All posts by Dougie Nisbet

Summer Handicap – July, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Finishing position NameFinish TimeActual Running Time
1D4John Greathead48.0145.31
2D2Jonathan Clark48.5346.23
3D3Alison Smith52.0949.39
4G9Peter Hart53.143.1
5G8Chris Shearsmith53.1643.16
6F4Andrew Thurston53.1745.47
7G4Sarah Fawcett53.2543.25
8H8Helen Parker53.2540.55
9G7David Walker53.3443.34
10H1Mark Foster53.5441.24
11E3Vicky Brown54.0849.08
12F1Jan Young54.2246.52
13H5Andrew Munro54.4542.15
14L1Mark Griffiths54.4632.16
15H4Jane Ranns54.5642.26
16F2Catherine Walker54.5747.27
17E1Stephen Lumsdon54.5949.59
18E2Lee Stephenson55.1150.11
19J1Mike Barlow55.2737.57
20G10Ashley Price-Sabate55.2845.28
21J2Philip Connor55.3738.07
22D1Sharon Campbell55.453.1
23H9Ian Spencer55.5143.21
24M2Chris Callan55.5430.54
25I4Craig Walker56.1641.16
26F3Nicola Dorricott56.3649.06
27F5Sue Walker56.3649.06
28I3Pavlos Farangitakis56.3841.38
29L2Emma Thompson56.4334.13
30I6Roz Layton57.1442.14
31G3Debra Thompson57.2447.24
32M3Michael Anderson57.2432.24
33K2Richard Hockin57.3137.31
34G2Lynne Waugh57.3747.37
35M4Jack Lee5833
36L3Dan Mitchell58.2235.52
37C1Sophie Dennis59.1559.15
38G5Emma Cumpson59.2149.21
39H3Alan Smith60.1147.41
40I8Clare Wood60.3845.38
41M1Sally Hughes60.5935.59
42G1Anita Wright61.5651.56
43I1Angela Greathead63.3248.32
-Sue Gardham1 lap-
-Stef Barlow1 lap-
-Helen Linton1 lap-

 

Willow Miner Trail Race, Houghall Campus, East Durham College, Wednesday, July 5, 2017

5.3 miles

Elaine Bisson …

The Inaugural Willow Miner Trail Race …

 

5.3m, 438 feet elevation gain.

I had somehow fallen into running this race. Michael couldn’t run, he suggested I have his number, a few texts and emails later and it seemed I was in the running.

I had a few reservations. It was THE strider race of the year…the pressure would be on. It wasn’t in my plan, there were events on the horizon that I wanted to concentrate on. My last few races had been reasonable but had left me disappointed. My race head was at an all time low. I was recovering from an injury and didn’t want to aggravate it again. Oh, the list, how it goes on!

Anyway, I arrived at registration slightly later than planned…it didn’t matter, I had resolved to use it as a good training run, nothing more. If I started after the gun, all the better. Hopeful faces greeted me and I dismissed their optimism with, I’m not racing, I cant be bothered!

At the start I met a very bouncy excitable Rachelle, she attempted to lift my glum mood…and failed.

We all assembled on the lush grass before the start line, after a race briefing and a minute silence to remember Alan Purvis, we were off across the race track which was laid out in front of us. I was running at an easy pace, I watched gleefully as the fast group fought to gain good ground and disappeared into the woods. Now I could relax, I was just going to enjoy this. However, it wasn’t long before I got stuck behind a woman who decided to walk and then block my path through the woods, feeling frustrated, I picked up pace and started picking off people. This was fun, the pressure had all gone…disappeared into the distance. As I speeded up, I started to target runners to catch up, it became a bit of a game. I’m not entirely sure when the game became a race, probably when I caught sight of those that I’d thought had long gone. Susan’s encouragement of “at the moment, your 4th” really got me, it’s what I needed. The little shove to move up the ranks.

As one of Geoff’s guinea pigs during his Fell Coaching Training, I knew every hill possible on this course, and had suffered on EVERY hill, whether that be running hard up or down. This race then felt familiar and even the big hill up to the willow miner…was now doable. By then Penny was in my sights, then 2nd lady. I clung on to her, waiting for my move. I thought it would come on one of the hills in the woods, unfortunately it was much later. We ended up hurtling onto the grass track to the finish neck and neck. Every time I tried to increase speed, she would match it. Many thoughts whizzed through my mind, the overriding was how much I wanted to reach that finish line before her. With time running out and the line fast approaching, I gave one more push and finally pulled in front, one stride ahead and there it was, the white line. It was exhilarating and totally unexpected. Second lady, first strider lady for the third year.

So about the race…Its a beautiful route, showcasing 5.3miles of our amazing training ground. It is tough, with many undulations, fast downhill sections and long drags back up. It is extremely well marked (even tree routes are highlighted green), marshalled and supported by our wonderful club. For £11 you can ‘enjoy’ this brute, quench your thirst on water and coffee sachets at the end. Then drink some more, fill your belly and share trauma stories with fellow club mates at The Court Inn. What better way to celebrate Elvet Striders?

… Kay Cairns …

You’ve heard from the 1st Strider Lady now how about the last?…

I had toyed with the idea of entering the Clamber for the last couple of years, always deciding against it at the last minute. I was tempted again this year with the re-vamped Willow Miner Trail Race, I’d heard it was a toughie and got the impression it was only for ‘serious runners’ but when I looked into it I was assured there were no cut off times and everyone was welcome to take part… I decided it was probably for the best if I gave it a miss, it was the night before my son’s Birthday and I’m usually pretty busy blowing up balloons and wrapping presents! Then about 2 weeks before the race a notification popped up on the Striders Facebook page – Mike Parker couldn’t do the race due to injury – and against my better judgement I said I’d take it… I had already agreed to buy the T-shirt after all!

Leading up to the big night I had been hit with a head cold and my training was abandoned, I managed a couple of miles here and there but I felt utterly defeated. I was only 2 weeks in to my GNR training and I had already hit a brick wall! I was starting to feel a little better the week of the WMTR, I went out for 3 miles on Monday and I wasn’t too bad. I knew I was going to take part on the night but I wasn’t feeling fit, the night before I had a nightmare about the race (I can’t remember specifics but I think I forgot my watch, my number, went to the wrong race… you get the gist) and I was nervous all day thinking about it.

In reality I arrived in good time and collected my number “ah 22, that’s my Birthday” maybe it was meant to be! When I arrived on the field with all the other runners from so many different clubs it really did feel special; but I was alone, my usual running buddies were all marshalling (how sensible) so I was forced to do a real warm up! Usually we would start to warm up and get distracted with talk of cake…

When the race started I stayed at the back, I knew I would be the unofficial tail-runner and I’d come to terms with that fact. Before we’d even left the field I saw another woman turn back, telling her friends she was ok but she wouldn’t be running. Just 1 mile in I could see I was falling back even further than I had expected, but I kept going… up the steep steps at Houghall Woods then I was keeping a steady pace on the flat but I couldn’t see a soul in front.

Almost 2 miles in, I was already fighting my own demons and trying to keep my breathing in check (after still being in recovery mode from my head cold) then out of nowhere a guy walking in the opposite direction said to me “you want to go faster than that, you’re last” – and just like that I felt everything. The pain, the fear, the doubt, the anger, the defeat …I couldn’t breathe, I was fighting back tears. I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter, of course I was last, who cares! I was never in it for the win – if I was I wouldn’t bother getting out of bed! I’m not built for winning, for speed! Then I could see the next marshal point, Kate and Katharine, so friendly and encouraging – just as much for me as they were for the 1st runners along the route – and I broke down and hugged Katharine, not sure if I could even carry on.

