Race Reports, May 2014

Emily Hart Charity Netball Tournament
for Acorns Children's Hospice

Netball, Harton Technical College, South Shields, 31st May

George Nicholson

Kerry obviously approves of 'marking' Ben Ford.

The 4th Annual Charity Netball Tournament for ACORNS took place at a new venue in South Shields. Unfortunately Farringdon School in Sunderland who have allowed us to use their facilities F.O.C. for the last 3 years informed us just 4 days before the Tournament that they intended to carry out re-surfacing work ! This obviously left us with a major problem. Thankfully however, Gemma Sandberg of BACK2NETBALL came up trumps and found us superior facilities at Harton Technical College in South Shields http://www.wellnesssportscentre.co.uk/ and for a very reasonable charge of £60.

The day was sunny & hot, and there were several cases of sunburn reported afterwards on Facebook ! Approx 200 Netballers turned out to play, umpire, & Time Keep. There were 19 Teams , and these were split up into 3 different groups. 8 were in the serious Lady Netballer teams, 7 in the BACK2NETBALL Ladies Teams - This group included a Team from Shadforth Village calling themselves the SPARKLES, and they were pitted against the 'ever-present' Hannah Bayman, gallantly turning out a week before her big wedding. Her team called themselves GALS. The BBC were unable to raise a full Team, so the usual 'Netball TrashTalk' on Twitter was absent for once.

The remaining 4 Teams were in the most important 'Mixed for Fun' group. Originally intended to be 4 running teams, in the end comprised of 1 Team from Sunderland parkrun , and 2 from Elvet Striders (Purple Haze and Ultra Violets ) with Wearside Wildcats putting in a fun side to make up the numbers. Because Wearside Wildcats were our hosts the 3 Running Teams graciously allowed the Wildcats to progress through the Tournament undefeated and pick up a Trophy. The fact that they were highly skilled and very experienced Netballers was pure co-incidence and I'm sure never influenced any of the scorelines ;)

I had invites to play in 5 different Teams, however skilfully managed to avoid playing any games at all, thus ensuring I wouldn't be a liability on Court to any of them.

Sadly there 2 unfortunate injuries. Michelle Mustard of Sunderland parkrun with a broken finger and Jane Skelton (Wife of Strider Tim ) of Shadforth Sparkles with a fractured ankle. Tough Sport is Netball, but thankfully this Tournament was just for fun J

Nice day for a bit of netball.

The plus side outweighed the minuses however, and acknowledgements go to :-

£720 raised on the day. This means over £3,000 raised in these Tournaments since 2011 for Acorns Childrens Hospice - Wonderful. Once again many many thanks from Anne and I.

Roseberry Romp, 29th May


Danny Lim

"Its only 5 miles". Yeah right! The first 2 miles, through the woods at the foot of Roseberry Topping was a real mud-fest. This was followed by a steep uphill climb to Roseberry's lop-sided peak. Rachael Bullock and I had been exchanging positions a few times so far and I fell behind as she powered her way up. But I had run this peak before and on descending, I took a small grassy side path, instead of the tortuous, slippy-slidey stone steps which are a real bugger to run down in a hurry. This helped me get ahead. For added value, there was another climb to Little Roseberry, just the thing for already tired legs! Then, a brisk, slightly-loony exhilarating descent all the way back to the finish. I was glad to have finished without breaking something, perhaps I should have gone slower, but what's the fun in that?

Elvet Striders came out in force today, with newbies to fell running such as Vicki McLean and Lindsay Rodgers, welcome to the dark side guys! Will Horsley won 1st place and Rachael Bullock was 3rd lady. Camilla Lauren Maatta was 2nd in her category and with Helen Allen were 1st ladies team. A fun, no-frills (£4), evening race with lots of prizes. What's there not to like?

Roseberry Topping.


1Will HorsleyNorthumberland Fell RunnersSM0:34'37
15Kay NeesamNew Marske HarriersLV450:42'00
38Danny LimSM0:46'45
39Aaron GourleySM0:47'27
40Rachael BullockSL0:47'31
46David SelbyMV400:49'33
65Camilla Lauren-MaattaLV450:53'15
75Alister RobsonMV400:59'01
84Lindsay RodgersMV451:11'08
85Helen AllenLV401:13'21
87Denise BenvinLV451:16'06
88Kerry ListerLV401:28'48

89 finishers

George Ogle Memorial, Swalwell Cricket Club, 28th May


Alister Robson

I can't believe this was the 4th running of this increasingly popular race - doesn't time fly? It was a bit of a shame the weather was so bad with a pretty relentless downpour but this is still a great race and course conditions were surprisingly good.

It's not really a PB race as it's not really a standard distance but I felt good and ran as hard as I could, first along the Derwent way path up to the nine arches viaduct, the cheeky hill, riverside fields before finally coming back along the long, slightly downhill straight.

I broke my previous best on this course (2012) after a less good year last year by a whole second thanks to the kindly urging of Colin Hodgson of Blackhill Bounders, although sadly my former rival mark Doctor of Alnwick Harriers once again got away from me in the latter stages and has now bested me every race this year :-)

Striders also in attendance were Richard Hall (younger), who came in just behind me, followed by Becky and then Bill.

The prize was a nice tech tee and Bill and I hung around for a drink to watch the presentations.

Many thanks to Karen & Will and all from PB Fitness Running Club, who continue to provide a worthy legacy for Karen's dad, George.

Edinburgh Marathon, 25th May

Gareth Pritchard

Back in December I completed the Newcastle racecourse marathon in a time of 3:11 in very poor conditions and was yet again left a broken mess for the next few weeks. Since then I had been hunting for a fast, flat marathon to hopefully break the magic 3 hour mark for the very first time.

The Edinburgh Marathon promised everything a PB hunter could want. Fast, net downhill, spring marathon and not too far from Durham. The only down side is the large race entry fee of almost £50. I was just about to look elsewhere when ping, my father messages me saying he has just entered. Soon this is followed by my two older brothers entering the full or half marathons, and my better half Kathleen Bellamy entering for her very first half marathon. So guess I was doing the Marathon as well now - time to start my training plan.

Gareth at the finish ... 2h56m!

The great thing about Edinburgh is that it offers a wide selection of races over the weekend so this makes it ideal for all ages and abilities. My mother ended up running the 5k event on the Saturday with my Niece which proved a big success all round. The 5k event starts up hill and is very challenging, but she came first in her age group and showing real talent. Looks like I need to get some quicker PB’s as its clear she is getting better all the time. Fantastic to see how great she is getting on and loving the whole Edinburgh experience.

The marathon starts on 2 roads which merge into one race down the road; I can’t really remember the merging point so must have been done very smoothly. As with all large running events you are allocated a starting pin based on your predicted finish time. I was in the Red pin just behind the elite athletes which was a real buzz. Great to see these super stars in action and the ease with which they fly round.

The heavens opened up pre race and we got soaked waiting in the start pens, thankfully I had a handy bin bag on to keep off the chill. The start is mainly downhill so I had already decided to run this section hard. The first 5 miles was faster than required at 6:20 pace but was still feeling good. The course winds its way through some lovely grounds and open areas of Edinburgh at the start so some great sightseeing was had.

You soon hit the sea front and the wall of wind that was expected did not disappoint. I remember the wise words of Alister and find a large group to tag onto and start drafting my way up the coast. The only problem is that they are chugging along at 6:30 pace or quicker - bit too fast but decided to try hanging in with them anyway.

This is when the net downhill description comes into question, as started to feel like I was running on a roller coaster at times. Undulating is the word which makes pacing very hard at times and saps your legs of energy. There is a very odd turn around point where you suddenly go off road onto a Parkrun type surface and past some random farms before you head back down hill to the road again.

By mile 20 my pace was drifting towards 7 min miles and legs starting to feel heavy but already flew through half way at 1:25 so knew I had time in the bank. At the 21 mile point my mind started doing the math; my Garmin said 2:18 at the 21 mile marker. I quickly realised all I needed was sub 8 min miles to the finish line - easy I told myself and with time to spare too. Sub 3 hour marathon here I come.

