Race Reports, June 2012

Bramhall parkrun, Manchester, 30th June

5K

Peter Bell

Bramhall Hall is a 14th century Tudor manor house in Bramhall, near Stockport Greater Manchester. The house and its 70 acres of landscaped parkland with lakes, woodland, and gardens are the setting for what is an exemplar park run. I arrived early to get maximum warm up and stretches done and to prepare for a performance that was to shape some of my thinking to defer my Great North Run place. After a short jog through the park to the start I realised how beautiful it was. From the Tudor mansion house on part of the route to the Lakeland track and woodland climbs. This was looking good! With ten minutes to go I saw this was certainly a big event. It looked like there were around 400 people in attendance and they even had their own running club the Bramhall runners. More importantly this was a huge family event with one ten year old completing his 50th park run. Then they announced we would be lucky to catch him as he does it in 20 minutes!

Facing the start we set off up the first hill towards the mansion house. I was nailing the hill no problem but recognised I was going way too fast so held it back to 7 minute miles. The route looped past the house and around the lake. Dodging the duck droppings we headed into some woodland. The gently undulating and slightly muddy track had a few tricky climbs but I was still going strong. Looping back to the lake there was a huge crowd of well wishers to cheer us on as I crossed over the stone bridge and passed the house for the second lap. I started to pick off a few slower runners something I hadn't done for a while and battled my way forward through lap two of the woods. With the finish in sight I started to slow as the last hill hit me like a train! Still it was down hill to the end and I didn't have much left in the tank. It wouldn't be a sprint finish but a finish it was as I passed the line in 23.20. A couple of minutes away from my PB and an average of around 7.45 minute miles. Still, it was a step in the right direction. Walking back to the car I was approached by an elderly lady who asked "Good time?" my reply was "Not too bad!" North run training was back on track!

Summer Handicap, 27th June

Phil Owen

Hello, first of all apologises for not making the handicap myself last week but work and some family commitments got in the way just as my phone decided it would not recharge itself so I couldn't let anyone know. Heck what did we do before mobiles? Thanks very much to Jacquie and others for helping out Anna. It just goes to show the strength of the club these days when I looked at the field and saw we *only* had 20 runners!

Young Adam no doubt fuelled by pizza was again First Male in 32.20 and Ellie Rogers was first lady home in 40.26.

Thanks again everyone who took part and look forward to seeing you at the next one the week after the Clamber on 25th July.

Carlton Bank Top, 27th June

Jan Young

Extra race in NEHRA summer series, entry monies donated to Cleveland Search and Rescue. Start and finish Lord Stones Cafe, 5 mls anti clockwise loop via Cringle Moor, Kirkby Bank, Toft Hill farm, Busby Moor. Variety of terrain; Cleveland Way paved path, rough tracks through five foot high bracken, fields, boggy bits where water drained downhill. Some of these I tackled sliding downhill on my bum- felt safer. Reaching the base of Green Bank, we looked up at the final 250m, a sheer climb of bracken, bilberry and heather up which all could only scramble, bent double clutching vegetation. At some points I found it quicker to crawl and just kept thinking thank goodness for all those bootcamp sessions doing bear crawls. And if you don't know what bear crawls are come along to BC and find out! Great fun race on warm evening and NO RAIN!

Windermere to Wear Relay, 23–24th June

First, David Shipman...

To kick off the Charity relay Mike Bennett and I left Chester-le-Street at 6am heading for Bowness, spurred on by texts from Geoff which said in sequence 1.It's very, very wet 2. It's blowing a gale and we may have to review the bike ride leg 3. Great North Swim is cancelled. Only the third one, whilst a real disappointment for the club members planning on swimming, was positive for us, as it meant there would be less traffic and less commotion around Bowness.

Striders at the finish

...and now Nigel Heppell...

Leg 1: Windermere to Staveley, 5.74M

Atrocious weather for late June meant the postponement of the Great North Swim which was fortunate for us as we had chosen to meet in one of the designated car parks for that event. As it turned out, there was no shortage of parking space and the only sign of activity was a lone street-sweeping machine sending up a bow wave as it sloshed through the surface water.

Just before 9am the rain eased off and Dave S, Mike B and Benjy saw Nigel H and Geoff W dip a toe in the water of Windermere before setting off on leg 1 from the ferry landings at the western end of the Dales Way long distance path.

We had only gone a few hundred meters through town when I was surprised to see Geoff accost some poor girl struggling up the hill under a loaded rucksack and grab a quick embrace - it turns out that they do know each other! On and up we went to find the first bit of off-road track that led through some very scenic undulating countryside. Water featured large at every twist and turn, if we weren't dodging puddles we were getting soaked from sodden grasses and nettles that had handily sagged over the track under the weight of rainwater in a most refreshing manner. All gullies, gutters, streams and rivers were alive with fast-flowing water.

It soon transpired that we had picked up the wrong map for this leg but decided to continue on memory and relying on this well-defined route to be well marked, which it was; most of the time; but not always. At one farmstead we spent a few minutes wondering which of two tracks to take before deciding on the one with slightly more bent grass. This could have been an illusion but turned out to be the right choice as we picked up the Dales Way signs several fields further on. There seemed to be a lot of cattle in the fields in this area, most of them with calves in tow, and in light of recent events in other parts of the country Geoff and I formulated a plan such that if we were pursued by an irate mother(I'm talking about the cows now, not the earlier incident in town) to sprint ahead together before each making a 90 degree turn in opposite directions at the last moment and in that way giving ouselves a 50/50 chance to avoid being pounded into the fellside mud.

And that is how it continued; up, down, left, right, until passing under the railway bridge at Staveley pretty much on time to meet once again with Dave and Mike who set off on Leg 2.

Leg 3: Grayrigg to Sedbergh, 8.31M

Geoff had obviously had enough of me by the time it came to start leg 3 as he swopped with Mike B who elected to continue straight through from leg 2 - two long legs together; quite appropriate really. This time we made sure we had the right map but I have to confess that neither of us had really studied it beforehand so there were regular halts to check that we were still on the correct route. Even so there were several places where the track seemed to dematerialise and no amount of staring at the map made any difference. Annoyingly, on the map someone had put a lot of red blobs along the relay route and some of the fine detail was obscured. Consequently we would enter a field at a Dales Way stile only to find ourselves trying to find a way through barbed wire fencing a few hundred metres further on. Likewise, near Beckfoot, on the map the Dales Way joined a road for (apparently) 100m before heading off onto a track on the other side of the road; could we find it? err, no, and so a long road leg followed which usefully helped bring us closer to schedule which had slipped a bit by this time. We lost the route later on at Branthwaite too.

Where the road from Beckfoot meets the River Lune there is a stunningly pretty collection of stone buildings and beautifully tended cottage gardens set off by a cascade of waterfalls(splendidly full today) and an old mill. The Dales Way continues along the banks of the Lune for a couple of kilometres before deviating uphill through Thwaite, Bramaskew and Branthwaite; each of these is a farmstead and the Dales Way passes right through the farmyard. Off to one side the bulk of the Howgills hills looked impressive with a dark cloud base skimming the tops. Somewhere shortly after the last of these buildings, although we were following what seemed to be the only well-defined track with public right-of-way signs, it became obvious we were once again going off-piste as the route was set to drop back down to the riverside when in fact we should have been 'contouring'. Mike and I were tired by now and we decided to compromise by following a long-disused railway line rather than climb back uphill. Not marked as a right of way, the old line was still equipped with stiles where there were fences and made good running on the grassy surface kept short by sheep and rabbits until we came to a completely overgrown bridge that could not be passed.

From here we picked up a lane and soon joined the A684 main road for a steady jog and a bit of traffic-dodging over a couple of kilometres into Sedbergh where we were met by Jan and Benji just as the heavens opened and it began to pour down.

...back to David...

Carrot Cake by Candlelight anyone?

Sixteen hours later we were outside the Tan Hill Pub, trying to work out how 3 men, a dog, 6 sets of wet kit, 3 bags of food and 3 bags of clothes/camping gear/wet running shoes could fit into my campervan, as the gales were still blowing and Mike and Geoff had decided that pitching tents was not an option. Paul Gibson made the same decision earlier - not sure if it was chivalry or cowardice, but, faced by the scene of several flattened tents held down by stones, he volunteered to drive Mandy and Louise back to Cowgill and then home to comfy beds and dry surroundings, on condition that they all returned for leg 8 on Sunday.

We had survived running and cycling in horrendous conditions,we had placated Scarey Mary serving food in the pub,all meekly agreeing to have mash even though we had all ordered chips. We had enjoyed good company, a few beers, live music and George doing his fundraising bit with the Olympic Torch - how that worked its magic, with young and old all wanting a photo or a hold - but how would we get through the night?

Frantic piling up of gear ensued,in darkness apart from 2 headtorches and a candle on the front dash board, with the van swaying constantly as the wind and rain continued. Detailed negotiation established the boundaries - I am having a bed (me). I will need to get to the loo during the night (me). I will sleep anywhere as long as its not out there (Geoff). I don't think I snore(Mike). I am happy to sleep with the dog (Mike).

In the end we were sorted,gear piled up to the van roof in every available space,Geoff and I "top and tailing" on the bed ,Mike in the front passenger seat in full recline,Benji (the dog) on the floor under the dashboard,with enough space to allow access to the loo and stove,comfortable enough for Mike to reveal a large slab of homemade carrot cake which we washed down with hot tea. Sleep was fitful, my trips to the loo, the continuing storms, the noisy party in the pub, 3 men and a dog tossing and turning in a very confined space and a strange, damp, soggy odour permeating the van, which strangely got worse and worse as the weekend progressed.

By daybreak the whole place smelt like a bag of ferrets, the van doors were flung open and under a blue sky with no rain we breakfasted al fresco in the company of two of Geoff's friends, a pair of tame sheep who apparently grew up by the fire inside the pub. A good job he hadn't met them the night before, as I haven't a clue how we could have fitted them in as well!!

...and now David Catterick...

Leg 9: Eggleston to The Grove (Hamsterley), 5.77M

Arrived at Eggleston on a dry Sunday morning to meet a rough looking lot. (Apparently it rained yesterday). The plan was to run over the Dales to The Grove with Will. This I was looking forward to as I hoped to pick up some fell navigation skills (licking fingers, navigating by the sun etc etc). Well, Will arrived and announced that he was going to push his son`s bike up the hills (good handicap I thought) but it turned out the terrain was too bad.

Off we went. It was then that Will announced that his faithful GPS had just broken (What GPS?!) So it was down to good old map reading after all. Anyway, after we got lost and tracked back, we had a lovely run down into Hamsterley to meet up once again with the motley crew.

Leg 10: The Grove to Wolsingham, 5.17M

This time I ran with Barry Bird. Barry joined the Striders 25 years ago when he was 21. As we ran I learned a bit about the history of the club. This chit-chat distracted us from the Doctors Gate climb. Where was the nice cool rain when you need it? (More later!). The gate is called Doctors Gate as it was where supplies were handed over to villagers at times of Plague). After a lovely run down the road into Wolsingham we were cheered into the Market Place.

Leg 11: Wolsingham to Waterhouses, 7.77M

Girl Power! So it was that Sue J, Emma, Angela and myself headed up the hill out of Wolsingham towards Tow Law where Jan joined us. At Tow Law we found the off road route, which, in parts suggested that the OS maps needed updating! As we passed through a wood the rains started. (A bit too rainy thanks). Back on the road with a mile to go a search party of Dave ( bike) and John H ( running – what else) appeared. So it was we arrived at Waterhouses where we were greeted by the Final Leggers. Thanks to the organisers for another excellent weekend of fun and thanks to Georges Flame surely a record sum raised. Roll on next year!

