Race Reports, September 2013

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Redcar Half Marathon, 29th September

Conrad White

Apart from "a bit of wind" from about 6 – 10 miles – it was OK. Blue sky, fluffy clouds and not too warm and essentially a pretty flat course on closed roads with cheering folk. The course is an out and back then out and back again with the run going through the start/finish at 7 miles. This was my return to half marathons – not having done one for about 8 years I was hopeful but unsure how I would make the distance.

As it happened there was one of those trains I have heard and read about with Graham Walton, Paul Pascoe, Alister Robson and a couple of Alister’s mates going along at the right time. Graham said 7.15 gets you 1.35 which was around what I was hoping for. We were pretty well all together and on schedule for the first 7. Alister injected a bit of pace where the course first doubled back as he seemed to be cheering everyone on but was reined back. After 7 miles we were all together and the course heads out onto the coast road (open to any wind and on this occasion it was against us). It felt like Graham then picked up the pace but maybe I dropped off a bit for those three miles but managed to edge ahead of Paul and Alister. The turn just after 10 was bliss with a warm tail wind and my pace increased and I was able to pass a few who were maybe feeling the effects.

A mini Sea of Purple.

As it turned out at the finish I was just under the 1.35 – so many thanks to "the train" for support and keeping me sensible at the start. As always I think the Striders support at the end is second to none and as runners finished the group of supporting striders increased in number and volume.

I understand the course is not always as friendly and the wind can be worse (colder/stronger/in a worse direction) but today it was almost as good as we could hope for. No wind would have been just fantastic – maybe another year.


PosName Club CatTime
1 Paul Pollock Kent AC M 01:07:25
25 Shona Fletcher Richmond & Zetland Harriers F 01:21:22
153 Graeme Walton MV40 01:33:03
183 Conrad White MV55 01:34:28
205 Paul Pascoe MV40 01:35:36
308 Katy Walton F 01:40:18
315 Alister Robson MV40 01:40:26
340 Brian Ford MV45 01:41:46
350 John Hutchinson MV55 01:42:20
482 Lucy Cowton F 01:47:33
505 Matthew Crow M 01:48:06
540 Jackie Mckenna FV45 01:49:20
546 Lim Danny M 01:49:35
611 Paul Andrew Beal MV50 01:51:55
622 Anita Clementson FV40 01:52:25
694 Greta Jones FV45 01:56:14
702 Kirsty Anderson FV35 01:56:29
755 Sarah Fawcett FV50 01:59:15
822 Jacquie Robson FV35 02:03:40
845 Rebecca Fisher FV35 02:04:31
846 Richard Hall M 02:04:32
900 Victoria Walton FV35 02:07:45
956 Joe O''Neil MV60 02:11:59
963 Mike Elliott MV65 02:12:39
985 Susan Jennings FV45 02:14:47

1155 finishers.

Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Tanfield, 28th September

Mudman & Mudwoman

The cross country season started on Saturday with the Sherman Cup / Davidson Shield and was greeted by a beautiful warm late summer afternoon. The new venue at Tanfield was near perfect: plenty of easily accessible parking, event centre close by, lots of room for club tents, a grassy undulating course and all in a pleasant rural setting - what more could you ask for (mud, rain, cold, hills etc?)!

Here we go again ...

After a minor revolution at this year's HL AGM the senior women's race started before the men's. The Sea of Purple numbered 15 Striderettes with no less than five making their x/c debut! An impressive field of 184 women (a record for this competition I suspect) set off in the sunshine and Rachel Terry was the first to show and she led the team through the two lap course. Everyone had brilliant runs with debutant Fiona Jones chasing Mudwoman to the end. Our other Newbies all enjoyed themselves with Kirsty, Debbie, Victoria and Paula putting in a wonderful effort and all seemed elated at the end. Jacquie Robson had a particularly impressive and determined run - she took no prisoners in her sprint to the line! This all bodes well for the 2013-14 season which is likely to prove particularly tough in Division 1. Nonetheless, we've got bags of determination and enthusiasm which should do the old club proud!

The men's race was next up and 16 Strider men joined the huge field (324 - another record) on the congested start line. Adam Walker, making his debut at senior level, shot off and even Old Tom couldn't catch him over the three lap course. The sun was blazing down by now but debutant Rob Everson chased both Toms around to finish 4th Strider home. Jon Steed, also making his debut, had a tough race but declared his unbounded enthusiasm for x/c at the end. Other old hands put in tremendous efforts with Richard Hall making Mudman himself work much harder than he wanted to in the sunshine! Well done everyone, with some more debutants and the return on one or two old lags you never know we might be in with a shout for promotion this season?!

Grit, and indeed, determination!

But what a fantastic day! Sunshine, cake, happy children and Mudwoman's birthday - it might take some topping - but I'm sure we'll manage it when the mud arrives!!


Men - Sherman Cup
1 Nick Swinburn Morpeth Harriers & AC 29:42
49 Adam Walker 35:57
96 Tom Reeves 38:16
109 Tom Spurling 38:49
116 Rob Everson 39:06
166 Geoff Davis 41:12
167 Richard Hall (1) 41:16
189 Shaun Roberts 42:18
196 Mike Bennett 42:35
199 Michael Hughes 42:45
218 Marco van der Bremer 43:27
219 Michael Terry 43:33
224 Alister Robson 43:48
226 Jon Steed 43:56
229 Aaron Gourley 44:03
261 Richard Hockin 46:15
313 Phil Owen 51:58

324 finishers.

Women - Davison Shield
1 Alex Snook Jarrow & Hebburn AC 23:34
35 Rachel Terry 27:40
46 Fiona Shenton 28:20
73 Susan Davis 30:46
76 Fiona Jones 31:04
105 Paula Timlin 32:29
106 Jean Bradley 32:30
116 Kirsty Anderson 32:49
123 Jacquie Robson 33:14
134 Jan Young 33:42
152 Louise Billcliffe 35:10
154 Barbara Dick 35:21
156 Jill Ford 35:39
171 Victoria Downes 38:12
172 Nicola van den Bremer-Hornsby 38:12
176 Debbie McFarland 39:38

184 finishers.

Sedgefield Serpentine, 22nd September


Alister Robson

I haven't done this race for a few years, I think it usually clashes with the Lockington Half that we usually do near Jacquie's parents in Beverley.

I nearly didn't do it this year, and probably wouldn't if the Prudhoe Miners Race website hadn't said it wasn't taking entries on the day. In hindsight that's looking a good decision having read Simon's report.

Jacquie wasn't going to do this either but was relatively easily persuaded when I told her it was flat and scenic. I didn't lie about the scenery- Hardwick Park is beautiful at the best of times and certainly on a lovely warm morning like Sunday, and I certainly didn't intend to lie about it being flat - I just completely misremembered most of the entire race.

I remembered setting off across the field then twisting through the park past the Serpentine lake, I had just completely forgotten about the rest of the run, where you climb at every turn through the woods at the back of the golf course and across parts of the same course as the Gerry Kearsley Summer and winter handicaps that Sedgefield Harriers also put on.

John H in action.

Feeling the effects of the previous day's Thropton show fell race I was out of steam just after the half way mark and had to slow and shamefully walk. John Hutch and Richard Hockin romped past me but somehow I kept ahead of the other Striders including Melanie, who despite a tumble in the woods, still picked up a prize.

Speaking of prizes that was a real Sophie's choice - you could either have a bottle of beer (usually a no-brainer) or an adidas hat (likewise) after umming and ahhing for a good 10 minutes I plumped for the hat and luckily was able to convince Jacquie to pick up the beer. A free mars bar then a very tasty pint and burger from the BBQ helped ease the pain too.

A tough but enjoyable test, and congratulations particularly to Kathryn Sygrove's other half, Malcolm who ran his first 10k Race and to all at Sedgefield harriers including about 30odd cheery marshals aged from about 5 or 6 upwards!

