Race Reports, October 2014

Northumberland Castles Marathon, Alnwick, 26th October

Kerry Lister

Kerry celebrates her success after the Castles MarathonLining up on the start line at Alnwick Castle to complete my second marathon in 2 weeks with only 73 other people was a daunting start to a Sunday morning. Still I knew I could do the distance, not quickly but it could be done.

After a quick briefing, basically don't get run over because the roads aren't closed, we were off. Most of the other runners disappeared quite quickly into the distance. I could see a man in front of me and a lady behind me, both far enough off that I could see but not communicate with them. I was on my own.

Sticking to my run/walk race plan I plodded on, stopping at about mile 6 to loosen my right shoe as my toes were hurting. Mission accomplished - pain dissipated - I continued on.

Mile 10, getting a bit lonely so (against race rules - sorry) popped a single earphone in and enjoyed the company of the Marathontalk boys for a good few miles.

The man in front had now disappeared, leaving me and the lady behind. Plodding on, up inclines and hills, sideways rain lashing for a short time, reaching the halfway point 2:31 - not bad considering both my GNR times had been significantly more than that.

At this point the young lady, Nicola Hall, overtook with a smile (or was it a grimace?) - her first full marathon and she was trotting along nicely.

Then the wind started. Confirmed the next day by the Met Office as consistently 25-30 mph with 50mph gusts I was mighty pleased I'd done the fell run the week before - I knew I could do this. Time for an entertainment switch - bit of Barry Manilow (don't judge me) kept me going.

Conjuring a smile for the camera during the Castles Marathon 2014By mile 20 into the headwind I was doing 50-100 steps running, 10-20 steps walking but the miles were being eaten up and, I'm proud to say, I overtook a group of 4 of the half marathoners.

Regular interaction with the marshals made the journey more pleasant and a car full of lovely ladies with signs supporting Nicola kept appearing 'touch the flash for power', I'm grateful for the hugs and the fact that although Nicola was now in front of me they waited to cheer me on.

The water stop at mile 24 got me emotional, there the ladies were with a new sign 'you're a marathoner' and a little pep talk from the marshal while I stopped my hyperventilating sobs and I was off again for the final uphill stretch.

Coming into Bamburgh was awesome, Helen and Phil Allen cheering me on, my sister and hubby at the finish line. The lovely Nicola and her ladies drinking champagne. I'm not ashamed to say I was tearful, although I'd been proud at the Yorkshire Marathon, today I'd been alone for 5:33:58 and 26.2 miles, I had accomplished this all under my own steam. So I was last, I was number 74 out of 74, probably the first time the first Strider in was the last runner. But I did it, I'm proud of me.

Quote of the day from an older lady in the pub 'I've never met a marathoner before', well, I told her 'you have now' .

Blowin' in the Wind

Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, 25th October

Mudman

'The times they are a'changin' for Striders as no less than 7 women made their cross country debuts for the club at South Shields on Saturday! In total there were 27 Striders in the senior / veteran women's team plus our own 'girl from the north country' Sally Hughes in the u/20 / u/17 women's race. What a turn out! The men too managed to muster 21 of their number including Ari Hodgson and Peter McGowan donning the purple vest for the first time at the HL.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.

The 'buckets of rain' we'd been praying for never materialised so rather than providing 'shelter from the storm' our perfectly pitched tent made do with keeping us out of the wind. And how it blew - although not hard enough to keep Sally from a top ten position in her race. Hers was a gutsy performance - 'just like a (Striders') woman' which must have had Dad Mike thinking 'you're a big girl now'. Well done Sally!

The ocean of purple then flooded onto the start line for the women's race. Another huge field of over 300 runners waited for the off making me reflect on how 'things have changed' for women's x/c over recent years. This was wonderfully illustrated by the presence of our debutants: Elaine Bisson, Jennifer Cooper, Kelly Collier, Kate MacPherson, Kay Cairns, Claire Galloway & Diane Watson. What 'simple twist of fate' brought them all to this spot on this day? Was it parkun, C25K, tales of daring do from HLs of old – who knows? Whatever it was the team would have been much the poorer 'if not for (all of) you'!

Gypsy Lou. Pressing On. At the front Katy flew round, closely followed by Elaine, to finish first senior Strider & first veteran Strider respectively. Other 'counters' included Fiona K-J & Mudwoman for the Vets team and Lucy and Steph P for the seniors (well done Lucy & Steph – first time as counters). But what support they had from the rest of the purple tide! Kelly - seeming to love every minute, Kate - grimly determined, Barbara - with the 'dignity' we come to expect & Jan - who will surely stay 'forever young'! Well done to all of you – 6th team place in the Vets competition and 13th in the seniors!

The men were last to go but we say to the Striderettes 'don't think twice it's all right'! A huge crowd of blokes in club vests of every hue set off round the still dry, firm and relatively flat course. Rob once again flew across the grass 'like a rolling stone' to make it as first Strider home followed by Simon as first vet in what was perhaps his best ever x/c performance(?) . Neil Sleeman was next senior home and I suspect many Striders watching were pleased to see an expression of pain etched on his face – no prizes for guessing why! It was also good to see Neil's family there but I did wonder to myself: 'Corrina, Corrina' why aren't you running? However, I suspect budding Strider Georgina must have said 'it's alright Ma' not to run!

A trio of Striders, locked together, were to follow Neil to claim the remaining 'counter places'. Scott had been glued to Mudman's shoulder 'most of the time' put pulled away at the last to overtake Matt Crow as well. Mudman tried that too thinking 'when you gonna wake up' as his sprint brought him ever closer to a seemingly ambling Matt – who did wake up just in time!

Masters of War. Once again there were great performances by Striders throughout the field. Mike Hughes had a great run storming round like a 'hurricane' for his best ever finish – upwards and onwards I think! Young Ari just piped his old man, Phil O avoided the 'desolation row' of Cramlington, poor Eric was robbed of 385th place and it was good to see Mettie in the mud again and thinking of those 'summer days' in the medium pack! Well done to you all – 13th team in the Vet's competition and 21st in the Seniors! To each and every one of you I want you to know 'I believe in you'!

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1Nick SwinburnMorpeth Harriers & AC M Sen28:55
54Rob Everson M Sen34:09
120Simon Gardner S Vet36:51
160Neil Sleeman S Sen37:57
199Scott Watson S Vet39:03
200Matthew Crow S Sen39:04
201Geoff Davis S Vet39:05
209Michael Hughes S Vet39:23
218Matthew Archer S Sen39:51
240David Brown S Sen40:20
253Graeme Walton S Vet40:45
259Aaron Gourley S Sen40:52
260Conrad White S Vet40:53
318John Metson S Vet42:37
319Jon Steed S Vet42:39
374Richard Hockin S Vet44:13
379Ari Hodgson S Sen44:20
383Innes Hodgson S Vet44:48
386Eric Green S Vet45:02
420Peter McGowan S Vet47:24
424Phil Owen S Vet47:41
446Stephen Ellis S Vet51:54

453 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1Alyson DixonSunderland StrollersF Vet22:05
34Katy Walton M Sen26:39
46Elaine Bisson S Vet27:25
63Fiona Jones S Vet28:28
79Lucy Cowton S Sen28:54
91Susan Davis S Vet29:13
118Camilla Lauren-Maatta S Vet30:08
143Debra Goddard S Vet30:46
176Stephanie Piper S Sen31:42
184Jan Young S Vet32:04
187Jean Bradley S Vet32:12
191Stef Barlow S Vet32:18
212Anita Clementson S Vet33:15
231Kate MacPherson S Vet33:59
239Jacquie Robson S Vet34:27
241Anja Fechtner S Vet34:30
242Barbara Dick S Vet34:31
265Kirsty Steed S Vet36:13
272Joanne Porter S Vet37:04
277Diane Watson S Vet37:29
279Jennifer Cooper S Vet37:33
280Louise Billcliffe S Vet37:36
283Kelly Collier S Sen37:43
285Denise Benvin S Vet37:53
294Joanne Richardson S Vet38:26
309Anita Dunseith S Sen41:56
310Kay Cairns S Sen42:42
312Claire Galloway S Sen45:09

314 finishers.

