Race Reports, June 2016

Hadrian's Wall Half Marathon, 26th June

Elaine Bisson

This is the third year I have run this race, it is a particular favourite of mine. It has it all, it's low key, (race limit is 600, with only 350 racing on the day,) it is a circular route on mixed terrain, it has nearly 1000ft of climb, a few stiles/gates to open, in beautiful surroundings, with great support. It is not a half marathon PB course. It starts on Edges Green, a field close to Hadrian's Wall, near Once Brewed. It is best to allow plenty of time (to account for getting lost en route) and to park where you are less likely to get stuck! Race headquarters is a tent, always buffeted by strong winds, there are a few portable toilets and one food outlet selling good food at a premium. The views to all sides are spectacular.

Fast and Furious under grey skies.

The race starts at 10am, there is a fast and furious downhill as we follow the race organiser in his car. After the first mile the road climbs and climbs and when you've just about had enough, it climbs again. By mile 4 we take a left down a track and from now until the last mile it's all off road, with a mixture of good trails, rutted farm fields, a beautiful field covered in buttercups, onto moorland...always boggy, (along part of the Penine Way), then again up and up and up for a big climb at mile 7 onto the trails of Wark Forest. I always think this will be a welcome relief but the camber is quite painful and the rocks prevent me from picking up to top speed. It continues to undulate with a few nasty hills to come.

We pass the huge radio mast then the path generally drops until I hit tarmac. I finally shift up a gear knowing that I can finish strong after my slow start. I pick up the pace and mark out two men I've been trailing for much of the race. 'Drumstick' man is passed on the first hill. The second needs a good catch, he's about 400m away but slowing and there is still a good mile left. The last half mile is downhill with short sharp hill at the end...this always fills me delight (I know I'll get him on that hill). He slows at a cattle grid, as do I but I pick up my pace. My daughter is now running alongside, with a little "get him mummy" I manage to speed up again, my legs are burning as I reach the top but the finish is in sight and I've left him behind. A last push and I'm there.

Final Hill. I think.

Previous weekends of racing (Swaledale) and supporting a BGR with a long walk in the lakes have scuppered my plans to feel race ready for this event. However I scrape a 50second course PB, am fourth lady and 24/349 and I win a prize for my age category. I promise myself I will attack those hills better next year....

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

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, 26th June

10.5 m (or 11 miles for some)

Penny Browell

Photo of Penny Browell. Photo of Tom Reeves.
Now I'm not the best at navigating but I was pretty sure I'd be ok with this race for a couple of reasons - it's an out and back race (in pretty much a straight line) and I'd done it last year. So how could I go wrong? This is exactly the question I was asking myself as I stood in the midst of some bracken on the way back which definitely hadn't been there on the way out. I looked ahead and behind and there were no runners to be seen anywhere. So I got out my map, stopped and looked at it in the vague hope it would magically burst into life and tell me which way to go.

Sadly it didn't. And it didn't appear to show any of the fences I'd passed so I decided to go for my usual technique when lost - keep running and hope it's in vaguely the right direction. After a few minutes of gradually getting more worried I eventually spotted some people running a couple of hundred metres away from me so I headed over to where they were. The marshals looked bemused as I arrived at a checkpoint from completely the wrong direction. I was relieved to see them but the competitor in me had to ask "How many places have I lost?". "Five" they said "but you're still first lady". That was some compensation but I knew my chances of a PB were slipping away.

Photo of the winners.

After a slightly disappointing patch in my running due to minor injuries and tiredness I wanted this to be the race where I proved to myself I could still run well. The first half had gone reasonably well - I felt strongish on the climb and the descent seemed less difficult than last year (recent runs in the Lakes have obviously affected my perceptions of what a steep hill is). But then came the river. The river crossing in this race is really not pleasant. You have to get all the way across the Tees in water up to your thigh (on me anyway) and the rocks are unbelievably slippy. It took me forever to get over to the crocodile and back so by the time I was out of the river I'd almost been caught by the guy behind me and I knew I was losing time.

Photo of Steph Piper. Photo of Susan Davies.
The joy of out and back races is that you get to see all of your competitors. Having seen the front runners speed past me prior to the river, it was lovely to see both Susan and Steph on the way back and to be encouraged by the marshals that I was still in the top 10. Looking at my watch I figured I was on for a PB.

Sadly it was soon after this that everything went wrong. Having lost 5 places and several minutes it was hard to stay motivated; I managed to get past 3 of the 5 but was still a long way off where I wanted to be. The long track to the end seemed to go on forever and when I finally crossed the line I was greeted by looks of "what happened to you???".

Results aren't out yet but according to my watch I was about 12 seconds slower than last year. I have to say I was somewhat gutted but the disappointment soon passed with a drink in the pub and a couple of goodies for being first lady (this is a very small race so being first wasn't a massive achievement!). Tom and Susan also picked up prizes for winning their categories and Steph was given a spot prize for her unusual way of crossing the river... So all in all a fun day out. It's a great race but for me it has a bit too much road and track at the start and end. And obviously they need to make the route a bit less complicated!

Humbleton Fell Race, Haydon Bridge, 22nd June

BS / 5.3m / 787ft

David Brown

After two consecutive DNS’s for varying strains and splutters, I was becoming restless and fearful that my racing pants would ne’er be soiled again. I chanced upon this fell race via a rather delightful little flyer, described as a ‘lovely route in rural Tynedale’, I scraped the Harrier League muck off my fell shoes, and trundled over after work .

Navigation Skills Required.

Blue skies awaited me and I was greeted into the school, superb organisation saw signs direct me to my destination, which appeased any anxieties about finding the place. I changed into my kit as the school yard slowly filled, before signing a short form and handing over £6 in exchange for a number AND safety pins. There was a ten minute walk to the start line (field) again well marked and I trotted along with a couple other runners. Being rather early I started a few effortless drills up and down the starting hill, before cheering on the juniors, a great sight to see and some fantastic efforts shown on their little faces.

The starting pen (corner of field, behind the cow muck/nettles) started to fill up, as I glanced at vests emblazoned with words such as ‘Keswick’, my dreams of a podium finish were dashed (apparently they have good hills to play on). Brief instructions from the race director (“duck under barbed wire, don’t get run over, don’t break your ankle”) a blow on the whistle and we were off, upwards being the direction. We began the climb up and around the hill and into the woods, continuously climbing in single file, with respite coming by form of kissing gates and stiles.

Due to a recent chest plague I was wary not to kill myself going up, so I held back a little to set the scene and figure out the probabilities of me dropping down dead (fair to middling). Still we climbed, forever upwards, however my legs felt strong and I kept my position. The field had spread out rapidly, and by the time we reached the open fells there was a fair gap betwixt runners. As I steadily climbed, and realised I was likely to see my family again, I decided to press on. There was a Tynedale lass about 50 m ahead, she would be my first target, and I changed up a gear and overtook just as we neared the highest point.

It’s up here we get our numbers crossed with red felt tip from the race directors mother, and begin our descent. Guided only by small markers I spied one runner ahead, a civilian not belonging to a club. With around 2 miles to go I now wanted to race, and somewhat regretted taking it easy in the early stages. I began hurtling myself through the overgrown fells, unsure where my feet were landing, with the occasional bog adding a refreshing surprise. The civilian began nervously descending, and politely stepped aside as I put on my best ‘I know what I’m doing’ face and sprinted past him, arms flailing like an octopus in a tank top.

As we looped back toward the woods, I glanced back and noticed a pack had given chase, amongst them lads from Elswick and Morpeth, we crossed stiles and began the race down the wooded single tracks, no room to overtake and I was leading the pack. Around a mile to go I was galloping over roots, winding my way down and down with exhilarating speed (I thought so anyway). No idea where I was in regards to position, but I pretty soon got my Harrier League head on, and there was no way either of these lads were passing me, it wasn’t going to happen. As we were spat out of the woods, into the open and onto the road, my cushion-less fell shoes turned to stone as we raced toward the finish and I held off the pack as promised, to a hero’s welcome.

I finished in a time of 45.45, and 23rd out of 60. This was indeed a ‘lovely route’, and a one to look out for next year. The size of the field was small enough to remain friendly, and big enough to spread across all abilities – but I couldn’t help thinking some of our faster lads and lasses should get over there to race some fantastic runners and push themselves on the fells, maybe Keswick will be the ones shaking at the start.

A sprinkling of Portmagic

Portrush parkrun, Northern Ireland, 18th June

Jonathan Hamill

My legs feeling a little heavier from my mid-week efforts at Lisburn Half Marathon, I headed North, to Portrush (Portmagic as it is known to locals). Having grown up nearby, running on my old doorstep was a good way to conclude my trip.

A room with a view.

