All posts by Dougie Nisbet

Simonside Fell Race

BM / 11km / 350m

Anita Wright

Anita, Anna and Catherine (neatly in alphabetical order!)This race is of particular significance for me. My parents started the race as a memorial to my brother, Mark, who was killed in a road accident in 1981. It is the reason why I run.

In 1982, as a thank-you to the villagers of Thropton for all their support and for turning-out en-masse for his funeral, my parents thought it would be a fitting memorial to organise a fell race as part of the village show. The show committee agreed to his request provided that my parents took on the entire organisation – all the marshalling, timekeeping, route marking etc. Every friend, acquaintance and relative was co-opted.

My Dad wrote recently that he remembers all of the names of the runners who participated in that first race in 1982. The names kept cropping up again and again over the years. Runners really loved and supported the race over the many years that the family were involved with it – many of those runners were Striders.

A few years after the race started up, I was co-opted into ‘computerising’ the entries and results. Being the only person with access to a ‘portable’ PC in the mid ‘80s (a Toshiba that weighed approximately the same as a small lorry) and knowledge of spread-sheets, I got ‘stuck’ in a caravan adding entries and times for the entire day.

Having done that for several years, I decided that there was nothing in the world that could be worse, or more stressful, than dealing with up to 300 fell runners banging on the caravan door pestering for results. It was time to take up running.

When Thropton Show moved to its present site in 1992, despite an extra mile and a road crossing being added, there was a bonus – the addition of the river crossing (out and back), which immediately became a feature.

In 2008, after 25 years of managing the race, my parents handed over the organisation to Morpeth Harriers and, more recently, the very capable hands of Phil Green from Heaton Harriers.

Fast forward to 2017 – The Return….

I arrived on the show-field early on Saturday and paid my £2 entry fee for the race.

Arrival of the Strider Posse!The weather was atrocious, I was nervous and was just about to ‘turn tail’ and head for home, when the Strider posse, in the shape of Catherine, Anna, Geoff and Susan ‘rode over the horizon’ to save the day. I’ve never been so happy to see purple in my life.

Phil Green delivered the safety briefing and announced that the river crossing was ‘off- limits’ as the river was 4 to 5 feet deep. The announcement was greeted with much disappointment by all but one runner (me).

As the race started, the clouds parted, the rain cleared and we were blessed with the most tremendous views.

The first mile was steady and relatively flat with me driving Catherine on at an unsustainable Park Run pace (nerves got the better of me). Any time benefit gained from my Usain Bolt start was quickly lost as we started to climb. Accompanying the climb was an increase in the angle of incline, the number of obstacles and the mud.

The pièce de résistance of the 3 miles of steep uphill running, came in the form of a scramble up the crags to the summit. The path is much improved from the days when our family initiated the race, but nonetheless is topped off with a final pull up with both hand and knees.

On reaching the summit, it was wonderful to be greeted by my Dad who’d set off earlier to cheer us on.

The short stretch of path across the summit was particularly breath-taking; to the right are views all the way to the Northumberland coast, to the left, expansive views of the Cheviots (and the show-field 3 ½ miles away).

The scramble back down the crags was a bit hair-raising, followed by a short stretch of track and then on to the forest break (mostly mud and dense heather). More downhill and crags followed before hitting a stretch of forest road.

At this point the marking-up of the course left a bit to be desired and it became clear that many runners had inadvertently struck out their own routes back – fundamentally, however, so long as you keep going down, you can’t go wrong.

Deep PurpleIt did, nevertheless, work to the advantage of Catherine and me as we made up a couple of places.

There was a brief ‘discussion’ with 2 hikers on the way down, who accused us of cheating, as we’d not followed the crowd of runners who’d gone in the wrong direction. They were clearly oblivious to just how perilously close they were to being punched in the mouth and being told where to ‘stick’ their advice. Out of all the runners on the route on Saturday, I’m pretty sure that given we’d initiated the race 31 years ago, I know the route!!

I’m very biased, of course, but this is a fabulous race (especially on a clear day), with a huge amount of variation and stunning views. I highly recommend it or next year.

Scafell Pike, Saturday, September 16, 2017

AS / 7.2km / 914m

Tamsin Imber

A long line of runners were strung out above me dragging themselves up the grassy ridge of Lingmell in ungainly, clambering motions. Running was impossible due to the sheer steepness! This was the start of the Scafell Pike fell race! I was excited to finally be here! I was now enjoying the challenge of trail shoes on wet slippery grass incline versus gravity. The very start of the race had been one lap of the Wasdale campsite field, before heading up. This was to ‘thin people out’ they said, as the path up was narrow.

At the start-line I had looked around mystified, as so many people were not carrying anything. I had the equivalent of a fridge-freezer on my back! Full waterproofs, leggings, spare top, hat, gloves, 1.5 litres of water, full OS map, compass, phone, money, GPS device, etc. etc. It was very heavy. I could have done with less, but it made me feel secure as this was my first fell race. I would probably survive a nuclear holocaust. They also had very different footwear to me! Shoes with inch deep grippers! I admit this made me feel a bit disadvantaged in terms of competing! In fact, at the start I just let them go, and off they went powering round the field! Including Fiona. Fiona is a runner from Pendle. I had arrived with an hour to spare, and bumped into her. This race is a series of three; Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike, and she was doing them all. I find whenever I befriend someone before the start of a race, I then have a strong urge to beat them! Especially as she looked similar age as me! However, the fridge-freezer combo was not helpful in this! I pressed on, climbing up the lower slope of Lingmell. I had studied the map super hard during many evenings so had the map in my head plus a small selotape laminated one-page copy in my pocket! Finding myself now with the back of the pack there were group of people chatting, laughing, crawling up on all fours, trying to walk up backwards and I joined them for a bit! One guy kept stopping, and then powering up past a load of people shouting ‘I’m not racing today!’!