U17 & U20 Girls
PosNameClubCatTime
1Ellie MahonGateshead Harriers S U2022:56
8Sally Hughes S U2022:56

25 finishers.

UKA Fell & Hill Relay Champs, Middleton & Barbon Fells, Kirby Lonsdale, 19th October

Scott Watson

Sally & Mike B before the offThis year, this prestigious event in the fell-running calendar was held on the little-known (to me at least) Barbon and Middleton fells, a very compact but no less hilly venue between Sedbergh and Kirby Lonsdale. Conditions-wise, wind was to be the main feature of the day but at least in Durham it remained a generally pleasant day; over the Pennines there was no sun to be had and the weather deteriorated persistently as the day wore on, leaving later runners to contend with driving rain and mist.

Mike B finishing Leg 1 for Team 'B'The event was well organised as always, this time by Dallam Running Club and Howgill Harriers, and the first runners representing the 213 registered teams were marshalled together on a wind-blown field at the foot of Middleton Fell for a 10 o'clock start. Elvet Striders were able to field two teams: Team 'A' comprised Sally Hughes (Leg 1), Mike Hughes & Paul Evans (Leg 2), Camilla Lauren Maatta & Scott Watson (Leg 3) and Jan Young (Leg 4); Team 'B' was Mike Bennett (Leg 1), Kerry Lister & Nigel Heppell (Leg 2), Anita Clementson & Phil Owen (Leg 3) and John Metson (Leg 4). Of course, it shouldn't be forgotten that 'Mudman & Mudwoman', Geoff and Sue Davis (running for that 'other' club on this occasion) were there first thing with tent erected and waiting to receive guests!

As I mentioned before, this is a prestigious event that always attracts the very best fell runners in the country to compete for their clubs, consequently the course is 'challenging' to say the least. Legs 1 & 4 were for single runners and were effectively the same course run the opposite way round. Leg 2 was a longer course for pairs and Leg 3 was a navigational course for pairs.

Sally finishing Leg 1 for Team 'A'There are many (many) words to follow and it is a shame that the consistent efforts of those dependable runners who are relied on to make up the core of any team often fail to get a fair crack of the whip commendations-wise, but the day - quite rightly - belonged to two ladies for whom this was a real baptism of fire. Sally Hughes must have been the youngest competitor at the event and had only ever (to the best of my knowledge) previously done one fell-race - Simonside Show - and compared to this, it doesn't really count. By her own account she had a tough run, with the vagaries of the fells playing their part but she kept her head and her spirit and finished in proper fell-running style!

Twelve hours earlier, Kerry Lister had been drinking champagne and recounting her York Marathon adventures the previous weekend. When Jon Ayres was forced to pull out, a desperate email plea went out for a replacement and it was Kerry who stepped up - despite never having done a fell race in her life - only to be given the hardest leg of the race! Admittedly she was well paired with Nigel who, I think she has already agreed, calmly guided and encouraged her to achieve a never-to-be-forgotten and quite extraordinary athletic milestone.

For my own part, Camilla and I enjoyed (I hope she agrees) a very satisfying run on Leg 3 which, because we left with the mass start, required almost no navigational input with the exception perhaps of keeping an eye out for any small advantage that might be gained. However, with good visibility and a chain of runners stretching for half a mile, that hope was a faint one. Squally rain showers driven by high winds were possibly the most significant impediment to our progress (disregarding a few steep hills of course!) but if you're not intending to pitch a tent in it at the end of the day it just adds to the experience! Roll on next year!

...And Mike Hughes (Team A/Leg 2 - with Paul Evans)

Mike Hughes & Paul Evans climb away from the showground at the start of Leg 2Paul and I waited eagerly for the return of the Leg 1 single runners; you could see them coming down from the fell in the field opposite and hurriedly dibbing at the last point before making the last effort to the finish where a firm tag on the hand was needed to set the pairs away for the second leg. Many had come in by now and we had seen some really fast pairs run off up the slope towards the right turn to Eskholme Pike, picking off some of the pairs in a very short time. Then she appeared, safe and running well, our Sally, able to run the first leg as it was the only leg permitted for an under 18. She strode down the fields with her lanky relaxed gate and was soon running towards us. I held my arms out for a proud embrace and we were off, charging up the hill after the others, although none in sight just yet.

We climbed steadily and I was soon quite breathless, don't know if it was the wind that seemed to take my air or trying to keep pace with Paul, down a steep gully and up the other side. It was mostly runnable but the climb to the first check point brought me to a walk. As we climbed we caught up with Nigel and Kerry. At the same time were greeted by an ex-strider who was out on her own, her name I can't recall but many of you will - a very pleasant French lady who invited a bus load of striders to her wedding in France many years ago.

After a brief chat we pressed on, Paul offering for me to lead and set pace but I thought we'd be faster if I let him lead and I tried to keep up, that seemed to work. We decided to run to the base of the next hill and then stride to the next check point, Paul saving us time by getting to the check point a good few strides ahead of me and then we were straight off after the nod from the marshals when we were a pair again.

The view of the runners strung out ahead to CP3 and Castle Knott ahead was quite something. We had picked a few more off by now and I seemed to be getting my "second wind". I knew we were looking for a right "out and back" after that to pick up CP4, from the contours on the map it looked steep but maybe not too far. As we traversed round it came into view. I laughed, that's mad I thought, it was way down in the valley, really steep, and as soon as you hit the check point you had to come straight back up of course and even further to the wall corner for CP5, mentally tough as well anything else.

We descended rapidly, passing a few more and were soon out the other side of the gully and attacking the hill. I looked up to the top of the hill, I only looked the once, head down and get on with it, this was seriously painful. It was rough heather scrub, the heather compressing as you stepped on it which sapped what little energy my legs had, you couldn't stand really, the best technique seems to be climb it on all fours, grabbing the heather as you went and as much pulling yourself up with your arms and pushing with your legs which felt like they would burst.

Paul was getting away from me but I managed to gain on others. Eventually the top came and I joined Paul who was able to stop and take in the view back, I didn't and we were off again, returning to soft grass and probably the easiest run of the day to CP5 on Calf top and the turn left down Middleton Fell. We were going well, we were heading home, the ground was soft, deep, moss and undulating as we descended and traversed.

We ran quickly, I was twisting and turning, at one point my body was facing forward but my legs were still running sideways after stumbling on a rocky outcrop, I was starting to feel exhausted and didn't have the energy to correct with the forward momentum of the decent but managed to keep upright. We caught up with a couple of NFR runners (Steph Scott and Katherine Davis). We were heading back in the direction of the event field, I guess maybe only 2-3 miles to go, when there were shouts of "wrong way".

Confusion ensued, there seemed to be runners everywhere all of a sudden, some going on ahead, some running back, some way down in the valley bottom going the other way (turns out some were also the Leg 3 navigators). A quick glance at the map, damn, where were we, we had just arrived at a deep gully with a stream, we realised on the map that that had to be the unnamed watershed down into Luge Gill to the West of CP6.