Prudhoe Miners 10K, 22nd September

Simon Gardner

After not competing in the Darlington 10K due to fitness and being at the Ashes cricket I decided I needed to get my racing flats on and race a 10K again. I had noticed that this race was being advertised as having a much changed course from last year which they said this year was much flatter with some good downhill sections. I was not in great shape to be honest with a slight cold and being plagued by Achilles problems again but thought a flat fast 10K would show me where I am at the moment.

So after picking up my number from the leisure centre in Prudhoe I soon joined by Gareth and we made our way down to the start.

Now the course description on northeastraces.com read like this:

"the course is significantly different from last year's course"; "with the exception of the approx 0.25M ascent of Beaumont Way, this course is essentially flat and downhill, starting in the town centre and finishing down by the river Tyne - so a good course for a fast time, but also an easy and often scenic run for those who want to run at their own pace".

What a load of rubbish, we started on a hill and basically continued to climb, with the occasional flat which gave some respite before the next climb, just when I thought we must be at the top I ran towards a steward who directed us up a monster of a hill. They were already a couple of club runners walking at certain points up it. I refused to walk it so slowed and worked my way to the top. I had gone from a 6:28min for mile one to a 7:29 for mile two (the first two mile are basically running uphill).

At the top the hills have finally finished and you basically work your way back down towards the start before turning down and heading towards the finish at Ovingham. The run down is much easier although I’m not the quickest at running downhill (or up) this aerobically was much more comfortable.

The last KM or so is exactly the same as the Tynedale 10K which while I’m not the biggest fan off I knew exactly where the finish would be. I crossed the line in just over 40min which I was little disappointed with but I guess it’s not so bad with my total lack of distance training. Gareth had another outstanding run completing the course in sub 38min. One last thing we were promised a finishers T-shirt but they ran out! Considering they were no entries on the day it was pretty poor a bit like the course description. However I may be back next year to get that sub-40.

Kirkstall Abbey 7, 22nd September


Conrad White

What can you do if you go to Leeds for a family birthday weekend and the birthday boy asks if you want to run the Kirkstall Abbey 7 (Which is only 6.8). So that was Sunday morning sorted and meant keeping a clear head on the Saturday.

The run sets off from the grounds of Kirkstall Abbey, along the pavement of the main road, then off road, through some houses and onto the canal tow path for a couple of miles. The canal path is scenic and when it goes under a bridge or two quite narrow. The course then doubles back up over fields and tracks, through the residential housing and back onto the pavement and home in Kirkstall Abbey grounds. The weather was good for running. They bill the race as multi terrain and suggest trail shoes but it was dry enough for standard trainers. The field limit was 300 - but they were a bit short so were taking entries on the day. The goodie bag comprised water, a banana and a very good bottle of local beer - my sort of race.

'Photo to prove I was trying', says Conrad ...

If you happen to be in Leeds at a loose end towards the end of September next year look this one up - thoroughly enjoyable indeed

As for the results - there was a chap I was determined to beat incase there was a chance of an age prize (he looked just a bit older than me) but we were both well beaten by a significantly older gentleman. My son on this occasion was the second White home. He blamed an ankle injury.

Hoof it for Henshaws!

Harrogate to Durham Charity Relay, 21–22nd September

Angela Proctor ...

The Relay reaches Helmsley ...

What a brilliant weekend people had! It was packed full of adventure. I have been overwhelmed by the camaraderie, support and generosity from everyone and total strangers.

The weekend would not have taken place if it hadn't been for the hard work Geoff Watson and Dave Shipman put into the planning and the logistics of the whole event. This is one of many reasons Elvet Striders is a great club to be in.



... but the pressure's starting to tell on Angela.


Geoff estimates that everyone achieved 500 miles.

We have raised approximately £740.35 for Henshaws.

Overall I know it has been a great experience and successful weekend. We have run in some amazing scenery and had a good laugh along the way.


Thank you all so much for the weekend.


... and Sue Jennings:

I ran the leg from Thorpe Thewles Station to Hurworth Burn Station with Angela, Dave and Mike. The run was lovely along the old railway line – the sun was shining and it was very warm. We completed the section in less than the time allocated which was great as I was worried about doing this especially in the heat.

I then cycled the next section with Louise, Mike, Dave and Geoff which again I thoroughly enjoyed even though there were loads of nettles and Dave had to carry my bike at one point. Would have liked to have cycled the last section back to Maiden Castle but it wasn’t suitable for a bike so drove back to wait for the last leg to come in. And when we ran to the Castle it was great that there were loads of people sitting outside waiting to see the Lindisfarne Gospels, as well as a few Elvet Striders who had turned out to greet those who had been involved in the relays.

Had a great afternoon and thought it was a great team effort and enjoyed everyone’s company.

Thank you to Geoff, David and Angela for organising the relay. I am so pleased it raised so much money for Henshaws.

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Simonside Fell Race, Thropton Show, 21st September

6.4M 1200' Cat BM

Graeme Walton

Well that was tougher than I expected!

With the weather fair Alister and I headed up to Thropton to take part in the fell race that was part of the Thropton Show. We arrived in time to spectate in a bit of Terrier Racing and then along with Mike Hughes it was off to the start. After a pre-race briefing from Phil Green we were off and running.

The first half mile or so was steady and relatively flat. The "fun" was about to start with the river crossing. This turned out to be simple enough and was actually quite refreshing to feel the cool water splashing over my legs. From here we all headed onto an incline through a field and then onto a long drag uphill on differing surfaces. Just as I thought I must be getting somewhere near the summit the real challenge came into view. This next ascent was viscous, climbing up through the rocks to finally reach the high point of the race where the stunning views could not really be appreciated.

Coming down is not my strong point and I lost a couple of places as the more seasoned fell runners showed a lot more courage than I did! As the terrain improved and the gradient lessened my pace improved, picking up a few places. It was then back down through the field, across the river and a quick run to the finish line with terrific support from the spectators. Mike and Alister soon followed with us all in agreement that it was a fab race but we were pleased it was over!

Can't wait for it next year!


PosName Club CatPosTime
1 Morgan Donnelly Borrowdale MV40 44.08
9 Jo Gascoigne-Owens Alnwick F 52.19
29 Graeme Walton MV40 59.17
51 Mike Hughes MV45 64.53
67 Alister Robson MV40 72.31

99 finishers.

Good Shepherd Fell Race, Mytholmroyd, 21st September

13.1M / 2000'

Paul Evans

A half marathon in September tends to mean the GNR for most Striders, understandably so given the proximity to Durham and the enormous amount of publicity surrounding it. Distance aside, the Good Shepherd has nothing in common with it; no crowds, no tarmac, no high-fiving runners suddenly stopping and, at times, no idea where you are.

Essentially, this is an end-of-season romp around the southern slopes of the Calder valley, taking in terrain familiar to anyone who's done the first 3 legs of the Calderdale Relay - think sodden moorlands, reservoirs and greasy, precipitous slopes. A starting field of around 100 began with an immediate long drag through lush fields and woods onto the exposed slopes below the Stoodley Pike monument, where things started to unravel for several, as a layer of mist reduced visibility to around twenty yards and made finding the enormous lump of stone harder than one would think. This achieved, by the well-recognised tactic of following someone who looked like they knew where they were going, there followed a treacherous descent to a reservoir(CP2) and a sharp climb through peat and bracken thick enough to both serve as a reminder that this area is essentially a giant, soft sponge, and to delay one of the elite runners as they searched for a sucked-off shoe.

By the top of this second climb, I was 22nd and running well, though the mist didn't really allow me to see how far ahead the next runner was, occasional glimpses as we hand-railed a man-made drain being all I got. The drop down to Mankinholes (CP4) cost me a couple more places, which were regained on the steepest climb of the day, CP5 being Stoodley Pike again; it was an enormous relief to touch the cold stone of the monument and rest for a few seconds, as my thighs were now burning badly.

