Race Reports, February 2015

Inov-8 High Cup Nick, Dufton, 28th February

9.3M 1509ft BM

Nigel Heppell

High Cup Nick is just that; a nick in the western Pennines escarpment not far from Appleby-in-Westmorland; not any old nick but a long, deep, glaciated valley cut through many different layers of rock laid down over eons and characterised by an impressive ledge of dolerite/basalt Great Whin Sill delineating the perimeter. For the last nine years the quiet little village of Dufton has seen fit to cause people, including me and Phil Owen on this occasion, to run from the village green along a short stretch of road then farm track before squelching across undulating fields and tussocky boglands on a gentle ascent followed by a grin-making steep descent into the valley bottom and a wade through a stream(river today), turning to view the long haul up the cleft of the Nick.

Runnable at first, this soon breaks down into a run-walk for all but the hardened fellmongers disappearing ahead (my personal run/walk moment came earlier; much, much earlier than expected, legs and lungs just did not want to know for the first mile or two). Ultimately everyone is walking as the valley narrows and the track steepens into a boulder field; then a strenuous scramble up the rock face alongside the backwards-flowing waterfall; yes, the breeze which had been comfortably caressing our backs up the valley was now blowing seriously hard as the funnel of the nick narrowed down and the temperature dropped accordingly. Just as well the cloud came down to obscure the dramatic drop back into the valley. One or two competitors ahead of me did seem to experience a 'moment' on the wet slippery rocks but I saw that as an opportunity to overtake a bunch of queuers.

Once I'd hauled myself out of the shelter of the Nick the bitter wind really hit hard, blowing sideways across the track we were to take, and with jelly-legs from the climb I was joined by others in a comedy parade of silly walks to amuse the marshals. Eventually persuading all four limbs into some kind of vaguely coordinated lope we stumbled off down the track of the Pennine Way (also traversed by competitors in the mid-January Spine race under very much colder conditions) concentrating hard on picking a safe route along the rock-strewn path.

Some interesting trading of places occurred within my cohort on this long steady downhill section and I was fully expecting to be overtaken on the short uphill sections nearer to the finish but it would appear that my stategy of walking early on in the race had paid off as I regained places lost to early downhill overtakers and even overhauled a few others I'd not knowingly seen before, finishing with a dash across the village green and into the community hall for a cup of substantial home-made veg' soup and a roll.


Rocks - about 480 million years;

Runners - N Heppell 1hr 45min(ouch!)177/211 - P Owen about 1min longer - Race winner in a new course record of 1hr 01 min 03 secs, the approriately-named Ricky Lightfoot of Ellenborough.

Nigel adds ...
Special mention for James, who ran with us for the first time last week and also competed in this race. He finished in a very respectable time of 1hr 18min and was placed about 37-40th in the field.

and a 24second video of the start was filmed - just possible to make out Phil O at the rear.

Belvoir Challenge, Harby, Leics, 28th February


Dave Robson

Time for breakfast. My fifth Belvoir Challenge and Melanie's second. What makes this event attractive is the variety of routes they come up given they have to use some village halls as checkpoints. Also it is a very friendly laid back event with proceeds going to the local primary school. The children from the school design the excellent finishing certificates.

The other big bonus is the home made cakes at the checkpoints :-) The scenery is also good without being spectacular.

It can be muddy and this year it was very muddy. The weather can also be unpredictable in February and this year we were pretty lucky. Grey and a little drizzle to start and the wind picked up a little but nothing too bad.

It is three months since Meanie did a marathon and I did the Hardmoors Osmotherley less than two weeks ago so neither of us felt very confident. Melanie wasn't sure she had enough recent training and I was concerned I might not have recovered.

The start was busier than usual and the start was delayed by fifteen minutes. There seemed to be lots of people opting for the shorter distance (17m). We had already been waiting for a while so we decided to do something different - start before everybody else. I had seen people do this at this event before so I knew it would be fine. We left eighteen minutes before everybody else.

Melanie unphased by the mud. We soon discovered the first muddy section. It was very, very muddy but it wasn't too long before underfoot conditions improved a bit. But that was only temporary and mud soon returned and it was pretty muddy for the remainder of the route.

Temperance Bar. The faster runners caught us up well before the first checkpoint and we eventually overtook other people who must have started very early. The first checkpoint was just water, but after that the checkpoints were laden with food and drink.