A school friend had recently opened a luxury B&B, and I was keen to try it out. Blackrock House is the 1st 5* graded B&B in Portrush, and recent runner up in the Tourism Northern Ireland Awards 'Most Promising New Tourism Business' 2016.

I alighted the Belfast train at Dhu Varren, just before the main Portrush station and walked round the corner to Blackrock House. Nicola’s house has fantastic views (photo above), overlooking the West Bay beach, promenade and having stunning views towards the Giant's Causeway. It is also situated on the main Causeway Coastal Route, offering many running options, including a coastal run of around 6 miles to nearby Portstewart. It is a runner friendly B&B, and I’d highly recommend it to those of you who are contemplating running events in the local area.

Hopefully their services won't be required.

Breakfast Done, parkrun to run. I headed out on the Friday morning for a gentle run. Leaving Blackrock House, I dropped down onto the West Bay promenade, past the famous Barry’s amusements, the Lifeboat Station and Harbour, rounding the headland at Lansdowne, towards the East Strand (home to Portrush parkrun), and eventually back through the town.

On the Saturday morning, my runner friendly breakfast comprised granola with local yoghurt (Nicola also offers the post parkrun option of something more substantial). Portrush parkrun has a slightly more civilised start of 0930hrs and although it is a short jog from Blackrock House, I gladly accepted Nicola’s offer of a lift as she was taking some photographs of the event.

Portrush parkrun is the world’s first beach parkrun and it is run entirely on the sand. The course starts adjacent to the watersports centre at the East Strand and rounds the coastline towards the White Rocks and back. It is flat but challenging with a variable surface, according to the tide.

The course route - it looks a bit Chariots of Fire.

Run Director. Mervyn Thompson (pictured left), officiating as Run Director provided the briefing. This included the offer of tomato plants, from Fiona, one of the regulars who had got a wee bit carried away in the garden! A nice touch saw the milestone runners called up to the front and applauded by the crowd. A BBC camera crew was filming for the documentary, “Love in a day” which focuses on people doing things they love and on this occasion, the love of parkrun! Faye McLernon, a former schoolmate was filmed, (look out for the purple t-shirt).

Contrary to the weather forecast, it had been dry for the past few days and it was a sunny day, although the wind was pretty fierce, as I found out! High tide had been at 0630hrs and there was some reasonably firm sand along the route.

I set off from the beach start line and struck a decent pace, which would have delivered a finish of around 25 minutes. All was good, until the turning point – a flag with loose sand, which took the wind out of my sails. The return was into the wind, which was formidable and my pace took a hammering – no negative splits! I did wonder if the catch-up with an old friend in the Harbour Bar the previous evening had hampered my chances a little too!

202 runners attended Portrush parkrun’s 202nd event! The fastest finisher came in at 19:13. I was slower than usual but given the wind and miles under my belt during the week, I was happy to come in 10th in my age category at 27:07.

If you like the pier to pier ...

After some quick goodbyes, I had to shoot off to catch the train back to Belfast, and a comparatively complex two-flight hop via Heathrow home. There are no direct flights to Newcastle on a Saturday, which work with parkrun timings (I suspect most people would make a weekend of it anyway).

For those interested in sampling the North coast hospitality, the following may also be of interest and I’d happily help folk with their travel plans as required:

Mike's Bob Graham Round, The Lakes, 17–18th June

72M / 27,000'

Mike Hughes

The "Bob Graham Round", or simply "the BGR" or even just "BG" - there is plenty written about it so no point going into details here, suffice to say is not a race, you are the only entrant, you go when you like, you start and finish at Moot hall in Keswick. To be successful you have returned there after visiting the 42 named peaks of the BGR in under 24 hours.

My report ended up being quite long, the short version; I trained lots, tried hard, had loads of people to help and did it with just minutes to spare.

My full BG story....

I've been going to the lakes regularly since I was a young lad and even now every time I visit the sheer beauty and grandeur of the place impresses me. I've got to know the hills fairly well over these last 30 years or so, and sometimes learnt the hard way when the weather "comes in" that it's not always a friendly place and you need to respect the hills and be properly kitted out. I started running fairly recently, about 3-4 years ago, at first trying all sorts of different races both on and off road, in the end settling on more of the off road sort of running. I was hesitant about fell running, thinking it was quite mad. In Feb 2013 I did my tentative first fell race, Commondale Clart. Trying to run through the heather scrub and falling flat on my face in a bog (in front of the only two ramblers out on the fell) and then an exhilarating charge down a grassy hill I was hooked, and it is mad, it's great.

So, when I heard about the BGR for the first time a few years ago I thought great, that's interesting, I bet some of those routes will make some nice days out walking in the lakes, might even think about doing the whole route one day, you know, take a back pack and do one leg one day, stay in a youth hostel or something then do some more, might be able to do it in 3 days?

Then you start doing bits, and you start looking at how long it should take you to do that on a full BG attempt.... hmmm, it's pretty quick going, it's not always running, you walk the hills after all. Then someone asks you if you fancy a go at it one day, you scoff, no..., no..., it's mad...but you are lured in, hooked, the question is there, could you do a BG?

So, you have a choice, you are approaching 50, by no means too old, Geoff did a BG then at 50 did another for good measure, adding a further 8 tops in to make it 50 at 50, and did it quicker than his first shorter attempt! . Are you going to have a go one day? Have a go? Yes, that's it, you are not setting out to be as bold as to complete it, but you, like many others, brave an attempt, it's bound to be a good day out and see how far you can get, you never know, you might do it?

I thought about it for at least a year, it's not so much the attempt itself, but I knew you would need time to get the training in, get "the hills" in your legs, be "fell fit".

After much faffing about I finally decided to have a go, so soon after Christmas I drew up a list of people who I thought might be interested in helping out, I wanted to keep it low key - the less that knew about it the less the pressure. I clicked the send button and felt sick. Email replies came back, it was on, June 17th, 7am at Moot hall.

There was never a day after that that it was not on my mind.

Right, what to do then? I went and joined a gym, I thought if I was to do justice to the commitment of all the support from everyone for this I had to give the training my 100% best. I'd also decided that I was only going to have one attempt, one chance. I started spending ages browsing over all the supplementary health pills in the supermarket too and bought a large tub boasting 28 different vitamin and minerals. I think I took about 4 pills eventually, I just never got in the habit of taking them, they are still on the windowsill in the kitchen. After a few visits to the gym soon realised it wasn't for me, I think I went 3 times. What I did do though was run, most days, and some days twice. I never used my garmin, I've no idea where it is, not used if for years, partly because I can't see it without my specs. I'd run to work no matter what the weather, roughly an hour off road, it was fantastic to see the sunrise come earlier and earlier as spring arrived and I could finally ditch my head torch. I would run when I probably should have rested, but I wanted to try and run when my legs were still tired from the previous day and "not willing". The BG was on my mind as soon as I woke up, it was hard to think that as I'd run to work the day before I'd just be finishing now. Finishing, could I finish? - It was very difficult to think positively about finishing for sure, so I didn't, I just convinced myself I was doing all I could to have a good go. The only time I would rest would be for an imminent race. I would also get some "cross training" in. This consisted of dismantling sheds, building fences, breaking up concrete paths, digging and other general heavy work, for most of the day. I did plenty of X/C too, that's great training, and some great races too, "the Carnethy" and the "the Allendale challenge" both "character building". On my run in I started adding hills towards the end of the run, some real leg burners, at first I struggled to get up some, but started to feel my legs get stronger, not quicker, but stronger. I used the occasional park run after the X/C season to see how my fitness was doing, a pb for the first time in about a year was reassuring close to my attempt, especially as I'd run 5 miles off road before it. The real training though was the trips to the lakes, and I tried to get over most weekends, as well as some mid week days off work too. I had lots of company for many of these recces, including Mandy and Nigel who unfortunately who couldn't be there for the attempt. Geoff and Susan of course were absolutely key. I'd joined them often last year on some of Susan's training days for her Joss, although after seeing what it took out of Susan at the end of her Joss after 15 and a half hours left doubts in my mind if I could go for longer than that, in training she was going very well and one day heading up Steel fell I just didn't have it in me to stay with her, so on she went with those that had just joined her, she was certainly "going well". The recces in the lakes were brilliant, at first often cold, nothing like running in wet slush or wading through snow drifts with your laces picking up great balls of snow on them as it froze. Cold numb feet and hours away from the warmth of the car ride home. Poor Mandy who discovered a buried stream in a snow gully and fell into it, sat stuck up to her waist as cold icy water washed over her. This was my fault; these shivering cold people were here because of me. This BG thing is a bit selfish in a sense; you ask a lot of people for a lot of help all for your own personal goal. But it's not really, it's just a shared comradery and passion for such a special place and to be part of it and help someone through the journey is what it's all about.

