Race Reports, September 2009

Great North Run, 20th September

Barrie Evans

Sunday 20th September 2009 dawned clear, bright and fresh for the 29th running of the Great North Run. For Striders, friends and others getting to the Newcastle start line started before 8am as a coach organised once again by Andy James began its pickup of runners, marshalls and supporters at Langley Park then County Hospital and other points in Durham and along the route to Washington Services. Relief at this point as all scheduled 52 passengers were safely aboard and accounted for. Next stop, the bridge over the central motorway in Newcastle to the rear of the race assembly area where the runners spilled out, having earlier been asked to make a prediction of expected finish time, received last minute encouragement and advices including directions to the post race meeting point at The Look Out. The runners dispersed with their own thoughts walking along Claremont Road and making use of the baggage buses before taking their places in the appropriate starting zone.

Waiting for Godot-ful smelling runners.

The perfect blue sky and sunshine belied the chill prior to the start but for many it was a prelude to a very warm run. After the wheelchair and then elite women had got away Sting signalled the start for the elite men and masses at 10.40am and the charge was on.

My own start from zone A amongst the celebrities and GNR ever-presents was unhindered and I settled into an 8+ min/mile pace as younger / fitter runners from zones B, C and perhaps further to the rear surged past in their haste to reach South Shields before the pubs ran out of beer !!! Maintained a quite steady pace through 5k , 10k and 15km , enjoying the warm conditions but leg-wise never ever feeling 100% comfortable , ( must try harder and do some training !! ) before slowing a little over the last 3 miles to finish in 1.51.37 . After a brief chat to a group of Striders manning one of the finish lanes, collected my 'goody bag' and retrieved my kit bag before walking up to The Look Out ( feeling surprisingly fresh ) . Met our coach driver ( Ian ) who'd parked up at the junction of Fort Street and chatted to him as we sat and watched a spectacular performance by The Red Arrows. When Jamie Steel arrived after a 1.37.23 run it was time to make for the pub and enjoy a welcome pint. The pub gradually filled with Striders and friends with their own tales and experiences most having beaten estimated timings. 'Super Vet' Jackie Smith continues to set an example achieving 3rd place in her age group in a time of 2.25.48 with 12000 others ( the vast majority younger ) left in her wake. The exit from South Shields at 4pm was slow and a further holdup occurred at Chester-le-Street as we met traffic leaving the cricket ground where England had salvaged just a little pride in beating Australia in the final one day match - losing the series 6-1. Back in Durham just before 6pm to complete a long day. Many thanks to Ian from Gillinghams Coaches for providing an excellent, helpful and friendly service.

A prize was offered for the person running most closely to their estimated time - owing to some runners not returning on the coach it was not possible to confirm a winner on the day but subsequent check has revealed Lindsay Brough ( a friend of Steph Barlow ) to have run 2.05.00 to exactly equal her prediction!! Steph is hoping to bring Lindsay down on a Wednesday evening soon to receive her award - a potential new member perhaps !! Note: 282 finishers were noted as DH1 residents very few of whom are currently with clubs . Maybe we should nominate a recruitment officer?

Joanne Heron adds: Finished in 1hr 48 min, which was OK considering I may have broken my toe at home this morning, (OK, broken may be a slight exaggeration!) and the fact that someone had left the blow torch on this morning....v hot!

If I'm around for next years run I'll definitely be offering my help at the finishing line. Thanks again.

Nigel adds: Here are a few snapshots (below) from the non-runners on the other side of the finish line. Many thanks to Paul Loftus for organising us all and turning us into Smurfs once more! Note to self;- Take hat, sunglasses, and apply sun lotion next year!

And Dougie adds: This was my third GNR and the best one yet. Down in no small part to not having to worry about getting there, and getting back. Thanks to Andy for organising the coach as it makes the whole day far more straightforward and stress-free. Again I'd say one of the nicest bits was just chilling out and winding down in the Look Out Inn afterwards and swapping stories and having too much beer before getting on the coach and stuck in traffic, and a big thank you to the coach driver for the pit-stop at Washington Services where I ran faster than I had all day to get to the toilets. Looking forward to the 30th next year! Indian Man


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Martin Lel 0:59:32
1Jessica Augusto F 1:09:08
309Michael Mawby 1:26:33
1614Jamie Steel 1:37:23
1799John Robson 1:38:21
4028Sandra Graham F 1:45:46
6496Barrie John Evans 1:51:37
7026Andrew Jordan 1:52:40
7083Stef Barlow F 1:52:48
7188Anna Pethybridge F 1:53:03
7269Kirsty Dykes F 1:53:12
7747Jennifer Copley F 1:54:09
8997Zoe Tomlins F 1:56:18
11016Alan Smith * 1:59:31
15828Julie Mitchelson F 2:07:35
16516Douglas Nisbet 2:08:40
16807Jim Nicholson 2:09:10
18591George Nicholson 2:12:04
18784Jane Ives F 2:12:23
25792Jackie Smith F 2:25:48
25851Margaret Thompson F 2:25:55
27887Emma Detchon F 2:30:29
29207Greta Jones F 2:34:00

* Subject to dental record check.

37,540+ finishers.

Simonside Fell Race, Thropton Show, 19th September

6.75M 1200' Cat BM

Colin Blackburn

Thropton Show is a real shepherds' show tucked away in the hills beyond Rothbury. There are sheepdog trials (in fact Elfie talked to one guy over from the Netherlands with his dog who'd come a long way to take part), a bit of horse jumping, a small industrial tent, a few stalls but, best of all, Simonside Fell Race. There are several races up and along Simonside. This one sits in the middle in terms of length but is right at the top in terms of fun, if you like scrambling. It's pretty much out from Thropton, up Simonside, down Simonside and back to Thropton. On the way you get to wade a river, run through beautiful forest, clamber up a heathery hillside and scramble up and over the rocky summit. Lest I put you off for next year, you can avoid the wade and the scramble at the expense of a slightly longer run.

