Race Reports, November 2012

Stockton Winter 5K Trail Race #2, Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park, 25th November

Alister Robson

I have to admit it was with a heavy heart I lifted my head off the pillow on Sunday morning. Torrential rain all the previous evening and still tipping down now. Still I'd offered lifts so I called in at the Duke of Wellington as promised at 9am and was not at all surprised when there was no-one waiting (sensible souls).

It took me a little while to get to Cowpen Bewley which it turns out is just the other side of Billingham on the A689. My Sat Nav decided to take me across to the A19 and down which is just as well as the way I'd have gone if left to my own devices, A689 eastbound, was closed due to flooding. The A19 northbound was also closed. I did have to double back at one stage as flooding under a bridge ahead of me looked a bit too dicey although I did see some braver idiots attempt it.

On arrival at the country park, another place I have to go back and visit when the weather is nicer, I was surprised to see so many cars and runners. Race HQ was at the visitor centre and as usual on registering (using the same race number as the previous time out) you got a couple of free gels which made the £3 affiliated entry fee seem even cheaper.

I bumped into Dave Robson on the startline - Melanie had sensibly elected to sit this one out and we both agreed it was probably closer to Cross Country than the usual trail runs. Sharon Gayter was there too - a multiple distance world record holder who seemed just as happy to be racing a short distance on a grotty day to support local running.

Without much further ado we were off. A short downhill and a tight left hander which led to me fearing for anyone who was running in road shoes was followed by a slight drag uphill and then a proper uphill section. Cheery but soaked marshals were waiting at the top before you dropped down, another tight left hander and back to complete one lap. I took it steady on the first lap after the exertions and PB of the previous day at the Norman Woodcock Memorial 5m, but on the second lap started to pick it up a bit and went past some of the early tirers.

I managed just outside 25 minutes and wasn't sure I could have gone much faster without spikes, Dave a little behind me. There was water at the end and we were cheered in by the organiser and unbelievably glamorous granny Vicky Fawcett who also helps organise Tees Barrage parkrun, The Rat Race, Stockton Tri and all manner of sporting initiatives in the Stockton area.

I was also envious of these which I've never seen before but which are a great idea - I hope the club funds can stretch to one for Phil and Anna for the Summer Handicaps next year!

At the prizegiving afterwards most seemed to receive a spot prize - I got a pair of socks (even in my size) which made the entry seem even cheaper.

Photos and results were up on the facebook site by later that afternoon. Next one is Sunday 16th December at Preston Park

Hampstead Heath parkrun, 24th November


Danny Lim

Despite having lived in London for 8 years, I'd never set foot in Hampstead Heath until this Saturday's parkrun. I wish I had visited this great park/woodland earlier. Its a great setting for a run! For 16 to 45 minutes (depending on how fast you run 5K!) you forget that you are in London as you race through grassy fields and thickets of trees. The course is mostly on trail but there are a few muddy bits. And no, its not a PB course as its pretty undulating. (That's my excuse for a rubbish time)

Quite an eclectic mix of runners. London men must be more bashful as I've noticed lots of them wearing running shorts over their tights! (or maybe its a fashion thing). Students of a martial arts school joined in too. They warmed up with push-ups, sit-ups and star jumps. They were taking it very seriously! But as in any parkrun, the volunteers were encouraging and welcoming! So, if you find yourself in London and are fed-up of the city, take the tube to Hampstead or Belsize Park (both Northern line).

Ultratrail26 Grizedale, Grizedale Forest, The Lake District, 18th November


Dave Robson

This was a new race organised by the same people who organise the Lakeland 50 and 100.

I have had a cough about ten days ago which has been hard to shake off and I knew it would affect this race. I found myself more breathless than usual and hills which wouldn't normally be too difficult felt much harder. There were also lots of hills on this race!

The route was basically a figure of eight with the start, finish and the only checkpoint at the centre of the eight. The organisers had provided a GPX route which I had downloaded to my Garmin and my GPS. There was a map provided and a road book (written instructions) and the course was very well signed, so there was little chance of getting lost.

The first 12m was in the western part of Grizedale Forest and it was almost all on forest road some which I had covered in the Lakeland Trails marathon (but in the opposite direction). It was more hilly than I expected, but it didn't feel too bad and we made it back to the checkpoint/start/finish in about 2hr 15min. All good so far.

As we left the checkpoint a marshall said 'that is the easy part over, the next bit is harder'. I often take what a marshall says with a pinch of salt - we have probably all heard 'It's all downhill now ...' when there are still hills to come. But this one was definitely right!

Dave and Mel hove into view ... It started with a climb up a rocky path and then the route started to climb north on the eastern side of the forest. The forest roads changed to a forest path and it started to rain. There were some substantial puddles which meant it was pointless trying to keep our feet dry. We made our way down a steep path to Esthwaite Water and then onto a section of the Windermere marathon course. Then it was on up to Near Sawrey and onto the hills to the east and on to a section of the Lakeland Trails Hawkshead route (but in reverse). Past the beautiful Moss Eccles Tarn, through a tricky path down to the start of the Coffin Trail. Going up the Coffin Trail is tough, going down when it is wet and the slippy rocks are covered in leaves is very tricky. We made it and enjoyed the section alongside Lake Windermere. Then up the hill we normally run down at Hawkshead and then down to Far Sawrey. I was expecting just one more climb back into the forest, but no, there was three more climbs, mainly on rocky muddy paths. Finally we climbed up into the forest again and there was a tough section south and then north again (with plenty of undulations).