Melanie was feeling a bit tired from the start, but I was fine until halfway when I realised that I was still tired from Osmotherley. Melanie kept up the same pace, but I slowed a bit. At 21m Melanie went on ahead and finished about 15 minutes ahead of me. I ran along the escarpment and had some good views before I descended and had some more mud to run through (and what was almost a small pond)

The course was superbly marked. We also had maps and a GPS trace on our watches provided so there was no danger of getting lost. We had seen a course marker running round the route checking everything on the way to the start, so the organisers had done their usual excellent job.

After finishing we had the usual soup and dessert provided which filled us up nicely. Melanie's 40th marathon/ultra which is some going since her first one was July 2012.

Done and Dusted.

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Purple Pride!

Alnwick XC (NEHL), Jarrow, 28th February


Kelly offers Gareth some gentle motivationSaturday's penultimate HL fixture of the season at Alnwick saw a desperate fight for 2nd Division survival by Striders' rejuvenated men's team. A first place finish on the day means the men have clawed their way to 7th position (out of 11 teams) for the season but are still only two points clear of relegation. It's going to be a hell of a battle at Wrekenton!

The course, in the shadow of Alnwick Castle, was amazingly dry and relatively mud free providing fast going for our speedy lads. Gareth Pritchard was determined to do his bit for the team and do it he did with a fantastic run to finish in 21st place as first Strider and gain promotion to the medium pack. Till's long miles in training also paid off to earn him 2nd placed Strider plus medium pack promotion as well. We also saw perhaps the best Strider debut at a HL ever with Chris Wade also gaining promotion to the medium pack while running with a suspect knee although he has a good grounding in x/c from his Monday lunch-time training sessions with us Mudpeople! Rob Everson sped round from the medium pack to be fourth Strider home while Graeme Walton, with all those awful track miles under his belt, was fifth Strider and an ever improving Matt Crow completed the Strider counters.

Gareth was first bloke home in Elvet Striders' battle to retain their place in Division 2But that's not the whole story! Those six lads were supported by another 16 Striders fighting to push the other clubs back and battling for every yard. There were some great runs particularly from Matt Archer - probably his best HL so far, Dr Evans (first time as a non counter) and a battle royal between the Fire Service and the Parachute Regiment (in the shape of Davey Lumsden and Scott Watson respectively) with the paras prevailing by the narrowest of margins. We also had a brave debut by Craig Walker and an equally brave run by Mike Bennett who has run more HLs than he probably cares to remember. Innes was there too, after nearly provoking world war three on facebook during the week, as was Richard H, John H and all the other Striders too numerous now to name individually! What a great performance - well done and thanks to you all - I am extremely proud!

Let's not forget the women's team though! Another bumper turnout of 20 of our slow packers, medium packers & fast packers produced a great performance in a fiercely competitive league. Our 'Flying Archaeologist' Steph Piper had a brilliant run on the fast course to come home as first Strider, followed by Elaine B storming round from the medium pack, Sarah D (another determined performance) and Penny - our airborne fast pack heroine (the Welsh rugby team may have a 'Halfpenny' but we've got something twice as good!) But of course they were supported by a huge turnout of Striderettes each of them committed to play their part and succeeding in doing so. We had medium packers such as Rachel, Katy & Mudwoman powering through fast packer Rachael flying round and other fantastic performances from Lesley, Kelly (loving it as usual), Kerry, Jo P, Denise (great concentration), Catherine, Camilla, Claire, Jen & Jan plus a very welcome return from Sue J & a wonderful debut from Steph Walker. Well done to you all - 6th on the day and now 5th for the season. With a super-human effort at Wrekenton you could all be standing on that podium yet!

Thanks also to the Striders who came along to support - Keith, Mike E, Anita C, Allan S, Jo R & Diane - such enthusiasm is most appreciated.

Cross country in the grounds of Alnwick Castle

...and Steph Piper

Steph on the way to leading the Striders' ladies homeThe nerves kicked in for today's XC race earlier than usual. Sat waiting for the bus, my stomach turned over and over. The stakes felt high for today. The women's team were in good contention for a podium finish at the penultimate race of the season, we'd had several new promotions to the medium pack (our very own captain Susan among them) and some of the stronger finishers were conspicuous by their absence.

At Alnwick, the tents were up and the banners flying high. The nerves had subsided but it was simply the calm before the storm. Innes had declared this day "Beat a Bounder" day. The men were fighting for survival to stay in Division Two - Blackhill one of their main rivals. The Bounders had retaliated swiftly by raising a call to arms. Our teams were heading in to a great battle.

