Race Reports, March 2012

National Lottery Olympic Park Run, 31st March

5 miles

Alister Robson

I guess I have Emma to thank for this. It was her email to the Striders mailing list at the end of October, prompted by a conversation with Anna and Phil, that alerted me to its existence and somehow I managed to get lucky and get in. Jacquie and I had stayed with our friend Ian in London for last year’s London marathon, so it seemed natural to offer him the second spectator ticket and he very kindly agreed to put us up again.

Alister at the Olympic Park.

We snuck a parkrun in on the morning at the very low key but quietly brilliant Highbury Fields parkrun then set off the short journey across East London to Stratford and the new Olympic Stadium. We knew it was going to be busy as we were told to arrive at least two hours before the 2pm start for my ‘Red’ wave. Once inside the Olympic Park (which you get to via a huge shopping centre) we were met by airport level security. It took quite a while to clear, but I guess better to practise all that before the Olympics, which is really what this event was about.

It was a pretty chilly day which was a real shame especially given how beautiful it was on the Friday so I didn’t want to jettison my jacket too early, the pen system was pretty familiar to anyone that’s done the Great North Run except that the pens were waves and were set off at 9 minute intervals.

The course itself was a little disappointing at the start, lots of the park is still being built and there were builders and building work everywhere but I soon got into a decent pace. A lot of the runners must have been more inexperienced than my usual races as it was a bit of a hustle and there were a few near slips and trips. There was also a lot of areas where my Garmin reception dipped out and as a result I think the course was quite a bit longer than the advertised 5 miles. Once the Garmin was upset I had no option but to settle into a rhythm but I can’t say I enjoyed that feeling of being out of control. There was a nasty little climb at about 3 miles which knocked a few off their stride but living in Durham and having recently completed Prudhoe XC I treated it with the disrespect it deserved and pushed up and made up a few places.

There were regular water stops every few miles, some of which seemed a little unnecessary, but fair play to the organisers, a lot of the runners (even in my ‘fast’ wave) seemed to be first timers for this sort of event and if the weather had stayed as it was for most of the week they would definitely have been needed!

Almost too soon, we came back to the Stadium and dipped down and under onto the service road. This was a real change and you knew you didn’t have far to go, and soon it was up and into the Stadium proper and onto the track. Here I did a double take as the stadium seemed quite small looking down from the seating, but seemed huge when you ran into it from ground level. After a few disorienting moments I spotted Jacquie and Ian up in the red wave spectator area at the start of the 100m track and I waved and tried what I hoped would be a sprint finish. This was an absolutely fantastic experience and one which I’ll never do again! A real one off.

In the end I managed a time of 36.04, finishing 689th of 5708 finishers and my second decent run of the weekend.

For a properly written report by someone who is good with words for a living you should check out Michelle Nicol’s infinitely better report belwo.

Highbury Fields parkrun, London, 31st March

5K

Jacquie Robson

Apparently, in our household, a Saturday just isn’t a Saturday without a parkrun. So despite beginning a 'relaxing' weekend away in London, we both got up at some ungodly hour to track down the nearest event. Highbury Fields is a pleasant little park, but its quaintness meant that the parkrun route was five and a bit laps of the perimeter. I was a bit concerned at the thought of running round and round in circles, but it was a pleasant morning and I managed not to get dizzy. This was a small parkrun by current northeast standards but it seemed to be very typical for a London parkrun, where Mayor Boris is supporting events to attempt to establish one in every borough. The organisers were pleased with a record attendance on the day of 51. Both Alister and I ran a decent time, with Alister conserving himself for his moment of fame later on in the day at the Olympic Park 5 mile run - who spotted him on the telly?? He was overjoyed to find a McDonalds next to the designated parkrun cafe, so he even managed to sneak in a McDonalds breakfast while chatting to the very friendly and welcoming organisers (Paul and David) and enjoying the post-run coffee.

Coniston 14, 31st March

14M

Kathryn Sygrove...

This was my first very undulating road race, four days after my last 20-miler for my (Milton Keynes) marathon. I was still feeling weary after that, and very nervous: why had I chosen a race which was not my sorta thing just now? I fancied a scenic route - the race circumvents Lake Coniston - but the undulating roads on the way there made me question my decision.

Still I soon found some fellow Striders and was at the start line before I knew it. I decided to run with Juliet Percival to start with, and as she wondered if she was slowing me down, my chest and legs ached on the ups and downs, and I assured her otherwise. It was sunny, pretty warm and the scenery beautiful, but I still felt weary. We chatted on until about 6 miles, and my gut started to churn. Sweets didn't do much to revive me, despite Juliet making me laugh with her "fangs" and at 7 miles she ploughed on whilst I stopped to cool off and top up on liquid and mint cake. I soon plodded on but still felt churny, yet it was noticeably cooler and flatter on this side of the Lake, the views were stunning, and that all seemed to help.I gradually got more into my stride, and psyched myself up to head for the 10 mile mark.

As my speed increased, I remembered the hill at 11 miles (I had not run this race before but Richard Asquith had forewarned me of the only "proper" hill) and got ready to attack it. It kept climbing for about a mile, but the daft cars trying to squeeze past us at a tough part of the race was a tad more irritating. At the top, 2 youngish cyclists yelled at everyone that there were only 2 miles downhill to go, and my heart soared. The sudden drop down was a bit of a surprise and plunged everyone into the valley and homeward-bound.

Kathryn crosses the line. At about 13 miles, my legs wanted to give up. Dougie was creeping up on me (someone shouted his name, that's how I knew) and I thought, oh no, here we go, pipped at the post again. But Dougie offered a truce: to run to the finish together and I was more than happy to oblige. We crossed the line hands raised together in just under 2 hours, and I was delighted. It hadn't been my best race; maybe I shouldn't have even been racing this weekend, but Dougie's gesture meant a huge amount to me, when he could easily have notched up a gear. It reminded me that there is so much more to running than just "taking out" the next runner because you can; but that camaraderie is sometimes means more than out-and-out competitiveness. In that respect, Dougie won hands down.

... and Dougie Nisbet

In the Court Inn, a few weeks earlier, Kathryn asked me (with an affected air of nonchalance),
"so, er, you doing Coniston then Dougie?"
"yup"
"right"
"right"
All very civil but I detected a definite furrowing of eyebrows. Dougie, my lad, I thought, you're a marked man. Still unforgiven for the Brass Monkey I reckon.

This was first time doing the Coniston 14, rather than the Coniston 17andabit, and I was looking forward to the shorter distance. It's a big field but with chip timing I happily started at the back of the field as I knew it would take me about half the race to get warmed up anyway. Too many coffees meant it wasn't too long before I was refreshing my arboricultural id skills, and then, feeling oh so much better, I began to wind up the pace.

I caught Jean at the usual place, where I usually catch her in this race. Every year. Then the effortless bounding gait of Yusuf appeared a few minutes later. The shorter course was suiting me well and around mile 8 I spotted Kathyrn's long red socks on the horizon. On the horizon they pretty well stayed for the next few miles and I couldn't find the speed to close the gap. Then in the last mile, it wasn't so much me that sped up, it was Kathryn that slowed down.

Running into Coniston the gap closed down to a few yards and I knew that if I edged past now I would get counter-attacked and pipped on the line. So I did the noble, decent, sportsmanlike, gentlemanly thing. I kept quiet, hid myself behind other runners, gathered my energy, and prepared to sprint by in a surprise attack at the finish. But I'd forgotten how good Strider support is in this race.

"Come On, Kathryn! ... Come on Dougie!". Well that was my cover blown. Rumbled! Kathryn looked over her shoulder and saw me lurking in the shadows. With a startled yelp she suddenly lifted her pace but it was too late, I'd already narrowed my eyes. With just a few hundred yards to go I managed to pull alongside and consider my next move. I thought it's a lovely day, the sun is shining, and this is awfully hard work. An unexpected idea suddenly popped into my head:

"Tell you what, I won't sprint if you won't sprint. Deal?". Kathyrn's response went on for some time and seemed to involve a detailed physiological breakdown of the preceding 13.5 miles, but I think the answer was "yes". So we did that Tour de France thing and called a truce. Hostilities were suspended as we wound up the pace so by the time we crossed the finish line hand in hand we were pretty much flat out but with an agreed dead heat, and great fun it was too.

Marc and Juliet led the Striders home, followed by Kathryn then me (pity we didn't have a photo finish!), with Yusuf, Jean, Jim and Alan completing the team. Another great race in this neatly-sized race where the town is buzzy and exciting, lots of vocal Strider support, but still plenty of space in the bars and cafes to wander in and get a beer and coffee afterwards.