By now it was dark and our head torches came out as we started the final rocky steep descent.

We finished in 6hr 28min 21sec. It was 27.5m in total. The second 15.5m loop took us 4hrs, the second loop was so much harder than the first one. I had underestimated how tough this race would be (I had thought we might finish in about five an half hours).

Melanie did great. This was her first marathon since her last operation and her longest run since then has been 13m, but she just kept going! She also put up with my grumpy phase at the 20m point! It was her fourth marathon this year and my sixteenth and that's it for 2012, everything else will now be shorter distances.

Clay Bank West, North Yorks Moors, 18th November

4.1M / 1000'

Barbara Dick

A trio of Striders hit the North York Moors on Sunday for a short, fast fell run – it would have been a quartet, but Jan had a cold and had to stay at home. After a panicked dash up to Jan’s house (we had been relying on her to help us find the way!), Dave Shipman drove Mike Bennett and I south towards the now-familiar sight of the Middlesbrough Matterhorn for another of Esk Valley’s weekend extravaganzas for people who just can’t get enough mud at the Harrier League.

The start was a car park in a pine forest half way up a mountain, and, as Dave observed, with this race the clue is in the name. A short but steep climb led to a 2 mile steady run through glutinous clayey mud along the tree-line, with a hairpin turn at the end into a field, another climb and a parallel route for 2 miles back, this time at a higher elevation following the Cleveland Way. The flagstones were still frosty, so this meant a spot of grouse-bothering, hopping in and out of heather along the tops to reach the huge Wainstones, before the final descent back into the woods. Mike finished in an impressive 40:52, with Dave ten minutes behind at 51:33. I came second last with someone from Maltby who also lagged from the tough hill start (we didn’t make the cut-off time, so don’t appear on the results. *Sigh*). It’s good to have goals, and mine is one day to finish in time in an Esk Valley fell race. Overall verdict: muddy, frosty, but perfect running weather, clear and sunny with amazing views over the moors. A cracking run for those who can take the pace!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Cameron Taylor Esk Valley Fell ClubMJ 1 31:40
17Kay Neesam New Marske HarriersFV45 1 37:20
32Mike Bennett MV55 3 40:52
92Dave Shipman MV55 13 51:33
108?Barbara Dick FV40 6 80:00+

109 finishers.

Brampton to Carlisle, 18th November


Adam Walker

Now normally, I'm not very good at the long stuff, and as I was wanting to concentrate on the short stuff, I was kind of regretting entering this race. Got the club bus down bright and early (for a teenager) and arrived at the startline. Usual procedure, baggage bus, stabbing myself with safety pin and jumping up and down to keep warm. Was a bit busy, 600 runners packed into a small school, but it was manageable.

My prep for this race wasn't the best, decided to try and run 19 minute pace for parkrun yesterday as that's normally a bit faster than the winning time when XC is on, but there was a faster runner and got a bit carried away up until 3k when I let him go, 18.28, 2nd place. Had a small breakfast early on on race day morning, the race started at 11.30, running through my normal lunchtime, and I'd forgotten the race gels I got for my birthday (this would be a rare time that I'd get to use them, I don't do long stuff). Also, I didn't really have time to warm up, just jogged on the spot at the startline.

THE BIG PLAN: right, as I've never run this distance on purpose before, only accidentally in training where I'd gone to run 8 and got lost, doing about 11, I decided to start out easier that normal, 7 minute miles, then making my way down to 6mm as I get further through the race. Bearing in mind, the last races over 5k I've done I've broken my mile PB in the first mile, this is alien to me. I'd been told if I'm fine at 10k, I've cracked it.

1st mile: 5.55. Whoops, guess the plan's out the window then. Had a bit crack on with this bloke about how he's doing 1 hour 5ish, there's a guy to stick with. He then shoots off. I don't want to start individual races with people that would feck my pacing up so I don't follow.

2nd mile: 6.04. Right, new plan, this pace doesn't feel too hard, try and stick under 6.30 for mile pace and that should bring me in under 1 hour 5, sorted.

3rd mile: 6.18. Biggest hill of the race, overtake about 5 people that are struggling, including the guy who I cracked on with, lets call him stripeman (club vest colours).

4th mile: 6.21. Off the main road, onto country roads. Stripeman overtakes me, once again I don't follow. Water station, I take a slurp, no one else seems too. I normally crack my teeth off the bottle, seems like I have perfected the art. Starts to drizzle a bit, then stops after a minute or so.

5th mile: 6.21. Halfway, all is ok. I'm not even close to being out of breath but its my legs that are letting me down, they're tired and are like concrete. Have to shout to warn people of cars coming past, no one else seems to have any care for the car or other racers safety, howay guys, I'm talking too much here, do your bit.

6th mile: 6.27. Through a village or something, not sure, too busy watching the clock as I go through 10K, as I pass the 10K marker... 38.49,1 SECOND PB! yesss! considering it was at 10 mile pace and I didn't speed up it shoes improvement! Apart from the 10 metres beforehand, shouting YESS, then returning to normal pace, runners around me an spectators looked a bit confused.

7th Mile: 6.27. Feeling fresh enough at this people for a bit of this. Would buy the photo if it wasn't £10. But you can't beat a bit of aeroplaneing, need a haircut though. Another water station, choose not to drink on this one.

8th Mile: 6.24. In a group of four other guys, its a bit windy, decide to shelter behind them, they're big lads, if I sheltered them they wouldn't get much cover, might as well. One guy trys to make a break for it, I'm well past the 10k mark, I'm still feeling great cardiovascularly, screw this, I'm going with him.

