Race Reports, May 2011

Liverbird Marathon, Liverpool, 30th May

26.2M

Dave Robson

This event consisted of two marathon over two days on the same course. I could only do Day 1 which I wasn't too disappointed about as I got to know the course pretty well from just doing Day 1. The course consisted of a run down the River Mersey Promenade until you got to the end and then back to the start/finish area and repeat that four times. It was very flat. It was a fairly warm afternoon/evening (I have never started a marathon this late before, I think I prefer morning starts) and we had the breeze behind us on the way out and in our faces on the way back. It was good to have the river right next to us, it provided something interesting to look at.

I discovered on lap 1 that 6m+ was a bit too long to go without a drink (the only water station being at the start/finish) so I carried a drink for the last three laps. It was good to see the other runners all the time (it was a very small field, 23 starters and 22 finishers). The field included the runner who has run the most marathons in the UK (800+ which can be thought of as one a week for about 16 years...) and several regular marathon runners. I tired on the final lap, but I did manage to keep going a bit better than I have done recently and came in with a time of 4hr 33min. Time for a break and a bit of recovery now

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Raby Castle 10K, 29th May

Colin Blackburn

I hadn't really planned on doing this race but Elfie and her friend Nic decided to do the 5km run and I came along as support. With a marathon planned for later in the year I thought it would give me an opportunity to get a feel pace and tailor my training a little over the summer. But there was a rider, in over 12 years of running this was to be my debut road race! Okay, perhaps a little more qualification is needed. This was the first road race I have done over a standard distance. As far as running goes, I've spent years orienteering and fell running. Neither of those disciplines exposes you to the sort of pacing needed for a 10km, despite it being a typical distance I compete over in the forest or on the fell. In fell racing my pace is dictated by the steepness of the hill (and whether it is up or down!) and the roughness of the terrain. In orienteering trying to navigate and run across brashing-strewn forest floors presents a unique challenge to maintaining pace.

Even with all this in mind I approached the race with my trepidation suppressed by a relatively new Garmin and a cunning plan. I mean, how difficult can it be just to look at my watch and adjust my pace? In addition I had a strategy that went beyond the Garmin. I was going to use Alister as my pacer and see how it went. If I felt good after 5km I'd just turn it up a bit for the second half. I'll come back to how this all worked out.

We got to Raby Castle quite early as the 5km starts 45 minutes before the 10km. The weather wasn't looking promising for our planned post-run picnic, it was overcast and breezy to say the least. We walked to the start to find Elfie's friend Nic and get a feel for where the start and finish were. I bumped into various Striders and then went to see Elfie start her run. The 5km run had lots of children, rugby players in pink wigs and tutus and several members of Village People. And some of those little kids didn't half hare off, certainly faster than the rugby players.

Just in case anyone needed proof!

I then killed a bit of time worrying about how cold it was and whether I should take a layer off. I finally resolved to strip down to my vest and after a brief warm up it felt like the right decision. The sunshine was starting to break through and other than the wind it was quite warm. With five minutes to go the starters called people up and I found my place in the pack a little behind Alister - he's not difficult to miss in that hat! A few minutes later there was a whistle and we were off. I did remember to start my watch, something I often forget in the heat of a mass start.

As the pack started to open out I stuck to my plan and kept that dayglo hat in my sights. Then, after not that far, I thought Alister just wasn't trying hard enough. So I edged ahead and upped my pace a little. I felt comfortable and then the first hill hit me! It's not like it's the sort of hill I meet in fell races but it was disturbingly sapping. Not only that but as you rounded the summit you were hit by an almighty wind on what should have been the easy drop down to the farm. Then, at some point, I don't remember exactly where, I saw a dayglo hat go past. I tried my hardest to hang in there and by 5km I wasn't that far off Alister. But any thoughts I had to turn it up a bit had evaporated in the heat of the noonday sun.

The second circuit was like the first only harder and without the upbeat start. Alister's hat disappeared, along with Alister, into the unreachable distance. And as I battled downhill through against wind a second time a cheery John Hutchinson said hello as he breezed past. I dug in and struggled on with the odd person passing my as I failed to keep any sort of pace at all. On the final stretch across the dam I even failed to catch the bloke who was walking and limping badly. The very sight of me seemed to heal his limp and propel him into running for the finish. It felt great to cross the line and despite tipping 48 minutes I can still call it a PB.

So, how about my two point plan? On the first point, it turns out it's not easy at all! Certainly not at Raby Castle where there are four climbs on the 10 km course. Certainly not on a day when running downhill is against a fierce wind. On the second point, if you are going to use someone as a pacer then don't go off faster than them on the assumption they are going a bit slow! I.e. don't underestimate the ability of an experienced road runner such as Alister to get it right. And, pick the right pacer, someone who isn't faster than you.

Of course there are some plus points. It is a beautiful run with some fantastic views. Oh, and there's a t-shirt. I'm not sure I'd want to do a road race every week but I might at least try to get a few more PBs... anyone know a nice 10 miler? Half marathon?

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Jon Archer Low FellM 34.25
6Rosie Smith DCH F 36.02
43Fiona Shenton F50 43.51
79Alister Robson M35 46.23
98John Hutchinson M55 47.36
105Colin Blackburn M45 48.13
124Ian Spencer M50 49.45
134Richard Hall M50 49.46
226George Nicholson M60 56.10
232Karen Chalkley F45 56.36
233Dave Robson M60 56.42
255Anita Clements F40 58.43
288James Nicholson M60 61.42
320Margaret Thompson F60 69.08

332 finishers

Nissan Run for Japan, Sunderland, 29th May

10km

Danny Lim

I'd never run a race in a factory before, but this is what ensued at the Nissan Run For Japan. The site is huge but it was easy to find the start as I only had to follow the trail of runners in fluorescent kit. The race started about 20 minutes late. There was a registration queue which snaked around the social club's bar. At least it gave me a chance to chat to a few familiar faces. The Striders were represented by a grand total of 4 runners; Joanne Porter, Dougie Nisbet, Peter Bell & myself. Many were lured by Raby Castle instead.

Peter, Danny, Joanne and Dougie.

I waited at the start with Joanne & Dougie. I knew my place (i.e. near the back!). After a minute's silence for the victims of the Japanese tsunami, we were off. Dougie shot off into the distance. I ran a little with Jo before setting off on my own pace. First, we passed by the body & paint shop followed by the battery plant & the export compound. My favourite bit was the wind turbines. I'd never been so close to one before & it made a whooshing noise each time its massive blades turned. What an impressive monster! It certainly was a great location for a wind farm as I battled a stiff headwind.

The course is almost flat & is 2 laps on private (& traffic-free) road. Except for a few amused workmen it was pretty quiet. Disappointingly, I didn't catch sight of the Nissan leaf which was supposed to be our lead car. Surprisingly, I didn't see too many new cars about.

I managed fine most of the way. Alan Seheult's VDOT programme sure helped. I struggled to maintain pace in the last few km & kept it up by chasing other runners. On the home straight, I was cheered on by Peter & Dougie. As I sprinted to the finish, I passed a few runners who tried to give chase! I don't know if its bad manners to do so, but I found that fun! (Errr, if I shouldn't be doing that then perhaps a quiet word with me on Wednesday). A new PB & my first sub-50 time. Dougie was reasonably pleased with his time as was Jo who finished a few minutes later.

A special thanks to volunteers from the Wallsend Harriers who made this race happen. Now, if only they could do this again next year.

Dougie Nisbet adds:

Both me and Danny measured the route as just a little short of 10K (by about 150m), so my 5 second PB isn't really a PB! I love quirky races and this one ticks the boxes (and the smells). With a last minute rush of entries on the day things were a little busy and confused and there are a few rough corners that could be refined if they run it again. I hope they do as it has the potential to be a really sociable race with the club, toilets, changing rooms, bacon van, ample parking and, (what I liked most), a long straight finish where the spectators and finishers can crash out on a raised grassy bank and watch the remaining finishers sprint home. It sounds a little thing but a small feature like this on a sunny day can turn a race from being just a race into a big friendly social event.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Emily Collinge Gosforth HarriersF 38.09
2Michael MooreNSPM 39.00
70Peter Bell M 44.55
92Dougie Nisbet MV45 47.48
109Danny Lim M 49.55
144Joanne Porter FV40 54.05

196 finishers*

*The organisers state:

A mis-direction at a marshalling point on this totally new 2 lap course, meant that some athletes ran further than the scheduled 10K distance. The finish times above are for the distance run, whether 10K or if mis-directed, approximately 11.5K.

The following athletes came through the finish system having been mis-directed during the race and so did not complete the full 10K distance. Unfortunately, as a consequence, their times for 10K were not recorded in the results.