Sometimes I'd go to the lakes on my own. I once went over and there had been a lot of snow, and when I finally got to the top of Seat Sandal the sky went very dark to the west and it looked like a bad storm was coming over. I quickly got on my extra kit, balaclava and thicker gloves and got ready to brace the storm. I thought if it got really bad I could dig into one of the drifts and shelter in there till it passed. My mind soon went off the looming storm though as on my decent I came to a large drop which I couldn't get down, and when I tried to get back up the snow was too loose to get up, I'd pretty much slid down. It got serious for a moment, I was stuck. I carefully traversed the top of the crag, making sure each time each hold was good, if I went wrong here I'd be in a mess, I had my whistle but hadn't seen a soul and with the wind I don't think anyone would have heard it anyway. I was in a world of my own. I was soon onto safer slopes and truly relieved. I went straight up Fairfield, normally a loose zig zag rocky ascent, this time pretty much in a straight line due to all the snow. The decent was great, charging down the deep snow and occasionally falling into deep pockets, it was like being child again, almost wanted to go back up and do it again, but there was more to do. Dollywagon was tough, I just couldn't see the top. It had brightened up by now, the wind dropped and it was silent. In fact the sky was exactly the same colour as the snow, they merged as one, and below me all I could see was my track of footprints disappearing steeply into the mist below, all around was white, it felt like I was in a cloud. It's one of those moments that will always be with me. The top eventually came and as it flattened out there was a good view left/west over to great gable, on the attempt I would have been over that mid-morning, the bit I was on now would be done late night in darkness. I stopped and swore out loud, great gable was a hell of a long way away, this was crazy. I reached Helvellyn and met the only person I saw that day, a cheery fellow with ice axe and crampons. I sat next to him at the shelter (a wall) in my mudclaws, scoffed my pork pie while we both took in the view around us and how fortunate we were to be there. I was soon on my way again as I was starting to feel cold. I came down off Clough Head to Threlkeld where I met my brother-in-law Andy. He was in his camper van so made a mug of tea, I had 3, I didn't realise how dehydrated I had become, a lesson learned, can't afford to get dehydrated, don't rely on feeling thirsty, or hungry, keep the steam engine stoked up and keep it rolling. Eating on a BG is done on the move as well as at changeovers.

The trips to the lakes continued, the routes becoming more familiar now and trying to run the legs to schedule - hitting the peaks at the denoted times, or before, for a 23.5 hour attempt. It was time for longer days too, aiming at some "double leg" days. When I did the Helvellyn leg followed by the last leg, (Blencathra, Great Calva and Skiddaw) I got into Keswick and sat on some steps in the market place drinking a litre of milk, my legs felt like they had been run over by a bus. After the drive home I had to grab my roof bars to prize myself out of the car and slowly hobbled into the house, "silly bugger, do you want your tea before your shower?"- Heather, my wife, who I would never have met if it was not for the lakes and youth hostelling, was so tolerant of all the time my BG was taking up - another big ask when often there is so much to do at home. Anyway, I was feeling comfortable with the hills, some long days, 12 hours once, half a BG but slower than pace. I met Nicky Spinks one day, she was out doing her double attempt at a BG, she was casually making her way up Yewbarrow chatting to her navigator about how the wall had been washed out after all the floods in the winter. She was in no rush, no panic, just getting on with the hill, she seemed so calm, another lesson learned there, just get on with it calmly and efficiently. She passed me later in the afternoon on her way back over to Scafell Pike, I was coming off and she was going up, I continued, expecting to be passed soon, but she never came - I glanced over and she was a long way ahead, skipping over the rocky landscape towards Broad Crag on some invisible path well away from the 100s of walkers out that day. "Good lines" are another thing you need to learn about, or hope your navigator knows them anyway !

I was learning to get the food right too, pork pies and tubes of cream cheese, chia bars, chocolate bars, peanuts, cheesy wotsits all washing down well with Lucozade Sport and plain water. The team I had lined up was excellent, I couldn't ask for more there. I was feeling well and the long days out had got me lean, I normally weigh in around 72kg and I was now staying under 70kg - too skinny said Heather, despite the copious amounts of good food she cooked for me. I got several pairs of mudclaws well run in too, I'd decided these suited me best, not the best on rocks maybe, but better on rocks when they were worn down a bit like mine were now, but I liked the grip they gave on grassy descents.

So I was as ready as I could be, food right, kits well tested out, team right, me right - trained as best I could and could not have done more, it was time to ease off a bit and think about the organisational side of things and "Eat for England" . My test against those hills I loved so much and had so many memories of was a week or so away.

Lists and schedules became key. Firstly the schedule, that's easy, you type in your planned time to get round on the schedule calculator on the Bob Wightman website and you are away. On advice from Geoff I'd chosen an anti-clockwise round, starting at 7am. This starts you off at a normal day and means that you then run the fairly easy going of the Helvellyn dodds in the dark, easy under foot that is but difficult to navigate as the paths and trods are not often clear. Then you have to think about who would be good to have on each leg with you, the idea is you obviously run the whole thing, but you have a team for each of the 5 legs. The team is a navigator and then a couple of more people to carry your clothing and food/drink, and one of those people also needs to write the time down that you touch each summit cairn. Then you need to think about how these people will get to the start of the leg, and how they will get back, and what kit they might want to have ready for them at the end of their leg. So the road crew is vital, and Heather did a fantastic job, quite stressed about it initially but once she had the detailed plan pulled it off in true girl guide fashion as well as turning out bacon butties, cheese macaroni and cakes. I was to run 66 miles on the attempt, she drove 175 miles !

So the day arrived, everyone had their legs allocated, the forcast was good, not too hot, not too windy, dry (wet rocks slow the job up) - it was on.

The start at Moot Hall. After a reasonably good nights sleep I made my way to Moot hall for the 7am "off". Quite a few had come to see me off, eagerly looking at my watch and 7am prompt we set off to cheers and clapping. I was running this leg with Susan, Jules, Graeme and Elaine. Susan led us through the market traders setting up and we were soon on the quiet back roads heading down to Newlands. The start this way round does mean you have quite a bit of road so I'd run in my road trainers on for this bit, quickly changing into my fell shoes at Newlands church where Graham Daglish had driven Geoff to join us for the rest of that leg, Geoff saving himself for later in the day when he would nav leg 4 for me. After a steep grassy climb and a bit of straightforward clambering up rocks we were on the first top of the round, Robinson, 08:35, I was 7 minutes up on schedule, 7 minutes in the bag that I might need later. The next 2 tops come much quicker, and we were soon on the long run down (passing Katy who had come up the hill to see us on route) to Honister by 09:18 for the changeover and start of leg 2, still 7 minutes up. Porridge with honey and some warm tea and I was keen to get going, 09:23 we were off again, I scheduled a 10 minute break but didn't need any longer. Tom (who did his BG in 2010), Penny and Jon joined me for this leg, it's a steady climb form there at first, not as bad as it looks from the car park, and we chatted and joked, Jon seemed to be enjoying it !. Grey knots for 09:45, excellent, now 15 minutes up. The pace pics up from here it's fairly runnable and the next tops come fairly quickly, Joan met us as we went onto Green Gable. The climb onto Great Gable from windy gap is lovely, you have to give it a bit of thought as to which way you want to find a way up through the rocks, but it's straight forward and safe, it's much easier going up these things than down. We arrived on the top at 10:36, 18 minutes up. The decent from there is difficult, it's steep, slippy in parts, awkward and loose under foot. There are good ways down and not so good, route choice can make a big difference here, I think I'd recced this leg about 7 times, once got it totally wrong and came off in another valley! We lost Jon at this point, but had to press on. Tom sent me and Penny ahead and tried to find Jon, but we didn't see him again until Wasdale, he was fine and had just followed the path at the bottom of the valley. I was feeling good still at this point, and the tops were soon being ticked off. Coming off Pillar I heard a thump behind me, Penny had stumbled and gone down hard, but was ok and carried on. I arrived at the lovely little peak of Steeple bang on midday, 30 minutes up. Coming off I was met by a large group of fell runners, it looked like a race, turns out it was a group of 5 folks doing a BG together, they must have left Moot hall at about 4pm on Friday I think, they were going clockwise. I had my first "starting to feel it a bit" as we cut across to Yewbarrow, the decent off there is painful and I was glad when we hit the road, guided in by "Big Scott", a grand lad form NFR who was to be my nav on leg 3. [I'd tagged along to his BG last year but I couldn't keep up and lost sight of him at the end of my leg, he did a cracking time of 19 hours and something. How Billy Bland did it on pretty much the same mid-June weekend in June in 1982 in 13:53 or Joss Naylor who did a BG round and added a further 30 tops back in 1975 and still had 40 minutes left, well I just don't know how they did it. Billy's record has yet to be broken. ] I was led through the busy carpark where Heather had set up my chair and everything I needed. Susan and Elaine had come over the pass on foot, Heather had driven round bringing my leg 3 folks and to take Tom, Penny and Jon back. A change to tops, fresh socks, some talc on my feet and some risotto and I was feeling fine. Then my legs went into spasm as I tried to lean forward in the chair to do up my laces. I sat back and it subsided, tried again and back it came, agony. It was soon time for the off again, this was a big leg and some of it I had only been over once, and one part which I was dreading was to come - the climb down a rocky slab to Broad Stand. To get there you first climb up Scafell, so off we went, Big Scott, Paul, Jack and James. It's an awful slog up the grassy fields and fell from the car park, steep and monotonous. I had to pause now and then, but couldn't stand on the steep slope without my legs giving way, it was easier to keep moving, I was in pain. We got to the rocky path up to Scafell and my legs eased, the ground demanded concentration now and was much more interesting. We hadn't lost any time surprisingly and did it on scheduled time, taking us an hour to come a mere 2 miles. After a bit of careful exploring we found the top of Broad Stand. Kevin and Linda had offered to climb there and meet me, can you believe that, climb a mountain for me, carry up a rope and harness and look after me.

