Race Reports, February 2014

Snake Lane 10, Pocklington, 23rd February

Laura Chapman

Early start given it was 100 miles away. I headed over to Kate's house for 8:00 as she had kindly offered to drive given that if I actually completed Snake Lane I was extremely doubtful my legs would work after! Not a bad morning weather wise - no rain. On the way down we talked about 'why we were doing it' - as in 'WHY do we put ourselves through it!' and had long discussions about what to wear (long sleeve, vest, tshirt and vest, tights or shorts). I forced a banana down (was feeling sick with nerves) Kate tucked into a jam sarnie. So we arrived at 9:40 having only taken one wrong turn which HANDS UP was my fault. We parked and headed down to the rugby club and conversed with fellow striders and the smell of bacon butties!

Damned good turnout for this one ... and six others didn't make it into this shot.

11.00 we were queuing to race. This is when the nerves and doubts really kicked in. We were off! The bleeping of Garmins filled the air. The wind was behind us so I spent the first mile removing hair from my face and kept myself at a steady pace. Mile 2 everything started to ache and the finish was such a long way off. Mile 3 still aches and pains but was looking forward to the water stop at 4. Mile 4 no water stop and wind directly in the face so opted for a energy gel. Mile 5 WATER and more full frontal wind. I figured I'd come this far without stopping so I may as well continue. Mile 6 and 7 were my fav, I felt euphoric and even the gravel/dust blast of constant wind didn't dishearten me. Reached the White House and a left to the top of the hill to reach Mile 8 ... !

Greeted by a marshall 'two lonely windy miles to go' just what I needed to hear! Mile 9 .... The end is near! (Thank God) I spotted Kerry in front and we trundled along the home straight together. At the 200m to go point we both gave are last push and were cheered in by striders and other finishers, Kerry steamed ahead and I crossed the line 10 seconds after: 1:46.02

Collected my mug, water and a banana and walked over to our supportive team of purple.

Most definitely my furthest and hardest race so far but a nice relatively flat 10 mile road race. Perfect choice for my first 10 mile race.

The Full English!

English National XC Championships, Nottingham, 22nd February

Mudman ...

Saturday saw the highlight of the X/C year - no, not the Prudhoe Harrier League but the English National X/C Championships! This year's event was held at the scenic Wollaton Park on the outskirts of Nottingham and Striders were there in force fielding teams in both the Senior Men's and Senior Women's races as well as being represented in the Junior Men's race by Adam. Unlike last year it was a fine, breezy spring-like morning when we pitched the brand new Striders tent in the shadow of Wollaton Hall a very impressive country house. The tent was fairly impressive too and it soon became obvious that our Khyam Sports Shelter must be the tent of choice among running clubs as we were surrounded by dozens of them! But ours, of course, had been pitched the best of all!

We had some time to kill before our races kicked off so we set off on a course inspection. This showed the ground to be surprisingly dry, apart from two or three extremely muddy sections one of which had a stream running through for good measure. There were a couple of hills as well but nothing too high and there was also an obstacle across the course (a novelty in these H&S conscious times) in the shape of a rather large tree trunk. We then took up a position at the 'water jump' to watch some of the junior races and to identify the best 'line' through the quagmire! Those poor muddy children - what would their mothers say?! Anyway, they helped us spot the 'driest' route possible!

Adam's race was first up and the quality of the field became obvious from the gun as the front runners tore up the first hill. This race was 10ks worth of fast x/c interspersed with challenging sections of 'mud, blood and beer' (from 'Boy Named Sue' - remember?). Adam didn't resort to any 'kicking and gouging' but he did take an inside line through the quagmire thereby ending up fairly plastered in smelly, dark grey, liquid mud for his trouble! Apart from that he was undamaged by the experienced and put in a good performance.

All very clean so far ...

Next up our six Striderettes joined a record field of 703 for the Senior Women's 8k race and what a sight they were as they were unleashed by the starters gun - incredible and testimony to the strength of women's x/c in England today! Katy was first to show but an injury forced her to pull up on the first lap much to everyone's disappointment not least her own. This left Rachel T to lead the other Striders around the second lap. Following Rachel came Fiona S with a fine return to form following her recent enforced lay-off, Mudwoman with her usual determined performance, Lucy Cowton making her debut at the Nationals and delighted with her tee-shirt and her first time counting for Striders and then Jan - a veteran of the Nationals and an example to many younger women including the very many she beat on Saturday! Well done to you all for a fine performance and as one of the few full teams representing the North East!

'For what we are about to receive ...'

The last race was the Senior Men's (12k). A slighty reduced Striders team of eight men joined the 1649 other club runners in the starting pens waiting for the off. Shouts of encouragement including the 'Shipman Roar' were heard just before the gun set away the huge field - like a medieval army on the charge - it felt a privilege to be part of it. At the top of the first hill I remember looking down at the field in front of me and thinking "how on earth did all those get in front of me"! I felt I was running well but a 'purple presence' in the shape of David Gibson soon appeared on my shoulder and we kept swapping the 'lead' for the first two laps until David eased away on the final circuit & I could only 'keep in touch'. The course's 'obstacle' was easily 'hurdled' but the mud proved more of a challenge; sticking to the shoes like lumps of glue it just sucked the strength out of one's legs. A wide line through the quagmire meant just one foot in the gloop was sufficient to see you safely through although others preferred to swim! Close behind David and I was Simon showing a welcome return to x/c form on his Nationals debut with Graeme next to finish in a determined fashion. Mike Hughes and Matthew Crow did very well to 'count' for the first time (Matthew in his first 'Nationals') and experienced veterans Mike Bennett and David Shipman put in fine, determined performances for their club - one of the few from the North East to field so many runners - well done to everyone and thanks to all the Waltons, Terrys and Hughes' who were there to cheer us on and provide cakes!