That list includes 8 fast guys such as Iain Twaddle, so make of that what you will.

Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell Race, Threlkeld, Lakes, 29th May

15m / 4338' / AL

Geoff Davis

Susan.

Those of you who don't know me and Susan (aka Mudman & Mudwoman) too well might think that cross country is our first love when in fact our number one passion is for the fells and fell racing. There is no better time and place to indulge this obsession than Lakeland in spring and so we found ourselves in the car park of Threlkeld Cricket Club on Sunday listening to the rain hitting the car roof as the whole vehicle was being buffeted by a strong wind. Nonetheless, 40 minutes or so later we were lined up with a hundred other like minded souls (including Phil Sanderson) ready to tackle the 15 miles and 4,300ft of climb that included one of England's highest mountains.

 

Geoff does the sideways shimmy down a slope.

I'd been looking forward to the race as it would be traversing ground I know extremely well having been across it more times than Shaun's had pints of Old Speckled Hen. [You exaggerate, methinks. Ed. ] Although the rain had stopped and the cloud had cleared the fell tops, we still had a gale force wind to content with but I felt reasonably good as I ticked off the tops of my old friends 'The Dodds' on the way to Helvellyn. With a couple of 'gels' down my neck, to ward off the familiar 'two hour death', I started to pass a few familiar (and younger!) faces on the return trip. Some crafty route choices also put paid to one or two rivals as I made it to the last hill without having 'died'. A fast descent down my prefered grassy slope saw me sneak in at the finish just under three hours. I was well pleased particularly as a good few of my fell friends, and rivals, were still out on the hill.

Susan too had a very good race finishing 2nd LV50 having helped one or two confused souls with their route choices out on the tops. Our own Phil Sanderson (North East Fell Running Champion no less) finished in a highly impressive 3rd place having lost his car key out on the fell only for it to be found by a fellow runner - how lucky is that?!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1PALMER, Mark Mynydd Du MV40 1 2:18:53
3SANDERSON, Philip NFR MV40 2 2:24:17
41DAVIS, Geoff NFR MV50 7 2:59:36
46EVANS, Catherine Keswick AC F 1 3:02:36
93DAVIS, Susan NFR FV50 2 3:42:40

103 finishers

The George Ogle Memorial Race, Swalwell, 23rd May

6M

Alister Robson

This was a fantastic little race. Described by the organisers, PB Fitness Running Club as 'A multi-terrain race of approximately 6 miles up the Derwent Valley starting from Swalwell Cricket Club', it fitted that description nicely. On arriving I spotted Dougie and we had a quick chat but before long it was time to go. The race starts on tarmac (road shoes definitely the right choice) for a couple of miles following the path up to and across the viaduct before heading up a steep incline to the viewpoint over Gibside hill path. It was a touch narrow here but the many and cheerful marshalls kept everyone right as they did all along the course. After the viewpoint it came back down pretty sharply and there was a water station, before a fantastic off road field section along the river with stunning views of the viaduct. Next was a climb back up some steps to the top of the viaduct again (well, I walked up here to get my breath back) before a long mile and a half straight and fast section along what I guess was an old railway line, where I made up for walking up the steep hill and picked off a few runners. Another brief downhill led back to the the cricket club and there was a quick lap of the cricket ground before coming back to the finish.

A nice tech tee and goody bag with some biscuits and some shot blocks and some water. I hung around for a little while to catch Dougie finishing but the weather suddenly and violently turned - although it had been a very windy but bright day, it suddenly poured down and I had to get back to my car to put something warm on. This was the only slight disappointment with the race - the directions and postcode for the car park, also led to the Winlaton Mill car park about a mile and a bit up the road, and where I parked unwittingly before the race.

By the time I got back to the Cricket Clubhouse for a nice pint of Black Sheep, Dougie had gone. I hung around for the presentations, but unsurprisingly didn't win anything. Unusually the team prize was for the first three mixed male/female runners which was won by Tynedale. All in all a great evening and a welcome addition to the race calendar. I'm sure there will be more than the 80 odd runners next year, especially if it isn't the day after Pier to Pier and Edinburgh half/marathon. Worth mentioning also that all race proceeds went to MacMillan Cancer support - there was also a bucket going round the clubhouse which looked to be doing well.

George Ogle was a well known local official who sadly died of Cancer last year.

Windermere Marathon, Brathay, 22nd May

26.2M

Jane Ives

Jane and Dave at the finish.

So, another long run involving lakes and hills - you'd think I'd have learnt by now! The weather was not kind at the start (it wasn't very kind for camping the night before either!) The runners sheltered from heavy rain and a hail storm before being walked to the start accompanied by a drumming band. Dave and I set off well but it wasn't long before we hit the 'undulations'. We ran at a great pace though and wondered if we could keep it up! After a few more miles into the strong head-wind we hit half-way at a little over 2 hours. The weather warmed up and as we turned for home at Newby Bridge it was good to get the wind behind us. More hills followed and I soon realised I was over-heating - a quick change of kit followed (apologies again to Dave and passers-by for the sudden exposure!). The hills of the second half (especially the big one at 21 miles) took their toll a little and we were both suffering a little.

On Dave's insistence we parted company at about 23 miles and I put my head down hoping to come in at under 4.30. The last 2 miles were flat (except the hill on the Brathay Estate!) and finished feeling good with a PB of 4.21, with Dave close behind at 4.26. Lovely course, very well marshalled and excellent organisation - I'd highly recommend it. Think I might choose a flat sort of race next!!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Stephen Littler Wesham Road RunnersM 1 2:32:08
40Nicola Shaw Unattached FV40 1 3:11:53
417Jane Ives FV40 17 4:21:22
449Dave Robson MV55 19 4:26:59

677 finishers.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Pier to Pier Race, Sunderland, 22nd May

6.9M

Peter Brooks ...

This was the third time that I have run this great race and my preparation was probably the worst prep for a race I have ever done. The weekend started with a 700 metre swim in a quite chilly lake (my exact words were "Wow, it's freezing in here") followed by a 29 mile windy cycle around North Yorkshire on Saturday. You could say that I completed a triathlon with the longest ever transition of 18 hours!

When I opened the curtains on Sunday morning, saw the rain and heard the wind, I knew that it wasn't going to be the easiest of races so I donned full compression gear under my Striders vest and Lindsey and I headed off to Roker to park and get the bus up to South Shields. Luckily, the rain had stopped by the time we got there but the wind was still biting cold. Eventually, the Striders coach came and we all headed off to the start and huddled together behind Alister and Andy Jordan for shelter from the wind.

The race was started dead on 10am and we all went hurtling along South Shields beach into a strong headwind, which we had to contend with for pretty much the whole race. My aim was just to take it easy as it wasn't one of my 'A' races for the year, I just wanted to have a good run and enjoy the race. There was a very good Striders turnout, it was good to see Pam making a comeback and also to see Alan Smith running after so much time out due to various injuries. As expected, Alister's yellow hat disappeared into the distance quite early on in the race and I didn't see it again until the finish, I had a good run, finishing a few seconds behind John Hutchinson and David Catterick, Nina finished way ahead of me and Striders came in thick and fast for a while until Pam and Lindsey came bounding over the sands to finish.

Once again, this was a well organised race along fantastic coastline and is well worth the effort, even with so much headwind, but next year I may prepare for it a little better!

... Alister Robson ...

Another huge Striders attendance at the popular Pier to Pier from South Shields to Roker Piers. For the first time in a while, a coach was put on (many thanks to Andy James for organising and George Nicholson on the day) which was well used. There were squalls and a strong headwind beforehand and many of us took the opportunity to huddle on the beach to keep warm before the gun. That would have been a great photo opportunity, but sadly there was no Dougie!"

The squalls abated during the race although the headwind sadly didn't. I feel this is one of the rare events where my extra body weight counted as a positive against it. Very early on I took a decision to follow a few (very few) runners who set off at a 45 degree angle up the beach, to get off the sand as soon as possible and to go up to the path. I realised this was a gamble that paid off as I managed to get in front of Nina and avoid the very sandy hill/climb/scramble at the end of the beach. Although I kept expecting her to go past at any minute she never did and therefore I knew I was on for a good time. Like most of the field I took the middle path across the (very flattened this year) grass on the headland heading towards Souter lighthouse. Unlike previous years there were very few who went up to the road, or down to the edge of the cliff (or maybe I just didn't see them as I was further forward than usual).

