Race Reports, January 2010

That's Lyth Long Distance Walking Challenge, Kendal, 31st January


Dave Robson

Quiche or Hot dog ? Is the choice at the second of the three checkpoints of the That's Lyth Long Distance Walking Challenge Event. I ate lots at this event.

Start: Tea
Checkpoint 1: Tea and two bits of malt loaf
Checkpoint 2: Quiche, tea and orange squash
Checkpoint 3: Chocolate biscuit and and two lots of orange squash
Finish: Soup, roll, tea, two bits of cake, two portions of rice pudding and peaches

All this for £4 ! £6 if you are not a member of LDWA.

Food is clearly the most important part of today, now turning to the run itself, it was lovely, passing through some quiet country villages, crossing fields and some long gentle climbs. One very steep descent which I didn't enjoy very much. I did the event last year with a friend so I thought I knew the route, but I still managed to make two minor mistakes.

It starts and finishes at Kendal, its 23.5m with 3200 feet of climb which comes from three long climbs and few bumps in between. It was very cold at the start -2 degrees (8.00 start, another morning starting at 4 :-O) and it took time for the sun to come out and start to melt the frozen mud. No wind, so very good conditions, though I was starting to cook a bit in my three layers in the last 3m or so.

I felt a bit tired most of the way round, I think the early mornings together with going probably a bit too fast yesterday caught up with me. Very happy with 5hr 32min which is about 1hr 20min faster than last year at this event.

I love these LDWA events, they are great fun and there is lots of food (did I mention that ?)

Rory Coleman's London Underround, 30th January


Clare van den Bos

Last weekend I ran Rory Coleman's Underround route: a run that visits 42 London Underground stations and covers somewhere around 42km.

As a fundraiser for the Haiti Earthquake Appeal, I ran some of it with a pink bird on my head. And some of it with a pink bird poking out of my backpack and still getting all of the attention. Flamingos are like that, you see.

Clare emerges from the deep.

"Oh. Is that a flamingo?"
"Yes. It's my running hat."

It's best to be matter of fact about such things.

The route starts at Kings Cross, under the clock and then it's down to the Underground, through the barrier, down to the platform, touch the yellow line at the edge of the platform and run back up the stairs (or escalator if there are no stairs) then set off for the next one. And repeat, another 40 odd times.

I was running with a group and two of them didn't do what they called "the mental stairs bit". They "only" ran above ground. And they navigated. Which was a relief, as the directions are all from Google maps and require a bit of interpretation. And they provided a good tour guide commentary for country bumpkins like me ...?? The route takes in most of the Circle line, and all of the really central stations. There's never very far between stations, but it all adds up.

The big difference with this run is, of course, the running up and down stairs and escalators. I don't really like running downstairs, and I always held the handrail just in case. I'm worried about falling. Sometimes when we were going down spiral staircases, I got really dizzy. And I found out that if you're wearing gloves and you lean on the rail, you can scoosh down a bit faster ...??

I was surprised that running up escalators is harder than running up stairs because the gradient's tougher and the steps are higher. Running up stairs is also difficult, though. Some real burn in my legs at the top of Russell Square steps. But the beauty of the course is that it's a lot of really high intensity intervals sandwiched between flat (mostly) pavement running.

Flamingos are rather heavy. And do funny things to your centre of gravity. But it was rather fun. I was usually bat the back of our group going down the escalators and as we passed people there'd be conversations that went something like ...

"Oh yes, I must run."
"How impressive."
"Oh. A flamingo".

And lots of bored commuting children smiled and I clowned around a bit. If you duck down, it looks like the bird is going along on its own. And how many adults shouted "quack" or "squwark" at us, when everyone knows that's not the sound a flamingo makes.

This was all fun for an hour or two, then it was rather hard work, so we had sandwiches. And then we ran for another 5 hours or so. It's a deceptive route, as all 42 stations look close together. But it's a good way to see a lot of lovely (and some not so lovely) bits of London.? There are a lot of people in London, aren't there? And a lot of them have luggage, or speak French.