... and Adam Walker:

Yesterday was the national cross country championships at Wollaton Park, Nottingham. I had travelled down on my second claim club's (Durham's) coach with some other striders on a sleepy 2 and a half hour journey down with one services stop, on which I was 'Banned from fast food products', great, Woodall Services has a McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Doughnuts, mother of all temptations, sigh, a sandwich will do. Arriving at the venue, to a giant park, with Wollaton Hall as the main feature standing at the top of a hill I would soon run up, the entire grassed area bathed in sunshine. A HUUUUUGE contrast to last years snowy and testing conditions of Herrington park last year, it was almost too hot! After successfully avoiding to help both my clubs put their tents up, I jogged over to the barriers just in time to see my friend Markhim fly past in 11th place on his first lap in the U15 boys race, another short jog over to another section of the course to wait for him to come around the corner in ... 2nd place! A few screams at him to keep pushing on, he looked remarkably easy. just about managed to sprint over to the finish in time to watch him jog in to a silver medal, he only wanted top 10. Awesome run from the machine of a boy that is Markhim Lonsdale.

This must be the clarty bit ...

I then stripped down even more as I was too hot! I had a backpack filled with winter wear that would be only a waste of space as it turned out! A jog around the course with some friends. The course is weird for a national championship: very, very good underfoot for 90% of the course, almost too good. For example, in one place the ground was so hard that it resembled concrete more than mud. However, once you leave that hard stretch, the conditions underfoot soon turn into a bog that could easily be mistaken for a black hole with the amount of shoes it claimed that day. Length of spikes would make no difference in mud like that... stilts wouldn't! This bog continued for a fair way before coming to a big puddle, before returning to hard ground again. A change of spikes are definitely in order, 15mms were a mistake! In regard to hills it was uncharacteristically easy for a nation level race. Only one noticeable hill up to touching distance of Wollaton Hall itself and then immediately back down onto a slant, and then what seemed like an endless downhill. Logs had been placed around the course to add extra difficulty but these weren't as much of an obstacle, rather a bit of fun.

Time to get warmed up! Was a bit niggley at the top of my right quad and in the same place at the back of my hamstring/glute befor the race I should add, but this gave me no trouble throughout the race.

BANG:
1st mile: I don't want to set off too hard, if possible I want to run close to a negative split. I'm probably in the last 20% of the field, I know the quality if a lot higher than what I'm used to, I don't want to get carried away. I pass my fellow striders and harriers, going around the puddles on this lap. Into the bog, manage to find a line, at first, where I can maintain momentum, but soon that isn't possible, it is deep and it is sucky alright. Had tied my shoes very tight but I can still feel them going. Into the puddle to see everyone ahead of me running around it, why? you're all slowing down to try and fit on a one foot wide section of mud that is still slipping and you're running an extra 10 or so metres? I decide to plough straight through the puddle that I soon find out is knee deep, wow, but it gets a cheer from the crowd and I overtake a few people by doing so.

2nd mile: I am covered in mud from head to toe, but I am now cool from the high(ish) temperatures and I look well 'ard. Back down the main straight where the most spectators are gathered. Lots of cheers, loads of north east runners down, support from both clubs is great. I'm now onto the big lap, hitting the hill for the first time, maintain the speed up the gradual part and drive the arms up the steep section, overtaking a few and a couple more on the downhill.

3rd mile: Over the log jump for the first time, there is a section in the middle that is lower than the rest of the log and everyone is fighting for that position, I lose out to another runner and have to take a higher bit, but it doesn't take much out of my legs and momentum is kept. Overtaken by two Gosforth runners that beat me at the NE champs at this point.

4th mile: over a water jump, down a dip, up a dip and onto the hard ground, picking up speed and overtaking a few. Able to find the same line for the bog again and overtake some more. Big splash through the puddle again. Happy that I'm onto the last lap, was going so slow I thought I was going to be lapped.

5th mile: Feeling it in the legs a lot now, not feeling like I'm speeding up and now feeling like a fast runner at all, I'm well behind everyone else and although not last or near last, it feels like I'm not contesting anything, no rivals near no nothing, bit disappointed. Up the hill again, just maintaining position this time, don't have the power left to overtake but my form going downhill helps me move up a place or too and managing to get the small part on the log jump, a small victory.

6th mile: I pass a friend who should no way be this far back, I can only assume he overcooked himself like he has in previous races, but I am happy to overtake at least one person I know even if he didn't pace it right. A noticeable pick up of pace as I now have the opportunity to finish ahead of someone I know, and this helps me catch one of the Gosforth runners on the fast section. I 'master' the bog on this run despite a few slips, feeling a bit more powerful coming towards the puddle, where I see the second Gosforth runner slowing down to go to the side of it, this is the time! I hear someone say something like 'here's the one that goes through the puddle'.