I’m not sure how long I was there, I don’t think I fully explained myself at the time but it was clear I might not continue. Then I thought about my club, and the T-shirt I was wearing, it had been modified to not only show the club logo but also to promote my role as Mental Health Ambassador and #runandtalk was emblazoned on the back. This role means a lot to me. It isn’t just about letting people know it’s ok to talk and that running can improve your mental wellbeing – it’s about setting goals for yourself that push you out of your comfort zone, it’s about running and talking (to yourself sometimes) and being that positive voice inside that pushes you further than you ever thought possible.

If I was going to continue to be that voice for others then I had to step up and be that voice for myself. I was going to finish this race.

All I remember about the rest of the race is, well, the marshals! Yes there were hills, there was pain, and there was a Willow Miner along the way I believe. But the marshals were all amazing – smiling, beaming faces, supportive cheers, many bending the truth about how many hills were left, but all so genuinely happy to be there supporting every single runner.

Thank you Striders for having me, for supporting me, and for letting me be last.

… Tamsin Imber

‘Own it!’

‘Believe!’

and

‘Just f*****g go nail the b**ch!’

were some of the quotes I had in my head as I whizzed down to Maiden Castle on my bike. The latter quote from a hilarious book I am currently reading about a lady who is trying triathlons! Actually I was really excited about this race and looking forward to it as I’d enjoyed it a lot last year. It had been a great, local, low-key event with a cross country vibe! I was just feeling a little anxious as it was to be my first race in club vest since London. So the quotes were to give me confidence. Even so, my legs seemed to spin extra fast on my bike on the way down! On arrival at Maiden Castle it was nice to see lots of friendly faces. Lesley Charman at registration gave me number 74. Stephen had number 73 so this could only mean good things! Following a quick one lap round the track before it is ‘out of order’ I made progress to the start area. I bumped into Stephen Winship, a family friend, who has been in the Striders a while and is getting back to running now. Lovely to see him! Great to chat to lots of Striders at the start! Nice to see new members and also some much older members of the club! Yay, Elaine and Penny were here! I looked forward to attempting to race them!

The course start/finish area was looking highly professional with its taping and flags! The water station table was all up and organised. Although it had been raining for days, it had stopped for this evening. The course could potentially be quite wet and muddy! I went on a small warm up along the course and found that after the grassy field the route headed up a near vertical mud bank! Excellent! Humm, also a potential bottleneck. Earlier this year I remembered having to stand and wait behind a bottleneck just after the start of the Hedgehope half where a road turned into a single file path. Also at the Grasmere Gallop where I became jammed in behind Nordic race walkers on a wall lined bridge. So I planned to start near the front and peg it to the bank. I now joined a group of Birtley runners also going for a warm up, we just ran a little way along the foot of the Bluebell woods and then back to the start. The evening air was damp and still, and the mud was squelchy underfoot, with areas of slippery tree roots for extra pazazz. Geoff may have ordered these in specially.

It was time for the start! Following our President’s briefing with a rather impressively large megaphone!, and Barry’s speech, the whistle was blown and we all surged forwards! Out of the taped funnel, across the wet trainer-drenching grass of the field..To The Bank! I was there! Bank attack! Arms and legs whirled up the mud bank, and onto the level, then zoom along the undulating muddy path. The pain was slightly brutal! I realised I was exceeding a ‘not setting out too fast’ pace. However, unfortunately pre-race nerves had the better of me and it was nice to expel them in this fashion! Plus it was exhilarating hurling myself recklessly down the hills along with everyone nearby! Down another steep, dicey bank and at the bottom were two marshals, my glasses/eyesight were impaired by exertion but I think one was Lesley Charman. Very loud urgent shouts of ‘Left’ ‘Left’ ‘Left!’ I flung my arms to the left hoping the rest of me would follow in a bid to wing a sharp left. As we wendled  [‘wendled’? No, wendled is fine. Works for me. ^DN] round the winding path, yet more encouraging marshals were found. And then up onto the long grass meadow. Penny was a bit ahead, I could still see her at this point. Though not for many other points! The ongoing up was hard! I really appreciated all the marshals as this area is riddled with footpaths. Up to the Willow Miner was a whole group of encouraging Striders! So nice! I felt my pace drop from my setting off too fast pace, but tried to keep going best as I could.

Bit of a downhill now past Sarah Davies. One of the Birtley runners I had met earlier happened to going at the same pace as me, but now seemed stronger. He kindly encouraged me and said he would be third lady if I didn’t tag on, ha ha! Penny was way ahead now and without looking I could feel the presence of Elaine behind! And right I was!

After Jack Lee, up the small flight of steps, Elaine passed! I charged on as fast as possible trying to up the pace, and I think I did so was pleased! Past yet more friendly shouts from great Strider marshals, back past the Wicker man and I was caught up by a Sunderland Stroller that I had met last week at the Lambton 10k. I was pushing hard as I knew it was only a few miles now. We were similar pace and ran together. My head felt like it would explode! We charged down the very steep hill to the slimy bridge over the stream. I saw Carla cheering at the bottom and wind-milled my arms in a kinda Strider to Strider greeting! Then up up up, up…up! Steeply down! Mud! Steps! Mud! Then careering back through the Blue bell woods! Nearly there! Yippee! I pushed on and so did Sunderland Stroller. Phew! There was Allan, marking The Bank. Horray! Kind cheers! We plunged down The Bank, back onto the field and the finishing funnel approached! I tried to give a bit more as the line was in sight! And over the finish! Yay! …..And woah!… I so so soooo needed to sit down! !!

That was brutally fantastic! A superbly organised and very enjoyable race with great Strider Support! Bring it on next year!

That’s all folks! See you all next year!

 

