Race Reports, January 2015

Grand Prix Race. Mud King/Mud Queen Race.

Bedewell Park XC (NEHL), Jarrow, 31st January

Mudman

'Mud People' by Joan Hanson The cross country road show moved from Pontefract to Jarrow this week and onto yet another very muddy course. Although the snow held off it was feeling pretty damn cold when the Sea of Purple, numbering 18, assembled for the Senior Women's race.

Cruelly robbed of medium pack qualification by one second at Wallington Mudwoman, with her toe on the start line, was determined to right that wrong. And right it she did with a magnificent run from the front to finish in 21st place and first Strider home. In Susan's first few X/C races some 15 years ago she finished in last place - which makes this promotion even sweeter and a fine example of what can be achieved through hard work, determination and application. Well done Mudwoman - we're all proud of you!!

Susan's promotion wasn't the only one on Saturday - Rachael Bullock (Wee Rach to Mudpeople) had an absolutely storming run from the medium pack taking her flying into the fast pack and second counter on the day. But that wasn't all! Fiona K-J showed how much she's improved by also qualifying for the medium pack - absolutely brilliant!

The place for fourth Strider counter came down to an eyeballs out sprint between Sarah D & Katy - which Sarah just about sneaked on the line. It was even more encouraging to see Lucy, Elaine (from the medium pack), Lesley, Steph P, Penny (from the fast pack & with a bad back!) & Camilla all finishing within a minute of Sarah & Katy. But there were brave Strider performances throughout the field and it was good to see Stef B back in the fold and Kelly giving X/C another go and enjoying every minute (it looked like she was anyway!) Well done everyone - you all contributed to Striders finishing 3rd on the day and now 4th for the season so far. We have an excellent opportunity for a podium finish at the end of the season!

It was a hard act to follow for the Striders men's team but with a good turnout (18 Striders) hopes were high. Personally, I had my worst X/C race for years so the least said about that the better! At the front our road specialist, Gareth P, developed a taste for the mud to be first Strider home, achieve medium pack qualification but all the while being incorrectly labelled and so disqualified - oh dear! There was plenty of support though with Stephen Jackson having a fantastic run from the medium pack to finish in 56th place and next Strider while a grimacing James G, a happy Graeme, a recovering Rob, a satisfied Scott and a determined Matt C made up the rest of the counters.

As always there were other fine performances throughout the field such as that by Danny Lim, who gave his absolute all, Innes who was delighted to beat 72 men! Gareth Cardus, on debut, in his lovely new yellow shoes and a welcome return by Richard Hocking. Well done to you all! The team results are just provisional as I write and we may well have slipped into the relegation zone - so we'll need an absolute supreme effort by every senior man in the club to keep our heads above water, prevent a slide down the slippery slope, stop us sinking into the abyss, keep us out of the red etc etc! Come on we can do it - lets pull out all the stops at Alnwick & Wrekenton!

...and Gareth Cardus

Well, today was the day - my first cross-country race! Having only been a member of Elvet Striders for a week, I was keen to get involved and sample the delights of cross-country. I have been running for the last two years, exclusively on roads and have run a few 10K events as well as the Great North Run. However, I have to say that nothing can prepare you for a good mudfest!

I arrived early at Bedeswell Park to obtain my number and Elvet Strider colours. As I trundled over to the club tent the severity of the mud/sludge that awaited me became apparent - and that was just crossing the field! At the tent I was met by friendly faces, all of whom made me feel welcome and part of the team. I was ready - or so I thought.

The events began in earnest with the young guns taking centre stage - the girls' and boys' races in the different age categories. Parents lined the course cheering whenever they got the chance and as I watched from the sidelines I remember thinking, 'these guys are quick' and I prayed I wouldn't come last when my race began.

Once they were finished, it was the turn of the senior women. There was a strong contingent competing from Elvet Striders, with five of our runners finishing in the top fifty. By this point, the course was cutting up badly and I was sure the mud was getting deeper by the minute - or maybe that was just my imagination!

At last the time had arrived - the senior men's race. I had my number and was looking the part in purple and green, not to mention my brand new yellow Mudclaw shoes. I had been warned numerous times throughout the day that they would not be yellow for long and so it proved to be.

The race began and my heart was pounding as I set off too quickly, like all keen beginners - rookie mistake! I hadn't gone half a kilometre before - yes, you guessed it - my lovely brand new yellow Mudclaw shoes were black! No time for sentiment though and as I pushed on, the cheering and support of the crowd was pulling me around the course. Parts of if were very boggy and it was hard going; there were a couple of moments when I thought I might lose a shoe but just managed to keep them on my feet.

About three-quarters of the way around the first lap I encountered the one and only steep hill on the course. It was tough but I made it to the top in one piece with the Mudclaws doing a great job at stopping me looking like Bambi! Before I knew it the first lap was over. I dropped my pace for the second lap and tried to run more efficiently but it didn't work. I was exhausted by the time I started the third and final lap, the mud having sapped the energy from my legs, but I gritted my teeth and smiled, 'I so love this' I thought and pushed on. At last, after what seemed like countless twists and turns, the finish line came into sight. I sprinted for the line like a cheetah chasing its prey; well, maybe more like a turtle, but it is a story after all!

Then that was it, in the blink of an eye the race was over. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I made my way back to the tent where there was a feast of food: doughnuts; pies; cakes - all sorts. 'I could get used to this' I thought, munching on a doughnut. Finally everyone said their goodbyes and went on their way. My first cross country event was over and I hadn't finished last! It was a great experience and one I can't wait to sample again.

