Race Reports, June 2013

Lambton 10K, nr Chester-le-Street, 30th June

Conrad White

Another local race and my son was home. Last time we raced a 10K together was in 2008 at Newton Aycliffe and he beat me. Was there any hope for a change of fortune? We had both done park runs - me in Durham (one second off my PB), him in Leeds on Saturday. We were up for a 10K on Sunday but unsure about our legs.

We arrived at the “wrong entrance” to the estate and like many others were guided to the Picktree entrance. (I missed the helpful email about that). We then joined a lengthy queue to register (Jim helpfully telling me he had queued for 1/2 hour). Fortunately they seemed to get their act in gear and the queue moved quite quickly after that. Runners using Groupon vouchers ended up in a separate queue. It meant the start was delayed by a few minutes. There were a number of purple striders around the start. Due to being short of time it was not possible to meet and greet everyone. The weather was cool and seemed good for running.

We only had time for a very brief warm up but I reckoned 10K is long enough to warm up. The course is through pretty woodland on mixed terrain, tarmac, track and field. Like my previous return to 10K (Raby) the course was “not flat” and incorporated a couple of hills including an unfriendly hill just before the end. The start was downhill so it was important not to go off too fast and we were running together. Going up the hill after a couple of K my son passed me, but reaching the more or less level ground I made up and passed him.

There is a very scenic couple of miles that go either side of the river so you can see how the faster runners are doing (just before the final hill) and then the final wind around Lambton Castle (which is the setting for some TV show I must admit to never having heard of). At the finish I was pleased with a season best (out of two 10K races) and met up with James (who looked like he had been finished for ages) and family and waited (not too long for my son to come in. (All even now!)

The goodie bag contained a Sunderland FC charity T shirt and a bottle of water.

I felt I had done quite well and was pleased with my run. Unfortunately in the published results both me and my son appear as "unknown runner" - somewhat disappointing as there was a prize on the flyer for the first over 55! Also the results do not show clubs for most runners so I am not sure how others fared.

Despite these minor administrative niggles if you want a pleasant, local, challenging (not for a PB generally) 10K then this should go on your calendar.

Humber Bridge Half Marathon, Hessle, 30th June

Graeme Walton

Having only managed 9 miles since the “nearly” Marathon of The North I thought it was time to start stepping up the miles to tie into my York training program. After reading a few reviews on various websites it dawned on me that this was not going to be easy.

Off we went nice and early (Katy and Heidi in tow) blasting down the motorway after hearing that parking can take a while. We got there with time to spare, picked up my number as I had entered this one pretty late and chilled in the sunshine. Race time was nearing so I parted company with my cheering squad and headed for the start line. I soon came across Jacquie and after a quick natter I headed further forward to catch up with Alister. Now, Alister being Alister had a plan, a plan that seemed spot on to me, 8 minute miles until the big hill at nine miles and then see what we’ve got left in the tank.

Off we went and after a bit of a scrum the crowds thinned allowing the pacing to commence. Oh dear, we were no more than a mile of so into the race and I seemed to be pulling away and was obviously getting carried away. Never mind I was feeling good (who isn’t after a mile and a half, fool!!!!) so I put my head down and got on with it. The first crossing of the bridge came after 2 miles, this came and went smoothly enough although the wind was howling across from the side. Coming down off the bridge was pleasant but was followed by the longest uphill slip road in Europe (well Humberside, or is it East Yorkshire or NE Lincolnshire – best ask Jacquie about that one). The reward for getting up the “slip road from hell” (think about it Chris Rea) was a great downhill stretch through Barton. There was some terrific support from the locals for the next few miles including some kind folk giving out jelly babies and the hosepipe brigade dousing us down in some hot and sticky conditions. One guy in particular must put in an application form with the fire brigade as upon entering the jet of water his hose was producing I was almost knocked off my feet from the pressure.

The hill I had heard and read about came at 9 miles. It was bad, but it did give you a chance to recover from time to time with some less steep sections. From the top of the hill there where 3 miles to go (a ParkRun I hear you all saying). The slip road that had caused me so much pain earlier was now my friend as I managed to pick up the pace on this downhill section, The climb back onto the bridge was tough but with less a mile to go now I was feeling good.

As I left the bridge behind I could hear the PA system at the finish and after a few twists and turns and a sprintish finish I came home a few seconds inside 1:40, well chuffed. Alister came in shortly afterwards with Jacquie coming in next with a storming run after shaking off multiple injuries recently. A medal, t-shirt, banana, orange and bottle of water were our rewards following this very well organised and pleasant race. Off we went to the pub for a carvery with the Robson’s, this rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Teesdale, 30th June

10.5M / 1752'

Dougie Nisbet

"Are you injured?" and "resting for a big event coming up?" were the typical questions that people asked me when I said I wasn't racing today. It might, on reflection, have been easier just to lie than to say, truthfully, that I just couldn't be bothered. I ran last year and enjoyed it but this year I wasn't in the mood. Well not for the race anyway. I love the area and decided this year to have a gentle run out with the camera and see if I could settle down with a brew in a nice spot.

Logistically, helping, whether it be marshaling or just going out and taking some photos, is more complicated than racing. Racing involves turning up at least one minute before the race starts and being on the line on, or just after, the race starts. As I thought this through, I realised that if I wanted to get some decent photos, I had to be in my position before the fast guys went past, and, well, how do you work that one out? I started about 30 minutes before race start and when the little hand got to eleven found it the most unexpectedly weird feeling to know that somewhere behind me that some extremely fast runners would be closing down on me.

Paul keeps an eye on the terrain ...

I'd chosen the 'dip' around Thistle Green a few miles from the turn to set up camp. It was exposed and I was glad I'd stuffed my rucksack with extra layers. On went the leggings and the waterproof. All in black. Still cold. I sighted the camera up the hill and found the wind kept buffeting my hold so decided to lie down in the heather and rest my elbows on a rock to get some stability. I also had to make sure that I wasn't in the flight-path of the runners. The runners soon appeared over the top of the ridge like a scene from Zulu and for the next 20 minutes or so I was busy capturing the excitement. Paul was in the first ten in a tight cluster all negotiating the fast but technical grass and rock descent. Judging by the reaction of some of the runners I don't think they knew I was there until they practically stood on me! I probably looked like some psychotic sniper as I lay in the cosy heather picking people off as they charged down the fell.

Then it all went quiet. The eye of the storm. It was just a matter of waiting until the leader got to the turn and headed back home. I collected my gear, and jogged further along the route before settling down at a promising looking beck for the action to begin again.

The beck crossing was interesting. Stepping stones or straight through? The stepping stones were dry, but uneven. Straight across was quick but involved getting wet feet. I could feel a spreadsheet coming on. Really, really surprised at the distribution of steppy stoners versus wet-feeters. You'd think it would be the fast guys that would favour straight through, and the slower runners would take the steps. But, in my considered analysis, there was no observable relationship between runner speed and route choice, although by my calculations you were anything between 5-15 seconds quicker running straight through the water rather than taking the stepping stones. If we let our x-axis be speed ... you know, there's a PHD in there I'm sure.

Anyway I got some nice action shots of the beck although no one fell over, which I thought was rather unsporting. One lady did fall when I wasn't looking and when I ran over to ask if she was ok she gave me ever such a look that I was glad I hadn't got a photo. I asked if she was ok and she said yes, which is just as well because one day someone is going to say 'no' and I'm going to be completely stumped. I've always just assumed it's a rhetorical question. Paul was still around the same position but looking far stronger and more comfortable on the return leg compared to the outward run. Eventually the sweepers arrived with a runner who had taken a nasty fall on the way to the turn and had landed on a rock. A pointy one. Worst kind, the pointy ones. He wasn't ok and was clearly in some discomfort as we all walked together back to the start, although it wasn't clear whether he was more worried about his injury or what his wife was going to say when she realised she was driving home.

When I got home and looked through my photos I realised that I could have saved myself a journey. I mean, who would ever know that didn't just photoshop this photo of Paul to get this one?!

Northern Cities Ultramarathon, Sunderland and Durham, 29th June

40M+

Anna Seeley

A race that takes in the landmarks of County Durham including a run past Durham Cathedral that would make many a race director envious, it was definitely sufficient temptation for me to enter this inaugural running of the northern cities ultra.

The exact race route and directions were unfortunately kept quiet till the day, although a route was published on the website a few weeks in advance, meaning there were no real chances to recce the course but everyone was in the same boat. We were given trackers to carry so our run route could be monitored to check that we had gone the right way and also so that the organisers could help us get back on track if we got lost. 7 pages of OS maps and lists of instructions later and a small friendly intimate group of 10 were ready to hit the trails.

First few miles weaved through Sunderland before heading onto the riverbank, through woodland to eventually circle the Washington wetlands centre and wind its way down to Coxgreen Bridge and the first checkpoint. Local knowledge was going to be useful so I stuck with a group of Sunderland Strollers who knew the way but they were running too quick and after managing to fall in the woods I decided to drop back, this was going to be a long day out.

Paired up with another runner on the climb up to Penshaw Monument and we stuck together all the way round Lambton estate and along Lumley Park Burn to Lumley Forge Bridge. The route was difficult to follow in places along here and two heads were definitely better than one at figuring it out although the leading group went wrong here and we caught them up at the second checkpoint. From here it was back onto the much easier to follow Weardale Way round to Chester le Street and then onwards up to Great Lumley.

The only part of the route I was definite on was from Great Lumley and through Durham so the maps went away and it was nice to run and enjoy the scenery which was fantastic on a nice sunny day. Caught the leaders on the descent into Finchale Priory and ran with them onwards past Frankland Prison and down past the kennels. At some point along here unintentionally I must have pulled away from them as the voices behind me faded and by the time I met Phil, Dave and Melanie down by Crook Hall there was no sign of them.

On through the centre of Durham and past the cathedral before dropping down onto the riverbanks everything was going great although the climb up to St Giles Church was hard work after 26 miles in the heat. Next was a loop round Kepier Wood which I really should run round more as I lack any knowledge of the routes through there and managed to end up in a field which I shouldn’t have done but did eventually manage to find my way back up to Gilesgate. Luckily Dave pointed me in the right direction through Gilesgate and I was onto Rennys Lane.