9th mile: 6.14. Right, this guy's struggling, time to move onto the next guy. And then the next guy, and then the next guy, and then the next girl, stick with her for a bit... Spot a guy up ahead that finished just behind me at the bridges of the tyne 5 mile race, I can't let it be 1-1 !

10th mile: 6.00. Pass the guy I know, he recognises me, and tries to stick with me but I have far too much left, the next past is the only other noticable hill, many others complained about this bit, I think I overtook 6 people on it! Now a bit of a downhill, absolutely pelt it down here, lots of spectators, but still can't see the finish, overtake another two, turn a sharp bend and it is about 20 metres ahead of me, sprint this bit at 100m pace and DONE.

Nice paperweight memento. I'll put it in minutes form so it sounds faster ... 62.39! OOSH! over the moon with that time, and thinking back, I REALLY enjoyed this race! considering long stuff isn't normally my forte, or is it? It gives me a 74.24 percentage age grade, which is alot more than I thought. I'll definitely stick to 5K's as the main concentration, but this has given me so much more confidence for future longer ones. I definitely could have kept the pace up for another 3.1 miles ...

Wait at the end of the finishing funnel with my very snazzy paperweight momento (looks a lot better than it sounds, 3D runners inside) to chat with the bloke I recognised, I think I had a longer distance rival now, oh dear. Find an Elvet Etriders cheering point and start to shout at all the people I know. Graham was in shortly after me and Anna was the first lady Strider back. An honourable mentions goes to Andy James, who had a cracking run, and thanks to Andy for organising the bus. The majority of striders PB'd on a lovely flat course.

After everyone is in, and changed, we all board the club bus and head to Gisland Spa Hotel, about 15 minutes away for a carvery that they kept open just for all 40 of us, what nice people. Opted for the 3 courses, of course, everything tastes so good. Don't know if its because I haven't eaten for 7 hours, or if its actually good but enjoyed it nevertheless, good club social too.

A sleepy coach journey home with the Striders gang and home. An awesome day.

Abbey Dash, Leeds, 18th November


Kathryn Sygrove

Up and six, and leaving the house at seven with the kids in tow, I mused at my ability to pick races which required such an effort to get to them. Still, hubby was willing to drive me there, and we had a very straightforward beautiful drive in the quiet to Leeds, watching the dark evaporate and the morning frost thaw. Hmm, not so bad after all I thought.

Parked and off we went, this was my first Leeds race, I didn't know where I was going, but runners milled all over by 8.30am, so we followed the crowd. It seemed well organised, plenty of loos, two streets of baggage as per the colour of your number (we were in theory to line up in accordance with colour code and time) and the runners-only/ warm-up area smack bang next to the impressive Town Hall and recently decorated war memorial. My family left me, and I headed off to the 9am warm-up, nithered, and having seen no familiar faces. But halfway into the warm-up, grinning Dave Selby, Rachael Bullock and boyfriend came across, took part, and we squeezed into the alloted places on the Headrow. 9,000 runners, one half of a wide road = still not much space! It was an out-an-back race to Kirkstall Abbey, the flattest I have done and, as someone pointed out, not massively scenic, but that's town races for you. Waiting at the start, you could see the finish directly across the road. I gestured to Rachael that we might just jump across and be first back!! As if...

I knew Jill Ford was running but could not see her, and scoured for Dave Spence, who may not have run after all. Suddenly, we were off, heading into the unknown. I had entered this as a PB race, but wasn't sure if I was ready physically or mentally after an op 3 weeks beforehand. I certainly wasn't in the mood for any pressure of any sort. So, I stuck as well as I could to 7.30 pace, a little ahead on the slight downs, a little behind on the very slight gradients up. I just remember buildings, the sun getting warmer, and concentrating on staying steady. 2-3km went by, I didn't feel into the race, but kept going, eye on the time, and I don't know what else because I couldn't tell you what we ran past! I think more buildings. By about 4km, we saw the first of the runners heading back home across the street. Eek I thought - my watch said 16 minutes, but they had started 3 mins ahead of us. You cannot help but stand in awe of their prowess, and feel slightly small at your own pace in comparison. But 5km was looming, turn-around point, and it was time to come back. That was about 23:44 I think, so I knew I might get by sub-48 PB after all. The sun was beautiful then, in fact, I think that's why I couldn't see much else!!

The second half seemed a little easier. I still didn't feel settled in my pace, and mused at letting it slip, but a potential taste of improvement forced me on. Into more gorgeous but blinding sun, I held on past 6km (Jill waved at me across the road here) and 7km, seeing my pace hold, fall a wee bit, rise a bit, with the very slight changes in road evenness. For me, it was the steadiest race I had run thus far, more out of necessity than intention! Take heed, Kathryn. I was overtaken by Rachael's boyfriend Igor at 7km with a broken "Hello", and trotted alongside Dave Selby for a few paces at about 8km. We both confessed to heavy legs at that point. "Well done, hold onto it" someone yelled from the roadside. I nearly yelled back sarcastically, but thought, "No, she is right, my mindset can make or break this, and I have fought hard this far."

That nailed it, amazing how a well-timed comment can change a dwindling focus. I focussed on the impending 9km with every step, then on the 10km when that arrived. Boy, was it hot in the sun. All I focussed on was the road ahead. My pace held pretty well, as we came over the road bridge before rounding back into the Headrow and up (yes up) to the finish. My legs ached, but seeing the end in sight, I gave it all I could. My hubby said he didn't expect to see me so soon or so fast at that last bit. I couldn't quite believe it when my watch said 46:52, official time was 46:51. Dave Selby came in very soon after me, and went to find Rachael, and we headed off for celebratory tea and cake! I think I will return for more PBs!

