Race Reports, September 2014

Ikano Robin Hood Marathon, Nottingham, 28th September

Stephen Jackson

I decided I wanted to run a marathon having completed the Great North Run in a decent time in 2013. I was slowly but surely getting into running and it seemed like the obvious progression; I suppose a bucket list type box to tick.

I was aware that the Robin Hood Marathon was about a month after the GNR and heard that it was flat so I decided to sign up - once I'd done that there'd be no turning back! That was before I joined the Striders and before I really started putting in the mileage and training hard.

I'd always anticipated just completing the iconic distance would be an achievement in itself. However, running has re-ignited my competitive nature. I ran my first parkrun in 2012 (about three stone heavier) which took me just over 32 minutes to complete, and before I knew it anything other than a sub 3 hour performance was to be deemed as failure (only by me, I must add). This was, of course, a rather ambitious target for a first marathon but encouraging PBs throughout the year had led me to believe it was possible.

The app I'd used on my phone for my first ever parkrun had measured my splits in kilometres (seemed logical for a 5k run), and I'd subsequently programmed my Garmin to do the same. That's why I still get a tad confused when people talk to me in min/mile speak. I know that a 4min/km is 20 minute parkrun pace and have always just worked up or down from there as a benchmark. I knew 4:16 km splits would bring me home at the three hour mark - if I had the legs.

Before the off...

My Great North Run time meant that a sub 3 marathon was certainly possible if, and it's a big IF, I'd trained for the distance. This was where I had a niggling doubt as I'd only actually done one 20 mile training run, one 18 miles and a few around the 12-15 mile mark.

The race morning was great, I'd bumped into Alister, Jacqui and Rachel for a group photo and words of encouragement. The river-side location of the start was quite picturesque and the sun was shining. Having travelled to Nottingham the night before I'd made it to the race village with plenty of time to spare and managed to time things nicely with regards to fluid, nutrition and last minute toilet stops.

I snuck into the first pen which seemed to contain mainly club runners - I justified this to myself as I thought my race time had been a bit conservative when I'd entered. After a quick warm-up the gun fired and I found myself hurtling off towards Nottingham Centre with a group of various club runners - almost all of whom, it would later emerge, were running the half marathon distance. This was where I really had to be careful with my race strategy, "dinnit gan off too fast" Alister had said to me just before the start - echoing Allan's advice from the track sessions. However, I always knew my plan was to start of quick, not quite half marathon pace, but quicker than 4:16 per km and hope to 'bank' the time for a slump around 20 miles. I certainly don't profess to be an Athletics coach, and many would tell you that's not a shrewd plan, but I always knew that's how it would pan out.

The weather was warm as the sun was out but there was little to no wind and the course was flat and fast as described. I felt comfortable as the half-marathon runners forked right on 11 miles and the marathon runners were funnelled along the river and out towards Colwick Country Park.

This was where it got a bit lonely; I didn't pass another runner for about three miles, when I went past the eventual ladies winner. I reached the half way stage in 22nd position and thought to myself it would be nice to finish in the top 20 but at that point there was no one in site ahead of me.

The route took in both football grounds, Trent Bridge, the race course, Nottingham Castle and vast swathes of beautiful country park. I was pleased with my pace and slowly but surely passed a few people during the second half.

I knew my splits were looking good when 'it' finally hit me on mile 21 - 'it' being the much spoken of 'wall' I was to expect during my marathon effort. My legs were heavy, very heavy, and I could feel myself slowing up. I needed to use a mental strategy; just get myself to 37km and I 'only' had a parkrun left. Only?!

The last five miles were by far the hardest I've ever found running, but I knew I just had to keep moving and a sub 3 hour marathon was mine.

As I made my way along the river side I again crossed paths with the half marathon runners although I now had a lane to myself. I've always prided myself on having a strong finish, but I felt like I had nothing left to give. Then I heard Jacqui Robson's booming voice; "come on Stephen Jackson" - this was the last bit of encouragement I needed as the finish line was in site. 02.50:23 (gun time 02.51:00) - the pain all of a sudden faded into insignificance and the feeling was amazing.

It was really great to see Rachel Terry as we crossed paths going in opposite directions who managed a cracking time of 03.30:07 - I'd been on a training run with Rachel and knew she was a strong endurance runner.

Alister and Jacqui seemed pleased with their achievements, if not ecstatic, with those two there will no doubt be another run within the week. Jacqui told me she was taking one for the team and allowing Alister to replace lost carbs (in the form of beer) before the drive back to Nottingham.

Never again, I thought, as I noticed there was a reduced price offer for the Greater Manchester Marathon in April 2015. Sub 02.45:00? Now there's a thought.

Loch Ness Marathon, 28th September

Dougie Nisbet

Nessie.Not since London have I trained so seriously and systematically for a marathon. The training had gone well and I was reasonably confident of finally getting a sub-4 and being able to stop doing marathons.

And so into the taper, and just the small matter of a few old favourites that I would slip in as, I told myself, 'part of the taper'. GNR, well it was a half-marathon and I needed to do that distance a few weeks before the marathon anyway, and then the LDMT, that was all hills and an endurance slog, so that didn't count, and perhaps just a cheeky little fell race the week before. I'm sure it'd be fine. What could possibly go wrong?