Born to Run Ultra, Llanelli, 31st March

37M

Phil Owen

So I have a sore knee , I hate tarmac, hate flat and I'm trying to travel less so how did I end up entered into a 37 mile Tarmac race in south wales ! Well it was the closest thing I could find that fell on my brothers 50th Birthday that was not too far away from his home and it also had the added factor of quite a few mates running it and I know the RD.

So when my brother pulled out you would think I would ditch this but what the hell, it was a good bit of fun training and we fancied a weekend away with the promise of a bit of a party after.

We met up the night before with a fair group of runners & Matt the RD. One couple, old friends of mine had travelled from NE Scotland for this! Great Pre race get together with far too many beers and a late night. I'll never learn!

Phil and Friends We met up at a country park the following morning and Matt the RD soon had the small field on its way. A group of about six or seven runners stayed together for a fair while and chatted and caught up a bit. I do like races for people you meet and I must mention Stuart, who as we ran along seemed to know everyone (and his dog). It turns out Stuart is one of those slimmer of the year folk. You know the ones you usually see holding an enormous pair of trousers ten times bigger than themselves. All smiles and laughter, what an inspiration and likable fellow he is and a great bloke to have around on a long run but I mention him because while we chatted he mentioned a couple of races he had done recently. A half in 1:31 and a ten miler in 1:06! Fantastic times I can only dream off. I asked what he thought he could have done had he started running in his twenties. Just a whimsical smile was the answer.

The route was a sort of Y shape with the first out and back taking us alongside an estuary and back again. I soon realised my sore knee really wasn't playing ball and really not risking any further injuries (especially with my first race that mattes only 10 weeks away). I told Anna (who was swanning around on her bike as she is still injured) I would head back on the return leg therefore running only 20 miles instead of the full 37. However as the group laughed and chatted away I missed the turn of back to the start and was soon heading up the next out and back. Oh well

Caitlin's picture The race was billed as flat but Stuart mentioned there was a slight 5 degree incline as is often the case on old railway lines. He also mentioned it was 9 miles long.... Now my maths isn't great and it was soon apparent by the view over the bay and the town below we had risen a fair bit. I enjoyed the 'climb' as it were but on the turn around my knee really started to hurt and although now going downhill I lost a fair bit of pace. I must mention all the mile markers had little ditties on them to keep us amused. My favourite was mile 29 with just the words 'Beer' written above. Great fun.

Anyway back to the estuary and just a few miles and we I was soon at the 37 Mile (and a bit) finish and collecting a cold beer, T shirt , a cake and best of all a hand painted picture from Matt's daughter Caitlin.

So a race I should have hated but I thoroughly enjoyed. (even with a sore knee) .Thanks so much to Matt Rogerson the Rd and all his family and friends who marshalled and provided the water. Matt put this together solely for the enjoyment of the runners with any extra cash to go to his favourite charity. Superb .

Allendale Challenge, "The Finest Peat Bogs in the North Pennines", 31st March

26M

Shaun Roberts...

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

... and this was in a dry year!

I'd had a go at this one years ago, and have been wanting to do it again for some time. My first attempt was well before I'd got any fell races at all under my belt, so I'd done it 'road-runner' style, taking whatever opportunity there was to do sections on road, thus avoiding the worst of the bog. So after weeks of rain-free weather, it seemed a good opportunity to do this race properly.

Well, it started well enough ... there was actually some drizzle at the start. Nice n cool, with a bit of a breeze. About a hundred runners set off, and as I was in my road shoes, starting on a bit of tarmac, I thought I'd make hay while the sun failed to shine, and had quite a brisk start. I slowed down to something sensible as we hit the moors before the first checkpoint, and found the going quite manageable for the first hour. Then onto the rutted dry track up onto Mohope Moor that had me walking for most of it. As we got out onto the Moor, I'd had it in mind to keep to a fenceline all the way up the hill, but all the field ahead veered off on a faint sheeptrack, so I followed them and sure enough it petered out after a while, and more walking and leaping over tussocks ensued. Saw Geoff inexorably approaching behind me now, and after the trig point at Hard Rigg, heading into the bogs, he went past me, as I took a breather and a handful of jelly babies. After the recent drought, you'd scarcely believe just how deep the bogginess was up there. Every ten to twenty yards, or so it seemed, the feet would sink six inches to a foot into peaty gloop. I was happy wearing road shoes, with several very hard sections to come, but I'd been a tad concerned about how they'd cope up here. I needn't have worried ... I really don't think that whatever was strapped to the bottom of your feet would have made the slightest difference as you heaved them out of the mud.

Your cut out n keep guide.

Finally, out of the bogs and onto the peat hags! No mention of this race ever fails to include these mountains of peat that have to be negotiated before getting to Killhope Law. This year, in the main, they were actually dry-ish, with only a few bits where, I heard later, some runners and walkers took a duff line and went in up to their waists, in some cases coming out without the footwear that accompanied the owner in. So I had little runs between hillocks, in a sort of 'scuttling' style that took me quickly down a hag and up onto the next one ... where typically I'd have to come up short due to another sort of obstacle. The Walker. Yes, this event is a mixed one, where about 700 walkers set off at the crack of dawn, and we runners get to overtake the bloody lot of them during the day. The only problem being, of course, that on boggy paths, peaty trails, heathery tracks, this 'overtaking' is quite an energy-sapping business, needing a fair bit of knee-lifting and persistence as you go off-line to get past.

Good to get to Killhope Law, and get running again, first on some lovely soft grass, then on less-lovely hard stony track. To be honest, at this point I'd given up on getting a decent time for this race, as I seemed to have spent the best part of an hour and a half mainly walking. Yet legging it down the hill went well, and heading along the riverside on grass was great. On to the other 'feature' of this race, the Long Drag! I remember this hard bridleway going on forever last time, and being very hard underfoot ... and so it was again. By this time, we'd overtaken nearly all the walkers, and the field had thinned out considerably. I was competing (vaguely) against two or three knackered runners who were doggedly but continuously running up the slope ... whilst I walked a while, then managed a bit of a run, overtaking a couple, before they again overtook me. I think my strategy worked better, to be honest, because when the drag finally levelled out, I managed to get a bit of speed up and legged it to the last checkpoint at Ladle Well, then managed to get even more speed up over the last stretch of moor, familiar to Hexham Shehobble runners, and now had it in mind that a bit of a sprint through the village might get me under 4h30. So I finally burst into the hall, asking the helpful timing-women if I'd managed 4h29m ... and she asked if I was ok with 4h28m?? Well-pleased, thank-you!

Saw Geoff part-way through a cup of tea in the corner, and he'd had a fast run, not hopelessly too far ahead of me. I staggered about waffling to all and sundry before getting changed and getting down to the pub for my Pie in a Sea of Peas ... very welcome. There was also a difficult choice between three of my favourite beers, namely Taylors' Landlord, Wylam Gold and Rivet Catcher ... went for the latter, which went down very well indeed in what was now a warm sunny afternoon. Finally managed to catch up with Susan, who'd also had a fast run.

This was as good as this race gets ... definitely a challenge, but doable if you leave your racing brain at home, Swaledale-style ...

...and Aaron Gourley

As a lover of fell racing I couldn't resist the thought of taking on the Allendale Challenge, all 26 miles of it!

My first attempt at this race and at this distance I was quite aware of the enormity of the task ahead, but I was feeling good, fairly fit after abstaining from the booze for nearly a year (not completely dry though!) and had done (some) training.

The week leading up to the race had been remarkably good and I’d heard the peat bogs would still be wet but nowhere near their usual man-eating selves. It was looking all too good. Saturday morning and the weather had taken a turn for the worse but the weather forecast for the area said it would be fine. Unsure whether to trust the forecast, I packed everything I have for the worst of the weather and set off.

Arriving in Allendale it seemed all too quiet for a place that was hosting such big event. Registering at the village hall I met up with my fell running partner in crime, Jen to debate over what kit we would need.

10am soon arrived and we were off. My race strategy was not to race, I’d consciously broken down the race into quarters so to allow me to consider this as series of smaller runs. The first two quarters passed without trouble. Making it up to the halfway point in good time I was feel ok but the uphills across the first of the peat bogs had already taken its toll on my energy levels.

Stopping for a cup tea and a few sweets, I was ready to tackle the next section. Now I'd heard all about the peat hags but never expected them to resemble WW1 trenches. This really took its toll on my already aching legs. Normally my races are a maximum of 13/14 miles so I was really beginning to struggle with the constant up and downs in these peat hags. Making it out of these and onto the stoney track was a relief but I was starting to feel cramp so I slowed right down.

Making it to the next check point was a relief and the veg soup on offer was an unexpected bonus. I probably spent too much time here but it was a nice breather ready for the next section, a lovely run alone the riverside up to spartylea checkpoint. From here it was a long slog uphill on the aptly named The Drag. It went on for ever and I was really feeling the burn now so I walked nearly all of this until it levelled out. Picking up the pace down to the last check point I passed a number of walkers who must have noticed my grim features and gave me encouraging words like 'well done' followed by 'not far now'. Thanks for that.

