Race Reports, May 2013

Wynyard Woodland Park Trail Race, Castle Eden, 30th May

5K

Paul Pascoe

This is a route around the gorgeous Wynyard Park taking in the Castle Eden walkway, farm tracks then drops down into Thorpe Wood then with a sting in the tail, a short sharp incline back onto the walkway and returning to the old disused station at the finish.

As this was my first Tees Trail Race I didn’t know what to expect. On arriving at the car park I went and registered which was a fairly simple affair as I had already filled in my registration form and it was just a case of paying my £3 and being issued with my race number which you have to keep for the rest of the trail race series. It was fairly quiet at first and I couldn’t see any other Striders but as in all races as the time nears for the start of the race an influx of competitors arrive and eventually caught up with Alister and Megan.

A fairly level start and a good long downhill section, until the notorious Thorpe Wood. In all it was a good, fast route apart from the ‘killer’ incline out of Thorpe Wood which definitely got my heart going on full blast. Then a good long flat straight back to the old station for a fast finish, if you’ve got anything left in the tank.

George Ogle Memorial Race, Swalwell, 29th May

Approx 6m

Katherine O'Mahony

Summer time means trail running and I remember enjoying this race so much last year so was keen to do it again. At 6 miles, it is a decent distance to be a mid-week challenge but short enough to not leave you completely knackered. The cloud that descends over Durham as soon as summertime begins was happily in place, leaving for cool racing conditions. After a quick bag dump, number collection and last minute banana to perk up the blood sugar we headed to the start. Having come 4th last year, I had my sights set on a high finish and probably went off a little too quickly, I prefer to think of this as “embracing my inner child” instead of poor pacing! The beautiful thing about this race is that there is a fast, flat start for around 2 miles and then just as you are getting bored, you are subjected to a rather hilly, section in woodland, with lots of steps upwards followed by flying descents. I find this bit breaks up the middle miles nicely and gives the race variety, as well as making it easier on the legs. The finish is again flat and fast, and if your pacing is like mine, feels like it goes on forever as you draw on whatever is left in your race-weary legs.

Come on, say 'Cheese' you buggers ...

Despite a slower finish than I would have liked (probably a typical thought of all runners), I was rewarded with first lady. Alister followed shortly behind me, then Bill, Danny, Richard, Paul, Peter, Louise, Becky and Sue. Once everyone had finished, goody bags were obtained and the collective decision was made that they were of a high standard (Great T-Shirt, Packet of crisps plus all-you-can-eat banana fest- beautiful stuff). We headed into the clubhouse for a beer and thankfully to satisfy my post-race grease cravings in the form of Saltwell cricket club’s finest cheese and ham toastie (I recommend these as much as the race). I was delighted to be the recipient of a large bottle of Belgian beer, £30 worth of Start fitness vouchers and a rather lovely trophy (modelled rather dashingly by Louise on the FB page). All in all, a good evening’s racing. Finally I want to say thanks to Alister for getting me there in my car-less state, he took a lot of convincing to do another race as you can all imagine :-).

Results

PosNameClubCatPosTime
1Brendan McMillanClaremont Road RunnersM132.01
26Katherine O'MahonyDurham City HarriersF138.39
48Alister RobsonM42.54
76Brian FordM45.54
78Danny LimM46.05
83Richard HallM47.01
86Paul BealM47.19
100Peter McGowanM49.51
101Louise BarrowF49.53
113Rebecca FisherF52.13
130Sue JenningsF58>15

134 finishers

UltraTrails26 Howgills marathon, Sedbergh, Cumbria, 26th May

26.6m

Dave Robson

This event was tougher than we expected. We probably should have worked that out after the Grisedale marathon which was organised by the same people (the ones who organise the Lakeland 50/100).

When I looked at the route beforehand I divided it into four quarters. The first quarter we knew was going to be very tough. From Sedbergh we were heading north onto the Howgills. After about 6m of climbing we would reach the Calf and the next quarter looked fine, a descent down into the Bowderdale valley and along there for a while then turn to the east towards Ravenstonedale which was the only checkpoint. Then a bit of a slog south back up the into the hills. The final quarter looked a lovely descent back to Sedbergh.

Mel shows Dave how it's done ...

In reality the first quarter was possibly a bit tougher than I expected. The climbs were steeper and seemed to just keep on going. It was a warm day with a breeze from roughly south. The second quarter was a bit of a surprise, the descent into Bowderdale was a little tricky and the path in the valley itself was narrow and technical. You couldn't take your eyes off the path and it went on for a long time. The terrain in Bowderdale was a bit wet and muddy in places, but it would have been much harder if it had rained more recently. Finally we turned east towards Ravenstonedale, but then turned south and up again for a while before we came to a familiar section which we walked last year. Into the Ravenstonedale checkpoint to fill our bottles which were about empty.

We left Ravenstonedale and slogged our upwards on a deserted narrow road. We could see by now that our original estimates of how long it would us take were slipping away (MelanieLH guessed 5hr30 and I guessed 6hr).

Finally we reached the highest point of the second half and worked out way down into a valley and followed the River Rawthey back to Sedbergh. There were lots more stream crossing here and it certainly wasn't all downhill, there were a few climbs as well. I was dunking my hat into the streams to keep myself cool by now.

The scenery was fantastic and I really enjoyed that last few miles. If you like the Lakeland Trails marathon, then you will certainly like this one.

They gave us a lovely cup of soup at the end of the race, the same butternut squash soup we had at Grisedale, we needed it after 6hr 40mins (so much for our estimates !). The goody bag contained a tee shirt, medal, lots of gels, flapjacks. They also gave us a roadbook which also contained a map of the route. However, we followed the gpx route they supplied which we downloaded on our garmins and the course was signed at most critical places

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Raby Castle 10K, 26th May

Mike Elliott ...

Beautiful setting apart from that bloody hill twice.

Did not pre-enter as I was not sure of the weather forecast, if bad, it would have meant that Judy would not be able to move around on the mobility scooter and look after the dog. Anyway on arrival went into the grounds via the signposted route only to be turned round and enter by the normal route to gain access to disabled parking area. Discovered that registration was 1.5k away from the start so off I went with money and form in my grubby little hand to claim my number. Guess that had to do for my first ever warm up.

Back at the car sorted Judy and the dog out and watched several purple patches of Striders doing very fast gyrations to the music before the start. Some great movers, pity no camera available. Did see some little young and older Striders and Durham parkrunners finish the 5k and get their medals. Set off with Capt. Sue who was going to take it easy after returning from being out of fettle and marathons, we parted company on the first hill and I then caught Karen Younger up and ran together. At half way we were spurred on by Anne Nicholson, Jackie Smith and the Chalkeys and the main member of the said family. You have guessed it. The Dog. Thanks folks.

After the second long climb then onto the nice long downhill we checked our Garmins to discover big discrepancies - mine saying 12 min mile pace and Karen's 9.30 pace: unbelievable when the blurb says how accurate they are. Somehow the electronic ether managed to get it sorted.

At the farm 7k we picked a target runner 500m in front to catch 100m before the finish and beat this was done with comparative ease. Why? Cos at the 9k mark the smell of the chocolate covered fairy cake memento at the finish was drifting across the course on a nice cool breeze. Definitely was too much to resist and then it was a sprint to the finish passing several folks alang the road. Oh!!!! that is a different race never mind, they had the pleasure of eating our dust before their cake and we did manage our target, coming in at 63 and 64 respectively with Capt Sue just behind.

Good to see some of our training partners taking part namely Hunwick Harriers, Crook AC and Durham parkrunners.

It was noticed that G N was too busy talking to eat his cake so it was taken off him for seconds.

... and Conrad White:

I was not planning on doing Raby Castle as I had not really registered it was on. At the park run I heard mention of Druridge Bay and Raby Castle. As it happened there was nothing else on the home calendar - the lawn cutting could wait - but did not realize until I got home after running fairly hard at the park run (and also running there and back). I thought I had not raced a 10k for a while and was amazed when the Garmin record said my last 10k was in 2008 and I had to search the internet results and found that I last ran Raby in 2006 (which was before the present web site results)! So I was certain for a personal best for the decade 2010s!

