Race Reports, August 2014

Tynedale Jelly Tea, Hexham, 31st August

10M

Dave Spence

Woke up got out of bed dragged a comb across my head and then reality struck when I realised it was Sunday and a 10 mile race faced me that morning. No going back to bed since I had promised to take Barrie Evans to the race. So 8.30 Barrie arrives and off we go to the Tynedale Jelly Tea.

Knowing the way to Ovingham very well doesn’t stop going the wrong way twice. I know what you are thinking - Old men not able to talk and navigate at the same time might have been the problem. But got there in plenty of time and caught the bus to Hexham. After the short pleasant journey arrived at the modern sports centre, checked in, acquired a number, changed, threw bag on baggage bus, chatted to other striders and then not being able to put it off any further a short walk to the start.

So a shuffle along to the start with obligatory toilet stop (it's an age thing) and we were off. The first 3 miles mainly downhill finally dropping into Corbridge [where the race passes some extremely handy toilets - I should know ... Ed.]. Time looking good. But then before your very eyes looms heartbreak hill out of Corbridge. And oh it goes on and on and on for 2 miles. Water poured over the head near the top, Turn left, marshall says downhill now, liar. It's up then down then up. But what goes up must go down and it does for nearly 3 miles to Bywell. More water poured over the head. Sorry did I mention the heat. Then it's 1.5 miles level road alongside the Tyne before you turn left and hit a minor Eiger for 200 yards and a marshall says again it's all downhill now. Well it is after the uphill bit which wasn’t mentioned. And finally the finish down to Ovingham school with a reasonable time.

Then cheer in other Striders at the finish including Barrie. At last reward time and into the School for jelly, sandwich, tea and piece of cake. What better way to spend Sunday on what is a really well organised interesting run which has a great atmosphere. Numbers running were well down this year I suspect because of closeness to the Big One.

Now looking forward to next year?

Pieces of 8 10K, Penshaw Monument, 31st August

Mark Brodie ...

Penshaw Monument. So like all races I enter, I never find them myself, in fact my very presence on the start line is almost always a product of peer-pressure and this was no different! A situation I came to regret very quickly (in a sort of pleasantly knackered sort of a way)!

Looking around the car park at the start, there seemed to be a strong field of 'folk in the know' but the sprinkling of 'strider purple' was very reassuring.

I decided to run the 10km route; a very wise decision indeed! The race starts with sharp climb up towards the monument, sweeping round the back to the top and then dropping down. There is a series of steps and an exhilarating down-hill through the paddock to follow. I enjoyed it while it lasted but I knew only too soon would I be crawling back up it!

The route drops down to the river and follows it along towards the A19. Heading along the river you get a brief glimpse of fellow competitors running the half-marathon route on the opposite bank. The pleasant trot is soon interrupted with a sharp right onto the ‘infamous’ steps. As we were told at the briefing, they are steep and they just keep going! A selection of ‘witty’ quotes mark the route up the steps, offering a brief reprieve!

A short flat section breaks up the hills, but worry not the next hill is soon to follow. Reaching the brow of the hill I was greeted with the smiley faces of Mark & Anita, grabbing a cup of water on the move and I was ready for the final slog; I mean hill! A pleasant section along a disused railway and then for the ‘biggie’! It was a slog; but a satisfying one! The reward was for sure, to finish on the monument! Awesome! So how would I describe the race in a nutshell, well the word ‘brutal’ was thrown around a lot at the finish. Over the top you might say; most definitely not! My only advice for anyone thinking about this next year would be to make sure you to get to the start line sharpish; they don’t hang around after the briefing!

... and Anita Dunseith

We often see race reports from runners but hubby and I realised not much is said from the perspective of the marshals without whom the race couldn’t happen so here’s my experience of marshalling the first ever Pieces of Eight Penshaw Monument trail race.

Sunday 31st August 2014 saw the inaugural run in a new urban trail series from Phill Turton and Tim Bateson, part of the Hardmoors family. From what I understand their aim for this series is to promote trail running in the North East and show runners routes (and hills!) they may not have been aware of before.

A marshal's viewpoint ...

Mark and I arrived at race HQ nice and early to get our marshal kit of hi-vis vests, route description, jelly babies and LOADS of water. We also received a bottle of wine each (NB this isn’t guaranteed every time you marshal!)

We pulled up to our checkpoint and had a conversation with the local farmer about where to park our car (and ended up moving it to avoid his wrath!) set up our table; filling the cups with water, setting out the jelly babies and Pringles and putting a handful of peanuts in some more of the cups (we always like to bring a few alternative treats because it’s easy to get sick of jelly babies and savoury snacks are always appreciated after supping on gels during a run). The day was really warm and sunny so we sat on our camping chairs and waited for the runners to arrive. They didn’t disappoint and started to arrive steadily, some of the fast runners flying through without even looking at our beautifully laid out table, others stopping for a quick drink and a handful of jelly babies and others for a good long chinwag. Aside from our lovely Striders friends our favourite runner was a guy in a Sunderland Harriers t-shirt who’d ironed his name STEVEN across the front yet was genuinely perplexed as to how we knew his name as we cheered him through!

After Megan and Katherine went through we waited a while for the final runner and tail runner but to no avail. We rang the RD to check they were still running to be told yes but we would have to time her out because it would take her too long to get to the finish and the first aid cover had to leave. We were genuinely gutted to hear this, especially as we were the last checkpoint and it was only a couple of miles to the finish. On a personal note I am often last and have made friends with a number of sweepers and know how devastated I would be to get timed out. I know this has to happen and for all the right reasons but it’s sad when it does. The final runner arrived and I had a quiet word with Jon the sweeper to tell him this to which he responded “no way, I’ll get her in” and off they went.

Mark and I packed up our table, did a sweep of the village to check for rogue plastic cups and headed back to race HQ in time for the prize giving. We were over the moon to hear the final lady did finish, particularly when we heard she’d left Manchester at 4am that morning to run her first ever trail race (cue me crying my eyes out when I heard this!)

For me running is the best thing in the whole world and it’s nice to help out sometimes to give other people the chance to run their race and experience how awesome this sport is. Be nice to your marshals and SMILE because there’s always a good chance we’ve got a camera. Oh, and DON’T DROP YOUR PLASTIC CUPS/BOTTLES!! If for whatever reason you’re unable to run; injured, resting or just having a day off; marshalling really is the next best thing ;-)

Parachute Regiment 10M, Catterick Garrison, 31st August

Kerry Lister

So, following the Fan Dance earlier this year I willingly signed up for the Paras 10 at Catterick. Once again running it as opposed to 'tabbing' it (Tactical Advance to Battle) in the P Company Challenge.

A generous Strider discount was provided (thanks very much) .

Today, 31st August, was the day. Early morning and 815am pick up for me and hubby (doing the load bearing version) by Major McGonnell and off we went. Lovely hot sunny day, well. Lovely if you weren't planning on doing a 10 mile event either with or without a 35lb Bergen.

Registration was simple and quick, the timing chips were put on our shoes, the lads weighed their bergens in, Rob was 1lb short so the Para gave him a 1.5kg bag of porridge to make it up. Then we waited til 1045am for our briefing and warm up, which basically consisted of a Para making us all do a funny dance.

The cani-cross entrants went off first, followed after a couple of minutes by the runners (including me, Natalie Torbett and Laura Jackson) followed 10 minutes later by the tabbers (including Rob Lister, Tony McGonnell and Adam Chapman).

I knew there was 1 brutal hill around mile 8 but I didn't realise the 8 miles getting there would be quite so 'undulating'. It wasn't long before the first of the tabbers overtook us slower runners and the Gurkha tabbers were phenomenal with their speed and determination.

The miles were clearly marked, the cattle grids (of which there were many) had sheets of wood partially covering them. There were 2 water stations, however I was pleased I had my camelbak on, it was very hot out there! And plenty of Paras marshalling.

Up and down, up and down we went then there it was 'Pussy Hill in the Land of Nod', at this point I was very close to the 1:50 man (under 1:50 is the selection time for the Paras), then there was a 'last hill' sign, get in! Almost there.

At last a lady shouted 'just round the corner onto the grass then it's the finish' and it was, all of a sudden I could see the finishers funnel, big cheers from the spectators spurred me on to a sub 2 hour finish which I was really pleased with. Medal around my neck and goody bag in my hand I joined Marie to cheer the others in.

One by one they came round the corner, smiling, tired and sweaty but triumphant that we had all completed this tough challenge.

Fantastic event, well organised except the free for all at the race finish water point where people were taking 2 and 3 bottles without a though for other competitors, the coffee was rubbish too and no beer tent!

But, I will be signing up next year, for the P Company TAB Challenge.......

Middlesbrough Tees Pride 10k, 31st August

Stephen Jackson ...

I was pleased to be asked to write the race report for this one [You don't need to be asked, and it's always nice to get more than one report for a race, such as this one. The more the merrier! Ed.] and not only because I’m still basking in that post-PB glowing feeling. It’s nice to feel part of something; which is one of the reasons why I recently joined the Striders, having trained and attended races on my own for a year or so.

It was also great to lift-share on the way to this event which was an opportunity to get to know a few Striders; both established and new members – Facebook does have some practical uses. By my reckoning 21 Elvet Striders were in attendance (including Alister Robson who, for some reason, wasn’t included in the official filtered results ‘by club’) for this popular 10k event.

I think it had the feel of the Great North Run, albeit on a much smaller scale. As was the case with myself, many Striders seemed to be using this event as some sort of ‘warm up’ for the bigger (and more expensive) Half Marathon the following weekend. There was live music at the start and finish (and at various points around the route), numerous water stations, a bag drop-off point, a small athletes’ village with free sports massage and various catering outlets. Throw in a rather fetching technical T-Shirt, a medal, a pen and a few other bits and bobs and I think the £14.00 affiliated price seemed quite good value for money.