We covered the route in 7 hours, as we were going at the pace of the slowest. I'd like to try it again and see how much quicker I can do it. Sans flamingo.

Harrier League, Town Moor, 30th January

Mudman & Mudwoman

Saturday's Harrier League fixture on Newcaste's Town Moor went ahead inspite of 2-3 inches of snow falling on Friday night.

Striders were there in force although our numbers were down on the previous Farringdon fixture particularly for the men's team. The absentees missed a great day; bright & sunny with soft yielding snow lying on a flatish course - a winter wonderland! Our teams of 11 men and 11 women were led home by Phillip Sanderson and Nina Mason with Phillip finishing 7th overall, running from the medium pack, and Nina having her best run of the season so far. On the day the mens team finished 2nd in Division 3 while the women finished a creditable 10th. A good time was had by all particularly our debutants Richard Hockin and Michelle Langley although Michelle had to run in the largest Striders' vest I have ever seen.

The next fixture is at Wrekenton (Gateshead) in two weeks time on Saturday 13th February . I know that one or two stalwarts won't be able to make that fixture so please, please can those that are available please turn up and run - the men's promotion bid is hanging in the balance and the women need to maintain the momentum to secure a top ten place. Go on you know you want to!


1 WALKER, Thomas Gosforth Harriers 39:59
7 SANDERSON, Phil * 41:35
125 REEVES, Thomas 46:50
180 BENNETT, Mike 48:51
189 WHITE, Conrad 49:36
197 ROBERTS, Shaun 50:01
200 DAVIS, Geoff 50:06
203 WESSON, Keith 50:11
235 GARDNER, Stewart 52:07
256 HOCKIN, Richard 53:35
283 ROBSON, Dave 56:24
293 NESBIT, Dougie 57:13

* Medium pack

319 finishers. Men's team 2nd of 5 scoring, Division 3.

1 HODGKINSON, Danielle Wallsend Harriers 30:07
43 MASON, Nina 36:27
45 DAVIS, Susan 36:43
54 GODDARD, Debra 37:35
56 SHENTON, Fiona * 37:42
69 LAYTON, Roz 38:28
73 BARLOW, Stephanie 38:46
84 YOUNG, Jan 39:33
91 BRADLEY, Jean 40:31
97 PORTER, Joanne 41:48
108 TARN, Lindsay 44:16
109 LANGLEY, Michelle 44:32

* Fast pack

110 finishers. Women's Team 10th of 14.

Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, 24th January

Shaun Roberts

If the winter had been anything like usual, we might have complained about the weather on Sunday - cold and clammy, with some sleety drizzle - but after what we've had recently it seemed quite balmy and mild. Hardly any breeze, either, so we could have guessed that good times might be in order on this flat-as-a-pancake course. Eight Striders and Anna made the trip - I'd picked up Phil's number in the week, on a bit of a whim - and I was glad I had by the end ...

Over 1500 runners set off, slowly building up speed at the massed start. I found a good pace, and then tried to stick to it for the next 13 miles. It went quite well through 5 miles (33'), and 10K (41'), but it all started to feel a bit heavy after 9 miles or so, and I was slowing down by 10 miles (67'). Kept plugging away, though, and managed to pick up a bit of speed again for the last couple of miles. This sort of race is as different as you can get from all the fell-running I've been doing recently - as much an exercise in pain management as running - but I still quite like the opportunity to try and keep a strong pace up without having to worry about a foot sinking deep into a bog!