Linda roping me up for Broad Stand.

It was great to see them there, ropes laid out ready and harness waiting, I was down in a few minutes, the rest of my team just used the rope, I was glad I had the harness! I'd see Kevin later on, about 2am, he was my nav for the last leg. At this point I wasn't thinking any further about what was to come, the terrain demands your full attention, its slow going and to get any pace at all you really have to concentrate on where you put your feet. We passed a rambler who had stumbled, she was laid on the rocks with blood oozing from her temples, fortunately she was with an organised group so help was at hand. It was nice to get onto some rocky climbs too, my back was starting to ache and it was good to be on all fours and stretched out a bit. I even took a couple of pain killers that James had, Heather will tell you that's just not like me. Coming off Great End, 45 minutes up, we met up with Jack's mam and friend, they gave us water and Kendal mint cake. All was going well, I was feeling ok and legs were going again. We descended to Rossett Pike by a lovely route which Scott took us on, his nav on this leg was spot on. We met Andy there, he'd come up from the Lansdale valley to meet us, again with offers of food and water. It was 5 o'clock by then, and the hills were getting quieter, we didn't see many people at all after this, I was 49 minutes up and feeling good. The Langdale pikes came and went and we were soon running along the grassy top to High Raise and then on to Sergeant man. I was feeling a bit tired by then, a bit slower, but we were going ok and by the time we reached the top of steel fell and looked down the steep descent to Dunmail I was still 36 minutes up.

Dunmail Changeover.

The "pit stop" was busy, Geoff thought it might be stressing me, but I was in the zone, tried to shovel some pasta in, Gibbo and Sally sorted my feet, a fresh top and time for leggings as I knew it would be cold during the night and we were off again. The sun was casing long shadows as we headed up Seat Sandal. Geoff was nav, Gibbo and Scott my new pacers. I struggled up here, feeling sick after the food and legs feeling like jelly. By the top we were doing ok though, still 28 minutes up. It was getting colder, I put gloves on after Fairfield. I was also starting to feel a bit weird, had trouble focusing on the ground but the sickness had passed. Scott was a great pacer, he had the schedule, he has a lot of experience at helping out at BG's and he kept me tight on time, we were losing a bit but he encouraged me on, without pressure, but he let me know I needed to keep pace. Darkness came, our head torches came on, as did a little red light on Geoff's back pack. We followed his silhouette in the moon light as we traversed the Helvellyn range. One hill below us was draped in a thin curtain of mist, other than that visibility was good and we made good progress, losing just a few more minutes. We saw lights in the distance, another BG attempt coming the other way, one of the support was a mate of Scotts who he'd not seen for a good while, so they had a quick chat but we were all on a mission and soon back on our rounds. Midnight we were on Watsons Dodd, it's now father's day and Sally would be waiting for me down at Threlkeld. I wasn't looking forward to the next climbs, they are long and boring, but the crack was good and in the dark you can't see the "never getting any closer" top and it was fine. I love the drop down off Clough Head, it's steep, but the ground is soft and you can get a rhythm going and we were soon down to the fence where we crossed over, though a bit of over grown marsh, past the old railway wagon and we were on the steady gradual descent to Threlkeld.

It was all action stations from there, I was expecting the car park to be fairly empty and quiet, but it seemed busy and full, it was 1:45am and I was 13 minutes up, it was possible. Scott gave me an excellent leg massage with some stuff he had, it really helped ease the cramp. Danny, Sally and Kevin were there all ready for me, and Kevin got his mate Nick to join us too, really good to have an extra person in case anyone needed help to get off the hill. Of we set, I was feeling ok and in good spirits, but as soon as I hit the steep climb up to Blencathra I knew I was getting weak. I tried not to think about what lay ahead and what was still to do. I'd come a long way in the last day and I tried to draw strength, mentally, from that, just a bit more to do, keep going, keep going. I just didn't have the strength in me though to get the momentum to get up the next rocky steps, sometime I had managed to get up but had not got enough to give me some forward momentum to get to the next step, I'd lean back and if Sally didn't give me a push in the back occasionally I'd stumble to the ground, I was finding it easier to be on all fours. It's interesting doing Blencathra in the dark, in daylight you feel quite exposed, in the dark it felt more like we were exploring a rocky cave.

Early hours of Sunday morning going up Blencathra.

Danny kept me accurately informed of how many meters we had yet to go, that was really helpful Danny, really good to know I had a hell of a long way to go! We got to the top, I was a minute down, I was into my 30 buffer as I was on a 23:30 schedule. I was in a bit of a daze after that, I felt ill and needed the toilet, so my pacers chatted amongst themselves, I think I lost about 10 minutes, but there was no choice. We seemed to be going slowly, I asked Sally how we were doing and it was not good, we were losing time and final 2 tops are tough. We headed across Mungrisdale common, though a bog full of cotton grass almost glowing in the moon light and found the stream crossing to take us to the base of Great Calva. This is another bad climb, a calf splitter, and I used everything I had to get up there, even trying to pull on the rusty wire fence at times to try and pull myself up. I was slow, in fact even before going up I had doubts I was going to finish in under 24 hours, the time at the top confirmed it, we were 23 minutes down, that meant if I was going well it could be done, but the long climb to the fence just below the summit of Skiddaw was going to eat well into that 7 minutes. Oh well, I've had a go, I knew I could finish, not under 24 hours, but that's not so bad, I'd have nearly done it in 24. People offered me food and drink but I wasn't interested.

Sally knew I really wanted to do it though, "come on dad" is a big kick up the back side, so I sent all the rubbish in my head about not finishing in time way and started to think about what I needed to do to get to Moot in time. I had no idea how long the climb up to Skiddaw would take, I knew from recces that it was tough and long, so I just got on with it. If I could make Skiddaw by 5.45am I knew I might make it, on recces I could get down from there into Keswick in 1:10. I dug in deep, Danny would go ahead and look back at me, into my eyes, he was in Dr mode and looking at a victim in A+E seeing if I was ok, he insisted I drank and ate a bit, so I drank a bit to shut him up but I wasn't tempted by his offers of food much. Kevin was nibbling on a bar, he broke a small bit off and offered it to me, I was "tricked", I took it, but would have said no if it had simply been a question if I wanted any. We got to Skiddaw, it was daylight, time felt it was really running out now. It was a cold wind so I pulled my buff over my head and was helped on with my windproof.

Skiddaw, the last top, and an hour to get to Keswick seen below...


Sally and Mike The time, 5:45 am, it was on, there was a chance. I ran as best as I could on the tops and down the rocky slopes to Latrigg, it was hurting but I was in not going to give in now. I had to really concentrate, the ground is uneven and my legs were shot. We hit the houses on the out skirts of Keswick, Kevin went ahead and then came running back, the route he was going to use was closed, oh no, time was really tight, a quick discussion as to options and we were off and soon running through Fitz park. I had to walk, 10 steps then run again for a while, then 10 steps, come on, 6:49am, nearly there. I hit the shopping street and could see moot hall, everyone was there waiting but looking the other way, I ran down and gave a quick shout, I made it, 8 minutes left. It was all a bit much for Sally and it got quite emotional.

I sat at the seat opposite moot hall and looked at the steps there that I'd stood on 24 hours before, I just couldn't take in what I'd done. After about 5 minutes I thought I'd pop to the loo, I could hardly stand, my legs were gone, I needed help down the kerb from Geoff. He and Heather came round to the toilets with me to make sure I was ok, I came out of the toilets and then straight back in, puked up a few times and returned to the gathering at moot hall. Time for bed. We were staying at a friend's house in Borrowdale so didn't have far to go. When we got to the car my voice went all weird and my lips swelled up, don't know what was going on there and it only lasted a short time.