Sunday morning and I was prepared with my entry form and cash - it says the start is 15 minutes from the parking but the entries were only 5 minutes. I arrived early and having registered I went back to my car for a bit of a rest then met up with various Striders on the way to the start. The Sea of Purple was amassing and the kit certainly stands out. There are many who I do not really know in the Striders but the purple kit gets you talking to fellow team members which is absolutely fantastic. It was also good to meet up with Tony Young and Jackie Smith.

The day was bright and not too warm, the course I knew to be "undulating" - nothing to the fell runners in the club but enough challenge for me. My race plan such as it was - do not go off too fast and make sure the first 5k is slower than the average park run time.

Off we went. The course is on tarmac or very good forest trails. By the first km I could see Adam miles ahead (well certainly a few hundred metres - or yards for those of us who know about the old money) in or around the top ten and not far behind was Simon. Graeme had admitted to a bit of socializing at a stag do on Saturday night and was around and about me. I decided to try and stay with or around Graeme. He would pass me going up and I took him going down on the first lap (of two). I went through 5k in just over average park run time - so all was going to plan. He came past at around the 6k mark on the second long climb and I could not catch him again - but he was just that bit ahead and that encouraged me not to slow down. The views from the top as you come over the hill are stunning and I think make the climbs worth while. The downhills are not too severe and allow the legs to open up a bit.

As always at the finish there are cheers of encouragement and groups of Striders - there was even a bit of a photo on a phone.

As I predicted a PB for the 2010s but as it was the one and only so far not too surprising. The second 5k was around a minute slower than the first - so I think the plan worked. Two races (or at least a hard "run" and a race) in two days is not something I have done for years and the legs certainly felt it. You never know I might try another 10k in the not too distant future. One to be recommended for the beautiful scenery, it's not far from home, probably lots of other good reasons and all in all a "cracking race" but not one for a PB.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Mike Jefferies Unattached M 34.23
7 Adam Walker MJ 37.23
17 Tracey Millmore Birtley AC F 39.32
26 Simon Gardner M40 40.28
81 Graeme Walton M40 45.55
86 Conrad White M55 46.12
94 Rachel Terry F40 47.00
108 Katy Walton F 48.09
115 Carolyn Bray F35 48.37
136 John Hutchinson M55 49.50
176 Paul Beal M50 52.14
178 Adrian Jenkins M45 52.21
204 David Spence M65 53.51
229 Katie Butler F 56.03
235 Barbara Dick F40 56.15
236 Anita Clementson F40 56.17
242 Denise Mason F 56.39
245 George Nicholson M60 57.04
253 Jan Young F60 58.12
260 Kirsty Anderson F35 59.04
263 Karen Anne Chalkley F50 59.13
277 David Mogie M50 60.54
293 Mike Elliott M65 63.11
302 Karin Younger F50 63.38
313 Sue Jennings F45 65.25
328 Margaret Thompson F60 69.14

346 finishers

Druridge Bay 10K, Northumberland, 26th May

Matt Claydon

This little race (300 runners) is now in its 7th year, but unfortunately as it clashes with Raby Castle 10k it has never yet received recognition in our reports [Apart from last year. Ed] - so here it is.

I have an appreciation for this event as it was the scene of one of my Greatest Sporting Triumphs, an 8th place back in 2008 (no trophy), so even if it was rubbish I would still be fond of it. It's not; it's a great day out for all the family. Start the day with a gentle(ish) massage before enjoying a 10k run around a scenic country park broken up by a good kilometre or so along the beach. Another free massage afterwards, and an ice cream van on standby, and best of all (this year) a beautiful summers day! So perfect conditions for a picnic by the lake and a kickabout on the beach. Although not particularly cheap, it is non-profit making and your money does go to a worthy cause. The mixed terrain prevents any chance of a PB, but this is a run to enjoy and has a good number of fun-runners doing just so. Perhaps next year you will join us?

Brussels 20k, 26th May

Lucy Cowton

A piece of advice for anyone contemplating running a race in Belgium; prepare to get your elbows out and forget your British manners! Luckily I'd been forewarned of this and sharpened my elbows and practised a French-looking pout especially for the occasion.

I'm quite new to running having got the bug after the running GNR last year, and this was the only other big event I've been to. So, after a horrifically difficult journey across the channel which took a sweaty, cramped and grumpy 16 hours to get there (thank you EuroTunnel) I woke up in Brussels a nervous, doubtful wreck.

And they're off!

There's no way I'll manage this today, I thought, after hardly any sleep, very little food and with storms and wind blowing like mad! But once I got on the Metro, the sight of hundreds of runners of all ages, sizes and fitnesses heading to the start and my mantra 'if they can do it, you can do it' spurred me on. The atmosphere getting to the start was electric. I've never thought of the Belgians as a particularly happy lot but I've since changed my mind! The towering columns of the impressive Cinquantenaire signalled the start of the pens, and as I made my way over there with my friend James we were stopped and interviewed for Brussels TV (just thought I'd drop my five minutes of fame in there...)

In true Belgian style there was neither order nor control over the pens, so despite James' number being 20,000 behind mine, we joined the hordes to clamber forwards and managed to start together not too far from the front. As I was so nervous, I knew I'd start far too quickly and that I'd probably already used up a whole load of energy jumping around in the rain to keep warm! So I consciously held to just over a 5k/mile pace through the business district and kept it strong and steady, trying hard not to get too pushed around by huge men with big elbows... Now I began to understand why I'd seen so few women there!

The course swerved and circled in nice short sections up a steady hill, along the Euro zone. It was challenging to keep a foot hold on the slippy cobbles as we flew past the Palace as Belgian roads are not a strongpoint! Hundreds of displaced cobbles and potholes meant quite a number of runners came a-cropper, but luckily I kept my head down and managed to avoid them. But then, my worst nightmare ... three underground tunnels. I was still keeping a steady pace but I'm pretrified of closed spaces and as you entered the tunnels the humidity, heat and noise of thousands of runners was so disorienting I thought I might 'go'. Instead, spurred on by a handsome fireman beside me, I picked up to almost a 4k pace and sped through them as fast as I could, and was rewarded after the hill at the other end by a break in the clouds!

Well done Lucy!

The next part of the run was wonderful. We weaved through a beautiful park, down tree-lined streets and past bird-filled lakes. There were a few crowds of spectators, but nothing compared to the GNR. This was more than made up for by the fantastic blues, brass, jazz and drumming bands accompanying us at various points en route! I hit the 10k station at exactly 50 minutes and had a celebratory fruit gum. I was really enjoying it now and happy with my rhythm. The next few kilometres flew by, as the course moved along residential streets and past posh houses. I found it funny how runners could basically go any route they wanted - a few ran along tram tracks whilst others nearly knocked spectators over running over pavements! A few narrow streets meant I got my elbows out again and was nearly tripped by a pushy, scary-looking body builder-type, but I just about kept upright and found my rhythm again.

I'd been warned about the famous 'mont du mort' around the 17k mark-2 kilometres of steep uphill along Avenue Tervurenlaan but just as I realised I'd already started it, I spied the 1h45 balloons marker just by the side of me. I must've lost a bit of pace but as I was aiming for under 1h50 I was ecstatic! I kept pace alongside the balloon man and huffed and puffed past the runners slowing down, feeling thankful for once for Durham's hills during my training!

As I reached the top with sweaty, misty eyes, I saw what I thought was the finish line - yeah! I tried to ignore my burning thighs and dig into a pocket of energy to pick up my pace, but as I neared it, I realised it said 'only 1km to go'! Oh dear. I eased off a bit and reserved a tiny bit of push for the real finish. I managed a wobbly sprint around a roundabout, down an 'elbows-at-dawn' narrow and over the cobbles to finish in 1h47. But strangly I had come through in front of the 1h 45 marker... I saw James by the bananas having done a fantastic 1h40 and looking curiously fresh! I on the other hand weakly collected my Belgian-flagged medal and wished I'd only pushed 2 minutes harder! I'll be more prepared for the tunnels, cobbles and sneaky finishes next time and sharpening my elbows in preparation!

