Race Reports, May 2009

Edinburgh Marathon, 31st May

Shaun Roberts

Getting to the start line for this one has been surprisingly difficult. Paul Evans and Graham Daglish pulled out early on, and with a week to go Jean Gillespie had to do the same having picked up an injury. Very sadly, Phil Owen, too, had to give it a miss due to the death of his cousin. Two friends of mine also had to cancel - bad back and Piriformis Syndrome (ache in the bum: see Debs for details). So only Dave, Dougie, Steph and I were left to have a go - and Dave wasn't in great shape either, having bruised his chest in a fall at the Windermere Marathon a fortnight earlier. But Dave isn't in the habit of pulling out of races...

'Temperatures of up to 22 degrees Celsius took their toll. Ten people had to be taken to hospital, after collapsing due to heat-related problems and 160 were treated by medical staff at the scene. Some water stations ran out of supplies and staff used motorbikes to distribute water to runners who had missed out.'

Well, my training had gone well, I hadn't picked up an injury either, so what could go wrong? Well, only the one thing I really didn't fancy - the day turned out to be one of the hottest of the year ... doh! I looked out the window at six in the morning - not a cloud in the sky. And just one magpie to be seen. I hate omens. Off to the start, where I'd managed to wangle a place in the front pen, normally behind elite Kenyans and the like - but here it was behind a very noisy group of Spaniards who the commentator goaded into shouting, singing and dancing like maniacs for an hour before the start - they must have been knackered before running a yard!

The finish, at last ... in home-made Striders vest. We got underway, onto a broadly-downhill six-mile stretch down to the coast, and I was a bit disconcerted to find myself sweating profusely within a mile! Nice easy going, though, and by the time we got to the coast I was three minutes ahead of the 7.5-minute miling pace I was aiming for overall. I'd been hoping that the coast would bring some form of breeze - but there was hardly a sniff - though luckily it did pick up a bit later on. I thought I was definitely going to blow up in the heat, as I've done a few times before, unless I did something about it. I remembered the Great North Run from a few years back when it was *really* hot - fatally so, sadly - and I got round then by going over the top on drenching myself in water at every opportunity. So at every water stop, I drank lots, and then all the rest went over the head and down the back.

And it worked. Went through 10K in 42:42, halfway in 1:35 and 20 miles in 2:29. Waited for the grief to start - but it just didn't happen, and I finished in a shade over 3:17, nine minutes better than last time! To say that I was well-chuffed with that result in the conditions would be a huge understatement. Pleased, and relieved to actually get round.

Saw Dougie on the return leg, looking cool in his new Scottish Buff and shades - think he was well-pleased with the time, as he was over half an hour faster than last year. Steph fell on a discarded water bottle at 15 miles and had a few grazes but came in a great time for her first marathon, which she was very chuffed with. Dave was pacing another runner, and was pleased to get round ok - he managed to sort his chest out by wearing an extra base layer, though that was the last thing you needed in the circumstances.

This was a day when everyone was pleased to get to the finish line. A lot of people were upset that a number of water stations - at 3m and more seriously 15m to 20m - ran out of water. The organisers did manage to get water out there eventually but not until after lots of runners had gone through that stretch. Ten runners ended up in hospital - thankfully, no one died.

Sheikh ma Bahookie adds ...

Yes, it's Dougie.

The day before the race found me (rather disbelievingly) reading texts from Shaun who advised me that what I needed in the hot weather was something called a 'buff'. After checking that he'd not misunderstood my question I hot-footed it to the nearest buff-store and got myself a natty little number. Thinking I'd thought of everything I stood at the start and switched on my Garmin to discover the batteries were flat. This was serious. No watch, no pace band, I would have to run Alone.

I passed Steph around the half-way point and was grateful to see a familiar face. I was still very comfortable and had a good rhythm going. At mile 15 I heard my name shouted and glanced up to see Shaun at mile 20. I knew I was running well and Shaun was 5 miles in front of me so he was clearly on for a flyer. At mile 16 my legs began to hurt. At mile 18 they really began to hurt. But my rhythm and breathing were good so I ploughed on. Expected to blow around 21 mark in line with training runs, and pretty much did so but not as severe as I thought it would be, especially with it being a hot hot day. For the last 10 miles I ran with my head rather than my heart as it was scarily hot. Every time I eased on the throttle I felt lots of warning signs and eased back as I didn't want to end up like the many who had, literally, fallen by the wayside.