Due to works in Ramside Hall grounds the course had to be deviated onto the dismantled railway here and the rocky surface was not kind on the feet but finally got to Leamside where unfortunately my brain and the route description/maps stopped connecting. Got lost numerous times between here and Fencehouses resorting to asking directions from locals on a few occasions but thankfully finally made it to the next checkpoint and more coke, fantastic stuff on long runs.

After Fencehouses my sense of direction again continued to fail me and I lost more and more confidence over where I was going so although my legs were able to run I didn’t trust them to take me in the right direction. By this stage I knew I was being chased down and I don’t think that was helping matters as I was getting more frustrated by the second but knew that I needed to keep going. Managed to run with a couple of guys in the 60 mile race before Herrington Park but they were moving too quick, amazing considering they’d already covered over 50 miles that day.

Managed to find my way out of West Herrington and thankfully the route then became much easier to follow and for the first time in miles I had the confidence to run but by this point I’d been passed, while I was lost. Onwards towards Sunderland, past the old XC course at Farringdon before joining the Parkrun route past the lakes at Silksworth. Luckily Phil was pointing me in the right direction as my brain had given up with directions by this stage. Tried to convince myself I was just out for a 5K and it would be over soon but after clocking 45 miles the legs weren’t really trusting the brain. Final stretch seemed to go on for ever but eventually the edge of Ashbrooke cricket ground and the cheers into the finish. 46.5 miles run, I think it was meant to be 43 but navigational errors had added to that. At the finish I was informed that although I had come in second the leader had deviated massively from the correct route so I had been promoted to winner.

For an inaugural run there were inevitable glitches in the directions which unfortunately did lead to frustration at times but I’m sure these will be ironed out by next year. I would encourage anyone tempted to step up to ultras to consider this race as it was enjoyable scenic trip through the local area with incredibly friendly and encouraging marshals.

Phil Owen adds:

Till's girlfriend, Ulrike also finished the 60 Mile race which is damn good going when she doesn't know the area and presumably reading the road book in her second language!

Sunshine Run, Quayside, Newcastle, 26th June

5K

Andrew Thompson

The annual Sunshine Run is a set in stone fixture at my work- with a marathon running CEO a race meters from the office can not be missed. And being the resident athlete (haha) to not run is not an option, and to not win against my colleagues is also an unbearable thought. This began five years ago and there have been some epic battles since then where I have constantly walloped all comers, including an 1000 meter sprint finish with my boss involving his being chased so hard that he had to stop meters from the line to be sick, allowing me to fly past him at the very death. I haven’t had a pay rise since then but for that moment the glory was mine. A couple of years ago a 19 minute parkrunner joined the company so it became a battle for the second place, though the ferocity remained the glory at the end was slightly diminished.

This year was no exception, we gathered on the quayside opposite the Baltic and tried to avoid the roving lady with the microphone (What’s your name, what company do you work for- yuk) and the overly enthusiastic warm up instructor (double yuk). Miss Newcastle and Miss Sunderland were both in attendance, sauntering round the crowds- they were shorter than they look on the telly but very pretty. Their eyes said they would rather be anywhere else though their smiles stayed fixed. Consummate pros.

Pancake flat, there’s a good chance of a PB and it is a big event for the local Sunshine Fund Charity so I’m always happy to do this run. Its patroned by Steve Miller the Paralympic Athlete and all round good guy who was at the start chatting to passers by. I accidently appeared in the photo of him in the Chronicle looking like a (very tired) serial killer while he was starting the race ... [See link, below, picture #5. Ed]

The race itself was the same as it has always been, down the Quayside towards the Tyne Bridge for a mile and a half, round a lamppost and back again with the sprint finish over the swing bridge (avoiding bollards, pedestrians and puke piles if possible) to finish on the South side of the river. The winner was absolutely flying, he was nearly half a kilometre ahead of the rest of the field when they came back past me at 3k. He was a marvel to watch- his feet didn’t actually touch the ground, his toes barely kissed the surface as he tore up the miles. I finished second out of my company as usual, no sprint finishes or epic battles this time but the humiliation of defeat by a Jonny come lately was avoided for another year.

Arunners Beach Run, Littlehampton, South Coast, 26th June

5M

Kevin Williams

Another Wednesday night race on the South Coast, this time the Arunners Beach Run. I’m a sucker for something a little bit different, so after reading that this was 5 miles out and back on the beach at Littlehampton I was interested, and £5 entry on the day that sealed it. Problem was I decided to ride to work, not far in reality at 13 mile round trip, still in for a penny in for a pound. I headed off to Littlehampton which is just 25 minutes along the A27. I arrived in plenty of time, registered and then had a wander round before the start of the race.

268 runners started at what seemed a very leisurely pace with a lap of the green, these people knew what lay ahead! We then crossed over the promenade, over the shale and down onto the sand. At this point I was relieved that the sand was nice and firm although very wet, we headed towards the sea and then turned left to run parallel to the retreating English channel, this is lovely I thought to myself, a beautiful summers evening splashing along the beach.

As I happily picked a few runners off I could see the race leaders coming off the beach and then back on it again, oh yes at the 1 mile marker we were directed up through the shale and then back down to the sea, we did that twice more before coming off the beach completely and turning on a grass section at the 2.5 mile point, by now I was no longer enjoying my summer evening run, the journey back turned into something of a battle against the conditions and my own head. There was now a strong head wind, the shale was getting more and more difficult to run through and the field was spreading out. I was determined not to let the shale get the better of me even though it was like running through treacle, not that I’ve ever ran through treacle, but it’s a tried and tested metaphor.

I stopped looking at my pace and concentrated on the Burgess Hill runner ahead of me, admittedly I may have used him as a wind break for a while, after half a mile of 'rest' I decided to go out on my own with the end of the beach in sight. The last bit of shale almost claimed me, but I kept on going and then with the finish line in sight I somehow found a little bit in reserve to hold off my wind break friend and his Burgess Hill colleague, although I was passed by another member of their club who finished really strongly, he was a mackem I discovered as we chatted just over the finish line.

This was one of the hardest races I’ve ran to date, in fact I think I’ve said to more than one person that it was more like a boot camp session then a running event, the shale was so energy sapping and the regular changes in running surface meant getting into a rhythm was difficult, also from about mile 1 onwards my trainers were soaked through. My time of 39:36 wasn’t particularly impressive, not that I really cared as I felt a huge sense of satisfaction just finishing this one. Looking back I was 117th out of the 268 field, I am pretty happy with that. A recommended race? Only if you like to challenge yourself.

West Highland Way, Scotland, 23rd June

95M / 14,000'

Phil Owen

The West Highland way Race is a 95 Mile, 14000ft Race from Milngavie (just above Glasgow) to Fort William in the Highlands.

Milngavie to Fort William.

I could go on about the hills and terrain but suffice is to same it has a lot of it and not much is easy. Last time I did the race in 2010 I’d broken my foot on the 28th of January and had only nine weeks back running before the race. However on a beautiful day I had a sublime run, smiling & laughing all the way, downing a quick pint at Kingshouse Hotel (72 Miles) in Glencoe and a very acceptable finish in 26 hours something. So you’d think given I had trained and probably wouldn’t stop for a beer I’d be able to knock an hour or more from that time. I want be making that mistake again!

At 1am after the usual talk we were set off from Milngavie train station. It always makes me chuckle that such a beautiful route starts at a train station and down Milngavie high street. By the first CP at Drymen, a mere 12 miles in I was feeling slightly uncomfortable and hot. The weather had promised torrential rain and possible thunder storms but the storm failed to break leaving us with an oppressive heat. I climbed the 1000ft of the iconic Conic hill where for me the race starts and into the 2nd CP at Balmaha. I remember here I was still fine but saying the heat was getting to me a bit. It was one of the days where it was too hot for a jacket but every now and then we’d get a sudden heavy downpour. You just wanted it to do one or the other.

At the start.

From Balmaha past Rowardednen forest & Ben Lomond we followed Loch Lomond to Inversanid where I had a drop bag. I was still fighting this overheating, occasionally dipping my head under waterfalls and drinking the cool water from the streams but I just could seem to get cool. Had a bit of a torrid time all the way to the halfway point at Auchentyre farm. Really not feeling well and was astonished to find out I had lost 4% body weight. This is right on the limit of being pulled out and would mean I was being watched.

Still the good thing was my first support runner, Anna could join me here and I perked up a bit passing through Tyndrum onto the bridge of Ochy and even started to enjoy myself over the big climb from B’ochy to Victoria Bridge. That all changed on the Rannoch though. Rannoch moor is the highest Moorland in the UK and the climb to it seems to go on forever. This was where I really started to feel poorly and quite honestly had someone offered me an open grave at this point I’d have jumped right in and laid down. I was almost certainly feeling the effects of dehydration, shortage of electrolytes and probably drinking too much to compensate. My body was fine but my head was another matter. I can only liken it to being punch drunk! I was completely spaced out, dizzy, nauseous and unbalanced at times.

WHW Goblets.

Into Glencoe and David took over from Anna. We both knew that this was now a war of attrition but David was adamant he would get me home. Past Kingshouse where last time I had a lovely pint and onto the devils staircase. I usually love this climb but now I was struggling big time. At the top I sat for a minute and a good friend John Vernon came past with words of encouragement. Jon was doing his 10th consecutive whw race and I assured him I’d be at the ceremony to pick my goblet up with him. We overtook John as a managed a good run down the 4.5 miles of rocky switch backs and into Kinglochleven.

Last of the 3 weigh ins and luckily I had gained a little and the Doctor took little notice of me. David ushered me up the last big climb out of Kinglochleven & onto the rolling rocky tracks heading that head north towards Ben Nevis, the wilderness that is Lundava. The last 13 miles of I did on nothing but will power and David’s cajoling along and I could not have been gladder to see the finish. I can honestly say it was the worst run of my life.

But ... none of that is etched on the goblet and I was very proud to pick my 2nd Goblet so differently earned for the first.

The west Highland way race is a special race. All the talk of distance and terrain you usually get in ultras is replaced here with the people, the stories and traditions that the race is steeped in. The ceremony is without doubt the best there is. Starting at 12 o’clock when the last finishers have come in (35 hours) each finisher is handed there goblet in order of finishing and the last runner receives their goblet by the winner. I’ll certainly be back for another goblet.