I soon spotted my Parkrun nemesis, Sunderland Harrier Dean Phillips just up ahead and knuckled down to trying to catch him, which eventually I did at about 4 and a half miles. I was expecting him (and Nina) to come back at me so kept pushing and was delighted when I crossed the line (on a much firmer sandy beach than normal, I thought) in 53.04, third Strider home after Dave Gibson and Ian Thomas, smashing my course record and knocking some five and a half minutes off last years time.

I hung around at the end and watched the steady stream of runners finish, including my wife, Jacquie. At the very end there was a nasty hail shower as we went up to collect our prizes (a very nice boxed thermos flask and cups) but that quickly passed and we meandered up the hill to the Harbour View pub to wait for the coach where a nice pint of carbo recovery ale went down a treat.

... and Pam Kirkup

Bright and early on Sunday morning I set off for Durham to meet the club bus for what was to be my second 'outing' in a very long time. And like Coniston, the weather was to be a major feature for us all. Torrential rain greeted us at the bus stand as we waited and just about all four seasons were to be represented in the next three hours. My memory of the Pier to Pier was much more distant than that of Coniston - I even confused it with the St Peter's 10k so I was enlightened with recent anecdotes from well-meaning Striders. Mainly nasty sand to slog through and crosswinds - hmm really tempting!

So, we arrived at South Shields in what could only be described as winter conditions - well it was extremely cold and windy. The bus buggered off immediately so we were left to stand shivering in various stages of undress, huddling together for warmth and to avoid hypothermia. OK, I might be exaggerating just a tad but it really was very cold and there were plenty of runners donning thermal vests and pinning numbers to waterproof jackets. Obviously not Striders who are a stoical bunch and "well'ard" - even if many of us had to visit the toilets several times in the nicely heated Best Western Hotel nearby!!

Eventually I asked Paul Dixon (club secretary Sunderland Strollers) to direct me to their 'baggage bus'. "This is it!" he said pointing to the shabby transit van that we were standing next to - also doubling as the 'sales point' for entries on the day. There was a considerable queue and interestingly, at 9.40, no bags on the bus! By then we had experienced sun, freezing cold wind, rain with a bit of hail, more plummeting temperatures etc etc. Reluctantly baggage was deposited and shivering runners set off for the start ...

The start! Clambering over dunes and a bit of churned up sand we lined up behind the yellow flag at the start line. More huddling together for warmth and then we were off! I was instantly elbowed in the solar plexus by some guy who swung around looking for his girlfriend! The poor guy was mortified and very apologetic but being winded at the start is not good. That section on the sand was horrible but thankfully Jill & Bob Hall were there shouting encouragement and I recovered quite quickly. At the time I thought I was pretty well at the back, not realising that runners had fanned out widely - some running virtually on the shoreline others right across almost off the beach.

Once off the beach, it became nearly enjoyable - almost summer, with a bit of sun, and of course the coastal path is very scenic. Close to the back you do see some odd running styles but I won't go into that just yet! Let's just say that, to me the 'surge & stop' style of running is bizarre and pointless! By the time I reached the Souter lighthouse drinks station, I was feeling comfortable and summer weather seemed to be prevailing - well it was sunny and I felt quite warm! It was after Souter that I encountered the really nutter surge runner. He was a short chubby sort of man in a hi-viz dayglo running jacket who would stop dead in front of you, then, after you had run past him, would literally sprint past and then, after about 50 metres stop dead and walk once again. This went on several times until the path narrowed so that he couldn't do it. I let him go past but saw him ahead doing the same thing to other runners. What's the point, I just don't get it?

The second half of the race I found easier as I felt more comfortable. Although the wind was unpleasant and cold there was a bit more shelter. Peter & Linda McDermott and Bob & Jill Hall were at Fisherman's Wharf, a ramp about 2 miles from the finish to cheer on Lyndsey Brooks and myself. It was really good to see them and they really helped! After that it was a run along the promenade and then onto the beach at Roker. Peter Brooks was the first Strider voice I heard and then so many others shouting encouragement for that last slog along the beach. The support was fantastic! Jan Young and then Nina started shouting as I approached the finish ... and then winter emerged and giant hailstones greeted me for the last 100 metres! It was horrible - and it was wonderful! I'd finished, feeling ok, in a better time than I'd expected. Not a good time but a step in the right direction.

Mike Elliott adds:

Yes it was hard work and nice to c the c of purple and green at the end encouraging us slower sprinters. Good to see Christine and Pam running here again. Christine after her great effort in the London marathon. Pam as the last time she ran here it hoyed it down with golf ball sized hail stones for the last 2 mile BUT this year there was only a few pea sized ones for a minute.
WELL DONE 2 all. Mike

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Brendan McMillan Claremont M28 41:37
8 Rosie Smith Durham City F25 42:41
46 David Gibson M 48:35
69 Ian Thomas M31 50:43
122 Alister Robson M39 53:04
146 Nina Mason F37 54:16
206 Andrew Jordan M36 55:56
221 John Hutchinson M55 56:17
222 David Catterick M49 56:18
223 Peter Brooks M41 56:20
232 Sandra Graham F50 56:47
233 Richard Hall M52 56:48
335 Stephen Baxendale M47 60:09
368 Debra Goddard F40 60:56
379 Jan Young F58 61:12
420 George Nicholson M62 62:21
438 Jean Bradley F55 62:59
446 Barrie John Evans M64 63:16
469 Nigel Heppell M56 63:58
487 Denise Mason F30 64:29
489 Karen Chalkley F49 64:35
498 Christopher Hedley M53 64:44
539 Mike Elliott M64 66:20
545 Greta Jones F45 66:37
623 Anita Clementson F40 69:53
646 Alan Smith M64 70:53
657 Jacquie Robson F34 71:35
673 Emma Detchon F30 72:48
681 Christine Farnsworth F60 73:32
730 Pam Kirkup F59 77:44
736 Lindsey Brooks F41 78:35

776 finishers.

The Chris Hills 10 in 10

Edinburgh Marathon, 22nd May

26.2M

Andrew Thompson ...

Andrew starts on number four!

I was looking forward to this race, I owed it some payback from last year when the wheels fell off the wagon late on in the melting heat. It was a good day, conditions running out of Edinburgh were great; there was a gale force wind behind us! Also the first 8 or 9 miles are nice and downhill along the seafront so I made hay and crossed halfway in 1.50ish feeling very comfortable. The problem came at the 17 mile point, where we scooted round a post and headed straight back on ourselves for the remaining miles. A torrential downpour later and things were getting interesting- I love running in the rain but the wind was becoming a problem.

One thing I like about this race is that runners are going in both directions on a road so I kept my eye out for other Striders, and I saw my mum galloping along well up the field and looking remarkably cheerful despite the torrential downpour. I had a guy with a Crook vest as my marker for most of the second half and we overtook each other throughout but never got properly away. I like it when that happens, markers are important to keep pace and spirits up. We flew through the last miles and finished, a decent time of 3.49. 3.40 would have been better but I have been pretty much tapering since February so can't complain too much. I saw my mum at the end, she struggled in the conditions and slowed at the end but we all did. The other Striders all put in great times as well, well done everyone!

It's 4 of the 10 down now and I have a 6 week break till Coniston- chance to get a bit of hard training in. I shall be there ready for battle, prepared and refreshed!

... and Kathryn Sygrove:

I felt quite ambivalent about my second marathon so soon after London (five weeks), and was kinda wondering why I had been so daft to book another one so close afterwards. Still, I knew this had taken a huge amount of pressure off me in the lead-up to the London Marathon, when my son was quite poorly, and I was seriously concerned about having to pull out last-minute-ish, thereby losing my charity place (no deferral), my months of training, and my sponsorship for Toybox. So, the theory behind Edinburgh was sound, I was just beginning to doubt the reality of it all ...

Certain people in Striders knew about this, not least of all George Nick. So, what an amazing uplifting surprise to see a post on Facebook the lunchtime of Saturday 21st May, a few hours before I was about to set off, in pictorial format, of a bunch of Sunderland Parkrunners well known to me (our own Ali and Jacquie Robson on either side, with Sunderland Harriers' David Savage and Dean Phillips in the middle) grinning and wishing me well. My mindset changed instantly. I saved the image to my phone, deciding to run with it, in case I got into difficulties and needed an instant boost!

Inspiration!

Having met Sue Jennings and friends for a carb-load on the evening, I bumped into a few girls at the Backpackers Hostel (Castle Rock) who were also running the marathon. We walked down to the start together, chatted, and got ready in good time for the start - when it chucked it down. Thank goodness I had saved the placamac from London to keep me warm. By the time I had jogged to my pen, the sun was shining and I was joking with a guy who was aiming for 3:40 and knew he would go off far too fast. Another one, I thought, so we vowed to run the first 7 miles (mainly, but by no means wholly downhill) together at 8 minute miles. We were right at the front of the Regent Road start, and set off nicely as we intended. The sun shone and Arthur's seat looked amazing. What a privilege and joy to be running and able to run, I thought, as we swapped notes on what pace we were doing. The pressure was off - no sponsorship to raise, no sweepstakes, no race pack to collect from the other side of town, no 5am breakfast to force down - and my heart soared. This really was a "win, win" situation.