Rennsteiglauf 2013, Germany, 25th May

72.7 km / 1950m

Till Sawala

It may not be the most famous or the most glamorous ultra marathon in the world, but the "Rennsteiglauf" over the hills of the Thuringian Forest is certainly Europe's biggest, with more than 2000 finishers every year. Despite these numbers, it has kept many traditions and quirks that date back to its East German roots, most famously the "Schleim" (literally: slime, a kind of thick porridge) on offer at the various aid stations.

Till, looking forward to his slime.

The start of the race is in Eisenach, birth place of Bach and home of the "Wartburg", which counts Luther and Goethe among its famous residents. We had other things in mind when we assembled on the market square just before 6 in the morning - chief among them if the weather would hold.

When I'd run this race for the first time last year, I felt ill-prepared, and my only objective was to finish what would be my longest run up to then. This year, confident to make it to the end, my goal was to also run fast. Ulrike and I wished each other good luck at the start, and when the church bells rang to mark the start, we were on our way. After a couple of flat kilometers, the course quickly climbs out of Eisenach to join the "Rennsteig", the eponymous hiking trail that we would follow for most of the day. Up to the first check point at km 18, it was a gentle but constant climb. My split time of 1:31 meant that I was almost 25 minutes up on last year's time - clearly, I was running too fast, but it still felt deceptively easy. We reached the first summit of the "Inselberg" at km 25. Having to walk during the steepest sections for the first time, it dawned on me that my early pace might haunt me later. After 3:16, I reached the second checkpoint at km 37, a full 40 minutes up on last year's time. The marathon was passed after 3:45 minutes, and now the going got considerably tougher. I was not being passed by too many runners, but had to walk repeatedly on the steeper sections, and by km 50, I was beginning to feel dizzy - fortunately, the next aid station was not too far away, and I was able to take on much needed carbohydrates (in the form of the aforementioned "Schleim"). At 55 km, my time was 4:56, 43 minutes ahead of last year.

The toughest part of the course was still ahead, the ascent to the "Grosser Beerberg", with temperatures just above freezing and patches of snow on the wayside. Last year, after a slow first half, I had been able to pass many struggling runners on this section, but this time, I was struggling myself. When the summit finally came, I had actually lost one minute compared to the split from the previous year, with 5:57 at 64 km. However, the worst was now over, and as the remainder was mostly downhill, I was beginning to make calculations: my goal of 7 hours seemed safe, and 6:45 a distinct possibility. I picked up the pace again and crossed the line in 6:43, some 44 minutes faster than the previous year, good enough for 80th place out of 1788 (male). Ulrike, unfortunately, struggled with the cold weather this time, but still managed to get 38th out of 369 (female). I have a feeling that this wasn't the last "Rennsteiglauf" for either of us!

Poole parkrun, Poole park, Dorset, 25th May

5Km

Jacquie Robson

Down in Dorset for a wedding, I fully expected Alister to ID the local parkrun. And so it was that we arrived at the very pretty Poole Park at 8.30am on a sunny Saturday morning. We parked at totally the wrong end of the park so was able to warm up by walking across it, admiring the picturesque boating lake and very flat terrain. We were expecting a large parkrun but arrived near the start at 8.45am just before the first timers briefing to see only 20 or 30 people milling about. We joined the first timers and were briefed on the route and the swan hazards and and then began to make our way to the start. On looking around, well over 400 people had joined us in the 5 minutes before the start.

On the gun, Alister raced off at speed, aiming for a good time, whereas I hadn't run for 3 weeks due to injury so set off at a gentle jog. It was good to hear all the little groups of parkrun friends catching up about their week and chatting about the weather and the route, which headed out towards the boating lake. After two full laps of the edge of the lake, I was a little surprised to need to do a bit of car dodging as some traffic moved in and out of a car park that was supposedly closed until 10am (I'm not sure the NE parkrun ambassador would be impressed with that happening on his patch. Mind, he was on holiday...). After that, we headed back towards the start and added in a smaller lap of the cricket pitch before hitting the finishing funnel. I felt a little bit out of sorts after such a long running layoff, and I could tell from Alister's face that I looked like I was really not enjoying myself in the warm sunshine, but I was pleased to come through in sub-30 and chuffed with another parkrun finish - still heading slowly but surely for the elusive 100 club T-shirt. Alister enjoyed the route but was a little disappointed with his time - the 11 hour car journey to Dorset the day before can't have helped!

Still, in the right conditions, this is probably a PB course on a good day (but it's possibly a little far to travel if you're not passing that way anyway!). Not sure about the car dodging, but certainly one to visit if you're down there!

Summer Handicap, 22nd May

Anna Seeley

Well done to everyone who took part in this month's handicap. Sorry for the delay in getting the results to you. 32 finishers and a good few others joining in for a lap made for a great race.

Competitive or what???

A big thankyou to Jacquie for help with the results, Michael for taking some great photographs and Paul for getting everyone away on time. With such a good turnout and mass finishes at times I hope everyone agrees with their times but if you think I'm wildly out let me know and I'll look into it

George presses the flesh.

The next handicap will be on the 26th June. Remember you can run as many or as few handicaps as you like so please join us next month if you can.

Clive Cookson 10K, Whitley Bay, 22nd May

Danny Lim

Before the off ... are running vests going out of fashion, then?

Several Striders had turned up to Whitley Bay for a spot of PB hunting. There was the promise of a flat and fast course which I was relishing. We were all gathered in the school's computer room, sheltering from the passing rain and winds.

I will still traumatised by what happened at the recent Sunderland 10K. I was stuck behind a crowd of "runners" that decided to walk after 100m. Not going to happen this time! I had a sneaky plan to outflank the people in front and snuck up by the side of the start line. And it worked; for the first minute anyway. I found myself right in front. But I couldn't spot any purple. Then I turned around and saw Alister Robson, Simon Gardener, Bill Ford, Kevin Williams and Ian Spencer all behind me. Not good! I was way too fast and running with the leaders.

Danny and Simon soon after the start.

It wasn't long before I was passed. But the brief spurt meant that I was a couple of minutes ahead of my PB time. Shame there was another 8K to go! If only I could hang on to it. The twisty tarmac road became a rocky trail that inclined ever so gently upwards. This went on for a mile and it slowed me down. I felt that PB slipping away and I started despairing. But at the 3rd mile, the tarmac road returned and it flattened out again and I was able to catch up. It was a 2 lap route, so it very similar for the second lap though slightly harder for me. As I approached the finish, the sure enough, I could hear the other Striders (led by Alister) bellowing at me. When I did cross the finish line, I was chuffed! 48:31 which was a PB by over a minute for me.

It was a good PB haul for the other Striders too including Simon Gardener (first Strider home [38:46! Ed.]), Louise Barrow and Jill Ford. Apologies, for not mentioning everyone. To top it off, a goody bag containing a technical T-shirt, running diary and peanut butter cookie. A very well spent ££12!

Scafell Trail Marathon, Lakes, 19th May

26.2M

David Catterick ...

The three things I've learned from this race are: don't necessarily believe the organisers description of a race; race recce's are not a waste of time; and finally always check Tripadvisor before booking any hotel!

Having pulled out of the Cateran 55 this year I found myself feeling a bit wimpish but this marathon 'trail' race caught my eye. Starting at Keswick halfway was Scafell Pike before looping back to Keswick for the finish a total 1,800m of ascent. Two weeks before the race Geoff, Sue and Till joined me on a recce of the 'hilly' bit. Good map reading and climbing skills were clearly going to be essential!

David back in civilisation ... well, Keswick.

I arrived at the hotel near Keswick the afternoon before the race along with my wife pleased at having nabbed the last hotel room (albeit twin beds) in the area, it being the Keswick Mountain Festival weekend. However something just didn't feel quite right at the hotel then the penny dropped, this was a Christian Holiday Fellowship hotel! Now this probably means nothing to most of you but I have childhood memories of going on CHF family holidays with group walking and homemade communal entertainment. The receptionist confirmed my fears that there was to be group singing after the communal evening meal!