Gareth's lovely new Mudclaws - before and after

Results

Men
Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Robert Balmbra Morpeth Harriers & AC S MSen 35:05
56Stephen Jackson MMsen40:40
116James Garland SMV3542:00
130Graeme Walton SMV4042:18
161Rob Everson MMsen42:57
188Scott Watson SMV5043:33
208Matthew Crow SMsen44:00
236Dave Halligan SMV5044:48
250Danny Lim SMV3545:03
252Geoff Davis SMV5545:06
264Michael Hughes SMV4545:26
268Matthew Archer SMsen45:33
366Keith Wesson SMV6049:26
392Innes Hodgson SMV4551:09
394Richard Hockin SMV6051:19
427John Hutchinson SMV5554:14
436Gareth Cardus SMV3555:56
445Ian Spencer SMV5058:22

466 finishers. Gareth Pritchard was first finisher for Striders but was disqualified for running with last year's number!

Women
Pos Name Club Pack Cat Time
1 Charlotte Whickham Gateshead Harriers S Fsen 28:07
21Susan Davis SFV5031:33
26Rachael Bullock MFsen31:55
28Fiona Jones SFV3531:56
48Sarah Davies SFV4532:24
50Katy Walton MFsen32:25
54Lucy Cowton SFsen32:30
61Elaine Bisson MFV3532:38
74Lesley Charman SFV4032:54
80Stephanie Piper SFsen32:59
87Penny Browell FFV4032:59
97Camilla Lauren-Maatta SFV4533:11
146Debra Goddard SFV4034:32
152Helen Williams SFV3534:42
163Jan Young SFV6035:03
203Stef Barlow SFV4036:22
243Diane Watson SFV5039:39
247Denise Benvin SFV4540:12
257Jennifer Cooper SFV3541:35
272Kelly Collier SFsen45:01
280Claire Galloway SFsen46:44

284 finishers.

Once more unto the mud dear Striders, once more! Lest we close the walls with our dirty washing!

Northern Cross-country Champs, Pontefract, 24th January

Mudman

Mudman himself, on the way to being first Strider home at the 
	Northern XC Champs 2015Fifteen of us headed down to Yorkshire for the Northern X/C Championships on Saturday. The scene at Pontefract racecourse at 9.45am was one of green, pastoral tranquillity if a little damp underfoot - however it didn't stay that way! The tent was quickly erected in the grassy area provided but soon the grass became enveloped in a grey mud which had the consistency of thick gruel. But that is something we're all used to now and so our enthusiasm for what we were about to receive was in no way 'dampened'!

An early arrival on the Gateshead / Durham Harriers bus meant we were able to watch the early races and do a thorough recce of the flattish course which was inside the area where the horse races take place. There were a number of damp patches which it was clear would make the course a tough one in spite of the absence of any hills of significance.

We witnessed some brave performances by the youngsters in their races, on what was a bright but cold and breezy day, and soon it was time for our own youngster, Ari, to set off in the Junior Men's race. Now the fields in the Northerns tend to be of a high quality and some of those 'junior' men were pretty damn quick. Nonetheless Ari hung on in there coping well with the muddy conditions on the two 4k laps and showing real guts and determination to complete the course - well done Ari and good luck with those exams!

The senior women were next up and Striders were well represented by eight Striderettes one or two of who were making their debuts in a regional championship race. Our purple tide was surrounded by vests of many hues from far flung places such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds & Stockport but, as expected, they all battled hard and were led home once again by the ever youthful Fiona followed by a flying Mudwoman, the improving Steph P and a resilient Debs to make up the four counters. Jan had another fine run, after telling a younger rival on the start line to stop complaining, while Catherine and Denise seemed to be having a ball on their runs although Denise was overhauled by a fighting Diane! A great performance all round and it was wonderful that we were able to field enough women to make up two teams when so many clubs are unable to put out one - well done!

Strider ladies at the Northern XC Championships 2015 - 
	Diane, Catherine, Steph, Susan, Debs, Denise, FionaThe senior men had the final use of the 'heavy going' and as we lined up in our 'pens' I found myself with my toe on the line along with Alistair Brownlee and many other fine runners. I didn't stay with them long as the start was another mad dash and I was quickly enveloped and overtaken by hundreds of other runners including first Matt C and then Mike H. Roughly the first K or so was slightly downhill with a following wind - although progress was slowed by the first few sticky patches. Half way round the first lap we all turned into the wind, the going became slightly up hill and the sticky bits were more frequent. I managed to overhaul Mike early on and noticed a guy from Teesdale, wearing a cap, with whom I'd battled with on the North Easterns and so latched onto him. He was a tough opponent and invariably came back at me each time I passed him. There was a long out and back on each lap where you could see all the runners ahead of you and then all the runners behind you. I'd noticed on the second lap that both Mike and Scott were a comfortable distance behind and so concentrated on battling with my Teesdale friend. To my dismay he started to pull away from me at the start of the third lap (the race was 3 laps) but 150m or so up ahead I spotted a Striders vest that could only belong to Matt. And so it was game on.

Mike finished strongly to be third Strider over the lineWithout increasing my pace too much the gap to Matt started to narrow but those sticky bits were starting to take their toll on my legs. As I got quite close, with half a lap to go, Matt became aware I was there and, as I would expect from any X/C running Strider, he started to fight back with short bursts which prevented me from 'taking the lead'. With shouts from the marshals like "good packing" and from Jan of "oh, he's catching you" things were becoming intense. About 200m out, just before a short steep bank, I decided to make my move and managed to ease past a still determined Matt. Running was now agonising but I was managing to hang on and was quite close again to my Teesdale pal. A final sprint for the line, which I was praying would be enough, allowed me to once again to enjoy the almost forgotten honour of being first Strider home - phew!

Matt finished just seconds behind me and was quick to offer his congratulations. Mike came in third Strider with a weary Scott in fourth. After a really tough race at the North Easterns, and another one here, Innes battled round to finish as fifth counter with Ian S completing the full team as 6th counter. What a team effort - everyone counting enabling Striders to be represented among the clubs able to field a team at such a prestigious and tough event. Well done to you all and thank you for representing this great club!

