Race Reports, December 2014

Guisborough Woods, North York Moors, 28th December

BM 6.8M 1358'

Jan Young

Jan kicking through the snow.

My last race of 2014 and three and half minutes faster than last year, due to calm day, no wind.

This year a perfect winter's scene, thin snow cover and bright sunshine on moor, so calm.

In the woods, frosty air hanging white against green conifers.

The juniors ran to quarry top and back, a mile outing for them, while two lap senior race covered wide woodland tracks and moor edge.

These NEHRA series races are always well supported, 117 runners shunning sales shopping.

Where were you?

My purple vest was lonely.

Charity Score Orienteering Event, Durham University Estates, 26th December

60 minutes

Oskar Määttä

Oskar at the finish. It was an early start being at Collingwood College car park by Durham University for 10:30, having been used to getting up for 12 every day of the holidays. Nevertheless I managed to haul myself out of bed for the orienteering event, gearing myself up with running clothes to complement the cold weather and a choice of trail shoes to combat the mud of Houghall forest. Although I have been a passionate runner for a few years now (at the age of sixteen) I have never exactly done orienteering, so it would be fun to try out and learn how different it actually is from regular cross country running.

Looking pensive.

I went down with my family, and we had agreed to split into two teams, composing of me and my brother Emil for one team and my parents Camilla and Arto forming the other. For my team, we had come to the agreement that Emil would do all the map-work and work out where to head next and I would run off to the controls to scan our E-tag when we spotted them. My parents had gone for a similar approach of tactics, with Arto mainly reading the map and Camilla mainly running to the controls.

Camilla keeping an eye on race winner Duncan Archer.

After having stood about at the car park for half an hour (and gotten somewhat chilly) it was time to set off, so everyone queued up to scan their E-tag and then grab a map and set off on their hunt - whether they be aiming for their fastest possible time or taking it as a relaxed walk. Emil and I weren’t taking it all too seriously, being it our first time properly orienteering, but we were still going to give our best efforts. Anyway, I scanned my E-tag to signal the start of our 1 hour time limit and then prepared to grab a map, but lo behold disaster had struck; they had ran out of maps! It may not have been the end of the world, but our 1 hour limit was already ticking down while we had no idea where to go, which is pretty near. We ended up admitting defeat and joining our parents to borrow their map (don’t tell them that this made it a defeat (only joking, it didn’t really make it a defeat)). However, before we got anywhere we found Scott and Dianne with their daughter, who had a spare map and were kind enough to give it to us, enabling us divide into our original groups again (they mustn’t have been aware that I am in fact from Jarrow & Hebburn AC rather than a fellow Strider, or they may not have given it to us!). We had lost a couple of minutes by this point, but it didn’t matter – we were just glad to be able to start properly.

My brother had plotted out a journey varying to that of our parents, as we had decided to trek out the furthermost control on the map in the edge of the forest, getting only a couple on the way, and working our way back collecting as many controls as we could in a steady loop, finishing with the ones around the colleges. This contrasted to Camilla’s and Arto’s plan as they started getting the nearby ones around the colleges first and slowly worked their way out to the forest, but with a longer run back at the end.

A good Strider turnout.

You could have said that we started well if we had not gone in the complete wrong direction and hit a dead end within a matter of 50 metres, and we hastily turned back to take a missed left turn up some steps. After a bit of prancing about like lost sheep, we did finally come to our first control which we later discovered was our longest split time of 5:40, despite not being particularly far from the start. We knew it was a slow start. However, we didn’t let it get in our way, and like true explorers we continued with a determination to do as well as we could.

Paul and Co.

The chemistry between me and Emil was a good one and our tactic was working out well: I would be running just out in front and he was running behind telling me which direction to go, and when a control was nearby he would tell me whereabouts it was. When I spotted it I would run off towards it and scan my E-tag on it, meanwhile he would plan out which direction to go next. Admittedly, I didn’t do any map-work whatsoever, but in retrospect this was probably for the best as judged by a knowledge of my navigation skills (a couple of years ago I was in the Lake District with the school and on one day we did an event that I wouldn’t call orienteering but it was similar. My friend and I misread a map and got lost for 20 minutes).

