Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon, North Yorkshire, 15th February

16m

Penny Browell

Striders ladies at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015The Osmotherley Half 2015 is one race I will never forget. In fact I get quite emotional even now, nearly a week later, thinking about it. It was one of those days when everything seemed to go the right way - great weather, lovely company, a beautiful course and (for me ) a LOT of luck.

The weather forecast actually hadn't been great and as Camilla and I drove down it was quite foggy. With my navigational skills I was a touch worried but a couple of months previously I'd run an Esk Valley race which ran parallel with the Hardmoors for a bit and I'd noticed how well their race was taped so I was quietly confident I wouldn't need to navigate much today. Anyway as we approached Osmotherley the sun started to burn through the clouds and before long it was a lovely sunny morning. We parked about 10 minutes out of the village and walked to the village hall. This was my first Hardmoors race and the organisation and atmosphere in the hall was fantastic. We'd just missed the start of the full marathon but caught up with Anita who had waved them off and the hall was buzzing with the anticipation of about 200 half and 10k runners.

Lucy clearly enjoying a great race at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015Once we'd changed and met up with the other Striders girls running the half it wasn't long before the briefing. I'm not good at listening to briefings due to race nerves and was vaguely aware there was something about signs with acorns at the end of the race but didn't manage to hear the details. We walked round to the start of the race and Lucy and I both commented on the fact that whilst we had done longer distances and had done hilly runs, the combination of a long and hilly run was a bit of an unknown quantity. I told myself I had to try and take the pace easy but at the same time knew I was feeling quite fit and the competitor in me wanted to see how well I could do.

We were soon off - I'm not great at remembering courses but we were quite quickly onto our first hill and the field was spreading out. I passed a few people and was following a woman with a springer spaniel who was managing a very good pace. As someone who runs with a springer regularly I was amazed at her having to deal with a dog on a lead for such a long and hilly race. Eventually I got past her and then felt quite happy following the path on what I presumed was an easy course. At one point the path split so I stuck to the main route but then realised I couldn't see anyone ahead. I turned round and saw a man (no. 203) going the other way so turned back and followed him. At this point I realised I maybe should have studied the map more…

The path continued undulating, with varying levels of steepness and I kept no. 203 in my sights. On a longish climb I passed him and fortunately could see someone ahead to keep me on track. As we got to a steep descent my pace slowed drastically. The terrain was tough with quite slippy paving slabs and I almost completely stopped a couple of times for fear of falling. I lost sight of the man in front but then my friend no. 203 came bounding past me so at least I knew I was still in the right place. The course has an out and back section and at about 7 miles I started to worry that I hadn't yet seen anyone coming back so wondered exactly how much over 13 miles this "half" was going to be. Happily I soon saw the first man on the return leg and noticed that in third there was a lady going well. Then after another couple of people, to my surprise I saw no.203 coming back and realised I was already at the turning point. Totally bemused as to how I was so near the front I also noticed Phil, Lucy's other half, who pointed his camera in my direction just as I was downing a few jelly beans!

The view that most of the field had of Penny at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015The "back" part of the out and back was great fun. The Hardmoors crowd are very friendly and we all congratulated each other as we passed and it was good to see the other Striders girls - Lucy not far behind me and the others spread throughout the pack. Having realised the course wasn't quite as easy to navigate as I'd thought I became intent on keeping no.203 in my sights even though I knew he was going a bit faster than my natural pace. At one point a lady going in the other direction encouraged me on telling me "You're second lady, only about a minute behind the first lady". I had no designs on beating her and really just wanted to get to the end without losing sight of my friend in front. I was doing pretty well as we undulated along the Cleveland Way but then we hit a steep descent and again my brakes were on. No.203 sped off into the distance and then a new friend (no.171) flew past me and was my new guide. I was very grateful for him being there as there were a couple of spots where I would no doubt have gone wrong without someone leading the way.

At about 12 miles we came out onto a road section. Whist I wanted to continue to be led I knew I could get past 171 so for a while we ran together discussing how far we thought there was left to go and then I took the lead. I could just see my old pal in front so sped up a bit to keep him in sight. We were soon on a slowly climbing muddy track running into the wind. It wasn't the easiest but I was enjoying myself and before I knew it I was right next to 203. I really didn't want to pass him as the other leaders seemed to have completely vanished and I knew there would still be a few wiggles before we got back to Osmotherley. Fortunately we turned off the path and downhill so he pulled away from me and I was happily following again and dropped back to a comfortable pace with him about 100m ahead of me.

At one point I saw him struggling with a gate which I thought he'd left open for me. "Thank you" I shouted, only to realise he hadn't left it open and I therefore sounded like I was being sarcastic! I struggled for a bit and he shouted something about pulling and upwards but whatever upwards and pulling combination I tried I couldn't get it to open. Eventually I gave up and climbed over. Congratulating myself on an elegant landing I realised 203 was now out of my sight. I had a couple of tense moments when I thought I could have gone the wrong way but soon saw him again and before long we were coming back into Osmotherley. As we came into the village we wound down little paths and there was the acorn sign I'd been warned about at the briefing. There were 3 possible ways to go. 203 had obviously gone the right way but I had no idea which that was. I turned left and realised he wasn't ahead of me… Fortunately some walkers were there and pointed me in the direction of the village hall.

Absolutely delighted to be back, Shirley told me I was first lady and third overall. "No I'm not" I told her quite matter of factly. I knew I was in the same position I'd been when we'd turned at the halfish way point - second lady and about 5th or 6th overall. But she and Flip Owen (who had been marshalling the full) seemed adamant she knew the result so slightly baffled I accepted the result. After a few pieces of cake and cups of tea I went to change and the lady who had been ahead of me joined me. It turned out she and 2 others had taken a wrong turning. She'd realised quite quickly but the two men (who had been the leaders) hadn't taken her advice to turn back and therefore still weren't back.

So there is my confession - it was undoubtedly my best result ever in a race and one I'm very proud of but I owe a lot of thanks to no.203 (who turns out to have a name and not just a number - Chris Dale) who kept me going and to the lady who went the wrong way (Helen Cross). Without them it would have been a different story!

Osmotherley 10k, 15th February

Laura Jackson

As I am approaching my "runniversary" (I started my running journey on 23/2/14) I decided at the start of the year to be a braver person, running and otherwise.

nice group pic

I have been envious all of last year of people who did "Hardmoors" events, they had the best enthusiasm for their running and their pictures were amazing. Spectacular in fact. After running the Great Winter Run in Edinburgh in January, I was convinced by Kerry Lister and Claire Galloway that I really wanted to do the Hardmoors Osmotherley 10k.

I entered but was on the waiting list until the week before which was probably the best thing for me as I overthink things a lot and this meant I only had a week to fret. I tried to find out more information- really with the name HARD and MOORS there's not much more to be said really.

I woke up on Sunday and felt nervously excited. Would it be another cross country-esque disaster? Did I want to enjoy it so much that I would be disappointed if it didn't match my expectations? Would I manage? Would I be too cold/ hot/ slow? I baulked as I put on my trusty "Kanadia" trail shoes for the first time since the said XC disaster and tied them firmly.

Osmotherley isn't as far from Durham as I thought so 40 mins later I was in the registration hall. I was so glad to see Striders Anita and Lindsay there who I then verbally spouted my fears to, continuously until we had to go to the start.