Results

Men
PosNameClubTime
1Andrew DaviesStockport Harriers & AC00:37:44
434Michael Thompson*Teesdale AC00:52:55
437Geoff Davis 00:53:03
438Matthew Crow 00:53:10
501Mike Hughes 00:55:33
514Scott Watson 00:56:03
655Innes Hodgson 01:05:36
677Ian Spencer 01:10:23
*Honourable mention for the Teesdale Pal

697 finishers.

Women
PosNameClubTime
1Elle VernonStockport Harriers & AC0:36:07
140Fiona Shenton 0:37:50
164Susan Davis 0:38:59
203Stephanie Piper 0:41:11
227Debra Goddard 0:42:31
264Jan Young 0:44:37
314Catherine Smith 0:49:11
323Diane Watson 0:49:59
325Denise Benvin 0:50:17

342 finishers.

Junior Men
PosNameClubTime
1Daniel JarvisLiverpool Harries & AC0:26:11
69Ari Hodgson 0:42:20

69 finishers.

Brass Monkey Half-Marathon, York Racecourse, York, 19th January

13.1 miles

Penny Browell

Penny, running hard to a PB at the 2015 Brass Monkey
I still have no idea why I signed up for the Brass Monkey this year. Last year's was my least favourite race of the year - flat, boring, hard work and just not my kind of thing. Yes I'd got a PB but even that hadn't really made up for spending 13.1 miles in drizzle and pain. So as I drove down to York this year I really wondered what I was doing...I'd agreed to go with my brother-in-law for a nice Sunday morning trip but he'd had to pull out at the last minute. So why was I still doing it? As I approached York it was a lovely, but very cold, morning. I saw one nasty accident where a van had gone over on the ice and realised the course was going to be icy which would probably kill my chances of a PB. Again I wondered why I was here...

Once I got to the racecourse I felt a bit better - there was a good show of Striders and as always it was nice to catch up as we compared notes on how much clothing we felt was needed in the sub-zero temperatures. As we lined up for the start I was struck by what a beautiful, crisp winter morning it was and actually began to look forward to the run. Before long we were off...

Stephen was first Strider home in a stunning time of 1:18:28
It's a big race, with about 1500 runners, and I found the first few minutes fairly stressful as I was stuck behind a gang of men who were all at least a foot taller than me. However, once I'd managed to dodge between them I felt a bit better. My legs felt strong and the cold weather was ideal for a nice long run. I set off a bit faster than I should have (as usual) but after a couple of miles settled into a really comfortable pace. The route is a lollipop shape and from a gradient point of view was, as I remembered, pretty boring. However, this year I found myself enjoying the scenery and the regular pace. I wasn't competing with anyone or stressing about people who I passed or who overtook me - I just enjoyed it. After a few miles we hit the first patch of ice. I have to admit I kind of liked the ice - as someone who enjoys the hills, I like having to think about where to place my foot and the risk of sliding was similar to the risk of slipping in mud on a downhill.

The ice came and went and all the way round there were fabulous marshals cheering us on, warning us about the icy patches and encouraging us through to the end. When we got to the 10-mile mark I realised I still felt good and that I wasn't going to suffer as I had the previous year. I actually managed to pick the pace up a bit for the last 2 miles (very rare for me in long races). At about the 12.5 mile point I was happy to see Allan waving us on although he seemed less happy to see me enjoying myself so much and shouted at me to get past the guys in front of me. I took his advice and managed an extra little burst for the final straight back into the racecourse and was delighted to finish more than 2 minutes ahead of my previous HM PB.

After changing, I saw Graeme who had also had a great run, along with Stephen who had finished in an incredible 1.18. From other people's reports it had obviously been a good day for a lot of us with PBs for many and a lot of very happy faces crossing the line. So although I'm still a hill-lover, I have to say I really enjoyed the race. I guess it's like everything else: variety is the spice of life! I'll be pleased to get back to cross-country in a couple of weeks though!

A trio of Strider ladies at the 2015 Brass Monkey: 
	Katy, Karen and Nicola

Results

Striders POS Name Club Cat Chip Time
MDaniel JenkinDurham City Harriers(M) Open Senior1:08:57
FShona McintoshHunters Bog Trotters(F) Open Senior1:16:13
1Stephen Jackson (M) Open Senior1:18:24
2Gareth Pritchard (M) V351:22:19
3Graeme Walton (M) V401:26:41
4Penny Browell (F) V401:31:44
5Helen Tones (F) V351:41:28
6Brian Ford (M) V451:43:10
7Lesley Charman (F) V401:44:16
8Helen Williams (F) V351:44:24
9Lucy Cowton (F) V401:46:17
10Greta Jones (F) V451:46:32
11Jackie Mckenna (F) V451:47:01
12Paul Beal (M) V501:49:04
13Jean Bradley (F) V551:49:19
14Katy Walton (F) Open Senior1:51:29
15Karen Jones (F) V451:51:29
16Nicola Whyte (F) Open Senior1:51:40
17Claire Readey (F) V351:53:00
18Eric Green (M) V451:53:25
19Kathryn Sygrove (F) V451:56:30
20Jacquie Robson (F) V352:04:06
21Gillian Green (F) V452:06:05
22Christine Anne Farnsworth (F) V602:13:21
23Laura Jackson (F) V352:13:47
24Jane Baillie (F) V352:16:28
25Helen Allen (F) V402:17:29
26Jill Ford (F) V452:25:49
27Alister Robson (M) V402:25:49
28Margaret Thompson (F) V652:27:30
29Barrie Evans (M) V65 QUERY

Note: POS shows relative Strider position. Not overall position.

1465 finishers.