We descended a little further and back over the gully, it looked runnable for the traverse along a wall to find the gill we needed - Wrestle Gill - but we were soon in deep bracken and slowing down. We could see runners further up the hill so traversed and climbed, followed the stream up the gully and eventually came to the check point, blisters starting to shout by then.

Check point dibbed and we were off, how much time we had lost I don't know, 10-15 minutes maybe, so we pushed on trying to claw that time back. Could we make it back in time for the cut off, yes, you could see the tents down in the fields about a mile away. Someone said "ten minutes to cut off", press on, Paul looking back, he had that look in his eyes and I knew this was going to be the last hard push, eyeballs out -it's all going to be over soon.

We were soon running across the fields and back into the main field, we thought we had made it in time, we looked around but soon heard the jovial commentator announce over his tannoy "it's no good looking rounds lads, they've gone, you've missed them"…..still, a brilliant run and great to have Paul encouraging me by making it look so easy!

...And Jan Young (Team A/Leg 4)

Sunday's race renewed my passion for the fells, testing my resilience, after a summer in the doldrums. No navigation needed for solo leg 4, switch brain off and follow red flags, peering through mist and blinding rain, to find cairn checkpoints and marshalls huddled as low as possible, finding respite from Howgills howling wind. Recommend pie eating or backpack rocks, to add weight, as got blown sideways...... a lot.

Brilliant commentary from announcer: "They call it fell running because you fall down lot." "They say it's hell up there; you wait till leg 4." He was at it all day, entertaining and enthusiastic. Hot food served all day, cake, hot drinks and beer. Shared Striders' tent and cakes with NFR, all supportive.

Striders of the day: Sally, already very fit, whose confidence in her ability is rocketing - she must have been the youngest competitor? And 'I'll try it Kerry' - from the York Marathon to challenging terrain on the Middleton and Barbon fells. No problem!

...And Nigel Heppell (Team B/Leg 2 - with Kerry Lister)

A last minute drop-out meant a new recruit and a re-jigging of teams, such that I took Kerry out as my partner for Leg 2, which happened to be the longest leg (9 miles apparently). Excellent company, enthusiasm and unflagging good spirits but it was definitely a baptism of fire (or should that be wind and hail? - easily blowing 60mph on the tops - and turbulent too) for Kerry.

Part of our route went half-way down this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-oIkNu9MwA&feature=youtu.be - and then straight back up, all the way into the clouds that were covering Calf Top.

Quoting from the organiser's website: "There is only the one annual race currently touching upon the Middleton and Barbon fells event area; it involves a lung bursting, calf straining, dash to Calf Top from the washtubs in Barbondale and back and has one of the steepest ascents and descents of the Kendal Winter League series. There are sore backsides in store for runners looking to overtake and losing their footing on the run in to the finish."

We did complete our leg successfully albeit taking a bit longer than most, well, ok, all; but at least we got all the checkpoints; 10 teams failed to do that. Heard some rumours that Mountain Rescue were about to be summoned! I had the satisfaction of doing some actual navigation because there was no one else in sight to follow - it's an ill wind ...

...And Kerry Lister (Team B/Leg 2 - with Nigel Heppell)

The story starts on Saturday night, approximately 1030pm, checking my emails I saw a plea from Paul Evans for anyone willing to be a last minute stand-in for the fell racing championships. Ah well I though, better than sitting on the back of a motorbike all day.... off went the email, with 3 caveats - don't be cross at how slow I am, I am very poor at navigation and please can I run with someone else. Hastily packing my little rucksack with the 'essential kit' and laying out my flat momma off to bed for an insanely early Sunday morning.

Next thing I know I'm getting into a car with 3 likely lads (Paul Evans, Nigel Heppell and John Metson) and off to Middleston Fell we go. At this point I really don't know what Ive gotten myself into. Arriving in good time for our team captain to register the 2 teams we have fielded, I being to get a bit worried, lots of racing snake type fell runners, I pop to the portaloo then try to find the Strider tent which Sue and Geoff have erected for the Striders nd NFR teams to share. Me being me, with absolutely no sense of direction (admittedly not ideal for a fell run), it takes me some time to find the tent.

Numbers allocated and pinned on: I'm running Leg 2 with Nigel in team number 73. Mike Bennett was our Leg 1 runner, Flip Owen and Anita Clementson our navigation Leg 3 and John Metson our number 4.

Then it was off to find the Young Farmers' tent for a very reasonably priced bacon bun and coffee (£3!). Nigel and I had a quick recce of the map(ashamedly all I know about maps is the closer together the lines are, the steeper the hill/gradient, and my goodness those lines around checkpoint 4 were very, very, close together!).

Leg 1, ready to go - Mike Bennett and Sally Hughes were looking resplendent in purple as they lined up with the elite fell runners - then they were off! Estimating a return time of around 40 minutes it was off for our kit check.

I had brought everything I needed except whistle and compass, so after our illustrious team captain provided me with a compass and a new whistle was purchased from Pete Bland (my first ever Pete Bland store purchase - I think that makes me a fell runner now!) I went to show my gear to the checkers. She was suitably impressed with my woolly bee hat (complete with antennae) but strangely made no comment on my 'pac-a-mac' cagoule.

After a last, nervous, loo visit, Nigel and I dibbed into the starting pen, to await Mike's return. When he appeared over the hill, his long, loping, stride seemed to devour the ground beneath him, then, with a quick tag of the hand, we were off. Giggling like a girl (well I am one I suppose) it wasn't long before my marathon tired legs and unaccustomed lungs started to protest, Nigel coached me with top fell runner tips as we climbed and climbed and climbed.

And as the pairs passed us (lots of them) the head start Mike had provided us with was soon gone and Paul and Mike Hughes were soon upon us, passing us with a cheery wave, smile and 'well done'. My lungs were bursting by now, my calves were screaming but I was still smiling.

At last checkpoint 1! I'd like to tell you more about the route but to be honest it just seemed like a lot of ups and 'jocks heeds' to use Sue Davis' phrase. Looking forward to the descent to checkpoint 4 we ploughed on, and when it came it looked like a cliff edge - I'd never gone down anything so steep without an abseil rope! I started the very slow creep down Barbondale, giggling maniacally with hysteria and joy, busying my brain with thinking of what I was going to put in this race report.

I managed to make it almost to the checkpoint (in record slow time) before slipping onto my bottom - no damage done. Nigel 'the dibber' did the dibbing and then it was the horror of 'the Ascent'. Now I had seen an alleged quote for Dean Kamazes: 'run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up'.

This was the time to invoke all of these methods of transport: on my hands and knees I became acquainted with much sheep poo, my back felt like it was breaking, my calves felt like they would pop, then the wind came - only about 60 mph (estimated by Nigel) in big 'whooshy' noisy gusts.

I must say I was scared and wondered numerous times why I was doing this but at the same time I felt elated. Wow, what an experience to be here, a running novice competing (well that's maybe a bit strong) in the National Fell Running Championships in an awesome landscape with weather as I had never experienced it.

Up and up we went, Nigel keeping the conversation going, waiting patiently for me and pointing out the way. Then, all of a sudden, we were at the top - well, only a little way to go before the actual 'Calf Top' - a 'Marilyn' as my guide informed me. We were now in the clouds and about to start the descent(I was fully expecting to find ten black toenails and big blisters on my feet when I eventually took my shoes off).

On our way from CP 5 to 6 we came across a team of Congleton girls who had been to CP 6 but couldn't find CP 7. We dubbed them the 'Congleton Panickers' as they were genuinely scared and lost. Nigel sorted them out and pointed them in the right direction (what a gent; I had dabbled with the idea of sending them the wrong way to gain a place 'mwah-ha-ha'!). The lovely 'holder of the dibber' at CP 6 saw us coming and met us a little way up the hill and we were soon off to find CP 7 and 'The Finish', which seemed like it would never come.

