Race Reports, March 2013

North Tyneside 10K, 30th March

Adam Walker

This was the 3rd time I have run this race, the first year in 44.30, then a 6 minute PB the next year to 38.50, and this years goal is sub 36, but NT10k isn't the flattest, and I'm hoping to be fitter towards the end of the year, so knocking 1 minute off seemed like a sensible aim, sub 37 has a nice ring to it as well.

After arriving with Greta and Mike there was plenty time to use the baggage bus and to chat to a good turn out of striders, its always pretty crowded in the parks sports centre, 1600 people at the start, the 3rd biggest race in the NE. With 10 minutes to go I thought I'd go for a jog around and some strides to warm up, it was 2 degrees and I had felt my hamstrings being a little tight the day before, not wanting to start with cold muscles I didn't stop moving until a minute before the race. On the startline I spotted a rival... second in the harrier league but I'd beaten him over the past two races ... there's a target.

Race plan: The first mile is downhill, and fast. I thought that there was no point trying to slow myself down on that trying to evenly pace all the race as the next mile after is uphill, and I'd probably use up more energy trying to slow myself down. The mile after would be the slowest and then trying to keep 5.57 minute miles for the rest of the race until the last mile where I would wind it up until I unleash my inner Jamaican.

1st Mile: Keeping calm and not heading off with the leaders, but taking good advantage of the downhill. 1m - 5:38(5:38/m) - 92cal - 10.64/16.19mph

2nd mile: Onto the quayside, Gareth passes me looking very strong and moves away from me quickly. I'm by myself now, so its a good thing there isn't a strong wind otherwise I'd be moving no where. Right turn up to the hill that I'd been mentally preparing myself for for the previous mile, driving the arms and legs, catching a few people who were originally way ahead. A short down hill to the second, bigger hill and the same situation there, catching people and still feeling great. 1m - 6:07(6:07/m) - 94cal - 9.82/12.47mph

3rd mile: A slow second mile, but onto the flat(ish) now and time to start hitting those 5.57 minute miles. Or so I thought, a couple checks of my garmin tells me that I just can't manage to get up to speed, or below 6 minute miles, at this point the sub 37 was gone. 1m - 6:08(6:08/m) - 92cal - 9.79/11.82mph

4th mile: I spot a sedgefield harriers vest in the distance which I believed to be a friend from parkrun. "Right" I thought, "there's a target, go get it". Over this mile, every turn he and his pack slowed on and every hill where he lost pace, I kept going, gaining ground until finally I'm behind. A quick "alright big man" to let him know its me, and now we can push on together, all 5 of us in this pack, now we can start dipping under the 6 minutes. 1m - 6:08(6:08/m) - 93cal - 9.78/12.41mph

5th mile: The pace feels like its upped, i start to develop a stitch-like pain in my left collar bone area which becomes worrying, but after this mile I seem to forget about it. Still not ideal pace but it's an improvement. 5) 1m - 6:04(6:04/m) - 93cal - 9.88/12.32mph

6th mile: Ok, its go time. Although there was still a mile and a bit to go, I think I have the stamina to start winding it up from now, as we hit the long straight before the turn off to the finishing 100m. Only one guy from the pack follows me, and unfortunately its not my pal. But I'm glad there's someone to push me along, he's really picking up the pace, and thankfully so do I. 1m - 5:55(5:55/m) - 93cal - 10.15/12.62mph

Last 0.22 of a mile: We overtake a fast lady, and two struggling runners, before turning the corner to lots of supporting strider's cheers, finishing straight now. I look at my garmin, it says 36.50, I have no idea how it was that low at that moment as I hadn't done the maths, but I sprint for the line, outkicking the person I was with. Unfortunately, it was at theis moment I noticed the junior I had spotted at the start, 9 seconds ahead, uncatchable at that point, but maybe if I'd spotted him a mile back...who knows... Cross the line, knackered, but Garmin says 36.58! :-)

I suspected that would mean the gun time would be over 37, but having checked the results this morning, I am happy to confirm, it was 36.59. GET IN. 2nd junior, very almost first and 30th overall out of 1600 odd, pretty pleased. That time also puts my 23rd in the country (as a junior).

After inspecting the goody bag, unfortunately not with the yummy energy sweets like last year but with a more mile shirt and socks, I managed to see Gareth finishing just as strong as he started, under 38 minutes and in the top 50 also. Graeme and paul also having great runs and Richard Hockin storming in!

Other striders had great runs, many PB's and overall we were a pretty smiley bunch afterwards :)

Had a lovely McDonalds to celebrate, before heading off to work. But the magical time will be SMASHED this sunday at blyth valley 10k, just you watch.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 HUDSPITH, Ian Morpeth Harriers MV40 30:25
6 DIXON, Alyson Sunderland Strollers F 1 34:03
30 WALKER, Adam M 36:59
50 PRITCHARD, Gareth M 37:52
186 WALTON, Graeme MV40 41:59
292 PASCOE, Paul MV40 44:02
339 HOCKIN, Richard MV60 45:03
525 FORD, Brian MV45 48:37
726 JONES, Greta FV45 51:35
733 PRESTON, Katherine FV40 51:40
761 SPENCE, David MV65 52:07
837 HUDSON, Melanie Louise FV35 53:16
844 ROBSON, Dave MV60 53:25
895 BEAL, Paul MV50 54:06
906 BARROW, Louise F 54:14
925 TINDALE, Victoria FV35 54:32
1135 BROOKS, Peter MV40 58:15
1145 FORD, Jill FV45 58:23
1274 ELLIOTT, Mike MV65 60:45
1275 JENNINGS, Sue FV45 60:46
1281 BROOKS, Lindsey FV40 60:51
1334 CLARK, Robert M 62:40

1611 finishers.
Men's teams: 18th, 44th & 57th out of 58
Women's teams: 20th & 30th out of 32

Bolton parkrun, Leverhulme Park, Bolton, 30th March

5K

Jacquie Robson

Down in Bolton for a friend's wedding, there was I thinking we'd have a quiet weekend in a nice spa hotel with maybe a bit of swimming and time in the steam rooms. But of course Alister can't go on a road trip without a parkrun and it turns out the hotel was only 5 miles from Bolton parkrun, so I had no chance of avoiding it :-)

One of the Event Directors at Bolton, David Ardill, originally worked with Alister to establish Durham parkrun what seems like a lifetime ago now, but he moved back to the NW shortly after Durham started. We were hoping to catch up with him but he was away visiting family for the Easter weekend. We made sure to get the inside info on the course, though, with Alister (at my request) asking 'Is it flat?'. The response invited a sharp intake of breath from Alister and a 'are you sure you want to know...?’. I took in the brief overview of the text message: a couple of laps, including twice up something ominously called 'Cruella de Hill'. Gulp!

The venue was the rather lovely Leverhulme Park, and we met at the running track and leisure centre adjacent to the parkland. After a bit of parkrun mingling and showing off our 50 t-shirts (roll on the black 100 t-shirt - there weren't many of them there and I'd love to have paraded one!), and meeting the day's run director, Andrew, we got underway. Beginning with a lap of the track, Alister shot off ahead and I decided I'd keep with the 25 minute pacer for the first part then see how I got on up the hills, as my pace recently has been way down on my best. After the lap of the track, though, I glanced at my Garmin as it all felt a bit speedy - the Garmin had us on for a 6:55 first mile which isn't ever in my plans for anything!! I slowed off the 'pacer' and enjoyed a decent downhill section and a run along a trail past a lovely stream giving me time to admire the scenery before the first attack of Cruella. She really wasn't a very nice hill - long, steep and reminiscent of 'Cardiac Hill' on the science site in Durham. I had a moment at the top where I very much regretted the full English breakfast earlier on, but I managed to hold onto it as I staggered along on jelly legs at a snail’s pace while my legs recovered from the shock. I wound it up again and pushed on hard on the flat section as I was beginning to feel quite good. Despite the pain of the hill, I'd picked a few off and so I strode out down the next bit to pick off a few more and psyched myself up for the second attack of Cruella. Again, it was a tough struggle but I picked off a few (some clearly use this as their 'walking' section) and again managed to just about hang on to my breakfast - there were others at the top not so lucky... A decent out and back for the last kilometre, with another hill thrown in for luck, along with a glory sprint finish (well, sort of) on the track saw me finish a scenic but bloomin' tough parkrun a few minutes down on my usual parkrun time.

I've shied away from Gateshead or Hackworth parkrun because I've heard they're 'not flat', but, according to Alister, this was the toughest parkrun he's ever done. It's certainly a tester! Running wise, I'm pretty sure it was my best performance for a few weeks, but was a good couple of minutes off where I'd have expected it to be. Killer hill, but nice park and, as usual, a lovely parkrun welcome! No café as such, but hot tea was provided at the end by some of the volunteers. Oh, and the wedding later that day was lovely, too!

Marske Mermaid 10k, New Marske, 29th March

Alister Robson

As Jacquie and I were away at a wedding for North Tyneside we were doubly keen to fit this one in before we set off. I'd taken the precaution of entering online earlier in the week but unfortunately for Jacquie there were no entries on the day left and she looked suitably gutted. It's becoming a bit of a theme, races are filling up faster than ever which is great for the organisers but not so great for the disorganised. Still it's healthy for the sport in general and hopefully it helps to sway those who still feel that parkruns will reduce entries to other paid events. Also making a racing comeback after a particularly bad case of woman-flu after Haweswater was Emma.

The course itself, exactly the same as the Marske Victorian later on in than the year and returning to the normal course after a couple of years of roadworks, loops around a housing estate at the back of the Mermaid pub (hence the name) before popping out on the sea front. You run up the front all the way almost to Redcar along the road side then loop around and come halfway back along the sea front. You then loop back right all the way up, complete a circuit and next time turn right back to the finish.

I had a good strong run but was fading a little towards the end, I caught everyone I intended and was pretty sure I was going to break 43 minutes for the first time, but the last mile I flagged too much and came in, on my watch just over the 43 minute mark. I was a touch disappointed with that but happy that I nonetheless had broken my old PB of 43.14. I was heartbroken a couple of hours later to find out that I'd hit exactly 43.14 once again!

Still a good run and a welcome return for Mr Sunshine. I even managed to extend my run of victories over my nemesis (in the nicest possible sense), multiple world record holder Sharon Gayter, to five although Sharon leads comfortably in the series...

Emma, spurred on at the end by me showing off my new medal, came in not too long after me and Jacquie popped up in several places along the course to cheer.

Muddy Mayhem, Hardwick Park, Sedgefield, 24th March

5K

Katy Walton

A work colleague of Graeme's asked if we would be interested in the Muddy Mayhem on the 24th March, we agreed to take part after all, with all the muddy cross country events we had taken part in how much worse could this be?

On the morning of the race the sun shone and the wind blew strongly outside the bedroom window, I decided to wear clothes that could be binned after the run, putting on several layers but nothing heavy as I didn't want to be weighed down with water soaked clothes, Graeme opted for long top and bottoms, happy at the thought he doesn't do the washing!

Katy and Graeme enjoying the atmosphere. We arrived at the event around 9.30am meeting the rest of the people who we were running with and it was apparent as we emerged from the car that it was freezing, sub zero temperatures hit immediately and with the added wind the cold chilled the skin even more that the high winds at the cross country the day before.