Britain's Most Brutal Race

The Spine, Pennine Way, 10–17th January

268 Miles

Flip Owen

A winter's tale. The spine race is the whole of the Pennine Way in January. 270 miles of hills, bogs and everything the winter weather can throw at you high up on the backbone of England. It's a continuous race as in the clock is always ticking. It's billed as the UK's most brutal race and although conditions differ from year to year it's fair to say it's always brutal. It just has several different kinds of brutal.

My spine journey started a couple of years ago when I entered the race. However when it came to the second payment in November my knee was playing up and a few other niggles weren't great so I decided not to do it. I sent of an email saying as much but offered my time helping out if needed. Scot the RD said, he certainly will be in touch and I never heard anything more. As the race started in January I watched my friend's progress and as Alan Rumbles approached Middleton-in-Teesdale I went off with Anna to see if I could help him in any way. Alan was his usual smiling self as we got him some food but his feet were even at that stage a real mess. (Sadly Alan had cellulitis in his feet and after another 100 miles, within reaching distance of the finish had to make the call to call it a day.)

The place was a bit chaotic so I helped where I could, served tea and coffee, washed up for them and causally remarked to Amanda Crozier (I think) that I'd offered to help but heard nothing. At that I was leapt upon and asked if I could relive the marshals at Tan hill ASAP ! (Scott had forgotten about my email which isn't surprising as I guess he gets snowed under as the race approaches)

So off we went. We saw Sunderland stroller Neil Bennett through (who finished) and met Martin May Ottersbach who was in excellent condition but sadly had over slept and was taken out of the race. Lovely bloke though and I look forward to more journeys with him. I worked the next day they I was summed to Bellingham CP on the evening. As I pulled up and went through the doors a lad was standing in bare feet holding onto the door frame and asked if I might just help him for a minute. His feet were buggered as well. This was Charlie Sharpe, a well know and very fast runner. He was trying to get to the sleeping area which was across a court yard. I told him to wait there and backed my car to the doors, helped him in, drove the 10 yards to the sleeping area and helped him to his sleeping bag. From there I relieved the marshals at Byrness. It was some 6-7 hours later in the early hours of the morning the spinners started to come through. I had a stove in my car so I made hot drinks and fed them with goodies I'd picked up along the way. Charlie came in (he couldn't remember me at Bellingham several hours earlier!) and slept for a while in my car before struggling to his feet, barely able to stand and they blasted the Cheviots in 6.5 hours. That's always amazed me as the lad could barely walk. Chapeau Charlie!

So, to cut this short and to put it mildly, this race cried out to me to run it.

2015 Race
Well I guess like others the lead up to the race fairly did my head in. The gear was a compromise between ultra-light, meaning ultra-expensive and I couldn't afford or what I could afford but was going to make my back pay (and slow me down) due to increased weight. I begged and borrowed and bought as wisely as I could. (More on gear later). Then there is the route. Unlike a lot of ways in the UK the Pennine way isn't that well signposted. Yes there are plenty of signs but it's a long way and I'd say as many junctions of crossing paths without any indication of the way as there is. That is of course if there is a path. Sometimes it's a faint line or almost nothing. Add in some snow and you've got nowt !

I addressed some of this with a few days on the way in late September. Starting in Edale, where I'd never been before and heading north. I checked out the route, pubs, and places to fill bottles, possible bivvy places and found the CP North of Hebdon Bridge. I made a few mistakes, which was good as I wasn't going to make them twice and I spent as day in Haworth and another in Marsden refreshing (well it was my holiday as well!) Surprisingly a very enjoyable & interesting few days. I should do more hill walking. I just too busy running!

So come December and I'm starting to ease off. Looking after myself a bit and constantly reading Damien Halls excellent guide book that I used on my week recce. I also decided to take this with me. If you're lost I figured a detailed explanation would be like gold dust and worth its weight.

New Year's Day and I very gently ran around the Captain Cooks fell race being very careful and enjoyed the social after. It was here I tempted fate. Talking to Jason & Lisa Taylor I remarked I was in very good form with no injuries and my only worry was all the people around who were dying of cold-and pretty rotten colds at that. I said if it gets me, I'd be out of the race. In fact a few had come on the FB spine page and said as much. I guess everyone was gutted for those people and also like me thinking please god, spare me till after the race please.

On the 4th January, our club Christmas handicap it hit me. I was meant to be marking the course but was swooning and coughing and couldn't do it. I went along and took some pics and to the social as I like to support our club traditions. However on the evening I was ill as a dog. That was a Sunday, 6 days till race day. Monday was the same and Tuesday not much better four days till race day and I'm in bed ill!. By Wednesday I thought it easing a tiny bit. Thursday I had to make a decision and hoping I hadn't been hit by what everyone else seemed to have I decided to run. I booked a hotel in Sheffield, figuring I wouldn't be that popular coughing all night in the Youth Hostel and got a lift to the start. Did the kit check and briefing and heading to Sheffield. And I did cough all night. Train to the start with John Vernon and a good natter about the race and Hardmoors stuff.

Start
Well it was delayed 3 hours so a lot of hanging about but at last we were let go. Apparently Marcus who one the challenge event that had started at 6:30 am (the first 100 miles) was blown clean off his feet and injured. My Aarn backpack was playing up and I was very grateful for Neil Rutherford, another Aarn user working out what was wrong. The Aarn is a wonderful bit of kit but it is complex especially if you get all the straps twisted.

Kinder downfall. Just before the snow & hail hit.