Through the half-way point of my 5th Loch Ness Marathon in around 2:01, pretty much on race target and on schedule for a negative split. Still feeling fine. This was looking good and I was confident that this was going to be sub-4 day.

There may be trouble ahead.Hello Wall. I've been expecting you. In the Loch Ness Marathon they quite conveniently provide a physical as well as metaphorical wall for you around the 19th mile. It's not a particular big hill, but it's not really what you want to see around this stage of the race. The wheels on the bus stopped going round and round and I knew with certainty that the game was no longer afoot. Rather than hit the wall head-on I sidled up to it gently, put an arm around its shoulders and said, "Look, I'm sure we can sort out a deal here. What if I accept the race is blown and just concentrate on getting to the finish in as little pain as possible?". I think the reply was along the lines of "Whatever". I took my foot of the pedal, stopped running and started jogging.

Same time next year.It was still pretty tough but it could've been far worse. My tactical defeat saw me shuffle over the finish line in 4:21, (remembering not to 'Garmin' the finishing photo Alister!), almost exactly the same time to the second as two years earlier, where, co-indidentally, I'd done the LDMT and GNR and a fell race or two during the taper too. This year the lesson has been well and truly learnt though. I lost 20 minutes in the second half of the race due to running out of energy. All that careful marathon training down the drain. Don't waste the training. Respect the taper.

Haltwhistle Half Marathon, 28th September

Gareth Pritchard

The new 'Haltwhistle Half' will be part of our Striders GP as of next year so as one of the striders at the event I will step forward with a small collection of my thoughts.

I always scan reports for mentions of good performances - Matthew Archer @ 1:27 was a great run, Jean winning her age group, and it was nice to see Anna running well as she struggles with injury. And a special mention to fellow striders battling problems but still running. Also, doing her second 'half' ever, was my much better half, Kathleen, who did fantastic again, a real inspiration and credit to our club.

Elvet Striders at the Haltwhistle Half Marathon 2014

This was always going to be my race sharpener before the York marathon. Advertised as a flat/fast half, it seemed ideal. I had already done the GNR and almost signed up to Redcar, as all were on about the same time. But with this being in a great location, local, flat and with a small field - ideal for first timers - I decided to enter with my partner.

Training was going great and then I heard that you had to walk a section, being disqualified if you didn't. I innocently emailed the organiser about the issue, to confirm details, but got quite a short, blunt reply. I have to wonder how long they knew about this and was amazed when he said the walking section was actually quicker, as normally you go up and down the steep steps. I also did not appreciate being singled out by the organiser in front of fellow striders for having the cheek to even ask about it.

Now I have run lots of races for fun, experience, a good day out etc. but all I ask is to be honest with the race description and the race will still draw massive support. Rant over and onto useful information for next year's runners.

Great location Haltwhistle, on good tracks and well organised on the day. It was great seeing the open green areas while plodding over the bridges on the way. I would not describe it as flat - the first half is a slow steady climb where you only realise how bad it is when you come back along the same route. There was free parking, a nice Haltwhistle mug and friendly helpers with sweets on the course.

As fate would have it I was injured badly before and during this race/walk, finishing 2nd from last (should never have even run it thinking back). I had to walk the last 4 miles and for most of the race. Call it karma or whatever, but it was a new experience for me, walking over the finish line - something I hope never to experience again. Still, at least I did not DNF and got a nice mug to go home with.

I would still recommend this race to everyone, but on a personal level I will be doing one of the other 2 half's next year.

Grand Prix Race. King/Queen of the Mountain Race.

Simonside Fell Race, Thropton Show, 20th September

6.4M 1200' Cat BM

Nigel Heppell

For me the first part of this race was just getting to the start line on time. What should have been an easy journey turned to a frustrating dash after joining stationary traffic on the A1, diverting along the backroads of Gateshead towards Newcastle only to see traffic queuing to cross the Redheugh bridge to St James', leaving no option but to push a way through the throngs of happy shoppers winding their way through Dunston to the Metrocentre. One whole hour for the first 9 miles - I could have run there just as fast, well, once upon a time, maybe. Fortunately not much on the roads beyond Newcastle so managed to arrive in Thropton, park, change, pay entry, register for race with about 5 minutes to spare. Joining Mike B, Susan & Geof(NFR) and Sally H, I was wearing the last-registered number when we started.

Safety briefing highlighted the potential hazards of wading through the river, running through recently felled forestry, along with scambling up and down crags, and included the words 'what do you expect, it is a fell race you've entered'. Nice steady start along road out of village, down along streamside then a refreshing paddle across River Coquet before another level stretch of field gradually rising to uphill lane, double bend through farm buildings and onto steeper pasture land before entering woods where aforementioned forestry vehicles had churned up the surface.

Mike B had long since disappeared ahead and Susan passed me on the climb. I noticed Sally having to hold herself back to keep Geoff company a little way behind. Not so much of a scramble up the rocks to Simonside as steps have been constructed since I last ran here in 2008 but the descent from the ridge seemed trickier and I left a bit of shin skin on a boulder up there as a memento. Downhill through the heather and then the woods is always the most enjoyable part of this race for me and from time to time I do get to overtake a few other runners too, then the pressure is on to maintain the advantage down the lane and across the open ground back towards the river. A quick glance back saw the red-shirted runner I overtook falling further back, but what was that purple vest coming into sight?