A warm up was held to get everyone psyched up and we were off! Groups were let through in packs of fifty, the first hurdle climbing over hay bales and high walls, over and under fences and then onto hands and knees for a tunnel which came out into mud. The mud was ice cold which pierced my gloves and Graeme's, we decided to loose them. The next part of the course was to wade through a lake (at this point I wished I was taller) it was up to my waist and with the uncertainty of the floor and what was in the water I plodded through cautiously.

The cold was seeping deeper than my skin now and looking at Graeme I could see it was getting to him, we continued running back into woodland where we were faced with more over and under obstacles and under a few cargo nets all which involved crawling through mud on hands and knees and then more water! My favourite part was the polystyrene bridge, no one from our group fell in, i think this was due to the fear of getting wet again.

Warming up slightly after running around the lake came the swamp, I managed to fall over twice once loosing my footing falling forward and getting wet up to my neck and then falling backwards onto a branch which didn't cause any pain, although later revealed a huge bruise. I remember Graeme calling will you stay on your feet!

Next came the skips they were filled with hay, sawdust and mud. the mud filled skip saw you sinking to the bottom with your first step which clung to you so strongly I was pulled out, thankfully trainers intact, although some other unlucky contenders finished the course shoe less. A further run through woodland and then the option to run it again or to finish, I didn't need asking twice and neither did Graeme or the rest of the group, we all took the muddy wet slide down to the finish!

Following the finish we grabbed our t shirt's and medal's and then immediately changed in the car, this proved a task our minds were telling our fingers to move but they were so cold and frozen they just wouldn't obey, which made the whole getting changed situation to warm up a further prolonged agony. Once changed we went to the cafe chattering teeth to warm up with a nice hot cuppa. I have never been so cold in my life, if this event was to be held in the warmer months I feel it could be enjoyed more but due to the severe weather conditions it was quite an ordeal!

Krypton Factor Assault Course, Richmond, 24th March

500M

Mark Dunseith

Due to the bad weather over the weekend we were sure the day would be cancelled but after a phone call to confirm, being told 'there is no snow down here', off we went to Richmond, North Yorkshire to tackle the course. I’ve wanted to have a go of this course since I was a little kid as I used to love the show, however, this is the course from the newest series of the show and not the original but I was still really looking forward to it. Originally we tried to book this for a friend’s stag night but at £60 the cost was quite prohibitive. When my wife saw it featured on one of the deal websites for £18 we got a group of people to sign up as a ‘treat’ for her birthday.

A taste of the course ... When we arrived in Richmond and after getting the car stuck in the snow (the same snow we were assured hadn’t fallen in North Yorkshire) down a county lane with 3 other cars who were heading to the same venue we finally arrived at Adrenalin’s Krypton Factor Assault Course.

After a quick cup of tea we were handed coveralls and a helmet and marched at double time up to the course. Cue an hour in the freezing cold standing in between ankle and knee deep snow listening to safety briefings and waiting for our turn to try the tree climb/zip wire. We later found out that this would be our only attempt at this as it wouldn’t be part of our 'timed lap'.

After the tree climb/zip wire we were taken on a walk of the rest of the course and shown the safe way to tackle each obstacle before being taken back to the start line ready for our ‘timed lap’. We were informed that we wouldn’t be judged by our time but by getting round without making mistakes. We were to start with 150 points and we’d lose 10 points for every mistake we made, we would still be getting timed but to win we would be judged using the points system.

Off we went and the first obstacle of the over under bars making sure to keep your head to the outside to avoid losing points. Then on to the wall climb where we managed to lose 20 points as two team members managed to put their heads in danger. After jumping waist deep into a muddy puddle we had a short sprint to the 30 foot rope swing. We managed to get the whole team over the swing safely and up to the next obsticle the ramp. Over the ramp we went and through the quagmire with the new addition of a dive under a bar at the end just to get the competitors extra muddy.

The next obstacle was the one I was most worried about after the walk round. Having nearly broken my ankle 6 weeks earlier and spending a few days on crutches I was still quite weary of landing on solid ground after a jump. The illusion jump is a wooden obstacle where you jump from different heights and land on a solid wooden surface using both feet. I was warned not to land only on my good ankle and advised to use both. Despite having my ankle heavily taped I was still apprehensive but managed to land putting most of my weight on my good foot and survived the obstacle with two functioning ankles still in place.

After a long run through the deep mud and even deeper snow and a jump over a navel high beam (not that easy after the previous few minutes) we reached the balance beams. Up and over safely and somewhat easily we headed to the muddy tunnel and the dreaded cargo net. The tunnel was tall enough to crawl through despite being told we would have to commando crawl and straight under the net. A good technique got me under the net quite quickly then off to the relatively easy final steps over a fence and a 50 metre sprint to the finish.

We got the whole team to the end only losing 20 points and in a time of just over 12 minutes. Looking back at other teams that have competed this seems like a good time and points total, however the organisation was quite poor at the end and we weren’t sure, and still aren’t, who won. The results are to be uploaded to their Facebook page but as of Sunday night we still have no results. I think a clarification of results and a trophy presentation at the end would really add to the fun of the day, however, we left the venue with smiles on our faces though and everyone that took part seemed to have fun.

I would recommend having a go at this course but wait for a deal as the £60 price tag is a bit steep.

Cleveland Survival, Swainby, 24th March

22M

Dougie Nisbet

It was good to see a big turn-out for the 30th running of the Cleveland Survival especially given the uncertain weather. While many events were being cancelled the Cleveland Mountain Rescue website drily observed that the weather for Saturday looked 'interesting'. The weather wasn't too bad in the sheltered village of Swainby as we were started in little clusters some time between 9 and 10 am. My tactics were slightly different to last year; I didn't bother marking any checkpoints on my old paper OS map of North York Moors (West) knowing that there'd be bags of time to do it on the hoof. As it was, navigation was very easy. Too easy. As many of us discovered as we switched off and followed the crowd. On the way to the third control I followed a bold track that sold itself as the green dotted line on my map. It eventually became apparent it wasn't and a bit of off-piste correction was required to get back on course. Not one to learn from my mistakes I followed the herd to the next control and it became clear that many of us were indulging in collective navigational laziness and a couple of unnecessary barbed-wire fences later I decided it was time to start paying attention.

The organisers had cleverly designed the course to be on alternating sides of a large folding paper map on a windy day and being used to small waterproof orienteering maps that I could shove down my pants I was struggling with the billowing paperwork. Perched outside in the pouring rain, trying to make myself a sail, I floated upwards to the exposed checkpoint of Swainby Shooting House on Rye Head. The traverse from there across Whorton and Black Moor to the next check point at Head House was barren and exposed. I've been out in some pretty wild conditions and had everything from hurty knees to hurty nadgers, but today I had a hurty face. I felt I was being sandblasted with hailstones as I jogged steadily across the moorland track.

What a difference a year makes ... The 4x4 bristling with antenna appeared like something out of Ice Station Zebra as I checked in and moved on to Chop Gate and some hot chocolate. Very Swaledale. From here there was a long jog to Cold Moor Cote, then up onto the Cleveland Way. Ho ho! I'd wondered if this might happen. I realised at once who the 'other' runners were, but some Hardmoors and some Survivalists were, I think, slightly confused. Our checkpoints were easy to spot; they usually involved macho 4x4's and big aerials, the Hardmoors checkpoints were far less ostentatious and went on, one assumes, all the way to Helmsley. This didn't stop me utilizing both race's checkpoints and nicking a Hardmoors Jelly Baby or two.

In the end I got so diverted, literally, with the Hardmoors event, taking photos and recognising runners, that I missed my turn. I suddenly realised that I had gone way beyond the turn-off for my final control and once more had to take a detour through the heather. Before long I was back in Swainby and having a nice plate of chilli while the Hardmoors guys and gals still had another 30 miles or so to go. It made my (shortened) 22 miler seem a bit pathetic. Still, I was quite happy as I'd not managed to get the training in that I'd have liked and I wasn't feeling too bad. My time was slower than last year but my position was the same. 55th!

It's a real pity that two years on the go that this race has clashed with the last Cross-Country of the season - I don't know if this happens every year. But if you ever fancy a run with a bit of map reading then this is an event to consider. Navigation is straightforward, and it is a very sociable event. In fact it's fair to say that solo runners like myself are in a minority; most people tend to walk or run round in chatty groups. If you like Swaledale, you'd almost certainly like the Cleveland Survival.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Icebergs and Freezing Winds Hit the Sea of Purple!

Harrier League, Prudhoe, 23rd March

Mudman & Mudwoman

Striders were subjected to freezing temperatures and 'nithering' winds at the Prudhoe x/c on Saturday. The tent was staked firmly to the ground in the battering blast as 22 shivering runners sought shelter in the fragile haven that it offered. This was the final fixture of the season and the Senior women's team were in real danger of relegation from the 'top flight'. Our main rivals for avoiding the drop (Wallsend) were there in force and were clearly determined to stay up themselves. It wasn't going to be easy and indeed it wasn't!

It's bloody cold out there and we're not coming out! [OR, 'Search for the Heroes inside yourself.'] But the Senior Men were first away and the Striders team was missing many of its more speedy runners. However, there was bags of experience, as well as grey hair, in the team that had turned up to fight against the elements and maintain our 'respectable' position in the league table. The course was tough - really tough! - it was three laps so 'that hill' had to be tackled three times and in between there was frozen ground, waterlogged ground and very muddy ground but they all made it round safely. Young Tom Spurling led the 11 men home followed by old Tom Reeves running from the medium pack for the first time. Behind them there were some brave performances including Richard Hall, making a welcome return to the mud and 'counting' for the first time, Richard Hocking (an ever present this season - I think!) and Chairman Shipman - roaring the team on at the start and bravely battling round in the freezing conditions. Well done everyone! We finished 9th on the day and 6th for the season - ahead of local rivals Crook and Houghton, a great performance! Simon Gardner was there to capture everyone on camera. Well done Simon - that was 'above and beyond' and we hope you've thawed out! Young Tom's wife and baby were there too - that must deserve a substantial 'reward' Tom!

Geoff starts his retirement the way he means to go on ... Our lone representative in the u/17 men's race, Adam Walker, finished in a fantastic fourth place - from the fast pack! Adam's had a great x/c season - his first in the Harrier League - and next season he moves up to run with the big boys. I'm sure he'll be sharpening his spikes and his elbows in readiness over the summer!

After cheering the men in the arctic conditions the women returned to the tent to thaw out and prepare themselves for the main event. Could they do it? Well, if they couldn't then they'd go down with the purple flag flying vigorously in the now strengthening gale force polar wind! BANG! They were off - ten brave purple clad Striderettes determined to do their best whatever the east wind could throw at them. Megan was the first to show with the Flying Geologist (Rachael Bullock), Fiona and Mudwoman following closely. Roz, Katy, Barbara, Jan and Laura where in the mix too as they all tackled the hill first time round (there were two laps on this race). Grit, determination and the Shipman Roar saw them all to the top and make the right hand turn head down back into the wind. Rachel Terry started to work through the field from the medium pack as the race progressed into the second lap. But things looked tight as the green vests of Wallsend seemed to have the edge although everyone was still giving it their all.

Rachel looks like she means business today. The hill, second time round, saw some mighty brave performances from women from every club in the race - they should all be proud. By now the Flying Geologist (fresh from her altitude training in the Howgills) was the leading Strider and Rachael clung on to this until the finish followed by Rachel T and Fiona. But did they all manage to cling on to their top flight place? You bet they did! (barring any Stewards Enquiry!) All be it by the skin of their teeth and the closest possible margin! Although we were pipped by Wallsend on the day we stayed one point ahead of them for the season and so we should stay up!