The day was reminiscent of conditions at the beginning of the season - bright, warm with a brisk wind. The course was bone dry, perfectly suited to the alter-egos of our Mud Captains, Arid Man and Dustbowl Woman. Toes on the line and with very little warning we were off in to the wind, surging down the field towards the first pinch point. This first part of the course was quite flat. At the farthest point we rounded right and up the first of the steady inclines. From the road on other side of the wall, a disembodied voice roared a battle cry - "COME ON STRIDERS!!!" Spurred on, and with Sarah Davies in my sights, I continued upwards to the woods.

Once under the tree cover we were sheltered from the wind. There were deep ruts through the mud and most kept to the right of the track, favouring the drier ground interspersed with gnarly tree roots. I was looking forward to the downhill section which seemed to arrive after no time at all. Soft knees, relaxed shoulders, pick a line and go. It was like flying. I rounded the corner which hailed the start of the second lap with the shouting of our men ringing in my ears.

The second lap seemed to pass just as quickly. I could hear Sarah breathing down my neck, regardless of whether she was there. As the medium and fast pack runners streamed past I kept checking my shoulder for signs of Penny or Elaine, hubris fighting with nemesis over the glory of being first Strider home.

The women put in a storming performance. The remaining counters of Elaine, Sarah and Penny coming in quick succession with the ever-present swift feet of Katy, Rachel T, Lesley, Susan, Camilla and Rachael B not far behind. Finally out of her foot cast, Steph Walker put in a sterling return to racing and Denise came out on top of her friendly rivalry with Catherine Smith. Superb running from our 20 ladies, which will be required again at Wrekenton to climb back in to a podium placing.

The 21-stong men's team put up a ferocious fight round the three laps of the course, which paid dividends. Our fast lads never faltered and Gareth, Till, newcomer Chris (sorry about missing your bus stop!), Rob, Graeme and Matthew Crow earned top spot in the team placing. A phenomenal performance by all of our gents, with individual promotions guaranteed and rising well clear of the relegation zone. You beasted those Bounders!


Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Francisco Martinez Sevilla Derwentside AC S MSen 37:29
21Gareth Pritchard SMsen40:18
30Till Sawala SMsen40:44
48Chris Wade SMsen41:12
104Rob Everson MMsen42:26
145Graeme Walton SMV4043:06
180Matthew Crow SMsen43:36
191Paul Evans MMV3543:45
222Matthew Archer SMsen44:21
244Scott Watson SMV5044:46
246David Lumsdon SMV5044:46
252Marc Jones SMsen44:55
262David Gibson SMV4545:08
269Dave Halligan SMV5045:15
279Geoff Davis SMV5545:35
303Michael Hughes SMV4546:16
324Mike Bennett SMV6047:12
369David Selby SMV4048:43
431Richard Hockin SMV6051:27
433Craig Walker SMV5551:30
457Innes Hodgson SMV4553:08
472John Hutchinson SMV5554:30

510 finishers, overall team placing 1st, Division 2

Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Magda Grinsdale Tyne Bridge Harriers S Fsen 28:22
38Stephanie Piper SFsen32:46
44Elaine Bisson MFV3532:58
47Sarah Davies SFV4533:03
74Penny Browell FFV4033:30
85Katy Walton MFsen33:43
94Rachel Terry MFV4033:48
101Lesley Charman SFV4033:48
136Susan Davis MFV5034:27
144Camilla Lauren-Maatta SFV4534:52
155Rachael Bullock FFsen35:01
174Jan Young SFV6035:46
192Stephanie Walker SFV3536:34
231Joanne Porter SFV4038:43
247Denise Benvin SFV4541:03
248Catherine Smith SFV3541:12
258Jennifer Cooper SFV3542:17
276Kelly Collier SFsen45:55
279Sue Jennings SFV4546:53
280Kerry Lister SFV4046:55
283Claire Galloway SFsen48:22

288 finishers, overall team position 6th, Division 1

English National Cross Country Championships, Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath, 21st February

A member of the very dirty dozen

It has been difficult to escape cross-country chat on a Wednesday evening for months now (by a rough calculation, at least seven of them), for the simple reason that it is a winter sport that is at the core of what we, as a club, are and do. However, the emotional baggage from school-days, the fact that is too long/ too short, the Saturday afternoon scheduling designed to clash with many other weekend activities, the mud, the often-terrible weather and the inescapable realisation that, when it comes down to it, you are choosing of your-own free will to run to the point of nausea around a park can combine in various ways to put runners off it a little, despite the undoubted thrill of competition and sense of togetherness that it never fails to deliver. I like XC, but for me it has always been a little too short and fast; fortunately, Geoff had a suggestion...