Covered in mud now, and the two Gosforth runners are roared on by their coach, as I am by my clubmates, particularly Dave Shipman booming voice who's support I heard each lap (thanks Dave!), trying to hold this position, only 600m or so to go, overtake one more and wind it up for the final straight, cross the line feeling strong. I enjoyed that way too much. Just managed to finish first counter for Elvet among the fierce battle in the Elvet junior section.           

In the senior mens race, Dave Gibson was first home for the Striders after a great battle with Geoff 'Mudman' Davis thoughout. In the senior womens race, Rachel Terry led the team home with a storming run, with Fiona, Susan 'Mudwoman' Davis and Lucy Cowton completing the team to help Elvet ladies place in the top 50 teams in England for XC, awesome! Jan looked strong as always and I have to personally thank her for her continuous support all the way round the course, as always!

Finally got a burger king on the way back up by the way. Bosh.

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Steven Vernon Stockport Harriers 0:39:30
982 David Gibson 0:50:36
996 Geoff Davis 0:50:45
1026Simon Gardner 0:51:15
1124Graeme Walton 0:52:36
1188Mike Hughes 0:53:40
1232Matthew Crow 0:54:26
1283Mike Bennett 0:55:25
1602David Shipman 1:05:56

1657 finishers. Men's Team 107th of 127 (6 to count).

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Gemma Steel Charnwood AC 0:27:42
251 Rachel Terry 0:36:07
320 Fiona Shenton 0:37:20
433 Susan Davis 0:39:51
483 Lucy Cowton 0:41:16
534 Jan Young 0:42:56

427 finishers. Women's Team 47th of 83.

Junior Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Jonathan Davies Reading AC 0:31:15
160 Adam Walker 0:39:51

187 finishers.

 

Hardmoors Osmotherley Half-Marathon, 16th February

Camilla Laurén-Määttä

Having heard about the Hardmoors races from other Striders I was a bit curious and the Osmotherley half seemed to be good practice for other longer off-road races. The interest for this particular race was at an all-time high with around 400 pre-registered entrants in total for the full and half marathon and the 10k and no entries on the day. The weather had been quite foul and we received an email to say that the organiser, Jon Steed, had done a recce of the course dressed in merino layers and sealskin mittens, which apparently was just right for the conditions higher up the moors. I was a bit short of sealskin mittens but hoped I would manage with my woolly layer. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, just a bit chilly when I was waiting outside the Osmotherley Village Hall with fellow Striders Danny and Jerry, who both were doing the half as well (Anita and Mark D. were running the 10k and Sue J. was doing the full marathon – and Dave R. and Flip were marshalling along the half/full marathon routes). Danny was more high-tech than the rest and carried a headlamp-like video camera so that he could watch highlights of his running days when getting too old to race. Being closer to my pension days than Danny I should probably have brought one as well but I will have to do with showing my race reports to any future grand-children. I had considered dropping out of the race as my quads and hamstrings were rather sore after various hilly runs earlier in the week, but having paid £20 for the experience I had decided to do it anyway, albeit as a slow training run.

Camilla isn't so interested in the Parish News - she has a race to run! The beginning of the race was uphill along tarmac, later changing to a dirt track and then mostly following the Cleveland Way. The race was more of a trail race than a fell race, often good underfoot and with more of a mixture of running abilities amongst participants. The route was marked throughout with yellow ribbons so it was impossible to get lost, in theory anyway (more on this topic later). There were also seven marshalled check-points with water and food (mainly Jaffa cakes and jelly babies). Dave R. was marshalling on the half marathon today, so it was good to see a familiar face along the route.

The moorland was in its most striking winter colours of crimson, pink and different shades of green with views down over flatland with slowly spinning wind turbines in the distance. The sun was on its best behaviour and the woolly layer started to feel a bit excessive. The route was an out and back one to Carlton Bank where the landscape was a bit more rugged with flagstones arranged along the Cleveland Way, slowing down the pace a bit. After turning back, my quads and hamstrings started to play up more and I had to walk the last 5-6 miles. I was feeling a bit annoyed at this, but decided to just enjoy the walk rather than worrying about the pace. Surprisingly enough there were lots of fast-looking runners coming up behind me. It turned out that a big group of front runners had done a 3-4 m extra loop as the yellow ribbons seemed to be directing them elsewhere. I managed not to get lost, although was discussing the correct route with another runner along the way. He wasn’t really bothered anymore if he went down the wrong route as he had got side-tracked so many times already.

After a bit more walking in the mud and then down a tarmac road I was back in Osmotherley. I decided to run the last bit with a bit of limping involved and then finished off in the village hall where tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes were being served. All finishers got t-shirts and medals, so the race was reasonably good value for money. I may do one again but only if I’m injury-free at the start...

Is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?

Commondale Clart, North Yorks Moors, 16th February

5.2m / 722'

Dave Shipman

The Commondale Clart, very aptly named this year!! I have done it in winter and summer previously but was still apprehensive given the monsoon rains lately. No surprise then that the run was dominated by long stretches of mud, bog and freezing cold puddles/plunge pools which froze the feet from the moment we stepped off the road onto the moor. Fortunately above ground it was remarkably pleasant, sunny, still and even warm at times so overall a good place to be for a Sunday morning run and no regrets about driving so far for a relatively short race.