The next 5 miles were very painful and the heat got almost too much, every chance I dumped water over my head and panicked as my pace slowed while being unable to do anything about it. I had nothing more to give at this point and was just hanging on with 7-7:30 miles. The crowds are great in this race and are a massive help at this stage. The home straight came rolling round and in the distance I saw the magic 2:55 on the board and never felt such joy. I ran the whole home straight showing off my guns with a massive stupid grin all over my face. I even missed my Family cheering me down the finish line.

Official time of 2 hours 56 mins 18 sec and one very happy chap. The sub 3 hour marathon dream has now arrived and a massive running goal achieved at last. My older brother finished in a respectable time of 3:40 ish on his very first marathon and say a big hello to the runner’s wall.

My 63 year old dad also clocked the impressive time of 3:50 ish and looking forward to shorter sharper runs in the future now. Bill Ford also made a good show at the half with a few more purple army making the rounds too. Also well done to Elinor Butler on a sub 3:45 run, great going.

A big well done to fellow strider and now half marathon runner, Kathleen who beat her predicted time despite a 12 min toilet break after the first mile. Down to the queue and single loo apparently.

A great race, well organised and recommended to everyone hunting a fast time or just a good weekend away running. Only bad part was the post race transport which is a 2 mile walk away? Stick to public transport is my advice, cheaper and not so far to walk.

Time to do some shorter runs and let my legs recover I think. Sub 3 done and dusted, one very happy strider.

Druridge Bay 10k, 25th May

Alister Robson

The 8th year of running this one but my first. I've been involved in helping to setup a parkrun at Druridge Bay which will be two laps of Ladyburn Lake so I was keen to go up and see what this route, which encompassed a lap of it, was like.

Saturday saw heavy rain as did earlier in the morning on the Sunday so we didn't hold out a great deal of hope for the weather, but on arriving it was absolutely gorgeous - warm and wind free. Jacquie and I bumped into Richard and Helen Hall on arrival and Richard Hockin and Jean Bradley later too.

We had to get there early to enter on the day, but that gave us time for a quick cup of coffee and for Jacquie to have her tight calf attended to by one of the masseurs, who like this event, were raising money for this year's designated charity, the Stephen Carey fund.

The route starts off on path, some of which was understandably heavily puddled, at the Country Park. From there it runs along a quiet road out to the bay, onto the bay and around a flag, back about a mile or so on the sand before re-entering the park and completing almost a full anti-clockwise lap of the lake.

I had a decent if unspectacular run - I could see Richard Hall just in front of me most of the way, but never got any closer to him, even when I could see him tiring. Jean was in shortly after me but unfortunately Richard Hockin pulled a calf and had to drop out. Jacquie and Helen came in shortly after, even though Jacquie found the sand really tough and needed another massage after to loosen it off.

Memento was a mug and wristband with water on the course and at the finish and although entrance on the day was a touch pricey compared to a few others, I could have further lowered that if I'd got organised and entered previously and I imagine they topped the £7000 that they raised for HospiceCare North Northumberland last year.

Clive Cookson 10K, Monkseaton, 21st May

Alister Robson

This is a race I've done every year since I started running in 2008, usually with decent results. It's been my PB race and I even frustratingly last year exactly equalled my 10K PB time to the second. It's flat as a pancake and sufficiently inland that the coastal winds aren't too much of a problem.

So gutted as I was to miss the inaugural Blackhill Bounders relays and after an appalling race at Raby Castle on Sunday this is where I headed with Jacquie and Peter McGowan in the same car.

We were a bit late in leaving Durham, traffic was heavy upto the Tyne tunnel and beyond and at one stage I wasn't sure Jacquie, who had to enter on the day was going to make it in time, but we just grabbed the last parking spot at Monkseaton School where it starts and Jacquie and Peter shot off to grab our numbers. Richard Hall jnr and Becky were also already there as was Ian Spencer who it's always lovely to catch up with.

This year they'd rotated the route so that you no longer had to dodge (parked) cars on the estate on the way out, but that meant that the first couple of Km although pretty straight was now a slight climb. This worked well and spread the field out nicely, although I still had to run through a lot of, shall I say, optimistically placed runners at the start. Don't they realise that chip timing means it doesn't matter where you start, so you don't have to block off faster runners?

I can't deny the second lap was tough going as my Garmin packed in - laps database full and making an annoying beeping every few seconds to add audible insult to injury, but I looked up and saw first Helene from Crook ahead and then multiple world record holder Sharon Gayter, both who appeared to have gone off slightly too fast and who were slowing. Having caught and passed both of those rivals I could see Mark Doctor of Alnwick ahead - I've not managed to beat him yet this year, though we're usually pretty evenly matched. I knew he'd started well ahead of me, so wondered how far down I was on the chip timing, so I kept my head down and pushed hard. I didn't catch him though.

Not having a Garmin doesn't help and I was astonished to find later I'd run 43.36 - not quite a PB or even a seasons best but much better than I expected and an improvement of about 8 minutes over Raby a few days before! Jacquie had a great run considering her Champagne half marathon exertions and consumption, even though she didn't manage to beat me as the results initially said - looks like she'd been given the wrong chip. Peter had a PB too, beating his recent best at Marske and Richard, Becky and Ian all looked to have had great runs.

The memento was a tech T-shirt, there were water bottles available at half way and at the end and the run was chip timed as I mentioned above, so very good value, let's just hope there's no clash next year.

Blackhill Bounders Relay, Consett, 21st May

2.1m x3

Dave Shipman

Steelworks Relay, can't be as good as Snods Edge can it?
Great night for a run though, so give it a go.
Golden skies and fantastic panoramas.
Can Consett have a beautiful side?

Striders meet, greet and decide
Whats the route, which team, number, leg, teammates and handover process?
Which direction, how many laps, how many hills, where's the start?

Striders excuse and cajole, pre-race justifications abound
Too many races, long miles, Spanish holidays, injuries, targets ahead
Days filled with French champagne or too much work
All interrupted by Race Coordinator instructions.

Striders race, compete, encourage, support and cheer all
Rocky, dusty trail across the plain
Meander through the long grass
Descend through the woods
Lung-busting, sweat-breaking, gulping and groaning two-stage hill, some walk, none stop, completely.
Back across the plain, leg-trembling lactic staggering disguised as final sprints.

Striders win, celebrate, bask in glory, smiles all round and team photos
The purple army returns to HQ to reap rewards.

Striders eat, drink and quiz
Grazing through curry, ham, crisps, pizza, cakes, buffet of all varieties
Great night, great run.
But which band sang "Californication"?

The Brathay Windermere Marathon, Ambleside, 18th May


Melanie Hudson

Taped up, ready to go again ...

When we had planned to do two marathons in two days we had totally underestimated how tough the first one was going to be. It had left Dave suffering with muscle cramps all evening and my IT Band was causing me knee pain. We woke for day two and Dave was feeling much better, however my knee still felt sore, even when just walking. However, I had my mind set on doing today so I thought I would at least start and see how things went. I spent yesterday evening and this morning stretching and rolling. Dave also stuck me back together with K-Tape. I have never used tape before and I was dubious as to whether it would make any difference, however I was willing to try anything at this point.

We arrived at Brathay Hall and registered. As we walked to the start we spotted Sue. The three of us assembled on the road and towards the back of the field and then we were off. It was chip timed so there was rush to get over the start line.

It was a pretty hot day and after yesterdays heat it was something we could have done without.

Dave and I decided to run separately, I felt that because we were very tired we needed to go at the pace that suited us the best. The first mile my knee niggled on and off but then I suffered very little with it after that. Dave caught up with me, when I was doing some preventative stretching, at mile 6 and we ran together for the next five miles before I pulled on ahead. For the first 13 miles I ran most of the undulations and I was averaging 10.5 minute miles, which is far better than I had imagined I would do, however I was not convinced that I could maintain that pace. At mile 14 I started to feel sickly and not great, the heat was really starting to take its toll. From then on I walked some of the hills and started to pour water over my head to cool myself down. This seemed to help, I had no appetite but forced bits of flapjack down as I knew I probably did not have many energy reserves after yesterday. Miles 14 to 20 just seemed to go on forever, relentless undulations, hot weather conditions, it was such a relief to reach mile 20. The course also gets a bit easier at this point until near the end. The final part takes you up a steep hill to Brathay hall. I would normally run this regardless of how tired I was, with it being so close to the finish, however today I just looked at it and thought ‘no way’. It then flattens out and I ran into the finish.