I had forgotten the weight on my back now and was into my stride and I wanted to race. So I dug in and started to power-walk past people. It was going well, I was feeling determined! I fired my legs up and passed a few more. Runners were spread out now. Below Goat Crags, the path became less steep. This was across the boggy, grassy catchment area of the Lingmell Gill. I took advantage of this and started running. I passed quite a few more, and then. Yes! Fiona was ahead, and I found I could pass her! We exchanged breathless ‘Well dones’ and I went on ahead. Behind her smile the expression on her face told me she was secretly totally racing me! 🙂

Next was a tall skinny guy (in fact 80% of participants were tall skinny guys) with a green top on. He kept up a good pace and it was hard to overtake him. Especially as we were now crossing the many braids of the stream and his long legs were advantageous. The tributaries of the steam lay in those unsuspecting deep cuttings in the bog, hidden in the bog grass. a nice deep wet surprise! After the bog, the big rock buttress of Scafell Pike towered above us. I was still feeling good. I estimated I had done the equivalent of three Roseberry Toppings now. (The Lake District being so far away, and the ‘chaos of life’ meant I hadn’t been able to get across to do any training. So I had used the nearest steep hill I could think of to do hill reps on. 4.1 Roseberry Toppings = 1 Scafell pike). So, one Roseberry Topping to go! The way up to the buttress was a mossy bank of slippery slime in a shady hollow with sharp rocks. Very precarious. But I was right behind the green-topped guy now, and managed to pass. Then it was up, up, up the rocky, baron crag to the summit!

I pressed on! I was now above the col and could see down the other side! I looked up from my feet for a fleeting moment to see down the other side, to a green, rocky landscape shrouded in low lying mist. Beautiful! But I had to look at my feet! Then, the first man came bounding down the rock scree towards me! Flying from one rock to another! He definitely spent more time airborne than in ground contact! And then, the next guy and the next, all bouncing down! I pushed on, using my arms to propel my weight forwards and upwards, feet in steady rhythm. From one most secure looking rock/foot hold to the next. Sighting the next one, and the next. I was now following a rocky zig-zag path. Up the next zig there was a rounded stoney cairn on the corner. A group of walkers plodded round it with their happy lively dog skitting about, his paws sliding on flat rock surfaces. They heard me coming and kindly got themselves to the side. At the same time, more runners came bounding downhill towards me, including two ladies. I urged myself on past…and the summit could be seen nearby! A hug flat-rocked cairn at the top and four summit marshals stood facing me in bright yellow jackets. ‘What’s your number?’ one shouted to me as I reached them. (My number was half covered by my top tied round my waist). “45” I replied, handing him my plastic token. Wayhay! Half way and I was in 3rd lady position! I really wanted to look at the views… but I didn’t want to lose my place!

A quick glimpse up and I had an awareness of more rock, mountains and ribbons of mist! I turned round and staggered! My legs seemed to need a few moments to get into ‘downhill mode’! I willed them on and began a dicey descent! Parachute would have been easier!

The “path” was a screeish mixture of loose rocks, pebbles and gravel! And the rocks were angular and sharp sided, as my shins found out! I leapt from rock to rock feeling my life expectancy decrease to 5 minutes! But I was not going as fast as the more experienced people behind me. A few men passed me..and then two ladies. Oh no! and then Fiona past me with a surprised and determined look on her face! I made a decision then and there. I could attempt to keep up with them and risk injury, or I could keep a careful pace for me. All the lovely races I have signed up for this year went through my head, and I decided to slow down and be careful. After scrambling down the slippery grassy bank with spikes of stone, I ran across the bog enjoying the beautiful views of Wastwater below. More people passed me. The big crags of Illgill fell overlooked the lake, with tremendous grey screes falling into the water. Visibility was good and I could see the Irish Sea on the horizon and the faint grey outline of the Isle of Man. I leapt on down, past sheep, rocks, a few walkers and soon the campsite came into view below. It was a further knee wrenching, thigh aching descent down to the head of the valley, to the finish.

A group of finished runners were munching on flapjack as I arrived and I was happy to join them! Then I climbed back up a short way to meet my family who had been doing a little walk during the race. The kids were enjoying sliding downhill on their bums! Later, there was a short presentation when everyone had finished by Joss Naylor! A kind and humble man. He thanked everyone for coming and then conducted the prize giving. It was lovely to see a race with such a big age range, from 20’s to over 70’s! and nice that there were therefore age group prizes reflecting this. I was pleased to see Fiona get the first F40 prize, and also to win first F40 for the series! Well deserved. She kindly complimented me on my uphill running and said she had given herself a kick up the bum when I passed her! She said she had found it the most technical of the three mountains. I congratulated her. I had enjoyed it. And it had been an interesting and enlightening experience!

And I shall end my report by leaving you with this poem, which sums up the lakes really.
Solitude in hidden places by Heidi Sands 9/2/17

The mountains surround me, all shades of green
The sun shines upon them, as beauty moves, I’ve seen
— Shadows dancing on the hillside —
— Holding so many places to hide —
There is solitude there, away from the busy streets
Where traffic is flurried, or backed up where it meets
The mountain scenes, bring peaceful pleasure to view
Every season, from greens, multi-colors, white, to blue

Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge (JNLC), Saturday, September 2, 2017

around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent across 30 Lakeland peaks

Geoff Davis

The JNLC was set up by the veteran fell runner himself in 1990. It is a self organised mountain challenge for veteran runners over 50. So there are no race organisers, no entry fees, no way markers, mile markers or fellow competitors. The time allowed increases with age and runners must be accompanied over the route. At age 60 I had 18 hours. The course crosses the Lake District from Pooley Bridge, on Ullswater, to Joss’ home at Greendale in Wasdale – a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent across 30 Lakeland peaks including High Street, Fairfield, Bow Fell, Great End, Great Gable, Pillar and Steeple.