As breakfast wasn't until 7.45am I explained a need for an earlier b'fast though disclosed that I had brought my own muesli. At 5pm a cup of milk was delivered to our rather warm room so it would be nicely curdled for the next morning. We took this as a sign that our cover was blown so it was a sharp exit back into Keswick for evening bar meal and no communal singalong before sneaking back at 9pm. Fortunately everyone had retired to bed (twin singles I suspect). Thank The Lord (figuratively) for a travel essential ... the portable electric wine cooler. At least all was not lost.

Next morning it was humid and foggy. 136 runners headed off lead, inevitably, by Ricky Lightfoot. As we climbed higher it was obvious who had GPSs as they soon had posse's around them. Going up was pretty scary in places with some rock climbing and several dislodged big boulders making their way downhill. One fortunately just bounced over someone's head as it appeared over a ridge in the mist. At the summit the next dip site was just passed Esk Hause at a sheep shelter. Visibility was dire and the route was downhill over wet slippery boulders. A woman in front of me did a face-plant cutting her face quite badly.

When all (including the sheep shelter) seemed lost a ghost like figure in an Elvet Striders top appeared through the mist and guided us to the shelter. Turns out it wasn't a spectre but Aaron Gourley. After this it was all downhill until a final climb to Watenlath then through the trees back into Keswick for a warm reception and the biggest Cornish pasty ever. (Thanks Lorna x). Well the race certainly took me out of my comfort zone and perhaps that's what we all need to do sometimes. Time? 6hrs 36mins and 65th. Thanks to Geoff, Sue and Till for their invaluable help and advice.

... and Aaron Gourley:

I spotted this one when I was entering the Hardmoors Osmotherley Marathon back in January. Held in conjunction with the Keswick Mountain Festival, I couldn't resist. My plan had been to camp overnight somewhere near Keswick but the inclement weather made me decide against it, a 4:30am start to drive over to Keswick it was to be. Registration was in Crow Park where the festival was taking place. I watched as the tri-athletes turned up with their stunning array of bikes and kit for their race which also started there. Slightly in awe of them all I almost forgot about my own race and the fact that I had a near two mile hike just to get to the start at Nichol End Marina in Porthinscale. A dash around the lake side got me to the start with about a minute to spare before the mass start at 8:30am. Then we were off.

I started from the back and tried to keep the pace down as we followed the winding lakeside path towards the first climb at Castle Crag. The conditions were perfect for running in the valley but thick cloud blanketed the tops of the mountains at around the 500m mark which I'd hope would lift. The track down this side of the lake to Seathwaite was ideal for running on and I made it to the foot of the valley in no time. The first checkpoint was located just past the farm at the start of the track up to Stockley Bridge. Still plodding at this point the gradient started to increase before the first real climb began up to Styhead Tarn and the second checkpoint at the stretcher box. Reaching Styhead took us into the mist and visibility was severely reduced from here on in. From here I was with quite a big pack of runners as we joined the corridor route up to the summit. However, it soon became apparent that we were no longer on the main route as the path died out and a bottleneck of runners appeared as they tried to scramble up a scree face to get to back on track.

Atmospheric or what? Loads of atmosphere ...

At this point I met up with Jon Steele of Hardmoors notoriety and I was pretty much with him all the way to the summit. 3hrs07mins to the top.

The mist was still really thick and the rocks very damp and slippy so coming off Scafell required full concentration and navigational awareness. A lady in front took a really nasty fall busting her cheek open, and then Jon Steele took a dive about 10 minutes later. The third checkpoint was located at Esk Hause shelter, a cross roads for the many paths that come up from Borrowdale and Langdale. This is a place I know really well so was running with confidence as to its location. At this point I'd been joined by Dave Catterick who'd spotted me in my Striders vest, but I'm not sure if he or the many others were confident that I was leading them to the checkpoint. I was, and eventually it appeared out of the mist to my relief. Back to Styhead for the fourth checkpoint where the girl I was running with found out she was third placed lady and with that seemed to hit the turbo button and was off. The descent back to Seathwaite took its toll on my legs and by the time I'd made it off the mountain my legs were like jelly. Dave had caught me up again at this point as we checked in. I went off to the toilet as he pressed on.

From here we followed the Allerdale Ramble down the otherside of the valley and I'd expected it to be relatively easy running back to Keswick as it had been in the first half. I couldn't have got it more wrong and the track sapped my energy. A killer hill leading up to Watendlath beat me up and so many people passed me at this point I was beginning to feel a little demoralised. After about a mile of steep climbing it eventually leveled off and headed back down towards the final checkpoint where the lady who had taken a nasty fall on the summit passed me, bandaged and bloodied but pressing on regardless.

The final stretch to Keswick was flat and as I rolled in towards the finish the crowds clapped and cheered. A great feeling after a very tough race finishing in 80th place in 6hr55mins.

Calderdale Relay, Halifax, 19th May

50M

Laura Garnham

The Calderdale relay - I didn't know a huge amount about it, other than I had agreed to do it. Well, I was promised good scenery and free food and that generally tempts me.

Most of us (bar Will, Till, Bill, Mike H and Paul E) went down on Saturday and along with Pam went out in the evening for a curry. (Apparently Halifax is famous for its curries, honestly I just thought Halifax was just a branch of bank ... next someone will tell me that there is a small town called Barclays in Sussex that makes a cracking fish pie).

On Sunday morning we woke early (Dave's brother and his wife Lyn had kindly put Dave, Shaun, Nigel, Jan and I up for the night and even provided breakfast which I'm sure everyone appreciated) to get Nigel and Shaun to the start of the first leg in time. We managed to catch up with them a few times where the route intersected with the roads, and cheered them on (in fact most of the day consisted of cheering, for pretty much everyone who ran by, all in all a very good atmosphere).

Bill and Mike fuel up before the start of Leg 5.

Jan and I ran the second leg up to Stoodley Pike (that's its name in my head at least) and some hill I now forget the name of. It was a very enjoyable run, plenty of water and mud, which I see as a good thing, some rather spectacular views, and a random lady gave me some jelly babies half way round, small acts of kindness and all that, can't complain! I think it was about 10 miles (not sure how long it took us, I still haven't got round to getting a watch). [1:34:02! Well done! Ed. ] Jan was a fab running partner and we pulled each other round well, I can get ahead a bit on the uphills but she flies down them while I try too hard not to be going down on my backside. I remember something about running like a duck being suggested, ducks obviously being well known for their downhill running style ... though I'm sure it was helpful information. [You can rely on Jan for this sort of thing. Ed. ]

Once finished we got free hot showers (luxury!), changed into clean shoes and clothes (more luxury) and set off to catch up with and support everyone else on their legs. The only people I didn't see on the day was Paul F who I think ran leg 3 with Dave, I'm sure he won't mind but I have eaten his slice of cake. The day finished sometime after 3 with Mike B and Till completing leg 6 (which looked very scenic with canals, blue bell woods and wonderful views, but all paid for by a hill that seemed to take ages even to drive let alone run up!)

We were then able to trade our numbers in for a meal, pie and peas and mint sauce, which I didn't have but everyone else seemed to enjoy. There were also free hot drinks, but no water (which seemed a bit daft, generally people finishing a run don't crave a cup of tea ... or maybe they do, I'm not a tea drinker so I wouldn't know). We headed home soon after that and I hope everyone had a relaxing evening. All that remains is to thank Dave for getting us organised, Nigel for giving me a lift down and back, and Jan for kitting me out with all the equipment, and say well done to everyone who ran, from the looks of it we all got good times!

Paul and Will glad to finish Leg 4 ... ninth fastest time for this leg, btw ... yes, Jan was everywhere.

Shaun Roberts adds:

Many thanks to Dave Shipman for masterminding yet another epic outing to the southern reaches of Yorkshire for this superb relay event. Thanks also to his brother, John, and Lyn, for very hospitable bed and breakfast facilities, and to everyone supporting at many locations round the course ... all much appreciated! As was the excellent curry the night before ...

I recommend a look at Nigel's excellent photographs (link below), which give a good feel for the day, should you be thinking of having a go next year.

Thanks Dave!

