Race Reports, December 2011

Wansfell Race, Ambleside, 27th December

2.5M 1329'

Colin Blackburn

Elfie and I had just spent a wonderful Christmas break in Grasmere. The weather, though, wasn't so wonderful and so other than eat and drink all we managed to do was a brief walk up to Easedale Tarn. Even that ended with crisps and beer in a Grasmere pub. So come the 27th I really needed a run and discovered that the Wansfell race was ideally timed and situated to fit it in on our way home. It was billed as a 2.5 mile straight up, straight down race. A classic cobweb-blowing-away race. A few Striders had done the race in 2009 when it was also an NFR championship race. That year there was snow. In 2010 there was so much snow the race was cancelled. This year it would be very different following several days of rain. It was still raining on race day.

One casualty of the rain was registration. We parked in the old grammar school car park only to discover that registration would be in the Lakes Runner cafe down in Ambleside. This meant a jog down to register, a walk back up to change and then a jog back down to start! I would be knackered before the off and I'd still have to run back up the road once the race started. I dismissed brief thoughts of hiding behind a tree near the school and joining the pack as it ran past—I did the honest thing and jogged down to the start on the edge of Ambleside.

I didn't notice anyone I knew personally at the start but I did recognise a few big names: Rob Jebb, Wendy Dodds,... it was going to be fast. The start was a classic small fell race start, "Everyone got a jacket and whistle? Good. GO!" Then it was up that road again! Just after the school the race turns off the road and heads up the paved track to Wansfell Pike. Before long I was walking with the best of them. At this point I was alongside Wendy Dodds but before too long the shouts of "Come on Wendy!" became more distant as even her walking pace proved too much for me. The final few yards to the summit involved a hands and knees scramble though there was probably a sensible path route. There was definitely a sensible path for the first few yards of the descent but my shoes decided that I'd rather go down the wet grassy slope on my backside. Then my backside met the gravel path and came to an abrupt grazed halt! Fortunately, for me, the photographer, who seemed to feel my pain judging from the expression on his face, had failed to get the crucial shot.

The remaining mile back down to the school was a mix of slopes of wet grass, wet leaf litter and wet dead bracken. I tested them all and can confirm that leaf litter is the slippiest. I followed an Ambleside AC runner who zigged off the straight descent, though at one point I thought she might just be heading home. But just as I was getting worried she zagged back toward the school and I think I have her to thank for not spending as much time on my bum as I expected. The last few yards of the race are back on the road to the finish in the school car park. I'm not sure what my time was as I appeared to have stopped my Garmin at some point on the descent though I was definitely close to the back. [Very close to the back in fact, though at least I'm in the results!] The prize ceremony was a bit chaotic as the results sheet succumbed to the rain, though Rob Jebb definitely won.

With a race entry fee of just £1 and the opportunity for lunch in Ambleside (I'd suggest The Apple Pie Cafe & Bakery) I'd recommend this race as a great post-Christmas blast for anyone who happens to be over in this part of the world at this time of year.

Jolly Holly Jog, Ripon, 27th December


Dave Robson

Striders at the Jolly Holly JogThis has always been one of my favourite races, its scenic, offroad and its a friendly event with encouraging marshalls. Last year's race was postponed because of ice and I didn't manage to make the re-arranged date. The previous year the race had gone ahead when it was very icy, so it was great to find that the weather was almost perfect for this year's race. It was mainly cloudy with no wind, but there was lots of mud :-)

Three other Striders ran, John Hutchinson, Jim Nicholson and Maggie Thompson. Melanie came down and took photos. I had forgotten quite how hilly this 10K event is and together with the mud, it made it quite an interesting event. The deer were out in some numbers and there were also quite a few visitors in the deer park, but they were all helpful in letting the runners cross a narrow bridge.

I came home in with a time of 53min 51sec and I was happy with that in the muddy conditions


1 RUTHERFORD, Jamie Darlington Harriers M 36:16
4 PENTY, Becky York Acorn Running Club F 37:52
140 John Hutchinson M50 49:26
209 Dave Robson M60 53:51
303 Jim Nicholson M60 1:00:23
377 Maggie Thompson F60 1:06:50

414 finishers.

Guisborough Woods Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 27th December


Shaun Roberts

This was my first time for this race - I hadn't been able to get away from rellies in previous years - but I managed this time, and it turned out to be a good crack. Two hundred runners made the trip, including Tom, Geoff and Susan, Jan and Nina, and Dougie. The numbers took quite a while to register, so the race was half-an-hour late getting started.

So nice to get to the top of the hill each time ... small matter of the descending to come.

I was wondering just how hilly this was going to be, but the start wasn't too bad, and there were a couple of level bits before a really steep climb up to the top of the woods which had to be walked, so there was actually a chance to get your breath back before a long undulating section across the top of the woods. Then the bit I really hadn't been looking forward to ... the long muddy, slippy descent back to the start, and indeed I found it bloody awkward. Geoff overtook me going down here on the first lap, and Nina did the same on both the second and the third laps! Luckily, I was making enough progress on the uphill and flattish bits to get a reasonable placing, so my hopes of gadgie glory in the Winter Series are still intact ... ;-)

All in all ... a good post-festive blast!


