2nd time lucky? Last year, I settled for a rather splendid long sleeved top in lieu of my entry, and heard the tales of a splendid and scenic coastal run in the sun. This year, the race sold out in a matter of six hours but fortunately I secured an entry again, and had my sun tan lotion at the ready.
Saturday evening saw me consider various weather forecasts, and contemplate my shoe and clothing choice. Having packed my hydration vest, at the eleventh hour, I abandoned it and decided for the minimalistic approach of club vest (fear not, I had shorts too) and trail shoes given the inclement weather anticipated.
A Sunday morning reveille at 0600hrs (what else would any sane person do on their wedding anniversary?) saw me tiptoe around the house, and jog up to meet the Strider bus. As I had stayed up quite late, reading old race reports of the Coastal Run and contemplating what lay ahead, I quite fancied a snooze on the bus but this notion rapidly faded, as the bus filled full of other chatty but half asleep Striders.
We made good progress, and parked up in Beadnell, donning waterproofs to saunter down the road to the Boat House for registration. I always find it a challenge with my OCD to attach a bib number perfectly straight – to do this in the rain, with a fresh breeze on the upturned hull of a small boat compounded the challenge. Event clips and bib attached, I processed along the beach toward the start area at Beadnell Bay. There were portaloos aplenty, and a fairly short queue leaving time to join fellow Striders to shelter and stay warm(ish), stowing bags on the baggage bus at the last moment, for the obligatory team photo on the beach.
Lined up on the start, and raring to go, I listened intently to the official at the front – I relayed his information to other runners because I thought it was wise to heed the advice, which I summarised that runners should stay between the first set of marshalls to avoid perishing on the slippy rocks. Then we were off, across golden sands, the warmth of the sun on our backs, the breeze in our hair, amidst children building sandcastles, and enjoying ice-cream [error, that was a figment of my imagination]. Then we were off, across a sandy base of rivulets fed by the Long Nanny River, which set the scene of what would be a challenging race. I had struck out at a pace just sub 5 min/km, which softened as I met the first constriction point of soft sand and rocks up to High Newton by the Sea. I was amazed at this point to see a runner relieve himself against the dunes in full view of other competitors – how could he have missed the vast provision of portaloos, and council facilities adjacent to the start?
Having climbed this initial hill, I enjoyed the short fast downhill section to Low Newton and the sands at Embleton Bay. We then negotiated the inland side of Dunstanburgh Castle, on mud, grass and rock paths, with a few slips and falls. I halted to check one poor soul who had taken an impressive tumble, landing hard but he was fine to continue. I passed a few runners, at this point lamenting their choice of road shoes, and wondered if Matt Archer had his racing flats on.
Next up was Craster Village, at which point we were looking a little more bedraggled, our muddy battle paint splattered up our legs, and higher! Support was evident here, and water was provided. The encouraging sight and sound of Michael Mason galvanised my resolve as I climbed up past the harbour past The Heughs, where there was a cheeky kink taking us along the headland to Cullernose Point.
Then a treat of a section of road past Howick, and on to Sugar Sands where the majority of runners took the bridge across Howick Burn but some hardier souls opted for the water crossing. A short but punishing climb ensued, up a rocky path, which I decided to run passing a couple who were walking, clearly conserving their energy to pass me on the flat on the top!
Into Boulmer for the final water stop, which I needed, where supporters braved the conditions to cheer us on. Leaving Boulmer, just prior to dropping down to Foxton Beach, a cheery chap stood beside a sign which advised ‘about 2 miles to go’. He shouted encouragingly, that it we were nearly upon the beach and only 10 minutes to go. I looked at my watch briefly, trying to calculate what this meant but gave up as ‘nearly 2 miles’ was too imprecise a measure for me, a detailed metric man.
This beach seemed never-ending, and I remember thinking about the meaning of this approximate 2-mile sign. I tried in places to pick up my pace, mainly because I thought if I did the race would be over quicker but there were slippy rocks, and dilapidated fences (really!) to cross. On one particular fence, my ability to hurdle non-existent, my right hamstring cramped as I ungraciously ‘hopped’ over it. I recovered to catch the magnificent sight of a blue inflatable finish arch.
The arch got closer, and I tried to pick up pace, hastened by Jon Ayres who was doing a sterling job as a bare-chested Mr Motivator having already finished. Attempting to follow Jon’s advice of lengthening my stride, I managed to briefly return to that sub 5 min/km pace again, prior to what felt like sinking to my knees in the softer sand near the finishing arch. Through the finish, I immediately felt that sense of accomplishment which makes it all seem worthwhile; and a quick check of my watch confirmed a pleasing sub 2-hour time (subsequently 1:55:31 chip time).
I grabbed some water, and headed over to provide some encouragement to my fellow Striders. Jon congratulated me, and I quipped that that last beach was like a club committee meeting in length! Then via the baggage bus, to the Strider bus, which now resembled something of an impromptu changing room. I was grateful at this point for Lesley’s advice to take a change of footwear, and in equal measure for her encouragement to attend this race. Prize giving was in the nearby Alnmouth Links Golf Club, which provided an opportunity to dry out, and celebrate the team achievement. It was great to see Stephen Jackson pick up a prize for 5th place, a valiant effort indeed after his Durham City Run win of only a few night’s previous, and to see other age category winners; Tamsin Imber for 1st FVET40, Christine Farnsworth for 2nd FVET65 and Margaret Thompson for 3rd FVET65.
