Race Reports, March 2014

Terry O'Gara Memorial, Wallsend, 30th March

5Km

Alister Robson

After the debacle that was Coniston 14 I was determined to get back on the proverbial horse. Having failed to sort myself out early enough to get into the Hartlepool Marina 5m, unlike almost every other Strider, I was left with the choice of this or nothing much. That sounds worse than I intended - I ran this last year (when there was no clash with the Marina 5) and thoroughly enjoyed it - recording my second fastest 5K time of 2013.

The course runs from Segedenum Roman fort down and around the Hadrian's Way Cycle Path. There's a small incline you do twice which is gradual but you lose the elevation again quite quickly.

The great attraction here isn't the scenery but the quality of the field. This was also the North East Masters 5K championships and although I qualify, I'm not (yet) a member so am ineligible for any prizes. That last point is a bit irrelevant anyway, I finished 108th of 194 finishers in a reasonable 20.30. To illustrate the quality of the field 93 runners broke 20 minutes - the top two runners broke 15 minutes!

The only other Strider there was Rob Clark, who didn't have the best of runs - being dragged off too quickly at the start is no disgrace in a run like this though and I know he bounced back to have a good one at Blyth 10k.

Good value and a tech tee for all.

NEMC Handicap Marathon, South Shields, 30th March

Dave Robson

The North East marathon club specialises in cheap marathons. When they were being formed about five years ago, there were no marathons in the North East. There are now plenty of marathons in the area, but the club survives as its prices are low for its no frills events.

Smiling through the haze.

The cost of entry to the club itself is just £8 and included in that is a discount for entry into the club's races and today's marathon was for members only and was free to enter. There was also a free buffet afterwards and all finishers received a medal. A bargain !

Today's route took us from the South end of South Shield's promenade and up onto the Leas (familiar to many people as that is the finish area for the GNR). The route followed the coastal path past Marsden Grotto and Souter lighthouse to a car park where there were drinks. A slightly different way back across the Leas and back to the start, where there were more drinks and bit of food. Repeat another three times.

I was expecting it to be pretty flat as I have run round there before in events such as Pier to Pier and the South Shields parkrun, but on shorter races you don't notice the undulations. Melanie and I were fine with them on the first two laps, but I noticed them more on the third lap and I was very aware of them on the final lap !

The weather wasn't great, fairly thick fog which never lifted. It was also pretty cold as Phil Owen found when he came to give us some support - thanks Phil !

I tried out some baby food in sachets as a new approach to fuelling. Not a success, I felt a bit sick after the second one. Melanie also didn't like them.

A small field, but everyone was very friendly and waved as they went by. The route wasn't marked, though we had written instructions, but many people weren't looking at these and managed to go wrong. We made one minor error on the first lap, but we still ran more than marathon distance.

Two elegant medals.

Melanie did well on her first marathon since her stress fracture on 1 January and as she was feeling fresher than I was, she went on ahead on the final lap and came in with 4h 33min. I did 4h 51min.

Shame about the weather, it would have been great to have seen more. This was my 99th marathon, which is hard to get my head round. My 100th and Melanie's 25th will be next Sunday at the Hardmoors Wainstones event.

There will be more than just gentle undulations at that one ...

Howgills Barn Weekend, Nr. Sedbergh, 29th March

Shaun Roberts

Yes, that is Angela in that thing.

Many thanks to Nigel for once again organising a great weekend in the Howgills! And this time he organised some decent weather as well, which really helped. The north-east may have been lost under sea-frets from the east, but the Howgills were warm, dry and even sunny. The barn was all very civilised, and there was good food and crack on the Friday night. On the Saturday a decent group headed off to the west for the day, and seventeen miles of hills, including Randygill Top, Yarlside, Cautley Spout and The Calf, whilst three walkers had it just slightly easier, on a good day out.

The Howgills!

The new choice of pub, the Dalesman in Sedbergh was a good one, with great food and a good selection of beers: many thanks to Angela and Mike for driving the lot of us over there.

Lunch stop in an artwork by Andrew Goldsworthy

More good crack after that, then Sunday brought a now-traditional climb through the 'Clouds' (i.e. limestone pavements) and on up to Wild Boar Fell in balmy conditions. After a rest on the beach at Sand Tarn, we reached the top, with earily atmospheric views across the Mallerstang valley, through cloud and sun. Then down the hillside for bacon, eggs and beans, helpfully cooked by Mandy this time, standing in for our usual chef, this year sadly elsewhere. Great stuff ... so many thanks, Nigel, for once again doing the honours.

Here are a few more of his excellent photos for a taste of proceedings ... see link below for the full set.

Still snow up here.Setting off up Yarlside. Life's a beach.Scene at High White Scar.

Coniston 14, 29th March

14M

Simon Gardner ...

My normal start to the new year is usually just track and speed work with a little cross country thrown in but this year I wanted to do something different and get out of my comfort zone so when Katherine mentioned she had entered Coniston 14 I thought this would be just the thing.

I haven't done any half marathons since 2012 so I thought this would push me to get out and run up hills , do as many XC as possible and also get some distance training in none of which come easily for me. I also had the thought that if this went well I would have a good endurance base for the shorter distances which I am much happier with.

I'd travelled up on the Friday and after a day touring around Keswick and Coniston I had arranged to meet Katherine and Mark for a bite to eat. We had a great night in a fantastic pub that was full of springer spaniels for some reason and I'm happy to report that Katherine's springer Florence was impeccably behaved.

'Look! No running shoes!' Marc finds out what running 14 miles in VFFs feels like ...

I woke at 6am the next morning and felt very nervous about the run. My training had gone as well as I could have hoped and i had managed to run 3 times a week since January which is very rare as I am often injured . I felt I was in decent shape and had one fantastic 14 mile training run with the biggest hills I could find and managed it at 7:17 per mile which left me shattered but happy.

I met up with Katherine and Mark and we were soon joined by several other striders at the John Ruskin school which served as the start / finish and race HQ . The weather was good just a slight wind but warm enough for vest and shorts.

So at 11am we were off , my biggest worry was the pace because it wasn't flat I really wasn't sure what pace to run at but thankfully going up the first hill I spotted Graeme Walton around 100 metres ahead so I thought if I could keep him in sight I knew I would be doing well as he is in great shape and a better endurance runner than myself.

The first 2/3 miles have some fairly testing climbs but they are thankfully short and as they are near the start I felt ok climbing up them . After the the initial climbs you have some steep descents so you really make up some time going down . It was at this point you get a really good view of the lake and I have to say it looked bloody enormous at this point. I still felt physically good but mentally it was a bit daunting seeing that we had to do a full loop of the lake.

At around the 6 mile point you start to cross over to the over side of the lake and I had closed the gap to Graeme a little but I felt the pace I was running was good and i could sustain it and it wasn't worth the risk of increasing the pace especially with the big hill at around 11/12 mile although it would have been nice to have some company.

At around 8 mile I started to feel the pace a bit but thankfully I managed to grab a couple of jelly baby's from a family supporting and had my one gel (I should have used 2 with hindsight) . We were now running on the opposite side to the town of Coniston and it's much quieter it terms of support but what there was was very welcome , this side of the lake is initially undulating but nothing to severe .

I had been warned about mile 11 to 12 and it didn't disappoint , not hugely long but it was steep and on tired race legs i could really feel it both mentally and physically. After 12 I knew I had the worst of the hills behind me and I also knew that the half marathon point was exactly outside my hotel. I was very surprised to pass that point at just over my half marathon PB so it was an eyeballs out and very painful blast to the finish . Myself and Graeme managed to cross the line nearly together and we are both really chuffed with our times averaging under 7 minute miling. I need to thank Graeme as it was trying to keep him in sight that helped me drive on to a 1:36 finish which I'm thrilled with (we both are to be honest)

We all waited and cheered in all the other Striders and of course they were plenty. Katherine deserves a special mention as she was 15 minutes quicker than she expected to do and also everyone who did the barrow parkrun and Coniston double (you're mad!). It's a great challenging race and I would definitely recommend it.

... and Alister Robson:

Now you've read how Simon and Graeme ran the race properly and professionally I thought I'd add a few lines on how not to do it.

1. Probably best not to have a skinful of ale and one of the Duke of Wellington's famous burgers the previous evening even if Jacquie's parents are up for the weekend.

2. Coniston 14 starts at 11am. Although that means there is just time to squeeze in a parkrun beforehand that doesn't mean it's a good idea. It's definitely (with the benefit of hindsight), not a great idea to leave Durham just after 6am as Kirsty, Emma, Jacquie and I did in order to squeeze in Barrow-in-Furness parkrun* beforehand. It's then an even worse idea to compound your original mistake by running Barrow parkrun harder than you intended.

3. Effective race nutrition is a must. What usually works for me beforehand is a couple of slices of toast, a banana and a coffee or my trusty McDonalds Big Breakfast meal. It turns out (who knew?) that gulping down a garage bought chicken and bacon sandwich ten minutes before 11am on the way to the start is not great nutrition. I also usually run with SIS gels for anything more than 10k, usually one every 30-40 mins. Not a good idea to forget those and many thanks to Graeme for giving up one of his Lucozade ones which I managed at half way.