1 Paul Lowe North York Moors M 38.16
3 Phil Sanderson NFR MV40 2 38.23
23 Cath Williamson Loftus & Whitby F 1 43.52
53 Thomas Reeves DFR MV45 11 46.56
85 Geoff Davis NFR MV50 14 50.05
115 Nina Mason F 7 52.31
123 Shaun Roberts MV55 4 53.28
150 Susan Davis NFR FV50 3 56.54
174 Dougie Nisbet DFR MV45 32 60.52
180 Jan Young FV55 2 62.15

201 finishers.

Forest Burn Fell Race, 26th December


Dougie Nisbet

I've long since learned from adventures such as Wansfell and Roseberry Topping that a short race doesn't necessarily mean an easy race, and was duly treating Will's Boxing Day Burn-Off with the respect it deserved. Race length is no indicator of interest either; there are many longer races that are astonishingly dull, yet this short dash around and through Forest Burn is stuffed with variety.

Forest Burn group

Will was multi-tasking again as we ran up the hill from the start and before long Casper was just a distant yip on the horizon. Last time I ran this it was August 2010 and the vegetation and weather were completely different. One of the enduring attractions of fell races is that they change so much from year to year and season to season whereas tarmac is just, well, tarmac. There was a quirky and fearsome crosswind as we headed into the valley for the first crossing of Forest Burn, then out the other side, up a hill or two, then back to the burn. I then made exactly the same mistake I did last time I did this race. I crossed the burn as soon as I reached it, rather than following, or even noticing, the marker tapes that led alongside the burn to a better crossing point further downriver. I then compounded the error by spotting the marker tapes as I emerged from the burn and headed for them, before quickly realising I was now doing the course backwards. Comparing my gps trails from 2011 and 2010 I can see that I made the identical error each time.

No entry fee, no prizes, just a pint of Theakstons in the Gate pub afterwards. A nice low-key quality event, just how I like them.

East Hull Harriers Boxing Day 10K, 26th December

Alister Robson

Alister in splendid isolation. Jacquie had very reluctantly entered this race with me but after only mild persuasion [Mild persuasion? What did you do to the poor woman?? Ed. ] we climbed out of bed and again across Hull to the East Hull clubhouse I was by now quite familiar with.

This route goes out and back on the same route as the East Hull 20 mile I’d done earlier in the year as preparation for the marathon. It’s very flat but often a little exposed and windy too – especially on the long way back along the old railway line. There’s a nasty little hill just before the end which is a sting in the tail too.

Still a lovely friendly event, a cracking red tech tee and another 1000 or so calories which would otherwise have been sat around my waist burned off!

We also bumped into Stewart McConnell of Durham Tri (18th overall in 41:15) who’s run for us at XC this year.

For some reason I’m missing from the results although my Garmin said 47:43 and Jacquie came in with a highly creditable 59:52.




Boxing Day Run and Walk, 26th December

Allan Seheult

Seventy-two humans and three dogs braved the fierce winds on Boxing Day with a choice of off-road runs and walks from Allan & Carole's house in High Shincliffe, followed by an excellent choice of hot and cold food, delicious puddings and a plentiful drink supply.

Most participants are shown in the photograph.

Good turnout! Click for the bigger picture. Allan & Carole would like to thank all those who took part for their generous food and drink contributions and for helping to make it such a jolly and friendly event.

Hull Xmas Day parkrun, East Hull Park, 25th December


Alister Robson

It’s an old tradition of parkrun to run where possible on Xmas day and New Years day, even if that means consecutive days. Although we couldn’t run Durham parkrun on Christmas day because the sports centre was closed, as Jacquie and I were at her parents in Beverley, we popped along to East Park on Christmas morning and ran at Hull.

This is a very different parkrun to Durham, and unusually they were running the course in reverse as they normally finish at the park café, but as this was closed they had mince pies and non-alcoholic mulled wine in the car park. It was a very fast two lapper and I can easily see why this was the course Keri, who many of you will remember and has now moved down to her native East Yorkshire, cracked 20 minutes on at last.

As well as being fast it was also very friendly, and also rather unusual – there’s a wild animal enclosure, so you run past wallabies, deer and peacocks. The Event Director was also telling Jacquie about a tail-less squirrel called Stumpy that they’d befriended. I was going great guns up until the last corner when my stomach decided to relinquish the John Smiths of the previous evening and eventually snuck in in 22:22.

Jacquie by comparison had a much better run storming home in 26:42, only a few seconds off her season’s best, and winning a sprint to the line with another gent. Not bad at all given the excesses of the previous day!

Christmas Eve Durham parkrun, Maiden Castle, 24th December


Alister Robson

An amazing 220 runners turned out for this one in various Christmas themed fancy dress and were rewarded with a lovely morning. Michael Grimes of Durham City Harriers was the runaway winner in a cracking 16:16, only just over half a minute off his own course record and the joint third fastest so far.

We know who you are!Runner with a big wand. Do not give this bloke an invitation to join the club!

Newcomer Amy Etherington of Shildon Railway AC was first lady in 19.49, one of quite a few runners from Shildon joining us for the first time. Our own Roz Layton and Fiona Shenton both topped 80% WAVA age graded scores too.