The 3:40 man went off as I knew he would, at about 5 miles. I needed a loo stop, so I let him go. Besides, he was obsessed with his Ironman watch and starting to annoy me. I also kept hearing Ali's words in my mind: "What did you go off so fast in London for? Stick to your plan!", and I was, sorta ... I noticed how much attention my Toybox top (meant for London but it arrived late, with my name emblazoned on front and back) was grabbing. All manner of people yelled support as we headed out to the coast, especially women shouting "Do it for the girls!" and again I was uplifted by the friendliness of the smaller race. 7 miles saw us hit Musselburgh, and I was happily in my stride. I was keeping a close eye on my Garmin, which was doing remarkably well now to hover around the 8.35-8.40 mark - spot on my marathon race pace. Again, words of wisdom flooded my mind - the first half of a marathon is a springboard to the second half, keep it steady. At about 8 miles we started off up the coastal route, which became at once more open and beautiful, though with only a smattering of supporters at set points now. The weather had gone from sunny to overcast to spitting on to rain, to sunny to windy from the side and behind us - some of the race pics show me looking like a dishevelled half-drowned rat!!! Still, the scenery was awesome with seas, beautiful skies and hills in the distance, as Dougie had mentioned, and I looked at my Nisbet dark tartan wrapped round my wrist (given by Dougie as a keepsake) and smiled to myself. Boy, had he been right.

Kathryn, with Nisbet tartan. Halfway came and went pretty well, I had run the first half in 1:52, and now psyched myself up for 16 miles, always a pivotal psychological point for me, leaving about 10 miles to go (I like round numbers, see). The weather was getting grey and dark, and as we hit the turning point (at about 17.5 miles, to come literally back on ourselves on the opposite side of the road towards Musselburgh) the gloom struck deep, the wind got up, and the rain drenched us. Not good. Not good. Thank goodness for a few bits of the map I hadn't studied in as much detail as I had thought - a little unexpected turn took us through the grounds of an estate, still drenched, but like a magical mystery tour, it helped add the miles on! Another little unexpected turn took us round a park and back, and was lined with cheering spectators and more cries of "Come on Kathryn, you are looking strong!". It was nearly 20 miles, I rammed down the strawberry Shotblox, and I knew I was well on the way to smelling victory.

The faithful legs were beginning to weary a little by now, but I plodded on at about 9.30 min miles, mindful of not pushing too hard and wearing myself out yet. At this point, the picture on my phone came to mind, and I imagined the others running alongside me, waving their "Good luck Kathryn" banners, which helped focus my mind away from my legs. From mile 21 to 25, I just put my head down and focussed on "22, 22, go for 22" (or whatever the next mile was) trying hard not to look at my Garmin too often. At about that time, the head wind surged into our faces and the rain pelted down, hard like sleet, and we were back in the gloom. Just as well I already had my head down! I managed to maintain my mile-orientated focus, helped by a few wet supporters in some of the small villages on the way back. I knew I was about on par for a sub-four hour race, but the impromptu drenching hadn't helped. It was a fine balancing act to go steady, but not overdo it. By about 24.5 miles, the sun was back out and we were heading towards Musselburgh en route for the finish line. I was weary-legged and a bit stiff, but still maintaining my pace pretty much. As we entered the town, crowds cheered and I heard my name again and again, loudly and enthusiastically, from both sides of the road. I upped the pace a bit in response, as the crowd's conviction boosted my soggy spirits and body, and in response the crowd shouted even louder, lifting me to a sprint with about half a mile to go. I kept that up till the finish line, knowing I was speeding to a sub-4 victory, and couldn't quite believe it when I stopped my watch to check the time (the elites and faster runners like first-time marathon Strider James Garland, Keri Pearson and Andrew Thompson began at London road and had started about 10 minutes earlier, and that time showed over the finish line).

I was jiggered, overjoyed, jubilant, thirsty, ravenously hungry, partially wet, hot and salty, with hair like a bush, and I couldn't have cared less. I had learned my lessons well from London and put them into practice, and in fairness the supposedly "flat" course had still had its share of inclines, ups and downs and a heck of a lot of wind and driving rain in the last 8 miles. I phoned my hubby and George to blurt out an estimated time, and headed off for my goody bag, grinning from ear to ear and bursting with pride inside. In all honesty, I had enjoyed the overall marathon experience here much more than London: the majestic start in Edinburgh, the intimacy of the smaller race, the cheering supporters, the more scenic and rural surrounds, even the runners themselves, the unknown-ness of this part of the coast, the beautiful sights in the distance, the tartan keepsake, the smiley picture on the phone, and the vastly improved strength in my mind and body. Well done also, of course, to all Striders who took part - James, Keri (hope the quad injury eases soon), Andrew T, Maggie T and Sue Jennings. Wow, what an amazing day to be a part of!!!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Phil Nicholls Tipton Harriers M 1 2:19:21
24Sarah Harris Long Eaton FV35 1 2:42:59
426James Garland M 3:12:06
1761Keri Pearson F 3:37:34
2765Andrew Thompson M 3:49:44
3165Kathryn Sygrove FV45 3:53:54
9121Margaret Thompson FV55 5:38:08
9333Susan Jennings FV45 5:52:06

9660 finishers.

Cateran Trail Ultramarathon, Highlands of Perthshire, 21st May

55M

Anna Seeley

I entered this race relatively late without much knowledge of the route except that it was circular, hilly and, started and finished at a pub. The Spittal of Glenshee hotel, to be exact, in the Highlands of Perthshire.

Phil had warned me that I probably wouldn't like the first section as it was over fields with a bit of bog chucked in just to make sure that your feet got a soaking early on in the day. In fact although I wasn't quick I managed to pick my way through with only 1 wet foot getting to the first checkpoint at Dalnagair (6 miles) feeling good.

After the rough terrain of the first section the next stage was a lovely mix of small tarmac roads, hard pack trail and a short section over the moor, all with lovely views over the Scottish countryside. Only downside of a lovely runnable course was the temptation to go too quick but with the next checkpoint at Glenisla (13 miles), only a quarter of the way it was all taken nice and easily.

Next section took us to the 26 mile mark, one marathon done, only one more and the final hill to go! Again the varied scenery was beautiful to run with and the way-marking was faultless. Apart from almost being chased by a group of cows no mishaps so far. After a few more ups and downs there was a long climb through woodland which brought us out way above Blairgowie. Karen, the RD, had spray painted the road with '2 mile of downhill' and downhill it was, very steep and sapping for the quads.

Out of Blairgowie and it was back into the countryside to a checkpoint that seemed to appear from nowhere out of the woods at the Bridge of Cally. Unfortunately from there after a long climb on hard packed trail it was onto the moor. The weather had started to turn and I managed to lose the path and quite a lot of time re-finding it and then regaining my confidence that I could run and navigate at the same time. Was glad to get into Kirkmichael and the support of marshals before the final stretch to the last checkpoint. By this point the weather had totally changed from the sun earlier in the day to persistent rain.

After the last checkpoint at Enochdhu there was just the small matter of a 10K to get it finished, only this was no ordinary 10K. A 4.5 mile climb to the top of the Spittal o' Glensee mountain followed by a 1.5 mile downhill run straight back to the hotel. Due to the clag the top took us by surprise, a very nice surprise, and then it was just a matter of ignoring the screaming quads on the mud slide descent. All finished and straight into the bar to a round of applause.

Fantastic race, great marshals and a wonderful atmosphere even if the weather didn't quite manage to behave itself.

Cape Wrath Challenge Marathon, Durness, Sutherland, 21st May

26.2M

Shaun Roberts

Keen readers may have been wondering, after my last report, whether the Cape Wrath Challenge Marathon was to have gone ahead as planned, and, surprise, surprise, it didn't. On the Friday the ferryman judged the weather to be far, far too windy to get two hundred or more assorted marathoners and relay runners across the Kyle of Durness - twice - and as Saturday dawned, we all knew he'd made the right call, as wind and rain were still very much in evidence. [ Yes, I was still camping ... at one point I was in the only tent left standing on the campsite, and then only just, as I'd had two broken tent poles.] So for only the second time since the event began, the course was out and back on the road towards Ullapool. The climb was half the planned 2500', but was still very much a challenge:

Is this vaguely suggestive? In any case, definitely a race of two halves ...