Mudwoman and I are always banging on about it not just being the counters that matter in HL races - well, have a close look at the women's results and you'll see just how important everyone's performance was in achieving the result that the Team came away with. WELL DONE STRIDERS!

That's it then for another season. We would like to thank everyone who has run in the races or has come along to spectate - we hope you've enjoyed them and that you'll be coming back for more next season. Rest assured, we'll be there - we can't wait!!

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 CAIRNS, Steve Tynebridge Harriers 37:13
71 SPURLING, Tom 44:52
173 REEVES, Thomas *M 47:47
174 DAVIS, Geoff 47:50
199 BENNETT, Mike 48:48
235 ROBERTS, Shaun 50:46
244 HALL, Richard 51:21
255 WALTON, Graeme 52:10
278 HUGHES, Michael 53:19
291 WHITE, Conrad 54:36
300 HOCKIN, Richard 55:25
337 SHIPMAN, David 60:07

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

354 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 PEARSON, Emma Morpeth Harriers *F 31:04
34 BULLOCK, Rachel 32:51
40 TERRY, Rachel *M 33:06
41 SHENTON, Fiona 33:07
52 BELL, Megan 33:34
66 DAVIS, Susan 34:18
81 LAYTON, Roz 35:11
97 WALTON, Katy 36:19
117 DICK, Barbara 37:49
122 YOUNG, Jan 38:04
133 GARNHAM, Laura 39:15

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap.

153 finishers.

Under 17 Men
PosNameClubCatTime
4 Adam WALKER            *F 28:07

*F Medium pack - 2m30s handicap.

23 finishers.

Hardmoors 55, North Yorks Moors, 23rd March

55M / 2700m

Aaron Gourley

First and foremost, this race report would not have been possible without the countless volunteers who spent hour upon hour out in the freezing temperatures, often in quite remote places, to ensure this race went ahead. I owe you a huge amount of respect and my sincere thanks to you all.

I’m still not quite sure why I chose the Hardmoors 55 to make my ultra-marathon debut, but I did, and in the days leading up to the race the nerves were kicking in. I’d enlisted the help of two friends to provide support at the two main check points – Kildale and Osmotherley – and I was to run the race with my good friend Jen, but she’d been having real problems with her knee which had kept her out of training for at least six weeks. Jen’s plan was to get to Kildale without injury and that would be her race done, but I wasn’t convinced that was her true ambition.

Jen and Aaron. The weather forecast in the days leading up the race had not been good and with a number of races already cancelled it seemed touch and go as to whether this would go ahead. A final email from Race Director Jon Steele, confirmed that the race was still on. There and then you just knew this was going to be epic.

Race registration on Saturday morning was smooth, kit checks were thorough and there was an air of excitement and tension as 133 runners (or as my friend put it, idiots) gathered to take their place at the start. During the race brief we were told that the out and back loop of the White Horse had been taken out due to the conditions and that a decision was still to be made as to whether we would be taking the high pass over Wainstones or directed along the low path.

And so the race began, off along a disused railway line out of Guisborough, the cold easterly wind was biting but manageable. Keeping the pace slow, after a short distance we turned off this path and to the first little climb out onto the Cleveland Way. Having run this section plenty of times before, I chose to start the race in my Mudclaws but the freezing temperatures meant the tracks were frozen solid making for very uncomfortable running.

The seven miles to Roseberry Topping passed without incident, but taking the first check point at the top gave me an indication as to the true conditions I would face later in the day. The two marshals manning this check point deserve a medal for standing in the unrelenting gale force winds and still smiling and chatting to competitors. I didn’t hang around and made a sharp retreat off, flying past Phil Owen, who I think was aiming a camera at me. I don’t suspect he got much of a shot.

The next section up to Captain Cook’s Monument provided good running and shortly after, Jen and I arrived at Kildale, 12 miles in. Mission accomplished for Jen, but I could see the desire in her eyes to keep going, Into the village hall we met our respective support crews where I was handed my first drop bag of food and a bag I’d asked them to carry with a change of clothes. Here I changed my top, jacket and socks then decided I’d be better off changing out of my Mudclaws and into my Mizunos for the next section as my feet were beginning to hurt.

Jen’s knee was holding out and she’d decided to keep going to Osmotherley. We left the village hall and headed up a steep climb where I took the opportunity to get some food intro me. (If you’re interested I had a banana, pork pie and half a Cornish pasty!) The wind was blowing strong in our face and as we reached the top of the road we turned onto the snow covered track and head on into the wind. This was fierce and unrelenting with 40mph winds, a windchill of around -20 and snow drifts of up to three foot made the six miles up to Bloworth Crossing check point an absolute battle of physical and mental toughness.

By the time I reached Bloworth I was mentally drained, the left side of my face was numb, I could barely open my eyes and my water tube was frozen solid, but for a brief moment I felt elation. Jen and I had made it; our high five was a significant celebration. At that point you could have stopped the race and I’d be writing this report with the same sense of achievement. But this race was far from over; we had three miles to the next check point at Clay Bank, but fortunately the route changed direction and I now had the wind behind me.

In the Bleak Midwinter ... At Clay Bank I was met by my supporters who forced food and water into me. Here we were to find out if we were taking the high path or the low. My heart sank a little when I was directed up the hill towards Wainstones, the first of three significant climbs along the route towards Carlton Bank, the half way point. Getting up each of these was hard, the wind knocking me off my feet on several occasions, but the downhills in the deep snow brought out the child in me.

Carlton Bank was the half way point and psychologically uplifting, but the effort needed to run in the conditions was beginning to take its toll on my muscles and I could feel the first twinges of cramp. Jen seemed to be coping well although she too was clearly feeling the strain. After Carlton Bank we dropped down into the valley where we missed a turn and ended up running in the wrong direction for about five minutes before realising our mistake. Once back on track we made slow but solid progress in our effort to get to Osmotherley. Arriving at the village hall we took our time to change, eat and relax a little as it was nice to be out of the cold wind. Fellow Strider, Anna Seeley was manning the village hall check point and came over to offer some words of encouragement. (I hope I wasn’t rude or overly vacant too you?)

The thirty-two miles to Osmotherley were hard won, and at that point the absolute furthest I’d ever run. I was still feeling good and Jen’s knee was still holding out. I knew now she wasn’t dropping out so off we set. It was 4;30pm now and we made it our mission to get as close to Sutton Bank before dark, but he next three miles out of Osmotherley had other plans. This section was a steep climb back out on to the moor and I hit the wall with a bang. I’d been conscious of keeping well fuelled and hydrated throughout the race but my water tube kept freezing so wasn’t taking on board the water that I would have liked.

The climb was steep and it wasn’t long before the path was covered by snow, just as it was heading to Bloworth. Only now I was tired and had ran thirty-two miles to get to this point. The distance between me and Jen grew quickly, I couldn’t keep up and she seemed to be getting stronger. The snow drifts and wind felt more pronounced as I staggered about forcing one foot in front of the other. Like any runner, there is a point when you feel you just can’t go on; this was my limit. Part of the mandatory kit was to carry a survival bag and I was seriously contemplating getting into it and waiting for rescue. I’d reached my absolute limit; my mind was telling me to stop, but I couldn’t stop, I won’t stop, I’ve come too far now.

I have two energy gels and push on. Jen is still in the distance but she keeps turning to make sure I’m still moving. I’ve never felt so low but eventually the climbing ceases and we are back on a level track, still in deep snow, but at least its level. I manage to break into a canter and I can feel a second wind. I’m still totally exhausted but psychologically I’ve broken through a barrier as we press on. Jen is forcing the pace now, always a good 30 meters ahead of me, making me run when I really don’t want to.

We reach High Paradise Farm check point at thirty-nine miles and the light is quickly diminishing as we head towards Sutton Bank. At this point the snow drifts are deeper than they have been and the wind is blowing across my face forcing my already sore eye to shut once again. I stop to put on my headtorch but it doesn’t help me much as I’m having real trouble with seeing. I follow the lights up ahead as they take a sharp descent down a deep, snowy track. I must have been in a trance and didn’t see Jen come sliding down in front of me from a higher route saying I’ve taken the wrong path. But I’m not taking on board what she’s saying. There are about six people ahead of us as we continue down the track until Jen finally snaps. “This is not the right path.” Everyone stops and a quick map check confirms this. We all turn to start the long hard climb to get back onto the right path.

Another mile of running hoves into view ... I feel totally dejected at this point, spending energy I simply did have on correcting a silly mistake. Once back on the Cleveland Way I find it hard to get going but I manage to start running again. Eventually I reach the Sutton Bank checkpoint. My support crew are there to greet me. It’s such a boost to see them as they tell me about the ultra-pub crawl they’ve been on as they follow my progress. A cup of hot chocolate and a few bits of food from the marshals and it’s off once more with only eight miles to go.

Its pitch black now and I’m happy to still be running on what, for the most, will be downhill into Helmsley. Jen seems to be running stronger than ever and is really pushing to get to the finish but always looking back to make sure I don’t fall too far behind. I feel like I’m letting her down. She’s waiting for me when she could probably have gone off and finished the race, but I’m eternally thankful she’s there to help me along and keep me running.

Eventually we drop into Helmsley with its street lights, and terraces, and tarmac roads. I’ve made it, we’ve made it! Following the signs we head up the road towards the football club and the finishing line and burst through the door to a huge cheer and round of applause. I give Jen a huge hug as we celebrate our achievement. 12hrs and 35mins of pure hard graft, physically and mentally.

Without doubt, this was an epic race and everyone who took part, whether they finished or not, should be immensely proud that they even made it to the start.

Charnwood Marathon, Quorn, Leicestershire, 23rd March

26.5m

Dave Robson

I did have doubts about doing this one. The forecast for Saturday was not good, strong winds and snow. Also the journey down from Durham didn't look good on Friday night, falling snow. But after a chat about it, Melanie and I decided to go for it. We left Durham with no snow and the further south we went the worse the snow got. In Derbyshire on the M1 it was quite heavy. Into Loughborough safely and into the hotel.

Awoke on Saturday morning to find a winter wonderland outside, several inches had fallen overnight. Checked the website and the event was still on. As another runner mentioned later, the Long Distance Walking Association (LDWA) are hardcore

Dave and Mel in the snow. Parked and walked to race HQ in a blizzard and saw that there were several familiar faces from Enigma events, the Great Barrow Challenge events and marathons we have done earlier in the year. The Town Crier was present in his full regalia and sent his off into the snow with his bell. We took it nice and easy and we were soon offroad and heading along footpaths, through villages and up hills deep in snow. As we climbed the wind started to bite and it got very cold. We were well equipped, I was wearing two tops and a waterproof, running tights, waterproof trousers, waterproof socks, gloves, hat and buff - the buff was invaluable to pull up to my eyes when running into the falling snow and bitter wind. We had microspikes in our rucksacks (not used), fleece tops (used at the start), spare gloves (used) and a spare hat and buff.

We had copied another runner's published 2010 route onto our Garmins. The vast majority of the route was the same with just some minor changes and it proved invaluable as it was so easy to miss turns with the heavy snow obscuring things. The course wasn't marked but they had marshalls out directing us in a couple of places where there might have been some uncertainty. Those marshalls and the ones at checkpoints must have been freezing in that wind.

I was expecting the route to be similar to the Belvoir Challenge, that is a few hills, nothing major and a fair amount of flat. The hills weren't too bad, but they kept on coming !