I felt very emotional, I don’t know if it was because I had put my body through so much or I felt overwhelmed at managing two tough marathons in two days. I was also very happy with my time of 4 hours 38, since my aim was to just finish.

Dave came in at 5 hours 1 minute finishing in a much better condition than the previous day.

I realised today just how much of running is about the mind as it is about body. When I got very tired today I just kept reminding myself that I know I can do a marathon and that I trusted my body to know how to get me around.

They did it!

This is the second time I have done Brathay Marathon and this year they have really improved traffic management. In previous years about a third of the course was on open roads with cars getting pretty close. However now they have extended the road closures and it felt much safer.

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Raby Castle 10K, 18th May

Sarah Davies

As a relative newcomer to running, I haven’t done many races, but Raby 10K seemed a good one to try. It ticked all my boxes: scenic course, close to Durham, family-friendly and the right distance for me as I’m doing Allan’s pilot 10k training at the moment. Fine weather was promised, and this would give me my first opportunity to wear my Striders vest as a vest rather than an extra layer. Exciting!

The weather did not disappoint: it felt like the hottest day of the year so far as we trudged up to the start from the carpark. Not having run this before, I didn’t have a particular goal in mind and my ‘race plan’ was simply to get round the 2 laps in as fast a time as I could manage in the heat. However I received some good advice at the start (where Purple Power was much in evidence): don’t go off too fast – save yourself for the first hill about 1k in. I followed this advice and got to the top of the hill where the views were brilliant. Bumped into Alister on the way down and got some more good advice from him: don’t run this at your parkrun pace! I realised I was probably going too fast and tried to pace myself better.

The long downhill stretches were exhilarating, and after another short but steep hill we were onto the second lap. By this stage the heat was clearly getting to people, so the water was very welcome. There were also some nice breezes and shady sections which made the uphill bits more bearable. The last kilometre seemed to go on forever, and although I tried to accelerate at the end, I had no energy left. Crossed the line exhausted, and was rewarded with a banana and cake. Then it was time for the main event (as far as my family was concerned): the picnic! Other Striders clearly had the same idea and a Purple Picnic ensued. Food consumed, we did a quick tour of the lovely Raby gardens before heading home.

This race fulfilled all my expectations. The organisation of the 10k itself was excellent, and there was also a 5k race and a 1.2k fun run for under-12s - perfect for Strider children.


Pos Name Club Cat Time
1James Bulman New Marske        MV40 34:02
11 Gareth Pritchard M 37:25
18 Rob Everson M 36:36
39 Dawn Richardson Quakers FV40 41:19
69 Conrad White MV55 43:48
76 Graeme Walton MV40 44:22
77 Simon Gardner M 44:23
79 Richard Hall MV55 44:34
81 Katy Walton F 45:00
84 Michael Hughes MV45 45:07
92 Matthew Crow M 45:35
134 Sarah Davies FV45 48:30
159 Sally Hughes F 49:51
160 John Hutchinson MV55 49:54
164 Lucy Cowton F 50:10
180 Fiona Jones FV35 50:58
196 Jackie Mckena FV45 51:53
197 Alister Robson MV40 51:55
224 Jean Bradley FV55 52:58
229 David Spence MV65 53:13
238 Nicola Whyte F 53:28
241 Paul Beal MV50 53:40
251 Andrew Thompson M 54:47
264 Lisa Bryson FV40 55:51
266 Malcolm Sygrove MV45 55:54
270 Michael Ross MV40 56:11
275? Sarah Fawcett F 56:30
295 Lindsay Rodgers MV45 57:34
296 Anja Fechtner FV35 57:44
330 Denise Benvin FV45 60:38
345 Kelly Collier F 62:32
354 Karen Anne Chalkley FV50 63:11
361 Joanne Porter FV40 63:32
371 Jane Baillie FV35 64:05
380 Karin Younger FV50 64:38
383 Karen Hooper FV35 64:56
389 Stan White MV55 66:09
398 Maggie Thompson FV60 66:39
401 George Nicholson MV65 66:43
412 Kathleen Bellamy FV35 68:43
420 Kerry Lister FV40 69:30
428 Derek Paul Towers MV50 71:06
436 Anita Dunseith F 73:14
437 Mark Dunseith M 73:15

449 finishers.

Keswick Mountain Festival Trail marathon, Keswick, 17th May


Dave Robson

As usual we had entered the Brathay Windermere marathon for this weekend. Then we came across this event and we looked it, ferry across Derwentwater to start, all off road, up to Honister, down to Buttermere and then up the Newlands valley back to Keswick. Melanie was keen, but I pointed out that is was a day before Windermere. And then I said, well we could do both ... and as it was some months away and I think Melanie quite fancied doing a double, it was agreed !

It's almost three years since I did four in four days and maybe I was a little overconfident. Melanie had better preparation than me, we went out for longer runs the day after our last three marathons and I didn't manage the last one (half marathon distance) because of too much work. Ah well, nothing else to do but to give it a try.

No turning back now.

It was a fully marked course and we obtained a GPS of all three routes (there was a half and 10k), redrew it, downloaded it to our Garmins and we were ready. We arrived at the landing stages at Keswick and there were thirty eight runners (fifty had registered). There are thirty nine people in the results and I think the last person started late. The vast majority of the runners were under forty, male and looked very fast. I could see us being at the back and soon after the start we quickly lost sight of the main field. We did overtake one runner, but I don't know whether he finished. We did come across some of the main field who took some wrong turns, but they soon quickly disappeared again and after the first checkpoint we didn't see any other runners.

The route was marked every 200m with red flags (an enormous effort for so few runners) and we ran down the lovely east side of Derwentwater and on to Grange. Shortly after the campsite at Grange we were presented with a dilemma. The main path clearly went away from the river and that is what I had plotted and downloaded to our Garmins. However there was a flag showing the way alongside the river and further along, another one. Okay, its that way. However, no more flags, so we decided that someone had moved them and cut back to the main path. A little later a group who had gone much further than us along the river and got wet feet, caught us and went onward. Just outside Rosthwaite there were more moved flags. The organisers had warned us this might happen here, so we followed the route on our watches and started the long slog up to the slate mine at Honister and the first checkpoint.

Then it was another slog up the dismantled tramway (it was a clear day and the views were great) and then down into Warnscale Bottom. We had hoped for a runnable descent, but it was rocky and full of loose stones. It was beyond our capabilities to run down that and we got to the bottom with shaky legs from having picked our way down. Then a lovely run round the west side of Buttermere, into the village. It was very warm by this stage and it was starting to take its toll.

Then another climb away from the road round the shoulder of Rannerdale Knots (fantastic views of Crummock Water !) and then a plunge downwards to the road again just past Hause Point and the second checkpoint and halfway. We were carrying two bottles of water each and with the heat and scarcity of checkpoints, I am so glad we decided to do this.

Then we went up into Rannerdale. The organiser said there was a surprise here and it turned out to be thousands of bluebells. I normally expect bluebells to be in woods, but there were none here, they were just out on the fell. Amazing.

We continued upwards alongside Squat Beck and then contoured round Whiteless Breast. Although this was downhill, the path was slanted down the hill so it made for very uncomfortable running, especially for Melanie who had sore ankles going into this event.

Then it was another contour round Bleak Rigg. At the start of this is a steep climb and at this point I realised I was in trouble. I had to stop walking to recover. I have never had to do that before in an event. It was probably the heat with no shade. We had caps on and had re-applied sun cream but the relentless climbing and heat had got to me. Melanie suggested dipping my cap into the becks we were crossing and that worked well. However, at that point my mind was saying to me - it would be crazy to do Windermere tomorrow, you will be lucky to come out of this without heatstroke.

We continued up the totally deserted Sail Beck Valley, no roads, just birds and the sound of water. Just lovely.

Got the top of pass between Sail and Ard Crags and then another testing descent into the Rigg Beck valley. This time there was less rocks, but it was steep and loose rock. I managed to lose my footing once and ended up on my ass, but no damage done and finally it became more runnable and we came to the third checkpoint near Birkrigg. Then some quiet road and southwards down the Newlands Beck valley (between Maiden Moor and Hindscarth) down the east side and back up the west. Then along the base of Catbells towards Skelgill and after that the final checkpoint. Most of this was runnable, but I had very little left so it was run/walk for this section.

