Category Archives: marathon

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.

Asics Windermere Marathon, Brathay Hall, Ambleside, Sunday, May 21, 2017

26.2 miles

Catherine Smith

The journey to Brathay Windermere Marathon – May 23rd 2016 – May 21st 2017


Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I ran Windermere (my first solo official marathon) I was coming back from a number of ongoing niggles and injuries, I wanted to get faster but had fallen out of love with running after training for Dark Skies which I ran through the night with Gareth and storm Katie in March 2016 (my first realllly long race – 26.8 miles round kielder – I like to make things easy for myself!).  I hated the feeling of ‘having to run’ during training and hated the fact the injuries were also stopping me enjoy running.


I asked Anna Seeley (coaching co-ordinator) for a training plan and we met to discuss where I was at, what I wanted to do and what my running habits / preferences were, she designed a really flexible, simple, yet effective, plan for me to follow and I saw the benefits being realised pretty much straight away, I got my mojo back, niggles were kept at bay and the PBs were falling until one fateful shopping trip when I treated myself to a new pair of trainers because ‘they looked good’ and ‘matched better’ (DOH).  Soon after I developed heel / foot issues which was diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. I was in a lot of pain and spent a number of months and large sums of cash trying to resolve the issue.  I ‘water ran’ to nelly the elephant (thanks Katy Walton for the tip and loan of the float) and followed various stretching, PT and Pilates regimes in an attempt to fix it & not lose too much fitness but it was taking such a long time to heal I was struggling mentally and physically.


Thankfully I seemed to turn a corner in the last few months, I couldn’t say exactly what made the difference, probably a combination of everything but I was finding my fitness was coming back & I was able to chip at a couple of my PBs again without the foot flaring.  I was entering local longer runs and doing them as a run walk strategy to minimise injury flaring (Leas Marathon- did 20 miles and loved it) Locke park 20 was a fab day out running in circles with some of the purple posse and I was organising some regular Sunday long runs with a variety of folks.  Before I knew it I realised that I had sort of been doing an informal Marathon training plan without any ‘have to’ feelings, I was loving running again and had had none of the pressure of following a rigid plan!  On the back of this realisation and the high of my Blackpool half pb I floated the idea of running a low key marathon sooner rather than later and suddenly we were booked for a weekend in the lakes with a Windermere entry in!! Not a fast or flat course – in fact probably more challenging than keilder but it would be during the day, I wouldn’t have to carry ‘full kit’ and I very much hoped storm Katie or any of her mates wouldn’t make an appearance


With Anna’s input I had decided on a run the flats / downs and walk the big hills strategy to minimise injury / foot flaring.  I had never ran over 14.2 miles alone before so this was big for me but I was excited as much as I was nervous.  Gareth had decided to enter too as he had unfinished business with Windermere- his first ever marathon which totally broke him! He wanted to right that wrong of a ‘terrible’ performance (no gear and no idea) which culminated in a 3.07 first Marathon time (if only ha ha) so we both had challenging goals we wanted to achieve.


I had set my ‘if only’ at 4.45 and sub 5 as a ‘must do’ Anna said she thought I should run to feel and I might surprise myself, but I was too worried about hitting the wall and bailing into the hotel pool & spa at mile 20 (that’s where our hotel was on the route) or being over taken by a penguin (Mike Parker I blame you for this irrational fear ha ha) or having pull out because of injury so I decided to aim for approx 10.55-11.15mm and take it from there.


On the morning of the race we met other striders in a rainy field where the Parking was organised by enthusiastic marshals who played a massive part in making the day such a success


As we squelched over to get our numbers I noticed that the t shirt was purple & white, and they had a ladies fit (I am normally swapped in race tees) so I felt this was a sign! I told myself I would be achieving my first solo marathon & bought the tee as my motivation / reward!