I'm gratified to be able to say I had been ahead of our club captain for 6miles of the 7mile race - but only because Jan and Paul suffered transport problems that gifted the rest of us a 10min head start! Paul flew past and continued to draw out a considerable lead in the last stage of the race through a field of long grass, a short stretch of road and an impressively large finishing funnel. I thought about giving chase but after a few paces filed that idea in the folder marked 'futile'.

Striders were in the (bottled) prizes today with, in no particular order, 1st in age group wins for Susan, Sally (non-alcoholic), Jan, and Mike B.

Next year, 2015, is the 100th anniversary of the Thropton show, a date to remember for anyone planning that far ahead. After serious critical appraisal of the exhibits Mike and I reckon we could clean up in the drop scone, sponge cake, and jam making categories; with a bit more training we could improve our placings in the fellrace and would then be suitably warmed up to do alright in the Cumberland wrestling. We might have to enlist help from Angela for the funniest-shaped vegetable though.

Results

PosName Club CatPosTime
1 John Butters NFR M 51.48
12 Karen Robertson NFR F 56.14
25 Mike Bennett M 59.04
?? Paul Evans M ??.??
42 Nigel Heppell M 66.41
45 Susan Davis F 68.28
52 Geoff Davis M 70.34
53 Sally Hughes F 70.34
?? Jan Young F ??.??

74+2 finishers.

Northern Athletics Men’s Road Relays, Warrington, 20th September

6x6,000M

Gareth Pritchard

Two things hit me when I turned up for this event, first was how similar it looked to a harrier league event. Over 100 northern running clubs with tents set up on the grass and flying their flags with pride for all to see. Second was what a shame only 4 lone striders were here to experience it as really exceeded all my expectations.

First leg was Rob Everson posting a respectable time for a fast lad of 22:48 and leading the team well. Considering the first leg was won in 18:07, you can see the competition was extremely high. Rob is still fighting off a ongoing cold that's derailed his training massively, so this was a great effort and showed true dedication which bodes well for what is going to be an impressive HL season for rob I'm sure.

Second leg was me 😄 posting a 21:40 which I'm happy with, raced a young lad round the 6k and out kicked him in the end 😄 very enjoyable. Tainted a bit when ex strider Adam pointed out the bloke runs a easy sub 17min parkrun and just coming back from injury. But great banter on the way round and all smiles at the end. Really made my race.

Third leg was Simon Gardner posting 23:38 and gaining another 2 places for the strider team on another impressive leg. Showing great form of late and knocking out PB's for fun. Really gave 100% and posted a last mile split which would have seen him pulling away from me. Great stuff.

Forth and unfortunately our last leg was Matthew crow posting another quick time 23:48 and keeping our team in a respectable overall position. Mathew is another up and coming strider who seems to be getting quicker all the time. Fantastic commitment shown on his leg, that sub 40min 10k will fall in no time I'm sure. Well done.

If we had a full team We would have finished about 70 to 75th in a massively talented field of over 110 teams. A great effort and we can all hold our heads up as a club. I'm sure many local clubs will have taken note of our efforts and was nice seeing others doing well too.

I will Finnish this off with an early call for both Male and Female striders to keep an eye out for this event next year. The club will hopefully help promote this early when we get the dates through. This really is an event suitable for most striders and would be fantastic to get a few teams together next year and show everyone what a talented and friendly club we striders are.

Great Langdale Marathon, Lakes, 20th September

26.2m

Dave Robson

This was an event I have always wanted to do, but for various reasons the timing has never quite worked out. The event website has the following on its front page "And Englishmen (and women) now a'bed will think themselves cursed that they did not run with us on that day - Henry V and Rocket Rod" on a background of the lovely Langdale valley. It was also billed at the UK's toughest road marathon. They know how to sell an event ! Jane Ives had run this a couple of years ago and had also recommended it (see link at the bottom)

The only way is up ...

It was a fairly low key event, almost all on road - there was a about a mile on a very smooth track. There was a half marathon as well, which was one lap and the marathon was two laps. It was up and down almost all of the way. The one exception was the first mile which lulled you into a false sense of security. It was flat, but then you turned up the very steep climb to Blea Tarn. This was followed by a lovely descent into Little Langdale and a climb out and past the start and finish of the fell race that Danny and Mike were doing. More climbs and descents before we reached Skelworth Bridge and a very steep 25% climb out of there. Then an undulating run back to the start/finish where many people finished.

I wasn't doing too badly at this point, but I realised I hadn't put enough vaseline on my nipples, so I looked around for a first aider, but I couldn't see anybody, so we carried on. It was much quieter on the second lap. The roads were open but the traffic wasn't too bad. Mel and Dave. We had met a few friends from fetcheveryone at the start and one of them said that the second lap will feel shorter than the first and that this was true even when you have done the race more than once. I was hopeful this was correct, but didn't really believe it. But that is the way it worked out. We ran past the fell race presentations and got to about 18m when I felt I was tiring. I knew I was well within the 5hr 30min cut off and Melanie went on ahead to finish with two laps equal in time which was very impressive.