The Finish

I had great difficulty getting from the car the 20 feet of so to the house and couldn't lift my feet to go upstairs, so I sat for a while on the bottom step and then tried to lift my back side up to the next step and go up backwards, I had no strength in my arms to take my body weight. I realised that if I laid on the stairs on my back I could slide up that way. I didn't have a shower, I couldn't lift my leg over the bath, I just slithered into bed and tried to sleep. I was feeling cold so Heather made me a cup of tea, I drank some and was promptly sick again so just went to sleep. Sally took me home later in the day. The following day I was feeling ok but weak, even my voice was sounding weak. I weighed myself, 62 kg, I'd lost at least 5kg.

Would I do it again? - No

Have I sickened myself of the hills of the lakes ? - No, couldn't wait to get back.

What next ? Looking forward to helping out one someone else's BG, who's next....?

All these folks who were part of it, either on the day and/or the recces. Thank you all whole heartedly for your support, good wishes and efforts in the hills.

Heather Hughes, Sally Hughes, Geoff and Susan Davis, Jules-Juliet Percival, Graeme and Katy Walton, Elaine Bisson, Graham Daglish, Tom Reeves, Penny Browell, Jon Ayres, Joan Hanson, Big Scott-Scott Gibson, Jack Lee, James Garland, Paul Evans, Kevin and Linda Bray, Andy Wilson, Gibbo-David Gibson, Scott Watson, Danny Lim, Nick Spencer, Mandy Dawson, Nigel Hepple, Steph Scott.

A special thank you to Heather for generally putting up with me and all the trainers I possess. Kevin and Linda too, the precious time saved at Broad Stand proved vital.

Finally Geoff and Susan of course, they were the inspiration for me to do this and so supportive, I'd simply never have been able to do this without them, it would not have happened. Geoff's company and guidance the best there is for this BG malarkey, the "Davis training plan" will get you there.

Lisburn Half Marathon, Northern Ireland, 15th June

Jonathan Hamill

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council host what is considered one of Northern Ireland’s largest sporting participation events (~6,000 runners), offering a mid-week Half Marathon, 10k, and 3K Fun Run.

An intense looking Start.

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express at Queen’s Quarter, Belfast, adjacent to Botanic train station, which is also a popular choice for Belfast running events. A half hour train journey to Lisburn places you within walking distance of the event.

Lagan Valley LeisurePlex provided ample changing and locker facilities. I completed my final preparations, carb-loading at a nearby café with a runner friendly banana crepe. Basking in the intense sun, I started to wonder if the inclusion of the famous Belfast Crown Bar in my hydration plan the evening before had been a wise choice.

I caught up with old friend Andy McClean and Team McClean, who run with seven-year-old Ethan, using a Hoyt running chair. Ethan has the terminal and life limiting illness Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Team McClean enable Ethan to enjoy as many running events as he can, and you can read more of his story on the Team McClean Facebook Group.

Before long it was time to proceed to the holding area adjacent to the start, where local radio station Cool FM, and the Mayor of Lisburn provided their encouragement.

I had opted for the Half Marathon option, lured by the ‘Flat & Fast’ route. I think ‘Flat’ would fall foul of the trade descriptions act! The route begins in the city and then leaves to do a loop around rural Lisburn. There are a number of inclines, but nothing mountainous. What goes up must go down too!

The event is well marshaled, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland close the roads. Five official water stations are distributed from the 1k marker onwards, mostly operated by local Scout groups. The event uses chip timing, with a sensor also at the halfway point. In addition, local community spirit prevails and a number of unofficial water and jelly baby stations feature along the route, with local residents providing encouragement aplenty, “Go on, you can do it, so you can!” The 10K race set off and a few minutes later, we formed up to allow the wheelchair race to start ahead of us. And we were off!

A schoolboy error, and a glance at my watch confirmed I was a tad eager setting an 8 minute/mile pace over the first kilometer. I steadied myself by the end of the third kilometer and concentrated on my plan. I was pleased (despite the abundance of water stations) that I’d taken my own water (two small bottles on a belt). The heat took its toll on some but I soldiered on, using a gel after I passed the half way mark.

Who needs safety pins? I felt tired at 17k and mentally pictured running Durham parkrun to get myself to the end. There were a couple of naughty bits in the last 5k, including an incline with a twist in the final few hundred metres to round into the finish funnel. Hearing the crowd cheer, I knew I could achieve my aim of breaking 2 hours and I picked the pace up, giving it some welly across the line!

A slick effort through the line saw me collect medal, water and a couple of Cliff bars. After the race, I compared notes with some members of Springwell Running Club (who operate near my home town) and met the RD of Portrush Parkrun, Mervyn Thompson, before heading off to catch the train.

I finished in 591st position from a field of 1141 runners and achieved a PB of 1:58:14, with three other PBs (15k, 10 miles and 20k).

Results

PosNameCatTime
179Stephen DuncanM4001:12:22
591Jonathan HamillM4001:58:14

1141 finishers

Swaledale Marathon, Reeth, 11th June

23.2M / 4,128'

Tamsin Imber ...

Excitement in Swaledale.Well this is the most exciting race I have ever done! I would highly recommend it!

This is meant to be a helpful account for anyone who has not done it before, as well as a race report.

So, it was a race I had hoped to enter but didn't get a place in as it fills up very quickly! ...but then a few weeks before the race, another Strider offered me their place as they couldn't do it-sorry for them but very pleased to get a place! So began a rapid preparation ... but what was the route? It is not on the Swaledale Outdoor club website. Hummm, there is a description but for someone who likes to know the detail it was a bit too short for me. Luckily I found a trace of the route from someone's Garmin on the Striders website from a past year-thank-you! You can find this by searching for 'Swaledale marathon' in the race reports section. I copied it onto my OS map and was able to mark on the positions of checkpoints and 'self-clip points' from the description on the Swaledale Outdoor club website. Closer to the event Jon got hold of a few copies of the route and Elaine photographed them and sent them to me. I can confirm that they were the same as the route I found on the Striders website, so it seems to stay the same each year.

Elaine and I were a bit worried about navigating our way! The weather forecast was thick cloud, fog and mist!! Hummm, Elaine had done a few reccies of the route but not of the middle section. I knew the first bit from walking in Arkengarth dale in years BC (Before Children). It was the unknown middle section of disused mining hushes that was grinding our grapes - didn't want to end up down a sink hole! ..I was also a bit unsure of the crack..other striders helpfully advised me and showed me the start time and registration times are in the SI entries system race information, but as far as I can see not on the Swaledale Outdoor club website?. There is a compulsory kit list on the Swaledale Outdoor Club website which includes compass and waterproof trousers. And importantly you need to carry a plastic cup to get additional water at checkpoints. Jon advised there is water at all checkpoints and food as well at one checkpoint. Also you get a free meal at the end if you like!

Arriving early doors in the outskirts of the pretty village of Fremlington, everything was very well signposted and organized. A big sign saying "marathon carpark" pointed to the entrance of a large grassy field, within which were lots of cars, runners getting ready and portaloos portable toilets and car park marshals. Registration was a short nip up the road in the Fremlington village Hall, the direction of which was signposted and easy to find. At registration my kit was checked and I was given a small yellow card and piece of string. The lady explained this card would be clipped at each checkpoints by marshals who would also record my race number. The card was labelled with numbers of the checkpoints and then with A, B, C and D. These are the self-clip checkpoints. You literally clip the card with a thing that looks like a staple remover exactly on top of the letter corresponding to the self-clip point. As the race starts and finishes in a different place you cannot leave a bag of warm clothes etc. at the start as they only have the village hall til 10am.

Another
bridge crossed.So... we were all crowded in a small field ready to start! The weather was as forecast and actually very warm as well. The race began! With a steep upward climb! There were lovely views across a very green Swaledale. I watched Penny, David and Elaine bound ahead! We soon reached the level of the mist, got to the wall and then we were running along top along Fremlington Edge! This was a grassy, boggy, misty fast section! Nice and soft on the feet! Because of the wall and as people were bunched up in the early stages, navigation was easy at this point. Then, at the end of the edge you go past a large cairn marking the highest point (which was not visible in the mist) and then the path zig-zags down the steep hill - except the runners did not!! I was in a group of guys who had done it before and they confidently charged over the side of the hill and launched themselves down the steep, wet, grassy slopes!! Ha ha this was exhilarating! My bum touched the ground a lot! Mainly on purpose as I didn't want to fall! Thoroughly enjoyed this bit, found it quite hilarious! A girl running whose name I didn't get who is from Richmond "ran" this bit with me before zooming ahead!