...and finally Danny Lim

Legs 12 & 13: Waterhouses to Broompark to the Castle, 5.5M & 2.38M

I was doing the last 2 legs into Durham. I started off in Waterhouses joined by Angela Proctor, Claire Readey, John Hutchinson and Roz Layton. Dave Shipman and Stephen Garbutt were our bike escorts. It was a pleasant run along the bike paths. Though, the heavens soon opened and it became a puddle run. At least, I didn't need to take a shower! At Broompark, we were joined by George Nicholson, Melanie Hudson and a few others, who i apologise for not naming. By now, it was all familiar territory. We paused briefly at Windy Gap before our final dash to the Castle. We were welcomed by friendly faces and to a round of applause.

It's quite an achievement to run a relay all the way from Bowness to Durham. As far as I was concerned, I was doing the easy bit. David Shipman and Geoff Watson spent so much time organising this. We had a fantastic support crew too. And I must thank our supporters along the way. Last but not least, the best part was the company and being able to run alongside such great people. What a fantastic club!

Lambton 10K, nr Chester-le-Street, 24th June

Kate Macpherson

Given the grim weather, I nearly turned over in bed and ignored the alarm on Sunday morning but as a friend was picking me up for the Lambton 10k I couldn’t really get out of it. We arrived early and parked in a very muddy field, collected our race numbers (it was pretty obvious that a fair few people had been sensible and ignored their alarms as there was still a large pile of unclaimed race numbers in the marquee!) and then sat back in the car looking at the lashing rain and wondering if we really were mad...

The guys on the Sweatshop stand told us not to bother with our trail shoes as the race organisers had re-routed the course due to the muddy conditions and the race was going to be run over the estate roads and tracks rather than the fields. So at 10am, 185 runners ambled to the start and lined up in a fairly haphazard fashion and off we went. I was quite surprised (given my bad attitude at the beginning!) to find myself really enjoying myself. The course was a figure of 8 through the (usually private) Lambton Estate. It’s a mixed terrain event; we wound through wooded areas (on a really hot day these would be a real plus), right by the back door of the main house, along pretty river paths and on tracks around sheep fields. It had stopped raining and it was pretty warm, so it was great just to stretch out and enjoy running in such a beautiful part of the county that many people don’t get to see. A field of handsome highland cattle seemed a little surprised to see so many people belting past them. There were two fairly tough uphill sections (at least I only remember two!) but the last couple of K are flat then downhill which is always a bonus. I don’t think this is a PB course but if you fancy a fun off-road 10k with a bit of a challenge then this is one to try (saying that, I did take nearly 2 minutes off my Cragside 10k time which is similar terrain so I was rather chuffed! I am slowly chipping away at the race times). Many of those who had taken part last year said this year’s course was way better than last so hopefully the organisers will take note for the future. The course was really well marshaled by very friendly and encouraging stewards, there was plenty of water at half way and at the end. The rather wonderful WI ladies were doing a roaring trade in bacon butties, scones and cake both before and after the run, so thanks are due to them for turning out on such a grim day. A cotton t-shirt, mars bar and £10 sweatshop voucher seemed reasonable for a fairly low entry fee. Oh - and I have to mention that Lambton has the best portaloos I’ve ever been in! Flushing loos, hot water and posh hand cream...I suppose running on a private estate has to come with some extras...

(One slight niggle - a number of runners were not particularly happy about being asked to raise £20 charity sponsorship in addition to the entry fee. The organisers weren’t pushy about it if people didn’t bring any extra but the general feeling seemed to be that for such a small event, fundraising should be voluntary...no comment either way from me but just to be aware if you enter next year.)

Humber Bridge Half Marathon, Hessle, 24th June

Alister Robson

This was my third time running this Half Marathon and I think it's safe to say I had unfinished business. The first time I ran it in 2010 I had my worst race ever, blowing up on a warm day and having to walk after less than half way. Last year I was determined to smash it but on one of the hottest days of the year, blew up and ended up walking just after 10 miles. I was one of the lucky ones and a lot of people collapsed, and unfortunately one runner, Matthew Good died.

As a result the organisers sensibly pushed the start back to 9am to avoid the worst of the heat. The law of unintended consequences kicked in and as a result it was chilly and raining as we stood on the start line.

After a moments round of applause for Matthew we were started by local hero Dean Windass and I determinedly took it steady. I was worried about not having enough miles in my legs as the longest run I'd done since the Sunderland marathon was 6.5 miles at Newburn and almost everything I'd done was short and fast. The advantage of getting used to 7 minute miling as the norm is that when you drop to 8 minute miling as I did here it feels so easy. The disadvantage is that after halfway it feels like a long way to go.

I was really pleased with my pacing resisting the urge to overtake, even when I knew I could easily and preparing myself mentally for the big climbs at 9 and 11 miles, both of which, with plenty of energy in the tank, were not as bad as I'd feared.

I crossed the line with a sprint in 1.44 dead by the race clock and got 1.43.43 on my chip. I even had a slight negative split. A great well organised and marshalled race with a nice big event feel and most importantly a medal!

Jacquie was also running and although she found it tough after a week of not feeling 100% and hence not able to train, she crossed the line in a very creditable 2.10, her third fastest ever half and I think it shows how much she's improved, that she was disappointed with that.

Cronkley Fell, Holwick, Teesdale, 24th June

10.5m/1752'

First, Dougie Nisbet...

We arrived at the race HQ a full hour before kick-off and parked in a sycamore tree at the side of the lane. Escorted by a friendly entourage of midges I walked up to registration and reported for duty. I wasn't sure how DFR were doing for helpers and had turned up nice and early in case I was essential to requirements. Apparently I wasn't so there was nothing for it but to race. Everything was ticking over nicely with lots of marshalls on hand so I gave Paul the nod and he shoved a tenner over the table and we were entered. That just left 59 minutes to hang around and drink coffee and get bitten by the midges. Will showed up for a bit on his way to the relay and the clock quickly counted down to 11AM.

I surveyed the small field with trepidation. I often joke that in fell races I "count my position from the back" assuming that one day I shall stop having to do this calculation. I think I may have to wait awhile yet as a fearsome looking pack lined up for the briefing. It was a shame that the field only comprised 34 runners as it was looking like being a good day. There was to be a course alteration. A bit further up the track to go over the bridge rather than fording a gushing brook. This was disappointing but apparently the beck was in full spate and the organiser had decided that it would be too risky to take the usual line. He clearly thought there's no use getting into heavy becking, it only leads to trouble, and seat wetting.

The race got underway and I tucked in at the back and was still at the back when Casper, Kayden and Will cheered me on at the top of the first brae. I'd been wanting to do this race for years ever since I did the recce a few years ago just before the race was revived. It struck me that despite being an out and back, the view and terrain looked so different depending on which way you were pointing it might just as well be a circular route. What I hadn't expected was the added interest of seeing the fast guys coming back the other way as I approached the turn, and trying to work out how far I had still to go. You get to climb, clamber, squelch and spring through some great and varied Teesdale countryside on this course with a crocodile and a jelly baby waiting for you when you get to the halfway point.

On the way back, around the 8 mile mark, and not for from the back, I realised something that I'd hitherto only suspected. I really wasn't very fit. Usually it's cardio that holds me back in a fell race but today my muscles hurt. On the fast few miles descending to the finish I had time to reflect on how rapidly hard-earned fitness can fizzle away. I was still contemplating this when I crossed the line but soon the scent of the barbeque hit my nostrels and I heard the unmistakable call of Pluvialis apricaria from within the Stathmore Arms. Paul had a good race finishing fifth. I was happy to finish sixth, but counting from the other end.

Despite being a lonely spot this race isn't particularly scary. The cut-off time for the half-way point is generous and most Striders could toddle round this 11 miles of dramatic and varied Teesdale fells comfortably. More folks should give this one a try.

...and Paul Evans

Ten minutes before the race and not so much as a twitch of competitiveness; no warm-up, no stretching, not even the usual feeling of slight nausea and tingling feet that tends to be the precursor to eben the shortest of races for me. Basically, Dougie, sat half-in/half-out of his car to make the most of the sun that was bathing Upper Teesdale, coffee mug on fold-up table and equally disinclined to make his way to the start-line, was showing me another way to prepare and I was enjoying it far more than my normal method of pacing and making repeated trips to the toilet. however, all good things come to an end and having paid the £5 entry-fee it would have been silly not to have run the scenic out-and-back course, particularly as we were being treated to a new variant, courtesy of the recent heavy rain that had apparently rendered one beck to dangerous to cross (meaning we had to spend a bit more time on the track heading out of Holwick before hitting the mud) and the Tees too high to take the traditional halfway dunk in; this added about half a mile to the course all-in.

There being only 34 runners, everything was kept extremely low-key, to the point that I barely heard the countdown to the start and set off about a third of the way down the pack, the plan being to take things fairly easy for the first two miles on the hard stuff and hope that the front-runners burned themselves out; I lasted half a mile, about the point where we passed Will H, Kayden and Kasper before realising that with such a small field this wasn't really viable and it was probably best to just stick to a semi-comfortable pace for the first half and see how things went from there. The first couple of miles dragged and it was a relief, once a short clarty stretch linking the track to the path that forms the normal race route was negotiated, to be running on grass again, even if getting any kind of rhythm was made awkward by the frequent beck crossings; the first significant climb, subsequent descent through calf-deep water and long drag up onto the fell itself came as a relief as the ground got drier and the footing easier.

A pleasant undulating stretch over the rocky outcrops and alpine plants of the fell came and went, giving way to a sharp, wet descent to the flood-plain of the Tees. Covered in knee-deep grass and crossed by streams, with scant signs of a path, it was a case of follow-my-leader to the halfway flag, then back the way we'd come, passing outbound runners all the way to the top of the hill. Dougie looked surprisingly cheery as he waved a camera at me; i didn't feel quite as good as he looked, having spent the climb reeling in the chasing pack. Now came the most enjoyable two miles of the race - mostly downhill, fast and, for me productive - I hit the bridge onto the track a narrow third, though this proved unsustainable, two of the runners I'd overtaken just proving too fast with hard ground under their feet. For some reason this section seemed to pass a lot faster than on the outward leg and the finish at the Strathmore Arms, at the bottom of the hill, came around quickly. There was barely time to stretch before more runners followed, including the female winner, Tamsin Clark of RZH in her first ever fell race, and a still-smiling Dougie.

Good beer and cheap burgers and a prize list that encompassed the entire field capped off a superb morning's running - this race deserves a bigger field, even if waiting for the prizes did cost us the chance to get back in time for the relay - the one downside of the day.

Alnwick Half Marathon, 24th June

Louise Miller

Even after the pain of the XC, I somehow managed to convince Victoria to sign up for this. I wanted to do it as a comparison to the GNR and as a bit of a challenge (10k’s were eventually getting easier!). I love the GNR but I’m always wary that it doesn’t matter how hard you train your pace will always be dictated somewhat by the sheer volume of runners. I was hopeful that if we entered another half with a smaller field we’d have a better chance of doing the 10 min mile half that we should be more than capable of doing……

You’re all probably laughing now that I could think of comparing the GNR to Alnwick – yes I was aware of the two killer hills before you reach the highest point at 9 mile but with the last 4 miles being nigh on downhill, I thought it might still be achievable at least to beat my half PB of 2.17.