Funnily enough, I was pretty much exactly on what I thought I'd be at the finish based on a few rough calculations on the glimpses of timing clocks that I'd got on the way round. It'd be easy to be tough on myself and think I could've sub-foured (is that a verb? [No, Ed.]) but I think I pretty much raced it about right. Maybe I could've squeezed another minute or two at great expense, but that elusive sub-4, which doesn't feel too far away, will have to wait for another day.

The race was let down by a few inexcusable schoolboy errors on the part of the organisers. The water had ran out at the first drinks station, and I only later realised how lucky I was to get to the later ones before it ran out there too. 'Race-Side' at the finish was a muddle with little indication on how to escape, and then into a claustrophobic bottleneck before spilling into the street. The Shuttle-Bus tickets may have been beautifully printed in full colour but the return after race buses to the city were a shambles. We hobbled to chaotic queues for non-existent buses before being directed back to where we'd come from to stand in long slow-moving queues with sore legs and short tempers.

The organisers got a couple of things right. I bumped into Steph at the finish next to the beer table where we were happy to accept a glass of cold lager. Nice touch. Steph had grazes to her face arm and hand after a fall on a discarded water bottle but seemed in remarkably good spirits. This was probably because she'd finished in 4.21 for her first ever marathon and it would take more than a mouthful of tarmac to dampen her spirits.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Martin Williams Dudley M 2:18:24
28 Holly Rush Bradford Upon Avon F 2:41:38
377 Shaun Roberts MV50 26 3:17:12
3065 Dougie Nisbet MV40 723 4:08:21
4035 Stephanie Barlow FV35 337 4:21:26
7151 Dave Robson MV50 461 5:20:21

8258 finishers.

Raby Castle 10K & 5K, 24th May

Andy Jordan

Andy at Raby Castle.

What a fantastic event. It was a beautiful day for a run and I can think of nowhere better than the grounds of Raby Castle. There was a great turnout from the Striders and everyone seemed to have a good run on what was an undulating course on the hottest day of the year so far (or so it seemed). There was loads of support and it was great to be cheered home on the final straight. Highly recommended unless you want to run a PB!

Jan Young

12 reasons to run Raby (this year)
Jan at Raby Castle.
  1. to see a 'Sea of Purple', supported by parents, partners and grandbairns.
  2. choice of runs; all ages, all abilities, one lap 5k or longer 2 lap 10k
  3. good venue for new runners, with 400+ in 10k you feel like you're in a 'big' race
  4. lots of spectator support on laps
  5. undulating, scenic route on estate roads, through woods
  6. picnics in the park, coffee shop, gift shop, gardens with packed, perennial borders and curvaceous, clipped yew hedge
  7. magnificent medieval castle, deer herds, ancient trees
  8. free entry to grounds for pre- entered runners and families, reduced entry to castle with runners number
  9. well organised race
  10. t shirt for runners
  11. sunshine
  12. [er, that's 11. Ed.]


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Terry Wall Morpeth M38 33.58
5 Sarah Tunstall Kendal AC F23 1 35.54
58 Mike Bennett M55 42.38
123 Adrian Jenkins M43 46.49
131 Andrew Jordan M34 47.04
166 Melanie Hudson F31 48.52
177 Alister Robson M37 49.25
189 Nina Mason F35 49.54
202 Phil Owen M45 50.34
212 Andrew Thompson M28 51.12
236 Jan Young F56 52.42
246 Gary Davies M35 53.06
260 Kirsty Dykes F27 54.06
281 Zoe Tomlins F25 55.02
284 Denise Mason F28 55.11
294 David Shipman M52 55.47
374 Alan Purvis M71 62.05
422 Margaret Thompson F59 91.00

422 finishers.

Stewart Park 5K, Middlesbrough, 20th May

Andy Jordan

Whilst the rest of the running club were at Snod's Edge I was in Middlesbrough doing my first ever 5k race. This event was organised by the same people who do the Albert Park run every Saturday morning. Stewart Park is bigger, a lot greener and more undulating than its counterpart and about half of the race was on grass or woodland paths. The heavy rain during the day had left some of the surfaces a bit slippery but the 2 lap event was well organised and marshalled for a free event. The organisers are not sure if they are doing it again but I hope they do as I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Pos Name Club Cat Age Grade Time
1 Gareth WILSON North York Moors AC SM30-34 18:07
20 Andrew JORDAN SM30-34 22:03

94 finishers.