The route then follows the pretty stony path along the Arkle Beck into Langthwaite village. The girl from Richmond passed me again! (she had stopped in the village to use the public toilet there). It was lovely to be greeted by supporters Rachelle, Allan, and Vics plus kids here. After an undulating minor road section you head up a moorland track towards Great Punchard Gill and Great Punchard Head. This was a steady climb! Up and up and up! Fantastic views below mist level. I was running with two guys at this point. We came to a bit where the path divided, luckily just at mist level so we could see runners ahead. The path literally took two routes, which re-joined further up. We decided to split up to see which was fastest. I and one guy took the track and the other took the grassy zig-zag path. It was exactly 50 :50 ! Then higher up we were in thick mist. The mist kept changing from thick to thin, making it hard to tell how far away things were. There was a steep gully to the left, which in thick mist looked like it was really deep, but when the mist thinned the bottom of the gully was only 30metres or so away! (Hard to tell though as I was also moving). At the top of Great Punchard Gill I heard voices and laughter and as if from no-where a mountain rescue vehicle, 3 jolly mountain rescue men and a marshalled checkpoint appeared! After having my card clipped I headed onwards. The path does a sharp bend and is a narrow peaty/boggy/heather path with a sharp drop to the right. It then turns and heads across the top of open moorland. Another nice run across soft peat and bog. I tried to keep up with the group of confident guys I'd seen earlier but they were going fast and so eventually they were too far ahead to see. There was no one behind me for a bit, until footsteps behind me, it was the girl from Richmond! It turns out she had taken a wrong turn after the last checkpoint and descended steeply quite a way, then had had to climb all the way back up again! She was ok, but disheartened. We ran together for a bit until yet again she zoomed ahead! Then after a while another checkpoint ... bring on the banana cake!

The next bit was the 'moonscape'! The heather moor gave way to a high up rocky, barren area, devoid of all plants and peat! This was the hushes. Old mine building ruins appeared in the mist here and there, piles of rubble and a rusty old metal machine thing with a big wheel on it. Ahead I noticed a small red and white flag in the ground, about 30cm high with supporting rocks around it. It had definitely been planted there. Could this have been put there by a child on a family day out? The mist thinned at that moment and I saw a whole line of them! Waymarks, Wayhay! After that the gravel path was more obvious and led to self-check point A-a wooden stand with clips hanging from it. The path then wound back into grassy, peat area down and down, I saw runners ahead! More steep descents down grassy banks and we were down to Gunnerside Beck. I got a bit lost amongst the little gated fields but not for too long and then the path follows the Beck to Gunnerside where there is a checkpoint. Nice support from locals and others ...

The last stint is up and over fields and lowland moors. Where there is an up or a down it is steep! (This is the nature of Swaledale!) A final checkpoint at Surrender Bridge gave me much needed water. After a bit I was unsure of the way and was standing consulting the map when a runner caught me up and confidently pointed to a jumper with a stone on top of it and said the jumper was a waymark! He was right! Ha ha I love this marathon! The last miles are blissfully and painfully on the quads downhill funneling to a walled track where underfoot is stones with a layer of slippery grass on top! Negotiation of this leads to the final self-clip point on a farmers gate, then down and Reeth is there! Wohoooo! The finish is down the hill and round the corner in the Reeth village hall. Lovely to see Strider supporters cheering us at the finish! Afterwards, great to drink a cup of tea. And get a very nice bespoke Swaledale marathon pottery cup!

A fantastic adventure I would love to repeat! I'd like to do it in good weather mind to see more views!

... Jon Ayres

Gent emulation required.A year ago I'd crossed the line here with equal measures of Joy and Wonder. I'd broken my goal time, taken a decent chunk off my PB but I was left scratching my head pondering what I could get if I hadn't cramped up and had to take a forced break during the race to let my legs recover. I'd also watched the Ladies team take the prize in their category and thought it would be a very good thing indeed to encourage the Gents to have a crack at emulating this.

Skip forward a few months to November and a, hopefully, friendly persuasion campaign began as I tried to recruit others into sharing my ideas as to putting teams onto the podium come June 2016.

So to the day,grey skies hid the top of the first climb as the officials started the race, Michael Mason and Steven Jackson quickly disappeared from view as us mere mortals followed them up to the heights of Fremington. Myself, Jack Lee (pressed into action only a week prior to the race) and Elaine Bisson formed a group and tackled the road and then trail to the grassland that would lead us to the ascent.

Jack and I ran well together picking off runners and chatting occasionally,his enthusiasm was infectious and my plan of around 10 min miles saw us heading up Punchards mix of trail,track and bog and reaching half way a fair bit inside this program.As we descended into Gunnerside Jack started to pull away as he fell into a group that I couldn't keep with on the descent, a quick high five as we crossed paths into the checkpoint at Gunnerside village hall seemed to mark the unspoken thought that as of now it was time to dig in and head home.

 Disappearing from View. A quick glance at my watch as the last major climb began confirmed that a PB was on but there was still work to do to secure this,the long slow haul of besting Gunnerside began. The breaks from slow, tortuous hill climbing via a stumbling jog and slower, tortuous hill climbing via a hands on knees walk became more frequent as the yards up the incline increased I also became aware of pre-cramp pains in my legs and started a feeding frenzy of gels, pork scratchings and water in an attempt to stave them off. All the while as this carried on Jack became nothing but a smaller dot in the distance until eventually he disappeared, unfortunately the pains in my calves and hamstrings did not.

Gunnerside was finally beaten, or at least matched, and the levelling of the land allowed for quicker strides to be taken and the last major drop on glorious smooth tarmac into surrender bridge was embraced.The final stretch of the race a PB is on, runners are not so far ahead that they can't be caught and despite the fleeting shots of cramp I smile and offer my card to the official to be clipped. I'm passed here by a local runner whom I know well, she'll eventually be 2nd lady home, and I try to match her pace but there's nothing in the tank that allows the increase: it's head down now and a march/jog/whatever gets me home and only a few miles of attrition left. A drop in and out of a gorge and I see Elaine Bisson is now on my tail and closing quickly, machismo and panic hit me with equal measure and I lengthen my stride and hope to hold her at bay.

Then as in every other time I've raced this event cramp hits, it hurts, really hurts and I try to strectch out my legs. Nothing eases it and the acceptance that the race could be over, PB's lost with just over two and a half miles to go starts to sink in. A fading of the cramp starts and hope rises anew I can stand, I can walk, I can at least jog time to dig in and run hard for two reasons, I don't know how long I have until the cramp returns and a few runners have passed me. Fortunately the next couple of miles are mainly down hill and this allows for a good pace (my fastest of the day, maybe the sitdown helped) and that's it the race is done. Ten minutes are taken from last years run out and despite the enforced break during the race I don't think I could have run any harder or made any more time up and whilst a hugely improved field from last years race saw me finish further down than 12 months ago I'm content and settled with my efforts.


Fab Four.

The ladies of Elvet defend their trophy, Mandy Dawson and Penny Browell who takes second female vet were part of the team that won it last year with Elaine Bisson (third female home)and Tamsin Imber part of the unit this year too.The Male contingent take Third with three debutantes amongst their number,the aforementioned Micheal Mason,Steven Jackson and Jack Lee provide very strong placings as I make up the numbers.Tom Reeves continues a strong year of running since surgery breaking four hours whilst Mike Bennet,Jan, Barabara Dick, Juliet Percival and Camilla are amongst other striders who get to keep a bespoke hand made mug.

Mentions to the families who supported too must be given the Masons,Jacksons,Browells and Bissons were loud and plentiful many of them appearing at various points of the course.Whilst Allan Seheult and Matt Archer gave up their day to offer support and refreshment.This year was very much a team effort and the places whilst won by those out on the course belong to those who backed them too. Sincere thanks to all.

The traditional Swaledale Trophy.

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

Alwinton 3 Tops, 11th June

BL / 15m / 2461ft

Paul Evans

Group Photo.

A new fixture on the club's GP schedule this year, the Alwinton race was touch-and-go as to whether it was on for a while, last year having attracted only 29 runners. That runner gave it a thumbs-up, so in it went. then the organisers (North of Tyne MRT) changed the course, so it was into the unknown that six Striders, two of them NFR for the day, stepped, three on their first long fell race and one having spent a good chunk of the previous night on the Maiden castle track with Kath Dodd on her 24hr track session.