A moody gloomy stretch. An apprehensive walk up the hilly road, a few minutes waiting and then....we were off! Straight up a hill! The pattern of hill, fields, flat, hill, flat, HILL continued for a while. I have no idea for how long, all I wanted to do was to get to the top of the never ending hill.

And suddenly there it was, the expectation met in an instant. As we climbed over a gate, the view met us as we crossed through the field. I was with Anita at this point and I remember thinking "I'm so glad there's a Strider with me", as I ran over the most beautiful moor. It was breathtaking, like a set from a film. I felt so happy, exhilarated and almost tearful that there I was, running over this place I'd probably have never seen if I hadn't been running. This part was all downhill too and this added to my joy.

During the run, I caught up with the runner in front of me. A quick chat established that she too lived in Durham and was considering joining Striders. Anita was still close behind me at this point so we did the hard sell and convinced Rachel that being a Strider is the best thing ever.

The next part of the run (despite having my garmin on, I wasn't really paying attention to it for once!) took us up a road which also was shared with many cars and cyclists but it was easy to be careful of this.

The terrain continued to be a mix of moor, hill, flat field, HILL, moor, and I was glad to snatch a cup of water at the second checkpoint then carried on. I could see the runner in front of me moving towards another massive hill, then almost cheering with joy when she turned right off the road and went along a field which then led to another beautiful downhill stretch. This continued through a farm track then the HILL appeared, killer by now. At the end of the track I saw the runner in front had turned right but my instructions said left so I looked and saw the tape left, so tried to call to her. Luckily a passing cyclist said they'd tell her so I continued with my conscience clear.

Selfie Alert.

Up another HILL then a fab long downhill section through a farm led to possibly the steepest steps I've ever seen in my life, never mind climb up after 6 miles of hills, moors, stones and my nemesis, mud, but up I went, slowly. Some lovely local ladies shouted up "Take your time!" which made me laugh despite almost gasping for air (exaggeration!).

Once I made it to the top alive, it was a short jog along an alleyway (referred to as the snicket apparently) then down the hill to the village hall to the finish. 6.8 miles in total, not bad considering the half marathon was nearly 18!

Once I finished, I couldn't believe that I did it, that I loved it so much and that I felt so happy. The atmosphere was fab at the end, as it is with any race I've done but I was also even more ecstatic to find that you also got a medal as well as a fab tech t shirt.

I took a few days to digest the race and still think that it has been my favourite event I've done so far in my first year of running. The route was gruelling- HARD, but the MOORS made up for the hardness. In a way, the hard bits were enjoyable as after the first bit, there was a reward of a nice big downhill after and this continued throughout the race. The race element is never an issue for me being a slow snail of a runner but the fact people were running at their own pace and were there for the place and the challenge was reassuring to me.

My takeaways from the event- a nice medal and tshirt, more confidence than I had before I went, the realisation that I want to do more of these events and pride that I felt so happy all the way through. Envy, of those people doing the half marathon and marathon distances. I have no idea how I would cope with my garmin saying 13.1 and being another 4-5 miles away from the finish! Motivation to enter more Hardmoors events this year, and do at least one half marathon this year.

Keep on Running.

Carnethy '5', Pentland Hills, 15th February

AM, 6 miles, 2500 feet total climb over 5 summits

Dave Selby

The sound of the piper drove the lingering mist away from the hillside, exposing the Carnethy Five in its full glory. Across the lowland the initial climb and final descent awaited and called upon the 500-strong clan of fell runners to do their best. The gun released the rabble and the onslaught began. Across the grass, through the bog, around the thistles, through the gate, and then to find your place for the first of the 1000 feet climbs over just under a mile: up, up and more up. Stubborn mist made its greeting at the summit, along with a light but unforgiving breeze, cooling the sweat on the brow. An ever so slight decline permitted the legs to momentarily build momentum, until the next incline. Fast and furious the terrain went from up to down, back to up, and then into a glorious, several hundred foot rapid drop into a short-lived valley bottom the legs free wheeled. Funnelling through another gate, the final slope encounter beckoned: another 1000 foot climb in just under a mile. Steepening gradually with every step, it was now time to dig deep. Volcanic rocks marked the summit that was ephemeral, as was the plateau at the top. Over the top all went, down down down. Eight hundred feet in a few hundred meters. Across the scree, over the heather the thighs burned. Finally the finish line was in sight, all that was left was, once again, through the gate, past the thistles, through the bog and across the grass.

Rachael Bullock

Having known Susan and Geoff for a while, I've realised that they are fairly selective about what races they enter. So seeing as they've both done the Carnethy over 20 times, I figured there must be something special about it. It's also a ballot entry - pretty unusual for a fell race - another sign that it is popular and worth the journey up to Edinburgh. The race definitely didn't disappoint. There were hills. 5.7 miles of some of the hardest and most unrelenting hills I've ever faced during a fell run. Hands on knees jobbies for much of the way. The penultimate hill was a killer, a long drag on rather tired legs by that point. Sadly, I thought (well really I was just hoping optimistically) that it was the last hill and I gave my all. It wasn't till I reached the top and saw another monster climb ahead that I realised it was not the last hill. Heart-wrenching stuff. The final hill was a struggle, but pure determination, knowing I had put so much effort in already and that it would be a shame to waste it, kept me going. It was such a relief to get to the top....but only to be greeted by one of the nastiest descents I've ever encountered. Very steep and covered in slippery heather. As usual, the more hardy and experienced/senseless, fearless fell-runners skipped past me, as i dithered and tried not to fall. I really didn't enjoy this bit, but sadly, it was the only way to get to the finish, so it had to be done. Once the skidding and sliding was over, it was a nice flat stretch of boggy, tussocky ground to stretch the legs out towards the finish. Here I tried to capitalize on recent Harrier league training to pass a couple of other ladies before the finish line, where Geoff cheered me in, and I was followed shortly after by Dave and Susan. Then it was back to the local high school for a good feed of pie before heading home! Despite the pain incurred, I would not have to think twice about doing this race again! It was pretty damn awesome and I can't really think of a better way to spend Valentine's day?!

Signals Relays, Hetton Lyon Country Park, 14th February

Simon Gardner

As will be probably know by now I'm a lover of relay events so after spectating at this event over the last 3 years I decided to try and organise some teams to represent our club.

The event is based in Hetton Lyons park near Houghton Le Spring and is all on Tarmac paths (my favourite), so after a lot of reorganising teams due to several members being hit by flu and colds we had two male and two female teams ready to go.

Our two female teams of four runners were first to go , Elaine and Steph first away and they did not let us down Elaine covering the undulating 2.2 mile (2 lap course) in a speedy 14min 17s which was the fastest time of the day, special mention goes to Katy who was not far behind and looks like to be returning to top form as well.

I had arranged the teams in a rough order of speed rather than the strict age categories so the birthday girl Sally Riding ran with out Vet 35 team, I just think it's better running with people of similar pace and also it would much more difficult to get full teams out with just 18 runners.

It was soon the boys turn with two teams of six runners set up ready to go. Again they were some great performances with Rob Everson fastest strider of the day covering the 2.2 mile in 12min 28s with Gareth 2 seconds behind (who was also first finisher at hartlepool parkrun in 17:32 that morning!) and myself following in 12:33 (canny happy with that!- but God it hurt)

Another special mention goes to our wonderful support crew (Alister , Jacquie, Jill, Anna) and the cake which was wonderful. From myself I want to thank everyone for their efforts today, a fantastic tail runner experience at Durham parkrun this followed by running with our wonderful club was just what I needed. Next year anyone ?