Brathay Marathon, Windermere, 19th May

26.2

Gareth Pritchard

As a relatively new member to the striders, I am still finding my feet in the world of running and this race was my very first marathon (baptism by fire). Not sure if this was the best choice for my first, but the chance to run such a beautiful course won me over.

The race Starts/finishes at Brathay Hall, a very nice large hotel in extensive grounds overlooking Lake Windermere itself. With heavy rain the day before, I was happy to see the weather change for the better on race day. With almost perfect running conditions I got the chance to wear my new Striders running vest for the very first time. I joined up with some fellow Striders before the race and got some last min race tips from Dave.

Gareth, with a well-earned medal.

The facilities were ideal, with ample toilets (very important), changing facilities and various stalls set up for the fun day held at the same time. Parking was well organised despite the boggy ground and the race organiser were all very friendly. The race begins with a slow procession led by a brass band down the main road where the race starts, a very good idea and adds to the build up and excitement. The 10 in 10 runners had already set off before the main race, this being their 10th and last marathon in 10 consecutive days. Yep, you read that right; they run this marathon every day for ten days in a row round one of the hardest courses in the UK. These people are truly outstanding athletes; I passed a few of the 10 in 10 runners on the way round and gave as much support as possible. This really adds something to the race experience and helps keep you going.

My build up for the race had been good, with same fast half marathon results and injury free being the main one. Being new to marathon running I got great advice from Striders during the last few months. I also found the weekly pod cast; marathon talk, to be of great help. I gave myself a 4/5 month training build up and aimed to do 60+ miles a week. In the end I found this impossible to do, I just found it too hard finding the time to fit 4/5 runs in a week and only hit 50 miles a few times. I still hit the start line feeling good and was ready for my first marathon.

The bang went and the race began, I was a good way off the start line but still had lots of room at the start to get up to race pace with ease. I had a rough aim of 7 min miles for the first half and decided to check my watch at each mile marker. The first 4/5 miles is on closed off traffic free roads towards Hawkshead where I was stopping over the weekend with my better half. I felt very good over these first few miles with my mile times hitting 6:45 min miles. I knew this was too fast and should slow down, but on I went. I charged down a large hill towards Hawkshead to see Kathleen and our pet dog cheering me on as I waved like a mad man. Felt great and pushed on past the lead female runner and settled on the back of a group for the next few miles.

The hills kept coming till mile 7 when the daddy hill hit, Dave already warned me so was ready and dug in. Soon I was picking off running and chasing the next one down. At mile 10 I knew I should slow down but found myself locked in a good battle with the lead group, yes the lead group. I knew I was in trouble at this point but the excitement of the race kept me going. I think at mile 13 I was in the top 3 and still felt strong passing half way in 1h26 ish I think. This is when the Windermere’s relentless undulations started to hit me hard. There are almost no flat bits on this course and I knew the wall was on its way to meet me.

At mile 17 I was not enjoying the race anymore, with the lead runner leaving me behind and the first signs of cramp in my right leg. Dont panic Gareth, don’t panic was all that was running through my head. The next big hill was mile 20 and this well and truly finished off my legs, I ran to the top but knew my race was over. I was over heating badly and it felt like forever between water stations, thankfully some kind person had an orange on offer at the top of the hill to keep me going. Cramp hit me hard at this point and I have no idea how I kept going, I have never felt such pain and was getting funny looks from the spectators as I grunted my way past mile 21. Over the next 5 mile I was passed by a lot of runners and could do nothing about it but try to keep going. With 3 miles to go I found my 10th wind, with the idea that it’s only a parkrun to do I dug in and raised my pace again.

Home straight and was faced with...... yes another hill. Dig in time and even managed a small sprint finish crossing the line in 3h07mins 08 sec. I have never been so worn out in my life as I felt then; all I could do was hang over the railing pouring water over my head and spent the next 10 mins trying to breathe and not to just roll over and collapse.

Over all I am happy with the time and have a new found respect for anyone who puts themselves through this massive challenge of running a marathon. One amazing marathon course but you have to respect the hills and distance or suffer as I did. Will I run a marathon again? One a year maybe but Windermere is too hard on my knees; I still want to be running in my 60’s if possible. Well worth doing just for the experience, my first marathon but probably not my last.

Results

PosNameClubCatTime
1 Marcus Scotney Howgill Harriers M 1 2:38:50
17 Gareth Pritchard M 8 3:07:08
19 Nicola Shaw Unattached F 1 3:08:58
397 Jane Ives FV40 13 4:18:59
415 Melanie Hudson FV35 17 4:20:49
495 Angela Proctor FV35 25 4:36:28
508 Dave Robson MV60 8 4:39:23
567 Claire Readey FV35 29 4:51:16
682 Sue Jennings FV45 23 5:34:48
DNF John Greathead M DNF

721 finishers.

Snods 6, Snods Edge, 15th May

6.25M

Shaun Roberts

Rubbish. Utterly useless. Sadly, Elvet Striders performances at Snods Edge were truly awful. This is the quiz I'm talking about. Failing to name the "lithuated lemon drink invented in 1929", for example cost us dearly ('Seven-Up') ... as did failing to actually get right answers such as 'Anastasia' onto the quiz paper, though I blame a certain Dutchman for that one ...

The race, you ask? Well, let's get me out of the way first. I had a good fast start, legged it out of the big dip, and felt Simon breathing on my shoulder. Managed to stretch ahead, and kept in front of him for a surprisingly long time, and went through 5K in 20:45 or so ... so far so good. Then just as we went off the tarmac section he went past, and I wasn't to see much of him again. Then I had another battle with a 'PB Fitness' runner, and he kept me honest till the finish, so I ended up pushing quite hard the whole way, and was well-pleased to get round in 43 minutes plus the small change.

Will.Marco.

Meanwhile ... at the sharp end, Will had won the race, after coming in second twice, I think, in previous attempts. Tom came in third, confirming how well he's going at the moment, and Simon had overtaken a couple more to come in eighth. If our good friends and hosts the Bounders had been keeping track of team entries, I reckon we'd have been a shoe-in for the team prize. It is even dimly possible that my eleventh position might have qualified for a gadgie prize, had there been one, but more likely one of those young fit lads at the front will have turned out to be 59. One day ...

Carolyn.Louise and Greta.

For our ladies, Carolyn, Jules and Rachel all had good runs, and with the largest number of entries from any team, we were well-represented throughout the field.

After the race, the usual festivities in the village hall were a good crack. Excellent bottled beers, a superb spread of food: curries, pizzas, pies, token salad ... and a fine selection of puddings (thanks for yours, Lydia!), of which special mention goes to the carrot cake. Then the above-mentioned quiz, of which enough said, and the raffle, which we were seriously unlucky in, the notable exception being Carolyn who scooped a fine red hat with a bottle of wine inside.

So ... many thanks to Blackhill Bounders for another splendid and well-organised evening! We'll be back ...

Sara Sarginson took some excellent photographs catching quite a few Striders in a good mood at a gate ... more at link below:

Results

PosNameClubCatTime
1 Will Horsley M 37:34
3 Tom Reeves M 40:49
8 Simon Gardner M 42:05
11 Shaun Roberts M 43:16
13 Cate Clarke PB Fitness        F 44:21
27 Conrad White M 47:12
34 Carolyn Bray F 48:42
35 Marco Van Den Bremer M 49:07
37 Bill Ford M 49:22
49 Juliet Percival F 51:09
52 Rachel Bullock F 51:57
57 Danny Lim M 52:32
57+ Lucy Cowton F 52:45-ish?
58 Jean Bradley F 53:06
60 Paul Beal M 53:37
71 Lydia Hutchinson F 56:09
72 Louise Barrow F 56:19
73 Greta Jones F 56:19
76 George Nicholson M 57:32
76+ Barrie Evans M 60:00-ish?
77 Karen Chalkey F 60:24
79 Victoria Tindale F 61:44
80 Mike Elliot M 62:26
81 Andy James M 62:30
82 Christine Farnsworth F 62:50
84 Jo Richardson F 63:06
85 Dave Robson M 63:09

89 finishers.