It was something of a miracle then that I made it to 8 miles in one piece and at intended pace, 8 minute miling too. This was my first Coniston 14 and I have Bill Ford to thank when he gets back off holiday for the privilege as it was his double booking error that led me to be there. At 8 miles there was a water station and I stopped to walk for a bit and take on some water. I was already starting to feel some pangs of discomfort in my stomach, but got back running again until the hill just before 10 miles. At that stage something weird happened, I just knew I wasn't even going to attempt to run it, so I settled into a walk. And on I walked.

After the top of the hill there was a photographer so I broke into an unconvincing jog - very much like Peter Kay's dad hurrying to cross the road, but actually no quicker than walking pace. I haven't dared look for the photos.

I kept on walking, as Rich Hall (senior), then Jean, then Lisa and Alan and Katherine and many more too numerous to mention ran past me - all asking if all was OK, and me re-assuring them that indeed it was. I walked past Pam, whose encouragement was most welcome but unfortunately futile, and it wasn't until Mike Gill of Blackhill Bounders caught me up about half a mile before the end and being the lovely chap he is encouraged me to run home with him.

Of course the good thing about having expended little or no effort over the last 4 miles was that as soon as I was finished I was fresh and ready to cheer the last few runners in as well as catch up with those who'd done so much better.

Coniston 14 ... we have unfinished business.

*Barrow parkrun was lovely - friendly but hilly, all on pavement around a lovely park. I chatted with the first finisher at the end he was from Crook AC - small world!

Thirsk 10, North Yorkshire, 23rd March

Kathleen Bellamy

I have been wanting to up my distance from 10k to a half marathon so thought a 10m race would be a good distance to put in for. The Thirsk 10m grabbed my attention with its description of a 'fast and flat' course, I thought great sounds like a nice one to do for my first attempt.

We got to Thirsk race course & the car park was clearly sign posted. I picked up my number & had ample time for several loo breaks, the biting cold wind and pre-race nerves will do that to a girl. There was a baggage drop off point but the car park was very close so I did not need to use this.

Kathleen well-wrapped up before the off ...

I bumped into some of my fellow Striders there who all offered me kind words of encouragement which gave me a huge confidence boost, you guys are the best!!

At around 10.45 we were ushered down to the start, I thought well this is it no backing out now. We set off at 11am & it didn’t take too long to warm up as the sun was blazing, so I was grateful of the water station at mile 3, after that I was plodding along quite happily & the course was lovely with some minor inclines, nothing too taxing on the legs. I was looking forward to the next water station at mile 6, but, to my horror it wasn’t there, I kept thinking oh it will be just around the corner, but no, this made my motivation dip a little but I kept going with some encouragement. Then came the loop just before the 7 mile mark, it was nice to see some fellow Striders coming back the opposite way so I didn’t mind this bit too much, and low and behold the 6 mile water station was on the way back down at around 8 miles, hallelujah!!

The last 2 miles were mainly downhill so I was pleased as my little legs were getting very tired by this point. Typical British weather the sunshine changed to hailstone at the 9 mile mark, running this last mile seemed to last forever but I could see the car park where we had started our day so I pushed on, the finish line was just inside the race course & I still had a smile on my face as I crossed it.

Woohoo, I had done it, my first 10m race and I have to say I enjoyed it. This has given me a huge confidence boost as I finished under the time I had in my head to get round and now have my first race T-shirt!

I would recommend this race to anyone wanting to do their first 10m. All in all a good day & I am looking forward to getting a half marathon under my belt. Things learned from this race: eat more than a bowl of rice crispies for breakfast, take a gel and don’t wear too many layers as the long sleeve top had to go half way through (behind some bushes), taking up precious race time!!

Muddy Mayhem, Hardwick Park, Sedgefield, 23rd March

10K

Nigel Heppell

Lovely day for a run ...

I suppose it turned out much like I expected. The 10k event was two laps of a 5k course. Lots of things to climb over and lots of boggyness to wade through (just like a fell run) and a few wet and/or dry drainage pipes to crawl through for first 1/2 lap; then it got a bit more serious with full body immersion in the lake to pass through a semi-submerged tunnel under a path, crawling prone in thick mud under tightly pinned netting, long distance waist-deep wading around the edge of the lake, carrying weights up and down hill, scrambling over a complex of metal barriers, ducking and weaving through a web of tightly strung ropes in the woods, more forced muddiness going over and under felled tree trunks, running up a steep slope on watered plastic sheeting, plunging into iced water containers, more skips filled with water, skips filled with soft mud, run though blazing pyres, hummocked ground, slithery drainage ditch, see-saw into a pond, cross water on tree trunk and then a wobbly bridge, run though ford, downhill slide, steep hill up, back through underpass and then ... do it all again.

Help!

The original idea, I thought, was to have a team of 10 (maybe that was just to get a discount on entry fee) and we set off together after the enforced totally unnecessary warm-up routine (first time I've had a dance with Dougie - could well be the last). But by about the third obstacle we were so spread out it was impossible to act as a group. I found myself in the company of Susan Davies, my daughter Esme putting in a guest appearance, and the wonderfully excitable Lucy Cowton. Lucy excelled in somehow being chosen to be 'The' person to wear the sponsors' headcam goggles which seemed to work well until she drowned them. We all tackled the various challenges in our own way and needed only an occasional steadying hand or a brief push through the mud although there was one memorable 'assist' that I will let Susan relate.

... small matter of the washing now.

I have to say it was a real challenge after the first lap to decide to carry on to the second round, we were pretty numb and borderline hypothermic by that time but Susan made us do it. Lucy offered some gummy sweets from her back pocket that had been only partly digested by the wet and off we went.

Something strange happened here; the first lap seemed to take forever and comments like 'this has got to be more than 5k' were heard on more than one occasion; but the second lap flew by; I know we dodged one or two of the nastier obstacles but that doesn't account for it, maybe my brain had frozen.

The field was very thin as we came to the final obstacle - a rugby team who put their all into the task of beating us up - and then a steady trot to the finish line. We heard Susan and Lucy were 2nd and 3rd ladies in, with Esme 4th, and I think I was 12th man.

We timed it right, it started to rain and hail just as we finished - wouldn't have wanted to get wet would we?

Blakey Blitz Fell Race, Lion Inn, NYM, 23rd March

10.6M

Anita Clementson

Two Mikes (Hughes & Bennett) along with Danny and myself represented the striders in one of the many scenic races put on by the Esk Valley Fell Club.

The only way is ... up.

Standing in the 'queue' for registration (in the car park of red lion pub, somewhere in North York moors!) with some hardy looking fell runners and was told this was the hardest of the fell series runs ran by Esk Valley. The no frills approach of these races is quite appealing, only £6 for entry handed over to Race organiser Dave sat in his warm car! I did take his mobile number for emergency use as the echoes rang in my ears of what I heard in the queue!

Looking up at the blue sky it could be quite easy to think that the kit required is overkill, but the weather can change very quickly and dramatically on the hills and I actually quite like running with my small rucksack, if I ever fell backwards it would be a soft landing if nothing else.

We all set off down hill and the main running field I could soon see snaking off in the distance. For me today this was just all about getting round and enjoying being out in the elements, getting away from it all and to keep at least one runner in front to follow the route! I soon got into a comfortable pace and footing was a little precarious on that first downward section. Soon we were climbing up and I took the sensible option of walking the hills, of which there were 3 notable ones in this race. The views were fantastic which the climbs rewarded you with.

Surprisingly there were a couple of marshals out there and navigation wasn't too bad as red tape was at points where there was a turn. The terrain was a mix of bog, stones, stoney paths, heather and farm track, the weather was full of all elements with some light hail snow thrown in.

However near the end I took a silly turning and ended up doing an extra mile. The field was so spread out by this time there was no one ahead to follow. I realised my mistake and got on the right track and was happy to see the odd runner still in the race so I wasn't quite last!

That last hill was a killer, really sapped you of all energy. Was pleased to meet Dave again, yes sat in his warm car taking the numbers of the finishers. Mike H & Danny also got slightly lost and Mike Bennett had a good race with his 35th position and 2nd in his age category. Worse ways to spend your Sunday morning.

Overall a very enjoyable Sunday morning and hope to do more of these series.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

The Last Hurrah!

Harrier League, Wrekenton, 22nd March

Mudman & Mudwoman

Saturday saw the final HL x/c fixture of the season at Wrekenton (sob, sob) and Striders finished with a spectacular performance! The women's team achieved a season's best 3rd place on the day and 7th for the season - well clear of the relegation zone. Not only that, but a further three women, Rachael B, Claire & Jules, qualified for the medium pack! The men too equalled their season's best position of 4th on the day and they also finished in 7th place in their Division 2 with Jerry achieving promotion back to the medium pack!

Most of us were disappointed to lose the Prudhoe fixture this year but were nonetheless pleased that Vicki Thompson and her team, at the last minute, were able to arrange a second fixture at Wrekenton to replace it. Saturday was bright and breezy with a distinct lack of mud on the course, in fact, if it hadn't been for the hills, you'd have thought you were on the track at Maiden Castle! And that's what some of the women must have thought as Claire, Rachael, Jules, Fiona K-J et al sped off on the first lap and a battle royal ensued. Claire led the way for Striders for much of the race but Rachael had her locked in a steely glare and managed to overhaul her half way round the second lap to finish first Strider after, what she later acknowledged to be, the race of her life! Jules finished not far behind Claire to join her two club mates in the medium pack for next season - well done!

