Race Reports, April 2012

A Comedy of Errors

Ravenscar Half Marathon, 29th April

Jan Young

Had booked a number for this scenic race in aid of Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team. Read in the 'Northern Echo' that renowned folkie Vin Garbutt was playing Moorsholm village hall. As it's just off the A171 moors road, on route to Ravenscar, thought it an ideal camper van stop over on Saturday night. Turned up at the hall only to find Vin's gig was on Friday night!

But all was not lost as we could then drive direct to Ravenscar, enjoy a couple of beers and real fire in the posh comfort of Raven Hall Hotel. Then have the cheek to stay over in their car park; the barman convinced us no-one would notice. It was like sleeping on a boat in a storm; the northeasterlies hitting the van broadside.

Awoke at 6.45am, intent on moving the van to race HQ, the village hall, for early registration and leisurely breakfast. Off we went, parked up, checked watch; 6.30am. Funny how a digital 5 looks like 6. I'd awoken at 5.45am! Omitted packing cereals and porridge, so breakfast was rice pud and olive bread! The wind howled for the 9.30 start, but rain stayed off until 11.30, then bucketed the rest of the day.

The scenic run follows the coastal path and railpath and in better weather would be glorious. On Sunday I battled the wind, which seemed determined to pitch me off cliffs into the churning waves below. Tony was at the finish in pouring rain, having completed his seven mile walk to nearby Robin Hood's Bay; the SRMRT guys were so cheerful and encouraging at every checkpoint, direction signs clear, tea and flapjack in abundance at the finish. Worth supporting with £10 entry fee and look forward to running it again in better weather.

Fox and Hounds Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 29th April

9m / 1,500'

Shaun Roberts

Drizzle turning to rain, strong winds on the return from Danby High Moor, and distinctly awkward underfoot ... doesn't sound like a recipe for a good race ... and yet, and yet, I really enjoyed this one. I'd been warned there was a lot of running on very narrow tracks, and so it turned out, especially in the first half of the race. Yet this just meant you had to run a bit within yourself most of the time, and so when it opened up a bit two-thirds of the way round, you had plenty left in the tank and could put your foot down ... so I did. Good fast finish, which was just as well, as the wind and rain really started to come in later on, and legging it was a good way to keep warm. Good to get back in the (very nice) pub in the end, where there seemed to be a good bit of shivering going on, with steaming bodies huddling in front of the fire.

Shaun leads the field up the first hill ... oh, alright, half the field.

This was the last race of the Winter Series, in which I was beaten into second place (MV55s) by a good runner. Jan came third in the FV55s, and Nina placed a very good fourth in the Womens' Open. The prize-giving from organiser Dave Parry was a classic. There was a mug to each competitor to celebrate the 25th running of this race, then endless bottles of wine to race winners and leaders, followed by "You know the form ... if you haven't had a prize yet, help yourself to a bottle of wine". So I did. Then more mugs as prizes to all the series age group winners, seconds and thirds. All for £6! I really don't know how he does it, as well as supporting various charities along the way ...

That's it for winter fell running on the North Yorks Moors ... time for the midweek Summer Series, imminent at the Carlton Challenge. Pity they're all on a Wednesday, but nonetheless some will definitely be worth heading down for.

Redcar parkrun, Locke Park, Redcar, 28th April

5K

Alister Robson

On Saturday the 7th parkrun in the North East at Redcar went live. Considering there were only three less than a year ago that's pretty rapid expansion!

It's a lovely course in the small but scenic Locke Park in Redcar. The route itself has quite a few twists and turns but you couldn't get lost as all you had to do was follow the painted line which the experienced organisers, Andy Pearson and Graham Hall had created. It's three laps plus a little bit extra to get to the finish line.

There was a nice turnout of 91 including a very pleasing 19 first time parkrunners and the usual smattering of parkrun tourists. Familiar faces included Phil Green of Heaton Harriers and NFR, Craig Herkes of Durham City and Kath and David Aspin of New Marske. It was a nice change to see David not behind a camera!

Male winner was the aforementioned Andy Pearson and the women's winner was Sharon Gayter, multiple world record holder and UK international Ultra runner. I managed to sneak a top ten finish and a season's best parkrun. Parking was plentiful and free at the nearby college and you could leave your baggage at the finish. There was even a certificate and goody bag for all inaugural finishers! Afterwards it was back to the Costa at the nearby Tesco for a chat and a coffee and as usual results were up by lunchtime.

Hawkshead Trail Challenge, 28th April

17K

Denise Mason...

Denise and ZoeI'd convinced Zoe to join me for this one on the promise that we could camp in wonderful weather and have a good old drink afterwards in Hawkshead. So I was pretty disappointed with the torrential ran in the days leading up to the event. Never the less by Friday night we decided we were tough enough to brave the elements (I did make some 'soft southerner' comment which seemed to sway the decision). Thankfully by Saturday morning the weather had improved and we had our tent pitched on lovely dry ground by 11am. We walked down to the race ground to collect our numbers and met up with Dave & Mel who were staying in a local B&B.

We set off at a steady pace due to the narrow roads before joining the trail. It didn't take long to reach the first incline (of which there were many). Zoe, Mel and Dave seemed to cope a lot better than me on the first climb and I watched them run off in to the distance. The first photographer was cruelly positioned at the top of the incline forcing you to try and run for the picture! Thankfully the steep inclines were rewarded with steep descents and I managed to catch up with Zoe (who in fairness was probably struggling to run down rocks with road shoes on!). I spent the whole race losing her on the inclines and desperately trying to catch her up on the descents. The course had fantastic views but a lot of the time was spent looking at the ground trying to scramble up a hill or avoid breaking your neck on the way down.

The last real climb was the 'coffin trail' and the organisers had tried to make it more fun by erecting coffins, playing music and suspending the odd skeleton from branches! It was brutal and really took it out of my legs which felt like Jelly! The Kendal mint cake at the water station perked me up a little but sadly not enough to beat Zoe in a pathetic attempt at a sprint finish.

Afterwards we managed to secure a small table in a packed Hawkshead pub for the four of us and spent the rest of the evening refuelling with Cider and sticky toffee pudding. Amazingly it didn't rain once when we were camping although it was pretty cold when I woke up sober at 4am!

...and Dave Robson

Melanie and DaveFive Striders turned up for this lovely scenic trail race - Melanie, Zoe, Denise, me and Maggie (less than a week after the London marathon !). Jackie came over to support. The weather seemed a little cool initially, but it turned out to be warmer as the afternoon went on and I certainly had one too many layers on.

The course has three hills. The first one seems to go on for ever, the second is easier and the third one is the infamous coffin trail, which was decorated with skeletons and skulls to encourage us. I was expecting lots of mud on the course given the recent wet weather, but it seems the Lakes have had much less rain than the North East recently so it was pretty dry.

Melanie and I stayed in a B and B after the race. Zoe and Denise took the brave choice of camping and the four of us were able to spend an enjoyable evening in the pub eating and drinking.

Frimley Lodge parkrun, Farnborough, 28th April

5K

Emma Detchon

In January I decided 2012 was the year to get my 50 park run tshirt so when a work meeting down south was arranged for a Friday, I said I could pop into my sister’s (Andrea) for the weekend (work would pay for the train ticket) but she’s have to take me to park run as I couldn’t miss out. She was happy to agree and offered to join in, I was really pleased a parkrun recruit. She’s run a Santa run two years ago but Yoga is her favourite thing. She text me a week before to say Frimley Lodge would be the best one to do (Reading was closer but expensive to park) she said she hadn’t done much training and was a bit worried about getting round. I emailed Frimley Lodge park run and asked if they had a tail runner just incase she needed encouragement, they didn’t have a tail runner but the lady who replied promised everyone was very friendly and she’d be fine – felt a bit silly for asking as I should’ve known park runs are friendly.

The course was two laps along the canal and past a miniature railway track which all sounds lovely until Andrea told me someone had fallen in the canal a few weeks ago. Surely enough at the first timers briefing the course description included the warning all first timers stick to the right so as to not risk going in the canal! The weather was awful - grey, cold and raining but I was pleased Andrea was still up for and just hoped she wouldn’t give in to the temptation to stop after 1 lap, they did say someone would be there to time the one lap but obviously it doesn’t count as a parkrun.

Emma. This was Frimley Lodge’s 116th run, they have a posh permanent sign and sure enough there were lots of red 50 and white 100 tshirts. I was explaining to Andrea that’s what I was working towards when she pointed out someone in a black tshirt with shiny gold writing on the back – 250 park runs!! I would’ve taken a photo but had to leave my phone in the car out of the rain.

We set off and as usual an instant pain in my side reminded me why I should get up and eat breakfast earlier! The first km along the canal was so muddy it was more of a jump over all the muddy puddles than a run and there were a lot of runners so a bit congested. The second km was through the woods and was more like ice skating slipping around in the mud. One of the volunteers shouted out ‘An hour from now you’ll be on your sofa enjoying a hot cup of tea’ – lovely thought to keep me going in the rain. I knew what to expect on the second lap so pushed on and I think it must be the first time ever that my first mile has been my slowest.

At the end I ran back out to meet Andrea and make sure she was ok, the fast runners were all doing a third lap and picking up the cones/signs etc. The volunteer mentioned above had decided to run in with Andrea so I met them for the last bit. She was the last one to finish in 40 minutes but luckily really enjoyed it and was very glad to have achieved her first park run. I was really pleased she’d enjoyed the experience and said everyone was friendly and encouraging as they went past. At the end a number of ladies came over to say hello and say they were normally last and much further behind where she was so they really hoped she’d come back. The slowest runner at Reading was in 50 minutes but Andrea didn’t mind and said she’d be happy to go back. Again how bad do I feel for doubting that anyone wouldn’t enjoy a park run, they’re the friendliest most inclusive activity around. I will keep encouraging people to join in and hope they continue to grow. I’m looking forward to trying some new park runs too, it’s a great addition to a weekend away.