Mad Dog 5 - Game of Bones

Mad Dog 10K, Southport, 8th February

10K

Gareth Cardus

Gareth representing Striders at Southport. The Southport 10K run, aptly named ‘Mad Dog’, is into its fifth year now. The races inaugural year, 2011, seen it voted the best 10k run by Runner’s World magazine. Indeed in 2014, the race was voted the best 10k run in the UK at the running awards, and has been shortlisted again for 2015. Keen to see what all the fuss was about, and coupled with the fact that my parents lived nearby, I registered for this year’s event – the opportunity to become a ‘Mad Dog’ and conqueror the coast of Southport, was too great a pull!

Over 2500 runners took part in the race and I have to say the organisation of the event was superb. There was a designated car park for runners and spectators, which could be entered upon showing your race number. Then there was a free bus that took you from the car park to the start of the race. There was food stalls, changing facilities, showers – everything you required. The runners taking part in the race were divided into sections, based on ability; each section was given a colour as with other races. However, each section was also a dog breed, in keeping with the ‘Mad Dog’ theme – I was a Labrador!!

There was a strong contingent from a number of running clubs; there were fun runners, charity runners and fancy dress runners - all were raring to go!! The course is a flat course along the coast of Southport; it is a road race, so no trail shoes are necessary. As the race started, the conditions were ideal - there was virtual no wind, a bit of dew in the air and low temperatures. The only downside was the mist, which obscured some of the views along the coast. The race started in good timely fashion and before I knew it I had complete the first kilometre. One thing I was keen to do this time, was to pace myself correctly. I tend to start running too quickly and burn out towards the end of the race. With the course being flat and the conditions being ideal, I was looking for a PB - my PB for a 10k race was 53:55 back in 2013.

Game of Bones. I started the race slowly and completed the first four kilometres in just under 22 minutes. The first 4k of the race is all along the coast road and is fairly straight. Just after 4k, you reach the furthest point on the course and you move slightly away from the coast and follow the road around the marine lake. As we made our way around the course, music blasted out for all to hear, there was steel drum bands beating their rhythm and other music stations to keep the runners motivated. There was also great support and some amusing banners, one in particularly brought a chuckle to many a runner – it read ‘Please run quicker, we are cold’. Another funny moment was a fellow runner kitted out as Elvis singing at the top of his voice ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog’, very apt!

By this time I was past the half-way point now and with 6 kilometres complete my time was a little on the slow side for a PB – I had 32:38 on the clock, but I felt good and I knew I had plenty left in the tank; so far I had paced myself well. I increased the length of my stride and pushed on. Once round the Marine lake we re-joined the original coast road and headed for the finish line. I had completed 8 kilometres now and my time was 42:43, I was going well. I pushed on, as barring injury; I knew I would achieve a new PB. Finally as we turned the corner onto the long home straight, I could see the finish line in the distance. I sprinted down the home straight, keen to gain every place I could for my final standing. I crossed the line with a time of 51:54; I had managed to beat my PB by 2 minutes. I ran the last two kilometres of the race in 9:20.

As with most races these days you receive a ‘goody’ bag after crossing the finish line. You get the usual goodies, Medal, banana, a drink and a T-Shirt. However, the T-shirt does deserve a special mention for this race, as most T-shirts from these events can be pretty bland and boring. The Mad dog T-shirt was certainly not boring!!!

Overall, it was a great race, with a flat fast course that was very well organised. I would definitely race this one again. It is back next year and the race is called ‘Mad Dog 6 – Raiders Of The Lost Bark’

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Chris NicollDerby Triathlon ClubM33:36
36Kirsty Longley Liverpool Pembroke SeftonF38:12
775Gareth CardusM53:16

2004 finishers

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Bedewell Park XC (NEHL), Jarrow, 31st January

Mudman

'Mud People' by Joan Hanson The cross country road show moved from Pontefract to Jarrow this week and onto yet another very muddy course. Although the snow held off it was feeling pretty damn cold when the Sea of Purple, numbering 18, assembled for the Senior Women's race.

Cruelly robbed of medium pack qualification by one second at Wallington Mudwoman, with her toe on the start line, was determined to right that wrong. And right it she did with a magnificent run from the front to finish in 21st place and first Strider home. In Susan's first few X/C races some 15 years ago she finished in last place - which makes this promotion even sweeter and a fine example of what can be achieved through hard work, determination and application. Well done Mudwoman - we're all proud of you!!

Susan's promotion wasn't the only one on Saturday - Rachael Bullock (Wee Rach to Mudpeople) had an absolutely storming run from the medium pack taking her flying into the fast pack and second counter on the day. But that wasn't all! Fiona K-J showed how much she's improved by also qualifying for the medium pack - absolutely brilliant!

The place for fourth Strider counter came down to an eyeballs out sprint between Sarah D & Katy - which Sarah just about sneaked on the line. It was even more encouraging to see Lucy, Elaine (from the medium pack), Lesley, Steph P, Penny (from the fast pack & with a bad back!) & Camilla all finishing within a minute of Sarah & Katy. But there were brave Strider performances throughout the field and it was good to see Stef B back in the fold and Kelly giving X/C another go and enjoying every minute (it looked like she was anyway!) Well done everyone - you all contributed to Striders finishing 3rd on the day and now 4th for the season so far. We have an excellent opportunity for a podium finish at the end of the season!

It was a hard act to follow for the Striders men's team but with a good turnout (18 Striders) hopes were high. Personally, I had my worst X/C race for years so the least said about that the better! At the front our road specialist, Gareth P, developed a taste for the mud to be first Strider home, achieve medium pack qualification but all the while being incorrectly labelled and so disqualified - oh dear! There was plenty of support though with Stephen Jackson having a fantastic run from the medium pack to finish in 56th place and next Strider while a grimacing James G, a happy Graeme, a recovering Rob, a satisfied Scott and a determined Matt C made up the rest of the counters.

As always there were other fine performances throughout the field such as that by Danny Lim, who gave his absolute all, Innes who was delighted to beat 72 men! Gareth Cardus, on debut, in his lovely new yellow shoes and a welcome return by Richard Hocking. Well done to you all! The team results are just provisional as I write and we may well have slipped into the relegation zone - so we'll need an absolute supreme effort by every senior man in the club to keep our heads above water, prevent a slide down the slippery slope, stop us sinking into the abyss, keep us out of the red etc etc! Come on we can do it - lets pull out all the stops at Alnwick & Wrekenton!

...and Gareth Cardus

Well, today was the day - my first cross-country race! Having only been a member of Elvet Striders for a week, I was keen to get involved and sample the delights of cross-country. I have been running for the last two years, exclusively on roads and have run a few 10K events as well as the Great North Run. However, I have to say that nothing can prepare you for a good mudfest!

I arrived early at Bedeswell Park to obtain my number and Elvet Strider colours. As I trundled over to the club tent the severity of the mud/sludge that awaited me became apparent - and that was just crossing the field! At the tent I was met by friendly faces, all of whom made me feel welcome and part of the team. I was ready - or so I thought.

The events began in earnest with the young guns taking centre stage - the girls' and boys' races in the different age categories. Parents lined the course cheering whenever they got the chance and as I watched from the sidelines I remember thinking, 'these guys are quick' and I prayed I wouldn't come last when my race began.