From the last check point it was a few more miles across fairly decent track until eventually you drop back onto the road down to Allendale which is the first section you run up on the Hexhamshire Hobble. Remembering how steep this is I knew there wasn't far to go but my legs were aching now so it hurt getting back into town.

Turning the corner to be greeted by friends gave me the boost needed for the final stride back to the village hall in 5hrs39mins. Absolutely shattered I had just enough energy to get my pie and peas. Unfortunately I didn't have the energy to finish them!

In all a fantastic run in a beautiful part of the country, but bloody hard. Will I be back next year? More than likely yes.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Mark Thompson Saltwell M 1 3:48
14Beverley Redfern Carnethy F 1 4:11
17Geoff Davis NFR M 4:22
22Shaun Roberts M 4:28
52Susan Davis NFR F 5:03
85Aaron Gourley M 5:40

97 finishers.

Run Northumberland Wallington Half Marathon, 25th March

Jacquie Robson

Alister ran and enjoyed this race last year and convinced me I'd enjoy the scenery. After a run out at Sedgefield parkrun and then a rather wimpy attempt at the Prudhoe Harrier League cross country the day before, though, my legs were tired and I was not in the right frame of mind, whinging more than normal on the way there! It was foggy and cool and, despite setting off in good time, it took a bit longer than expected to arrive. We had about 35 minutes to spare before the race, but the lack of any Portaloos meant that the obligatory toilet stop before the start involved a 25 minute queue. On rushing back to the car to get numbers and race kit sorted out, we had only 5 minutes to get to the start almost half a mile away. Not the best preparation! We gambled that the sun looked like it might break through and left the long sleeves behind and, after a quick hello to Liz Lamb in the car park, headed up the hill at speed to make the start of the race. This turned out to be a blessing for me as I didn't have time to think about the race, but it meant that Alister forgot his gel belt, which was to prove a disaster!

We saw Maggie Thompson and Ian Spencer as we waited to begin and had time for a quick chat. The delayed start (presumably due to the toilet queue and very detailed pre-race briefing!) saw us set off down a hill for the first mile or so, and meant it was a very fast beginning to the race. Alister disappeared off into the distance and I soon lost sight of him because he wasn't wearing a fluorescent hat. Must be summer! I glanced at the Garmin and saw a 7:30 first mile. Alister had warned me that it was a tough race and not to go off too fast as it was hard-going later on. I'd targeted a steady gentle 9 minute first mile downhill and then 10 minute miles for as far as I could after that. Ooops. Ah, well, it was downhill!! I consciously cut the pace back, making sure I felt comfortable as I tackled the first big uphill stretch. This race was definitely not flat, but not as steep and hilly as Dentdale so I'm glad I ran there first a few weeks ago. I glanced at the Garmin as the second mile marker passed. 7:56 average mile pace. Ooops, too fast! I cut back the pace again and made comfortable progress to the 5k mark. My target time for 5k was somewhere just under 30 minutes. I was a bit concerned to see it go by after just 26 minutes, but, feeling strong and enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery, I decided to ignore the Garmin as I felt good and just check again at 10k.

I refilled my water bottle at the first water station (which then appeared every 5k, thank goodness) and plodded onwards. I could still see Ian Spencer in the distance so I cut the pace back again to make sure I could survive all 13.1 miles and the kilometres ticked by. A quick check at 10k saw me go through in 56 minutes. Faster than anything I did last season over 10k. Ooops, too fast! But I still felt good. I chose to continue to ignore the Garmin until 10 miles (the magic 'only a parkrun to go' moment) and chugged along at what felt like a comfortable pace. No llamas to see on this run, but plenty of sheep, daffodils, sunshine and a few swans to appreciate. 7 miles, 8 miles and 9 miles ticked by and, although the legs were starting to feel a bit heavier after the previous day's racing, I was still feeling quite fresh. I was hoping to hit 10 miles at about 1:40 as I knew this could see me on for a PB (which stood at 2:14 since the very windy Brass Monkey race in January). At 10 miles I allowed myself a glance at the watch, while enjoying the usual 'only a parkrun to go' elation, and had a little skip in celebration to see the Garmin showing 1:31. This was great! My nose was beginning to burn in the blazing sunshine now but I didn't care - I knew a plod on to the finish would get me a PB so the last 3.1 miles were a joy. Well, not exactly as there were three whopping great hills between 10 and 12 miles which, to be honest, weren't much fun, but I was past caring by that point.

I grabbed another water bottle from the last water station (knocking several others over - sorry, volunteers on the water station - I was a bit over-excited!) and strode out down the mile-long downhill towards the finish. I crossed the line in a miraculous 2:02. Yippee!! Looking at the race profile I have no idea where that time sprung from - I guess some days it's just a joy to be out running! Alister wasn't feeling the love, however, having forgotten his gels and struggling with a wonky knee and a bit of dehydration in the searing heat. With the London Marathon coming up, he sensibly took it easy during the second half, recognising he wasn't feeling on top form, and crossed the line in a steady 1:57. This is well below his best time, but it all counts as good training for the marathon. Liz had a storming race, coming through in 1:52, and Ian, Maggie and new Strider Rob Clarke all beat the hills and the weather to make it round in one piece!

Liz Lamb adds...

Running the Wallington Half Marathon was quite special for me, revisiting old haunts from the past when I lived nearby at Kirkwhelpington and worked at Wallington managing the restaurant. Although this was a road race, the scenery was stunning, especially on a very warm spring day and with the roads generally free of traffic. The race itself started a short distance from Wallington Hall on a nice downhill stretch before the first of many leg-sapping inclines. Being a southern softy I really liked the heat but other runners found it hard. Luckily, the frequent water stations on the course allowed many runners used it to cool themselves down. I really enjoyed it, especially the brilliant weather and It's definitely a race I would do again (thanks David for the number).

Thirsk 10, 25th March

10M

Peter Bell

Ten miles was not a distance I had ever raced at so this was going to be something a little different for me. So when Sue Jennings kindly offered me her place, in true Yorkshire style, I jumped at the chance of a freebie. My partner in crime, Kathryn Sygrove was going to accompany and we blagged a last minute lift with Louise Miller and Victoria Tindale.

It was clear from the drive down the day was going to be a scorcher and it was not long before we were catching a few rays. At quarter to 11 we were ushered to the start by officials straight from the Adolf Stalin School of marshalling who continually informed us of our lateness. Well these ladies do continually go to the toilet!

Then it was line up time on a little lane at the back of the race course. I had in my mind 1 hour 15 would mean 7 and a half min miles. Could I do it? Then we were off and I was trying hard to keep solidly at the right pace. The first 3 miles were pancake flat and Kathryn was right there on my shoulder. I had to keep checking on her as she wasn’t talking so I thought she may have been taken ill!

At three miles the first rise and I lost her as my pace continued Sub 8 minute miles. As we passed park run distance I suddenly felt myself slowing. Could I only do 3.1 miles fast? I just had to keep going and head down made it to the Busby Stoop pub. At this point all I could think of was the lovely homemade caramel slices they sell at the garage across the road. Concentration was waning and I hit the 'brick wall' with my time slipping to over 8 min miles. This was becoming a grind now and the sun was belting down.

I knew that we were on our way back to Thirsk but there had to be some sort of detour as it was only a couple of miles back to the town centre. It was not long before my curiosity of the exact route was satisfied by a pointless 2 mile dogleg out and back down some country lane. Cannot say many people enjoyed that, but then do we run for enjoyment or just some sort of twisted sadomasochistic adrenalin buzz. Back on the main road it was time to start picking the pace up and I concentrated hard in picking off as many people as possible. There was no way I was going to let anyone past without a fight and this tactic paid dividends as my pace increased. With a mile to go the racecourse was in sight and I was doing some serious adding up in my head to work out what I was due to arrive in at. I was praying the finish line was just inside the gate and thank god it was. I passed the finish line in 1 hour 14.57. The pace had been punishing but not crippling and I was quietly satisfied.

I sneaked around to the finish line the cheer everyone in and Kathryn arrived a few minutes later at 1 hour 18 with Louise and Victoria arriving around 1:32. Everyone was very happy with their times.

Another classic T-shirt meets the light of day. A good day was had by all. Now thoughts were turning to making the most of the rest of the day. Beer and BBQ, good plan!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Yared Hagos Wallsend Harriers M 1 0:49:40
36Claire Simpson Jarrow and HebburnF35 1 1:01:08
235Peter Bell M 1:14:57
300Kathryn Sygrove F45 1:18:42
414John Greathead M 1:27:53
436Barrie John Evans M65 1:29:45
459Victoria Tindale F 1:32:33
460Louise Miller F 1:32:37
516Christine Farnsworth F 1:44:34

533 finishers.