Dave Melanie and Jan.

The terrain was quite demanding in the forest. As if the slippy mud wasn’t enough, there were hills of all sorts of gradients that had to be ran up and down then up again. I daresay my brother enjoyed watching me struggling up a hill to get to a control whilst he got to stand at the bottom planning which hill to send me up next (at least it was fun to surf back down in a landslip of dirt). Although it would be exaggerating to call it a death trap, there were some well disguised sticks and logs amongst the mud that fooled me in the demanding terrain and it had me stumbling about several times. There was fortunately much more welcoming terrain in other areas, as you got the grassy fields and eventually the glorious concrete floor by the colleges as you get closer to the start/finish.

Time for a quick warm up.

There was a humorous time just 10 minutes before w had to be back where we were searching a specific control when going up the pathway parallel to the uphill road of the science site, separated only by a patch of forest. Somewhere amongst these trees was a control but we couldn’t seem to find it. As it turns out, Emil had somehow ended up turning the map upside down and so was looking at it from the wrong perspective. No wonder we couldn’t find it! After adjusting the map we did find it, and tried to start increasing our pace as we knew we didn’t have particularly long left. We knew we had already definitely missed out 4 controls, which we had decided to miss out knowing that we wouldn’t have the time, but we had two routes available for us to the finish: one which would leave out 2 of the remaining controls, and the other which would get all of what was left but obviously would take slightly longer.

We ended up taking the route with less controls as we only had a couple of minutes left at the point of this decision, and time started getting really tight and our pace was picking up. After getting all the speculated controls I saw that I had about 30-40 seconds to sprint up the hill and up to the finish. There wasn’t too much for my legs to give having constantly ran about the forest but I applied a boost of speed in this final sprint in attempt to get within an hour (as a 10 point penalty is given for every minute late, essentially subtracting the points worth of 1 control). I scanned my E-tag to make my wrist move faster than I could ever imagine it to and immediately checked the time on my watch. It showed to be out by 9 seconds. The exact time printed out for us was 60:07. If we were 7 seconds faster we wouldn’t have received the 10 point penalty, and to think that we lost at least a minute at the start while we didn’t have a map!

Bringing in the Controls.

We completed it with 24 controls out of 30 and scoring 230 points (although we were on the moral high-ground that it should’ve been 240 points), which we were still very proud of. We found Camilla and Arto and found that they had got 21 controls (even though Camilla’s watch died halfway through so they had to guess at what time to go back, by which they reckon they might’ve gotten a couple more). In any case we had won the friendly family battle, but most importantly of all we had lots of fun and look forward to going orienteering again some time!

Saltwell 10K, Gateshead, 20th December

Innes Lemon Souffle

I have run this race many times, using a variety of different routes but in its current form it's fair to say that it is gently undulating, apart that is, from the two big, steep, hills that you have to climb on each of the 3 laps! Despite the route being described as 'flattish' it's safe to say that, it's not a PB course - but it does reward effort!

The weather on the day was bright and dry with a gentle breeze - okay, a strong breeze - okay, it was quite windy - but fortunately there was plenty of shelter out on the course. A handful of striders had made it to the start line: Ari and I, Richard Hocking, Colin Dean, Fiona Shenton and Claire Galloway. Stacey Brannen was also hiding somewhere. The final strider would best be described as being "far from hitting top form" and apparently had entered the race for 'the hair of the dog' on offer at the finish. To maintain his anonymity we'll call him 'Bill'.

For the first lap, Fiona and Ari were battling for the honour of being the first Strider. Then Fiona broke away to take first place by nearly 2 minutes. Further back Richard, Colin and I were changing places regularly as we strove for the final place on the podium. Mine was the glory, closely followed by Richard and then Colin, although none of us were on form and the bronze could have gone to any of us. Bill crossed the finishing line looking as fresh as a daisy - you would never guess how rough he was feeling inside. Claire did well too and at the finish she was definitely ready for her whisky: I have never seen a bottle top removed with such grace, ease, and above all, speed!