Snods 6, Snods Edge, 20th May

Dougie Nisbet

You'd have to have a pretty good reason for not doing this race. It's a scenic rural course on a mix of quiet lanes, paths, fields and farms. The mudbaths and fords are disappointingly brief but enough to whet the appetite. The marshalling is efficient and reassuring with extra information available for the more enquiring traveller. The race is free. The food is free. And the possibilities for imaginative food-combining should satisfy the most intrepid post-race appetite. (I had beef curry, hard boiled eggs, cheezy wotsits, sausage rolls and some veggie pasta with mushrooms, mopped up with a ham sandwich. Washed down with a pint of John Smiths. Delicious!)

We were blessed with warm sunshine on our bodies as we limbered up for the start. There were lots of purple vests and I wandered around in contented ignorance amongst all the familiar and unfamiliar faces. I was chatting with Phil and Kirsty and a few other bright young things when it dawned on us that the race must have started as people started thinning out and drifting down the hill.

I'd forgotten how many hills this short race manages to cram in. Edging ahead of Ray, Phil and Debs I settled down into a steady pace. However I ended up having rather a good race, probably down in no small part to thinking Debs was right behind me all the way around, and not daring to look around. Debs had rather unnervingly advised me not to get freaked out if she cruised past practising her strides and I spent most of the race being freaked out as I unnervingly waited for her to stride past.

Mike Hall finishes the race with a guard of honour.

I was pleased to finish 5 minutes faster than last year. I'd forgotten how cruel the last hill can be, and how satisfying it is when you finish and can watch all the remaining runners who have also forgotten how cruel the last hill can be. The remaining (slightly chilly) faithful jogged down the hill to escort Mike Hall up to the finish, then back into the church hall for beer, supper, prizes and raffle. Low-key, straightforward and friendly. Great Stuff.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Paul Whalley Blyth M 37.29
2 Will Horsley M 38:03
10 Mike Bennett M 43:45
11 Shaun Roberts M 44:07
13 Sarah Lister Blackhill F 1 44:17
20 Thomas Reeves M 47:02
24 Graham Daglish M 47:35
26 Nigel Heppell M 48:39
31 Dougie Nisbet M 50:06
32 Ray Partridge M 51:11
33 Phil Owen M 51:21
34 Anna Pethybridge F 51:28
35 Debs "Four Puddings" Goddard * F 51:31
42 Jean Bradley F 53:31
46 Alan Smith M 54:18
48 Wendy Rowell F 55:27
51 Kirsty Dykes F 55:59
54 Jen Copley F 56:33
55 Jane Ives F 59:21
56 Jan Young F 57:55
57 Andy James M 57:56
60 Greta Jones F 61:20
61 Mike Elliott M 61:25
62 Linda McDermott F 64:13
63 Mike Hall M 79:51

63 finishers.

* To be fair, I had six myself! Shaun.

Clive Cookson 10K, Whitley Bay, 20th May

Jamie Steel

Fellow Strider Alister, MickyC (maybe/hopefully a future Strider) and I, left Durham spot on 5pm. It was quite a stressful long drive, battling our way through rush hour traffic, negotiating our way through the dreaded Tyne Tunnel and nearly been wiped out on the way by a Peugeot in the wrong lane arghhhhhhh, not the best start to our preparations for the race.

We eventually arrived, thankfully in one piece at 6.30, with plenty of time to collect numbers, pee and warm up... Conditions were almost perfect, warm but not too hot and with a light breeze, which in addition to the 2 lap course being pretty flat gave me hope of cracking 40 minutes for the first time this year. The starting gun went off at 7.15 and we were off.

I felt quite lethargic but glancing at my trusty Garmin I was pleased to see I was doing ok making it to 5k in just over 20 minutes. I managed to pick up the pace and at 7k I was on schedule for a sub 40. After 7km it started to go wrong losing time on track which had a slight incline, but despite picking up the pace once back on the concrete footpath, there was no way even though I had a strong finish I could not make up the lost time... never mind must work harder! Alister came in looking strong and fresh at 46.29 and he seemed to be pleased with his time.

It was a very long day by the time we returned to Durham and I was ready for a hot bath, food and my bed!


Pos Name Club Cat Age Grade Time
1 BROWN, Mark Morpeth Harriers & AC M29 0.84 32:05
72 STEEL, Jamie M37 0.67 40:57
94 COXON, Michael Unattached * M37 0.63 43:04
145 ROBSON, Alister M37 0.59 46:29

* Go on Mike, you know you want to join ...