It was really good to have a chat to Craig Younger before the event, who was running his first ever race having recently completed the 5k – 10k course (and prior to that, I think, the couch-to-5k course). It was great to see him in club colours and certainly an achievement to be proud of. I wish I’d joined a club straight away when I finally decided to take up running a couple of years ago as the encouragement and advice really does help.

Not a bad looking piece of bling for fourteen quid. The course was a relatively flat (or at least there seemed to be as many downs as up) single loop on wide roads. The sun was out and the wind was low. In theory this was a perfect day for a PB although I have a feeling some runners will have been holding a little bit back for the aforementioned half-marathon the following weekend. I found myself passing a couple of familiar rivals who usually finish well ahead of me at such events. It was also interesting to note that race winner Wondiye Fikre Indelbu ran about a minute slower than at Darlington 10k a few weeks before. He might be one to look out for in the results of ‘Brendan’s super run’. A quick chat to fellow Striders afterwards led me to believe a fair few PBs had been achieved (most notably Simon Gardener’s 38:24), a few were a little disappointed and others seemed to have held a little back for various reasons. Anyone who gets their backside out of bed on a Sunday morning, pulls on the club vest, laces up their trainers and gives it a good go deserves a medal. Which, quite appropriately, is exactly what they got.

... Matthew Crow...

Today sees me writing up my first ever race report so I hope this make sense and today saw me doing the Middlesbrough 10k run. This is pretty much a warm up run in preparation for the great north run the following weekend. As most races I do tend to be up early on the morning I left the house to pick up a few friends who were also taking part in the race - having taking the wrong turning on way to race the roads were are starting to close ready for the race I managed to find a side street to park.

Walking up the streets prior to the race starting there plenty people walking about and few music bands setting up ready for race to begin testing out some music. As I reached the the start line where the race would begin I took note of where the starting positions elite runners sub 35 etc then came across the position sign at the end of the start say happy to finish what made me smile. Heading to the field where most people were hanging about I found the fellow Striders I was met by Graeme Walton and Stephen Jackson after having a brief chat I decided to get changed and drop my bag off ready for starting. After dropping my bag I decided to do a warm on the field to right on the start line few laps jogging around and stretches it was time to head to the start.

Finding my way to start I seen Alister Graeme and Katy so I decided to jump in start from there looking at my watch, it was nearly time for race to begin the wheel chairs race had just begun. Few minutes later the 10k run began. It was quite a quick start crossing the start Line, good crowds either sides cheers people along heading down acklam road. The pace was quite quick, trying to settle in to a comfortable pace I managed to get sorted and felt good turning down bottom of the road to the left was pretty much straight bit of road only very slight incline. Hitting the 4k mark we turned left again heading up by the James Cook hospital as I hit 5k Mark I was around 19.50 minutes In to the run feeling good I decide to press on and push my self as heading to word 6k we heading threw housing streets plenty people out cheering people along and you could hear music bands playing music and you kids trying to squirt people with water as I reached 8k I was think not long to go I turned left again heading to wards the coronation pub you could hear they had music blasting out speakers as I hit 9k witch seem to go on for ages I pressed on heading to wards finish there was big crowds cheering everyone along which was great. I crossed the line in 40.37 and I was quite happy with that time heading towards the t shirt collection area I was met by Stephen Jackson who had great run and also Simon Gardener who got him self a new 10k pb.

As collected my t shirt you could smell the food stalls near by and they smelt nice the sun was shining nice and warm so decided to go collect my bag before it go too busy then decided to go cheer everyone along

Well done to all who took part.

... and Jane Baillie:

After losing my running mojo during the summer, I had signed up to this race with no expectations. One week before the Great North Run, good chance to stretch the legs and had been told was good course, relatively flat. (the magic words!)

Good turnout of Striders – approximately 25 of us made the trip down. Glorious morning for it, almost a bit too warm, but we can’t really complain about these things. Seemed to be a good setup, this was the 10th anniversary race, with all the race essentials - baggage areas/Mizuno trailer/warmup session/bands playing/chip timing/dirty burger van! We eventually all got into our pens, I always like it when a race offers areas for estimated time finishing – momentarily debated going in the ‘happy to finish’ section but boldly pushed forward to the sub 60 mins!! In fact we may have even strayed into the sub 50 – optimism at its blindest!!

The crowds were great at the start line, lots of support and cheering, and was like this most of the way around. Loved the bands on the corners as well, small taster ahead of Great North Run! Plus the usual gauntlet of kids who think it’s fun to squirt water at you as well!

After a fairly average parkrun on the Saturday, I was just aiming to get round in a reasonable time. My plan was 10 minute miles, and a steady race. Having learned the hard way about going out too fast, I was a slightly speedy 09:30 for the first mile. Calmed it down a wee bit and kept on plodding, even after the only ‘hill’ on the course I was still pretty consistent with my mile splits. All averaging about 09:30 pace.

Got to 5k mark 15 secs off my parkrun PB, and was feeling really good. By mile 4 and 5, I was starting to overtake a Strider or two (a first for me!!) and still hitting steady pacing. Getting to the last big turn, I realised I was on course for a PB, barring any major disasters. Had been running faster than I have been for quite a few months, and although I didn’t quite manage my usual sprint finish (Alistair and the Strider cheering squad were too far from the finish!!) I managed to come in at 58:31 – 26 seconds off my previous 10k time and splits of 29:15 and 29:16 for both 5k splits.

Some other notable runs on the day were from Stephen Jackson – a super speedy 36:20 and Craig Younger, completing his first official 10k race, having just graduated from the 5-10k group 4 days earlier!!

I really enjoyed the race – bands playing at most corners, water stations, sun shining, medal, nice t-shirt and a PB to boot – what more does a girl need!!

Princess Short n Sweet Challenge, North York Moors, 30th August

8.5miles(ish)

Lindsay Rodgers

Pre-race nerves, or perhaps it's just a bit chilly. Having ‘done’ the Hardmoors 10K at Saltburn, I was intrigued by the some of the Striders discussing the Princess Challenge due to take place at the end of August. It was to raise money for the local mountain rescue team, a charity that trail/fell runners rely on but hope that they will never need to use. The 30 mile was probably a bit too far whereas the 8.5 ish seemed manageable, so with the encouragement of the Hardmoors junkies, off I went.

Arriving in Ravenscar early enough to see the rest of the striders gear up and head off on the big one it was time for the race briefing and kit check. They were only around 40 entries for the 8.5 so for once the pre-race jitters did not involve a long wait for a toilet and with the words of ‘ it is an undulating course’ in my mind we set off.

The first 5 miles were on a nice cinder path, the only real challenges being helping one runner who took a tumble and trying to avoid the hordes of walkers and cyclists. The major thing that stuck in my mind was a comment ‘ watch out for the joggers’ from a group of walkers and helping a lady who did not seem to understand how to get her bike through a gate (it helps if you get off it). The first CP was in Robins Hood Bay and I arrived just after being passed by some of the 30 milers on their way to Whitby .My pace was not too bad (5.30/km) so it seemed to be a good time was in order. At this point runner 120 and I looked at each other and decided that as both of us were first timers best stick together as we worked out our route as we searched for the Cleveland way. This is where it changed from gentle downhill to a constant up and down. Wonderful trail along the coast (keep the sea to the left of you), punctuated by constant sharp drops and brutal climbs as we worked our way back to Ravenscar.

After the 7 mile point runner 120 (lovely lady from Surrey, never got to find out your name, sorry!) dropped me and I was over taken by some quickies that had taken an accidental detour and added a couple of extra miles to their run. This is a point where you realise that you are only running against yourself and walking can be a sensible option from time to time Between the efforts a fair amount of time was spent explaining to people why we were running geared up across the Cleveland way and then looking at the reaction when I advised that this was the ‘short’ route.

Tired but happy. Looking at my Garmin 8.5 miles soon came up with Ravenscar still in the distance at the top of a very steep hill, this is where Hardmoors comes into its own. All distances are approximate and as I struggled up the never ending rise it soon hit 9.5 miles. I must admit the last mile and a bit was walked (a power version) although a gentle run was managed for the last 500 metres. Total distance 9.89 miles. Final time 1.51, but who cares, I finished. Entering the hall, you are greeted by a round of applause by the other competitors and then stuffed full of tea cakes and sweets followed by a huge hug from the race director Kelly.

Pound for pound the best value race of the year, the best views and apart from the striders handicap and parkrun the nicest runners that I have come across so far. Yes I am now a convert to Hardmoors; Running for the enjoyment of the event and the company of brilliant people. Anyone thinking of a testing run next year should give this a try and was a fantastic end to my first year as a novice runner/strider.

Hardmoors Princess Challenge, North York Moors, 30th August

30M

Kate MacPherson

Last Saturday as we drove from Durham towards Whitby and the sunrise turned the North York moors from grey to purple, I wondered what on earth had possessed me to get up ‘mind numbingly early’ (as Anita Dunseith had put it) to go and run for 30 miles. I had never run anything longer than 26.2 on the flat, comfortable tarmac. And here I was about to attempt my first mini-ultra on rolling terrain and coastal paths. I’d always vowed I’d ‘never run a marathon’ and ‘ultra runners are just insane’... and yet I ran the marathon I’d vowed I’d never do and the thought of trying an ultra niggled away at me until the point that I knew I had to at least give it a go.

I’d heard and read about the Hardmoors races and fancied trying one of them so when the Princess Challenge was announced it seemed the perfect way to dip my toe into ultra running. The Princess Challenge is the Hardmoors Charity Run, the proceeds from which go to the local Mountain Rescue. My lovely Dad was rescued in January by Edale Mountain Rescue when he slipped and broke his ankle in three places while out walking in the peak district so this run felt like a good way to say a tiny thank you to those amazing volunteers.

Ready to Go.