The event marshalls were fantastic: every point on the course that could have remotely required a marshal had one, plus a couple places that didn't! They were highly visible, clear with any safety instructions, extremely supportive and very vocal with their encouragement which was greatly appreciated. I've had a love-hate relationship with this race over the years: once, after running this event, I stopped racing for 7 years! I'm glad I came back so why not join me next year!

P.S. We even had a world champion cheering us on!


PosNameClubCatCat PosTime
1Philip WylieCheltenham HarriersMS131:50
7Rosie SmithDurham City Harriers & ACFS135:06
125Fiona ShentonElvet StridersF50+46:06
165Ari HodgsonMS48:06
188Innes HodgsonM4549:22
191Richard HockingM60+49:37
210Colin DeanM5550:37
327Stacey BrannanF3558:22
357Bill FordM451:01:33
387Claire GallowayFS1:13:20

389 finishers.

Hardmoors Roseberry Topping Trail marathon, Guisborough, 14th December


Dave Robson

Start Believing.This event claims to be a marathon, but it turned out to be a marathon plus a parkrun, a total of 29.3m and I don't think we made any navigation mistakes. But Hardmoors miles are said to be a new form of measurement ... It was the second running of this event, but it was a bit of a different experience from last year - the route was different and had more ascent and was a bit longer but also I didn't have any difficulties with public conveniences this year ....

Melanie was away for this one and I ran with Jane Ives. There were three other Striders running the marathon - Stew Mcconnell, who finished in an excellent 11th place, Denise Benvin, who had a fabulous run and covered 31.2m and Sue Jennings, who sadly had to pull out at about halfway because of an injury.

It was an early start, up at 4.45, pick up Jane at 6.00 and we arrived in Guisborough at about 7.00 for an 8.00 start.

Dave and Jane. I have done quite a few Hardmoors events over the past few years and I do love them. They are all tough events and this one was not the toughest of the marathon series, Wainstones has that distinction, but I think it is second toughest - 4012 feet of ascent. Most of that is in the first half. There are climbs to Highcliffe, Roseberry Topping (not once but twice - the route send you right down to the bottom and up then up by a different path), little Roseberry, Captain Cook's monument and then the climb out of Kildale. Some of the time we also had a strong wind in our faces, so this made the first half even tougher. I was feeling very blown about on the summits of Little Roseberry and Roseberry Topping. Once we stopped heading south and turned north we had the wind behind us, it was much less testing. There were still hills, but they weren't on the same scale. The underfoot conditions were tougher than the first half, but you could still make progress.

It took us 3hr 50min roughly, for the first half. The second half took us 3hr 25min roughly - with the hills in the first half, this was a perfect course for a negative split !

We went over part of the same course as the Eskdale Eureka but by the time we got there, that event had finished.

I had a bit of a tough time at about 21m, there seemed to be no end to the undulations between Castleton and Commondale. My solution was to eat more food - I had plenty of Quorn picnic eggs with me - my savoury food of choice for marathons. I also managed to demolish an entire Chia Charge banana flapjack at the next checkpoint. It all seemed to help and when Guisborough woods came into sight I knew we are almost there, just a few more miles of slippery, boggy path to negotiate. We finally reached the woods and started the steep, muddy plunge down to Guisborough. It was getting dark by the time we finished and there quite a few runners behind us who had to use head torches.

Sue, Jane and Dave. Everybody seemed to enjoy the event, the other runners were very friendly, the marshalls were helpful and encouraging. If you have not taken part in a Hardmoors event yet, I would encourage you to do so, they are great fun !

Eskdale Eureka, Castleton, North York Moors, 14th December

BM/12.6 km/470 m

Penny Browell

Elvet Striders at the Eskdale Eureka Fell Race 2014After the freezing horrors of the Hexhamshire Hobble the week before I was a touch apprehensive about the Eureka. However I convinced myself that it was going to be fine - further south, better weather forecast, less exposed route ....Scott even declared it would be a "vest only" run on the drive down. Once we'd parked up at Castleton I think he changed his mind quite quickly. The biting cold winds were back...again...this time without snow but no less challenging. This registration and starting point of the Eureka are what I'm reliably informed could be described as those of a 'proper' fell race - you pay your money through a car window, get changed whilst using the car boot as shelter and the facilities are a few gorse bushes. The freezing wind made it all the more interesting and even after an attempt at a warm up I was very reluctant to give up my hoodie...