Great North 10K, Gateshead, 23rd June

Kirsty Anderson

I signed up for this race ages ago intending that it would be my first ever proper 10k. Since then I joined the Striders and ended up doing the Marathon of the North 10k, Raby and Blaydon but all of those had their issues (first ever, hilly and not 10k) and so I was quite looking forward to doing a straight 10k road race to see what time I could do with no other distractions. My preparation was less than ideal, my hamstring had been giving me grief since the warm-up of the Learn to Run session the previous Wednesday and I was also knackered after being the cycling support team for Jon and Mike as they did the C2C the day before, but thanks to The Stick and a reasonable night’s sleep I was hopeful that I might make it through in one piece.

The race started quite early (9am), but I used the walk from the car park as a warm-up (passing Brendan Foster on the way) and lined up in the Green pen ready to go. The start seemed quite well set up, and after an organised warm-up we were led off at the allotted time. The course started by the Athletics Stadium and wound its way down to the riverside. It was narrow in places and there was a fair bit of weaving in and out of people and up and down pavements but I didn’t feel unduly held back at any point. Once by the river the course followed the riverside all the way to the Tyne bridge and back and it had taken sufficiently long to get to the riverside that some of the lead runners were already on their return journey but it was nice to see them although disheartening that they were nearly done when I’d only done about 2k! It was a bit hilly on the route but most were short and sharp followed by a gentle downhill rather than long killer hills, so not too bad. I passed one Strider and wheezed a quick hello at about 4k, then hit the Metro Radio turn around point just before 5k – only a parkrun to go! A quick check of my watch at the 5k turnaround showed under 28 mins so I was hopeful of making my sub-56 target. I had been trading places with a guy in a Port of Tyne t-shirt most of the way along so decided to try to keep him in my sights as I started the return leg, I think he was using me for the same thing since he stopped to tie his laces and I thought I’d lost him but he sprinted to get back past me then settled down just in front of me again. At 8k I was starting to tire a bit and also dreading the hill that I had been warned about. There was a nice path through a park by the riverbank at this point and I hit 9k with still no sign of the hill, so started wondering whether the course had changed and I was going to be lucky when there it was. Actually, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought and the 400m to go sign at the top of it made it easier to get a move on.

The last bit was in the athletics stadium on the actual track which I’d watched Mo Farah destroy the opposition in the 5000m race the day before so that was quite exciting, I didn’t have much left in my legs for a Mo-style sprint finish but crossed the line in 56.34, not quite the sub 56 I wanted (or the sub 55 I was secretly hoping for) but still 2 and a half mins off my PB and that’s with a dodgy hamstring so I can’t really complain. The goody bag was the usual fare – t-shirt (not a technical tee though), medal, powerade, belvita biscuits, eat natural bar, gel, foil blanket and a small tube of toothpaste, and since I had been forced to park the other side of the Sunday Market in Newcastle I also bought some excellent brownies on the way back to the car. It had been dry during the race but was chucking with rain at this point and the rain became so torrential later that afternoon that it knocked the tv coverage of the athletics off air and meant most of the field events had to be held indoors, so I was definitely lucky! I’m not sure I’d sign up for the race again as it was a bit congested and quite a lot of money to enter compared to some of the smaller races, but I really enjoyed the chance to run on the track at the stadium in the middle of an important athletics meeting, so it was well worth the trip.

Alnwick Trail Races, 23rd June

13.1M,10K + kids

Rachel Terry

I spotted a flyer for these races earlier in the year and was immediately attracted by the promise of ‘stunning trails and scenic views’ and the opportunity for the boys to enter the fun runs ‘King of the Castle’ (1km) and ‘The Dirty Rascal’ (2km)! I decided to enter the half marathon and was joined by fellow striders Alister, Bill and Jackie McKenna with Jacquie, Dave and Melanie all running in the 10k. Due to excavation work or, more likely, the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland’s daughter on the same weekend, the start of the race wasn’t at the usual Alnwick Castle but half a mile down the road within Hulne Park. This turned out to be a perfect location for the Terry family with parking right beside the start line, plenty of room for the kids to play cricket and football and to explore the woods whilst waiting for Mum to finish!

Rachel legs it through the park ...

And what a fantastic route through the pastures of Hulne Park followed by trails beside the river Aln and through Brizlee woods. We had to look out for the occasional obstacle too such as a herd of deer crossing over the course at half a mile in and a few wet and slippery cattle grids. The course was quite challenging with a really tough climb around mile 8 where, I admit, I cut my losses and walked up a particular steep hill! However, passing the gothic Brizlee Tower at the highest elevation we were rewarded with stunning views over Northumberland, a drink of water and some jelly babies! Then it was downhill for a mile or so to join the trail back along the river towards the finish.

Medals all round.

After refuelling on a lovely picnic lunch (which ended in the car due to a horrendous downpour) it was the boys turn! They both wanted to run unaccompanied so we had a quick walk round the course and then they were off. The 2k ‘Dirty Rascal’ race went off first (age 7+) and I was a little concerned to see Sammy (age 7) sprinting off with the bigger boys in about 6th place. No time to worry as William (age 5) in the ‘King of the castle’ race was off 2 minutes later in the 1km run (age 3-6). He went past me in first place! The boys disappeared under a bridge out of sight and I sent Michael off to cheer further down the course only to see William already making his way back, still running (thankfully!) and still in first place! How exciting! He crossed the line very red in the face, out of puff but with a glorious smile on his face! Soon after came another mini-Strider, William McKenna, winning the ‘Dirty Rascal’ race closely followed by brother Oliver in 3rd and Sammy in 4th place! What a great result for the Strider children! They all received a great medal and t-shirt and, of course, were treated to a big ice-cream for their efforts!

A beautiful course, combined with fun runs for the kids made for a great day out for all the family. We shall definitely return next year, hopefully with a few more Striders?

Gunnesbury parkrun, West London, 22nd June

5K

Danny Lim

Once upon a time, I was a student, I living in Acton Town, West London. Despite being there a year, I never set foot in Gunnesbury Park which was just 2 minutes plod away (hangs his head in shame). I was a very sedentary person back then you see and never saw the point in wasting a joule of energy more than was necessary to get from A to B. So I resolved to make amends on my return to West London this weekend.

Perhaps not the most scenic parkrun but it is the flattest I have been to. And it is perfect for a PB attempt, with its course on tarmac paths. Gunnesbury Park is dominated by a very large grass field. As we ran around the figure-of-eight course, I passed a small boating lake, trees on the side and a few buildings including a mansion and a temple folly. The park was bought for the nation from the Rothschild Family and opened by Neville Chamberlain in 1929.

What it lacked in scenery, it made up for in friendliness and a very supportive atmosphere. There was a definite feeling of inclusiveness in the pre-race briefing with a welcome to newcomers, applause for those competing 50 runs and a birthday cheer. And as we ran, there was enthusiastic support from marshalls. My favourite bit though was the "wall of applause" as several volunteers stood in a row, cheering as we went past. So thank you race director and volunteers for a very enjoyable event.

Durham Dales Challenge, Wolsingham, 22nd June

30M & 16M options

Shaun Roberts on the 30-miler ...

I'd had my eyes on this for one for ages ... it starts and finishes here in Wolsingham, and the closer bits of the route are ones I train over, so there's really been no excuse not to have a go ... except for that '30-mile' bit. I've never gone that far before, so despite my telling myself (and quite possibly some others) that there'd be loads of walking on the uphills, I was a bit apprehensive going into this. Loads of friendly Strider faces at the start though, some on the 16-mile option, some walking, some running. Talked to Dave Robson who'd very helpfully indeed passed on his Garmin route from a previous outing to a few of us.

So ... the 'mass start' was a very low-key affair, with lots of walkers obviously not about to go eyeballs-out over the start line. Nonetheless, I thought I'd start pretty firmly, and ended up running up Wear Bank in a group of five. One idiot had a radio in the top of his rucksack pumping out inanities from a commercial station - how's that for a great way to ruin a day out on the hills? I'd told Dave R I was intending to run up this steep first hill, which he was surprised at - I said it'd get me warmed up (it did!), and that it'd be the last steep slope I'd be running up (it was).

Onto the moors, and the other four went off ahead. Err, surely too far ahead I thought ... shouldn't we be turning left here pretty soon? Well, yes, so I turned left alone at the first checkpoint: the others had all been on the 16-miler! So for what was genuinely the first time ever, I found myself leading a field. Small matter of having to do all my own navigation (doh!), but Dave's course on my GPS was reassuringly telling me that I was on track, so onward and upward. Approaching a stream crossing a group of other runners did catch up, which was probably a good thing, and we headed into Hamsterley Forest more or less together, and I lost track of where I was in the field. The rain, by the way, was coming and going, and my jacket kept coming off and going back on again ... this kept happening all day.

Navigate for 30 miles?? What could go wrong ...

Now, I won't trouble you with the remaining details of each piece of bog we crossed, each stony track we walked up, each stretch of heather we picked through. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of these and more in the 30 miles between Wolsingham and Middleton-in-Teesdale, and with the weather not being great, the views weren't as good as I know they can be - ok for running, though, tbh. Great to get to each checkpoint for a drink and as often as not a choice of cakes. But it was really nice to eventually make it to the checkpoint on the B-road over the moors, after which I was on very familiar territory, and could imagine the end. My quads were absolutely screaming at me by now, really aching for some reason ... though the heart/lungs were going ok. What was really nice along here was being in a group of four, sharing the navigation, having a bit of a natter, and generally keeping each other going. Heading down into Weardale, a lad from Darlo and I pulled away a bit - I'd been helping him out with the route-finding, as he'd turned his first set of instructions to paper-mache, not having them protected, and was close to doing the same to a second set!

Thought I was going to have to walk/run the last bits, but kept plodding on as my last group-mate went off ahead. Delighted to make it back into the school in 5 hours 42 minutes, where they told me I was third! The Darlo lad had come in second, and only Nick Spencer of NFR had gotten away at the front earlier on. Giddy heights, eh? Dave and Mel got round in 7h11m, over an hour faster then the last time he did this. Dougie finished in 7h34m, which he was well-pleased with having contemplating dropping out with blister problems, and Angela & Sue took somewhere round 9hr 23min - so everyone got round ok in the end.

My overall impression of this one is that it was bloody long! Good to have done it ... but I'm looking forward to something a tad shorter, such as the imminent Saltwell Fell Race.