After this point, it feels as if the logical course for the race to take would be to drop rapidly off the moors back to Mytholmroyd, with a high-speed, risk-taking descent providing a dangerous yet exhilerating finish. Instead, the course loops east, a gradual descent taking us through woodland and farms down to the road, before another sharp climb up an overgrown woodland path, a long runnable section through the woods and downhill, which allowed me to shake off the pack I'd been running with since CP4, and a final mile hand-railing a railway line back to the village centre. In honesty, the final three miles felt a lot like cross country practice.

A sub-2 hour half marathon, just (1hr 59mins, 12th overall, the winner managing 1hr 41 mins). Beaten by some distance by some elite runners. A fast, flat finish. A rather enjoyable day - was this so different from the GNR after all? Given that I had change from a ten pound note, I'll let you draw your own conclusions...

Petzl Lake District Mountain Trial, Rosthwaite, 15th September


Dougie Nisbet

I'm not normally nervous for races. But there are a few that cause me a few flutters. Top of the list is the Lake District Mountain Trial, which I did for the first time last year. The LDMT is an intriguing event. They don't tell you where the start is until two weeks before the event. And then you don't know where you're going until you cross the start line and they hand you a map. Wherever you're going it's probably going to involve about 15-20 miles and 8000-10000 feet of climb. Roughly.

Last year I finished. Just inside the checkpoint cutoff times. I'd vowed to be fitter and brighter this year for the 60th running of the event, but I felt neither fit, nor bright. Or confident. And the weather was foul. Last night it was lovely, but this morning it was manky.

Roberta dropped me off at the start and I went to registration. Kit Check, which was thorough, had been moved indoors, seeing as how it was tipping down outside. My bum bag and rucksack were pretty light, mainly because I had all my wet weather gear on. The rain looked as if it was in no mood to stop anytime soon. My number was ticked, and I got registered. I collected my dibber, which they prefer to attach to your wrist themselves, and I pinned my number to my vest. I checked and rechecked my kit and waited. My Start Time was 0853. Then an announcement was made that the Start would be deferred for 30 minutes. Great. Another 30 minutes to be nervous.

I wandered around and bumped into the runner who was in front of me at last week's Grisedale Horseshoe. He was doing the medium course, as he felt the long 'classic' course was too much. This wasn't helping my confidence, although we would in fact be running on shortened courses due to the weather. So the Classic dropped from 18 miles and 9500 feet of climb to 14 miles and 4800 feet off climb. Sounds quite easy when put like that. I went back into the youth hostel and sat in the dining room. Andy Blacket and Duncan Archer from DFR showed up and I chatted to them for a bit, but mostly I just sat, nervously, waiting for my start.

Just after 9AM a lady walked into the room. She spread her hands and without preamble announced, “It's off, it's off. Spread the message.”. And that was it.

This was a whole new experience for me. Not only was I nervous, I was also ready to go. Kit checked, dibber on, number on, mentally and psychologically ready to. I looked around the room and most people were pretty subdued. A bit of nervous laughter and relief here and there, but I think most of us were mentally ready for whatever was out there. I was still feeling nervy, even though the race was cancelled. Very strange sensation.

You can read the organisers' explanation for the last minute cancellation on the LDMT website. They really had a thankless task and that must have been a tough decision to make, but I don't think they had any choice. I'm massively disappointed not to have competed but it's clear that the decision to cancel was the right one. I still haven't opened the special edition bottle of beer brewed for this year. It just doesn't seem right. It's such a shame that the 60th anniversary of this great event should end like this, but that's racing.

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Great North Run, 15th September

Kerry Lister ...

15th September 2013, my 42nd birthday and my first Great North Run, what a way to celebrate!

Way back when the Daily Mirror Ballot for places for the GNR 2013 opened I hadn’t even ran a 5k never mind contemplated a half marathon but I entered and was shocked when I received the email saying I had a place. Because I had no concept of pacing I had put down it would take between 3-4 hours for me to complete so when my race pack arrived I was allocated Pink K – right at the back.

Over the last 4 or 5 months I have been training reasonably hard mainly by myself because of shiftwork but getting a few runs in with the Peterlee Ladies Running Club and some long runs on a Sunday morning with some Elvet Striders at Broom Park.

Trying to decide what to wear with the weather forecast being wet, cold and windy and packing my bag with warm waterproof clothing, my pre, during and after drinks and peanut butter, banana and honey bagel and gels I met the Peterlee Ladies for our bus to Newcastle. Felt like the shortest journey ever.

Arriving in Newcastle felt like joining a huge running club, there were runners of all shapes, sizes and ages all over the place. Even I couldn’t get lost getting to the baggage buses and starting pens.

We dropped our bags off on the pink bus and made our way to the pink starting pen, the queues for the loos were immense so we went ‘the natural way’ as were many others.

What an atmosphere! When the starting gun went off it took us 40 minutes to actually cross the starting line then we were off. Thankfully the rain held off until we were actually running then only lasted for a few minutes before going off again. Making sure we didn’t shoot off too quickly wasn’t a problem because we could hardly move so slow and steady away we went.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the first 2 miles went and that seemed to carry on throughout the whole event. The support from the crowds was amazing and also from the other runners – lots of ‘happy birthday’ shout outs as I went by.

My race plan had been to have a little 30 second walk every 4 mile but I got carried away with myself and ran the entire way, which I am immensely proud of. We never even registered the legendary John Reid Road climb, one of the benefits of living and training in County Durham.

Arriving in familiar South Shields territory was amazing, I am a native sand dancer, and memories of my younger days watching previous Great North Run finishes came flooding back, I would never have thought one day it would be me crossing the line with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

I really enjoyed my first Great North Run and am sure it will not be my last and definitely a birthday I won’t ever forget.

... George Nicholson ...

As most of you know the Great North Run has always been very special to me.

This year certainly ranks as ‘one of the best’ . For me the build up started on the 10th August when I did my parkrunathon down in the West Midlands. Nowadays if you wish to carry out large fundraising for an event, you have to do something more than the event itself!

Then I received the exciting news that I was lucky enough to be selected in Mel C’s North Team in the JUST TEXT GIVING challenge, and we had our training day & photoshoot on August 15th at Gateshead Stadium. Mel lived up to expectations, Sporty, fit, and certainly a very nice Spice. I was thrilled to meet up with the rest of Team North. A group of truly wonderful inspirational young people. We all had our stories to tell of why we were fundraising, all of us have ‘bonded’ extremely well over the last few weeks, thanks in the main to being able to keep in touch with each other via a private closed Group on Facebook. Firm friends for life after this shared experience I am sure.

One story that does stand out is young Robyn Hadley, just turned 21, please find time to read it: http://www.justgiving.com/robynhadley.

Our next meeting was at the Pasta Party in Gateshead the day of the City Games and Junior GNR’s. Again, exciting, good fun, and the chance to meet and be photographed with Celebs. With the added bonus of winning £50 for Acorns in VODAFONE official ‘Text Code ‘ Picture on their stand, it was yet another good day.

I’d been asked by BBC Radio Newcastle to send in some ‘Live Feed’ Pictures and text at the start, during the run, and at the finish. Taking pictures were not a problem, Texting and sending them without my glasses was though. So I was thrilled to be able to have my great friend Karen Chalkley alongside me to assist as my ‘Running buddy’ for the day. Karen has been such a good and loyal supporter to me for many years and she deserved her added bonus of a VIP wristband into Zone A at the start and Hospitality Tent at the finish. Little did I know though that she had a superior wristband than mine and gained access into a more Exclusive area than me! J

As for the run itself, nothing I can really add to the other reports, or in Vodafone’s Official Blog. My pictures will also hopefully give a good indication of the thrill of starting at the very front. I was disappointed not to be able to keep under 2 hours, but for me The GNR has never been a ‘time’. It’s everything else that takes place around it that makes it so special.