Obligatory strider selfies done we followed the marching band to the start, it was rather emotional and exciting, the day was starting to brighten up and we all wished our purple club mates good luck as we lined up, Gareth and Elaine moved up to the front, Gareth was definitely feeling relaxed as the start line picture shows ha ha


The gun went, the band start playing and we were off! This was it! More emotion as the crowds clapped and called out good luck wishes…. internal pep talk with myself & I settled into my pace, glanced at my watch, going too fast! Must slow down, got 26 hilly miles to go! I had decided to run with average pace set as that way I wouldn’t panic about the walks slowing me down or start racing to bring it back in line, I had used it for Blackpool half so felt confident that would be a good plan for Windermere too. First mile ticked off going too fast! Feeling good but 25 to go! The first hill loomed and I had the dilemma of the walking this early what would people think?? then I reminded myself this was my race & I had a plan for a reason! I wanted to get round in one piece and I wanted to recover sooner afterwards injury free so I slowed to a pacy walk, I was the first but others copied, I glanced at my watch, average pace hardly changed, still too fast, another mile ticked off.  This became my routine & I was absolutely loving the run, I felt strong as I moved up the miles, pace was still faster than any of those I’d predicted / planned to aim for – I was walking the hills and making the most of the flats and downs, I took time to hydrate at all the stations and kept up fuelling with chia charge flap jack as well as gels & shot blocks.  A good couple of miles were breezed though ahead of pace as I distracted myself trying to get chia seeds out of my teeth!


The marshal support at the drink stations and throughout the race was amazing as was that from spectators in the villages – I took time to say thanks and smile (I was pretty much grinning all the way round) and high 5’d the scouts who were cheering us on next to a purple cow! Resisted the urge for a purple cow selfie (THAT TOOK GREAT WILLPOWER)


I chatted to folks on the way some joined me on the walk bits but then dropped off as I picked up the pace again on the running bits – pace still to fast! I was worried that the wall or the penguin moments would happen or that the hydration fluid might decide it didn’t like me but I still felt great  cautiously optimistic! I passed our hotel and mile 20 & was smiling rather than wanting to bail, just 10k to go, I’d got this! It was soon after that Malcolm gave me a shout out a marshal point – he had had to pull out because of his knee, that made me sad but also more determined, I thought of him, Mandy & Lesley, people who couldn’t run at this time and would give anything to swap places and dug deep!


Gareth and I had driven this last section so I knew what was coming I knew we had icecream mountain ahead (big hill with an icecream van at the top) I seemed to be getting even quicker!! I dared to think that my 4.45 dream could be a reality! I didn’t appear to be hitting the wall, I continued with the hydrating/fuelling and run/walk and before I know it I was up & over icecream mountain, picking somewhat broken folks off along the way, I checked they were ok as I ran passed giving words of encouragement – I remembered Gareth telling me that was where he’d seen lots of folks struggling in his first Windermere attempt.


Last water station ahead, something cold, pink, rather sticky & delicious as my last fluid intake & off I went, chatted to a guy who said he didn’t think he could make it – I encouraged him to come along to Mile 25 with me & he did for a while, but dropped off as we came to the last mile. Checked watch something like a 9.53 min mile?!? Oops!! Still way ahead of average pace I had planned beautiful views of the lake I was feeling good but one thing that was messing with my head was the fact my watch had lost distance so I wasn’t displaying the same as the mile markers, what ifs kicked in….  I missed the 26 mile marker somehow (there were ALOT of luminous yellow signs) so I wasn’t sure what I had left to go, the last push to the finish is not fun at all it’s twisty turny, a drag followed by proper uphill – none of us enjoyed that section! But then you round the corner and it’s the down hill of the finish funnel to cross the line, I sprinted, glanced my watch, didn’t dare to believe it! Heard Gareth and Anna shout out, I’d done it!! 4.37.19!!! I’d earned my purple tee and exceeded all of my expectations!! I was over the moon! Anna came over to say well done and tell me that Gareth and Elaine had won prizes & id made it in time to see them – our Marathon day was totally meant to be!


Thanks for reading! I would highly recommend Windermere as a challenging but low key road marathon with the joys of the enthusiast marshals and spectacular views to distract you from the hills (definitely not on the fast/flat list!)

Results available here


Windmill Way 26m, Skidby, near Hull, Saturday, May 13, 2017


Dave Robson

I hadn’t done this event before, but it was held in the same area, to the west of Hull, as the enjoyable Golden Fleece. That one was organised by the scouts, as was the Windmill Way, so I thought I would give it a try.