Eventually there it was, after 3 hours 40 minutes (yes, you read that correctly) and approx 9 miles covered with an elevation gain of 772 metres, Nigel dibbed his last dib. We had missed the cut-off point (no sh*t Sherlock) and Leg 3 runners had already set off, but we had made it. Nigel looked like he'd had a gentle walk around the park; I was exhausted, elated and emotional.

Arriving back at the Striders tent, it emerged that the organisers had been five minutes away from calling mountain rescue, as we'd taken so long, and no-one had heard from us, even though we'd dibbed at every CP and had been practically followed by the marshalls from CP 6 all the way back (obviously the mobile signal is not the best in this setting - maybe they need radios next time.....).

Two cups of hot, sweet, tea later, Flip and Anita returned from their leg. Flip kindly donated his meal ticket and a beer to me. Happy, dry, fed and watered and sitting at the back of the tent as the weather closed in, we awaited John Metson's return. Then the tent came down and we were off home.

Although we were time last on our leg, we managed (due to Nigel's skill) to get all seven checkpoints dibbed, a feat which ten teams didn't, which means we weren't officially last on our leg! And overall there were six teams below us. Outstanding work I'd say.

So the question is: is this novice a fell runner? The answer: I'd sure like to be! I have never been so scared, astounded by my capability, in awe of the support and kindness of my fellow runners or proud of my achievement as I was on Sunday 19th October 2014.

I urge everyone and anyone to try fell running - maybe pick your first one a bit more carefully - but as Scott Watson said on FB: "maybe the race will choose you!"

...And Anita Clementson (Team B/Leg 3 - with Phil Owen)

It was a mass start at 1315 for Leg 3 runners should your Leg 2 team mates not be back and approximately 20 teams were set off. As this was the navigation route, they were pulling no punches at the nationals with no chance to prepare beforehand and maps were given out a short distance after the race start as you were climbing the first hill.

Phil took charge of the map whilst I did my best to keep up and not lose sight of the runners ahead (very quickly disappearing into the distance). We dodged a few very fast fell runners who were making their descent (this is what it's all about, rubbing shoulders with the best fell runners in the country!).

The terrain was both wonderful and brutal. There was no room for wimps out there on the Middleton Fells. It did feel quite bleak when the winds caught you on the highest points - no-man's land - feeling the elements and feeling alive!

Long before the final descent, the booming voice of 'Mr Commentator' could be heard in the distance (I want some of what he was on). We were disappointed to lose a checkpoint; a simple error and we were too busy looking for the runner ahead (I was no help whatsoever). We ran right near it too looking back on the map.

Thanks to Phil, for being a great teammate (luckily he was happy to take it easy at my pace whilst keeping an eye on an injury) and thanks to Paul for pulling this off - Team Elvet will be back!

18th Gibside Fruit Bowl Trail Race, 19th October

6M (approx)

Laura Gibson

Who was it that suggested doing Gibside Fruitbowl again?!! Laura C says it's nice but there are a couple of hills. The night before the race and I'm sitting debating whether to have a glass of wine and whether it's shorts or crop trousers and just a race vest or T-Shirt. I'm nervous as I haven't run the miles since the GNR. So I have a glass of wine and get my kit ready. Crop trousers and vest it is.

All together: It's Not Flat!

Next thing I know the alarm goes off and I have to clamber over my 3 year old and peel myself out of bed to switch it off before her and the husband wake up. Why oh why do I put myself through this. I feel sick, I need to eat, but I'm excited at the same time. Then I see Laura Chapman's car pull into the street. I give the kids a kiss goodbye and pile myself into the car with Laura C, Natalie J, Joanne T and Tracey S. Luckily the girls kept my mind off the race taking about puppies (As in dogs, Natalie is getting one) and general chitchat.

We arrive in the carpark and get out the car deciding what to take with us and what to the leave in the car. Then the heavens opened. Great!! Just what we need, cause I know Gibside from going with the kids and those lovely hills will be fun when wet!! We run past Dave Robson and Mel who are safely sat in their car keeping dry, then head to the toilets to meet up with lots of other striders. Do I need a wee or don't I. Of course I need a wee.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, Striders up high. Then we all line up at the start. The obligatory race photo is taken. Announcements are made and the claxon goes. 'Oh sh*t' I announce to Kelly and we're off. I'm quite happy trotting along the long walk with my fellow striders then we turn the corner to see the faster runners coming up a lovely grassy hill to the left. Meanwhile, the marshals are shouting at us, 'Don't look' and so we start on up the first hill. I know this one and it's tough walking it. Alister's friendly face and gentle voice greets us at the top! We turn the corner and head downhill to then head DOWN, yes down, a grassy stretch. I'm feeling ok and I'm keeping up with Kelly. I've lost Natalie and Tracey by this point and I'm wondering whether to take it really steady and wait for them to catch up or just keep it steady behind Kelly. I keep it steady mindful of Tracey and Nat behind. They'll be ok, though Tracey is so going to kill us for the hills. We head on up the grassy bit. Kelly says, 'are we going for it'. Well of course we are now you've said that. We get to the top with cheers from the marshals. I have to say the support en route was great.

We're a mile and a bit in and we're ok. Until we reach the next hill. Then there on in it's hills hill hills. We catch up with Laura C and Joanne T and basically stick together the rest of the route, walking the hills until a holler from Alister, 'Kelly Collier get running'. We ran our little socks off and smiled for every camera. I spotted Natalie and Tracey over the other side of a hill so screamed encouragement hoping they were ok and not feeling like giving up like I did. We reached the river banks and I knew what was coming. Kelly had gone off ahead and I was keeping up with Laura and Joanne, just I was shattered. One last muddy climb and we were on the last stretch. My fellow striders, as always, were encouraging and helped get me round. We met up with Kelly again and we're on the home straight. The longest home straight I've ever done. (Except for that last mile at the GNR). We did it together, until the competitive streak took over and we started to sprint. 'Let's hold hands Laura says' Kelly being Kelly says' I'm not holding anyone's hand. We did it!!!. That was the worst race I've ever done!!! The views were beautiful, but it was flippin hilly!!! I'll probably say I loved it tomorrow.

Beaming Striders. We just had time to get our water and flapjack and put on our t-shirts when in came Natalie and Tracey. Awesome!! I'm so proud of Tracey completing that hell. She did amazing. Then we had just got our jumpers on, when in comes a disabled girl Natalie had given up her medal for at Gateshead 10k trail race. The girl was greeted over the finish line by what looked like her partner and collapsed in a heap. We all burst into tears. What an inspiration. It all puts it into perspective. And here's me moaning.

So we head home not before Kelly tries to get me to go to the pub for a bevvie, I was tempted, but I was good and headed home. Banter in the car was all about hills and Tracey announced, 'that was hell on earth.' I must say I'm inclined to agree.

Oh and I forgot to mention the rainbow. That was ace. We doing it next year girls?!!!

A quick costume change before a final photo.

Yorkshire Marathon, York, 12th October

Dave Robson

Neither Melanie nor I was expecting to do well at this event. We only did the Kielder marathon seven days earlier and two weeks before that we had done the very hilly Great Langdale, so the best we hoped for was to be able to get round between 4.30 and 5.00.

I did the event last year and enjoyed it more I expected and recommended it to Melanie. She wanted to do it as she loves York and she studies part-time there. We also knew there were quite a few Striders there, including three who were doing their first marathon. There were also some Striders supporting and it was good to see them around the course.