I was well-chuffed to get round in a PB for this one, and a "recent PB" for a half. I didn't see Anna S and Andrew come in, but those look like good times to me. Graham was rightly well-pleased with 1:42, after not a lot of running recently, and Alan Smith had a great run, starting to put his backside troubles behind him. Anna P had a good race, followed in by Jean, whose uterus had been giving her gip (not often we get to work the word "uterus" into a race report, so thanks, Jean). Barrie came in next, in a slightly faster time (chipped race!), doing well on a training regime of skiing and red wine. Margaret was last Strider in, still ahead of dozens of runners! A good race.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Chip Time
1 Matthew PIERSON Holmfirth Harrierss M 1:05:35
41 Becky PENTY York Acorn F 1 1:18:33
201 Shaun ROBERTS MV50 1:27:51
392 Anna SEELEY Durham City Harriers F 1:34:01
565 Andrew THOMPSON M 1:39:17
663 Graham DAGLISH MV55 1:42:14
812 Alan SMITH MV60 1:46:52
879 Anna PETHYBRIDGE F 1:48:34
994 Jean BRADLEY FV50 1:52:32
1012Barrie EVANS MV60 1:52:04
1498Margaret THOMPSON FV60 2:23:10

1550 finishers.

Sedgefield Handicap, 17th January


Peter Brooks

The race was due to be 6.5 miles starting from a field just outside Fishburn, but after a course inspection, it was changed to a 7.5 mile handicapped race from East park at Hardwick, Sedgefield consisting of three laps of the park. The handicap was decided on previous 10k race times.

Somehow I managed to get a handicap that put me in the second group to be started (my last 10k time was 59:02 last April) and it didn't take long for our group to catch the group who had set off a minute before us. After about half a mile, we were faced with two gates to go through - naturally, I went through the wrong one. I quickly realised my error and it didn't take long to catch the group up again.

After about another quarter of a mile, I saw a lone female runner in front of me with two other runners in front of her, when I caught her, she told me that the two in front were juniors and were in a different race so as I went past her, I was in the lead (for the first time ever!). I came to part of the course that was submerged in icy cold water and there was no other option but to run through it - I was so thankful for my waterproof socks at that point. I got to a fork in the paths and didn't know which way to take so, true to form, I took the wrong one (I really must learn to look for route markers further along the course), but didn't realise until I reached the fence, luckily the correct way was a diagonal path that joined the one I was on. I got back on track and was still in the lead.

To cut a very long story short, I held the lead comfortably for another full lap and for most of the third lap when I saw Corrina James and Neil Sleeman (both of Durham Tri, Corinna of Elvet Striders as well) not too far behind me. I knew that holding off Neil was going to be a tough job, but someone had to do it, so I knuckled down and pushed as hard as I could to keep him behind me.

As I came down the hill towards the finish, I looked behind me and saw Neil was still 150 metres further back so I just put my head down and went for it and managed to hold him off to win the race. Neil was a very close second and Corinna was fourth and first female. Joanne Porter and Dave Shipman also completed the race.

I received a lovely trophy for winning and my name will be etched onto the winners shield, which is kept by Sedgefield Harriers. The event is fantastic, completely free, well organised with tea and cake at the end and you even get a momento of the race. I will certainly be back next year to defend my title.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 David Greatorex Sedgefield Harriers M 49.03
10 Gail Bell Sedgefield Harriers F 1 53.46
28 Corrina James F 64.45
30 Peter Brooks M 65.59
32 Joanne Porter F 68.14
33 Dave Shipman M 69.17

41 finishers.

Newcastle parkrun, Town Moor, 17th January


Dave Robson

Up at what felt like the crack of dawn to get the first ever Newcastle parkrun. Got there at 8 and went to the exposed start on the Town Moor where the volunteers were standing in the strong wind and pouring rain ! There was an umbrella ready to protect the laptop, but nothing else to shelter under. It all looked a bit ominous when the umbrella got blown away and the lead cyclist had an early warm up to get it back.

They looked a bit short of volunteers so I offered to help, but they were fine, more volunteers were coming later. Passed on a spare pair of gloves to Clare who was one of the volunteers and had the unenviable job of standing on the moor holding open a gate, then I went back to the car to keep dry and warm !

Forty three hardy souls turned out in the awful weather so that they could bore the pants off friends and family in years to come by saying 'I did the very first Newcastle parkrun and the weather was awful, it rained, there was bit of ice left after the worst winter for years and the wind, well you never get anything like that these days......' Of course I won't do that....