There were 44 were first timers in all and 43 runners recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 20 different athletics clubs took part. 32 Elvet Striders took part.

Aberdeen parkrun, 24th December

George Nicholson

My 60th Parkrun, but first at Aberdeen... added bonus was being able to run with 2 of my Grandsons and in Fancy Dress!

George and family Scottish Parkruns start at 9.30 am. Very necessary this far north in Mid Winter. There was a strong wind blowing in off the cold North Sea and for some strange reason it also seemed to be 'in your face' and never following! But at least it wasn't raining. The course is a one & half loop circuit along a straight and flat, upper & lower Beach Esplanade, starting and finishing at the same point.

Not sure if the conditions were too bad for my 6 yr old Grandson Jasper, or for my Son-in-Law, David! Whatever, they both decided to pull out of the race after approx 2k. 9 yr old, Oscar however competed as well as ever. Leaving me at the start, he ran strongly all the way and finished 40 seconds or so ahead of me. His time of 24:48 was very creditable considering the conditions & wearing an ill fitting Santa hat & coat. (see photo 27 of Mike Dunbar's)

Their normal cafe was closed for the Christmas period, and it was too cold to 'mingle' long after the run. However I will return to run there again in 2012

Happy New Year to one and all.

DFR Sunday Xmas Special, Hamsterley Forest, 18th December


Shaun Roberts

Friendly bunch of DFR runners, guests and dogs. Nigel's here too, taking the photographs. Many thanks to Stu Ferguson of DFR for organising this lovely festive run from Hamsterley visitor centre on Sunday morning. A bit of a climb up to Doctor's Gate, down towards Wolsingham, then over to the Elephant Trees, and back over the moor again via Hidden Valley. Absolutely gorgeous run over snowy and icy tracks ...

Lovely snowy paths ...

Christmas Handicap, 17th December


Pam Kirkup

Some 17 runners braved the increasingly cold temperatures for the annual Striders' Christmas Handicap. There was quite an array of Hollywood 'wannabes' snuggling together for warmth as Santa waved at all manner of vehicles - including 2 police cars - raising a smile from even the most surly drivers.

Naturally, the handicapping was perfectly executed! Well, considering how many inaccuracies occurred in the information people gave me - thank goodness for the many sets of results on the website. Dave Robson shamelessly told me that the young race winner, 16yrs old Adam Walker, would "do it in around 44min 20." He actually romped home in 34.07, a worthy winner.

The fancy dress was impressive and cleverly thought out - I now see Andrew Thompson in a new light after his appearance as one of Spinal Tap. A new career beckons, Andrew!

Festive celebs, Santas and elves.

Prizes were awarded as follows:

Race winner, fastest runner, first junior - Adam Walker in 34.07
First Lady finisher - Liz Lamb in 44.50
Fastest Adult male finisher - Shaun Roberts in 34.18
Fastest Lady runner - Roz Layton in 38.39

Fancy Dress prizes:
Best Male - George Nicholson as the Straw Man/ scarecrow in Wizard of Oz
Best Female - Juliet Percival as a Christmas tree
Runner-up Male - Andrew Thompson as one of Spinal Tap
Runner -up Female - Jan Young as a Christmas Elf

Spot Prizes:
David Shipman - a very credible Robin (no sign of Batman, however!)
Nigel Hepple - as Forrest Gump in his 'running across America' phase
Laura Ralph - new runner and handicap debutante
Margaret Thompson - another Christmas Elf

Afterwards there was a considerable gathering of runners, helpers, families and supporters at the Court Inn for lunch. London Marathon numbers were drawn after David Shipman presented the prizes. Marathon numbers went to: Jane Ives, Barrie Evans and Claire Readey. We drew out 2 additional names as reserves: Sue Jennings and Peter Brooks.

A night at the Oscars is wasn't but I'd like to thank everyone who took part and in some amazing costumes. Thanks also to Santa (Nick Young) and his elves (Janice Young and Gill Wesson) for entertaining the traffic and for judging the fancy dress. I'd also like to thank Mike Bennett and Andy James for being timekeepers and to Allan Seheult for supporting the runners.

Finally, I'd like to thank Harry and the staff at the Court Inn for making us so welcome.


Jules and Jerry.

Pos Name Pos Time
1 Adam Walker 34.07
2 Shaun Roberts 34.18
3 Roz Layton 1 38.39
4 Nigel Heppell 39.27
5 Jerry Lloyd 40.00
6 Peter Bell 40.26
7 Andrew Thompson 41.10
8 Alan Smith 44.00
9 Liz Lamb 44.50
10 George Nicholson 45.07
11 David Shipman 47.18
12 Jules Percival 47.26
13 Jan Young 48.02
14 Louise Miller 51.01
15 Laura Ralph 51.05
16 Emma Detcheon 54.07
17 Maggie Thompson 55.56

17 finishers.


Tour de Helvellyn, Lakes, 17th December


Geoff Davis ...

Apart from its slightly pretentious name there's nothing phoney about the 'Tour de Helvellyn'. Billed as a 'low key' event of 38 miles with 2200m of ascent, it came with a number of health warnings such as:

Two old blokes jogging up Boardale.