Flip (supporting) drove us down with Anna (running). There had been fog warnings and they turned out to be accurate. The fog lasted most of the morning and it only burnt off after 1.00. But this was great for running, cool and no wind. We made our way to the baggage area, which last year had been inside and there were long queues. This year there were no queues but it consisted of tents in a car park. It was a bit chilly getting ready as the tents were just for the bags. We moved on quickly to a College bar (the race started and finished at the University of York) to keep warm.

Then off to the pens which like last year weren't crowded and soon we were off with Matt Dawson talking on the PA while high fiving runners. We went through the city centre and past the minister with the bells tolling in the mist. There was lots of support which was great.

On and out of York, through a few small villages and again the vicar in his full white regalia was out high fiving runners and saying bless you. I had thought the first half was flat, but my memory wasn't accurate, it started to undulate a bit at 8m. Melanie and I started a bit quick, but we slowed it down to about 9min 30sec which was still way ahead of what we had planned. But it felt comfortable.

We made it to halfway in 2hr 6min and neither of us thought we could keep that up. The first out and back at Stamford Bridge was fine and we pulled ourselves up to the next one. The second out and back seemed longer than last year and at the turn around point (18m) Melanie started to speed up. I managed to keep running up the drag and out of the out and back and at 20m I saw Melanie about 50 meters ahead. I was happy to get to 20m in 3hr 10min. Sub 4.30 was looking good and even a performance better than last year (4hr 25min) looked a good possibility. Last year I walked a fair amount after 20m, so this year I tried to walk much less and it worked, though I was slowing. When I passed Flip at 25 and half miles, I knew that even sub 4hr 15min might be feasible. This turned out to be a bit too ambitious. I did manage to run the final hill this year and flew down to the finish, but it wasn't quite enough 4hr 15min 20sec. I was very happy with that. Later I worked out it was my 5th fastest marathon/ultra out of 110 I have completed and I haven't run faster since May 2010 at Windermere which was 90 marathons/ultras ago !

Meanwhile Melanie had not slowed at all and speeded up slightly, so in the last six miles she had been closer to 9min 15sec. She came in with 4h 7min, a great negative split and she beat her PB from Vienna by about 13min ! A fantastic run.

This is definitely an event for PBs, quite a few Striders got one. I still prefer off road events, but I still find doing the odd road event fun. It was good to see so many of my clubmates (both Striders and 100 marathoners). The first timers from the Striders, Kerry, Kirsty and Lucy all finished well and Lucy turned in an excellent 3hr 45min performance !

Maybe our preparation hadn't been too bad for this event. Maybe we both would have done better if we had tapered. Who knows ...

Results

PosNameCatTime
1Boniface Kongin(M) OPEN2:14:00
Jonathan Steed(M) 45-493:24:01
Lucy Cowton(F) OPEN3:45:56
Kathryn Sygrove(F) 45-494:03:08
Anna Seeley(F) OPEN4:03:22
Melanie Hudson(F) 35-394:07:58
Paul Beal(M) 50-544:10:23
Dave Robson(M) 60-694:15:20
Brian Ford(M) 45-494:17:56
Kate Macpherson(F) 40-444:19:23
Sarah Fawcett(F) 50-544:26:10
Susan Jennings(F) 45-494:47:15
Kirsty Anderson(F) 35-395:11:56
Kerry Lister(F) 40-445:15:55
Margaret Thompson(F) 60-695:19:21

3685 finishers.

Richmond Castle 10K, 12th October

Karen Hooper

Karen and Gill.So, I booked this race as a birthday present for a good friend of mine who was moaning she hadn’t done much running since Blaydon, her response "what kind of a friend buys you pain for a present!." As it happens she was ill & so another friend stepped into her shoes – Gill only started running a few months ago & her furthest run so far was 7 miles so this was a challenge for her 1st ever race. We set off with a couple of friends in tow as cheerleaders, everyone I’d mentioned this race to had a wry smile & murmured something about hills so I was slightly nervous. I also felt quite underprepared having done little running since GNR, but anyway – a sunny day, child-free with good friends lay ahead. Not many Striders signed up to this one so it was a pleasant surprise to bump into John Hutchinson & Jackie McKenna in the car park (they also mentioned the hills!) Got our race numbers, tried on some trail shoes, sat in the sun & then wandered down to the start in the park next to the river. All the other runners looked a bit professional so I did think this might be the race that I actually did finish last.

We were off – Jon Ayres running past me at the start wishing me luck. I ran with my friend for the 1st mile or so, there were a couple of narrow single file points, then we separated & the hills started. It was hot & there definitely were hills – should’ve had a camera placed at the little bridge at about 7 or 8k to capture the looks on faces as we came down out of the tree-lined road to see a pretty little bridge & a mahoosive steep long hill after it!

My Garmin failed to find a satellite at the start so I didn’t have much idea of my distance or pace. The race was mainly on roads with some traffic so there was a bit of on/off pavements, there were some little loops into the local neighbourhood where it was lovely to see plenty of support from residents & children. The water halfway (at the top of a hill) was very welcome. Richmond is a very beautiful area, lovely streets & walls, tree-lined roads, hills, pretty bridges & views of the Castle & river.

The last push up to the castle up a long hill, on cobbled streets would’ve been hard had it not been for the amazing support – loads of people lined the Market square clapping & shouting which was fab & kept me from walking, the finish was lovely just through the castle gates (thanks to English Heritage) & the memento of running socks was great!

So, not a PB but a fantastic day out – finished a bit beetroot faced thanks to the hot & sunny October weather & headed off to sit outside the restaurant we’d booked in the sunshine to enjoy a nice lunch – bumping into the family Ayres at the same restaurant! My friend Gill was absolutely over the moon that she’d finished her 1st race, in a very respectable time & can’t wait for the next one!

PS. Did I mention there were a couple of undulations on this run?

Matfen Hall 10K, Northumberland, 12th October

Sophie Dennis

5 Striders turned out at Matfen 10k Sophie Dennis, Lindsay Craig, Jean Bradley and Helen and Richard Hall. I didn't think I was going to manage this one because I’m suffering from the flu but painkiller fuelled we set off for Matfen.

As we walked to the village hall to collect our Race Numbers there was a nip in the air and some mist here and there. As we stood at the start line we clapped home the 5k winners then off we went. I had Lindsay running with me both encouraging each other to breathe. The Race was a very hard undulating course, (mustn't have read this when entering the races). The temperature rose, the sun came out and the mist started to clear. We had beautiful surroundings but those hills were a Bugger. Jean came in first followed by Helen and Richard. As I came towards the finish with Lindsay not far in front I had snot coming out my nose and I could hardly breathe, I looked up at the clock and realised Lindsay and I had just done A 10 k PB. Once our noses had been blown and our breath slowly coming back we forgot our goodie bag but that bacon sandwich went down like a treat. Some of us said the Great North Run seemed easier and more Hill training is needed but we all agreed to be back next Year.

Five go Mad at Matfen.

The Wee Toughie

Eyemouth 10K, Coldingham Sands, Berwickshire, 12th October

Colin Blackburn

Before the start.Today I was meant to be running the Aviemore Half. Unfortunately work had other ideas and I had to be in Liverpool by 10am on the Monday, not something I could really do even with a blistering PB. I resigned myself to staying at home and I looked around for an alternative. By the power of social media I came across the Eyemouth 10K, a multi-terrain race that styled itself as The Wee Toughie. It also turned out it was its first running. Eyemouth is about 12 miles from our house so very much on the doorstep with the advantage of being somewhere Elfie and I had yet to explore. The race was organised by Run Eyemouth and the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust. As I'm in an English club I got to pay the extra £2 for not being Scottish but £12 is still not too bad these days.