228 finishers.

Windermere Marathon, Brathay, 17th May

Dave Robson

Spot the Strider.

This was my first marathon two years ago and although I struggled from mile 22 onwards, I enjoyed it. Last year I was doing it after the White Peak the day before and I surprised myself how well it went.

This year it didn't start well, I slept poorly the night before, so I was still tired when I woke up. The day before had been fun watching and encouraging the Ten marathons in Ten Days runners at various points round the Lake (they do the marathon course every day !). Met many people I knew, including Phil Owen who came over to watch and support them.

Go to the start in plenty of time and and saw the Ten in Ten runners off on their final lap (they start an hour earlier), more chat and then off to our start. The plan was to be disciplined and do 10 min/miles and help others to new pbs. My hamstring hasn't been good this week and I have Edinburgh in two weeks, so it was always going to be gentle, enjoy the scenery, run.

The course is very undulating and it wasn't easy to keep a consistent pace. My plan as it evolved through the race was to stick as close as I could to 10 min/miles and not to speed up to catch others who were speeding up, but to slow down if people were struggling to keep up. We were a minute or two ahead of schedule at 13m and then the hardest undulating quarter kicked in and we started to slip behind the schedule. Andrew had always been slightly ahead and he disappeared soon after half way. Kev went ahead at 15m, followed by Tracy at about 18m, leaving me and Mel.

Then at 19m I fell ! I had moved off the road to look at my watch and caught my foot on a driveway kerbstone. It was like being in slow motion, I thought I had recovered, but I hadn't and I smacked down on the driveway. Ouch. Everybody around me stopped to ask if I was okay and I knew from previous experience of falling that I had to give myself a minute to assess the damage. Initial assessment was good so I told Mel on go on and said I would try and catch her up. I was up at this stage and walked for a bit. The inside of my left hand was a but bloody and grazed and I had slight pain in my side at chest height, but no damage to my legs.

Caught Mel up before we got to Bowness and we went along the flat part and walked the 21m hill to be greeted by a couple of friends at the top, it was great to see them. I was becoming conscious of the soreness in my side and my hamstring was starting to protest, left calf was tightening and it was starting to become harder work.

Then at 22m, the heavens opened and rain came down in buckets. Before this it had been a mixture of cloudy and sunny with a slight head wind in the first half. Mel was starting to struggle a bit, but it was clear we were going to get her a new pb and it seemed to be possible to get her under 4hr 30m. In the end we missed that by 23 seconds, but got her a new pb by about 6min, so that was great!

Afterwards I was amazed how tired I was. Not sure whether it was because of poor sleep or the fall, but it seemed worse that it had been the last two years.

A lovely weekend!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Ian Fisher Otley AC 02:35:32
614 Dave Robson M55 334 4:30:21

836 finishers.

Pier to Pier Race, Sunderland, 17th May

Shaun Roberts

A selection of the thirty-three Striders who ran this one. And whatever you're doing to Christine, Barry, can you stop it.

We had a massive turnout at the Pier-to-Pier - no less than thirty-three Striders. Good to see quite a few new members having a go at this one. Also, many thanks to supporters along the route - George Nicholson took some great photos on Nigel's camera (see link below - Dougie also has a nice selection), Tom's family were out, Jean's other half, Margaret Thompson ... to name but a few. The weather forecast described rain approaching from the south, so we were lucky to get the whole race run before it turned up, though there was quite a stiff breeze to run into - kept us all cool, though, as it was bright and sunny.

High tide this year, so not much beach available at the start. Quite a soggy run down the beach before the first choice of route as we got up onto the grass. This year nearly the whole field round me seemed to use the same line, avoiding the cliff edge - a few drifted over towards the road. I hadn't noticed any other Striders in front of me so far, but soon a familiar vest came up on my shoulder - Mike Bennett, who'd legged it to the start, after getting his Cambridge Folk Festival tickets organised over the web! He slowly receded into the distance ...

Round Souter Lighthouse, then down past Whitburn Firing Range, then another choice: this time, like last year, the whole field in front of me avoided descending to the beach, and cut back up to the grass at the top, and joined the top end of the prom. Round the sea front, then the run-in on increasingly soft sand, which was a hard end to an otherwise excellent race.