There were of course one or two minor teething problems, but it all went very well. We set off across the moor and I had already decided to take it easy as I was planning a run later in the morning with Clare. I was also wearing full waterproofs in an effort to keep warm and dry.

Quite a few Fetchies ran this event and the Striders were well represented. Adam did a great time of 20min 30sec followed by his Dad Dave with 24min 53min. Phil wanted to take it easy and was determined to take last place in the first ever Newcastle parkrun and he did achieve this (the results are incorrect in that respect). Most of the Striders went with the organisers and volunteers to a local cafe afterwards to warm up !

Pustertaler Ski Marathons, Toblach, Italy, 9th January

28km Skate & 42km Classic

Colin Blackburn

In May 2009 I went all the way to Iceland to come last in a cross country ski marathon. Eight months later I decided to try again: not try again to come last—this time I was determined to not come last. The secret? Enter a race with more competitors! The Pustertaler ski marathon is in fact two marathons. On the Saturday there is a 28km freestyle race while on the Sunday there is a 42km classic race. In a classic race you can only use what is called the classic technique aka diagonal stride, this is what the Iceland race was. In the freestyle race you can use whatever technique you like, in reality this means a technique called skate. Skating on skis is a bit like skating on ice or roller skates, you use one leg to push off at an angle, glide on the other and then do the same the other way around. Doing this you can propel yourself forward quite quickly and even climb steep hills.

The beautiful Tre Chimes in the background.

I can't skate for toffee. So, I entered both marathons! The two marathons formed the end of a eight day (training) holiday where I hoped to brush up on my diagonal stride and learn to skate. The holiday was in the pretty Austrian village of Obertilliach and I was with 22 other people, most from a London rollerski club. The two instructors, Mary and Alan, were both experienced SnowSport England instructors and both competed in races, Alan at a very high level. Over the week Alan and Mary switched around between teaching classic and skate and so did I.

Obertilliach is home to Austrian biathlon (skiing and shooting) and so it has a small XC ski stadium, an ideal basic training ground. The stadium is surrounded by woodland loops with a variety of hills and turns, again ideal for training. The stadium also has a cafe, Luigi's, ideal for high-carb meals—the Schlipkrapfen, giant ravioli stuffed with potato is probably the acme of this cuisine. All in all a great place to mess around on snow. And they had lots of snow, even more than fell in the North Pennines while I was away. Every day began with a 20 minute ski to the stadium. Then a few drills to improve balance and technique. The rest of the morning would usually involve a few short ski loops or a trip out re-enforcing the technique. Lunch at Luigi's punctuated the day. The afternoon would again be drills and loops followed by a ski back to the village and my hotel. Oh, the hotel had an afternoon cake buffet as part of the half-board deal, a great incentive to get back before 5.

During the week I managed two days of skating and started to get a feel for it. The rest of the time I concentrated on classic technique. So come Thursday I decided to pull out of the skate race. Come Friday, bizarrely, I changed my mind and decided 28km wasn't that far. On Friday night Alan expertly waxed my skis and I felt committed to doing the freestyle race on skate skis. Saturday dawned with a feeling of mild dread and I got on the coach for the short trip over in to Italy, to the small town of Toblach nestling in the Dolomites. Toblach is where I first learned to XC ski a few years ago and I was on holiday there last January so it was familiar territory.

Before the pain.

I collected my race packs and discovered I had somehow managed to enter both races twice, though I'd only paid once. The packs comprised proper cloth bibs with my name printed on them, commemorative stickers for my skis and a great race hat. A quick change, a warm up and by 9:45 I was on Toblach airfield with a few hundred other skiers. I was in the third start block of three, ie well behind the experts and the fast guys. In a skate race you are not allowed to skate for the first hundred or two metres. This is because skate naturally involves a side-to-side movement and everyone would crash into one another. So the start involves double-poling in loipe (little railway tracks for the skis), this just uses the arms. It is very hard work from a standing start and by the time I was allowed to skate I was almost ready to give up, only 200 metres in!