Victoria, Rob and LouiseTraining had began well - we’d starting to up our distance just after the New Year and throughout March and April we were managing at least one 10-11 mile run a week. Then I went on holiday last month and training pretty much ground to a halt, so I was feeling somewhat nervous. I did manage a good run at Newburn on Wednesday which gave me some small hope that I might just make it round in one piece!

We arrived at Alnwick and met up with Rob and after the downpours on the way up we were pleasantly surprised to see the sun out. After the usual half a dozen trips to the toilet, we made our way to the start area which had a baggage tent and a DJ playing music which really helped to add a bit of atmosphere and excitement.

After a delay of about 10 mins (due to some escaped sheep on route!) and a very thorough race brief from the organisers (who warned us to keep something in the tank for the 2 hills!) we made our way to the start at the top of a huge hill. Off we went and at the bottom of the hill we slowed down to settle into a nice steady 10 minute mile pace. It felt quite slow but we intended to start slower and then hopefully have something left for the last few miles.

The route was very pretty, through fields and forests with marshalls every mile or so and water every 3 (we didn’t see any of the toilets that were advertised on the course map). Parts of the route were quite muddy due to the recent rainfall - I was actually muddier at the end then I was after any of the cross country races! We shared the route up until 5k with the 10k runners who split off to the left as we carried on to the right and into the forest.

A bit further in and I really started to appreciate having Victoria to run with – due to the lower number of runners and the different abilities, most of the course we were on our own. The lack of spectators also mean’t it was very quiet, but both me and Victoria found this very enjoyable and peaceful!

At just before 5 miles we got to the first hill. We put our heads down, stopped the chatting and slowly plodded to the top. Not too bad we thought…. Then we turned the corner and saw the proper hill which went on for about half a mile! We alternated between jogging and walking, then got to the top and stopped for a quick drink and a couple of jelly babies. The nice man with the water wished us on our way and told us to enjoy the next little downhill but be prepared for the next uphill at mile 7 (oh great!)

We recovered from the hill on a fast section through the forest then it was out back onto the road. We knew that once we got to 9 mile the worst was over but the miles from 7-9 were quite difficult - very undulating then you got to the start of the next hill at 7 mile which was actually a dog leg so you could see the faster runners zooming down the hill as you had to try and crawl up it! It wasn’t as long as the first but was quite a bit steeper so we decided just to walk the majority of it. We made it up and after a couple more inclines we reached the highest point. The view was amazing so we stopped to take a quick look and stretch our legs.

The next mile was mainly downhill and fast back down to where we started our climb. This section was very enjoyable and Victoria actually said that she wondered if there was a downhill marathon we could do! Miles 9-11 were mostly flat with a couple of bumps. We were both feeling quite comfortable at this point and intended to finish hand in hand but just after mile 11 my legs started to feel quite tired, but with a little support from Victoria I battled on.

We turned a corner and realised we were back on the path we started on which could only mean one thing – we had to go back up the hill we started at the top of! At mile 12 Victoria was so strong whereas I was slowly falling to pieces – physically my calves were aching and mentally I’d hit a wall as I knew I had nothing left to get me up that damn hill. I begged Victoria to leave me at this stage and spent the last mile looking at the hill and alternating between jogging and walking, trying desperately not to give up, sit down and cry! I was practically on my hands and knees up the hill – I had absolutely nothing left (and no-one there to cheer you up!) then Victoria appeared at the top shouting at me that once I was up that was it. So I pressed on to the top, along a small section onto the grass and crossed the finish (loving the fact that when you crossed the line the DJ read your name out!)

I checked my watch and with my time showing as 2.20 my initial thought was of disappointment - that was 2 mins slower than the GNR and I knew I had wasted so much time in the last mile. Then I looked back down the hill I’d just came up and thought that I really couldn’t be that disappointed considering the difficulty of the course and the fact that other than the last mile I had really enjoyed it so the time didn’t really matter that much.

We went back to the top of the hill and cheered Rob in who I must say was looking surprisingly strong up that final hill. Both Rob and Victoria both had excellent runs and other than the killer hills thoroughly enjoyed the course (and the gift shop!).

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable and well organised race that I will definitely do again and would encourage others to do so, I’ll just have to wait for GNR or Redcar half to beat my half PB!

Tees Barrage parkrun, Stockton-on-Tees, 23rd June

Kevin Williams

Another new addition to the North East parkrun family launched in Stockton-on-Tees last week, named the Tees Barrage parkrun (big clue in the name) the race is based on the North Shore of the River Tees, just outside the Riverview Cafe. It's an area I know well as the University has a campus on the other side of the river so a quick trip down the A1 was in order.

Inaugural parkruns are always good fun, a mixture of established parkrunners from other locations, the odd tourist who's travelled a lot further and of course a smattering of first timers. Nobody seems to know what to expect, you can look at the course on the web, but it's still difficult to visualise your run.

It's an out and back course which I'm quickly beginning to realise is my favourite type. From studying the course I was expecting to head towards the town centre along the North Shore and return back on the South, so I was a little surprised when we headed over the impressive new Infinity Bridge not long after the start, ok, so it's going the opposite to what I was expecting. After coming off the bridge the course hugs the river (water always on your right) before reaching the Millennium bridge, a sapping climb up a couple of dozen steps, across the bridge then turn for home and a 2-2.5km blast back to the finishing line.

A fast flat course which is exposed to the conditions, wind on this occassion, I followed Alister round the entire course, shame he wasn't really trying and my tank was well and truly empty after a busy week, so 30 seconds outside PB time, I think this one has real PB potential.

Although Durham parkrun will always be 'home' for the majority of us, I'd encourage everybody to travel around a bit, we've got some cracking parkruns within 30 minutes drive of Maiden Castle. And there's more to come in the next month or so.

Newburn River Run, 20th June

6.5M

Victoria Tindale

I arrived at Newburn early as I hadn’t already entered and met up with Alister and Louise. After seeing the lovely colour that Louise has turned on holiday I was very glad that I hadn’t put my shorts on.

The first half of the race was along a path surrounded by trees and was almost perfectly flat and completely straight. I have to admit that as someone who has said that I don’t do hills, I was actually wishing for a hill (a small one) to break things up a bit.

Louise and I had a lot of catching up to do and got shouted at by one of the marshalls as there was “far too much talking going on”. I felt like I had been transported back to maths class!

The route carried on for just under 3 miles on one side of the river. The route was lovely and almost covered in trees. At the end of the path we crossed over the river and then back onto a woodland path. We saw the 3 mile marker (Louise panicked that it might have been the 3k marker) and we were told by a voice from behind that the worst was still to come. This caused a bit of concern as Alister had told us it was completely flat. We needn’t have worried as the route back was a lovely run with a few small ups and downs and with good views. As the weather had been quite dry it wasn’t muddy and it was really good to be running in the woods.

There was a short stretch on road back to where we started for a sprint finish. I had managed to pull away from Louise (who hadn’t been running for almost three weeks) and, as she usually beats me, I was determined to keep the lead. Now all I need to do is find a race that is on the week that she gets back from honeymoon.

Striders at Newburn

Results

PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Ian HardingMorpeth HarriersSM134.45
21Jane HodgsonMorpeth HarriersSW139.13
100Alister RobsonV4046.22
184Brian FordV4051.13
287Victoria TindaleSW58.30
290Louise MillerSW58.37
303Jill FordW4562.10

328 finishers

Humbleton Fell Race, Haydon Bridge, 20th June

5M

Dougie Nisbet

Driving along the A69 I missed the turn for Newburn and continued west. My destination was Haydon Bridge for Humbleton Fell race, a new event organised by Tynedale & NFR. Promoted as a good taster for first-timers it was certainly a slick operation. A sign for the "Fell Race" jumped out at me as soon as I entered the village and finding the well-marshalled registration and parking was a doddle. Finding fell races is often a bit of a dark art and I can't say I particularly approve of this modern trend of making fell races easy to find as I'm a bit old-fashioned on this sort of thing. A proper fell race should be in the middle of nowhere with no signs, no parking, no loos and no safety pins.

Dougie at Humbleton
The start was some way from registration and all the other runners were long gone. But I was adopting the well-proven strategy of following the organiser to the start, knowing that the race can't go without them. (This is a top-tip for all the North York Moors races - as long as Dave Parry is still in the car park you know the race won't start without him. Although he does sometimes drive to the Start which is a little unsporting).

The race began with the usual lack of fuss and we weaved our way through the cow pats and thistles and up the fell. A mile or so in and I'm feeling a bit warmer and settled and enjoying a woodland descent when I hear shouts behind me. Glancing back I realise I've missed a turn and I shout ahead to try and get the attention of the faster runners. Bizarelly I found myself baffled about what to say. It went along the lines of "Oi! Er, Runners! Er, Wrong Way! People, Er, Oi! Er!". Feeling a bit of an arse I turned 180 and headed back to the missed turn. Half-expecting it to be poorly marked it was in fact well taped and impossible to miss. Unless you missed it of course. But User Error, basically.

There were lots of stiles and kissing gates around the short course with a lot of them being in the first couple of miles. These bottlenecks, or "mandatory rest stops" as I prefer to think of them, might be a problem for the faster runners but for me they were a welcome opportunity to get my breath back. Lots of variety on this short course including some genuine proper open fell and a fast downhill finish makes this a decent race course. With some of the route being on private land the race gives an opportunity to run in places that would normally not be possible.

With a nice biggish field with lots of abilities it took some time for all the finishers to arrive back and in the end I had to dash home. The various photos show prizes and refreshments afterwards and the large field along with an enormously diverse and interesting short course makes this a very non-threatening event for anyone wishing to give fell racing a try.

Newton Aycliffe 10K, 17th June

John Greathead

It was the first time my brother and I had run a 10K together, the weather stayed fine - in fact, perfect running conditions - however I can't say the same for me. We met Sue Jennings at the start but no one else we knew.

The course was 2.5 laps mainly flat road surface, water stations were well supervised and we wore timing chips for the first time on this run. The Mayor was at the finish line and shook hands with every runner, each runner received a T-shirt & a bottle of water. The individual finish time was printed off immediately after the race. Unfortunately, despite my regular training runs my brother beat me! By about 5 minutes but he is 5 years younger than I am so age must tell!

Karrimor Keswick Half-Marathon, Lakes, 17th June

Melanie Hudson

Dave and I picked up Yusuf and headed over to the lake district for the Karrimore trail challenge. It was an early start and I had a sore throat as getting a cold so I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic. We got there early but the place seemed very quiet. Yusuf and Dave started before me because they were doing the full marathon, there were only about 70 people doing it. Their course consisted of two long loops and two short loops, where as I would be just doing one of each.

It came my turn to set off, the half marathon had a bigger turnout of about 300 people. It was a fairly easy start with one loop of the field and then about two miles along the railway line. It was quite nice along the line as you get to run over a couple of interesting foot-bridges. It was as we turned off the line it began to get hard as we started to climb along the road. I ran half way up but because I wasn’t feeling so good I walked the other half. Just as I started to get running again we went through a gate and were met with a sight of a very large grassy hill with people snaking upwards. Everyone was walking this one, it felt more like a mountain then a hill and made for very slow going. I was thinking about the marathon runners who would have to do this hill twice and I felt very relieved I was only doing the half.