We arrived at Ravenscar bright and early and registered. It was nice to see the posse of Striders although Dave Robson’s comment that ‘the last 10 miles are really hard’ wasn’t quite the confidence boost I needed! The race director, Kelly, gave us an incredibly warm welcome which was lovely, it’s really something to be greeted by name by a race director rather than just being an anonymous number in a crowd! After a route briefing from Flip we gathered outside for photos and then, just after 9am we were off. Kath Dodd, a friend and experienced ultra runner had very generously said she’d run with me, normally she’d kick my butt and leave me in her dust!. (By the way Kath, when are you going to join Striders?) Kath and I agreed that Flip’s briefing hadn’t really allayed our fears about getting lost however, route description safely tucked into our race vests (or Jet Pack as my 8-year old likes to call it) we had no choice but to go for it ...

The sky was crisp and clear as we set off south along the coast path. The terrain was quite tricky underfoot ( a mix of grass and narrow path) but every now and then we had to slow down to look down at the ocean and say wow! The sun had risen and sparkled off the water and at the risk of sounding cliched it was simply stunning. We then turned off the coastal path and headed back towards Ravenscar Village Hall. The first checkpoint. 8 miles of this run completed. Not really being used to the way these races worked I was surprised that we spent a few minutes hanging about the checkpoint, chatting, using the loo...and drinking cola. I hate coke. I never drink coke. The coke tasted like nectar.

Then off we set again, it was lovely to have the company of fellow Striders Dave Robson and Melanie Hudson as we ran north now on the cinder track towards Robin Hoods Bay. The cinder track was undulating and rocky, but the views down towards the Cleveland Way and the coast were beautiful. Dave and Mel were doing well and pulled ahead (Kath and I were a little worried at this point as we referred to that pair as our ‘Sat Navs’ as they had done the run a few times before. Kath can get lost in her own back garden so without Dave and Mel the navigating was down to me....). However, before we knew it we were heading into Robin Hoods Bay and the next checkpoint. At that point a badger ran into the road and ran along in front of us. Kath and I stopped and looked at each other to make sure we’d both seen it. We couldn’t possibly be hallucinating, I’d heard that ultra runners sometimes experience hallucinations but we hadn’t run far enough to hallucinate. Had we? The guys at the checkpoint didn’t believe us. “ Are you sure? Badgers are quite big you know?” Yeah, thanks for that. The coke tasted just as good at this checkpoint although the fact that Kath can eat Bacon crisps half way through a run still amazes me. Flip very kindly showed us the way back onto the cinder track and we were off and running towards Whitby. This was a lovely downhill run, lots of cyclists and walkers sharing the path and smiling at us as we passed them. We caught up with Dave and Mel again and it was great to have their company for a few chatty miles. I tried to ignore the fact that we were going steadily downhill. There were still over 10 miles to go. It couldn’t all be downhill...

Still smiling, must be an Ultra.

I was just starting to flag a little (Mel and Kath set a cracking pace whilst chatting away merrily!) when a marshall waved at us and said that the next checkpoint was only a couple of hundred metres away. A couple of hundred metres that included some very steep steps down. Ouch! The warm welcome at the checkpoint cheered us up considerably and the person who had decided to supply chunks of watermelon was simply a genius.

And then it was into Whitby. The sun was shining and Whitby was heaving with tourists. Many of whom seemed bemused to see sweaty runners wearing bizarre jet packs weaving in and out of them. “Is it a sponsored walk love?”....”yeah, well, sort of!”. Mark Dunseith had caught up with us at this point and he decided he’d stop for an ice cream. This was the moment I realised I was loving this run. How many other races have you done where it’s perfectly acceptable to stop for an ice cream? We climbed the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey, heeding Flip’s warning not make friends with any black dogs. I also tried not to make friends with the slightly tipsy bloke who offered me “£35 quid for your backpack love, you’ve only got chocolate in it”. When I declined (and pointed out there wasn’t any chocolate. Like there would be chocolate after 20 miles!) I had to spend the rest of the climb up the steps explaining why and what we were doing. Fortunately although he rather liked my jet pack, he was less enamored with the idea of joining us as we ran off again along the cleveland way at the top of the steps.

Mind the Gap. Now we were heading homewards. 10 miles to go. I’d be entering unknown territory and tried to stay mentally calm. Inside I was having a bit of a wobble, would I be strong enough to finish this run? The coastal path back to Ravenscar was beautiful, the sun was shining and the cliffs rose in sharp definition against the sea. But oh the steps! So many steps, down into the ‘holes’ and back out again. Periods of exhilarating running along flattish paths only to be greeted with more steps. At 22 miles I hit the wall and my legs decided to call it a day. I’ve never experienced that before. “But its flat, I should be running” I whined to Kath. In her wisdom she just said “eat something”. One marmite and almond butter sandwich later and everything seemed a little brighter. Maybe I was strong enough, maybe I could complete this run. We started laughing at the steps, joking and chatting with the walkers we passed and thanking the lovely ladies who cheered us on with “you go girls”. We passed 26.2 miles and I felt a little overwhelmed. The furthest I’ve ever run in my life and I’m loving it. The last few miles pulled steadily uphill but we were getting there. And then the final few metres of the run, turn right past the church and there was the village hall. As we walked in everyone clapped which overwhelmed me all over again! Then we were handed the best and blingiest medal I’ve ever seen in my life. And then I got to sit down and eat my own body weight in pizza and drink 10 cups of tea.

My aim had been to finish the run and finish smiling. I did both! It was an amazing experience, the Hardmoors organisation, welcome and camaraderie is legendary and I can confirm its all true. Such a generous and encouraging group of people, even to newbies like me. If you want to run in a beautiful part of our country, meet some fabulous people, challenge yourself to do something you’d never believe you can do and get to eat as much cake as you like then get yourself signed up for a Hardmoors event. I’m just off to check out their race calendar for the rest of the year....

Whitby.

Watergate 5K, Gateshead, 28th August

Alister Robson

Alister wearing some NEMAA silver bling.Again a low Striders turnout for this one which many would enjoy very much. No T-shirt or medal, in fact only a bottle of water and a buffet after, but cheap as chips and part of the NEMAA championship series too.

Unsurprisingly I always think this venue would suit a parkrun down to the ground being a good surface and going nowhere near any roads. It starts flat if a touch competitive at the front, before a short sharp climb, then a long downhill when you can really get the speed up. A tight right hand bend across a narrow bridge and again you're climbing up a longish drag. There's a quick drop to get your breath back then the bit I always forget about, another short climb. From here it's a short downhill, a tight right turn and a long straight and back to the start to begin the second lap.

I had a great run here which surprised me a little as I hadn't run much this week, and had a horrible journey to get here - stuck on the A1 Western Bypass which was like a car park - and only just got there in time to meet Richard and Becky, the only other Striders in attendance at the start. Richard came in just after me and Becky ran strongly too - I think both comfortably improved on last year, here.

We hung around for the presentations and a beer and I was overjoyed to discover I'd won the NEMAA silver medal for my age category, and that I'd also won a silver from my run at the Morpeth 10k earlier this month. :-)

Inclined to Madness, North York Moors, 27th August

10K

Nigel Heppell

Four Striders filled a car and travelled down to the fringes of the NYM on Wednesday night for the penultimate race of the Esk Valley Fell Club summer series. Mercifully midge-free in a fair breeze we were sent on our way in the usual Dave Parry style 'blah, blah, health and safety, blah, go ...' along an undulating forest track that had seen recent tree-felling work and was strewn with debris to trip the unwary. 2.5 miles of what seemed like hard work led us to the base of the incline - the track bed of an old rope-hauled railway - and a 1mile walk up the slope for three of us. Spat out onto the moor top and it's time to run again, gradually gaining height in amongst the grouse shooting butts, to divert briefly up to touch the Urra Moor summit trig point of Round Hill, highest point of the NYM at 454m, and also a Marilyn before a foot-slapping, knee-knocking, headlong charge downhill, some on the Cleveland Way, for the last 2miles to the finish at Clay Bank car park.

Mike B was cheated out of 1st V60 place by a holidaymaker from Dulwich. None of the rest of us was last. Thanks go to Camilla for providing the taxi service.

Inclined Striders.

Stockton River Rat Race, 24th August

10K

Vicki McLean

A beautiful sunny morning Kerry, Denise, my husband Paul and I met on the beautiful banks of the river Tees. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than chucking yourself into the cold murky water of the Tees voluntarily! Eagerly anticipating the start or the race we began to notice various obstacles close by and to the right my nemesis the ship! I must explain early on I am not a big fan of heights or water. To try and take our minds off the forthcoming torture we commenced our pre race preparation coffee, selfies and face painting let battle commence!!!

Warm up complete it was off to the start line Helen Allen was there to wave us off (she was in a later wave), a sea of MS society orange t-shirts made it the most colourful wave. Before we knew it we were off ducking under the scaffolding and running off to the metal barriers helpful hints by fellow competitors to keep to the corners was invaluable. Not interested in time Kerry and I took a leisurely pace and Denise ran off with my husband (full permission given by me). The next obstacle was the cargo net down on the floor crawling on the grass doing alright till the third section of net was on a specially soaked section of grass! Head to toe in mud I thought I had entered the wrong race but on the plus side I couldn’t see the ship over the six foot wall! Try as I might I was unable to get more than my ankle over the wall so I sneaked around the corner. Next the inflatable obstacle course, imagine orange beetles on their backs trying their best to get on their feet again with not much luck. Pure determination and we were on the other side in good spirits and covered in mud, still no signs of any water we were running again!

Chasing Mr&Mrs Speedy we clocked out at the first water obstacle, swimming the loch! Cold wet life vest on and here we go lowered gently into the water it was freezing and with a combination of front crawl, breast stroke and doggy paddle I was across with my fellow team mates shouting encouragement. Determined to continue we climbed through the architecture of the bridge and were running once more soaking wet this time. I’m the King of the Swingers not I’m more like Baloo the monkey bars defeated me with maximum effort applied and the run continued. Then came the hills, slippy and steep very tempted to slide down on my bottom but managed to stay on my feet. Saving lives, super nurses to the rescue helping a lady at the top of hill number two.