Carlton Challenge, North Yorks Moors, 15th May

5M

Anita Clementson

On the sunny evening of 15th May, four Striders set off on a lovely sunny evening to a small fell race on the Cleveland Hills.

Race 'registration' was at the top of the hill (rather strange for a fell race to start at the top of the hill I thought). Jan parked her car amongst the others at the side of the road. A queue was formed near a car where registration was taking place. Bargain at £6!

Anita leads the way across the moors.

In true fell race style the 'toilet stop' was to find some shrubbery or discreet side of the hill to relieve yourself pre-race. Approx 100 runners were set off after a brief announcement. First going was through the heather and bracken slightly downhill, soon there was a clear line of runners ahead. The rain earlier in the day made for some slippy conditions and I found the going downhill bit quite tricky over peaty uneven ground, I thought I’d better dig in and speed up though as didn’t want to lose sight of any runners in front of me in case I got lost. (although the map showed quite a simple loop) but there is always the risk of this happening and easily taking a wrong corner, especially when you are concentrating on your footing so much and not taking much notice of what is going on ahead of you.

After a couple of miles of going downhill (and knowing there would be an ‘up’ at somepoint), the route went through a lovely woodsetting. Then we joined the ‘yellow brickroad’, the familiar paving of the Cleveland Way. I could spot plenty of runners dotted out ahead of me. I dug in and managed to close the gap quite well. The views across to Teeside and Roseberry Topping were stunning. Up and up (I’m sure didn’t go down as far as this!) and then finally reached the trig point at the top and could see it was just a short descent to the race finish. Down the 'devil steps', these were tricky and I ended up walking down and lost precious time. First time I ended a race not out of breath.

Good results from other Striders with the ladies team represented by myself Jan and Laura, 6th out of 9 possible places. Jan did splendidly though and came 1st in her age category. Mike also had a good run, also winning his age category, and Laura whom has taken to the fell circuit very well in her short time with the Striders, also had a good one.

Highly recommended and this race would be good for any fell newbies as an easy route and distance not too far.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Pier to Pier Race, Sunderland, 12th May

6.9M

Carolyn Bray

Adam heading for the soft stuff at the start.

Finally, I'd managed to make it (first timer!) to the extra extra extra long start line of the Pier to Pier Race in South Shields. The beach line up was dotted with plenty of purple vests - the usual good Strider turnout for this Grand Prix race. It was a great day for racing, bright and slightly breezy. I got pretty chilly at the start but soon warmed up once I'd made my first bad choice in direction over the left hand sand bank; my footsteps sank deep into the sand whilst those on the right strode along the surface of the wetter, firmer terrain. Time to start paying attention to the many choices in direction that would be ahead of me! I tried to take the racing line from then on and the race became not only beautiful but good fun too! It flew over, I really enjoyed it and I got a Mars bar and a bag of crisps followed up by a carvery sandwich at the Harbour View in Roker.

What more could a girl want!

Louise and Denise on the last slog along the beach.

Anita Dunseith took lots of good photographs ... more at link below:

Results

PosNameClubCatTime
1 JENKIN, Dan Durham City Harriers M 0:37:04
18 WALKER, Adam MU20 0:41:47
49 REEVES, Thomas MV40-49 0:44:56
50 CUTTER, Vanessa Gateshead Harriers F 0:44:57
79 GARDNER, Simon MV40-49 0:46:37
94 WALTON, Graeme MV40-49 0:47:17
112 ROBERTS, Shaun MV50-59 0:48:09
227 GOURLEY, Aaron M 0:52:09
234 FORD, Brian MV40-49 0:52:21
250 STEEL, Jamie MV40-49 0:52:53
264 THOMPSON, Andrew M 0:53:08
266 BRAY, Carolyn FV35-44 0:53:15
272 BELL, Megan FV35-44 0:53:23
306 HUTCHINSON, John MV50-59 0:54:51
308 WALTON, Katy F 0:54:54
333 LIM, Danny M 0:55:30
363 DUNSEITH, Mark M 0:56:23
374 MCKENNA, Jackie FV45-54 0:56:58
403 YOUNG, Jan FV60-69 0:57:44
408 MOORE, Peter MV60-69 0:57:53
414 BRADLEY, Jean FV55-59 0:58:02
446 SMITH, Alan MV60-69 0:58:59
471 GARDHAM, Sue FV35-44 0:59:54
478 BARROW, Louise F 1:00:08
479 MASON, Denise F 1:00:10
487 DICK, Barbara FV45-54 1:00:36
501 NICHOLSON, George MV60-69 1:01:05
529 HUDSON, Melanie FV35-44 1:01:56
530 ROBSON, David MV60-69 1:02:02
552 PRESTON, Katherine FV35-44 1:02:49
558 GARNHAM, Laura F 1:02:59
580 EVANS, Barrie John MV60-69 1:03:43
588 NICHOLSON, James MV60-69 1:03:58
613 FORD, Jill FV45-54 1:04:49
625 FARNSWORTH, Christine Anne FV60-69 1:05:27
675 CHALKLEY, Karen FV45-54 1:07:35
677 CLARK, Robert M 1:07:39
687 ELLIOT, Mike MV60-69 1:08:20
762 BUTLER, Katie F 1:13:42
786 THOMPSON, Margaret FV60-69 1:17:39

812 finishers.

Etape Caledonia, Pitlochry, 12th May

81M

Dougie Nisbet

Yes, it's true, in case you're wondering. The Etape Caledonia is indeed a walk in the park compared to the Etape Pennines. That's not to say it's easy, it's just not as hard or as brutal as the Pennines.

We were staying about a mile from the Start. 'Downstream' unfortunately, which meant that I wasn't sure how early to get out of bed and make my way along to the Start. The instructions suggested 'at least an hour', which meant there was potentially a lot of hanging around time shivering in a Pitlochry dawn waiting for my time to go. In the end I could have left things much later and found the pavements pretty clear even with the early starters already well on the way. I turned up with almost an hour to spare and settled down to wait. This was a very smooth operation; some wifie on a big chair they'd borrowed from Wimbledon was barking instructions to riders, while boards were held up indicating which wave should be where. I was in wave AA and not for the first time I wondered whether I was the only person in the universe who didn't make something up for their estimated finish time. Looking at some of the generously clad riders who shuffled past in the early waves I did suspect I'd be seeing them again before the finish. Finally it was wave AA's time to go! The final wave! I clunked into my pedals and felt a tingle of excitement as we followed the 4000+ riders north out of Pitlochry.

I'd expected to be frustrated by rider congestion but it wasn't that bad. I'd sit on a wheel for a while, rest, then bridge the gap to the next group. I tried working with riders but nobody was playing. Time and time again I'd follow a wheel, and when the rider peeled away I'd take a session, then move aside to discover they were not in my slipstream. It was a bit frustrating although I did catch the wheels of riders 298 & 299 for a few miles and belted along in their slipstream until Tummel Bridge where I had to let go. Shortly after a rider alerted me that my reading glasses had dropped out my pocket and I decided that the responsible thing would be to go back for them in case they went through a tyre. I pulled over, turned round, faced back down the narrow single-track road at the steady stream of cyclists coming the other way, and thought, nah, the glasses are staying where they are. They'll go nicely with the tacks and screws.

Dougie out on the road.

Approaching a feeding station a marshal with a megaphone bellowed clearly, "Feeding to the left; straight through on the right", which apparently means, stop anywhere and wander about chatting to your mates. Having tetchily negotiated the obstacle course I settled in with a loose bunch and felt eyes upon my bike. A voice said with a hint of incredulity, "Are they tubulars?!". Not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed, I said they were, the same ones that had done the Pennines, although they've roughed it up and down to Gateshead a few times since then. I was given a run-down of the course and the upcoming Schehallion, of which I was a little apprehensive, and then it started to rain.

I'd tried to go for a time in the Green Jersey timed section but had been thwarted by people riding four abreast and talking about last night's telly, but I was up for the King of the Mountains. Schehallion. The red mats appeared and I put the foot down. A minute or so later it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea how long Schehallion was. 1 mile? 3, 5? Perhaps I should've done some homework. I tried to pace my effort on where I imagined the finish might be, which in the end came sooner than I expected. Well if that was The Hill, it could have been far worse. A nice fast descent now, although not too fast as it was raining quite heavily now and I wasn't riding on the grippiest tyres in the world.