Results

BibFirst NameLast NameCatClubTimePoscatposprize
75StephenJacksonMSENElvet Striders32.28111msen
76MikeJefferiesMSENRichmond & Zetland Harriers32.38222msen
48LiamEmmettMSENJarrow & Hebburn AC33.21333msen
56JonathanGilroyMSENJarrow & Hebburn AC34.3844
88MichaelLittlewoodMVET40Elvet Striders35.47511mvet40
149MarkWarnerMSENElvet Striders36.1765fasterstrider not in cat
47KevinEmmettMVET50Jarrow & Hebburn AC36.35711mvet50
142GaryThwaitesMVET40Sedgefield Harriers36.54822mvet40
158LiamWintripMSEN37.0596
54JamesGarlandMVET40Elvet Striders37.121033mvet40
66PeterHarrisonMVET40Durham City Harriers & AC37.141143mvet40
12MartinBlenkinsoppMVET40Sunderland Harriers & AC37.27125
131AlexSneddonFSENJarrow & Hebburn AC37.281311fsen
159PaulWintripMSENRun Peterlee37.46147
40StevenDicksonMVET4037.49156
152PaulWeirMVET40Durham City Harriers & AC37.55167
91BrianMartinMVET60Quakers Running Club38.161711mvet60
7GaryBaileyMVET40Run Peterlee38.25188
37MarkDavinsonMVET40Derwentside AC38.59199
108NickNewbyMVET40Birtley AC39.022010
84JamesLeeMVET40Elvet Striders39.32111
18DavidBrownMSENElvet Striders39.38228
120ThomasReevesMVET50Elvet Striders39.522322mvet50
145DavidWalkerMVET50Sedgefield Harriers40.032433mvet50
125StuartScottMSENElvet Striders40.222510
70LeeHetheringtonMVET40South Shields Harriers & AC40.272612
65GaryHargraveMVET40Sunderland Strollers40.412713
25DanielCarneyMSENElvet Striders40.472811
10ElaineBissonFSENElvet Striders40.52922fsen
16PennyBrowellFVET4040.53011fvet40
71GeoffHewitsonMVET50Crook & District AC40.56314
41LeeDrummondMVET40Birtley AC41.093214
112DarrenParksMVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC41.253315
135JohnSutcliffeMSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club41.263412
141MichaelThorntonMVET50Jarrow & Hebburn AC41.27355
153DaleWilkinsonMVET50Sunderland Strollers41.48366
74TamsinImberFVET40Elvet Striders41.543722fvet40
21NickButchartMVET40Washington Running Club41.563816
52SteveForemanMVET40Sedgefield Harriers42.023917
24RaymondCarmichaelMVET40Sedgefield Harriers42.094018
31ChrisClarkeMSENWashington Running Club42.424113
103RobertMorrisMVET40Sunderland Strollers42.494219
134MarkSunleyMVET50Run Peterlee42.52437
97AllanMcmanusMSENSunderland Harriers & AC42.544414
28PaulCartwrightMSENRun Peterlee43.034515
36VikkiCottonFSENSunderland Harriers & AC43.054633fsen
148LouiseWarnerFSENElvet Striders43.07474fasterstrider not in cat
29NeillCassonMSENBirtley AC43.364816
20PaulBurnMVET5043.51498
157StephenWinshipMVET50Elvet Striders43.52509
133ChrisSumsionMVET50Tyne Bridge Harriers43.545110
34PhilipConnorMSENElvet Striders445217
86MalcolmLeeceMVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC44.015320
6BrianBailesMVET50Birtley AC44.125411
55SimonGentMSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club44.145518
44CatherineEatonFSENTyne Bridge Harriers44.22565
90BarryMarleeMVET40Sunderland Harriers & AC44.315721
105LouiseMortonFSENElvet Striders44.32586
115RichardPodmoreMSENElvet Striders44.365919
79EJohnstonFSENTyne Bridge Harriers45.14607
50AnthonyErskineMVET40Sunderland Harriers & AC45.26122
9MichaelBirdMVET50Hunwick Harriers45.336212
85Paul LeeLeeMVET50Sedgefield Harriers45.396313
101PeterMilburnMVET50Aycliffe Running Club46.296414
53DavidFrancisMVET40Birtley AC46.376523
33MartinColbornMVET40Run Peterlee46.386624
87SuzanneLewis-DaleFSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club46.39678
138MalcolmSygroveMVET50Elvet Striders46.456815
121ShaunRobertsMVET60Elvet Striders476922mvet60
27KevinCarraharMVET50Sunderland Harriers & AC47.067016
127JudithShottonFVET50Sunderland Harriers & AC47.147111fvet50
82BrettLambertMVET40Aycliffe Running Club47.247225
81JaniceKellyFVET4047.297333fvet40
147GillianWallaceFVET40South Shields Harriers & AC47.4744
45ChrisEdwardsMSENElvet Striders48.167520
107JoanneNewbyFVET40Birtley AC48.25765
35KatherineConwayFSENWashington Running Club48.38779
110NatashaNewsonFSENNorth Shields Polytechnic Club48.47810
77LauraJenningsFSENElvet Striders48.437911
150RosieWarnettFSENSedgefield Harriers48.448012
15DavidBrowbankMSENElvet Striders48.458121
58SimonGrahamMSENTeam Coco48.518222
160StephanieYoungFVET50Birtley AC49.048322fvet50
137KathrynSygroveFVET50Elvet Striders49.118433fvet50
136RichardSutcliffeMVET4049.118526
43AndrewEatonMSENTyne Bridge Harriers49.218623
73BrianHurstMVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC49.268727
104AdamMortonMSEN49.38824
94RachelleMASONFSENElvet Striders49.398913
126JennySearchFVET40Elvet Striders49.45906
68ChristineHearmonFVET50Sedgefield Harriers49.46914
67PeterHartMVET40Elvet Striders49.489228
14JillBridgesFSENRun Peterlee49.539314
32NicoleClarkeFSENWashington Running Club50.019415
57TracyGlaisterFVET40Sedgefield Harriers50.03957
102SusanMilburnFVET50Aycliffe Running Club50.11965
69IanHedleyMSEN50.179725
146MarieWalkerFVET40Sedgefield Harriers50.27988
13AdamBridgesMSENRun Peterlee50.499926
62MaritaGrimwoodFVET40Elvet Striders50.561009
17AlexBrownMVET40Elvet Striders5110129
11ChloeBlackFSENElvet Striders51.0410216
118JaneRannsFSENElvet Striders51.0410317
59BobGrattonMVET50Sedgefield Harriers51.0610417
113DebPennickFSENRichmond & Zetland Harriers51.0710518
132IanSpencerMVET50Elvet Striders51.1310618
154JocelynWilkinsonFSENRun Peterlee52.1510719
5PhilipAtkinsonMVET40Birtley AC52.1510830
1EmmaAldersonFSENElvet Striders52.2510920
143LauraToddFSENRun Peterlee52.3511021
3LloydAshbyMVET40Crook & District AC52.5511131
129AlanSmithMVET70Elvet Striders53.2811211mvet70
83GaryLaveryMVET40Run Peterlee53.3211332
92PaulMartinMVET4053.5711433
123JillRudkinFVET40Elvet Striders54.1311510
51SarahFawcettFVET50Elvet Striders54.151166
117AshleyPrice-SabateFVET50Elvet Striders54.581177
93SandraMartinFVET50Quakers Running Club55.051189
156SarahWilsonFVET50Quakers Running Club55.5311910
122DavidRoundMVET50Sedgefield Harriers56.212019
100KarenMettersFVET40Elvet Striders56.3112111
49TraceyEmmettFVET40Jarrow & Hebburn AC56.4212212
42AndrewDunlopMVET40Elvet Striders56.5812334
4SamAskeyFVET40Elvet Striders57.0312413
116JudithPorterFVET60Aycliffe Running Club57.1912511fvet60
98DebbieMcRoryFVET50Sunderland Harriers & AC59.5512611
39ZoeDewdney ParsonsFSENElvet Striders59.5612722
64DenisHargraveMVET70Sunderland Strollers61.2312822mvet70
60SandraGreenerFVET40Elvet Striders62.1812914
46JanetEllisFVET50Elvet Striders62.213012
139LauraTedstoneFVET40Sunderland66.4113115
22KayCairnsFSENElvet Striders73.5213223

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 1, 2017

BL / 32.2km / 1219m (20 miles, 2 hills and a smattering of bog)

Joan Hanson …

The thing about entering an event months in advance is you can have that hazy positive belief that in x months time you will be bounding effortlessly over the afore mentioned 20 mile course, laughing in the face of some decidedly sucky and squelchy stuff underfoot and hardly noticing the however many thousands of feet of ascent and descent the said 2 hills (Cheviot and Hedgehope) will entail. And you will have the most enjoyable, relaxing day of running possible…. As I said a hazy and possibly rose tinted vision.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks before the event and the realization that you aren’t quite as fit as you had envisaged being and that this year they have removed the walkers option so you have 6 hours to complete it in. Hmmm.

And then the horror on the morning of the event when your companion for the journey (Dougie who has done this before) casually mentions the phrase ‘cut –offs’ for each checkpoint and that they seem a little on the tight side for the first half of the race.
I have felt in more positive frames of mind.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

But at least it has stopped raining and the summits are cloud free so navigation involving maps and compass will not be needed- and you can see exactly how far away those hills you are aiming for are away. Everyone is very friendly, kit checks are passed and before long we were off, Susan disappearing off into the horizon not to be seen again until the finish. Dougie and I leapfrogging for a fair part of the race, he faster on the steeper downhilly bits, me making up time going up. Both agreeing that the second half which on paper should have been the easy bit was anything but, I needed to dig really deep at several points to maintain forward momentum, at one point wondering why they put Wooler so far away.