Balmoral 10K, Deeside, 28th April

George Nicholson

I have been promising my Daughter, Amanda, for several years to take part in the Balmoral Races, and run the Race with the Hill.

It has been voted by Runners World as the most scenic race in the country (one of a few I’ve done now !!) To be fair though, I would say it probably does deserve such a title. It lived up to expectations with wonderful views of some beautiful Highland Scenery. The snow capped peak of Lochnagar was not far away. The event itself takes place within the grounds of Balmoral Castle, the summer home of the Royal Family. As 2012 is Diamond Jubilee year, this seemed as good a time as any to do it.

'George Nicholson, Super Vet' ... looking good so far. We were staying with our daughter at Monymusk, about 40 miles from Balmoral. My race was 2.00pm, but we needed an early start, as Grandkids Oscar & Jasper had their 1.5k race mid morning. We obviously were very lucky with the weather. Frosty initially, but dry and sunny, no wind. The temperature increased as the day progressed. Ideal running conditions.

All races are contained within the Estate Grounds, The shorter races follow a route in front of the Castle itself and set off in bands according to Primary school years. Both boys did well, especially Oscar ( Primary 5 ) who had a good time of 6 mins 55s for the 1.5 k. All runners are chipped, with a method I have not seen before. i.e. Tag must be positioned correctly with Green side uppermost…. Green means GO, red means NO !. Yet for some reason the published finish positions show gun time, not run time! [Positions are positions, George! Chip times don't come into it ... Ed.]

An hour later we watched the 5k race, and the winning time of 14 mins 57 secs was a good indicator of the quality of runners who were participating that day.

I had hoped my son-in-law, David, would run round with me, but his injury meant an enforced withdrawal, which was a shame. My race started on the tarmac estate road adjacent to the River Dee, gorgeous views and in bright sunshine. After about a mile this gave way to Land Rover Track, and throughout this time I’d been trying not to think of THE HILL. After about 20 mins of running my worst fears are confirmed. A 90 degree turn to the left off the road and on to a steep incline farm track leading up into the forest. The large yellow sign that states THE HILL hardly seems necessary. Other signs saying walkers to the left, runners to the right only increased a feeling of impending doom. Prince Charles apparently likes to walk this hill in Garmaddie Woods, but I was determined to run it, and I did.

It’s uphill for almost a mile, but it seemed a lot longer. The number of walkers increased, but I knew I was near the top when I could hear the welcome sound of Bagpipes. Not a solitary Piper either, two of them in fact, and I have to confess for an Englishman, quite an uplifting and welcoming sound, possibly because it signified the TOP of the HILL. 5k done and the rest was now downhill all the way back to the finish. Land Rover Track, then Tarmac. It didn’t seem to be too long before the Historic Castle came into view, a quick loop round the Queen’s front Lawn and then a short sprint to the line. ;-)

I felt quite satisfied with the time on such a hard course. It was good to be listed as a Super Vet, although I suspect that was a reference to my age category, rather than a reflection of my ability! Nice medal and classy Technical T Shirt. So although it was never going to be a PB course, it was certainly one to remember.

George manages to get on Her Majesty's nips. Possibly the only disappointment was the non appearance of Wills and Kate, who were due at Balmoral this weekend to celebrate their first Wedding Anniversary.Well, they certainly did not turn up for the 10k; mebbes the Hill had spooked them as well. ?

Neptune Relays, Sedgefield, 25th April

4x1.7m

Jacquie Robson

I'd heard fantastic things about this team relay event, and I remember Alister saying that the 2011 event was a very friendly affair bathed in sunshine. So when Will Horsley emailed around to organise teams, I was keen to pull on the Striders vest and have a go. Alister was less sure this year, however, as he knew he was likely to have wonky legs after the London Marathon the Sunday before. As it turns out, however, he was fresh as a daisy, so we got signed up and arranged to share lifts.

Huddlin'. Wednesday morning dawned grey and wet and cold. No sign of last year's sunshine. As the day pressed on it got wetter and wetter, and it looked ominously like we'd be running in the torrential rain and splodgy mud we'd encountered at the club handicap the week before. Ah, well, at least we knew what we were letting ourselves in for and had trained for the conditions! As last year, there were a number of Striders turning out to represent the club for the first time, so there were no thoughts of pulling out of the event, just a general foreboding as the clouds darkened and the rain got heavier as I drove Alister, Anna and Adam (also now known as Smiley-Dan) down to Sedgefield. It's a good job Will had emailed the teams around beforehand - I think there'd have been a lot of no shows (me included!) if he hadn't organised us all so efficiently!

The car park was full on arrival - of both cars and water - and we sploshed across towards the cafe to find Will, our teams and our numbers. I was teamed with Greta, Anna and new member Alex Probert, but didn't manage to find Greta and our numbers at first. To be honest, I was struggling to see anyone as the rain really was pelting down. Alister, Anna and Adam headed off to the start and I tried to find Alex and Pippa who had turned up on my recommendation, and was so caught up with feeling guilty that I'd dragged them out in the rain that I lost track of time and realised there was no-one left at the cafe and that the start was in a couple of minutes time. I splashed over to a soggy-looking marshal and got directions to the start, and ran towards the large monument that was to give us a bit of shelter. I barely had time to find Greta and realise that I was the first leg runner before I heard the final call for the start. I struggled to pin my number on and wrestled myself out of my now-drenched hoody to get to the start line just in time. I saw James Garland making his way towards the front of the pack and I joined Claire Readey and Louise Miller in a huddle further back, and joined in the pre-race discussion about what the hell we were thinking of to be out in this rain without waterproofs, umbrellas, wellingtons and/or wetsuits.

Once underway, the going underfoot wasn't as appalling as I'd expected. The route is very similar to one lap of the Sedgefield parkrun course that shares the venue and, had I been able to see anything past the enormous raindrops that were pelting me from all angles, I would have enjoyed the view of the beautiful Hardwick Hall and the ornamental grounds and lake. As it was, I squinted and blinked through the wall of water that was attacking me just enough to follow the route and avoid a number of duck-hazards and other varieties of waterfowl who were busy setting up home in the fresh puddles. The grass sections were squelchy but less muddy than I'd expected, but there was a good smattering of swamp-like mud on the path on the way back to the finish. I caught sight of Dave Shipman and Carolyn Bray up ahead of me, and decided to have a go at catching Dave but he must have sensed me coming and broke me on the slippery slope up to the finishing area. I slid about and bounced off the potholes and molehills, while Dave skipped up like a mountain goat and I lost him on the final corner. 'Sometimes I just cannot for the life of me see the point.'. Still, I was buoyed by the loud support from the third and fourth leg team runners huddling for warmth in the monument above the route and managed a sprint finish to hand over to Greta, who set off at an impressive pace. It was only a 3k leg, but I was pretty pleased with it (although I might have gone faster had I not spent so much time zig-zagging around the puddles and mud!).

As the second leg runners sped off, I reclaimed my hoody and joined the cheering crew. It must have been bitterly cold for those standing waiting for third and fourth legs, and, although I was a bit miffed to see the rain easing off as the third leg runners heading out, I think I got the best of it with a first leg run and was less cold than some of the others. It was fantastic to see such a huge number of Striders and great to feel a part of the teams as everyone cheered for everyone else. Particular well-dones for new member Sarah Tulip who only joined us for the first time time on club handicap night (in the rain), and must have wondered what on earth she was doing turning out in torrential rain for the second time in two weeks, and to Alex Probert and Pippa who pulled on the purple and green for their first team event. Congratulations also to Victoria Stott who came along in case we were short of runners and still decided to have a run artound, despite the weather, accompanying Sue Jennings on her leg.

It was a good event to be a part of. But can someone book the sunshine for next year, please?

A Spectator's Report

London Marathon Spectating, 22nd April

Jacquie Robson

For the second time in two years I found myself in the supporting role at the Virgin London Marathon. As a rather long(!) point-to-point race with tens of thousands of runners and many more supporters crowding the streets of London, being a spectator at the right point at the right time to cheer on your runner is a sport in itself.

Jacquie on the DLR ...

Last year, I deposited a rather nervous Alister at the Blue start, having escorted him to Blackheath station (on the south of the river Thames) via the very efficient Transport for London train/tube system and up onto the Common. I was then lucky enough to have a friend escort me around London to ensure I didn't get lost. We legged it back to Blackheath station and made our way to Shadwell tube station. A short walk from here, you can watch the runners go past at 13 miles. It's just past Tower Bridge for the runners (and they see you on their right), then, once you've spotted your targets, you can run/walk/push past the spectators to the underpass to get on the other side of the dual carriageway and wave, shout and cheer again at 20 miles (again on the runners' right). I made my way to the Acorns' charity cheering post last year and stayed with them so Alister could spot me (although the Striders hoody is great for that purpose), but I found myself waiting for well over two hours. I then had a mad rush to try to get to the finish. I chose Westminster tube station and found myself on the wrong side of the marathon route. This meant me and about 5000 other people were all trying to cross the race at a designated crossing point and it took AGES. I missed any chance I had of seeing Alister run along the finishing straight, managing to make my way to the well-marked meeting area along Horseguards Parade well after he'd finished to find him slumped on a kerb, grinning like a mad man and halfway down his first can of London Pride. Good lad!