At the halfway point which is apparently the highest point in Leicestershire we passed a walker in shorts and no hat and no gloves He was carrying a rucksack, presumably full of warmer gear, so maybe he just felt more comfortable that way, but how he kept warm I have no idea.

It had taken 3 hours to get to halfway and both of us were not looking forward to another 13m, the snow seemed to be sapping energy from us. In one way we were lucky, the earlier runners and walkers (who set off an hour earlier) had trodden a wide path through the deep snow which made it a bit easier.

After half way I had a spectacular fall in heavy snow which kept Melanie amused. We were passing some walkers and I pulled out of the well trodden path into the soft stuff, caught my feet and went headlong, but I had a lovely soft landing

After reaching the top of another climb, the race instructions said you could go any route to the car park (which I couldn't see in the poor visibility), so we followed the route on our Garmins which worked fine.

Shortly after crossing the railway bridge (and after having seen a steam locomotive go by!), about 3 miles from the end we came onto a path where the snow had melted and there was just a complete mudbath. It probably lasted for a mile before we got back to Quorn where the race started and finished. Back to race HQ where we finished with 6hrs 50min. Probably my slowest marathon, but in those conditions we were very, very happy to finish

The food at the end was especially good even for an event of this type. A choice of at least four soups, cake, sandwiches (we had also had tea, cake and sandwiches at some of the checkpoints).

A challenging run.

Trimpell 20M, Morecambe, Lancashire, 17th March

Graeme Walton

Alister and I travelled across to this race as preparation for Sunderland Marathon. The journey was problem free across the A66/M6 with some iffy looking weather across the high ground thankfully clearing as we reached Lancaster. We arrived with time to spare at the race headquarters, picked up our numbers and chilled out for a while with a pre race cuppa. The start time soon came around so we congregated on the track where the race was to start and listened to the race briefing and then we were off. Alister was aiming for a 20 mile PB that had eluded him for 2 years so we had a race plan that consisted of 8:30 pace with a negative split hopefully.

Graeme on the way back home ... A lap of the track broke us in gently and then we were off onto the cycle path of which most of the race took part on. We quickly settled into a nice rhythm with lots of runners passing us in the early stages, Alister commenting at this point that many of these would come back to us as the race progressed. This proved to be very true and within 3-4 miles the hares were being caught by the tortoises. The race is advertised as "flat" and this as definitely the case, with the whole route being virtually hill free apart from the odd little bump and all on tarmac. We eased through the course nattering away whilst rewarding ourselves with gels and jelly babies, the mile markers ticking by. Water stations every couple of miles or so including sweets and chocolates were manned by very cheery people helping us along the way.

... and Alister not far behind. Some parts of the route were out and back so we were privileged enough to see the front runners and one guy in particular who went on to win the race in 1:52 which if my sums are correct gave an average per mile of around 5:37!!! We passed him when we were at around 10 miles and he was at 15 miles! Miles 10-16 proved to be reasonably comfortable and we had now turned for home. Alister and I parted company at the "Parkrun to go" point as I increased my pace a little for the final part of the race. The race came back onto the track for the finish which was a nice touch and I crossed the line pretty much exhausted with Alister coming in just a few seconds behind breaking his PB following his immaculately paced effort including a negative split.

A Mars Bar, Sandwich and Tech T Shirt were our reward for a very enjoyable day out. Stiff muscles and funny walks were evident - 20 miles is a long long way after all. This race as well as other 20 mile races (Spen 20. East Hull 20) are invaluable training sessions for anyone who is taking part in a spring Marathon.

Reading Half Marathon, 17th March

13.1M

Rob Clark

I decided to do this run as part of my Edinburgh/Marathon of the North preparations and also as I was in Reading anyway catching up with some old friends, I thought I would hit two birds with one stone.

As I made my way from the hotel to Reading Station where the organisers had laid on free buses to the Madjeski Stadium (where the race was due to start) the heavens opened and it absolutely chucked it down. As I arrived at the stadium with plenty of time to spare I was optimistic that the rain would stop, how wrong I was.

The race itself was very similar to the Great North Run in that you were allocated to a starting pen based on your estimated time and there was a cheesy warm up routine, which to be honest made me laugh more than want to warm up. You also had a 20 minute wait as the faster starting pens went off first. This race was also quite cheaper than the Great North Run at £30 entry as opposed to £50.

Anyway the race finally started and I ran probably the worst first mile ever as my Nike+ app froze on more than one occasion and my shoes laces became untied. My hands were that cold I struggled to tie them. Anyway once I got that first mile out of the way and the tantrums that I threw as a result of this, I settled nicely into my stride. The first three miles were through local housing streets and despite the awful weather, there were a lot of crowds, which were really encouraging.

The route then proceeded through the local university grounds and into the town centre where again the crowds were out in force and were really vocal despite the weather getting worse (think Blaydon Races last year but worse and a lot colder). The race itself reminded me of the Great North Run as there were large crowds and a lot of charity runners, which made for a great atmosphere. All the roads on the route were closed and there were regular water stations and Lucozade Sport stations, which were well manned.

After coming through the town centre the route then went down a local dual carriage way heading back to the stadium. For me this was the worst part of the race as there weren’t many crowds to push you and with the deteriorating weather and my ipod packing up I had nothing to motivate/push me so I was starting to feel a bit fed up. However I pushed on and as we approached Green Park I could see the stadium so I made one last push and I noticed that crowds appeared again on approach to the stadium.

On entering the stadium I was blown away as there must have been well over 6,000 people in the stadium that were cheering all the runners in. A really nice touch was that John Madjeski (Reading FC Chairman) was high fiving all the runners into the stadium. I crossed the finishing line in 2:20:03 and to be honest I felt a bit disappointed in myself as I felt I could have PB’d, especially after doing so at Northumberland a week before. However on reflection running two Half Marathons within a week and with the weather conditions being what they were, this was still a really good achievement for me and good tune up for Marathon of the North in a month.

Overall the organisation for this race was superb, plenty of water stations (along with two Lucozade Sport stations), good friendly marshalls, queues for the free shuttle buses went down really quickly and ran smoothly. The only downside for me was the weather (which the organisers had no control over) especially at the end as this flooded the changing area meaning we had to change in the toilets in the stadium. That said I would still run this race again and would recommend it other runners if the GNR type races float your boat.

Another factor was the price for this race was £30 (£20 less than the GNR) and this was just as well organised and ran although there were a lot less runners and £5 less than the Northumberland half which did not have road closures, or goody bags or energy drinks throughout the run. Maybe something for the Run Nation organisers to think about.

Barcelona Marathon, 17th March

26.2M

Katherine Preston

Race day had finally arrived after 12 weeks of training in pretty much every type of British weather; after eating two slices of toast, a Soreen bar, the necessary cup of tea and big glass of cherry juice I was feeling good.

As the apartment was nearby we could walk to the start, the weather was perfect, about 13 degrees, no wind, cloudy with some lovely drizzle!

Kate avoiding snow, ice, bogs, hills ... I met up with my friend Juliet now known as Hooliet and I'm Katerina (as named by our lovely supporters), did the usual toilet queue wished each other good luck and made our way to the starting area. I'd agreed with Mark I'd run on the left so he wouldn't miss me en route, I now know the shortest correct route is to follow the blue painted line on the road as explained by a kindly runner half way through.

My game plan was not to start too quickly and try to stick around 9.30 ish minute miles, just see how I got on and finish -

First 5 km was a slight incline up to Camp Nou and I was starting to settle down.

Around 12km running down Gran Via, I spotted Mark gave him a wave and shouted my quads felt tight, I'd only ran 12km!!

Next en route at about 17km was Sagrada Familia, which looked magnificent and lots of cheering and support here, still felt good and I'd managed to forget about my quads!!

Starting to approach the half marathon mark was quite draining, as it was uphill and the faster runners where coming back down on the parallel side, but I did see Hooliet and gave her a shout and wave. I also managed to pass a man who dribbled a basketball the whole way round... Once I reached the half way mark I was rewarded with a band playing Dire Straits songs and I was happy as now running downhill!

I can't really remember much now until about 30km everything was pretty much going to plan until I went from feeling ok to suddenly I don't feel ok and in fact I feel lightheaded!!!! I thought there's no way that's going to happen so I slowed down my pace, quickly had a gel and a sip of water, for the next mile I took it easy and then started to feel fine again. I met two lovely European ladies who gave me words of encouragement which certainly helped.

By 35km I felt great mentally even though my body was tiring, Mark was cheering me on and the support was fantastic as the crowds thicken. My favourite and most memorable part of the marathon (apart from the finish of course) was running through the Arc de Troimf, crowds all shouting your name and cheering you on (a bit like when you watch the support for the Tour de France). After that it was running through Placa Catalunya and Les Rambles before the last 2km up to the finish.

Slight confusion at the finish as there was 5 balloon arches and I'm of course now sprinting (well in my mind I was sprinting) aiming for the first one to only realise of course it's the 5th one!!

But I made it!! 4.16.11 and Hooliet ran a 3.52.52 a fab new pb marathon time for her too!

Barcelona was my first marathon, a great City and very well organised event with fantastic support (especially from Mr P). Will I do another one? Well I do love Paris!!

English Schools XC, Catton Hall, Derbyshire, 16th March

6.9K

Adam Walker

Many of you may know that one of my main goals for 2013 was to qualify for the English Schools XC champs, which I managed to, JUST qualifying 8th out of 8 for team Durham with 8th place at Meadowfield and 6th at Guisborough, both had to be desperately fought for.

He ran it for us! Good to see the mud levels haven't receded three weeks later ... I had collected the team Durham kit, a purple vest with a diagonal yellow stripe and split shorts of the same pattern. Controversially, we were not allowed tights or showing shorts underneath, which I was pretty gutted about, I always wear some black compression shorts, and hate running in anything non-wicking. But either way, the Durham vest would be worn with pride.

A team coach would be picking up all 40 of the team at various points around the county, take us to a hotel near the course in south Derbyshire where we would stay the night before taking us to the course where the coach would be our team base.

The journey down was great, I already knew a couple of faces from parkrun and cross countries, and I sat next to Jordan Bell, great rival and good friend, and the banter going full flow all the way down. I think I must of been talking about McDonalds a lot as they seemed to understand my excitement when we stopped at a services with a McDonalds.

We arrived at the hotel, a Holiday Inn Express and agreed to get a good nights sleep, seemed sensible, and after all, we were here to race.

The next morning, a full English breakfast perked the majority of us up, before heading to Catton Park! We arrived as the first team there! This wasn't really surprising seeing as the first race was at 12.30 and we arrived at 9... but at least we could pick the best spot for the coach! Or not... we were told the coach wasn't allowed on site like last year and it would have to be parked in a coach park a long way away. Great, no tent, no shelter. But I had brought my trusty camping stool, which everyone thought was genius, I agreed.

After walking the course, I concluded that 15mm spikes was DEFINITELY the right decision, it was raining and already muddy enough to slip with trail shoes on just from people walking the course, never mind after nearly 2000 people run multiple laps on it! Talking of the course, there was one sharp hill, one gradual hill, one gradual descent and one sharp descent, I would run all of these twice as well as 2 500m ish small laps right at the start.