... and Rachel Bullock on the 16-miler:

This was the first time I've done an event like this. Jules, Dave and I set off as 'Team Cripple', all of us having various ailments, but we had signed up for this ages ago, and I had been really looking forward to it, so there was no way we were backing out. The course was ideal for a first-timer, very few hills, fairly gentle terrain and easy to navigate. The checkpoints were the highlight for me; well-stocked with goodies - loved the ginger cake!! They made the route pass much quicker.

For what we are about to receive ...

We saw plenty of Striders around the course - Jan, Laura and Anita, all of whom had great runs - Laura in particular looked very comfortable and much more competent at following the instructions on the route sheet than we were. Seeing as Jules and Dave had already recce'd the route, we completely neglected the instructions sheet, which resulted in us missing three of the checkpoints!! But I promise that we did cover the full route!! I just blame missing the checkpoints on the fact that I had removed my glasses due to the fairly persistent rain between miles approx 5-10, or maybe due to Dave's affinity to taking shortcuts. Lessons learnt for next time! But anyhow, we cannily managed to bag the checkpoints with the good food ;-)

The only other issue on course was the bull, but after Jan had wrestled it to the ground, we pushed on towards the finish. The pie and peas (and more cake) provided afterwards were the perfect end to an overall really well-organised and friendly event. I'm sure it would also be very beautiful in sunny weather! I was also really pleased to have covered a greater distance than I have ever run before on zero training - for this I thank Dave and Jules for the great company! (And the checkpoints for the great food!). Although as I write this I can safely say that I am paying big-time for the zero training. Ouch.

Ropner Park Trail Race, Stockton, 20th June

5K

Paul Pascoe

My second race in the Tees Trail Race series and I knew what to expect as myself and Alister had previously visited Ropner Park as a prospective parkrun location. A lovely park which has recently been spruced up after years of neglect.

This route starts at the cafe and the skirts around the outside area of the park, a 3 lap course. A fast flat course with just a short incline and decline and all on tarmac.

Chewing the fat with Chris Tomlinson.

Luckily for us, as well as Megan’s scones, Chris Tomlinson the current British Indoor and Outdoor long jump record holder and World Silver medallist was along to start the kids' race but also stayed around and we managed to have a chat and a club photo taken with him.

A good turnout of Striders at this one – myself, Alister, Megan, Mel and Becky.

Whorlton Run, North Yorks Moors, 19th June

6.1m / 1230'

Danny Lim

I had never run so fast in my entire life. Not that I had a choice in the matter, gravity was hurtling me down this steep path which seemed to go on forever! I was getting tired just running downhill; how was this possible? Only 20 minutes earlier I was climbing up the side of a very steep bank. It's not natural to be climbing a fell this fast. [ What am I doing here? I'm a fell-walker not a fell-runner! ] There was the odd bit of scrambling, all thrown in for free. Maybe because I took a slightly different route up.

Within 10 minutes climb, I was atop a featureless plateau of the North York Moors. Running here was relatively easy, though the brown heather slowed me slightly as it brushed my legs. No grouse to be seen; either the wrong season or the frontrunners had scared them off. I snatched glimpses of the gorgeous countryside below. Lush, green pastures, dotted with sheep were interspered with golden rapeseed fields. It felt like I was at the top of the world. However, the fear of falling flat on my face prevented me from staring too long.

A lovely evening for a run on the Moors.

Before long, it was time to descend, assisted by the full force of gravity. Eventually, the mile-long path flattened out into a forest trail. It was at this point, I started getting cramps in my calf and was forced to slow down, but potter on I did. Mike Benett, Nigel and David Brown were far ahead and I knew David Shipman, Laura and Jan Young were behind somewhere but I couldn't see them. The course took me through sheep-filled pasture, past a farmhouse (with supportive farmer's family) before hitting a tarmac road for the final stretch to the finish. " 'alf a mile to go!" shouted the bare-chested marshal. It was the longest half mile ever. I finished to the cheers from the faster Striders. The backdrop to the finish was a handsome stone fort. Later, I learnt that it was a scheduled ancient monument and just the gatehouse for Whorlton Castle,which has fallen into ruin. The castle must have been extensive!

This is racing at its grass-roots. Turn up on the day, pay £6 and you're entered. There was no aerobics warm-up, DJ with cheesy music, water stations, cheer-points or medal at the end. This was an adrenaline-filled, no-frills, old-fashioned fell race. And it certainly won't be my last.

Mid Summer Five, Lavant, Chichester, 19th June

5M

Kevin Williams

So parkrunning is sorted, Havant is just 20 minutes along the A27 from my new South Eastern base, what else is there going on in the running world down here? I haven't yet found the Southern version of the excellent NE Races, so Google has been employed to locate local events. I'd pencilled in the Worthing 10k, but I'd missed the postal entry and although EOD where available, the weather was glorious and the local pub beer garden won the argument. The Hayling Billy 5m was tempting but was going to be a bit of a rush (and it was raining!) so I gave that one a miss as well. I did however pre-enter Chichester Runners Mid Summer 5, for a number of reasons, it was 10 minutes’ drive away, postal entries were just £7 which included a burger and a beer after the race and the out and back course included a lap of the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit. Now I've been a fan of Motor Racing ever since I was a small boy, me and my dad where regulars at Croft Circuit near Darlington for Rally Cross and British Touring Cars, we've been to the British GP a couple of times and I still get up at daft o'clock to watch Grand Prix's from far flung corners of the globe every year.

Arriving in Lavant village in plenty of time we walked down to the Village Hall to collect my number, the weather was barmy all day, hitting something like 26oC in the afternoon, the car read 22oC at 7pm so this was going to be a hot one. Lavant is your typical little country village, although all the houses in it are probably worth over a million each! The community centre/cricket pitch was race HQ, after a brief introduction and description of the course the 243 runners moved onto the road and we were released. The pack spread out quickly and it was single file within half a mile, just after the 1 mile marker we crossed the road and went into Goodwood Circuit through a side gate. Ah a motor racing circuit, must not make engine noises out loud, although in my head that's ok isn't it? Round the first corner and onto the home straight, past the pit lane and out towards the back of the circuit, I couldn't stop myself from running over the curbs and taking the racing line at all times, the guy behind me must have thought I was crazy, round the bottom of the circuit and back up towards the point we came in, quick 200 yards over the grass and we were back out onto the road, little bit of a climb and then downhill back to the village, round the cricket pitch and through the finish area.

Five hot and humid miles made the burger taste like it been bbq'd by a Michelin star chef, he may have been of course, the presentations were made, the winner getting home in a ridiculous time of 25 odd minutes! Talk about value for money, this is club racing at its very best, apart from the heat I loved every minute of it and if you ever find yourself in this part of the world in the middle of June I highly recommend the Mid Summer 5. My time was ok, a winter with ITBS has put me back quite a long way, no pain at all during this race though, which is a first in something like 6 months. So what’s next then?

Hardmoors Rosedale Trail Marathon, Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire, 16th June

27.5m

Dave Robson

We were up at 5.30 to get ready for this run. Made it to the village hall in the lovely Hutton-le-Hole for 8 and got ourselves ready for the start at 9. The usual relaxed atmosphere of a Hardmoors event and quite a few people that we knew where there.

Another tough off-road marathon done and dusted.

The route started by undulating through fields and quiet country roads. The route gradually started to rise and soon we were onto the moors and it seemed to just keep going upwards, with just the odd short descent. We took the decision to walk most of these uphill sections as we knew there was more easily runnable sections to come.

Finally after 10m we got to Blowarth Crossing and turned in a more southerly direction along a very flat old railway line. We had a good run along this for quite a while (it is unusual to have such a long runnable section in a Hardmoors event, which are usually characterised by plenty of hills and steps !). After a while we left the dale we were overlooking, Farndale, and climbed up to the Lion Inn and then started to contour round the edge of Rosedale. Gradually we descended into Rosedale, crossed the dale and then soon after the 20m point, we climbed a beast of a hill back up to another flat old railway line. My leg started cramping on the way up the climb and I know at least two other runners who had similar issues. Melanie gave my calf a quick massage at the top and that certainly helped, but I lost quite a bit of energy on the climb so after that I was taking more walking breaks than I was happy with. However, we got back in under 6 hours which was pleasing. A good route and much more runnable than either of the previous two Hardmoors marathons.

Phil was doing the timekeeping at this event (and for the 10K and the half marathon) and Anna had a great run, coming in under 5hrs !

Hadrians Wall Half Marathon, 16th June

13.1

Sarah Fawcett

Jackie McKenna persuaded me that we should do this half marathon as our first off roader, (although she slipped in a sneaky Durham Costal last Sunday so this wasn’t her first), and it was not without some trepidation that we approached this "multi-terrain trail race". Having looked at the route profile on the website and the previous two years results, where only 49 and 69 participants' results were listed, we both separately worried last night that we would come in last today if there was such a small field.

My husband and daughter came up with us so that they could do some cycling while we did our run and we arrived in good time, at a cold and windy hilltop at Edges Green near Once Brewed. Race HQ was two small tented shelters and half a dozen portaloos. We were relieved to see that there were lots of people beginning to assemble and I know that they had sold their 300 maximum places, although I always assume 20% don’t turn up on the day for any race. So we might not come last after all!

I was slightly concerned by the two Mountain Rescue Land Rovers that were at HQ and hoped that none of us would need them. As we lined up at the start banner the main hazard was the copious sheep poo underfoot. The starting horn sounded and we were off, down a quiet road, in a chilly wind with a few dark clouds looming. The undulating road section was a pleasant, familiar surface to a road runner like myself and I began to settle in to a comfortable stride. Jacquie soon pulled away from me, striding well, then we turned on to a farm track and the grassy moors that the website promised us.

As promised, the sheep had been mowing well and the relatively dry period we have had recently meant that the surface was pretty comfortable. Out of the wind it began to get really warm and I risked a hidden long distance lens as I peeled off a layer and then replaced my Striders vest whilst running along.

I can't recall the exact order of the route but I know that the firm grass moorland gave way to steep stony descents and ascents, stepping stones, limestone paving , timber decking and very soggy bogland, before coming out at a welcome water station and the cooling forest track.

I was pleased to be back on surer footing as I hadn't been able to admire the spectacular views fully whilst watching where my feet were landing. We hadn't seen much of Hadrian’s Wall itself although it was above us on the crag tops at one point, but the countryside around is beautiful. We finished with a road section and a sprint finish over a cattle grid, up a winding corner and back across the sheep decorated grass. It had been an up and down route; hard work but not brutal by fell running standards.