The organisation was laid back. The kit list consisted of whatever clothing you thought was appropriate. The person before me at registration asked if there was a checkpoint at the windmill as there hadn’t been one in previous years. ‘No there isn’t’ was the answer although it was on the route description and the tally card which was supposed to be clipped. Nothing was said at the briefing, so I was lucky to have heard that. There were lots of checkpoints with increasing amounts of food at them which was nice, but I did get a little nervous after the first one which just took my number and had nothing to eat or drink !

However, this was largely made up for by the finishing momento

which was lovely. Registration and Race HQ was a fairly dour building on the outskirts of Skidby

but there was plenty of parking. There were walkers as well as runners and the briefing largely consisted of telling us about a fairly small route change.
Just over the mile from the start was the famous windmill
where I didn’t waste any time looking for the non-existent checkpoint. Then it was back into another part of Skidby for the second checkpoint where they just took my number. Then we were off into fields with one or two gentle climbs
followed by pretty villages such as Little Weighton

and attractive churches – this one is Rowley

The next section was tricky as the gpx route I was using didn’t go the way everyone else was going, but I just trusted the two people I was running with and some yellow tape which appeared and was never used again. That got us to the route change (in order not to disturb some prize pigs apparently…). That was fine, but there was about 0.25m on a fairly busy road, followed by a long stretch on a much quieter road. There was a quite a bit of tarmac overall and the fields were also very hard from the lack or rain recently.

There were some signs to point us in the right direction

but they weren’t that often.

Soon after we  turned off the road were running downhill through woodland

which is just my favourite running terrain. At the bottom was the Yorkshire Wolds Way which we were to come across and follow about three times. We climbed up out of the valley and there were some good views of the Humber estuary (which can hardly be seen in this photo)

On to the village of Everthorpe, which I was familiar with from the Golden Fleece

On to South Cave where there was an indoor checkpoint with cake, soup and hot drinks. I was pretty warm at this stage, so I just filled up my bottle with water and didn’t stay long. At this point it started to rain, which had not been forecast, but it wasn’t heavy and it was too warm to put my waterproof jacket on. On to the Wolds Way again and on to the lovely Brantingham church

More climbing and through some more lovely woods to Welton where the checkpoint had rice pudding and peaches. There was no way I was going to skip that. On to Welton Dale which was lovely

before crossing a few more fields and on to the long green lane back to Skidby and the finish. 5hrs 6min which I was pleased with – quite a bit faster than I have ever done the Golden Fleece.
There was more rice pudding and peaches at the finish together with cake. Cost of the whole event was just £10, a bargain.

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017, London, Monday, April 24, 2017

26.2 miles

Tamsin Imber

The London Marathon


Warning!: This is not a positive report. Other reports about this race are available!


I’m not a city person. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like constant loud noise. And I don’t like too much concrete. COD (Concrete Oppression Depression) is a ‘thing’ that happened to me when I lived in Liverpool for 5 years.  So why did I enter the London marathon? Curiosity and that was it. Ha, well, yeah, we all know what killed the cat don’t we.


So, I was at the Green start, having got a Good For Age place, and needed to get to Maze Hill train station for this start area. The race and the whole of London it seemed were very well organised for this race. The organisation I can not criticise at all. There were marshals everywhere in the Underground train system sign posting people. Also everyone was extremely friendly. And anyone with a race number also travelled free. I arrived in good time and did all my usual pre-race things.


..It all went wrong when I went to my start pen. From then on for the next 26.2 miles I was in a crowd. The problem with being short is that most people are taller than you so you can see only the backs and sides of people around you and a bit of sky above. I once stood on a chair to experience life from the view point of my husband and it really does give you a different perspective! So, in this crowd of runners it was really hot, smelly and claustrophobic. Following the blue line was never going to happen as I couldn’t see it!  As we got closer and closer to central London the spectator noise increased exponentially. Due to the crowd situation a short girl running next to me went splat on her face. I stopped to see if she was OK and two guys from behind ran straight into me so I went flying too. One of them had kindly tried to stop me by grabbing me, but he squished my body so tight with his hands that his nails made me bleed. I felt really stressed. I had a splitting headache. As we pounded the hot tarmac I tried to work out why. I can only conclude it was stress. Stress from people always in my personal space, stress from the noise and stress from lack of fresh air. I had sewed two pockets onto my Striders vest top and in one of them I had luckily put some foam earplugs. They only blocked out 50% of the noise but it helped a bit.