There were some great performances elsewhere in the race with our three medium packers battling through the field of over 200 runners. It was also pleasing to see Fiona K-J and Sarah complete a full set of six HL races in their first season along with Jan and Mudwoman. What a race and what a grand day out for the 13 strong women's team.

Will celebrates the end of a cracking season.Lucy in full Striders war paint.

Another big field in the men's race of over 400 runners saw the Striders team, safe from relegation, put in a great performance. Once more Will swept through from the medium pack to finish first Strider, 26th overall and a full house of six races for the season! Jerry ran his best race of the season followed closely by Adam in his final x/c race for Striders. James continued his return to form and Rob, another 'ever present' for 13-14, enjoyed his first run from the medium pack - I'm sure they'll be many more to come! Gibbo was our final counter powering round as of old to pip the much improved Dave Halligan on the line.

As always there were some fine Strider performances throughout the field. Graeme completed his six races for the season as did Mudman and Innes (just 40 seconds behind his 17 year old son Ari). It was good to see Nigel running for the first time this season (without a head torch!) and Dougie as well - taking time off from the camera. Well done everyone!

As we draw breath and assess the season we can only conclude that it's been a great success. No less than 85 Striders have taken part in one or more x/c races this season. We've been represented at the English Nationals, the British Masters, the Northerns, The North Easterns, the North East Masters and, of course the Harrier League where we broke our attendance records in both the Women's and Men's races. There've been some great performances at both the sharp end and the blunt end, as Shaun would say, by newcomers to the mud and old lags as well. We've had some great days out and we're pleased to say there's always a happy and lively atmosphere around the tent. Long may it continue.

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Robert Foster Tynedale Harriers 33:04
26 Will Horsley 35:53 *M
32 Jerry Lloyd 36:09
50 Adam Walker 36:29
110 James Garland 37:38
120 Rob Everson 37:44 *M
165 David Gibson 38:20
166 Dave Halligan 38:20
203 Geoff Davis 39:06
246 Michael Tait 39:57
248 Mike Bennett 39:59
257 Graeme Walton 40:13
270 Matthew Crow 40:39
295 David Brown 41:33
316 Michael Hughes 42:28
345 Marco van der Bremer 43:33
392 Nigel Heppell 46:42
400 Innes Hodgson 47:18
412 John Hutchinson 48:00
420 Dougie Nisbet 50:26

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

437 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Kim Simpson Durham City Harriers 26:55 *M
11 Rachael Bullock 28:00
20 Claire Readey 28:23
26 Juliet Percival 28:36
29 Rachel Terry 28:41 *M
38 Fiona Jones 28:54
47 Lucy Cowton 29:14
48 Susan Davis 29:15
63 Sarah Davies 29:35
83 Camilla Lauren-Maatta 29:52
90 Katy Walton 30:00 *M
96 Helen Tones 30:07 *M
115 Roz Layton 30:39
162 Jan Young 33:29
168 Barbara Dick 33:43
174 Joanne Porter 34:02

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

209 finishers.

Hardmoors 55, North Yorks Moors, 22nd March

55M / 2700m

Aaron Gourley

"I want to get to the end and feel I’ve enough in me to turn around and head back," said Phil Owen as we chatted at race HQ in Guisborough Rugby Club. For many, running an ultra of 55 miles is simply incomprehensible, but for Phil, this was merely preparation for the Hardmoors 110 later this year, and that is a distance beyond even my imagination can stretch to.

Mmmm ... lovely bit of downhill ...

My day had started at 4am, for the drive to Helmsley where three coaches picked up nearly 200 runners to be taken to the start in Guisborough. Following a thorough kit check I bump into a nervous looking Anna Seeley, probably more nervous of someone stepping on her broken toe than the challenge ahead before I meet up with some of the guys I’ve been training with over that last few months for a chat. I’d arranged to run the race with one of them, Russ who is of a similar pace to me.

For this race I’d decide that I would gauge it by how I felt so stripped myself of any watches or GPS devices. My aim was to go steady but try to get as close to the White Horse check point (45 miles) before it got dark. All I knew was that sunset was at 18:22 and would have approx 20mins following that before I would need a headtorch.

The weather forecast for the day was reasonable although I was conscious that at some point we were in for a soaking, but given last year’s conditions I wasn’t too concerned. As 9 o’clock approached we made our way to the start line on the disused railway and without a moment’s hesitation we were off. What seemed like most of the field passing me, I plod along conscious not to get caught up in the excitement by dashing off. After a mile along the old railway line we were directed off up a track for the first climb of the day and onto the Cleveland Way.

At this point the weather took a turn pelting us with snow and rain but it didn’t last long and as we gained height up into Guisborough woods a wonderful rainbow appeared. Russ and I maintained a steady pace as more people continued to stream past us as we made our way to Roseberry Topping for the first really big climb of the day. The field was well stretched at this point as we headed out and back to the summit check point. On the climb back up to the gate I’m greeted by the shout of "elite athlete coming through!" as Phil surges in the opposite direction followed by Anna tentatively making her way down behind him.

Captain Cooks monument is the next highpoint before we make our way down into Kildale for the first main check point of the day. Here I collect my drop bag with some food in preparation for the next section up to Bloworth Crossing. This long slog of a climb is demoralising at best but it was runnable and the conditions weren’t too bad so I pressed on. Upon reaching the checkpoint I realised I’d pulled away from Russ but he wasn’t too far behind. From here we change direction and head off across the moors towards Clay Bank.

At the road crossing we’re met by Dave, a friend whose unfortunate accident a few weeks ago meant he wasn’t able to compete. A quick stop and we press on for the first of three killer climbs and it’s on this first that I feel my quads tighten up which sends me into a bit of a panic. ‘Not now, it’s too early in the race for this!’ I think to myself as I make my way down the other side with the next climb looming large. The next two climbs hurt, a lot but others are suffering the same around me and then it starts to snow, great. I press on; the pain is only in my quads when climbing so I’m happy as it means I’m still able to run.

As I reach Lord Stones checkpoint it’s snowing hard and it was only then that I realised I had pulled away from Russ again. This time though I had no idea how far behind he was but I didn’t want to hang around as it was freezing so I decided to press on to Osmotherley, the second indoor check point where I knew I’d be able to get warm food and changed if I needed it and wait for him there.

I have a chance to recoup at Osmotherley, grab a bite to eat and a cup of tea before I set off on the next section, a ten mile stretch to Sutton Bank and the White Horse check point. Upon leaving Osmotherley, I realise that I’ve completely forgotten about Russ, I’m in race mode. My main aim had been to get to the White Horse before dark and it had become an obsession. I had no idea what time it was but knew I had to press on.

These selfies are getting everywhere ...

This section, like last year, presented me with my darkest moments, but not in the same way as it did then - I was battling with my mind this time. The weather had cleared and it was now bright but fresh. I felt really good but my mind was telling me to stop, that I didn’t need to continue, even questioning whether I want to run another ultra ever again, but I press on with a mix of walking and running. Again it’s clear I’m not the only one having a tough time as I swap places with a few other runners along the six mile stretch to the check point at Sneck Yate Bank. I take a rest and have a drink of the cheap cola on offer and try to figure out if the music that is blasting from the marshal’s car really is AC/DC. (It was!)

I set off for Sutton Bank and the White Horse as the sun begins to fall in the sky. I run past a sign proclaiming ’50 metres to England’s best view’ and who am I to argue as I took a moment to soak it in. Finally, I reach Sutton Bank; from here it’s a mile to the next check point at the bottom of the White Horse car park. The light is fading fast but I eventually make it. I’m lifted as I’ve achieved my aim of getting there before dark. Dave is there to greet me but tells me that Russ had dropped out at Osmotherley. That makes me feel bad as I was supposed to be running with him. I felt selfish but I had a race plan in my head and I couldn’t think of anything else.

It quickly gets dark so I put on my head torch and plough on with the finish is with sight, only nine miles to go. This is relatively easy running but very, very dark and tricky navigationally if you’ve never ran it before. I catch up with around eight runners all tentatively making their way in the dark. I pass and offer my assistance but I think they were weary of my confidence and soon I’m out of sight. A peculiar thing happens in ultras whereby if you are able to keep running, no matter how fast, you gain a huge amount of ground on your rivals.

Make no mistake, I was tired but I was still running and eventually I pick my way through the woods before the lights of Helmsley appear on the horizon. I’ve made it and I eventually drop into Helmsley Market Square where I’m greeted with a round of applause outside of the Town Hall before the final insult of having to take my muddy shoes off then climb the stairs to the finish.

Mmmm ... so nice when you stop...

12hrs 3mins of hard slog. Not quite as fast as I had hoped but very pleased all the same. I definitely didn’t feel like I could have turned around and ran back, Phil!