The organiser, Joe Faulkner (one of the most competent 'Fellsmen' in the country), didn't reject my application, even though I haven't done anything really 'mega' for three years, and so I was in!

Five weeks of intensive training later, interrupted by a heavy cold, Tom Reeves and I were in Askham village hall at 7.30am. It was a dark, cold and frosty morn as we waited for Joe to tell us our kit was sufficient and that we looked competent enough to be allowed to run in his race.

The event was a time trial so you could start at any time between 7-9am and Tom and I had decided to set off just before it got light. We were joined by NFR friend Chris Little who's Bob Graham I had helped out on over seven years ago (where has that time gone?!). The first mile or so was on road that was covered in frost and black ice and proved challenging although we all managed to stay upright. The next few miles over Askham Moor and down to Howtown were frosty and icy underfoot but went over quite quickly. We split up briefly when a route choice presented itself. The younger men chose what proved to be the longer, slower option and I was left waiting for them at the checkpoint for a couple of minutes, much to my delight!

Kicking Steps To Swart Beck. The first 'up and over' at Boredale Hause had a bit of snow on but nothing to speak about and, apart from Tom and Chris' endless chatter, things went quite smoothly, although not ice-free, till be got to the Helvellyn Youth Hostel. Chris stopped to put on his snow spikes and Tom and I continued together. From here the ascent to the highest point of the race, Sticks Pass at 750m, began and we were into deep snow immediately. As we ascended, the cloud did the opposite and soon we were in near whiteout conditions slogging up a steep slope through deep snow with the wind in our faces blowing tiny snowflakes into our eyes. After what seemed an eternity we finally 'topped out' onto the pass and began the long slippery descent to Thirlmere.

I'd been very glad to have Tom with me over this difficult section and really appreciated his morale boosting comment when we finally reached the bottom of the slope: "well that's 16 miles done, only another 22 to go!" We parted company at this point, but not because we had a spat, Tom was just moving more quickly than I was. So now I was on my own and knew that, although the most difficult section was done, the next 22 miles were going to be a challenge.

After a steady jog / power walk through the forest I arrived at Dunmail Raise with the next up and over to face. The 'up' proved easier than I'd expected with a good trail having been broken through the snow. However, the 'over' bit around Grisedale Tarn was unpleasant with the deep soft snow concealing wet boggy ground beneath which soaked and froze my feet. The descent to Patterdale was slippery initially, but the snow gave way to a well-defined track to the valley and I felt fairly comfortable. There were one or two runners around me for the next few miles, over Boredale Hause again and onto Matterdale Church, but I was mostly on my own with my thoughts (just how I like it!)

The race had also been billed as taking place on the 'shortest' weekend of the year and now, at around 4pm, dusk was starting to fall. I've run through the night across the fells many times so that wasn't a problem. However, I prefer running on 'night vision' rather than using a head torch but when I started to trip over rocks and clumps of reeds I knew it was time to turn the damn torch on.

The last couple of miles over the near featureless Askham Moor were going to be tough in the dark but I had a 'pre-prepared' bearing and I could still make out a key landmark in the gloom, so I knew where I was going. However, the traverse of the moor was frustrating as it was frosty, icy and consequently very slippery. Nonetheless I managed to keep to the track and eventually came out onto the road into the village. It was with great relief that I ran into the Village Hall and handed my control card to Joe Faulkner who congratulated me. As my eyes became accustomed to the bright lights I could see Tom sipping a cup of tea. I must have looked a state 'cause he kindly offered to get me some soup and tea. As we chatted with a couple of other friends Tom remarked that I had done a good time - for someone of my age. Thanks Tom, for that, and for a great weekend!

... and Tom Reeves:

I'd heard about this event last year but never got round to entering it so I was pretty keen to have a go this year. I've done a few long runs so felt I could do the distance the main thing about this race is the time of year. The days are short and the weather can be challenging! Geoff D was coming across with me so we both kept our eyes on the weather in the week leading up to the day of the race. We drove across on Friday night so we could get a good start on Saturday morning.

The race HQ and start/finish of the race was in Askham Village Hall it was dark and icy when we arrived I'd had my cold rice pudding and was almost raring to go. The weather reports were more positive so we were hopeful of a good day out. Geoff and I decided to set off together and see how the race panned out, we headed off at 7.44 as the sky was just beginning to get light. I almost went over on black ice as we left the hall not a good start! The road up to Askham Fell was very icy and we toddled along barely above walking pace.

One of Geoff's NFR buddies Chris joined us over the initial part of the race. Once we were on the fell it we were able to get running and warm through a bit. The first leg takes the runners along the side of Ullswater to Howtown and the up to a self clip at Martindale Church. At Howtown there is an option of following the road or keeping to the fellside. I opted for the off road and Geoff took the road. Surprise, surprise he got to the church first with a rather satisfied look on his face!

Swart Beck. We had a mile or two of road along Boardale then headed up on a steep bouldery footpath to Boardale Hause and lots of snow. The weather was still being kind to us and there were fantastic views of the route to come. The next checkpoint was in Patterdale and on the run down we started to get overtaken by some of the faster runners. It was quite icy and care had to be taken but I think we all made it down with no falls (yet).