I've never known a more nervous atmosphere before a race ... not the usual tense chattering before the off. There was a tale circulating that on the only previous occasion this race was run 'landside', an elite type, who normally did three hours for a marathon, was gobsmacked to find he took two hours to get to half-way, into a gale ... but took only 1h20 to get back! This really didn't do anything to cheer anyone up about the day's prospects. I started to talk to a couple of runners I'd met about possibly pairing up and sharing the workload into the wind, bike-race stylee ... as it was, I found it to be a strange, strange race.

I started pretty fast, as is becoming usual before I settle down to my pace, and lead with one of the ladies. Soon a group went past, but when a sole runner approached, we agreed to do the work together, taking it in turns to do a couple of minutes each at the front, and I thought this would be the way the next ninety minutes or so would pan out - a slow but alternating slog into the weather. But no ...

After a turn or so each, we were swallowed up by a group of eight or so runners, going quite fast. Quick decision needed, so we joined them. ... but were going what I thought was a bit too fast. Yet, I thought, if I could hang in there, this would save energy overall, even if the second half of the race turned into a thirteen mile cool-down after a hard half-marathon! Soon I started to feel guilty about not taking my turn at the front, despite being on the edge, so as we got onto the big hill at nine miles, I started to do my whack as well. After my first go, I turned round to find the group was down to five! What had I done?

Great to get to the top of the hill, at 12 miles, and even better to get to the turnaround point (1h41m). No huge advantage in huddling together now, with the wind behind, so everyone spread out rather ... in fact they all went ahead of me. But lovely to have all the weather coming from behind. On the other hand, after quite a hard effort to get there, my legs were already feeling quite heavy. Lovely downhill three miles, though, before it flattened out on the run-in to Durness. Soon the rain eased, the sun came out - off with the jacket and the Helly (we were all running in fell gear!) - and we could start to appreciate the scenery. We'd been running parallel to a nice line of mountains, ending with Foinaven.

Shaun at the finish.

I was bit weary coming up the hill towards Durness, and yet managed to pick up a couple of places. Kept plugging away, and it was great to get to the finish. It did feel a very strange way to run a marathon, though, but it certainly worked. Not much left in the tank for the evening ceilidh, mind ...

Well-chuffed in the end with the time - 3h24m plus the small change - and I ended up 13th of 80. I don't think I've ever had a stronger run, to be honest. There was one gadgie MV50 in front! Doh! One day.

This has been a great week, weather and all - really sociable, and as challenging, or not, as you want, in a great location - and I strongly recommend it if you get the chance to go up for a week. I'll be going back ... there's the small matter outstanding of my doing the proper course!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Mark Ford Unattached MV35 1 2:59:16
13Shaun Roberts MV50 2 3:24:23

80 finishers.

Cape Wrath Challenge Beach Run, Durness, Sutherland, 19th May

3M

Shaun Roberts

Limahl Roberts.

Hair courtesy and property of Tom Reeves

Thursday's 'Target Zero' beach run where we had to predict our times and run without a watch, was the last before the marathon and the easiest of the week. It's a fancy dress run, and the distance was reduced from a modest four miles to a noddy three, as gale force winds all week are playing havoc with the planned events. As I write, the marathon route to Cape Wrath, including two ferry crossings, is in doubt - the tiny ferry boat (holds 8!) can only cope in winds of 25 mph, and it's gusting at twice that at the moment.

Thanks to Tom for his top-notch 80s throwback 'Limahl' wig! No prize on this occasion ... stiff competition from various superheroes, firemen, Thornbury Ladies, and transvestites of all shapes and sizes. Also from a sizeable and colourful group from Norwich ... their Quiz Night name ('Norfolk Enchants') caused much hilarity every time it was announced. Say it aloud ...

The run itself, helpfully in bright sunshine but still strong winds, was lovely ... basically up and down the gorgeous beach of Balnakeil. Everyone took it really easy, and I was absolutely nowhere near guessing my finish time.

Now the marathon ...

Snods 6, Snods Edge, 18th May

6.3M

Alister Robson...

When I arrived at Snods Edge in a car with Phil and Anna the first thing that struck me was who wasn't here and who was going to be at the club? There was a sea of purple - 24 or 25 by various counts, the lure of free entry and grub was obviously strong. This was my first Snods (as it usually clashes with the Clive Cookson 10K) and I wasn't sure what to expect. The first section is sharply downhill for a few hundred metres. I was a little concerned to look at my watch and see I was doing a 6 minute mile and there were quite a few Striders in front of me... Shortly you get to the first (steep) hill and it's obvious that this is going to be an undulating course. The first couple of miles are all on the road (and pretty much all climbing). Rich Hall and Nigel were immediately in front of me and I concentrated on getting my head down (my pink hat had already blown off at this point) and trying to stay with them. Eventually the road turns into a track, still climbing, and this was a little hard underfoot. I'm glad I wore road shoes although if April/May had been as wet as usual this might have been a tougher choice as towards the end you come down quite steeply across a large field (Where Barrie took quite a nasty tumble - hope you're OK now Barrie - Still finished strongly though, if covered in blood!), across a stile and finally up a short stretch of the road. Phil hovers over whether to pass Dave. I managed to catch and overtake Rich and Nigel, although Nigel caught me again just before the downhill and finished ahead of me. Just over 6.26 miles I made it on the Garmin.

Now the best part of the night. Afterwards everyone gathered in the village hall, which is very nice and had a much appreciated bar. Shortly we were called down for food where a veritable feast lay - there was a choice of three curries, pasta, naan bread, pizzas, potatoes, breadsticks, scotch eggs, sausage rolls and lots of other savouries and also cake and biscuits and other sweets - not bad at all for free. Then there was a free general knowledge quiz (Dave Shipman, Tom, Nigel, Mike Bennett, Phil and I were in the team that finished second by a point thanks to some quite scary knowledge), and then a raffle where nearly everyone won a prize.

All in all a fantastic race - how do they, (Blackhill Bounders) do it?

...and Mike Elliot

George spots the mystery photographer. Snods Edge on a bright, sunny and cool evening saw 25 Striders take part in an undulating cross country. Sadly there was no Dougie to take the pictures. What they did not know was the camera man was at the back of the field getting ready to go past everyone taking 'pot shots' at them on the way and later popping up behind a gate post to catch their 'kerb drill' crossing the road and finally stuffing their faces at the excellent food and beer supplied by Blackhill Bounders.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Richard Parker Tynedale 1 37.57
10David Gibson 42.45
13Thomas Reeves 43.09
24Ian Thomas 45.43
26Calum Young 45.50
27Mike Bennet 46.30
36Nina Mason 48.05
42Nigel Heppell 49.01
43Alister Robson 49.22
46Richard Hall 49.48
51Katrina Crumpler 51.50
52Graham Arrowsmith 51.59
56George Nicholson 54.47
57Barrie Evans 54.49
58Anna Seeley 55.04
60Jan Young 55.27
61Jean Bradley 55.51
64Phil Owen 58.09
66Dave Robson 58.38
67Karen Chalkley 58.50
68David Shipman 58.54
72Andy James 60.00
73Joanne Porter 60.08
74Louise Billcliffe 62.10
75Angela Proctor 62.33
78Anita Clementson 65.29
79Claire Readey 65.29

80 finishers.

Challenge 66, Day 64, Durham, 18th May

66x50km

Kathryn Sygrove

Instead of doing SNODS 6, I fancied a bimble in the morning, as I was running the Edinburgh Marathon four days later, and wanted well-rested legs. So, I decided to join John Hutchinson and run with Andy McMenemy, the man aiming to break into the Guinness Book of Records by doing Challenge 66: 66 Ultra-marathons in 66 days. Here in Durham it was day 64, and when I arrived, Andy had already set off on his first circuit of 10k around the riverbanks, up through old Durham, back past Maiden Castle, and back up the hill to the TA at Gilesgate, where he arrived back at about 10.10am with a small band of followers, including John, a few of his fellow runners from Durham County Council, and a few Wetherby runners as well. Some were determined to stick with him to the very end!

He looked remarkably fresh, determined and smiling. He happily posed for photos with John, myself and Sandra Graham, who was there raising awareness with her grandson Robbie Jones, struck by meningitis at two, and who had had to have his legs amputated. All races where Sandra raises money, it goes to giving Robbie a better life as he grows older, and helps to fund whatever other medical intervention is required for him. For more info go to www.robbie-jones.co.uk

So, we set off on the second leg, aware that Andy was keeping to about 10 minute miles. He chatted with most of us from time to time, steadily covering the ground, and walking odd times up hills to conserve his energy. We were a small but chirpy band, and enjoyed giving him support on his epic journey. Everyone had paid a minimum of £1 per mile to run with him, in support of ABF, The Soldiers'charity, which is there for Soldiers with lifetime support whether they be serving soldiers or veterans. They offer their hand to them as individuals and, when they need help, for their families. They stand by them in conflict and in peacetime, throughout their lives. The immediate help they offer is a lifeline. But they also look to the future too, keeping ahead of the game, finding the best ways to give medical, technical and financial support to give the best possible outlook for the men and women who sacrifice so much for us.