Trimpell 20, Lancaster, 16th March

20m

Alister Robson

All eyes on London. Graeme and I ran this last year as part of our marathon training, following a lead from Shaun a couple of years ago. This year we were also able to tempt Jane Ives and also Debs Goddard for whom this would be her longest run so far in training for the London marathon in company with much of the field. It was a bit of an early start but it didn't take us that long to get there, despite me overriding Graeme's Sat Nav and taking us the wrong way round Lancaster's ring road for the second year running.

Race HQ is also the club hut for Lancaster& Morecambe AC, which is right next to the running track at Salt Ayre Sports Centre where the Trimpell 20 starts and finishes. Everything you need (changing, toilets and a cuppa) was right there and although there was no official baggage store we felt fine to leave our bags in a quiet corner.

Debs had told us that she was a fan of the Marathon Talk podcast on the way down so it was a great pleasure of mine to be able to introduce her to one of the hosts, and parkrun UK MD Tom Williams, who was also kind enough to take a group shot of us.

The run itself was pretty uneventful, a larger than last year (I think) field set off on the track then out through the cycle circuit and onto the river (Lune) path via a quick loop at the Trimpell end. I'd always thought Trimpell was a place or an area but on doing research for this have since found it was an amalgamation of companies, Trinidad Leaseholds, Imperial Chemical Industries and Shell Oil who provided a Sports and Social Club for their employees.

The river path has the virtue of being sheltered which was a godsend as it was quite a windy day. Graeme and I were aiming to get me round at marathon pace (8.12 miles), while Jane and Debs were aiming for a slightly more gentle pace.

Graeme has to be one of the easiest runners to run with and we soon clocked up the miles - this was a lot easier than the previous week's Locke Park 20 for which I ran long stretches alone. Just after 13 miles you turn again and head for home. I wasn't intending to speed up in the second half but I now know just how competitive Graeme is and that every runner ahead is a target to be beaten - especially the ladies, I guess that's how he still manages to keep ahead of Katy too.

Anyway the last few surges didn't kill me and we finished just under our goal time, with a nice little positive split. I'm not sure I'd have liked to run another 6.2 miles at that stage but I guess that's what the taper is for.

Jane and Debs followed shortly and we collected our T-shirts, only cotton sadly but more than made up for by the first medal of 2014 for me. There was also a sandwich, a chocolate bar and a banana so all good value. The race was also chip timed with plentiful water stations and absolutely great, friendly marshals. We hung around for the presentations then relaxed while Graeme drove the long way back - he certainly earned the full mixed grill in the Duke of Wellington that night!

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Ian Mcbride Royton Road RunnersMS101:51:16
26Treena JohnsonDewsbury Road RunnersFV50102:11:37
191Alister RobsonMV403502:43:40
192Graeme WaltonMV403602:43:41
431Jane IvesFV402903:23:27
432Debs GoddardFV403003:23:33

496 finishers

Run Northumberland Half Marathon, Ponteland, 16th March

Gareth Pritchard

This is the second time for me doing this race, last year was a late decision when a number came up. This time it was all set up within my marathon plan with the aim of a fast time on a challenging course. I had it down as a potential pb effort of 1:21 and training was going ok, even with an Achilles problem bugging me last few weeks.

The race was much better organized than last year, proper baggage area and good transport to and from the event. Its held at kirkly hall on very open and undulating grounds and is about as challenging as a road race can get with lots of long hills, turns and a very fast field.

I understand some people being put off by road racing but for me its the only true measuring stick of running ability. It removes most of the variables such as shoe choice, racing line, mud, spikes, obstacles. These non pure running ability factors can all be a big influence on your finish time and can skew the time you run. The road its a fair reflection of running ability. Only track can top the road but who wants to run 13.1 miles on the track?

There is no getting round the downside, it takes a lot out of your body. This is part of the challenge and why I sacrificed a weeks marathon training to taper correctly for the race. In the past I tried to continue my training with a few days taper before the race, which left me feeling sluggish on race day. The one non running factor remaining for road racing times is the weather and this hit hard today with avery strong wind. So the race became all about finishing place and racing the field. You have to accept that a pb is not possible when the wind is this bad, but it's the same for everyone so the race was on.

I was about 35 or so last year so that was my goal, the start was up hill, over a cattle grid then into the hills. They covered the cattle grad this year so much easier. A slight delay at the start and we were off. The difference in my legs was apparent from the off, almost gliding from the start. First mile was on pace at 6:20 mins and away from the pack at last. This is when I start to enjoy the race, time to wind the pace up and pick people off. The pace was good till miles 5-7 where the wind hit full in the face driving me to the 7 min mile mark. Even here I had the strength to pick some more runners off. I had a good battle with the lead female runner and her running partner at this stage. It took me a good mile to pull them in and they drafted behind me for a while too. A fast 6 min mile 8 lost them and held good speed right to the end. Still 2 people passed me at the last mile where I hit 6 min pace again? Always confuses me as I was not slowing up.

End result? 22nd place with a sub 1:24 time boom as someone might say. Very happy and looking good for sub 3 hour marathon which is still my dream goal. Some other good running today by striders as well as a 30 min pb in a amazing run for our female strider. Well done everyone on a great days run, a fantastic day all round.

NATO Orienteering Event, Slaley Forest, 16th March

Brown (8.2km)

Dougie Nisbet...

Despondency – there's a word that's heard surprisingly infrequently in running. But what other word describes that nasty cocktail of tiredness, disappointment, irritation, despair, annoyance, and utter de-motivation that follows a poor performance in competition.

I was feeling pretty upbeat as I stepped over the Start line and wandered into a lush-looking Slaley Forest. Last week at Hamsterley I'd been quite pleased with my run and the results table showed that I was dangerously close to being almost average. Today Colin had started a few minutes earlier and I'd rather un-sportingly paid particularly close attention to his initial choice of direction so that when I started I could just pretend to look at the map and follow in his footsteps. (They don't hand you the map in orienteering until you start). But Roberta had just started too on a different course, so I jogged off in her direction to see how she was and have a quick chat. When I looked at my map I realised that I could go this way anyway to the first control, albeit involving a bit of a climb and a bit of a detour. My mood improved even more when I realised that despite taking the scenic route I'd actually managed to catch Colin up on the second control. The third control I happened to pass as I was on my way to find it. This was slightly troubling – I hadn't expected to reach it for another 100m or so. But there it was, chirpy and bright, and asking to be dibbed.

Control 4 set the tone for the rest of the event. It was not where I was expecting it to be, but handily it was right next to Roberta who I bumped into again and she confirmed my suspicions. I was troubled. When you find a control through luck rather than skill, it's a bad sign. Controls 5-21 were all pretty horrible really. Just a mess. It should be said to any Striders thinking of having-a-go, you are rarely ever really genuinely lost in an orienteering event. You usually have a pretty good idea of where you are; it's the getting from where you are to where you want to be that's the tricky bit.

Close, but no cigar.Take Control 15 (right): it was never far away really. Just behind that tree, next to that rock. I knew it was close. But it just didn't want to shake hands and say Hello. And then the frustration and exasperation becomes too much and the red-mist descends, and you feel the uncontrollable urge to shout and swear at anything close (usually trees) about the unfairness of it all. That's ok. That's normal. (Well it is for me anyway).

Somewhere post-control-17 found me leaning against a tree looking at my map and trying to work out the quickest way back to the car. I was totally fed-up. I was going to quit. Another orienteer stopped to ask me if I was ok (I thought I was the last one still out there), and when we established we were both heading for the same control I let him go ahead as he was clearly a faster runner. It also meant I could follow him. Soon he disappeared and I was alone again, except for another head-scratching orienteer I bumped into who I managed to point in the right direction. That was my good deed done for the day.

Best thing to do with the Results Printout.After a few more desultory and unenthusiastic controls the Finish eventually appeared. After commenting to the volunteers that a Bad Man must have designed that course, I discovered there was still a good km or so to walk back to the car. A good three hours after starting I opened the car door and slumped into the driver's seat. Roberta greeted me with, “Where have you been?”. I gave her the sort of hard stare that would have made Paddington Bear jealous, and in way of an answer gestured, vaguely, in a sort of 'out there somewhere' kind of way.

But there's a twist to the story. Have a look at Colin's and my race routes. Colin was over an hour quicker than me round the course, and his navigation was far superior to mine. There are times when I think I might be snipping at his heels but today I was completely outclassed, both on speed and navigation. But he made one mistake on control 4. He punched the wrong control. And orienteering is an unforgiving sport; one wrong control and that's it; DQ'd.

And finally, I notice with some pride, that despite the Brown course being described as 8.2km I managed, through some ingenious route choices, to run almost double that distance. That's over 3 hours of ups and downs and sprints and rests. That's some serious intervals.

The white bits are mostly from multiple foldings.

...and Colin Blackburn

Slaley is the closest orienteering area to my house, just a short one hour run away. Luckily Dougie had offered me a lift so the one hour run would have to wait for the return home. I stepped over the start line a few minutes before Dougie, picked up my map and looked at the two possible routes to the first control. I decided to crash straight down the hill and pick up a lower path. Everything was going so well as I neared the area I was aiming for. Then suddenly things didn't look quite right. The control should be there in that reentrant. It wasn't. This is a regular first leg nightmare for me. Go off too fast and too confident and then stuff up. I never learn. So, I relocate back to somewhere I know and come back in again. Nope, still not there. One more try, damn, wrong reentrant! Just as I punch I see Dougie leaving the control. However many minutes he started behind me, well he's now that many minutes ahead of me. I take a straight compass line to the second and notice Dougie drifts slightly off to the right and so make up a few seconds as I get to a worryingly deep pond and find the kite.