Lakeside Way Marathon, Kielder, 25th March

26.2m

Dave Robson

My sixth time round Kielder and my third time at this low key and free marathon for members of the North East Marathon Club (membership is just £8 !). Thirty runners including five Striders - Will, John Hutchinson, Angela, Sue and me. I was also my first handicap marathon, which I was looking forward to. We had to predict our time in 15 minute intervals and we would be set off with the aim of all of us finishing at 3pm.

So far so good ... Melanie and I drove up on the morning to get to my scheduled start at 10. The mist was very thick in places and it didn't look like we were going to be able to see very much when running. However, the mist lifted about two miles from the dam and it was clear that this would be a hot day.

Melanie was going to cycle round the Lakeside Way in the opposite direction to the runners and take some pictures, so we unloaded the bike and got ourselves ready. There were four other runners starting at 10 and some of them I knew were a lot quicker than me. Three of them shot off and the fourth one, Tim, and I stuck together and chatted for fourteen miles. It certainly made those miles easier, but I probably ran them slightly faster than I should have done

After 30 minutes I started to walk the hills and there are lots of them at Kielder. After 14m I met Melanie coming the other way, she had stopped to take photos in many places and so was a bit behind her schedule. Tim ran on while I chatted to Melanie for a bit.

I almost caught Tim when he was running with Angela and Sue, but then he and Angela disappeared into the distance and Angela put in her now customary storming finish to a long run.

It was getting very warm and I was starting to struggle. I got to 19m and then I was really struggling, lots of walking breaks. Plodded on overtaking the odd runner or so and being overtaken by others as the handicap started to unwind. A couple of calf spasms were a bit worrying. I perked up a bit in the final mile and made it home in 4hr 54min. Before the start I said I would be happy with sub 5 and I was, but it should not have been that hard. It is all down to my lack of training, but hopefully this will make Hull in two weeks a bit easier.

Still standing at the end. John estimated it would take him 4hr 15min and he came in with 4hr 14min, so excellent pacing in the heat. Sue came in shortly afterwards in a great time on this course. Will was in the last group to start and was starting to slow down, so he pulled out at 17m to preserve his legs for a higher profile race coming up soon.

It is a beautiful but hilly route, almost all on very good, purpose built trail. Road shoes are fine on this surface. A meal in the pub and chats with other runners before we made our way home

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Steven Prentice NEMC M 1 3.18.00
4Susanne Hunter Blyth Running ClubF 1 3.37.52
13John Hutchinson M 4.14.08
21Dave Robson M 4.54.41
25Angela Proctor F 5.14.12
27Susan Jennings F 5.34.20

29 finishers.

Blakey Blitz Fell Race, Lion Inn, NYM, 25th March

11m/2630'

Shaun Roberts

It was very hilly and it got very hot.

Shaun heading up an early hill ...... and Phil shows how it should be done.
Photos courtesy and © Clive Thornton

Oh ... and it was a lovely race, too! It certainly worked up a thirst ...

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Cameron Taylor Esk Valley FC MJ 1 1:19:06
55Shaun Roberts MV55 4 1:52:51
97Phil Owen MV45 13 2:13:32

122 finishers.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Harrier League, Prudhoe, 24th March

Mudman & Mudwoman

Our leader! Suitably decorated ...

Yet another grand day out was had by all who made it to the Prudhoe HL on Saturday. Sunshine, exotic cake & champagne where there to be enjoyed on the final day of what has been a very successful and enjoyable x/c season for Striders.

Once again there was an excellent Striders' turn out with twelve women and 18 men running the bone dry, but hilly, Prudhoe course in very hot conditions. Both teams did well on the day with the men finishing in a very good 4th position in Division 2 while the women consolidated their position by finishing 6th in the highly competitive Senior Women's Division 1. There were some notable individual performances with Jerry Lloyd finishing in 13th place and qualifying for medium pack status in his first season of HL and Carolyn Bray, in only her second HL, finishing as third Striders' 'counter'. There was just one debutant - Carly Trower - who finished well up the field and seemed to thoroughly enjoy her day as did her 6(?) month old baby, there to cheer Mum on!!

Magnificent cake from Jules! Who says: 'Jerry did the decorating! and did a very good job of hiding the mysterious non-rising cake. Did any one else know that purple food colouring goes green when it's cooked?! You do now. Good job it was Striders colours....  ;o)' There were some other notable Striders supporters on the course. Yusuf's parents were there, visiting from Turkey. I'm not sure what they made of it all (e.g. the 'war paint'!) but they looked like they were enjoying themselves! Injured runners Phil Sanderson and Eric Whittaker (Deb's Dad) were also there cheering us all on although I don't know how Eric reacted when he saw Debs walking up the hill! Angela was there too, saving herself for bigger things on Sunday, and her support would rival that of any 'All American' cheerleader!

So another season comes to an end. The final table shows Striders men's team finishing in 4th place in Division 2 - our best season for some time and it augers well for a promotion push in 12-13! The women finished 7th in the Senior Women's First Division which is a very creditable performance in a league that gets tougher and tougher every season. We haven't done a detailed count but we estimate that around 60 Striders ran at least one race during 11-12, with many making their debuts. I hope this proves to be the first of many seasons of enjoyable cross country running for you all. Thanks to all who ran, supported, baked cakes, gave lifts, helped with the tent and flag - here's to next season - we can't wait!!

I think we were up for this one!

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 GARBUTT, Daniel Durham City Harriers 31:28
13 LLOYD, Jerry 36:49
25 HORSLEY, Will 37:33 *M
77 GARLAND, James 38:53
124 CLAYDON, Matt 40:07
137 BENNETT, Michael 40:25
140 GIBSON, David 40:33
147 DAVIS, Geoff 40:45
169 REEVES, Thomas 41:40
202 ROBERTS, Shaun 43:38
213 LINDSEY, Steven 44:11
216 WHITE, Conrad 44:16
251 VAN DER BREMER, Marco 46:03
252 HEPPELL, Nigel 46:05
256 HOCKIN, Richard 46:16
258 ROBSON, Alister 46:20
293 KURUNER, Yusuf 50:15
294 OWEN, Phil 50:23

*M Medium pack - 2m30s handicap.
*F Fast pack - 5m handicap.

308 finishers. Men's team 4th of 11, Division 2, finishing 4th overall.

Striders Women also up for this one ... with added testosterone ...
Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 SMITH, Rosie Durham City Harriers 25:01 *M
21 MASON, Nina 29:24
49 SHENTON, Fiona 30:45 *M
54 BRAY, Carolyn 31:00
58 PERCIVAL, Juliet 31:30
59 DAVIS, Susan 31:36
62 BARLOW, Stephanie 31:49
74 TROWER, Carly 33:00
78 TARN, Lindsay 33:29
83 YOUNG, Jan 33:49
84 GODDARD, Debra 33:51
91 DICK, Barbara 34:29
99 ROBSON, Jacqui 36:13

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap.

109 finishers. Women's Team 6th of 8, Division 1, finishing 7th overall.

Cleveland Survival, North York Moors, 24th March

25M

Dougie Nisbet

With my marathon training derailed and going nowhere fast it seemed a good time to consult the big book. I opened up my well thumbed 3Plus2 and read:

The "specificity" principle asserts that the best way to develop fitness for running is to train the energy systems and muscles as closely as possible to the way they are used while running and racing

I don't know why I bothered. I already knew what it was going to say, and I already knew that I was going to ignore it. For years I've been vaguely aware of a mysterious event called the Cleveland Survival and this year had finally plucked up the courage to enter. The distance is around 25 miles so I suppose that's close enough to marathon distance. But as for specificity, there's not much in common with the fells of the North York Moors and the streets of Sunderland.

The Cleveland Survival is a walking and running event organised my Cleveland Mountain Rescue and takes place every spring somewhere in the North York Moors. I say 'somewhere', because every year the 'somewhere' is a little bit different. A week before the event a small brown envelope dropped through my letter box and in large friendly letters on the inside cover it simply said:

THE RENDEZ-VOUS FOR THE EVENT IS

SE533845

Cold Kirby Village Hall

So now I knew where the start was, and I had a start time. Still no idea about the route though. They only tell you that once you've started. I thought about this as I watched the walkers who were being started in timed intervals before the runners. I watched their tactics. It varied. Most walkers and many runners crossed the start line, received the route details, then settled down on the grassy verge and unfolded their maps. None of them actually unscrewed their thermos flasks but I'm sure they were thinking about it. The course details contained about a dozen grid references corresponding to the checkpoints that must be visited, in order, around the course. The favoured approach seemed to be to identify the location of all the checkpoints then circle them on the map with a big bingo pen. This all looked a bit organised so I asked an old-timer what he thought about pre-marking the checkpoints. "That's what the hills are for", he replied (the uphill ones I assumed). "Mark the first two or three checkpoints, then do the rest on the way round while you're climbing hills. Just don't lose the list of grid-references". That sounded far more fun, so when I started I shoved the laminated checkpoints down my pants and made a show of pretending to look at the map, but as lots of people had already done the heavy lifting for locating the first control I decided to just follow them.