After a quick group photo and a race briefing (which I heard none of), we were off. Unusually this race starts with an off-road downhill. Great for some people - I saw Paul and Scott disappear ahead of me and Phil flew past me - but this is where I struggle the most. I failed to get going properly and then found myself stuck behind a group so that once we reached the narrow uphill path I couldn't overtake. I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this wasn't going to be my day and trudged up. But fairly soon the path widened out and I gradually managed to get through and stretch my legs out. The route is a lollipop shape and included a good mix of bog, heather, fields and footpaths with none of the climbs or descents too difficult.

At about the half way mark I spotted a purple shirt ahead of me and realised it was Scott! On the uphill he was getting ever closer but I decided to tuck in behind rather than take him on. But then I heard someone coming up behind me... I can always tell the difference between a man or woman catching up with me and this was definitely a lady. Now I don't mind men beating me but I'm not keen on girls overtaking so I put on a little burst to make sure I was ahead of both of them. Scott looked truly surprised [horrified - Ed] to see me but it wasn't long before he was back ahead of me, along with my new lady friend. Crossing a field I managed to take a slightly shorter route which put me in front of Scott, but still behind the other lady. As I was just wondering whether I could catch her again she suddenly lost her footing and was flat out in the mud! She was quickly back on her feet and I shouted a quick "Are you OK?" as I ran past then heard Scott encouraging me not to care too much about her! [this is not painting me in a very good light - Ed]

Penny & Anita collect the Women's team prize after Jan had to make an early exitA fast-ish section followed which Scott and I ran more or less together. Then a Pickering runner just ahead of us claimed to know a good short cut off the main path so we took his word for it and followed. Unfortunately this took us through a lot of heather with hidden ditches and boggy bits which meant I slowed right down. Several runners got past us (Scott was gallantly holding back..) [no I wasn't - Ed]

The climb back up wasn't easy but the cars on the top of the hill gradually got closer and I was delighted to eventually see Paul and a crowd of others cheer me in with Scott just behind me. Paul had had another fantastic race in spite of battling a winter bug and it wasn't long before the rest of the Striders gang returned. Jan stormed in as winner of her category and along with Anita we were all over the moon to be crowned winning ladies' team (which in the fell racing world means lots of wine!).

All in all I thought it was a great race - proper fells and proper biting winds but completely runnable and beautiful scenery. Strongly recommend the Eureka to anyone who fancies trying fell races but make sure you take plenty of clothes - it's cold up there!

Out on the Wiley, Windy Toon Moor

109th Annual Cross Country Championships, Town Moor, Newcastle, 13th December


Elvet Striders' Men's Team at the 109th NE Counties XC Championships 2014
After pitching the tent over what we thought was a mole hill, but turned out to be a large cow pat, things could only get better – and they did! Twenty-six mud loving Striders managed to find their way to the Moor through all the Christmas shoppers and associated traffic. As a reward they had a thoroughly enjoyable day running over the moor’s vast open expanse, chased, or opposed, by a cruel cold wind and requiring an ascent of two tough hills on each lap.

After helping put up the tent and flag Sally Hughes was the first to test the course in the u.17/20 women’s race. With parts of the course still frozen and her legs still recovering from shin splints Sally still put in the brave performance we’ve come to expect so well done Sal!

Rob Everson was first man home for Elvet Striders
As this is the North East Champs the men’s race still starts before the women’s! Striders had eleven blokes on the start line and they all made it round the three laps and six hills. It was a harder course than it looked and I could have done without the traffic noise and the ‘encouragement’ from one or two pedestrians, but nonetheless it was an ‘enjoyable’ race and we were all severely tested by the course and conditions.

Rob led the team home in spite of losing a shoe, followed by Simon and the ever improving Matt Crow. As I got to the top of the very first hill I heard a spectating Sally shout “come on Dad” shortly after I had run passed her. I knew then that I’d have yet another battle on my hands and so it proved, although by lap three I could hear no shout for “Dad” on the hill so I knew I’d ‘won’ the skirmish.