I chose to repeat the JNLC to mark my 60th birthday (I had completed the challenge 5 years earlier to celebrate my 55th birthday). An Achilles injury prevented the intended June crossing necessitating a postponement until September. A promising forecast heralded the intended day and a starry sky for the 5am start boded well. My support team on the first leg consisted of Paul Hainsworth, Katherine Davis, David Gibson, Mike Hughes and Aaron Gourley. They were there ready and waiting for me on the dark bridge at Pooley. Head torches were discarded before we reached the first top and dawn arrived as we traversed the grassy tops of Loadpot and Wether Hill. A beautiful blue sky was lit by a huge orange sun as it crept above Cross Fell. Small herds of deer scattered as we danced across the tussocks and stones towards High Street. It was great to be alive and to share this experience with attentive friends.

The sun was well up by the time we reached Kirkstone and its brightness was allowing the late summer fells to appear at their best. Mark Davinson and Mike Bennett joined me for the second leg and their friendly chat made time pass quickly over the screes and on towards Fairfield where an abandoned tent was the only blemish on what was developing into a perfect morning. I descended carefully down the rocky, eroded path towards the base of Seat Sandal as I didn’t want to take a fall this early in the day. The temperature rose making it even more important to drink little and often and my old familiar kit was starting to get very sweaty!

At a bright and sunny Dunmail Raise my road support team was waiting, headed by my wife Susan (another JNLC completer and to whom my most sincere gratitude goes), and including Graham Daglish, Heather Hughes and Jenny Wren. I was pleased to be over half an hour ahead of my sub 16 hour schedule here at the end of leg 2. A change of top and a little too much food consumed and it was off up the forbidding steepness of Steel Fell with my new support team of Scott Gibson, Paul Evans, Penny Browell & Rob Eaton. Scott, as navigator, ensured the best line was taken across one of my least favourite sections to High Raise. Clouds started to develop from here and so the heat was no longer a problem. However, the tops stayed clear and not a drop of rain fell all day. The food and drink consumed at Dumail was lying heavily in my stomach and it was sometime before I could manage anything else. This was disappointing as I like to ‘graze’ and so didn’t feel 100%. We continued to make up minutes here and there on the schedule as we traversed the rockier ground after Rossett Pike. The fells were packed today with holiday makers and charity walkers on the last weekend before the end of the school holidays. Nonetheless there were few people on the descent to Sty Head from Great End and we arrived there 42 minutes ahead of schedule.

There were lots of my supporters here and it was nice to see old fell friends and other friends not known for their ‘fellgoing’ including Stan White, Aileen Scott, Alan Scott, Louise Billcliffe and Wendy Hughes. I was confident now that I would come in well under 18 hours but could I manage a sub 15 hour round? Time would tell. A steady climb up Great Gable was eased by my pacers’ conversations (John Duff, Elaine Bisson, Jack Lee plus Rob and Penny continuing for a second leg). A good line off the rocky top of Gable and fantastic views from Kirk Fell made everything a joy (well almost!). The cloud started to disperse and a welcome warmth returned making the usual slog across Pillar less of a trial. Steeple was fantastic with its lofty views and its heralding of the approaching finish. Some compass work off Haycock helped me find the scree shoot – a rocky escalator to the bottom! No time to empty stones from shoes as that sub 15 hour crossing started to beckon. Only the steepness of Seatallan stood in my way and all those rocky miles already traversed were starting to take their toll. I had to stop a couple of times on the ascent but still got to the top within the scheduled time with the help of encouragement from my excellent pacers and nourishment from Kendal Mint Cake. Perhaps it was on? I still hadn’t fallen all day and managed to maintain this on the steep grassy descent of Seatallan. On reaching the final top of Middle Fell John told me “you’ve 27 minutes to get to the bridge if you want to get under 15 hours – easily doable for a man of your calibre!” And so it proved, as 19 minutes later I was shaking Joss Naylor’s hand on Greendale Bridge and enjoying the plaudits of my friends.

What a fantastic day and what an honour to meet Joss Naylor once again. He was his usual gracious and humble self and happy to talk to anyone in our group. We chatted for some time not just about fell running, for which he retains a deeply felt appreciation, but about midges, house martins, swallows and his dog – which had ‘stolen’ a piece of Susan’s pie much to Joss’ consternation!

These fell challenges make for wonderful weekends but only happen after months of hard training over the fells and much meticulous preparation in terms of gathering a support team, preparing food and drink and devising a logistical time table. This can have its stresses but it also has its benefits in terms of long delightful days over the mountains with like-minded friends including those named above and others who were unable to be there on the day. I am very grateful to you all and hope you enjoyed it as much as you all seemed to do.

Northumberland Coastal Marathon and Half Marathon, Alnmouth, Sunday, August 13, 2017

Matt Claydon

Another fantastic, scenic, sensibly priced race from the North-East Marathon Club. The full distance takes you from Alnmouth Beach along the coastal path passing Boulmer, Craster, Dunstanburgh Castle and Low Newton Sands up to Long Nanny Bridge, where after a short run on the beach the course returns to Alnmouth along the same route. The half marathon follows the same route to Craster then returns back to Alnmouth.

The beautiful setting can be deceptive as this can be a tough run. Last year I undertook the marathon with the hope of bettering my time of 3.52 from 2010. After a solid run for the first half I fell apart on the way back finishing an hour later than planned. The sand can be particularly energy-sapping when soft underfoot and the paths provide a mixture of surfaces, often undulating and occasionally littered with rabbit holes. It is easy to take your eye off the path at the wrong time to soak up the landscape and come a cropper. That said it is one of my favourite.