Dougie It was a fantastic sunny day and I steadily ran, jogged and walked round the first few checkpoints. I was pacing myself carefully as although I've run marathons before, none of them had been quite as hilly, or over this sort of terrain. Navigation was reasonably straightforward and as the rules state you must stick to public rights of way route choices are fairly limited. This isn't such a bad thing and for the most part I chose long and straightforward whereas I noticed that the Lekis and Rucksacks often favoured the more scenic shortcuts. Being a seasoned fell-runner I stuck to the tarmac. I was carrying 500ml of isotonic and it was disappearing fast. Drinks would be available at certain checkpoints, but it wasn't clear how often and how many. This could be interesting.

As the race unfolded I began to pass a lot of walkers who it was clear were beginning to group together into informal flocks, presumably for protection against predators. I used the hills to mark the next couple of checkpoints, fumbling for glasses, pen and compass, and hoping that I'd got the circle in roughly the right place. With the last few miles unfolding I managed to keep running where many were now walking and it felt good to be passing people all the way to the finish. The hydration worked out ok although there was one checkpoint where I turned up dry and was very relieved indeed to find inexhaustible supplies of orange juice on tap.

The competitive element is there, but, like Swaledale, it's pretty low key. I love the way the times are down to the nearest minute and the quiet contemplative mood in the village hall afterwards. I love the mix of walkers and runners, and with the walkers heading of first, the way you spend most of the race bumping into people. This is a lovely event, and by its nature must be different every year. It's going to be a regular fixture for me.

FRA Navigation Weekend, Kettlewell, 16–18th March

Mike Bennett

Nina brought up the topic of the FRA navigation course while a few of us were sat in the Spread Eagle following the Captain Cook race on New Years Day. Remembering Tom, Nigel and Shaun's glowing reports of the course they did a few years back I figured it was time I stopped following people in races and tried finding my own way to the finish and got booked up.

Four Striders attended the weekend at Kettlewell, Nina, Jan, Mark and myself along with 26 other runners and walkers from far and wide. The activities were all based around the Youth Hostel at Kettlewell which was ours for the weekend. Food provided and cooked by the Youth Hostel staff all included in the total cost of £60 for the whole weekend for FRA members, (£85 for non members, £12 to join FRA! You do the maths, it’s a no brainer).

Mike.Jan.Mark.Nina.

A full programme of events relating to navigating were promised and the course certainly lived up to its reputation. With a ratio of 2 guides per group of 4-5 participants meant we were all under expert tuition the whole time. A short spell in the 'classroom' followed by the rest of the activities out on the Fells included small group activities then paired exercises culminating in a 10k solo event. There was even a night navigation session on the Fells in pairs with just map headtorch and compass. Sounds scary but it was amazing just how quickly you can pick up the basics and get going.

From being a bit of a map reading novice I now have a good basic level of competence, the rest is down to me to put into practice.

I can’t rate this weekend highly enough for walkers, orienteers and runners alike. Feedback from the other participants was in agreement with my experience.

Next event as far as I am aware is in Elterwater Youth hostel from 21st September, same format, different location.

A word of caution however, Nina and Mark both finished ahead of me in the solo event so don’t follow me just yet.

East Hull 20, 18th March

20M

Jacquie Robson

Recently, I've been joining in the long runs organised by Sue, Greta and the rest of the lovely Sunday Morning Crew as part of their marathon training so have been increasing my 'distance PB' (the furthest I've ever run in one go) quite a lot. Alister had the Spen 20 and the East Hull 20 pencilled into his marathon training plans months ago and, as both races approached, I began to wonder whether I should have a bash! He advised against the tough and 'quite undulating' [i.e. blinkin' hilly] Spen 20, and, having read the race reports, I'm glad he did (but much respect to those that took it on!!). I thought the East Hull 20, described by Alister as 'flat and, frankly, dull' starting just 15 minutes from my mum and dad's house, sounded more appealing (the 'flat' bit, not the 'dull' bit!). I ummed and ahhed and thought about it, then saw that online entries had closed because it was full so I popped a sneaky postal entry in that same day and let fate decide. Sure enough I managed to get myself a number. Gulp!

On race day I tried to get myself into the 'it's just a training run' mentality to calm my churning stomach and jangling nerves, but it didn't really work and I spent the morning completely terrified and trying to work out how I would get back to the car if I couldn't complete the course. The route was a 'lollipop'-shaped affair, out of the east side of Hull and through the villages with a 4-mile loop around Long Riston and then back along the first eight miles or so. The thought of 20 long miles and up to four hours of running all on my own (I was convinced I'd be in last place with no-one anywhere near me) without the company of Greta, Sue and the gang was overwhelmingly horrible! An early arrival at the Race HQ to collect our numbers gave me plenty of time to look at all the finely-honed athletes in the final throes of their marathon preparations and wonder at my sanity in even considering attempting 20 miles! Gulp! It was a welcome distraction, however, to spot one such finely-honed specimen: ex-Strider Keri Pearson, now a City of Hull AC runner and training for the London Marathon, was glad to see us. I was reassured that she seemed almost as nervous as me but she looked in great shape as she jogged away to warm up.

Alister thoroughly enjoying the race!

I'd just begun to try to think of convincing reasons to drop out of the race when I spotted another familiar face. During the Humber Bridge half marathon last year, I made friends with and ran much of the way round with a local lady called Jo and it was a relief to see her face at East Hull. She seemed almost as pleased to see me! We quickly decided to be running buddies so we wouldn't have to complete the course alone and we agreed to stick together to at least 10 miles. By the time the race began, and Alister began to disappear into the distance ahead of me, I was feeling a bit calmer and jogged along happily chatting to Jo. All the Sundays spent jogging along the railway tracks, gossiping with Greta and Sue and the gang, have really paid off as the miles ticked passed very quickly without boredom or any early fatigue. The weather was stunning and the blue sky and sunshine made me feel happy to be a runner as we pootled along clocking up the miles. As we approached 8 miles, and the start of the 'lollipop' loop, we saw the leaders storm past on their way back towards the finish and we cheered them on their way. As we turned onto the 'lollipop' of the loop, the leaders were no longer in view but we spotted something we thought we wouldn't see on a run in East Yorkshire: hills! Jo was a bit concerned about having hills on the 'relatively flat' course and there were other grumbles and worries from those around us. I was very glad that I'd completed the Dentdate a couple of weeks ago because I couldn't understand what they were complaining about. They weren't REALLY hills - a slight incline, granted, but they should REALLY try doing their training around Durham if they want to appreciate some actual hills! A couple of ladies were heard to complain about the 'hills' leading down to and up from an underpass - it's more hilly during the Durham parkrun!!!! This entertained me hugely and gave me confidence and, at 12 miles, although my legs were starting to tire, I was finding the pace very manageable (just over 10 minute miles) and was beginning to feel that I would be able to complete the course. After the loop was completed, we returned to the final 8-mile stretch back down to the start and headed home. Jo was clearly feeling fresher than me and I was beginning to feel a bit pooped, but I stuffed some jelly beans and jelly babies down my neck and kept my water levels topped up at all the drink stations (one every 3-4 miles, which I thought was very good!) and kept plodding onwards. A friend of Jo's joined us at 14 miles which meant I was able to let them go on ahead and slow my own pace as I was beginning to struggle. From 14 to 15 miles I really started to feel like I was running out of steam, but I crammed in more jelly beans and took it easy for a mile or so.

At 16 miles, I perked up again and started counting down the steps until the magic 'only a parkrun to go' point at 16.9 miles. This has become a habit for me recently and it REALLY works. I visualise my beloved Durham parkrun route as I plod along the last 5k of a race. It's a welcome distraction and helps me focus on something other than the pain in my legs! It worked a treat at Dent, where I did the fastest 5k of the run at the very end (unheard of for me!) and it began to work in East Hull as, despite the sun beating down, I started to pick people off. The last 5k at East Hull is REALLY REALLY boring, along a very straight old railway line, so I visualised different scenery for myself to make it more bearable. With Dougie's 'parkrun pacing' points firmly in my head, I caught the first couple of runners as early on as 'Horsley corner' (17.2 miles) and hit the 'noisy bridge' (17.6 miles) feeling strong. The 'playing fields' section was quite tough, but as I joined the 'riverside path' (18.5 miles) I knew I would soon be seeing the castle and the cathedral. In my head, obviously. Or maybe I really was starting to hallucinate! The rest of the race runners left the long railway line section (and I enjoyed the mental view of the parkrun bandstand finish for the first time) at about 19 miles, and at that point I knew I was going to finish and complete the longest race I'd ever attempted without needing to stop or walk! Yippee!!