Team South have to prove what they can do at the Great South Run in October, but whatever they achieve TEAM NORTH can feel rightly pleased and proud of the amount we’ve raised between us all for our charities. A total of almost £18,000 so far and still rising – FAB. Thanks once again to all those who supported me and have donated to my ACORNS Fund.

... Pam Kirkup ...

I’ve always liked the Great North Run, enjoyed it – even loved it. I know that in some running quarters that may suggest that I have a certifiable mental disorder. Especially when you consider the congestion, the jostling, the‘pens’ into which runners have to be herded by 10.15 … and then there is the cost of the entry. This year it was an eye watering £48!

I was really looking forward to it, although with some trepidation. I’d only been able to start training in July so preparation could have been better, but I was feeling reasonably ok about it. So did I like it this time? No not really! Did I enjoy it? No! Did I love it? …Oh please, get real! Before you stop reading – it’s not all really that negative! Although it wasn’t my usual experience.

The weather wasn’t great. The Striders’ bus arrived in Newcastle in very good time so we had at least an hour and twenty minutes to fill before the start. The predicted rain held off but it was windy and cold. After huddling up for warmth and many toilet visits, Christine & I said goodbye to Barrie and headed off to the baggage buses – White zone section G for me, F for her. I met up with Greta’s ‘9 min mile train group’ in White G. Greta was hoping to get several Striders as close to 1.57 as possible. While waiting, I learned a lot about the Medoc Wine Marathon that most of them had experienced the previous week. Sounds fab!

Anyway, I hadn’t managed to get even remotely warm since getting off the bus so kept my jacket on for the start, hoping to tie it around my waist by, say, the Tyne Bridge? Gateshead Stadium maybe? Didn’t happen.

It seemed to take longer than normal to get the start and then I said goodbye to Greta, Jacquie, Jill, Kirstie and the others – and they were the last Striders I saw before arriving in the pub! It seemed ok, running down the A167, the usual crowds cheering etc. I was still feeling cold by the Tyne Bridge and then the rain came hammering down and the wind was very blustery as we ran across. I’d hope to average 10.5 minute miles – hey, it was my first run this year! – and I was doing ok. The rain continued to be horrible down past the Gateshead Stadium and on up to Heworth … if you’ve blown it you usually know by then! Still felt reasonably ok!

The rain did ease up a bit, (well not much!) after then but the wind was still a problem! The 6 mile turn off – still ok. But by the time I got to John Reid Rd I was starting to get pain in my lower legs. That horrible hill up to the crematorium has always been a bad bit for me – well this time the cramp really started to set in. By the time I got to the Bupa Boost Zone I needed a wee (had to jump in a bush!! Never,ever had to do that before in any race!!) and some help with my cramp. A very nice young man in a St John’s Ambulance tent gave me a ‘quick rub down’ (!) and so I carried on. However, from then on I had to walk more and run less.

I must say, as I drifted further back in the field the race became more entertaining. In one of my walking/cramp moments I was overtaken by Fred Flinstone. This was a very short but very plump man, dressed in an animal print tunic and wearing a spiky yet dreadlocked wig. Next time I saw him he was sitting on a kerb hitting himself over the head with his caveman club. I can only hope it was made of cardboard … or polystyrene!

Then there was Indiana Jones who alternatively lashed out with his whip – at the crowds – or threatened them with his gun. Add to that a ‘flock’ of huge parrots who proceeded to ‘attack/ peck at’ spectators. And of course I cannot ignore the ‘swarm’ of lovely young girls dressed as butterflies, bees and wasps who raised the spirits of everyone. After the Elvis impersonator, singing “The Wonder of You”, on the way to the Marsden Inn, I had to feel almost happy! The last mile was encouraging but painful. Unfortunately I had to stop a couple of times – first time ever on the run in. I finished in 2.30.34 – my worst time ever I think – but I’ve never had cramp before in this race.

Lots of offers for “physio leg massage” at the finish but at all the tents the queues were huge. So I wandered into the Medical tent – which resembled a field hospital with camp style beds and lots of people with injuries of various levels of seriousness. Most were minor so I didn’t feel too bad about asking for help for cramp. They gave me some exercises to help and some painkillers – after they asked if I had been drinking alcohol that day or would be breast feeding!! Medical history would be made if I were to be capable of breast feeding! Eventually I arrived at the Look Out. There would be about a dozen of the bus passengers there at the time. I was greeted by Barrie, Andy’s appointed bus clippie, with “Where’ve you been? We were going to send the bus back to pick you up tomorrow!” Thanks mate, Bazza!!

I’m always amazed at the restorative powers of a pint of Stella! Pretty soon I started to feel really fine. It was a nice convivial atmosphere and it was good to talk to some newer members and other that I haven’t seen for a while.

The journey home was quicker than we all expected. So a good day for all.

Will I be doing it again next year? Well, what do you think??

... and Karen Chalkley:

I was looking forward to running the Great North Run again as I wanted to try and beat the 2 hours if I could, having had it allude me 3 times before. I considered running with Greta who was going to pace some other Striders so they could finish in less than 2 hours but had already decided not to when George propositioned me! Did I want to be his aide in emailing live updates to BBC Newcastle and in return I could start at the front with him. Wow, I thought, what an opportunity. It wasn’t a hard decision, of course I would. Best of all is that there are separate toilets for the front runners so no queuing!!

I had trained well (thanks to Karin and her training programme) and felt ready for the day. The night before the race however it suddenly dawned on me that I had a big responsibility in taking the photos and sending them by email on George’s phone, me, who can only just text on my own phone let alone anyone else’s, why on earth did George ask me! The morning arrived and thankfully the trepidation of my impending technological feats had disappeared. It wasn’t going to be that difficult and after all George would be there to help, I was really just going to be his eyes for the typing.

George, Anne, Karin and myself, headed off to County Hospital for the coach pick up, all of us excited, George nervous as usual. Karin, looking forward to her first GNR, was looking glamorous as usual. The weather a dull grey but thankfully not as windy as had been predicted. On to the bus we filed. George gave me my lesson in how to use his phone and I sent my first live update. George then gave me some more good news. He had managed to get me a VIP guest wristband for entry to a marquee at the end of the race too! I would be able to join him and his Justgiving Teamnorth friends for food and drink before we headed off to the pub! How lovely.

So after alighting the coach and saying our good lucks to our fellow striders George and I made our way to the front pen. Photos were taken, people arrived, including Mel C to wish her team good luck,and soon the pen was full to capacity with no room to join in the warm up. Having had a jog down to our personal loos near the start, minus any queue!, we were pleasantly warm anyway. The gun went off and 5 seconds later, yes just 5 seconds, we were over the start line and on our way to South Shields. People started to overtake on both sides as we ran along the bypass towards the Tyne Bridge. But the flow of people soon ebbed as we found our pace and we were well past the bridge and by the Gateshead Stadium when the Red Arrows did their fly over and we even had to turn back to see them! That was a first for me; I usually see them as I cross the Tyne Bridge.

After about 6 miles I gradually went ahead of George, another first for me. I was feeling good and managed to keep a good pace. I had written my name on the front of my top and what a difference it made having the supporters shout your name, which they did often, it really spurs you on. I definitely recommend that to anyone for next year. It was great seeing Louise and Pip cheering everyone on along the last stretch at the coast road. Having chatted to people along the way 13.1 miles went quite quickly and I didn’t even notice the inclines this year. Another first was not having the need to stop and walk at all. So as I turned the final corner and saw the clock on the finish line saying less than 2 hours I put on a final spurt to make sure I did beat my goal. My official time 1h 59m 28s, hooray.