Tom came in after me, with a very good time considering his knee problem, and Graham wasn't far behind, with another good run. John Hutch was next in, followed by Sandra, who was first lady home for the second year. Lots of good runs further down the field, far too many for me to waffle on about here, but it was good to see lots of familiar faces out racing. Congratulations to Wendy Rowell for taking the third FV55 prize!

A blue rain jacket to everyone this time, adding to the list of classic P2P mementoes - not bad at all, though as Graham said, as soon as you put it on, which you needed to in the wind, you became invisible! A sea of blue. Excellent race once again!

Footnote: Some of us noticed Jeff Brown, the sports chap off Look North, at the finish. He did the run in 53:04, finishing in 205th place. Can someone please sign him up ...


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 James Buis Heaton Harriers M32 40:12
28 Michelle Holt Sunderland Harriers F25 1 44:39
71 Mike Bennett M54 48:08
84 Shaun Roberts M52 48:46
141 Thomas Reeves M43 51:18
155 Graham Daglish M55 51:44
242 John Hutchinson M53 54:04
248 Sandra Graham F48 54:47
262 Andrew Jordan M34 54:53
271 Nigel Heppell M54 54:53
284 Phil Owen M43 55:57
366 Barrie Evans M62 57:55
377 Alister Robson M37 57:55
379 Nina Mason F35 57:55
417 Andrew Thompson M 58:28
435 Jean Bradley F53 58:42
439 Frank Coffield M66 58:59
452 Alan Smith M62 59:21
475 Wendy Rowell F59 3 59:56
495 Jan Young F56 61:05
557 Melanie Hudson F31 61:57
567 Dougie Nisbet M46 62:59
645 Dave Shipman M52 64:59
646 Denise Mason F28 64:59
651 Jim Nicholson M62 64:59
704 Mary Coffield F56 66:52
722 Mike Elliot M62 67:30
738 Greta Jones F43 67:53
779 Carole McGinn F47 69:16
839 Christine Farnsworth F58 72:23
867 Jackie Smith F30* 74:36
926 Vivienne Patterson F50 78:47
941 Anne Rush F50 81:30
957 Diane Harold F36 84:35
958 Lynne Bargewell F38 84:35

* Now come on, Jackie. I know you don't look a day over 21, but still ...

980 finishers.

Mount Famine, 5m 1850ft, 16th May

Paul Evans

Much like Joey Barton, this Derbyshire race is short, brutal and does serious damage to your ankles, fitting in four nasty climbs in approximately five miles. The start alone beggars belief, with runners lining up on a rough track in a steep, wooded valley, before being directed that the race commences not up the track but up the valley-side. Cue a hands-and-knees climb just to kick off the race, with an awful lot of cursing from slipping runners.

Once out of the valley, something recognisable as a fell race emerges, fitting in runnable sections between ascents of Mount Famine, South Head and, for complete demoralisation, Mount Famine again (just from a different, steeper angle). Throughout these climbs I was able to gain ground on many of the runners, only to lose a dozen places or so on the final descent from Mount Famine to Hayfield, courtesy of my complete lack of practice/ineptitude descending tussocky moorland. Galling, but still a very enjoyable race and well worth doing when stuck too far south to get back for the Pier to Pier.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Lloyd Taggart Dark Peak FR M 41:58
19 Jackie Lee Eryri Harriers F 1 50:13
33 Paul Evans M 53:16

153 finishers.

Summer Handicap, Round 2, 13th May

Colin Blackburn

Thanks to everyone who ran in the handicap, 29 runners taking part in this round. A very big thank you also to Peter and his assistants Mandy and Dave for managing the run on the night.

For quite a few runners this was their first time and they were cautious about their handicap times but almost everyone beat their handicap time, some by quite a margin. So you're not as slow as you think you are! The table shows new handicap times for the next round.

First across the line was Barrie shortly followed by Zoe. Will was again the as the fastest male runner, Sandra was the fastest woman.

Once again thanks to everyone for taking part. The third round will be on Wednesday June 10th, I'll post start times here and on the club notice-board shortly.