For the uninitiated the course itself is a circuit starting and finishing in Commondale, next to the pub, long, steep climb on road out of Commondale to start, followed by a long drag up and across the moors, before a fantastic gradual descent on tracks, sharp left turn on a little wooden bridge and then across and down through heather to a stream, then back to road into Commondale for a short, steep downhill finish.

Mike getting very close to Shaun's backside, after cunningly following the correct race route.

Me, Mike Bennett, Mike Hughes and Jan Young had travelled together and met Shaun at signing in, regrouped in the pub afterwards where the preoccupation was over which route people had followed. Several of us hadn’t swerved far enough left after the trig point, as advised to do by the race organiser at the start, resulting in a tiring trek across heather and bog rather than following a muddy trail. For me it was a dilemma, thought it was a wrong/different route to the one I could recall – seemed much further too!! But surely the twelve or so folk I could see heading up the fell in front of me must know where they are going, so I better follow them. Wrong call entirely. Jan had had the sense to cut across the right way and made good progress as a result.

Spot the Strider vanishing down a big hole in the ground: Jan, no less!

Shaun came across some grouse shooting butts somewhere, which he hadn’t passed on previous runs, so don’t know where he got to [Made the same mistake as most of the field, it seems, at the trig point. Doh! Ed.], but that’s one of the features of the Esk Valley series, some markings occasionally, no marshalls, a recognisable route for most of the time, but every now and then you get to a point where you are just not sure, if there is no one close, or in my case you can't see where everyone has sped off to, then you press on and hope your directional senses will win out!! Give them a try if you have never done them, excellent value and EOD.

Prizes went to Mike B and Jan for winning their age group, so well done to them.

Carnethy '5', Pentland Hills, 16th February

6.2m / 2,500'

Susan Davis

We left Durham early on what has become something of an annual pilgrimage to this race for Geoff and myself since 1990 when we then ran for Sunderland Poly. The sky was grey and for most of the drive heavy rain persisted so we knew for sure we would not have dry feet, however, the race start time was 2.00pm and the weather forecast was for light showers which would fall as snow on ground over 300m and some brightness for the afternoon so we drove on with some optimism. We arrived at race registration (Beeslack School, Penicuick) at 12.15 with plenty of time to collect our numbers, have a chat with fellow fell runners from the north east and make a clothes selection for the day. The weather was still pretty miserable with low cloud but at least the rain had stopped.

Geoff makes a bit of horizontal progress ...

By the time we arrived at the start the sun was shining, all the tops were clear and the blue sky had lots of white fluffy clouds. The Pentland Hills looked beautiful as they were snow-capped. We gathered on the start line and a round of applause was given for all involved in making this race possible with a polite/joking request for all to run as fast as they could as it was freezing on the tops for the marshals. We were off to the usual mad dash across the low boggy start to get a good position before the narrow track began. My dash was not what it should be and things slowed on the narrow track. Then the steep ascent up the first hill Scald Law - I felt strong on this and was gaining places. I had adopted my usual fell runners crouch position due to the steepness of the hill although my lack of height means my head spends a lot of time around other runners calfs, thighs and buttocks. On exiting the sea of legs on the shoulder of the hill I was grabbed by the strong biting wind and started travelling sideways rather than forwards! I reached the first top turned and faced the next challenge descending the rough ground covered with a couple of inches of slushy snow so, along with others, I ran, slipped and slid down the slope. The next three tops in the race followed the usual pattern for me gaining places on the up and loosing on the downs still the sun was shining and, apart from my frozen feet, I was warm and having a great time.

From the top of the 4th of 5 hills in this race is where you drop down into the valley. Another descent through slush, snow and tussocks saw myself and most around me making gentle thudding noises as we made full body contact with the ground on more than one occasion. Now a flat stretch so still some energy in my legs to run through bog and ankle deep mud as fast as I could and to stay upright. My feet were by now a little warmer but felt like cold flippers rather than feet. A marshal on this section had enlisted a snowman as extra help and support - I smiled and thought of Juliet Percival. There is a sharp little descent to Logan Burn and in today’s underfoot conditions there was no point in me trying to run it so I did my version of the skeleton bob and overtook others doing the same so I reckon I was going at a similar speed to Lizzy Yarnold! All around me were in touch with their inner child making whoops of glee and laughing.

Susan on the descent.

Back in the upright position and still a lot of work to do with the final ascent up Carnethy Hill. Steady progress up this one and still managing at this point to overtake one or two people. As I go up this last hill I have time to think of many different fell running friends over the years who have run this race and for those who may do it in the future. I then hear someone calling my name so I am spurred on by fellow NFR member John Telfer and push on to the summit taking in the magnificent view of the Firth of Forth as I go. Here we go the descent starts gently so doing okay and not many runners around me as the descent steepens I begin to hear the approach and a what feel like a tsunami of runners pass me despite my best efforts. Last effort across the field to the finish unable to regain any places greeted by cheers from Geoff and others from NFR.