I bimbled along, walking all the inclines and running everything else. I got to Skelworth Bridge to find they were giving out Galaxy chocolate bars at the checkpoint (checkpoints up to here had been water and haribo). I took half a bar gratefully and as I climbed up that massive hill again, I came up with a novel and not really recommended solution to my sore nipple issue. I melted the chocolate in my mouth and then applied it. It worked !

I finally arrived at the finish where the event was winding down, collected my medal and lovely little shoe momento. I also collected a bottle of wine, all over 60s finishing the marathon got one,a lovely gesture and one which I hope will be copied by all events in future ...

Dale Head, Rosthwaite, 20th September

4.5M 2215' AS

Dougie Nisbet

Join the queue.We crossed over the M6 and continued west to Keswick. It was around this point I realised that my Walshes were not sitting on the back seat but were in fact sitting next to the back door back in Durham where I'd cleverly placed them so that I couldn't possibly forget them when we left the house. A quick detour via George Fisher was required, where I said I wanted a pair of Fell Shoes, size 43, and I needed to walk out the door in them in 10 minutes. This was becoming a habit. I tried on a nice pair of yellow La Sportiva Bushidos that felt just fine so I kept them on and made my way to the counter. "That'll be £110 please", she said nicely. My jaw clanged on the counter. This was about twice as much as I've ever paid for a running shoe. But they were a very nice yellow colour and I didn't have any time to spare so I handed over the dosh.

The Borrowdale Show has had several years of bad luck with the weather and this entirely volunteer run event was now financially threatened. Roberta had signed us up for a couple of tickets earlier in the year via the Indiegogo website. This scheme along with some sponsorship appears to have saved the show and this year the weather was looking fantastic. As it turned out we had bags of time and I was standing staring absent mindedly at some carved sticks when the announcement came over the PA: "Would anyone wishing to enter the Fell Race please make their way to the cattle truck."

Ah, fell racing! I'd missed this. It was good to be back! It's not a proper race unless you're filling in an FRA entry form in the back of a cattle truck. I found myself at the front of a queue of 1 and was given my number which was, oh excellent, 1! I've never been number 1 before. No pressure then. I had a look at the race details and noted it was an AS. Roberta noticing the worried frown that passed across my otherwise tranquil features asked, "What does AS mean?". "Er, well basically, short and brutal. Usually.". I paid some closer attention to where the race actually went and noticed that it marched right up to the top of the hill, the hill being Dale Head, then marched right down again. This wasn't looking such a clever idea the week before the Loch Ness marathon.

Surrounded by Borrowdale vests ... no wonder I'm looking nervous.

The race briefing had an unusual twist that I hadn't come across before. To check everyone who had registered was actually starting we all had to shout out our numbers in sequence. No. 26 having registered mere minutes earlier, must've decided not to bother, possibly having noted the lithe mass of sinew that was assembled for the race. I was having serious doubts myself - there were no tourists here. This was a serious bunch.

What's to say about the race itself, apart from it was slate-shatteringly hard. It was hot and I struggled, feeling drained, weak and puzzled, much as I felt in last week's LDMT. I should've been feeling fantastic as I approached the end of my marathon taper but I felt terrible. I stopped for a good drink both ways at the Dalehead Tarn beck (the 'water stop' in the Anniversary Waltz) and with some great encouragement from the marshalls managed to get round.

The weather was so warm that there was no need to fumble for post-race jerseys or shelter. I got a cup of tea and found a quiet patch of grass and we just sat quietly for a while soaking up the atmosphere of the show. It was a brutal little race and I should've treated it with far more respect than I did. I guess if you want to race well in a race that involves running up hills, then you need to train by running up hills rather than along railway lines. Clearly just buying expensive shoes and wearing the number 1 wasn't going to cut the mustard.

Ascent of Dale Head.

Three Shire Fell Race, Lakes, 15th September

AL 13m/4000'

Danny Lim

"T'isn't a fell race till you've got sheep's turd under yer fingernails". That phrase came to mind as I was holding on for dear life on all fours on the approach to the summit of Wetherlam. Behind was Langdale valley; picturesque and terrifying at the same time. A lady fell-runner was struggling to climb over a large rock. The gentleman behind placed his hand on her bottom and gave her a good shove. "Oh, thank you!" the lady replied gratefully with a hint of embarrassment. A surreal, quintessentially British scene at the mountainside.

For what we are about to receive ...

Grateful at reaching the summit in one piece, I knelt and punched the ground like Iron Man, or more precisely, placed the dibbler through the reader. It was a horrid climb, my calves and thighs were burning from the accumulated lactic acid. I glanced at my Garmin, only 2 miles into this 11 mile race! Not even a parkrun!

Only 30 minutes ago, Mike Hughes and I were at the start, admiring the muscular, sinewy legs of our fellow athletes. We were both a tad nervous. This was my first AL race and one of the Lakeland classics.

It was a hard, hard race, not just because of the distance and elevation. The terrain was often rough, the ground uneven and hidden in a thick layer of vegetation. I had to keep concentrating, it was very easy to go over my ankle. Large crags and boulders were strewn everywhere, some so big I had to scramble down on all fours or find a way around.