A big, big thank you to the workman painting the bridge this meant no climbing up just running across. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink Kerry and I were so thirsty and the water station was miles away and so the run continued to the RAPIDS!!! Clocked out to queue and battle our way through the current giving each other a helping hand. If anyone has seen my bruises this is where I got them advised to cross my arms in front of my body keep my legs together then let the water take me to the end. I did as I was told and I took out Denise. Out of the water we clocked back in and waited for Kerry to come out of the water and off again we go, till Kerry realised she hadn’t clocked back in (4 mins added to my time but we don’t leave our fellow team mates).

Hawaii 50......you may ask why within that 4 minutes Denise and Paul had made it to the kayaks and were already in the water. Kerry and I determined to beat them at something entered the water and we were off and it wasn’t long before we passed them and were up and out of the water before them and off again I could go on and describe every other obstacle but I could go on forever two more plunges in the Tees brought us to the final run and that ship was in sight, watching fellow competitors throw themselves off the plank I tried not to watch. As we ran over the bridge to approach the ship we had to jump in the water and swim to a cargo net before walking the plank! Kerry encouraged me to jump in knowing how scared I was it took me a while but I did it (woo hoo) it was then a race to get out to the cargo net and we hauled our backsides out of the water it was finally here! I climbed up and walked to the end but I couldn’t do it walking backwards, a gentle coaching from the marshal and I tried again but still I couldn’t do it. Kerry and Paul did it Denise and I didn’t. Feeling deflated we head for the finish line through all the people out for a Sunday morning walk, move or get wet was shouted at those people ignoring the oncoming runners. Final coaching from Rob Lister and we climbed the rope slope and off the other side over the line to our saviour cola and a curly wurly!

Kerry and I said that day we were not doing it next year, despite the bruises we had a ball! Watch out ship I’m coming to get you next year, yes we have already signed up!

Northumberland Coastal Marathon, 24th August

26.4

Melanie Hudson

This is the first time I have the Northumberland Coastal marathon and it is now high up on my list of most scenic routes. The route is an out and back from Alnmouth to the river bridge just south of Beadnell. It mainly follows the Northumberland Coastal Run route, but with the vast majority of the road sections on trail instead. It passes the spectacular ruins of Dunstanburgh castle, the lovely seaside village of Craster and goes along some beautiful beaches.

There were only fifty five runners at the start line which is surprising since it is such a beautiful marathon. Amongst these 55, were Striders DaveR, JulietP and DavidB. The weather was a little cool and overcast at the start with a breeze which made for perfect running conditions. It did warm up a bit later as the sun came up but it never got too hot.

I ran the first half with Dave and it felt as if it was going well. The course was runnable which made it a challenge for us as we are used to courses with lots of hills that we walk up, we are not used to running constantly. At the halfway point Dave decided to slow a little and I went on ahead.

At mile 15 my knee started to hurt quite a bit and I slowed down but thankfully it eased off as I hit the firm flat sand. Up until mile 20 I was feeling pretty strong and enjoying the scenery. However I began to feel unwell with a slight headache and feeling sickly. It is not like me to feel sickly in a marathon and I thought it would just pass.

At mile 22 I caught up with Juliet and David and I ran the next 2.5 miles with them, however by now I was feeling pretty sick, my head was hurting quite a bit and I was generally feeling very tired. It was great to have Juliet and David’s company which kept me plodding on, rather than resorting to walking. Although my poor navigation skills did not help them. At one point I tried to send us all down someone’s back garden because I remembered at one point on the way out turning past some lobster pots, maybe not the best way to remember a route when in Northumberland and lobster pots are a common thing. Then we came to a confusing section in a caravan park, I thought I had remembered the way as Dave had showed me on the way out. However we ended up on the beach way too early and ended up having to clamber over lots of rocks to get back to where we needed to be. I guess it was a good distraction from feeling ill but I did end up adding nearly a quarter of a mile to our distance, sorry.

About a mile and a half from the end I told Juliet and David to go on ahead as I felt as if I might be sick and I needed to run/walk to the finish. They kept looking to back to make sure I was okay, so I had little rest walks but the thought that I would be seen walking in the last mile spurred me to run more than I would have done otherwise. Thank you Juliet and David for helping me get through those last four miles. I was very relieved when I crossed the finish line. It was only then I realised that I was feeling so unwell due to a migraine. I took some tablets then cheered Dave in at the end.

Dave and I had some food and I began to feel a lot better. We then joined Juliet and David in the pub for a quick drink before heading home.

It wasn't until the next day that Juliet and David realised that they had both come first in their age categories. Well done you two!

Fleetwood Half Marathon, 24th August

Alister Robson

Graeme Walton had run this last year and reported favourably on its PB potential. He kindly offered me a lift and so Katy, Graeme and myself set off from Durham at 6.30am on the long journey to Fleetwood.

After a quick stop at the golden arches for coffee and a hash brown, we arrived in plenty of time in glorious sunshine and next to no wind - perfect conditions for me. I say we arrived in plenty of time, but the queues for the toilets were already starting to snake around the leisure centre car park - this and the unsecured baggage storage area was about the only thing I can mark this down for.

After an amusing MC gave the briefing and a slight delay in the start caused by the previously mentioned toilet queue we were off and running along the wide sea front promenade, Katy as usual shooting off, Graeme (who I managed to keep in sight for most of the first small lap) and me slowly and steadily towards the rear of the 500 strong field.

After the first short lap of about 1Km, we set off further down the coast for a larger lap of about four and a half miles. All this time I felt great and was running comfortably at my goal pace of 7.15 mins per mile. The third larger lap of about 8 miles was even further down the coast (you could see Blackpool Tower in the distance), but there was a slight headwind and I felt I was working hard. The long straight did however let me catch sight of Katy and I knew then that either I was storming it or Katy was having a struggle.

When I went round the furthest corner at just short of 10 miles and I saw her standing still I knew, if I didn't already, that it was the latter. I encouraged her to join me but she wanted to stop (it turns out to take her shoes off). The last three miles were a real drag, friendly marshals and photographers excepted. I really did have to push myself to keep going, knowing that if I could hold to even 8 minute miles I'd have a new PB and that's the way it panned out. All too soon, I was back on the final lap making the turn into the centre and could see the race clock ticking down and hear Graeme urging me on.

That early start and hard work was worth it with a PB of nearly two minutes and 1.37. Katy came in very shortly after me, still breaking 1.40 despite her struggle and Graeme was already in, in 1.33. There was a medal (if no T-shirt) a banana and a wagon wheel or bag of mini cheddars and water on offer to finishers. Graeme even very kindly stopped off on the way home so that I could get some essential hop flavoured recovery carbs on board!

Strangford Festival 10K, 22nd August

Debbie McFarland

Knowing I was going to be home visiting family for a week in Northern Ireland I decided to look up Northern Ireland athletics to see if there happened to be any nice races I could sign up for. I have always wondered what it would be like to run back home as running doesn’t seem to have as big of a profile in Northern Ireland as it does in the North East, plus it would be a little something to keep me motivated with Great North Run and Redcar half marathon just around the corner.

For those who don’t know Northern Ireland well, Strangford is a little village at the mouth of Strangford lough in County Down. On the other side of the lough is another village called Portaferry and there is a ferry that runs regularly between the two villages.

I set off to Strangford with my Mum and Dad aiming to be nice and early as numbers had to be collected on the day, plus I didn’t have a clue where the pick-up point was for these and without the usual purple crew to direct me I was feeling a little more nervous than usual.

The race started at 7.30pm and thankfully it was a lovely dry evening. Standing at the start line without the usual banter from my striders friends was quite a different experience. The race began alongside the lough near the village square, it then went up through the village and out through Castle ward a National trust area. It was a mainly a trail run with lots of forest and narrow winding tracks along the way, a few small sections involved running on grass.

Debbie. The first few miles follow around the lough which was stunning as the sun was going down. It was one of those scenes where you wished you had a camera with you to capture it. This was by no means a flat race route and I quickly realised there would be no chance of beating my 10k personal best of 58:13. Miles 3-5 were predominately uphill and at the 4k point the girl behind me loudly stated “I wish I’d never started this”, I give her a little bit of strider encouragement and we were on our way again. The marshals were fantastic, they were at all the right points to avoid you getting lost and they provided great support. The race finished with the last half mile being on footpath and back into the village, at this point I was feeling strong (probably because I knew it was downhill from here), it was lovely to hear all the locals clapping and cheering you in and even better was the fact that my mum and dad were standing at the corner just before you turn into the finishing straight.

I finished in a not so amazing time of 62:23 however given the hills I was pleased enough with that. A lovely race, definitely one I would do again and recommend to others. Race entry was only £11.00 and the race pack included water, Lucozade sport, T shirt (although it was cotton and white) and a mini mars bar. It also had the added bonus of being chip timed.

Gateshead Harriers & AC / Quayside Business Forum 5K, 21st August

Simon Gardner ...

Simon in the final kilometre.
Any race that has the magic words flat and Fast in the description gets me interested so despite costing £15! I entered hoping for a reasonable time and a desperate return to some sort of form.

I had been struggling recently, my times in track sessions had been very good but the mental side of running was once again something I was struggling with during recent races. I had recently done the Darlington 10K in 38:53 but the first 2 miles were way off pace and felt like slowing to a jog until mile 2 then ran really well for the reminder of the race. I really should have PB’d in that race but at least it showed that I was in fairly good shape.

After getting there very early (as normal) I was soon joined by Dougie, Alister, Rebecca and Richard “Ironman” hall along with the fast lads from Crook AC. It was obvious from the start this was going to be high calibre race with several runners from Morpeth including Ian Hudspith who still holds the Newcastle parkrun all time PB.