From then on it's plain sailing, as good as it gets, 3, 4,... 10 all found with no problems. Too good to be true? You bet. At 11 it unwinds a little and I have to stop, think, and start again a few times. At 12 the wheels come off. This one was my Dougie-15. It should have been easy but I just make a complete hash of it by never quite running far enough before panicking and restarting. I'd like to blame the map but that's too easy. After that I make steady, but slightly slower, progress as the effort of running over broken ground, jumping ditches, clambering over wind-blown trunks and fighting through young plantation take their toll. I love it really but managed forests do make life hard. Just coming out of control 14 I pass Dougie and assume he's looking for that one and is still on my heels. A snatched conversation and I realise he is four legs behind and possibly a little off-course. I finally finish - although I nearly failed to find the finish itself! - in just short of two hours. With a cleaner run I'd have taken 15 minutes off that and been very happy.

I jog back to the car to find Roberta relaxing after her outing in brand new Walshes, now muddy! After a coffee - thanks Roberta! - and adding a couple more layers I head to the download to check my results. DQed! It turns out that control 4 wasn't that easy after all, I'd inadvertently found a nearby control on a similar feature, a small crag, and not double-checked the number. My fault and a silly mistake to have made. After that it was just the hour's run home, turned out to be a very tiring 75 minutes but at least I didn't get lost!

Lightwater Valley 10K, North Stainley, Ripon, 16th March

Sophie Dennis

Sophie being closely shadowed. Four Striders turned out at the Lightwater Valley 10k Challenge in Ripon, North Yorkshire with about 500 competitors running on the hottest day of the year so far.

It was an undulating course through fields, along gravel paths, around quarries and then winding through Lightwater Valley theme park itself. For a mile and a half though the park you were running right next to the main roller coaster (The Ultimate) but luckily the park wasn't open yet.

It was a good day out, well worth the drive down and you could say “The ultimate running experience” on such a lovely morning!!!

Well done to everyone!

Durham Tri Club Duathlon, High Shincliffe, 16th March

Run 2M, Bike 11M, Run 2M

Mark Dunseith

I had taken part in a DurhamTri duathlon training session shortly before joining striders in 2012. I had only taken part in one running race before this and spent very little time on my bike so I had jumped in at the deep end. I started first last time and finished a couple of people from last so I was keen to return and see if I could do any better this time. I had planned to make this a regular event in my diary but it has taken me 18 months to fit another one in.

We arrived around 9.15am and went to the registration car to get signed up. We paid our £4 and signed a waiver form and were given information and instructions of what to expect during the event as well as a safety briefing. When you take part in a handicapped duathlon you get a time based on your previous result. There is an imaginary athlete called John Doe and they start at 0.00. Everyone else starts after this time depending on their perceived time or previous results. I was given a start time on 1.00 so only a minute after the clock started. Anita and another female participant (along with her dog) started before me on 0.15 and I was starting with 3 other male athletes. So off I went and quickly got in-front of the other three guys I started with. I quickly caught the other lady as her dog had decided that 30 seconds after starting the run would be a good time to stop for a toilet break. The run route, of 2 miles, starts from the entrance of High Shincliffe where you do a figure of eight round the village before starting the bike section of the session. I caught Anita in the top half of the figure of eight then had what felt like a good run for the rest of the way. Into transition where you shout your number and the organisers record your time.

I had a decent transition, getting my trainers off and cycling shoes on. The rules of duathlon says that you can’t touch your bike until you have your helmet on, so I quickly got my helmet on and grabbed my bike. As I was leaving the transition area two of the three guys that started with me were just entering. I jumped on my bike and off I went.

The bike part of the session is 11 miles long. You leave the transition area and ride along the main street in High Shincliffe and out at the junction closest to Bowburn. You turn left out towards Bowburn and turn left towards and past Bowburn Hall. At the T junction you turn left down to the roundabout at the new road and turn left. Lots of left hand turns in this event which we were told is to try and keep riders as safe as possible. Inevitably there has to be a right turn and that happens at the Sherburn roundabout on the new road where you do a 180 and head back down the road you came down. At this point the first person overtook me and my visions of running across the finish line in first place were so cruelly dashed. Shortly after this number 2 and number 3 also passed me and my vision of standing on the podium and watching my national flag flutter in the wind was also ripped from my grasp (I had the last laugh however as there was no podium or flags at the finish). When you get to the original roundabout you go straight over and down to the roundabout at the bottom of the road, again performing a 180 around it and heading back to the top. Once you get to the top of the road at the Sherburn roundabout you turn left and head down that road as if you were going to Maiden Castle. When you get to the traffic lights, at which you have to follow the normal highway code rules, you turn left and climb that awful hill back up to High Shincliffe. One more person passed me on the hill and I was off the bike and back into the transition area. My stop took a bit longer this time and when I started to run my legs felt like jelly. My second run seemed to be so much slower this time but checking my Garmin it seems it was only 20 seconds slower than the first time round.

I crossed the line in 1 hour and 21 minutes with no further place changes. I was pleased with my running performance but struggled on the bike. Last time I took part I was on a £99 mountain bike whereas this year I had a fancy new hybrid so thought I would have gained more time in this section however the windy conditions made the ride a real slog.

This duathlon takes place on the third Sunday of the month throughout the winter, however, this is the last one until the new Thursday night summer sessions start in May. Checkout their website for more details and updated times.

Loop Den Haag Halve Marathon, Rotterdam, 9th March

13.1M

Kerry Lister

My good friend in Holland mentioned a few months ago that he was doing the CPC Loop Den Haag Halve Marathon, I thought I'd kill 2 birds with 1 stone, visit my friends and their 10 month old baby and take the opportunity to become an international half marathoner.

So this weekend I flew off to Rotterdam to take part in the Loop Den Haag or Run The Hague translated into English. The weather was glorious, too glorious for running a half marathon when what I'm used to is cold, wet and dark. Last year it was reportedly snowy and windy.

Kerry and Remco going Dutch.

Remco and I arrived at the Malieveld race headquarters by metro in plenty of time to get orientated to the festival style area, have a cup of coffee, visit the porta loos 2or 3 times, being English and used to orderly queues I missed my turn a few times before I learned I had to just race for a door as I opened. Then we put our numbers on and put our bags into the very well organised baggage areas.

There were several races of different lengths and got different age groups throughout the day so we had a late start time of 2.30pm so we lined up at the start point and even though we were right at the back it only took around 90 seconds to cross the start line. We went off a bit too fast for me and after about 3km (they do things in km on the continent don't you know) I let Remco leave me behind to run his own race. The heat soon started to take it's toll and not a minute too soon the first water/sports drink station came up at 5km. There was lots of support on the pretty streets of Den Haag and because the race number has your name on it was lovely to hear your name being called with encouraging words although I didn't really understand what was being said. The drinks stations were well placed with plenty of hander outerers, essential in the heatwave weather.

If a Dutch man tells you Holland is flat, don't believe him, at about 15km there was a slow long climb up the Promenade at Scheveningen (the beach) with a brass band at the top, realistically it wasn't anything horrific just unexpected in the reputed flat lands of the Netherlands.

The support of the lovely people continued throughout the 21km and I got a huge lump in my throat when I saw a man with a 'be awesome' sign, 'we're all awesome!' I shouted to him giving the thumbs up. At the final straight I dug in and managed to overtake 4 other runners in true Strider style.

Although there was a cut off time of 2:30 I crossed the line at approx 2:37, collected my medal and found Remco who had finished in approx 2:20. Not my best race but a great experience. I'll be back next year. All together 40,000 people participated in the races to celebrate 40 years of the CPC Loop Den Haag.

Locke Park 20, Redcar, 9th March

Rachel Terry

Rachel getting dizzy ...

I was a little hesitant in entering this race – a 20 lap course didn’t really appeal to me but it was close to home and would be a good preparation race for my spring marathon so I thought I’d give it a go. PeterMac, Steph and Alister were also entered so we travelled over to Redcar together on a lovely spring morning. There was plenty of parking at the college just opposite the park and within a few minutes we had collected our numbers and commemorative mugs from the bowls club and had plenty of time to relax before the race started. The race was capped at 125 people so it had a bit of a Parkrun atmosphere about it as everyone lined up at the start.

After a few minutes delay we were off on lap one. The route follows the parkrun course, is very flat and winds in and about the park. There are a couple of tight turns, two small bridges to cross and a duck pond with fountain to run around. After the first lap the sun came out and I realised I was going to boil in my thermal layer so quickly stripped down to my vest, dropping my top on my bag as I passed. I figured I could always pick it up again later if it got cool!