We got to Patterdale bang on opening time of the checkpoint and ran on through to Glennridding followed the road up to the youth hostel and what would be the longest climb to Sticks Pass the highest point of the course. Chris stopped just before the climb to put his brand new micro spikes on. We kept on going expecting Chris to catch us up with the added assistance of spikes. We passed quite a few skiers on the way up as the snow got deeper. This was what I was hoping for, lots of snow and I got it! We made good progress and got to Swart Beck Footbridge and a marshal who deserved a medal for being up there. We clipped, Geoff put his jacket on and we were off for a long slog in deep snow and a virtual whiteout. It felt like a long time till we dropped out of the cloud and got our first views of Thirlmere. The run down to Stanah Footbridge was very slippy and I fell over a couple of times on the steep hillside.

Climb up to Sticks Pass. Geoff took a bit longer to get to the checkpoint and I don't think he was impressed when I mentioned we only had another 22 miles to go. I felt quite tired after the run through the deep snow so refuelled on home made flapjack as I jogged along under Whiteside to Swirls Car park and checkpoint 5. I was greeted by the splendid sight of Santa Claus and the sound of bells ringing which was very festive. Geoff was around a minute behind me as I entered the woods along the side of Thirlmere. I passed a few runners and one or two runners passed me, the racers with higher numbers had started after me so I was able to get a roughish idea of where I might be in the race.

The climb up Raise Beck to Grisedale was a tough one but it seemed to pass pretty quickly, I was now heading back in the direction of Askham, I was over half way and the next checkpoint would be Patterdale. There was deep snow again heading past Grisedale Tarn and I managed another couple of falls. I began to feel quite cold for the first time since the start of the race. Time to eat more and pick up the pace. I noticed a young lad tracking behind me on the descent down Grisedale. We got chatting and he informed me in no uncertain terms that he was feeling the pace. I suggested he run along with me and we duly ran the rest of the race together. He (Tom) had started and hour and 10 minutes after me so he had made really good progress (he finished in the top 20).

At Patterdale I ate my chicken and ham pastie which I'd carried all day and was determined to eat. It wasn't too bad actually, and gave me a boost of energy on the final major climb back up to Boardale Hause. It was now 3pm is and the soon to be setting sun looked fantastic it had been a great day out and only 9 miles to go. The final checkpoint was Martindale Church again and I took Geoff's route back down the road, and yes Geoff, it was quicker. Tom was struggling with cramp but managed to hang onto me with a bit of encouragement.

It was just beginning to get dark as we ran across the final stretch of Askham Fell but the head torch stayed in my sack. I was pleased to get back in (almost) daylight and even more pleased to get in dead on 9 hours. I was hoping for under 10 hours so ... job done!

The tea and soup were flowing back in the village hall and the cake was very good too. I managed to cramp up while taking my fell shoes off, but then again I wasn't the only one judging by the grimaces of my fellow competitors. Geoff arrived in due course and looked very pleased with himself. Chris arrived a short while after, so we were all safely home.

Anyway we were soon heading back to Durham after a great winters day on the fells. Beats Christmas shopping every time.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Kim Collison 6:05
35 Tom Reeves 3 9:00
50 Geoff Davis 5 9:40

90 finishers, 95 starters.

Saltwell 10K, 17th December

Kathryn Sygrove

Striders' handicap or Saltwell 10k? What was it to be? Well, I chose the latter as today was the Centenary run and I felt it would be something special. The Park was as beautiful as ever, despite hard thick ice in the car parks, and seemed ever so slightly warmer than the last time I ran this race 2 years ago, when newish to running, not a Strider, and much less fit. Then, I felt sick with the mixture of exertion and the bitter cold. Mind you, it was still pretty cold today, but a bleary sun tried to come out just before the race. There were 8 Striders in all - Flip, Anna, Jim Nicholson, Richard Hodgkins(?), myself, Sue Jennings, Anita and Claire. We collected our numbers, supped tea, and then went to divest ourselves of our warm outer gear -brrr!!!

Keeping warm before the start. We bumped into David Whitmore - runner number1 and an ever-present - David Savage and Harry Harrison from Sunderland Harriers. The race starts on the road above the Park and consists of 3 and a half loops of the Park - along the top outer edge, down through the steep park at a fair lick, along the bottom edge and round the frozen lake part of the way, up a hill, down a bit more, up another pull, round some sheer corners, and down a steep slope to the bottom of the Park, then along the bottom edge outside on the path, back into the Park and up the steepish pull to the road where we started...times three, you get my drift????? It is quite tough on the legs, the fast plunges down and the steady pulls up, so when the final half-lap comes, it is a delight to know that the frozen lake heralds a wee loop extra and on towards the finish!