PosNameHandicapStartFinishTimeNew HC
1Barrie Evans53:0019:07:0019:48:2641:2642:35
2Zoe Tomlins55:0019:05:0019:48:4643:4644:53
3Geoff Watson35:5019:24:1019:54:5630:4631:16
4Andy James50:0019:10:0019:55:4045:4046:06
5Stef Barlow42:4019:17:2019:56:1038:5039:13
6Grahame Arrowsmith40:5019:19:1019:56:2637:1637:37
7Anna Pethybridge42:5019:17:1019:56:3539:2539:46
8Denise Mason44:4919:15:1019:56:5641:4642:04
9Amanda Hunter45:1019:14:5019:56:5942:0942:27
10Emma Detchon53:1619:06:4019:57:0350:2350:40
11Joanne Potter53:2019:06:4019:57:0350:2350:41
12Wendy Rowell42:4819:17:1019:57:4740:3740:50
13Dougie Nisbet40:0019:20:0019:57:5137:5138:04
14Jane Ives44:5119:15:0519:58:0543:0043:11
15Andy Jordan37:4019:22:2019:58:1435:5436:05
16Jan Young41:0219:18:5519:58:2439:2939:38
17Shaun Roberts34:4019:25:2019:58:2433:0433:14
18Alister Robson39:3819:20:2019:58:3538:1538:23
19Jen Copley45:0019:15:0019:58:4243:4243:50
20Mike Bennett33:2819:26:3019:58:5532:2532:31
21Will Horsley29:4219:30:1519:59:0528:5028:55
22Ray Partridge38:3819:21:2019:59:1137:5137:56
23Sandra Graham38:0019:22:0019:59:1237:1237:17
24Andrew Thompson40:0719:19:5019:59:3839:4839:50
25Tom Reeves35:2019:24:4020:00:0035:2035:21
26Jamie Steel31:2019:28:4020:01:1432:3432:34
27George Nicholson40:5019:19:1020:01:4942:3942:39
28Dianne Harold53:2019:06:4020:02:1355:3355:33
29Lynne Bargewell53:2019:06:4020:02:1355:3355:33

Leeds Half-Marathon, 10th May

Andy Jordan

Having recently read Dougie's guide on how not to run a half marathon I decided that I would take all of the advice that I could on my second ever run over this distance. At the club run on Wednesday the suggestion was start slow and speed up so I decided that would be my tactic. Leeds half marathon is supposed to be a great race for a PB - there are 2 main hills one from mile 2.5 to 4 and the other from 5.5 to 6.0 and from there on in it is downhill or flat to the finish. Sunday was overcast and cool and it made for perfect running conditions. The race was well organised and it only took about 3 minutes for everyone (over 3000 runners) to get over the start line.

After the first mile and the usual dodging (of people who probably shouldn't have set off with the sub 90 minute elite runners) it was plain sailing. I did the first mile in about 8.30 and it felt comfortable so I decided to pick up the pace. Miles 5 to 7 on the ring road are a bit dull but the home leg down the Kirkstall Road back to the city centre is flat and fast (I even managed a sub 7 minute mile which is unprecedented). I finished with 1hr 48mins on race clock which was just over a 1hr 45 taking into consideration the delayed start. I was absolutely delighted with the time. My last half marathon was over 2 hours and a real struggle. This was a breeze in comparison - a great course for a PB.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Andrew Pearson Longwood HAC M35 1:07:45
898 Andy Jordan M 1:45:21

2889 finishers.

Tees Barrage 10K, 4th May

Dave Robson

A very windy and cool day for this annual, popular May Bank Holiday race. It's an almost flat course alongside the Tees, with only a couple of bridges to cross. Its not particularly scenic, but it does keep away from cars and is mainly on cycle tracks. There are two bridges to cross and the second bridge is normally a new pedestrian bridge which bounces as you run across it and the first time I did this race it completely disorientated me and I nearly stopped. However, this year there was a course alteration because of a sinking minesweeper (I am not kidding !), so there was no bouncy bridge this year. The middle three miles into the wind was hard going, but I think all three Striders were happy with their times


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Gary DUNN Thirsk & Sowerby Harriers M40 32:41
7 Sarah TUNSTALL Kendal A.C. F 34:59
157 Alister ROBSON M 47:32
300 Denise MASON F 55:38
301 Dave ROBSON M50 55:42

423 finishers.

Keswick Half-Marathon, 3rd May

Shaun Roberts

Jamie and Shaun after the run.

Very breezy driving over to Keswick, and a sudden downpour just before the start left us all a tad confused as to what to be wearing. Luckily the sun came out very quickly and we got all the excess kit off just in time.