We catch the bus back to the school, have a shower followed by a school dinner and lots of cups of tea and biscuits. Even the drive home was pleasant seeing the moon rise, as we drove across the moors, coloured red and orange until it was high in the sky shining silver and bright - a great end to a great day.

Will we return next year? What do you think?

Absent Friends Trail Race, Billingham, 16th February

5M

Nicola Whyte

This is the second time I have run in this race. The first time was back in 2010 when to be honest I didn’t do much running but one of my close friends Emma Johnson, Ann’s daughter encouraged me to take part. My memories of that day were lots of mud, ruined trainers and painful legs! That day I completed the race in 57.11. So I was hoping to do a bit better this year!

Race day was beautiful and you would think this meant perfect running conditions but no the order of the day was MUD and lots of it!!! I stupidly thought it couldn’t be muddier than last week at X Country. Of course I chose to wear my brand new sparkling clean trail shoes for the occasion much to the amusement of others! Let’s just say they needed a good shower when they got home!

Yet again Striders were out in strength with 15 of us taking part. Before the race started there were the customary pre-race photos then onto the start line we went. Before the race began there was instructions about the route, followed by a few words from Barry Johnson, Ann’s husband. Today was made more poignant in that it was the 6th Anniversary of Ann’s death. A minutes silence was then held.

Aaaaaaaaargh ... that's just too much PINK!

The start of race was part way up a hill (this year the race start was brought forward to make it up to the 5mile mark), which quickly led to a very muddy field. Initially I tried to dodge the puddles and mud but soon realised that this was just the start of a very muddy course, and if I stayed upright I was going to be very lucky! My lovely trail shoes were very quickly clogged up with mud and grass. Following a period on very sludgy grass there was a period on a dry ish trail which was a welcome respite from mud. However this did not last long and we were soon trudging through mud again which lasted almost the rest of the course. Towards the end of the course there was the dreaded hill! I attempted to run up the hill but soon discovered as soon as I took a step forward I was sliding back down. In the end I gave up and walked up the worse part until I came up to a bit where I could grip onto. It was a relief to get to the top until I realised that what comes up must come down! I watched a few runners go down in front of me then took the plunge myself expecting to most probably end up at the bottom on my backside! Luckily I got down the hill unscathed and it was onto to the last part of the race which thankfully was on gravel. As I came towards the finish line I was greeted with shouts of encouragement from fellow striders who had already finished which helped me muster up a bit of energy for a sprint finish! I quickly joined some of the other striders to shout the rest of our guy’s home. Once the last strider was home it was time for the well earned goodie bag of the much promised mars bar and PINK t-shirt!

Graeme Walton was first strider home, quickly followed by Jon Steed. Katy Walton was first female strider home but most impressively crossing the finish line as third lady finisher! Well done Katy you did us proud! Kirsty Anderson was second lady strider home, matching the position of her soon to be husband! The rest of us followed in with very respectable times given the tough conditions. A special mention also goes to the ladies completing their first 5mile race today – you did brilliantly and should feel very proud!

Well done everyone!

Mad Dog 4 - The Good the Bad and the Pugly

Maddog10k, Southport, 9th February

Dougie Nisbet

I always take my running kit on holiday. Doesn't matter where. There's always the chance of a run, or even better, a race. I nurture fond fantasies of running a race in some far away exotic place in my Striders vest and writing an ever so nonchalant, do this sort of thing all the time, race report. However, given some of the parkrun tourist reports we've had lately you'd have to go intergalactic nowadays if you wanted to win the accolade of Strider who has raced the furthest away from Durham.

This holiday was no different. I packed my kit. But this holiday was a biggie - we were going to a game reserve in South Africa for a fortnight, so, realistically, I should've realised that the chances of a training run would be limited. Or at least, quite literally, short-lived. Sure enough it became immediately clear that a jog round the local bushes would probably result in meeting some scary wild animals. And I'm really not very fast. I think a Cheetah would have the edge.

Pedigree or Mongrel?Nonetheless, despite a series of lacklustre parkruns and a two week hiatus in my running I turned up in Southport for my 4th Maddog 10k, optimistic that I would, despite all the evidence, pull something amazing out the bag. I had also, cunningly, decided to avoid the whole park and park-and-ride shuttle-bus stuff by cycling from my parents-in-law's flat to the race start. I arrived nicely warmed up and stress-free. The race started right on schedule and I settled in the shelter of the congestion, satisfied in the knowledge that there'd be plenty of time to put the foot down later when I got into my stride. A sharp left onto the seafront and straight into the wind. I tried to remember what Allan and Ian said about cutting into the wind on the track, but whatever I did just seemed to be met with a squally blast. Plus my nose was running and I was paranoid about how to address that particular issue without causing a major incident.

Please use the toilets provided.The 3km marker appeared and I took a glance at my watch and got a nasty surprise. I'd been prepared for a slowish time but assumed I'd still be comfortably sub-50. But now for the first time in 5 years it was looking like I was heading for a 10k time where the first digit was a 5. This was really most disagreeable. I tried to lift my pace a bit, but my pace was not for lifting. Still, when we hit the 5km marker we would turn round and the wind would hit us in the back. Sure enough, it was like cresting a summit on the bike and free-wheeling. I slipped into the big ring and increased the pace. There were lots of bands and music this year and I began to feel a bit more upbeat as I hoofed it back to the finish, confident that even if I didn't PB, I would at least be sub-50.