We all made it back well within the cut offs- interestingly none of us exclaiming what an easy and enjoyable run we have just had but able to reflect on a real sense of achievement (and in my case relief) that it was done.

The Chevy Chase is a great and brilliantly organized event. The route takes in some beautiful and wild terrain, this year we enjoyed expansive views when we could lift our eyes from where we were putting our feet.

I’m glad I did it, the Cheviot’s are a beautiful part of the world and not that far away- definitely worthy of closer exploration –but possibly at a slightly more relaxed pace.

… Dougie Nisbet …

I’d done that bloke sulky pouty thing when Roberta had insisted on me packing some sunscreen. But as I nudged up with Susan and Joan outside race HQ and passed the sunscreen round (on the left hand side) there were lots of Dad comments about getting it behind straps, knees, ears and neck. Still, past-its-sell-by factor 30 wasn’t really going to cut it on Cheviot and Hedgehope in July and I was a bit crisp when I finished later in the day.

I could’ve pretty much written the script for the first half of the race. Joan’s shrewd choice of carrying walking poles had attracted the occasional derisory comment but they’d pretty much dried up as she climbed strongly to Cheviot with me using her as a useful point of purple to focus on as she receded ever further into the vanishing point.

After Cheviot and a revelation. You need to hang left, immediately. When I last did this in 2013 I carried on (zoned out following a walker to Scotland) and turned left too late and missed the trod that took a neat line towards Hedgehope on the other side of the valley. I caught Joan on the descent, pausing to shout “is that you falling on your arse again Hanson!”, before passing her and showing her how to do it properly.

photo courtesy and © Gary Dunlop

Everyone was now pretty much a walking washing powder commercial in the making and as we climbed towards Hedgehope I was unsurprised to have Joan back on my shoulder again. And so it continued for the next few checkpoints until CP6 – Brands Corner – we both paused for a drink and check in. The climbing was mostly over and there was a lot of running left now to the finish. I was looking forward to making up some ground in these last few miles.

“Sling your hook Joan, I’ll catch you up”, I said, when it was clear Joan wanted to press on. And so she did. And, I did catch her up, so to speak, after I’d crossed the finish line and she’d brought me over a cup of tea. I had a tough last few miles on what should be a lovely part of the course – the stretch up North West from Carey Burn Bridge is gorgeous, but I was far too busy feeling sorry for myself to pay much attention to the sunny scenery. Susan had a good decisively sub-5 finish, with Joan in around 5:16, then me in around 10 minutes later.

I’ve often said, to anyone who’ll listen, that the Chevy Chase at 20 miles, is twice as hard as the Durham Dales Challenge, at 32 miles. This was the first year the race has dropped the walking race and the cut-offs might need tweaking in the years ahead, but whatever the cutoffs it’s always going to be a tough 20 miles.

 

Comrades Marathon, Durban to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Sunday, June 4, 2017

86.73 kms

Dougie Nisbet

During the final loop of the CTS Northumberland Ultra I started chatting to a runner who had a pair of trekking poles in his rucksack. They’d stayed there the entire race and I asked him why he was carrying them. Kit rehearsal for the Marathon des Sables was his reply. Race rehearsal. I was impressed, and said so, before adding, “Would you like a potato?”

Comrades is as much about the logistical preparation as the physical. Never before have I done so much groundwork in planning a race. I’d listened to webinars, read blogs and watched countless YouTube videos to establish what I should wear, when and how to eat and drink, how I should pace myself, and, most importantly, what happened if you needed to go to the toilet.

The eating and drinking was pretty much sorted. At Comrades the food offering is bananas and small salted potatoes and in my training leading up to the event I tried both on my long runs and Ultras. Neither caused any problems and the potatoes certainly beat gels hands down.

Anyone who has done the GNR would have found the start of Comrades a breeze. Apart from being dark, the procedure was the same. Long chaotic queues for the toilets, lots of crowds, music and queues to get into the pens. In I went, tried a few selfies but my 5AM ghostly countenance looked so ghastly I quickly deleted them, sat down in a corner, and waited. There was a bit of space and many others had the same idea and it was weirdly calming sitting on the tarmac in the dark with the occasional drone flying overhead and the frequent bursts of music. As we approached 0530 the pen started moving in little jolts as the pens were gradually merged for the cock’s crow that would indicate it was time to go.

Comrades is unusual. The timing is Gun to Mat. That’s to say, although you’re chip timed, your race time begins when the gun goes off (or when the cock crows, to be precise), not when you cross the start line. When you’re out on the road you, and your fellow runners, are all on the same time. With 12 hours to complete the race and various cut-offs along the way this does mean if you are in one of the slower pens you have a bit of catching up to do. Planning and self-discipline are important.

Much of what I’d read about Comrades discussed with a sort of weary inevitability running the race as a positive split. I’m quite a disciplined runner and I didn’t like the sound of that. Apart from the obvious disadvantage of not running to your best, it sounded horrendous. Many runners work on the assumption that they’re going to blow-up anyway so they might as well go off quick and see how far they get. Crazy. I’d been following the training programmes, blogs and webinars of the official Comrades coach Lindsey Parry and I liked the grounded and pragmatic nature of his advice. I planned to walk the hills, and run the flats and downs. This meant walking early, as a strategy rather than a necessity.

Sure enough, as I’d expected, at the first hills I was marching up while others were streaming past. At first I felt quite isolated but looking around I could see I wasn’t alone. Others were also going for strategic walking to conserve energy that would be invaluable when many hours later we were into the endgame. I was spooked, however, at the first checkpoint to realise I only had 10 minutes in the bag. 10 minutes from being timed out! And one of the 12 hour buses had just gone past.

I was rattled. Comrades is famous for its unforgiving cut-offs. Strictly enforced, there’s no mercy. My Garmin showed two pieces of information: Elapsed Time and Average Pace. I was on plan, but nonetheless I had to give myself a talking to to calm my nerves and resist the temptation to put on speed and burn away valuable energy reserves.

And there was the matter of loo stops. I’d never run a race that started when it was dark and, quite possibly, finished when it was dark too. I was paranoid about needing the loo, and at every portable toilet I passed I noticed queues. This didn’t help. It’s all in the mind of course; nothing is more likely to make you feel you need to go, and go NOW, than an engaged toilet. 25Km and 3.5 hours in we passed through Kloof and I spotted a toilet door swinging ajar. No queue! Now was my chance! I jumped in and shut the door and soon realised why it was empty. Before me was a loo so astoundingly putrid I almost gave it a round of applause. I fished out the sweaty Kleenex from my shorts and realised that this was pretty much a lost cause, and with someone knocking at the door I decided to abandon this little adventure before someone started ringing the bell. Muttering “I’d give it the half-life of Uranium if I were you” under my breath, I dashed out into the fresh air and rejoined the race after this inconclusive diversion.

Post-race analysis of this stop, and the many others shows how easy it is to bleed away time. Lindsey Parry says whatever you are doing, keep moving. The only time you should stop is for a ‘pit stop’. My paranoia of not staying hydrated meant I was walking at every table (feed stations), and with tables ever 2 or 3 kms, I really should have been skipping them occasionally. All those seconds of browsing the tables mounts up to minutes over the 88 kms of the race.

Despite having done my research, one of the areas where I became a little unstuck was with race food. Unlike most races, the tables at Comrades aren’t consistent. Food doesn’t appear until a few hours into the race (depending on how fast you are) and the bananas and potatoes that I’d been expecting were late to appear. So I chewed steadily through the supply of Shotblocks I’d carried although I’d really brought them as insurance for the latter stages of the race rather than a possibly counter-productive sugar rush early on.