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Harrier League, Blaydon, 17th November

Mudman & Mudwoman

In a dazzling new Strider innovation, Jacquie and Louise support our runners using Semaphore: S T R I D E R S!

It seems that the Harrier League just gets bigger and bigger with every race! There were 460 men and 198 women at Blaydon thereby breaking the previous record that had stood since ... the previous race at Cramlington! Although the Striders team was affected by the attraction of the Brampton Road Race we still managed to turn out 12 men and 11 women including one new debutant, Katy Butler, who ran a determined race finishing with a sprint to the line! Tom led the men's team home again in spite of Will's spirited attempt (running from the medium pack) to haul him in. And there was a new 'first woman Strider' in the shape of Juliet (Jules) Percival who fought hard on the last lap to claw back Mudwoman and Katie Walton (who had been leading the Striders women from the gun).

It was great to see some our newer runners coming on 'leaps and bounds' over the mud. Katie W ran a very brave race from the 'front' and Barbara D had her best outing so far - obviously none the worse for wear after her 'experience' on the fells! For the men, Simon G and Graeme W continue to edge up the field as does Aaron G - but they should beware, some of the 'old lags' don't like being beaten!!

Some of the men ...


1 DOUGLAS, Ben Durham City Harriers 26:52
70 REEVES, Thomas 31:24
118 HORSLEY, Will *M 32:22
147 GIBSON, David 32:35
219 GARDNER, Simon 33:58
225 BENNETT, Michael 34:04
231 LLOYD, Jerry *M 34:12
235 WALTON, Graeme 34:16
255 DAVIS, Geoff 34:38
315 ROBERTS, Shaun 36:13
324 VAN DER BREMER, Marco 36:29
362 GOURLAY, Aaron 37:20
364 ROBSON, Alistair 37:22

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

460 finishers.

... and all of the women.
1 MILLMORE, Tracy Birtley AC 21:07
80 PERCIVAL, Jules 25:27
84 DAVIS, Susan 25:32
87 WALTON, Katy 25:35
96 MASON, Nina 25:53
108 SHENTON, Fiona *M 26:08
131 BRAY, Carolyn 27:08
141 DICK, Barbara 27:38
144 YOUNG, Jan 27:41
151 READEY, Claire 28:00
192 BUTLER, Katy 32:57

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap.

198 finishers.

Heaton Harriers Memorial 10k, Town Moor/Exhibition Park, Newcastle, 11th November

Simon Gardner ...

Anyone who has ran the Newcastle parkrun or the 10K before then they will know that it is very exposed to the elements but thankfully on the day the wind was fairly light and we were met with beautiful blue sky and sun although it was rather cold. Was this finally to be the day when i broke that very very elusive sub 40min barrier.

I had a quick chat with Paul Smith before and with Bill and Louise who I think it’s fair to say was not very keen on the cold weather conditions!!

After minutes silence at 11am we were set on our way. I found it very difficult to get any rhythm at the start, I couldn’t believe how many twists and turn the route had and how tight everyone was packed. At one point a saw a female runner being led away in floods of tears holding her face after I think she had been clipped and gone down.

A quick check of my Garmin showed my pace was around 6:46min/mile a good twenty seconds down on my target and I had not even done half a mile ,As we came around the lake and towards the museum we could see all the front runners just running around the museum bit shouting STOP, STOP. No one really knew what to do see we carried on around the corner only to be stopped by a group of marshals. This was my first and hopefully last ever false start !! , I had raced for just over 5 minutes before I stopped.

We had no idea what had happened but we were sent back to the start and lined up again ! I was fairly relaxed about this to be honest I figured my sub 40min was now very unlikely but I would just do my best. Soon we were on our way again this time using the correct route which went directly around the lake and on to the paths of the parkrun route. I was surprised how good I felt so I kept a check on the pace trying to get to half way point in around the 20minute mark which I managed ok. At around 4 mile I knew I was on track but decided to really push it for the last 2 mile or so. Hitting that last small climb was a fantastic feeling I knew finally after years and years I had finally done it ! I crossed the line with a chip-time of 39:10.

The false start was caused by a random cyclist in a hi-viz vest appearing just as the runners were setting off , the majority of the runners had followed the leading group and some had gone the correct route and chaos ensued. A tweet from Aly Dixon (female winner) got me thinking that I only gave the route a cursory view and maybe as runners we should all take more responsibility before we start a race?? Do we always fill the back of the number in? Do we really take notice of the course ? And do we listen to instructions given at the start?

Would I do the race again ... yes I would its just one of those freak events that happens sometimes !!

and Michael Ross:

Heaton Harriers Memorial 10k or the Town Moor 10k was a race I had done a couple of times in the past(it was actually the first 10k I ever did back in 2006) and it was my first outing in a Striders vest.

I arrived at Exhibition Park after about a 1k jog from my car to find pleasant sunny, slightly cool conditions but thankfully not windy which was my biggest fear weather wise. I collected my number and caught up with a few running friends. I then spotted my first Strider, at first I thought it was a mixture between Rambo and Olivia Newton John in a Striders t-shirt but then realised it was actually Bill Ford with some sort of headband on, he informed me it was a head warmer.