Across the finish line and a glance at the watch. No, that couldn't be right. That couldn't be right at all. There had to be some mistake. I checked again: 52:29. I did a bit of that rueful-headshaking routine that you see top sportsmen doing, as if to suggest that there was some other sinister shadowy reason why my time was what it was. But it didn't change anything. It was still there, beautifully pixellated. Nearly 5 minutes slower than last year, and a 5-year PW.

Liversedge Half Marathon, Roberttown, West Yorks, 9th February

13.1M

Alister Robson

I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’m not a great trainer and when training for a marathon I need a series of building races to lead me up to it, otherwise I simply don’t do the work. One of my ‘favourites’ is the Spen 20 which is set in rolling West Yorkshire, basically out and around the M62 services at Hartshead Moor. I know if I can knock this off in relative comfort in early March I’m well set for a marathon in the Spring. Unfortunately there’s a clash this year which means I can’t do that, but I did know that Liversedge Half is run on a lot of the same course and I know that Jill Ford ran this last year.

Unfortunately when I went to enter it was full. Still I sent an email to the organisers, Roberttown Road runners and asked them to bear me in mind if someone dropped out. They duly did as someone had and I was in – the only problem was it was the day after the Harrier League Cross Country and the Striders ‘Christmas’ beer and curry night. Doubly cheeky I even managed to scrounge a lift – chatting to a regular racing rival of mine, Mark Doctor of Alnwick Harriers, he mentioned that they were going down on a coach, as for reasons lost in time one of their runners always went down and it became one of their club trips and they were kind enough to pick me up at Washington services on their way down.

The coach journey passed quickly, partially due to the quiz which they organised on the bus – my team’s knowledge of song lyrics and nursery rhymes meant that we won. As we drove down the motorway however we passed through some horrific weather - violent rain and gusting winds – not what you want to see on the start line of a hilly half.

Quality T-Shirt.

That was however what we got, and after a quick if crowded registration – understandably not many runners wanted to hang around outside in the cold and rain – we were off to the start line. After a (too?) quick first mile downhill, normal service was resumed with what I expected – a long drag uphill to the windswept moor edge, just as I was getting my bearings, we didn’t turn where the spen 20 does – continuing along a road before a quad shredding steep drop. I couldn’t really enjoy this as it was less than half way in and you just know there’s only one way you can go from there – back up. Sure enough there was a steep climb which I’m very proud to say I didn’t walk on. Towards the end I got chatting to a few runners, thanks particularly Guy of East Hull Harriers who I’d met before, and Paul of Saltwell who I hadn’t and that helped to take the edge of the last section – at last back onto the Spen 20 route and familiar territory. One sneaky last hill and I was back at the Start/Finish crossing the line just as the race clock ticked over 1.45 – job done and a huge confidence boost after a lot of miles this weekend.

A fab long sleeved T-shirt with the course profile on it was the reward and a well-deserved beer was next. I’d really like to thank Mark and Alnwick Harriers for their company hosting me on what was a much quieter journey home on the coach.

Wadsworth Trog, Hebden Bridge, 8th February

20M

Paul Evans

Five years ago I ran this race in awful conditions on a tank that was near-empty to begin with, starting way too fast for my abilities; it nearly killed me. Literally, 'lost in the snow, light-headedly giggling at the recognition that I was rather hypothermic and might not survive the day' nearly-killed-me. Two years ago I ran it again, in similar conditions but with a better plan for the race, a much more even pace and a decent breakfast; it went a lot better and I managed to enjoy it in parts. Catharsis was achieved. I didn't need to go back. Harrier League clashed. There were GP points on offer. Lie-ins are nice. I went back.

The Trog is widely-recognised in the fell-running world as a good early-season test of winter fitness maintenance, as well as being a well-contested race at a distance rarely encountered this early in the year. On paper it's not too threatening, with the first and last miles on roads and footpaths around Old Town, between the peaceful narrowboats, bakeries and coffehouses of Hebden Bridge and the edge of the moors. That leaves only 18 miles of proper fell-running, which really isn't a lot, especially when you look at the map (see link below) and see that it lacks the crags and packed contour lines of the Lakeland fells.

Trogging through the mud ...

The first of these 20 miles was indeed fast, taking us on the road down the valley, onto a footpath and over a stream. This was our first warning of what was to come (unless you'd payed attention to the weather forecast, which in honesty was a much better warning for the prepared. I assume)- it was in spate, pouring peat-tinged water over the stepping stones and into previously dry shoes. Things became enjoyable here, as I'd started near the back of the pack and began to gain places as we climbed back up the valley and onto the moorland, with farm tracks and well-worn, albeit boggy paths providing overtaking room and good footing. CP1 at High Brown Knoll, which lived up to its name by being an elevated, wind-blown lump of earth covered in dead grass, was quickly passed and CP2 followed after a rapid descent that was not always as controlled as it should have been; on slopes this steep, sodden peat is no easier to stay upright on than snow.