Mind you, I started relatively slowly for me, and chatted with Flip as we ran steadily for the first half-lap, determined not to weary myself too early. I slowly pulled away from him after that and started to warm through a bit, and my pace evened-out and held till then end of the second lap, though I couldn't help flying down the steep inclines when they appeared. There was some great support from people cheering us on, loads of supportive shouts "Come on Strider, keep it strong" which helped immensely - I later learned that many of these came from Michelle Nichol (Fetchie and Newcastle Parkrun, I think) and were accompanied by some great photos as well - and nearly every one of me was smiling!! That helped especially in the middle of the second lap when someone yelled support and my legs surged forward with renewed vigour - and again at the start of the third lap, when Michelle did the same..and finally, right near the finish, when more encouraging cries pushed me to a faster finish

I don't know my finish time right now, but it is less than 30 seconds behind my PB on a very flat route (Middlesbrough 10k) so I can hardly complain at that. I felt quite elated at the end, and vowed this would not be the last time that I visited Saltwell Park in the bleak mid-winter to run this small, local and very friendly race.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Ryan McLeod Tipton M 30.57
9 Alison Dixon Chester-le-Street F 1 35.59
104 Richard Hockin MV60 46.49
116 Anna Seeley F 47.34
144 Kathryn Sygrove FV50 48.47
190 Phil Owen MV45 52.04
205 Claire Readey FV35 53.24
248 Jim Nicholson MV60 59.53
269 Sue Jennings FV45 61.21
283 Anita Clementson FV50 62.32

307 finishers.

Simonside Cairns, Rothbury, 11th December

10.4M 1670' (revised route due to ice)

Phil Owen

Headed up to the lovely Rothbury for the Simonside Cairns fell race. It wasn't that long ago I was near there doing the Thropton Show fell race, a shorter race that comes up from Thropton to the front 'face' of the rocky outcrop that is Simonside cairn. Mind this is a bit more of a fell being 11 mile and 1770ft ascent. Registration is at the Castle pub in the heart of Rothbury which is always a good sign of a great race in my book with the start and finish just outside. Mud people, Dougie and myself were running for Striders and a host of friends also entered so a lot of chat beforehand.

Dougie had said he was going to toddle along as his legs were feeling the previous days NE cross country championships. As usual I was in the same boat after giving my legs a pounding at football and then a late run on Saturday eve. Truth is I run these races for the scenery and training and rarely have fresh legs. When your main races are one hundred mile plus you need to gets used to running on tired legs.

Of we went through a narrow high walled lane and up a tarmac road with a fairly steep hill. I'm rubbish up hill and my legs didn't want to know so I was soon behind. When we reached the Fells I picked up and started to pass folk. Two runners came past with in injured runner holding what looked like a cut above his eye. Quick chat and he was well looked after so I moved on.

The moors got very muddy which suits me and I was soon back in the fray. A look back and I could see a long line with Dougie lolling along as he said he would. I got to chatting to lass who was doing her first fell race here as we ploughed through the deep mud. As is usual with these fells its all uphill but it soon evened out at some woodlands. The lass I chatted as we flew down the woodland hill, loving the run, laughing and joking, not a care in the world including those pesky little bits of red and white tape which we completely missed!

After a mile of so we hit a track and bore left. Now before we hit the wood we were just behind a long single file group and after ten minutes running (and gabbing) we both thought, hang on, there should be folk behind us. Maps out and it was soon apparent we missed the turnoff in the woods. Never mind, the track we were on would lead us back to the route and sure enough it did.

Mind another runner was looking in the wood for the route and wouldn't believe me it was the other way (I don't blame him). Duly took his number and we moved on and soon came to the break in the trees with the Simonside cairn in view. At this point we could see some other runners and the lass shouted that was her mum who had to be beat so after plodding round we now put a spurt on. Passed her mum near the cairn and from here it was all downhill over lovely moor and forest trail with Christmas tree lights round the trees and carols playing on a little cd player. Soon back at the finish and into the pub for a nice pint after covering nearly 14 miles of the 11 mile race. Bonus miles! Happy days :-)


1 James Taylor NFR M 1.18.15
16 Karen Robertson NFR FV40 1 1.29.19
56 Geoff Davis NFR MV50 1.44.50
68 Susan Davis NFR FV50 1 1.50.15
81 Dougie Nisbet DFR MV45 2.08.00
87 Phil Owen MV45 2.20.18

90 finishers.

NE XC Championships, Cramlington, 10th December

Men 12.1km, women 8.2km

Sue Jennings...

Today was my first attempt at a cross country race - I did have to pick one of the most competitive and difficult races and for this, I ended up being last - am getting pretty used to this position now though ha ha.

The race was really tough. Everyone set off fast as you would expect and within a couple of hundred metres I was close to the back. It was absolutely freezing but I soon warmed up! There was me thinking I would need a coat and hat on - thankfully I braved the short sleeves of a tee shirt and striders vest. After what I thought was a couple of miles, I looked at my Garmin to find that I had only completed just over a mile and my legs were already starting to feel heavy - I wondered whether I would actually get to the end at this point and knowing that I had to do the same route twice didn't help. It was very muddy and slippy but I managed not to end up face down in it. I remember thinking that a 10 miles road run is far easier than this!

As I got in to the second lap, I felt a little more confident that I would finish and knowing that I was at the back meant that I could slow down a little and do my own pace rather than trying to keep up a pace that I wasn't used to on this sort of terrain. I remember not being far in to my second lap and seeing Nina and Susan heading towards the finish and I shouted well done to them both wishing that was me.