Once they were finished, it was the turn of the senior women. There was a strong contingent competing from Elvet Striders, with five of our runners finishing in the top fifty. By this point, the course was cutting up badly and I was sure the mud was getting deeper by the minute - or maybe that was just my imagination!

At last the time had arrived - the senior men's race. I had my number and was looking the part in purple and green, not to mention my brand new yellow Mudclaw shoes. I had been warned numerous times throughout the day that they would not be yellow for long and so it proved to be.

The race began and my heart was pounding as I set off too quickly, like all keen beginners - rookie mistake! I hadn't gone half a kilometre before - yes, you guessed it - my lovely brand new yellow Mudclaw shoes were black! No time for sentiment though and as I pushed on, the cheering and support of the crowd was pulling me around the course. Parts of if were very boggy and it was hard going; there were a couple of moments when I thought I might lose a shoe but just managed to keep them on my feet.

About three-quarters of the way around the first lap I encountered the one and only steep hill on the course. It was tough but I made it to the top in one piece with the Mudclaws doing a great job at stopping me looking like Bambi! Before I knew it the first lap was over. I dropped my pace for the second lap and tried to run more efficiently but it didn't work. I was exhausted by the time I started the third and final lap, the mud having sapped the energy from my legs, but I gritted my teeth and smiled, 'I so love this' I thought and pushed on. At last, after what seemed like countless twists and turns, the finish line came into sight. I sprinted for the line like a cheetah chasing its prey; well, maybe more like a turtle, but it is a story after all!

Then that was it, in the blink of an eye the race was over. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I made my way back to the tent where there was a feast of food: doughnuts; pies; cakes - all sorts. 'I could get used to this' I thought, munching on a doughnut. Finally everyone said their goodbyes and went on their way. My first cross country event was over and I hadn't finished last! It was a great experience and one I can't wait to sample again.

Gareth's lovely new Mudclaws - before and after

Results

Men
Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Robert Balmbra Morpeth Harriers & AC S MSen 35:05
56Stephen Jackson MMsen40:40
116James Garland SMV3542:00
130Graeme Walton SMV4042:18
161Rob Everson MMsen42:57
188Scott Watson SMV5043:33
208Matthew Crow SMsen44:00
236Dave Halligan SMV5044:48
250Danny Lim SMV3545:03
252Geoff Davis SMV5545:06
264Michael Hughes SMV4545:26
268Matthew Archer SMsen45:33
366Keith Wesson SMV6049:26
392Innes Hodgson SMV4551:09
394Richard Hockin SMV6051:19
427John Hutchinson SMV5554:14
436Gareth Cardus SMV3555:56
445Ian Spencer SMV5058:22

466 finishers. Gareth Pritchard was first finisher for Striders but was disqualified for running with last year's number!

Women
Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Charlotte Whickham Gateshead Harriers S Fsen 28:07
21Susan Davis SFV5031:33
26Rachael Bullock MFsen31:55
28Fiona Jones SFV3531:56
48Sarah Davies SFV4532:24
50Katy Walton MFsen32:25
54Lucy Cowton SFsen32:30
61Elaine Bisson MFV3532:38
74Lesley Charman SFV4032:54
80Stephanie Piper SFsen32:59
87Penny Browell FFV4032:59
97Camilla Lauren-Maatta SFV4533:11
146Debra Goddard SFV4034:32
152Helen Williams SFV3534:42
163Jan Young SFV6035:03
203Stef Barlow SFV4036:22
243Diane Watson SFV5039:39
247Denise Benvin SFV4540:12
257Jennifer Cooper SFV3541:35
272Kelly Collier SFsen45:01
280Claire Galloway SFsen46:44

284 finishers.

Once more unto the mud dear Striders, once more! Lest we close the walls with our dirty washing!

Northern Cross-country Champs, Pontefract, 24th January

Mudman

Mudman himself, on the way to being first Strider home at the 
	Northern XC Champs 2015Fifteen of us headed down to Yorkshire for the Northern X/C Championships on Saturday. The scene at Pontefract racecourse at 9.45am was one of green, pastoral tranquillity if a little damp underfoot - however it didn't stay that way! The tent was quickly erected in the grassy area provided but soon the grass became enveloped in a grey mud which had the consistency of thick gruel. But that is something we're all used to now and so our enthusiasm for what we were about to receive was in no way 'dampened'!

An early arrival on the Gateshead / Durham Harriers bus meant we were able to watch the early races and do a thorough recce of the flattish course which was inside the area where the horse races take place. There were a number of damp patches which it was clear would make the course a tough one in spite of the absence of any hills of significance.

We witnessed some brave performances by the youngsters in their races, on what was a bright but cold and breezy day, and soon it was time for our own youngster, Ari, to set off in the Junior Men's race. Now the fields in the Northerns tend to be of a high quality and some of those 'junior' men were pretty damn quick. Nonetheless Ari hung on in there coping well with the muddy conditions on the two 4k laps and showing real guts and determination to complete the course - well done Ari and good luck with those exams!

The senior women were next up and Striders were well represented by eight Striderettes one or two of who were making their debuts in a regional championship race. Our purple tide was surrounded by vests of many hues from far flung places such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds & Stockport but, as expected, they all battled hard and were led home once again by the ever youthful Fiona followed by a flying Mudwoman, the improving Steph P and a resilient Debs to make up the four counters. Jan had another fine run, after telling a younger rival on the start line to stop complaining, while Catherine and Denise seemed to be having a ball on their runs although Denise was overhauled by a fighting Diane! A great performance all round and it was wonderful that we were able to field enough women to make up two teams when so many clubs are unable to put out one - well done!

Strider ladies at the Northern XC Championships 2015 - 
	Diane, Catherine, Steph, Susan, Debs, Denise, FionaThe senior men had the final use of the 'heavy going' and as we lined up in our 'pens' I found myself with my toe on the line along with Alistair Brownlee and many other fine runners. I didn't stay with them long as the start was another mad dash and I was quickly enveloped and overtaken by hundreds of other runners including first Matt C and then Mike H. Roughly the first K or so was slightly downhill with a following wind - although progress was slowed by the first few sticky patches. Half way round the first lap we all turned into the wind, the going became slightly up hill and the sticky bits were more frequent. I managed to overhaul Mike early on and noticed a guy from Teesdale, wearing a cap, with whom I'd battled with on the North Easterns and so latched onto him. He was a tough opponent and invariably came back at me each time I passed him. There was a long out and back on each lap where you could see all the runners ahead of you and then all the runners behind you. I'd noticed on the second lap that both Mike and Scott were a comfortable distance behind and so concentrated on battling with my Teesdale friend. To my dismay he started to pull away from me at the start of the third lap (the race was 3 laps) but 150m or so up ahead I spotted a Striders vest that could only belong to Matt. And so it was game on.

Mike finished strongly to be third Strider over the lineWithout increasing my pace too much the gap to Matt started to narrow but those sticky bits were starting to take their toll on my legs. As I got quite close, with half a lap to go, Matt became aware I was there and, as I would expect from any X/C running Strider, he started to fight back with short bursts which prevented me from 'taking the lead'. With shouts from the marshals like "good packing" and from Jan of "oh, he's catching you" things were becoming intense. About 200m out, just before a short steep bank, I decided to make my move and managed to ease past a still determined Matt. Running was now agonising but I was managing to hang on and was quite close again to my Teesdale pal. A final sprint for the line, which I was praying would be enough, allowed me to once again to enjoy the almost forgotten honour of being first Strider home - phew!