Then Silver Hill, Fawe Park, through Portinscale and the Cumbria Way and back to the finish at Crowe Park in Keswick. Seven hours. I have never broken that barrier before ! Definitely the toughest marathon I have done. Beautiful route and I am so glad we did it, but I am not sure we shall be there next year ...

My legs were cramping most of the evening and Melanie's knee was very sore, so it wasn't looking good for Windermere the next day, but I have been like that before and I know a good night's sleep can make the world of difference. Melanie's knee was a little more worrying.

Pie & Peas 5m, Locke Park, Redcar, 14th May

Lindsay Craig

The other Sunday morning I flicked through Facebook and there it was - new Marske Harriers 5 miles pie n pea race! I've been struggling a bit with a dodgy knee and was managing 5k ok but hadn't tried 5 mile for a while...poet and I know it! Anyway I didn't enter (chicken) but coincidentally my cousin sent me the link and asked if I'd join her to 'chat' her round the race?! Now that was more like it...! Chat and pie n peas!! Of course I said I'd do it! It was fate!

When I read the course description I was a bit deflated I must admit...5 x 1mile laps around the park mostly on Tarmac!! My worst nightmare! (Apart from hills!) Anyway onwards and upwards... We got there, saw 1 other purple top (Peter McGowan-much faster than us, well done!!!) got our numbers and away we went... We started with the kids 1 mile fun run at 7 and carried on running another 4 laps from when they stopped...the cheers and claps and words of encouragement we got were magnificent! Such a boost! So emotional... So unbelievable...so fantastic to be running with my cousin Vicky Pettersen, who had a double lung transplant 15 years ago and had not ran 5 miles in 26 years! In fact her first 'all running' Parkrun was only the previous Saturday, in that very park! What an amazingly positive woman! Thank you to her donor family and to our hubbys for their support!

I ate my words (along with my pie and peas) 5x1 mile laps on Tarmac were fab! It was all fab! Very good for PB I am told... We will be back (hopefully with a sea of purple next time) xxx

Etape Caledonia, Pitlochry, 11th May


Dougie Nisbet

Last year I rode this event, as well as other Etapes, on a 30-year old aluminium Alan bike, with 30 year old equipment, including the drive train. I did ok but wondered how much better I would do on a modern bike. So this year I was riding my new Hoy bike, and I had a nice position in a fastish starting pen. Just before the 5-mile marker I was comfortably wooshing along in a very nice peleton where some nice chaps at the front seemed to be happy doing all the heavy lifting. This was great!

Around a sharp corner, down the gears, and attack the hill. Woops – a bit of a crunchy gear change – but I don't think anyone noticed. I'd geared down into what appeared to be a phenomenally low granny gear and was spinning against nothing. Nothing, indeed, was what I was spinning against. My chain was lying like an angry malevolent metallic snake in the middle of the busy road and I only just managed to coast to the roadside before grinding to a halt. Huddling in to the roadside for dear life as the steady stream of riders flew round the blind corner I had the more immediate problem of getting across the busy road on my cleats to a place of relative safety. The marshall took his life in his hands and dashed over to retrieve my chain.

Heroes and Hammers.

Not a great start. I chatted to another cyclist who, surprise surprise, had also got a snapped chain. “You put in all the training”, he said, “and then this”. The marshall had a toolkit but the chain-fixing-tool was playing up. And the cool Mavic guys on motorbikes were ahead of us so couldn't come back 'upstream'. “I'm afraid it's just a waiting game”, the marshall said. The reality began to sink in. I'd been looking forward to this for months, and here I was, under 5 miles in, and it wasn't looking good. If I couldn't get moving before the sweep vehicle came through, it wasn't going to be worth restarting, and I was beginning to get cold.

But a guardian angel appeared in the form of a spectator who had a look at my bike, then had a brief conversation with the marshall, then disappeared. When he came back he was carrying two hammers. This was looking promising. The ultimate tool of desperation – a big bloody hammer! And he had two, so double the hope. He gave me an inquiring look and said, “I'm not insured to do this you know”. I invited him to go ahead, and hit it as hard as he liked while I averted my gaze. I'm not sure what happened next, some sort of black magic I reckon, but when I looked again they were giving a satisfied “good as new” nod, and my chain was back. I thanked the guy with the hammers and joked with him that I would be giving that Chris Hoy a piece of my mind, to which he replied, without a trace of irony, “Who's he then – is he the guy that serviced your bike?”. Well in a way, I guess he was.

The Finish in Pitlochry. 25 minutes after crunching to a halt, I was back in the race. But my heart really wasn't in it. Not for a while anyway. I gave myself a bit of a talking to and got down to business. Soon the timed Scott sprint appeared and I gave it a go, only to be thwarted again by the slowcoaches who ride 4 abreast across the road. What bit of the word 'sprint' is it that they don't understand? I put my head down and gave it my best shot, aware of a thumping in my tummy. That'd be my thighs. Too much beer and chocolate! Damn. I thought I'd solved that problem the previous evening by putting my saddle up. Not exactly the same as losing a bit of weight, but it relieves the symptoms, if not the cause. Schiehallion came and went and unexpectedly dry roads meant an awesomely fun descent. Then a steady brisk ride in calm conditions back to Pitlochry.

I compared my times to the previous year and was chuffed to find I was faster on the King of the Mountains, and, surprisingly, the Scott Sprint, thanks due to fine, calm conditions, but mostly thanks to the marshall and unamed hero with the hammers who gave my bike a bit of a talking to. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. If it wasn't for them my race would've been a washout.

Calderdale Relay, Halifax, 11th May


Denise Benvin

I had never run in a fell race in my life and was still of the opinion that hills and the such likes should be walked up not run up. Little did I know what I had let myself in for. I had like a few other striders taken up the kind offer of overnight accommodation the night prior to the race with a nice pint and a lovely curry, A good night was had by all and we all departed to one of the hospitable Shipman residencies for a good nights sleep. The rain continued through the night and I just knew that it was going to be a bit wet and muddy for the race, this was the Pennines after all, whilst very beautiful it can be on the bleak side when the sun isn't shining. This race is run in 6 legs and covers more than 50 miles, each leg needs 2 people per team. An early start was needed as leg one set off at 8am with registration taking place before hand. I was to run leg 2 from Cragg Vale with Dave Shipman, who was a veteran of these fells having grown up in the area, little did I realise I was going to get a good feel for a fell race that day. We left straight after the start of leg 1 and myself and Flip in one car Dave and the A teams leg 2 people Nigel and Mike plus people to drive cars to the next leg for when we had finished, the continuing theme of rain arriving at regular intervals was not hard to miss. The A team left before us having 2 sets of extremely quick legs carrying the baton myself and Dave set of at the mass start cut off point at 9.45. The start was at the bottom of a hill which had started to resemble a small river with the by now heavy rain, the hill was relentless an went on for approximately 3 miles it took you up the road to the moorland which was a mixture of bog, mud and water. In places it was almost up to my knees. The weather had really taken a turn for the worse as we climbed up to the top and we were battered with driving rain an strong winds.

Once more into the breach!

We eventually got to Stoodley Pike at the summit and were checked off by the marshals making sure nobody took a short cut, Dave at this point was probably wishing he had picked someone a bit quicker to do the leg with. We had having reached the top of our first climb a decent to do, which in all fairness you would think would be nice and quick, think again. The path down was no more than rock and a deep thin carved rut in the side of the hill that didn't resemble anything like a pathway down and it was a question of find your own safe way down, and at this point wished I had better footwear for the job but I did get to the bottom having by some miracle only landed on my backside once. We made our way along the trail to a farm house once again going down on my backside due to slippy stone slabs the next few miles although up hill where on the road so not boggy or slippy we made our way though the countryside and Mankinholes till we got to the last climb, this was a steep climb and when I got to the top and looked back at where I had come from I was pleased that I had actually got this far (some hadn't) and also rather glad that I had no more climbs to do on my leg just the final decent in to Todmorden this was a lovely steep path of what can only be described as mud and shavings, luckily a few nice clean deep puddles were on hand to help wash some of the mud off at the bottom. I have to say that this was a phenomenal experience and one I will never forget, the sense of achievement when you complete your leg is fantastic. Leg 2 is just over 8 miles long and has a total climb of more than 1400 ft. The organisation that goes into getting more than 1000 people round this relay Is outstanding. The pie and nice hot drink at the end are a welcome snack as was the pint that closely followed. I would highly recommend people to try this event and hope that I am allowed to represent my club next year after a bit of shoe shopping and some more practise.