To top it all I had my pass to the VIP marquee. Unbeknown to George or myself he had given me the wrong wristband and I ended up in a marquee with celebrities, having a free massage, posh food and drink before finally having to ask Mel C if she had seen George! She was most helpful and pointed me in the right direction to the marquee next door! Having found George we made our way to The Lookout to meet up with our fellow Striders who all had their own tales to tell of the race. Each one special for a different reason. What a fab day and a big thank you to George for helping to make it so special ;)

Ultimate Trails, Brockhole, Cumbria, 14th September


Dave Robson

Well that was tough ! One of the toughest races I have ever done. Melanie and I had wondered whether this might be hard and it certainly was.

The event was a bit like the Lakeland 50m/100m where the 50k starts halfway round the 100k route and we had a coach to take us to the start of the 50k in Patterdale. The start and finish of the 100k was at Brockhole, between Ambleside and Windermere. We were not impressed by Brockhole, it is advertised as a venue which has lots of free activities, but if you are travelling by car, the car parking charges are steep. The charges operate 24 hours a day. Those people who were camping there were building up some hefty charges.

The going got a bit rough in places.

We were told to arrive on Friday evening for registration and a compulsory briefing for all runners. We met up with Jane who was going to be doing her first Ultra and the plan was for the three of us to run it together. The briefing included nothing that wasn't in the race day instructions and that we weren't told on the coach to Patterdale. We should have arrived on the morning of the race and registered then as Anna did. We were also told that the coaches left at 9, but it seemed the organisers were working for a 9.30 departure. We arrived in Patterdale at about 10.15 for a 12.00 race start. There was a marquee most of which was a feed station for the 100k runners. There was a small part we could have gathered in if had been wet. Luckily, it was a lovely day, sunny, a gentle breeze and you could see for miles. The four of us opted to walk to Glenridding to find a coffee shop.

The race started exactly on time and we ran up Grisedale. This first section is the final quarter of the Lakeland Trails Helvellyn route, but in reverse. That was fine and then we started the climb up to Grisedale Tarn. I noticed that I was a bit tired and started to wonder whether the Hardmoors Princess 30 event two weeks ago and walking 10m last Tuesday had been wise. Still we got to the Tarn and had fantastic views. The descent to Dunmail Raise was something else, very technical and we were making slow progress, but well within the cutoffs.

After grabbing some water and food we ran round part of Thirlmere and started the second big ascent, up to Harrop Tarn and Watendlath Fell. This ascent felt a bit better, but still hard. Crossing Watendlath Fell, we were using the flags (this was a marked course) as there was no for discernible path. It got a bit boggy in places. At this point Melanie started to get a migraine, but she caught it early with some painkillers. A steep descent to Watendlath and the second checkpoint. Here I had soup and the other two had porridge, very nice. Then another short climb and, for once, a reasonable descent to Rosthwaite and we headed towards Stonethwaite. This bit was runnable, but it got a bit rougher underfoot as we turned into Langstrath. Then we could see Stake Pass in the distance. This was to be the final big climb and the aim was to get up and over before dark. Anna had been running with us for a bit of the way, but at this point she was pulling away and we didn't see her again until the finish.

The climb did not look bad in the distance, but it was much harder than it looked. A seemingly never ending series of hairpins. Very smooth underfoot and we were hoping the descent would be similar. No such luck, it was rocky and we walked most of it. Finally down into Langdale and we knew the worst was behind us. We ran slowly to the next checkpoint at Stickle Barn where we had chips ! Bliss !

Only another 49K to go!

Then via Elterwater and up to Loughrigg Tarn and up to Loughrigg Fell. By now we were using head torches, but the weather was still excellent with little wind and a clear sky. To the final checkpoint at Ambleside and then off to Skelghyll Woods. Up till this point the signs had been pretty good, but into the woods we came to a junction with no signs. I looked at my Garmin with the GPS route on it and it appeared to say go right. I was a bit doubtful as it seemed to be going down. I haven't quite figured out what went wrong, I have a feeling that the GPS route provided wasn't too accurate. At this point we were over 31m and we finally decided to cut our losses and run down to the Ambleside to Windermere road and run in from there. Many others in front and behind us did the same.

Made it back in 9hrs 30min. Anna had also struggled to find the route in Skelghyll Woods and finished about 5min ahead of us. It was a lovely well lit finish on the lawn next to the lake

Jane did great on her first Ultra !

The Beast, County Durham, 8th September


Dougie Nisbet

The alarm went off but I kept my eyes closed. I wiggled one leg, then the other. Ow. They still felt as if they'd been kicked by a horse that hadn't removed its shoes first. I could just stay in bed. Curse this good weather and ideal conditions. Oh well, it had to be done. The Beast had to be tamed.

I drove the enormous distance from Durham to Sniperley Park & Ride because, well, I'm pretty sure I'd formulated some pretty convincing self-justification for driving this massive journey, but if I was going to tackle 50 miles of beastly County Durham hills I wasn't going to add an extra one just to get to the start. Into the car park and I spotted the tell-tale purple of a Strider hoodie from some way off and pulled in to park beside Jamie Steel. We were both a bit uncertain of what lay ahead so we got our numbers sorted and went for a warm-up around the car park. As the clock ticked down to 9AM riders began to assemble at the start and it was good to see such a wondrous variety of weird and wonderful machines about to embark on the adventure.

All smiles before the off ...

No timing, no chips, just a man with a megaphone and a blast on a horn and presently we were belting down the hill towards Witton Gilbert. Up the long drag out of WG so beloved by Ian MacKenzie for the Durham Tri-Club hill sessions then along past Broom House at which point I found myself alongside Alan Smith on a bike with some awesome tri-bars. We chatted awhile until I was shooed away and I sped ahead to see if I could catch Jamie.

A few miles later and the first real descent. Woohoo! Here we go, head down, bum out, no effort, free time. A few stragglers spreading out and a bit of jinxing required, and, yes, I'm sure there was something important I had to remember … what was it … Oh yes! This isn't a closed roads event! If you're a bit of an Etape junkie, as I am, this is an important point. It's easy to want to hug the shortest and most fun line down a long fast twisty descent, of which there were many, but best to stick to your own side of the road. Jamie and I kept seeing each other, riding together, passing each other, and a lot of the time I couldn't remember if he was in front of me or behind me. He wasn't so keen on the fast descents but was strong on the flats and climbs. At the long twisty climb up to Tow Law he pulled away as I paused to take a close interest in some roadside shrubbery.

Never one to work for a living when I can sit on the wheel of a big bloke and draught, I found myself belting past Jamie a few miles later as I tucked into the slipstream of a couple of jet engines. Jamie was suffering the further indignity of having gear problems that meant his big chainring had become a no go area, something that became pretty frustrating for him as we got ever closer back to Sniperley and the possibility of blasting down some of the descents became a lost opportunity.

After the twisty winding quiet rural lanes it was slightly unreal to finally get back to Durham and join the traffic back into Sniperley. A decent goodie-bag (the 'Beast' buff I like!) and a sunny sit down before Jamie arrived a few minutes later. We don't know if was just me Alan and Jamie that tamed the Beast or whether there were a few more Striders out today. A nice course, a bit lacking in elegance but I admire and respect its functional brutality. It lacks the polish of the Etapes, but it's also a fraction of the price and parking is a lot more straightforward. I'm certainly glad I got out of bed for it even if I did have a few problems climbing stairs on Monday after my horsie-beastie weekend double.

Shadforth Fell Race, Shadforth, County Durham, 8th September


Melanie Hudson

George organised this fell race [and indeed Karen Chalkley, Ed.] as part of the Shadford sports day. It was a third of a mile up a steep hill then back down again. Although this race did not involve much distance you know it is the short, steep, fast ones that hurt the most. This is probably the reason why George wisely decided to marshal rather then run it. Karen C was doing the adjudicator. There was a small field of runners (about ten) which were mostly made up of Striders, Dave R, Katie W, Graeme W, Tim S, Peter B and myself. We started on the village green, then turned left and up a steep hill, George was a the top of the climb, so we ran around him and then back the way we came, finishing on the green. Tim S was the winner with Katie W taking the first female position.