So, lined-up in a pen with the other five male Striders, ready for the gun that would send 2000+ of us up Parliament Hill, what did I feel? A little disappointed that according to the programme listing all runners a certain Mohammed Farah was not returning to his roots and showing us all how it was done? Absolutely. Also excited - and apprehensive, having seen the bog that the sinuous course had been turned into by the waves of juniors and women preceding us, many of them walking at times and a few in tears (not, I hasten to add, the Strider ladies, who had utterly dominated the course in spirit if not in time, with great runs through the clart from Rachael through to Denise).

The gun went, a few seconds passed before we shuffled over the line and the masses surged upwards. As a spectator for the ladies' race, this was a breathtaking sight, a huge multicoloured wave pouring upwards; as a participant, dodging falling or faltering competitors, pausing briefly at the top as we hit a bottle-neck and then sliding downwards towards the ponds, it was painful quickly and stayed that way. To give the course designers credit, this was a very pretty course and one which did not permit rhythm to be established, with frequent changes in gradient, line and terrain, the course throwing runners up, down and around every hill possible, the homeward leg sometimes running parallel to the outward. I cannot describe my progress in the race due to the fact that numbers, pace and the concentration required to stay upright, as well as taking in the stunning views of the city, made it impossible to gauge where I was - somewhere in the middle, gaining slightly with each mile was about as close an estimate as could be made.

The first lap finished and a downhill section took us past the ladies and Lucy's partner Phil, on snapper duties, then back to the opening hill. With a slightly better-spaced field there were no pauses this time, so no respite from the pain other than that gained by actively concentrating on breathing as deeply and slowly as possible without falling back. The same bog, the same puddles and the same bends as on the first lap all appeared that little bit harder this time; relief came in a form from hitting the harder track at the halfway point woodland section, then back to the bog.

Purple flashed past occasionally, with brief sightings of clubmates, but focus had to remain on the final mile or so. Approaching the penultimate summit I broke for home and pushed the pace as hard as possible: great racing, which saw me gain twenty or so paces. It would have been better if I hadn't thought it was the final summit and was forced by lactate to give back a good few of them on the actual final climb. Down once more, then it really was the end, Geordie and Scouse voices clearly-distinguishable from those baying for Sale, Leeds and the other elite clubs as we ploughed through the final metres. An unforgettable 2 laps, 7-8 miles in total. Solo, on a quiet morning it would have been a nice run; together with my 2000+ rivals it was a great race, over too soon and yet not soon enough.

Next year, the rumours say Donnington, a little closer to home. We hope to see you there.


1Charlie HulsonSale Harriers Manchester0:39:12
874Paul Evans 0:53:21
1245Geoff Davis 0:57:32
1314Mike Hughes 0:58:22
1524Dave Gibson 1:01:31
1657David Selby 1:03:54
1963Ian Spencer 1:18:15

2005 finishers.

1Lillian Partridge Aldershot Farnham & District0:30:07
330Rachel Bullock 0:40:56
422Susan Davis 0:42:38
525Lucy Cowton 0:45:16
807Denise Benvin 0:56:29

808 finishers.

Junior Women
1Rebecca Murray Bedford & County AC0:22:48
110Sally Hughes 0:31:06

130 finishers.

Osmotherley 10k, 15th February

Laura Jackson

As I am approaching my "runniversary" (I started my running journey on 23/2/14) I decided at the start of the year to be a braver person, running and otherwise.

nice group pic

I have been envious all of last year of people who did "Hardmoors" events, they had the best enthusiasm for their running and their pictures were amazing. Spectacular in fact. After running the Great Winter Run in Edinburgh in January, I was convinced by Kerry Lister and Claire Galloway that I really wanted to do the Hardmoors Osmotherley 10k.

I entered but was on the waiting list until the week before which was probably the best thing for me as I overthink things a lot and this meant I only had a week to fret. I tried to find out more information- really with the name HARD and MOORS there's not much more to be said really.

I woke up on Sunday and felt nervously excited. Would it be another cross country-esque disaster? Did I want to enjoy it so much that I would be disappointed if it didn't match my expectations? Would I manage? Would I be too cold/ hot/ slow? I baulked as I put on my trusty "Kanadia" trail shoes for the first time since the said XC disaster and tied them firmly.