Matt finished just seconds behind me and was quick to offer his congratulations. Mike came in third Strider with a weary Scott in fourth. After a really tough race at the North Easterns, and another one here, Innes battled round to finish as fifth counter with Ian S completing the full team as 6th counter. What a team effort - everyone counting enabling Striders to be represented among the clubs able to field a team at such a prestigious and tough event. Well done to you all and thank you for representing this great club!

Results

Men
PosNameClubTime
1Andrew DaviesStockport Harriers & AC00:37:44
434Michael Thompson*Teesdale AC00:52:55
437Geoff Davis 00:53:03
438Matthew Crow 00:53:10
501Mike Hughes 00:55:33
514Scott Watson 00:56:03
655Innes Hodgson 01:05:36
677Ian Spencer 01:10:23
*Honourable mention for the Teesdale Pal

697 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubTime
1Elle VernonStockport Harriers & AC0:36:07
140Fiona Shenton 0:37:50
164Susan Davis 0:38:59
203Stephanie Piper 0:41:11
227Debra Goddard 0:42:31
264Jan Young 0:44:37
314Catherine Smith 0:49:11
323Diane Watson 0:49:59
325Denise Benvin 0:50:17

342 finishers.

Junior Men
PosNameClubTime
1Daniel JarvisLiverpool Harries & AC0:26:11
69Ari Hodgson 0:42:20

69 finishers.

Brass Monkey Half-Marathon, York Racecourse, York, 19th January

13.1 miles

Penny Browell

Penny, running hard to a PB at the 2015 Brass Monkey
I still have no idea why I signed up for the Brass Monkey this year. Last year's was my least favourite race of the year - flat, boring, hard work and just not my kind of thing. Yes I'd got a PB but even that hadn't really made up for spending 13.1 miles in drizzle and pain. So as I drove down to York this year I really wondered what I was doing...I'd agreed to go with my brother-in-law for a nice Sunday morning trip but he'd had to pull out at the last minute. So why was I still doing it? As I approached York it was a lovely, but very cold, morning. I saw one nasty accident where a van had gone over on the ice and realised the course was going to be icy which would probably kill my chances of a PB. Again I wondered why I was here...

Once I got to the racecourse I felt a bit better - there was a good show of Striders and as always it was nice to catch up as we compared notes on how much clothing we felt was needed in the sub-zero temperatures. As we lined up for the start I was struck by what a beautiful, crisp winter morning it was and actually began to look forward to the run. Before long we were off...

Stephen was first Strider home in a stunning time of 1:18:28
It's a big race, with about 1500 runners, and I found the first few minutes fairly stressful as I was stuck behind a gang of men who were all at least a foot taller than me. However, once I'd managed to dodge between them I felt a bit better. My legs felt strong and the cold weather was ideal for a nice long run. I set off a bit faster than I should have (as usual) but after a couple of miles settled into a really comfortable pace. The route is a lollipop shape and from a gradient point of view was, as I remembered, pretty boring. However, this year I found myself enjoying the scenery and the regular pace. I wasn't competing with anyone or stressing about people who I passed or who overtook me - I just enjoyed it. After a few miles we hit the first patch of ice. I have to admit I kind of liked the ice - as someone who enjoys the hills, I like having to think about where to place my foot and the risk of sliding was similar to the risk of slipping in mud on a downhill.

The ice came and went and all the way round there were fabulous marshals cheering us on, warning us about the icy patches and encouraging us through to the end. When we got to the 10-mile mark I realised I still felt good and that I wasn't going to suffer as I had the previous year. I actually managed to pick the pace up a bit for the last 2 miles (very rare for me in long races). At about the 12.5 mile point I was happy to see Allan waving us on although he seemed less happy to see me enjoying myself so much and shouted at me to get past the guys in front of me. I took his advice and managed an extra little burst for the final straight back into the racecourse and was delighted to finish more than 2 minutes ahead of my previous HM PB.

After changing, I saw Graeme who had also had a great run, along with Stephen who had finished in an incredible 1.18. From other people's reports it had obviously been a good day for a lot of us with PBs for many and a lot of very happy faces crossing the line. So although I'm still a hill-lover, I have to say I really enjoyed the race. I guess it's like everything else: variety is the spice of life! I'll be pleased to get back to cross-country in a couple of weeks though!

A trio of Strider ladies at the 2015 Brass Monkey: 
	Katy, Karen and Nicola

Results

Striders POS Name Club Cat Chip Time
MDaniel JenkinDurham City Harriers(M) Open Senior1:08:57
FShona McintoshHunters Bog Trotters(F) Open Senior1:16:13
1Stephen Jackson (M) Open Senior1:18:24
2Gareth Pritchard (M) V351:22:19
3Graeme Walton (M) V401:26:41
4Penny Browell (F) V401:31:44
5Helen Tones (F) V351:41:28
6Brian Ford (M) V451:43:10
7Lesley Charman (F) V401:44:16
8Helen Williams (F) V351:44:24
9Lucy Cowton (F) V401:46:17
10Greta Jones (F) V451:46:32
11Jackie Mckenna (F) V451:47:01
12Paul Beal (M) V501:49:04
13Jean Bradley (F) V551:49:19
14Katy Walton (F) Open Senior1:51:29
15Karen Jones (F) V451:51:29
16Nicola Whyte (F) Open Senior1:51:40
17Claire Readey (F) V351:53:00
18Eric Green (M) V451:53:25
19Kathryn Sygrove (F) V451:56:30
20Jacquie Robson (F) V352:04:06
21Gillian Green (F) V452:06:05
22Christine Anne Farnsworth (F) V602:13:21
23Laura Jackson (F) V352:13:47
24Jane Baillie (F) V352:16:28
25Helen Allen (F) V402:17:29
26Jill Ford (F) V452:25:49
27Alister Robson (M) V402:25:49
28Margaret Thompson (F) V652:27:30
29Barrie Evans (M) V65 QUERY

Note: POS shows relative Strider position. Not overall position.

1465 finishers.

Britain's Most Brutal Race

The Spine, Pennine Way, 10–17th January

268 Miles

Flip Owen

A winter's tale. The spine race is the whole of the Pennine Way in January. 270 miles of hills, bogs and everything the winter weather can throw at you high up on the backbone of England. It's a continuous race as in the clock is always ticking. It's billed as the UK's most brutal race and although conditions differ from year to year it's fair to say it's always brutal. It just has several different kinds of brutal.

My spine journey started a couple of years ago when I entered the race. However when it came to the second payment in November my knee was playing up and a few other niggles weren't great so I decided not to do it. I sent of an email saying as much but offered my time helping out if needed. Scot the RD said, he certainly will be in touch and I never heard anything more. As the race started in January I watched my friend's progress and as Alan Rumbles approached Middleton-in-Teesdale I went off with Anna to see if I could help him in any way. Alan was his usual smiling self as we got him some food but his feet were even at that stage a real mess. (Sadly Alan had cellulitis in his feet and after another 100 miles, within reaching distance of the finish had to make the call to call it a day.)