I arrived a couple of hours before the race started and was rewarded with a fantastic view:

Anna, Catherine and Alex had entered the full distance and set off an hour before me. So early that the tide was too high to begin at the usual place and the start line had to be moved further up the beach. This year I opted for the half as it was soon after Outlaw. I hoped it would be a breeze by comparison, but this is rarely the way of things. Shorter distances require a faster pace and are thus more exhausting, but with a PB in mind (dreamland) I set off with the front runners. The ridges in the sand caused by the retreating tide were surprisingly uncomfortable to negotiate and it was a relief to get up on to the path and settle into a rhythm. Within the first couple of miles three of us were maintaining a very good pace and had broken away from the field. Although I knew I couldn’t possibly sustain the pace for the duration I was hoping they would tire also. One of the side effects of Outlaw is a real sense of ‘I can do anything’. Although often a false hope I have adopted this positive approach to all endeavours since and enter races with the intention of trying to win them, or at least PB, however improbable.

We kept together until around half way, but as we opened and shut the many gates for each other along the path I had a moment of indecision and after leaving a gate open for the next runner (some distance behind) I ran on, had a change of heart, and ran back to close it (the Country Code was drummed in to me in childhood). This was sufficient time for a gap to open up between myself and the leaders that I could never close. It also meant the 4th place runner had gained on me. After unsuccessfully putting in a few surges to try and claw back some ground I accepted defeat and settled down to run my own race and try to ensure I didn’t lose a podium spot. I passed the place where I had collapsed with agonising cramp in last year’s marathon and grinned to myself- it felt good to still be going strong and be so close to the finish.

Over the last couple of miles I inevitably tired and he reeled me in. Others were also catching me but I made it to the line in 4th and luckily 1st M40.

Summer Handicap, Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Results
POSgroupNameFinish TimeActual Time
1E6Emma Backhouse32.2624.26
2E4 John Greathead33.0425.04
3C2Kirsten Fenwick33.2729.27
4C1Kirsty Nelson33.2829.28
5C3Mim Bekarma33.4529.45
6D9Lee Stephenson33.5927.59
7D7 Kimberley Anne34.128.1
8D11Nicola Dorricott34.1128.11
9D8Debra Thompson34.1228.12
10D2Stephen Lumsdon34.1328.13
11D6Inga Andrew34.2628.26
12H3Paul Swinburne34.2820.28
13D10Emma Cumpson34.2828.28
14E3Wendy Littlewood34.326.3
15D3Lynne Waugh34.3728.37
16G3Robin Linton34.3922.39
17G5Andrew Davies34.4122.41
18C5Sue Walker34.5130.51
19D1Alison Smith35.0129.01
20E1Richard Jackson35.1527.15
21H1Mike Barlow35.2121.21
22G4Richard Hockin35.2123.21
23G2Laura Jennings35.2823.28
24G1David Browbank35.2923.29
25H2Conrad White35.3421.34
26F6Sarah Fawcett35.3825.38
27F10Vicky Brown35.425.4
28F7Peter Hart35.4125.41
29F2Andrew Munro35.4925.49
30D13Aileen Scott36.0630.06
31D12Stan White36.1330.13
32F9Chris Shearsmith36.1926.19
33D4Rachel Turner36.2730.27
34F8Anita Wright36.2726.27
35E5Anita Clementson36.2828.28
36B1Sophie Dennis36.3834.38
37F1Alan Smith36.4826.48
38F4Andrew Thurston36.4926.49
39B2Helen Linton36.5134.51
40J1Michael Littlewood37.0619.06
41J2Stephen Jackson37.0619.06
42J3Gareth Pritchard37.0619.06
43A1Celeste Veitch38.0138.01
44A2Angela Greathead38.0138.01
45C4Carole Holgate39.4835.48
46F5Andrew Dunlop41.1331.13

Steel Fell, Lake District, Monday, August 7, 2017

AS / 5km / 400m

Aaron Gourley

My legs feel like jelly…in fact they don’t feel like they’re mine anymore as I hit the road for the final chase into the finish. There’s a Keswick AC runner up ahead whom I’d eyed as a potential catch to gain a vital place in this short but incredibly tough little fell race but my legs have other ideas. My brain can’t decide what to do with them, they don’t feel real.

32 minutes earlier, I’d been on this path heading up the hill to the start of the off-road climb up Steel Fell. From the farmer’s field at West Head Farm just off the A591 beyond Thirlmere, over 70 runners gathered – Keswick, Ambleside, Helm Hill, Bowland and Kendal are some of the vests synonymous with fell running that are donning the mostly lithe, athletic and clearly fit for the fells, runners.

I stood cutting a lone figure in my purple Striders vest – the Lone Strider – tipping up for this summer fling as I happened to be on a week holiday in the area.  The fee? free for 3 miles of fell running fun.

The premise of this race is easy – wheeze your way to the top of Steel Fell, run around the summit cairn then leg it as fast as you can back down the same way. How hard could that be?

With heads down and hands on knees we make our way up the steep slope on a beautiful summer evening. Every now and again I look up to see what progress I’m making and to see if the front runners are on their way back down yet – they’re not! How far is this race again? Surely they must be heading back, I’ve been climbing for what seems like ages!

Eventually I reach the plateau where the gradient levels off. Now I can see up ahead the summit cairn and turn around point. I can also see the front runners on their way back, they’re like gazelles leaping effortlessly across the rough ground.

With the field well stretched out now, I make my way slowly to the turn around point before the fun of the downhill starts. There’s about half a mile of easy running before the gradient drops. I run to this point, take a moment to savour the view of Thirlmere and the valley stretching out in the late evening sun, then, with a sharp intake of breath, hurl myself down the slope.

I’ve eyes on a couple of people who I think I can catch. My legs are pounding and arms are held aloft to keep balance as I pass two guys taking tentative steps. Then I spy another target, which I manage to take. My legs are really taking a battering now but there’s not far to go and I’m enjoying the experience.

Then up ahead is the Keswick runner, I think I might have this place but it’s going to be a battle. Back onto the road and the battle is lost before it begins. My only hope is no-one catches me from behind as I try to maintain my form for the final stretch to the finish.