The weather just then wasn't crazy bad, although the wind was howling. It wasn't really till we got to the top of kinder when the full force of the winds really hit us. It was quite difficult to stay on your feet. Kinder downfall was our first soaking as it was blown back onto us but to a person we all had our water proofs on. This was something I'd notice the previous year. Not one person didn't have their entire water proof kit on. This brief spell of 'good' weather was all to brief. The gale force winds hit us and the horizontal, hail and snow battered us. This was the story for the rest of my brief race. The weather has been described as biblical. I'll go with that. However I was quite please.Pleased because after all that worry I think I got the gear right. I was pretty snug and although it was hard going, especially vision wise I was happy enough. Except that was for the coughing. It took its time to start but heck coughing is exhausting at any time never mind I in the UK's most brutal race. I must say i found the weather exhilarating. I always do. I'm sure i wouldn't have said that at the end but weather like that make you feel alive.

Still I was optimistic that the coughing would sort itself out. I came across John Vernon approaching Black hill. John's an expert navigator but my recce was invaluable (and John said as much later). Every turn or junction came back to me as we came to it and I was particularly pleased just after the A62. The good path here becomes a peat bog track, cut up by mountain bikes and in parts 20ft wide. On my recce I went straight past a tiny white post on the right hand of this track that takes you almost ninety degrees right along a faint track. I purposely stayed right knowing that the post would be easy to miss. Just as I was telling John to stay right we came across in covered in snow. Unfortunately just as we did I saw another group heading over the hill making my recce mistake. I shouted and shouted but the wind took it away and they were out of sight.

At the A672 a van waited and we topped up with water. Not much mind as they were running low. I filled up at the next stream having already used my 2 litres. (I carried a small collapsible plastic bottle for this purpose). The goal was to make the white horse pub and refuel but with the start delay we missed it. With hindsight we were never going make it and we should have detoured on the Marsden road crossing to the great western pub. At the closed white horse pub John said he needed to eat so quickly cooked something up. I brewed a coffee and which went cold instantly. It was snowing, the wind was hellish and then realised it was bitterly cold. Some guy pulled out here, bivved down and went to sleep. I was a tad worried about him in the conditions.

Paving stones. Your best friend/worst enemy.

I whipped off my water proof and put on my Hanger 18 down jacket. Put the waterproof back on and was Ok again. That down jacket was a late acquisition for me but heck it was brilliant. From here it was straight forward.

My recce meant we weren't glued to maps (which was tough to read in the wind and snow). John knew the way down form Stoodley Pike (which I missed on the recce as I dropped down to mankinholes YH (which was group booked). Just as well as that can be tricky.

We crossed the canal and used the light for the road lights to changes our head torch batteries and slowly made our way to the cp. All the time I was coughing more and more. I put a balaclava on and was trying to breathe through it as that seemed to help with the coughing (possibly by warming the air). Into the cp and had a some food. This had taken us 16 hours for the 42 miles. I know it's completely different but to put it into perspective this is the distance of the Devil of the Highlands race. I've done that in 8:45 before. We agree to rest up 3 hours.

No rest for me though as I started is hacking up continually. I left the dorm as I was keeping others awake. I knew it was useless and I just wasn't well but it's a very tough decision to make. I pulled out after speaking to John. Gutted. (John also finished something that pleased me immensely)

Hardmoors family John & Ernie at the finish.

The rest of the time I got cleaned up and helped out a bit. Lass (i now know as Alzbeta Benn) had lost her water proof gloves and was heading out without them so I found mine for her and then as everyone left and the cleaning started I found myself cleaning the men's bogs while coughing my guts up. Now, really lads, what was going on here? Mud up the walls and everywhere. As the boots come off at the door I don't understand just how the mud was splatted in and around the sinks and also up the wall. Cleaning boots? The floors took 6 buckets to mop out. Not sure how this was possible.

A hard working spine worker lass gave me a lift to Hawes then to Middleton. After helping get all the food in I was picked up for home.

By the time I got there I was pretty ill and spent the next few days in bed hacking up. I watched the tracker on my phone cursing my luck but willing my friends on. It's taken another two weeks to get clear of the virus.

Despite the biblical weather or is suppose because of it. The race had a bumper finish this year no doubt partly due to the divisions and the race being held up five times giving 'free' recovery time (if the race hold you up you get your clock stopped and the time back). I doubt that will happen again.

So, will I be there again?. If money was not an issue then there would be no question at all. It's a must do race for me.  The spine IS good value for money as the setup is immense with crazy logistics. However it still costs 5 times the cost of say a West Highland Way Race, Hardmoors110/160 or Lakeland 100 (The Three classic northern 100 mile hill races ) and for me that's a lot of money. The race coming so soon after Christmas doesn't help as being self-employed no one pays me when I'm on holiday (yes this was my holiday).

It's also a lot of money to risk that can be lost to a cold or an injury. However it won't be left at that. I will take the risk of colds or injury & be on the start line again, I just don't know if it will be next year.

So a bitter disappointment and huge waste of money but it was an experience and all experiences have positives no matter how frustrating or hard to bear. The trick is to take the positives and put them to good use. Once my pet lip is put away I'll do that.

South Shields parkrun, 17th January

Dougie Nisbet

A week after my gusty Ormskirk parkrun I decided to give South Shields a try. In sharp contrast to last week there was no shelter or toilets although you could park about 5 yards from the start line. I could imagine that on a windy day this exposed location could be a bit bleak but the morning had dawned fine, fair and frosty with clear views out over the sea.

A cold and frosty morning.

I listened to the briefing and thought I'd misheard. It wasn't what he said, it was what he didn't say that caught my attention. I whispered to a nearby volunteer, "you mean, there are no laps?". With so many parkruns having to squeeze their 5km into a small space laps are often inevitable, but the South Shields parkrun course is just one large anti-clockwise loop that starts at the top of a hill and finishes outside the Sanddancer.

Fast Finish.Off we went heading south along the pavement before turning left after a mile to head down to the sea. There's a bit of GNR, Pier to Pier, and Sanddancer 10K all rolled into one here. The descent was fast and fun with a few frozen puddles to watch out for before a long wide tempo section to the finish flag.