Osmotherley isn't as far from Durham as I thought so 40 mins later I was in the registration hall. I was so glad to see Striders Anita and Lindsay there who I then verbally spouted my fears to, continuously until we had to go to the start.

A moody gloomy stretch. An apprehensive walk up the hilly road, a few minutes waiting and then....we were off! Straight up a hill! The pattern of hill, fields, flat, hill, flat, HILL continued for a while. I have no idea for how long, all I wanted to do was to get to the top of the never ending hill.

And suddenly there it was, the expectation met in an instant. As we climbed over a gate, the view met us as we crossed through the field. I was with Anita at this point and I remember thinking "I'm so glad there's a Strider with me", as I ran over the most beautiful moor. It was breathtaking, like a set from a film. I felt so happy, exhilarated and almost tearful that there I was, running over this place I'd probably have never seen if I hadn't been running. This part was all downhill too and this added to my joy.

During the run, I caught up with the runner in front of me. A quick chat established that she too lived in Durham and was considering joining Striders. Anita was still close behind me at this point so we did the hard sell and convinced Rachel that being a Strider is the best thing ever.

The next part of the run (despite having my garmin on, I wasn't really paying attention to it for once!) took us up a road which also was shared with many cars and cyclists but it was easy to be careful of this.

The terrain continued to be a mix of moor, hill, flat field, HILL, moor, and I was glad to snatch a cup of water at the second checkpoint then carried on. I could see the runner in front of me moving towards another massive hill, then almost cheering with joy when she turned right off the road and went along a field which then led to another beautiful downhill stretch. This continued through a farm track then the HILL appeared, killer by now. At the end of the track I saw the runner in front had turned right but my instructions said left so I looked and saw the tape left, so tried to call to her. Luckily a passing cyclist said they'd tell her so I continued with my conscience clear.

Selfie Alert.

Up another HILL then a fab long downhill section through a farm led to possibly the steepest steps I've ever seen in my life, never mind climb up after 6 miles of hills, moors, stones and my nemesis, mud, but up I went, slowly. Some lovely local ladies shouted up "Take your time!" which made me laugh despite almost gasping for air (exaggeration!).

Once I made it to the top alive, it was a short jog along an alleyway (referred to as the snicket apparently) then down the hill to the village hall to the finish. 6.8 miles in total, not bad considering the half marathon was nearly 18!

Once I finished, I couldn't believe that I did it, that I loved it so much and that I felt so happy. The atmosphere was fab at the end, as it is with any race I've done but I was also even more ecstatic to find that you also got a medal as well as a fab tech t shirt.

I took a few days to digest the race and still think that it has been my favourite event I've done so far in my first year of running. The route was gruelling- HARD, but the MOORS made up for the hardness. In a way, the hard bits were enjoyable as after the first bit, there was a reward of a nice big downhill after and this continued throughout the race. The race element is never an issue for me being a slow snail of a runner but the fact people were running at their own pace and were there for the place and the challenge was reassuring to me.

My takeaways from the event- a nice medal and tshirt, more confidence than I had before I went, the realisation that I want to do more of these events and pride that I felt so happy all the way through. Envy, of those people doing the half marathon and marathon distances. I have no idea how I would cope with my garmin saying 13.1 and being another 4-5 miles away from the finish! Motivation to enter more Hardmoors events this year, and do at least one half marathon this year.

Keep on Running.

Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon, North Yorkshire, 15th February


Penny Browell

Striders ladies at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015The Osmotherley Half 2015 is one race I will never forget. In fact I get quite emotional even now, nearly a week later, thinking about it. It was one of those days when everything seemed to go the right way - great weather, lovely company, a beautiful course and (for me ) a LOT of luck.

The weather forecast actually hadn't been great and as Camilla and I drove down it was quite foggy. With my navigational skills I was a touch worried but a couple of months previously I'd run an Esk Valley race which ran parallel with the Hardmoors for a bit and I'd noticed how well their race was taped so I was quietly confident I wouldn't need to navigate much today. Anyway as we approached Osmotherley the sun started to burn through the clouds and before long it was a lovely sunny morning. We parked about 10 minutes out of the village and walked to the village hall. This was my first Hardmoors race and the organisation and atmosphere in the hall was fantastic. We'd just missed the start of the full marathon but caught up with Anita who had waved them off and the hall was buzzing with the anticipation of about 200 half and 10k runners.