It was a pleasant jog with a nice steady pace, enough to chat and enjoy the familiar sights, whilst trying to take in what we were being a part of here. Andy said that he started each day with a good breakfast a couple of hours before setting off, and sometimes dozed in the afternoon, grazed his way through lots of food in the afternoon, and carbed up in the evening. After every circuit, he took on liquid and fresh fruit or raisins. And off he went again...a man on a mission...

I only wanted to do the one circuit, and finished with Sandra, as the others got ready to pootle off again. Part of me wanted to keep going, but I had other fish to fry. It is only now, after the entire Challenge is finished, that I look back and am amazed that we were a very small part of a very large ground-breaking challenge with Andy, and for that I thank him.

Fox and Hounds Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 17th May

9m / 1,500'

Jan Young

Paul, almost too fast for the camera ...
From pub of same name at Ainthorpe, Danby, North Yorkshire; 3rd race in summer series; 9mls/1500'

The route is tricky underfoot, as much is along the narrow tracks between fresh growths of bilberries, necessitating much watching of feet and less admiration of views.

Will in third place, was a prizewinner, Paul Evans enjoyed the bogs and beer after recently returning to Durham after his Army tour in Belize, Grahame A. got his road shoes wet. Yep, those peat bogs still exist despite the dry spell!

I poddled over the line in the 9pm dusk, to a 'Well done' from Grahame and Paul; Will probably back at home by then!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Paul Butler Loftus and Whitby MV45 1 65.27
3 Will Horsley M 2 66.57
15 Paul Evans M 7 73.54
25 Kay Neesam New Marske Harriers FV45 1 78.20
71 Grahame Arrowsmith MV45 10 97.25
77 Jan Young FV55 1 105.59

83 finishers.

Marnham Ski Marathon, River Trent, 16th May

70/40 M

Geoff Watson

Geoff out on the pullThe Marnham ski Marathon is a 70 mile and 40 mile water ski race on the River Trent. The race has been run for a number of years and this year was included as a round of the national championships. The race begins at High Marnham below the cooling towers of Marnham power station and winds it's way down the Trent as far as Keadby Lock for the main race and Stockwith Lock for the support race. The format is that skiers complete a timed leg both ways skiing down to the turnaround, stopping and then skiing back. We entered both events with myself skiing in the support race and Cliff Featherstone in the main event.

Because of the lack of space in the river teams go off one at a time rather than the normal mass start on the sea or a lake. Two flags from the start boat indicate 3 minutes to the start. With 30 seconds to go one flag drops indicating to the skier to get into the water. In the next 30 seconds the boat pulls forward whilst the observer feeds out the lengthy ski line. When the last flag drops the race begins. In the case of this event there was a starting line up and after the flag dropped to start a skier it immediately went back up to indicate to the next skier to drop in for their 30 second count down. If a skier missed getting up, as it did for a few, there was a bit of a blockage at the start. Steve Graham, Geoff and Cliff with medals.In the support race over 40 miles we managed to get away at the start without problems and managed to negotiate the twisting river. We managed to maintain top speed (about 60mph) most of the way, but the boat and engine being 30 years old was no match for the quicker modern types. Fortunately breakdowns in other teams and missed starts enabled us to do much better than expected finishing in 3rd place.

The main race followed the support race and on checking the fuel we realised we had used more than we had thought meaning that we needed more fuel quickly. Fortunately we were able to buy some spare fuel and refuel for the next race. Again we had a good start and finished the first leg without problems. At the turnaround we refuelled whilst floating down the river and then began the return leg to Marnham. About 7 miles from the end the engine began to miss and suspecting engine trouble we slowed taking it a little easier. Eventually only a few miles from the finish we ground to a halt having run out of fuel! We pulled Cliff aboard and filled the tank with our last 5 litres of petrol and limped back to the start having used a considerable amount of fuel.

Cape Wrath Challenge 10K, Durness, Sutherland, 16th May

10K

Shaun Roberts

The Cape Wrath Challenge Week, in Durness, top-left corner of mainland Scotland, offers the choice of five races, including a tough final marathon. For the first one, runners have the option of a half-marathon or a 10K. For myself, I'm hoping to do as good a marathon as I can, on a very hilly course, so I've opted for the easier 10K, and the beach fancy dress, as well as the big one.

Shaun tries a little flattery on the timekeepers.

After an eight hour drive up, and a very sociable 'Meet n Greet' Wine n Cheese do, it was good to get the first race underway. It had been blowing a gale up here, with on and off showers, (yes I am camping) since I arrived, so it was a real blessing when the rain stopped mid-morning as the 10K runners stepped off the two buses that had taken us round into Loch Eriboll.

I set off pretty firmly, but was still pretty amazed to find, err, no one in front of me. The wind was behind us for the first three miles, but even so, where was everybody? Well, it couldn't last, and one by one faster runners went past ...

It was all very nice, and scenic, running until four miles, when two things hit us at once: hills - two long bigguns - and a stiff westerly wind as we came out of the sea loch. The last two miles were pretty hard going, so it was nice to get up the final hill to race HQ at the village hall. There I found to my surprise that some of the fit types that had gone past me had been doing the half-marathon, so I was well-pleased to come in 7th of 42, in 42:56.

Nice race! And a very sociable week so far ...

Great Manchester Run, 15th May

10km

Peter Bell

As I settled down on the eve of the 14th of May having just turned 38 years old I realised that staying up for the Eurovision results was not as important as an early night before the UK's largest 10k race. Dragging myself to bed my thoughts turned to the next day, race preparation, race tactics and the possibility of a new personal best.

An alarm call at 6.30 dragged me downstairs to prepare the pre race cocktail. Banana and fruit smoothie mixed with some horrendous caffeine and chemical shot. This was topped off with concentrated beetroot juice, famed for an up to 16% increase in running performance. I would need all the help I could get.

Proudly donning my new Striders vest, this was due to be a very different race to when I ran it last year in 52 minutes 36 seconds. The route is quick with a few gentle rises and falls taking in various landmarks out from the city centre and it was busy!

Starting within sight of the elite runners the adrenaline started to flow. With around 35,000 runners we were all a bit penned in so warm ups and stretches were not really possible.

The race clock ticked by and we started to move forward. Then we were off.

Flying across the start line I was very conscious not to run too fast at the beginning. Apparently no race has ever been won in the first half of the run. I desperately tried to stick to 7 min miles pace as we left the city centre. Looking for a pacemaker I stuck close to people running a similar speed. By 4 km we were passing Old Trafford but without time to shout abuse at Mr Rooney and co, I shot by. I began to realise my initial aches and pains had subsided and I was on course for a good time. We turned the corner at 6k to pass the Imperial War Museum and Salford Quays. My thoughts turned to one of my colleagues who was doing the great north swim opposite. Peter, gutted at being beaten by a banana. However much my lungs felt like they were bursting out of my chest I was still glad not to be in that freezing water.

Now it was getting tough and the times were starting to slip. Between 7 and 8 km I could have packed in and never run again. Then there was a guy in a banana outfit just ahead and I felt somewhat embarrassed that he was going faster than me. So I got my head together and kept going. Just blood and guts got me through to spitting distance of the finish. For the last km I knew I needed to push it a bit so it was head down and legs out. Gasping to keep going I was running a little under 7 minute miles. With a half hearted sprint I managed to pass the finish line in 45:22 a new personal best.

I was still gutted to be beaten by the guy in the banana outfit!

Druridge Bay Marathon, 15th May

26M

Angela Proctor

Angela finishing her first marathon. I was picked up early Sunday morning by a very keen Dave Robson and a smiling Anna Seeley. The weather was overcast but that didn't dampen our spirits. I was very nervous in the car as this was my first marathon and didn't know how I would cope with the distance. I knew I trained really hard but still it depended on how I managed on the day. This course consisted of 3 times around the full course and additional final lap of the two lakes.

We arrived at Druridge Bay Country Park with plenty of time for stretching and many toilet breaks. After having a friendly chat with Jim Manford the race organiser we proceeded to the start.