This year Dougie and I were taking part for our fell clubs with just Shaun representing Elvet Striders. As Shaun ran across to register he looked like he was cutting it a bit fine but he still had plenty of time to change into his home-made light-weight racing vest. At 2:20 the 82 runners assembled and were called to order by Phil Green. After a route talk which roughly amounted to, "you have to run to that craggy bit and back", we set off in wonderful autumn weather.

The show starts and ends in the main show field via a taped-off corridor. There's a handful of applause and a similar number of bemused looks as we all run out of the show field and on to the roads of Thropton. The short road section is soon over as the river bank path is taken to the "ford". Last year the course was diverted via the footbridge. This year the river crossing was only knee deep and so deemed safe enough. It's great getting your shoes wet so early in a race as it means you don't have to bother avoiding puddles or mud for the rest of the race.

Climb? What climb?
Photo courtesy and © Rob Stephens

For most of this gentle part of the run and as we started to climb up to and through the woods I had Shaun in my sight. As the heather started and the real climb kicked in I felt I was gaining on him, little by little. After hauling myself on to the summit rocks he was just a few strides ahead of me. Then the descent. It is precipitous! It's a steep rocky track cutting through the heather. The odd boulder is so big it's best to sit on it and drop down. At this point I passed Shaun, or rather he let me pass him—what a gentleman! As I negotiated the heather I didn't think too much about how much ground I was making on Shaun (if anyone now has the idea that I had a personal aim here... ). I finally came out of the heather and on to the track and looked back. I had picked up a fair few yards.

The zigzagging descent through the woods here is really nice. It's mostly on good tracks and is good running. At this stage I was starting to feel fairly alone barring one woman up ahead of me. Every now and then she'd zig and then a few seconds later I'd zig. Then she'd zag and another few seconds later I'd zag. As I emerged from the woods I looked at where she'd gone, saw the tape on the stile and where she zigged so I zigged. After a great descent down a steep pasture I got to the gate to see her stood there asking if I knew where I was going. I suddenly realised she didn't. I apologise to her now if she's reading for what might have been a slightly crude comment. A few moments of panic struck...was there tape on the gate? No...was there an obvious route back toward Thropton? No...had I made a really stupid mistake? Yes!

So, I mustered everything I had and ran back up the hill to see runners emerging from the wood and going the other way. I didn't recognise any of the runners so I guessed I'd lost a fair few places. Ah well, these things happen. The lost woman and me then started to pass the slower runners who were now ahead of us. They all must have realised we'd either paced it badly or got lost. As we got back toward Thropton a runner who looked like he'd finished joined her to cheer her in, it turns out he was the winner of the race. A few seconds after her I crossed the line to see Shaun looking slightly bemused. He'd realised I'd made a mistake and pretty much the same mistake he made last year. I'll not make it again at this race!

A couple of minutes later and Dougie finished, though he still had the GNR to run! The final runner got very lost with a team of runners going out to look for her once she had been reported missing. She turned up safe and sound.

Would I have stayed ahead of Shaun? Who knows. Was it an enjoyable race? Yes. Will I be back next year? You bet...I just hope Shaun is too!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 James Buis Heaton Harriers M 46.17
17 Karen Robertson NFR FV40 55.04
56 Shaun Roberts MV50 1.05.45
68 Colin Blackburn NFR MV40 1.08.58
75 Dougie Nisbet DFR MV40 1.14.25

82 finishers.

Round Norfolk Relay, 19th September

Dave Robson

This is quite a bizarre event. It is a seventeen stage relay round the edge of Norfolk. The stages range between about 5m up to 20m, some are all on road, some are a mixture of road and off road. This year the number of teams increased from 48 to 55 and the race was full within 10 minutes of opening online. The slowest teams start first (this year the first team left King's Lynn (the start and end point) at 5.30 on Saturday morning and the last team started at 12.00) with the aim of everybody finishing together at 9.30 on Sunday morning. When running on road during the day, the runner must be accompanied by a cyclist with a high viz jacket and there must be a support car close by. At night the support car must have an orange flashing light and be immediately behind the runner. The logistics are mind boggling and ever team must get its own runners, cyclists and cycles and support in the right place at the right time without having people out all night. All sixteen checkpoints have to be fully staffed and be able to cope with lots of vehicles coming and going all over the place. The course (193miles) is also marked in many places. Its a very impressive set up.

Phil Owen and I went to this for the second year running and were members of two different Fetcheveryone teams. Phil did a 13m stage in the middle of the night and I did the final stage leaving at about 8.00 on Sunday morning. I think both of us were pleased with our times considering we had had very little sleep (this always seems to happen at this event). Running the last stage is something you only tend to do once as you get to run in on a track to the cheers of all the assembled teams, it was quite an experience !

The weather was lovely again and I will certainly be going back again next year to try a different stage.

Sedgefield Serpentine, 7M, 13th September

Alan Purvis

Serpentine Lake at Hardwick Hall.

The Race Headquarters were billed as the Hardwick Arms on Sedgefield High street but registration was at a barber's shop two doors down the street. The mirrors were very useful for those wishing to have their number pinned absolutely horizontally on to the vest or to add that last touch of lipstick!

While I was in the shop the village bobby came in to express concern that we may get caught up in the cycling Tour of Britain passing nearby at the same time but the organiser was able to reassure him that we wouldn't set foot on any of the roads.