Lucy clearly enjoying a great race at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015Once we'd changed and met up with the other Striders girls running the half it wasn't long before the briefing. I'm not good at listening to briefings due to race nerves and was vaguely aware there was something about signs with acorns at the end of the race but didn't manage to hear the details. We walked round to the start of the race and Lucy and I both commented on the fact that whilst we had done longer distances and had done hilly runs, the combination of a long and hilly run was a bit of an unknown quantity. I told myself I had to try and take the pace easy but at the same time knew I was feeling quite fit and the competitor in me wanted to see how well I could do.

We were soon off - I'm not great at remembering courses but we were quite quickly onto our first hill and the field was spreading out. I passed a few people and was following a woman with a springer spaniel who was managing a very good pace. As someone who runs with a springer regularly I was amazed at her having to deal with a dog on a lead for such a long and hilly race. Eventually I got past her and then felt quite happy following the path on what I presumed was an easy course. At one point the path split so I stuck to the main route but then realised I couldn't see anyone ahead. I turned round and saw a man (no. 203) going the other way so turned back and followed him. At this point I realised I maybe should have studied the map more…

The path continued undulating, with varying levels of steepness and I kept no. 203 in my sights. On a longish climb I passed him and fortunately could see someone ahead to keep me on track. As we got to a steep descent my pace slowed drastically. The terrain was tough with quite slippy paving slabs and I almost completely stopped a couple of times for fear of falling. I lost sight of the man in front but then my friend no. 203 came bounding past me so at least I knew I was still in the right place. The course has an out and back section and at about 7 miles I started to worry that I hadn't yet seen anyone coming back so wondered exactly how much over 13 miles this "half" was going to be. Happily I soon saw the first man on the return leg and noticed that in third there was a lady going well. Then after another couple of people, to my surprise I saw no.203 coming back and realised I was already at the turning point. Totally bemused as to how I was so near the front I also noticed Phil, Lucy's other half, who pointed his camera in my direction just as I was downing a few jelly beans!

The view that most of the field had of Penny at the Hardmoors Osmotherley Half Marathon 2015The "back" part of the out and back was great fun. The Hardmoors crowd are very friendly and we all congratulated each other as we passed and it was good to see the other Striders girls - Lucy not far behind me and the others spread throughout the pack. Having realised the course wasn't quite as easy to navigate as I'd thought I became intent on keeping no.203 in my sights even though I knew he was going a bit faster than my natural pace. At one point a lady going in the other direction encouraged me on telling me "You're second lady, only about a minute behind the first lady". I had no designs on beating her and really just wanted to get to the end without losing sight of my friend in front. I was doing pretty well as we undulated along the Cleveland Way but then we hit a steep descent and again my brakes were on. No.203 sped off into the distance and then a new friend (no.171) flew past me and was my new guide. I was very grateful for him being there as there were a couple of spots where I would no doubt have gone wrong without someone leading the way.

At about 12 miles we came out onto a road section. Whist I wanted to continue to be led I knew I could get past 171 so for a while we ran together discussing how far we thought there was left to go and then I took the lead. I could just see my old pal in front so sped up a bit to keep him in sight. We were soon on a slowly climbing muddy track running into the wind. It wasn't the easiest but I was enjoying myself and before I knew it I was right next to 203. I really didn't want to pass him as the other leaders seemed to have completely vanished and I knew there would still be a few wiggles before we got back to Osmotherley. Fortunately we turned off the path and downhill so he pulled away from me and I was happily following again and dropped back to a comfortable pace with him about 100m ahead of me.

At one point I saw him struggling with a gate which I thought he'd left open for me. "Thank you" I shouted, only to realise he hadn't left it open and I therefore sounded like I was being sarcastic! I struggled for a bit and he shouted something about pulling and upwards but whatever upwards and pulling combination I tried I couldn't get it to open. Eventually I gave up and climbed over. Congratulating myself on an elegant landing I realised 203 was now out of my sight. I had a couple of tense moments when I thought I could have gone the wrong way but soon saw him again and before long we were coming back into Osmotherley. As we came into the village we wound down little paths and there was the acorn sign I'd been warned about at the briefing. There were 3 possible ways to go. 203 had obviously gone the right way but I had no idea which that was. I turned left and realised he wasn't ahead of me… Fortunately some walkers were there and pointed me in the direction of the village hall.