Proper race start ... good to see ...

After the fell race the sporting activities continued. There was an egg and spoon race, a slow bike race, sack race, carry your partner race (which Katie & Graeme W won), a tug of war, throwing a bale, throwing a wellie and finally an egg throwing event (where you threw your egg at your partner and you were out when it broke). George won the egg throwing. Dave and I entered most of these events, won none of them but had a great time and avoided getting covered in egg.

Sabic Middlesbrough Tees Pride 10k, 8th September

Karin Younger

Maria Mellon and I were encouraged to run this one thanks to Louise Barrow, who said it was mainly flat, good atmosphere and lots of bands/music , and she was right……. On the morning itself, Maria came to meet up with me in Pittington, and we both then met up at Louise’s in Houghton and Louise kindly drove us down. We had a good catch up on the way, so much so that I think we distracted Louise from her planned route. We ended up heading toward the race on a road unfamiliar to Louise, and due to closed roads had to park just over 3K away from the start. All done and dusted ... nice T-shirts! We knew which way to head off, and asked the steward at the cones closing the road if there was a short cut, to be met with, ‘Ay up lass am from Bradford….’ So no short cut pointed out there then ... which meant we had a nice brisk walk as a warm up. Our walk followed the first 3K of the race in reverse, so it meant we knew how close we were, and also where the first water station was. As we got closer to the start the walking became brisker…. But we did arrive in good time for bag drop; ‘comfort break’ (lots of toilets) and headed off to the starting line.

As I’ve learnt over the last 10 months since starting running at races, I was expecting to see purple tops and friendly faces and I wasn’t disappointed; form Anna Seeley and her 5 to 10 K group (well done!) To others en route and of course in purple huddles after the finish, so good to see so many friendly faces. Most welcome was Kirsty Anderson, just before the finish – Thanks Kirsty!

Now ... the race itself ... I really enjoyed the route, heading out from Acklam Road and ending up back there about 6 left turns later, all on road.…. In between there were a few inclines, but nothing too strenuous. It was a much warmer morning than anticipated, so the youngsters with Super soakers were much appreciated by me. At least 3 water stations with ice cold bottles of water, and; as promised by Louise; lots of music which helped the motivation.

As a relative newbie, I’m still taken aback by the encouragement from fellow runners; it’s heart-warming that people you don’t know take time out to spur you on. There were lots of spectators all around the route, and a friendly cycling marshal shouting ‘Go Durham’ when he saw my top was lovely ...

Now, the carrot that Louise dangled to both Maria and I was that she’d try to get us both round in a PB time…. And she did! 59 minutes for me, and 1.01.48 for Maria (a 4 minute improvement I think!) As to the lady herself ...16 weeks pregnant and an impressive 59.43… definitely ‘not too shabby’ well done Louise, and thanks for taking us along.

Goody bag had a Frisbee.. A medal! And t-shirt, as modelled in our photo. Before we headed off we took advantage of the food stalls… burgers and coke for Louise and I and a healthy wrap for Maria.

All in all a great morning, and definitely a race I’d do again.

Medoc Marathon, Bordeaux, France, 7th September


Jacquie Robson

Set in the vineyards of the Medoc region on the Gironde coast north-west of Bordeaux, this marathon has a tagline of ‘the longest marathon in the world’. I can vouch for the fact that this race is the same 26.2 miles in length as other marathons, but it certainly takes a longer time than most if you do it ‘properly’! I can also vouch for the fact that the whole thing is bonkers. Totally bonkers!

Runners sensibly enjoying a beverage before the race.

Eleven Striders lined up on the start line in science-fiction-themed fancy dress (as suggested in the race literature) all looking a little bit bewildered by the whole thing. A fair few of us were not really in the best shape to be running a marathon, still feeling a bit hungover from the pasta party the night before which was a rather impressive marquee-based party with four-course dinner prepared by celebrated French chefs, music and dancing, magnums of local (and really really good) red wine on the tables and as much bread as you could eat followed by an impressive fireworks display in the grounds of the rather beautiful Chateau Lamothe-Cissac. The other participants standing around awaiting the start of the marathon the next morning looked as sleep-deprived, as crazily-dressed and as bewildered as us. Especially when a huge pirate ship was wheeled past with an associated group of about 10 pirate-runners shouting “Attention le bateau!” VERY loudly every 2 minutes, followed closely by a rather large car-sized flying saucer pushed by 10 runners dressed in lime-green alien outfits. This was clearly going to be no normal race!

Parched runners.

The starting gun saw fountains of gold ticker tape, deafening cheering and jets of stage smoke explode over the waiting runners and we made our way slowly towards the timing mats. It was a very crowded start, but eventually we headed off into the Medoc countryside along rural roads past vineyard after vineyard and made our way through the crowds to the first chateau. There were over 50 chateaux visible throughout the race, and we ran past or through 29 of them who were kind enough to provide their own red wine for the runners to sample along the way. The first wine-tasting stop was after about 2k, before we’d barely got to jogging pace due to the congestion at the start, and we queued the mobbed ‘refreshment’ table for our first Medoc wine sample. Served in a plastic cup, we all had about ‘two fingers’ of the wine, and then jogged on to the next chateau. At this stage, Angela, John Hutch, Mike and Sue had split off from the group I was in, and Alister, me, Greta, John G, Emma Detch, Bill Ford and birthday girl Jill Ford (what a way to spend your birthday!) stuck together in our train and tried desperately not to lose each other in the crowds. The race continued in that way for the whole 26.2 miles: jog to chateau, stop and drink wine, occasionally drink some water, repeat. There was also a selection of nibbles available along the route including bananas, oranges, flapjack, energy biscuits, chips, cheese, bread, ham and cheese sandwiches, chocolate, ice cream, steak and oysters (yes, oysters – but with white wine, of course) on offer for the runners.

Really, really parched runner!

As we hit halfway, I was finding the going quite tough (the stopping and starting was really quite difficult!) so decided to get more into the spirit of things and attack the wine stops with more gusto (well, it was Jill’s birthday!). By 18 miles I was definitely feeling the Medoc spirit! The chateau ‘refreshment’ stops were getting more rowdy, with runners stopping to dance with the bands that were playing, and one particularly memorable one where runners were sitting on the floor passing other runners over their heads (I don’t quite recall why, but it all seemed very amusing at the time!). Alister joined me in the change of approach, but it turns out that, while I’m seemingly powered by red wine, it does all sorts of bad things to Alister, so by 21 miles I was singing, chattering, smiling and laughing, jogging backwards and skipping to try and encourage him along, while Alister’s woeful cries of ‘Jonesy, I’ve got nothing. NOTHING!’ rang out regularly across our (now really quite) merry bunch. The seven of us finally staggered across the finish line, hand in hand, in around 6 hours 20, give or take, making it round within the cut-off of 6 hours 30 and having sampled the wares at every single chateau. You can imagine how pleased we were to be presented with one of the prizes: a box of red Medoc wine! They obviously knew it was Jill’s birthday, though, because she got a rather wonderful one from the Lafite Rothschild vineyard. Very nice! We got the medals around our necks and, after meeting up with the remaining Striders, had the obligatory photo and then, after a wait for Alister to claim his free beer from the congested refreshment tent, made our way back to the accommodation. Apparently we did some more celebrating at the house that night with more Medoc red wine and lots of cheese, but I don’t quite recall…

All finished ... time for a drink ...

You’d think that would be enough Medoc wine for any person but it really is very nice! Which is lucky, because the final part of our ‘marathon package’ was the 9k recovery walk followed by another lunch the day after. Again back at the Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, we arrived to be presented with a silver keepsake Medoc Marathon wine-tasting vessel and headed off back out into the countryside. After tasting a lot more of the wine at a more sedate pace, we were then treated to yet another slap-up meal in the banqueting marquee in the grounds of the chateau. There was more wine in bottles on the table, and, if it ran out, two enormous barrels from which you could help yourself and re-stock. These barrels were so big they could hold a whole Strider on top of them (see pictures!).