We all gathered at the start line with a friendly bunch of chatty runners all keen to hear the whistle to go. Then we were off. We began down the designated path towards the beach, we then turned right down a ramp opposite Hadston Scaurs Boat club onto the beach. The weather was a little overcast with wind. Dave and I stayed as close to the dunes to shelter. It was very pleasant to run on compact sand for 2 miles toward Chevington Burn turning right onto a path towards the nature reserve. By this time Dave and I was into our stride. We carried on North on a cycle track passing a small pond. We ran up a small hill heading towards the main road. There was a very supportive marshal stationed near the main road to direct us right to Hadston Links. This was the beginning of the first lake we were to run around. By this time we managed approx 4 miles. We ran along the path for a few miles and soon came to the drinks station with a selection of orange squash and water and much welcomed jelly babies. The marshals were very encouraging and spurring us all on.

We then turned left onto a narrow footpath through a wooded area leading to the main car park. This was nice as people were having picnics and cheering us on. Unfortunately we could see the finish sign in front knowing we had another 20 miles to go. Not to worry my legs were totally warmed up and I felt comfortable. We ran passed the visitors centre towards the second smaller lake. After approx another mile we ran passed a beautiful statue seat of a swan which was very pretty. We ran along the lake on the footpaths running parell to the lake. We had our first and possibly our only down hill towards the Chinese footbridge where we recognised a marshal from Striders, Steve, he happily cheered us on. We ran another mile or so and turned left into a nice wooded area. We ran on toward the drinks station then began lap 2.

The second lap was the same as the first I was very comfortable and glad of the company and pacing of Dave. Lap 3 came around swiftly. I was pleased that I was still running well and my legs were not too tired. For the fourth lap we did not run onto the beach we continued around the 2 lakes. We got to approx 21 miles and Dave wasn't feeling too well he encouraged me to run on. I wasn't too happy at this as Dave stayed with me all the way and was my pace maker. However I did go on with tired legs heading towards the welcomed drinks station. Knowing I only had the last lake to run around I gave my all. I ran towards the finish and was cheered on by Anna Seeley and Steve with a big smile on my face knowing little me had achieved a marathon. We were rewarded with a very nice trophy and water. A few minutes behind me and Dave finished with a big smile too.

This was a very enjoyable experience and definitely recommend it fellow runners.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Keith Lowery U/A M45 1 3.12.4
5Melanie Horan NEMC F 1 3.32.41
16Anna Seeley F 3.54.30
39Angela Proctor F35 4.42.50
40Dave Robson M55 4.46.39

50 finishers.

Summer Handicap, Round 2, 11th May

Results

PosNameClubCatCatPosTime

finishers

The Chris Hills 10 in 10

Royal Shakespeare Marathon, Stratford-upon-Avon, 8th May

26.2M

Andrew Thompson

Andrew knocks off number three ... Race number three of the campaign took me to Stratford Upon Avon. Nice place, full of Theatre folk and runners this weekend. Race day dawned, conditions were perfect. There was a half marathon going on as well with everyone setting off at the same time so I found myself going far too fast, just over 8 minute miles to keep up with the halfies. The night before in the pub I had heard hushed whispers from wide eyed locals of a killer hill at 7 miles and again at 19 on the second loop. I have done a lot of running up Shincliffe bank, The Honest Lawyer Hill and Sherburn Hospital bank over the years so when I saw the excuse for a killer hill I laughed at it and sprinted up, just to show it who was boss. 1st lap it was me, second lap I'll call it a draw.

I crossed halfway and felt great so dropped the pace to 8.30/9 minute miles and embarked onto the second lap. Things were going nicely, a 3.42 pb was even on the cards, then the sun came out in a big way. The pace dropped and by 22 miles it was all a bit much, the last 6 miles are a long stretch of flat track and it was mentally tough. I lost a lot of time then and scraped in just under 4 hours.

It is the ugly side of the 'death or glory' technique I run my marathons by- hit the first 20 hard and deal with the rest later. If it goes well it's great but when it doesn't it really hurts! I've come to the conclusion that races in April and May are tricky- we train in wind, rain and ice of the start of the year and by the big day it is nice and sunny, we are just not used to the new conditions so struggle more that we would in hotter temperatures later in the year.

The upside is that we can sit in the beer garden for the rest of the day, so we did just that and watched the poets and limping runners going past.

I think Shakespeare must have been a runner: (I've removed a few non running related bits...)

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Andrew Siggers Unattached M 1 2:37:40
448 Andrew Thompson M 3:56:46
821 Dave Robson MV55 4:36:38

1077 finishers.

The Lambton Run, Nr. Chester-le-Street, 8th May

10K

Nigel Heppell ...

Contrasting nicely with the lush green of well-fertilised pasture, a proper purple patch nucleated and grew with a steady drip-feed of Striders arriving in the lead up to this the inaugural Lambton Run. With the potential to become a much larger event today's run started with a broadcast warm-up routine and a full 30-second countdown suffused by the powerful aroma of frying bacon wafting across from the WI tent. Ian, David, John and Jean shot off ahead of me at the start as we followed the twists and turns through the remnants of the old safari park and into hitherto unseen parts of the Lambton Estate.

This is what you get when 'a proper purple patch nucleates and grows'. Lots of different surfaces to try out with lengths of tarmac, grass(short), gravel and dirt track, grass(long), deeply rutted and hardened clay, recently ploughed but graded soil, a few muddy bits and some puddles from the overnight rain, most of it thankfully run under the cover of trees because the sun was hot and the air really muggy.

The route is a figure of eight, fairly level for about 1 mile then dropping down to the riverside following the south bank of the Wear for another mile and crossing the bridge by the castle before doubling back along the north bank and a short but sharp climb out of the valley into mixed woodland in the Rickleton area. A few gentle ups and downs on estate roads around the back of the castle and return over the bridge to a long gentle incline and a sharp right into the final 300m.

Impressive goodie bag at the finish with nice tee/Mars bar/ drink/sports bottle/discount vouchers/ and runners sunspecs(for some!); - and a chance to do justice to a bacon butty and a cuppa. There was some discussion as to the actual distance run and most agree this was a 'short' 10K. No chance of getting lost with 24 marshalls en route; and no sight of any pheasants either - probably because they'd all been shot, judging by the number of spent shotgun cartridges strewn around.

A bit of something for everyone; road runners were slowed down by the rough and the hills, offroaders lost their advantage on the asphalt, but always manageable to all.

... Danny Lim ...

It was a well-organised race with a fun atmosphere. My guess was that the charity/fun runners outnumbered club runners 2:1. We even had a aerobics-class warm-up at the start!

The course was essentially cross-country with most of it being run on grass. Had I known, I would have worn my mud shoes. There are quite a few undulations and a couple of hills to contend with. Beware and don't charge up the hills like I did, they are bigger than you think! I was slightly disappointed that I only had a brief glimpses of Lambton Castle from a distance. I would have liked the course to have gone by much closer to it. It was a well-marshalled race and impossible to get lost.

The finish area had a great atmosphere. Pretty decent goodie bag given the £10 entry. Sweatshop were on giving out free sunglasses. Bacon butties, scones and hot tea on sale helped too! My only gripe was the distance. The course organiser admitted that the course was short. This was due to a last minute change due to rain the day before.

Would I do it again next year? Its not a PB race. But it was a fun morning out. Yes, I would if they could be more accurate with the distance next time.

... and Mike Elliott:

I suffered from tiredness before the start as a result of having been called back to work in the early hours of Sat morning and late Sat night to deal with Fire Alarms at college after some students thought it was a good idea to set them off. It will empty their pockets of about £400 for their 2 seconds of action.

Sunday morning dawned fine and dry after a night of heavy rain. After the welcoming introductions and a course description of tracks, grass and 2 challenging hills, a 30 second count down we were off. Along the gravel track through the trees then down a grass field and onto tarmac for a couple of k's with the river on our left (did not see the Worm) over the bridge and along to the water stop at 5k. Up the long grassy slope (first challenging hill) then through a ploughed field (not mentioned in the description) and through an avenue of trees from where high-pitched chatter was emanating. I thought it was some monkeys that had escaped from when the estate was a safari park. Looking round I discovered it was female runners doing what comes naturally ... talking.

Back to the task in the feet, over the bridge and onto the 2nd challenging hill between 7 - 8.5k then a level track to the finish, in a good time of 55.25. Great goodie bag with a mars bar and into the WI tent for a well deserved bacon sarnie and pot of tea.