That was confirmed during the course of the race when we ran on every possible type of surface other than than lovely flat smooth tarmac! Before the start we were warned that we were to run through a field of heifers but the starter assured us that they had promised not to trample on any of the competitors!

The first part of the race took us through the newly-transformed grounds of Hardwick Hall. Here we ran around and across the winding lake which gives the race its 'serpentine' name. From there it was field paths with rather tussocky grass which made it more of a cross-country race. Though only half a mile longer than a 10K it did seem to go on forever and I was horrified to be told that I had reached half-way when I was already hoping the finish was around the next corner!

Despite the excellent marking of the route with arrows and tapes a few people, including me, went wrong in the last field and added five minutes to their times. Jean Bradley was the only other Strider but there were two faces familiar to older members - Suzanne Kirkup, once of the Harriers but a long-standing member of Chester le Street, and Erica Eniz who will be known to some of our triathletes.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Terry Wall Morpeth M 37:56
35 Susan Milburn Newton Aycliffe AC FV50 52:44
46 Jean Bradley FV50 56:43
70 Alan Purvis MV70 76:59

73 finishers.

Parachute Regiment 10M, Catterick Garrison, 13th September

Jamie Steel

When I woke up that morning I prayed as I opened the curtains that the day was going to be cloudy and cool unlike Saturday ... and I am pleased to say it was. Hooray - it was a great start. I was dreading running the course with 35lb of weight on my back but the good conditions didn't help my nerves as my stomach churned on the way from Durham to Catterick Garrison...

Jamie and his excess baggage.

I arrived in good time, which was just as well as it was a good mile walk from the civilian parking to the start/finish line. Needless to say once I'd carried my 35lb Bergen to the start there was no need to do any more warming up. When I arrived it was quite a shock to see how many P Company competitors (Bergen runners) there were! This was quite a change to last year's race as there were far more runners than P Company competitors then - all I could see as I looked around the start/finish were Bergens and rucksacks.

I went to one of the weigh-in posts to check the weight of my Bergen and was pleased to discover my Bergen was 3lbs overweight - that made me smile as I took one of the lead weights out - yippppppppeeee!

I made my way to the start and as I was stood anxiously waiting I heard my name over the tannoy ... my stepmum had gone over to the announcer and told him that she and my dad had travelled all the way from Spain to support me - not quite the truth but a nice thought! With a smile still plastered on my face, at 10am the runners were set off followed by P Company competitors 15 or so minutes later ... I was on my way!

I decided my strategy would be to run a constant pace rather than run then walk which quite a lot seemed to be doing. Unfortunately bottlenecking over the single-track course made this difficult to maintain over the first 3 miles often having to stop or veering to left or right to get through - found this very frustrating. Eventually the field of runners evened out and I was able to put my strategy to effect. It was pretty hard going, a hill every mile, numerous cattle grids to negotiate and the odd steep concrete slope but downhill was hurting the most, particularly my left shin which was bearing the brunt of the extra weight I was carrying.

At 7 miles I was tiring so I changed my strategy by walking up some of the steeper hills which allowed me to conserve energy to pick up speed once at the top. At about 8 miles I remembered from the race the previous year that there was an extremely steep loose shale downhill followed by a even steeper uphill. My quads were burning and it was so steep and loose it was impossible to run up. I reached the top with relief and thought yes 'I'm home and dry' ... hmmmmmmmmmmm think again!

This year a huge 8 metre knee deep mud bath had materialised on the course, my boots just filled up with water. This made the last 1.5 mile so hard, it felt like I was carrying an extra stone on each foot - it was energy zapping! But true to form despite everything I will managed a strong sprint finish passing 3 or 4 fellow Bergen runners over the finish line in a time of 1hr 37.

I was elated, the paratrooper cut off time was 1 hr 50 so to complete the race at a time well under was extremely rewarding.

I had done it and apart from heavy legs and soggy feet I felt quite good. Once I had my Bergen re-weighed I picked up my medal and t-shirt and met up with my wife and parents who had 2 lovely doughnuts waiting for me, just what the doctor ordered! Extra special was having my dad and stepmum there to support me all the way from Spain.

Overall I raised approximately £300 for Help our Heroes. The rucksack has now been put away for good and it is back to proper civilian running. :-0


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Mathew DRISCOLL York Acorn AC M 1.16.05
154 Jamie STEEL M 1.37.13

1148 Bergened, booted finishers.

Kielder Challenge, 12th September


Dave Robson

Bridges to be crossed. I was out of bed very early for this one as it was mainly a walking event and they wanted everybody to finish in daylight.

Got to the start next to Kielder Water at about 7.30. There were probably about 50 walkers and 9 or 10 runners. The start was anytime between 8 and 9, but most people there at that time started at 8 by getting their tally card clipped. There were four checkpoints, where there was water.

On the drive over the valley had been covered in mist (see first photo in link below), but by the start of the race a lot of it had burned off, but there was still some mist around. The surface of the reservoir was completely flat and the whole area looked absolutely stunning. I had been worried about midgies and there were some at the start but after that there was no sign

The course was the new Lakeside Way, which is a trail that goes all the way round Kielder Water. On the north side of Kielder, there is no road close to the reservoir and I didn't see anybody on the trail who wasn't in the event. The trail was in perfect condition, very smooth. It was very up and down, hardly any flat bits, but no very big ups. There were lots of bridges over the streams tumbling down into the reservoir, including a stunning one (see photos). The route followed the edge of the reservoir most of the way, which meant following lots of inlets and promentories. At about 19m I was very conscious that I was following an inlet in the opposite direction to the dam which was near to the finish !