This year, I decided to try and spot Alister four times along the course and to do it more effectively. I again deposited him at the start, the Red start this time, but we still arrived via Blackheath so Alister could enjoy the approach to the Common the same as last year. I hung about with him, meeting Barrie and watching for other purple hoodies, until he wanted to get sorted in his Red start area (which spectators can't enter). I escorted him to the entrance and wished him luck. He was definitely more relaxed than last year. Lesson 1 from last year: TELL YOUR RUNNERS WHERE YOU'LL TRY TO SPOT THEM. There are so many people both running nd spectating it helps if you're watching out for each other. I told him I'd try to be between 6 and 7 miles, just by the Cutty Sark.

Transition 1: Blackheath starting area to Greenwich (walking)
I headed off, clutching my Transport for London travelcard (well worth the money!) and walking as fast as I could, following a rather useless map provided in the marathon pack in the general direction of Greenwich and the Cutty Sark. It's important to plan ahead and check out your next transition as you can get trapped in by the marathon route and struggle to make your next rendez-vous, and I knew I needed to be near the Cutty Sark DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station. After a few wrong turns and a few policemen who only seemed to be able to direct me to New Cross ("sorry, love, we're normally motorway cops." Thanks, fellas!), I spotted the cones and police cordons indicating the route ahead of me and stumbled upon Greenwich the long way round. I'd made it there before the first runners (always the Elite Women - they set off first) came past so had some time to get myself in position. I walked through a bit of Greenwich, avoided the Cutty Sark itself (apparently, it's quite common to get trapped in the route there) and made my way to the correct DLR station. From there, I went the shortest way back to the route and positioned myself near the barrier at about 6.75 miles. No loitering in a pub or grabbing any breakfast for me - I learned last year that if you see a bit of barrier, grab it - it's usually about 4 people deep by the time the runners come past and you'll have no chance of spotting anyone. There was about 15 minutes to wait before the Elite Women came past so I updated Facebook for people following Alister and the other Striders at home, and let my mum and dad know where to watch out for me on the telly! My dad was also a dab hand with the live tracking of the runners, and he texted me when Alister passed key points throughout the race so I knew when to expect him at my viewing point. This was incredibly useful throughout the marathon as my phone internet signal was not great due to the huge number of people. Another advantage of going to Greenwich is that they have lots of 'Spectator Marshals' who give advice as to where to stand, and give out 'Spectator Information' booklets with tube maps and route maps and advice for spectators (such as what times to expect the runners through each mile marker) which was great. Lesson 2: GRAB A SPECTATOR INFORMATION BROCHURE QUICKLY - THEY SOON RUN OUT.

After cheering on the Elite Women (including the northeast's Aly Dixon) and the wheelchair athletes it wasn't long until I spotted Nell McAndrew (who gave me a wave to acknowledge my 'Go on, Nell' as she passed at some considerable speed!) and then Anna, Ian Spencer and Alister. Anna didn't hear me shouting (Lesson 3: ALWAYS SHOUT FIRST NAME AND SURNAME OF YOUR RUNNER, OR THEY'LL ASSUME IT'S GENERAL SUPPORT OR SUPPORT FOR SOMEONE ELSE AND THEY WON'T TURN AROUND!) but I got a smile and a wave from Ian and Alister. Knowing my next transition needed to be quick, I ran off before I'd seen anyone else, updating Facebook as I went. Dad texted to confirm Alister had passed 10k (which I'd already established!) and updated me on his pace - spot on target! Good going, Mr Robson! I Facebooked an update as I ran.

Transition 2: Greenwich Cutty Sark DLR to Shadwell DLR
On running into the DLR station, it was HEAVING with people, but marshals were less-than-helpfully directing some unsuspecting travellers to other DLR stations. I joined the queue to get in and listened to the announcements. The sheer volume of people trying to make their way around the same route means that the most popular Tube stations get extremely busy and I listened carefully for news about Shadwell. Sure enough "Shadwell tube station is currently closed due to reaching maximum capacity. Expect delays". Plan B it is, then!

Transition 2: Plan B: Greenwich Cutty Sark DLR to Limehouse DLR
I'd been put on to an alternative viewing point by someone before the run, and, checking in my invaluable spectator guide, I found that if I made my way to Docklands, I could watch the runners come past at just after 14 miles to begin the Docklands loop then, after seeing them, walk 100 yards down the road to see them again as they completed the loop at 20 miles. I made it onto a DLR train (see Alister's photos for what fun the DLR trains can be if you're a 10 year old wannabe train driver. Or if you're Alister) and studied my Spectator Information. I needed to aim for 'Narrow Street' round the corner from Limehouse DLR station just after 14 miles of the route. It seemed this was a reasonably well kept secret as most of the train travellers continued on towards Shadwell (good luck with that!) and I got off with about 20 others at Limehouse. I asked a Spectator Marshal helpfully kitted out in HiViz and a friendly smile where I could find Narrow Street. "14 miles marker, love, down that road there" and pointed me towards a large board outside the DLR station saying 'Narrow Street this way'. Very helpful! It was less than 2 minutes walk and I seemed to be one of the first ones there, straight onto a patch of barrier (claimed as my on very quickly with rucksack tied to the railing and hand spread widely onto the barrier - similar tactics can be employed to get to the front of a very busy bar!). I'd missed the Elite Women but spotted Nell McAndrew storming past. I struck up a conversation with friendly people on either side of me at the barrier - one couple watching for their son who was hoping to run a similar time to Alister, so I updated them on the pace and when their son would likely pass, and a gentleman to my right waiting for his daughter who was completing her first marathon to raise money for a cancer charity in memory of her late mum. Very emotional! I started enjoying myself, shouting for everyone who had a name on their vest. It wasn't long before the gentleman enquired as to how I knew so many people - I explained that I only knew a few who had yet to go past but that I was just offering my general support to people who had probably put their names on their vests to get encouragement shouted to them. He liked this idea very much and he joined my shouting; we soon had the whole barrier shouting out the names of everyone passing us, trying to make sure everyone got a shout-out, with special joint shout-outs to those who looked like they were beginning to struggle. I went a bit bonkers when Anna went past, and even more when I saw Alister, who turned towards me as he spotted me in the crowd. I thought he was going to come towards me for a kiss, but instead he kindly threw me his very hot, wet and sweaty fluorescent yellow hat which, as I caught it, splattered me and those around me. Thanks, love! It's a good job I'd made friends with my barrier-mates by then!! The son of the couple next to me went past just after Alister and I joined them in cheering him on. I also managed to spot Ian Spencer a bit further back but must have missed Jane Ives and Barrie. I did manage to spot Anthony Corbett from Quakers, a Durham parkrunner. I waited just long enough for Claire Readey to spot me - good job I had the hoody on or she'd have missed me and I didn't spot her as she was at the other side of the road. She looked quite strong, chugging down a sports drink as she passed, and she sounded quite chipper as she shouted back to me. I jogged a little bit with her, then turned around to get to the 21 mile point before Al arrived.

Transition 3: 14 mile point to 21 mile point
An easy one, this - a 100 yard walk across Narrow Street and back towards the Limehouse DLR station. The only problem was that the crowds were now 4-5 deep at the barrier. I wandered along the route looking for a weak spot in the crowd and spotted my chance, edging in towards the barrier. I managed to claim a small section before any of our runners went past and, within minutes, spotted Anna Seeley. She acknowledged my cheers with a smile then an ominous raise of her eyebrows. The lady next to me commented on how fresh Anna appeared to be, but I know Ms Seeley well enough to know that those eyebrows meant 'I'm not enjoying this very much'. Still, she was ahead of Alister and I wasn't worried about her - but I knew she wouldn't be happy with her time. Only a few minutes later Alister came jogging past (the gloves were spotted well in advance) and he veered across the crowds to come over and give me a sweaty kiss, nearly tripping over the kerb in his exuberance! He was still grinning so I was relieved! He was still running at PB pace. I waited a few minutes longer to try to catch some of the others, but when a mum with two kids came past, desperately trying to get to the barrier for the kids to shout for their Dad, I let them in to my spot and ran off towards the DLR to try to get to the finish to watch Alister come along Birdcage Walk.

Transition 4: Limehouse DLR to Westminster tube station
The DLR station was still reasonably quiet and well staffed with Spectator Marshals. Unfortunately, the second I made it to the platform, I heard that Westminster tube station was overcrowded and experiencing long delays, so I knew I'd need another change of plan to make it to the finish for Alister. Plan C!

Transition 4: Plan C: Limehouse DLR to Piccadilly tube station
I knew I could run to the finish from Piccadilly tube station, which was on the correct side of the run route for the finish and about a mile away, but the journey there involved a few stops and changes. I plotted what I thought would be a quick route there, but warnings of delays meant I changed my options a few times, finally making it to Piccadilly to find a hugely busy station. It took about 10 minutes to get out onto the street, but then I took off running towards the finish. Texts from my Dad, however, told me Al was past 25 miles and I knew I wouldn't make it in time to see him finish, so I headed straight for the meeting area. This is a long, wide area along Horseguards Parade, round the corner from Admiralty Arch, and consists of an avenue of trees, each one labelled very clearly with a letter of the alphabet. Despite the crowds, it's surprisingly easy to spot people you know, and I was pleased to see Ian, our host for the weekend, waiting there to congratulate Alister. He'd been tracking him live on the website, too, so knew he was doing well. Within minutes I had a text from my Dad to say that Alister had crossed the finish line in a new PB, knocking 9 minutes off his time from last year. I knew I'd be meeting a happy husband! It took Al a while to wind his way round to us from the finish area (although it's incredibly well organised, with runners' kit bags given directly to them within 50m of the finish line), and I soon saw him approaching us with can of London Pride in hand and big grin firmly plastered on his face. Anna wasn't far behind, and we wandered through Admiralty Arch to Trafalgar Square and on to a pub for a few beers before making our way home.

So, in summary, the spectating is an adventure in itself and I really enjoyed it, despite being on my own. The atmosphere at London really is something else - the cheering, the camaradarie and the support extend to all the supporters and you leave feeling you've been a part of something really special. If you fancy trying the supporting role, my main advice would be to plan your route, buy a travelcard, and make friends along the way!!