Food and drink doesn’t always come from the tables. A few hours in, and with the sun now overhead, I was getting a bit tired of Coke. The crowd really knew how to party and when I reached out as I passed one braai the spectator ran after me and pressed a bottle of Carlsberg into my hand. It made a lovely refreshing change from the Coke but I knew that cold beer wouldn’t be enough to get me to the finish and I vowed to make that impulse a one-off.

It was hot now and I always knew heat would be the problem. I’d ran my qualifying marathons in Lanzarote and Palma de Mallorca and had learned my lessons well about how I cope with the heat. I kept the pace down, knowing from experience if I got over-confident I would blow it. Drinks in Comrades are given in convenient sachets and once you’ve developed the knack of biting a corner of to get to the contents they work pretty well. As someone who has never coped well with emptying bottles of water over my head I was finding the sachets were excellent for keeping cool. You took one for drinking, and one to drizzle gently over your cap as if you were dressing a salad. The water seeps through the cloth and drips gently over your face for the next km or so. It’s a great system. It’s lovely.

Through the half way point, into the parkrun (Comrades is two marathons with a parkrun in the middle), and everything was still on plan. I had gone through the last couple of checkpoints with better safety margins and I was feeling more settled, and even had time to laugh as I found myself thinking, only a marathon to go!

On the race route coach tour two days’ earlier we’d stopped at Ethembeni School. This school caters for children with disabilities and over the years has built up a strong bond with the race and particularly international runners. They’d put on a fantastic concert for us and we were all given a tiny bracelet, each one made by the children. Each bead on the bracelet represented a km of the route, and each colour band represented one of the sections. It was a great idea and I was wearing mine today.

 

 

 

The race is the highlight of the year and the children line up on the roadside outside the school in the hope of high-fiving the runners. They absolutely love this and seeing the delight on their faces fills your heart with joy. I high-fived them all and no doubt lost a bit more time but it was time well wasted. Moving on I realised that I’d missed my bus and I had to put in a bit of a burst to get back on.

Buses. The Comrades Bus is a phenomenon. These pace groups can be huge and the pacer, the bus driver, will be wearing a flag with his or her name and target time on it. These are not the pace groups you might be familiar with in a British race, but more a sort of micro community in which the driver will have his or her own style and strategy. It may be precise adherence to a particular pace, or, more likely, a walk run strategy that has been worked out in advance.

I was riding my 2nd 11:30 bus of the day and I was loving it. There was perhaps a hundred or so of us on this bus and we’d all gathered in a protective cocoon around our driver. The crowd would sometimes shout out poignant encouragement to the driver, such as “Get them home safely Driver”, and the driver would occasionally shout out instructions to his passengers, such as a countdown to the next running stretch, or a marching rhythm on the hills. Sometimes the driver would raise their arms in a breathing exercise and we’d all instinctively mimic the move.

And then there was the singing. International runners make up a relatively low percentage of competitors with most runners being South African. So when the driver leads of, with a surprisingly gentle and mellow introduction to the Shosholoza, only to be answered with the beautiful voices of the bus passengers, you could forget you were in a running race such was the comfort that came from the choir.

I stuck with this 11:30 bus for a while before deciding to lift the pace a little. The day was getting on, the shadows were lengthening, and I knew I was going to finish within 12 hours. My training plan had put me on about a 11hr to 1115 Comrades and I knew I had to be careful about succumbing to the temptation of trying to get under 11 hours (and a Bronze medal) if I didn’t have the ability. Aspirational rather than tactical pacing would almost certainly backfire as I’d learned painfully from the Lanzarote Marathon. It was getting tough now, and I was remembering another good piece of Lindsey Parry advice: It will get tough, so don’t try and fight it. Don’t go into denial. Accept that it will get tough and you just need to deal with it. Endure it.

With about 20km to go I caught another bus. It was another 11:30 and I was grateful to hop on in the closing stages of the race. It was a great help as we hit and marched up the last of the big 5 hills, Polly Shortts. I zoned out and concentrated on the pacing being called out by our driver, probably getting up Pollys more quickly and efficiently than if I’d been marching solo.

Through the final checkpoint and I knew I had the race in the bag. The bus slowed at the table and I decided to push on. There was less than 10km to go and much of it was downhill. No point in saving anything now.

It would have been so easy to stop running. I was comfortably within the cut-off and could walk the whole of the remaining distance if I wanted to. But I figured I’d travelled half-way round the world for this race and I might as well go home with the best time I was capable of. There’s always the accusation when you run a good negative split that you could have gone faster. That you were holding back. Tosh.

My legs were screaming. But my breathing was good and I was still running with rhythm. The remaining kilometres counted down with painful slowness and the racecourse never seemed to get any closer. Then a few twists and turns, a tunnel, cameras, and suddenly we’re running on grass.

I looked around for my support crew. Roberta, without whose support this wouldn’t have been possible, and who’d been up at 2AM making sure I was caked in Factor 50 and had put up with and supported my countless 5AM starts over the last 10 months as I’d headed off for my pre-work long runs. I heard my name and glanced around. Then I heard it again. Then I realised everyone was shouting everyone’s name! The place was packed. Given that this was an 88km race the finish was surprisingly busy and I crossed the line with burning legs and quiet satisfaction more than any sense of life-changing euphoria. Immediately there were steps, really steep ones, to get back over the racecourse to the international tent (bumping into Rob Wishart) and to find Roberta and nowhere to sit. It was 30 minutes to the final cutoff and we settled down to watch the final countdown on the big screens.

Comrades will always be ‘gun to mat’. So much of this iconic event leads to this final, cruel, 12 hour cut-off. There’s no compromise, no leeway, no concessions. As 12 hours approaches the runners continue streaming into the stadium and make their final dash for the line. Huge numbers of runners finish in the last hour, and a massive amount of those finish in the last 10 minutes.

At 1730 precisely, an official stands on the finishing line with his back to the race so he cannot be influenced by what he sees, and at 1730 precisely, he fires the gun, and the race is over. If you’re 1 second over, sorry, it simply didn’t happen. I adore this brutal honesty. For the next 10 minutes wave after wave of runners walked desolately into the stadium accompanied by sympathetic applause from the crowd while the Last Post is played over the PA.

Our hotel was practically on the racecourse, in a casino, so once I’d gone through the surreal experience of passing through an airport-type security metal detector to get to the room, I caught up with my email and news. Although I’d never made a huge secret of my plans to do Comrades I hadn’t shouted it from the rooftops either and so not a lot of people I knew I was running. This made it all the more touching when I read the lovely comments on Facebook and realised that many in my club had been tracking my progress. Kerry’s “look at those lovely splits” comment gave me particular delight!

Comrades is 20 miles further than I’ve ever run but I had a training plan and I had a race plan, and I followed them both. I kept my side of the deal and this gave me the confidence to know that on the day I would get to the line on time in the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon.

Pier to Pier, South Shields to Roker, Sunday, May 14, 2017

Grand Prix Race.Sprint Champion Race.