The last section through the housing estate (i.e. along the riverside path towards Baths bridge) was quite nice as people were outside their houses enjoying the sunshine and cheering us on. Visualising the bandstand ahead of me I tried to stride out along the last few hundred metres, and saw Alister next to the route, waiting to cheer me in. Hearing his shout of 'you'll break 3:30' I went a bit mad and did a sprint finish, nearly knocking two ladies into the oncoming traffic!! As I hit the finish line, I had a bit of an odd moment where I wanted to stop running but my legs didn't seem to get the message and one of the lovely marshals had to catch hold of me, explaining (very slowly and clearly!) that I'd now finished and might want to stop running! I managed to regain control of my limbs and slowed to a walk while I battled a weird emotional moment that saw me wanting to laugh hysterically and sob all at the same time. Very strange! Poor Alister must have been a bit concerned to see me wobbling away into the distance, wailing and drunkenly staggering along on wonky legs, looking likely to fall into the road at any second! Luckily I still remembered to stop the Garmin! Sub-3:30. Yay!!!!

I had regained my composure somewhat by the time he got to me to feed me water and jelly babies and to try to persuade me to stop walking (he found me walking around and around and around in small circles beyond the finish area!!). Once I'd regained control of all my faculties and the urge to cry had passed completely, I was just about in a fit state to drink my recovery milkshake (those things are amazing!) and to collect my race memento - a lovely sports bag that'll do perfectly for my swimming gear! In summary, it turned out that I actually enjoyed the race! The course was flat. And it was a long way. And it was pretty boring in places. But I was pleased with my time and overjoyed that I didn't need to stop or walk at all! Alister had a great run, too, and Keri did a good job to finish 10th lady (although she was cross with herself because she had a bit of a 'gel' incident and felt that, otherwise, she'd have finished in the top three!). Definitely a good race for marathon preparations. Or even if, like me, you have no intention of doing a marathon. Ever... Maybe...!

Some videos

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 John Beattie Guest SEN 105:17
30 Helen Waugh Unattached LV35 1 129:56
111 Keri Pearson City of Hull AC LSEN 10 150:25
244 Alister Robson V40 171:11
370 Jacquie Robson LV35 206:19

402 finishers.

Hardmoors 55, 17th March

55M

Tom Reeves

I ran this last year in very good weather and it was an enjoyable if tiring day out on the North York Moors. I was very kindly given a lift by Andrew Thompsons' dad. This saved me the struggle of getting my two boys out of bed and the ongoing complaint of spending weekends in muddy fields waiting for me to finish yet another race.

The race starts in Helmsley and follows the Cleveland Way footpath as far as Guisborough. Following the kit check I stood around outside with Ultra race virgins Andrew Thompson and David Gibson. I of course imparted my invaluable wisdom and knowledge on the dark art that is ultra (plodding) running. Phil Owen and Anna Seeley were also in attendance (both Ultra Regulars of course) and we had the obligatory Striders team picture. The day was still, cool and overcast just about perfect for a very long run.

Anna, Phil, Tom, David and Andrew. At 9am off we went and for the first couple of miles the path was fairly congested. By Rievaulx Abbey I was into my rhythm and having a good natter with my fellow runners. One thing about these races there is no shortage of people to chat to in the middle of the pack. I'm not sure what the proper runners at the front do?

I made the first checkpoint at the white horse (not a pub) in good order. My legs felt good and I was moving quite well. I hadn't been able to train for a few weeks due to Sciatic problems so was feeling a bit uncertain as to whether I would stay the distance.

The race as far as Osmotherley (22 miles) is over good runable ground. I got into Ossy in just under 4 hours which was slow but ok. I decided early on that finishing was number one priority.

Tom As I sat eating my cold rice pudding David turned up and I suggested we run the next, toughest section together. Its 20 miles to the next major checkpoint at Kildale and is pretty much up and down all the way going over Live Moor, Cringle Moor and the Wainstones. David powered out of Osmotherley and I struggled to stay with him. I also struggled to keep my rice pud down!

We got into a decent running pace and passed Lordstones Cafe in good order. On the way up Cringle Moor David got cramp I did offer a leg massage but the look on his face said it all. He ordered me to "push on" or was it "push off"?

I did and for the next few miles passed one or two runners. The sight at the top of the Wainstones was glorious, a tent full of cakes. Unfortunately I felt sick and had none.

The run up to Blowarth Crossing got fairly unpleasant with sleet and I got pretty cold as I was unwilling to stop to put long trousers on. The miles from this point seem to double in length. I bumped into a guy called Paul from NFR and we ran together down into Kildale.

Now for me once I hit Kildale I know I can do it bar a major blow up. Joan and the boys met me there and really cheered me up I got a complete change of clothes and another bowl of rice pudding. I also managed a coffee in the village hall.

I ran much of this final 12 miles or so on my own. A few of us linked up when it got dark coming off Roseberry topping and this always helps when your tired and it's dark. Very easy to lose concentration and get lost. The clouds parted as we ran along the disused train line into Guisborough the night sky looked glorious. We got a round of applause (and curry) at the sea cadets hut when we finished. David came in not long after me which was great. Judging by the grin on his face I think he was rather chuffed with himself.

Tom and David Unfortunately Andrew took a wrong turn in the dark after coming off Roseberry Topping and didn't finish which was a real shame as he was certainly well within the time at that point. Maybe next year? I later heard that Phil and Anna had a bit of an epic after Anna had a slip and bashed her knee. They still finished within the time limits so it's a well done to them for keeping going. As for me I might be back I would really love to get in under 11 hours, who knows?

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Oliver Sinclair Serpentine M 1 8:27:18
5Shelli Gordon New Marske Harriers F 1 9:10:08
40Tom Reeves M 11:38:20
52David Gibson M 12:19:40
85Anna Seeley F 14:29:55
86Phil Owen M 14:29:55

88 finishers.

Cartmel Trail Races, 17th March

10K and 18K

Dave Robson

We decided that this would be a day trip, out and back from Durham in a day. A two hour drive each way, pretty tiring, but I am very pleased we went. These are great events, they have a lovely atmosphere. This year there were three races, the 10K, then two 18K races on the same route, with the Challenge race starting 1 hour before the Trail race

This is the third time I have done Cartmel and today was by far the muddiest of the three. At times it was just totally the liquid variety which completely covers your shoes and ankles. The rest of the time it was the slippy variety which can be tricky when you are contouring.

Melanie and Dave Melanie did the 10K race so went out two hours before the Challenge start. When she came back in just over an hour and well inside the top third of the finishers, a great performance considering the treatment she has been through, I thought she must have fallen over in the mud. She hadn't fallen, so I knew it was going to be one of those races.

I started the Challenge nice and gently. There seemed to be more hills this year, but I think I had just forgotten how hilly the route is. I made slow progress and the first 8K took an hour. The first water station really did have cans of Guinness for St Patrick's Day (I thought they were joking at the announcements at the beginning).

The turn where lots of people went wrong last year was marshalled this year. My energy seemed to pick up at this point, maybe the kendal mint cake from the water station helped. I found the later downhill road sections great for increasing my speed. We turned into the really muddy section where the photographer was waiting for us. I enjoyed that muddy section !

Through the ford, which helped to wash off the mud, and then the long climb up into the woods and I still hadn't been overtaken by the first runner from the Trail race. I managed to get home without being overtaken (last year I was overtaken about 2K from the finish). The samba band drummed everybody into the finish. As usual a sticky toffee pudding and a technical tee shirt at the finish and plenty of chat with clubmates and fetchies, listening to singer/songwriter Pete Lashley and the usual fun at the prizegiving.

The other Striders seemed to have a good day. Angela was catching me and would have finished ahead if the race had been a bit longer. Sue knocked off 20min off last year's time even though the going was much tougher than last year. Maggie has done this for a few years now and was looking forward to it when I saw her at the start.

Cheesy Chips and mushy peas in Kirby Stephen rounded off a lovely day :-) The girl in the chip shop clearly though I was crazy by ordering such a combination...

Spen 20, Cleckheaton, 11th March

20M

John Hutchinson

I'd somehow allowed myself to be conned into doing this race on the pretext that it would be a good preparation for our forthcoming marathon. Alister had volunteered to do the driving and picked me up at 7:20 and Sue and Angela shortly later at Bowburn, then headed off down the motorway into the blinding morning sunshine. It was a gorgeous day. Last year Angela and Alister had done it in cold wind and rain; this year we were regretting having too many layers and all agreed we should have just worn or vests. We all came home with a bit of sunburn.