The course starts on the Newcastle Side of the Quayside just near the pitcher and piano and heads up river past all the bridges. The turn around point is just short of the half way point and you head down river back to the Millennium Bridge with finish on the Gateshead side.

I decided to not look at my watch and just run to feel, it is a fairly narrow start but it’s not long before it opens out a little, to be honest it was probably ideal as it stopped me going off too hard.

After the turn around I decided just go as hard as I could and if I ran out steam then at least I could say I gave it everything. Thankfully it was the best I have ran in months and was I delighted (and exhausted) to cross the line in 18:13.

Thanks to all the Striders there and especially to Allan for the track and Grass sessions they have really made a difference.

... Dougie Nisbet

At over a pound a mile dearer than the Great North Run I imagined for a second that I could sense Danny's incandescence sizzling quietly in the evening sunlight. Ordinarily I wouldn't pay £15 for a 5K that I could do £15 cheaper any Saturday of the year in parkruns all around the country. But I work next door, and I've not done a road race for a while. A fast, flat 5K would be useful in providing me with some no-nonsense feedback about what sort of shape I was in.

Daniel Buren - Catch as catch can: works in situ Just after 6pm I wandered out of Baltic, registered, then wandered back to my desk and had a nice cup of tea. I looked out of the window and saw a splash of purple so wandered out again to meet my fellow Striders who'd also decided to give this new race a whirl. As 7pm approached we made our way across the Millennium Bridge to the Start of the race in Newcastle. The race started right on time, even if the starting hooter didn't, but we all got the message, and we leapt away up the River Tyne.

Plenty of marshalls, signs and tape kept us right. It was a straight out and back and it was no time at all before the Scarily Fast runners could be seen coming back downriver. Simon, Alister, and Rich were mixing it up with the SFRs but I wasn't so far back myself and feeling exhausted but upbeat. Short races are just so much harder than long races, and you have to keep concentrating or your pace slips, and in a short race, you pay for that lapse of concentration. I grabbed the lampost at the turn and birled round and I was heading home. A slight tailwind and, because you're going downriver you can tell yourself you're going downhill, and I kept my pace up.

I tried to not keep glancing at my watch but I realised I was in danger of getting a half-decent time. There was just the small matter of the hill at the end. A sharp right onto the Millennium Bridge then keeping to the right to take the shortest line possible - over the summit to hear Alister's commanding voice encouraging me to shift it downhill to the finish. A cheeky little chicane through the gates and bollards and then a few yards sprint to the line with some convenient railings to hang on to while I waited for the world to stop spinning.

I was pretty pleased to finish 1 second the wrong side of 23 minutes given that my last parkrun a few weeks ago had been nearer 26 minutes. A flat fast and furious race. Everyone needs to do one of those every now and then, even if it does cost £4.84 a mile.

Helen, Alister, Rich, Dougie, Rebecca, Simon, Hugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew ...

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Ian HudspithMorpeth HarriersV40100:15:03
22Heather SellarsAbbey RunnersFemale100:16:57
50Simon GardnerV40600:18:13
101Alister RobsonV401600:20:45
116Richard HallMale5900:21:33
129Dougie NisbetV501100:23:01
135Helen Todd*Female2000:23:26
165Rebecca FisherFemale3200:26:31

179 finishers
*No club. But if she were to be in a club ...

Cock Crow 5K, Jarrow, 19th August

Alister Robson

Surprisingly just Jacquie and I representing Striders for this very low key event. It took next to no time to get there being just off the A194 Leam Lane roundabout and so we had plenty time for me to have a coffee and for Jacquie to talk Masters track and field athletics with the evergreen George Routledge.

Evergreen George, indeed!

We even had time for a recce/warm up - the course had changed slightly from last year and now started and finished at roughly the same place.

It's a mainly flat course heading out on an old railway line (Waggon Way?) before a cheeky little hill takes you to the highest point of the course just before 2k. (Great views though). There's a small stile to hop over and that's what I blame for my time being slightly slower than expected over 5k, although quicker than last year.

After the stile there's a pleasant diversion around the fishing lake, up a country lane, along a very quiet road, a very short piece of grass and back to the railway line for a nice fast finish.

No medals, tees or goody bag here but no-one robbed either at only £7. Jacquie was just outside 25 mins and her times are once again heading in the right direction off the back of marathon training so we celebrated with a slap up meal in the eponymous pub where we didn't trouble the results presentations.

Summer Cross Country Relays, Durham Racecourse, 18th August

Simon Gardner

After the success of last year’s relay I once again volunteered to organise the teams for the event which is put on by Durham City Harriers. Last year we had 24 runners (8 teams) but this year the demand was even bigger and we had an excellent turnout of 33 runners which made up 11 teams.

Imagine holding crisps between your thumb and forefinger, and look slightly ahead and down ... -- Allan Seheult

We only had one team in the senior category and that was also our fastest team consisting of Gareth Pritchard, Rob Everson and Stephen Jackson and they did not let us down finishing in 11th place which is fantastic considering the really high standard of the senior runners running on the night. Rob was also the fastest strider of the night coming home in 10:37 for 2 mile which is very impressive and shows the fantastic progress he has made over the last year.

While no-one let us down the weather most certainly did. It started to pour down around 6:30 and didn’t let up for a good 30 minutes, so by the time the Vets race started we had 30 wet ,cold but determined striders ready to go.

The rain thankfully had stopped by the time all our first leg runners assembled on the start line in the Vet race.

Just picking out a few striders for special mention, Matthew Crow continues to improve massively and managed an excellent 11:38 for the 2 mile circuit and looks in great shape for coming XC season, thanks also to Penny Browell and Clare Galloway for stepping in late in the day and giving it their all.

Finally many thanks to everyone came down to run and support.

Ray Harrison Memorial 10k, Billingham, 17th August

Alister Robson

I've often wondered why this race isn't more popular with Striders and can only conclude that it's the timing, coming as it does immediately after the hugely popular Darlington 10k and before the not quite as, but almost as popular Middlesbrough Tees Pride 10k. This year it was also the day before the DCH Summer Relays.

That's the only thing I can think of as otherwise it ticks a lot of boxes. Fast, flat, cheap, chip timed and with a tech tee and goodie bag. This year if you'd entered in a advance your name was also printed on the number, giving spectators a chance to shout your name which is always nice.

Working hard early on ...

Katy described the route well in her report from last year - one small 3k loop and a larger 7k route. The wind was strongly in your face for the last bit of both, though it's strange how it doesn't feel as strong when it's behind you!

I bumped into Ari and Innes Hodgson beforehand and Ari was ahead of me for nearly all of the first lap. I tried to encourage him to tuck in behind me into the wind but perhaps he paid the price for slightly too fast a start. I had a good strong run, only a few seconds slower than my time at Darlington a week earlier on a much less windy, if perhaps slightly hillier course. I was also pleased to track down and overtake the three orange DCH shirts that were ahead of me for most of the first 9K. Ari finished just behind me as I got my breath back with a very strong and competitive kick at the very end coming into the stadium. Innes was just after him and looked pretty comfortable considering.

Unfortunately I didn't see Laura Jackson at the start and hence didn't know to wait for her. It was her second race of the weekend following from Saturday's Gateshead trail 10k - looks like someone has got the bug :-)

A potential Sprint Grand Prix race for future years?

St Levan 10K, Cornwall, 15th August

Jenny Search

This race is organised by Mounts Bay Harriers and takes place in the West of Cornwall just a few miles from Lands End. It’s not a long drive from my parents’ house and as it was a beautiful evening I managed to persuade my husband to come with me and run too. The entry process was well organised and I was chuffed to be able to put ‘Elvet Striders’ on my entry form for the first time. We checked out the map on a board, giggled at the fact we would be passing through Bottoms and Brew and tried to ignore the other runners complaining about ‘that hill’ so we could remain in ignorant bliss. The description of the course on the website is brilliant so I’ll quote it here:

“The route is described as ‘undulating’ by most Cornish runners, many of whom have recorded their PBs on it. Visitors from East Anglia tend to describe it either as ‘hilly’ or ‘bl**dy hilly’ while Northern fell running types tend to consider it a bit ‘soft’. True, there are a couple of pulls around the course, but these are more than compensated by a couple of descents and a great deal of fast level ground.”

I never did any running when I lived in Cornwall and I’ve obviously not become truly ‘Northern’ yet as I thought it was pretty darn hilly! The first mile was pleasantly undulating but then the second mile was all up hill and very steep followed by another long steep climb at the halfway point. We managed to run up all the hills but got overtaken by a few people on the downhills so I need to work on that. The route was inland and there weren’t many views due to the high Cornish hedges along the lanes but it was very pleasant, quiet running and the glimpses of sea and countryside were lovely with plenty of uplifting support from marshals and a few residents along the route.

Jenny changes coasts.

I can’t imagine recording a PB on this route due to the hills so I dread to think what the other local races are like but I really enjoyed it and it was a good challenge. Over 300 runners took part, mostly club runners from all over Cornwall. We were pleased to finish (together) in under an hour (56.28). We ended the evening by driving to the coast and watching the sunset over the sea with a bag of chips. So if you’re down in Cornwall one August, I’d recommend looking it up.

Turner Landscape Fell Race, Lakes, 10th August

10.6m / 2986'

Danny Lim

Gale force winds buffeted me in every direction and visibility was down to 50 yards. I was somewhere on the Coniston Masiff, looking for my second elusive checkpoint. This was a world away from the sunny Duddon valley from which I had started an hour ago. The runner ahead was just about visible and I really didn't want to lose him.