We were then called to the start which had moved from the last time I did it. Everyone gathered with a buzz of excitement, then once gathered 2 minutes silence began at 11 O’Clock to remember those who sacrificed themselves so we could run in freedom. After this we were off and running, in the past the race had always gone around the lake at the start but this time we headed away from it and past the 5k marker before turning back and going around the lake and past the museum. I thought they must have changed the course and started settling into my run, shortly afterwards everyone ground to a halt leaving everyone wondering what was going on before word spread that there was to be a restart, the leaders had followed a member of the public on a bike mistakenly thinking he was a marshall and went the wrong way.

So back to the start we went and gathered again, a few minutes we were away again, this time following the correct route, around the lake and the museum before heading out onto the moor following the flatish tarmacked path next to the big hill which we thankfully didn’t have to climb, for a couple of km. We then headed through the gate and onto the path next to the Grandstand Road before turning back into the park following a muddy rutted track before passing the lake again, this time turning off half way round and passing a water station, 5k was done in about 23:40 and I was feeling reasonably ok. Then it was an up incline past the finish and onto the second lap, the incline seemed to go on for ages and I could feel myself slowing down as we headed back onto the moor. This was to be my slowest mile of the race, I then gradually increased my pace over the next couple of miles but it didn’t feel like it and after what seemed like a lifetime and a slog we were back by the lake. Turning off again past the water station it was the incline up to finish, and it’s fair to say at this point I died and instead of picking up the pace to the finish I actually slowed down and crossed the line in 47:56 on my watch (official 47:52).

Simon Gardner was the first Strider home in 58th place with an impressive time of 39:10. There was a PB for Robert Clark of 59:48 and Karin Younger completed her first 10k in a very respectable time of 59:57.

The course is quite dull and can be congested especially the first couple of km as the paths are quite narrow. There was quite a lot of support from the spectators on the course which is always nice including from Victoria Tindale and possibly another Strider who if it was you I’m sorry I heard you but didn’t see who it was.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Ian Hudspith Morpeth Harriers MV40 31:23
11 Alyson Dixon Chester-le-Street AC F 1 34:27
58 Simon Gardner MV40 39.10
134 John Wanless MV40 41.54
293 Michael Ross MV40 47.52
338 Bill Ford MV45 49:27
344 Matthew Crow M 49.42
427 Louise Barrow F 54:48
489 Robert Clark M 59:48
491 Karin Younger FV50 59:57

532 finishers.

Aberystwyth parkrun, 10th November


Dave Robson

My son does not run regularly - the last time he ran was the Blaydon race in June. He does have a good excuse, a very young son who takes up a lot of his and his partner's time. He is under the impression that I often choose to go down and see him and his family when there is a race on in Aberystwyth or nearby - often true I have to confess. But now there is a parkrun in Aberystwyth, he knows there is no escape....

Glen, Dave and Melanie. So Melanie, Glen and I turned up at the start at 8.45 to find nobody there. Had we gone to the wrong place ? No, a couple of runners appeared. It looked like it was going to be a small field and it was, 46, though that was a big increase on the previous week - 35.

The race was held in the narrowest and smallest park that I have ever seen used for a parkrun. It was probably no more than 25 metres wide and a bit less than 0.5K long. For some reason the long section had three tarmaced paths, two on the outside and one in the middle. So the route consisted of an out and back on the central path, followed by three laps of the park on the outside paths and a finish up the central path. The advantage of this was they didn't need many marshalls. The park was very flat and sheltered and it looked lovely in the autumn colours.

Melanie decided to go as fast as she could as the conditions looked very good and I ran with my son. Another advantage of this route was that you saw lots of the other runners and Melanie was battling it out for the third lady position. She lost that particular one, but she came in with a great parkrun pb of 23min 44sec ! My son ran all the way and we came in just under 29min.

It is probably the fastest parkrun course I have come across, but unless you a good reason to go there, it is a very long way to go !

Gunpowder Plod 5K, York Racecourse, 5th November

Emma Detchon

My friend Hazel suggested this race to me as she was entering with some friends. On first glance - £25 for a 5k in York it was a definitely no. Then second thought – I normally run on a Monday night and like trying new routes, £20 each for teams of 5, nice T-shirt, medal, Hazel said she’d drive and only chance of getting to a firework display (big kid – sorry!) – I decided I might as well give it a go.

We left Middlesbrough at 4pm and got straight through to York but the last part of getting to the racecourse is always slow and busy. We got parked no problem directly outside the racecourse around half 5. We then met another friend who had been there a while and had a good look around. She said we needed to get our race number from a board then complete a liability form and queue at the desk for our number, chip and tshirt.

The board was a nightmare, it was pitch black so everyone was scrambling round trying to find their name. A few of us had head torches on so you could hear people say shine the torch over here so they could get their number, no staff were anywhere to be seen to help. My name wasn’t on the board so I had to join one of 5 very long queues to ask a member of staff. It was 6.25pm by the time we got to the front of the queue, the race was due to start at 6.30pm and there were still 5 very long queues behind us.

They could’ve easily emailed round the race numbers list and liability form for people to check and print out at home. Considering the price we all paid to entered I’m sure they could’ve posted the packs out!

We were left in front of the entertainment stage and they must’ve had the most people joining in for the warm up as we were all so cold from standing around! We were eventually sent to the start line, over a single file walkway – considering there was 1,500 and we were already over 45 minutes late! At the start line we hung around a bit more before fire pots were set off and we could start – no announcements or anything pre-race but at an hour late we were glad to get going. The course was one and a half laps on tarmac with a few muddy sections. The start was very congested and took a lot of maneuvering around people – a few people slipped over in the mud! There were around 4 or 5 fire displays on the route which were nice.