The fun was now over, with the first walking-only section up from the reservoir followed by a long drag over moorland holding months-worth of rain. Sheep trods provided a guide, but were also the most likely patches of earth to swallow an entire leg, whilst hopping from tussock to tussock destroyed any rhythm but at least minimised the chance of disappearing to your knees or worse. For the first time in the race the wind came into play and made repeated efforts to push the group of five I was running with backwards, sideways and anywhere other than where we wanted to go. We hit the brief respite of tarmac at CP3 and descended a farm track into a valley, climbing out after a stream crossing only to descend again to CP4, where a car stood beside a farm and marshals handed out frozen squash and fruit pastilles. I must have looked worse than I felt at this point, as I'd taken a couple of face-first tumbles into the bog on the way down and was now wet head to toe with a face dripping mud. I was asked if I was ok to continue and must have mumbled something satisfactory, as they let me continue on the road and track section to the next long drag out across the hills to Top Withens. If you look at the map, this stretch appears relatively gentle, with very few contour lines crossed. The map lies (unless you ignore the word 'swamp' printed in little letters) - this was slow, tortuous running into a horrible wind that necessitated hoods and hats for everyone I could see; if not to protect ears and faces from the blast then to muffle the constant noise. CP6 reached, there followed a relatively fast leg over dry flagstones to the reservoir near which I'd come so close to grief five years previously. No navigational problems this time, as I now felt in some sort of rhythm and was slowly making my way through the field on the heels of Nicky Spinks, another slow starter who was working her way through the field with a pace that could only be described as metronomic. The next few CPs followed steadily, though by this stage, over two hours in and running mostly into the winds gusting up to 70mph, progress was not quick. Mentally, the road crossings at CPs 10 and 11 were very satisfying, though I had forgotten how long the slog back to High Brown Knoll went on and, just as in the previous two runnings of this race, I managed to miss the trod to the trig point at CP13, necessitating several lost minutes wading through deep bog to re-orient myself and the Todmorden Harrier who'd made the mistake of following me.

The rest is relatively hazy; the weather closed in and the wind brought murk and rain. The descent from the moors was fast, muddy and bruising, hitting the road by a pub that simultaneously looked inviting yet built to withstand an armoured attack, diverting past a field where the horses were apparently 'acting crazy' and swinging past the distinctive chimney of Old Town Mill, back down the valley, clipping the last control on a wooden bridge and stumbling back up the hill. A photographer said 'smile.' I tried, but felt sick. Others felt worse and allowed me to gain a final couple of places as we shuffled up the hill in a slow-motion parody of a race. We rounded the cricket pitch with its view for miles over the valley. The thought hit me that I might be doing the wrong sport at the wrong time of year. I crossed in 3 hours 44 minutes. Three weeks previously I'd run a sub-1.30 Brass Monkey half marathon. Those extra seven miles took an additional 2 hours and twenty minutes and cost a lot more in bruises, aches and blood, the latter noted only when my peripheries had warmed enough in the showers to permit my knees and shins to bleed.

Half an hour later, able to feel my feet again, things had improved. The post-race coffee, soup and cake was restorative and it feels good to have got this one out of the way with the knowledge that after the winter the legs still have the miles in them. This remains a race that is a labour of love on the part of CVFR, who have marshals out for hours in decidely rough conditions and who charge very little to compete. It is a race that demands respect but gives a lot back, combining a stern physical and mental test with some of Yorkshire's best and bleakest scenery. I'm unsure at this moment precisely why, but I'm marking this one for a re-visit and would recommend others consider it; possibly not one to add to the GP just yet though.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm!"

Harrier League, Wrekenton, 8th February

Mudman & Mudwoman

Another great turnout by Striders at Saturday's Wrekenton HL saw 44 purple clad mud lovers giving it their all on the tough wind ravaged course!

The senior women's field of over 200 runners included Denise Benvin and Lucy Cowton making determined HL debuts for Striders with Lucy carrying her trusty i-phone around the course! The women's two lap course included four hills and Camilla powered up all of them to lead Striders home for the first time at the HL. She was pushed all the way by Jules with the 'lead' changing hands a couple of times before Camilla narrowly prevailed. Claire came in close behind to finish as a counter for the first time, to the delight of Coach and daughter (no, that's not a pub!) particularly as Fiona S, Fiona K-J, Mudwoman and Katy were hot on her heels!

Camilla leads off the hill.

There were lots of other brave and improved performances including Katy's surge from the medium pack, Barbara's first HL since her bad fall on a cobbled road and Anita's wonderful improvement on her previous HL. Well done all of you and thank you for representing the club in this great competition! The Striderettes finished 7th on the day thereby keeping our heads above the relegation zone.

Adam legs it through the mud. Note omnipresent spectator.

The huge men's team (25 in all) included two debutants - new Strider Mark Payne and the not so new Strider Gareth Pritchard! Both did themselves, and the team, proud with gutsy performances on unfamiliar territory. However, it was the 'baby' of the band Adam Walker who led the team home - just managing to hold off Will Horsley who made a truly impressive surge from the medium pack! Jerry ran well and Rob continued his impressive form of late to count for the team as did Gareth, on his debut, and Mudman in spite of Graeme's close attention!