Oh, and stay over on the Sunday night so you don't have to fight your way back across London with a runner with sore legs and tube stations packed to capacity. And don't use East Coast trains - two journeys to the VLM in two years, both with over 5 hours delays.....

London Marathon, 22nd April

26.2M

Alister Robson

I had such a positive experience in last year's London marathon I was worried that this year might not live up to that. I needn't have worried.

My big running target for 2012 was supposed to be the Hull marathon. I entered the VLM ballot, sure, but was unlucky so thought no more about it. I didn't enter the club ballot because I was lucky enough to get a place via the club last year and wanted to give others the same chance so I thought no more about it, entered Hull and got on with my training. It was only in the middle of February when I got a phone call out of the blue telling me I'd got a place courtesy of adidas that it was back on.

Hull came and went and I have to admit I was a bit envious reading Yusef's report, but it was just too much of a risk only two weeks before London. All my races leading up to London were tailored towards Hull so I was a bit worried my taper was too long. There were positive signs (5K, 5M and 10M PB's) but also some really bad races (Spen 20, probably as a result of doing Dent the day before and also Run Northumberland Wallington Half, again probably as a result of doing Prudhoe XC the day before). I broke 4 hours last time, so thought 3.45 was an appropriate target, although publicly I only said I was looking for a PB. I deliberately set my target on the low side because I'd rather run well, achieve that slightly low target and then lower that. If I was to have a real blow up going for an ambitious time I might not want to run one again. That works for me, but I'm not sure it will work for others. The traditional method of calculating your marathon pace is to take a recent, decent half marathon, double it and add 10%.

Alister hears the voice of experience.

We travelled down on the Friday afternoon same as last year and stayed at a friend's (again the same as last year). After a very pleasant Italian meal on the Friday evening, we popped across London on Saturday morning to Bushy Park, where along with another 800+ runners we took part in the parkrun that started it all. I took it steady and even let Jacquie beat me and we had a very pleasant coffee and bacon butty with the parkrun founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the bushy park Event Directors Ray and Ann Coward and Dave and Gabby who are starting a new parkrun in Newcastle. Newcastle, New South Wales that is! After that it was back across London again to get to the marathon Expo. Lots of runners hate this and find it something to be endured but after being so nervous last year I wanted to drink it all in and was glad I did. We bumped into Ian and Jane and had arranged to meet Anna which was nice. My good friend Craig was working on the Sweatshop stand so we called in and saw him. We listened to Martin Yelling, coach and husband of Liz up on the main stage and some of his tips, although I'd heard before, had a real resonance.

After a couple of hours it was back to our friend's house, (via the supermarket to pick up exactly the same food I normally eat before an important run and a cheap jumper to throw away at the race start), where I cooked dinner and then we popped out to our friend's local to have a beer. I know some people would frown on this but I find it relaxes and helps me sleep and in moderation doesn't affect my performance. We were tucked up in bed at about 10pm.

Next day we were up and about at 6am and after the obligatory race morning photo it was off to get the train to Blackheath. I was in the Red start this year rather than the Blue and although you were supposed to go to Maze Hill station, I wanted to repeat as much as possible of last years run, helping to reinforce positive memories. I loved the feeling of coming up the quiet Blackheath common off the first train and gradually spotting the huge assembly area at the top of the hill.

Although the weather all week had been heavy rain and chilly it was a beautiful clear morning. I had a coffee on the way up, something which is also one of my pre-race rituals now and then we just milled around at the Blue start looking out for people we knew. We bumped into a couple of Quakers RC we knew from parkrun but no-one else and were just about to set off for the Red start when we saw Barrie ambling up the common looking every inch the experienced campaigner he is and seemingly without a care in the world.

It was great to see him, Jacquie got some nice photo's and we had a nice chat and then bid each other good luck. I didn't know anyone else who was in Red which was a shame but by this point I didn't have too long to wait. I'd brought some bin bags (to keep warm and dry with) and a newspaper to kill a bit of time. After putting my bag onto the baggage lorries (so well organised it's almost unbelievable to behold) it was time to go into my pen, Red 4 (the pens are numbered with lower numbers being nearest the front). The pen was still pretty quiet and it was bright and sunny and warming up nicely. I always prefer to run in warmer conditions and I knew that would be better for the spectators although I also know that most runners prefer it cooler and struggle in the heat.

All too soon we were off. There's a slight delay but nowhere near as bad as the Great North Run and after a couple of minutes I was over the line. After last year it was no surprise to see so many (male) runners who were clearly wanting to make sure they were correctly hydrated dash for the sidelines!

Alister benefits from a sponsor's top-notch recovery drink.

The first couple of miles passed without incident although there was one downhill and uphill which seemed a lot steeper than I remembered from the Blue start, soon the starts merged and after some good natured booing and 'Who are ya?'s the full marathon assemble was in one stream at last. It was somewhat surprising therefore to hear Andy Biggs a Durham City Harrier I know know well from parkrun come up behind me. Naturally he'd recognised the trademark yellow hat and gloves from some distance back. After a chat, (If you can't chat in the first half of the race, you're almost certainly going off too fast, I reckon) , we agreed to run together and this worked brilliantly - me slowing him down slightly and him dragging me a tiny touch faster than I would have done on my own. We stayed together for the next ten miles and were also joined by another Durham parkrunner, Simon Gardner for a while in the middle too. We saw Jacquie cheering just after the Cutty Sark and Andy's wife a little further on still and then we went past Ian who still looked comfortable. Going over Tower Bridge was as incredible as I remembered last year and I was very pleased with the pace - 8:36 by my Garmin, or bang on for a 3.45 finish, but Andy thought we were a little behind schedule and just after half way pushed on and left me.

I saw Jacquie again at about 14 miles and handed her by now soaked yellow hat - I'm sure she was pleased with that! After that it was just a case of sticking to the plan and to the watch. Everything felt fine, I maybe even felt a touch more comfortable than last year. Perhaps you have a natural pace that your body is more comfortable with. There was nothing more of any note until at about 20 miles if memory serves I caught and passed Anna and then Andy, or maybe the other way round. With a little more than 3 miles (parkrun?) to go I tried to push on a little faster as I felt good but my body didn't respond and just stayed at the same pace. I guess after so long it just wants to keep doing the same thing! I crossed the line with a little sprint, and remembering this time not to stop my Garmin on the line but to smile and look up to the cameras. It was a little surprise to be so far off from 3.45 when I know I was doing such consistent 8:36 miles but I realised afterwards that I'd actually run quite a bit more than the 26 miles and 385 yards marathon distance weaving in and out. Still I was over the moon with that, 9 minutes knocked off last year and with room for improvement if I ever get back in.

After collecting my goodie bag, medal and having my photo taken I got to the baggage collection where again I was handed my bag as I walked up and then I half stumbled and walked around to the 'R' meeting area where Jacquie and my friend were waiting. Anna arrived just afterwards and after some photos, a recovery milkshake and a cheeky beer we set off across Trafalgar square to a pub where Anna had arranged to meet a few (hundreds!) Fetch Everyone runners. After a quick couple of beers it was off to get back home, but that's another story altogether and thanks to this country's unique railway 'infrastructure' we didn't get back to Durham until 1.30am. Suffice to say two hours standing on the Transpennine 'express' from Manchester to York between 10.30 and 00.30 didn't exactly help my tired legs recover...

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Halfway Finish
1Kipsang, Wilson Kenya     M11:02:122:04:44
1*Keitany, Mary KenyaF 1 1:10:532:18:37
7,880Robson, Alister MV40 1,348 1:53:13 3:48:10
10,264Seeley, Anna F 1,237 1:50:28 3:57:30
12,730Ives, Jane FV40 542 2:01:30 4:07:12
14,677Spencer, Ian MV50 892 1:56:16 4:15:08
29,937Thompson, Margaret FV60 114 2:24:17 5:24:13
30,394Readey, Claire F 5,690 2:16:26 5:27:32
32,463Evans, Barrie J MV65 159 2:18:23 5:43:58

36,672.
*Elite Women's race.

Anna keeping cool ...  

Hamsterley Wild Race, 22nd April

16.5K

Aaron Gourley

The first in the Wild Races series, Hamsterley did not disappoint. Having run this race for the last few years I've grown quite attached to it and found it slightly disappointing at the low numbers that turned out for last years race so was hoping to see bigger numbers this year. At just over 40 runners it was still not great but an improvement (a good turn out by Elvet though).

This year's race had seen the course distance upped by over 4.5km to the 16.5km mark so at least you now get a bit more running for your entry fee which is quite expensive for this type of race. Keen to get this one underway I set my watch in search of a gps signal only to be caught out by the quick start so ended up running for about three and a half minutes before I got a lock.

By this time the race was well underway as the field quickly spread out on the long uphill climb. Taking my time, mindful of the extended distance I couldn't help but chuckle at the runners who shot past me in the first few minutes of the race only for them to blow up allowing me to plod on past them.

The course takes you along the forest tracks then out onto the moors where the muddy tracks continue to climb and sap the energy from your legs. Following the old course route to the moor track the new section turns right and continues along this track where you normally head off left and back down through the heather and into the forest. This new section really adds a bit of nice running to the race as you head further out into the moorland.

Following the track, it takes a slight dip then another short climb up to a cairn that marks the highest point on this course at 1238ft. From here it was a lovely long sweep back down the valley. One of the features of this race is the splash through the beck and I was happy to see a new, bigger section of water for me to splash through and cool my feet.

Including a climb over a wall and a hop over a few wire fences dropped us back into the forest. A final short, steep uphill dumped me out onto the final mile of flat forest track back to the finish in 18th place with a time of 89mins51secs.