Results

POSBIBNameGenderCATClubTime
1354Abraham TeweldemMenSaltwell Harriers 38:18
61607Natalie BateywWomenDerwent Valley RC 47:17
6326Gareth PritchardmMenElvet Striders40:14
17487Michael LittlewoodmSeniors M40Elvet Striders42:59
20523Chris CallanmMenElvet Striders43:41
152502Fiona JoneswSeniors W40Elvet Striders52:06
162306Louise WarnerwWomenElvet Striders52:24
169101Helen ToneswSeniors W40Elvet Striders52:37
2341067Graeme WaltonmSeniors M40Elvet Striders54:30
27740Jonathan HamillmSeniors M40Elvet Striders55:59
289605Melanie HudsonwWomenElvet Striders56:14
2921131Dougie NisbetmSeniors M50Elvet Striders56:19
303124Andrew DaviesmSeniors M40Elvet Striders56:33
32814Craig WalkermSeniors M50Elvet Striders57:13
33799Rachelle MasonwWomenElvet Striders57:36
358838Jean BradleywSeniors W60Elvet Striders58:21
361147Robin LintonmMenElvet Striders58:25
374102David BrowbankmMenElvet Striders59:03
381150Helen ParkerwSeniors W40Elvet Striders59:20
382134Lynne StobartwWomenElvet Striders59:20
404504Chris ShearsmithmMenElvet Striders59:52
422203Sue GardhamwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:00:25
43854Karen ByngwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:00:59
447604Dave RobsonmSeniors M60Elvet Striders1:01:13
463836Kate ThompsonwWomenElvet Striders1:01:33
4741168Victoria BrownwWomenElvet Striders1:01:53
528520Stephen EllismSeniors M60Elvet Striders1:03:03
529432Andrew MunromSeniors M40Elvet Striders1:03:03
53857Anita WrightwSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:03:11
556820Lesley CharmanwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:03:26
558300Karin YoungerwSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:03:29
559471Anna SeeleywWomenElvet Striders1:03:29
563325Catherine SmithwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:03:34
56574Joanne PattersonwWomenElvet Striders1:03:36
56860Mike ParkermSeniors M40Elvet Striders1:03:41
603619Jill RudkinwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:04:57
6121026James PottermMenElvet Striders1:05:18
616728Jim NicholsonmSeniors M70Elvet Striders1:05:21
623956Katie-Louise FinneywWomenElvet Striders1:05:27
624505Victoria JacksonwWomenElvet Striders1:05:28
626439Andrew ThurstonmSeniors M50Elvet Striders1:05:34
68919Alan ScottmSeniors M50Elvet Striders1:07:09
70315Catherine WalkerwSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:07:44
70628Debra ThompsonwSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:07:49
72162Rachel TurnerwWomenElvet Striders1:08:14
723483Peter HartmSeniors M40Elvet Striders1:08:22
729108Angela RobsonwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:08:30
749489Wendy LittlewoodwWomenElvet Striders1:09:02
769393Alison HeslopwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:09:42
770677Fiona WoodwWomenElvet Striders1:09:43
771929Jill YoungwWomenElvet Striders1:09:43
7731083Kirsten FenwickwWomenElvet Striders1:09:47
80382Jane DowsettwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:10:43
80417Aileen ScottwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:10:47
817474Helen ThomaswSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:11:04
821898Karen MetterswSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:11:06
854977Louise BarrowwWomenElvet Striders1:12:14
9161161Christine FarnsworthwSeniors W60Elvet Striders1:13:32
922519Janet ElliswSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:13:45
973207Helen HackettwSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:15:38
9761138Katie DavisonwWomenElvet Striders1:15:47
1019747Gillian GreenwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:18:01
10201158Rebecca GilmorewWomenElvet Striders1:18:02
1022572Sharon CampbellwWomenElvet Striders1:18:06
1025578Neil JenningsmSeniors M50Elvet Striders1:18:13
1027333Diane SoulsbywSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:18:28
1054839Kerry BarnettwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:20:13
1056848Laura GibsonwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:20:18
1058846Natalie JohnsonwWomenElvet Striders1:20:22
10611174Rachel TothwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:20:45
1065729Caitlin MooneywWomenElvet Striders1:21:03
109497Pauline ElliottwSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:23:08
1128320Helen LintonwSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:27:03
1149934Mike ElliottmSeniors M70Elvet Striders1:31:46
1160579Elaine JenningswSeniors W50Elvet Striders1:36:08
1161585Rachel Leigh-FirbankwSeniors W40Elvet Striders1:36:08
1169219Laura JacksonwWomenElvet Striders1:38:49

Summer Handicap, Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Finishing positionBIBNameFinish timeActual Running Time
1A5Clare Botone1 Lap-
2L4Geoff Davis1 Lap-
3E6Dave Robson1 Lap-
4A1Katherine Bartlett1 Lap-
5A7Donna Orange1 Lap-
6A8Bev Walker1 Lap-
7A6Chris Morris1 Lap-
8I12Laura Jennings1 Lap-
9H13Mike Parker1 Lap-
10K2Alex Witty1 Lap-
11L2Tim Skelton1 Lap-
12D10John Metson49.0641.36
13G9Shaun Roberts52.4637.46
14E8Kay Schiller55.2945.29
15G3Mark Foster55.5737.57
16G13Andy Greener55.5837.58
17E1Steve Ellis5646
18D11Stephen Lumsdon56.1148.41
19D7Tom Crookes56.1248.42
20E6Debra Thompson56.1746.17
21F5Anita Clementson56.2548.55
22G5Kathryn Rogers56.2841.28
23D6Eleanor Crookes56.3849.08
24B3Carol Holgate56.4854.18
25B4Sue Walker56.5154.21
26B2Jan Ellis56.5254.22
27B1Rachel Toth57.1154.41
28D1Stan White57.2849.58
29F14Joan Reeves57.345
30A9Jennifer Cowan57.457.4
31I5Dougie Nisbet57.4837.48
32I4Michael Barlow57.4837.48
33F3Catherine Walker57.5645.26
34D2Aileen Scott58.0750.37
35D3Sharon Campbell58.0850.38
36F15Jill Rudkin58.1145.41
37E5Carole Thompson-Young58.1348.13
38I7John Adams58.1438.14
39H4Jane Ives58.1540.45
40H15Vicky Brown58.1940.49
41D9Kelly Guy58.250.5
42D4Alison Clarke58.250.5
43H5Toni Malkin58.2740.57
44F9Stacey Brannan58.2945.59
45H10Chloe Black58.341
46F1Lesley Hamill58.3146.01
47F2Karen Byng58.3246.02
48I1Malcolm Sygrove58.3538.35
49G12Andrew Thurston58.3743.37
50F12Emma Alderson58.3946.09
51G10Andrew Munro58.4143.41
52H11Jan Young58.4241.12
53A4Helen Linton58.5358.53
54F4Faye Ward58.5546.25
55E2Karen Wilson5949
56H8Vics Thompson59.0241.32
57G14Becks Lippe59.1544.15
58H12Alan Scott59.1641.46
59G8Sam Askey59.2644.26
60J4Philip Connor59.2736.57
61J6Robert Allfree59.2936.59
62E9Teresa Archer59.3549.35
63E7John Greathead59.3649.36
64K1Dan Carney59.4734.47
65F7Nicola Dorricott59.4847.18
66M1Michael Littlewood59.5129.51
67K3Louise McCloy59.5534.55
68I11Will Glossop59.5639.56
69I6Alex Collins59.5839.58
70H7Anita Wright6042.3
71E3Helen Hackett60.0150.01
72I13Alex Brown60.1140.11
73I14Graeme Daglish60.1540.15
74C3Sophie Dennis60.1755.17
75G7Wendy Littlewood60.1945.19
76F11Letitia Chapman-Ward60.3448.04
77F16Ann Towers60.3548.05
78M2Phil Ray60.3630.36
79H3Stef Barlow60.3743.07
80J7Ian Butler60.3838.08
81C7Sue Jennings60.3955.39
82C6Denise Benvin60.4255.42
83C5Alison Simms60.4955.49
84C4Sam Shields60.4955.49
85C1Jayne Freeman60.555.5
86F6Kathryn Hancock60.548.2
87G4Rachel Turner60.5145.51
88G1Jonathan Hamill60.5245.52
89H9Anna Mason60.5743.27
90H1Lesley Charman60.5843.28
91L1Dave Frostie61.0733.37
92K6Chris Groves61.1136.11
93K7Kun Fu61.1236.12
94D13Becca61.1453.44
95I9Chris Shearsmith61.1841.18
96H14Helen Thomas61.2143.51
97J3David Browbank61.2538.55
98D12Diane Soulsby61.354
99D5Kirsten Fenwick61.354
100I17Matt David61.3741.37
101K5Liz Bridge61.3936.39
102I3Angela Williams61.4541.45
103F8Catherine French62.0449.34
104L3Dan Mitchell62.1634.46
105K4Richard Hockin62.2237.22
106I16Richard Stollery62.3142.31
107I15Ian Spencer62.542.5
108K8Mike Bennett63.3638.36
109H2James Potter63.4246.12
110J2Peter Hart6542.3
111I2Alan Smith65.0445.04
112A2 Mike Elliott67.4867.48
113F13Rebecca Devine68.2556.05

 

Calderdale Hike, Sowerby Bridge, Saturday, April 1, 2017

37 Miles (approx 30 completed) (26 mile option available)

Dougie Nisbet

To say I was unprepared for this race would be an understatement.