After the climb there was the reward of a lovely view of Derwent Water and a long downhill stretch taking us back to the field where we started. It was another loop around the field passing the finish. I was so tempted to pull out at this point as I wasn’t feeling my strongest today, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that and decided to plod on. The second loop was shorter. We again did two miles along the railway line, I didn’t enjoy it so much this time around and just put my head down to try and maintain a steady pace. We turned off the line at the same point but this time headed left. There was another hill, not as bad as the first one but still hard going. I think most people were pretty sapped from the first loop and everyone around me was walking. Once past the worse of the hill it was time to start running but I suddenly felt very hungry and like I had no energy, I really should have brought some gels with me, not doing so was a big mistake. At this point there was only a bit of an incline, I was getting a bit annoyed with myself as I should have been running at this point but couldn’t. However looking around most people were still walking too so that helped me feel a bit better. Then we hit the downhill which I had no problem running and managed to make up a lot of time. It was a very steep descent, you either have to walk it or end up going down it much faster then it feels safe to do so. Once at the bottom it wasn’t far from the finish, I walked a few paces but realised I was going to do it in just under ten minute miles so started to run again. It was a very tough course made worse by starting with a cold so I was happy with my time of 2 hours 16 and relieved to have finished.

Yusuf and Dave both finished the marathon distance. It was a very hard marathon, each loop passed the finish area, how cruel to be so close to the finish three times but then have to carry on. Not only was it hard with the hills I imagine it was tough mentally. Well done to them both!

Karrimor Keswick 10K, Lakes, 17th June

Angela Coates

It was the first time I had ever done a Trail race and only my second 10k (give or take a few metres re Blaydon). Was I looking forward to it, yes in a kind of way, very nervous as I have just recently starting running again after a bit of a foot injury but with doing the Blaydon the week before I had got a kind of 'race bug' going on. Mark is also sporting an injury so we have been doing a bit of rehab running.

Paul and myself travelled over on Saturday afternoon after a fantastic time at Stocksfield watching George with the Torch. Katherine and Mark travelled over on the Sunday morning but were staying Sunday night, well it was Katherine's birthday after all.

After a very wet Saturday, Sunday morning turned out not so bad at all. Dry, a bit of sun, warmish and no wind but a very boggy field was ahead, and that was just the starting area. There were other races starting before the 10k including the Marathon and Half Marathon, but the 10k started at 11:00 in a couple of waves. We set off doing a loop of the start area which was a bit odd, running past the starting area again before heading off onto the old railway line for about 2.8 mile before the climb started. "It's not a big climb" said Paul to Katherine, oh how she was laughing and praising him when she was heading up it! According to my watch we had a steady climb of around 30 metres to the start of the hill then around 200 metres up to the top of a 1.4 mile climb (approx). The views along the way were spectacular though, you could see right across to Derwent Water and the surrounding fells of Cat Bells and the Coledale Horseshoe. You could also see to your right the Marathon and Half Marathon runners heading up and around Lonscale, well done to you all.

Katherine, Paul, Angela and Mark. There was a lot of walking up the hill, in fact mostly walking up the hill (or a friend said - Mountain) but once at the top you had to get the legs working again and after dodging and heading through a few puddles we went past the car park for Skiddaw and heading back down to the start area. Well normally I am very careful of heading down the hills, actually quite soft, worried about slipping and scree but suddenly with running shoes on, my legs just took over and took me at a very fast pace down the 1.4 mile downhill section (which made up for the very slow pace upwards). We got to the bottom and it was only around 500 metres to the finish, up the road and turn right over the chip mats and through the very very muddy entrance to the finish sprint and a brilliant goody bag.

Now the results (chip times) - Paul came in a fantastic 49.27 mins, Katherine another fantastic 59.41 mins and myself and Mark 1.09.29 which I am very pleased for my first Trail 10k run.

Paul even got a Striders mention as he was coming into his finish. That's probably what Alister was saying to Paul at George's Torch Relay - "I've told you to remember to stretch out on the sprint finish, this is how big my strides are".

Would I do it again, possibly, but it looks like Katherine has already got her mind set on the Helvellyn Trail race so might give it a go. The foot is a bit sore today but probably because of the terrain but no harm done. Once fully fit again I might look into a few more 10k's seeing as I've got the bug - put that race calendar down Paul!!!

Again thanks to all the volunteers as races like this couldn't take place without them. Oh and there go my hips and thigh muscles. All part of the fun!

Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge, 17th June

Geoff Davis

A Few Words About Joss & His ‘Challenge’

Most of you will know this already, so apologies. For those who don’t know, Joss Naylor is probably England’s best known fell runner. He has lived all his life in the Lake District valley of Wasdale where he worked as a sheep farmer / shepherd until his retirement. Joss is well into his 70s now but still does some amazing runs for someone of any age (e.g. 70 Lakeland peaks at age 70 in under 21 hours!). In his prime, Joss held many very impressive fell running records:

Chris Brasher described Joss as “The greatest of them all (with)... sinews stronger than any man made substance and his will is harder than a diamond... the toughest runner in Britain”.

So what of Joss’ Challenge? Joss set this up in 1990 after running the route in 11hrs 30mins under atrocious conditions. It is a self organised challenge for veteran runners over 50. The time allowed increases with age and runners must be accompanied over the route and raise over £100 for charity. The linear ‘course’ runs from Pooley Bridge, at the ‘north east end’ of Ullswater, to Joss’ home at Greendale in Wasdale — a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent across 30 Lakeland peaks.

What a view
My JNLC Experience

It was Christmas last year when I decided that I would attempt the ‘Joss’, as soon as I turned 55, when I would become ‘entitled’ to an extra three hours for the challenge. A sub-12 hour ‘Joss’ had never really been on the cards for me - but 15 hours — well that might just be about doable. However, I received a ‘wake-up call’ on a late winter outing across ‘leg 3’ of the Joss, with two merciless NFR task masters Paul Hainsworth and Dexter, when my fitness was shown to be woeful. The only solution, as it often is in life, was hard work i.e. I needed to put in more long hard days, over unforgiving mountain terrain, preferably in bad weather. So that’s what I did — mixed in with supporting Paul on his successful sub-12 ‘Joss’ and training with Steph Scott for her ultimately successful BG.

The support team look after Geoff

Come the big day I still wasn’t fully convinced that I was sufficiently fit. An attempt to run three of the four legs three weeks previous had ended in me having to cut the day short (mind you the temperature was 25°c !) and I thought I was still a couple of long runs short of a picnic. The knees were also starting tell me that I should be descending at a more sedate pace than they’d been happy with five years ago. The weather wasn’t playing ball either, resulting in postponement from Saturday to Sunday and the loss of some key pacers and navigators.

Driving with Susan from Jenny’s abode in Bothel round to Pooley at 6am it was still raining and the cloud was down to about 1000’. However, it was dry in Pooley when I set off at 7am with three very able pacers (Kevin Bray, David Atkinson & Phil Green). After having a punishing couple of months Kevin had to ‘drop off the pace’ as we made up six minutes getting to the first hill. The cloud licked the tops of the fells, and the westerly wind was stronger than I expected, as we pushed on to pick up the plethora of grassy tops on the first half of the first leg. Dave interrogated Phil to find the secret to his surge in fitness since last autumn (buy a turbo trainer!) - although I interrupted frequently requesting various items of food and drink (that salmon and potato baby food was a mistake!). I felt fine on this leg, making up minutes here and there and hitting all the tops ‘spot on’ — any ‘lack of fitness’ wasn’t apparent thus far.

I felt quite buoyant when we stopped at the first road crossing, nearly half an hour ahead of schedule, and Susan had ensured everything I needed was at hand. The five minutes rest was quickly over and off I went up a misty Red Screes followed by Steph Scott, Bernard Kivlehan and Dave on his second leg. How wet the conditions were underfoot was hilariously illustrated on the descent from Red Screes when Steph and Bernard managed to ‘measure their length’ simultaneously; one head first, the other Salomons first! Helped by such entertainment I continued to make up time through the showers and across the rockier terrain of Hart Crag and Fairfield. Still the perceived lack of fitness hadn’t materialised and by the time I reached the next road crossing at Dunmail I was 42 minutes ahead of schedule. I felt able to allow myself a smile!

Geoff tackles a rocky climb

Susan’s organisational skills were once more to the fore as I was able to eat, drink and change my sweatiest clothes all within 10 minutes - recorded by Graham Daglish the official photographer. Beginning to enjoy myself I exclaimed “here we go” when the rest time was up and Paul Hainsworth, Dexter (David Armstrong) and Tom Reeves swung into action. Paul led us up what Dexter later described as “one of the toughest climbs in the Lake District” (Steel Fell). Even here I made up a couple of minutes but knew the next section was one of the toughest on the ‘challenge’. It seemed to go on forever and for the first time I began to ‘feel the pace’. Having convinced myself that I must have lost a boat load of time getting to High Raise, Dexter gave me the news that I’d made up five minutes. I was amazed! This pattern continued for the next couple of hours: I felt as if I was struggling, my mood started to ‘dip’ but I continued to make up time: six minutes on Rossett Pike, six minutes on Bowfell and nine minutes onto Esk Pike. I was so surprised that I checked with Tom to confirm that Dexter was telling me the truth! He was — I arrived at the last crossing point (Sty Head) 1 hour 14 minutes ahead of schedule!

Another quick turn around and I was off again this time with a new NFR crew of John Telfer, Peter Reed & Chris Little. At last the weather started to improve; the wind had decreased somewhat and by the time we got to the top of Great Gable all the remaining tops were clear of cloud and the sun was even threatening to come out. My ‘low mood’ had picked up since Bowfell and improved even further as I made up nine minutes getting to Kirk Fell. There was now really very little possibility that I wouldn’t beat the 15 hour target and I started to enjoy myself. Warned, on my instruction, that I was unlikely to respond to any ‘chat’ on this leg, my pacers were surprised to find me almost ‘personable’ - readily engaging in conversation and even joking! The climbs came and went without me having to pause at all. The amusing antics of Chris and John kept me going as they dashed back and forth like rings on a curtain pole taking photos and filming my ‘epic journey’.

I found the scree slope off Haycock, made a successful descent while the final steep climb onto Seatallen (about which I’d had nightmares) fell to a determined ‘heads down’ no nonsense assault. It was almost in the bag - just the relatively easy crossing of Middlefell to do and then it was a quick run off the fells to Greendale. Both of these were accomplished with minimal fuss and at just after 8pm, nearly two hours inside the 15, I ran onto Greendale Bridge to be embraced by Susan and greeted by a smiling Jenny. Joss soon arrived and seemed genuinely pleased that I’d made it in a ‘quick’ time. The six of us chatted for a while about the day, recent weather, Joss’ life as a sheep farmer in Wasdale and his forthcoming Olympic torch bearing. We’d probably still be there if, as Joss said, we hadn’t “brought the laal midges” with us!

Geoff chats to Joss

Well that’s it — all done, and life carries on. Challenges such as the ‘Joss’ cannot be achieved without your own hard work. However, their real appeal comes from the need to involve a like-minded ‘Team’. An NFR ‘sage’ recently pronounced that “friendships are forged through shared experiences” and I’d like to thank all my friends who shared this experience including the pacers named above (particularly Paul who navigated leg 3 ‘carrying’ a twisted ankle for best part of it), those at road crossings such as Graham, Jenny Wren, Linda Bray & Jan Little who saw to my every need, the pacers ready to help on the 16th but couldn’t make the 17th when I changed days at the eleventh hour, Joss himself and of course to Susan who’s help on the day was second to none and who has been so supportive in hundreds of ways since I decided to ‘have a go at the Joss’. I would also like to say a special word of thanks to Kevin & Linda Bray who, apart from Susan, are the only people to have helped on all of my ‘big three’ Lakeland challenges: the Bob Graham Round (1999), 50 peaks at 50 (2007) & the JNLC (2012). In addition, Kevin has always been ready to assist in the fell challenges of my friends, some of whom he may not have met till the actual ‘day’!