The place was a bit chaotic so I helped where I could, served tea and coffee, washed up for them and causally remarked to Amanda Crozier (I think) that I'd offered to help but heard nothing. At that I was leapt upon and asked if I could relive the marshals at Tan hill ASAP ! (Scott had forgotten about my email which isn't surprising as I guess he gets snowed under as the race approaches)

So off we went. We saw Sunderland stroller Neil Bennett through (who finished) and met Martin May Ottersbach who was in excellent condition but sadly had over slept and was taken out of the race. Lovely bloke though and I look forward to more journeys with him. I worked the next day they I was summed to Bellingham CP on the evening. As I pulled up and went through the doors a lad was standing in bare feet holding onto the door frame and asked if I might just help him for a minute. His feet were buggered as well. This was Charlie Sharpe, a well know and very fast runner. He was trying to get to the sleeping area which was across a court yard. I told him to wait there and backed my car to the doors, helped him in, drove the 10 yards to the sleeping area and helped him to his sleeping bag. From there I relieved the marshals at Byrness. It was some 6-7 hours later in the early hours of the morning the spinners started to come through. I had a stove in my car so I made hot drinks and fed them with goodies I'd picked up along the way. Charlie came in (he couldn't remember me at Bellingham several hours earlier!) and slept for a while in my car before struggling to his feet, barely able to stand and they blasted the Cheviots in 6.5 hours. That's always amazed me as the lad could barely walk. Chapeau Charlie!

So, to cut this short and to put it mildly, this race cried out to me to run it.

Report continues here...

South Shields parkrun, 17th January

Dougie Nisbet

A week after my gusty Ormskirk parkrun I decided to give South Shields a try. In sharp contrast to last week there was no shelter or toilets although you could park about 5 yards from the start line. I could imagine that on a windy day this exposed location could be a bit bleak but the morning had dawned fine, fair and frosty with clear views out over the sea.

A cold and frosty morning.

I listened to the briefing and thought I'd misheard. It wasn't what he said, it was what he didn't say that caught my attention. I whispered to a nearby volunteer, "you mean, there are no laps?". With so many parkruns having to squeeze their 5km into a small space laps are often inevitable, but the South Shields parkrun course is just one large anti-clockwise loop that starts at the top of a hill and finishes outside the Sanddancer.

Fast Finish.Off we went heading south along the pavement before turning left after a mile to head down to the sea. There's a bit of GNR, Pier to Pier, and Sanddancer 10K all rolled into one here. The descent was fast and fun with a few frozen puddles to watch out for before a long wide tempo section to the finish flag.

It was a calm day on a course with an overall drop so I should've expected a better time than last weeek. Even so I was pleasantly surprised to get just under 24 minutes - three minutes faster than last week! It's a good event, about £49 cheaper than the GNR and no problems with the traffic getting home from South Shields afterwards.

Great Winter Run 5K, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, 10th January

Laura Jackson

Laura Jackson - Elvet Striders' Ice Maiden!I signed up for this event in August last year as I was frightened I would stop running once the Great North Run was over in September 2014. Although it is only a 5K it takes in historic Arthur's Seat and being an escaped Scot it was too much to resist. My sister and two of her friends also signed up so we had a team of four when we arrived in Edinburgh on Saturday morning, on what turned out to be a perfect winter's day - sunny but crisp with a little frost underfoot on the grass.

Whilst waiting in the obligatory portaloo queue, fellow Strider Till Sawala came to say hello. He was also doing the event, having been in Edinburgh for work a few days previous to the event. We were given coloured "waves" to start in, a bit like the GNR. I was in green but my sister and her friends were in pink so I dropped back to pink with them. Each wave started about a minute or so apart but as it was chip timed it wasn't an issue. Soon it was our turn to go.

A lovely flat downhill start quickly turned into a 2km gradient, up the right hand bank of Arthur's Seat. The gradient got gradually steeper then it flattened out to some amazing scenery. Travelling round the back of the mound was something I've never done before so was unaware of the "loch" and also the scenery of Edinburgh and beyond.

Hailstones batter the runners around Arthur's SeatAs we continued around it became completely surreal. A big dark cloud which seemed to have appeared from nowhere released hailstones at such a force that it felt like we were being fired at with small missiles. Luckily I had decided not to ditch my Striders hoodie for my rain jacket as this gave some protection against the cold pellets that were firing in all directions. Some runners in front of me simply stopped as visibility was poor. I tied my hood up as high as I could and with my glasses as eye protection, I continued on my way.

Shortly after this, the hail morphed into big fat snowflakes and this signalled the final 2k descent which was without a doubt the best feeling ever. Running 2km completely downhill as the snow disappeared and the sun came back was a beautiful end to the event and on completing we were given a packed goodie bag, medal and long sleeved, non-tech, t-shirt (the Drumstick Squishies were eaten en route back to the car!) .

Goody bag minus Drumstick Squishies!I really enjoyed the race and will definitely use the route again as a casual run or perhaps for preparation for a hilly route as the hill itself was very difficult. This was a lovely 5K event and local to my parents so I'd probably do it again next year. My finish time was 38.39 which, given the weather and the mountain to climb, I wasn't too bothered about, I was just pleased to have done,it and most importantly, enjoyed it. Well done too to Till, who finished a whole 20 mins before me and also in an amazing 22nd place- what a hero!

The race also provided the fringe event for the Great Edinburgh Cross Country that was being televised and as I was waiting on my sister to finish, I watched Chris Derrick doing his final preparations before then going on to win the men's event later in the day. We would have probably stayed to watch if we had not been like snowy, wet icicles at the end.

Results

PosNameClubCatCat PosTime
1Nathan CoxMorpeth Harriers & AC16:32
7Annabel SimpsonFife AC19:16
22Till SawalaElvet Striders18:42
1844Laura JacksonElvet Striders38:39

1881 finishers.

Cathedral Relays, Durham City, 11th January

Ben Ford

Cathedral relays
Striders poised, ready steady
1 2 3 and go

Ormskirk parkrun, Edge Hill University, 10th January

Dougie Nisbet

Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

The decision to read Shelley instead of TS Eliot had been a controversial one given that the timing of the parkrun was so close to the 50th anniversary of the passing of TS Eliot. However the wild and squally wind sweeping over the campus at Edge Hill University for the Ormskirk parkrun had necessitated a change of text for the run briefing.

It was certainly one of the more unusual parkrun briefings I've listened to. Apart from the usual stuff about the route there was the poetry and some up and coming announcements about the next parkrun where the 19 minute pacer wasn't sure if they could get round in 19 minutes, and was there a pacer for the pacer?

The wonderful thing about parkrun is that no two are alike. You can turn up, as I did, at an unfamiliar venue, locate the familiar flag, and that's all there is to it. The Ormskirk parkrun I like. Heated changing rooms, toilets and coffee just yards from the start/finish and plenty of parking. The course was tough though; one of those multi-dimensioned lap-type parkruns that always seem far further than 5km. The wind, hills and stairs(!) resulted in a very sluggish 26minute+ parkrun, but it got me out of bed on Saturday morning and I learned a bit of Shelley.

OH NO IT ISN'T!

Not the Christmas Handicap, 4th January

Pam Kirkup

What a fantastic turnout we had today – and the sun was shining on a perfect day for running!

You wouldn't mess with this pair. Six weeks ago I thought it wasn’t going to happen. Too many GP races and other events were crowding in so the entry for my original date was pitiful – a whole 6 people. Today we had 10 times that number with only a few withdrawals – all for viral infections or injuries. So at 10.55 this morning we all gathered together on the field for the annual group photograph. And the costumes were amazing! We had pirates, pantomime dames, princesses, several Red Riding Hoods (at least one male version!), Rudolph the red nosed …, a wicked witch, Cinderella, a host of other characters including Scott as the Wolf from Red Riding Hood who terrified runners and passers-by with his antics.