This is a greatly improved race that really would benefit from a few more competitors. Next in the series is Bowderdale which is great race that I'm being forced to miss due to other commitments. Roll on next year.

Bushy parkrun, Bushy Park, London, 21st April

5k

Jacquie Robson

Once our tickets were booked for London for Alister to tackle the Marathon, it became clear that we would have to find time to pay a visit to Bushy parkrun. Bushy Park, near Teddington, is where it all began. It's the venue of the original parkrun, beginning life as Bushy Park Time Trial and later becoming the (somewhat less capitalised) Bushy parkrun. It's the first. The biggest. Allegedly the best. The gem in the parkrun crown. The mecca of all parkrunners. You get the idea. So you can imagine that Alister was pretty keen to do the pilgrimage and pop by. And, despite the 1 hour 20 minute journey from where we were staying, I agreed that it would be a fun adventure.

So we arose bright and early at 6.30am to make the journey for us to worship at the alter of all that is parkrun. On approaching Bushy Park, it was clear that this was something special. A huge leafy pastureland with grazing deer and ancient woodland stretched out ahead of us, and, even though we were quite early, we could see hoards of parkrunners clad in red 50 and black 100 club T-shirts converging on the start line. We spotted a number of people we know from Alister's parkrun connections, and were pleased to meet with the great PSH himself, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the man with the plan that started it all. We also met Ray (who you'll have emailed if you've got your 50 T-shirt already) and were made to feel very welcome by all the volunteer team. I was particularly pleased to be approached by a lady volunteer (wearing a very fetching fluorescent green 'scanner' tabard - watch out for those appearing at Durham as soon as we can work out where to get them from) and her other half who asked 'Aren't you from Durham parkrun?'. Those of you who were present at the Christmas Eve Durham event may remember our Bushy visitors - and it was great that they'd remembered us, too. They shared their stories of Durham parkrun and are looking forward to visiting us again this summer.

With a quick hello to our friends Ben and Nicola Forwood from Hyde Park Harriers (you may have heard Nicola on the parkrun show podcast), who were also making their parkrun pilgrimage to Bushy, we made our way to the start. The course began on grass, switching onto park path, and was one big loop of less than half of the enormous park. It's quite a sight to see all 900 runners stretching off into the distance - it seemed that we could see the front runners ahead of us at all points on the course, giving the whole event a really inclusive feel. With a wee bit of a hangover, and Alister trying to conserve glycogen stores for his efforts in the marathon the next day, we decided to have a nice pootle around. Well, Alister did. I hadn't realised that his 'gentle pootle' was equivalent to my full-on exertion - it seems running after a bottle of wine, massive Italian meal and several pints the night before doesn't suit me. But some of the beer was free, so what can you do?? I just about managed to admire the view, being only a little bit grouchy (OK, quite a bit grouchy) as we ran round, and Alister gallantly let me beat him after I attempted a sprint finish - I know he was just being gentlemanly! The course was stunning - possibly a PB course with appropriate preparations the night before / no marathon the day after, so we'll definitely be visiting again.

The cafe afterwards, the beautifully named Pheasantry, was spacious, with top-class bacon butties and a beautiful view of the woods, and was a perfect parkrun cafe, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I would recommend a visit to all who are nearby, and would suggest it's a necessary pilgrimage for all those other parkrun devotees out there!

Anniversary Waltz, Cumbria, 21st April

11.5M / 3,600' AM

Dougie Nisbet

Nowadays I never second guess races. I never trust the way I feel the night before, the morning of, or even several miles in. Things have a way of sorting themselves out. So my heart went out to Phil as he tried to recall if the last thing he ate were some lamb chops he'd found at the back of the fridge, although he was quite particular about the number of pints.

Unless I'm very sure of my form or expected finish position I tend to start pretty much all races at the back treating the starting whistle a bit like the bell you get in the theatre telling you it's time to get back to your seat. Something that you should probably pay some attention to, but there's still plenty of time to chat, finish your drink and say your farewells. When I did eventually start moving under a clear(ish) blue(ish) sky, I soon became hot and acutely aware of being overdressed. The forecast had been quite explicit about sunshine and showers, cloud and rain, heaven and hell, and the village hall had a few posters on the subject too. But any decent fell runner with any sense will only pay a passing nod to the mandatory kit requirements anyway, and concentrate on taking what they think they might need for any particular race on any particular day. So as well as the mandatory kit I also brought more wet-weather gear than usual but hadn't bothered with water. No point. I did this race last year in zero visibility and hydration had not been an issue. I'd started the race with 500ml of water and it was untouched at the finish. With cloud and rain forecast, I would definitely not be bothered with thirst today ... (I think you can see where I'm going with this).

Phil and Dougie ... more than likely before the start!

The first few miles are pretty much an excellent pleasant warm-up despite the guff on the Pete Bland map saying how terrible it is. Flatish along lanes and trails on good surfaces. By the time we got to Newlands Church I'd joined up with Phil and was attempting unsuccessfully to reminisce about last year's race. "Do you remember we ran up here and we got that lass Julie to take our photo?". Phil shook his head and looked blank. I thought he was winding me up, but he was serious and couldn't remember a thing about the last year's race. Perhaps it was the beer or the lamb chops, but whether it was the route, photos, or chalk hearts melting on a playground wall, Phil was having a big CRAFT moment.

At the start of our first major climb to Robinson I gradually (like last year) made some distance ahead of Phil. It was only 6 days since Phil had finished well ahead of me at Guis. Moors so I wasn't convinced I'd seen the last of him. Approaching the summit of Robinson I started spotting another Striders shirt and a distinctive pink headband. And although it's difficult to read the backs of distant runners, this Strider was clearly not in a happy place. It was to be another few miles, at the top of Hindscarth, before I finally caught Andrew up as his fast descent from Robinson had opened up the gap again. This was Andrew's first 'proper' fell race, and I opined/ventured that it was a bit like Swaledale. I was told, in rather robust tones, that it was nothing like Swaledale. This was hard, the climbing was horrible, and he was never going to run again. I nodded sympathetically, as I recalled the last Kielder Borderer in which I'd had a massive amount of time to ponder on the relative merits of struggling across remote fells against that of drinking tea and watching old movies on tv. I didn't make any real attempt to overtake Andrew as I knew I'd probably burn a lot of energy to make a few yards that he'd probably leap back on the next descent. In fact we did alternate position quite a bit for the next mile or two, carrying on our conversation, sometimes unaware that the other party was not actually there.

Not that that mattered. Other fell runners were happy to fill in the gaps. One runner was bemoaning leaving her gels at home so I introduced her to shotbloks. Leaving the Dale Head checkpoint I lost sight of Andrew on the descent and guessed he'd perked up. The descent from Dalehead offers one of the few route choices and I took a similar line as 2011, but with clear visibility this year it was easier to take a direct line toward the tarn. Once or twice I noticed Andrew away to the right taking the Pete Bland recommended route, and since he'd been descending faster than me from Robinson I was a bit surprised to overtake him somewhere on the way down. Whether this means Andrew had slowed down, I'd speeded up, or Pete Bland is wrong about the fastest descent route, is an interesting question (or three). Shotblok lady informed me that we were approaching the only drinks station on the course. This was good news; I could not recall a drinks station in 2011 but perhaps I'd missed it in the murk, and hadn't needed it anyway. But this year the promised rain and cloud hadn't come and I was hot and thirsty. When we got beyond the tarn and she started filling her water bottle in the beck I realised at once what she meant. I was now getting dodgily dehydrated in the unexpectedly dry and mild weather and I gratefully offered her offer of a drink from her bottle although I'd have happily dunked my head in the beck if need be. As we left the waterhole she started muttering "Theresjoss!" over and over again and I just nodded happily and politely although I had no idea what she was saying. When she exchanged greetings with Joss Naylor who was spectating, as you do, at Dale Head Tarn, I realised what she'd been saying. With two walking sticks and his dog he was nodding to all runners as they passed and it was a nice way to start the penultimate climb of the day, High Spy.

I was prepared this year for the least few miles along the High Spy ridge knowing not to forget that Cat Bells was still at the end. Just when you've enjoyed a sustained fast descent from High Spy and think it's time to go home Cat Bells appears from nowhere and stretches out its claws in a luxurious yawn to remind you there's one more climb left. Taking a longer line this year of Cat Bells I nearly literally bumped into Roberta and paused to get my photo taken (I have my priorities) before giving my new Mudclaws their last burst of the day as I ran down a few feet wide of the path where the running was easier and faster and passed a few runners in the final few yards.

I crossed the line then turned round to walk back up the hill to meet Roberta and look out for Phil and Andrew. I bumped into a DWT chum Laura who was out supporting Nicola (currently chasing (literally) Nina in the Harrier League) and had a chat with them. I excused myself ("gotta milk this one!") when I saw Andrew appear, looking pleased to be at journey's end. Phil appeared a bit later running in with NFR's Andrew Russell.

Last year had taught me that it's not the distance that makes this race a toughie, it's the climbing. This year I was not caught out by the 3600 feet although I was very nearly caught out by the unexpectedly mild and dry weather, and if it hadn't been for the fortuitous appearance of the beck at Dale Head Tarn I might have been in real trouble.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Bell Carl Howgill Harriers M 1 1:33:46
241Dougie Nisbet DFR MV40 2:47:50
254Andrew Thompson M 2:53:46
272Phil Owen MV40 3:08:29

289 finishers.

Summer Handicap, 18th April

Phil Owen

Well that was an interesting evening ! In the 5 years I've been a strider I can't remember more atrocious weather for a handicap night. Great turnout considering with 26 hardy souls starting, two of whom decided just to do one lap due to injuries etc. Thanks you everyone who came along just to help out - Kathryn, Paul, Dougie and Alister - I very much appreciate it.