After the initial congestion the last half a lap was fast as it’s nice and flat, we crossed the line to ... nothing! We walked back to where the bags were and our attention was grabbed by boxes of snickers when we realised they were giving away chocolate, water and medals and we’d walked straight past it without realising. We found the end and joined the queue – more queuing time! As mulled wine and hog roast had been mentioned we were still in high spirits but as we got back to the main area we realised that wasn’t going to happen as the queues were probably 200 people long for every stall! They had 10,000 attending and didn’t seem able to cope with the number of people.

After seeing the fireworks lined up next to the run route, it was obviously the fireworks were now also going to be an hour late. Lots of families left before they even started, we joined the smallest queue for a coffee van but by the time we were 2 from the front the fireworks had finished so we just left!

Awful organisation by Rat Race who are being accused of ripping people off. Some people paid £14 just to see the fireworks! Anyway the route was good – nice and flat, black technical T-shirt and a nice shiny medal. A head torch and old trainers or wellies are essential as it’s muddy and you can’t see a thing around the site – that’s the run route or where the entertainment was. The race was chip-timed but I can’t really see the point as it wasn’t one for a PB unless you got onto the front line away from the congestion. Hopefully they’ll have it better organised or less people next year, a good run for a change.

Stockton Winter 5K Trail Race #1, Wynyard Woodland Park, Thorpe Thewlis, 4th November

Dave Shipman

As Will, Alister and myself drove to Wynyard Woodland Park at Thorpe Thewlis there wasn't a great deal of enthusiasm on show - it was freezing cold and thick fog - but this short race turned out to be well worth the effort.

It started and finished in front of the disused railway station there (race registration in the adjacent old railway carriage,which was novel), went for about a mile along the railway line walk/cycleway before looping round tracks and trails through very pleasant farmland and woods, by which time the sun was breaking through the fog and it all looked very pretty - great scene of runners heading off in the distance, silhouetted against the horizon.

Prizes for all! The killer came at about 4K, with a steep, stepped climb back up to the railway line, followed by a last gasp section along to the finish.

It was all painful,short and sharp for me, but Will had a great run, coming in second male and Alister wasn’t far behind. Prizes for first 3 men and women on the day, an abundance of spot prizes and a really relaxed, friendly atmosphere, with "series" prizes for those who do 3 or more from the 6 planned between now and the 3rd March 2013. Get your money on Will now!!

For those who enjoy trail runs, or are contemplating venturing off road for the first time these runs are a real treat at £3 a go.

Guy Fawkes 10, Ripley Castle, nr Harrogate, 4th November


Barrie Evans and Christine Farnsworth

We combined this event (which I first ran in 1985 - though on a different course) with a weekend away in North Yorkshire. We travelled down to Harrogate on Saturday morning and visited the Renovation and Home Building Show then indulged in a session of retail therapy before staying overnight at The New Inn at Burnt Yates ( which we can highly recommend).

Heavy frost and freezing fog greeted us on race morning, threatening possible cancellation. Driving through the fog the 3 miles to registration at the village hall in Ripley the temperature showed at -1.5° centigrade !! We met Maggie Thompson (who had endured a nightmare drive) at registration. It remained very murky as 800 brave souls were escorted to the start adjacent to Ripley Castle (over a 1000 had entered and driving conditions had obviously deterred some). With advice to take care and adhere to marshall's instructions, the race got underway. The very congested start onto estate tracks required concentration as wet leaves covering the irregular surface of gravel, stones and larger boulders was potentially lethal. Progress through the first mile was further slowed by waterlogged, very muddy sections. Once onto the road we passed through Burnt Yates just about discernable through the fog. Now the real hills started on this undulating and tough course as Clint Bank tested us prior to passing through the village of Birstwith.

Swincliffe Bank (signed by the organisers 'The Swine') marked the second major climb followed by the final killer hill - simply signed 'For Fawkes Sake' - before a final mile back on estate tracks, with even more concentration required on now tired legs, before a finish in the castle courtyard. Cold , damp and murky weather persisted throughout the run and the difficult underfoot conditions on the estate tracks slowed times even for the front runners. Marshalling and organisation by the host club (Nidd Valley Road Runners) was excellent, as usual, and despite the conditions we enjoyed it.

The Dirty Double

Helvellyn 15K and Ulswater 14K Lakeland Trails, 3–4th November

Phil Owen

The Lakeland trails are partly why I joined Striders. I’d just started running and joined Fetcheverone when I saw on a thread someone giving away a place for the Coniston Lakeland trail 2007. Knowing nothing about trail racing I took up the place and duly asked the usual questions about trail shoes etc on that thread. On the race morning I got talking to another runner who turned out to be Dave Robson. So to cut a long story short it’s him you have to blame for me joining the club!

The next few years saw me attend most of the races in the series and some of the people I met up with back then have become very good friends and we meet up regularly at the trails and other races. I haven’t made it to so many in recent years (well I broke my foot four times in a row so that didn’t help!) but I usually make an exception for the Dirty Double Saturday and Sunday of trail races.

This year at the last minute the organisers announced the parking field was too water logged to take the cars and put on busses form Penrith Train station. I think this; along with a dire weather forecast put a fair few folk of running but to be honest it worked very well. I arrived about 9:10 for the 10’oclock bus and had time to nip into the Mac’D across the road (take note Alister) to grab a coffee. All went to plan, the journey to Glenridding taking about 25 minutes with no hassle, so well done the organisers for managing this last minute change and not losing the race.