Then the sun came out. Thing with down south is that its obviously warmer than up here, add that to the London heat island affect (plus 2 degrees) and the sun coming out and suddenly you have 20 degrees. I’m not good running in the sun. I squirted my legs with water from the water stations to cool me down, which also served to get rid of the nauseating sticky orange yak that got squired on my legs from other runners stepping on Lucazade sport bottles.


After half way it soon became clear to me that I was not maintaining my 7.50mm pace, probably due to the stressful conditions, and my hopes of 3.25 rapidly dissolved. After some many miles of trying to get up pace and failing to do so I considered leap-frogging over the barrier to escape, but decided to continue because actually I’d only be standing in a hot, sweaty crowd queuing somewhere else to get onto a tube station platform. At least by continuing the race I was in a moving crowd going to where I wanted to go.


Finally got to the end. Thank God. Gutted about my rubbish time. A rubbish 30 minutes later than my PB and 35 minutes later than my goal! Didn’t really want a medal. Cried. Collected my bag. Gave myself a kick up the bum and went to meet my family.


On the Virgin train back to Durham I ate an overpriced Richard Branston baguette with chemical flavourings and tried to work out what had happened. I love marathons, it is my favourite distance. I just didn’t like London.  I can’t wait for  my next marathon. I suspect it will be a race in some unknown backwater of nowhere where I can just run freely, where I can concentrate on what I am doing!, where maybe there is some scenery!, and where I can enjoy it! Even though London wasn’t for me and didn’t go well I am proud of myself for trying it and I learnt a whole lot about big city marathons.

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 – Michael Littlewood, London, Sunday, April 23, 2017

26.2 miles

Michael Littlewood


2:45 was the magic number, 6.17 min/mile average pace. This meant Championship time.  I had missed this target by 2 minutes last year and it was not going to happen again. To achieve this, while I needed to heed Allan’s advice (don’t go off too fast x 3) I wanted to feel settled at 6.13/min mile pace until halfway to then relax for the remainder of the run. I had my nutrition strategy sorted – my normal gels at 1 hour, 1.5 hours and 2 hours + five sips of water. Oh and I had remembered my Strider vest and the ubiquitous yellow hat!!



We had managed to stay at the same hotel as last year which was close to Stephen meaning we could travel to our separate start lines together. This calmed my nerves greatly. At the actual start line, my body wasn’t playing the game – cramp in both calves and spasms in piriformis and hamstring. Trying to complete flexor stretches next to the Elites on a full start line was fun!! Even more fun was the toilet etiquette when I was not allowed to leave the start line to visit the facilities and was forced to use a bottle instead!! Time to then put my music on, have a little dance (a little bit of Cypruss Hill) and get my head in the game.


0 – 6.2mile

The first 10k was a dream, I felt photo fresh and cramp free. My pace was bang on time and I had a massive smile on my face. I even managed to work the crowd a bit and enjoy some of the sights.


6.2 – 13.1

Still smiling and running well. I was concerned about taking the gel, although I had practised with this, I only had a 50/50 success rate meaning that on occasion it upsets my stomach. Not this time!

The absolute highlight was spotting Oscar, Lewis and Wendy as I ran off Tower Bridge. The first time in 3 years that I have noticed them in the crowd. It really gave me a massive boost and I actually had to slow myself down a bit in order not to excitedly increase my pace!


13.1-17 miles

Now this was the first tricky bit. The route is a little dull coupled with the run getting harder. I needed to increase my effort to maintain my pace. I can’t say that I was struggling but my legs were definitely feeling more tired and just not as fresh – a bit of an anti-climax after the exhilaration of getting to the half way point.


18 – 23 miles

Mile 18 was my slowest mile at 6.30/min but I did not feel like I had slowed down. This worried me. I responded with a 5.53 at 19 miles which was maybe a mistake because miles 20 and 21 were really hard. I was not going to let it slip now though. I spotted a runner in front of me with ‘Training Oscar’ on his back – he was my focus. My pace stayed at 6.12 and 6.18 – still on track. This bit me on the backside at mile 22 and 23, pace was now 6.27 and 6.28. Could this really be slipping away??