Absolutely delighted to be back, Shirley told me I was first lady and third overall. "No I'm not" I told her quite matter of factly. I knew I was in the same position I'd been when we'd turned at the halfish way point - second lady and about 5th or 6th overall. But she and Flip Owen (who had been marshalling the full) seemed adamant she knew the result so slightly baffled I accepted the result. After a few pieces of cake and cups of tea I went to change and the lady who had been ahead of me joined me. It turned out she and 2 others had taken a wrong turning. She'd realised quite quickly but the two men (who had been the leaders) hadn't taken her advice to turn back and therefore still weren't back.

So there is my confession - it was undoubtedly my best result ever in a race and one I'm very proud of but I owe a lot of thanks to no.203 (who turns out to have a name and not just a number - Chris Dale) who kept me going and to the lady who went the wrong way (Helen Cross). Without them it would have been a different story!

Carnethy '5', Pentland Hills, 15th February

AM, 6 miles, 2500 feet total climb over 5 summits

Dave Selby

The sound of the piper drove the lingering mist away from the hillside, exposing the Carnethy Five in its full glory. Across the lowland the initial climb and final descent awaited and called upon the 500-strong clan of fell runners to do their best. The gun released the rabble and the onslaught began. Across the grass, through the bog, around the thistles, through the gate, and then to find your place for the first of the 1000 feet climbs over just under a mile: up, up and more up. Stubborn mist made its greeting at the summit, along with a light but unforgiving breeze, cooling the sweat on the brow. An ever so slight decline permitted the legs to momentarily build momentum, until the next incline. Fast and furious the terrain went from up to down, back to up, and then into a glorious, several hundred foot rapid drop into a short-lived valley bottom the legs free wheeled. Funnelling through another gate, the final slope encounter beckoned: another 1000 foot climb in just under a mile. Steepening gradually with every step, it was now time to dig deep. Volcanic rocks marked the summit that was ephemeral, as was the plateau at the top. Over the top all went, down down down. Eight hundred feet in a few hundred meters. Across the scree, over the heather the thighs burned. Finally the finish line was in sight, all that was left was, once again, through the gate, past the thistles, through the bog and across the grass.

Rachael Bullock

Having known Susan and Geoff for a while, I've realised that they are fairly selective about what races they enter. So seeing as they've both done the Carnethy over 20 times, I figured there must be something special about it. It's also a ballot entry - pretty unusual for a fell race - another sign that it is popular and worth the journey up to Edinburgh. The race definitely didn't disappoint. There were hills. 5.7 miles of some of the hardest and most unrelenting hills I've ever faced during a fell run. Hands on knees jobbies for much of the way. The penultimate hill was a killer, a long drag on rather tired legs by that point. Sadly, I thought (well really I was just hoping optimistically) that it was the last hill and I gave my all. It wasn't till I reached the top and saw another monster climb ahead that I realised it was not the last hill. Heart-wrenching stuff. The final hill was a struggle, but pure determination, knowing I had put so much effort in already and that it would be a shame to waste it, kept me going. It was such a relief to get to the top....but only to be greeted by one of the nastiest descents I've ever encountered. Very steep and covered in slippery heather. As usual, the more hardy and experienced/senseless, fearless fell-runners skipped past me, as i dithered and tried not to fall. I really didn't enjoy this bit, but sadly, it was the only way to get to the finish, so it had to be done. Once the skidding and sliding was over, it was a nice flat stretch of boggy, tussocky ground to stretch the legs out towards the finish. Here I tried to capitalize on recent Harrier league training to pass a couple of other ladies before the finish line, where Geoff cheered me in, and I was followed shortly after by Dave and Susan. Then it was back to the local high school for a good feed of pie before heading home! Despite the pain incurred, I would not have to think twice about doing this race again! It was pretty damn awesome and I can't really think of a better way to spend Valentine's day?!

Signals Relays, Hetton Lyon Country Park, 14th February

Simon Gardner

As will be probably know by now I'm a lover of relay events so after spectating at this event over the last 3 years I decided to try and organise some teams to represent our club.

The event is based in Hetton Lyons park near Houghton Le Spring and is all on Tarmac paths (my favourite), so after a lot of reorganising teams due to several members being hit by flu and colds we had two male and two female teams ready to go.

Our two female teams of four runners were first to go , Elaine and Steph first away and they did not let us down Elaine covering the undulating 2.2 mile (2 lap course) in a speedy 14min 17s which was the fastest time of the day, special mention goes to Katy who was not far behind and looks like to be returning to top form as well.