To my surprise I really enjoyed the laps and looked forward to seeing the girl handing out jelly beans by the café, taking the first tight corner out of the breeze into the shelter of the trees, heading to the bottom of the park and the half-mile marker that seemed to come round so quickly, along to the marshal shouting out encouraging comments by the first bridge, over the bridge to the smiley marshal who clapped for me every single lap (thank you!), glancing across the pond to try and spot familiar faces to wave and shout encouragement at, over the second bridge to the two lovely ladies, running around the pond past the fountain and then taking the second tight bend and heading back up to the start and water stations. The great bonus of the course was the constant support you had all the way round, not only from the spectators but from locals taking a walk with their kids and all the other runners who passed me or who were passed by me. It really was a great atmosphere. It was also good to know I could grab a drink or pop to the loo at every mile! It was lovely to see fellow Striders Jacquie, Greta, Issy and Bill who came along for the last few laps to cheer us on and hand out Haribo and Freddie frogs! Thanks to you all!

Peter in the Park.

The race really did exceed my expectations - it was so very friendly, well organised and I’d certainly do it again. All four Striders performed brilliantly with all of us coming in under 3 hours!

Cambridge Half Marathon, 9th March

Kirsty Anderson

This race was originally intended as a family get-together but due to drop-outs from my sister-in-law (injured foot) and my two sisters (1. just had a baby and 2. scared that she would get beaten by me) it was just me, Jon and my little brother on the start-line for the Cambridge Half. The remainder of the family were out in support of us though which was nice and even nicer was that the sun had finally come out. This, while unquestionably lovely, actually was a bit of an issue since I had packed my bag while in the arctic tundra that was Durham on the Thursday before the race so only had thermals and long trousers, but I had an emergency t-shirt at least although to be honest I reckon I could have run in just my vest, it was that warm.

The race itself was two laps taking in the outskirts of Cambridge city centre and then a large portion of the beautiful city streets and colleges. There were no hills to speak of other than a few up-and-downy bridges and the Cambridge residents were out in force, rivalling the Great North Run for turning out and cheering in vast numbers. The race numbers had our names printed on them so despite the lack of cheering Striders there were still plenty of "Come on Kirsty" cheers which was nice, and my family did us proud as well. Having two laps is nicer for spectators too as they get to see people more than once. It wasn't too bad for runners either actually, and two laps is definitely better than three!

I used to work in Cambridge and managed to bump into some old colleagues in the start pen, they were aiming for about the same time as me (somewhere under 1:55) and had planned pretty much the same race strategy as me (hang on to the 1hr 45 pacer for as long as possible). This strategy worked excellently for about the first 100m when both he and my ex-colleagues disappeared out of sight so I decided to just run my own race and see how I went. I was going well for the first 4 miles and enjoying the reminiscing (ooh look that is where Jon and I went on our first date, ooh look, that is where I passed out after drinking too much and Jon had to carry me home) but then the heat combined with my recent loss of mojo hit me hard and the last 9 were a bit of a struggle. The 2hr pacer went past me at about 8 miles and I knew I was in for a bit of a hard last only-a-parkrun to go, especially as there was a big drag after the end of the second loop to the finish which was at least a mile around and took forever. I got there in the end though, well outside my best but not bad in the conditions. The goody bag was a medal, beer, crisps, fruit and a gel starter pack but no t-shirt, this was especially sad since I had used my emergency t-shirt to run in and hence was a little short of clothes to wear for the long journey home, but never mind.

In contrast to me, Jon and my brother did really well, a rather dehydrated Jon just outside his PB despite not being able to get the stupid water pouches to work and my brother finishing in 80th, hopefully on course for his sub-3hr at Dusseldorf marathon in April. The race was followed by a lovely picnic in my sister's garden (it was 19 degrees C by this point!) and ritual mocking of those family members who had not made the start. We will (ALL) be back next year!

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Aaron ScottNotts ACM1:06:28
24Ellie MatthewsCity of Norwich ACF1:18:51
80Duncan AndersonVictoria Park HarriersM1:23:53
328Jon SteedElvet StridersM1:34:30
2315Kirsty AndersonElvet StridersF2:08:22

3318 finishers

A Race Too Far?

Brough Law, 9th March

5M/1250'

Geoff Davis

Against our better judgement we decided to break one of our long established principles and run two races in one weekend. If we're involved in a race there's only one way we know how to run and that's to give it 100% from start to finish, aim to be as high up the field as you can and only drop out if someone shoots you! This puts a certain amount of strain on the body and we've found over the years that our bodies tend to complain if they are asked to take the strain too often - like twice in two days. But you never learn and after what we thought would be an easy x/c on Saturday we found ourselves heading off to do a shortish fell race on the Sunday! Mike Hughes joined us on the drive north to the Ingram Valley in Northumberland.

There was a record turnout of over 120 for Will Horsley's Brough Law Fell Race - a worthy reward for all of Will's efforts. Susan and I had run the race on a number of occasions so we knew what to expect. It starts with a very steep climb and although this is mercifully short it continues with a further long climb only slightly less steep. It only took a few paces uphill for me to realise that I should have stayed at home. My chest seemed to be saying "Oi! You had us doing this yesterday and last Saturday and the Saturday before that and the Saturday before that - enough is enough - slow down or we're not playing ball!"

What can you do when you're delivered such an ultimatum? I slowed down. It was galling to see others pass me who normally never do but I could do little about it on that long climb. Things picked up a bit as the climb eased off and I was able to stretch out along the lovely grassy track amid beautiful Cheviot scenery. Runners stopped passing me and I began to pick a few off. There was more 'technical' terrain here than at yesterday's Wallsend x/c with some nice grassy descents - just what I like!

So, all was not lost, and although one or two rivals finished ahead of me I wasn't too disappointed and I was sure I could shake off the three injury niggles I'd managed to aggravate! Mike wasn't far behind me and he had enjoyed very much his first fell race in the Cheviots. Susan had a good race as well, in spite of taking a tumble coming downhill near the end and being annoyed by other runners taking short cuts when Will had warned against such tactics before the start of the race.

A good morning out, home in time to see us give the Welsh a good hiding and a relaxing evening with the injuries stretched, rolled & iced. However, no more two race weekends - until the next time!

Penrith parkrun, 8th March

Dave Robson

Melanie and I were going for a weekend of walking in the Lakes and we thought about doing the relatively new Penrith parkrun. This seemed a good idea as it would get us over to the Lakes fairly early in the day. However, this did mean getting up very early and we were very tempted to stay in bed a bit longer, run Durham parkrun and head off afterwards. However, we dragged ourselves out of bed and headed off.

We arrived about 40 minutes early, but already the volunteers were there, the flags were up, the course clearly marked and finishing funnel was also up. The location was a sports ground outside of Penrith, just next to the A66. The route was two laps and round the outside of the sports pitches, so it was a flat route. There were some plastic flags and some permanent posts to mark the course. A small section was on a road which leads to the football stadium and the road was closed, which I haven't seen at a parkrun before. There were also a couple of out and back sections to make up the distance.

What made this parkrun a bit different was the mud. The course had been flooded recently (it is very close to the river) and that may have contributed to the quantity of mud. I had put on a pair of trail shoes with medium grip, but they weren't really adequate, mudclaws would have been better. It was more like cross country but without any hills.

To our surprise we bumped into Graham who we often see at Durham parkrun and some friends from Howgill Harriers. It was good to see them all and have a chat.

We have often hoped that there would be more parkruns in the Lakes and it is great to have one in Penrith

Grindleford Gallop, Peak District, 8th March

21M / 3,000'

Paul Evans

Back again. For the third year in a row, the seventh in the last decade, I found myself back on the starting line of my first ever long fell race. Being such a known quantity by this point the race feels almost like an old friend, albeit one who's grown up with you, now having luxuries such as SI timing, portaloos at the start (as opposed to the previous '2 toilets, a few hundred people' scenario), tech t-shirts designed by the children of the primary school that the race supports and a chap with an air horn to start off the 21 miles of Peak District scenery. The course hasn't changed, thankfully, remaining a long loop south and anti-clockwise with 4 major climbs.

Start-CP1 (Eyam): the air horn whimpers and the rush is on. This feels even more frantic than usual, with something approaching a sprint being taken by many to the woodland gate, short-cuts being taken through the stream in order to gain a few places. I hang back as much as I can tolerate, enter the woods probably 50th and emerge a mile later having gained a couple of places and a few scratches to the face from branches. Up the first hill and down into the village in 26 minutes (same as last year), by now around 25th. Dispiritingly, a dead-ringer for Ali G has gone past me at speed.

CP1-2 (Long Rake): a few hundred metres of tarmac and then out onto a farm track above Eyam. Heavy going, not helped by being sprayed by dirt-bikers having churned up the ground recently. Down the hill to a main road, pausing under marshall direction, then into the mist as we hit the moorland climb to Long Rake. I'm paying the price for the fast start, as I knew I would, and struggle to hang onto a loose pack of half a dozen runners ahead of me, but complete the leg in 22:55, slightly worse than last time around and only a couple of places up on the last CP; this is disturbing, as it's a mostly uphill leg which should play to my strengths.

CP2-3 (Longstone Edge): quick cup of squash and then 11:16 minutes more of running over damp, murky ankle-turning terrain, finished with a short descent to the next CP. I've not lost any more places, but it feels like heavy going.