But it was a great day out. I was grateful for Mike's company along the way and it was nice to see a familiar face on the fell side. Though he did motor ahead towards the end. I was just happy to finish.

Lake District Mountain Trial, Patterdale, 14th September

Classic Trial - around 16 miles and 7000ft climb

Dougie Nisbet

3,2,1,Go!I'd been nervous for last year's cancelled event but this year I was in much better spirits. Conditions were good, bordering on the perfect, and I was feeling fit. I reckoned I was fitter than two years ago when I'd successfully got round the LDMT ahead of the cut-offs so I was reasonably confident as I stood at the Start in Patterdale waiting for the three minute countdown. I wonder where we'd be going?

A taped route led 1200m after the start to map collection and all became clear. For starters we'd be heading straight up St Sunday Crag and make our way to the first checkpoint; a sheepfold at the bottom of Fairfield. Up over the top of St Sunday or do some clever contouring around the side? Hmmm, I decided on the more brutal but easier to navigate over the top route. It was hot and hard but an hour later I was skirting the summit of St Sunday and planning my descent. Conditions were clear and I was lucky to spot the checkpoint from a distance so took a direct line to it. 90 minutes in and I was at checkpoint 1, 7 to go. This was harder than I had expected and although still comfortably within the cutoff I'd hoped to be going faster and feeling more comfortable than I was.

Checkpoint 2 was easy navigation. Hole in the Wall, so back over St Sunday and down to Grisedale Beck, where a fellow runner bid me a cheerful good morning and asked me how I was doing. I was pretty sure I recognised this chap.

“It is you, isn't it?”, I asked.
“Oh, yes, it's me.”, Joss replied.

Introductions over, we chatted for a minute, during which time Joss said he was retiring because his knees were giving him trouble. He seemed remarkably upbeat and spoke of seeing his specialist next week to get them fixed. Joss was running with two fantastic sticks that looked hand chiseled and customized – I'll never look at my Lekis in the same way again. He headed off down the valley back to Patterdale and I headed upwards to the Hole in the Wall.

It was a long hard climb up the wall line during which at some point Andy Blackett from DFR passed me and somehow managed to make me agree to make up a 'B' team at the FRA relays, before he pushed on ahead into the distance. Checkpoint Two eventually arrived and I was feeling far more tired than I expected to be, and only half an hour inside the cutoff time. This was beginning to look ominous.

Checkpoint 3 was a fair trek away, somewhere NE of Hart Side. I descended down Red Tarn Beck then crossed over towards Greenside Mine. I was very pleased with my direct route up the beck and across the shoulder of Sheffield Pike to Nick Head, where I picked up a path that contoured all the way round to Brown Hills. My speed was slow but my navigation was fine. I left the path to begin contouring round Brown Hills towards the checkpoint at Coegill Beck. I realised that time was now against me and that if I got to the Checkpoint 3 before being timed-out I'd retire there anyway.

Unfortunately I decided to contour by following my instincts rather than following the compass and it wasn't too long before I found myself in the wrong beck wondering where the checkpoint had hidden itself. I checked my watch. It was academic. I was out of time. I'd drifted too far east and the checkpoint was out of reach. Five hours and 10 miles into my race, and only two checkpoints visited. Time to admit defeat. I retired. It took me another hour and a half to get back to registration to find Andy Blackett sitting comfortably watching the runners finishing.

“Retired?”, he asked, without preamble.
“Yup”.
“Yeah, me too”.
“?!”

For those who don't know him, Andy Blackett is no slouch, so I did feel slightly better to hear this news. He too had contoured round Brown Hills making a similar mistake to me but managed to relocate and push on to Checkpoint 3 where he retired. A look at the (extensive) list of 'rtd's on the results shows that most people who retired did it at this point.

It was a tough event and sadly, it was too tough for me. I suspect it was a harder course than two years ago, but that's neither here nor there. It's advertised as a challenging event and LDMT are entitled to set the bar high, but I doubt I'll be fit or confident enough to tackle the Classic again.

An early view from St Sunday Crag.

Coxhoe Trail Run, 14th September

10K

Penny Browell

I was feeling anxious about the Coxhoe 10k for many reasons. Firstly I’d had a bad hamstring all week and wasn’t sure if I should be running at all, secondly I’d realised at the last minute it wouldn’t make sense to bring the family so was feeling guilty about leaving them and finally it was my first race as a Strider and I wasn’t sure if I would recognise anyone or who would be there. Although I’d been to a couple of Wednesday night sessions I was aware that there are so many Striders it was entirely possible I wouldn’t see anyone I knew!

My concerns disappeared as soon as I got into the registration hall and saw Steph Piper who, despite injury made me feel part of the Strider family as always. Outside I bumped into Anna and Flip and we walked from the Coxhoe Leisure Centre to the start of the race (about 1km away). I was glad to have some company as I suspect I would never have found the start by myself! At the start I met several other Striders and a few other friends and most of us commented on how we didn’t know the area at all and yet it seemed to be a great running area. Somebody later mentioned to me that there had been a Coxhoe race several years ago but it had had to be cancelled due to problems with closing roads so I was glad to see good support for a new race which had obviously taken a great deal of effort to get off the ground.