Job done but my legs have took a serious battering from this little beauty of a race.

The 8th Philiphaugh Hill Race, Selkirk, Monday, August 7, 2017

11km / 400m

Nigel Heppell

photo courtesy and © Selkirk Fund Runners

A poor result north of the border -or was it?

On holiday in the Scottish Borders? Looking for a Sunday run? Something simple to raise funds for the local play park? Never visited the Three Bretheren before? The 8th Philiphaugh Hill Run looked just right at 7 miles and 400m ascent.

A mixed bag of 62 runners competed over a nice traily route over two hilltops with stunning views; no kit required -‘its a summer run’.

I manage a very mediocre 1hr 07mins putting me 5th in the V60 category.

The official results table shows my time as 140% of the winners’ time which sounds pretty poor to me;

photo courtesy and © Selkirk Fund Runners

The winner is no spring chicken either, he’s a V50; but I then notice he is Colin Donnelly of Cambuslang Harriers – one time youngest winner of the Ben Nevis Race (1979) and Scotland’s representative at the World Hill Running Championships for 14 years in a row, winning silver in 1989; winner of the British Fell Running Championship 1987-89; and numerous top performances in Scottish Cross Country racing; he retains the record for traversing the Welsh 3000’s and has course records for the Buckden Pike and Shelf Moor races …

Maybe my time isn’t so bad after all?

Nottingham Outlaw, Nottingham, Sunday, July 23, 2017

2.4m swim / 112 miles bike / 26m run

Matt Claydon

Eighteen months ago I was sitting on the sofa 3 stone heavier with a cake in one hand and beer in the other and had a sudden realisation that something needed to change. I needed to do a Thing. A Big Thing. I decided I liked the idea of a full ironman-distance triathlon. I think I may have had several beers by this point.

Over the next few weeks I deliberately told many people of my plan, so I couldn’t bottle out. One of these people was Neil Sleeman, whose enthusiasm for the idea was considerable (and who’s help and encouragement was hugely appreciated throughout). After discussing the idea with Neil, and a friend from work, Helen Drinkall from Durham Tri, I settled on the Nottingham Outlaw, regarded as a friendly and well organised event (and a fair few quid less than a well-known alternative). Helen decided to sign up, and Neil’s wife Corrina decided he would sign up too (doubt this would be a welcome surprise in many households!).

The training started slowly – it was a long road ahead. I concentrated on the running for the first few months, to try and regain some basic fitness and lose some weight. Looking back I was amazed to see the sum total of my ‘competitive’ running in 2015 comprised just 2 parkruns. It was here that I began, trying to find the motivation to drag myself out each Saturday morning. I signed up for Raby Castle 10k in May 2016 and managed a respectable 42.26, which lifted my confidence a bit, as did Hamsterley 11M (1hr.24) in the July. A disaster at the Northumberland Coastal Marathon in September was a wake-up call as I collapsed with cramp 4 miles from the end, eventually dragging myself over the line in 4hr.51. I had never suffered from cramp before, but it was a useful lesson in nutrition and hydration.

By the autumn I had shifted a few pounds and was running pretty well. I decided that I would try to use my anticipated fitness to target 2017 to PB in all standard distances 5k-marathon and get into the medium pack for the Harrier League. Over the winter I did manage pretty decent performances in the Harrier League, but not quite good enough – missing out on the medium pack at Thornley 2 by 1 place (and 1 second!). I also managed a handful of fell races (still chuffed to make it 1st strider home at Captain Cook). I had by now actually purchased a bike as well (crucial in triathlons). This was set up on a turbo trainer in the spare room and didn’t actually make it out on to a road until May.

At some point in the spring it was explained to me that there were cut-off times for both the swim and bike. This was a very big oversight as I had been relying on a strong run to get inside the overall cut-off of 17hrs. I realised I might not actually make it as far as the run. The swim cut-off is 2hr, and a further 8hr for the bike. Weekly swim sessions and regular cycling followed. A PB at Druridge Bay Marathon in April (and 1st M40!), a standard Olympic distance triathlon (2hr 52) at the same venue a few weeks later. All felt like it was going well…….

Suddenly it’s 3am on the morning of the Big Thing. I’m in the Premier Inn (very convenient-recommended) 6 miles from the venue at the National Watercourse Centre and it’s time to get up. Gulp.

I meet Helen and Neil in the lobby and we drive across to the centre, having racked our bikes and filled our transition bags the day before. We faffed for a bit and I tried not to think about the fact that I had only lake-swam twice, and only ever managed half the distance in training (even less than half for the bike). The weather forecast had been miserable and I was also concerned about cycling in wet conditions (something else I had avoided in training), but despite a heavy downpour the night before the clouds gradually cleared and the sun shone across the lake.

I necked a gel, a couple of ibuprofen (just in case) and 4 Rennie (I usually feel bloated after a swim from gasping for too much air and swallowing water). Then we were off. The swim course is very straightforward, up the left hand side of the lake, across the top and back down the other side (even I didn’t get lost). I started right at the back and gave everyone 30 seconds head start to give myself some space. There was little breeze and the water was very calm. I knew that when I try to go to fast I mess up my rhythm and panic sets in leading too much spluttering and thrashing about. I set off slow and steady, checked my watch at the turn to make sure I was on time, and knowing I was comfortable, built up the pace a little on the way back. Easy peasy- I actually enjoyed it! Out of the water and there were strippers on hand to drag your wetsuit off, then into the marquee-tented transition. A slow and careful change into my bike kit, another gel and out to the bike rack and on to the next stage.