Lately I’ve been rolling up for races, such as the CTS Northumberland Ultra, with a pretty good idea in my head of the route, maps and GPS ready, only to discover the entire race liberally sprinkled with bright yellow arrows. The Wooler Trail Marathon wasn’t much better. Despite its remoteness there was usually a bold arrow stapled to a fencepost pointing you on your way.

Trawling back through the race reports I was surprised to see that no one was owning up to having done the Calderdale Hike before, not even Dave Robson. Still, how hard could it be? The organisers had uploaded a ‘suggested’ GPX trail and I dutifully transferred it to my Garmin. This gave me a belt and braces Breadcrumb Trail. Just to be on the safe side, I uploaded it to my iPhone, overlayed it onto some proper OS maps (I like maps), and had a pixel perfect plan of the journey ahead. I also had a battery pack so the phone would easily last me all day. I also had a map and compass, because that was in the kit list, and you
had to carry that. Yawn.

For the last 5 years I’ve been the IT technician at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. I finished there on Friday the 31st of March. Some people mark these things with a night in the pub, or a big party. I decided to do an Ultra. So I asked if it was OK to leave early on my last day as I was off to do an Ultra (my Manager is also a runner, he understood), and so Friday evening found Roberta and me sitting in the New Hobbit Inn in Sowerby Bridge. We could’ve have chosen the Premier Inn, but, like wines, this place had a more interesting label. I was still a little preoccupied by leaving my job so I wasn’t giving this race the attention it deserved. I thought I was prepared though.

The next morning I was at the Start with bags of time to spare, but, sadly, not sufficient bags to go back to the hotel and collect my water bottles that were sitting next to the telly. Luckily Roberta found a bottle of 500ml bottle of water next to the spare wheel in the car, and, deciding not to think about it too much, I shoved it in my bum bag. Mildly unnerved, I wondered what else I might have forgotten or taken for granted.

The Calderdale HikIt was probably around here I lost my battery packe is a 37 mile trail ultra that covers a gorgeous variety of town, village and fell. I had very little idea of where I was going but had the trail programmed into my Garmin, my phone, and if the worst came to the worse, I even had a map and a list of the checkpoint grid references. I planned to follow the gadgies in front for a while and then just follow the pixels.

Away we went and then a mere 100 yards from the start something quite unexpected happened, the bunch of runners split into two. This, I had not expected, and, thinking quickly, tagged onto the the slightly bigger of the two bunches. Sticking with the slightly bigger herd I tootled along, getting dropped a bit earlier than I expected but no worries. I fished out my phone and followed myself on the map. This was fine. I’m not fast, but fast enough to be ahead of the cut-offs, so for the next couple of miles I took a few photos and admired the view. I wasn’t in a rush. 37 miles is a long way. I was feeling mellow.

The route was fascinating. Following the waterways and reservoirs with meanderings along roads and paths. It’s not a part of the country I’m familiar with and I was enjoying the scenery a lot. I noticed that with all the photos I was taking the charge on my phone was dropping rapidly, so I decided to fish out my battery pack to give it a boost. The battery pack, sadly, had fished itself out of its own accord at some place unknown when I’d left my bumbag unzipped, and with a pang of anxiety I realised that I would have to re-evaluate the reliance on the phone for the maps.

I switched it off to conserve power and gave my attention to the breadcrumb trail on my Garmin. It’s not perfect but at least you know if you’re going wildly of course. This served me fine for a good few miles and the only times I knew there was a checkpoint was when a tent appeared ahead. Checkpoint 5 was just south of the M62 and I followed a few intrepid runners who had decided to forego the fells in favour of the (still legal) jog up a major ‘A’ road as the weather had got a bit manky at this point. Back north over the motorway, and up over the moors, where things were beginning to feel a bit more grown up. Checkpoint 6 was about 13 miles at which point a divine cup of tea was available. It was like being at Swaledale.

Checkpoint 7 was at Sladen Fold, after which there was some great canal-side running before my breadcrumb trail brought me onto the moors. I was keeping a trio of runners in my sights but it was clear that we were all doing a bit of dead-reckoning to get across the soft tussocky moorland and it was tough going. After a while I found myself on a firm trod, and it teased me away to the left. I was fine with that. I can go left, or straight on. But I decided to ease left for a bit to enjoy the better surface, with a view to bearing right again when things firmed up.

The weather was undecided between, mist, sleet or sun, and I kept my eyes on the trod, and jogged steadily on a pleasantly downward slope. It didn’t feel right. I was veering too far to the left surely, but my Garmin breadcrumb trail was rock steady, and I decided to keep the faith.

But something wasn’t right. I was on my own. The runners ahead had disappeared. I looked again at my Garmin. It hadn’t changed. At all. Some Striders might remember the famous scene in the China Syndrome, where Jack Lemmon taps the dodgy gauge and it silently glides down the scale. This wasn’t a nuclear meltdown, although it felt like it. I realised my Garmin had frozen. It hadn’t moved for the last hour. I’d been following an illusion. In Orienteering terms, it was a classic ‘180 degree’ error. I was running in exactly the opposite direction to what I should have been.

I found myself at the bottom of a valley on a track with no idea where I was. The last clear waypoint where I’d been paying any real attention was when I crossed the M62. And that was well over an hour ago. I’d been following my Garmin in SatNav mentality with no real overall idea of where I was. Visibility was poor and the wind was getting up again. Shit, as they say, had just got real. Anxiety was bubbling up inside me. I got my map and compass out of my rucksack and started talking to myself. Ok, I said, which way is North …

It took me a good 15 minutes to work out where I was and then there was the small matter of locating the next checkpoint. I examined a rapidly  disintegrating piece of paper and identified the general direction that I needed to go. Unfortunately I’d bled off a lot of height in my careless following of the nice trod, and that height had to be regained. I stood up and headed North West. Up.

Some time later, slightly calmer aOne more rain shower and this is historynd a lot humbler, I got to Checkpoint 8 at Coolam. I was still disoriented and paranoid, even more so when the way out from CP8 was the same as the way in. Another long, long look at the map, something that I should’ve done at home days before the race, another examination of what was left of the  checkpoints sheet, and onwards and upwards to Checkpoint 9.

Gradually I regained confidence. My Garmin was working after I’d switched if off and on again (I did say I was an IT tech), the weather had improved, and, despite being slow, I was comfortable and content. I plodded on through checkpoint 10 and turned east on the home run to Sowerby Bridge. By the time I got to Checkppoint 11 at Cross Stones I was quite perky again. The sun was out, I was  feeling fine, and I was settling down for the last 10 miles or whatever (I had no idea) to the finish.