Conrad seems to be returning to some form on the mud (no more tempo runs?) and it was good to see Ian Spencer giving x/c another go. Innes appeared a little weary at the end of the 12k but recovered sufficiently to put on another ‘grass session’ on Monday night! Well done to you all and thanks (including to Denise for coming along to support)!

Susan Davis, first lady home for Elvet Striders
As the clouds turned black we knew it must be time for the women’s race and the extra distance must have suited Mudwoman because she stormed round the now very muddy hills to earn a top 50 place and first Strider home! Elaine wasn’t too far behind and the other eleven Striderettes all made it to the finish in various states of dishevelment! A fine team performance though with Debs continuing to impress, Sarah well up in the top half of the field and Jan showing the younger ones from other clubs how it’s done.

It was a tough challenge in that wind and over those hills so it was great to see relative new comers such as Catherine S and Diane come through unscathed and wanting more! Anna was back in the mud and I suspect she was glad she only had to go around the moor twice instead of the 50 million laps required on the Town Moor Marathon!

Well done to you all – can’t wait for the next HL and the ‘big’ races in the New Year! See you all there.


1Jonathan TaylorMorpeth Harriers & Ac38:03
83Rob Everson 47:29
164Simon Gardner 51:34
166Matthew Crow 51:44
184Geoff Davis 53:07
194Dave Gibson 53:44
196Mike Hughes 53:50
216Conrad White 54:58
264Scott Watson 57:33
266Eric Green 57:37
345Innes Hodgson 66:42
349Ian Spencer 69:19

356 finishers.

1Rosie SmithDurham City Harriers29:23
49Susan Davis 37:59
51Elaine Bisson 38:06
68Fiona Shenton 39:33
74Sarah Davies 39:53
101Lesley Charman 41:28
104Stephanie Piper 41:48
116Debra Goddard 42:32
120Jan Young 42:56
126Anna Seeley 43:18
136Jean Bradley 44:02
145Anita Clementson 44:53
160Joanne Porter 47:57
166Catherine Smith 49:47
169Diane Watson 50:32

179 finishers.

Under 17/20 Women
1Lydia SharpeDurham City Harriers21:32
11Sally Hughes 25:33

Hell Freezes Over at the Hobble!

Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale, 7th December

CM/16.8 km/379 m

Diane Watson

Elvet Striders gather in the sports hall 
	for the 21st Angus Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble in Allendale, NorthumberlandThis was my very first fell race: I entered on the day with relative confidence that I could finish it without getting lost but had no idea about how long I would take. It was 0°C when we bundled out of the car into the school sports hall where I was worrying about the kit check. I had all of the essential kit with me, but if I'd been asked any more than could be written on a postage stamp about how to use the compass, I would have failed miserably although my appreciation of the route was helped by having taken the time to study the course map and Google Earth at home.

After a brief pre-race talk we filed out to the start and were off pretty quickly, straight up a viciously steep hill then, after a fairly short section of road, we reached the first check point and turned left onto the fell for the first time. I started off trying to avoid the inevitable foot soaking, but once my feet were wet, there was little to lose, which made navigating through the mud and puddles much easier as I could stop dancing around as much to avoid the water.

It wasn't long before a vicious snow storm descended upon us, carried on a biting arctic wind. The snow, alternating with hail, was being driven with force horizontally onto the side of my head and face and I was forced to stop and dig around in my brand-new bumbag for some warmer gear. I could see why we had to carry it all. If anyone had to stop with an injury in this, they would become dangerously cold very quickly.

Many were putting on jackets but all I wanted was my hat, which provided as much protection as I felt I needed. Off I went again and was constantly trying to find decent footing. There were huge icy-cold puddles - some almost knee deep - and slippery mud (though not as slippery as Aykley Heads cross-country mud I thought), with the track deeply rutted with loose stones in places making it frequently easier to run on the heather.