Jacquie beat me in in an admirable 2 hours 14 mins, and I was a minute and a half behind her. We were both very pleased with our results. We received good quality tee shirts and the organizers gave out prizes including some lovely Hadrian’s Wall china mugs to those who had travelled furthest etc.

I felt that the organization of the event was faultless. The marshalling, signposts, water stops, pre race information, car parking, indeed all the elements that go to make a successful event were here today. It was an excellent morning.

Bamburgh 10k, 16th June

Victoria Tindale

I only decided to do this race a few days before as I was up in Bamburgh on the Saturday so decided I might as well stay up and do a 10k on the Sunday. I thought it was going to be fast and flat and then I started to read the race reports from last year which gave the impression it was much more hilly than I had expected. I decided to do it anyway as it was good motivation to stay in on a Saturday night and stay on track for operation wedding dress.

I woke up on the Sunday and while everyone else was celebrating the sunshine my heart sank a little. I went down to the cricket pavilion on my own and did miss my usual pre race catch up with Louise and felt a bit lost having no one to talk to at first. That didn’t last long and people I spoke to were really friendly and I got the impression that there were a lot of people who weren’t used to doing races and were quite nervous.

The race started up at the castle and the views were spectacular. You could see for miles and the sea was flat calm, there was a little part of me that wished I was going out diving in the sunshine rather than about to start a race.

The start was downhill so I decided to take advantage and set off quite quickly. I had really struggled last week at Blaydon so as soon as we reached the bottom I made sure that I slowed down. We headed up past the shops and I was pleased thinking that we were going to head up the road that my mam and dad were walking down to meet me. Unfortunately we turned off and headed left after the Victoria pub.

The rest of the course was on open country roads surrounded by fields. It was nice but a bit of a shame to be so close to the sea and not really see it. The course was described as undulating, there wasn’t any real hills but there did seem to be some long drags uphill. Given that I ended up back where I started, whatever I ran up I must have ran down but I really can't remember the downhill bits.

There was a water station half way and because there wasn’t so many runners it was easy to get a drink without stopping and they were offering options of bottles or cups. There were markers all the way along and marshalls on every junction so you couldn’t get lost.

The sun seemed to come out even more during the run and to be fair I think that despite my best intentions I set off faster than I was capable of sustaining so struggled towards the end. I tried to pull out everything that I had as I knew my mam and dad would be near the finish so managed a very lacklustre sprint finish of sorts.

Not a PB but actually not far off and I am glad that I did it and would do it again. If nothing else, I was in a place that I love and able to stay and enjoy the sunshine after a visit to the gift shops, and I am one step closer to looking good in that wedding dress.

Great North Swim, Windermere, 15th June

1 mile

Jacquie Robson

The beautiful Windermere provided somewhat different swimming conditions to Ellerton Lake, the venue for the Elvet Otters’ two training swims this month. The Ellerton-based beginners’ training session, run by Donna James (thanks, Donna!), was held in bright sunshine in the lake with barely a ripple on the surface of the water, giving swimming conditions much like an indoor pool (but in wetsuits). Last Saturday’s informal practice swim was much the same, with the Otters enjoying blazing sunshine and a post-swim barbeque. I guess it was too much to hope that there’d be barely a ripple on the surface of Windermere when we arrived at the Great North Swim venue. I’d received inside information from Rachel Terry, who was lakeside to watch husband (and Elvet Strider) Michael’s 11.30am swim, that it was a bit windy and choppy, but Michael’s finishing time was great (32.50)so I remained optimistic.

Striders in Swimsuits ... I can see a Calendar in this. For charity, obviously, and in the best possible taste ...

Arriving at Bowness nice and early, Alister and I looked carefully at the lake surface as we enjoyed the ‘park and sail’ ferry along Windermere to make our way to the swim start (well, I enjoyed the ferry – I’m sure Mr R won’t mind me saying that he was more than a little bit nervous…). There was certainly more than ‘just a ripple’ on the surface of the lake but at 1.30pm and from a vantage point high up on the ferry it didn’t look too bad. As the afternoon progressed, however, I could see the waves on the lake increase in size as the wind picked up and I realised we’d be in for a bit of a hard slog to stay on course during the swim. Joined by the other Otters at the swim village, I hoped they hadn’t noticed the swell because it was clear that there were an awful lot of nerves among the first-time open water swimmers, so after watching the ‘yellow’ wave enter the water, and checking out the course (all well signposted by enormous yellow or orange buoys), we quickly got our wetsuits on and made our way to the starting pen. The bloke acting as MC for the starting pen warned us that the water was a bit choppy for the first 100m, but he said it was OK after that because when we turned towards the 200m buoy we’d put the waves behind us, but as I looked out over the lake I could see all the route buoys jumping around in the waves and was sure he was lying! It was going to be a bumpy ride!

Rosie Lindsay (daughter of Striders Fiona S and Steve L and honorary Otter) and I positioned ourselves in the start pen near the line, ready to jostle for position during the sprint in to the lake, whereas the more cautious swimmers moved towards the back for a more gentle and sedate entry to the water. As the hooter went, Rosie and I legged it for the water and I was chuffed to be the first to dive in from our side of the entrance slipway. Within seconds, though, Rosie streaked past me and disappeared into the waves ahead of me and that was the last I saw of her. I busied myself with wrestling for position with the big lads who were trying to swim over the top of me while I tried to outsprint them to the first buoy and the sharp right turn. Some were clearly not expecting the ride to be so bumpy and there were a few taking on lungfulls of water, needing to stop and breaststroke to clear their airways, and I got a few bumps and bashes (and gave a few back) as their legs kicked out, but I ploughed on and found some space at the first buoy. It was really rough, and I began to pant as I couldn’t take my breaths when I needed them due to the waves breaking over my head, so I took an inside line towards the 200m buoy so I could breathe facing inland with no-one swimming inside me to produce any more swell.

Good to be back on dry land, methinks.

From 100-200m, the swimming was tough and I drank a few litres of Windermere, needing to tread water a couple of times to clear my lungs, but I bounced along, struggling to spot the 5ft high-viz route markers ahead of me over the swell but managing to track the swimmers around me and make good progress. Trying to keep swimming in a straight line occupied most of the first half of the swim, but I soon started to gain on the orange triangular buoy marking halfway. The waves were still so big I was able to body-surf around the halfway buoy, and I hoped the second half would be easier for me as I could breathe to my more comfortable side. The swimming definitely got a bit less scrappy, but staying in a straight line was tough as I tried to claw my way through the waves to make up some of the time I’d lost in the first half. Like the last time I did the GNS, I got off course at the same point, nearly swimming into the front door of a green lakeside cottage, and I was a bit miffed that I’d given myself extra distance to swim. Once back on course, I pushed hard for home. A couple of big lads behind me were trying to draft off my feet for an easier swim, so I kicked hard to keep them away and sprinted in towards the finishing buoys, managing to hold them off. Finally I made it underneath the finish gantry and was hauled out of the water by the very obliging life guards (I hope their backs are OK this morning, having hauled many hundreds of disoriented swimmers out of the lake!) and I ran over the timing mat to stop the clock (35.35).

The first person I spotted was Bill Ford, taking pictures and cheering us coming in, and I was chuffed to see I’d made it round faster than my first attempt two years earlier, even despite the rough conditions. I quickly made it round through to the exit area, collecting my medal and T-shirt, and bumped into Fiona Shenton, who was quite understandably very proud of her daughter Rosie who’d managed to win the entire wave with a storming swim. Her time was so fantastic (22.34), she finished 9th overall for the whole day, out of almost 3500 swimmers, and finishing 2nd lady overall. A phenomenal achievement! I also bumped into Angela and Sue who had had a rough time (quite literally) in the water and had withdrawn, getting a lift back to shore via kayak and safety boat. I made it back around to Bill’s viewing position by the edge of the lake to watch the other Otters come in safely, and to watch for Alister who I was quite concerned about. A non-swimmer just 18 months ago, he’s targeting a decent length triathlon sometime soon and so has worked really, really hard on his swimming, but he’s no real fan of the water (especially open water) and I admit I was quite concerned about him making it back! But I needn’t have worried! I missed Otter Louise Billcliffe finishing as she came in while I was collecting my T-shirt (40.03), but I made it round in time to cheer in Rachael Bullock, all smiles and having a Great Swim indeed (42.05), followed by Flip (43.03) and Jill (43.58). Flip had struggled with cramps in the choppy water, but Jill emerged smiling triumphantly, still elegant in her pink goggles, of course, and posing for photos! Carolyn Bray (44.27), David McKinney (46.57) and Camilla Lauren-Maatta (47.18) all made it out looking tired but elated to have finished, and John Greathead completed in good time (50.05).

Whoop!

I was beginning to worry, but then a friend came to tell me he’d sighted Alister with his binoculars and we spotted him coming in towards the orange finishing buoys. I was really worried he’d be exhausted but he came powering in like a steam train, overtaking swimmers on the race to the finishing gantry and emerging from the water at speed. Unsure where the timing mats were, he sprinted up the ramp towards us, looking every inch the triathlete racing to the bike transition (52.02). Once we’d got him to stop and pose for a photo, he was elated and grinning widely and I was a very proud wife! Not far behind Alister was Emma Detchon (58.59), who has been unable to do any preparation for the swim due to recent eye surgery, but who came steaming in well within the hour despite only putting her wetsuit on for the first time that year at the start of the race.

Congratulations to all the Otters who competed – it was great to have so many Striders/Otters involved. Open water swimming doesn’t get much tougher than that in my (limited) experience. Who’s up for next year’s challenge? You never know, the lake might be calm and still ... !

Easington Trail Race, Noses Point, Seaham, 12th June

5K

Dave Robson

This is a new event in the Durham County Council Trail series. I think it was originally supposed to be in Easington, but it moved to Nose's Point, Seaham for some reason. The starting point was apparently the same as the new Durham Coast half marathon which was on Sunday. That race, which I didn't run, had lots of steps and I was expecting something similar for this one. However, there were just six !

At the race briefing they said the route was predominately flat. Well not quite, it was more undulating than flat, but it was a scenic route next to the sea. There was a nice breeze to cool us down, but I struggled a bit with the temperature which seems to be happening quite a bit recently.