Handicap group in bus shelter I'd especially like to thank the local authority for providing us with a new bus shelter! What a godsend it was last night. Mind, even under cover, we seemed to get soaked! It was great fun having folk coming in and my pens not working and when they did, going straight through the 'rice paper'! Still they seemed to have dried out this morning and I can mostly make out what I wrote but I wouldn't be surprised if something is wrong. If you think your time is way out then mail me direct.

Two special mentions:
First, Sarah who came down to the club for the first time last night to run the handicap. It's not usually like this - honest. It's usually all sun loungers and pinacoladas. Welcome to Striders.
Secondly, Elizabeth who wasn't sure about this last week but stuck in and did both laps in probably the worst conditions possible. Great stuff Elizabeth!

As the weather was so terrible I wasn't going to have folk hanging around soaked and freezing and set you of in groups only loosely based on your times. This meant some may have found they were being overtaken a lot earlier than they would normally have been or didn't really get the usual 'cat and mouse' feel of a handicap. I did in fact set you all of within 13 minutes of each other. However the majority of the field finished within 5 minutes of each other so that can't be bad. Hopefully we will get better weather next month and there will be a little more of a gap.

Well done to Young Adam Walker for the fastest time but I'd be looking over your shoulder at Will next month as nobody was fooled by Casper's evening walkies. (Note: Will set off on his own and took his own time). Tom joined us late on if you're wondering where the heck he came from in the results!

The next handicap will be 23rd May. Given last night's mud I would expect slightly easier running and faster times next month - let's face it the weather and conditions could not have been worse! Remember you can run as many or as few handicaps as you like so do please join us next month if you can.

Oh and we have a new prize for 'Best effort' . This will be decided solely by me after consultations in the pub. Be be assured I can be bribed!

Sand Dancer, South Shields, 15th April

6M

Danny Lim ...

A combination of gale-force winds, horizontal rain and intermittent sunshine made for "challenging" racing conditions. As much as I can remember it was fast, windy with a fair bit of "up and downs" on the course. There were great views out to sea. The vista of two hundred runners snaking along the cliff tops was a sight to behold. I only wish I had an underwater camera! A well organised race and I can thoroughly recommend it. The free hot soup at the end was especially handy and helped defrost my fingers.

A special thanks to Ann and Jo for coming out to support the runners. I'll leave you with an action photo of George, which catches the moment well ...

George, resplendent in some of Paula's old socks.

... and Karen Chalkley:

It was a bright and sunny morning as we set off to South Shields for the Sand Dancer 10k, George, Anne to support and take photos, Pip, a fellow Shadforthite and parkrunner, and myself. This was to be Pip's longest race having started running only about 8 months ago. It is thanks to George's pestering that Pip now does the park runs and has improved no end - you know what George is like!

The wind was howling past our parked car as we watched the kitesurfers racing along in the waves making us realise this wasn't going to be an easy race at all. The wind would be against us as we ran back along the coastline towards the finish! We decided we really ought to get out and warm up despite the exceedingly large black cloud that decided to drop its contents on us just as we set off along the beach! By the time we had 'warmed' up in the near blizzard freezing conditions the rain had stopped and we met Danny, Melanie and Alister ( He isn't hard to miss though with his luminous gloves and hat!) at the start.

And we were off, along what could have been the fastest part of the course if it hadn't have been for the sand having been blown all over the path making it hard going underfoot! Up we went onto the cliff path with the waves crashing beneath us, blue sky and sun up above and the wind actually blowing us off track from time to time! But it was very enjoyable and a race I'd recommend not only because of the view, but also the promise of a nice cup of hot soup to warm you up at the end in the pub, lovely. No T shirt just free soup!

I didn't see Alister or Danny for dust (or sand I should say) after the start and George's silhouette just kept getting smaller in the distance (I used to be able to keep up with him for longer so I must try harder obviously!) About half way round Melanie came striding by looking fit as a daisy, so well done to you Melanie.

The finish is in the stadium which is quite nice giving you a taste of what top athletes must feel running round with the crowd cheering you on!! Well it felt good to me anyway. George did his usual which is to run back to you and run the last few meters with you encouraging you all the way which is great to make you go that little bit faster when you thought you'd actually given your all already!! Thank you George.

Pip wasn't far behind me at all and was pleased to have taken part. She is doing the Great North Run this year and is running other races too beforehand. I'm sure George will persuade her sooner rather than later to join the Striders!

Off we went to the pub for our well earned soup, and pint for some too! George, Anne, Pip and I left before the prize giving and grabbed an ice cream on the way, and very good ice cream it was too. It seems we shouldn't have left in such a rush as I got a spot prize!!!! First lady in my (relatively new) age group!!! I knew there had to be an advantage for being 50!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1ADAMS, Luke South Shields Harriers M 1 33:07
18SIMPSON, Claire Jarrow & Hebburn AC FV35 1 38:23
69ROBSON, Alister MV40 44:18
128LIM, Danny M 50:53
142NICHOLSON, George MV60 52:08
166HUDSON, Melanie F 54:40
173CHALKLEY, Karen FV50 1 55:42

210 finishers.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Gisborough Moors, Guisborough, 15th April

12.5M/2,600'

Paul Evans

A fairly last-minute decision to go ahead and run this race after yet-another heavy cold saw me arrive at the start, along with Phil, Shaun, David and Dougie (in DFR colours), feeling both quite ropey and yet rested from three days of not running at all; a strange feeling that I'm not sure I like. Lined up on the road outside the rugby club, facing directly up the hill towards the moors, we set off in sunshine, ran a few hundred yards on hard track and then promptly came to our first reality check on the gloopy slopes of the conifer woods; thick, sucking mud that just got worse the more churned (ie. the further down the field you were) it was. Granted, my plan had been to start sensibly and work my way through the field, but the plan saw me hitting the moors with relatively fresh legs, not reaching the top of Highcliff Nab and wanting a nice cup of tea and a rest. No tea was on offer, as befits the minimalist style of Dave Parry's races and the fact we were only a mile in, so I had no choice but to plod over the narrow moorland tracks to the road at Percy Rigg, accepting that faster runners would still be going past me, although only in ones and twos now, and barely even that by the time we hit tarmac. A brief plod uphill saw us turn off down the near-washed-out track to Lonsdale Farm, evidently a casualty of winter rains, only to begin climbing again immediately on what would be the last stretch of road for the race. I used this drag to overtake the pack I'd been trailing, only to lose them again when the pre-race coke, tea and coffee necessitated a short comfort break in the trees at the top.

Dougie enjoys the wintry finish.

Now began my favourite part of the race, the gentle climb to Captain Cook's monument (admittedly, the steps up to it not all that gentle) through the woods, a charge down to Gribdale, accomplished without falling despite a blown-down tree across the path and eyes that would not stop watering in the wind, and the short, steep climb up the other side, all the way to...winter. For some reason, the pleasant spring weather ended here, with small piles of snow beside the track and horizontal sleet driving into my face; unwanted, but invigorating, even if only a reminder to put the effort in and get finished as soon as possible. Next came the delights of Little Roseberry (down, stone flags treacherous), Roseberry Topping (up, painful on the legs but profitable in terms of overtaking and down, which was enjoyable until the misplacement of feet that left me with grazed legs and mud in places it shouldn't be) and Little Roseberry (deceptively hard, as always). Mentally, for me, there was a definite temptation to think of the race as basically done, with the last 3.5 miles just an inconvenience - after all, the hard stuff was out of the way. The undulating, sopping path that led over to Highcliff Nab again wasn't quite as accommodating as I'd hoped, and my legs were definitely feeling heavier than I wanted. Still, so were other runners' and I slowly reeled in a handful more runners, even if two of them came flying past as I slid back through the woods to the start on a path that was basically a mudslide by this point. A few minutes later I'd finished, only having to wait a short time for David to follow me in. Shaun, Phil and Dougie didn't take too much longer and the 'comforts' of the rugby club (dribbling showers but hot bovril and coffee) awaited.

A really good race, which behaves entirely differently dependent upon the conditions. A definite labour of love for the organisers and a lovely morning out, even if the race photographs don't exactly portray smiling happy runners.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Jim Bulman New Marske Harriers M 1 1:21:58
21Paul Evans M 12 1:36:50
36Karen Robertson NFR FV40 1 1:40:24
75David Gibson MV40 17 1:46:50
124Shaun Roberts MV55 5 1:55:08
179Phil Owen MV45 28 2:10:33
186Dougie Nisbet DFR MV45 29 2:12:23

226 finishers.

Cragside 10K, 14th April

Kathryn Sygrove

This was my first Run Northumberland run, a 10k enticed by the beauty of Cragside Estate near Rothbury. Having got up early and travelled there with Kate MacPherson and her sister for Kate's first race for a wee while, it had snowed, sleeted, rained and was well cold when we got there. We got there about 8.20am - way too early - but thankfully the loos were open and so was the coffee shop soon afterwards!! We thawed out, got ready, drank warm beverages and went to the finish-line which at first we thought was the start. Then the first of many climbs began to the actual start, which was about 1km away back from the finish, which you went through twice -at 1km and at the end. It was a pretty steep hill to climb to the start, so we knew that the first and last bits of the race would be pelts downhill...but we also knew there were massive ups to contend with. We huddled next to a little marker - not much fanfare! - about 200 runners in all, wanting the race to start. I spoke to Vince Emmett from Sunderland Harriers who I see at lots of races, and it was nice to see a familiar face. Apart from me, and Kate MacPherson, the only other Strider was Ian Spencer. As we waited it had started to get sunny and the grounds looked beautiful. This is the second year this race - one of the Run Northumberland series - has taken place, but first time for us.