Soon I was descending to the first burn where I was protected from the wind, with the snow no longer falling as little ice swords, but as fluffy, fairy-tale, flakes. Then it was steeply up the other side to continue on the exposed track. Although the route was pretty obvious and there were always others to follow, there was at least one place where I could easily have taken a wrong turn but I had my trusty map with me and knew exactly where I was...no compass required!

With the snow blowing horizontally, runners make 
	their way over the uninviting moor in the 21st Angus Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble
Not much further along the track we were marshalled back onto the fell where deep ruts seemed to be too narrow to run along the bases and also too narrow to run along the tops so it was a constant battle to keep going. Eventually though, I saw the small plantation that signalled the start of the next road section after which it was a long run along the road to the steep track that led to the final section of exposed fell.

I knew I was more than half way but could not relax into the run because once again, the vicious horizontal snow started, this time full into my face as I was now heading back towards the start. The combined snow and wind was so bad that my face was freezing and incredibly painful. I tried to protect it with my map at the expense of my hands but managed to keep running.

I found this section more challenging than the first and was constantly trying to choose the best line, which was difficult with reduced visibility due to the snow. My legs were starting to feel quite fatigued and I could feel another spectacular face plant coming on (to go with the one I did on the Hardmoors half at Goathland)!

But before anything drastic happened, I'd reached the marshalls on the edge of the fell who were reassuring us that it was "nearly done...all downhill now". The road ahead seemed to go on for a very long way and I was perturbed not to see any signs of a village. I was overtaken by some runners who seemed to be enjoying the dreaded tarmac that is my personal nemesis.

Then Scott, my husband, appeared as a welcome friendly face to cheer me on and tell me that I didn't have much further to go. I took great delight in running down the field to the finish line to see Penny and Flip, on their way to the car, cheering me in.

Back in a nice warm sports hall, I was taking off my shoes as requested and whilst my sausage-like fingers were struggling with my laces I was trying desperately to tell a woman who was offering to help runners with their shoes that there was a pin on the floor as lots of runners were in stockinged feet; my frozen face and lips would not respond however, and I couldn't say the words without gibbering!

I was never so pleased for a warm cup of tea. There were a few pretty sickly looking runners in the hall, shivering in space blankets so I felt quite lucky that I was not hypothermic in such extreme conditions (despite having not used my jacket or gloves) and it was only my face that had felt the cold. Even my hands were warm when I first got back. I did manage a chuckle when I overheard one runner in the hall say that he couldn't understand why he had to have a compass as he would ever need to draw a circle on the fell!

I was well impressed with the marshalls who were standing around in very exposed places in the same blizzard conditions that it was cold enough running in. They were all friendly, encouraging, and positive. I am really grateful to them for being there for us, and for everyone who baked scones and cakes and fed us hot drinks. I won a nice buff as a spot prize (donated by the race sponsor - the Ultra Runner Store) and it was good to meet the chap who provided them.

I shall never forget the first of what I hope will be many fell races. It was an experience and a half, and I am assured by my husband that I will probably have to do a lot of fell runs to encounter such conditions again.


1Ben AbdelnoorAmbleside ACMSEN01:13:22
34Emma BainNorthumberland Fell RunnersW4001:25:09
48Scott WatsonM5001:29:49
63Penny BrowellW4001:32:51
109Camilla Lauren MaattaW4001:47:06
124Phil OwenM4001:50:09
134Innes HodgsonM5001:55:38
145Melanie HudsonWSEN02:04:31
146Dave RobsonM60+02:04:36
156Kate MacPhersonW4002:07:37
159Diane WatsonW5002:09:35
167Sue JenningsW4002:27:48

168 finishers. Penny Browell 2nd W40

A Cold Day at the Beach

Blyth Sands Race, Blyth, Northumberland, 7th December

5 miles (approx)

Conrad White

Jan lines up on a chilly beach at Blyth for the start 
	of the 2014 Blyth Sands RaceJan had helpfully sent an email about this race after we discussed it at the Wallington Harrier League meeting. I was the only taker - so we went up together (thanks ever so for the lift Jan). We have both been doing this age-handicapped race on and off for over 20 years. Sometimes there have been loads of Striders and it may have been in the grand prix at one time. It seems to have fallen off the radar over recent years but despite any of my words below I would highly recommend this - it is only three-quarters of an hour away from Durham and because of the age-handicapping, Striders have and may again win prizes.