There couldn't have been more than fifty runners, but there were still a few people to chat to from other clubs

A nice evening race and a bargain at £3.

Great Trail Challenge, Keswick, 9th June

11.5K

Bill Ford

As I was in Keswick anyway for the weekend taking part in the Wateraid 200 challenge this seemed an ideal little run to do on the Sunday morning, only 11k at time of entry but with an additional 0.5k added on at some time (take note Steve Cram).

Saturday had consisted of doing a made up 7am parkrun through Fitz Park to get rid of my hangover after a quiet night in Keswick had went slightly wrong, followed by a nice little walk to the top of Scafell Pike, a eat as much as you like Indian buffet accompanied by a small amount of cider and early to bed at 1.30. Awakening on Sunday morning to scorching temperatures there was only one thing for it – feed the runner – so a short walk to the Londis garage was followed by a athletes breakfast of sausage sandwich with a meat and potato pie.

John, Bill, Matthew and Jason.

The start itself was only a short walk through Fitz Park from the youth hostel we had been staying in. I arrived at about 9.30 to be met by a field full of fit looking runners and the odd larger shaped fun runner. There were a number of races starting at different times including a 5.5k, 10k, 11.5k and 22k all but the 22k including international races between the home countries.

I was joined at about 10 O’clock by John Wandless, Matthew Crow and John’s cousin Jason. The 22k race was off at 10.15 and those leaders looked quick, I expected to see a few of them fly past me later on their second lap.

We went to the start at about 10.35 and John and I were in starting Wave A, with the international athletes with Matthew and Jason in Wave B. As I had Blaydon in the afternoon and didn’t want to start off too quickly I moved back to Wave C with the slower runners. The announcer was advising people this was more than likely the type of race they had not done before so to enjoy it, take in the scenery and be very careful due to the scorching heat – wise words.

The hooter went and Wave A was off, the run included a 1.5 km lap of the field in order to thin the field out before hitting the trails, which each bay held back by 2 minutes to thin it out even more. John past the start line looking quite comfortable in about 20th place. Wave B was off with Matthew passing the start line in 2nd place for his wave and then it was my turn.

John at the finish, looking pretty in pink ...

A nice jog round the field was followed by about 3km along the C2C cycle track including a nice elevated wooden bridge section over the River Greta. Then boom a nice little left turn onto a country road section between 4.2k and 5.1k which I can only describe as being like Redhills in Durham with lots of people taking the opportunity to walk. Salvation came at the top in the form of a water station and a nice gentle downhill section to 6km at this point it was into the woods either over a bridge or through a ford – nice of them to give you a choice – and a uphill section along a narrow trail for about 1km. A right turn followed onto another country road and the ascent of Latrigg began in earnest by crossing a timing mat at the starting point of the 'King of the Mountains' competition. After a short while the road opened up onto open grassland and the climb up Latrigg continued but with fantastic views over Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding hills. Again a lot of people including me took the opportunity to walk this section which lasted abot a mile before the timing mat was crossed signalling the end of the 'King of the Mountains' and the beginning of the 'Demon Descent' timed section - big smiles suddenly appeared on many faces. Another water stop and off we went with mile times dropping rapidly. The descent lasted the final 3km only broken up by one slight incline, there was lots of passing people doing the 11k and lots of being passed as the leaders of the 22k came flying past me, another lap did not appeal to me in the slightest. And so it was into the finishing straight and across the line in about 1 hour 12 minutes – cheered on by the crowd including John (finished 23rd in about 52 mins) and Matthew.

Quick look for the fat blokes goody bag revealed the usual excellent quality Great Run T-Shirt (only useful for washing the windows and photos - when will they change to technical) and a medal with some sort of health food (no use to me). A quick chat to John and a lad I had not seen since school and off I was running again back to the car for a quick change and drive home to the Blaydon race.

All in all a very enjoyable, tough race, superbly organised and marshalled, reasonably priced (for a Great Run event) and in beautiful location with fantastic scenery. Would I do it again – Yes.

Durham Coast Half Marathon, Seaham, 9th June

Matt Claydon

This was the inaugural Durham Coast Half Marathon heading south from Seaham down to Crimdon Park. A surprisingly scenic run for those like me that had only ever walked the dog at Blackhall Rocks. For most this included a 2mile stretch up and down Hawthorn Dene, unfortunately the first three home apparently omitted this part of the race through no fault of their own. Spare a thought for two of them who had finished on the podium at the Sunderland Half Marathon last month only to find out the full distance had not been covered then either (source: Peterlee Star).

Personally, I would have been quite happy to knock a few metres off the race, but I would have chosen to miss out the steep steps up the side of each dene we passed through. I ran up the first, jogged the next, then walked, then crawled. It was absolutely exhausting. Had I been a little more organised I would have noted these inclines on the map provided and set off at a more sensible pace. As it was I set off at my usual pace, which as usual proved to be too fast. After a couple of miles a peloton of 6 or 7 runners had formed about 50m ahead of me, with the race leaders already out of sight. My aim was to catch them and try to stick with them as long as possible. This proved to be optimistic as they forged ahead, although I managed to catch a couple of stragglers giving me hope. By the time I had scaled the second steep steps this hope hade long faded and I settled down to run my own race.

Company was few and far between with the 200+ runners stretched out along the clifftop. By 9miles I had reached the point where I just wanted it to be over, the inclines having drained all my energy. I was grateful that it was at least an overcast day and not the scorcher that Saturday had been. Small mercies. At this point I was somewhat bemused by a fellow runner having stopped ahead of me to take a phone call. I hoped it was not an emergency, but he helpfully pointed out the route ahead. I felt a little unsure as I reached the top of the sand dunes, and just as I was about to head down on to the beach I was compelled to shout back to him for confirmation. 'No, sorry, I meant down the steps over there' he replied. So off I set to try and retake a runner that had taken the opportunity to pass me, passing the missing marshal as she appeared from the bushes. I managed to catch the guy a couple of times as we worked our way to the finish, but he succeeded in the final push. I must admit feeling a little deflated when the substitute marshal also overtook me.

Still all in all I was pleased at the end, I managed a decent time (1.36) on a tough route, and if I manage a PB at Newton Aycliffe next week this will be why. Obviously the organisation needs a little work, but I can hardly complain I had intended to park up at the finish and get the bus up to the start, but was so badly prepared I got the race upside down and ended up at the start. At least I had time for a quick kip.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Blaydon Race, 9th June

5.9M

David Brown

Hailed as one of the greatest symbols of the North East, and considered sacred by the Geordie community, I had always wanted to run the Blaydon Race, yet somehow always missed the deadline. However as a relatively new Strider I was pleased to receive a message asking who wanted in. I did for sure! And so as tradition, the 9th of June was upon us and the Strider lads n lasses made their way to a bustling Newcastle. The Bigg Market and adjacent streets were awash with colourful vests, spectators, and a general good vibe was in the air. Folk stood patiently in queues for the portaloo, until nearing shops opened their door to allow use of the facilities. Merry drinkers mingled amongst us in the newly found summer sun.

And the sun shone, oh did it shine ... as we eventually made our way into starting pens, shoulder to shoulder under the blue sky, watching the clock, waiting. And then the bells, my word the never-ending bells, and a hush. Anticipation rose as I sensed something was happening, not that I could see over anyone’s head, assuming it must be the mayor making his grand, albeit late entrance! The race is traditionally started with the actual handbell mentioned in the song and, "... away we went alang Collingwood Street, that's on the road to Blaydon".

I wasn’t sure quite what pace to run this, I wasn’t even sure how long it was meant to be, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9? So I just selected a pace and figured I’d just leg it to the end. I mean how hard could it be? Well I was about to find out. By the time I’d got to Scotswood Road the heat was not welcoming, the sun was not friendly. Folk veering away from the course to find any bit of shade, sweat in eyes, weaving in and out of randomly placed spectators. I previously lived in Newcastle and have driven down Scotswood Road many times, yet since I left they’ve obviously extended it!

Much more of an incentive than black pudding or tripe ...

I was starting to think about slowing the pace, and just enjoying the run, until a certain Danny Lim closed in on me, looking very strong. Danny passed me and I suddenly perked up, I upped the pace to keep up and run with him. Danny left me as we crossed the bridge and as I watched him ignore the water station I thought I'd lose him. As I pathetically attempted to drink from a plastic cup, Danny was off. From here I started to enjoy the race. As you double back it was good to Strider spot: I saw Megan Bell and Carolyn Bray passing ahead of me running well in the heat. The tight corner was a scramble, I took it well and closed in on Danny. The next bit was a blur, I recall a few undulations and bottlenecks, then Danny announced 1k to go. I spent the next 0.5k trying to work out how long it would take to run 1k, until the end was in sight. Danny and I were separated at this point and I wasn’t sure where he was. I put my foot down to run the final stretch, vaguely aware of cheers from Striders and a cheeky high 5 from Adam. Very happy with my time considering the heat.