If you go down to the woods today. We congregated in MC before we ventured out into the cold and I noticed a line of men queueing for coffee and looking with astonishment at the stream of people arriving dressed in bizarre costumes. It was priceless!

So we got started at around 11.00am and thankfully everyone was ready for their start time. The finish was a bit busy to say the least. Thankfully a group of Striders and marshals managed to funnel finishers into the right order. It worked perfectly! I’d like to thank everyone who helped. Tom & Joan Reeves marshalled at crucial turning points – and Joan decorated a couple of places with tinsel. Phil & Anna were a huge help with the course, leading new runners and helping at the finish. Sue did a great job registering runners and helping me with the timing and of course a huge thanks to Santa and his elves who came out of hibernation in Lapland for the day to support the race and help at the finish. Thank you again to MC Tom who did the presentation in the pub – sorry about all the e-mails!!

Panto Villains, the lot of them.

Results

Santa's Striders
Pos Name 5 mile time Start Time Finish Time Actual Time Prize
1 Adam Walker 28.8 33min30 65min13 31.43 fastest male
2 Neil Sleeman 30.4 32min 64min17 32.17 2nd fastest male
3 Katy Walton 32.3 30min 65min23 35.23 fastest female
4 Conrad White 32 30min30 65min19 34.49
5 Elaine Bisson 34.032 28min15 64min18 36.03 2nd fastest female
6 Scott Watson 33.6 28min45 66min07 37.22 F.D. Prize
7 Keith Wesson 34 28min30 66min59 38.29
8 Eric Green 36.944 25min30 64min06 38.36 F.D. Prize
9 Michael Ross 36.8 25min30 64min39 39.09
10 David Spence 36.112 26min15 66min06 39.51
11 Richard Hall (senior) 36.8 25min30 65min37 40.07 F.D. Prize
12 Lesley Charman 35.84 26min30 67min05 40.35
13 Andrew Davies 37.6 25mins 66min10 41.1
14 Jan Young 45 17min30 59min12 41.42 1st finisher
15 Erin Keeler-Clarke (J) 40.5 21min30 63min56 42.26 1st junior
16 Jean Bradley 40.368 22mins 64min38 42.38
17 Stephnie Piper 41.6 21mins 64min27 43.06
18 Ian Spence 44.064 18min30 61min45 43.15 F.D Prize
19 Debs Goddard 39.2 23min15 66min40 43.25 F.D Prize
20 Jane Ives 39.2 23min15 66min40 43.25 F.D Prize
21 Lucy Cowton 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
22 Fiona kinghorn Jones 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
23 Nicola Whyte 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
24 Melanie Hudson 40 22min30 66min38 44.08
25 Mandy Dawson 42 20mins30 64min33 44.33 F.D Prize
26 David Case 40.8 21min 65min33 44.33
27 Anita Clementson 45 17min30 62min42 45.12 F.D Prize
28 Diane Watson 46.4 16min 63min15 45.15
29 Debbie McFarland 44.96 17min30 65min30 46
30 Steve Ellis 41.84 20mins30 67min10 46.4 F.D Prize
31 Karin Hooper 46.4 16min 64min45 46.45
32 Denise Mason 44 18min30 65min28 46.58
33 Karin Younger 48 14min30 61min35 47.05
34 Barbara Dick 45 17min30 64min37 47.07
35 Gillian Green 43.968 18min30 65min44 47.14
36 Denise Benvin 48 14min30 61min52 47.22
37 Catherine Smith 45.392 17min 64min32 47.32
38 Helen Hall 51.2 11min15 62min20 51.05 F.D. Prize
39 Mike Elliott 52 10min30 62min08 51.38
40 Stan White 45.04 17mins30 71min27 53.57
41 Dougie Nisbet 44.8 17min30 71min27 53.57 F.D Prize
42 Aileen Scott 49.904 12min30 66min32 54.02
43 Margaret Thompson 51.2 11min15 66min16 55.01
44 Joanne Parkinson 54.4 8min 63min50 55.3
45 Shelagh Barton 53.392 9min 65min 56
46 Joanne Richardson 51 11min15 68min03 56.48
47 Katharine Bartlett 56.848 5min30 62min25 56.55
48 Claire Galloway 51.792 10min30 67min41 57.11
49 Kerry Lister 49.6 12min45 70min01 57.16
50 Victoria McClean 49.92 12min30 70min04 57.34
51 Sophie Dennis 49.616 12min45 70min25 57.4
52 Laura Jackson 54.448 8min 67min29 59.29
53 Bev Walker 62.4 0 61min20 61.2
54 Mike Bennett 40 22min30 DNS
55 Anita Dunseith 50.4 12min DNS
56 Ann Towers 50 12min30 DNS
57 Dave Robson 40 22min30 DNS
58 Mark Dunseith 39.5 23min DNS
59 Lyndsay Rodgers 37.104 25mins15 DNS
60 Malcolm Sygrove 35.68 26min45 DNS
61 Lucy Butt 33.6 28min45 DNS

53 finishers.

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Captain Cook's Fell Race, Great Ayton, N.Yorks, 1st January

BS/8 km/318 m

Steph Piper

Elvet Striders pose for a photo with Great Ayton's WWI commemorative sculptureAt some point in December, following Jan and Paul's deceptively encouraging description of this race I made the decision to tackle the Captain Cook's fell race - what better way to bring in the New Year than with a new running challenge?

New Year's Eve came around. I dug out my Camelback rucksack and stuffed it with three different waterproof jackets, trousers, map, compass, whistle and penknife - just in case I needed to cut my arm off. Emergency jelly babies also went in as a precaution. The FRA kit-list was a little intimidating - all this for a five mile yomp up a hill and back? Yikes.

I travelled down with Scott and Diane Watson, who were also running, and their daughter Kathryn who had come to spectate and take photographs. Once registered it was time to sort out the bag. Scott kindly (ruthlessly?) vetted the contents (out went two of the jackets, the trousers, the jelly babies and the knife…). Ready to race? You betcha.

As a GP race, fellow Striders were out in force. We had just enough time for a group photo with the wicker soldier before bunching up at the start line. Despite having read the last few years' race reports and studying the route I really had no idea what to expect, so I simply focussed on getting round the race and set off at a steady pace.

Once out of the village and off the tarmac, the trail soon became narrow and muddy. The frost and snow from the past few days had thawed in the balmy 12 degrees and turned the trail thick with clarts the Mud Captains would have been proud of. It wasn't long before the steady running pace turned to a walk as each step tried to claim a shoe, an ankle, a competitor.

Hidden within the depths of the woods was the steepest ascent. I craned my neck upwards to see the legs and feet of several Striders disappearing from view. Mel Hudson appeared at my side and we trudged upwards before finally breaking out of the trees to be buffeted by a strong side wind across the tops. Mel put her head down and started on ahead, towards the monument itself, which was miraculously close - I'd almost forgotten we were meant to be running! I kept close as the route turned downhill across slabs and track, picking up plenty of speed past the fir trees decorated with tinsel and baubles.

A flying Steph on the downhill leg towards the finish The descent steepened and deteriorated into even thicker mud, resembling the Aykley Heads XC course - but on steroids. Choose a line: through the middle, ankle deep? Jump from side to side? I tried the latter, pinballing between trees and the sides of the ruts, but these were covered in the slick mud churned up by the runners in front and far too unstable. Through the middle it was then, praying I tied my laces tight enough.