On and off solo riding until about 20 miles to go when two riders passed who were clearly working together. I thought, I'm having some of that and leapt on the wheel. Initially I let the working rider in front of me, but after a bit of non-verbal communication I made it clear I was willing to do my bit. They looked at me and the bike and presumably decided to risk letting me mix in and help out, and then followed an absolutely fantastic 5 miles or so of fast riding. It was good old fashioned close-formation chain-gang stuff and we overtook other riders as if they were standing still. I knew I couldn't keep it up but I intended to work with these guys and beat the clock as long as I could. We charged through a feeding station and during one of my spells at the front I looked ahead and was sure I could see someone driving a Chaise Longue. Sure enough, it was Durham Tri's Ian Mackenzie, more commonly seen with Allan Seheult trackside on Wednesdays, riding on a recumbent. I managed to shout a few words of encouragement as we flew past at a speed I knew was unsustainable. Another mile or two and I was burnt out. I thanked my chain gang for the lift and took my foot of the throttle.

The final big climb was a cheeky little number in the last 10 miles to Pitlochry. I was pretty tired but encouraged to see my name splashed on the road as I hit the last hill. Soon we were in the outskirts of Pitlochry and a spectator shouted, "800 metres to go. If you've anything left, give it all NOW!". I got very excited. I had something left, and I gave it all! Sadly with 600 metres still to go we turned a corner and there was a long drag to the finish and the waiting crowd. I'd given my all and it had all gone. I was knackered and feeling slightly foolish as I slowed down for a rest at the very time I should have been sprinting for home. But the line came quickly enough and the race was over. As I crossed the line I heard the commentator say that there were just under 1000 riders still to finish. Given that I started in the 27th and final wave I reckon I must've passed most of those in the last 5 hours. I thought it was busy.

Overall compared to the Pennines I'd have to say I prefer the Caledonia course. The hills are gentler so it's possible to get into some sort of rhythm, and you can fly down the descents without having to touch the brakes every few seconds. Despite the 4000+ field there was rarely a problem with congestion, although next year I'm going to get into an earlier wave and see if I can sit on a few more wheels.

Beverley 10k, 12th May

Rachael Bullock

I always look forward to running in my ‘home’ county of East Yorkshire, and this was a race I had never done before, but I knew it was a very popular one, so I signed up nice and early. It would also be my first 10 K (my favourite distance) of the year and I had been in better form than ever lately, so I was super excited about the race and felt confident of getting a good time! Vdot, based on my recent Parkrun time, told me 46-47 mins. I had never even broken 50 before, but, spurred on by my recent form, I proceeded to tattoo my arm with the appropriate mile splits to achieve 47 minutes.

As we lined up for the start next to Beverley minster, I was getting quite nervous and thinking about how stupid I was to aim for 47 mins and how demoralising it was going to be to look down at my arm and realise I was hopelessly behind schedule!! And then I realised I forgot to drink before lining up...and it was really quite warm...ahh!

Oh well...off we went, felt like I was running quite slow but was glad when I realised I was ahead of schedule for the first mile (of course, I always go off too fast). But then as we left the town centre and onto the Westwood (a nice green place with a race course, a golf course and lots of cows), we started to go up a small hill and I was struggling already and also has a horrible stomach ache! This hill gradually got longer and steeper, but I fought on up it, even though I was already feeling knackered. Luckily the course is very pleasant (Beverley is a very nice market town surrounded by rolling countyside), so maybe that helped to ease some of the pain. By the second mile, I was behind schedule by about 30 secs, but I tried not to let it worry me, and I had expected it anyway! Changed my target to anything under 50 mins...!

Next 2 miles were a bit more enjoyable. But by around mile 4 I started to feel pretty horrible - had a cold, prickly feeling on my skin; maybe I was dehydrated. Think I took the 5th mile pretty slow. But then at 5 miles, an old compadre from Pock runners, Adele (who I was normally about 10 mins behind when I used to run for them!), came from behind with some words of encouragement...and this was just what I needed, it helped me SO MUCH and I was so grateful! Spent the last mile-and-a-bit duelling with her. It was great, I have never really battled like that with anyone before in a race (I normally just give in, claiming that ‘I like to run my own race’!)! The last mile also goes back down the hill across the Westwood and the wind was behind us, which helped a lot.

As we re-entered the town I knew the finish must be close and tried to give everything I had. As usual, I gave this a bit too early and when what I thought was the finish was actually the 6-mile marker, I thought I was going to have to walk last 0.2 miles! But somehow I kept going, though by now I couldn’t quite catch Adele. And did I manage the sub-50?! Yes! 48.08 – better than I thought I was going to achieve during my mid-race struggles! Geees was it hard though! I really don’t want to go back over 50 mins again now...but if it’s going to be that hard everytime...well...I ain’t looking forward to 10 K’s so much as I used to!! Overall a very nice race though...and I will remember it very well as my first sub-50 :-)

Cowpen Bewley Trail Race, Billingham, 9th May

5K

Stewart Mcconnell

I was made aware of this race series after reading a previous race report for the Wynyard race on this website so when I saw that they had a Billingham event I thought I would check it out. The race was pretty local to me and it was in an area where I spent a lot of my misspent youth, the site was a local refuse site when I was younger and I was keen to see how they had transformed it into a local nature spot.

I was under the impression that this would be a small very low key event so I was shocked on turning up that the car park was overflowing and the place was jammed, looking around at the runners and there were people wearing club kits from all over the place-nymac, Gateshead and lots of Marsh house harriers. As I made my way up to register I bumped into the 2 other striders in the race, Alister was chirpy as always and was lining up for his 3rd race of the week(the man is a machine) and I met Mel and her friend Paul and we made our way to the start. The race route was a two lap affair that passed the finish line a few hundered meters into each lap and was in a kind of figure of eight shape, it was mainly grassy single track with some gravelly paths and a biggish hill thrown in to boot.

The race start resembled a cross country start with 200 or so runners all trying to filter into a small track, a bit of elbowing and we are all passing the finish on the first lap, the weather was kind and the course was quite nice so the first lap flew by with the hill not feeling too bad, the runners started to thin out so it made it easier to make progress winding through the wooded trails on route to the hill for the second time, the hill this time didn’t feel so easy and I was glad I didn’t have a heart rate monitor on as I think the result would have scared me. With only half a lap and a quick downhill we were soon at the finish, crossing the line my first impression is the race was short but my garmin was spot on 5k, Alister, Mel and Paul finished shortly after me and there were some classic sprint finishes at the line.

All in all it was a well marshalled and pleasant event and at only £3 a go it’s a cheap way to push yourself in a race condition on a weeknight, I will certainly be doing more in the series.

Les Allcorn 10K, Hulne Park, Alnwick, 7th May

Graeme Walton

I entered this one a while ago after reading a couple of reports on the website describing at as scenic and undulating. With temperatures exceeding 20 degrees I left Durham with Alister and Megan and we headed for Alnwick. A 7:30pm midweek start time meant it was always going to be a bit tight to get there on time but we made it with time to spare (10 minutes), picked up our numbers and made our way to the start line.

Before the off ...

The temperature had now dropped to a very pleasant 12 degrees so off I went for the first time this year wearing just a vest (and shorts of course). The route started on trails and for the first couple of miles was mainly uphill. I didn’t have a race plan other than to enjoy the scenery so I dropped into a nice rhythm and fought my way up the hills. I’d had a quick word with Alister who had told me that after the initial climbing the course was all downhill, sounds good to me I thought. After reaching the high point there was a lovely downhill section lasting for about a mile and a half which was all on tarmac getting me to the halfway point. A welcome drinks station at this point prepared me nicely for the second half of the race. The rest of the route was on trails some of which were a little rough underfoot with a few cattle grids to either avoid or run over the sheets of plywood placed on them.