We filtered through to select the correct goody bag (cheese or ham?) then made our way to the table of black pudding, tripe, pickled onions and beetroot. Striders huddled together under the blistering sun to tell their own tales. Then back to the coach where special thanks go to Kate Macpherson for the cake. As a Blaydon Race virgin, it didn’t fail to be the friendly race I was expecting, with great atmosphere and camaraderie throughout.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Boniface Kiprop K Kenya M 19-39 26:22
32 Emmily Biwott Kenya F 19-39 30:46
121 Gareth Pritchard M 19-39 34:36
132 Simon Gardner M 19-39 34:48
264 James Garland M 19-39 36:19
377 Paul Pascoe M 40-44 38:34
402 Graeme Walton M 40-44 39:03
484 Alister Robson M 40-44 39:54
631 Rachel Terry F 40-44 40:31
682 Marco Van Den Bremer-Hornsby M 45-49 41:06
849 Katy Walton F 19-39 42:22
974 Megan Bell F 19-39 43:20
948 Jamie Steel M 40-44 44:02
1354John Hutchinson M 55-59 44:04
1095Carolyn Bray F 19-39 44:20
1211David Brown M 19-39 44:47
1219Danny Lim M 19-39 44:49
1627Alan Smith M 65-69 46:10
1719Lucy Cowton F 19-39 46:41
1710Bill Ford M 45-49 46:44
1539Sue Gardham F 19-39 47:09
1799Greta Jones F 45-49 47:20
1508Mark Reay M 19-39 47:21
1858Louise Barrow F 19-39 47:41
1938Chris Hedley M 55-59 48:22
1962Katherine Preston F 40-44 48:25
2064Kathryn Sygrove F 45-49 49:00
1879Melanie Hudson F 19-39 49:09
1902Dave Robson M 60-64 49:20
2145George Nicholson M 60-64 49:40
2152Victoria Tindale F 19-39 49:45
2176Sarah Fawcett F 50-54 49:52
2284Rebecca Fisher F 19-39 50:30
2319Karen Chalkley F 50-54 50:58
2338Jim Nicholson M 65-69 51:02
2551Jill Ford F 45-49 52:59
2569Kirsty Anderson F 19-39 53:08
2417Rob Clark M 19-39 53:10
2649Andy James M 65-69 53:53
2659Karin Younger F 50-54 54:02
2659Kate Macpherson F 40-44 54:02
2517Ann Towers F 55-59 54:12
2707Angela Proctor F 19-39 54:28
2755John Greathead M 19-39 54:50
2768Joanne Porter F 40-44 55:01
2587Maria Dimova-Cookson F 45-49 55:24
2824Mike Elliott M 65-69 55:42
2982Stephen Baxenedale M 45-49 56:29
2726Peter Bell M 19-39 57:28
3017Jacquie Robson F 19-39 57:42
3165Angela Robson F 40-44 59:41
3217Rebecca Maddison F 19-39 60:27
3215Margaret Thompson F 60-64 62:37

3489 finishers.
NB: Results sorted into chip time order for GP purposes.

Swaledale Marathon, Reeth, 8th June

23.2M / 4,128'

Mark Dunseith

Having signed up for this race back in January thinking I had plenty of time to train for the distance I hadn't planned on an ankle injury in February putting nearly all running on hold for 2 months so I arrived at the start line wholly unprepared for what was ahead of me. With my longest race being the Great North Run last year and my longest run being a winter Broom Park outing one Sunday morning for 14 miles I was a little worried about doing 24+ miles over fells.

A good sleep the night before plus a good breakfast and I managed to get to the start line feeling as good as I could on the morning of the run. Off we went up the hill and after taking advice from Sue Jennings and reading Anita's report from last year I walked up this hill as well as many others throughout the day. After a quick picture at the top of the first climb I finally got chance to get running. I ran past Anita and Dougie saying a quick hello and then shortly after Mike Hughes caught up with me and we had a bit of a chat while running. After my performance at Broughton Wood Wobble, when I was passed by glaciers while descending, I decided to read up on how to descend properly. I put this into practice here and managed to make a few places while going downhill.

Paul Evans, heading for a top-ten finish.Shaun chucking a soggy unwanted cap at Pam.
After passing through the gate, over the bridge and up a hill I reached round to take a drink from my newly acquired Pier to Pier bottle belt and disaster, my bottle had fallen out. At this point Mike Hughes caught me again and when I mentioned what had happened he said there was a bottle lying back at the bridge. Only being 4 miles into the race on such a hot day, it was a quick but difficult decision but I had to turn round and run back to the bridge. I think it only added about a third of a mile to my race but it was so demoralising running the wrong direction with lots of people passing me.

I grabbed my bottle and took off up the hill for the second time where I eventually caught up with Anita and Andrew Thompson. Having never met Andrew before I spent a bit of time running and chatting with him before he and Anita ran ahead as I slowed a bit due to my hips hurting. I knew that to get round this run I would need to find someone to focus on and stay within sight of and I decided that Andrew would be that guy.

Mike Hughes going well at Gunnerside.Paul Foster and Dougie conserving their energies at Whaw.
I kept them both in sight and caught them just before the first checkpoint running again with them as we crossed a road at about 8 and a half miles and headed up the fells. Andrew ran on ahead with Anita and me running a nice pace behind. Up yet another hill and I was keeping Andrew in sight when I decided that my choice of attire was a mistake. Having always worn under armour while running (I only started running last September and have always needed it) I had to stop to take off my under armour top. A Clif bar and a drink and I was off again with Andrew still in sight.

For about 3 miles I just kept plodding away and eventually caught Andrew before he took off again and increased the distance between us again. At this point I noticed a girl with a skull and crossbones tattoo on her arm that I had passed a few times so decided that she would be my new target as Andrew was getting further away from me. I kept up with her until the 12 mile checkpoint where I met Andrew again who was having a chat with Dougie and getting ready to leave. I grabbed a drink and a sandwhich and started walking up the hill with them. At this point I had passed my furthest distance ran before so from here on it was uncharted territory. After a bit of a walk I spotted the girl I was chasing a little in front of me so started a slow jog up the hill. The rest of the race was overtaking, then being overtaken, by this girl. The time was passing so slowly with me checking my Garmin every quarter mile or so. At this point I considered taking the watch off but instead I made a conscious decision not to look at it quite so often. A quarter of a mile later I checked my Garmin, this was going to be a long day.

Mark reaches Fremlington Edge.

With just over 6 miles to go I was under 3 hours 50 minutes and had a sub 5 hours finish in my head. Then I left Gunnerside and the climb nearly killed me and sub 5 was a distant dream. I can't remember much until Surrender Bridge and once I got up the hill I spotted 'the girl with skull and crossbone tattoo' and decided that I was going to overtake her for the final time and stay in front.

After doing a walk/run strategy all through the race I decided that as there was 'less than a parkrun to go', I would run every step to the finish. I passed quite a few people on the way to the finish. Once past the final self clip point I ran down the narrow path with the loose stones and into the town to a great welcome by the spectators and a 5 hour and 12 minute finish. If I had to sign up now for next year, with the pain my legs have been in today, then I don't think I would be back. However, come January I may be persuaded again.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Stewart Gregory Holme Pierrepoint M 3:08
7 Paul Evans M 3:30
12 Heather Mochrie Unattached F 3:33
38 Shaun Roberts MV50 3:55
87 Mike Hughes M 4:27
105 Aaron Gourley M 4:39
130 Jon Ayres M 4:49
156 Paul Foster MV50 4:59
184 Mark Dunseith M 5:12
204 Anita Clementson FV40 5:21
213 Dougie Nisbet MV50 5:26
220 Andrew Thompson MV40 5:33
288 Christine Farnsworth FV40 6:17
289 Barrie John Evans MV50 6:17
304 Margaret Thompson FV40 6:27
348 Bob Layton *HS MV50 7:08
349 Roz Layton FV40 7:08

444 finishers.
*HS Honorary Strider
Striders Mens team 2nd, Striders Womens team 18th, of 19.

Ennerdale Horseshoe, Lakes, 8th June

23m / 7,513'

Tom Reeves

After finally getting into the medium pack this year in the cross country league I needed something to focus on so I decided to have a crack at the Lakeland classic series. I asked Geoff Davies about these races and he told me they were tough and not for the faint hearted.

So there I was on the shores of Ennerdale on the 8th of June, new racing pack on my back with some very fine fell runners on a very warm day. I was sweating and we hadn’t even started!

After a mile or so along the lakeside the climbing began, and what a climb - it went on seemingly for ever. I was already breaking into my rations by the first top: Great Bourne. The legend that is Joss Naylor was there to shout encouragement. There then followed a very pleasant ridge run contouring round Starling Dodd, going over Red Pike and contouring High Style, High Crag and Haystacks looking down into Buttermere on the left and Ennerdale on the right at various points. The sky was clear, the views were very special and the going was tough.

I knew I was in trouble on the climb up to Green Gable when I ate a gel. People who know me know I carry gels not to eat just to warn me that when I do want one I am in serious bother! My legs were shot and it was only half way. The next section over Kirk Fell and Pillar is well known to me from my Bob Graham Round and the numerous times I’ve accompanied others. At the summit of Pillar I checked my watch 3hrs and 20 minutes. Kenny Stuart won the race in this time in 1985 (the record) and I still had another nine miles to go!

This last nine miles was tough and painful I had no energy left and I just ground out a lot of slow miles. This is hard core fell racing. I finally stumbled across the line in 5hrs and 45minutes in 86th position totally battered by this classic and arduous fell race.

The Yomp Mountain Challenge, Kirkby Stephen, 2nd June

23M / 4,000' (with 11.5M and 6.25M options)

aka Mallerstang Horseshoe & Nine Standards Yomp

Shaun Roberts

Well, what a difference a year makes. A year ago the marshals were freezing on the hills as the wind tore into their tents. This time round it was bright and sunny, and looked as if it could get seriously hot later in the day, though a bit of a breeze up on the fells made it all very pleasant to run in. Last time around, I'd just done the Half-Yomp, whilst Angela and Sue, as well as our visiting young Turk Yusuf, took on the full thing - about time for me to have a go ...

Managed to get over to Kirkby Stephen in time for a nine o'clock start (you choose your own start time, between 8:00 and 10:00), only to see that Angela and John had already set off, as had Paul Evans and Anna Seeley. Off I went, out on the road heading south - before turning off across country, for the long climb up towards the Nab and Wild Boar Fell. The legs felt a tad heavy, and a few small muscles were twinging a bit - something to do with Netball the day before - but within twenty minutes all that had sorted itself out. After three miles or so, Angela and John came into view and we exchanged pleasantries ... they were on a 100%-walking strategy, and they were going to stick to it. Onwards and upward ... bit of a walk, bit of a scuttle, that sort of thing, gaining height ... and Sue Jennings also hove into sight. She was running on her own this time round, and was looking good so far.

Finally it was good to emerge on the flat top of Wild Boar Fell, and I got to the trig point in 1:18. Then a lovely run down to a bit of a 'saddle' before another climb up to Swarth Fell, and some more good running to Swarth Fell Pike. Then there was a bit of a knee-knocking descent to get down to the bottom of the Mallerstang valley. Half-way down was Anna, quads suffering a bit from her 31-mile effort the week before ... a quick few words, down into the valley, and then up again, in a long series of drags with the occasional flatter section, that took us eventually up via the Riggs to High Seat and High Pike Hill. Three hours in, now, as I came to another steep descent to get to the re-joining with the Half-Yomp route at Tailbridge.

Plenty of climbing on offer ...