No, not wet in the slightest ...

Dave Shipman adds:

Thanks and Well Done to everyone who turned out and succeeded in getting 2 x 12 people round a challenging 55 mile relay in wild, wet and windy weather, with dreadful conditions underfoot. The A team was a very credible 46th out of 90 teams, kept the baton into the 4th leg too, and the B team, featuring several Calderdale novices, wasn't last, just. (87th team!!) Hope folk aren't too sore and stiff today, especially Denise who fell at least 3 times on her leg and had the cuts to prove it.

PS. Forgot to mention that at the finish, after the pie and beer (thanks Louise) we had the most delicious chocolate and peanut butter cakes, courtesy of Kerry B.

Paul Evans adds:

I'd like to reiterate the congratulations - the passage of the baton into the fourth leg (against some very demanding cut-off timings) marks a record for the club, and achieving this in conditions that cycled between benign and horrible every few minutes (the weather, that is; the ground was consistently bad) is a great achievement. Additionally, if I'm not mistaken, one of the B team is a runner who roughly a year ago was on the C25K course; to have reached the stage where said runner can line up at the start of a very demanding leg against some of the best fell runners in the UK is amazingly inspiring.

Finally thanks to all who helped to make yesterday happen, by participation and logistical support - yesterday was a proper team effort. Now, anyone for the FRA relays in the autumn (in the Howgills), or is this a question best asked once bruises have faded?

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Pier to Pier Race, Sunderland, 10th May


Jane Baillie

After a week consisting of a half marathon, and a 10k, plus couple of training runs, there was no better way to finish it off than the 7 mile Pier to Pier run!

Against my better judgement I signed up for this, knowing full well I had another two races, but thought 'why not!?' All good training ... This was my first time doing the Pier to Pier race but I had walked the route before, albeit with blazing sunshine and an ice-cream stop (or two!) But was looking forward to a nice run down the coast and to be representing the Striders.

Damned good turnout, as ever.

Sunday morning saw us all converge in a car park in South Shields, collecting timing tags, attempting to attach timing tags, Striders were out in force with over 30 of us representing the club. I'd heard stories about the first mile being a struggle, all on the beach, but if you managed to avoid others footprints, it wasn't actually too bad. Where we converged before running up onto the grass it was tough going though. My legs were feeling it after the previous two races and I wondered if this was a race too much in the week!

Then came the decision - left or right!? I could see Barrie ahead of me, he opted for right along the grass, so I decided he had probably done a few Pier to Piers in his time and would be a sensible person to follow!

Was still struggling at this point, and it seemed to be getting incredibly warm too. But kept my head down and plodded on, before I knew it the Souter Lighthouse, and (I think) the half-way point was just ahead of me. Quick stop for some water then back on it!

Not a good day to lounge on the beach ...

At this point I didn't actually know where the finish was, had nightmare visions of going up the long, slow hill at Roker that had been my nemesis the previous week, but fortunately I could see we were all heading down the esplanade. Finally, we rounded the corner and the beach and finish line were in sight. Pushing on, and to cheers from other Striders (best bit of the race - thanks!!) I even managed a cheeky 'sprint' finish. Not my best time, but was pleased to have finished, and after a busy week.

Great goody bag, although I think I'm always a bit disappointed not to get a medal to add to my sparse collection! Gel/Water bottle/Socks/Buff/junk food - ideal!

Well organised race by the Sunderland Strollers, and great to be out representing the Striders.

Definitely another one I'll be signing up to in the future!


1Andy BurnJarrowM137:52.9
4Rosie SmithDurham City HarriersF141:09.3
20Rob EversonM1542:48.9
95Graeme WaltonM403348:48.7
96Conrad WhiteM501148:52.3
127Mark PayneM6149:55.4
159Katy WaltonF651:06.7
271Lesley CharmanF351055:13.1
277Lucy CowtonF1955:22.3
281Fiona JonesF351355:26.0
282Melanie HudsonF351455:26.8
283John HutchinsonM504555:34.9
318Jackie McKennaF451656:45.1
359Greta JonesF452258:12.7
361Andrew ThompsonM12058:23.2
369Jane IvesF352458:29.1
371Dave RobsonM506558:29.8
384Megan BellF352758:52.0
414Jean BradleyF45331:00:03.8
422Stephanie PiperF331:00:34.9
425Paul BealM50761:00:37.8
431Debs GoddardF35341:00:45.0
458Susan WilsonF45401:01:49.1
460Anita ClementsonF4542?1:01:58.0
509Claire HuntF45501:03:57.3
512Alan SmithM50951:04:17.5
516Katherine PrestonF431:04:25.6
531Kirsty AndersonF35531:05:04.8
532Denise MasonF481:05:05.3
548Karen ChalkleyF45601:05:35.0
549Jackie AveryF45611:05:37.5
555Dawn DunnF45631:06:00.7
620Barrie EvansM501161:09:29.1
634Rebecca MaddisonF35731:10:52.9
642Jane BaillieF35751:11:22.1
650Helen HallF45891:11:54.7
667Karin YoungerF45911:12:41.8
680Kelly CollierF661:13:22.1
688Margaret ThompsonF45991:14:11.9

726 finishers

Troon Tortoises 10K, Ayrshire, 7th May

Jane Baillie

Troon, not many people know where it is.

If you are a golf fan, you will have undoubtedly heard of Royal Troon, one of the venues of the Open Championship.

Jane on the Ayrshire coast.

I’m relatively new to the purple posse, despite being in Durham for almost 6 years, but Troon is where I was born and bred and the place I call home. Beautiful coastal town on the Ayrshire coast, with stunning views of the Isle of Arran, Ailsa Craig, and sometimes Ireland (on a very clear day!)

Troon Tortoises are the local running club, and they organise an annual 10k every May. It is a very popular race, only 1100 spaces, and they tend to fill up very quickly. Runners from afar as field as Glasgow (and now Durham!) head down the coast to compete. This year was the 29th running of the race. It was one I had always wanted to do – Troon has lots of great running routes, beaches, woods, golf courses, with some stunning scenery as well. Plus with it being my home race, and also getting the chance to represent the Striders, it wasn’t one I wanted to miss. Entries came out in January, and I immediately got signed up, the fact I was doing the Sunderland Half Marathon 3 days before was irrelevant, nothing was going to stop me running in my home town (with a lack of hills, its perfect!) My brother and his fiancée had also signed up. Bargain at the price of £12.00 for entry as well, although my England Athletics Number did nothing to get me a discount! Maybe Scottish Athletics are independent already!!!

Driving up from Durham on the afternoon of the race, the weather looked grim – rained pretty much all the way from Carlisle up the M74 (not an unusual occurrence to be fair!) Troon is usually blessed with nice weather, but it was not to be when I arrived. More rain and bit of a coastal breeze as well, just to add to the forthcoming fun of the evening! But spirits were not dampened and after quick carb/protein dinner (thanks Mum!) we set off for the town hall and the race start. Was a 7.30pm start, with race numbers and timing chips being collected prior to the race in the town hall. After much speculation about the weather (‘it’s definitely brightening up over there’) we were blessed when the rain did actually stop just before 7pm.

We all headed along to the start, where there were various people stood with markers showing estimated finishing times, we all erred on the side of caution and headed to the one hour plus section!

After a bit of mulling about, we started moving, maybe I was talking too much, but didn’t hear a gun or anything resembling an official start!! After a few minutes we passed over the timing mat and we were off. First kilometre is along the esplanade with great views along the beach and out over the Firth of Clyde, but we were racing – no time to take in the vistas!!

Troon, unlike Durham, is fairly flat so we only had to tackle a grand of 3 ‘hills’ on the route. To be fair, these were just bridges over roads/railways – no Redhills Bank or anything like that!