The course was steady away for the first 4km, and the sharp downhill levelled out after 1km to mild undulations until about 4km. Hmm, where are the steep bits I thought. Someone said to me on the way to the start that this wasn't a PB race, and now I knew why. Till about 8km the race went up and up and up. Burning calves set in and ,as the sun shone down, I wondered why I had added the extra layer, but as we climbed up to the higher lake, it cooled off a bit, and I was glad I had stayed with it. The lovely views offered respite from thinking about sore legs and the weather held off. And of course, having started the race partway down a hill, we knew the plateauing had to happen at some point. Mercifully it did and at about 8kn I espied the possibility of equalling my PB. But I knew I could not sustain a sprint for 2km so eased off a bit until we hit the start point again, then really let rip. In fact, the sheer downhill scared me more than the hills - having had some ankle tenderness recently, I wasn't prepared to risk my marathon at Milton Keynes in 2 weeks to go full-pelt, so I gauged how my feet felt on the steep tarmac then gradually widened my step as my legs took the sudden change of elevation literally in their stride.

Striders travelling incognito ... The finish line was well in sight at the bottom of the steepest descent, and as we evened out again, I pushed as hard as I could. A finished runner clapped and nodded his "Well done" as I zipped to the finish, and I heard someone's footfall trying to pass me. No chance I thought, and pushed with my arms across the line. I got there first, grabbed my bottle of water and meandered about aimlessly at first, till I recovered a bit. Ian Spencer came in soon after me, then I grabbed my teeshirt memento, and waited for Kate and Bec who looked very comfortable as they finished together in the hour. At that point, the cloud cover appeared, it started to drizzle, and got very cold again. So we grabbed extra clothes, and soought comfort in hot tea, food and a warm car. Exhilarating race, hard going, but spectacular. And on that note, Bamburgh 10km here I come!

Bath Beat, Bath, 14th April

26.7m

Dave Robson

Dave pauses for breath.

Last summer I decided it might be a good idea to contact an old schoolfriend. Through the wonders of Facebook, I found him and and we exchanged a few messages and he invited me down to Bath, where he now lives (we had been at school in St Albans). That sounded a good idea, but just a little scary. I hadn't been in contact with him for forty one years, would we still get on ? Would we still have things in common ??

I thought it might be a good idea to combine the visit with a race and looked around for a marathon in Bath and I found what sounded a lovely Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) event, the Bath Beat. So last Friday I headed down to Bath by train. I had visited the city previously for work reasons but never had the time to look around. I decided to do the tourist thing and go on open topped bus tour - my friend was not getting home until 6 so I had a bit of time to kill. The tour was good and also took me past the start of the race so it was enjoyable and useful.

Then to meet my friend.... I needn't have worried, we got on just as well as we did forty one years ago. We each reminded each other of events that had receded deep into our memories. When the other one of us mentioned them the memory popped up in the other. A very enjoyable evening.

The race itself was typical LDWA. Start anytime between 7.30 and 9.30 and they recorded your time as you left. I left on my own at about 8.40. No flags or signs on the route, just a route description and a gpx track which I had downloaded to my Garmin. I would have liked to have just followed that, but I had to use the route description as well because some of the checkpoints were unmanned and unmarked out there on the ground, so you had to be aware of where you were on the route description so that you could identify the checkpoint. How did they know you had visited the checkpoint ? Well you had to answer questions about it - for example, what is the number on the lampost, who is the bench dedicated to?

No shortage of food! Lots of friendly walkers to pass on this event, but you couldn't rely on following them as there were four different distances and the routes were diverging and merging. If you have been to Bath, you will know its hilly and this route certainly covered some hills, even the fastest runner took over 4 hours to complete the course. We passed through some lovely countryside, attractive villages and very well stocked checkpoints, a great selection of food.

My legs weren't in the best shape after the Hull marathon six days earlier, so I took it easy, walking up anything that was going upwards. About three miles from the end I realised I could possibly get under 6 hours and I had over thirty minutes to do it in. Just keep plodding along and I would do it. However, there was a long killer hill near the end and that put paid to sub 6. A very enjoyable run :-)

I was planning to get the bus back into Bath but one of the organisers very kindly gave me a lift back Very impressed with that !

North Tyneside 10K, 8th April

Sue Jennings...

I ran North Tyneside 10K today for the first time. Had been promised a scenic route and a fairly flat course so a good chance at a PB. The day started off pretty murky but got a little better as it went on. I travelled through with Greta and Angela and we met up with Alister, Jacquie, Emma, Jayne, Louise, Victoria, Adam and Rob. I agreed with Greta and Angela that I would pace them for the first part of the race at 9 minute miles but I think my singing just before we set off must have put them off as when we got started, I found myself running 8.30 pace and not able to keep up! In fact I did my first mile in 8 minutes 25 - fastest I think I have ever run in my entire life.

So I ran the rest of the race just listening to my music (and not singing which would be a relief to all around me). Thankfully Motorhead came on just as we hit the big hill at 1.75/2 miles and helped me run the second mile in 8.57 (again another mile under the pace I had set out to do). However I then paid for taking off too fast and my third mile was slow. Miles 4, 5 and 6 were better paced at 9.07, 9.07 and 9.08 and the last 0.26 (8.26). I couldnt believe how far the end was still off though when we got to 6 miles and felt a bit cheated on my time when I got in and my garmin said the distance was 6.26 miles (if it had been 6.18 miles my time would have been better ha ha).

So ended up doing a time of 56 minutes 42 (by my garmin) which is about 6 minutes less than the last official 10k that I did so not bad going at all. Everyone else did great PB's too.

The day was finished off nicely with a meal at Frankie and Bennys and we met up with Anna and Phil who had cheered us at the end of the race. Great Striders day out. Sue x Striders at North Tyneside

... and Alister Robson

On a day when conditions were remarkably benign a fantastic 13 Striders turned out to do this scenic race, which is now the third biggest in the North East after the Great North Run and the Blaydon Race.

Starting from the front of the field, Adam Walker who's not quite a Strider yet, but who many of you will know as he's been training with us regularly, knocked a remarkable 6 minutes off his last years time here. I too had a good all time 10K PB and was followed in by Richard Hockin who was remarkably consistent as ever. New member Rob Clark also knocked a good chunk off last year's time but unfortunately there weren't any more men to complete a (4 man) team.

The ladies had a whopping turnout and managed two teams in 14th and 22nd places (of 28) led by the first team of Stef, Lindsay (PB), Angela (PB) and Greta (PB), with the second of Jacquie (PB), Victoria (PB), Sue (PB) and Emma. The second team could have been a little higher if Louise (PB) had Elvet Striders on her entry and Jayne (PB) only just missed out on being a counter too. The Frankie and Benny's feast afterwards was a sight to behold too!

It's also worth pointing out that there was no chip timing for this event, so for anyone towards the back of the large field this would have made quite a big difference. Perhaps that's the only thing the organisers have overlooked as this is a great well organised event with a great goodie bag and a free bus back to the start.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 MULUGETA, Tadele Geremew M 30:46
2 BATOCHIR, Serod Morpeth Harriers & AC M 30:46
7 HESLOP, Justina Clapham Chasers L 1 30:00
78 WALKER, Adam (almost Elvet Striders) M 38:55
222 ROBSON, Alister M40 43:14
299 HOCKIN, Richard M60 45:02
650 BARLOW, Stephanie L35 50:16
754 TARN, Lindsay L 51:40
761 PROCTOR, Angela L35 51:48
785 JONES, Greta L45 52:05
831 ROBSON, Jacquie L35 52:53
950 MILLER, Louise L 54:37
974 TINDALE, Victoria L 54:52
1172 JENNINGS, Sue L45 57:30
1266 DETCHON, Emma L 59:01
1307 FREEMAN, Jayne L40 59:48
1612 CLARK, Robert L 1:06:57

1791 finishers.
Women's teams: 14th & 22dn out of 28

Hull Marathon, 8th April

Yusuf Kuruner

When I was registering a few days ago for the Hull Marathon, I was talking with myself: “Yusuf, people are spending months preparing for a marathon. What the hell are you doing?” I just wanted to see how far 26 miles is, and if it is even possible to run. Yes, it is.

The race was starting at 8 am. Although it was a very important day, I could not change my habit of long sleeping. For a person who misses parkrun every single week because it starts at 9 am, a race starting at 8am was serious stress. I could hardly wake up at 7 am but managed it and had a very quick breakfast. It was just 30 minutes before the start when I left my hotel. I jogged 10-15 minutes to City Hall (Victoria Square) in the city centre to leave my bag before the race. The weather was not cold but it was giving signals that it might rain soon (and it did during the first hour of race). My final decision was racing just with vest as I would definitely be warmed after running so many miles.

Yusuf, Andrew and Dave When I arrived to the start point, I saw two very experienced Striders marathon runners having a relaxed chat before race: Andrew Thompson and Dave Robson. This inaugural Hull marathon should be specially remarkable for them as both studied at university here. Meanwhile, I was very nervous and looking for 4:30 pace-maker as it was just 2 minutes left to start. I really did not know how to survive such a long race and my strategy was chasing the 4:30 pace-maker all the way. Unfortunately I could not find him until the end of first mile.