I think this run will be a much bigger event next year (4th September 2010), I recommend it - stunning scenery and we were lucky with the weather, sunny but not too warm and very little wind

Clare was resting a sore knee and she was riding round on a bike with me. Only once did she say 'Mush' and 'Its a small hill' as I struggled up it.

I ended up the 5th runner home in 4hr 51min 58sec, but this run is meant to be a personal challenge, so there are no official times and no results.

Handicap Final, 9th September

Colin Blackburn

The weather for the final of this year's Summer Handicap Series was as summery as could have been hoped for and better than some of the rounds. Despite the early start 29 runners turned out for the final from the 58 who have run at least once this year. For 10 runners this was their fifth run of the series while for Lindsay it was her first outing in the handicap on only her second run with the club. Peter with his remarkable shoes assisted by Mandy, in fairly ordinary shoes, set people off and clocked them back in. Dougie meanwhile caught the whole thing on camera.

Peter and Mandy start to panic.

Debs came in first but having only run one heat this year here handicap hadn't had time to settle and so she took the B prize. Barry was next across the line and with 3 runs under his belt was the overall handicap champion. Jen was 17 seconds behind Barry and claimed women's overall champion.

Angela and Will do battle. Things then started to get a bit tight for Peter and Mandy as runners poured in in quick succession, the peak was 8 runners finishing within 12 seconds of each other. The mean, mode and median finishing times were all well under the target time of 19:30. I think that means that most people outperformed their own past efforts. The next prize winner across the line was Grahame who finished 3 seconds within his handicap timing while not wearing a watch.

Closely behind Grahame were Will and Angela in a perfect illustration of why everyone has a chance at the handicap. Will recorded the fastest time of 29:01 and Angela took 45:26 but they finished neck and neck in a sprint for the line. A few minutes later all the runners had crossed the line, including Stef who had had a local anaesthetic that day and so took it easy on the second lap. It brought to end the most successful handicap series so far and I even got to run myself!

Thanks to Peter, Mandy and Dougie for helping at the final. Thanks especially to Peter for taking charge of several of the series heats. Thanks to all the helpers over the last 6 months. Most of all thanks to the over 60 runners who started at least one of the races. Here's to next year.


PosNameHandicapStartFinishRun Time
1 Debs Goddard 44:15 18:45:45 19:24:00 38:15
2 Barrie Evans 42:30 18:47:30 19:27:02 39:32
3 Jen Copley 42:30 18:47:30 19:27:19 39:49
4 Kirsty Dykes 40:45 18:49:15 19:27:39 38:24
5 Chris Hedley 42:10 18:47:50 19:27:45 39:55
6 Andrew Thompson 37:45 18:52:15 19:28:49 36:34
7 Andy James 43:55 18:46:05 19:28:50 42:45
8 Tom Reeves 35:25 18:54:35 19:28:52 34:17
9 Zoe Tomlins 40:45 18:49:15 19:28:54 39:39
10 Joanne Potter 44:35 18:45:25 19:28:55 43:30
11 John Hutchison 36:25 18:53:35 19:28:56 35:21
12 Emma Detchon 46:50 18:43:10 19:28:58 45:48
13 Phil Owen 38:45 18:51:15 19:29:01 37:46
14 Melanie Hudson 38:25 18:51:35 19:29:09 37:34
15 Lindsay Tarn 46:50 18:43:10 19:29:10 46:00
16 Nigel Heppell 36:45 18:53:15 19:29:16 36:01
17 Graham Daglish 35:05 18:54:55 19:29:40 34:45
18 Grahame Arrowsmith 37:40 18:52:20 19:29:57 37:37
19= Angela Proctor 45:20 18:44:40 19:30:06 45:26
19= Will Horsley 28:55 19:01:05 19:30:06 29:01
21 Geoff Davis 34:40 18:55:20 19:30:09 34:49
22 Colin Blackburn 35:05 18:54:55 19:30:12 35:17
23= Alan Smith 39:55 18:50:05 19:30:27 40:22
23= Susan Davis 38:30 18:51:30 19:30:27 38:57
25 Geoff Watson 31:20 18:58:40 19:31:04 32:24
26 Mike Bennett 32:45 18:57:15 19:31:34 34:19
27 Jan Young 39:55 18:50:05 19:33:40 43:35
28 Stef Barlow 38:45 18:51:15 19:40:00 48:45

Michael Page Memorial 10K, Hetton Lyons, 6th September


Jan Young

Mine was the only purple vest at this event of 50 runners. The 10k race from Hetton Lyons Park, was a loop along old railway paths, farm tracks and fields, with a few ups and downs, nothing major.

Friendly, local, well marshalled run.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Luke Adams Jarrow and Hebburn 34.46
14 Victoria Booth Sunderland Strollers L 1 42.37
19 Alan Rowell DCHM60 44:02
42 Jan Young F55 53.57

50 finishers.

Tynedale 10M, Jelly Tea Race, 6th September

Barrie Evans

Thirteen Striders took to the startline including, it was very good to see, seven of the newer female members plus super veteran Jackie Smith, and Maggie Thompson on a recovery run following her recent illness. It was grey and overcast at the start and a light but welcome drizzle came on early in the race. The long hill out of Corbridge seems to get longer as each year passes and the killer short but very sharp and tough climb at 9 miles could be done without coming near the end as it does when reserves and energy are near exhausted !! In between the route follows quiet country roads as it snakes from Hexham through Corbridge and on to the finish inside the school gates at Ovingham. Mike Bennett led the Striders home with Kirsty Dykes, after an excellent run, first for the women. A sandwich, cake, a cup of jelly and a hot drink were very welcome at the end.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 David Kirkland Alnwick Harriers M 0.52.25
53 Alison Dargie Elswick Harriers F 1.04.03
99 Mike Bennett MV55 1.08.48
251 Andrew Thompson M 1.19.01
281 Barrie Evans MV60 1.21.25
284 Kirsty Dykes F 1.21.59
289 Stephanie Barlow FV35 1.22.03
308 Melanie Hudson F 1.22.51
341 Zoe Tomlins F 1.25.52
426 Angela Proctor F 1.32.24
454 Joanne Porter FV35 1.36.09
513 Lynne Bargewell FV35 1.47.43
514 Jackie Smith FV60 1.47.43
515 Philip Todd M 1.48.21
516 Margaret Thompson FV60 1.48.29

526 finishers.