Then through the mist, a lone waif-like figure stood. Facing the blustery wind, he held himself upright with two walking poles. "Well done!" he called out. As I approached, I saw a weathered, gaunt face framed by white eyebrows and a long, narrow nose. His beady eyes carried a piercing gaze, a distinctive look which I recognised instantly. "Joss Naylor?". "Aye!", he replied.

It was a surreal moment, meeting him atop a desolate peak in the mist when I least expected it. Here was the legendary "Iron Joss", breaker of so many course records, some of which still stand decades on. And here he was in his seventies, marshalling a remote checkpoint, encouraging runners including the ones at the back. And all for a good cause, as all race proceeds were going to the Alzheimer's Society. For a second, I forgot I was in the middle of a race. A quick handshake and I reluctantly carried on.

From Dow Crag looking into Duddon Valley.

I had lost my quarry and found myself alone in the mist. It was a disconcerting feeling, but I carried on in the bearing I was supposed to take. Eventually, I joined a pack of runners and followed them towards the next checkpoint, the summit of Old Man Coniston. On descending from the "Old Man", I veered away from the main path, followed a sheep trod which eventually petered out. I found myself on the side of a steep, grassy slope dotted with crags and boulders. I also had a great view of the big, precipitous drop into the valley below. As I fumbled through, trying to traverse the slope, I realised that the runners behind had taken exactly the same line. "You don't have to follow me, I'm making this up as I go!", I joked. Nobody had a sense of humour.

We soon reached the next checkpoint at Dow Crag before making our way to White Pike, the last climb of the race. From here it was 20 minutes of exhilarating, quick-stepping, knee-jolting descending through the sheep folds towards Turner Farm Hall. What added to the thrill was knowing I was being chased. I had managed to get ahead of the pack and I could intermittently hear heavy footsteps behind. A last cruel perimeter of the field and I was across the finish.

If you have managed several fell races in the North York Moors and want a step up, this will be a good one to try, though navigational skills is a must. I was initially fazed by my fellow runners. They have thighs that show every sinew of muscle, craggy weathered faces, frames devoid of body fat and a determined and confident expression. But everyone really is friendly and up for a bit of banter, especially after the race. This is only the fourth running of this race, but the route is a horseshoe run over a mountain ridge and boasts great views throughout. It certainly has potential to become a Lakeland "classic".

Hardmoors Saltburn Marathon, Saltburn-By-The-Sea, 10th August

28m

Melanie Hudson

The first thing I did that morning was to check the weather forecast, hoping that it had changed since the day before. I was sadly disappointed as they were still predicting very heavy rain for most of the day. So when I arrived at Saltburn leisure centre I was feeling apprehensive about what was in store. Although it was reassuring to see the familiar faces of Flip and Denise B who were both there to marshal and Sue who was also running the marathon. Just before the start I also spotted Lindsay R who was there to run the 10k.

The marathon began and at this point the weather was warm and dry but very overcast as if it could start raining at any time. We began by running up the road, however the climb did not last long and we were soon descending towards Saltburn seafront. We ran along the front before reaching a long set of steps to get onto the Cleveland way.

Queueing at Registration.

Once on the cliff tops the path was on a gradual incline which was pretty runnable. There were lovely views of the coast along this path which we were on for about five and a half miles. The seven mile point which took us off the coastal path and headed back towards Skinningrove. At mile nine the route took us onto a climb out of Skinningrove and the heavens opened. The rain was quite cold but I felt really warm so I had to make a quick decision as to whether I should put my waterproof on or not. I decided that it can be hard to warm up again if I got really cold and that there was a long way to go so I put my coat on.

I got to the check point at mile 12 where Denise was marshaling and she cheered me on my way.

Since putting my coat on I had been uncomfortably hot and I eventually made the decision to take it off at mile 15. At this point I had entered Slapewath woods which had become pretty muddy underfoot due to the heavy rain and made for slow going. However I did spot some raspberries and blackberries that were ready to eat so I munched on a few of them on the way past.

I was then in Guisborough Woods where the rain had started to ease a little and I was glad I had taken off my coat earlier. At mile 18 there was a brutal climb up to Highcliff Nab, not what my tired legs really wanted at this point. The top of The Nab was where Flip was marshaling, he was ‘entertaining’ runners on the way up by ‘singing’ to people on their way up. It was lovely to see a familiar face at the top of such a climb. Flip checked if I was okay for food and water, it must have been quite a feat hauling such supplies up there with him.

I then descended onto the moors, where the rain was very heavy again. It was also very misty which made the moors pretty eery and I was glad that there were other runners around me. By now we were heading into a cold wind, I was wet and chilly. There was a mile uphill and the ground was very wet, however I kept running to try and keep warm.

On the Cleveland Way.

Eventually I came to a road which I crossed. The route description now said for me to head in the direction of a TV Mast. This would have been a useful instruction had it not been so misty ! Thankfully there was a clear path to follow which lead me to the mast which only appeared when I was only several feet from it.

At mile 26 I was running through Skelton Green where I saw Denise again. It was a real boost to see her as by this point I was feeling pretty cold and miserable and it was still raining heavily.

At mile 27 I entered Saltburn woods and followed the path down to a lovely waterfall. I then took the footbridge over the beck and underneath a viaduct. They are attractive woods. Then there was then a bit of a climb to get back to the top of Saltburn. I was then out of the woods and onto the road. I knew I had to be quick if I wanted sub six hours so I ran as fast as I could. I was not quite fast enough and missed the sub six hours by 15 seconds. However I was not too bothered, I was just relieved to be inside where it was warm and dry. The advantage of this race’s HQ being in a leisure centre was that it had warm showers. After a shower and a cup of coffee I was warmed up and feeling happy to have completed the marathon in such unpleasant conditions.

Forest Burn Fell Race, 10th August

3.5M / 492'

Jan Young

Forest Burn fell race; traditional country fair race of 5.6k/150m climb over gates, pastures, streams, fell. Striders Will Horsley has organised this since 2007; he did everything, taping the course, took entries, ran, sorted results. Simonside Country Fair and hay show (all a tad soggy) small affair with dog show, falconry, wrestling, exhibition tent (victoria sandwiches the size of hay bales), egg throwing. Well attended despite weather. Nice to chat to familiar (running) faces; Stuart of DFR/Quakers? provided registration tent, promoting outdoor clothing, very lightweight down sleeping bags/ gilet. Race is short with little climbing, so good for fell running intro, as well as family day out.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Darlington 10K, 10th August

Greta Jones

This is one of my favourite road races of the year, firstly because it is relatively flat and secondly because I work in Darlington and there is always someone on the sidelines to give a cheer. I had achieved a PB at Tyndale this summer and following this, Alister Robson commented on what I could potentially achieve on a fast flat course like Darlington, well that sent the thought process in to overdrive and gave me a goal to aim for.

My sister Karen (a recent recruit to the Striders family) and I set off for Darlington early, as her daughter Issy was running in the fun run, Issy as usual had a great time and the fun run acted as a good warm up for Karen.

Following the fun run we managed to meet up with a rather large group of Striders for some pre race support and a couple of group photos. In the absence of Bill Ford, YP asked the usual question, "Jonsey, what are we aiming for", there then followed a discussion on what he achieved last year and what I achieved and a compromise that we aim for somewhere between the two, (58.44 and 59.53) We now had a goal, so we made our way to the race start and were soon underway. The start was a little congested but I soon managed to get to the pace I required and felt quite comfortable. Now I am not the best at evenly pacing, I have a tendency to run too fast and pay for it in the later stages. So although I was surprised to pass Chris Hedley and Debs Goddard, I fully expected them to catch me later in the race.

Surprisingly the first lap felt good and my average pace was on track, I forgot, to check my 5K time, but was happy that the average pace remained pretty steady. The second time on Carmel Road slowed me up a little, but some encouragement from Michael Ross as he passed me and some excellent motivational speeches from a gentleman in a Swift-tees top gave me enough encouragement to pick up the pace and keep going.

Turning in to High Row I could hear Alister Robson cheering me in, a quick smile for a colleague with a camera and I crossed the line in a time of 47.38 over 2 minutes off last year's time. YP was just behind me, as was Nicola White both of whom also achieved 10k PBs.

Having finished my race it was then time to add to the Striders cheering squad, and I couldn't have been more please to see my sister completing only her 2nd race in a Striders vest with a 10k PB of 53 minutes, thanks should go to Jacquie Robson for pacing her round the first lap and the proverbial kick up the backside on the second, but I think the highlight of the day was watching Kirsty Steed pace Debs McFarland to her first ever sub 60 10K race.

I think I can safely say that we had a successful and enjoyable race with the additional bonus of a purple T-shirt for all finishers.

Results

PosName Club CatTime
1 Wondiye Fikre Indelbu Ethiopia M 00:30:45
6 Kate Avery Shildon Running & ACF 00:33:05
36 Gareth Pritchard M 00:35:45
52 Stephen Jackson M 00:36:53
61 Rob Everson M 00:37:19
99 Simon Gardner MV40 00:38:53
154 Matthew Crow M 00:40:31
163 Graeme Walton MV40 00:40:54
217 Katy Walton F 00:41:58
298 Alister Robson MV40 00:43:45
357 Fiona Jones FV35 00:44:42
365 Paul Pascoe MV40 00:45:09
415 Jonathan Steed MV45 00:46:04
428 Martin Welsh MV50 00:46:11
468 Anna Seeley F 00:46:53
475 Claire Readey FV35 00:47:16
506 Jackie McKenna FV45 00:47:40
523 Michael Ross MV40 00:47:26
535 Greta Jones FV45 00:47:38
559 Paul Beal MV50 00:47:56
564 David Spence MV65 00:48:01
572 Richard Hall MV55 00:47:59
587 Nicola Whyte F 00:48:08
670 Debra Goddard FV40 00:50:03
676 Stephanie Piper F 00:50:16
841 Karen Jones FV40 00:53:00
894 Dave Robson MV60 00:52:26
924 Jacquie Robson FV35 00:54:17
1000Clare Clish FV40 00:56:14
1101Angela Coates FV40 00:57:26
1168Kirsty Anderson FV35 00:58:12
1169Debbie McFarland F 00:58:13
1230Jane Baillie FV35 00:59:32
1300Helen Hall FV45 01:00:14
1334Laura Chapman F 01:02:09
1387Mike Elliott MV65 01:04:26
1453Sophie Dennis F 01:07:14

1531 finishers.