After waiting around for ages, watching many other races cheering on team Durham, we had a 4th place in intermediate girls! The intermediate boys race had many of my friends running in so I watched that before going over to warm up during the senior girls race, where someone I train at Harriers with managed to finish high up

Our race was delayed until 3.30, which allowed a very long warm up with the lads. I should explain that the race was set up into pens, like the nationals, but each county (out of 45) only had room for one runner actually on the start line, the rest were lined up in single file behind in order of how likely they were to do well. I, as I qualified 8th, was at the back. I should also explain my race plan, in previous races I noticed many were starting off quicker as they were not used to the high standard and this consequently ruined their race as they basically crawled the second half of the race. So, simple tactic, start steady and build it up.

BANG, the gun goes, lots of pushing and elbowing and I find myself LAST, yes 315th! Well for a few moments.

The two small laps, about 1k: Keeping it steady, keeping the hill at the end of this section in my mind, its enough to put lactic acid in my legs for the rest of the race if I'm not fresh for it. Just keeping the pace steady and gradually making my way through the field. At the end of the first lap I hear 'go Adam woooo!', and I see Shannon, a soon to be Strider cheering as she is down to support her two sisters :) a quick fist pump and back to the task at hand.

The first large lap, about two miles: Slow down before the hill as I'm dreading it, I've never been a hill runner. I attack it, driving the arms, and to my surprise, I power up it, overtaking lots of strugglers as I go. Grip was ok, and as the ground just about levels out I've climbed about 10 places at least. Down the descent passing the 7th qualified Durham runner who looks to be struggling already. Through a bog, (taped shoes this time ;-) ) and onto a flattish section, but the amount of mud means I can't take advantage of this like I usually do. Around the sharp bend, to my surprise, I come across Jordan Bell! He slips but just about stays upright as I pass, "Come on Jordan" trying to get him to drag me round, I know if we go around as a pair we'll rip this field apart, but he doesn't follow. A big shock, Jordan qualified 4th for Durham, and at the moment he's not even a counter. Up a slight incline, condition underfoot still sapping energy, and I spot another Durham vest, its the other Durham Harrier that qualified, I set him as a target and overtake him just before the downhill taking advantage of the rare opportunity for speed to gain some distance, now in 5th position for Durham! Blinkin' eck.

Second Large Lap: Ok, now, I have plenty of energy left but the legs are starting to burn a bit, I can't get ahead of myself, I still have the sharp hill to negotiate. Same as before, but this time gaining some speed in the build up to it, drive the arms, drive the legs, and don't stop till you get to the top, yet again it's over in no time, another 10 or so places taken. Pick up the pace a little, overtaking people that look like they need an ambulance. Up ahead I see Adrian Bailes, who qualified 3rd for Durham, I come up alongside him on the 180 degree turn, through the stream and start to kick slightly, forgetting that Adrian is an absolute tank, and he starts to wind it up, leaving me behind, but still feeling strong. Fly downhill, hearing one of the Durham lads shout 200 to go, he might as well have fired a starting pistol. The legs were burning but it was sprint finish time, catch a couple of people and its over. A very hard race, but the first time in ages I've paced something right, very VERY pleased with how it went

25.31 was my chip time, and 215th my overall position out of 308 finishers, 5th counter for Durham. Not half bad

A knackered congratulations to team mates, some of them upset, one of them in tears, he had a chance of a team GB spot, and was in position to get one before a stitch, Jordan also looks gutted. But I'm happy :)

Very quickly getting changed and then a long wait for the bus. The crack on the bus back was AWESOME, everyone knew everyone so much more, summed up a great day out.

D33 Ultra, Aberdeen, 16th March

33M

Phil Owen

A few years ago the Highland fling race was dropped from the UK ultra-series leaving Scotland unrepresented. Not one to take this lying down the then race Director Murdo made a few phone calls to other race directors and the Scottish ultra-marathon series was born. However it was felt that another race earlier race in the season and preferably in the north east of Scotland, as it was unrepresented would be a nice addition. Within a week, George Reid had put together the D33 along the Deeside way (specifically because it was a low level route that can be run in all weathers) and in the March 2010 ninety seven runners set off in the first D33Race. The winner was Grant Jeans an amazing runner who broke records in nearly every race he entered but sadly due to back problems can no longer run. He won in an astonishing time of 3:34 but more importantly Strider Anna Seeley was third lady in 4:52.

I was in last place on a bike last runner marshalling (with a broken foot). Registration and general dogsbody were also was my input that day. To be truthful, an out and back along flat old railway lines really isn’t my cup or tea or play to the few strengths I have. I told George I’d never run this race.

The last four years medals ... Never is a long time though and with George and his good lady Karen (race Director of the Cateran trail) both injured I hadn’t been catching up with them at races lately and it did fit in well with the training. I had Loch Katrine marathon the week before, this then Hardmoors 55 a week later so decent 3 weeks of runs for the summer hundreds. Stayed at Georges and as per usual drank way too much down the pub catching up also as per usual. I’ll never learn.

Decided more or less on the start line that I’d run 3 hours out and 3hrs back. My thinking was that would be a reasonably pace to have my legs in good condition for next week’s Hardmoors 55 (that will take 3 times as long). I always find this flat hard packed surface wrecks my legs much more than the hills and fells so I also wanted to be fairly careful with them.

The race itself was uneventful. I chatted to loads of old friends for most of the first 10 -12 miles probably a bit too fast. Then it was me either passing friends or them passing me. I don’t normally like out and backs either but coming into the turn around half way point it is fun to see how the fast lads and my faster friends are doing. Have to say I enjoyed the course far more than I thought I would as well. The Deeside way was put back together by the local authority but some has been built on so here and there it takes a turn or country road to join everything back up. This is much better for my head as I really have a problem with long straight stuff and it’s why I rarely train on our railway paths. I’d settled into 10 minute mile pace and was happy with that as I felt I could run forever that way. The rain started to come down but it wasn’t too bad and was soon nearing the end. The last 6 miles are brand new tarmac path and although I hadn’t really noticed it on the way out as I was too busy chatting, now on my own it seemed to go on and on.

... and the last four years beers. Had to laugh at the sign post that says 3 miles to Duthie Park (the start and finish), then a mile along the path is another still saying 3 miles and yep you guessed it so does the third one further down. Never mind I was happy and comfortable and enjoying the run so I really could laugh. I was mostly passing runners by this stage (there’s a novelty) but one runner caught up with me with a few miles to go and pulled ahead. He didn’t look in that happy to be truthful and said he just wanted it over and done with. For a fleeting moment I thought of going with him but that wasn’t the order of the day really and I wanted to finish comfortably so I was happy to wish him well.

Into the park and finish about 30 minutes quicker than I intended but job done and legs in fine fettle. A good days racing and it’s nice to have a good one in the bag after a few poor ones just recently. Of course is was nowhere near fast Anna’s time of 2010 but realistically I think I could shave a fair whack from it given fitness , a fair wind and not having a belly full of beer! Talking of beers, I was handed one as I finished, picked up my goody bag (which George tells me is worth more than the race entry of £12-00).

The medals for this race are always very special always different every year, handmade from reclaimed materials by craftrocks ( www.craftrocks.co.uk ), run by friend of the race and also the race photography Annette. Her Husband Mike was fifth in the race and a dark horse for a placing at the West Highland Way race this year. In the goody bag is another bottle of D33 beer made by the local brew dog brewery, another great tradition of this race and a lovely beer. Great turn out and marvellous running Striders ( bet some are thinking Elvet is a local Scottish club !) , many doing their first ultra but I’ll let them tell their own stories. Wonderful get together after seeing loads of mates and fish and chip for breakfast down Stonehaven harbour in the morning.

George tells me the local authorities they are busy buying up the rest of the Deeside way and putting it back together all the way to Balleter in the next few years and he will be putting on a one hundred mile race on it as soon as it’s done starting the day before the D33 and finishing at the same time. I’ve told him I will never do that race.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Craig Cunningham Clayton Le Moors HarriersM 1 3:46:08
9Rebecca Johnson York AcornF 1 4:02:36
150Phil Owen M 5:35:21
198Brian Ford M 6:07:58
222John Greathead M 6:24:12
223Angela Proctor F 6:24:18
239Sue Jennings F 6:45:05

252 finishers.

Cheltenham parkrun, 16th March

5K

Mark Dunseith

I was down for the Cheltenham Festival culminating in the Gold Cup on the Friday afternoon so decided to book my travel home for late Saturday morning to allow myself time to run the new Cheltenham parkrun. Waking up on the floor of my cousin’s living room in a sleeping bag for the third morning in a row after spending at least 36 hours in the pub over the past three days is not what I call the best preparation for a run. Add to this the fact that I could hear rain lashing against the window and I was quite content to give this one a miss. I then remembered how I had booked my travel home around this run so I got up and headed out the door, rucksack slung over my shoulder. I managed to get to the start line in time, dropped my bag and ready to run. As I’m quite new to running with groups I always tend to start quite near the back to save getting in anyone’s way, this was a mistake at Cheltenham as the first 500+ metres is quite compact. I had to slow down a few times to stop myself from taking out the runner in front. The run is three loops around the park’s pond including a section around a football pitch. Initially I was thinking it might be a good PB course as the path is well tarmacked and is relatively flat, the only problem being that it’s quite narrow. On most days you could probably overtake on the grass either side of the path but with the rain coming down for the previous 24 hours (rain that I was pleased to see 24 hours earlier as the horse I had a bet on in the Gold Cup likes soft ground) it made passing on the grass a risky business.

I waited until the crowd started to thin before I started overtaking people at the far end of the lake. We then turned onto the football pitch and were avoiding large puddles at certain points, this was the point at which I decided that this wasn’t such a good course to try for a PB on. The volunteers, however, were very friendly and kept everyone’s spirits up on each lap. A few runners had their families cheering them on and they also shouted encouragement to a lot of the runners.

On the second lap I could feel the effects of the previous three days in the pub starting to get to me but pushed on knowing that if I stopped I would be unlikely to motivate myself to start running again. Normally when running I focus on catching someone a couple of runners in front of me then focus on someone else when I catch them and so on but on this occasion I just wanted to finish with enough time for me to get to the train station so as to not miss my train home. A couple of people overtook me on laps two and three but I did my fair share myself so thought I was doing alright. Having left my Garmin in Durham I had no idea of my pace so was pleasantly surprised when I crossed the line and stopped Endomondo on my phone at twenty four minutes and four seconds (officially my time was 24 minutes exactly and a PB by 14 seconds). I got my barcode scanned and headed straight for the train station.

I checked out the Facebook page to see that both male and female course records were broken on the day. Although it was only their fourth event it was still very surprising on such a wet and miserable day over a course which is about one third mud.

I’m not a fan of runs where you do more than one lap as I hate knowing I have to come back and do it all again but they’ve made the best of the limited space they have and it was a very friendly Parkrun. I will probably return next time I’m down there as it’s nice knowing there is a local free run on so frequently.

British Masters XC Championships, Herrington Park, Sunderland, 16th March

8K/6K

Jan Young

The muddy path to instant inadequacy! Try the championships ... you are given a small card on which is printed your age category, to be worn on your back for all to see and marvel at, or not, depending on your performance. I found myself following a number 75, a sprightly Bingley 'lad' and well beaten by him too! Jokingly said he displayed the incorrect age group - he didn't look a day over 55 to me! Thanks goodness he's not running Calderdale. I did ask him! Bingley are notorious fell runners!

She will be back to fight another day ... enjoyed the workout and the company.

Results

Men (35-64)
PosNameClubCatTime
1 HINCH, Philip Tipton Harriers MV35 27:53
116 DAVIS, Geoff MV55 37:51
125 HUGHES, Michael MV45 39:49
130 WHITE, Conrad MV55 40:56

Striders Male '45 to 54' Team 11th of 12.