Chasing a PB at the GSR

Great Scottish Run, Glasgow, 6th September


Anna Pethybridge

I love the Great North Run - the atmosphere is great, and it's easy to feel part of something big. But frustrated with being stuck behind 'walkers' one mile into it last year, I entered the Great Scottish Run to try for a half-marathon PB. It didn't look good, however, on Saturday when the train pulled into a stormy, rainy, windy Glasgow! Thankfully Sunday dawned, if not tropical, at least breezy rather than windy, and dry. The centre of Glasgow was packed with runners who were taking part in the 10k and half-marathon races - yet with only 20,000 runners taking part in both events it felt miniscule compared to the GNR.

Standing at the start line, seconds after the announcer praised the perfect, dry weather I felt the first splash of rain...then the second...and third...in fact it didn't stop for the next two hours! But the race started well and my iPod provided a great soundtrack for the run. Rage Against the Machine got me through a stitch around mile six, Girls Aloud took me over the halfway point and Maximo Park gave me a much needed boost at mile nine. I was enjoying the music so much, in fact, that I managed not to feel bad about running with an iPod when each mile was marked by pipers and drummers!

I'd love to tell you what the route was like, but the truth is my focus didn't shift from the ground in front of me! I can tell you, however, that there were few hills and the flat made for a great race and a PB.

Now for the GNR...!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Jason Mbote 1:01:19
16 Caroline Cheptonui Kilel L 1:09:03
2305 Anna Pethybridge 1:48:16

7760 finishers.

Derwentwater Trail Race, 6th September


Dave Robson

This is my favourite of the Lakeland Trail Races. Its starts gently along an old railway line and then there is a turn up a very short but steep hill before plunging downhill to cross a stream followed by a long climb up a valley. During this section you also cross a bog. After the climbing finishes, it is down the valley with wonderful views and then mainly downhill all the way back to Keswick. I ran with by brother in law and he enjoyed his first Lakeland Trail and said he would be back for more. The weather was a light drizzle, but that was fine


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
Phil Owen 1:19:21
Dave Robson 1:43:16

Trailquest, Blanchland, 6th September

3 hours

Colin Blackburn

This weekend was a very busy one with lots on offer in the north east and further afield. There was the Ben Nevis Race, the Great Scottish Run, Grisedale Horseshoe, a triathlon, a 10k, a 10 mile, a trail race and even a roller ski event in County Durham! My decision was made for me, I decided to avoid all the hassle of travelling and do something on my doorstep. This year the local Trailquest was in Blanchland and was part of a NE and a national series of Trailquests.

So, what's a Trailquest? Basically, you ride round on a mountain bike for a fixed time and try to navigate your way to as many controls as possible earning points for each control visited. If you get back late you lose points, if you get back very late you lose all your points! The person or pair with the most points wins. As an orienteer the navigation bit appeals, as a poor mountain biker the cycling bit isn't as attractive. Still, it's just down the road.

I spent most of the week before the event desperately trying to fit new brakes to my MTB. I only have time for a couple of short road rides to test the brakes before the event so it may well be my last ever event. On the day I make sure I have everything: compass, whistle, first aid kit, food, money, waterproof,... It feels a bit odd having to take all this stuff when I'll only be out on the hills I train on week in week out. Still, rules are rules.

The ride down to Blanchland is a five minute downhill whiz. The brakes work. I register and then look at a blank map to see which tracks are disallowed and which areas are out of bounds. The whole of the event area is north of Blanchland so I won't be popping home for a cuppa en route. (I did once do this during a 5 hour adventure race in Blanchland.) There's a fair bit of hanging around while more people turn up an register. This seems to be an opportunity for bike porn as each bike is examined by each new registrant. One bloke has an anodised aluminium rotating map holder—phwoar! I have two wooden clothes pegs to hold the map to my brake cables, later on I'll wish I'd had three.

After a bit of milling around waiting for the guys to set up the start I punch my dibber, collect my map and set of up the road toward Slaley. My basic tactic is to avoid as much off-road cycling as possible, especially dodgy downhill stuff, i.e. to finish in one piece with as few scars as possible. My wuss's route isn't going to win me any prizes but I'll still have a nice 3 hour cycle ride. All the controls I'm likely to get are low value ones, 10 or 15 points. To get the highest value control, 50 points, you have to be a suicidal nutjob and to cycle almost to Allendale.

An hour in and I've done a nice circuit around Slaley Forest, occasionally going off-road but nothing too scary. I decide to collect a control just at the bottom of a track. I can't quite read the map but a few seconds later I work out that the little lines mean "steep rocky track". Luckily I realise before what I thought was steep becomes what they mean by steep. I can get down and back up the track as quickly by running with the bike than repeatedly falling off and getting back on again. I think this is where I lost my peg as well as my nerve. Seeing one guy ride down I see how skillful and/or fearless some riders are.