I hadn't done this one for four years, and had memories of some hills here being very tough, so I was a bit apprehensive beforehand, as was Jamie. Yet the short sharp hills at three miles, five, and just before six didn't seem to amount to much, and I was surprised to see that I was only a minute down on seven-minute mile pace after that little lot. So I pushed hard all the way back, and managed to overtake loads of runners on the five-mile run-in from Grange. This isn't particularly pleasant, as you want to get out of the gutter into the middle of the road a bit, off the camber, but an endless stream of traffic pushes you back to the side of the road all the time. Kept hammering along, mind.

I was a tad gobsmacked to get round in under 1h31, which is faster than my best GNR time, and nearly seven minutes faster than I'd done here before! Jamie came in a minute later, and was also amazed to have done a great time - his best half-marathon time by far. Steph came in looking very strong in a shade over 1h50 - like me, her training for the Edinburgh marathon's paying off - and Jean came in looking fresh as a daisy soon afterwards.

The organisers knocked out the results in record time, and I could see I was second MV50 gadgie! But only a prize for the first one. Doh!




Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 James Bulman North York Moors M 1:12:30
44 Paula Adams North Herts FV35 1 1:30:35
46 Shaun Roberts MV50 2 1:30:56
56 Jamie Steel M 1:31:58
255 Stephanie Barlow FV35 1:50:07
294 Jean Bradley FV50 1:53:01
325 Frank Coffield MV65 1:55:48
426 Mary Coffield FV55 2:11:15
464 Lynne Bargewell FV35 2:26:46

492 finishers.

Skiing Uphill Without A Clue

Fossavatn Ski Marathon, Ísafjörður, Iceland, 2nd May


Colin Blackburn

Although the ski marathon is on the 2nd of May the story begins a couple of months before...

It's the end of February and I'm spending couple of weeks in the Sudtirol cross country skiing. Half way through the holiday I buy a second hand pair of classic racing skis with the vague idea that I'll do a long ski race in about a year's time. Not long after I return the friend that I run mountain marathons with, Chris, suggests a marathon in Norway in April. It's a date I can't do but it turns out to be full so the Fossavatn marathon in Ísafjörður is suggested. It's a set of races from 7km to 50km with only 320 people entering in total. It wasn't full! A flurry of booking followed: flights, hotels, airport transfers and the race itself. So, with just six weeks to prepare—and no snow!—I was about to embark on the longest ski of my life: 50km with 950m of climb and 1250m of descent.

April 30th. After 3 flights and a few hours in a Reykjavík B&B we arrive in the small northern town of Ísafjörður. It's a sleepy little fishing town sitting on a spit in the middle of a spectacular fjord. Not much seems to happen in Ísafjörður, especially on May Day and Sunday, the only two days we have time on our hands. There is one "restaurant" selling pizzas, burgers and musical instruments. There is a hotel, the aptly named Hótel Ísafjörður which is, this weekend, full of skiers. The maritime museum with its comprehensive accordion collection fills a useful gap before lunch at one of the town's two bakeries. Later in the day we take a taxi up to the finish area to get a feel for the snow. It's warm and wet. The worst sort for XC skiing. After a couple of hours on the mountain we have a pizza but fail to take advantage of the 18 inch pizza/mandolin meal-instrument deal!

May 1st. After a quiet May Day morning discovering that there is a witchcraft shop (closed) and a lunch at the hotel we head back to the mountain for a "track inspection". The bus ride there and back along with a guided tour of around 16km of the course is all included in the £25 entry price. It also gives me a chance to practice the final 5km descent to the finish, not very well as it happens. The day is rounded off with a pasta party, again, included in the price.

Me starting.
Me resting.
Me moving.
© Ágúst G. Atlason
Me finishing.
© Benedikt Hermannsson

May 2nd. Race day. After eating the hotel out of oat-based cereals skiers board the free bus to the start area.

Now, here's a technical bit for Keith. It is possible to ski uphill. Here's how. A classic XC has a camber. When you put your full body weight on one ski the central cambered section touches the ground. When you distribute your weight equally over both skis the cambered sections don't quite touch the ground. By putting a sticky wax on this cambered "kick zone" the ski can grip the snow when all the weight is on it, yet glide over the snow when only half the weight is on it. By transferring weight between the skis and pushing forward you can ski uphill.

Anyway, all this science means that there is a lot of faffing at the start as skiers chose the right wax for the temperature and the wetness of the snow. They decide the amount of the kick zone to wax and what waxes to carry with them should they start to lose grip. I just had one suitable wax so my faffing was limited to getting sticky Klister all over myself instead of the skis.