And finally... my challenge raised an amount of money for a worthy cause — Parkinson’s UK — a charity that works to find a cure for the disease that blighted the final years of my Aunt’s life who died last year.

Humber Bridge 10K, Hessle, 17th June

Alister Robson

With it being Father's Day this Sunday, Jacquie and I were keen to pop down to see her parents who live in Beverley. While we were there anyway it would have been daft to miss out on this which we ran last year wouldn't it?

It's a nice civilised 11am start and only about 15 mins from Jacquie's parents so we took advantage of a rare lie in and parked up next to the Hessle Rugby Club, being careful not to get trapped in the main car park so we could get out quickly.

We popped into the Rugby Club which doubled as registration and the aroma of Bacon and Eggs was fantastic - in the event we resisted, probably wisely and I settled for a coffee which has become an essential part of my pre-race preparation of late.

We also met up with some local ladies Jo and Mandy who Jacquie ran with here and in the Humber Bridge Half last year and also in the East Hull 20 earlier this year. Jo had successfully completed her first marathon (Hull) in a time almost identical to Jacquie's at Sunderland, but was unfortunately injured for this event and just spectating.

I remarked that numbers seemed to be well down on last year, even though conditions were bright and sunny, if a touch breezy, but I think I must have been a touch hasty because as we assembled in the road for the start a little later I could see there was a good crowd. Perhaps the good parking and easy access for this meant that local runners just left it late? It was also nice to see a familiar Crook AC vest, although I didn't recognise the particular runner.

Soon enough we were off and starting the climb up into Hessle village and then along and onto the bridge. The route is pretty straight forward. Up and over the bridge using the pedestrian walkways which run alongside the main bridge carriageway, off and round at the other end, back up and onto the other side and then at the end of the bridge down the hill back into Hessle.

The climb isn't particularly tough and I knew from last year that this was quite a fast course. What I hadn't factored in was how windy it would be on top. The wind (luckily?) was westerly and therefore blowing across us rather than in our faces or behind us, which would have meant the opposite on the other side.

I had a steady if unspectacular run and it wasn't until I came back into the rugby field at the end and saw the race clock still showing 43.xx that I got a bit excited and put a sprint on. I guess the time spent in the shadow of the huge bridge must interfere with the Garmin as from my pace I wasn't expecting to be as close. I was very pleased with a top 50 placing.

Jacquie followed shortly after - not a bad run for her, knocking a minute or so off last years time, especially considering the bottle of red wine she had with her Father's Day meal the previous evening (I was driving). Finishers prizes were a great tech tee and a packet of multivitamins, which seemed a bit random until you realised the Seven Seas factory is just up the road.

Results

PosNameClubCatPosTime
1 Steve Bateson East Hull Harriers MV35 32:47
9 Lisa Guscott-Trout Unattached FV40 1 39:11
48 Alister Robson MV40 43:43
235 Jacquie Robson FV35 55:44

347 finishers.

Bamburgh 10K, 17th June

Kathryn Sygrove

I'm going for a flat and fast PB at Bamburgh, I thought, as Danny picked me up at 7.20am and we raced off to Bamburgh (fast driver!) for 8.50am to pick up race numbers and stand ages for the loos - well I did! Overcast, slight drizzle, pretty cool but not bad race conditions all told. Time flew till we were at the start at 9.30am just up near the Castle, and I stood right at the start line. Danny reckoned it would ruin his PB chances standing that far ahead, but I reckoned I had as much right as anyone to be at the front, but moved to the extreme left so the mega-fasties wouldn't stampede over me once the klaxon had gone. Only about 200 runners, but a canny turnout for another Run Northumberland scenic 10k race.

Kathryn just has this effect on people.

Woosh down the hill, heck it was hard to hold back down that little steepie onto the road below but I let the ultra-fasties race ahead and watched my pace as we went up through the village and then turned left onto a minor road and along the first 5-6 km before turning back. I was aiming for 7.30 min miles, and it was harder to maintain than I thought it would be. Too fast on the little and frequent downs, and too slow on the equally frequent and slight ups. Maybe it will even itself out I thought, sploshing merrily through half-decent puddles at about 7.15 min/ miles from time to time, then feeling the burn up slow drags soon after. Hmm, not REALLY that flat, unlike Blaydon, I mused.

Anyhow, the kilometres passed by (no mile markers, that sucked, I like totting up the MILES) and before I knew it, it was 5km and on the turn back to the main road for the second half. At 23.50 halfway I knew my time had slipped a tad, but someone said it was downhill ALL THE WAY back -oh yeah! If you wonder about view, well it was a bit mizzly for that, and being on the back road there wasn't much to see, fields and fields, but not unpleasant. Then came the main road, and onto open roads on the way back. Hmm silly cars, didn't they know there was a race on?

By 7km my calves were burning with repeated little uppy-downy bits and I conceded that I had run too far the preceding week and was not quite as fresh as a daisy as I had hoped, but never mind. I ummed and ahhed whether to fight for the pace or let it slide, then realised I might still JUST skim a whisker off my time if I gritted my teeth and fought hard. So I did. I had come for a PB whether seconds or minutes. Ignoring the Garmin, I put my head down and ran as best I could, up more slight but obvious pulls, willing them to finish. Where's the ruddy flat bit, I thought? I could have flatten the numptie who had obviously talked out of his butt at that point!! (joke)

The funny thing about the last 4km was that the Castle was there, kinda taunting you in the distance, a bit like the beach finish at Pier to Pier - seemingly sooo near, and yet annoyingly not. And behind another little undulation. and another. Until 9km came in sight and I knew it was going to smooth out a bit. Think I was doing about 7.40 by then, so held on for a last surge at about 9.8km when a daft marshall bade me halt a wee second and go round the back of a car. What? Stop and change ruddy direction? Cheers, mate, at a right crucial point. So I dodged back behind said car, across the road slightly bewildered and (as Danny kindly pointed out after, with loss of a good few seconds no doubt!!) onto the path leading to the finish on the grass of the Cricket Pavilion. Goodness knows what the official clock was doing, showing time it wasn't. 48:16 my watch said, 48:18 theirs said. A PB by 8, nay ,6 seconds!! And those ruddy uppy downy bits had my legs all wobbly afterwards, I worked MUCH harder at that than at Middlesbrough where I got the previous PB.

So, flattish, uppy-downy, not THE fastest, but a pretty fast course. Beautiful view of the Castle on the way back, albeit somewhat tantalising as it dipped behind another gentle incline time and again. Danny rocked home about 90 seconds after me and needed to sit down. He had worked hard too and wasn't for speaking straight afterwards (unlike me). Cups of tea, bananas and Snickers followed (Heaven) and an unexpected wait for my family to pootle on up to meet me meant a welcome trip to one of Bamburgh's lovely teahouses, where we sipped copious cups of coffee, warmed through, and Danny had a ploughman's brunch to boot. We wondered at the weird-looking straw people draped around the Cricket Pavilion obviously made by schoolkids for the Torch Relay three days prior and felt a warm snoozette come on...

Whitley Bay parkrun, 16th June

5K

Simon Gardner

It’s a great feeling going along to the start of a new parkrun and so I was unable to resist a trip to Whitley bay for the northeast’s 8th parkrun. I arrived around 8:40am and got parked in the Bournemouth car park which already had several parkrunners queuing for the ticket machine, its ideal for the start of the run as you have just a quick warm up jog across the road to the monument which is near the start area.

After having a quick chat with Alister we made our very short walk to the start line were we had a welcome speech from run director Heather and also it was good to see that the North Tyneside Mayor Linda Arkley came down to wish us luck maybe not as grand as Her Majesty coming to Durham’s Jubilee parkrun but very welcome none the less. It’s also worth pointing out that our very own Alister got a mention and a deserved round of applause for his help.

The start was a bit tight when running in front of the memorial but it drops down onto the links which is paved which has loads of room and is good for settling into a rhythm. The course is basically a two lap course with the finish just further up from the start. There a couple of very short inclines one of which is made up of some shallow steps and it’s just enough to get the heart racing a little more than it already was. On the second lap there was a fairly strong headwind which got up but thankfully the rain stayed away.

I managed to make my way to the front of the small group I was with and I was only just pipped on the line by one of them who told me he was just returning from a hernia operation 2 weeks ago! I somehow managed to finish 15th out of a fantastic turnout of 209!! With a time of 19:58min which is just outside my best so I am very pleased. So if you fancy a good run at the seaside then go along it’s another great addition to the parkrun family.

Sea of Purple on George's Big Day Out!

Olympic Torch Relay, Stocksfield, 16th June

300 yards

George,George,George,
George,George,George,
George,Georgeand George.

Congratulations George!

That was one hell of a turnout! And not everyone made it to the photo ... click for the bigger picture.  

Nigel's Olympic Torch Relay Social Run, Stocksfield, 16th June

6.5M

Shaun Roberts

Striders queue to throw midget off bridge.

Many thanks to Nigel for organising a lovely run from Stocksfield to get us all warmed up for George's Torch Relay leg. A nice loop over to Ovingham to the east, over the river and back. At one point we had the option of tackling stepping stones under fast-flowing water, or taking the easy bridge option ... only to find new BBC weatherman Peter Grant making a speech on it, accompanied by a huge white goose, opening the Ovingham Goose Fair! He made a good job of it, even if he's no Trai Anfield ... then we had to blag our way into the fair for free before rejoining the group! Best bit was heading back to the cars in Stocksfield running past the crowds, waving, no doubt confusing the lot of them ... who the hell were this lot? Shouted 'We've made it!" to another BBC Look North presenter, Dawn Thewlis, on the pavement ... she looked mildly perplexed.

Are you sure about this, Nigel?

Lovely run ... and a good turnout too, before the main event. Thanks Nigel!

Penshaw Hill Race, 13th June

3M

Yusuf Kuruner

In the shadow of the mighty monument ... While we were returning from Washington (Dave’s Saturday morning run), Flip showed me a nice monument on top of a grassy hill: Penshaw Monument and added: "there is a short (3 mile) but fast race there, hope it is before you go back."

Yes,it was before I go back and the weather was lovely on the race day. Flip and me were the only Striders doing that race and Anna was spectating for us. The start line was full of young whippets. Flip and me were the only fat boys there. Something should be wrong!

I have realised the reality in couple of minutes. After the start of the race, in the first climb whippets were already flying down while we were struggling to walk uphill. Apparantly, Flip started quite fast,too. My main aim was to chase Flip and I could pass him after a mile. The race was two loops through the forest with a gentle uphill to the monument but the finish was straight uphill to the monument for the last time and that was horrible. Since I started run, I haven’t feel that much pain in any race-end. Once I finished the cross line, I found myself laying down on the grass. I could hardly open my eyes after minutes. I was so tired that I didn’t have energy to stop my watch.

Flip did this race for his mother’s memory and and I will remember this race surely as I could finally beat Flip first time since Prudhoe XC (both hilly end, otherwise he would probably pass me again).