Once I've got back up the track I do a few zig-zags through Slaley Forest collecting a handful of controls. Some of the tracks are wide and fast others narrow and muddy. I only fall off once and even then I was hardly moving. With half-an-hour to go I emerge out of the forest to take the moorland track back to Blanchland picking up a couple of controls on the way. There are some beautiful views and with fine weather it is great to be up on Blanchland Moor on a day like this. The drop down from Penny Pie via Shildon is steep but with good tracks is also exhilarating and I arrive back at the finish in the final minute, perfect timing.

On finishing, I discover that I could have collected one more control worth 15 points if I'd sacrificed a 5 minute time penalty, just 5 points so 10 more points missed! Oh well, I'll know better next time. As I started first I'm also one of the first back and so the tea has only just been made by the guy who did finish first. It's a very DIY approach compared to some events but seems to work well. In fact I have to wait some time to download my dibber as all the organisers are out cycling themselves. When I finally do download I seem to have 180 points with a 180 point penalty. There has been some problem with the timing, but only for me! Ah well, I wasn't doing it for the glory. When they do publish the results I know I won't be last as one guy lost 145 points in penalties by trying for the 50 pointer!

Despite the lack of results it was a great day out on the fells. In fact it's the all uphill cycle ride home that's the real killer!

Grisedale Horseshoe, Glenridding, 5th September

10M 5000' AM

First, Tom Reeves...

This is a 10 mile fell race with 5000 feet of ascent taking in Catsye Cam, Helvellyn, Grisedale Tarn and St Sunday Crag, oh and half way back up Birkhouse Moor then back down to the start at Glenridding Village hall.

This is not a race I had ever thought of running until 3 days before when a change of plan meant I would be in the lakes on the 5th September. I had a look on the fell runners association website and read several accounts of epics on this run, so it was with some trepidation that I stood at the start line on Saturday morning at 11.30 in the gentle drizzle. I spoke with Dougie who I think was as nervous as me, and I also spoke with Will Horsley who looked at my route plan (which I had meticulously devised the evening before) and informed me "no one goes that way up Catsye Cam" Well I pride myself on my individuality and decided I would go on my route anyway.

Tom shows how fell running should be done: No mud, sweat or tears! Well the race began and we were soon heading up hill on our way into the wind rain and cloud toward checkpoint one Catsye Cam a mere 890 metres. Joan my wife and my two boys were at the gate where I planned to take my detour up Glenridding. I asked her how many had taken my route? The reply being "none"! So what did I do?..... You guessed it I followed the crowd.

It was a long hard, cold and very wet pull to checkpoint one. I felt I was going reasonably well till an old bloke ran past me on the final pull munching on a banana looking remarkably sprightly. Now I must say at this point, Geoff Davis emailed me a Dougie the other day to say that this was a tough race and the final climb of the day (and I quote) will "break the stoutest of hearts". Well my heart is clearly a wimp as it was broken by the top of the first hill, indeed I was broken.

The run up to Helvellyn was very windy but at least I was going downhill for a few hundred metres, mind you it just meant more uphill to Helvellyn via Swirral Edge (not much fun in high winds and rain). The run down to Grisedale Tarn was the best leg stretch of the day and even better for me as I've ran this section a few times on Bob Graham rounds so I could let loose a bit and I gained a few places and hit the next checkpoint, Grisedale Tarn dead on.

The pull up to St Sunday wasn't too bad but I took a poor line and lost several places, which I could ill afford to do as I'd noticed there were very few people behind me now!! By the way at this point my Garmin GPS shut down saying something like "abnormal powerdown" I did wonder if it was commenting on my performance? The run down from St Sunday was so so Steep I followed an old gadgy (minus banana) down a shallow gully full of scree and I made up my lost places.

Geoff was so right, the final climb (about 300 metres) was hell, I ended up using my hands to drag myself up the final grassy slopes. I was so pleased to see the folks at the final checkpoint I could have kissed them. Well the run down to Glenridding went without hitch, and I staggered into the village hall with my two boys. They ran the final 300 metres with me. I finished in an appalling time of 2 hours 55minutes around an hour after the winner!!

We were fed lots of cakes, sandwiches and hot tea which really hit the spot.

Now the big question!!!!

Would I do this race again?? Err ....... Lets see. :-)

I'm not a marshall, I'm selling the Big Issue!

...and now, Dougie Nisbet

Not since the Kielder Borderer have I felt quite so uneasy before a race. 5000 feet is an awful lot of feet and today many of them were hidden in cloud. I'd never been on any of the fells that the course covered and hoped that the time I'd spent studying the maps and old reports would be sufficient to get me round. As we gathered around the start Tom showed me his hand-written navigation notes for each twist and turn and I began to fret about whether I'd done enough homework.

I'd expected more of a briefing but before we knew it the organiser was saying "off you go then" and the race had begun. Within minutes we were climbing Mires Beck and I settled down in a comfortable pace mindful of the fact that I'd never run a fell race with so much climbing involved. As is pretty much my standard MO on fell races I gained a few places on the climbs in the confident knowledge I'd be bidding them farewell on the descents. Despite having a pretty good picture in my head of the course route I soon became disoriented and simply followed the bright running vests in front of me. The peloton had already surprised me by climbing Mires Beck instead of taking a flatter (and longer) ascent via Glenridding Beck. I was about to be surprised again as the field continued straight up Birkhouse Moor instead of taking a gentler alternative line. However as the race developed it became clear that this was a course were local knowledge was invaluable and had I been more clued-up I would've picked out the local vests and made sure I followed the people in the know.

A bit of good running took us to Red Tarn then sharp right and straight up Catstye Cam. The weather had turned wet and blustery with wisps of cloud dancing dramatically around the fell. It was great! Absolutely wonderful. This is what it's all about. The summit of Catstye Cam was the first Checkpoint and then sharp left along Swirral Edge towards Helvellyn.