It turned out that the race started a little way up the coast on a beach - ring any bells? - in the absolutely beautiful little bay just down from Coldingham. And just to add stunning to beauty it was a glorious day. Crisp autumn sunshine making for the perfect conditions, I ditched the second layer. There was a pre-race briefing, outside the Beach Cafe which housed registration, where I got the gist of the route but as I wouldn't be leading and the course was marshalled and marked I thought I'd be okay. As the start time approached the 40-50 runners gathered behind a line in the sand. I moved down to the firmest sand, Coastal Run experience kicking in.

The beach section was a little shorter than at Beadnell! Just a few hundred yards and then we were up some killer steep steps to the cliff-top path. This is a really painful start to a race. The footpath then follows the headland, opening up to some stunning views, round to St Abbs. (St Abbs is a pretty little fishing village but appears to be a made-up Victorian name as there is no St Abb.) Through the village and after a short section of road and some roadside paths it is through a farm and down onto narrow woodland footpaths. Before long we're out onto the grassland around the top of Mire Loch and I assumed back down towards St Abbs.

That would be too easy! A sharp left takes us up a line of telegraph poles on what can only be described to the sassenachs as a fell section. Tussocky-grassy steep, then bare-hillsided steeper. Over the summit the sea views open up again, this coastline is nothing short of spectacular - at times like this I wish I carried a camera. Then it's down some rocky steps before a long tarmacked and tracked section taking us back towards St Abbs from where the race retraces its path along the cliff, down the steps and across the beach to the finish.

Did it live up to its name? Certainly, it was a wee toughie and I was very pleased with 50:50 - though it my have been a wee shortie too. But beyond that it was a very friendly, well-marshalled, well-organised race with stunning views and a bit of terrain to suit everyone. Of course next October it'll be driech but if this race is back then I hope to be too! It's a long way from Durham but I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Before the finish.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Fun in the Sun!

Harrier League, Cramlington, 11th October

Mudman & Mudwoman

The 2014-15 x/c season kicked off to most unseasonal weather on Saturday - warm sunshine & light winds - much to the delight of many and the frustration of a few old diehards (like your x/c captains!) The overall turnout at Cramlington was slightly up on last year although, disappointingly, it was slightly down for Striders' men. Nonetheless there were some great Strider performances and a host of Strider debutants.

Sally looking like a winner. First up was u/20 woman Sally Hughes our own 'parkun Princess' making her x/c debut. After a tentative start Sally powered through the field picking off her rivals to finish in an astonishing 10th place - earning her immediate promotion to the fast pack. Well done Sally!

The Senior / Veteran women were next up and yet another record field of 333 runners lined up for the start including Strider first timers Penny Browell, Lesley Charman, Helen Williams & Steph Piper. Mudwoman. Inspired by their purple vests and the cheers of Strider men and other supporters they all had wonderful runs. Penny was magnificent - thundering round the two lap course to finish 9th overall, first Strider home and going straight into the medium pack for the next league fixture. Lesley too was a team counter, in her first outing, along with Katie W (from the medium pack) and Fiona K-J. Best x/c performances for sometime were put in by Debs and Anna and there was a welcome return to the HL for Louise B after her 'maternity absence'! Well done one & all (20 Strider women in total ran the race) on a fantastic 5th place on the day in Division 1 - what a start!

Eric (who provided these photos) on his first Harrier League. After the women had churned up what little mud there was to be had it was the men's turn. A massive field of 590 runners assembled for the start including 24 Striders. As in the women's race there were a number of debutants including Scott Watson, Danny Lim (where have you been?!), Matthew Archer, Nick Jones, Martin Welsh, Eric Green & Stephen Ellis. They all came through relatively unscathed and appear happy to give it another go!

True Garland Grit. Cheered on by some non running Striders, including the Sage of Shincliffe himself, Rob Everson surged round the three lap course, from the medium pack, to have probably his best ever x/c race and lead the team home. Captain Paul was another counter from the medium pack with James G, Till S (making a welcome return), Gibbo and Matthew C (for the first time) making up the other four counters. The hot weather took its toll on this old-timer but, along with the rest of the team, I was delighted to be out there in the purple vest flying the flag for Striders.

However, the competition this season is going to be fierce and Striders could only manage 9th place (out of 11 teams) in Division 2. Not the best of starts I must admit but looking down the names of the registered runners, who couldn't make it on Saturday, I know we can do much better with an even bigger turnout. So come on the Purple Men - let's see you gather in strength for the rest of the season and really do your club proud - I know you can do it!!

Results

Men
PosNameClubCatTime
1Mark McLeodElswick Harriers M disq.34:52
115Rob Everson M Sen40:55
164James Garland S Sen41:40
188Paul Evans M Sen42:04
198Till Sawala S Sen42:21
208David Gibson S Vet42:29
233Matthew Crow S Sen42:54
240Geoff Davis S Vet43:06
247Jerry Lloyd M Vet43:15
248Graeme Walton S Vet43:15
271Scott Watson S Vet43:40
310Michael Hughes S Vet44:32
312David Brown S Sen44:36
325Mark Payne S Sen44:58
340Dave Halligan S Vet45:16
352Mike Bennett S Vet45:40
362Danny Lim S Sen45:54
421Matthew Archer S Sen47:32
455David Selby S Vet48:41
471Richard Hockin S Vet49:16
495Nick Jones S Sen49:46
504Innes Hodgson S Vet50:04
506Martin Welsh S Vet50:13
557Eric Green S Vet54:49
570Stephen Ellis S Vet57:52

590 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubCatTime
1Rosie SmithDurham City HarriersM Sen26:02
9Penny Browell S Vet28:52
55Katy Walton M Sen31:36
75Fiona Jones S Vet32:00
81Lesley Charman S Vet32:12
91Susan Davis S Vet32:29
111Nicola Whyte S Sen32:54
149Debra Goddard S Vet33:48
159Juliet Percival M Vet34:06
160Rachael Bullock M Sen34:08
167Camilla Lauren-Maatta S Vet34:14
183Sarah Davies S Vet34:44
184Helen Williams S Vet34:46
187Anna Seeley S Sen34:50
214Stephanie Piper S Sen35:37
224Jean Bradley S Vet35:54
276Jan Young S Vet39:06
283Louise Barrow S Sen39:32
301Louise Billcliffe S Vet41:16
309Debbie Mcfarland S Sen41:49
330Anita Dunseith S Sen47:19

333 finishers.

U17 & U20 Girls
PosNameClubCatTime
1Zoe MacDonaldNewcastle UniversityS U2020:21
10Sally Hughes S U2022:27

30 finishers.

All Creatures Great and Small

Saltergate Levisham Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 5th October

BM/17 km/430 m

Anita Clementson

Anita & Camilla at Saltergate Levisham 2014Only two Striders represented the club at the second race in the Northern Runner Winter Series organised by the fantastic Esk Valley Fell Club. I hadn't done this race before and was encouraged to make the extra-long journey after reading Shaun's report from a few years ago (always an excellent source of info is our Striders website).[We aim to please. Ed..

We were at the south end of the Yorkshire Moors for this event in the hamlet of Levisham (nr Pickering). Camilla and myself arrived at the delightful village and parked on the green near the village hall (race HQ). I just love these small low-key races; no fuss, no frills but a great day's running guaranteed and you get to meet some lovely folk! Entry on the day for £7 and a chance to admire the lovely home-made cakes and soups on offer - enough to encourage one to try just that bit harder to make good time back before all the grub has gone!