Penny scoops the cup!

After a few safety announcements we were off. The race started with a steep downhill which was fun but quite hair-raising given the number of runners very close to each other. We then spread out fairly well for what I’d describe as a toughish but very enjoyable undulating course. For the first couple of miles the path was quite easy and very pretty. As we came off the main path up a steepish hill there was a cameraman poised ready to get us looking our absolute worst (but also giving us encouragement up the hill). The course takes you round the quarry and then back along the path you went out on. It’s generally an easyish path but with a couple of roads to cross. On the way back Danny Lim was encouraging us all and taking photos. I’d read that the course had a sting in the tail and they weren’t kidding. At what I thought was the end we could see people cheering us up the steep hill which we’d begun by going down. It was tough after nearly 6 miles of hard running but as I thought it was the end I was happy to give it one last push. Little did I realise that wasn’t the end after all and we had another half a mile or so to go up through the woods to a field higher up where the finishing line was. That climb through the woods really got me and I even had to walk a little but I have to admit it was a clever route. We finished in the field above the start which meant we could cheer runners on as they came into the last half mile.

At the finish there was plenty of water and mars bars on offer and there was a lovely atmosphere with runners cheering each other on and chatting to each other. I enjoyed catching up with the other Striders and went home buzzing. All in all I thought it was a really good race – well organised and challenging without being too painful. The negative for me would be that the registration was quite a walk from the race (just because it puts you off bringing young supporters) but other than that I couldn’t fault it.

Roseberry Topping Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 10th September

2.3K

Jan Young

After you lot pounded thirteen miles at the GNR, I thought I'd buck the trend with 2.3k. Scoff not, that short stretch climbs 217m. Picture that angle; can someone do the maths for me?

It's steep! But it's a very tolerant Topping; allows you to walk up/ climb up/ cling on to it's grassy, rocky bits. On summitting, kiss the graffiti obelisk, turn around and throw yourself into mid air, leaping athletically over the heads of still ascending runners. As your feet are now moving far too fast for your brain to consider route choices, many follow blindly and wish they'd practised 50 degree upright stance before. No injuries; oldest competitor, seventy five, in Bingley vest.

Prize giving equally entertaining and challenging; organiser Dave invited anyone not awarded prize to come forward and claim spares. Always results in embarrassing 'scrum'. Third lady, Lucy- DCH/DFR, yes I've named you, dived into the fray clutching her three bottles of wine, emerging with sweets! She did share them! All part of the fun, camaraderie and challenge.

Vale of York Half Marathon, 7th September

13.1m

Anna Seeley

Looking for an alternative on GNR weekend I stumbled across the new Vale of York Half Marathon and the promise of a flat fast course on closed roads appealed so I entered wondering how quick I could run off marathon training. I later found out that the Hardmoors Princess Challenge was the week before and having destroyed my quads on that I figured I might as well finish them off altogether with the Pieces of Eight 10K the following day so didn’t quite manage to get to the start line as fresh as I would have liked.

It was feeling decidedly chilly as everyone lined up on the start line at Sherburn Aero Club but it didn’t stay cool for long and very quickly the temperatures were rising. The first mile was a little congested as everyone jostled for position and tried to settle into a comfortable pace but once we were out of the air field and onto the roads crowding was no longer an issue. Two miles in and any thought of a fast run went out the window as the early splits weren’t encouraging, it was getting hot and the legs were already protesting. Considered DNFing but figured it would make a good long run if nothing else and decided to try and stick as close to marathon pace as possible.

3 miles in and up the only “hill”, a bridge over the railway line, and onto the long straight roads through Bishop Woods. Rather than following the “racing line” the race snaked its way across the road towards the blissful shade, no one was caring about the extra distance, we just wanted some respite from the sun. Out of the woods and we were onto a 3 mile loop before returning the way that we came back to the airfield. Marshalling was great with fantastic support from both the organising club and lots of local cyclists who seemed to appear from nowhere to cheer us on. Water stations every 3 miles meant that you despite the heat you didn’t need to worry about dehydration.

The last few miles started to hurt as the hamstring which still hasn’t recovered from the fateful night at the relays began to tighten but I was having fun trying to chase down a friend from Blackhill Bounders when all of a sudden with a mile to go I realised my shoe lace had come undone. After more races than I care to remember I should really be able to tie them properly, stopping to re-tie it I watched the black and yellow vest drift into the distance. Tried to chase him down again but didn’t quite make it finishing in 1:44, quicker than marathon pace and considering the 37 miles I’d raced the weekend before promising for the rest of the autumn. Phil Owen finished shortly afterwards, again quicker than marathon pace in 1:56.

For the first time of running this was a very well organised race and the goody bag contained a decent T shirt and medal. This is definitely one to look at for those chasing a fast autumn half marathon time or looking for a more scenic alternative to the GNR.

Grand Prix Race. Endurance Champion Race.