They were very kind at checkpoint 11, when they told me I was being timed out. I was feeling fine, so asked if it was ok to continue unassisted, in the full knowledge that I was no longer part of the race. I could tell the marshall wasn’t wild about the idea (“there’s a nice bus”), but he could also see I wasn’t at the end of my tether. I asked him how far it was to go, what the paths were like, if there were many hills, and, even as I heard myself asking these questions, I thought, I don’t deserve to finish this race. This was all avoidable. I lost well over 30 minutes by going wrong on the tops. Not a huge amount perhaps, but I’m not a fast runner. I have the stamina, but I don’t have the speed. I can’t afford to make mistakes like that. If I hadn’t gone wrong, I would’ve have been timed out.

So I settled down to sit on a Somewhere nice to sit and admire the view while waiting for the BoSvery nice bench and admired the view while waiting for the Bus of Shame. It was a jolly journey back to base and when I later looked at the finish times of the last walkers I realised I would’ve actually caught them up if I had kept going. Provided, of course, I knew where I was going.

 

Next year is the 40th anniversary of the Calderdale Hike. It’s on Sat 14th of April 2018. It’s a fantastic race. I’ll be there. And I’ll be ready this time.

 

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Gisborough Moors, Monday, April 17, 2017

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

Results

Pos.No.NameClubtimecat/pos/pts/total
1558John ButtersNFR87.08M40/1/50/50
45209Sally HoughtonRipon Runners113.00F50/1/50/50
81100Jason HardingElvet Striders97.02M45/2/48/89
31425Philip RayElvet Striders106.35MO/8/41/41
321034Jack LeeElvet Striders107.25MO/9/40/59
108126Nina MasonElvet Striders135.40F40/2/48/48
1131039Emil MäättäElvet Striders139.09MO/26/23/24
121276Jan YoungElvet Striders143.59F60/2/48/144
135212Camilla Lauren-MäättäElvet Striders158.54F50/4/45/45

The Monsal Trail Half Marathon, Peak District, Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tamsin Imber

What if you were in a dark tunnel?

A third of a mile long.

I was running straight into the mouth of a giant beast! Wow that was one big, eerie tunnel entrance! Aghh! Running head first into it was like plunging into the sea! Freezing cold! Aghh! With a freezing cold ‘tunnel wind’ complete with big blobs of icy water splashing down on my head from above! It was bendy. Dark. No light at the end of the tunnel to be seen. And there were mysterious echoes ..somewhere.. ahead?..behind?! …I was deep in the tunnel. The sound of my breathing in, out, in out. Rapid echoey footsteps, go faster, keep on!

The Monsal Trail is a disused railway line in the Peak District, now used as a cycleway and footpath. Starting near Bakewell, it doesn’t go round the ‘Peaks’ of the Peak district..it goes through them, meaning seven long tunnels! The Monsal trail half marathon takes a ‘there and back’ route from the Bakewell end, taking in three of the tunnels, several viaducts…and back again!

This half marathon was part of my London marathon training plan, and fell within weeks of training, so there was no tapering before and it was done on tired legs! But, no way can I race and not race. I wanted this. I wanted a podium finish. I wanted a PB. And, I wanted to beat all females younger than me!

I arrived early, so chatted to other runners for a while, but inside I was itching to start. With half an hour to go I escaped for a short warm-up, and to get away from the crowd. As I set off, I spotted my husband and two kids! I thought they had gone to the cycle hire? My daughter skipped towards me, her hair flying about getting in her face, waving her Care-Bear in the air. My son remained by husband’s side, looking serious. As I reached them he looked up at me earnestly, his big green eyes open wide and said “Mum, if you want to run faster, just imagine you robbed a bank and the police are chasing you!” I thanked him. It was original advice. Maybe it would work!

Five minutes to go. The runners just behind the start-line looked in scarily good condition. Tall skinny guys. ..and a large contingent of young twenty something looking girls. Hummm. Was I deluded? I climbed over the rope and squeezed my forty year old self in beside them. Tension and nervous anticipation filled the air. It was also absolutely freezing cold but I was fussing that the two layer option I’d gone for would be too warm. Make a decision, make up your mind. I stuck with two layers.

Last minute loudspeaker instructions over, the gun fired and we all charged forwards like sheep escaping from a pen. My legs protested immediately! I ignored it and forced myself to get into a steady rhythm, building up to a pace that was hard and painful, but that I hoped I could keep up. It was gravelly underfoot. As I got into my stride, so did runners around me and I found myself running in a group of four guys. Concentrate. Keep pushing that steady pace. You can. We reached Hassop station. A small crowd outside the cafe cheered us on! Pounding on I became warmer and warmer as the first sun of the year got properly up and I was soon totally baking! And looking forward to the first water station! I managed somehow to rip off my long-sleeved top from under my Striders vest top whilst running and threw it to the side. Then I saw the grand, eerie looking entrance of the first tunnel was looming closer and closer! Wow that was a big entrance! Aghh! Running head first into it was like plunging into the sea! Freezing cold! Aghh! With a freezing cold ‘tunnel wind’ complete with big blobs of icy water splashing down on my head from above! It was bendy and I could hear mysterious echoes ..somewhere.. ahead?..behind?! I was deep in the tunnel. The sound of my breathing in, out, in out. Rapid echoey footsteps, go faster, keep on! Suddenly out of the tunnel and back into the bright light made me feel a bit spaced out for a few moments. Focus! I concentrated on keeping on it. I was running on my own now, having dropped two of the guys and two had gone ahead. Focus. Keep the pace up. My lungs were OK but my legs were tight. Oooooo! Two more tunnels, viaducts, valley views, cycle path…and then, the first male, having reached the turnaround point, came speeding towards me. Then more guys. Then the first lady…and the second. And the third..Noooo! The fourth..Nooo! The fifth ..Noooo! ….Then…me. I quickly reached the half way point and threw myself round the tight bend round a disused platform. Speed up, get on it! The girls ahead all looked a lot younger than me…but even more reason to try and catch them! My legs hurt more now, but they can speak to the hand, cos the brain ain’t listening. Back through the third tunnel, then the viaducts. More runners were coming towards me now. I heard one say “oooo she looks in pain!” I tried to smile at her but grimaced. Back through the second tunnel, more cycle path, I kept pushing on. And on.

I reached mile 9. Never been best buddies with mile 9. I really needed that next water station too. Swinging my arms more strongly to battle with my legs I ran on. I tried and failed to relate to a police chase. Instead I chanted ‘Mo Farah, Mo Farah’ in my head over and over in time to my feet. Mile 10! Phew! One final ice tunnel and there was the water station! Thank God! Literally! I stuck my hand out in advance, grabbed the cup, threw as much as I could in the direction of my mouth, got most of it over my face, threw the cup to one side and carried on.

Only 3 miles to go! I can do this! Yes! I found I could run a bit harder. A runner then caught me up (male so that’s OK). I kept up with him and we pushed each other on. Yes! I can do this! Lets go catch em! I increased the pace, and so did he. Back past Hassop station, just cycle path all the way now. The sun was really burning down, why was he putting his woolly bobble hat on? Ignore it, focus! Where are those girls? Catch them! I held on. The faster I run, the sooner I can stop. I ran harder and left the guy behind. 12 mile marker, only a mile! Yes! I will catch them. Aghh, the pain! Go, go go! I tried to run harder. Where are those girls? At last the finish in sight! Then suddenly he was right on me, running flat out! No way! I stopped him passing me and raced him to the finish. Aggghhh!! and then we were both over the line, stopped, bent over, gasping for air…!

I didn’t catch those girls. I came 6th lady. But not catching them makes me more determined for next time! I got the FV40 trophy. I didn’t get a PB. I tried my best and and ran as well as I could have done on the day. You win some, you lose some, especially in running! My watch showed even-pacing, which boosted my confidence as I didn’t look at it. And I love my medal with its Bakewell pudding on!