Camilla at Saltergate Levisham 2014Anyway onto details of the race. Dave, the race organiser, gathers us all together at the head of the green (approximately 70 runners from a quick headcount) and shouts out some details, with most of them sounding quite alarming, i.e. mention of highland cattle with calves, and navigation that sounds quite difficult to follow, before closing with the comment 'but don't worry about that'.

A fast start, up a gradual incline and I make the mistake of trying to keep up with Camilla but after about the first half-mile I give up as my stomach comes up to say hello. Mile 1 and it's 'the highland cattle' - coming down a hill you can see them in the distance dominating the path! My heart rate goes even faster! I'm not a big fan of cattle and have had some unfortunate encounters when running in isolated places. As I get closer their horns seem to get bigger! 'Oh bloody hell!' I just run as fast as I can to swerve past the one standing right in the path, staring runners in the eye… Well, I'm still here to tell the tale!

Anita at Saltergate Levisham 2014After that 'excitement' the rest of the race was a delightful mixture of trail and fell, quite a lot of steps ('Angel Staircase' being one particular flight) and a circumnavigation of the 'Hole of Horcum'. The visibility was ideal to admire the rolling countryside - 'God's country' - as were the weather conditions.

Following some other runners, I ended up taking a wrong turn but was rounded up by the back marshal eventually! So I ended up at the back, but did manage to pick a few off at the end which was a lovely long stretch for the last 2.5 miles.

Camilla had a good race and even had an encounter with an adder! We took advantage of the cakes and applauded the endless recipients of wine for the various category winners. This race can be highly recommended and is suitable for runners of all abilities, who have a passion for the great outdoors and are up for a bit of adventure in their running.

October Odyssey, Hamsterley Forest, 5th October

Short Brown - 7.7km - 17 controls

Scott Watson

Scott & Dougie before the offThis was the second day of a two day event hosted by Northern Navigators in Hamsterley Forest, County Durham. Although I was disappointed at having had to miss the first day, it was the second day's event, to be held over the moorland area of Cabin Hill, Doctor's Gate and Gull Quarry, that would have been my preferred option anyway - a glorious day on the fells with map and compass with only the sky for cover as opposed to charging through thick undergrowth where the light is so poor that without specs map detail disappears in a blur.

The thing I particularly like about orienteering events is that they are so relaxed. For one thing there are few absolute deadlines to stick to; instead there's a registration window of a couple of hours with starts about half and hour afterwards lasting for another couple of hours. I also find it slightly weird that although there might be lots of people entered, you could end up seeing very few of them and maybe even feeling that you're doing it on your own. You rock up any time after registration has opened and off you go (although to be reasonably sure of a map for your chosen course you might not want to leave it too late).

Whilst I've done a few events over the years there's always been enough time between them for me to have pretty much forgotten the procedure - and it's a procedure not for the easily dissuaded. In the 90s, when I was orienteering as training for mountain marathons, it was all punched cards but now the dibber is king and I confess that I still find the starting sequence slightly intimidating. 'You'll need to clear your card at the first station - there's nothing after that' I was constantly and mysteriously being told.

My technique in these situations is always to deal with one thing at a time and ditch any pre-conceived ideas so I decided to discard all advice relating to scenarios after the card-clearing one and I'd take it from there. Fortune however smiled on me when on returning from registration £13 poorer, I found that Mr (Dougie) Nisbet was parked right next door! Not only was this my passport to starting success but I'd have someone to photograph!

After Dougie had made his own pilgrimage to registration we set off on the long walk to the start where we diligently cleared our cards and dumped our extra clothing in an unsheltered area marked off for that purpose (a waterproof bag might be an idea next time although it wasn't needed on this occasion). From there it was another hike along the path then up the stony track known to many County Durham fell runners as the 'Doctor's Gate' track. At long last we were onto the fell and approaching the actual start. Here Dougie kindly sought out and handed me my control description for the 'short brown' course.

Nigel from Northern Navigators was setting us off and his young daughter Maya (an orienteering 'wunderkind') took the pic of Dougie and I before Dougie stepped into the box to be counted down (with a proper clock and everything). He was doing the full 'brown' course which was another 1.5 km longer than the 7.7 km that I was signed up for (to be fair I'd have done a longer one myself but the only M50 course I could see was the 'short brown' - but apparently it doesn't really matter). Off went Dougie who selected his map from the row laid out in front and disappeared up the path.

I had to wait though, as the two competitors who had left immediately before Dougie were doing the same course as me and so I was held back for a couple of minutes to ensure complete independence. Eventually the buzzer went and I was away. I quickly found my map and striding up the track, began to get myself orientated.

Dougie out on the course in the October Odyssey 2014

I might have forgotten just about everything else but my navigation skills thankfully remain intact. Getting that first sight of the map, orientating it and being able to pick out the appropriate features is always a real buzz. If it's claggy (misty) it's an even bigger buzz as you're just trusting to that plastic thing in your hand (or on your thumb) and everyone knows that you shouldn't reasonably be able to find your way in those sorts of conditions anyhow.

Today however, the weather and visibility were fantastic: the 7 degrees that had been showing in the car earlier in the morning had long been surpassed and by now it was quite warm - possibly even too warm. But temperature was the last thing on my mind as I stepped off the track and loped off uphill through the heather (always driving with my right leg for some reason) heading for the first of 17 controls.

As I write I'm fighting a raging desire to detail every single control visited and decision taken but mercifully I won't. Suffice to say that, as always, the event was completely absorbing, with every control offering its own mini-challenge and running being merely the means of propulsion. It was so absorbing that it was quite late in the race when I realised how tired I was (the course was almost all heather - a foot high in most places and even deeper in others, often concealing sandstone boulders particularly around the quarry sites). By the time I'd finished, my legs were knackered although I still felt fine in the old cardio-vascular department.

When I did eventually finish I downloaded my dibber (another 'must not forget' procedure) and found that it had taken me a fulsome 2 hours and 4 seconds but the fastest competitor had been through in 66.56! Perhaps I shouldn't have been too disappointed with myself but despite the fact that I'd achieved almost all of my controls well inside single figures, crucially it had taken me sixteen minutes to find the second control and over twenty to find the last! I put this down partly to the control descriptions which unlike those for mountain marathons are more or less hieroglyphics and until you learn 'em you've no idea what the feature is that you're actually looking for!

But that last control was a nightmare! The only positives to come out of it were that as I sensed all my previous hard work slipping away I didn't actually burst into tears! And that when the little devil on my shoulder was telling me to 'leave it', that some miscreant must have stolen it, I didn't give in and seek solace in excuses at the finish only 150 metres away but diligently continued to search. The relief when I found the thing was almost overwhelming.

To be honest I was never going to be competitive anyway as indeed I wasn't (I was second last of 17 competitors on day 2) but it's nice to get the opportunity to put the skills into practice and I might have improved my position a fair bit if I'd not let myself down so close to the finish (or stopped to take photographs). Far too many of the competitors buzzing about the moor looked very slick - coming in from all directions, a quick dib and away whereas I can't help a little inward celebration every time I find a control.

You really are in a world of your own when you're orienteering; you can never tell (well at least I can't) who else might be in your class and it does you no good to try. I did come across Dougie fairly early on, looking very composed but almost certainly engaged in battle with his own 'demons of doubt'. After that our paths never crossed again. All I can say with certainty regarding his whereabouts was that only two garments remained in the 'clothing area' after I retrieved mine, one of which belonged to Dougie.