CP3-4 (Hassop Station): Place maintained and things start to feel good on the grassy descent down a track into Great Longstone, though others evidently feeling better as a handful of runners fly past me. Another short stretch of road and we're onto the relatively easy, fast section of the old Manchester-London railway. The mist is now a memory and a chilly sun lights the sides of the cutting; few flowers are out, in contrast to previous years. The pace is approaching threshold and the CP is welcome for another drink and a breather. 21:04 for this leg, slightly down on last year and yet feeling as if I'm working harder.

CP4-5 (Balls Cross farm): more railway and up over the golf course through the woods. Flapjack eaten towards the end of the climb, now walking but doing so faster than others and gaining places all the way to the top. 14:07 for the leg, still behind where I'd like to be timewise but acceptable given the terrain.

CP5-6 (Baslow): long descent to the Derwent through the Duke's estate, which means fields churned by sheep and deer, though the view of Chatsworth House is stunning and the running relatively fast. A few more places gained and I fall into stride with a Stockport Harrier I ran a few miles with 2 years ago. He informs me that on the flat riverside stretch we're at the 2 hour point but doing a 6:50 min/mile pace. Reach Baslow at 28:57 for the leg and 2hrs 5mins dead for the race, still slightly behind where I'd like to be but back into the top 20.

CP6-finish: I've taken more flapjack but don't eat it, as things just seem to click on the climb up to Baslow Edge. Everyone in front of me is walking but today I don't seem to need to and manage a shuffle all the way to the top. The half-mile to the road crossing isn't quick, as my legs don't want to stretch out again, but things get better along Frogatt and Curbar Edges, with a runners from Shelton and DPFR caught and passed. Going into the woods for the final descent I catch a glimpse of a runner 3-400 metres ahead and decide to have a go, knowing that there's only a mile left, mostly downhill. Racing head on, the descent is a bit of a blur, though we pass as the woodland path joins the track down to the bridge that marks the finish. 40:56 for the leg sees me back in 2:45:56, which I'm happy with, though last year's 5th place isn't to be repeated as a lot of very good runners have shown up today. A quick wash in the river, soup and collection of this year's t-shirt (another to add to the pile of those only a runner could love) and the running day is done, as is the Gallop. Until next year...

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Dentdale Run, Dent, Cumbria, 8th March

14M 379Yards

Graeme Walton

My second attempt at this one after last years' effort was hindered by a lack of mileage due to injury in the weeks running up to it. In my car I was joined by Mark D, Kathryn S, Alan S and Fiona KJ and so across we travelled to the picturesque Dent arriving in good time before meeting up with more Striders. A refreshing cuppa together with some of Fiona's homemade flapjack had me ready for the 14 or so miles ahead.

11 o'clock bang on and we were off, starting off downhill before a beast of a hill arrived after half a mile. This didn't cause too much trouble however when looking back on my splits you could certainly tell where the uphill sections had been. After the uphill a lovely quick downhill section helped quicken the pace up. Now I could describe the rest of the course in detail but basically it was up, down, a little bit of a flat section, down, up, up, flat, down, etc etc. A longer hill at about 8 miles and some little steep killer hills in the last couple of miles. The views - if you had the energy to lift your head up were absolutely breathtaking.

I came home in an improved time from last year so I was very content. There were some stunning Strider performances - I won't single anyone out as everyone did fantastically well. Our reward was a cuppa, sandwich, cake and some flapjack. Poor Kathryn was poorly on the way home - more down to the effort she had put into her run rather my driving I hope! A great run, cheap and always well supported by Striders, I'll be back again next year.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1Ian McBride Royton Road RunnersM 1 1:18:01
29Catriona Probert Edinburgh ACF 1 1:31:32
78Graeme Walton MV40 1:40:23
187Alister Robson MV40 1:53:38
211Fiona Jones FV35 1:55:48
236Mark Dunseith M 1:58:37
306Kathryn Sygrove FV45 2:06:43
315Jean Bradley FV55 2:08:15
355Alan Smith MV60 2:14:23
370Jan Young FV55 2:16:52
420Brian Ford MV40 2:30:52
424Jacquie Robson FV35 2:31:08
426Jill Ford FV45 2:31:16

438 finishers.

Cambridge parkrun, 8th March

Kirsty Anderson

Getting popular, these selfies ...

Jon and I were in the Cambridge area for the half marathon the next day and thought we would do some parkrun tourism while we were there. We were staying with family about 20 mins drive away so headed out on Saturday morning and found the site easily (it's just off the A14). We were then directed to a parking space in the car park attached to the Country Park (note this costs £2, so you are better off parking in the supermarket car park across the road which is free!) and followed the other lycra-clad people into the interior of the park.

It was rather cold and windy but there was a good turnout and as usual the locals were very friendly, several people stopped us to ask where we were based and I had a nice chat to a chap from Bowburn who recognised my hoody. The beginners briefing lady had a massive loudhailer thing, Alister would have been very jealous although it wasn't really needed as we were all huddled together in a small area because of the cold.

The course was one small loop to the right then two big loops of the lake. It was a bit muddy and narrow paths in the main and I did a lot of dodging of small children, dogs and fishermen's tents but the marshalls were excellent and a good time was had by all.

Far From the Madding Crowd

British Masters XC Championships, Wallsend, 8th March

7.3K/5.3K

Mudman

A small but strong field assembled for the 2014 North East Masters Athletics Association Cross Country Champs at Wallsend (of all places) on Saturday. Striders representation was also small and strong and took the form of Will Horsley, Mike Hughes, Conrad & Mudpeople.

Mike, Susan and I arrived quite early - early enough to see George Routledge and his mate still marking the course! George, of Heaton Harriers, is quite a hero; the event had originally been scheduled for early Feb in Darlington but was called off because of a waterlogged course. It looked like that would be it for 2014 - no championship race - but George managed to find another venue, another course, arrange another permit etc. all in the space of a couple of weeks! Well done George and the NEMAA!

Our recce of the course showed it to be fairly dry, flat and fast but without the scenic delights of last week's Alnwick HL. However, we did spot a few crocuses on the field and there was a blue sofa strategically placed close to the course should anyone need a sit down - well it was a Veteran's event!

And the winner is ...

There were to be two races: the first, for all the women and men over 65, would be three laps and the second, for the rest of the men, would be four laps. Susan's race unfolded under a cloudy sky accompanied by a keen, chilly wind. Nonetheless, she powered round the deceptively tough little course and, to prove the old adage that you only need to beat those who turn up, finished first in her age category and, as "women's champion V50 runner for the North East of England", was later awarded the gold medal!!

In the 'longer' race (7.3k as opposed to 5.3) Will, in celebration of his recently acquired veteran status, shot off with the front runners up what had seemed a fairly gentle slope during our recce. However, by the fourth lap it was feeling decidedly steep to me particularly as the first couple of laps had been run at a blistering pace. Given the relatively small field of runners I spent most of the race trying to stay in touch with a Low Fell runner of similar vintage to myself. With no 'technical' sections, such as thick mud, running water, fallen trees, steep descents etc, to use to my advantage I just couldn't close the gap and trailed in 3 seconds behind. But not to worry, Will finished 2nd in his age group and Mike and Conrad both had excellent runs!

Well done to everyone and thanks to the NEMAA for putting on an event that was very well organised on the day. Although the course may not have been particularly challenging, like a Prudhoe or a Wallington, you were still running hard and fast for the whole race with no respite - if you wanted to do your best. I would discover the consequences of this the following day!

Results

Men (35-64)
PosNameClubCatTime
1 DUFFY, Patrick Blackhill         MV35 26:16
4 HORSLEY, William MV35 26:43
27 DAVIS, Geoff MV55 30:43
31 HUGHES, Michael MV55 31:30
35 WHITE, Conrad MV55 32:06

47 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 WALLER, Tracy Hartlepool Burn Road 22:32
14 DAVIS, Susan FV50 26:08

34 finishers, including 13 over-65 Men. [Yes, this is confusing, Ed.]

Haweswater Half Marathon, Bampton, 2nd March

13.1m

Alister Robson

I really enjoyed this last year but didn't feel I'd done the course justice with my time. I didn't have a huge blowup, was still first Strider home and considering last year's winter training wasn't too disappointed with my time but I just thought I could do better.

Having said that, John Hutch and I had done 10 miles steady on Friday night, I wasn't able to resist the lure of the inaugural Fountains Abbey parkrun, couldn't miss Alnwick XC - obviously - so it was with a little trepidation I stood on the start line.

I needn't have worried, all the hills I remembered from last year weren't that bad, the leaders didn't storm past the other way until nearly half way and I could count the ladies up ahead of me in only double figures. Even the climb just after halfway wasn't so bad as you had stunning views of the lake (reservoir? [Correct: that was Manchester's water supply you were running past. Ed.]), the gods had kindly put on a light, cooling drizzle and you got to High Five the Striders and others coming the other way. When you got to the top, there was even a following wind. I mean I've heard of downhill sections with a following wind, often dreamt of them but am pretty sure I've never come across one in a real life actual race before.