So far so good. Felt ok ... the usual mix of normal and caffeinated gels was doing the trick for me ... so now for the mind games. I started thinking of how fast the descent was from the Nine Standards last time, and was it, perhaps, possible to get back to the finish in under four hours? Why do we do this sort of thing?? A good run would still be a good run whether it's just under or over some round number, so why do we torment ourselves with this sort of crap?? Especially, in my circumstances, when I'd inconveniently forgotten the considerable climb to get up to the Nine Standards! Met Dougie and Roberta along here - they'd opted for a sensible walk over the Half-Yomp route, and I didn't blame them - the views were absolutely fantastic in the clear air. So, to the Standards in 3h30, and again, I'm thinking about that round number. It wasn't going to happen, as it seems that a long four-mile hammer down a hill when the quads have done 19 miles is a completely different proposition to doing it after 7! The hard stony bits felt very hard, and the tarmac seemed to go on for ages.

Good to get back into Kirkby Stephen in four hours and five minutes. I was well-pleased with that, as it's a similar distance to Swaledale, but way more boggy, and also with more ascent. Saw Paul at the finish - he come fourth, which was a great performance. Unusually, he looked knackered, but explained that his youngest was keeping him awake at night! Sadly, Angela and John were also there, as they'd had to pull out at Aisgill due to Angela's back giving her problems. Anna came in later on, as did Sue, a good ten minutes faster than her last outing here.

This one is only six days before Swaledale, so I'll have to see how that one pans out (next year I may have a go at the Howgills Marathon that Dave Robson reported on a week ago). But this is an excellent trip out on the hills, as is the shorter Half-Yomp version. Well worth a go, and you can enter on the day ... or not, should the weather be awful.

Results

Full Yomp
Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Patrick Hanna Howgill Harriers M 3:13:16
4 Paul Evans M 3:35:20
18 Shaun Roberts M 4:05:22
22 Emma Wood Unattached F 4:09:49
99 Anna Seeley F 5:40:54
131 Sue Jennings F 6:24:35

189 walkers and runners finished, 7 retired.

QE2 Sprint Triathlon, Woodhorn Museum nr Ashington, 2nd June

750m swim, 24K bike, 6k run

Richard Hall

A 6am alarm call and I staggered out of bed and headed off to Woodhorn QE2 Country Park with my car looking like I was going away for a month! The pre race briefing announced the great news that the lake temperature had tipped over 14 degrees. 150 swimmers gingerly made their way into the lake and I left it as late as possible to dip my face into the water! I hovered at the back and 750m of swimming later I was helped out of the mud and directed on a 200m run up to transition. 18.5 minutes down and now my worst bit, the getting changed! Somehow it took me over 3 minutes to get the wetsuit off and get off on my bike. The winner took 29 seconds.

The bike ride was a very pleasant 15 miles on quiet roads and more importantly, flat roads. There was no wind and I managed to not get overtaken by too many speedy bikers. It was a very scenic ride and I made it back to transition after 53 minutes of pedalling. Fewer clothes to change this time and so I was off out on the run and a lovely 2 lap 4 miles around the lake.

The usual dreaded cramps did not kick in and I managed to pick off a few runners on the first lap and settled in behind two younger looking blokes in their fancy tri-suits. Half way around the second lap and the prospect of my half melted yorkie in the glove box of my car gave me a final push and I managed to pass a few more leading up to the finish. The announcer welcomed me across the finish line in a pleasing 32 minutes for the 4 mile run. Overall 1 hour 47 minutes and 6 minutes quicker than last year. Yes, I was very near the back but passing a few people on the run is what counts for a Strider yes?

Overall a great event and for anyone fancying giving an open water triathlon a go then I would recommend this event. I will return next year to try to get changed in under 3 minutes...

Middlesbrough 5K, 2nd June

Simon Gardner

When Alister posted on the Friday night about this race I like several others this thought this would be a good race to do, cheap, flat and fast for those who were tempted so we met up at the Welly before Katherine kindly drove us down to the Middlesbrough football stadium.

I had spoken to Jason Allison from Crook AC at Durham parkrun on Saturday and he said it was a really good fast course and standing on the start line you could see it was a high calibre field with the likes of Ian Hudspith and several other Morpeth Harriers on the start line this used to freak me out a bit but you soon learn that they disappear within seconds and you just run your own race.

On Saturday I had ran around Durham parkrun then ran home and felt dreadful. I had to stop on the way home so despite some canny times lately I was unsure what to expect. As the gun went off I set off at a hard pace but hopefully something I could sustain. I still felt ok approaching the 2 mile point so it was just a case of hanging on for grim death.

The finish area is great - you actually enter the stadium and run around the track that surrounds the pitch. As I approached the finish I glanced at my watch and noticed that it was still showing 17min so it was a flat out sprint to the finish line. My time was 17:59 one second under the 18 min mark - doing a Megan as I call it.

A shout out to our fellow striders who had great runs , PB's for Paul (his first Sub 20 min 5K by 30 seconds !), Katherine and season bests for Alister and Angela - apologies if I have missed anyone out.

For £8 its a fantastic race: medal, T-shirt, chip-timed and as it starts and finishes at the stadium the facilities are excellent.

Emily Hart Charity Netball Tournament
for Acorns Children's Hospice

Netball, Farringdon School, Sunderland, 1st June

George Nicholson

Jean enjoying the benefit of her team's secret weapon, Ben Ford.

Wonderful support yet again from Striders at the 3rd Emily Hart Charity Netball Tournament in Sunderland. Match Fees revenue was £575 and the tuck-shop & raffle sales amounted to £300, so a fabulous £875 was raised on the day for Acorns Children's Hospice.

The weather was miserable initially, but Hannah Bayman assured the assembled crowd at the introduction that it would soon clear. Clear it did, but it took a little while longer than "soon". However the afternoon was hot and sunny and there were even one or 2 reports of sunburn.

We fielded two Teams: Purple Haze and Ultra Violets, and competed in the MIXED TEAM category. Unfortunately this league comprised of three good teams who play regularly. It also meant we were we unable to continue our friendly rivalry with the BBC (who were in the Back2Netball Category), nor could we play against Denise's Team made up of her workmates from Virgin Media. It did however give us a chance to play against the two Sunderland park run teams - SeafRUNt Smilers and Parkrun Panthers.

Games took place at quite a furious pace, Purple Haze had an early baptism of fire against Joses' Magic Army, and an hour later the eagerly awaited 'derby' game commenced - Purple Haze v Ultra Violets. 11 minutes later the crowd were on their feet and it was all over, Haze were the winners of this keenly fought battle.

Both Haze and Violets went onto win their games against the two parkrun teams, and secured places in the Playoffs later in the afternoon. So after playing 7 games each, Haze ended up in 4th place, Violets in 5th place , a good result considering the opposition. [... and considering we hadn't got a clue. Ed.]

'Are you sure we can't dribble?'

As a bit of 'spice' and fun we combined the 2 teams during the lunch break to play a friendly match against the NQT BBC. Despite an early lead, the opposition scored 3 'jammy' goals in the final few minutes and we lost out on this year's bragging rights ;)

Even more sadly during this fun game, Katie Butler suffered a very bad injury and had to be ambulanced into Hospital. Thankfully x-rays did not show any breaks or fracture. Hopefully the swelling has now reduced and the pain eased. Get well soon Katie and we all hope you do not miss out on too much running.

Pippa too, took quite a tumble early on and ended up with cuts and bruising, but her pain was eased by winning the main raffle prize - a Digital TV!

Hopefully none of this puts folk off for next year's tournament, and indeed hopefully many more Striders will feel inclined to join in the 2014 event. Big thanks yet again from Acorns, Anne and I, to everybody who turned up played, supported, and contributed to the Tuck-shop:

The one thing the fragrant and skillful Miss Mould wasn't expecting was a right hook. ROLL of HONOUR

Purple Haze: Denise Mason, Jean Bradley, Kirsty Anderson, Lindsay Tarn, Pippa Coffer, Rachel Terry, Katie Butler, Ben Ford

Ultra Violets: Alister Robson, Angela Proctor, Bill Ford, Jill Ford, John Greathead, Ros Roberts, Shaun Roberts, Dave Shipman, Scott Robertson, Mike Elliott, Alan Smith

Referee: Jacquie Robson - who worked tirelessly throughout the day - a very hard task carried out superbly well.

Tuck-shop: Anne Nicholson, Jan Young, Zoe Evans, Scott Robertson

Great Fun and some memorable moments, some of which are captured in the pictures (see below).

Last but not least, Big Thanks to the Wearside Wildcats Netball Club for hosting this event so professionally for us. A lot of work went into it's preparation. In particular from Charlotte Waites this year's main organiser, but with back up from Sam Nightingale (nee Brown), Gemma Sandberg, and Suzanne Dawn.

Fabulous Team Effort!

Allendale 8, 1st June

8m

Rebecca Fisher

I'd placed the Allendale 8 on my "to do" list as I thought it would be a nice challenge having felt I'd settled into the 10k race distance and maybe it was time to try a more undulating course. Geography not being my strongest asset, I was taken aback that it was going to take an hour to get there (according to the sat nav) - still, as the race info offered unrivalled scenery and a decent goodie bag on entry, I decided I couldn't make an excuse and opt out. Leaving Durham in rain, I thought at least that would keep me cool going up and down the bumps. Oh no, to support the Allendale Fair the sun was shining and beaming down over Northumberland.

There was a lovely friendly atmosphere at the start and although I hadn't seen any other Striders at registration (later I did spot Richard Hockin on the results list), everyone was chatty at the start line, and some of the marshals gave me the heads up on when to expect the big hills and where I might need to pace myself! I'm pleased I took their advice and took it gently at the start - it was pretty flat for the first two miles but oh boy did miles 2-6 make up for that! The scenery was pretty special and during the teeth gritting moments I reminded myself there were actually worse ways of spending a morning rather than enjoying the Northumberland countryside. Having said that, I was pretty relieved just after the 6 mile marker to see a Marshall pointing me to the right and two children waving flags and holding up a sign -"Down hill from here; until the BIG HILL at the end".

A very steep mile long descent pushed me to catch up with a couple in front of me and I was determined to stay ahead even for that big, big, big hill. What a way to end the 7.7 miles; that final hill really hurt but all of the marshals cheered and urged me on up and over the finish line and I felt a real sense of achievement and satisfaction in finishing. I would definitely enter again.