144 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 BRISCOE, Julie Wakefield         22:57
60 SHENTON, Fiona FV50 29:13
83 DAVIS, Susan FV50 31:12
109 YOUNG, Jan FV60 33:40

Striders Female '45 to 54' Team 3rd of 4.

131 finishers, including the over-65 Men. [Yes, this is confusing, Ed.]

Albert Park parkrun, Middlesbrough, 16th March

5K

Alister Robson

Although this was the North East's first parkrun this was surprisingly the only parkrun in the North East I'd not yet visited. I'd arranged to meet someone from the National Trust who's also a very good runner, but who was volunteering here today. We were going across after to the East Durham coast to have a look at how suitable a beautiful site over there on National Trust land would be for a parkrun so I thought I'd take the opportunity to creep one closer to the coveted 100 T-Shirt and jacket.

There was loads of free parking on the Clairville stadium side of the park and there were loads of runners milling about, the usual ranks swollen with others who were simultaneously going to be doing a Leprechaun themed fun run in aid of Teesside Hospice.

An excellent first timers briefing was well worth attending and I have to say it was one of the warmest and best I've had. That makes a big difference as you feel welcomed straight away and the whole run doesn't have to wait (especially in poor weather) while everything is explained (and which most already know).

The course has a changed a little since Dave and Phil's reports from a few years ago (It celebrates it's 5th anniversary in May) and now starts at the back of the cafe on what I gather used to be the finishing stretch. It's wide and allows the field to separate. You do one small loop and then two larger ones finishing right in front of the cafe. it's very flat and for most I'd say this is the fastest in the North East.

I had a decent run with my fastest 5k in a while and only got beat by one lady which is how I seem to measure my parkrun performance at the moment. I even managed to lap a few Leprechauns which isn't a phrase you often get to use.

Unfortunately we couldn't stop for a coffee and bacon buttie afterwards although plenty did. How suitable was the East Coast site? Very. Watch this space :-)

Spen 20, Cleckheaton, 10th March

20m

Alister Robson

I have a real love/hate relationship with this race. When I first did it in 2011 as part of my first marathon preparations I found it, if not easy, then certainly manageable to run at my intended marathon pace and it was a huge boost when I got round in less than 3 hours. I knew then that my target, which previously I'd thought very ambitious of sub 4 hours at London was actually well within reach and so it proved. Fast forward a year and I was so blaze about it (and hungry for GP points if the truth be known) that I ran Dent the day before and did justice to neither, blowing up just after half way and trailing in half an hour slower.

This year I wanted to get that monkey of my back but I had the slight snags of no-one to go with (previous years had been great Striders road trips), man-flu to recover from and the grand total of 65 miles training in February due to various ails (about half of previous years). Oh and awful weather thrown into the mix too. The good news was I had a pacemaker, former club member Keri, who'd agreed to try my race pace as a gentle stroll round pre-London.

As it happens the journey down was hitch free and I arrived at the Princess Mary stadium in Cleckheaton (or Liversedge or Spenborough or Kirklees - it's very confusing where one town ends and another starts around here) with loads of time to kill. I handed over the parkrun kit I'd brought down for Keri (who's starting the second Hull parkrun in Peter Pan park, Pickering in April) and chatted with another couple of runners I've come to know including Sharon Gayter, ultra world record holder.

Before long we were off. The race starts on the track itself and you complete a lap and a bit (presumably to spread the field out) before winding your way up and onto the streets. I should mention at this junction that this isn't a race for those who don't like to mix with traffic. Is this a Yorkshire thing? I feel sure that if the run were run up here the local police or Safety Advisory group wouldn't be happy but no-one down here seems to blink an eye. That's not a criticism in any way, it obviously helps to keep costs down and as long as you're sensible and don't wear headphones it's not a problem. The marshalling here is great by the way and they had my full sympathy standing around for hours in less than ideal conditions they were remarkably cheerful and supportive.

The first 2 or 3 miles is uphill, which is good as it helps you to remember to keep the pace down. Once you get up to the tops (not far from the Hartshead moor services on the M62) there's a big 5-6 mile loop,a smaller 3ish mile loop which goes some of the other way, another lap of the big 5-6 mile loop and then you finally head home, almost all downhill.

Keri and I had a great 10 miles chatting and holding exactly the pace I was looking for to achieve a 20 mile PB, and testing the pace I intend to run my next marathon at. It felt good all the way until about 11 and a half miles when the wind got up and threatened to steal my Striders hat and Keri felt a tweak in her knee and had to drop back (sensibly pulling out a little later). It got harder on my own from here but I still made it through half marathon distance only a touch slower than last week at Haweswater. An easy mile downhill helped me pick up the pace little and give me a comfortable cushion. It was at about 15-16 miles that I ran out of miles in my legs and after that the slightest gradient became a struggle - not what you want around here. I slowed, almost to and then to an actual walk for the last couple of hills, but managed to keep running downhill, eventually popping back out on the track, even overtaking one runner on it.

Crossing the line I was a little sad not to achieve my pre-race 20 mile PB goal, but nonetheless happy with a steady run, despite the walking coming in almost exactly the same time as two years ago.

The memento this year was a nice pair of purple gloves, which I'm sure you'll all soon be sick of seeing in race photos and I can't recommend this race enough at a very reasonable £10.20 to enter. To put this into perspective if the Great North Run adopted the same pricing policy it would cost less than seven quid :-) Hope some more of you will join me next year?

Run Northumberland Half Marathon, Ponteland, 10th March

13.1

Katie Butler

When race day arrived and the alarm sounded at 5.45 I was tempted to turn back over especially as I was suffering from a cold, sore throat and headache, however not being one to shy away from these things I helped myself to a couple of paracetamol and headed out the door. As we arrived at Ponteland school to meet the coach the weather took a turn for the worse, as we all debated over how many layers to wear and if a waterproof would be a good idea, the disorganised day began when the Marshall couldn't find Angela's name on the list. Apparently it was all a jumbled up mess, not in alphabetical order, number order or by club and Sue had a different number to that on her timing chip. Arrival at Kirkley Hall was even more disorganised, a large queue outside in the snow to collect numbers, queues for Portaloos and nobody really knowing where everyone was to wait. We eventually found a small corridor to hide away from the outside elements which quickly became crowded before being informed there was a canteen serving hot drinks with lots of seats. After a slightly delayed start we left our bags in what I can only describe as an old stable and headed over to the start line.

Angela, Sue, Claire and I decided that we would stick to a modest pace of 10.30 while Jill, Bill, John and Anna started further ahead, some with PB hopes. As the race started and the snow descended the sun began to shine and it was almost like a summers day. A short uphill past the hall and we were off, within minutes we were bottlenecked up on a grass verge due to slight flooding and I wasn't prepared for soggy feet this early on, Obviously nothing was holding Sue and Angela back as they ran through it. Then for some dodging around horse boxes, riders and a burger van (however tempting I didn't stop ) and then out onto the open road.

Neck and neck so far ...

The next few miles were slightly up and down and as the sun shone I was wishing I had left my jacket behind. As we approached mile 4 we turned a corner directly into a head wind and what looked like an enormous hill. I panicked at the thought of it but put it to the back of my mind and pushed through, when I reached the top I realised it hadn't been as big and was pleased with myself for not stopping and so pushed on further. By half way I was feeling really comfortable, much more so than I had been expecting and with some slight conversation about anything other than running I hadn't realised that we had picked the pace up to 9.40 until Sue was shouting and so I slowed slightly and regrouped. Another couple of hills later, each as bad as the last and it occurred to me that running up the bank to the train station on Monday nights was really paying off.

As we passed the 10 mile point I sighed with relief, only a parkrun to go I could hear people saying but it was to be the hardest parkrun I had ever ran. By this point my legs didn't feel like they belonged to me so with much encouragement from Claire I slowly but surely plodded on counting down the minutes until it was over. With the last mile in sight a hailstone shower started pounding into our faces, I needed to finish so pushed on once more and as Angela and Sue speeded up for a finish I crept along with Claire, or should I say Claire crept along with me as I'm sure she could have knocked many minutes off her time, for a finish of 2:16:33. A new PB !!!! Relief and accomplishment swept over me. I'd had such a better race than my last half, with thanks to the ladies for keeping me going.

With shaking legs I headed over to claim my well earned t-shirt and Kit Kat and as the prize giving announcements were made (slap bang in the middle of where runners were still finishing) it was clear that although it had been a scenic run they would need to be much more organised next year if many of us were to give it another go.

Well done to everyone that took part !

Results

PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Yared Hagos Wallsend Harriers M 11:07:25
4Allison Dixon Sunderland StrollersF 11:15:05
38Gareth Pritchard M 1:25:52
284Anna Seeley F 1:47:54
372John Greathead M 1:55:51
405Sarah Fawcett F 1:59:56
433Bill Ford M 2:04:03
434Jill Ford F 2:04:05
483Angela Proctor F 2:14:54
487Robert Clark M 2:15:30
489Sue Jennings F 2:15:55
491Katie Butler F 2:16:33
492Claire Readey F 2:16:34

529 finishers

Howgills Barn Weekend, Nr. Sedbergh, 9th March

Shaun Roberts

Many thanks to Nigel for once again organising a great weekend in the Howgills!

The Howgills!

The barn was as good as last time, as was the crack and the food on the Friday night. We had two running groups heading off onto the fells in epic snowy and windy conditions on the Saturday, plus walkers doing their own thing - also Jan doing the Dentdale Run. After the best part of five hours on the hills, we were ready for a spot of leisurely rugby-watching in the pub in Ravenstonedale, with good beer and food and more crack back in the barn. Sunday brought a bitter chill to the wind, but amazingly by five past nine we were all outside again and heading out for the top of Great Boar Fell. More snow and ice, also great views, before the weather closed in and we legged it back down the hillside for bacon, sausage, eggs, toast ... all of which were very welcome. Great stuff ... so many thanks once again, Nigel, for making this all happen.

Here are a few of Nigel's excellent photos (see link below) for a taste of proceedings ...

We're not going out in that weather, are we? Oh yes we are, says Geoff, demob-happy at the prospect of imminent retirement.
Laura, Rachel and Susan following Dave up into the mist.Quite a bit of snow around.
Dave and Rachel heading up Wild Boar Fell.The rush down for a bacon sandwich.
If anyone has any idea how these wild horses ended up in the Howgills, please get in touch!

Haworth Hobble, South Pennines, 9th March

31.7M / 4,396'

Till Sawala

After the forecast promised gusts up to 50 mph, rain and sleet all day, and "nil chance of cloud free summits", doubts started to creep in. However, a quick phone call to Dave, who was going to pick us up at 5 AM the next morning reassured us that we'd be all right - just pack plenty of layers! So we did, and after trying to match the rather brief route description to our map, we went for an early night. Sure enough, it rained when we woke up, rained when we got in the car, and rained all the way to the start in Haworth at 8 AM, where a surprisingly large and cheerful crowd of runners set out to tackle the 32 mile loop.