10:00 and we're off. Everyone else seems to move off dramatically faster than me but then they all know how to ski well. For the first 10km I keep up with the tail-enders and I even leave the drinks station 3rd from last. It doesn't last. While I have a reasonable level of fitness and stamina for going up hill I have neither the skill nor the confidence to go very fast down hill. I am either checking my speed unnecessarily and so losing time or judging it badly, falling, getting up again and so losing time. The couple of gadgies I was ahead of have no fear and loads of skill, they soon pass me. For the next 37km I am on my own, at the back. Every now and then I'll glimpse the end of the field and think I'm catching them, then the course enters a hidden switch-back and I realise I am even further behind.

At Fossavatn, the half way stage, I stop for a breather and take a couple of photos of the stunning views. Then it's through the chip timing gate and just 25km to go till home! The next 15km are a nightmare. The wind picks up, the driving sleet starts. It takes me nearly 15 minutes to do the next kilometre; I have visions of finishing in the dark. Every now and then there's a little respite from the weather or a short down hill section and things don't looks as bad as they did. It's still very hard going though. I finally make it back to the final drinks station at the start area...the marshals have waited for me with bananas, chocolate and energy drink.

The marshal tells me that the rest of the course is easy, just one big hill! It's still 14km to go, but she is right, it's mostly descent. The first 7km is gentle manageable descent; then there's a killer 2km climb where I glimpse the last two or three guys again, briefly; finally, after the Midfell timing gate, there's the killer 5km death-drop into the finish. Steep and winding this is where I lose most time as my tired legs fail to cope with what little skill I have. The winner did this section is something like 12 minutes, that's moving at an average of around 30km per hour! I manage about 10km per hour. I finally see the finish and after a few more falls for the spectators—enough for them to consider a sweepstake—I struggle across the line to an amazing cheer from the marshals and the few skiers who've not yet left on the bus back to Ísafjörður.

Once I've received my medal it's on the bus and back to the hotel. After a quick shower it's the Cake Buffet where there is an amazing selection of cakes and desserts that just never seemed to run out. I felt quite sick after insisting on trying as many as possible. The event is rounded off with an evening party where expensive Icelandic beer is consumed in volume while some local teenagers cover a few Abba hits.

May 3rd. I wake up with a very painful knee, I must have picked up a twist on one of the final falls. Other than that everything feels much better than it would have done had I run 30 miles. Later in the day we start our journey back taking in an evening in a wet Reykjavík.

Overall a tremendous experience and it has whetted my appetite for doing more ski marathons. Since there's no snow now until next winter at least I will have time to train for the next one if not practice.

I'd recommend XC skiing to anyone with the time and, to some degree, the money. There are various ways of learning from a couple of days in Scotland, weather permitting, to very relaxing holidays on the continent. You never know, you might even want to race!


Pos Name Nat Cat Pos Fossavatn Midfell Finish
1 Oskar Svärd Sweden Elite 1 1:09:37 2:21:00 2:32:08
3 Johan Sandberg Sweden M35-49 1 1:15:57 2:34:22 2:46:49
25 Kim Rudd USA F/F35-49 1 1:31:13 3:01:49 3:15:58
43 Chris Dibben UK M35-49 17 1:40:42 3:45:56
66 Colin Blackburn UK M35-49 22 2:24:27 4:54:17 5:25:23

66 finishers.

Albert Park Time Trial, 5K, 2nd May

Dave Robson

Phil and I did this 5K race in Middlebrough. These time trial races take place every Saturday at 9.00 and they are free, all you have to do is register online once at www.parkrun.com and you can attend any of them (two are abroad). The Albert Park route is two and a half times round the park and its pretty flat. I went down to it twelve times last year and it was quite a small event with about fifty or so runners. This was my first time this year and I was surprised to find 133 finishers with times ranging from 12.59 (a wheelchair participant) to 38.24. It's well marshalled, friendly and efficient - results and photos are on their web site the same day. Once you have registered online, you just turn up and run, there is no faff with race numbers, you are given a tag at the end and hand it in giving your name. Phil did a great time so soon after his exploits on the Highland Fling. I was nursing a sore leg.


Pos Name Club Cat Time
1* Aron ANDERSON Unattached SM--- 12:59
2 Mehari HABTEAB Unattached SM20-24 16:50
45 Phil OWEN VM40-44 22:43
62 Dave ROBSON VM55-59 24:26

133 finishers.
* Wheelchair athlete.