I did a slowish loop of the lake, getting adjusted to being upright and tried to get comfortable on the seat (impossible for me). The course comprises a mix of open rural roads, closed lanes and a relatively short section on a scary-as-hell busy main road. It was all reasonably flat apart from one hill about 50 miles in, and I managed to keep an average speed of around 16mph. The support on the way round was great. The village green of Car Colston was used by many as a place to picnic while waiting for a fleeting glimpse of their loved ones. The first time through it I saw no one (bit deflated) but second time around I passed Neil coming the other way (1.5-2hr ahead?, never saw him again!). Immediately after I passed both families cheering me on – loved it, what a boost!

Coming in to transition was a huge relief as by now the uncomfortable seat felt like a nail pointing somewhere you really don’t want a nail pointing. I was also very glad to be on to a discipline I felt competent in. A smooth transition and I jogged around the lake feeling surprisingly spritely. Again steady was key, and yet more gels. Feed stations every 1.5miles allowed exhausted competitors to grab whatever, whenever. The route took you around the lake then a double loop (like rabbit ears tying your laces) out passed the City Ground and Trent Bridge. I had many childhood memories from these parts which occupied my thoughts on the last few hours.

I passed Anita Clementson coming the other way, and then Helen. It was nice to see friendly faces after the relative loneliness of the cycle (no drafting rules prevent chatting). The support from the marshals was awesome- Thank you all! After 22miles I could feel my hamstrings getting dangerously tight and decided to walk – I knew I would make it. I walk/jogged the last bit. A guy jogged alongside “we have 15min to get the last 1km done and break 13hr 30. Shall we do it?” Hell yes! So Jim and I ran to the line.

As you reach the last 100m Outlaw allow your children to wait by the track for you, and join you to cross the line. This was one of the best moments of my life, I’m very glad to share it.

Long Tour of Bradwell, Peak District, Saturday, August 12, 2017

BL / 52.7km / 2200m

Paul Evans

Greased, Taped, Wonky, and ready to goIt’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to spend a Sunday evening sat at a laptop, trying to recall what took place the day before. Probably around two years or so – [ actually just last year! ^DN] the website seems to show nothing from me since November 2015 [<cough!> Paul Evans ^DN]. However, a return to racing with a rejoinder from our webmaster means that what happened must be relayed, for the ever-developing archive of north-eastern running that is our website. Here goes…

0712hrs at Sheffield railway station for a 25 minute ride on a rattling little train, older than I, to Hope. The journey is spent checking bumbag contents, unpacking and adjusting. The only other passengers seem similarly absorbed in their kit, and I assume both are heading for the tour, either long or half, also. We walk the mile or so the Bradwell in amiable silence. The fact that the western edge of the valley is obscured by cloud bodes ill. I consider switching to the half tour, a 17-miler that cuts out the more punchy climbs, then remember I’m returning with a ultra so I don’t HAVE to race it.

0810hrs. Check-in for the race is slick (impressively, EOD are taken as well), laminated maps are issued and a demo is given of the new electronic timing system. Hot brews are offered and received, and the portaloos portable toilets provision is adequate. Kit is re-checked, re-assembled and then adjusted once more, nipples taped and anything that might chafe greased to fairy obscene levels. A decision is made to add to the bumbag a half dozen mini pork pies, on the basis that I’m not really racing, but instead here for a nice day’s running.

0900hrs. Assembly at the village green, in a light rain with overcast skies promising more. No kit check. We set off at an easy pace for the gentle undulation of the first mile or so along a damp, overhung lane, the rumble of the enormous cement works a background note. I’m not impressed to note that my Mudclaws are showing themselves to be awful on wet concrete, having switched to Inov8 after four successive pairs of Walshes disintegrated early in their lives [same here, sadly. ; a gentle downhill sees me skid to one side and hug the fence. Control 1 is found easily (ie. at the point you leave the lane – truly idiot-proof) though it later turns out that my timing gear does not register, despite flashing and beeping. From here a steady run, with occasional walking on the steeper parts, takes us through the quarries that feed the plant below, along a track to CP2 and then down some grassy fields…

…to the abomination that is Cave Dale. For those of you who have not visited Cave Dale, it is a picturesque descent through limestone crags and lush greenery. For tourists, it is delightful. For farmers, it’s a nice place to graze sheep. For runners, it is a steep downhill over loose limestone, polished by water for centuries, today in the rain. It is an axiom of ultra-runner to ‘walk the ups, run the downs.’ I did the opposite, and lost a good number of places to those with a little more poise and balance, only falling twice, which I think a result of sorts. This led into Castleton, pretty as ever, along a minor road to the climb up to Hollins Cross, then straight down a good track, under the railway line and into Edale.

1030hrs. Edale gained, with two of the big climbs over with. Banana and a few peanuts offered along with water, and a small group of us trotted out past the Nag’s Head/Pennine Way start, over the footbridge and up the zig-zags that mark the start and finish of the Edale Skyline fell race; walking only here. About two-thirds of the way up the climb flattens and the ground becomes soggier, helped by the rain that’s picked up a bit. Reaching the plateau I hit my stride, unfortunately making the mistake of enjoying the running too much to notice the trod that leads to CP5, the Druid’s Stone. Heather-bashing needed, then more of the same to regain the edge, followed by what someone following me informs me I’ve ‘picked a great line’ through the rocks and heather tussocks that take us down to runnable fields (I don’t tell him that I descended earlier than intended then made the best of it/pretended I had a plan). A fast downhill mile brings us under the railway again, then it’s over the road and straight up the other side of the valley to Lose Hill, walking pace resumed. I crack open the mini pork pies. I eat one slowly, then realise it is not sitting well; in retrospect, this lack of hunger should have been a warning. Nevertheless, Lose Hill CP6 is gained with a stiff tab to the steps and then a run along the tops, legs feeling less stiff than earlier. The descent is a grassy delight, halted only to call back a handful ahead of me who’ve taken a bad line and are liable to end up a mile or so west of where they need to be. Hope, CP7, is another food/drink station and by this point we’re well-mixed with runners doing the half tour, so it is harder to ascertain who the competition is. If I were being competitive, which I’m not.