Till and Ulrike. The Haworth Hobble can either be run solo or as a team of two, reaching all the checkpoints and the finish together. We jogged up the cobbled road out of Haworth, and along footpaths to the first summit. What followed was a series of fast descents and slow uphills over all kinds of surfaces, trails, roads, fells and fields, and across the occasional stream. We made good progress by capitalising on our relative strengths, with me getting ahead on the climbs, only to be overtaken by Ulrike on the way down. Navigation was easy, as we had always plenty of runners around us, passing the various reservoirs along the Pennine way that we had committed to memory. The weather turned out to be not quite as bad as forecast - there was a mix of sunshine, rain and sleet, but it was only a drizzle for most parts of the day, and the route was quite sheltered from the blustery wind, so we both managed to keep warm. As the field thinned out during the second half of the race, we decided to stick together on the unmarked course - this slowed our pace, but also provided both of us with opportunities to recover. Fortunately, after listening to Dave's advice, we found the right way down into Todmorden, but after a blistering descent was followed by a steep flight of stairs, Ulrike suffered from cramps. This slightly hampered our ascent to the monument on Stoodley pike, the highest point of the day. However, perhaps aided by the sip of whisky offered at one check point, we managed to catch up with a few runners during the latter stages of the course, and only got slightly off track on two occasions - once just before the finish, which meant that a few of the runners we had passed earlier were already greeting us when we entered the door of the Haworth primary school after 6:10. However, time was not the main objective today, and we were really glad to have finished, and thankful that we had not let the weather forecast deprive us of a great day of running. We warmed up with plenty of tea, cakes, and fantastic vegetable stew, and passed the time until our companions (and drivers) Dave, Darren and Ray finished soon after us.

Some advice for prospective hobblers: While there is no kit check, you would be mad to try this race at the beginning of March without full waterproofs, food, map, and compass (and don't forget to bring a mug!). Some 40 runners did not complete the course, and with a twisted ankle, you could end up stranded far away from the nearest village. With that in mind, it is a really great race - and at £22 for a team of two, it scores a whopping 21 on the "miles / £ compared to a certain local half marathon index".

Hackworth parkrun, Shildon, 9th March

5K

Adam Walker

The inaugural running of Shildon parkrun in Hackworth Park. Thought I might as well have a PB blast as it looked pretty fast apart from a couple of sharp turns. I forgot to take into account the fact that google maps doesn't show any inclines. It looked steep, and there was a section on grass I forgot to think about, plus, it was wet underfoot already and the rain was still falling. My hopes of a first place (and a course record ;-) ) were shattered when I recognised Jason Allison, who has always been faster than me, and is flying at the moment, oh well. We jogged one lap of the three lap course to warm up, first impresions were, the hill will be hard but I can use the downhill to make up time, but not looking forward to the slippy grass section :/

Bravely opt for just the club vest and shorts, (brrr) and off we go! 1st lap: Settle just behind Jason, through the sharp turns in the childrens playpark, where he gains a couple of metres, but going up the hill I close the gap again. I've been doing alot of hillwork recently, think I have had the technique drilled into me millions of times by coaches! But on the downhill Jason stretches away, never to be seen again for the rest of the race. On the grass section, trying not to slip but failing, manage to stay on my feet though, and take the U turn at the end very slow. About 10m ahead of 3rd place. 5.45 mile split.

2nd lap: Still feeling okay at this point, and although i don't notice any drop in pace, I slow down by half a minute, not good pacing at all. 6.14 split.

3rd lap: Lapping people isn't as much as a problem as I first thought, easy enough to get past without any accidental barging. Into the children's play park with the two sharp turns, into the second one too fast and suddenly BANG I'm on the floor. I can't remember much about what I was thinking, I can just remember that I fell over and someone asking if I was ok, I think I managed a 'yeahthanks' but I thought that was it. Into the hill, 3rd place now not so far behind, powering up it, driving the arms, and flying down the downhill (wheeeeee). Quick check over the shoulder and he is still there, ooh eck. I try to push on over the slippy grass but I have to take the final corner slow, I don't want another fall. Now a lovely tarmacced straight path to the finish, about 500m. I thought the finish was closer that it was, and kicked, waaaay too early. Completely dieing at this point but managed to get there in second place. 6.14 split. Disgustingly bad pacing.

A bit disorientated and almost unable to see the person handing out tokens, and it took me a while to access my barcode! I couldn't thank the volunteers as normal as I just couldn't speak, I hope I did later, I can't remember. But I just sat on the wet floor, trying to wipe the mud off my legs, only it wasn't mud, it was blood from the fall great. It was stinging a bit, but I think i was just in a racing mindframe during the race and couldn't feel it, good, I probably wouldn't have been mentally strong enough to keep going. Walking back to the car to get some more clothes on, I passed Alister and Bill finishing, way too smiley to have just run up the hill 3 times, both marks and kevin also looking strong. Mike had volunteered to tailrun and motivated a runner round for her first parkrun and his 106th.

I will now move on to the more important parkrun analysis. Afterwards, we headed to the 'square cafe' which I can confirm, do great value bacon sandwiches and hot chocolates. In summary, great parkrun, but if you are going for the 110% effort approach, be prepared to collapse at the end, it's a killer, also don't be silly like me and take the corners fast, it's really not worth it.

Grindleford Gallop, Peak District, 9th March

21M / 3,000'

Paul Evans

And they're off ...

I'll keep this short, as there are already a couple of reports from this one on the website from 2009 and 2012; so, instead of the usual story of suffering here follows a simple RW-style scoring of the race:

  1. Organisation: online entry, months in advance. Very slick, with weather warnings emailed to all participants before the race when poor conditions became likely. Regist- ration quick, well-staffed by volunteers, cheerful and painless. Timed also to allow runners to arrive on public transport where possible. 10/10
  2. Facilities: Lots of portaloos at start and finish, as well as the village hall being used for changing and refreshments. No showers, but Derwent river passes by the start and finish for basic cleaning-off. No toilets en-route, so urgent personal affairs require use of ample foliage. [ Too much information! Ed.] 8/10
  3. Course: Start possibly too tight, meaning that to avoid getting trapped behind slower runners for first mile it may be necessary to set off more quickly than sensible. After this, a good, varied course with four serious climbs, a run past Thornbridge Hall (home of the excellent brewery and the deceased but utterly bonkers Lord Marples) a few relatively quick stretches and some good moorland running sandwiching a fast downhill through the Chatsworth estate. This year the first I've had to actually race the Stanage Edge leg against another runner (unscheduled stop, as per point (2), meant I had catching-up to do), and this section, followed by the rapid woodland descent, brutal on the legs. After last year's heatwave, running the race in winter conditions an interesting variation. Entire course very easy on the eye. 8/10
  4. Value: Per mile, approximately 1/7th the price of a certain local half-marathon. Tea and squash in limitless quantities before, during and after, cake at two checkpoints, soup/bread/cake afterwards included. Tech T-shirt with this year's winning design from local primary school that entire race supports. 10/10
  5. Overall feel: Good race for good cause, with no glitches. Nice atmosphere throughout - runners competitive but courteous when holding gates open etc. Deservedly popular amongst local clubs. Were I Chairman*, I'd be tempted to stick this on the club GP and mis-appropriate funds for a bus, it's that good. 9/10

Total: 45/50

*I'm not, by the way, so please don't worry that you're going to have to travel half the length of the country for GP points.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Dentdale Run, Dent, Cumbria, 9th March

14M 379Yards

Jan Young

Rachel approaches the top of yet another hill ... Having run this 14.5 mile road race sixteen times since 1992, old habits die hard, so I gave it another shot, instead of joining the Bunkbarners on the snowy fells.

Dent weekend was always a Striders weekend away; first accomodation being Margaret's caravans, until we decided holiday cottages were more comfortable.

Today, Margaret's caravans are still there; the lady herself was marshalling a car park, but only Aaron and his family 'cottaged' it. Hope you followed Striders' tradition and sampled the Dent beer. New kids on the block now pound the Dentdale lanes-with success- Rachel Terry 1st FV40 and 8th female in this challenging rural run. Katy and Graeme Walton, Linsay T and Aaron G all put in good performances on their debuts, while experienced Dentdalers also clocked GP points.

Villagers help out at the run as timekeepers, marshalls, water station volunteers. Every runner gets tea and buns in the village hall, entry fee at £10/£12 goes to school funds and the event regularly attracts 350 runners. You have an unofficial option to complete only the first half of the route, as did Barrie E and I think Maggie T-as she's not in results! Striders ladies appear to be first female team, with 84 points, unless I've missed something. Rachel may tell her own tale about the puzzling prizegiving; can she keep it, no she can't?

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Breton Holdsworth Clayton Le Moors HarriersM 1 1:24:42
42Heather Tuffs York AcornF 1 1:39:08
96Rachel Terry F 8 1:48:50
100Graeme Walton M 1:49:24
113Aaron Gourley M 1:51:02
189Katy Walton F 32 2:01:18
218Stephanie Barlow F 44 2:05:00
257Jan Young F 59 2:12:04
258Lindsay Tarn F 60 2:12:09
296Alan Smith M 2:21:58
326Christine Farnsworth F 2:32:10

341 finishers.

Silverstone Half Marathon, Midlands, 3rd March

Kathryn Sygrove

I ran this race because I wanted to do something different and it was quite near the in-laws. It is flagged up every year by the London Marathon, whether they accept you or not, and at first I thought who would ever want to do that? But I fancied a different setting on the Silverstone race tracks, it was billed as pretty flat (though we did run on several circuits which entailed running over bridges over other circuits) and it just beckoned me, so I entered.

The training had culminated in an 11.5 miler and I was happy enough, but got a fluey bug the week before and wasn't certain whether to run or not. Feeling a bit brighter on the day, I decided to give it a go, and lined up at the start on the International circuit ready to go. There were several Runners' World pacers so I aligned myself with the 1:45 guy, in the hope I could keep up. A smooth pace wouldn't hurt after illness, would it? It was cold and windy, then warm and sunny, then cold and windy, so a funny weather to start with. I had seen the race layout which seemed to meander all over the place, off the International circuit, along here, over and under there, back on your self, a twist and over a bridge onto another circuit, along and round, back up, and back onto the first two miles, but in reverse. Yeah, confusing and boxed in in places. And less than flat at times.

So off I went with Joe Mackie, pacer, who valiantly managed the throngs around him, never put off by comments or jostling of any sort. I was quite happy until four miles, then started to feel over-hot and worn out, so I gradually fell back. There wasn't much scenery as you would expect other then the backs of other runners, but some places became familiar. I passed Malcs and the kids at 3 miles, who roared me on, but felt like lead between 5-7 when I saw them again, as the kids ran over a bridge with me, waving and yelling that I was doing brilliantly. I really wanted to stop then and just join them. I remembered Malcs telling me on the walk there from the carpark (took about 20 mins) that that was part of the course, and getting over half-way was a big bonus at that point.

Miles 8-9 were probably the worst. Realising you have little strength and being overtaken as you plod wearily on isn't great for your morale, but I knew I had no more to give, so had no choice. 10 miles was the psychological "homeward bound" point, and there were mile markers with times since the starting gun, so I just sang in my head till the next mile and the next, trying to encourage injured runners and those who had stopped or were flagging by then.

At 10 miles, I saw the family again, and as we entered the home straight, charity groups roared and thwonked their plastic batons together, which really lifted me. On the way back to the start, I thought, so I tested the pace, but still had no extra gears to notch up into, so plodded on up an incline, yelling encouragement at a wheelchair lady athlete who looked exhausted getting up that straight. I saw a few people collapsed, and it always reminds you that you have limitations, but wasn't stopping at 11.5 miles for anything. The end seemed to take a while to get there, there was no sprint finish, just a continuation of steady pace. Again, seeing the family just before I crossed the line was great, and my daughter was waving frantically at me. If you saw the race photos you would see there is no delight at crossing the line, just a look of utter relief that it was over! To be honest, I don't know how I got round as I did, it was slow for me, but could have been a lot slower, given how I was feeling.