Others continue to make steady progress on the mud and over the hills (six hills this time) including Dave Halligan and Michael Tait. They, and many more, will soon be pushing the counters. But there were many more who were happy to turn out and represent their club and compete against our rivals. This was rewarded by a very close 5th place finish for the club on the day - our best of the season so far! Well done to you all and thanks to all those who came along and watched, cheered us on and took photos - what a great day out!!

The end of the 'great day out' was marred somewhat when Striders fell victim to the storms! Our trusty 'shelter from the storm' (the club tent) was caught by a vicious gust while Mudwoman and I were packing up the club flag. It rocked violently and then 'took off' vertically, tearing away from its guy ropes, and flew for 15-20 yards before we dove on it and brought it to earth! The poor old thing was ripped in a number of places and has parted company from some guy ropes and other anchor points. It was a faithful friend, may it rest in peace!!

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Carl Avery Morpeth Harriers 33:51
68 Adam Walker 39:39
72 Will Horsley 39:43 *M
87 Jerry Lloyd 40:02
99 Rob Everson 40:14
187 Gareth Pritchard 41:41
224 Geoff Davis 42:20
232 Graeme Walton 42:34
271 Simon Gardner 43:36
275 Dave Halligan 43:45
281 Michael Tait 43:56
283 Marc Jones 44:04
289 Jon Steed 44:22
290 Shaun Roberts 44:23
291 Tom Reeves 44:24 *M
305 Mark Payne 44:46
311 Jon Ayres 45:06
322 Aaron Gourley 45:30
326 Conrad White 45:36
327 Michael Hughes 45:40
329 Michael Downes 45:46
350 Matthew Crow 46:50
360 Marco van der Bremer 47:12
383 Alister Robson 48:16
435 Innes Hodgson 50:49
437 Mark Dunseith 50:52

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

457 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Emma Holt Morpeth Harriers 28:32 *F
42 Camilla Lauren-Maatta 30:38
43 Juliet Percival 30:40
49 Claire Readey 30:51
53 Fiona Shenton 30:56
63 Fiona Jones 31:13
65 Susan Davis 31:17
66 Katy Walton 31:18 *M
97 Sarah Davies 32:17
101 Lucy Cowton 32:22
111 Roz Layton 32:36
139 Jan Young 33:56
164 Jacquie Robson 36:07
165 Barbara Dick 36:09
179 Victoria Downes 37:36
181 Kirsty Anderson 37:41
184 Nicola Whyte 37:51
208 Debbie Mcfarland 43:03
211 Denise Benvin 44:02
213 Anita Dunseith 44:29

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap, *F Medium pack - 4m handicap.

216 finishers.

Stockton Winter 5K Trail Race #6, Preston Park, Stockton, 2nd February

Kelly Collier

What a beautiful day it was to be running the sixth race in the Stockton 5k trail series at Preston Park! The sun was shining and birds were tweeting and the air was cool and calm. I set off early to collect Ann, Kerry and Denise to make sure everyone had time for their pre-race kosi coffee! Not that I'd have one, it makes me feel sick. Once there, we were soon joined by more Striders, the biggest turnout of purple yet in this series I think.

We all should have been warming up and focusing on the run ahead, but instead we used that time to get a group photo on the snake in the park (or rope without a head!). At least we have our priorities right!!! The pic ended up getting loads of 'likes' on facebook so well worth it!! After that important job, we made our way to the start line, ready for a couple of laps around a very pleasant and scenic route. It had started to drizzle by this point and there was a big grey cloud looming that I prayed was just passing. Vicky Fawcet sounded the air horn to start, and we were off. There were a couple of muddy patches around the first corner but not too bad at all. I was running well, actually very well, striding right out, overtaking people and everything!! Then it dawned on me that this was the downhill section! Oh well, that lead on to some decking which I found quite kind to run on and managed to enjoy the lovely view across the lake.

This looks more than a little familiar ...

I knew from my first trail race here that there was a canny little hill waiting for us around the next corner so started to slow down a bit to conserve energy!! It wasn't half as hard as I remembered and I trotted up with ease (actually was dying but you know what I mean!). Managed to spot and smile for the camera man just as the route took us on to the tarmac and prepared myself for lap two ... by slowing down a bit more! The second lap was actually the best as I was joined by Sara Porley who did a great job of encouraging me up that (tiny) hill and all the way to the finish. As I passed the last corner there was an almighty roar of support from the purple crowd and I found that extra little something that made me sprint like a crazy lady to the funnel. Followed very quickly by a bout of dry heaves and Kerry having to hold my hair back ... I just ooze class me! Turns out that's what makes me feel sick, not the coffee!!

I joined the rest of the team to cheer the others over the line too and there were fab results from everyone. Afterwards we headed to the conservatory for Vicky to announce the winners and give some spot prizes. It turned out to be a blooming good day for Striders too, starting with Will Horsley being first across the line followed by completely cleaning up in the prizes! Honestly it was embarrassing as Strider number after Strider number was called out!!! Alas, despite smiling and standing at the front, I came away empty handed. I've since been commenting on Facebook and have paid Vicky a few compliments to see if that helps my chances at the next race!!! Which incidentally is on 9th March at Ropner Park. I really do love these friendly, well-organised, reasonably priced races. Hope you enjoyed reading my first race report! I tried to Google some long words and running terms to use but couldn't be bothered :)