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Brian Rushworth Sunderland Harriers MV45 16.54
53 Yusuf Kuruner M 24.45
56 Phil Owen MV40 25.44

72 finishers.

Les Allcorn 10K, Hulne Park, Alnwick, 12th June

Alister Robson ...

This is a lovely run but if it wasn't for the fact I was giving Yusuf a lift I might have thought twice about driving all that way. I did and I'm glad I did it. Melanie met us there.

There was a brief moment's applause as the race was started in honour of the eponymous Les Allcorn, an Alnwick Harrier who sadly died taking part in the Coastal Run in 1995.

The race was started by Olympian and former World Record holding swimmer, Nick Gillingham, who is also a member of Alnwick Harriers and tied in with the Olympic Torch coming through Alnwick

The course is a single lap (contrary to my recollection of two), with all the climbing in the first 2 or 3K. Think a muddy Raby Castle with only once to do the big hill. The mud I was quite concerned about at the start, and everyone around me seemed to be covered in it but it quite quickly dried up and then you were onto the downhill (closed) road section. This gave me a chance to catch some of my rivals, some familiar faces amongst them after so many short races in the last few weeks. I'd inadvertently left my Garmin set on miles rather than kms, so I wasn't really sure exactly what sort of pace I was doing, although it felt quickish.

Before too long we passed the halfway point and were onto the path home, this is where it got tough underfoot on the stony path and I began to regret wearing my racing flat trainers and started to pine for the support of more cushioned shoes. My left calf also started to cramp, but I dug deep and imagined Phil Owen sat on my shoulder only to overtake me in the closing stretch as he'd done in the previous two occasions I'd run this.

Crossing the line just outside 44minutes I was pretty happy to have knocked off three minutes plus from my previous best on that course and less than a minute outside my 10k PB. Yusuf, with a 10K PB (including a toilet and drink stop) was in shortly afterwards and Mel, looking strong finished shortly afterwards.

A lovely evening and another mug to add to the collection. Mel and I gazed wistfully at the medals the kids got for their junior 3K earlier. Good value at a tenner and we had the results just after I got home, can't say any fairer than that. Many thanks to all at Alnwick Harriers.

... and Melanie Hudson:

I was feeling pretty tired and not wanting to get wet again like I did at Blaydon so I was in two minds about doing this one. However Dave Robson strongly recommended this race because it's a lovely country course. Sadly Dave had to miss this one due to work. It was good to see the friendly faces of Alister and Yusuf when I got there. It was a little chilly waiting around and then a ten minute walk to the start, so I was raring to go. Thankfully no rain, phew.

The race started through a muddy woodland road/path (knew there had to be mud involved if Dave recommended this one) then along a road with fields either side. The first two miles was a gentle but energy sapping uphill. However after that there was a lovely long downhill stretch to recover. Yusuf started a little further forward then me but I was hoping to catch him up at some point. I finished ahead of him at Sunderland 10k and was hoping to do the same again. I had him in my sights at mile one when he stopped to take a drink from the bottle he was carrying, yes here is my chance, I thought. But before I caught up he was off like a rocket. A mile further on the course and he stopped to water the flowers, my second chance to catch up! Lol but despite my best efforts Yusuf finished a minute a head of me. He also got a 10K PB, well done Yusuf! I found the last couple of miles difficult because the path had a rocky uneven surface. 100 meters from the end I heard Alister cheering me on and I managed a sprint finish. I then waited at the end with Alister and Yusuf to watch other runners come in.

I was very happy with my time though as it was only 30 seconds off my best ever 10K time on a non-PB course. Alister managed a very good time of 44 minutes! It was a bit of a trek to Alnwick on a Tuesday evening but it was worth the journey.

Results

PosNameClubCatPosTime
1 Ian Harding Morpeth Harriers M 33:11
11 Jane Hodgson Morpeth Harriers F 1 38:10
57 Alister Robson M40 44:02
80 Yusuf Kuruner M 47:43
88 Melanie Hudson F 48:30

160 finishers.

Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon, Argyll, 9–10th June

Jim Leslie

Otherwise known as the LAMM this Scottish event follows the classic two day mountain marathon format well-described in the "Other" section of the club website. However, perhaps uniquely, the LAMM keeps its location secret until the day before competitors travel to the event, all adding to the sense of building excitement!

An email duly arrived on Thursday lunchtime to declare the event was going to be held near Ben Cruachan in Argyll and gave a grid reference for the event campsite. Fortunately only a two hour drive away for me and team partner Dave Lockwood. The email also helpfully pointed out the significant number of Munros in the region (Scottish hills over 3,000ft) indicating competitors may have a chance to "bag" a few over the weekend.

On Friday evening around 1,000 people and 1 million midges (they must have had the email too) congregated at the base camp location and prepared to set off in teams of two on Saturday morning to complete the two day course across the mountains, carrying all their gear and food for the night out. The event has 5 entry categories from Elite to D giving various expected distance and height gains. Each team is able, or sometimes unable, to choose their own route between the mandatory check points giving significant variations in the actual route stats. Dave and I had entered the B category and had an expectation of 26km and 1,750m ascent on the Saturday followed by 21km and 1,150m ascent on the Sunday. If Striders fancy the Elite category then be prepared for a total of 68km and 4,100m of ascent over the two days!

Building on the secrecy theme the start line at 07:30am on the Saturday morning was at a bus stop where we were handed a map and boarded a coach to be taken to the actual start. There then followed an unexpected bus trip where 60 odd competitors with maps who didn’t know where they were going, were taken by a young coach driver complete with SatNav and a supposed knowledge of the destination, on a long tour of the NW highlands including the magnificent Glencoe. At this point we were well off the map and an experienced competitor in the front seat explained to the driver that even the LAMM would not require him to run across half of Scotland to get back to the event base on Sunday afternoon. Several phone calls later had us disembarking the bus 17 miles back down the A82 at Bridge of Orchy for a 09:30 start, only about 1 hour late!

As we tripped the start timer we were handed a list of the mandatory control points we needed to find including the overnight camp location and set off into the hills. The weather was fine with broken clouds and the occasional burst of sunshine. This turned out to be remarkable given the rest of the country was suffering under a rain deluge that weekend. Dave and Jim at the finish. Dave and I try and keep up a routine of jog along the flat, walk fast up the hills and run down the other side. Of course it all depends on the gradient and underfoot conditions that range from scree, heather, bog to rock and back again. Don’t expect to find any paths on the B course! Critical to success is invariably the choice between shorter and steeper routes verging on the impassable to longer routes that traverse around the mountain side. Striders that have tried fell running will know that traversing can be ruinous to your feet with steep up and down sometimes coming as a welcome relief. We kept up a steady pace but due to the gradients there were limited opportunities for us to break into a jog let alone run. It was a long and hard day and we were out for 8 hours, our longest LAMM day ever, before arriving at the beautifully located campsite in Glen Kinglass in the heart of the Ben Cruachan range. It is an extraordinary site to see several hundred small tents appear and spread haphazardly across a remote highland glen, only for them to all completely disappear the next morning. Unfortunately as well as being greeted by fellow competitors it seemed that the 1 million midges had also made their way to the mid-camp, probably in a better time than us. Supper was therefore a rather hurried but calorific affair of Tesco’s best dried soups, noodles, Moroccan tagine sauce, malt loaf and custard. Not intentionally mixed together I should add.

Sunday morning had us packed up and at the start line for 07:00 am where we were handed a new list of control points to visit on the way back to the event base camp. The second day of a mountain marathon is traditionally a bit shorter with less ascent but the 600m climb up to the first control reminded us that it was still going to be hard! Incredibly, the midges had chosen this very same route back to base and we were fighting them off right up to the 1,000m contour later in the day. The rain eventually set in late morning (the first we had seen all weekend), which meant it was a rather bedraggled pair that shuffled, sorry sprinted, into the finish tapes around 6 hours later. Pleased to finish, we had had a better day and had made up several places moving from 54th to 47th overall. The organisers provided everyone with veg chilli and the locally brewed beer at the finish to aid recovery, which was certainly very welcome!

So all in all another great LAMM weekend in fantastic mountain terrain with two new Munro ticks, Stob Coir an Albannaich (1044m) and Beinn Eunaich (989m), and the customary declaration to never ever do it again; until next year.

Swaledale Marathon, Reeth, 9th June

23.2M / 4,128'

Anita Clementson

I was really keen to do an endurance event this year and push the boundaries from my previous longest race (Coastal Run). The Swaledale marathon ticked quite a few boxes for me 1) nice views 2) mixed terrain 3) hills 4) friendly non corporate event 5) (and most importantly) serves tea and cake at checkpoints!! Thanks to the reminders on the Striders emails I got a place as they fill up literally within hours when the Swaledale Outdoor Club announce race entries early in January.

The weather conditions looked pretty grim on review the night before and thus was expecting a soggy experience. Arriving in Reeth though the next morning the clouds were breaking and I dared to be optimistic that the forecast could be wrong. A handful of Striders were taking part in doing the race, Maggie & Andrew Thompson, Christine, Shaun, Dougie, Jan, Tom, Angela and Sue (who'd both completed the full yomp last week, hence not much recovery time but that's never held these two feisty ladies back!)

This race was hilly and this was no joke for the first slog upto Fremlington edge, wisely was a steady walk and this took on the premise for the rest of the race, walk up the hills! Once we got upto the edge the sun came out and the Yorkshire Dales were in all their glory. The views were stunning and really lifted my spirits. Another positive feature of this race is it has walkers as well as runners, the field of competitors was very friendly and a few words of chat were to be had when passing people en-route. This also meant for me as a slower runner that I wasn't at the back of the field for once.

We've had horrendous weather over the last few days with lots of flood alerts. The tops were very boggy (nearly lost my shoes a few times) and had to negotiate a lot of streams and bogs. Everyone commented that it's the wettest they've seen it on this race. Although conditions were pretty good for running staying dry and sunny but not too hot with good views until the last 3 miles (after surrender bridge) and then we had hail stones (felt like it anyway, was well battered!) was very soggy at the end, the stony path backdown into Reeth turned into a gushing stream (a kayak would have been useful a runner behind me commented).

I paced myself with Maggie who is a seasoned marathon runner and on her 10th+ Swaledale. There were check points serving cakes and tea! You don't usually get that on runs. One checkpoint had homemade fudge (yum yum). With the slower pacing and fuelling I felt pretty fresh at 17 miles and Maggie encouraged me to go on. After a 15 minute teastop at Gunnerside the last few miles were my fastest and I even did a sprint finish to the village hall finish in Reeth. This was assisted by making sure I overtook Mr Nordic poles whom was in my eye line in the 21st mile, who made a comment about runners as he overtook us at checkpoint 1. A free meal and copious amounts of tea were served up in the Reeth village hall with lots of volunteers (seemed like the whole village had come out to help) and caught up with other club members whom had already finished and also Barry & Pam who'd had to give numbers up unfortunately. I'll definitely be back next year.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Tony Lambert Swaledale Road Runners M 3:07
15 Naomi Fowler Unattached F 3:52
27 Shaun Roberts MV50 4:03
76 Andrew Thompson M 4:41
115 Paul Foster *HS MV50 4:57
153 Jan Young FV40 5:24
169 Joan Hanson *HS FV40 5:27
170 Tom Reeves *RWM M 5:27
171 Dougie Nisbet M 5:27
225 Christine Farnsworth FV40 6:08
233 Anita Clementson FV40 6:12
237 Thomas Hanson *HS M 6:14
256 Margaret Thompson FV40 6:26
274 Angela Proctor F 6:40
275 Sue Jennings FV40 6:40
309 Bob Layton *HS MV50 7:08

419 finishers.
*HS Honorary Strider
*RWM Running With Missus
Striders Mens team 7th, Striders Womens team 15th, of 18.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Blaydon Race, 9th June

5.9M

Carolyn Bray...