About half a mile from the end James came and ran with me for a little while which was really encouraging and I managed to pick my speed up and nearly caught the girl in front of me - it's always nearly though ha ha.

I finished eventually in 56 minutes and 20 seconds and the rest of the striders were at the end cheering - it's a great feeling when you get over that finish line.

Would I do another one? Of course I would and I would also encourage anyone who hasn't had a go at these types of races before to have a go too. Thanks to all the Striders there today for their support.

Striders Men

...and Mudman

Another excellent turn out of muddy Striders, this time at the North East X/C Champs, saw some fine individual performances and good team placings. Nine men did battle with the long, muddy course led home by Phil in 24th place and Will not far behind in 37th place in spite of posing for Alister, the photographer, at various points in the race (see Alister's & Nina's excellent photos below). Our fast lads were supported by a strong team bringing Striders home in 11th place from 25 teams and beating local rivals Crook and Sunderland Strollers.

Seven Striders women managed to drag themselves out of the surprisingly warm tent to perform manfully on the now even muddier course. Fiona led the team home with Sue Jennings supporting in her first, but I suspect not her last, x/c outing. Other regulars were there too with Liz Lamb continuing to run well through the mud. The team finished 9th on the day.


1 Ricky STEVENSON New Marske Harriers 39.09
24 Phil SANDERSON 45.02
37 Will HORSLEY 47.00
99 Neil SLEEMAN 50.34
135 James GARLAND 52.18
136 David GIBSON 52.19
182 Geoff DAVIS 55.55
256 Richard HOCKIN 62.36
282 Dougie NISBET 67.37
287 Alan SMITH 71.36

292 finishers. Men's Team 11th of 25.

1 Rosie SMITH Durham City Harriers & AC 31.39
30 Fiona SHENTON 38.51
50 Nina MASON 41.00
54 Susan DAVIS 41.40
75 Debs GODDARD 44.20
80 Liz LAMB 45.07
106 Jan YOUNG 53.58
109 Sue JENNINGS 56.21

109 finishers. Women's Team 9th of 13.

Sunday Run, Broom Park, 4th December


Claire Readey

Sunday morning was cold. Freezing, in fact. And windy. With rain forecast. Perfect conditions for a small, but perfectly formed group of Striders to meet at Broom Park and embark on a blustery 10 miler. Sue cheerfully informed us that it was snowing at Tow Law. That's ok - we were heading to Ushaw Moor. The climate's so much warmer there!

This photo was taken moments after a gloriously muddy descent through a churned field. We all survived to complete a lovely, if chilly 10 miler, after which we retired to the Duke of Welly for grub. So, who's organising the next one? A rainy run along Deerness Way followed by a gentle incline towards Esh Village and a moments' pause to take in the impressive view. The rain had stopped by then, which gave us more time to debate whether we had indeed just run up a gentle incline or a massive flippin' hill. We bypassed an impressive stone-built manor house before cutting through the village and down through the steepest, muddiest field you could possibly imagine. We picked our way down, with much girlie squealing (from the boys, of course). David may have commented " It's much nicer in the summer", but we were on a high, basking in the bracing views and the knowledge that we'd just completed our own mini-Hexhamshire Hobble.

The paths back to the picnic area felt slightly weary for those of us with less miles in our legs, but we were all in good spirits and cheered on by the prospect of retiring to the warmth of the Duke of Welly and good old fashioned Sunday lunch. Thanks to David C for organising - it was a really enjoyable run and I do hope we can squeeze another one in before Christmas.

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

Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale, 4th December

10.5m / 1,220 CM

Phil Owen

With all my injuries over the last couple of years I’m trying only to run just twice a week and on the Saturday Andrew Thompson and I had done a 21.5 Mile training run along the railway lines from Consett so Sunday is cycle day. Hmm, the thing is I quite like the cycling but the skies look full and the roads icy – not great for cycling but ideal Fell running weather. A quick text to Alistair and we were off to the Hexhamshire Hobble.

Truth is I’ve been meaning to do this for a few years but it always seemed to clash with something. We took the ‘long way round’ via the western bypass and 69 after Al’s addiction to McD’s breakfast had been satisfied. As we climbed up to the lovely Allendale the weather slowly closed in and it was bitterly cold. Phil Sanderson was the first strider I met and I offered him some of my Fat to slow the lad down but he declined. Met newish strider Aaron with Al informing me this is just Aaron’s cup of tea. Mudwoman appeared smiling at the prospect of more mud and snow and discussions were made about jackets on or off. I don’t tend to wear a jacket often but just before we went up to the field I put a medium weight one on. It never came off!

Yes, there were runners out there somewhere ...

With warnings of ‘its cold here but it’s could be another universe up there’ from the RD we were off. Well I say we but the rest of the field were. My legs weren’t working that well to be honest and I’m slow enough when they are! Bit of muddy hill, some very steep road followed by wide track. Not very fell-like at all.

However that was soon to change with some angelic smiling bairns holding up a couple of huge signs painted with Red paint saying, DEEP MUD AND PAIN.