It was a calm day on a course with an overall drop so I should've expected a better time than last weeek. Even so I was pleasantly surprised to get just under 24 minutes - three minutes faster than last week! It's a good event, about £49 cheaper than the GNR and no problems with the traffic getting home from South Shields afterwards.

Cathedral Relays, Durham City, 11th January

Ben Ford

Cathedral relays
Striders poised, ready steady
1 2 3 and go

Ormskirk parkrun, 10th January

Dougie Nisbet

Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

The decision to read Shelley instead of TS Eliot had been a controversial one given that the timing of the parkrun was so close to the 50th anniversary of the passing of TS Eliot. However the wild and squally wind sweeping over the campus at Edge Hill University for the Ormskirk parkrun had necessitated a change of text for the run briefing.

It was certainly one of the more unusual parkrun briefings I've listened to. Apart from the usual stuff about the route there was the poetry and some up and coming announcements about the next parkrun where the 19 minute pacer wasn't sure if they could get round in 19 minutes, and was there a pacer for the pacer?

The wonderful thing about parkrun is that no two are alike. You can turn up, as I did, at an unfamiliar venue, locate the familiar flag, and that's all there is to it. The Ormskirk parkrun I like. Heated changing rooms, toilets and coffee just yards from the start/finish and plenty of parking. The course was tough though; one of those multi-dimensioned lap-type parkruns that always seem far further than 5km. The wind, hills and stairs(!) resulted in a very sluggish 26minute+ parkrun, but it got me out of bed on Saturday morning and I learned a bit of Shelley.

Great Winter Run 5K, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, 10th January

Laura Jackson

Laura Jackson - Elvet Striders' Ice Maiden!I signed up for this event in August last year as I was frightened I would stop running once the Great North Run was over in September 2014. Although it is only a 5K it takes in historic Arthur's Seat and being an escaped Scot it was too much to resist. My sister and two of her friends also signed up so we had a team of four when we arrived in Edinburgh on Saturday morning, on what turned out to be a perfect winter's day - sunny but crisp with a little frost underfoot on the grass.

Whilst waiting in the obligatory portaloo queue, fellow Strider Till Sawala came to say hello. He was also doing the event, having been in Edinburgh for work a few days previous to the event. We were given coloured "waves" to start in, a bit like the GNR. I was in green but my sister and her friends were in pink so I dropped back to pink with them. Each wave started about a minute or so apart but as it was chip timed it wasn't an issue. Soon it was our turn to go.

A lovely flat downhill start quickly turned into a 2km gradient, up the right hand bank of Arthur's Seat. The gradient got gradually steeper then it flattened out to some amazing scenery. Travelling round the back of the mound was something I've never done before so was unaware of the "loch" and also the scenery of Edinburgh and beyond.

Hailstones batter the runners around Arthur's SeatAs we continued around it became completely surreal. A big dark cloud which seemed to have appeared from nowhere released hailstones at such a force that it felt like we were being fired at with small missiles. Luckily I had decided not to ditch my Striders hoodie for my rain jacket as this gave some protection against the cold pellets that were firing in all directions. Some runners in front of me simply stopped as visibility was poor. I tied my hood up as high as I could and with my glasses as eye protection, I continued on my way.

Shortly after this, the hail morphed into big fat snowflakes and this signalled the final 2k descent which was without a doubt the best feeling ever. Running 2km completely downhill as the snow disappeared and the sun came back was a beautiful end to the event and on completing we were given a packed goodie bag, medal and long sleeved, non-tech, t-shirt (the Drumstick Squishies were eaten en route back to the car!) .

Goody bag minus Drumstick Squishies!I really enjoyed the race and will definitely use the route again as a casual run or perhaps for preparation for a hilly route as the hill itself was very difficult. This was a lovely 5K event and local to my parents so I'd probably do it again next year. My finish time was 38.39 which, given the weather and the mountain to climb, I wasn't too bothered about, I was just pleased to have done,it and most importantly, enjoyed it. Well done too to Till, who finished a whole 20 mins before me and also in an amazing 22nd place- what a hero!

The race also provided the fringe event for the Great Edinburgh Cross Country that was being televised and as I was waiting on my sister to finish, I watched Chris Derrick doing his final preparations before then going on to win the men's event later in the day. We would have probably stayed to watch if we had not been like snowy, wet icicles at the end.

Results

PosNameClubCatCat PosTime
1Nathan CoxMorpeth Harriers & AC16:32
7Annabel SimpsonFife AC19:16
22Till SawalaElvet Striders18:42
1844Laura JacksonElvet Striders38:39

1881 finishers.

OH NO IT ISN'T!

Not the Christmas Handicap, 4th January

Pam Kirkup

What a fantastic turnout we had today – and the sun was shining on a perfect day for running!

You wouldn't mess with this pair. Six weeks ago I thought it wasn’t going to happen. Too many GP races and other events were crowding in so the entry for my original date was pitiful – a whole 6 people. Today we had 10 times that number with only a few withdrawals – all for viral infections or injuries. So at 10.55 this morning we all gathered together on the field for the annual group photograph. And the costumes were amazing! We had pirates, pantomime dames, princesses, several Red Riding Hoods (at least one male version!), Rudolph the red nosed …, a wicked witch, Cinderella, a host of other characters including Scott as the Wolf from Red Riding Hood who terrified runners and passers-by with his antics.

If you go down to the woods today. We congregated in MC before we ventured out into the cold and I noticed a line of men queueing for coffee and looking with astonishment at the stream of people arriving dressed in bizarre costumes. It was priceless!