After finding 4:30 pace maker I slowed down and started to follow him. At first it seemed quite slow to me. My brain wanted to go faster but my brain warned and controlled my body to stay in that pace. There were so many miles to go. It was a very big mistake of race organisers that there were no mile markers. (To be honest, as a first time marathon runner whose only aim was just to finish, it was very big psychological advantage for me not to see how many thousands of kilometers were left. I was very happy about that, but a lot were complaining about it.) A few minutes later Dave also joined our 4:30 group and we kept that pace and ran together with some ladies for 20 miles or so. We passed the Humber Bridge two times and the view was fantastic. The bridge itself and view reminded me of the Bosphorus Bridge in my home city of İstanbul. While I was watching the beautiful view on the bridge, suddenly I fell over due to a wire on the road. My right-knee hurt and started bleeding immediately. For two minutes I could hardly walk but then i wanted to keep going as it was my first marathon and I didn’t want it to end like this. After walking a bit, I got my energy back and caught our 4:30 group. When the pace-maker said that it was just 7 miles to go, I was still feeling very powerful and I knew I could go the last 7 mile faster than that. I pushed it hard in last 7 miles, passed a lot of people who started to take walking breaks. When I arrived at the finish line the time said 4 hours 20 minutes.

Water and gel stations were very good. Almost all the race was flat and a lot of local supporters cheered us throughout the race. (In one water station there were ice-cold orange slices, absolutely most delicious orange I’ve ever eaten. It was so beautiful that I stopped there more than 1 minute and ate 12 slices. I have asked in all remaining stations for those oranges but there were none). Generally it was a very friendly atmosphere in the city. I enjoyed every single second of the marathon. I will definitely run my second marathon after a very good training program because it was unbelievably hard to walk back to the hotel from the finish line.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 TAYLOR, Phill Bridlington Road Runners M 2.31.29
45 BROOM, Dawn Barnsley Harriers F 3.08.51
356 THOMPSON,Andrew M 3.53.54
550 KURUNER, Yusuf M 4.20.56
570 ROBSON, Dave M60-69 4.24.39

876 finishers.

Marske Mermaid 5K, 6th April

Alister Robson

Jacquie

Jacquie and I arrived with an hour to spare for the 10.15 start of the regular Marske Mermaid 10K, named after the pub where registration takes place. They (New Marske Harriers) were having to run an alternate course already because of ongoing work to the coastal defences but there was much worse news to come. It transpired that there had been a fatal road accident on a road next to the course earlier that morning and that police were not prepared to let the race go ahead until they had cleared the area. After a while it was announced by Graham Hall of NMH, who I've incidently become friendly with while working to bring a parkrun to Stockton, that they would be able to go ahead at 11.15 but on a revised basis as a 5k as the first aid cover they'd hired was only available until about midday. They offered runners the alternatives of receiving a refund or continuing as a 5K. Jacquie and I elected to continue but Ian Spencer who we'd met there decided that was a bit short for him and to save time at registration I bought his number off him.

It was nice to catch up with Sharon Gayter - after her latest world record breaking exploits, she was taking a rare rest and supporting her husband Bill who was running this event. She's a lovely lady and a true inspiration to many. If you haven't read her autobiography yet, I strongly recommend that you do. We're hoping that she'll come back to Durham parkrun soon and hopefully will be able to sign and sell a few copies again there.

After a minutes silence as a mark of respect to the young lady who had lost her life earlier, we set off on a similar route to the one I knew from running the 10k previously, and the identical Victorian held in July, around the local housing estate before heading out along the coast towards Redcar. We'd been chatting to Craig Herkes of Durham City Harriers, the manager of the Metrocentre Sweatshop and another parkrun friend and after I beat him (for the first time) at Sedgefield parkrun's inaugural run, I tried to stick with him. Craig went off like a scalded cat and I could barely keep him in sight but towards the end of this shortened section, where the run turned left I'd narrowed the gap to less than 50m.

Alister

Along this section the surface deteriorated and there were a few puddles to avoid but I was still going well and still hauling Craig in. At the end was the railway bridge I knew marked the end of the course and I eased down thinking I couldn't catch him only to learn that there were another 100m left! Still, crossing the line a few seconds after Craig I looked down and was delighted to see that I had a new 5K PB - In a day of unexpected events this was yet another.

We barely had time to recover our breath before Jacquie ran in - I guess for her to be disappointed with her second fastest ever 5K time, shows just how far her running has improved this year.

There was a good goodie bag with a medal (I don't think I'll ever need another T-Shirt but you can never have too many medals!), some water and a snack bar, so still great value for the £8 entry. Talking of good value, the eponymous Mermaid pub which hosted the prizegiving had a nice pint of EPA for a shade over £2 - a very pleasant surprise after Wednesday night's shock discovery that the Court Inn was now up to the best part of £4 a pint! We also took advantage of the carvery offer and had a full carvery plus drinks each for just over a tenner. Strongly recommended all round.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Michael Grimes Durham City Harriers M20 15.47
21 Georgie Rutherford Darlington Harriers Open Women 18.12
67 Alister Robson M40 20.28
131 Jacquie Robson W35 24.43

183 finishers.

London Fields Aquathlon, 1st April

400m swim / 5k run

Jacquie Robson

In keeping with the ‘relaxing’ theme for our weekend away in London, Alister and I leapt out of bed at 6.30am on the Sunday morning to attempt our first ever aquathlon! This involved a 400m swim in an outdoor 50m pool (in the beautiful London Fields Lido – the nicest outdoor pool I think I’ve ever seen and, mercifully, heated to perfection!) followed by a 5k run around the park.

Ian, our friend and host for the weekend, is a member of the very friendly London Fields Triathlon club and we were immediately made to feel very welcome. After collecting numbers and setting up our transition areas (where you go after the swim to get your goggles off and your trainers on as quickly as possible), we gathered in the warmest area we could find to await our start time. We provided an estimate of the time it would take us to complete the swim when we entered. Faster swimmers were due to go off first so, as the keener swimmer, I was looking forward to being away and finished before Alister was, for a change, and having the opportunity to cheer him in. As my start time approached, I queued by the pool and cursed myself for forgetting my flip-flops – with my trainers safely stashed in the transition area I found myself standing barefoot on the concrete in just a swimming costume and a pair of triathlon shorts on a very cold morning! Brrrr!

The desire to get in the water and warm up saw off any nerves I had, and I enjoyed the swim section. After the required eight lengths, I hauled myself out of the pool and staggered to the transition area, dragging my socks and shoes on over wet feet and scrabbling for my number belt. Unfortunately, I wasted valuable time putting on a t-shirt – it was forecast to be freezing cold but, in actual fact, the sun came out and it was relatively warm on the run so I didn’t need it! Ah, well, lesson learned!

The run itself was five laps of a very pleasant park and the repeated laps meant I had a great view of the winners storming past. In fact, because my swimming is so much better than my running, I saw most people come flying past me! But I was cheered on by the incredibly noisy and supportive marshals and the five laps soon passed, despite my legs feeling very heavy from the swimming. I had no Garmin so had no idea whether I was staggering along slowly or making relatively good progress, but I managed a sprint finish just in case it was the former! I grabbed a drink of water and a bit of flapjack kindly provided by the organisers at the finish and just caught sight of Alister running out of transition to begin his 5 laps. His running is so much better than his swimming that he had the opposite experience to me – flying past most of the runners out on the course. He was clearly loving it, grinning as he went past my cheering point and finding time for some banter with the lady marshals! He stormed in with a sprint finish and a big smile!

The chip timing meant that we could get a printout of all our times just a few minutes after crossing the finish line, which was brilliant, and we all compared notes. Ian, our host, just pipped me by 4 seconds (darn t-shirt!!) and Alister was only a matter of seconds behind us both, despite him having been almost a non-swimmer last August. We loved it, and I can guarantee this won’t be our last aquathlon, but I don’t think I’m as confident about beating Alister the next time if his swimming continues to improve at this rate! A fantastic event was rounded off by the presentation in a lovely nearby pub, where cooked breakfasts were available for the competitors. An excellent start to a lazy Sunday in sunny London!!

Hartlepool Marina 5M, 1st April

Danny Lim

Danny in the sun. I really enjoyed this race last year which is why I chose to return. This race has a definite maritime theme to it. The registrations were in a restored paddle steamer. The starting gun was actually a cannon from the nearby Maritime Museum. The course took us past the HMS Trincomalee; a magnificent 19th century warship. This is an "out and back" race with most of the course along the promenade looking out to sea. It was really sunny and the breeze was refreshing but not slowing us down.

I started out with the aim of a setting a new 5 mile PB. As I was feeling strong at mile 2, I got greedy and set my sights on a sub-40 minute time. Not a good idea to change plans in the middle of the race as I soon discovered. By mile 4, I had developed a stitch and had to slacken my pace. It was a desperate finish as I fought to hold off a pair of runners that were trying to overtake me - after I had cheekily overtaken them!

I was 14 seconds short of the 40 minute mark. Karen Chalkley the only other Strider present finished shortly after and was looking strong. I am surprised that there weren't more Striders there today especially for a nearby, scenic race. It ties in with a good day out, as I spent the afternoon exploring the old ships and boring my wife!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 WILES, Andrew New Marske Harriers M 1 24:38
27 MATTHEW, Kerry F 1 30:00
218 LIM, Danny M 40:14
249 CHALKLEY, Karen FV50 42:17

383 finishers.

Blyth Valley 10K, 1st April

Richard Hockin

This is a race that I have enjoyed doing a few times in the past, and today was no exception. There's a great atmosphere at the start on the quayside on the estuary of the River Blyth, with the prospect of fast times on a flat course. The route heads south out of the town and then on a path along the coast through dunes to Seaton Sluice before returning back on pavements to the finishing line on the quayside. As you run towards the halfway mark the 'out and back' shape of the course allows you to see the leading runners as they head for home - for me personally a rare sight indeed.

Conditions were bright and sunny, with a slight breeze, so pretty much ideal. As usual there was plenty of support along the route which helped me get into a decent running rhythm. After the challenge of the Prudhoe Harrier League hills last week it was interesting to experience a completely different sort of race, both in terms of terrain and topography.

Thanks are due to Blyth Running Club for another well organised race; I think I was the only Strider who did this one but I'd certainly recommend it. Hopefully I'll be there again next year....