I can't think of another event in which I'd be quite pleased with 7.7 km in 2 hours but despite my drop-offs the rest of the event was immensely satisfying. The read-out from the download is brilliant to analyse and lots of lessons can be learned - physically, technically and psychologically. I'd be surprised if I ever did this with a proper 'race-face' on but who knows? Organisation was excellent, everyone was very helpful to those of us who were trying our best to wreck their procedures and it was great to do an event like this that for once doesn't involve miles of travelling.

Kielder Marathon, 5th October

Barbara Dick

Waiting somewhat nervously in the Duke of Welly car park at 7am, it turned out that the most danger to my heart rate that day was Sue Jennings' Formula One-style driving over the frost-tipped tops of Tow Law. Sue and Andrew Thompson chatted about their previous marathon experiences in the car; Sue is doing the 100 marathon challenge and has a few ultras under her belt; Andrew is also a seasoned marathon runner, but this was my first attempt at the distance. I had put in the training, albeit rather haphazardly, and managed the longer runs at 15, 18 and 20 miles, but would it be enough? The idea had first taken root during Greta and Sue's winter Sunday morning group runs of a couple of years ago - if I could manage a gentle jog/run from Broompark to Lanchester and back, could I possibly run the full 26.2 miles? Further encouraged by Anita Clementson telling me that she had run Kielder as her first marathon, I decided to make it my autumn goal.

Now in its fifth year, Kielder is billed as 'Britain's most beautiful marathon', and it was easy to see why upon our arrival at Leaplish Waterside Park, even with the lake still shrouded in white mist. The volunteers in the tents by the lakeside offered a wonderful array of home-made cakes and coffee, and we had a quick chat with some of the other Striders before being herded into our pens for a 10.15 start.

The first half was pleasant, and I was glad I had put in some hill training, as the trail zig-zagged up and down through the forest, the lake almost always visible on our right. The course is described as 'undulating', and this is a fair assessment - you go up a lot, but there are also frequent corresponding downward stretches. Susan Davis darted past me early on; I didn't see her again for the rest of the race! I managed the first half in 2:15 but after that everything fell apart a bit as my legs just couldn't keep up the pace.

I was greatly heartened to see Mel and Dave, and the majority of the other runners, walking up the hill past the half-way point, and found that long strides up a hill can be just as efficient as determined head-down trudge-jogging on tiptoes. (I couldn't help recalling the old men at the bottom of the big hill at Prudhoe Harrier League, waving their walking sticks at us and shouting "Ee, any bugger can run downhill! But can tha' run oop the hill?")

At the half-way point gels as well as water were on offer; sitting around the table at the start with other Striders, we agreed that, although the race was well organised with portaloos at the many water stations, now was not the time to premiere a gel. Instead, I stuck to my trusted regime of one Haribo Fizzy Sea World per mile.

There was a stretch at about mile 16 where you go in and out of a long inlet before heading downwards towards the dam to the south and the 18 mile mark. Naively, I thought that 18 miles was 'nearly finished'. How very wrong. The trail path wound steadily upwards from here with the odd dip, and I began to see more people walking after this point. At about mile 21 or 22, you look up and see a line of runners ahead ascending another steep hill on the next promontory and think 'You have got to be joking', along with some words that cannot be printed in a family newspaper such as the Striders Race Reports. At this point, the usual mind tricks of the long-distance runner come into play - just a bit further than a parkrun, a couple of circuits of Houghall woods, no more than your usual short training run - while basically willing the next yellow mile sign to come into view.

By this stage, the sun was out again and it was getting quite warm. There wasn't much left to give by mile 25, and I was gibbering with relief upon hearing the finish line loudspeaker. Feeling teary and sweary, I made a last effort at the end, turning to find Jacquie and Katherine finishing at almost the same time. After staggering down the bank to get my medal and another cake from the superb assortment on offer, I found a little group of Striders, where Jacquie and I had a very welcome impromptu massage from Steph for our hurting legs. Our early finishers achieved amazing times, especially considering the elevation of the course.

Without prior experience of the full distance, and what with all the hills, I found it very tough physically, and 48 hours later am still going down stairs like a crab. It was what I expected though; a marathon is supposed to test you in all kinds of ways, and it did. With 644 finishers, you could always see someone in front, but there was plenty of space too after the initial phase, so you never felt crowded.

Kielder is a spectacular place to run, with its fairy-tale pinewoods, roots and rocks covered in emerald green moss and quirky art installations. It was also very refreshing and relaxing during the run to hear the waves splashing on the shore, and the wind in the trees. Overall recommended, provided no skimping on training (except for the regulars and ultra-heads for whom a tough, hilly marathon is basically another training session), and mentally bookmarked as a picnic / gentle trail walking venue for another day, minus the suffering.

Results

PosName Club CatTime
1 Ceri Rees Wild Running M 2:39:43
34 Myra Jones Valley Striders F 3:17:58
53 Elaine Bisson F 3:32:30
265 Megan Bell F 4:13:10
275 Susan Davis FV40 4:15:38
300 Alister Robson MV40 4:21:02
400 Melanie Hudson F 4:36:10
413 Dave Robson MV60 4:39:10
530 Angela Robson FV40 5:03:29
553 Barbara Dick FV40 5:10:52
554 Jacquie Robson F 5:10:06
555 Katherine Preston FV40 5:10:06
585 Andrew Thompson M 5:17:37
592 Paul Fairburn MV40 5:21:23
593 Sue Jennings FV40 5:21:44

644 finishers.

Hellhole 10K, Stanley, 5th October

Penny Browell

I was in two minds as to whether I wanted to do the Hellhole 10k right up till Sunday morning. I had been planning a longer run but I do love a hilly 10k (in a masochistic kind of way) and I’d heard good things about this one. When I realised there was also a fun run for the kids and we woke up to a nice crisp morning I decided to drag the family over to Stanley to give it a go.

Young Strider in action ...

When we got there it was all very well organised and the kids were delighted to get their own race numbers and to hear there were goody bags if they managed the whole mile! We wondered over to the start where I met a couple of friends who also had kids running and we were soon off. The mile run was an out and back along a fairly easy footpath. My husband went ahead with my oldest two whilst I set off with my 4 year old. Almost immediately we were at the back and we spent the entire mile there. I did feel a little sorry for the sweeper who had to endure some fairly repetitive conversation about how far we had to go and the fact Becky was going to get a goody bag at the end but we finally made it back to the finishing line in about 15 minutes (not my finest time for a mile..). All three of my kids were over the moon with their race and medals and for me it was lovely to see them enjoying running as much as I do.

Slightly less young Strider in action ...

Anyway on to the main event. Because we’d been slow on the fun run I only had about 10 minutes to go till the start. I spotted a couple of other Striders and lined up with Conrad, Michael and about another 140 runners. The start of the race is a bit of a bottleneck so we couldn’t get going but once you’re out on the footpath it soon spreads out starting with a little uphill but then gradually going down. The first half is definitely the easy half. I think I clocked a PB at the 5k point but just after 3 miles we turned off into the woods where it got a bit trickier. Great fun weaving around the paths and in and out of the mud though and the Derwentside Athletic Club had done a great job painting the awkward roots and rocks to avoid accidents. My pace definitely slowed down but that was the highlight of the course. After a couple of miles we were back on the footpath for a climb back to the finishing line. The finish on the field was great and I think I just about managed a sprint finish but my legs were certainly ready to stop.

All in all it was a tough but great race and a fantastic morning out with the family. I always really appreciate races which have mini-events for kids to make it more inclusive and this one worked well on every level – good parking, good facilities, great organisation and marshals and a varied and fun course. Hope to be back next year when Becky and I can aim for slightly better than last in the fun run!