As I got to the start at Jenkins field I was just in time to see the 10K start and glimpse a few striders. I had forgotten that now nearly every Lakeland trail race now has a 10K option-all very good in my book. The Saturday 15K race is round the trails and valleys below Helvellyn and as with all the Lakeland trail races there is an option of two starts, the challenge or the trail. Originally the challenge was for Nordic walkers, those who didn’t think they could make the cut of in the trail race of those who simply wanted to take more time over the races and enjoy the scenery. At one time we all used to enter the later trail race but that soon changed when we realised we could enjoy the day more and have a few beers in the sunshine after if we all went in the first race.

Met up with the said Fetchies and of course club mates Dave & Mel. As the race time approached the truly gruesome weather of the morning suddenly parted and the sun shone down on us. The hills were spectacular with many snow-capped tops and I remember remarking if you can’t enjoy running on a day like this in a place like this then you’d better find another hobby.

Helvellyn. At 12pm we were off and heading through Glenridding town and up the hill that marks the start of the race.. For the rest of the run, pick your own superlatives! The lakes in this weather have few equals in my book and the course is just beautiful. That’s not to say it isn’t tough. The trails aren’t an easy options and tougher than many a fell race I’ve done. Mud and wet rock were the order of the day. I struggled to haul the lard up the first hill as usual but soon found my stride. As it was such a cracking day I held my mobile in my hand and took photos by just pointing and shooting without stopping. This only resulted in one slide on my backside in the mud but I managed a few nice photos from the blurred rubbish.

Once on the tricky stuff I ran as hard as I could. I’ve always loved dancing across the rocks and passing folk who can’t handle it as well but that’s the beauty of trail and fell racing to me. That said, as cross country showed last week, I’m still woefully slow at the moment but I’m not going to get faster, fitter and back to where I was a few years ago sitting on my behind ! However, I really should have made more of an effort at the start though as it can be quite tough to pass folk on many sections without sending them flying.

The race flattens out onto good wide trail with a couple of miles to go and I was joined by my good mate Kev. Tried to keep with him but he was too fast. Onto the final road section of about (I’m guessing) one kilometre and into Jenkins field for the finish. Pleased with my run even if it’s much slower than it used to be but I’m liking these shorter races for my training and again another run without any pain from the sports hernia.

Ulswater Trail Race 14K, Sunday:

The Sunday race starts with a trip on the Ulswater streamer over to Howtown. My sailing was the second of the four morning sailings at 10am. Another glorious day was gifted to us and again in this weather the scenery was again truly stunning. The boat ride was great fun with Pete Lashley (a regular performer at the trails) serenading us with his own stuff and some classics. The race is very simple. Taken over to Howtown on the steamer and run south back round Ulswater to the same finish as yesterday. I do love this trail and forgotten how technical it is with plenty of wet rock, mud and tree roots .Again I ran it as hard as I could only stopping once for a couple minutes to have a quick chat with an old friend who was marshalling. A few miles from home you can see the finish across the lake and hear the cheering and music. It’s a wonderful sight.

Ulswater steamers. Turning around the southern tip of the lake, down through a farm and onto a road I’m always drawn to the memory of a few years ago. That year these races were cancelled but a big group of us did them anyway in the most appalling weather. The lake had actually burst its banks at southern end and when we came to it road it was thigh deep in water. We waded through after sending young Adam Walker (and now strider) first to make sure there were no crocodiles or killer fish ! Once of the best weekends ever.

Derwentwater Ten, Keswick, 4th November


Carolyn Bray ...

We left a very foggy Durham behind and headed towards a beautifully sunny Keswick, complete with a fresh sprinkling of snow on the mountain tops. We began to feel rather smug as the layers we piled on earlier in the cold mist of Durham were gradually removed! Juliet and I spotted the purple hoody of Anita as we collected our numbers from the Crossthwaite School. We were just a trio of Striders but knew that there were plenty more dotted around the sunny Lakes for other races! The Derwentwater Ten is a ten mile clockwise road race around Derwentwater. It begins in Keswick and heads south following the lake side in a gently rolling manner, skirting round the south side and through the pretty village of Grange.

'By the way, don't worry, nothing strange has happened to Anita's appearance - that's my Dad in the middle!' Carolyn. Shortly after this point the real hills begin! There's some decent climbs on the western side of the lake (which also happens to be second half of the run) but compared to Susan and Geoff's hill training sessions it was a breeze! There was a long, flat and fast finish along a stretch of main road leading towards Keswick with a swift cut in to the School at Crossthwaite for the finish line. There were no T-shirts, no medals, no fancy drinks or goody bags - just a cup of water and lots of smiley volunteers. What more could you ask for, it was a gorgeous run and Juliet kept me going (and kept me nattering) all the way to come in well under my aim of 1.5hrs!

... and Anita Clementson:

My weekend was planned around a trip out with the family to the lakes and do the 15k trail race in Helvellyn. However this lovely idea was dashed with car parking issues due to a flooded field and shuttle buses being put on from Penrith to Glenridding painting a picture of a day full of hassles so decided against it. Running is supposed to be fun isn't it ...

Due to Alisters' fantastic newsletters I'd read there was another race on the Sunday in Keswick (EOD) which would fit in with family and meant I could still run in the lakes as planned! So off we headed on a very misty Sunday morning along the A66. Past Kirby Stephen the mist cleared and we were treated to marvellous views of snow dusted fells.