As the skiers zig-zagged around the airfield for the first kilometre I started to skate in my functional but inefficient and inelegant style. Then someone else's pole came across the front of me and I was down for the first time. It turned out to be one of the people I was on holiday with! Picking myself up I settled in to a long, 12km, climb to the high-point of the first half of the race. By the time I was clocked at the check-point I was exhausted; everything ached, my arms especially. What goes up must come down and so began a long gradual descent with a few sharp dips for fun (or torture).

The race route was at points lined with spectators and so there was a great atmosphere. Shout of, "Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop!" would chivvy me along when I was feeling at my worst. Over the course there were a few food stations where they served welcome hot lemon tea, muesli bars and bananas. There were also repair stations where you could replace broken skis or poles. Thankfully I didn't need to take advantage of those.

That bum should be further forward!

After the first long descent the course levelled out for a few kilometres before the long climb to the finish. Here I was very much on my own and the weather closed in with heavy snow and strong winds. Great! After what seemed like an interminable climb up the Prags valley things finally started to flatten a little. I crossed the final road crossing and the 26km marker and felt I was nearly home. At a road crossing police stop the traffic and council workers shovel snow to allow skiers to cross. Once skiers have crossed they remove the snow and let the cars pass. I then skied for what semed like ages up the valley without any sign that I was on the right route. Worried that I'd gone too far I turned back. A few minutes later I bumped into the following skier, she was one of my group, Susan. We assured each other than it must be the right way and so we carried on despite the lack of markings. Finally we saw a km marker. 28km it said. Surely that means we'd finished! No, apparently the markers signified the start of that kilometre. What a strange system. So, just one kilometre to go and all downhill.

A few seconds later Susan fell on a really short but very steep hill. I hopped out of the skis and jogged to the bottom of the hill. Susan then tried to clip back in to her skis but something was up. We must have spent five minutes trying to sort out the problem and in that time one of the oldest competitors in possibly the most lurid Jackson Pollack-inspired race suit I have every seen side-stepped down the hill and overtook us! We finally clipped the boot to the ski and set off for the last few hundred metres. The driving snow was in our eyes and we could barely see the finish. In fact we nearly followed the ski-bob ahead of us into the finish the wrong way. A few seconds later we crossed the line together. What a relief! I was then presented with the biggest chunkiest medal I have ever received.

We were both greeted by most of the rest of our group. A quick change, a bowl of pasta, a beer and we were back on the shuttle bus to Toblach and then the coach to Obertilliach. I was utterly exhausted and aching everywhere but relieved I had finished, and I wasn't, quite, last!

At this stage I should eat and then sleep the rest of the night but with the classic race to come skis had to be waxed. In classic it is extremely important to get the grip wax right as that's the bit that pushes you foward and lets you go up hills. Alan is an excellent waxing technician and he prepped the skis with glide wax and ironed in a couple of layers of grip as a base. The rest of the grip wax would have to wait until the morning of the race once we knew what the snow was like. After that I slept well.

Relieved to be striding again after a big climb.

The Sunday was much brighter and in Toblach we had phenomenal views of the Dolomites. I got changed into my race suit, reserved for the classic race and checked what was happening with wax. Alan's advice was four or five layers of blue followed by two of violet. It's a dark art that I barely understand but it worked and got me round the whole 42km without slipping. I passed other skiers who were having to re-wax so Alan's expert advice probably bought me a couple of places.

The classic race started in the same place but this time loipe ziz-zagged the whole field so that you could stride instead of skating. In fact skating, other than to change loipe, is against the rules and could get racers disqualified. The gun went off and I slowly double poled forward only to see skiers ahead of me getting out of my lane. Once the guy in front moved out I realised why, there was a huge heap of bodies with skis and poles pointing in all directions. It looked like bangers and mash from the Beano! I managed to avoid the pile-up by skating out and moving to another lane, just in time.