All in all a truly unforgettable experience (well, excepting the red wine blanks, of course). But overwhelmingly crackers. Crazy! Totally bonkers! I LOVED it!

Grisedale Horseshoe, 7th September

10M 5000' AM

Dougie Nisbet

You think you know a race, but you don't.

“we'll be seeing a lot of each other, then”, said the sweeper.
“we'll see”, I replied, sounding more smug than I intended.

I'd started badly. Arriving late, leaving kit in the car, running back to the car to get kit, running back to kit-check and registration and not much time to spare. Sitting in the car with 10 minutes to go I noticed that in my kit-check confusion I'd managed to pick up someone else's maps as well as my own. Didn't think much of his planned descent of St Sunday mind. I'd better find this runner. He's probably looking for these maps. With 1 minute to go at the start I tried to find someone to make an announcement about the maps. Oh sod this. I jumped up on the steps and bellowed to the assembled and slightly startled runners that I had someone’s maps. I waved them around a bit, as you do, just to make the point. A runner stepped forward, I handed them over and my conscience became a little clearer.

Almost immediately afterwards we were running up the lane with me still trying to fasten up my overfull bum-bag and sort out my straps and stuff. It was when I stopped to tie my laces that the sweeper made his introductions. This would be my fifth running of this race and I'd never known it to have a sweeper and I was perfectly confident on getting round comfortably within cut-offs without the need of a sweeper looking after me thank you very much. I was 20 minutes inside the cut-off time for the Grisedale Tarn checkpoint last year. For me, that's an eternity.

Up the familiar Mires Beck and pretty much at the back of the field. The sweeper had fallen back and was running with a big bloke with a headband. I wouldn't be seeing them again. Over the top of the beck and the challenge of the adventure ahead became apparent. Visibility faded as I climbed to the first checkpoint at the summit of Catstye Cam, reaching it in 65 minutes – same as last year, and there were now three runners behind me. Could be worse.

Turning to tackle Swirral Edge the wind whacked me in the back. There was a vest ahead – one I recognised from last year, and I was scrambling over rock after glassy rock trying to keep him in sight. The path along here is indistinct at the best of times and I'm pretty sure that I didn't recognise the pointy rocks I was sliding over from previous years. Up onto Helvellyn ridge and a scary wind now slammed into my face. I'd been running comfortably hot but now the sweat chilled rapidly on my forehead and I felt chilled and alarmed. I ducked into the shelter and huddled up with about a dozen rucksacks (it was a busy day on Helvellyn) and put on my hat.

Racing through the murk.

Immediately feeling better I put on a burst and headed south. Along the path to the fork where one way goes to Wythburn, and the other onto Dollywaggon Pike. Or did it? Perhaps this was the fork where left takes you unnecessarily up Dollywaggon Pike rather than around the shoulder. Even as I veered right I knew it had to be wrong. Four times I'd done this race but today I was running it like a fool. In a bizarre mindset of denial I continued veering right and down until I had to accept the obvious – I was going the wrong way. I cut left and angled back over to the proper path. Finally around the corner and time to pick a line for the descent to the checkpoint at Grisedale Tarn.

And what a line I picked. A messy indecisive muddle that was neither path or fell. It wasn't clean and it wasn't efficient. I hit the checkpoint with just four minutes to spare before being timed out. A familiar figure emerged smiling from the gloom and I recognised the sweeper (Dave) and his dog (Todd). So I'd got myself behind the sweeper. And I was now last. Oh well, I do have form. Ahead I could see the big guy with the headband who I would find out was Steve. I caught him as he stood looking puzzled and surveying the paths through the mist. We didn't seem to be gaining height. Last year I'd stayed too low too long and I felt strongly we should now be climbing to pick up the path along the ridge. Steve was looking dubious but bowed to my four years experience and with a shrug he followed me as we cut right and headed very up. I wasn't wrong; we did pick up the path along the ridge, but this year, I was too early and too high. So we now wasted time and energy descending a little as we headed towards St Sunday Crag. Feeling a bit of a twit I apologised to Steve for the duff route choice. Steve was philosophical and told me not to worry about it. Then Dave and Todd caught us up and they agreed with my assessment that I had, indeed, chosen a rubbish ascent.

The back-of-the-pack now comprised 4, plus one sweeper and his dog, and we checked through the St Sunday Crag checkpoint. It's not good for the ego when the marshalls pick up their gear and follow you as you've checked in as the final runners. But who can blame them. The weather was rough, and another squally rainstorm had just started. We hit the scree descent and Todd, a rescue dog from sheepdog descent, would run ahead, then stop and stare at us intently as we slid inelegantly down the fell. Quite funny but ever so slightly touching too. Dave the sweeper was certainly doing the shepherding job of sweeping seriously, probably running an extra couple of miles simply running back and forward amongst the back-markers checking we were all ok. I was listening to him intently now, and followed his descent tips of St Sunday to the letter. I dug my Walshes into the final climb up Grisedale Brow and they didn't let me down, but the best shoes in the world aren't much use if there's no power in the legs. Over the top and the final checkpoint and I followed Dave's tip for finding the best final descent back down Mires Beck. It was gold, and for the first time of the race I felt settled and comfortable.

I crossed the line to find Roberta waiting patiently for me. She'd done a low level walk but looked just as wet as I did, having loyally hung around at the bottom of the St Sunday for as long as she could before deciding I was obviously going to be out for a while. Finishing pretty much where I started, third from last, I waited for the other runners to get home. Steve arrived next, glad to be back on his long recovery from injury. Not just any old injury, but a snapped ankle in the Three Shires several years ago. His blog makes inspiring reading about what's possible if you're determined enough. Next week he runs the Three Shires race again, his 50th race since the accident.

With all the back-markers home and handshakes all-round and congratulations from the sweeper we headed back to the car park. I spotted the runner I'd been chasing and we had a chat. He was 30 minutes faster than last year so he was very pleased. Then Mark Thermer who has some great fell running photos on flickr recognised me and we had a good old chat. Roberta had seen all this post-race bonding before and headed back to the car. I joined her a few minutes later and sat quietly why I reflected on my experience of this fiendish fell race, and how, five years on, and over 30 minutes slower than last year, I ran it like a novice.

Derwentwater Lakeland Trail Races, Keswick, 7th September


David Brown

The Lakeland Trails describe themselves as, “Some of the most inspiring trail running and walking events in the UK, all held within the spectacular landscape of the Lake District National Park”. Courses range from 10k -18k, through to half and full marathon distances. There is a choice of running the challenge or the race. The challenge starts earlier and is aimed at the less competitive runner, apparently.

I selected to run the challenge over the race simply due to the earlier start of 13:00, that and I was to spend the week ‘carb loading’ in the nearby Dog & Gun. Race HQ was in Fitz Park, Keswick, a small friendly setting with stalls selling running gear, ice creams, hog roast and a fun run for kids of all ages and all receiving a medal. In typical Lake District fashion the rain visited frequently throughout the morning, so the carnival style atmosphere was somewhat dampened.

David on the descent ...

After pacing around for hours and making several uses of the onsite portaloos, we were huddled into the starting area where I chatted with some lads from Meltham AC regarding the combination of purple and green on our vests. Facing us were the Batala Lancaster samba band, who psyched us up in an almost Haka style, with foot stomping and rhythmic movements, brilliant stuff. The band parted and the crowd counted us down, as we set off through the small avenue of spectators.

It was a fast start, and the lugs of trail shoes struggled on the wet tarmac as we wound our way out of Keswick, becoming more comfortable as we followed the abandoned railway and crossed a boarded walkway. The next 5k were uphill, and already the hares that darted off were being picked up, I at once felt the benefit from the many evenings spent running Waldridge Fell.