Pam's Paul.This was rather appropriate as once we'd found village pub, registered and made the starting line we then had only two miles or so of being able to see very much, commencing with a hard farm track that climbed to Clennell Street, dropping to a track junction, enjoying a few hundred yards of flat grass by a clear stream and then slowing to a walk for the sharp ascent of The Dodd that marked the start of the 'fun' and the end of the 'sun.' Once this was topped, three undulating miles in the clag, chasing shadows 20-50 yards ahead saw me reach CP2 at Wether Cairn before dropping down to a burn at the edge of the conifer plantation that forms the inner border of much of the race, feet getting wet for the first time due to misjudging the step across. The drag out of the burn and up to Cushat Law (CP3), still trailing a runner in a red and yellow vest was unforgiving, increasingly soft underfoot and saw both of us veer from the correct route at times, and from CP3 to Bloodybush Edge (CP4) was more of the same, but slightly worse, with one decent navigational error, a compass that actually had to be brought out of the bumbag for the first time in a couple of years and legs fatiguing due to the efforts of wading through and stepping around the boggy patches; the descents were also taken rather timidly as my left ankle still did not seem to have the strength or proprioception for lateral movement that it really needed on the tussocks.

Bloodybush Edge was the last of the three main tops in the race, and the leg from here down to the forest was fairly pleasant and uneventful, though by now I'd lost the red-vested runner and been over-taken by a couple of others; it was around here that I realised that this was the longest I'd been out on the hills in four months, pre-fracture, and my fitness was not what it should be. Nonetheless, the grassy, moist trod skirting the forest was nice underfoot, until the point that a few yards short of CP5, at a track junction, I managed a little skid down the bank, having switched off my brain a moment too early. Still, boggy ground rarely hurts and my ego had already taken a beating, so no harm done.

The next two miles, all on forest track were hard underfoot and blister-forming, as well as being, with their gentle undulations, a little tedious, though the near-silence in the cool, misty air was very enjoyable. From CP6 there was more of the same, then at CP7 another two miles or so later I grabbed a cup of water and hit the Border County route, a grassy path that wound mostly downwards and, with a mile left, brought Alwinton into view. From Clennell Street it was downhill all the way, back onto hard track and eyeballs-out, though my legs didn't have much pace in them and I was overtaken by two runners in the final few hundred yards, with Geoff ,only a couple of minutes behind, joining me for a wash in the stream whilst we heard Paul Foster, who'd taken on the 10k course, lament that signing confusion seemed to have thrown off-course every runner in the shorter race. Susan wasn't too far behind and Steph Piper completed her first big race in a highly-respectable time, just over 3 hours. Finally, also testing themselves on new terrain, Gareth Pritchard and Catherine Smith, Blaydon-tired, came in around the 4-hour mark to collect their Tunnocks wafers, sporks and socks (Start sponsored this one, incongruous as it is to get a bag of stuff at the end of a low-key race like this).

Paul's Paul. Geoff.

Today, I ache, and am very much aware of what needs to be done to regain fitness fully. yesterday, however, was still a lot of fun. It might have been even more so if we'd been able to see where we were going.

Blaydon Race, 9th June

5.7M

Gareth Pritchard

In my head, Blaydon 2016. A very personal view.

Blaydon Group Running well. Feeling good. Pre race 17 min durham parkrun pb. Reality check at club track mile race on Wednesday. 2nd place strider last year. Wanting to be competitive this year. Please let it be close. Massive doubts. Deep breaths. Catching up with strider friends. Feeling relaxed. Squashed in at the start. Stood like sardines for 20mins. When will we start? So many people, 4000+ runners with 100+ striders. Feeling very northern at the Blaydon start line.

Down hill start, must start fast, must be leading after 5k, please don't let it be close with 2k to go, I won't stand a chance. hoping club member achieve their goals, where is Catherine? Can I really push myself that hard at the start. Stick to the plan. Concentrate concentrate and relax.......... Was that the start horn?

Go. Zero to race pace in a flash. Find some clear road. This is nuts. Accidentally barge people out the way. How did they get so far up the field? Control ur pace Gareth but push push push. It's down hill, push. 1k @3:21, fast but need to pick it up. Be brave. Get that gap, get that lead Gareth. I know that runner? Yes, hi mate. Looking good, wrong way man? Yes that's my Washington 10k bud. So glad he won that day, now show him your true speed. Help I can't breath. Push push push.

K splits 3:13. 3:16. 3:17. 3:13. Can't breath. 16:19 5k omg. Keep it together. Relax, maintain stride, don't look back, you have your lead. Hope it's enough, I want to stop. I know him? Push past and say hi just. Expect them to try keeping up as you pass, just push harder. I know the hills are coming. Don't look back. Turn, then dash back up the hill. Time to see who is close. Where is he? Please don't be just behind, I need a gap. I'm slowing. can't see them.

Yes yes yes, still can't breath but I have my gap. Surely he can't catch me now. Still passing people. Spot More striders running. Try to say something, but I can't breath. Fly over ahead. Pushing and still passing people. Getting so so hard. Big shock on the coaches face. Into Blaydon, I know this course well. Keep pushing Gareth, you got this.

More surprised strider supporters. So happy to see familiar faces. Hold it together, push. Last hill, know it's coming. Grass and sprint to the line. I did it.

Check watch, 2 mins off last years time. Definitely First strider home. In disbelief. Taken down Rosie, just. Turn and support. I love this race. That was hard. Now I can breath.