Behind you! The race itself is a road race organised by Keswick AC, surprisingly chipped timed and started in Keswick market place. Fellow striders Jules & Carolyn also took part and it was nice to see familiar faces at race registration.

The run basically goes along the road that runs around Derwentwater, unfortunately not traffic free. After leaving Keswick it was a case of playing cat and mouse with the traffic. I got off on a good pace and was registering 9.2 minute miles, my head was telling me to slow down as this was 10k speed for me but I was feeling pretty comfortable so kept the pace up. The traffic was really annoying though and one 4x4 drove so close to me I tripped over. One runner 'Geoff' had run the race 20 times and he took to running in the middle of the road and shouting abuses to driver's randomingly. He was quite amusing.

Thankfully the 2nd half of the race was much more pleasant (less traffic!) and a few hills resulting in fantastic views over to Lakeland fells and over Derwentwater. I even managed to take a few photos. Towards 8 miles I was recalling my PB from a previous 10 miler and then it hit me that if I pressed on with current pace I was on for a PB. I crossed the finish in 1.35.56, well pleased!

At the end of the race after being handed a cup of water I was ushered to a queue at a car boot where you were given a print out of your race time. That will do me for a race momentum!

Highly recommended but even better if they could get the roads closed.

Mile End parkrun, London, 3rd November


Louise Miller

We'd booked a family weekend in London so I was determined to be a parkrun tourist! So with my Striders T-shirt and my barcode, I was off all by myself on the scary tube. It was really easy actually, I jumped straight on the Circle line for 6 stops then a 5 minute walk and I was in the park.

Louise. The first thing I noticed was the squirrels and how pretty the park was - not what I was expecting to be honest! I was early so on arrival there was only the Run Director and a couple of volunteers setting out the course. I had a chat with the Run Director and a girl who'd ran the Dublin Marathon on Monday. It was really quiet until about 08.55 when all of a sudden around 60 people appeared from nowhere! The RD had lost her voice so the brief was very short (I should of took Alister's megaphone with me!) then we were off.

It's a two lap course and although there aren't many marshals it was very well signposted as due to the small field if you couldn't see the person in front you could easily take a wrong turn! Another thing I wasn't expecting in London was 4 hills per lap, making 8 in total! The course takes you down by the River so in a way I felt at home!

I've never had a good shot at parkrun recently what with taking Jack along so with that and a full day of sightseeing the day before I was very pleasantly surprised to finish in 27.30 - obviously due to the brand spanking new bright orange trainers purchased from Nike Town the day before?

A thoroughly enjoyable parkrun and true to the parkrun culture, everyone was so friendly and encouraging, I was slightly miffed that they didn't ask 'who's travelled' at the start, but that was more than made up by the fact I got a personal mention in their weekly report!

Helvellyn Trail Race, Lakes, 3rd November


Simon Gardner

After some positive reports from Angela and Paul about the Lakeland trail races I thought it was about time to give one of them a go, so we all decided upon the Helvellyn 10K Trail - a long enough distance to challenge but no extra training needed.

I was picked up by Mark and Katherine at just after 6:40am on a rather chilly Saturday morning and it wasn’t long before we were parked up at the Inn on the Lake which is just near the start/finish area which was really handy.

Nice and clean before the start ... The weather was all over the place cold, heavy rain, sleet then sun. When we registered they had notes printed out stating that if you did not have leggings, hat, gloves etc then they would not allow you to start which did cause me to panic a bit as I had no gloves (bottom of my bag actually!) but I need not have worried as some of the front runners were there in shorts and t-shirts!

I have an arthritic joint in my left foot and it was feeling a little sore so I decided after much deliberation that I would risk road shoes for some more cushioning (oh how I laughed at that decision later on !)

Soon we were on our way in cold conditions but beautiful sunshine as the route sends you out of Gledridding and up into the mountains. Conditions under foot are good for the first two miles or so which just as well as it just climbs and climbs my legs and lungs wanted to rest but I managed to keep going to the turning point where you cross over and start to head back towards Glenridding.

This is when it started to go a bit pear-shaped. The terrain totally changed and after taking the wrong path I had my first fall as I tried to get back on the correct route, it felt really treacherous under foot especially when I had two runners breathing down my neck. You can’t help but take chances as the competitive spirit comes out but I was convinced I was going to end up in casualty when running over the soaken stones (luckily someone closed a kissing gate on my right Achilles to take my mind off things at one point !!)

I have to say my last fall was my most spectacular the two lads behind me had gone past me when I came to a gate which led to a steep field and as I ran to the grass side of it avoiding the stones I ended up straight on to my back, At this point I was actually catching the runner in front up as I was skidding down on my backside.

Shortly after this point came a beautiful sight, TARMAC ! Oh how I had missed you!! , those rhythm busting 10 minute miles were gone and I was back in my comfort zone I went straight past one runner who looked to be carrying an injury but the two guys who overtook me were in my sights and that parkrun and track training came into its own as I was able to go past them and despite having to do a U-turn when I missed the finish I had survived ... Just !!

A lot of credit should go to Angela who was not 100% but still managed to get round even if her breathing did sound like a pit pony with a 40 a day fag habit (well that’s my interpretation of what Mark said anyway).

Comment of the day has to go to Katherine’s "did you see the beautiful rainbow - I stopped to have a look at it" – hmmm no can’t say I did !

Would I do this again ? ... If I can have sausage and mash with a pint at the Inn on the Lake again then I could possibly be persuaded ;)

Simon Gardner – Elvet Striders Arse Running Champion 2012