I was able to give it a bit of a sprint finish which brought me home quite close to my PB so I was well chuffed. I was soon followed in by Alister with Bill chasing him home on the way to a massive PB. Megan, Ian, Louise, Dave and Melanie all finished strongly completing the Striders contingent. The finish was back near the parking area saving any walking after a tough run.

Despite this being a bit of a hike midweek this is a beautiful run with some stunning scenery that make this a must for me again next year.

Tees Barrage 10K, 6th May

Paul Pascoe

After picking up Simon and Alister we headed off to the Tees Barrage 10k. My fourth occasion running this race, a relatively flat course along the River Tees with a couple of bridges to cross. The weather fairies had promised a sunny day 18C° but as we arrived and left the car there was a stiff breeze cooling the air. I was on a mission this year, after my good run of form of lately, I felt confident of beating my time from last year.

Spring is in the air ...

On the sound of the air horn, we set off heading towards Newport Bridge, crossed over the river and back towards Stockton-on-Tees. This is the stage where we hit the head on wind and it became decidedly tougher. It seems like a long path along to the 5k mark where there was a water stop which was very welcome on this warm morning.

Once past the water stop it was another couple of kilometres before the second river crossing where we eventually had a bit of respite with a tail wind. Although it still wasn’t a straight route back. You head along and into the twists and turns of the canals some of which you didn’t realise the length until you rounded the corner. After three canal paths, it was a short sprint to the finish line. Simon gave me a cheer as I sprinted to the finish and I was overly pleased when I noticed that not only had I got a new 10k pb, but it was 2.53 minutes faster than last year. Next came in Alister looking strong, then Katy, Mel, Dave and Angela. Also congratulations to new Striders Richard and Becky.

A fantastic run and hopefully will be back next year looking for another pb. Click on the link for the Route.

Geneva Half Marathon, 5th May

Peter McGowan

Couldn't make the Duke social run tonight as on way back from doing the Geneva half marathon. I only entered because my eldest girl (Rachel) lives and works there and it was an event which could be linked with a family get together. Unfortunately, Rachel had a knee injury and wasn't able to start the race and Zak is too young, but my youngest daughter (Laura) and me managed to complete the course...Laura 1:49 and Me 2:00.

I don't know if anyone else in the club has taken part in the Geneva half or full marathon, but I can highly recommend it. A free tram up to the start, which is in a picturesque suburb of Geneva, then as the run sets off it's soon meandering through beautiful countryside and exquisite villages until it reaches the lake. The view of the of the lake dotted with boats, a city backdrop and the fabulous water jet fountain is breathtaking. The run then heads towards metropolis of Geneva, crossing the Rhone and then winding through the architectural delight of the city, into a park, then back along the side of the lake and finishing on one of the wonderful bridges.

The organisation and logistics were excellent and the atmosphere superb...altogether a fabulous weekend with my son and two daughters...can't wait for next year...it's going to be an annual event.

Camperdown parkrun, Dundee, 4th May

5K

Conrad White

The sun was shining and the daffodils were out in force and I even got an extra half hour in bed, as the Dundee park run starts at half past nine. They have a cushy life north of Hadrian’s wall! Not a course for a park run PB, but if you did it slower last time then you can get a PB this time. And this was my first PB since my third Durham run in September 2011. That has to be good.

As always the Camperdown parkrun, like all the other parkruns I have done or read about, is a very friendly, sociable affair. The course less so (but it is only 5km not 26 miles!). You start by going down, then go up for a (longer than I liked) while through some scenic woods by the golf course, then go down and around some more woods and finish by going up. “They” reckon the hills add a minute or so to your time.

Having had a bit of a tumble over a tree root and a swollen ankle in the handicap 10 days ago (picture evidence can be provided if required - but I will spare the squeamish) I was well pleased to be taking part and also taking the best part of a minute off my previous attempt from the end of last year. Not sure what our “team physio” would say, but after the handicap fall, Ian McKenzie told me, as he drove me home, that the advice now was to “get going”. So well strapped up - A very slow careful mile jog on Monday, two miles slightly faster on Tuesday and three on Wednesday - then the parkrun. Certainly I would not recommend going over on the ankle, even now - but if feels surprisingly good considering how it looks. I am hopeful that my next outing will be the Snods 6. Then having duped the handicappers, I will try and get all around the handicap on the 22nd. Viva parkrun!

Bright Red’s Freeman Fun Run, Newcastle, 4th May

5K

Simon Gardner

This was a very rare parkrun day off for me, I can’t remember the last time I did not run or volunteer at a parkrun but this was an event which I thought would be nice to do.

Bright Red is north east based charity which is there to support and improve the lives of people in the north east who have been affected by blood cancer. There are 3 main types of blood cancer – leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Another reason I was keen to do this run was that someone I work with was diagnosed with Leukemia just over a year ago he has thankfully fully recovered and it was great to see him on the start line with his family. I have to be honest that I was not 100% sure if I was going to run and did think about just having a rare Saturday off but thankfully I saw sense and was picked up early on Saturday morning

The start area was in the Paddy Freeman Park which is opposite the Freeman hospital and after a quick look around we headed for the registration area were we picked up our numbers and chip timing band.

After a zumba warm up for the masses given by someone who looked like she had got dressed in the dark (it will be a cold day in hell before I zumba) the faster runners were asked to come forward to the start and the running legend that is Charlie Spedding set us on our way. The route took us initially around the park and then around the pitches before setting off into jesmond dene. It’s a very beautiful area but it’s a tricky place to run several steps and a climb which brings you back up to the fields which one of the organisers called the b*****d hill (I wholeheartedly agree with him)

I crossed the finish line just over the 20 minute mark but to be honest the results and position don’t matter it was just great to see lots of people turn out for a great cause. The goody bag was excellent: T-shirt, oat bar, haribo, water and a More Mile phone carrier for runners.

My colleague George from work finished in 28min 30sec and in 37th position which was excellent especially after injuring his calf during the week (welcome to wonderful world of running George)

Editor's note: Simon modestly fails to point out that he was 4th out of the 163 runners. Well done mate! Ed.

Neptune Relays, Sedgefield, 1st May

4x1.7m

Simon Gardner

I had just missed out on this event last year as it was just before I'd joined the club so when Louise sent the email around for this event I signed up straight away. This is just my kind of event: short (1.7 mile for each runner and four runners in each team), fast and none of this 26.2 mile running around Sunderland malarkey ;)

After meeting Louise at the registration we finally had our numbers and I was in a team with Adam, Alister and Graeme. Adam already had it in mind that we should take either the first or last legs leaving our marathon specialists to take on legs two and three. As Adam was the fastest runner by far in our group it made sense that he should take the first leg so he could compete with the full pack and it was a great chance for him to compare his progression against some of the fastest runners around.

Massive Sea of Purple at the Neptune Relays.

After a short delay all the first leg runners were called to the start line for the mass start. Adam had a fantastic race finishing in 8:40 against some top quality opposition. As soon as Adam hit the finish line then Alister was sent on his way by the marshal.

I started to get fairly nervous at this point, I had this nightmare thought of Graeme coming in and I completely miss him and am left standing watching the race but thankfully it was easy to spot him coming into the finishing straight (you also had Alister shouting just to make sure). As soon as I spotted Graeme I made way onto the start area and waited for the marshal to shout my team number and I was away.

One other runner was set off at the same time and he had opened up about a 20-metre lead from me within the first 400M so I decided just to try and hang on making sure he did not open up a bigger gap. I heard my watch beep at the 1 mile point so I thought it was time to increase the pace and try and catch the runner in front. As we approached the back of the temple and at the start of the short hill climb towards the finish we were neck and neck and a flat out sprint finish was in full flow.

This was fantastic and even though he hung on and beat me by the smallest of margins I had thoroughly enjoyed the race finishing in an unofficial time of 9:39. With hindsight I probably should have been more aggressive and attacked him earlier but hey there is always next time.

This was a great event and I would encourage any club member to have a go. It's set in a beautiful park and you will get fantastic support from all your fellow club members. Don't worry about thinking you're too slow it doesn't matter, you will be put in a team of similar ability and the support from the your club members is fantastic.