The organisation of this race by Alnwick Harriers is first rate. Marshals and locals alike are friendly, and supportive. The coastline and scenic aspect is fantastic, and where else can you run ~14 miles through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on a mixture of sand, road and trail? In summary, I’d encourage anyone to have a go at this race – I’d certainly like to do it again, but hopefully next time on a drier, more summery day!
You can relive the Northumberland Coastal Run here
Full results available here
|630||Stephen Jackson||01:17:41||MSEN||10.81 mph||5:32 min/mile|
|936||Gareth Pritchard||01:20:19||MSEN||10.46 mph||5:44 min/mile|
|121||Matthew Archer||01:31:36||MSEN||9.17 mph||6:32 min/mile|
|949||Phil Ray||01:31:54||MSEN||9.14 mph||6:33 min/mile|
|595||Andrew Hopkins||01:33:33||MV40||8.98 mph||6:40 min/mile|
|618||Tamsin Imber||01:42:29||FV40||8.20 mph||7:19 min/mile|
|185||Elaine Bisson||01:45:23||FV35||7.97 mph||7:31 min/mile|
|1110||Malcolm Sygrove||01:51:57||MV50||7.50 mph||7:59 min/mile|
|526||Jonathan Hamill||01:55:31||MV40||7.27 mph||8:15 min/mile|
|872||Dougie Nisbet||02:03:08||MV50||6.82 mph||8:47 min/mile|
|661||Fiona Jones||02:03:21||FV40||6.81 mph||8:48 min/mile|
|898||Helen Parker||02:03:55||FV40||6.78 mph||8:51 min/mile|
|204||Jean Bradley||02:04:00||FV60||6.77 mph||8:51 min/mile|
|777||Rachelle Mason||02:04:55||FV35||6.72 mph||8:55 min/mile|
|462||Sue Gardham||02:05:35||FV40||6.69 mph||8:58 min/mile|
|1024||Chris Shearsmith||02:06:35||MV40||6.64 mph||9:02 min/mile|
|1109||Kathryn Sygrove||02:06:47||FV50||6.63 mph||9:03 min/mile|
|605||Melanie Hudson||02:07:18||FV35||6.60 mph||9:05 min/mile|
|984||Dave Robson||02:07:19||MV65||6.60 mph||9:05 min/mile|
|744||Emil Maatta||02:07:32||MSEN||6.59 mph||9:06 min/mile|
|247||Karen Byng||02:07:54||FV45||6.57 mph||9:08 min/mile|
|1016||Anna Seeley||02:08:14||FSEN||6.55 mph||9:09 min/mile|
|223||David Browbank||02:08:39||MSEN||6.53 mph||9:11 min/mile|
|1047||Catherine Smith||02:12:17||FV40||6.35 mph||9:26 min/mile|
|429||Sarah Fawcett||02:14:00||FV55||6.27 mph||9:34 min/mile|
|283||Jonathan Clark||02:18:44||MV40||6.05 mph||9:54 min/mile|
|576||Alison Heslop||02:21:36||FV45||5.93 mph||10:06 min/mile|
|394||Katherine Dodd||02:24:12||FV45||5.83 mph||10:18 min/mile|
|1127||Helen Thomas||02:24:32||FV40||5.81 mph||10:19 min/mile|
|825||Karen Metters||02:24:32||FV40||5.81 mph||10:19 min/mile|
|1255||Jill Young||02:25:59||FSEN||5.75 mph||10:25 min/mile|
|407||Jane Dowsett||02:26:00||FV45||5.75 mph||10:25 min/mile|
|933||Katherine Preston||02:26:00||FV45||5.75 mph||10:25 min/mile|
|929||Alison Pragnell||02:26:11||FV35||5.75 mph||10:26 min/mile|
|1044||Alan Smith||02:26:14||MV70||5.74 mph||10:26 min/mile|
|341||Beth Cullen||02:26:24||FV35||5.74 mph||10:27 min/mile|
|902||Joanne Patterson||02:34:07||FSEN||5.45 mph||11:00 min/mile|
|1011||Aileen Campbell Scott||02:34:12||FV45||5.45 mph||11:00 min/mile|
|1232||Karen Wilson||02:37:11||FV45||5.34 mph||11:13 min/mile|
|427||Christine Farnsworth||02:40:12||FV65||5.24 mph||11:26 min/mile|
|144||Kerry Barnett||02:43:07||FV45||5.15 mph||11:39 min/mile|
|434||Kirsten Fenwick||02:46:43||FSEN||5.04 mph||11:54 min/mile|
|1067||Diane Soulsby||02:46:45||FV50||5.04 mph||11:54 min/mile|
|473||Rebecca Gilmore||02:47:47||FSEN||5.01 mph||11:59 min/mile|
|1136||Margaret Thompson||02:59:17||FV65||4.69 mph||12:48 min/mile|
|468||Laura Gibson||03:11:14||FV40||4.39 mph||13:39 min/mile|