The course then took us past no less than 5 golf courses, including Royal Troon, up past the rugby club, down through Fullarton Woods (hazardous for potholes!), past my Mum, marshalling at the 3 mile mark, then looped back into town, and after a long straight and the longest ‘hill’ of the evening, we headed back along the esplanade, into a lovely head wind for the last kilometre of the race.

Despite being bit tired from my Half Marathon efforts a few days before, I felt strong through the race, even managing a 09:10 time on mile 6!! I was aiming to get in about the hour mark and was delighted when I came in at 58:57. True to form, my younger brother (who has previously done this race with no training) came home in 50:07!! Always opportunity to get one over his big sister!

No medal on offer for this race, but we got memento technical t-shirt, bottle of water and the best prize of all Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer!! For those who are unfamiliar with these delights, please ask me or any other Scottish Striders.

May Club Run, May Club Run, Low Burnhall, 7th May

Paul Evans

Light nights and a reasonable weather forecast meant that a plan that had been germinating at the back of my mind could be enacted. A steady start along the Burma Road through Houghall College served as a nice, normal warm-up, though we racked up a minor casualty when Jon Ayres turned an ankle on the descent to the Bridge at Low Burnhall. Once we'd arrived, a brief pause to break the news to people that we were about to run a 35-minute orienteering score event around the fixed marker course kindly laid out by the Woodland Trust and Northern Navigators was followed by questions such as 'what's a score event?' (answer: bag as many controls as possible, some worth more than others, with points deducted for coming back to the start late) and 'do we have to stay together as teams?' (answer: yes).

At minute zero a dozen teams set off, four runners who were having their first taste of the club amongst them and Anna and I settled back to scan the horizon for the occasional flash of high-visibility clothing and talk about endurance and blisters; running chat at its best. 29 minutes later Jenny and Maggie T arrived back, thinking to record the marker on the bridge itself (the easiest 10 points on offer, missed by many), followed shortly by Mike Elliot's group, who realised they actually had time to back a further control and still be back in time. Thick and fast other teams followed, with teams led by George N, Mandy D, Greta, Mike B and Conrad all making the cut-off, the latter by 2 seconds, Peter Mac, Alister, Lucy and Rich Hall (senior) all leading teams in with minor deductions of 10-20 points per team. A few minutes later we were still a little short of our full complement, so Mike Bennett led the group back to Maiden Castle and sweepers went out to find the remaining teams, one of which had managed to get split up, apparently due to a passing labrador injury (said dog was reported to be ok by the second half of the team, thankfully, though the fact that the two halves of the team returned with two separately-marked maps was rather amusing), another of which had made their way directly back to MC rather than the course finish and a final team whose GPS trace I would love to see, given that they eluded all sweepers and approached the finish from a direction completely off the map - Kelly Collier et al, take a bow as you definitely managed the most mileage for the evening.

So, no prizes but an evening purely about enjoying the area in a slightly different way from usual. For what it's worth, local knowledge, hard running and prioritising the high-scoring controls paid off for Conrad's team, who bagged slightly fewer controls than second-placed 'Wet and Windy' but outscored them 280 to 270 (theoretical maximum 360, though this was not possible in the allotted time). The majority of teams scored in the 120-160 range ('Andy's A-Team' topscoring in this pack), with only one team managing to accrue negative points, though an entirely-subjective mileage bonus has been awarded and concessions made for the stops allegedly taken to produce 'orienteering-selfies,' apparently an essential component of the evening.

Finally, many thanks to Anna for making this happen, Alister, Peter Mac, John H, Anita and Richard Hall for sweeping and everyone who ran for throwing themselves at a new challenge with such gusto.

Carlton Challenge, North Yorks Moors, 7th May


Innes Hodgson

One of the big differences between a short fell race and a cross country race is the need to carry some safety kit, usually waterproofs, map, compass and whistle. At the Fox and Hounds race I watched with awe as Phil Owen managed to squeeze waterproof leggings, top and his best suit into a bag not much larger than a thimble. Apparently this means you have less weight to carry. At the Carlton Challenge I decided on a different approach to save weight and left the contents of my stomach at various road sides across County Durham and North Yorkshire.

Having got to the race start, lighter and weaker, I briefly contemplated not running, but dehydration had destroyed my common sense. So I started the race, right at the back, and after a few minutes I watched a multi-coloured snake of runners disappearing into the distance.

The first half of the race involved a gentle descent of round 2 miles mainly on a single track path that made it difficult to pass people but easy to follow them. At one point a distressed scream was heard, it turned out that a lady had caught her new gore-tex top on some barbed wire. She had taken a short cut in order to pass people but thanks to the barbed wire she lost all the places she had just gained, it seems that route choice is more complicated than it looks. For the most part the path was firm underfoot there were a few soft sections (were the bog monsters live and try to steal your shoes as you go by). After 2 miles you came to the first checkpoint and were guided into the woods after a short decent you had to make a left and started to climb up to checkpoint 2. The woods were the only section that there was where you could get lost, famous last words. I managed to follow a young Nordic lady that some of you may know and escaped the clutches of the Big Bad Wolf. At checkpoint 2 I was directed on to the Cleveland Way apart from the first steep 100m the next 2 miles were all runnable (although not for me). On the way to the final check point I tried to catch Camillia I would get close on the flat sections only for her to pull away again on the steeper bits. The final 400m was a descent to the finish, with any route allowed. I saw my chance made a good route choice and caught up my target, feeling elated I went full bore for the finish. Normally at the end of a fell run my legs fell like jelly, at the end of this race my body could have been poured into any mould available.

Starting off at the back of the race gave me the opportunity to pass a few people, mainly on the downhill sections, rather than being passed by lots of people. Catching and sometimes passing people was a great motivation to avoid walking and gave me a positive feeling throughout the race that kept me going. I managed to pass a total of 18 people. The best part of the race for me was the final descent to the finish, it allowed me to use some long forgotten skills developed in a previous life running for Kendal AC.

Three Striders were competing Phil Owen was the first finisher in a time of 55.39, I followed a minute and 25 seconds behind, 7 seconds ahead of Camilla Laurén-Määttä. Apparently someone called Will Horsley was also running but was wearing a funny vest so I don’t think he counts. Will finished 3rd in a time 34:30; considering this fantastic performance I think we should claim him as one of us. We all enjoyed the race especially because it was cheap at £6 and extremely friendly.

I need to apologise to my fellow travellers for the frequent stops on the way to and from the event, thanks for putting up with me. I have to give a special mention to Wendy Colling of Quakers who came to my rescue with jelly beans and a Shot Blox at the end of the race.

This was a great race ideal for a first fell race, looking forward, Esk Valley Fell Club are organising a number of short fell races over the summer (check out their website). Next race is on the 21st of May the Ossy Oiks, near Osmotherley.

Les Allcorn Race, Alnwick, 6th May

Miles and Miles and Miles

Heidi Walton

Heidi, hi!

I was standing at the start line, waiting to set off. My brother and sister (Jack and Sarah) were running with me. Jack set off really quick so me and Sarah couldn’t catch him. Me and Sarah stuck together for a little bit of the course, but then Sarah over took me. I over took Sarah a few times until she went miles ahead of me.

The course was very hilly and gravelly, it was very hard because there were lots of uphills. Most of the course was in the woods and a little bit of it was in between the cows and sheep.

At the end, first Jack came in, then Sarah and then me. Near to the finish I did my best sprint but I was near to the back. When I finished I saw Jack and Sarah sitting near Mum and Dad. The race was very tiring but still it was fun. When they did the prizes I won a trophy (2nd under 9 female), it was small and my sister won a trophy as well (2nd under 16 female). Sarah and I were really happy that we got trophies and Mum and Dad were proud too.

Northern Championships Festival of Orienteering

LOC Urban Race, Kendal, 5th May

Dougie Nisbet

When they say 1.8m, they mean 1.8m. After yesterday's event in misty woodland, today found us sitting in Kendal Town Hall waiting for our start time. This was Street Orienteering; like normal orienteering, but you play it in the street. I'm not sure what I think about Urban Orienteering; it's fast and furious and allows you to run like a lunatic around the streets of Kendal. We had a bit of time to spare, having parked in the local multi-storey, (maximum height 1.8m) and I had time to reconsider my footwear.