Aw went to Blaydon Races, 'twas on the ninth of Joon,
Loads o Striders on a bus on a summer's efternoon (pha!);
Aw tyuk the 'bus frae County Hall, an' she wis heavy laden,
Away we went alang the A1, on the way to Blaydon (well, Newcastle).

(chorus)
  Ah me lads, ye shud only seen us gannin',
  We pass'd the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin';
  Thor wes lots o' wet lads an' lasses there, all wi' smiling faces,
  Gawn alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.

Patient queuers / barrier jumpers, we chose our race start places,
Lookin' smart in our purple an' green, all wi'smiling faces
Waiting for the bell to ring, waiting for the bellman,
Have we started, have we not, we can't really tell, man!
(chorus)

Finally, the claxon blew an' the boony race begun,
Thor was bands and crowds alang tha' road, hoo they danced an' sung.
But gannin' down tha' Scotswood Road, somethin' else had started;
Tha skies errupted - it chucked it doon, just after we'd departed!
(chorus)

The rivers ran alang th' road, tha runners all wa drippin',
Water station, what's the point, tha's rainwater for sippin'!
Pick tha way roond, or plough straight through, aw it was a muddle,
but after a mile, wet all the while, the whole route was a puddle.
(chorus)

Noo when we gat to Blaydon thor wes plenty crowds a'cheerin;
"200 metres!" they called to us, as the finish was a nearin'
An' thar it wor, tha Blaydon finish, 'n' loads a soggy runners,
Time to try the tripe 'n' black puddin', whor just fa' darin' punters!
(chorus)

We all did well, 'n' enjoyed oorsels, but some of us woor flyin'
Alister, Steve an' Fiona's sub-forty , noo that's wha I call tryin!
Wi' owa thirty Striders there, we did the club real proud,
An' we'da looked much bonnier - if it wasn't for tha' cloud
(chorus)

Squidgy trainers, soggy pants we made tha bus quite steamy,
Passers by would see a sight with Jacquie's bottom beaming!
But still it poured an' home we went, still wi' smiley faces,
That wa' the day the Elvet Striders went to Blaydon Races!

...and Rachael Bullock

This was my second time doing the Blaydon Race — I last did it with my friend in 2009, (then I was running as a Pocklington Runner). I remembered it as one of the best races I have run in; it is not exactly a beautiful course but I think it is a relatively fast route and with all the other runners there is a good race atmosphere, which always helps to spur you on. So, I headed into the race with a positive mindset, feeling psyched! We arrived on the bus about an hour before the start and the sky was looking pretty ominous. So as we loaded our bags onto the baggage bus I was pretty gutted that I hadn't thought to bring a bin liner for pre-race protection from the elements as most other Strider's had done. I felt like such an amateur, or maybe I just looked hardcore?!! Anyway it turned out not to be such an issue as the weather was not too bad (by recent standards) as we waited for the start.

So lesson number one: bring a bin bag. Lesson number two: use the toilet in Ladbrokes — this was a godsend as we could probably have spent a good 45 mins in the queue for the portaloos! The third thing I learnt was to jump the barriers at the start rather than queuing nicely! I'm sure this is very bad etiquette (but I did it with Alister's permission, which obviously makes it acceptable!!!) and of course if everyone had adopted this strategy it would have been absolute carnage. But because the race is not chip-timed, if you are feeling competitive and after a good time, it has to be done — I believe it took other Strider's up to a minute after the start of the race before they crossed the line.

So anyway...on to the race itself...All I seem to remember is the rain! Maybe about a mile in it started to absolutely chuck it down and the streets were transformed into rivers and everyone got very, very wet. And then after that I could not see too much of what was going on around me because my glasses were covered with raindrops! So I did not see many other Strider's along the way; I decided to get my bum into gear when I found myself alongside Carolyn who told me on the startline that she was just going to have a ‘nice easy run' as she was coming back from injury. Some words of encouragement from Brian Ford were appreciated approximately half way round (he passed me half way round Raby the other week too — I will have to make it my challenge to beat him next time!) as was a shout from Jacquie as we went round the loop by the river.

But with the rain still pouring I think most people just wanted to get to the finish and many of us did so in fine time, everyone seemed to be pretty chuffed with their performances, wet smiles all around :-) I was definitely very pleased with my time, 6 minutes faster than 3 years ago, evidence that I am improving all the time since joining Striders back in October. I stayed well away from the tripe and black pudding at the end but I'm loving the t-shirt! It's a fun race to do and I would recommend that everyone do it at least once!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Peter Lemuya Kenya M18 27:35
29 Lauren Howart Leigh Harriers F 30:26
291 Stewart McConnell M 36:48
382 Simon Gardner MV40 38:02
483 Alister Robson MV40 39:18
508 Graeme Walton M 39:36
527 Steve Lindsay MV50 39:46
543 Paul Pascoe MV40 39:53
546 Fiona Shenton FV50 2!39:55
880 Kevin Williams M 42:58
994 Yusuf Kuruner M 43:45
1033Kathryn Sygrove FV45 44:03
1232Brian Ford MV40 45:27
1242Rachael Bullock F 45:33
1280Camilla L-Maatta FV45 45:47
1291Melanie Hudson F 45:52
1356Carolyn Bray F 46:16
1358John Hutchinson MV55 46:17
1440Chris Hedley MV50 46:46
1530Danny Lim M 47:22
1631Claire Readey F 48:02
1638Alan Smith MV65 7! 48:03
1677Jacquie Robson F 48:15
1685Anna Seeley F 48:20
1803Greta Jones FV45 49:08
1973Jo Richardson F 50:12
1976Peter Brooks MV40 50:14
2034Victoria Tindale F 50:40
2049Jim Nicholson MV65 50:44
2075Karen Chalkley FV50 50:53
2333Kath Preston FV40 52:36
2361Jean Gillespie FV55 52:51
2365Kate Macpherson FV40 54:52
2425Jill Ford FV45 53:23
2459Ann Towers FV55 53:33
2593Robert Clark M 54:34
2623Mike Elliott MV65 54:47
3053Angela Coates FV40 58:25
3063Lindsay Brooks FV40 58:29
3397Phil Owen MV45 1:04:00

3589 finishers.

Jesmond Dene Handicap Race 2, 4th June

5K

Alister Robson

Another race I've been meaning to try for ages, this was the second of four this summer and I gather our own Phil Todd won the overall series a couple of years ago. Low key and very well organised, you turn up on the night, supply a list of your recent race times and they give you a handicap. The first runner is off at 7.30pm, and mine was 19.30 so I knew I'd be off at 7.49.30 etc.

It's not flat is the first thing I'd say, but is scenic on all paved surfaces. You set off from the Dene entrance on Armstrong Bridge adjacent to Benton Bank and the A1058 Coast Road set off into the Dene, run about quarter of the course, turn around and come back and past the start and into Armstrong Park (somewhere I've never been in my life before now), again turn around and finish back at the start.

As I say not flat but a great workout. I got passed by about 10 runners and only managed to overtake a couple, so didn't do that well, but at least my handicap next time will reflect that. I'll definitely be giving it another go.

Another great event organised by the ubiquitous George Routledge and his Heaton Harriers team, well marshalled and even with a free glass of squash at the end.

There were prizes for the top ten in each race and also for the overall series although I don't think I'll be troubling those...

The next one is Monday 25th June.

The Yomp Mountain Challenge, Kirkby Stephen, 3rd June

23M (with 11.5M and 6.25M options)

aka Mallerstang Horseshoe & Nine Standards Yomp

Yusuf Kuruner on the Full Yomp ...

Throughout the hard cross country winter season there were great memories for me: coming second last in the British Universities XC Championship in Cardiff, Wales (a funny memory that I will even tell my grandchildren). From a positive aspect, I have finished a University Championship in Great Britain, racing in a very snowy course with uni-athletes, who have probably been training since they were born, and that encouraged me to do more races in England. Suddenly, I found myself in Harrier League racing with "old guys". Apparently, three races in the Harrier League [Wrekenton, Alnwick, Prudhoe] were all damn hard and bloody fast. [ Again finished all of them in last 10 :) ] I have also tried some slow but long races which I felt more comfortable with than cross country races: Dentdale 14M, Coniston 14M, Hull Marathon, Edinburgh Half. ... Races were a very good reason for me to travel to new beautiful places in my exchange year, and I could also have a great time with club friends.

The Nine Standards - the last peak on the Full Yomp. You'll have to imagine the wind ... At the end of April, ultra-runner Flip Owen introduced me to a new world: slow races i.e. fell races in which you can even walk and suprisingly hills became suddenly my new love: Hamsterley Forest 17K, Carlton Bank Fell Race, Roseberry Topping, Ossy Oiks ... They are all a bit(!) hilly but the important part is you have a good reason to go slow or even walk and you have the opportunity to see perfect scenes during your races. One night I asked Flip to recommend to me a trail long race and his answer was the YOMP. So I registered. Angela and Sue were doing this race this year again and I convinced my sporty friend Francesc from Catalonia who is also doing his exchange year here in Durham.

The day started very, very early: 5:30 wake up for a fast breakfast and by 6:15 Angela and bodybuilder Andrew were there. The weather was very rainy and cold but Andrew was cool with his vest all the way. It was my first race with a bag, that's why our preparation in school took longer than usual. After a quick chat with the Half-YOMP walkers (Emma and her work friends) and Half-YOMP runners (Shaun and Jan), we left the starting point (school hall) around 9:10-ish. Apparently, my mate Francesc never tested running with a bag and his belly is thinner than bag standards. So, the first 10-15 min were problematic. After running with Jan for the first mile in the village, she turned left to half race and we started to run uphill. After this what I remember for the remaining hours are hills and wind. I have experienced hills in fell races but these were different.Yusuf and Francesc at the finish. There was no end of hills. Once we reached the top, there was again a new hill. Opph ... The weather was fine in the village but once we started to climb it became windy, to be honest very, very windy! There were very good scenes throughout the race, unfortunately we were not brave enough to take off our gloves in that wind to take a picture with the Iphone.

The people who were waiting at checkpoints were really friendly and their conditions were surely harder than ours. We tried to have a chat at each checkpoint. One should be really crazy to wait hours on the top of these freezing mountains. After the second last checkpoint it was 5 miles all the way down. We were still powerful and wanted to finish this race as soon as possible. Did a great tempo in the last part and finished it in 5 hours 22 minutes.

The race was well marked so no need for a map or compass. We tried to eat and drink water every 20-30 min and guess this was the most clever thing I did that day: 2.5 liter water, 2 bananas, 5-6 jelly babies, 12 Mars bars. Shower facilities and free refreshments after the race were very important details for this race although I could hardly walk after it. Totally recommend this race to all running freaks but it definitely requires fell running experience.

... and Shaun Roberts on the Half:

I've fancied having a go at the Yomp for a while, but love the Swaledale, and haven't fancied doing both within a week of each other. So when Jan said on the Wednesday that there was a half Yomp option, with entry on the day, I thought that sounded a good idea ... and also a last decent runout before Swaledale as well.