The next few legs are fairly easy running, bar a cheeky climb up Whin Hill, with views of Ladybower reservoir, some very enjoyable forest trails and a bit of flat converted railway line taking us to CP9, the cut off for the full tour.

1230hrs. The two races separate, the half tour runners having broken the back of their race and heading home. It feels lonely again. I change pace again to drop down from the line through a couple of fields onto CP10, situated halfway along Bamford Weir, admire the serenity of the ducks paddling through the lilies, then accept I cannot change the fact that a couple of miles of climbing, on road then rocky track, lies between Stanage Edge and I. Strangely, I make up a few places here, my ability to sustain an uphill plod serving me well, gain CP11 and then shuffle-run along Stanage Edge to Burbage Bridge, the sun now out and the views superlative, miles of purple heather to the left and lush valley to the right. CP12 at the roadside sees us fed again, though I’m really not hungry by now, and we descend steadily to Toad’s Mouth, 2 miles of largely downhill easy running…or would be if my left foot were not now hurting with every step. CPs 13, 14 and 15 feature no big climbs, some pretty woodland and Burbage Brook, which is this afternoon rammed with children paddling, fishing and enjoying themselves. How dare they, when some of us are suffering? Some even have snacks they appear to relish eating, rather than 5 uneaten pork pies they cannot face but must carry.

1430hrs. CP15 reached, a lot of water and 4 peanuts forced down and the rest shoved into a pocket. From here, I know I’ve got about 6 miles, an hour, one big, but steady climb and, in the immediate future, one short road climb to go. I and two others who appear also a bit on the tired side climb to the farm track, descend into the woods and then walk-run through terrain that seems more uneven than the map suggests to CP16, at a brook I refill my water bottle from. We then climb slowly to Abney hamlet, take a right up an interminably-long track (the map says only 3/4m, but it feels worse) and then skirt another quarry before dropping down through gorse and mud into Bradwell, for a final half-mile trot along the road. Our threesome has split by now, after all checking that we’re fine, and I come in last of the three after another involuntary trip down the hillside on my bottom.

1545hrs. It is done. Hot brews and soup. Flapjack that takes 15 minutes a square to eat as my mouth does not have sufficient moisture to masticate adequately. Lying on my back in the warm grass, the moist soil fragrant. A walk back to the station and half an hour sat waiting in the sun, finally able to eat again, content, knowing it is all done and that, hurting feet and all, it has been a run to remember. And I might have, despite all good intentions, actually raced the thing. Maybe a little.

Lakeland 50, Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kerry Barnett

So I’m not sure how I got roped into it, what I do know is the entry to Lakeland 50 was a birthday present from a former boyfriend…… thanks for that!

So the Lakeland 50 is dubbed as one of the toughest ultras in the Uk, self navigated, unsupported over some of the most beautiful scenery ….. sounds good so far doesn’t it? Bearing in mind 30 miles was the farthest I’d gone (managed to squeeze in a 55 miler as a 24 hour event 3 weeks before the big one) I can’t navigate to save my life and I’m terrible at following training plans I guess to no wonder I was a bit nervous about this one.

The 29th July loomed large and I made my final preparations, making sure I had my essential kit neatly in a box ready for kit check, road books for Kathryn Sygrove and me printed and laminated (the provided one isn’t waterproof), food organised (being vegan I wasn’t sure if there would be adequate food I could eat at the checkpoints), tent packed and off we went down to Coniston.

Arriving around 7pm Rob put our tent up while I went to register and get my kit checked, it had been raining already…. a sign of things to come it seemed. Kit check went well was even complemented on how neatly my stuff was presented, picked up my ‘dibber’, got weighed (apparently if you look unwell at the end they’ll weigh you again as an indicator of kidney failure or dehydration). Then we bumped into Kathryn, waited for her to be registered and kit checked then headed off to the pub for more pre race prep ….. food and drink.

The night passed with a fitful sleep with the obligatory pre ultramaranoia nightmare, landings of rain through the night, the baaaa of sheep ALL NIGHT, but knowing that all my prep was done and all that was to be done now was to toe the start line with 700 ish other runners was some consolation.

7 o’clock alarm, coffee, instant porridge, ablutions as best you can in a tent, use of the chemical toilets (nice!) and it was all of a sudden 830am and time for the entertaining race brief by Uncle Terry and ‘the other one’ (you had to be there). Now after another toilet stop, it was onto the buses for the tedious journey to Dalemain, the starting point. More snacking on the bus, banana, peanut butter and jam sandwich for me, cheese sandwich for Kathryn.

Of course, it started to rain as soon as we got to Dalemain, waterproofs on while we waited for the loo again. Couple of pics/selfies, ‘fibbed’ onto the course and a Facebook live video as we crossed the start line We were off!

The first 4 miles were through the Dalemain estate, nothing special but not flat, some little undulations made it a bit interesting. The rain stopped after around 2 miles so waterproof off. At this stage you kind of thin into the groups of people you’ll see time and again. Pooley Bridge next, a nice run through a pretty town… lots of cheers and claps from passers by the the first real uphill, think it was about a mile long with a photographer saying ‘no running no photo’ so of course I had to have a little run, but just for the photo.

Managed to catch up with Joanne Abbott, a runner I was familiar with from the Hardmoors races and held onto her and her hubby through the checkpoint at Howtown, renamed Howdy Town with a western theme, quick cup of tea and some flapjack and we were off again.

Here was the toughest part of the whole route for me, and only 12 miles in….. The monstrous Fusedale climb, it went on for at least a mile and a half with over 1200 ft of climb. I was down to counting steps to push myself on, sometimes 50 steps, sometimes 100 occasionally 30, I must have used a whole packet of shotbloks and a few glucose tablets to get me up there but my strategy worked and I eventually made it to the top. It was here I met Cathy, she was rewarding herself with a kit Kat, which had melted. Cathy and I stuck together for the remainder of the race, she was a godsend and made the rest of the race a less horrific experience.