Results

pos bib name category gun time chip time
- 2 Peter Newton (Morpeth Harriers & Ac) 19-39 27:11 27:09
- 32 Alyson Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) 35-39 29:48 29:44
1 921 Gareth Pritchard 19-39 31:00 30:40
2 637 Stephen Jackson 19-39 31:24 31:05
3 714 Michael Littlewood (M) 40-44 33:35 33:14
4 1186 Mark Warner 19-39 34:27 33:35
5 606 Andrew Hopkins (M) 40-44 34:47 33:58
6 132 Matthew Archer 19-39 34:46 34:27
7 474 Simon Gardner (M) 45-49 35:23 35:02
8 1118 Paul Swinburne (M) 40-44 39:56 37:15
9 1044 Tim Skelton 19-39 40:02 38:08
10 875 Mike Parker (M) 40-44 40:33 39:21
11 4595 Alex Witty 19-39 41:45 39:42
12 2140 Louise Warner 35-39 40:23 40:23
13 324 John Coulson 19-39 43:31 40:42
14 1477 Sarah Davies (F) 45-49 42:56 40:58
15 1858 Louise Morton 19-34 42:06 41:21
16 592 David Hinton 19-39 47:46 41:25
17 1724 Fiona Jones 35-39 44:18 41:34
18 753 Michael Mason (M) 40-44 43:34 41:54
19 1806 Rachelle Mason 35-39 43:35 41:54
20 1204 Martin Welsh (M) 50-54 43:41 42:00
21 984 Michael Ross (M) 45-49 45:28 42:27
22 368 Colin Dean (M) 55-59 43:48 42:36
23 978 Lindsay Rodgers (M) 45-49 45:22 43:05
24 1722 Karen Jones (F) 45-49 46:02 43:17
25 1415 Lesley Charman (F) 40-44 46:06 43:25
26 1532 Catherine Elliott 35-39 44:21 43:35
27 1378 Victoria Brown 35-39 46:37 43:39
28 4608 David Case 19-39 46:23 43:43
29 1076 Ian Spencer (M) 55-59 45:33 43:46
30 1761 Roz Layton (F) 60-64 45:48 43:49
31 2163 Nicola Whyte 19-34 46:53 44:10
32 431 Stephen Ellis (M) 60-64 46:18 44:16
33 1028 Chris Shearsmith 19-39 46:14 44:43
34 1921 Stephanie Piper 19-34 47:09 45:07
35 4604 Victoria Walton 35-39 47:11 45:12
36 1307 Louise Barrow 19-34 46:49 45:22
37 429 Craig Elliott 19-39 46:18 45:31
38 564 Peter Hart 19-39 49:14 45:35
39 356 Andrew Davies (M) 40-44 48:53 45:36
40 851 Richard Hall (M) 50-54 48:56 45:49
41 1840 Karen Metters (F) 40-44 48:52 45:52
42 546 Jonathan Hamill (M) 40-44 48:16 46:02
43 1983 Jill Rudkin 35-39 50:51 46:33
44 711 Robin Linton 19-39 49:26 46:35
45 1627 Lesley Hamill (F) 40-44 49:46 47:22
46 243 David Browbank 19-39 49:40 47:36
47 2000 Jenny Search (F) 40-44 49:50 47:48
48 2091 Kate Thompson 19-34 50:52 48:01
49 1723 Debbie Jones (F) 45-49 50:58 48:14
50 1790 Kate Macpherson (F) 40-44 51:08 48:25
51 2187 Fiona Wood 35-39 51:41 48:44
52 2025 Catherine Smith (F) 40-44 51:35 48:55
53 2088 Helen Thomas (F) 40-44 50:47 48:57
54 1648 Helen Hedley 19-34 52:07 49:01
55 2136 Faye Ward (F) 40-44 51:47 49:22
56 1534 Janet Ellis (F) 50-54 52:18 49:37
57 1491 Rebecca Devine 19-34 53:00 50:07
58 1058 Alan Smith 65-69 51:37 50:22
59 2198 Jill Young 19-34 53:14 50:24
60 1364 Stacey Brannan 35-39 52:09 50:24
61 1513 Jane Dowsett (F) 45-49 53:14 50:28
62 1623 Lisa Hall 19-34 52:48 50:29
63 1558 Rebecca Fisher 35-39 53:12 50:33
64 270 Gareth Cardus (M) 40-44 53:41 50:45
65 580 Mark Herkes 19-39 54:07 51:10
66 1655 Lucy Herkes 19-34 54:08 51:11
67 913 James Potter 19-39 53:17 51:13
68 849 James Nicholson 65-69 54:19 51:22
69 1556 Katie-Louise Finney 19-34 54:23 51:32
70 1826 Debbie Mcfarland 19-34 54:29 51:39
71 1710 Sue Jennings (F) 50-54 54:34 51:52
72 1331 Louise Billcliffe (F) 50-54 54:40 52:10
73 1674 Karen Hooper (F) 40-44 55:02 52:13
74 2105 Ann Towers (F) 55-59 53:10 52:13
75 1142 Andrew Thurston (M) 55-59 54:59 52:40
76 411 Andrew Dunlop (M) 40-44 54:57 52:43
77 2011 Nicola Simpson 19-34 55:59 53:09
78 1639 Emma Hart 35-39 56:52 53:12
79 1996 Aileen Campbell Scott (F) 45-49 55:24 53:19
80 1488 Sophie Dennis 19-34 58:26 55:43
81 1482 Katie Davison 19-34 58:44 55:48
82 1707 Julie Jarratt (F) 45-49 59:01 55:51
83 1461 Lindsay Craig (F) 45-49 59:01 55:52
84 848 George Nicholson 65-69 58:32 56:12
85 1408 Karen Anne Chalkley (F) 50-54 58:32 56:13
86 1324 Kathleen Bellamy 35-39 59:33 56:22
87 2009 Alison Simms (F) 40-44 1:00:03 57:58
88 1537 Rebecca Embleton 35-39 1:00:04 57:58
89 1533 Pauline Elliott (F) 50-54 1:00:22 58:21
90 1276 Teresa Archer 19-34 1:01:15 58:33
91 1586 Laura Gibson 35-39 1:01:39 58:51
92 2124 Bev Walker (F) 50-54 1:01:20 59:15
93 1548 Amy Farquhar (F) 40-44 1:02:34 59:46
94 1743 Alison Kirkham (F) 40-44 1:04:08 1:01:16
95 1440 Kelly Collier 19-34 1:04:09 1:01:18
96 2075 Kate Talbot 35-39 1:04:42 1:01:34
97 1682 Louise Hughes 35-39 1:04:40 1:01:37
98 1717 Natalie Johnson 35-39 1:04:56 1:02:09
99 1529 Karrie Eilles 35-39 1:04:56 1:02:09
100 1290 Jane Baillie (F) 40-44 1:07:18 1:04:09
101 1411 Laura Chapman 19-34 1:09:52 1:05:18
102 1353 Clare Botone 35-39 1:08:39 1:05:51
103 1844 Elaine Mills (F) 45-49 1:08:51 1:06:01
104 1773 Helen Lintron (F) 55-59 1:09:25 1:06:32
105 1593 Rebecca Gilmore 19-34 1:09:24 1:06:32
106 1576 Claire Galloway 19-34 1:10:57 1:08:05
107 1696 Laura Jackson 35-39 1:11:40 1:08:49
108 2101 Helen Todd 35-39 1:09:51 1:09:51
109 1765 Rachel Leigh-firbank (F) 40-44 1:15:06 1:12:12
110 646 Neil Jennings (M) 50-54 1:15:09 1:12:14
111 1709 Elaine Jennings (F) 50-54 1:15:10 1:12:16
DNF 426 Mike Elliott 65-69 19:36 19:36

4130 finishers.

The Yomp Mountain Challenge, Kirkby Stephen, 5th June

23M / 4,000' (with 11.5M and 6.25M options)

Dougie Nisbet

aka Mallerstang Horseshoe & Nine Standards Yomp

The nice thing about these sort of hybrid walking/running events that have mixed start times is that there's not a massive queue for the bogs. I sat in the changing rooms in splendid isolation adjusting my dress and thinking I should probably get out there. I wandered out into the brilliant sunshine to see the rather scary vision of Shaun standing, arms astretch, in some sort of weird crucifix like pose. Didn't Michael Jackson do that on stage once? And things didn't work out well for him.

But all was ok. Shaun wasn't trying to annoy Jarvis Cocker, just offering a maximum surface area for Ros to spray him down with SunScreen. Good advice. Wear sunscreen.

Left looks tempting.

Staggered starts are nice but the downside is, as I know from doing orienteering events, is that you can be at a race and not know that your clubmates are also there as you don't see them. I glimpsed Margaret and Christine who were doing the Half Yomp, and Geoff was there too. And me. Probably more. Who knows.

Shaun and I part company.Off I went on my lonesome to tackle the Full Yomp, something I'd wanted to do for years. I'd been at a wedding the night before, but so had Penny for the Salomon Trail 10K last week and she'd done pretty well, so by that logic, I'd do just fine too. I tootled south through Kirby Stephen in good spirits and deliberately kept my pace down knowing that I "didn't do hot", chomping on a Shotblok or two and feeling pretty chirpy. I was expecting to do well. Shaun caught me just in time for us to part company as he took a left for the tantalisingly tempting Yomp-Demi.

Just sheep for company.At the top of Wild Boar Fell (where I have an 11 year old geocache BTW, really must check it's ok sometime. Not today though) I was flagging a bit. But onward, and, apparently, ever upward, and I continued to wilt. I decided it was time to check the Garmin. I'd done 17 somethings. That was OK wasn't it? Oh hang on, I'd changed to Kilometres for some reason. So 17, was er, well a 10K is six miles, so 17 km is er, well less than 12 miles. No that couldn't be right. Because right now I had that 90% through a race feeling, and according to my Garmin, I was lucky if I'd gone half way.

Still, My Garmin Can't Lie, so I plodded on. The descents off that hill that Paul mentioned were pretty much as described, but they were the last ones I did with any control. As I crossed the road to push on to the next bit, it was all becoming all a bit functional. I did have the good grace to pause while traversing Hanginstone Scar to admire the view westwards where you see the railway line snaking up towards Kirkby Stephen.

On to High Seat, High Pike Hill, and probably some other fells with 'High' in the name somewhere. Then my weariness became apparant. As any fell runner knows, to descend well needs skill, not-sore feet, and, energy. It takes energy to descend fast, it's not like being on a bike where you just stop peddling and gurn into the wind. So I hobbled down to the road, took a deep breath, then onto the last bit up to Nine Standards Rigg.

Well that was that bit done, then down. Going downhill isn't fun when you're stuffed. And your feet are hot and sore and blistered. I arrived back at the school and had a look at my time. Ah ok. A bit pish then. Very pish in fact. No surprises there.

Not a cloud in the sky. Apart from the two you can see.

An interesting day, and a reminder that I'll probably never stop being naive about races. I did the Wensleydale Wander last month, which is an identical distance. And I was fine after that. So why was today so much harder? Possibly related to the Yomp involving twice as much climbing. I was also intrigued that my feet gave me problems - hot and blistered in my Walshes. This happened to me once in Swaledale, and I put it down to wearing Walshes on a course that has so much hard surfaces. Now I'm not so sure. I'm now thinking it's not the surfaces, or the shoes, it's the heat. I was strangely re-assured to get an email from Shaun in the evening asking me how my race had gone as his had been 'absolutely awful'. Not just me then!

David Gibson and Geoff Davis were 36th and 16th respectively in the Full Yomp.

Penshaw Hill Race, 1st June

3 miles

Nigel Heppell

photo by Phil Owenphoto by Phil OwenNot a run; definitely a race; mostly hardcore speed merchants competing;

A short sharp 3miles starting with a climb up to and around Penshaw monument; two undulating laps of the woods and fields; finishing with a stiff climb to the monument again.

After this, lots of runners seem to need to lie on the ground making weird noises and grimacing.

89 runners; Race winner - Nathan Reed Sunderland Harriers 16.24min; 69th Nigel H 24.46min; 78th Jan Young 26.50min.

Unusually for me I had a warm-up/down regime, 3miles from home and back again; made for a decent night out.

Newspaper report and a chance to find Jan in the photographs