Experiences of a 1st timer

Great North Run, 7th September

Louise Gregory

My running journey started in Autumn 2013, on the 7th October I completed Week 1, Day 1 of my Couch-5km App, a total of 6 minutes running (split into 1 minute intervals) over a 25 minute workout. I'd decided to follow the program myself and after staggering home the App flashed up on my phone with 'The longest journey begins with a small step taken by a brave person'.

Striders Disembarcus

Forward 11 months and I'm very proud to say that, with the help from Striders, I completed my 1st GNR. The excitement started on the very packed Durham-Newcastle train, leaving Durham at 7.44 and whizzing through to Newcastle. We met up close to our green start zone with other members of the club and spent most of the time close to the toilets while we waited for others to queue, then join the back of the queue again, and then queue again aka. the circle of weeing. The nerves were kicking in and we just made it into the pen at 10.20, after Alison sweet-talked the security man into letting us in. The warm up began and then the Elite athletes were off. We shuffled forward 20 metres, then another 20 metres, then another 20 metres until we finally crossed the start line about 11.15. The 1st couple of miles were mainly spent trying not to go too fast as we were quickly overtaken by lots of people, being in awe of the crowds & the support, high 5-ing children and shouting 'oggy oggy oggy' through the tunnels. The 1st band at the roundabout below the Gateshead Highway were playing rock anthems; we both turned to each other and agreed it was the most surreal experience.

Before we knew it we were on the Felling Bypass at about Mile 4. Our pace had dropped a little but Laura and I agreed we were comfortable and happy to keep going and see how we did. By this point it was midday and there was no escape from the sun. Laura was pointing out all the places of interest and mentioned that she was known as Google Maps within Striders...I had no idea where we where but there was no worries about getting lost as the sea of people in front of us were just amazing. The climb up to 5 mile was difficult and lots of people were walking but in comparison to the hills of Durham it was a nice gentle incline. Miles 5-9 passed in a blur and I started to flag on Mile 9 but we positioned ourselves on the left coming up to Mile 10 to take advantage of the Jelly Babies promised to us by some amazing Striders. We spotted the fantastic banner and started waving like mad fools.....the feeling of support was unbelievable at a particularly tough part of the race. Good support, or what?? I'd heard the John Reid road was a hard part but for me the Prince Edward road seemed like a never-ending hill. Laura kept me going with words of encouragement but I started to wonder if I'd ever make it to the end. We met quite a few Striders en route and helped each other on. The promise of a glimpse of the sea just didn't seem to come and a few tears were shed in feelings of defeat. But...onwards we went and the words from the crowd kept me going. Mile 12 had the best bits......a roundabout with some brilliant tunes, a gaggle of Striders on the right hand side waving and cheering at us and the '1 mile to go' sign. I'd been warned that the final mile felt like forever and it certainly seemed to be at least 5 times that distance. I thought the 20km banner was actually a 20m sign and got a little bit giddy, swiftly followed by slight disappointment that the 800m banner looked so far away. But...as Laura put it....''Find your Inner Strider'' (I looked long and hard and I think I found her) and 800m became 400m. At this point we could hear the announcer say that they were close to their millionth finisher....well if that didn't put a spring in my step...I don't know what would ! A final push meant that we finished about 10 people behind a lovely lady from Darlington called Tracy...who was the millionth runner. Laura and I crossed the finish line to ticker tape and fireworks which was brilliant...but meant we weren't really sure what was going on as everything ground to a halt while they whisked her away. A shout from Jacqui R to ask if I was the millionth runner and a cheesy grin from Alister finished the day off nicely.

So then.....a time of 2:48:07. If I'm honest then I'd have liked a little bit faster but I'm not sure I could have given any more and it's certainly given me a goal for my next half marathon. Advice for any 1st timers and newbies to running......they really do close the pens at 10.20, there are porta-loos in the middle of the central motorway so if you're desperate you can pop out of your pen and pop back in, that last mile seems like forever and if you hear them talking about the being in the red zone for the two-millionth runner, go just that little bit faster.