To cut a long story short, it's a lovely race, even in the grey and windy weather we had this time, and despite 1,700' of climb, not too hard really, walking the steep bits. Great organisation at the start in Kirkby Stephen, and not too picky about kit - i.e. they're fine with map extracts, and don't actually inspect your stuff! Lovely fast start, south out of town, then a flat farm road - we only started to ascend after Thringill, at nearly the 3-mile mark. Then the climbing started, but it wasn't too bad - bit of a walk up a slope, then a bit of a scuttle where it was flattish - that sort of thing up to the road checkpoint at about five miles - actually quite flat, if boggy, round here.

Low cloud at the Nine Standards.

One last climb up to the wierd and atmospheric Nine Standards (1h21m/7.25m) ... and then, here we go ... over four miles of downhill running all the way back. The surface was soft to start with, then hard bridleway, then quite a stretch of tarmac into town, so I was happy to have chosen the road shoes for this one. Finished 9th of 175 in the end, which is more than a bit flattering, as well over half the field were walking, including Emma's uni team. Jan had a good run, coming in 27th, and looking in good nick for Swaledale ... pity she hasn't entered it this year, but there you go! ;-) [Stop Press: she now has a number! Good decision ... Ed.] Left Kirkby Stephen to go up to Tan Hill for a good lunch, wondering how everyone got on in the full Yomp, and promising myself a go at that next year.

Jan Young adds:

Great day out on the hills and alternative to Swaledale. Organised by Upper Eden Rotary Club as charity fundraiser, this event is for all the family either as walkers or runners. Choice of 23ml/1190', 11.5ml/1700', 6.25ml/550', choice of start time 8-10am, free refreshments, hot showers at end. Brilliant organisation, friendly participants and well organised volunteers. Some runners had made the journey from Essex to compete, running the long event to make it worthwhile. Electronic timing chips provided instant print out at finish of checkpoint times and immediate certificate, huge screen in hall with names, times, positions.

At last check, Nine Standards Rigg, my time was 1.45; thought I'd fly downhill to finish to clock 2 hrs. Ha, ha.... 37 mins later, I staggered through hall door at finish. Now that's a long descent! Possible to enter on day, if space available, courses marked. [Very, very well-marked. Ed.] Youngsters were out on shorter courses, some trying to beat previous times and so proud to show their certificates. Sharp end runners can do their thing, while families and friends share a slower day together.

Highly recommended to all who love the hills.

Results

Full Yomp
Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Carl Bell Howgill Harriers M 2:48:34
20 Adele Roche Howgill Harriers F 4:22:11
67 Yusuf Kuruner M 5:22:41
117 Angela Proctor F 6:35:55
118 Sue Jennings F 6:36:05

185 walkers and runners finished, 11 retired.

Half Yomp
Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Paul Brittleton Howgill Harriers M 1:31:47
6 Jenn Mattinson Howgill Harriers F 1:48:23
9 Shaun Roberts M 1:54:31
27 Jan Young F 2:22:25
126 Emma Detchon Teesside University F 4:21:24

175 walkers and runners finished, 4 retired.

Druridge Bay 10K, Northumberland, 3rd June

Dave Robson

I wasn't expecting to be free to do this race, but circumstances meant that I was able to do it after all. Melanie has had it in her plans for some time. I haven't done it before, but I had done the marathon there last year so I was familiar with the area. At least I thought I was, because I couldn't remember any hills at all and I assured Melanie that it would be flat.

The route turned out to be largely one lap of the four lap marathon I did there in 2011. It wasn't completely flat as I thought, but had some minor hills the memory of which had disappeared somewhere in my head only to pop out again just before we got to them. I think Melanie will be trusting my course descriptions a bit less in future ...

Nice day for a run. The route was essentially a loop of each of the two largest lakes close to the Visitor Centre with a long section on the beach. The tide was well out so there was plenty of firm, flat sand to run on.

It wasn't a cheap race to enter £15 before the race and £17.50 on the day, but it was in aid of a hospice so that felt fine. A few runners were in fancy dress and walkers were also welcome so it felt a very relaxed atmosphere. It was a lovely event on a warm day with a bit of a breeze to cool us down.

The plan was to take it fairly easy and we started that way but speeded up as the race progressed. We came in with a time of 51min 59sec and we were pleased with that. It was a well marshalled event with K markers and the surface was a mixture of trail, beach and tarmac. We received a mug as a memento.

Darlington Harriers Monthly 5K Time Trial, South Park, Darlington, 3rd June

Alister Robson

I'd been meaning to give this a go for quite a while since I first became aware of it but this is the first Sunday that it hasn't clashed with another event I wanted to do. It's a low-key monthly event, held on the first Sunday of every month. Like parkrun it's free and 5K. It starts at 9.30am but you're asked to turn up a little earlier to register and receive the race number which you keep for each monthly event.

Parking was fine just outside the park and I spotted a small group of runners easily and introduced myself to Ian Barnes who's the chairman of Darlington Harriers and who organises the event. There was a turnout of about 30 runners of very mixed ability, although Ian said that they often had far fewer than this and sometimes as few as half a dozen, again I think due to a clash with other events (Sunderland marathon etc last month).

The parks management have allowed them a permanent green start finish line and it's three laps of the scenic park, with chalked chevrons anywhere that there could be confusion and km markers that were put out before and removed afterwards.

The route is mostly flat with a couple of quite sharp turns, and one small hill just after the wooden squirrel. The paths are wide and could quite easily support a couple of hundred runners in my opinion. I managed about 20.40 (there's no results up yet as their web hosting is being changed at the moment) which I was pleased with especially given the little hill.

The next one is Sunday 1st July.

Allendale 8, 3rd June

Richard Hockin

A glance at the route on an Ordnance Survey map a few years ago was enough to entice me to do this race, just under 8 miles in length. I’ve now done it three or four times and it continues to hold its appeal.

The race starts and finishes in Allendale Town, and is one of the events in the town’s annual fair, so there is a lot to enjoy in addition to the race itself. This year the weather was cool and overcast with drizzle, not bad for running but not what the organisers of the fair had hoped for.

The route is principally on minor roads with no traffic, and passes through some superb north Pennines scenery in the valley of the river East Allen. You start off with three relatively flat miles through woodland and hay meadows before crossing the river and encountering a serious hill taking you up to the moor edge, alive with the calls of curlew, lapwing and redshank, all mildly agitated by your proximity to their breeding territories. The inward half of the race is exhilarating, by and large downhill with great views across the valley.

Complacency evaporates however when you cross the river again a quarter of a mile from the finish, where another steep hill has to be negotiated. Somehow or other I got to the top without walking, cheered on by a lot of spectators whose support was extremely useful at this stage of the race. A nice event, hosted with customary skill by Allen Valley Striders.

Emily Hart Charity Netball Tournament
for Acorns Children's Hospice

Netball, Farringdon School, Sunderland, 2nd June

George Nicholson

The weather was miserable, but it certainly did not dampen the spirits of all who took part in the 2nd Emily Hart Netball Tournament, and a fabulous total of £887 was raised for Acorns Children's Hospice. This event, which was first held last year, was the brainchild of Sam Brown. Sam was the original Race Director of Sunderland Parkrun. Many Striders will no doubt remember her Santa Run there in December 2010. She is also a keen netballer and coach and was part of my Team Acorns at last year's Great North Run. Each team that entered paid £25. There was a Tuck shop where everything sold like hot cakes, and also a goalshooting competition.

Strider drops flapjack causing chaos. About 250 players in 24 teams took part. These teams were split up into three separate groups. Two of these groups comprised of regular Netball league players. The 3rd group ( our group, the 'Back 2 Netballers' ) comprised of players who may have not played for some time, or even players ( male or female ) who have not played at all! Striders entered as PURPLE HAZE again, and the squad was: Adam, Denise, Emma, Jean, Jo ( Richardson ) Greta, Lindsay, Mike, Pippa, Stef, Paul Smith ( fresh from his royal duties at Durham Parkrun !) and Myself. There were seven teams within the BACK 2 NETBALL group, and we played 6 games. 3 teams were very good indeed, so our league placing of 5th was very creditable. All members of Purple Haze played very well indeed and improved with each game. Practice is the key to future success.

No that's not my Olympic Torch, I'm just pleased to see you! The 'must win'; games were against Jane Niven's Sunderland parkrun Panthers which was packed with Strider Friends, and of course our old adversaries Team BBC. My good friend and fellow Olympic Torchbearer, Claire Paczko, assembled again a star-studded team which included Hannah Bayman, Kim Inglis and Sarah Walton. Sadly Katie Gornall, who was on National BBC duties could not be present. We beat the Panthers, but our first game of the day was against BBC, and they were able to secure a rare victory over us. That also meant they were able to secure bragging rights in the fun and banter, known as "the netball trash talk", that takes place on social networking sites ;-)

Anne, my wife did a great job organising the tuck shop. Food and drink was donated, and mostly comprised of home made produce. Big thanks to Jane Ives for her contribution. Anne was kept constantly busy ( the tournament was from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm ) and she would most certainly not have coped if 'superstar' Angela had not helped her for those 6 hours. Between them they ringed in over £250 through the till. Great stuff.

Thanks also to Jacquie, who rushed through from her duties as Event Director at Durham parkrun . She did a spot of coaching for us, but more importantly played a major role in ensuring the tournament could take place by refereeing several games. Despite not winning all our games, Purple Haze enjoyed themselves, and many seem to have rekindled their love of playing netball. Occasional training sessions are being talked about, so watch this space! Whatever, I am sure that Purple Haze are here to stay, but in the meantime thanks again to all who took part and contributed to an excellent day.

Colwick parkrun, nr Nottingham, 2nd June

Simon Gardner

After racing around Raby castle last Sunday I felt very tired during my circuit training class on the Monday so I decided it was time to give my body the rest it had been needing for a little while.

My original plan was to rest from Tuesday until Sunday and then do a gentle 5 mile or so after I returned from my sister who lives in Southwell which is not far from Nottingham. As anyone who runs at the fantastic Durham parkrun knows your never far from a parkrun and it becomes very very addictive so I decided to change my plans and take the chance of running a new parkrun.

I was surprised at how few parkruns there are around the area but Colwick (pronounced Collick I think) parkrun was only 12 mile away and my brother in law was happy to take me.

The route is a mix of tarmac and woodland track and you do almost one full lap of the small lake before sending you off to do a lap of the big lake then finishing with a loop around the small lake. The course is very nice almost totally flat and only a couple of sharp turns that may knock you slightly out your rhythm. I had a quick chat with Helen at the start who told me she had ran Durham parkrun and met Alister.

I originally decided to do the run as a tempo run and keep things steady but as per normal I got carried away and pushed it from the start. Conditions where perfect for running , cool but not cold and only a small head wind. After the 1st km or so I was finding it tough but just dug in and concentrated on getting to 3km. I've found in the past few weeks that if I break the run down into smaller pieces then it becomes easier to do.

The last 2km were hard going but again I kept breaking it down into laps of a track and before you know it I'm telling myself only around 2 laps to go and just keep hanging on.

I finished in 14th position with a time of 20:00 which is my second quickest ever time so I was very pleased although getting under that 20 minute mark would have been nice! Considering how I had felt during the week I am pleased and just as importantly I got no pain from my Achilles during or after the run. I really feel like I am making progress since joining the striders and am hopeful of getting some more good times.

If your ever staying in the Nottingham area then pop along and give it a go. It's a good scenic course and really well marshalled.