Just as I was starting to flag at about 10 miles, a very nice lady, Jane, came up alongside and explained that she'd seen my vest with Alister on the back before at many races but had never managed to beat me. Here then was a perfect opportunity to gallantly escort the lady home. Whilst encouraging (hopefully) Jane, I was also encouraging myself and working as a team we picked off quite a few others as well as picking up the pace until we got to the final bend, about 100m to go, just over the humpback bridge. There Jane shot off as I encouraged her and when I stopped my Garmin I was very pleasantly surprised to discover I'd knocked about 6 minutes off last year's time. A quick stop to fill my new mug with a warming coffee and it was back to cheer the others home. Unfortunately the rain had worsened and I was cooling rapidly, so I had to go back inside the village hall to get changed and warm. I made it back out to catch most of the ladies - John, Alan and George all safely home, Bill none the worse after his recent knee-knack and Jill and Jacquie struggling valiantly in.

Strongly recommended, though we're now into March and I still haven't had a medal for a race in 2014!

Glaisdale Rigg, North Yorks Moors, 2nd March

8.5m/1844 '

Jan Young

After 'will we, won't we' moments, two Mikes and a Jan parked up in Glaisdale village, North York Moors, for another muddy encounter across boggy moorland in the twelfth race of NEHRA winter series. The race starts and ends with steep gradients, lots of bog on Glaisdale Moor, aim for checkpoint at trig 326m, descends through heather, tapes easily missed here, crosses dale, steep climbing into 'Narnia' plantation. Then more bog ... at least the weather was kind to us, though mist at trig. The Esk river provided much needed leg/shoe washing facilities.

Mike B leads his age category by only 22 points, so will be under pressure to stay ahead of rivals. Mike H. enjoyed the route, said it was tough, and we all agreed we still had Saturday's legs on. I'd managed to pass my rival over bog and descent, but no legs for plantation climb. I'll need a couple more top finishes to secure series winner FV60.

Sobering thought; Sue from Scarborough joins FV60's in summer series, goodbye my first places. She finished seven seconds behind Mike H. Watch yer back, Mike!

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Such a Perfect Day, we're glad we spent it with Striders!

Harrier League, Alnwick, 1st March

Mudman & Mudwoman

No less than 50 Striders ran for their club at the Alnwick HL on Saturday and what a happy, purple clad family we all made! As well as the runners, there were around another 20 supporters (other striders, plus family and friends) having a great time while cheering their runners on and generally enjoying the wonderful setting. The day was dry, bright with occasional cloud. The course was in excellent condition: some mud but mainly dry and fast! What more could you want?

Helen up near the sharp end ...

To mark such a day the Women's team smashed their previous record by fielding no less than 23 runners even though one or two regulars were unavailable through injury. There were welcome returns to the fold made by Stef Barlow and Lindsay Tarn and some fierce, determined performances throughout the team. None more so than by Helen Tones who flew to the front of the field and stayed there, although losing a shoe part way round, and finishing in an excellent 5th place. Well done Helen and congrats on your promotion to the medium pack! Fiona Shenton roared back to her form of old finishing 2nd Strider home in 28th place thereby gaining promotion to the medium pack yet again. Competition for the 3rd Strider place couldn't have been closer with Mandy and Claire racing together for the line. Mandy's mantra of "get yer heed reet" must have made the difference as she just pipped Claire over the last couple of yards!

There were battles a plenty throughout the field with Striders well involved in the 'mix'. One marshal was moved to remark "ooh you Striders, there's zillions of you!" Those zillions put in some notable performances including Sarah and Lucy finishing well up the strong field and taking the fallen tree in their stride. Anita continues to improve with every race displaying the grit & determination required, while Jacquie, although forced to limp downhill, showed a similar amount of 'guts' by getting round to the finish. Well done to the Striderettes, the team equalled their best position of the season (5th place) and while not impossible, relegation is unlikely so long as we turn out in our zillions at the final Wrekenton Fixture!

... and Mike near the blunt end.

Striders men were also there in force with 27 of them lining up to start - including Mike Elliott for the first time. This was probably the strongest team we've fielded all season and it got its just reward finishing in 4th place - a season's best and making relegation most unlikely. Rob Everson was the star - leading the team home by finishing in 28th place & thereby gaining promotion to the medium pack. Well done Rob - you deserve it for all that hard work & we're proud of you! Will Horsley too had an incredible run from the medium pack overhauling all his team mates, except Rob, and, in spite of his dodgy home-made number, securing 37th place. Jerry came in next, passing Adam near the end, with Paul (from the medium pack) and James (with a strong burst on the final lap to take him past me and Gibbo) making up the other counters.

[Mid-] packing well at the Leap over the Log.

But as we all know it's not just about the 'counters' and, as we've come to expect, there were some fine performances throughout the highly competitive field. Striders old and new did well including Dave Halligan, working his way higher up the field with every race, Marc Jones showing the form we know he's capable of and Mike Elliot putting in one of the bravest performances of the day in what is a challenging race environment with 'no hiding place'. Well done Mike - you did the club proud!

It was a grand day out, not just for the runners, but for their families and supporters as well. Andy James enjoyed his day and now knows why 'his' bus was in such demand. Stef Walker can't wait for next season when she too can join in the fun and thanks to Katy, Carolyn and Camilla for coming along to shout encouragement while injured. What a day, we can't wait for the 22nd!!

 

Note: more excellent photos at the links below, from Dougie and Carolyn. Ed.

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Graeme Cook North Shields Poly 36:32
28 Rob Everson 40:48
37 Will Horsley *M 41:12
55 Jerry Lloyd 41:40
59 Adam Walker 41:48
153 Paul Evans *M 43:45
155 James Garland 43:48
177 Geoff Davis 44:08
182 David Gibson 44:17
202 Simon Gardner 44:47
207 Dave Halligan 44:55
208 Marc Jones 44:56
218 Graeme Walton 45:13
240 Michael Tait 45:50
245 Michael Hughes 46:02
246 Conrad White 46:04
256 Richard Hall the Elder 46:24
263 Tom Reeves *M 46:36
264 Jon Steed 46:40
268 Mike Bennett 47:00
288 Shaun Roberts 47:44
293 Michael Terry 47:59
294 Michael Downes 48:05
302 Mark Payne 48:30
335 Marco van der Bremer 49:53
351 Mark Dunseith 50:26
365 Alister Robson 51:18
404 Innes Hodgson 54:42
417 John Hutchinson 57:31
425 Mike Elliott 64:39

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

427 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1 Stephanie Dann North Shields Poly 28:09
5 Helen Tones 31:14
28 Fiona Shenton 32:38
34 Mandy Dawson 32:49
35 Claire Readey 32:50
44 Fiona Jones 33:02
47 Juliet Percival 33:08
61 Rachel Terry *M 33:30
63 Susan Davis 33:36
71 Sarah Davies 33:48
74 Rachael Bullock 33:51
85 Lucy Cowton 34:05
124 Debra Goddard 35:22
138 Stef Barlow 36:33
146 Jan Young 36:51
152 Lindsay Tarn 37:20
169 Greta Jones 38:52
171 Katherine Preston 39:08
174 Barbara Dick 39:41
183 Joanne Porter 40:34
188 Victoria Downes 41:05
189 Kirsty Anderson 41:09
203 Jacquie Robson 44:44
207 Anita Dunseith 46:17
208 Denise Benvin 46:53

*M Medium pack - 2m handicap.

213 finishers.

Golden Fleece Circuit, South Cave, East Riding, 1st March

27.5m

Dave Robson

A dazzle to burn the mist away. Melanie and I did this one last year and quite enjoyed it. I say 'quite' because there seemed to be a few long straights which I usually find a bit dull. However, apart from that, it was an enjoyable day out. Typical LDWA event, lots of friendly people, cheap, lots of food at the checkpoints and a basic meal at the end.

Last year I struggled a bit, I think I was just tired. I also didn't know the route and the last two or three miles surprised me (it surprised a friend this year and he has described it as like going through a portal to Switzerland!). This year, I was going to be on my own as Melanie didn't want to risk her recovery by doing too much too soon. Also my longest run since the Hardmoors 30 on 1 Jan was 15m, so with both of these things, I expected to struggle again.

It started cold and misty, but villages, attractive churches and checkpoints appeared regularly. There was no pain in my calf, so all was good. I managed to rescue about eight people who missed a turn and ran and chatted with them to the next checkpoint where the 17m route parted from the 27.5m route. They all went off on the 17m route and suddenly there were very few people about. In the mist this was a bit eerie, but after about two and half hours the sun had burnt off the mist and it started to warm up.

I was remembering the route well and I was enjoying it, the long straights didn't seem as long as I thought they might be. There was hardly any mud. I was walking the long uphill stretches but that had been the plan all along, I didn't want to risk doing any damage to the calf and I was after time on my feet.

Switzerland arrived and went by without too much difficulty and I was soon back in the village hall. Nowhere near as exhausted as I had been last year and much to my surprise, only a minute slower.

A lovely way to spend half a day !

Reflective Nosh.

Fountains Abbey parkrun, nr Ripon, 1st March

5Km

Sophie Dennis

Paul, Angela, Bill and Alister, just before before Sophie arrived!

A handful of Striders turned out for the very first fountains Abbey parkrun.

It's a 5 minute walk from the car park down the hill to the Abbey where the run starts. The run was delayed till 9.15 because people were still queuing to get parked. There were roughly 375 people that had taken part this morning in beautiful surroundings which was a 2 lap course around the Abbey, with lovely weather too.

It's only 50 minutes on the motorway from the Carrville interchange - well worth a visit.