Spectacular scenery throughout and I would expect a bigger turn out next year (300 this year) get in early.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1MOORE, Gary North Shields Poly MV 1 34:59
8HOLT, Michelle Sunderland HarriersF 1 38:02
63SPENCER, Ian MV 45:38
69CATTERICK, David MV 46:47
71HEPPELL, Nigel MV 47:00
76HUTCHINSON, John MV 47:41
112LIM, Danny M 50:48
122BRADLEY, Jean FV 51:33
140NICHOLSON, George MV 53:52
143MASON, Denise F 53:56
160JONES, Greta FV 55:07
165PORTER, Joanne FV 55:22
167ELLIOTT, Michael MV 55:24
200CLEMENTSON, Anita FV 58:35
242DETCHON, Emma F 63:59

286 finishers.

Calderdale Relay, Halifax, 8th May

50M

Dave Shipman

Nina and Rich. Well done to all, 64th out of 86 teams, good beer, cheap curry and a free slate coaster (which I will hand out), can't be bad value, along with the chance to see some great countryside and observe the elite of the fell running world!!

More new members should try it next year ... thanks to all who ran/supported /drove and drank,

Cheers,

David

 

James, Will, Calum, Shaun, Gary, Dave, Rich, Jan, Angela, Nina and Sue.

Beverley 10K, 8th May

Alister Robson

While nearly everyone else was re-living happy memories of Lampton Lion Park, I was down in Beverley, East Yorkshire, where my wife is originally from, doing the popular Beverley 10K. There was a big turnout and over 1000 finishers. It's a nice race and starts from outside the famous Beverley minster, sister church of York Minster and where we got married. Beverley isn't very big and Jacquie, her mum and I had a gentle wander in from Jacquie's parent's house where we stayed the night before.

The race got off on time, with a slight squall of rain and we ran past the Minster, along and out of the North Bar and out and up onto the Westwood Pasture. It was quite a surprise, but this was a long if gradual climb. You then turn left back onto the road towards Walkington village where there's another up and down hill, before coming to a crossroads and another left, back along a different section of the Westwood and back into Beverley, finishing in the Marketplace. It was chip timed which is always good. This needed to be collected on the morning of the race. and there were water stations at about 3 and 5 miles. A nice Start Fitness tech tee (there's also a Start Fitness in Beverley) was the prize. I was pretty pleased with my chip time of 46.09 and 212th place. I didn't see any other Striders but I did see a lot of other purple vests as that's City of Hull AC's colours too.

I can be found here (yellow gloves, see...)

Tees Barrage 10K, Stockton, 2nd May

10K

Shaun Roberts

Yet more great Bank Holiday weather (???) for this flat loop round the Tees riverside. A two-lap course, as last year, as works near the white water course hadn't been finished in time, so it was over the Barrage, along the North Bank, over the Princess Diana bridge, and back along to the start/finish area, twice. Nice n cool, but with quite a stiff breeze from the east, particularly so next to the large buildings on the southern bank.

Shaun.Alister.Dave.Jacquie.

I had quite a good start, and legged it along the north side, wind-assisted, but when I finished the first lap I knew that once again I wasn't going to get anywhere near under forty minutes. The marathon training I'm just coming to the end of is great for improving times all round, but not while still doing all the long stuff ... so I was quite pleased to get round in under 42 minutes. Alister wasn't far behind, getting really stuck into his marathon recovery with a fourth race since London. Dave ran very well, not least considering his track marathon three days before, and Jacquie also had a good run, coming in under the hour, and a good six minutes faster than at North Tyneside.

Good race!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1WILLIAMS, Nathaniel NYMAC M 1 33:18
9TUNSTALL, Sarah Kendal A.C. F 1 36:25
56ROBERTS, Shaun MV50 41:49
107ROBSON, Alister M 45:00
193ROBSON, Dave MV50 50:21
318ROBSON, Jacquie F 58:10

423 finishers.

Belfast City Marathon, 2nd May

26.2M

Ian Spencer

As I didn't get into London, I chose Belfast as an alternative, partly because I used to live there, but also because when I last did this race, ten years ago, I liked it a lot. But let's consider this race on its own merits.

Belfast is a great city. True, it doesn't have the elegance of Dublin or the endless variety of London but it is intriguing and has a beauty of its own, born of its industrial past. It's small but still feels like a proper city and the same is true of the marathon.

Only about 3,500 people do the full marathon but about 20,000 enter the 5-leg team relay, so you always feel part of a big city event. The race starts at 9am, outside the magnificent City Hall, built in 1906 as a confident expression of wealth, industrial power and, it has to be said, Imperial Britishness. It then heads out of the city towards Holywood Road and returning via Sydenham, with its loyalist murals and views of the historic Harland and Wolff shipyard, birthplace of the Titanic. It returns to the city, West Belfast and republican murals. As it progresses to the Shankhill the murals may change but the warmth of the reception never does. The people of Belfast seem to regard the marathon as an expression of civic pride which gives the whole day a festive feel.

After a steady climb up the Antrim Road you reach the highest point at about the half way mark. Then you turn a corner to stunning views of Belfast Lough and a nice downhill run. Belfast is not a p.b. course. But do you always want a marathon to be dead flat? As I ran down towards Gideons Green I may not have been particularly fast but I felt as if I was flying, exhilarated in the warm sunshine and carried along by the support. The long flat run along the cycle path by the Lough's edge is the beginning of quiet miles where few people live. Belfast always had this. Stretches of its industrial and commercial heart which make for a flat course but, by mile 20, you are longing for a bit of support. But after that it comes in by the lorry load as you approach the last relay changeover.

The finish is in the lovely Ormeau Park and our walk back to the hotel took us past a nice Victorian pub, the Hatfield, with ice cold Magners cider demanding my attention. The Hatfield sits on the Lower Ormeau Road, at one time a very republican area. And here is the point. Peace is here to stay. The welcome and friendliness is fantastic, whatever the colour of the flags or kerbstones.

My only criticisms are that there are not enough loos at the start, so a city centre hotel is very useful. Mercifully, there are many to choose from to suit all budgets. Also, the drinks stations serve up water and Poweraid in wee paper cups and, at times, the fantastic volunteers struggled to keep up with demand, on what must have been one of the warmest days of the year.

The men's race was won, with a new course record, by Jacob Kipkorir of Kenya in 2:14:56. The Ukraine's Vera Ovcharuk won the women's race in 2:46:04 but for me the most incredible performance was by the Olympic walker, Colin Griffin, who completed the 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 19 minutes and 28 seconds! What could he do if he ran it?!

Me? I finished in 3:43:45 and enjoyed every minute of it.

Keswick Half-Marathon, 1st May

13.1M

Angela Proctor

May 1st 2011 and 1130 sees a mass start of a record number of runners in this years Keswick half marathon. We arrive in good time to meet up with Melanie Hudson fellow Strider and her pace maker of the the day Richard Palash-tache of Durham City Harriers. After meeting at the rugby club and collecting my number there is a short 10 minute walk to the start in Portinscale.

Dave Robson was right mind you when he said it was a difficult course and the first 5 miles are rather undulating running along the road below Catbells. At approximately three miles I was greeted by 'The Three Amigos' with moustaches to make the characters of Hawaii 5-O proud :) Cheering us along! Roughly around the six mile point I was greeted by the sounds of Andy and Lili shouting 'Gan on wor Strider!' well just Andy, Lili was giving me a cheering bark and Stephanie sat in the back of the car shouting, 'Go! Go! Mammy!'

This is one beautiful if painful race mind you and although the route to this point was hard, the absolutely stunning scenery helped to distract your mind from the pain! The views over Derwent Water were fantastic! Following the descent into Grange and past the lovely cafe and ice cream shop ... (where were the ice cream and lollipop hander-out-ers like on the Great North Run! Bahh humbug hehe).

Before I started this race I thought the second half along the road was pretty much flat (from what I remember driving along the road many times) however my memory was rather misinformed and I found this really tough at times. Then to finish the race, on the way into the Rugby ground to the finish line the commentator announces your name over the PA system! Whoo hoo Im famous! :) Arms aloft in joy and euphoria as I enter the ground hearing the cheers of the adoring crowd I cross the line! Victory! Yay! (Well maybe the adoring crowd bit was a little over the top but I was loving it and it made my day too. I managed 2hrs 7 on a hilly course and I was dead chuffed :)

Well done to all the other Striders on the day, Melanie with a cracking 1hr 55 target time that she achieved. A new PB well done! Congrats to Steph and Jean on completing the race too, great result ladies! Great weather, Great Day and highly recommended if you fancy a testing half marathon. Over to any other Striders for their thoughts?

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Steve Littler Wesham RR M 1 1:13:18
37Gill Mead Chester Tri FV45 1 1:30:44
346Melanie Hudson F 1:55:43
412Stephanie Barlow FV35 1:59:37
516Jean Bradley FV55 2:07:06
521Angela Proctor FV35 2:07:48

694 finishers.