We skirted the old mines before descending on to tarmac and past the houses of Gribdale Terrace and Dikes Lane. Almost every inhabitant had come out to watch us, waving, cheering and wishing a "Happy New Year" over the garden wall. The sharp right hand bend and short, steep uphill section took me by surprise. I walked again, not recalling how much was left of the race from the map and how much energy I might need to conserve. Mark Dunseith thundered past, shouting over his shoulder I was under the hour mark and disappeared through a gate as the course headed back off-road. I followed suit, determined not to let him get too far ahead as the route took the occasional twist and turn through more woods and fields.

Suddenly I heard shouting and looked up from my detailed study of the still-clarty trail to see that a sea of multicoloured people were stood around the next corner. Was this the end? Surely not. It couldn't be over already? I crossed the line, bewildered, into the laughing and clapping throng of far speedier Striders. What had just happened? My first fell race was conquered, and the seed of a new running curiosity was planted. That was what happened.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1Paul LoweNorth York MoorsM45/1/50/5032.49
4Bronwen OwenScarborough ACFJ/1/50/5033.53
25Paul Evans MO/12/37/12037.29
70Scott Watson M50/8/41/13141.13
73Mike Bennett M60/1/50/5041.26
111Michael Hughes M45/18/31/3143.52
113Penny Browell F40/3/46/19444.02
141Eric Green M45/27/22/2246.05
159Mandy Dawson F45/4/45/4547.12
164Lucy Cowton FO/7/42/4247.52
182Jan Young F60/3/46/19449.40
197Camilla Lauren Maatta F45/5/44/18651.42
210Ari Hodgson MJ/2/48/4853.08
217Melanie Hudson FO/15/34/3453.50
218David Shipman M55/14/35/3553.51
232Stephanie Piper FO/20/29/2955.03
233Ian Spencer M50/31/18/1855.06
250Diane Watson F50/5/44/4460.04
263Denise Benvin F45/11/38/3864.57
264Phil Owen M45/38/11/8565.14
265Gillian Green F45/12/37/3767.10
268Anita Dunseith FO/26/23/6674.17
269Kerry Lister F40/13/36/3679.20
271Claire Galloway FO/28/21/2186.00

271 finishers.

Morpeth 11k Road Race, 1st January

Aaron Gourley

After a hit and miss 2014, I really was looking forward to getting 2015 going. A family and friend week away in Alnwick meant that my usual NYD Captain Cooks fell race was out of the question so I set my sights on Hillforts and Headaches in Northumberland only to find out it had been cancelled for this year. But in its absence was Morpeth 11k road race hosted by Morpeth Harriers.

After a few too many on NYE and a very late bedtime, the 1pm start was a bonus. Having roped my non-running friend to join me we set off from Alnwick to Morpeth with families in tow. Arriving at Morpeth Rugby club it became apparent to my friend that only club runners are mad enough to run on NYD and with the weather not particularly good for spectators below the ages of 6, our wives drove off and left us.

A large contingent of Elswick Harriers were present and I'd pointed out who was most likely to win. Then I spotted Fiona Shenton as she made her way to the start but didn't get to say hello. The start was midway up a steep hill heading downwards. Before long we were off, down the back roads of Morpeth and under the A1. The road was undulating until about the 3km mark when it started the long drag upwards.

Up until this point Fiona was never more than 50 meters away but on the climb I slowly closed the gap. About three quarters of the way a guy who had been passed by Fiona asked who she was, stating what a runner she was. I agreed and pressed on determined to catch her. A strong crosswind accompanied us to the top of the climb at around the 6/7km mark before a change of direction put the wind behind us and sent us downhill back to Morpeth. At this point I was within 5ft of Fiona and hoping to let her know she wasn't the only Strider present, but she seemed to find another gear and had quickly opened up the gap. I tried to keep pace but couldn't on the fantastic downhill back into Morpeth.

Back in town we were swept left into Carlisle Park and up a really short but nasty hill before a fast, flat out run along the river to the finish line.

I never did get to say hello to Fiona as I waited for my friend to finish, but he never did, he'd dropped out at 9km and got a lift back to the finish from one of the marshals which was a real shame.

In all, this was a fantastic race, quite tough but one that should be given more consideration by our road loving members.

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Tadele GeremewElswick HarriersSM 34.58
31Jacqueline PennNorth Shields PolyF42.29
82Fiona ShentonV5547.52
86Aaron GourleySM48.06

182 finishers

Guisborough Woods, North York Moors, 28th December

BM 6.8M 1358'

Jan Young

Jan kicking through the snow.

My last race of 2014 and three and half minutes faster than last year, due to calm day, no wind.

This year a perfect winter's scene, thin snow cover and bright sunshine on moor, so calm.

In the woods, frosty air hanging white against green conifers.

The juniors ran to quarry top and back, a mile outing for them, while two lap senior race covered wide woodland tracks and moor edge.

These NEHRA series races are always well supported, 117 runners shunning sales shopping.

Where were you?

My purple vest was lonely.

Charity Score Orienteering Event, Durham University Estates, 26th December

60 minutes

Oskar Määttä

Oskar at the finish. It was an early start being at Collingwood College car park by Durham University for 10:30, having been used to getting up for 12 every day of the holidays. Nevertheless I managed to haul myself out of bed for the orienteering event, gearing myself up with running clothes to complement the cold weather and a choice of trail shoes to combat the mud of Houghall forest. Although I have been a passionate runner for a few years now (at the age of sixteen) I have never exactly done orienteering, so it would be fun to try out and learn how different it actually is from regular cross country running.

Looking pensive.

I went down with my family, and we had agreed to split into two teams, composing of me and my brother Emil for one team and my parents Camilla and Arto forming the other. For my team, we had come to the agreement that Emil would do all the map-work and work out where to head next and I would run off to the controls to scan our E-tag when we spotted them. My parents had gone for a similar approach of tactics, with Arto mainly reading the map and Camilla mainly running to the controls.

Camilla keeping an eye on race winner Duncan Archer.

After having stood about at the car park for half an hour (and gotten somewhat chilly) it was time to set off, so everyone queued up to scan their E-tag and then grab a map and set off on their hunt - whether they be aiming for their fastest possible time or taking it as a relaxed walk. Emil and I weren’t taking it all too seriously, being it our first time properly orienteering, but we were still going to give our best efforts. Anyway, I scanned my E-tag to signal the start of our 1 hour time limit and then prepared to grab a map, but lo behold disaster had struck; they had ran out of maps! It may not have been the end of the world, but our 1 hour limit was already ticking down while we had no idea where to go, which is pretty near. We ended up admitting defeat and joining our parents to borrow their map (don’t tell them that this made it a defeat (only joking, it didn’t really make it a defeat)). However, before we got anywhere we found Scott and Dianne with their daughter, who had a spare map and were kind enough to give it to us, enabling us divide into our original groups again (they mustn’t have been aware that I am in fact from Jarrow & Hebburn AC rather than a fellow Strider, or they may not have given it to us!). We had lost a couple of minutes by this point, but it didn’t matter – we were just glad to be able to start properly.

My brother had plotted out a journey varying to that of our parents, as we had decided to trek out the furthermost control on the map in the edge of the forest, getting only a couple on the way, and working our way back collecting as many controls as we could in a steady loop, finishing with the ones around the colleges. This contrasted to Camilla’s and Arto’s plan as they started getting the nearby ones around the colleges first and slowly worked their way out to the forest, but with a longer run back at the end.

A good Strider turnout.

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