Registration doesn't come posher than this.For this orienteering weekend I'd packed my Walshes and Sportivas. Both good choices for the fell and trail. Not so brilliant for a street warrior. But hang on, this was Kendal, wasn't this Pete Bland HQ? I jogged down the road from our rather posh registration in the town hall, into the shop, and said, "I need road shoes, size 8.5, and my Start Time is in 20 minutes". With that all sorted, we had plenty time still in hand to wander to the Start and feel twitchy. There's something about a big event that gives an extra tingle of excitement to procedings; the 4-minute call-up, the briefing, and the 4-beep (beep, beep, beep, BEEEEP!) countdown (that always gives me bizarre flashbacks to riding the Kilo on the velodrome).

Roberta heads for home.Yep, so urban orienteering. I'm not a fan. It's fun to do once in a while, but you have to THINK SO MUCH, and SO QUICKLY. I was seeking a bit of redemption for yesterday's poor performance so I did hammer it, but I have a tendency to stop and try to explain to small children in the street who ask me what I'm doing, and I suspect neither they or I get much out of the interchange.

Three days of orienteering; different locations, different competitions, moods, results and emotions, and a fair bit of unfinished business.

Northern Championships Festival of Orienteering

SROC National Event, Gummer's How & Blakeholme, Lake District, 4th May

Dougie Nisbet

Filling in a parkrun to the Start.After a long, long, slow drive up a forest track, we parked at the side of a tree. We had been warned though. So we'd allowed lots of time. And so as we trudged through the drizzle towards the Start of the Walk to the Start, we had plenty of opportunity to take chirpy selfies. Truth be told, we were both a bit jittery about this foray into the big time. Competing in a national event at a national level. Whatever that meant. I couldn't give Roberta much advice as it was all new to me too. The comforting colour-coded courses were gone, and I was competing in my class of M50L (Course '3'). Whatever that was.

A parkrun of walking later, we arrived at the Assembly area. Roberta glanced longingly at the portaloos but there simply wasn't time. We had a further 400m to go before we got to the Start itself. A couple of minutes to spare before Call-Up. T-4 minutes and you're called forward. T-3 you can pick up control descriptions. T-2 you can look at a blank map, and then, T-15 seconds you can pick up your map, but not look at it, and then ... well I'm not sure about the next bit. I do know that I picked up the wrong map. I mean, a W is just an M upside down isn't it? And if there happens to be a W50L course ... I asked the lady next to me what was going on? Are you on a punching start? She asked. I didn't know. I know what that means now, but not then. So I just said yes, (wrong), and, well the details are unimportant. Realising that I had the wrong map, I hunted around the bins for M50L and eventually picked up my map. But by this time my ship had already sailed, and the official assumed I was in the next wave, and was picking up my map early. On the ball for procedure - not so hot on the facial recognition algorithm. I explained, he demurred, and off I went, a few seconds late. Looking for the Starting punch. Except it didn't exist, because it wasn't a 'punching start'. Ahhhhhhhh.....

Anyway, off we go. Keep the head. Keep calm. Don't panic. A tricky course, an error here and there, but nothing disastrous. Nothing that couldn't be salvaged. Recovered. Looking good, steady as we go ...

It's a boulder, get over it!And so on to Control 9 (out of 22). A boulder (West Side). Didn't look too difficult. Jog down the path until it jinks to the left, then contour round to the right, hitting the marshy bit in about 100m, and it should be, right, there. Nope. Ok, loads of people around. Lots of smaller boulders, check, nope. Ok, pan out, look for features, relocate. Ditch found, on map? Hmmm, bush, boulders, scrub, marsh. It doesn't fit. Ok, relocate. Up to the wall. Find crag, compass bearing, pacing, down the marsh, but there's no marsh. Something's not right. What the hell is wrong with this picture? Orienteers in the distance have found a control. That couldn't be it. It's in the wrong place. Run over. It's not. Time was hemorrhaging away.

Ok, deep breath. Back to the path I attacked from. Path junction crosses stream. But no path junction crossing any stream here on map. Lots of other orienteers confidently attacking from here, to controls unknown. What did they know that I didn't? What were they seeing that I was missing?

A massive wave of despondency overwhelmed me. I was not wearing a watch or GPS but I knew I'd easily lost 20-30 minutes hunting for this control. I walk back up the path. And I keep on walking. Back to the Finish.

Had I known quite how unexpectedly wretched I would have felt about this decision I would not have given up. Although I'm prone to succumb to occasional self-indulgent angst-ridden post-race analysis I'm usually pretty philosophical about bombing out. Not this time though. This was a bit different. I've looked at this control so many times that this section of the map is burned on my memory. I can see several ways in which I could have relocated and attacked again. This was a survivable crash. It was recoverable and I had the skills to do so. Sure I would've ended up with a dismal time, but I wouldn't have felt as dejected as a DNF. You live and learn.

Reeth Trail 20k, 4th May

Jon Ayres

As the Swaledale marathon approaches the chance to run a new event in the same area just a few weeks before seemed like a good plan.

The course is on the other side of the river to the marathon, heading toward Keld then looping back through Apedale with a drop back into Reeth. Easy really.

Arriving in Reeth with Graeme Walton and Mike Hughes we strolled down to the Swaledale Outdoors shop (a bit of a gem this place; loads of great gear and a stop off point on the version of the Coast to Coast which starts/finishes dependent upon direction in Robin Hoods Bay) to collect our numbers. As I signed for my number it was with a jubilant cry I informed my fellow Striders that I had the number two to bear upon my chest, which left me chuffed to buttons until Graeme held up his piece of paper bearing the numeral 1. After a brief sulk we wandered back to the car grabbing a brew on the way (no Starbucks in this corner of God’s own country just a newsagent nipping into the back of the shop to boil a kettle, ace!) and got changed. Having spotted Aaron Gourley earlier helping out with marshalling duties a quick chat established that long sleeves were the order of the day as it might be “a bit blustery” as we climbed out of the valley.

The race starts about half a mile out of the village down by the river, for those who know the area it’s just down by the swing bridge, and it was here that the first indication of the wind could be felt; nothing too much but enough to raise a cautious eyebrow. The start line was a fairly informal affair with approx. 130 folk all huddled together like emperor penguins on pack ice and after a brief safety talk we headed out along the river. Nice and flat this bit with solid ground to cross and so it continued for around a mile. At this point Arron, Mike, Graeme and I were all fairly close to each other and all seemed good; then the climbing started.

Having lived and run in Durham for a fair few years now I’m generally of the opinion that hills are not to be worried about; after all we train on them loads and should be OK with a climb or two but this was lung busting. Just walking was hard and as Graeme pointed out as the first major climb kicked in “the paths not even in a straight line”. With each turn of the climb the hills seemed to continually grow dominating the skyline and towering over us. All credit here to Mr Walton as he picked up his pace and started to pull away from me (nothing unusual there mind Tarmac, Hill or Dale it’s become a depressing regularity watching him fade off into the distance). All I concentrated on was holding something approaching an upward shuffle and the hope that soon, surely, I’d see the top of the climb. Nervous looks over the shoulder also confirmed that Aaron was putting his experience to good use and wasn’t letting me get away either.

The climbs continued, with a couple of short plateaus until we crawled to the top, a very tough 5 ½ miles of crawling/shuffling and the occasional thought of “it’s a tad breezy up here”, apparently the views as we went up were spectacular but lack of oxygen combined with sweat pouring down and coating my eyeballs obscured the scenery from me.

A quick turn, whereupon the wind seemed to ease and we had a fast couple of miles along a very rough road. At this point the mountain rescue land rover which was roaming the dales looking for lost runners, wrong un’s from the other side of the Pennines or those in need of assistance seemed to follow me. Clearly my running style must need working on as I thought I was going quite well. With Graeme not quite out of view and therefore something to aim at this did turn into a couple of swift miles and a few folk were reeled in who’d left me for dead on the hills. Then at 7 or so miles we hit the last major climb; nothing like as long as the first assault on Everest we’d conducted three KM’s earlier but sharp and long and here again I was forced to watch a purple vest move away from me with ease. This climb was much shorter (not sure just how much as my Garmin had stopped giving me updates and was now just bleeping in Morse Code “hurry up lardy the pie shop closes soon”) but it hurt and again I opted for a run/walk strategy, I walked as Graeme ran, finally though the last major climb was done and, stopping only to wave at the planes below, the fun started. A sharp drop on mixed terrain was gleefully ceased on and a sub 6 min mile pace was the reward. At this point I started thinking in terms of the 400m laps left and also congratulated myself on getting through all the hard work. Then all hell broke loose; we turned into the valley that would lead us home and the “breeze” hit us. My pace dropped by 3 min per mile and tears started to form in my eyes. For a while I staggered with another lost soul as we leaned into the gusts. Even the slight downhill gradient felt hard; it was awful. Finally, solace was offered and the wind was pushing us along as the path turned and another runner was passed. For the next mile or so the “purple massive” was in evidence as Graeme and I ran together consoling each other about the hills and quizzing each other as to just who’s idea this had been (HIS!).

