Round-up: last one from us

Round-up: last one from us

Ladies and gents,

Two minutes to midnight. Metaphorically anyway - it is actually 2010 hrs as I start this final communique with you all in my current role, but my time as men's captain is running short and Wednesday will be the final time that you have to endure the rapid-fire delivery, the brief lapses of memory as to what we're all about to do and the last-minute recollections of someone's achievements the previous weekend. That said, I must finish this email first, before handing the baton to Jon Ayres whom you have decided to install as my successor. So, here we go:

The weekend just passed:

- we're actually going to go back a further weekend, as I've not managed to get out a round-up this week. Applause please for the many of you at the Sherman Cup, where the women managed 10th place of 27 complete teams and the depleted men's side 25th of 27 complete teams. I note that the sun encouraged runners without much XC experience to come out and that we were pleasingly-represented at the bottom end of the field by Jan Ellis, Helen Hall, Rebecca Devine, Lucy Herkes (a survivor of major surgery that had the potential to never again permit her to run, in the not too distant past) and Diane Watson (fatigued from recent endeavours). In results terms, the strength of the club lies further up the field; in terms of our soul and our future, these five and their lung-busting, thigh-screaming efforts (at least one of whom had made their XC debut at the rougher Tanfield course and come back for more) exemplify what we are about. The next day, the even hillier terrain of Richmond hosted the local classic 10k, John Hutchinson first home for us in 49:42, Coiln Dean in 53:10, Angela Tribe just sub-1hr and Karen Hooper just holding off Helen Hedley in 1:02 and 1:03. Anything I've missed, please let me know (results garnered via memory and NE races, so there will be gaps).

- The weekend we're in: glorious sunshine, yielding ground and two races (plus parkruns, with several PBs - Penny Browell, Simon Gardner, Malcolm Sygrove, Alex Cole, Karin Younger, Victoria Jackson, David Browbank, Katie-Louise Finney, David Toth (first-timer), Catherine Smith (paced by Gareth P), Jim Nicholson, Jan Ellis, Caitlin Mooney, Sheile Barton and the great Allan Seheult, walking his talk after putting on the magnificent evening of mile races - effortwise, this weekend we as a club were a running superpower, no matter our lack of silverware). The races themselves were a snapshot of the club's diversity and strength across the board - a half dozen members, including Mike Hughes in the opening leg going head-to-head with the best fell runners in the country, took on the nation's best fell clubs up and down Pendle Hill in Lancashire. Unfortunately, this was a men-only affair, as our female contenders were not allocated a place this year (normally I would not at this point hesitate to blame the patriarchy, particularly on a hill with a history of witchcraft allegations, but the criteria used were a fair response to some fairly strict limits on numbers). Reader, we (Mike H, Mike Bennet, Scott Watson, Tom Reeves, Nigel Heppell and I) did not triumph. Though we did get a great run out, beat a few other teams and came home with a treacherously-orange buff apiece.

Rather more successful were the Striders at Gibside, the 6.7m course resplendent as ever in the many colours of autumn. Removed from the club GP for the past two years on the grounds that it would be slightly bizarre to have a race counting in the hill section on the same days as the British Fell Relays, this is nevertheless a popular (17 Striders this year) race with enough twists and turns to make one unaware at any given moment of one's location on the estate; which is fine, as it is all gorgeous. Anyway, Matt Archer managed 67th place overall, ten minutes behind the winner (Jordan Bell of Blackhill), Fiona Shenton was second Strider and second FV55 and Shaun Roberts, back to racing and coming back to form was third for us. Behind them were 14 others, with Fiona Jones, John Hutchinson, Jane Ives (just behind a Jean Bradley who has been consistently good for months) and Alan Smith's times standing out as particularly good for them, though the Thrower/Barnett/Allen trio at the rear also deserve plaudits for running a close three-way race between them.

As for the club GP, last year's is now settled, with the ladies overall title going to Katy Walton, just ahead of Penny Browell and with Fiona Jones in third. The men's title was a close-run thing, though an anticlimax as injuries prevented either Graeme Walton (1st overall) or Gareth Pritchard (second overall and endurance winner) from racing at either redcar or the Viking Chase, where head-to-head results could have been decisive. Rob Everson managed third on the back of his excelling in the XC and sprints. In the fell category it was Evans-Bennett-Owen and Browell-Young-Lauren-Maatta 1-2-3s, with the distance prizes going to Ian Spencer (1st), Stephen Jackson and Gareth Pritchard and Elaine Bisson (1st), Fiona Jones and Lucy Cowton, both of these decided on the last day at Redcar. Congratulations to all, particularly Penny, Ian and Elaine who have been rewarded, in our own small way, with a degree of recognition for their efforts over a long season. Obviously the 2015-16 GP is up and running after Tanfield and we would encourage you to participate as much as possible this season, as all races picked are worth doing in one way or another, and efforts have been made to keep the cost and difficulty of entry down (Blaydon excepted but, en masse, this is well-loved enough to be excepted).

Finally, barring any corrections or amendments, I would like to add for both Anna and I your thanks for your support over this, our second year in the seats. We both step down shortly, Anna to focus on ridiculous distance, I as I have been asked to fill the chair position that Tom Reeves now vacates when, in honesty, I would rather have remained in what has been a tremendously rewarding role - the pleasure I have had from cobbling together training sessions (with thanks, by the way, to all of the four ladies contesting the captain and VC posts, as every last one of them has been generous with their time, legs, navigational skills and imagination) has been immense, the reward coming from seeing the sweat, pain and smiles at the end of each session and on race days themselves. I would like to thank Tom for his role in continuing Dave Shipman's steady hand philosophy, as well as Anna Seeley Michael Ross, Kerry Barnett and Jon Ayres, all of whom leave their current roles, the committee members who continue and have been a pleasure to work with, the many of you who quietly get on and take out runners week-in week every last one of you who pulls on your shorts and vest, accepts that the next hours of their life is going to hurt, pushes themselves to places they weren't sure they could go then gets on and repeats it all again, race after race after race.

Ladies and gents, Anna and I step back now and hand over to Jon and Kerry or Fiona. We're not the fastest club in Durham, nor are we the biggest, but I don't think either of us could have asked for a greater privilege in running than to have had the opportunity to help lead this club, difficult times and all, over the past couple of years; this is not the club we joined, in size or demographics, but it is a club that has blossomed in several ways, both at the competitive end of the spectrum and the introductory end, with many runners who started at the latter now coming through the ranks and shedding time progressively. In this year we've retained second division status in men's XC and pushed for prizes in the women's. We've contested relays all over the north-east, run 300+ miles over England's toughest terrain for charity (raising >£1500) and had representatives at the London marathon, the national XC championships, the Spine race and ultras, marathons, fell races and 10ks too numerous to name. In this time we have, I think, maintained our ethos of being as competitive as we possibly can be whilst supporting those who are newer to the sport and possibly do not come into it from a position of 'running privilege.' My hopes going forward? More of the same. Much, much more of the same. Over to you...

We take our leave

Paul and Anna