And so it was onto the moorland. A couple of miles of boggy track and then the track slowly narrowed becoming progressively more rocky and boggy. This is more my sort of thing and my legs were just starting to work again but by the curse of slow starter I was more or less stuck behind a single file line of runners . I overtook here and there by jumping onto the heather and through various deep water puddles with only one turning out to be a comedy puddle where I went up to my waist but it was pointless till the line spread out a bit.

In the deep midwinter ...

A marshal clipping our numbers indicated sharp left turn and a wonderful sight was to be had of the field making their way over the snowy moorland. Oh I forget, the weather was having a great time picking what it threw at us with clear spells interspersed with mini blizzards and with the wind chill very cold. On that note Mudman and Mudwoman had sent out a mail the day before warning those taking part to have all their fell gear including full body cover (something I always carry). It’s not just for your protection during the race but if you have to stop, something as simple as a twisted ankle could mean life of death even so close to civilization. I also carry an emergency bag (that you get in if injured). Mandatory in most of the Scottish long distance hill races, they are only about £2.50 and could save your life. On a happier note, should you die here it’s some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK and the snow made it all Christmassy . After 7 miles or so the moorland turned to track again and then to tarmac and a descent and climb. For some reason I had this in head the race was eight miles so I thought the finish must just be over the hill so was surprised that we were back onto moorland again. Oops, this is a 10.5 miler, it was the other race in the ESK valley series I could have gone to that was around 8 lol. Never mind, more lovely running and after a mile or so the moorland again became track and the slow decent into the Allendale finish where free coffee and cake were on offer. Superb race and all for a fiver and a load of spot prizes with my Anna being lucky enough for me to win a perfectly fitting ladies Asics long sleeved winter running top ! Excellento . Did I say - all for a fiver !

Back to the Duke of Welly in Durham and a catchup with the Sunday morning run striders dinner crew who swore blind they had more seen mud that us! Grand day out.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 BLACKETT, Andy DFR M 1:11:39
3 SANDERSON, Phil NFR MV 1:12:50
16 HODGSON, Jane Morpeth Harriers F 1 1:20:40
119 GOURLEY, Aaron M 1:40:55
125 DAVIS, Susan FV 1:43:29
141 ROBSON, Alister M 1:47:52
159 OWEN, Phil MV 1:54:06

184 finishers.

Eskdale Eureka, Castleton, NYM, 4th December


Shaun Roberts

Heading down to the North York Moors for this one, aiming for Winter Series points on this occasion, rather than Grand Prix ones at the Hobble, I was wondering if the conditions on the course were to be as extreme as on the last time I did this race. Then all the tracks were under six inches of water after weeks of rain ... some parts were more full rushing streams than runnable paths. As it was to turn out, though, the moors weren't in bad shape, and the route had also been improved by the omission of about half a mile each way of tarmac at the start and finish. Met Dougie, Nigel, Nina and Jan before the start ... Jan wasn't feeling too good, but helpfully volunteered to sweep up after the field, so she was to get some exercise anyway.

You go *that* way, then you come *back*.

A bit parky before the off ... a very cold breeze ... but then we had a good start on a gently-sloping trod to take us down to a footbridge, then a sharp climb where, warming up significantly, I took all the cold weather gear off ... and lost my Buff ... doh! Quite liked that one.

Runners who did the Hobble may weep looking at Dougie's shadow here ... this effect was caused by the *sun*!

Away to the west skirting Westerdale Moor, then a longish climb up Great Hograh Moor ... it was here last time that I remember a choice of three streams to wade through ... much better this time around. A lovely descent into Baysdale next, then a bit of an uphill walk. I noticed here getting my feet wet for the first time - definitely an improvement on last time - also, here we were running in bright sunshine ... and fine hailstones. Quite surreal. Now a lovely fast runnable bridleway heading back east. After a bit of bracken-bashing and crossing a ford, we had the only bit of tarmac left on the course, and then events deviated a tad from my plan, which had been to follow the 'recommended' route back home the way we'd come out. Most of the field up ahead hung a left, onto a nice path through the heather, so following the usual 'a million flies can't be wrong' principle, I did too, and luckily, a fine fast track it turned out to be. Unfortunately, it emerged above the same path-less, heathery, stony bank that Nigel and I had lost time on last time, but at least I knew exactly where I was, and just got on with it and scrambled down the thing.

Not a bad climb back up to the car park finish, by which time conditions had deteriorated sharply ... very cold wet wind coming in now. I got straight into the car to get into some warm stuff, before catching up on how the others had gone on ... think we all enjoyed this one. Then off to Danby's Visitor Centre to get warm.

Drove home into Weardale to find cars emerging with six inches of snow on them. I guessed the Hobble must have been interesting once again, and from Phil's report it looks like it was! Finally, Dear Reader, you'll be concerned about the Buff ... Nigel picked it up! Pint heading his way sometime soon ...


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Cameron Taylor Esk Valley FC MJ 56.18
13 Cath Williamson Loftus & Whitby F 1 64.40
51 Shaun Roberts MV55 3 75.05
69 Nina Mason F 5 80.04
71 Nigel Heppell MV55 5 81.24
89 Dougie Nisbet MV45 9 91.38

107 finishers.