Dougie looking remarkably fresh too! I've never been up Helvellyn before and I didn't choose a very good day for my first visit. There wasn't much of a view. The cloud was down and I was running out of people to follow. I'd said to Tom before the race that I'd be sacrificing speed in favour of navigation, and I headed cautiously South and a little bit East making sure I didn't accidentally end up in Wythburn. The path I was following suddenly started descending rapidly and I realised that this couldn't possibly be right and I backtracked a little and found a better line. Post-race analysis of my GPS trail showed that I'd almost taken an exciting detour along Striding Edge.

As I followed the path south along the ridge to Dollywaggon Pike I practically ran into a huddle of runners who appeared out of the mist. They were having some sort of committee meeting about whether there had been a checkpoint at Helvellyn. We all agreed that the course details said there was one, and that none of us had seen it. They all decided to run back to the summit in search for the checkpoint rather than risk disqualification. I was pretty sure there was no checkpoint and, furthermore, wasn't massively distraught at the thought of being disqualified. My position on the podium was unlikely to be affected.

The huddle split up indecisively with a few runners heading back to Helvellyn in Search of the Missing Checkpoint, whereas I drifted south and east taking a pretty expensive corner cutting exercise around the shoulder of Dollywaggon Pike when unknown to me there was a perfectly good footpath hidden in the cloud just a few yards away.

A gleeful descent out of the cloud down to the Grisedale Tarn checkpoint then the challenge of St Sunday Crag (or "piece of cake" as the marshall put it). I climbed well and gained several places as we crested false summit after false summit. At the top I decided it was time to think for myself and follow my own route choice. I won't be doing that again in a hurry. I followed the path down to the top of Blind Cove before turning left and descending to checkpoint 5. I watched in despair as runners I thought I'd left far behind 'cut the corner' and flew down over the grass while I struggled through bracken and rocks beside the beck on an unnecessarily technical descent.

Through the ford then a bit of running before the final climb. I'd heard that it was nasty but Will had said it wasn't so bad because you could 'practically smell the finish'. So I started to climb and tried doggedly to get into a rhythm. It was awful. The slope was steep and irregular making it impossible to settle into any sort of pace and it was undoubtedly the toughest climb of the day. The final checkpoint was just a grim dazed nod as I wandered by hoping that navigating the remainder of the course would somehow sort itself out.

The final descent was just a question of going downhill and hoping that the village hall would just miraculously appear at some point, which it dutifully did. I got round in 3.26 in fifth from last position and was a bit disappointed not to be a few more places further up the results. I probably lost a bit of time due to poor navigation but not enough to make a huge difference. This is an absolute cracker of a race reminding me a little of High Cup Nick with the dramatic moodiness of the cloud and rock and the stunningly erratic views. Next year's race can't come around soon enough. Before heading home I popped into the Glenridding Mini Market to verify its claim that it had over 40 varieties of Cumbrian Beer Inside. It does. And the ones I brought home were lovely.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
105 THOMAS REEVES V40 2.52.10
131 DOUGIE NISBET DFRV45 3.26.27

136 finishers.

When Eddie Met Dave, 4th September

Dave Robson

Dave meet Eddie. Eddie Izzard is running 43 marathons for Sports Relief—he is running round the capitals of the UK and is now on his way south to London. Yesterday he completed marathon number 33! He has said that he would like a little company from runners, but not too many, so as he was running through Durham yesterday, I set out to find him. I couldn't get out of work until 3.30, so I knew I wouldn't have much time.

Where would Eddie be now? He started in Ponteland and was said to be coming through Durham about 20m into his normal 26m day. He starts at 9.30ish, so I reckoned he would have been slowed down through Newcastle so I headed north. Crawled through Durham, Framwellgate Moor, Pity Me, Chester-le-Street, Birtley and I got to the Low Fell on the outskirts of Gateshead and still no sign, I retraced my steps, through Durham and then headed south all the way to Ferryhill. No sign so I went home which is only a couple of miles north of Ferryhill.

Got into Fetch, where is a thread about where he is, and found he had been in Pity Me at about 3.30 and I had missed him. It was now 5.30, so I headed back to Durham, went a slightly different way and found him at the bottom of Potters Bank I hadn't expected him to be there. He was just getting into a support vehicle for a rest, so I waited round the corner and after about half an hour he appeared on his own apart from the trike which has a cameraman and a soundman on the back. I asked him if he wanted some company and he said sure and the cameraman and the soundman switched on their gear and started to film.

I asked him how he was doing - tired and emotional, he said. He was quite direct, what did I do, how old was I? I said I looked after students who combined subjects such as physics and chemistry. He assumed I knew something about physics and started talking about the origins of the universe. Now the last time I studied any Physics was forty five years ago, so I was lost in seconds! I came clean that I was actually a rusty computer scientist,( not that I do much of that any more) and we chatted about early computers and what was the first computer—Babbage's, abacus, numbers, not having a number 0 at one time, binary. Chatted about early computers, Sinclair Spectrum, Commodor Pet. Talked about the TV series the Prisoner. He was great to talk to.

Eddie. We were running in the road behind the trike and we got to where the Cock of the North used to be and the dual carriageway where cars fly downhill at 70 and above and I warned them about this. Eddie said it was fine, if it was a dual carriageway, then they had a lane to pass us, so off we went. At the bottom there was another cameraman waiting to film so the trike sped off to get out of the way. Then it wasn't quite right so we went back up the hill a bit and ran down again. Then we stopped in a layby for Eddie to talk to people who had pulled over to chat and to donate.