We continued to climb, through becks and bogs, carefully selecting our footing as many bogs appeared bottomless, or at least waist deep. We passed through a farm and explored the almost sublime valley of Glenderaterra, with the summit of Skiddaw in the distance. At 8k we were at the highest point of the race, as the path evened out the pace quickened. From 9k it was downhill, with views overlooking the Northern Fells.

The course was fantastic, with excellent support from marshals, each one shouting encouragement for the Strider vest. As we descended swiftly I was aware due to marshals yelling that the first lady was closing in, I held the gate for her and she was off. It was here I was advised I was in 39th position, I had never found myself so far up a field (of 400) before, and as much as this was the ‘challenge’ and not the race, I now wanted to race!

The final 3k was a battle downhill, shoulder to shoulder, the stronger runners who had held back started to close in, and equally I picked up a few places. I could hear the crowd in the distance, and aware that my boy would be waiting I put everything I had for a strong finish. With chants of ‘Da-ddy, Da-ddy’as I ran past the family, this was a cherished moment.

A tech t-shirt, and a goody bag with a sweat band, ginger pudding and tiny tub of vas awaited each runner.

This was a fantastic event, in a truly magnificent setting, family friendly and with great entertainment. Any doubt I had about the challenge being intended for the ‘B team’ swiftly vanished as we battled down them hills. I’ll certainly be back for another of the Lakeland Trails.

Hats off to fellow Strider Tom who did indeed compete in the ‘race’, although I didn’t see him on the day but understand he finished in a great time in a very strong field.

Cock Crow 5k, Hebburn, 3rd September

Alister Robson

A new race for this year replacing the muddy Robin Hood 10K this was a very low key event with only 60odd runners, including Striders Richard Hockin and myself.

Registration was at the Cock Crow pub, not one I'd ever frequented, but not one I'd be unhappy about going back to either.

The race start was a very short walk from the pub, where ample car parking was supplied, and after a quick rejig of the course when the organisers spotted a potential last minute trip hazard we were off. Certainly the front runners were and I was quickly in no-mans land. It didn't help I was a little slower than normal, but the course was perfectly lovely, taking in an old railway line before gently climbing, the lovely summers evening affording beautiful views over South Tyneside.

All too soon we were crossing the finish line although I did have to ask how to get back to the pub - the course popped out somehow behind it, where there's a fishing lake. Richard came in slightly after me, positions that were reversed at the Sedgefield Serpentine and if past seasons are anything to go by will be reversed often again.

No memento or T-shirt at this price, but certainly no-one robbed at only £7.

Tynedale Jelly Tea, Hexham, 1st September


Gareth Pritchard

It's a few weeks after this 10 mile race so time to write some words on the Tynedale 10 mile jelly race. I entered this as part of the Tynedale Harriers 10k and 10 mile deal to save a bit of cash, always a good thing and nice to see, this would be my first 10 mile so PB time.

The 10k a few months ago was raced in the same area so i was expecting a good, well run event again. The race starts in hexham and ends in ovingham. The race organisation was first class again, i parked up outside ovingham then a short walk to the school and on the first bus for 9 am to the start at hexham sports centre. They run a later bus too, but you are a bit tight for time with this one.

Changing facility's were first class and baggage transport was outside waiting, clear instructions for the short walk to the start too. After meeting up with a few striders i got the essential last min tips on the course as this would be the first time i had done this one. A big hill around 3 miles in and a cheeky short steep hill in the last mile, always good to have an idea on whats to come.

I had been out from running for 5 weeks due to a broken hand and this was only my second week back. I had just done a respectable 18:34 park run but had no miles in my legs and a massive fear of blowing up mid race due to no running for 5 weeks. Like most runners i was having other problems which we just live and run on. My knees pre hand problems were not 100% after a very hard first marathon experience. So it was a great feeling being on the start line again and completely niggle and injury free for the first time in a while.

The race was supposed to be on 80% closed roads, the officials said they had been let down and could not get the roads closed off. The start was very confusing as everyone just started running and i assumed this was the start, but we all stopped again down the road, all very odd. I was next to fellow strider Simon at the start and being a very good runner, i decided in my head to stick with him for the first few miles.

I have a ongoing habit of the racing start, so plan one was out as i again raced off away from Simon and fully expecting myself to blow up at mile 7 with him passing me later, never mind. Head down and time to get into my race pace, i planned on 6:20 ish mile pace but still unsure how i would last.

The expected hill arrived at mile 3 and was feeling good, i had found myself tagging onto a small group and settled into a nice pace. The course itself is lovely, this is always one of the real joys for me, a chance to see parts of the countryside i would never normally see.

Another hill around mile 5 and half way point, watch saying around 33 mins :) quite please with the pace and easier than i expected. I decided to up my pace and soon found myself picking people off one at a time. Not 100% sure but it felt like allot of down hill sections on this last part, the race officials did well managing the traffic and no real problems with cars getting in the way.

Last 2 miles and surprised how good i still felt, i started to push harder and passed a few more runners. The end is all down hill so felt great when i passed the Finnish line in a new PB 1.03:20 and was still recovering when simon finished strong with an impressive 1:08 good to see after his on going injury problems too.

The free jelly and sandwich after were washed down and very much needed. This was my first 10 mile race and a distance i very much enjoyed, some very fast people here today but can see room for getting quicker. Looking forward to doing the brampton 10 mile now, and dreaming of the sub hour 10 mile. A great race and a fun day all round with lots of striders running well, cant ask for more.

Avid Runner Ultra Tyne Tour, Hexham to Tynemouth, 1st September


Anna Seeley

I did the second of a two day event, day one following either the North Tyne or South Tyne and the second day following the Tyne itself from Hexham to Tynemouth. As with the previous Avid Runner event that I had completed it was a very small field, 6 of us with 5 eventual finishers. There was meant to be more running the second day but a tough first day had led to a lot of DNS’s.

The route initially didn’t follow the river but took us up into the woods above Hexham before dropping us down the riverbanks just west of Corbridge. There were a few potential places for error early on so we stuck together as a group and only really started to split up once we got onto the main riverside path. From here it was along the Tyne to Riding Mill before again being sent through woodland and farmland to eventually rejoin the river at Ovingham. I ran all this section with a NEMC member and was glad of the company as we had abandoned the basic instructions early on and were relying on our map reading skills. Luckily it was very easy but it was good to have a second opinion at a few path junctions.

From Prudhoe onto Wylam, the going got a lot easier underfoot and a lot flatter as was expected for a run out along a river. I had however never seen the river path so busy before with what seemed like hundreds of cyclists, runners and walkers so there was plenty of swerving to avoid collisions. Soon after Newburn I ended up running on my own and this remained the case until the end.

After Newburn, the cycle route NCN72 was followed all the way to the coast which made navigation very easy although the battle through the shoppers at the quayside market was interesting. Was very tempted to have a swift pint in the Tyne bar but the next checkpoint was within sight so onwards I ran to catch up with another runner. He was having a bit of a hard time and planned on walking for the next section but my legs had finally woken up so I tried to keep the pace up. I was now up to second but the lad in first place was long gone so knew that as long as I tried to run the remaining 10ish miles without too much walking then no one should catch me.

It seemed to take forever to reach the next checkpoint at Royal Quays although I surprised the marshal there by reaching her so quickly. She promised me that it was only about 5 miles to go and that I was about 10 mins behind first place. Definitely not enough distance to make up that time but still forced myself to run most of the remaining distance. Whoever put the signs up however were having a laugh, I must have passed about 3-4 which all said Tynemouth 5 miles, I wondered if I had stopped or was going round in circles.

Finally into North Shields then it was the last drag round to Tynemouth with a finish line on the pier. This was a much easier event to navigate than the northern cities and with well stocked checkpoints and friendly marshals definitely beginner friendly for anyone tempted to step up to ultra distances.