Results

PosNameClubCatCatPosTime
1Mo FarahNewham & Essex Beagles AC01:00:00
2Mary Keitany01:03:39
150Stephen Jackson01:19:49
380Matthew Archer01:25:58
449Rob Everson01:27:05
1261Paul Pascoe01:33:41
1291Matthew Crow01:33:49
1344Simon Gardner01:34:04
1419Graeme Walton01:34:28
1429Terry Raine01:34:32
1931Katy Walton01:37:02
2005Elaine Bisson01:37:23
2450Rachel Terry01:39:13
3302Matthew Claydon01:42:08
3619Fiona Jones01:43:12
3770Mark Brodie01:43:36
3910Andrew Podmore01:44:02
4049Lucy Cowton01:44:23
4888Sarah Davies01:46:37
5153Michael Terry01:47:16
5401Nicola Whyte01:47:50
5799Jackie Mckenna01:48:46
6460Martin Welsh01:50:12
6600Kathryn Sygrove01:50:29
6924David Spence01:51:10
6929Paul Beal01:51:11
6959Helen Williams01:51:15
7029John Robson01:51:25
7517Stephanie Walker01:52:21
7859Greta Jones01:53:03
8082Dougie Nisbet01:53:28
8614Jean Bradley01:54:33
10521Camilla Lauren-Maatta01:57:47
11670John Greathead01:59:32
11733Stephanie Piper01:59:38
13348Brian Ford02:02:18
13506Sarah Fawcett02:02:35
15598Ann Towers02:06:15
16197Alex Cole02:07:23
16264Jill Ford02:07:30
17918Karen Chalkley02:10:29
19395Karin Younger02:13:07
19404George Nicholson02:13:08
19557Angela Tribe02:13:22
20691Jane Baillie02:15:26
21800Louise Billcliffe02:17:26
22532Laura Chapman02:18:41
22628Denise Benvin02:18:54
22635Victoria Walton02:18:55
22742Maria Dimova-Cookson02:19:08
23082Stacey Brannan02:19:43
23678Jayne Freeman02:20:46
24504Emma Batey02:22:14
24757Christine Farnsworth02:22:42
25511Kelly Collier02:24:06
25927Hattie Blenkinsop02:24:56
26834Karen Hooper02:26:41
29668Margaret Thompson02:32:30
29949Vicki McLean02:33:08
30941Amy Farquhar02:35:22
31180Lindsay Craig02:35:57
31195Natalie Johnson02:36:00
31319Sophie Dennis02:36:17
31787David Arnott02:37:28
31794Barrie John Evans02:37:28
32200Jolene Smith02:38:26
32497Susan Jennings02:39:13
32503Helen Rodgers02:39:14
33526Kerry Lister02:42:03
34954Laura Jackson02:46:39
35272Caroline Dostal02:47:49
35348Laura Gibson02:48:07
35349Louise Gregory02:48:07
36555Lynsay Wardle02:52:49
37999Helen Page03:00:29

41549 finishers

Lakeland Trails Keswick Trail Race, Keswick, 6th September

15K

Dave Robson

After the Keswick parkrun it was breakfast, a bit of window shopping and on to the trail race. It has been a year since we last did a Lakeland Trails race. Can't think why it has been so long, but it was lovely to be back, I had forgotten what a lovely atmosphere there is at these events. What also had attracted us was that a friend Kev Kendall was performing after the race.

Kathryn was doing the 10k and we were able to see her finish before we started. She seemed to enjoy it. The children's races were on after that, these Lakeland Trails events always have them.

I have been having calf problems recently and they seem to occur when it is hot, there are hills, we are going a long way and when I go a bit too fast. Luckily we weren't going too far, but I wanted to ensure I got round with no issues. So I took it very easy. I couldn't resist going a bit faster when I reached the downhill section of the trail race, but I got away with it. Melanie pushed on from the start and had a fantastic run !

Nice day for a run on the hills ...

The route goes up the old railway line that we had covered a few hours earlier in the parkrun and then turns into the hills where the ascent is much more serious. We went up the east side of the Glenderterra valley between Lonscale Fell and Blaise Fell, then came down the west side of the valley. The views are outstanding and it was a lovely day. The famous Glenderterra bog was as wet as ever !

A bit of a surprise was to come across Mike Hughes who wasn't in either race who had just come out for a run in the hills. He was coming up the west side of the valley into the race, unaware it was on.

Afterwards Kev played for an hour and we relaxed on the grass with some runners from Fetcheveryone who were there. It was a lovely day and Kev did great.

Keswick parkrun, Keswick, 6th September

5K

Dave Robson

We had booked places for the Lakeland Trails race in Keswick later that day, so it seemed a good idea to try out the Keswick parkrun. Malcolm and Kathryn also had the same idea. We thought there might be lots of runners doing the same thing and there were a few, but not as many as we expected.

The route is very simple, 2.5k up the old railway line and then come back down. The route is definitely not flat, but the ascent is not too bad. You cross the river a couple of times and go under various roads and the scenery is very good.

We got the usual friendly parkrun welcome and there is a lovely cafe in the Museum close by where it was possible to sit outside and relax in the sunshine

Durham Three Peaks, 3rd September

2.53M to infinity

Danny Lim

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. It's like being a child again. Like all the best children's games, they have the simplest of rules. The first runner to reach the tops of three local hills and return wins.

As the main horde of runners rushed for the gate, I was feeling rebellious and clambered over the fence. After narrowly missed being run over, I trespassed through Houghall College before reaching a gap in the hedges; seems like everyone had the same idea!

Earlier, I did a recce and had a cunning route in mind. But all that went to pot when I saw Geoff Davies going off-piste up a steep bank, several runners in tow. Like a bull to a rag, I gave chase (Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!). I thought I was being smart by cutting them off, but ended up sloshing around in the mud, wrestling with a pine tree followed by a prickly holly. Eventually, I hacked my way through the undergrowth only to find Geoff barrelling towards me, having already reached the first checkpoint. I charged ahead, only to have an uncomfortably close encounter with Scott Watson in a slap-stick pantomime way.

This set the tone for the rest of the race, with me recklessly making it up as I went along, getting hopelessly disorientated and being afflicted by a minor mishap. I'm sure I would have done a better time if I stuck to my planned route, but I enjoyed getting lost and making friends with the undergrowth. There was something liberating and maybe that's why it was so much fun! Next year, I'll stick to my plan (uh huh).

Thanks very much Paul Evans and all the volunteers for such a fun evening.