Another drop offered gravity the chance to pull my stomach downwards and the thought of a savoury pastry or two for lunch propelled me forward and back into the wind. Oh deep joy! Fortunately this was only for 400m or so and it was with a heartfelt sigh of relief that the final mile was plodded downhill- offering a pretty speedy finish for those with the legs for it; Mike Hughes take a bow.

So a well organised and great race with a small friendly field, what’s not to like? Did I mention the wind?

Endurun 24, High Gosforth Park, Newcastle Racecourse, 3–4th May


Anna Seeley

Have you ever wondered how far you could run/walk/crawl in 24 hours? No? Ok so it’s only me but when I spotted the new Endu24 race at Newcastle racecourse I couldn’t resist the temptation. I’ve tested myself over plenty of long events in the past but always had an endpoint to aim towards, this time no finish line, no idea of how far I could go just me vs the clock.

12 pm Saturday and there was a 10 second count down followed by the hooter to announce that the race was underway. You could either enter as a solo, pair or in teams ranging from 3-8 runners so the early pace was quite fast and it was hard to resist the temptation to fly away so the first lap was definitely the quickest.

The lap itself was a real mixed affair, should have been 10K but actually measured 5.7 miles which really challenged the brain after running for 10+ hours and trying to work out how far you’d gone. First ¾ mile was on tarmac before heading off to do 1 ½ mile grassy circuit which would have done harrier league proud. Two real waterlogged boggy sections ensured the feet were wet and stayed that way for the next 24 hours. Next up was ¾ mile of compact trail before hitting a long waterlogged (yes, common theme here and this was on lap one) path into the rather soggy woods. Out of the woods and onto a horrible S shaped loop on boggy grass before heading back onto a hard trail, final little section of wood and then onto the tarmac road parallel to the race course back to the start/finish line. Now the race course very kindly has furlong markers heading towards the finish and we had the joy of counting them off on each lap. How long is a furlong? After 5 miles not very far at all, after 70 odd a bloody long way especially when there are 8 to the finish line.

End of each lap and it was past the campsite with a chance to pick up something to eat and drink before heading back out to do it again and again and again. Had Phil Owen supporting me so he could prepare any food/drink I wanted which saved on potential faffing which really helped. After 5 laps (28 miles) I had my first longer break, eating more than I wanted but knew I needed I then walked all of lap 6. It didn’t matter how you got round the lap it was just about going as far as you could. Got to the 51 mile mark (9 laps) in about 11 ½ hours, all going well but the course conditions were deteriorating rapidly. Next lap was when things started to fall apart a bit, unable to see far enough ahead with a headtorch to choose your best line through the bog I was slipping and sliding lots. Downing coffee and coke was doing nothing to stop the yawning so I decided to have a break after 10 laps and try and snooze for a bit.

Was woken by Phil at 3.15 to hear raining lashing down, having had a nightmare on my last dark lap I decided to wait till either the rain stopped or daybreak when I could at least see what I was dealing with again. Ended up heading out again at 5.45 (4 hour break) and managed another 3 laps before deciding to call it a day at 10.30, as anything which wasn’t had packed by then was a quagmire, even areas which had initially been fine were a muddy mess. The final lap had to finished before 12pm Sunday otherwise it wouldn’t count and working on my timing of the past few laps it was going to be close and I’d have been gutted to miss out on the finish line by a few minutes. 74 miles run, furthest ever and enough to earn myself 2nd lady, 1st lady managed a fantastic 17 laps to not only win in the female category but also take the overall solo prize too.

A very friendly well organised/marshalled event with no possibilities of getting lost it is definitely one to look at if you want to set yourself a personal challenge. With it being open to pairs and teams as well as individuals this is one that anyone with the right training could take part in and it’s on our doorstep, anyone joining me next year?

Northern Championships Festival of Orienteering

LOC Middle Distance Races, Summerhouse Knott, Lake District, 3rd May


Dougie Nisbet

Orienteering is a phenomenally diverse sport; in terrain, location and difficulty. And an orienteering competition can be daunting, although behind the apparent complexity is an incredibly simple concept. It's this: You get a map with a course on it, and you run round the course as quickly as you can. There are usually lots of courses to chose from. From dead-easy, to dead-hard. So the best way, and certainly the most fun way to have a go, is to compete. This begs the question, as often it does, What's the easiest course you can enter at an orienteering competition?

How long is a piece of string?It's the string course. Most competitions have a super-easy course called the String course. Day One of the Northern Championships Festival of Orienteering had a string course. How does it work? Well, how long is a piece of string? You follow the string round the course, and you can see your route on the map. The courses get progressively more difficult through a series of colour groups until you get to black. So you stick a pin on a colour that suits you, and have a go.

On your marks ...I was having a go at Brown, and soon found myself walking off for Control One. I say walking as I resisted the temptatation to dash off with more enthusiasm than sense. It was a good course, lots of woodland and I always like that. But a bit short. I spent a lot of time forcing myself to navigate and keep map contact. I got frustrated and longed for a decent bit of uncomplicated running, but it wasn't that sort of course. These were 'Middle Distance' races and a cool head was needed otherwise you might easily end up enthusiastically running a long distance in the wrong direction.

This was my first experience at competing at this level and it was good fun. Although frustrated at the my slow progress I forced myself to keep concentrating and resist the temptation to dash about. Not exactly a podium position but sufficiently distant from the back-marker to give me some satisfaction and hope. I wondered what tomorrow would bring ...

Northern Navigators Club Night, Low Burnhall, 1st May

Melanie Hudson

I have always liked the idea of orienteering, however my navigation skills leave a lot to be desired. After a few map reading disasters, when walking in the lakes, I ended up resorting to the use of a GPS device. Thus I ruled out any thoughts of orienteering. That was until I saw Dougie's email about about the Northern Navigators, who were running sessions suitable for beginners. I pulled up at Low Burn Hall car park with the thoughts in my head that this was a ridiculous idea. Me, navigating? However I did not realise that orienteering maps differ to OS ones. They are much more detailed and easier to read.

The Willow Miners wife looks yonder to the mythical Control 8They arranged a relay for tonight's session. We were in pairs made up of one experienced person and a less experienced one. In my case I paired up with Dougie, who kindly explained the map to me. There were ten control points, with the odd numbers being the easy ones to find and the even numbers a bit trickier. So I headed out and easily found control one, I ran back handing over the map to Dougie who went out to the more difficult control two and so on. I was surprised that I was managing okay with the navigating. It was only through some rather silly mistake that things went a bit wrong. Dougie came back from control 8 and off I went to find control 9.

For some reason I had the number 8 in my mind and I was attempting to find that one instead. I actually saw and ran past nine and still it did not twig. I got to the location where I expected 8 to be which was interestingly in the middle of a nettle bed, ouch. I was certain I was in the right place but I could not find the control. Conscious that people were waiting for me I headed back not having got it. It was only as I got back to the hand over point that I realised I had actually been looking for 8 when it should have been 9. Dougie said we could go and collect the last two together controls together, so we headed back to the nettles, however the control had mysteriously disappeared. It was reassuring to know I had been in the right place for the harder control of 8 but I also felt a bit daft for having gone for the wrong number. I felt very grateful for Dougie's patience and help.

Anyone fancying orienteering but think they cannot do it, hopefully this report with give you the confidence to give it a go. I feel that if I can manage it anyone can. I also found it very good training, a bit of a speed session, running between controls but then stopping to navigate. I am definitely keen to do an proper event having had a taster last night.