The principle is straightforward. You set off in age groups, starting with the older females and ending with the younger men. The course starts outside a new coastguard building which is a vast improvement on the old sea cadets building of years ago. When I first ran, the start was at the end of the beach and it was a straight run south (keeping the sea on your left) to an oar at Seaton Sluice, round the oar and back (keeping the sea on your right).

There was a brief interlude (due to a building change) where the race started at Seaton Sluice but the premise was similar - sea on the right to start and left to come back. Now, as the start is some distance from the end of the beach there is a bit of both, as you run initially north around a flag, then south around the oar and back north to the finish. And I forgot to mention that there are also three groynes to navigate each way - unless the tide is far enough out to allow you to run on the sand.

On the drive up, the weather didn't look too promising with dark clouds and rain and we knew it was going to be chilly. However the sky cleared to blue with a bright low sun. The icy offshore wind was no help at any point in the race and the sand was the consistency of granulated sugar. The sea had also contrived to take chunks out of the beach with huge inlets of cold water to navigate. I think it was the toughest going of the many sands races I have done and I was not alone judging by the comments at the end (I would suspect that it was nothing in comparison to some of the race reports I have read for "ultra" this and "tougher" that though!).

As the years have gone by I have graduated from starting at the back to starting about halfway down the pack. Hopefully it means you can catch those in front and try and keep ahead of those behind. Although the going was tough I seemed to manage to do just that, as only a few came past and I managed to catch a fair number. I even managed to achieve a top twenty finish (18th fastest on the day) with Jan not far behind. Roll on another two years and I will start nearer the front - but then again, I suspect I will be slower.

After the race it was back to the car to put on as many layers of dry clothing as possible, a hot drink and then home. I'm hoping I didn't drag Jan away from a prize as although I knew I didn't make an age prize it would appear Jan was first in her age category.


PosRace TimeNameClubCatActual Time
100:27:23Nina CameronHeaton HarriersF/4500:38:23
2000:32:48Conrad WhiteM/5500:37:48
3400:35:03Jan YoungF/6000:48:03

150 finishers.

Norman Woodcock Road Race, 6th December


Simon Gardner

This is a race that I have wanted to do for a while, 2 years ago I was injured and last year I had the very good excuse of being in Australia so thankfully no excuses this year so despite missing the Chelsea home game (thanks a lot BT!) I managed to make the start line for once.

After a comfortable journey in I bumped into Stephen Jackson at the number collection point and was soon joined by Gareth Pritchard. The race is set on the race course at Newcastle and uses the ambulance track which runs around the inside perimeter of the course.

I had been in great form but wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, I had been unwell during the week and had not ran since Mansfield parkrun the week before and I had also lost a lot of motivation since my Leeds 10K. A steady Durham parkrun in the morning showed that my stomach was thankfully settled. During the warm up I decided that I would try for an opening 6 minute mile and then try and maintain that hopefully getting a sub 30 minute for the 5 mile and therefore a shiny new PB.

After the normal elbows out start I was able to find some space and settle down into what I thought was a steady pace. The first half of the opening lap probably is a little up and down but not bad at all. My watched beeped for the first mile and showed 5:48 which was way too fast, god what a start! I decided to slow back down to 6:00 to try and leave something in the tank for the end but after doing a 6 min mile I had started to pick off several runners so I knew deep down I was stepping onboard the pain train.

Miles 3 & 4 were back under 6 minutes and I was hurting big style but by this point I knew I was on the last lap of 3 and only had a mile to go and boy what an uncomfortable mile that was! As normal I was having some very negative thoughts (just drop out, slow down – I find it such a mental battle) but I managed to hang on to clock a new 5 mile PB of 29:21 which I’m delighted with.

Very well done to Stephen Jackson for a an excellent 28:55 and Gareth for a sub 30 with still very heavy legs after Brampton to Carlisle

Back next year? , yeah probably!