Then on a bit more. Eddie was running all the hills and I was just amazed at how well he was doing. We had to go back again at one point as we had missed the second cameraman on another bridge. Eddie wasn't over happy about running back 200 yards to do that and I think I would have been a lot more upset if I had done as many miles as him. He had started today in heavy rain and wind, but at this point the sun was starting to come out.

He asked me more about what I did and we started to talk about my counselling work and then it was more stops for people by the side of the road. One guy was very rude and said he hadn't lost any weight!!! Some people...

Eddie said later he was feeling like a car which you fill up with petrol just beyond the red mark and then run down for the rest of the day, he just didn't have anything left in him by the end.

Called in at a Macdonalds at Thinford where Eddie met a group of girls who were holding up signs which spelt out 'Honk if you are horny'. They got very excited when they saw the camera, but some of them did not know who Eddie was. Then Eddie and the trike joined the drive through queue for food! I was hanging back at this stage and Eddie called me over and asked if I wanted a burger, which was very good of him. I was conscious of all the running I was going to have do later, so said no thanks. The fast food wasn't very fast and we had to wait a while for it. Nobody had any, its was stored for when we got to Ferryhill. Whenever he stopped to talk to people, he was filmed and then whoever was filmed had to sign release forms. The trike handled this and Eddie and I ran on chatting away.

Eddie and the crew were a very friendly bunch, I counted about eight of them although I didn't see most of them until the end.

Then it was the final mile and a bit to Ferryhill. We passed the Honk if your horny girls and they started to run alongside, so Eddie asked Ted the trike driver to speed up and we gradually lost all but one. At this point we were easily doing 10 min miles uphill and Eddie seemed to cope with that fine. By this time the lights on the trike had been turned on and we were approaching 8.00. If he started at 9.30, that is a long day.

Finally go to a filling station at the south side of Ferryhill which was the end of Eddie's 33rd marathon, ten more to go. An amazing achievement.

The end was marked by two children holding some tape for him to run through and his ice cream van playing music. I was offered ice cream and Eddie checked that I had a way of getting back. I said I was fine. Got a photo and said goodbye.

I had spent two hours with him and we covered 6 miles in that time although that included quiet a long stop at Macdonalds, going back to be filmed again twice and numerous stops to talk to people who were cheering him on.

Ran back to where I had started in Durham. A very enjoyable way of spending an evening.

Roseberry Topping, 1st September

1.5M 715'

Dougie Nisbet

Phil and Alister wonder what all the fuss is about.
T minus 15 minutes:
Me, Phil Owen, Steven Gustard (DFR) arrive at the Car Park and dash for registration while Will finds somewhere to park. We spot Jan and Alister. Alister is standing trance-like looking up at Roseberry Topping with an expression of horror on his face.
T minus 5 minutes:
The weather is cheerful and the lane is full of runners jogging up and down the track. Phil and Alister pause periodically to stop and stare and point at the big lump of rock that beckons. Will has a chat with Casper and assures him he'll be back in about 15 minutes for his walk.
T minus 1 minute:
Assembled at the Start, we're giving a nicely balanced safety talk. We're assumed to be capable of seeing the obvious. The ground will be slippy. And it's a bit steep.
T minus 0:
Away we go! I'm not too concerned about beating the rush for the first gate. The race is only 1.3 miles long and it usually takes me twice that distance to get even remotely warmed up, so I tuck in and take it easy.
T plus 2.21 (0.26 miles):
We hit the gate and it's not too congested. I'm feeling perky so I climb the gate and overtake about four runners. I'm feeling pretty pleased. The ground starts to rise steeply as I see Phil just ahead. I give chase.
T plus 4.50 (0.37 miles):
A lot has happened in the last 2 minutes. I've reconsidered some life options and reviewed my race plan (which was, basically, it's only a mile and a bit, how hard can it be?). This was hard, really hard, and the Topping was still some way up. And it got steeper. We had a choice of routes now, and Phil followed the herd to the right to take the longer, 'flatter' route. Here was a chance to cut the corner and get passed him. I chose to go straight up. I climbed the fence and started hauling myself up hand over hand grabbing clumps of grass and digging my feet into the mud.
T plus 8.51 (0.48 miles):
So much for that plan. The routes converge and Phil is still ahead, although I reckon my route choice was ultimately more expensive energy-wise than taking the longer route. I pass Phil, he passes me, I pass him again, he passes me again, and during that time Will hurtles past in the opposite direction heading to the finish.
T plus 12.42 (0.6 miles):
I hit the trig point a few seconds after Phil, high-fiving as we pass. Will has already won the race in a time of 12.29. As I start to descend I shout encouragement for Jan who is not very far behind me and has her head down intent on the climb.
T plus 14.49 (0.71 miles):
Rather than retrace my ascent I take the stone path back down. Most of us agreed later that this was a mistake as the cobbles were very wet and very scary. I tip-toed gingerly down and Phil was already out of sight in his characteristically suicidal descent. I must have passed Alister and Steve at some point but we were probably all to busy watching where we were going to see each other. So many route choices in such a short race!
T plus 20.32 (1.26 miles):
I cross the finish line feeling I'd had a pretty good run. Jan, Alister and Steve power in not long after. Will has collected Casper and they've already gone half-way around the course again. Alister asks me how far the course was because his Garmin decided he was going so slow that he'd actually stopped. At one point I hit a mile pace of '63 minute miles' which must come pretty close to 'not actually moving at all'.

Apart from Will none of us had done this race before and I for one certainly underestimated quite how tough it would be. At Jan's hash run the following evening I could barely hobble round at the back. I've been in better shape after running a marathon.