The course was a convoluted double loop within a loop up and down the hills around Cleckheaton, starting and finishing with a lap of the running track. I remember passing a pub, the Grey Ox, and thinking I’m glad this steep bit is downhill, only to find half an hour later we were coming back up the same hill. By the 16 mile mark I was regretting having set off far too fast and started to slow down, then in the last few miles at least a dozen folk I'd passed earlier all got past me. At least the last bit was downhill and a flat finish on the track to collect our prize bottles of the local brewed beer. I was starting to worry where Alister was as the minutes ticked by, but of course he was somewhat handicapped by having done 14 miles at Dent the day before. Angela came in not far behind, followed by Sue. Once we’d got enough strength back in our legs to walk back to the car it was back up the motorway with a stop at the services for Double Whopper burgers at Burger King.

I thought I'd survived it well with only a blister on my little toe – only to learn on the news the next day that all that processed red meat had shortened my life by several years!

Thanks for doing the driving Alister.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1David Thompson Barnsley ACM 1 1.59.06
21Gema Adams Preston F 1 2.19.17
132John Hutchinson M55 2.50.04
236Alister Robson M40 3.22.53
240Angela Proctor F35 3.25.35
250Susan Jennings F45 3.33.44

263 finishers.

Glaisdale Rigg, North Yorks Moors, 11th March

8M /1500'

Nigel Heppell

Another new route for me in the N.Runner/NEHRA Winter Series held on the North York Moors. In only its second year of running, there was a lot of discussion amongst the punters about the route before the start. By my interpretation of the map there would be quite a bit of road running and given the recent dry weather I elected to wear nice clean trail shoes.

A short downhill on-road dash is followed by a steep climb through the village of Glaisdale and the first walk of the day, followed by a runnable farmer's track to the 200m contour where we are spat out onto the moor - no obvious tracks to follow, just heather, tussocks, and bog, lots of bog, runners going in all directions, trail shoes - bad idea, and quite tiring leaping about like a demented morris dancer. There is then a lefthand turn and a steepish trod out of the wet stuff to the 260m where join a landrover track which goes on and on (about 1km) in a straight line up to the high point of Glaisdale Rigg at 326m.

Another lefthand turn and we drop down the hillside to the valley bottom (150m), short stretch of road, right turn across soggy fields, left again onto road for 1/2km and hit the steep climb leading into woods that has been confronting us all the way across the valley; get overtaken by NFR lady who I don't see again for the rest of the race. Eventually reach runnable terrain beyond woods and now we're contouring at 250m through felled woodland, nice and undulating but lots of jumping across stream banks churned up by leading runners.

Just on the last climb of the day when I'm overtaken by a sprightly youth - in the manner of the Harrier League when the Fast Pack come past us mere mortals - I later find out he was late and started 19mins after the rest of us! Join a road now and its hard underfoot as the downward slope increases, begin to think trail shoes not so bad a choice, jink left onto another tarmac lane, still descending rapidly, tarmac runs out leaving deeply rutted track made of amusing combination of loose ankle-wrecking rocks and a strange grey/white slithery mud that sticks to everything, trail shoes u/s. I pick off a few stragglers and thankfully cross stream to short climb into the finish in the Arncliffe Arms(runner's special: chilli & rice £2) car park.

According to my car which has been parked in the shade under a stone bridge all this time, the temperature is 17ºC - no wonder I feel like a drink.

Grindleford Gallop, 10th March

21M

Paul Evans

It had been three years since I did this race, a 21 mile tour of the highlights of the White Peak District; short enough to remember how much I enjoyed the scenery yet long enough to forget how much some of it hurt. The race itself had also changed, with entry being full weeks before the day,a reserve list in force (which, unfortunately, didn't throw up a place for Phil Owen, who'd planned to use it as a 'short' race to build up for the Hardmoors 110, and nearly 400 runners filling the starting field.

Once the starting horn had blown (so quietly only those next to it heard it), the stampede to get through the pinch-points of a stream crossing and a stile leading to a narrow stone-flagged path through the woods was on. It was chaotic and, despite my reluctance to start too fast, I went off quicker than I had intended in order not to be stuck behind an impassable mass of runners for the next mile. Once in the woods, overtaking was difficult and, with the pack still tightly-bunched, eyes had to be firmly fixed on the ground if you wanted to stay upright on the twisting, wet stones. Emerging onto the road around 40th, for the drag up through open fields to above Eyam, gaps started to appear as the front-runners pulled away and others, having been sucked into an unsustainable pace, fell back. The descent into Eyam along a steep track came and went in a flash, as did the pull out of the village onto Longstone Moor, where I realised that at 5 miles in I was feeling surprisingly strong and started to chase down a small pack ahead of me. The chase seemingly went on and on, all the way up the gradual slog over soft mud and springy heather and down the muddy, rocky track into Great Longstone village. A couple of the runners and a large group of walkers were reeled in as I rounded the Crispin Inn and headed onto the old railway, though a group of three Stockport Harriers in lurid yellow vests remained a good quarter mile distant.

Normally I dislike running along old railway tracks due to the monotony of scenery and gradient, but the section from Great Longstone to Bakewell was glorious, the recent warm weather provoking an array of flowers to bloom early, giving colour to the sheltered embankments and a heady scent to the air. The firm track made this a quick two miles, even allowing for the drink stop at Hassop Station, where a flapjack was pushed into my hand by one of the children helping man the refreshments, providing a welcome contrast to the muddy slog that was to come through the woods up to Ball Cross Farm; this, at least, provided an excuse to walk alongside one of the Stockport runners and take in much-needed food before the long, fast descent across open fields to Edensor, herds of the Chatsworth deer scattering as we approached. My companion stuck with me for the next five miles, all the way through the next drink stop at Goose Green, up the drag to the Wellington monument on the gritstone edge above Baslow and onto the start of the final traverse, this one keeping the heather of the moors to the right and the softer scenery of the Peak's villages and farms several hundred metres below, to the left. Once again, just as last time I raced this stretch, I was alone and remained so until the very end, the one flash of competition coming when I finally sighted another runner flagging on the steep final descent through the sodden woodland path down to Grindleford, several hundred metres ahead. I didn't catch him, but the chase was enjoyable, even if it did cost me an inverted right ankle on the way.

Finally it was over - 11th place and 2 hours and 45 minutes of highly enjoyable running that left me with a big smile for the rest of the day, even if it left a limp to go with it.

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Dentdale Run, Dent, Cumbria, 10th March

14M 379Yards

Shaun Roberts

What are they all looking so happy about ... don't they know what's coming?

Well, a picture tells a thousand words, but to be honest the one below's a bit surprising. I'd thought some of the biggest hills were towards the end ... and although there are a few rises, it's clear that the worst climbing, by far, is in the eighth mile. Yes, it's another weekend of staying in a lovely Dentdale cottage (well organised, Jan!), avoiding drinking too much on the Friday night, and then celebrating in a state of mild exhaustion on the Saturday night.

A Tale of Three Bridges.

The start was a bit dramatic. James and I were talking about how fast to go off, adrenaline kicking in, that sort of thing, as you do. Then off we went, but within a couple of seconds, James, a yard or two in front of me, gets a trip and after manfully trying to stay upright - legs and arms flailing everywhere - he has no option but to hit the deck ... sensibly aiming for someone's 'front-garden gravel'.James, on his way to another ten Grand Prix points ... I carried on, hoping he'd quickly get back on his way, and lo, there he was, legging it past me at full pelt, heading for the sharp end of the field. I, too, was going quite fast ... I got through the first five miles in 34' or so, and 10K in 43', at which point I'm thinking this may turn out to be too quick. I was right, and slowed more and more as the temperature rose heading towards that big bump shown above. This is not a good part of the race ... a long drag, and mentally, you're thinking,'We're still heading away from Dent', which frankly doesn't help. Anyway, it's always a relief to get to the bridge at about 10.5 miles, turn round and head for home. Also, although there are a few steep rises, I always like the run-in, and now that profile explains why ...