TEAM WITH A DREAM

parkrunathon, Manchester, 9th August

8x5km (YMMV)

George Nicholson

Pieces of eight.To boost my Great North Run Fundraising I undertook yet another parkrunathon. This year deciding on 8 parkruns courses in the Manchester area. Rather than attempt it on my own I ‘volunteered’ Sam Nightingale to accompany me. Before she married, many Striders knew her as Sam Brown, former Event Director of Sunderland parkrun, & the young Lady who started up the Netball club, Wearside Wildcats.

It was Sam of course who introduced so many of us to parkrun, organising our Televised Santa Run and our annual Netball Tournament, which is now in its 4th year. Sam and her hubby Oli now live in Manchester.

zero down, eight to go.The schedule of events was decided upon and contact was made with each of the Venues and promoted on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Vodafone JUST TEXT GIVING also helped me along the way with promotion by designing ‘posters’ and promoting it via Twitter. From that we were contacted by Chorlton Runners and 2 of their Members Leona Beaumont and Lorraine Pang elected to accompany us on ‘our journey’, and what a difference they made. Apart from being delightful Company, they turned out to be invaluable help and support in so many ways. Arriving at the first venue - Woodbank ( more of that soon ) 2 other ‘unattached’ parkrunners Karl Downing and Jason Ridgeway also decided to come along for the ‘fun & runs’. At the 3rd venue ( Bramhall ) Sam’s Hubby arrived with 2 of his friends , Neil Grice and Gazz Pashley. From then on, we were a ‘TEAM WITH A DREAM’ travelling in convoy to each subsequent parkrun location, enjoying many laughs and providing morale boosts for each other whenever the going got tough, making it a most memorable day for me.

The omens were favourable from the start. Weather forecast was good and at 7:15 am we arrived at WoodBank park to be greeted with an amazing reception of friendly faces. There were approx. 18 parkrunners who had turned out at this early hour to run with us, the course had already been laid out, signs, cones flags etc. - Wonderful. My aim was to attempt to run each parkrun in about 30 mins, but that soon proved to be unattainable on some tough hilly courses on a very hot day. Survival and enjoyment became far more important than ‘times’.

Run #2 was the Official parkrun at Cheadle Hulme. This was only their 7th Event, but the 60 other runners and all the Marshalls & Organisers had put out the ‘Red Carpet’ for our arrival and again we were given VIP treatment. Of particular note here was a delightful youngster called Annabel who had a bell, and must be the loudest Voluncheerer in the Manchester area.

Event Director Janine met us at the magnificent Bramhall park for run #3. A most scenic run through woods & hill around a magnificent Stately Home

Run #4 was different again, 2 laps & flat around Burnage RFC and the very pleasant riverbanks. E.D Katherine & other ladies did an excellent job here of marshalling the ‘Dream Team’ at some critical junctions.

THE DREAM TEAM.

Run #5 was back to another magnificent stately home – Wythenshawe park. We were escorted round by 2 of their runners, but unfortunately became quite a spread out Team and several took wrong turnings at key points. one of us, namely me, took a major wrong turn and ended up running almost 5 miles rather than 3.1 L - a major fail.

Run #6 at South Manchester park was known by most of the team as it was their main local run and we were met there by another regular runner. However I never got to see any of it. The major fail on the last run resulted in me getting severe cramp in both calves and I simply could not walk, never mind run. It was also on this course that Jason went ‘down’ with a bad leg injury, which meant both he and Karl had to pull out. Each of them did however a credible 6 runs that day.

I at least had 2 hours to recover and was able to continue at Worsley Woods for run #7. Despite being quite late on a Saturday afternoon 6 ‘Locals’ turned up for us and were proud to show us round their scenic route.

At 6:30 pm we arrived at our last venue for run #8 – the magnificent Heaton Park. We were met by E.D. Damian, who explained the course and ran with us. Despite being desperately tired by then, not even twice up ‘Angina’ hill would prevent me from completing this one.

So by 8:00 pm we were ‘done’ – literally and physically . Although I missed out run #6, I’d still covered 25 running miles in the 12 hour day. Thankfully for me it was Sam that had driven the 90 miles in between. It was also worth noting that it was only the 3 Ladies who had completed all 8 of the 5k’s – Girl Power at its best.

A great day however, many friends made, but most importantly a lot of money raised once more for my chosen charity, Acorns. Big thank you to all who contributed and made this possible. Next stop for me Great North Run #34

Absent Friends.

Long Tour of Bradwell, Peak District, 9th August

33m / 6500'

Paul Evans

For the third year in a row, I stood in the centre of a small Peak District village, looked around at the crowd of lean runners in ultra-light racing kit and thought deeply pessimistic thoughts. The sun was already out and the day was going to be long. I wasn't even sure why I was here, other than that I had a gap between shifts that seemed ideal for it: the first time I ran it was simply to see if I could manage an ultra whilst I still had both legs, the second to relish still having them after completing my final tour and this one? It was there, I suppose, and now we were amassed and someone was wielding an airhorn...

The first mile was easy and slow trough an overhung lane by the enormous cement works, deliberately placing myself mid-pack to get dragged along at a gentle pace to the bottom of the first climb, where the track widened. The climb went well, the descent of Cave Dale was as dreadful as ever and the long drags up to Hollins Cross and then from Edale up Kinder were taken at a steady pace, a mixture of walking and running helping me gain a few places. Ominously, navigation to the Druid's Stone control was made easy by the lack of cloud, the sun having burned this away, and a hard, fast descent off Kinder led into a pull up Lose Hill, where the runners I was chasing were lost amongst the Half Tour runners we joined, on which I started to feel the heat, developing a thirst despite having taken on water and squash at both opportunities so far.

Once the Lose Hill trig has been touched, just after control 6 (of 16), the biggest climbs are over and the descent to control 7 is fast and grassy, with the knowledge that shade awaits for much of the run around Win Hill and the edge of Ladybower. This is a relatively easy section, not unlike an Esk Valley race in feel, and it seemed to pass quickly, broken only by another stop for water and banana at control 9, where I was told that at halfway I'd taken just over three hours. Anoter easy mile took us down to Bamford, by which point I realised that I was now part of a group that was likely to stay fairly close for a while. Electricity works meant that the dreaded 'escalator' track was out of use and we were instead forced to use a longer, though less severe, climb up a wooded lane to the road below Stanage Edge - this would have been better had the five of us not collectively mis-read which road junction we emerged at, costing us another half mile before we realised our error and hit the track for the edge itself.

As a runner, I'm beginning to understand my strengths relative to others, as well as my weaknesses, and I ran the 2 miles along the gritstone edge hard, knowing that there were now 6 or 7 runners not far behind, most of whom were probably better descenders than me and so needed to be shaken. Two were dropped, not to be seen again, and the splits show that I ran the third fastest time of the day for the leg, a pace maintained after water and food at control 12 down the stony track to Burbage Bridge, where due to the growing thirst I gave in and took my first drink of the day from a stream; delicious and probably not too riddled with pathogens. Another short, flat section took us along the stream past crowds of walkers and children playing with their dogs in the shallow water, which was utterly delightful, though we broke away from the path to cut through bracken-filled millstone quarries and thick woods showing the effects of a hot, damp summer, the path barely visible at times. Control 14 punched, the descent down to the railway line achieved without making the same error as last year and it was now a slog to the control 15 along the riverside path, a final banana and a long climb through the lush Abney Clough, control 16 and another refill of water from a stream along the way, to the bare hillside overlooking Bradwell. By this point I'd hauled myself into 10th, albeit without realising it, and knew that breaking 6 hours was still possible, so took the downhill as recklessly as I could force myself to, losing only two places before hitting the tarmac of the last kilometre to the finish...which was lovely - soft, warm grass to flop on, as much soup, bread, squash and tea as borderline ischaemic GI tracts could handle and all the early finishers sitting by the finish line, applauding in every new arrival, including interruptions to the prize-giving to do so. A fourth year probably beckons but, worryingly, minutes after finishing it occurred to me that I could probably have gone on a little longer, the word 'addiction' beginning to answer the question posed five hours and fifty five minutes earlier.

Druridge Bay Inaugural parkrun, 9th August

5k

Jacquie Robson

Normally, I miss out on local inaugural parkruns to stay behind at Durham while Alister gets to go and enjoy a bit of parkrun tourism as part of his NE parkrun Ambassador role. The large number of volunteers at Durham (thanks, folks) last week, however, meant I could accompany Alister to the first running of the (now) most northern parkrun in England.

Druridge Bay parkrun, the first Northumberland parkrun, is a welcome addition to the NE parkrun family. It starts and finishes at the visitor centre and the route consists of two laps of the beautiful Ladyburn Lake on good quality trail and path. It was fairly dry and suitable for road shoes even after a good downpour overnight, and the route is pretty flat with only a few gradients on the way around the lake. Warm and pleasant conditions meant that the run times were pretty good for most participants, and it was great to see lots of friendly faces. Event Director and Alnwick Harrier Mark Doctor has a great team established and already there's a friendly and community feel to the event. The visitor centre cafe is also rather fantastic, supplying top notch bacon butties or(and?) full English breakfasts as well as a wide choice of cake!

Alister attempting to fly.