So we got started at around 11.00am and thankfully everyone was ready for their start time. The finish was a bit busy to say the least. Thankfully a group of Striders and marshals managed to funnel finishers into the right order. It worked perfectly! I’d like to thank everyone who helped. Tom & Joan Reeves marshalled at crucial turning points – and Joan decorated a couple of places with tinsel. Phil & Anna were a huge help with the course, leading new runners and helping at the finish. Sue did a great job registering runners and helping me with the timing and of course a huge thanks to Santa and his elves who came out of hibernation in Lapland for the day to support the race and help at the finish. Thank you again to MC Tom who did the presentation in the pub – sorry about all the e-mails!!

Panto Villains, the lot of them.

Results

Santa's Striders
Pos Name 5 mile time Start Time Finish Time Actual Time Prize
1 Adam Walker 28.8 33min30 65min13 31.43 fastest male
2 Neil Sleeman 30.4 32min 64min17 32.17 2nd fastest male
3 Katy Walton 32.3 30min 65min23 35.23 fastest female
4 Conrad White 32 30min30 65min19 34.49
5 Elaine Bisson 34.032 28min15 64min18 36.03 2nd fastest female
6 Scott Watson 33.6 28min45 66min07 37.22 F.D. Prize
7 Keith Wesson 34 28min30 66min59 38.29
8 Eric Green 36.944 25min30 64min06 38.36 F.D. Prize
9 Michael Ross 36.8 25min30 64min39 39.09
10 David Spence 36.112 26min15 66min06 39.51
11 Richard Hall (senior) 36.8 25min30 65min37 40.07 F.D. Prize
12 Lesley Charman 35.84 26min30 67min05 40.35
13 Andrew Davies 37.6 25mins 66min10 41.1
14 Jan Young 45 17min30 59min12 41.42 1st finisher
15 Erin Keeler-Clarke (J) 40.5 21min30 63min56 42.26 1st junior
16 Jean Bradley 40.368 22mins 64min38 42.38
17 Stephnie Piper 41.6 21mins 64min27 43.06
18 Ian Spence 44.064 18min30 61min45 43.15 F.D Prize
19 Debs Goddard 39.2 23min15 66min40 43.25 F.D Prize
20 Jane Ives 39.2 23min15 66min40 43.25 F.D Prize
21 Lucy Cowton 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
22 Fiona kinghorn Jones 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
23 Nicola Whyte 40 22min30 66min24 43.44
24 Melanie Hudson 40 22min30 66min38 44.08
25 Mandy Dawson 42 20mins30 64min33 44.33 F.D Prize
26 David Case 40.8 21min 65min33 44.33
27 Anita Clementson 45 17min30 62min42 45.12 F.D Prize
28 Diane Watson 46.4 16min 63min15 45.15
29 Debbie McFarland 44.96 17min30 65min30 46
30 Steve Ellis 41.84 20mins30 67min10 46.4 F.D Prize
31 Karin Hooper 46.4 16min 64min45 46.45
32 Denise Mason 44 18min30 65min28 46.58
33 Karin Younger 48 14min30 61min35 47.05
34 Barbara Dick 45 17min30 64min37 47.07
35 Gillian Green 43.968 18min30 65min44 47.14
36 Denise Benvin 48 14min30 61min52 47.22
37 Catherine Smith 45.392 17min 64min32 47.32
38 Helen Hall 51.2 11min15 62min20 51.05 F.D. Prize
39 Mike Elliott 52 10min30 62min08 51.38
40 Stan White 45.04 17mins30 71min27 53.57
41 Dougie Nisbet 44.8 17min30 71min27 53.57 F.D Prize
42 Aileen Scott 49.904 12min30 66min32 54.02
43 Margaret Thompson 51.2 11min15 66min16 55.01
44 Joanne Parkinson 54.4 8min 63min50 55.3
45 Shelagh Barton 53.392 9min 65min 56
46 Joanne Richardson 51 11min15 68min03 56.48
47 Katharine Bartlett 56.848 5min30 62min25 56.55
48 Claire Galloway 51.792 10min30 67min41 57.11
49 Kerry Lister 49.6 12min45 70min01 57.16
50 Victoria McClean 49.92 12min30 70min04 57.34
51 Sophie Dennis 49.616 12min45 70min25 57.4
52 Laura Jackson 54.448 8min 67min29 59.29
53 Bev Walker 62.4 0 61min20 61.2
54 Mike Bennett 40 22min30 DNS
55 Anita Dunseith 50.4 12min DNS
56 Ann Towers 50 12min30 DNS
57 Dave Robson 40 22min30 DNS
58 Mark Dunseith 39.5 23min DNS
59 Lyndsay Rodgers 37.104 25mins15 DNS
60 Malcolm Sygrove 35.68 26min45 DNS
61 Lucy Butt 33.6 28min45 DNS

53 finishers.

Morpeth 11k Road Race, 1st January

Aaron Gourley

After a hit and miss 2014, I really was looking forward to getting 2015 going. A family and friend week away in Alnwick meant that my usual NYD Captain Cooks fell race was out of the question so I set my sights on Hillforts and Headaches in Northumberland only to find out it had been cancelled for this year. But in its absence was Morpeth 11k road race hosted by Morpeth Harriers.

After a few too many on NYE and a very late bedtime, the 1pm start was a bonus. Having roped my non-running friend to join me we set off from Alnwick to Morpeth with families in tow. Arriving at Morpeth Rugby club it became apparent to my friend that only club runners are mad enough to run on NYD and with the weather not particularly good for spectators below the ages of 6, our wives drove off and left us.

A large contingent of Elswick Harriers were present and I'd pointed out who was most likely to win. Then I spotted Fiona Shenton as she made her way to the start but didn't get to say hello. The start was midway up a steep hill heading downwards. Before long we were off, down the back roads of Morpeth and under the A1. The road was undulating until about the 3km mark when it started the long drag upwards.