Would I recommend it? Well, it was a one off, a flattish tarmac surface always bodes well for PBs when fully fit, but it was a weird course. I thought we would go round the same circuit 3 and a half times, not dart about all over the place. There was nil scenery other than other tracks, and I did not feel the excitement of being on the race course that I thought I might. So, I probably won't do it again, but many others seemed to enjoy it and do well, a PB for Eian Thomas of 1:38 so I heard, and the pacers were brilliant. No, I will let this one lie, with happy reminders of the kids chasing me around, waving and yelling, and of the brilliant steel ska band which we boogied to before and after.

Regent's Park 10K, London, 3rd March

Danny Lim

I highly recommend this London 10K which takes place on the first Sunday of each month. The setting is Regent's Park which I think is central London's prettiest park. In the spring/summer, the floral beds are really pretty and the fountains are magnificent. It makes for a really scenic route - though you're better off admiring the flowers post-race!

The course is flat and run on tarmac paths, so its got PB potential. And the £11 entry fee makes it good value for central London. I turned up today, not knowing a single face. But the marshalls and crowds (albeit sparse) were fantastic and cheering us on all the way. The race director was fantastic, making witty remarks with his mega-phone as we crossed the finish line. For some reason, he reminded me a little of our Alister Robson. I was very happy managing to shave 20 seconds off my previous PB.

Haweswater Half Marathon, Lakes, 3rd March

Claire Readey

Buoyed up by a good race the week before, I seized the opportunity to rekindle my long mile addiction with a last minute entry to the Haweswater Half. A quick check through previous race reports suggested a hilly course - so I resolved to take it steady.

The drive to Haweswater was quick and painless, parking in a field, number collection straightforward and queue for the portaloos long. Race started in a country lane by a man with a loudspeaker and a sense of humour - always a bonus. It's not a chipped race, and with no discernible start line (not when you start as far back as I do, at least) pressing "Go" on the Garmin at the right time was largely pot luck.

Alan, Heading for the hills ...

The route winds past the finish line and car park, dropping down through twisting, leafy country lanes before opening out alongside the reservoir. The scenery is stunning: breathtaking, snow-capped mountains overlooking a large expanse of still, blue water. The conditions were perfect - overcast, cool and wind-free.

I caught up with Alan, struggling with injury, on a long, steady climb between miles 5 and 6. It's an out-and-back course, so just after reaching the summit the faster runners were on their way back. It was fascinating, and helpfully distracting, to observe the course leaders at the top of the long ascent from the halfway mark - running at a pace I can't fathom and with effort and determination etched hard on their faces. I was impressed to see one of the front-runners shout encouragement to us despite his climb. A high-five from Alister at the bottom of the hill and a chat with Bill, taking a well-earned break at the water station, and before I knew it I was on my way back home.

I steeled myself for the long climb up and attacked the incline determined to maintain a steady pace. The hill was soon behind me, and the next incline didn't feel as bad as I'd expected, I kept a constant effort and gradually put people behind me. I picked up the pace around mile 11, fairly confident the hills were over, then worried I'd pushed too soon - seeing the red finish banner in the distance simultaneously encouraging and yet so far away.

My strong finish was largely down to pride - I caught up and passed a runner who'd been met by his faster clubmates, bringing him home with rousing, manly encouragement. I was determined not to be overtaken by his sprint finish, so made sure mine was faster than his.

All in all another great race - well run, scenic and challenging. Emma D also had a strong run - knocking 15 minutes off the time she expected - and Bill regretted his decision to forgo the nipple tape. Cup not as nice as Snake Lane, but did come with free mug of tea if you could face the queue. Well worth doing again.

Results

PosNameClubCatPosTime
1James Buis Border Harriers M 101:13:03
44Rebecca SheffieldUnattached F 101:27:42
261Alister Robson M405101:48:44
314Claire Readey F 3101:54:23
380Brian Ford M454802:00:10
418Alan Smith M65 402:04:58
458Emma Detchon F 5702:15:59
470Sue Jennings F452902:21:02

484 finishers

Glaisdale Rigg, North Yorks Moors, 3rd March

8.5m/1844 '

Phil Owen

Jan, Will, Tynedale harrier Steph and myself car shared down to this Esk Valley fell race. Not one I've done before as it's a bit further down the moors than usual but very glad I did. It didn't start well with Will's sat nav bringing us to a closed road (subsided road) about a third of a mile a mile away from the start meaning a short dash before the race while will found an alternate route.

Like all good fell races the race starts at a pub in this case the Arncliffe Arms. It then takes some of the steepest roads I've ever run (well fast walked) up and out of the village before heading onto the moors.

From then on we seemed to continue climbing with only the odd descent for about 6 miles. The previous day's stomach issues during XC seemed to have abated but I have to say I was still struggling a fair bit and felt like I had legs of lead. It wasn't till probably the last climb I finally got things together and felt like I was running ok. Near the top of the last climb I caught NFR runner Andy whom I seem to meet at a lot of races before moving on to the best bit, 2 miles of downhill clarty mud fest (I'm guessing the distance).

Fair flew down the track barely keeping myself upright and managed to pass a half a dozen runner (like I do when a race is over!). I was hoping the clarty track came out at the pub finish as I couldn't keep that pace up much longer but these always have a sting in the tail and it came out at a small bridge over a stream with the finish a short sharp steep muddy uphill climb away.

Great race taking in a part of the moors I've never seen before and a nice pint of black sheep in the pub after.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Jayson Cavill Pickering RC M 0:58:28
39 Carol Morgan Nidd Valley F 1 1:13:06
66 Mike Bennett MV55 3 1:20:50
106 Phil Owen MV45 14 1:34:10
125 Jan Young FV60 1 1:46:04

132 finishers.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Teamwork Triumphs!

Harrier League, Alnwick, 2nd March

Mudman & Mudwoman

Tom running his way into the medium pack.

Both the men's and women's teams put in their best performance of the season at a sunny Alnwick last Saturday. The men finished 4th in their 2nd Division and the Women finished 6th in their 1st Division. There were some noteworthy individual performances as well with Tom Reeves finishing in 26th position thereby qualifying for the medium pack for the first time in his long career (about time too I hear the editor cry!) Our other Tom (Spurling) had a great Harrier League debut and there were impressive performances throughout the team on a 'mixed terrain' but very pleasant course. The men have consolidated their mid table placing. Adam had a fine run from the fast pack of the under 17s race in preparation for his personal promotion to the Senior race next season.

The women's team fought really hard in their relegation struggle finishing ahead of both their main 'survival rivals'. Rachel Terry flew round the course from the medium pack to finish 3rd Strider behind Fiona and Megan, as with the men, there were some fine performances elsewhere particularly by Carolyn (best HL so far?) and Louise (no repeat of last year's 'nightmare'!) But the relegation struggle continues and will 'go down to the wire' at the final Prudhoe fixture. We need a once in a 100 years purple storm surge to sweep us to safety! Come on - we know you can do it!

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 GHEBRESILASIE, Weynay Sunderland Harriers *F 38:24
26 REEVES, Tom 42:01
44 HORSLEY, Will *M 42:50
82 SPURLING, Tom 43:34
108 GARLAND, James 44:22
120 MCCONNELL, Stewart 44:35
132 LLOYD, Jerry *M 44:50
206 CLAYDON, Matt 47:13
220 DAVIS, Geoff 47:36
248 GOURLEY, Aaron 49:19
252 BENNETT, Michael 49:27
255 GARDNER, Simon 49:36
283 TERRY, Michael 50:45
298 ROBERTS, Shaun 51:34
300 ROBSON, Alistair 51:49
302 HUGHES, Michael 51:52
321 HOCKIN, Richard 53:06
339 FORD, Brian 55:18
357 OWEN, Phil 59:21

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

369 finishers.

Women
Fiona legging it down the hill.

Photo courtesy and
© SportyPix

PosNameClubCatTime
1 PRICE, Chloe Durham N/C 28:06
22 SHENTON, Fiona 32:43
49 BELL, Megan 33:46
51 TERRY, Rachel *M 33:49
56 PERCIVAL, Juliet 33:58
57 BRAY, Carolyn 34:00
79 DAVIS, Susan 35:12
102 WALTON, Katy 36:25
109 DICK, Barbara 37:03
120 YOUNG, Jan 37:42
150 BARROW, Louise 40:23
156 TINDALE, Victoria 41:55
163 BUTLER, Katy 46:03

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap.

165 finishers.

Under 17 Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 MALLEN, Joseph Alnwick Harriers 26:41
12 Adam WALKER 29:24

30 finishers.

Golden Fleece Circuit, South Cave, East Yorkshire, 2nd March

27.5m

Dave Robson

This is the second running of this 27.5m (or you could choose to do 15m) event. I couldn't do it last year for some reason and I was looking forward to it this year.

Another marathon under the belt ... Having done two marathons in the last two weeks I became a bit complacent with this one. Firstly, I forgot to put on my Garmin, but that wasn't a major problem as I was running with Melanie who had remembered hers. Secondly, I got my kit out on Saturday morning and realised I had forgotten my running tights. I normally keep spares of most of my running gear in the car boot (after a Strider turned up a race without his running shoes !). There were plenty of socks in there (four pairs !), but no running shorts or tights. For some inexplicable reason, I had brought with me a pair of summer cargo trousers and that seemed my best option. Then I reconsidered and went for my waterproof trousers which are breathable.

They might have been fine on a cloudy day, but although the temperature was -3° when we left for the start, it turned out to be sunny all day without too much wind, so I was a bit warm at certain times.

The Race HQ was the South Cave community centre. If was good to see two regular marathon runners who I haven't seen for a while and have a chat about upcoming and previous races.

There was a mass start for both distances and for runners and walkers. We started at the back, but there was plenty of room to overtake the walkers in the first mile. The first four miles were mainly flat, following footpaths around fields, through country estates. It was lovely to see some of the spring flowers coming out and the birds singing whilst running on a cloudless day. As the miles went by the flat sections were replaced by gentle ascents which seemed to last a while. The route was not marked, but we had printed off the map that had been emailed the day before. That was just about enough. There was a written route description, but it wasn't very specific. We went wrong once, but only lost maybe 3 or 4 minutes.

After the third checkpoint at about 7m, the routes split and we started more serious climbs. Nothing too steep, but up typical Wolds hills, rounded with lovely valleys which twisted and turned as you went up them. Not all the checkpoints had food and drink, but the vast majority did and they seemed to turn up every 3m or so.

We went up the Wolds and then down the other side getting close to Beverley, before heading south towards Skidby. By then I was feeling pretty tired although Melanie was still feeling pretty fresh (she had completed a tough half marathon and a marathon in the previous thirteen days before this one). We then started more gentle ascending as we went back up the Wolds again. This was followed by a rapid descent with fantastic views over the Humber, past the lovely Brantingham Church and on to a brute of a climb before another lovely descent back into South Cave, where we caught up with some of the 15m walkers. Lovely vegetarian stew followed by rice pudding was quickly devoured at the end. I think we may well do this one again

Apart from the two mistakes mentioned above, I had also managed to book our hotel for the wrong night (I had booked the night after). The deal I had got meant that I could not transfer the booking, so we had to book a second night the day before the event. This turned out to have been a good thing to do, we didn't have far to drive before we could have baths and just chill for the evening.