Plenty of other Striders came along for a spot of parkrun tourism, and it was no surprise to see Paul Pascoe and Angela Coates among them, as they needed to complete Druridge Bay to keep their 100% NE parkrun completion record going! There is a £1.40 car park charge when visiting this parkrun, but we made the most of our visit with a kayaking trip out on the lake before we left. Other parkrunners had taken along their wetsuits and fitted in a bit of triathlon open-water swimming training, whilst more sedentary types brought their dog and went for a walk along the beautiful beach afterwards. I'll definitely be back to Druridge Bay - but next week it's a return to Durham parkrun to celebrate the 3rd Anniversary.

Morpeth 10k, 5th August

Alister Robson

My 6th go at this race which is almost always the first back after our holidays. After two weeks all-inclusive holiday I didn't have great hopes. It's a great warmup for Darlington 10k, also 2 laps and with a long drag up a gradual incline. Morpeth also throws in a couple of small hills.

Megan Bell and I travelled up together and Becky & Richard Hall (2) were already there. registration had changed slightly this year, although you still park at the Piramol chemical factory and register at the Football Club, this year you didn't get the mug beforehand and have to go all the way back to the car to keep that safe before making your way to the start (another good walk/warmup).

As I explained to Megan on the startline, the name of the game with this one is pacing, take a nice steady first lap and then speed up slightly for the second, picking off those who'd gone off to fast and getting a psychological boost in the process. I almost managed to follow the plan, just went out a little too hard towards the end of the first lap, no harm done though as I still managed to run all the way up the long drag that starts the second half (something that has to my shame defeated me in previous years).

Chasing Kirstin of Durham City Harriers who was having an absolute stormer kept me going and I only managed this in the last couple of Km. I gave her a few encouraging words which must have worked as she held, despite being tired for a massive PB and crossing the line with the same time as me. I initially thought that we'd both dipped under 45 mins, a course PB for me and a massive 2 minute PB for Kirstin but we were robbed a bit by the official results giving us 45.13.

Megan came in quickly after me in a season's best time, and Becky and Richard (fresh from his Ironman exploits) followed in shortly after. A nice run and a good omen for the weekend.

Devil O’The Highlands, Scotland, 2nd August

43m

Mark Dunseith

*This is a long one so I’d read it with a cup of tea in hand! When I was young my friend and I used to spend all summer at Loch Lomond with our parents. Our campsite was on the West Highland Way so we would always meet walkers stopping at our campsite and for years I’ve wanted to walk it myself. However, my friends all scoffed at the idea. It wasn’t until I read a race report by Flip that I realised I could run it instead of walking. I looked into the West Highland Way race and read that you have to have participated in another race that would show a capability to complete this. One of the races listed as a suggestion was the Devil O’ The Highlands. However, the race was already full and the waiting list was already over 30 people meaning 20% of the field would have to drop out in the months to come for me to get a place. Again on Flip’s advice I was assured this would happen and if all else failed I could turn up on the day, money in hand, and they wouldn’t turn me away. I booked accommodation with this in mind and waited for my name to move ever so slowly up the waiting list. The week before the race I was allocated a place. However, I had one major injury concern going into this race, my trusty Garmin. Unfortunately it had been for a little spin in the washing machine and was failing to pick up any satellites so it was left behind as we headed up to the Motherland.

Mark on the long and winding road ...

We arrived to spectacular views in the village of Killin and after a quick pub dinner and carb load* (*beer) we went to bed in preparation for the next day.

Race day:

3.35am alarm (that extra 5 minutes were very much appreciated), up and out of the door just after 4am.

We got to registration and managed to get some breakfast from the Green Welly Stop (the staff starting work at 2am for us was hugely appreciated!) before heading to the start line just before 6am.

During the countdown I had a moment of thinking about how far I still had to go, only this time I was thinking I had at least 8 hours of running left. I really must stop thinking this sort of stuff at the start of races. Anyway, the shout went up and we were off and running. I thought about going to the front of the race and sprinting the first 50 meters just so I could say 'I'm winning' but despite wanting to be that person, I didn't want everyone else to think I was that person. So I stayed with the crowd and waved to Anita and my brother-in-law Neil as I ran past.

Logic, experience and research all tell you not to start off too fast in a long race like this but the first six miles are very runnable and with everyone else around me doing a pace I was comfortable at running I just kept going with the flow. That got me through the first 6 miles and to checkpoint 1 (Bridge of Orchy) in around an hour, so around 10 minute miles. I was hoping to average 13 minute miles so knew this was way too fast. This problem was very quickly rectified as we left Bridge of Orchy and came across the first steep climb of the day. With quite a small field of 150 in this race I couldn't believe how many people were passing me.

As I had now slowed down to a run/walk strategy I was at the mercy of hundreds of midges. I love Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and the Highlands but I HATE MIDGES! Every time I started to walk I would get bitten so it was quite a motivating factor to keep moving. So keep moving I did and I saw a lad about my age a little ahead of me and I decided to keep my eye on him and see if I could eventually catch him. I wasn't particularly interested in getting too close too soon as I much preferred running on my own and not making small talk. Eventually though I had to ask him how far it was to the next checkpoint as my feet were becoming very sore. I was wearing my trail shoes and the surface was quite a hard path with larger stones so no real need for this grip. The guy was called Craig and he told me we were only a couple of miles from the next checkpoint so I fell in next to him and had a chat for the next couple of miles. Turns out he was trying to complete the triple crown of Highland Fling, West Highland Way race and Devil. Much respect.

Garmin with rice.

We eventually got to Glencoe Ski Centre and the second checkpoint to a great cheer from all the spectators and back up crews. As I ran up with Craig he checked in to the checkpoint and turned round and ran straight back out again. I couldn't believe this. I had been looking forward to my peanut butter sandwich and bottle of Fanta for the past 10 miles.

I changed my shoes and refuelled and I was out of the checkpoint in what seemed like a short period of time but what Anita reckons must have been about 20 minutes.

I felt great after my stop and my feet were no longer slowing me down. I ran for a good period of time after leaving the checkpoint and only had the occasional little walk until I reached the bottom of the Devil's Staircase. This is the highest category climb in the race and one that everyone said was very difficult. However, it wasn't until I was halfway up that I met Craig again and had to ask him whether this was in fact the Devil's Staircase. We passed lots of holidaying American high school aged kids who were all giving encouragement to the runners. 'You guys are awesome' is one I remember quite well.

I got to the top of the climb without much fuss but the descent was awful. If ever there was a time to worry about my previous ankle injury then this was it. Large loose rocks and lots of awkward footing made the descent treacherous and slow. About half the people I overtook going up the hill were now taking back their place on the descent. This was an awful 60 minutes or so. Near the end of the descent I could see Kinlochleven which looked a bit like Bruges or a Bavarian town from my vantage point coming down towards it. I ran into Kinlochleven and the last checkpoint again to lots of cheers from the supporters and backup crews.

Again Anita and Neil had sorted me out with a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of tea. I had a sit down and asked how far I had done. Not having a Garmin on my wrist was one of the most frustrating things of the day. At the top of the Devil's Staircase I asked someone for the first time that day how far we had gone and was expecting the answer to be in the low 30's only to be told 22. Now sitting at the last checkpoint I was hoping to be told that I had 7 or 8 miles to go but I still had 15 miles left. Anita said to not worry about it and just think that I only have the coastal run left. Having just ran for 6 and a quarter hours I didn't really want to think of that.

Off I went again out of Kinlochleven on what was to be the last big climb of the day. The rest of the race was just trying to run when I could. At one point I realised that I was using any small incline as an excuse to stop running so I had to tell myself to keep running until at least half way up any small hills.

About halfway between the last official checkpoint and the end was a wilderness response team station. This was just a random volunteer who spends his weekends and most free time up on the moors helping out walkers with first aid and providing fizzy drinks etc. I stopped for a quick chat and a drink of sugary goodness then headed on my way.

The closer I got to Fort William the more foot traffic there was on the route. I said hello to most people and spotted one guy out walking his dogs with no backpack on so he was obviously a local. I asked him how far it was to go and he said I had 3.5 miles left but it was all downhill. This was a very steep descent and I just couldn't run it so I ended up run/walking it which was frustrating. I knew I was going to be close to the 10 hour mark but I couldn't go any faster despite the fact I was running down a very well maintained track. I ran round a long looping bend and was blown away as Ben Nevis came into view. It was only a few miles from me and I couldn’t believe how majestic it looked. Despite the rain there was great visibility so I could see almost all of it except the top which was shrouded in mist. This was one of those moments when it’s plainly obvious why running in these locations is the best kind of running.

Back to reality and I was passed by a couple of guys with a mile and a half to go. I had seen them about 5 miles back and was determined that they wouldn't get past me but they had a very strong finish and even passed someone else in front of me on the last mile. I felt like a Tour de France cyclist trying to stay on their wheel as they went past and it did help speed me up for a while but I just couldn't stay with them.

Nice prize.

I finally made it to Braveheart car park on the outskirts of Fort William and knew there wasn't far to go. I left the car park and onto the pavement and spotted my brother-in-law Neil who ran the last mile with me. He kept telling me it wasn't far till the end but I'd heard that for the last 10 miles so didn't believe him. We turned the corner and I saw a red sign and asked 'Is that it?' only to be told no but it's just round the corner from there. There are ALWAYS more corners. True to his word though I ran round the corner and there was quite a crowd gathered despite the heavy rain. In my head the cheers was massive, I'm not sure how loud it actually was but I was very aware that I had a beaming smile on my face and punched both fists in the air as I crossed the line.

I was so pleased to be finished and just wanted to sit down. I was handed a little goody bag with some food and a small medal shoe and made my way to the closest seat. After a few minutes we made our way to the Nevis Centre for a shower and the trophy presentation (I missed the trophy presentation while I was in the shower by about 10 minutes) then we headed back to our apartment for a well deserved lie down.

The pain stops you from enjoying the race while you are actually doing it but sitting in my nice warm house writing this report a good few days later I can say that I loved the experience of doing my first ultra. The scenery just made it all the more special.