I had arranged the teams in a rough order of speed rather than the strict age categories so the birthday girl Sally Riding ran with out Vet 35 team, I just think it's better running with people of similar pace and also it would much more difficult to get full teams out with just 18 runners.

It was soon the boys turn with two teams of six runners set up ready to go. Again they were some great performances with Rob Everson fastest strider of the day covering the 2.2 mile in 12min 28s with Gareth 2 seconds behind (who was also first finisher at hartlepool parkrun in 17:32 that morning!) and myself following in 12:33 (canny happy with that!- but God it hurt)

Another special mention goes to our wonderful support crew (Alister , Jacquie, Jill, Anna) and the cake which was wonderful. From myself I want to thank everyone for their efforts today, a fantastic tail runner experience at Durham parkrun this followed by running with our wonderful club was just what I needed. Next year anyone ?

Mad Dog 5 - Game of Bones

Mad Dog 10K, Southport, 8th February


Gareth Cardus

Gareth representing Striders at Southport. The Southport 10K run, aptly named ‘Mad Dog’, is into its fifth year now. The races inaugural year, 2011, seen it voted the best 10k run by Runner’s World magazine. Indeed in 2014, the race was voted the best 10k run in the UK at the running awards, and has been shortlisted again for 2015. Keen to see what all the fuss was about, and coupled with the fact that my parents lived nearby, I registered for this year’s event – the opportunity to become a ‘Mad Dog’ and conqueror the coast of Southport, was too great a pull!

Over 2500 runners took part in the race and I have to say the organisation of the event was superb. There was a designated car park for runners and spectators, which could be entered upon showing your race number. Then there was a free bus that took you from the car park to the start of the race. There was food stalls, changing facilities, showers – everything you required. The runners taking part in the race were divided into sections, based on ability; each section was given a colour as with other races. However, each section was also a dog breed, in keeping with the ‘Mad Dog’ theme – I was a Labrador!!

There was a strong contingent from a number of running clubs; there were fun runners, charity runners and fancy dress runners - all were raring to go!! The course is a flat course along the coast of Southport; it is a road race, so no trail shoes are necessary. As the race started, the conditions were ideal - there was virtual no wind, a bit of dew in the air and low temperatures. The only downside was the mist, which obscured some of the views along the coast. The race started in good timely fashion and before I knew it I had complete the first kilometre. One thing I was keen to do this time, was to pace myself correctly. I tend to start running too quickly and burn out towards the end of the race. With the course being flat and the conditions being ideal, I was looking for a PB - my PB for a 10k race was 53:55 back in 2013.

Game of Bones. I started the race slowly and completed the first four kilometres in just under 22 minutes. The first 4k of the race is all along the coast road and is fairly straight. Just after 4k, you reach the furthest point on the course and you move slightly away from the coast and follow the road around the marine lake. As we made our way around the course, music blasted out for all to hear, there was steel drum bands beating their rhythm and other music stations to keep the runners motivated. There was also great support and some amusing banners, one in particularly brought a chuckle to many a runner – it read ‘Please run quicker, we are cold’. Another funny moment was a fellow runner kitted out as Elvis singing at the top of his voice ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog’, very apt!

By this time I was past the half-way point now and with 6 kilometres complete my time was a little on the slow side for a PB – I had 32:38 on the clock, but I felt good and I knew I had plenty left in the tank; so far I had paced myself well. I increased the length of my stride and pushed on. Once round the Marine lake we re-joined the original coast road and headed for the finish line. I had completed 8 kilometres now and my time was 42:43, I was going well. I pushed on, as barring injury; I knew I would achieve a new PB. Finally as we turned the corner onto the long home straight, I could see the finish line in the distance. I sprinted down the home straight, keen to gain every place I could for my final standing. I crossed the line with a time of 51:54; I had managed to beat my PB by 2 minutes. I ran the last two kilometres of the race in 9:20.

As with most races these days you receive a ‘goody’ bag after crossing the finish line. You get the usual goodies, Medal, banana, a drink and a T-Shirt. However, the T-shirt does deserve a special mention for this race, as most T-shirts from these events can be pretty bland and boring. The Mad dog T-shirt was certainly not boring!!!

Overall, it was a great race, with a flat fast course that was very well organised. I would definitely race this one again. It is back next year and the race is called ‘Mad Dog 6 – Raiders Of The Lost Bark’


1Chris NicollDerby Triathlon ClubM33:36
36Kirsty Longley Liverpool Pembroke SeftonF38:12
775Gareth CardusM53:16

2004 finishers