From the top of Fusedale it was a bog hoppers dream, we had been reminded to stay high to get from High Kop (highest point of the course at around 2200 feet) and to look for the wooden stake to start down to Low Kop and run around Haweswater until we reached the next checkpoint at Mardake Head. Time for more refuelling, soup, sandwiches, coke, tea all served by lovely marshals who couldn’t do enough for us, filling our water bottles for us etc. There were a couple of 100ers sitting wrapped up, waiting to be taken back to Coniston. I can’t even imagine doing the 100 so fair play to them for getting this far. Soon we were off, with a packet of crisps tucked away for later.

It was round about here we picked up our 3rd musketeer Donna, who had done the route last year and was glad of some company. The next bit from Mardale to Kentmere was quite enjoyable, still in daylight, the company was good, we were well fed, and the terrain wasn’t horrible, still some elevation though but after Fusedale anything was preferable. By now we had renamed it ‘F^*#%$ Fusedale’ which amused us for the rest of the race.

3 Harry Potter/Stardust esque slate styles later we arrived at my favourite checkpoint so far Kentmere. It was inside, there was suitable for vegan pasta, hot tea, coke, hobnobs. And Jen Scotney was there (wife of world class ultramarathoner Marcus Scotney, and I later found out she gad SFV cake which I missed out on). Starting to get dark now, so long sleeve top on, head torch on, second watch on (I knewmy Tomtom wouldn’t last the whole time). Cathy changed her socks and blister plasters. I made the decision not to take my shoes off until the end. Once again, ushered out of the hall, we were off.

Ambleside next stop, the weather was still holding off, temperature just right no rain. We kept on keeping on, over Garburn Pass, very rocky and technical underfoot but my Altra Superiors were performing well and there was little slippage. I was starting to feel a bit nauseous and couldn’t eat anything, taking sips of tailwind every now and again. I was so looking forward to Ambleside as it was another a checkpoint crossed off.

Eventually we approached the checkpoint and had a lovely surprise that Angela and John Greathead had stayed up to support me (it was around 130am by now), the Vegan Runners had put together a box of vegan goodies and with my queasy tummy I was overjoyed to see Ginger Snaps, just what i needed something ginger to settle my nausea, worked a treat in combination with Kendal mint cake.

Cathy had been having trouble with her shoes slipping of her heels so I bent down to replace her shoes in the ‘heel locking’ style which really improved her comfort. And with a big hug from Angela and John we were off again.

And now the heavens opened. Back on with the waterproof jacket and keep on going. This was again quite a pleasant part of the course, only 5.6 miles to the next checkpoint and mainly on paths, jog a bit walk a bit jog a bit walk a bit. Past Skelwith, Elterwater, the campsite (sshhh quiet!) not much to see in the pitch dark and lashing rain. But then the bright glow of the checkpoint tent at Chapel Stile beckoned in the near distance. Now hot food, veg stew, coffee, water bottles topped up again. Donna sat down. I did not. Beware the chair! Hustling the girls, I just wanted to keep going and get it over with now, it was around 330am now, pitch dark and still raining.

Now the boggiest, wettest, difficult to navigate in the dark terrain. There were loads of sheep, well at first glance they were just reflective eyes in the darkness, I wonder what they were thinking! As we came out of the fields, into the bracken across Bleamoss it started to get light and the rain stopped. There was no actual sunrise to be seen but it must have happened as it was suddenly full daylight and even the sun started to come out. One 100 lady runner went past us a bit like the white rabbit in Alice in a Wonderland, she thought it was much later than it was and she thought she was going to miss her cut off. Reassuring her it was only 530 ish not 830 ish she breathed a sigh of relief but still pushed on. On reaching the self dib at Wrynose there was an old fella with his 2 dogs, I later found out he is there from the beginning to the end providing moral support (the only acceptable support on the Lakeland 50/100). Only an hour to Tilberthwaite he told us, so off we went again. Jog walk jog walk jog walk down the hill, through Fell Foot Farm and onto Tilberthwaite checkpoint.

I was greeted into Tilberthwaite by Kat who I ran at Windermere marathon with, more tears and hugs, more coffee, couple more ginger snaps. ‘Do you want a seat?’ (beware the chair) ‘no thanks’ ‘only 3.5 miles to go, just over a parkrun’ . Let’s get going!

First up out of the checkpoint. Big old stone stairs hurrah! Then a bit more of an incline (still nothing like F#^*^#} Fusedale though. Even the short scramble up the rocks was a welcome distraction, I’d recce’d this part and knew it wasn’t far to go. Just over the top and then ‘we are starting our final descent into Coniston, please fasten your seatbelt, doors to manual and cross check’ Cathy, Donna and I started laughing now, after a grim miserable few hours, this felt good. My knees were hurting from all the downs, my ankles we complaining from the tricky techinical rockiness. But we were nearly done.

Cathy’s running club mates (around 10 of them) had turned out to see her finish, so proud of her, as was I. Cathy had only started running 8 months ago specifically to complete this in memory of her brother who had died after a short illness. She had done it! I had done it! Rob appeared to cheer me in, giving me a big hug.

When we hit the tarmac in Coniston we all started running, I don’t know how we did, but we did. We handed our poles to passers by and held each other’s hands as we ran and turned the corner and through the Finish line, we did our final dib together so we all finished at exactly the same time. 20 hours 57 minutes.

At the time, I said I’d never even consider doing the Lakeland 50 again, I said I’d hated every step, every moment, but do you know what? I didn’t hate it, it was tough, very tough and F%*^# Fusedale nearly did for me but it was an amazing experience, I am so proud of what I have achieved and what my body and mind are capable of.