striders were able to field two teams: Team 'A' comprised Sally Hughes (Leg 1), Mike Hughes & Paul Evans (Leg 2), Camilla Lauren Maatta & Scott Watson (Leg 3) and Jan Young (Leg 4); Team 'B' was Mike Bennett (Leg 1), Kerry Lister & Nigel Heppell (Leg 2), Anita Clementson & Phil Owen (Leg 3) and John Metson (Leg 4). Of course, it shouldn't be forgotten that 'Mudman & Mudwoman', Geoff and Sue Davis (running for that 'other' club on this occasion) were there first thing with tent erected and waiting to receive guests!
As I mentioned before, this is a prestigious event that always attracts the very best fell runners in the country to compete for their clubs, consequently the course is 'challenging' to say the least. Legs 1 & 4 were for single runners and were effectively the same course run the opposite way round. Leg 2 was a longer course for pairs and Leg 3 was a navigational course for pairs...
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?!!!
Richmond Castle 10K, 12th October
So, I booked this race as a birthday present for a good friend of mine who was moaning she hadn’t done much running since Blaydon, her response "what kind of a friend buys you pain for a present!." As it happens she was ill & so another friend stepped into her shoes – Gill only started running a few months ago & her furthest run so far was 7 miles so this was a challenge for her 1st ever race. We set off with a couple of friends in tow as cheerleaders, everyone I’d mentioned this race to had a wry smile & murmured something about hills so I was slightly nervous. I also felt quite underprepared having done little running since GNR, but anyway – a sunny day, child-free with good friends lay ahead. Not many Striders signed up to this one so it was a pleasant surprise to bump into John Hutchinson & Jackie McKenna in the car park (they also mentioned the hills!) Got our race numbers, tried on some trail shoes, sat in the sun & then wandered down to the start in the park next to the river. All the other runners looked a bit professional so I did think this might be the race that I actually did finish last.
We were off – Jon Ayres running past me at the start wishing me luck. I ran with my friend for the 1st mile or so, there were a couple of narrow single file points, then we separated & the hills started. It was hot & there definitely were hills – should’ve had a camera placed at the little bridge at about 7 or 8k to capture the looks on faces as we came down out of the tree-lined road to see a pretty little bridge & a mahoosive steep long hill after it!
My Garmin failed to find a satellite at the start so I didn’t have much idea of my distance or pace. The race was mainly on roads with some traffic so there was a bit of on/off pavements, there were some little loops into the local neighbourhood where it was lovely to see plenty of support from residents & children. The water halfway (at the top of a hill) was very welcome. Richmond is a very beautiful area, lovely streets & walls, tree-lined roads, hills, pretty bridges & views of the Castle & river.
The last push up to the castle up a long hill, on cobbled streets would’ve been hard had it not been for the amazing support – loads of people lined the Market square clapping & shouting which was fab & kept me from walking, the finish was lovely just through the castle gates (thanks to English Heritage) & the memento of running socks was great!
So, not a PB but a fantastic day out – finished a bit beetroot faced thanks to the hot & sunny October weather & headed off to sit outside the restaurant we’d booked in the sunshine to enjoy a nice lunch – bumping into the family Ayres at the same restaurant! My friend Gill was absolutely over the moon that she’d finished her 1st race, in a very respectable time & can’t wait for the next one!
PS. Did I mention there were a couple of undulations on this run?
Yorkshire Marathon, York, 12th October
Neither Melanie nor I was expecting to do well at this event. We only did the Kielder marathon seven days earlier and two weeks before that we had done the very hilly Great Langdale, so the best we hoped for was to be able to get round between 4.30 and 5.00.
I did the event last year and enjoyed it more I expected and recommended it to Melanie. She wanted to do it as she loves York and she studies part-time there. We also knew there were quite a few Striders there, including three who were doing their first marathon. There were also some Striders supporting and it was good to see them around the course.
Flip (supporting) drove us down with Anna (running). There had been fog warnings and they turned out to be accurate. The fog lasted most of the morning and it only burnt off after 1.00. But this was great for running, cool and no wind. We made our way to the baggage area, which last year had been inside and there were long queues. This year there were no queues but it consisted of tents in a car park. It was a bit chilly getting ready as the tents were just for the bags. We moved on quickly to a College bar (the race started and finished at the University of York) to keep warm.
Then off to the pens which like last year weren't crowded and soon we were off with Matt Dawson talking on the PA while high fiving runners. We went through the city centre and past the minister with the bells tolling in the mist. There was lots of support which was great.
On and out of York, through a few small villages and again the vicar in his full white regalia was out high fiving runners and saying bless you. I had thought the first half was flat, but my memory wasn't accurate, it started to undulate a bit at 8m. Melanie and I started a bit quick, but we slowed it down to about 9min 30sec which was still way ahead of what we had planned. But it felt comfortable.
We made it to halfway in 2hr 6min and neither of us thought we could keep that up. The first out and back at Stamford Bridge was fine and we pulled ourselves up to the next one. The second out and back seemed longer than last year and at the turn around point (18m) Melanie started to speed up. I managed to keep running up the drag and out of the out and back and at 20m I saw Melanie about 50 meters ahead. I was happy to get to 20m in 3hr 10min. Sub 4.30 was looking good and even a performance better than last year (4hr 25min) looked a good possibility. Last year I walked a fair amount after 20m, so this year I tried to walk much less and it worked, though I was slowing. When I passed Flip at 25 and half miles, I knew that even sub 4hr 15min might be feasible. This turned out to be a bit too ambitious. I did manage to run the final hill this year and flew down to the finish, but it wasn't quite enough 4hr 15min 20sec. I was very happy with that. Later I worked out it was my 5th fastest marathon/ultra out of 110 I have completed and I haven't run faster since May 2010 at Windermere which was 90 marathons/ultras ago !
Meanwhile Melanie had not slowed at all and speeded up slightly, so in the last six miles she had been closer to 9min 15sec. She came in with 4h 7min, a great negative split and she beat her PB from Vienna by about 13min ! A fantastic run.
This is definitely an event for PBs, quite a few Striders got one. I still prefer off road events, but I still find doing the odd road event fun. It was good to see so many of my clubmates (both Striders and 100 marathoners). The first timers from the Striders, Kerry, Kirsty and Lucy all finished well and Lucy turned in an excellent 3hr 45min performance !
Maybe our preparation hadn't been too bad for this event. Maybe we both would have done better if we had tapered. Who knows ...
|1||Boniface Kongin||(M) OPEN||2:14:00|
|Jonathan Steed||(M) 45-49||3:24:01|
|Lucy Cowton||(F) OPEN||3:45:56|
|Kathryn Sygrove||(F) 45-49||4:03:08|
|Anna Seeley||(F) OPEN||4:03:22|
|Melanie Hudson||(F) 35-39||4:07:58|
|Paul Beal||(M) 50-54||4:10:23|
|Dave Robson||(M) 60-69||4:15:20|
|Brian Ford||(M) 45-49||4:17:56|
|Kate Macpherson||(F) 40-44||4:19:23|
|Sarah Fawcett||(F) 50-54||4:26:10|
|Susan Jennings||(F) 45-49||4:47:15|
|Kirsty Anderson||(F) 35-39||5:11:56|
|Kerry Lister||(F) 40-44||5:15:55|
|Margaret Thompson||(F) 60-69||5:19:21|
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.