James was first Strider home, with a great time, and not too worse for wear after his encounter with the gravel. I was happy with my run, a bit faster than last year. Nina (or 'Nina Jane', as the results have it), also had a good run, also faster than last time and worth a third prize for her age group. Dougie got the right side of the two-hour mark this year, after just missing out last time around, as did Alister, on the first part of an epic weekend's racing. Phil Owen also had a good run, getting back on the road to recovery, followed by Jan, who got a third in her age group as well. Good runs, too, from Jean, Stef and Margaret, but two more special mentions: Jacquie really wasn't looking forward to this one ... mainly due to us all winding her up about how hard it was going to be ... but she had a great run, and got a half-marathon PB on the way round. Finally congratulations to Yusuf, who made good use of George's number, ran very well, and put over sixty runners behind him - well done mate!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Ian McBride UnattachedM 1 1:18:23
36James Garland M 1:37:49
41Clare Pearson Skipton ACF 1 1:38:30
69Shaun Roberts M50 1:43:50
111Nina Jane Mason F35 1:51:16
178Dougie Nisbet M40 1:59:21
183Alister Robson M40 1:59:57
222Phil Owen M40 2:06:09
238Jan Young F55 2:08:19
246Jean Bradley F55 2:09:15
275Stephanie Barlow F35 2:13:02
281Yusuf Kuruner M 2:13:57
314Jacquie Robson F35 2:23:36
341Margaret Thompson F55 2:39:47

345 finishers.

Haweswater Half Marathon, Bampton, 4th March

13.1M

Anita Clementson

A few striders aka Camilla, Alan Smith, Peter and Lyndsay enjoyed a drive over the snowy A68 to a brisk Bampton for the start of this Lakeland road race. I hadn't prepared for it to be so cold so treated myself to a New Balance top from a discount stall in the village hall. I do like these smaller races where you can get a decent cup of hot tea right before the race. The start was a short walk out of Bampton, approx 600 runners gathered. The route was expecting to be undulating and on a last night update of the run website expected a couple of miles climb, eight miles flat and then down at the end with lots of mini undulations between.

After a couple of miles out of Bampton we were treated to the majestic sight of the snow-capped Lakeland fells - it was beautiful. Passed the Haweswater dam and then following the lake, very pretty and took the mind off any aches and pains. As this was an out-and-back race after 5 miles at my 10 min mile pace the front runners were coming back (lucky for them). At 6 miles there was an unexpected downhill to the half way point then back up the drag. This perplexed me but after a while it dawned on me the map I had taken in last night was only half the race, doh! We swapped encouragement with the fellow Striders who were all ahead of me, including Denise who had made her own way there. About 8 miles I caught up to Alan, but then he got a second wind and I couldn't catch him again. The sun came out a bit towards the end and overall the weather was clement if not a bit windy running back up the hill at the halfway point!

I was pleased to finish under 2:20. The race memento was a nice mug which was filled with hot tea promptly. We declined to the pub where we met Barry and Christine who did shorter versions of the race each. Overall a good day out, nice race, nice company.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Stuart Carmichael City of Hull AC M40 1 1:11:57
27Megan Wright Hunters Bog Trotters F 1 1:24:14
109Graham Daglish M55 6 1:36:57
260Peter Brooks M40 47 1:49:26
373Camilla Lauren-Maatta F45 13 1:58:59
417Denise Mason F 61 2:03:44
457Alan Smith M65 4 2:11:40
469Anita Clementson F40 27 2:15:26

507 finishers.

Brough Law, 4th March

5M/1250'

Dougie Nisbet

Last year it was sunny. This year it wasn't. It was squally, windy and cold and I didn't like it. I like soft gentle snow or calm but cold. I don't like rain, especially rain that goes more sideways than downways and has passed through a refrigeration process on its travels. Still, I'd driven from Durham to Brough Law. I was here now. I might as well run around a big hill for a few miles.

Casper You know the weather's a bit wild when Will uses the word 'mandatory' and 'kit' in the same sentence, in the same race briefing. I had three layers on, which for me, is the equivalent of a 15 Tog duvet, and I was still cold. We started and the mortals at the back crossed the road, hit the hill, and started walking. Then as we climbed and followed the shoulder of Brough Law round to the south a lovely thing happened. It all became surrealy calm. I'd expected it to get wilder as we got higher, not nicer. I was pleased to latch on to an Otley runner who paced me nicely round the the whole course observing all the corners and paths that some were choosing not to, until we returned to Brough Law and there is a surprisingly confusing fork in the tracks that can easily fool the runner even so close to home. She waited for me and with my years (1) of experience of the course I pointed along the right fork. She said this was her first race and she had certainly chose a baptism of sleet. There follows a joyous slightly mad grassy descent all the way to the finish, which is just the other side of the road. During a soggy presentation ceremony I spotted Louise McGolpin who I recognised from yesterday's Harrier League. The race was won by Phil Sanderson.

I've just read Will's report about how the course was marked out last night with help from the scouts under a meteor sky. That must have been a very special thing to see in a very special place.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Record-Breaking Striders!

Harrier League, Alnwick, 3rd March

Mudman & Mudwoman

Lovely downhill section to finish each lap. Striders broke a number of records at the Alnwick Harrier League fixture yesterday when they fielded their biggest teams ever! Twenty two men and eighteen women turned out for their club on what eventually turned into a pleasant, early spring day. The bumper turnout not only ensured that the women's team will remain in the top flight for next season, but also allowed the men's team to secure first place in Division 2 on the day!! This is a standard that the club hasn't achieved for years so well done everyone! In terms of individual performances, Phil Sanderson was the fastest veteran man in the race and secured the Veterans' Grand Prix title for the third season in a row! Well done Phil!

The HL was being held at Alnwick for the first time yesterday and the general consensus was that the course and the general setting were excellent. The three lap men's race went off first and Striders had two debutants: Jim Leslie (travelling to Alnwick from his home in Scotland) and Stuart Conway, plus three runners making welcome returns (Paul Evans, Mike Bennett & Steve Lindsay). All twenty one runners put in brave performances with Will Horsley leading us home after running what he considers to be his best ever x/c performance.

The eighteen strong 'Sea of Purple' were next up for the highly competitive senior women's race with a 'quality' field of 120+. A number of women were making their debuts including Jacqui Robson, Carolyn Bray, Barbara Dick & Louise McGolpin and everyone was pleased to see Melanie Hudson back in the mud. Once again there were some fine performances by everyone but particularly by some of our newbies such as Rachel Bullock and Carolyn Bray. Nina led everyone home followed by Mudwoman and Fiona (from the medium pack). The course featured a short steepish descent and one or two of our women went down it with guns blazing and flags flying. Perhaps the most accomplished effort was by Jan who used all her experience to make up about 30 yards on the 'downhill' and take a number of 'scalps'. Well done Jan!

In fact, well done everyone, runners and supporters alike (it was so good to see Wendy Rowell cheering on her old team mates). Thanks to Andy for arranging the Striders Charabang, which was a great success, and thanks to all who helped put up / take down the tent and brought those delicious cakes.

Another great turnout!

The final fixture of the season will be held on 24th March at Prudhoe. Old hands will know this as probably the best HL course, so please come along and run, you never know, the men's team, currently in 4th place, might even get promoted!?

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 KERNOHAN, Lee Wallsend Harriers 37:29
21 HORSLEY, Will 40:55 *M
34 EVANS, Paul 41:29
59 SANDERSON, Phillip 42:21 *F
60 LLOYD, Jerry 42:21
76 GIBSON, David 42:48
84 GARLAND, James 43:00
152 CLAYDON, Matt 45:02
162 REEVES, Thomas 45:18
177 DAVIS, Geoff 45:51
189 BENNETT, Michael 46:15
212 ROBERTS, Shaun 47:19
240 JONES, Mark 48:37
254 LINDSEY, Steven 49:19
269 ROBSON, Alister 50:14
275 HOCKIN, Richard 50:35
279 VAN DER BREMER, Marco 50:57
280 LESLIE, Jim 50:58
297 NISBET, Dougie 52:01
299 HUTCHISON, John 52:10
307 CONWAY, Stuart 52:41
330 KURUNER, Yusuf 57:18
333 ROBSON, Dave 58:01

*M Medium pack - 2m30s handicap.
*F Fast pack - 5m handicap.

342 finishers. Men's team 1st of 10, Division 2, now 4th overall.
Congratulations to Phil Sanderson - fastest Male Vet, won the V40 Grand Prix for 2011-12.

Yet another great turnout!
Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 HAYES, Louise North Shields Poly 29:00
27 MASON, Nina 32:30
51 DAVIS, Susan 33:49
53 SHENTON, Fiona 33:55 *M
62 LAYTON, Roz 34:18
63 BULLOCK, Rachel 34:19
73 BRAY, Carolyn 35:01
77 PERCIVAL, Juliet 35:41
82 YOUNG, Jan 36:23
83 LAMB, Liz 36:26
87 BRADLEY, Jean 36:42
95 TOMLINS, Zoe 37:27
98 PROCTOR, Angela 37:38
104 HUDSON, Melanie 38:22
105 DICK, Barbara 38:27
106 TINDALE, Victoria 38:30
107 ROBSON, Jacqui 38:35
111 MILLER, Louise 38:59

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap.

127 finishers. Women's Team 7th of 8, Division 1, now 7th overall.