The race then followed the same route as the day before for the first 18km but today it returned through Toblach Stadium and went over the new artificial hill, the height of a three-storey building. In fact it was a three-storey building with snow on top! The up was then followed by the steepest down I had ever seen. After the stadium the classic route went along and up the Sexten valley. The climb to Bad Moos was even steeper and longer than the climb the day before. It just didn't let up. Again, up usually means down and in this case there was a glorious 5km descent on nearly straight tracks, fantastic fun and very fast. I finally got to the finish and found the guy behind me was trying to sprint past to take the glory of 481st place. I wasn't having that so I double-poled like crazy but stuck a couple of kicks in for good measure as it was slightly uphill. I beat the guy by 0.4 of a second to hang on to my place. We shook hands.

Being chased... ...pulling back a few inches... ...victory!

I was so pleased to finish this one in a good time, for me, and nearly 40 places off the bottom. I beat the old guy with the Pollack suit too. A second huge medal was followed by food, drink and the bus journey back to a relaxing shower. That evening I had a great meal with the rest of the group and afterwards slept like a log. The only disappointing thing was that I had to leave the XC ski trails behind and head home...if only I could persuade Durham CC to put in a few tracks for skiing. With three ski marathons under my belt I am now well and truly hooked and looking forward to doing more races. I'm already thinking about how I can manage to do 10 World Loppet races on two continents to get my World Loppet Masters gold medal. Up until now the summers have been about running and dreaming about skiing, now I am going to have to move to rollerskiing if I'm going to improve my technique and get better at these ski marathons.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Pezzo Mirco Selva di Val Gardena (BZ) M 1:17.18,7
403 Blackburn Colin GB-Consett MV40 3:46.28,9

406 finishers.

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Kreczmer Maciej PL-Krakow M 1:54.39,5
481 Blackburn Colin GB-Consett MV40 4:10.10,6

517 finishers.

Captain Cooks, Great Ayton,NYM, 1st January

Shaun Roberts

Lining up in the snow.

Snow was coming down all over the northeast of England as we drove to Great Ayton for this one, and quite a few couldn't get through. The Hillforts and Headaches had been cancelled, further north, and as we lined up at the start it was still coming down. Quite a good turnout despite the conditions, and we legged it towards the hill over slippy snow. The long drag then slowed us all down a bit, and Tom, David and Mike all went past me along here, trying to catch Paul Evans.

Tom taking no prisoners on the bend...
Photos courtesy and © David Aspin

Then the usual steep walk up to the top and the Captain Cook Monument itself - only visible as you got close amidst the low cloud. Quite a nice run along the top then down the broad snow-covered track. I never like the awkward descent off here, and this time it was very slippy, but soon after you could get a head of steam up as it levels out a bit. Onto the section of tarmac - this was really slippy. At the bend in the road the marshals and spectators were all warning us to go very slowly as there had been a few people going over, as above.

Poor Jan's wrist.

After a bit of a climb, we finished with a nice more or less downhill stretch through fields back into Great Ayton - I went over on one bit here, bashing my elbow, but came off much better than Jan, who came in with a very sore wrist after a fall. This needed a visit to James Cook hospital, and sadly, it turned out to be a fractured radius, so she's going to have a pot on for the next few weeks. Even more sadly, she had to miss the excellent meal at the Spreadeagle in Stokesley that she'd organised. Get well soon Jan!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Darran Bilton Leeds City MV40 34.26
9 Lizzie Adams Knavesmire AC F 1 36.28
32 Paul Evans M 13 39.38
37 David Gibson MV40 5 40.05
40 Tom Reeves MV40 6 40.17
48 Mike Bennett MV55 1 40.51
102 Shaun Roberts MV50 16 44.09
146 Nina Mason F 8 48.06
174 Jan Young FV55 2 51.15
175 Jean Gillespie FV50 3 51.25
196 David Shipman MV50 28 53.55
207 Phil Owen MV40 28 56.10

230 finishers. Men's team 6th, Ladies team 3rd.