Up until this point Fiona was never more than 50 meters away but on the climb I slowly closed the gap. About three quarters of the way a guy who had been passed by Fiona asked who she was, stating what a runner she was. I agreed and pressed on determined to catch her. A strong crosswind accompanied us to the top of the climb at around the 6/7km mark before a change of direction put the wind behind us and sent us downhill back to Morpeth. At this point I was within 5ft of Fiona and hoping to let her know she wasn't the only Strider present, but she seemed to find another gear and had quickly opened up the gap. I tried to keep pace but couldn't on the fantastic downhill back into Morpeth.

Back in town we were swept left into Carlisle Park and up a really short but nasty hill before a fast, flat out run along the river to the finish line.

I never did get to say hello to Fiona as I waited for my friend to finish, but he never did, he'd dropped out at 9km and got a lift back to the finish from one of the marshals which was a real shame.

In all, this was a fantastic race, quite tough but one that should be given more consideration by our road loving members.

Results

PosNameClubCatCatposTime
1Tadele GeremewElswick HarriersSM 34.58
31Jacqueline PennNorth Shields PolyF42.29
82Fiona ShentonV5547.52
86Aaron GourleySM48.06

182 finishers

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

Captain Cook's Fell Race, Great Ayton, N.Yorks, 1st January

BS/8 km/318 m

Steph Piper

Elvet Striders pose for a photo with Great Ayton's WWI commemorative sculptureAt some point in December, following Jan and Paul's deceptively encouraging description of this race I made the decision to tackle the Captain Cook's fell race - what better way to bring in the New Year than with a new running challenge?

New Year's Eve came around. I dug out my Camelback rucksack and stuffed it with three different waterproof jackets, trousers, map, compass, whistle and penknife - just in case I needed to cut my arm off. Emergency jelly babies also went in as a precaution. The FRA kit-list was a little intimidating - all this for a five mile yomp up a hill and back? Yikes.

I travelled down with Scott and Diane Watson, who were also running, and their daughter Kathryn who had come to spectate and take photographs. Once registered it was time to sort out the bag. Scott kindly (ruthlessly?) vetted the contents (out went two of the jackets, the trousers, the jelly babies and the knife…). Ready to race? You betcha.

As a GP race, fellow Striders were out in force. We had just enough time for a group photo with the wicker soldier before bunching up at the start line. Despite having read the last few years' race reports and studying the route I really had no idea what to expect, so I simply focussed on getting round the race and set off at a steady pace.

Once out of the village and off the tarmac, the trail soon became narrow and muddy. The frost and snow from the past few days had thawed in the balmy 12 degrees and turned the trail thick with clarts the Mud Captains would have been proud of. It wasn't long before the steady running pace turned to a walk as each step tried to claim a shoe, an ankle, a competitor.

Hidden within the depths of the woods was the steepest ascent. I craned my neck upwards to see the legs and feet of several Striders disappearing from view. Mel Hudson appeared at my side and we trudged upwards before finally breaking out of the trees to be buffeted by a strong side wind across the tops. Mel put her head down and started on ahead, towards the monument itself, which was miraculously close - I'd almost forgotten we were meant to be running! I kept close as the route turned downhill across slabs and track, picking up plenty of speed past the fir trees decorated with tinsel and baubles.

A flying Steph on the downhill leg towards the finish The descent steepened and deteriorated into even thicker mud, resembling the Aykley Heads XC course - but on steroids. Choose a line: through the middle, ankle deep? Jump from side to side? I tried the latter, pinballing between trees and the sides of the ruts, but these were covered in the slick mud churned up by the runners in front and far too unstable. Through the middle it was then, praying I tied my laces tight enough.

We skirted the old mines before descending on to tarmac and past the houses of Gribdale Terrace and Dikes Lane. Almost every inhabitant had come out to watch us, waving, cheering and wishing a "Happy New Year" over the garden wall. The sharp right hand bend and short, steep uphill section took me by surprise. I walked again, not recalling how much was left of the race from the map and how much energy I might need to conserve. Mark Dunseith thundered past, shouting over his shoulder I was under the hour mark and disappeared through a gate as the course headed back off-road. I followed suit, determined not to let him get too far ahead as the route took the occasional twist and turn through more woods and fields.

Suddenly I heard shouting and looked up from my detailed study of the still-clarty trail to see that a sea of multicoloured people were stood around the next corner. Was this the end? Surely not. It couldn't be over already? I crossed the line, bewildered, into the laughing and clapping throng of far speedier Striders. What had just happened? My first fell race was conquered, and the seed of a new running curiosity was planted. That was what happened.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Time
1Paul LoweNorth York MoorsM45/1/50/5032.49
4Bronwen OwenScarborough ACFJ/1/50/5033.53
25Paul Evans MO/12/37/12037.29
70Scott Watson M50/8/41/13141.13
73Mike Bennett M60/1/50/5041.26
111Michael Hughes M45/18/31/3143.52
113Penny Browell F40/3/46/19444.02
141Eric Green M45/27/22/2246.05
159Mandy Dawson F45/4/45/4547.12
164Lucy Cowton FO/7/42/4247.52
182Jan Young F60/3/46/19449.40
197Camilla Lauren Maatta F45/5/44/18651.42
210Ari Hodgson MJ/2/48/4853.08
217Melanie Hudson FO/15/34/3453.50
218David Shipman M55/14/35/3553.51
232Stephanie Piper FO/20/29/2955.03
233Ian Spencer M50/31/18/1855.06
250Diane Watson F50/5/44/4460.04
263Denise Benvin F45/11/38/3864.57
264Phil Owen M45/38/11/8565.14
265Gillian Green F45/12/37/3767.10
268Anita Dunseith FO/26/23/6674.17
269Kerry Lister F40/13/36/3679.20
271Claire Galloway FO/28/21/2186.00

271 finishers.