The Decider – 24

Mile 24 was the biggest mile of my running life. I came out of the tunnel, up the hill and onto the Embankment, I had real negative thoughts. I wanted to give up, 2:45 seemed certainly out of range, I knew Striders were expecting me to succeed and I felt a failure, I had let them down. I had to kick my own arse and I looked at my hand which reminded me of Wendy and the boys who love me and really spur me on.

The attack began. The pain was incredible, the tops of my hamstrings were on fire, calves were screaming and my eyesight was beginning to blur but I was passing people left and right. I spotted a Crook runner about 50 metres ahead and I was catching him which gave me strength. Mile 24 was the quickest of the race – 5.47min/mile.


Mile 25

I had caught the Crook runner Rob Teasdale. This was North East team mentality in a nutshell! He said ‘Let’s do this!! Let’s get that Championship time!!’ This encouragement and teamwork was just what I needed, I was gone by then and really struggling, the impact of mile 24 meant I was even tasting a metallic taste in my mouth, the blood vessels at the back of my throat were bursting.


Mile 26 – finish line.

I came around the last corner with Rob and noted that I only had 40 seconds left, I was not sure I was going to make it. I told myself to light this one up!! I visualised myself in the morning looking back on the race and knowing that I had accomplished it. I don’t really remember much about that last 200 metres but I crossed the finish line with 9 seconds to spare!!

I could not believe what I had done, I stood still and was then quickly ushered forward although I did need some assistance with the first few steps.


The Championship Finishers – Stephen Jackson and Michael Littlewood


Final thoughts. (Warning – the soppy bit!!)

I would like to say a massive thank you to the purple army who I know had my back. I simply could not do this without your support. Allan Seheult as my coach and friend, thank you for all the time and care you give. My training partners Gareth, Tamsin, Matty and Stephen. It really is a privilege to run with you and most importantly, great fun! Stephen, Vics and Allan also get special mention for putting up with my drunken ramblings on that long train ride back home!!

To Wendy, Oscar and Lewis. I love you, thank you for all you do. Can’t wait to cheer you across the London Marathon finish line in 2018 Wendy!!

Boston Marathon, Boston, Lincolnshire, Monday, April 17, 2017

26.2 miles

Mike Parker

Boston Marathon – the penguin, the Minion and the olfactory delights of freshly harvested Brussels sprouts


“C’mon penguin!”

The haunting cry that will forever stalk my marathon memories.

Having blown up spectacularly in the Manchester Marathon, the crowning ignominy of a 5hr+ marathon meltdown was having to race the final 200 metres down the Talbot Road pursued by ever more fervent cries from an impassioned crowd willing on a weary runner bedecked in a penguin costume.

Stomach cramps at the halfway point and leg cramps from mile 21 meant I was limping in roughly 45mins later than target with only myself to blame for straying from my planned race nutrition. I wasn’t about to let a penguin-clad runner compound my misery by crossing the line before me. The final push saw me safely over the line in front, only for some kind friends to check the chip times and inform me the penguin had ‘done me’ by 5 full minutes.

Bruised by the experience, and not wanting to let 4 months of winter training go to waste, I planned a swift return to the marathon arena.

I attempted to enter Blackpool Marathon, only to find it sold out. Then, I stumbled across details of the Boston Marathon taking place on Easter Monday. Despite also being sold out, a quick email to the event organisers the Wednesday before race day and I had myself a place.

Now – full disclosure – this wasn’t THE original Boston Marathon (you know the one – started in 1897, attracts c.30k runners & requires a qualifying time of 3hrs 15 for my age group). This was, however, the original Boston (UK, Pilgrim Fathers, Mayflower etc) where I spent several very enjoyable years in my first full-time career role after leaving university a couple of decades ago. The marathon is only in its second year of existence and the organisers hope to link with their Massachusetts cousins by 2020.

For those who don’t know, Boston is a brilliantly bizarre Lincolnshire market town which on the surface gives the impression of being a sleepy place in The Land That Time Forgot but holds several eye-opening accolades including being the murder capital of Britain; the most anti-EU area in the UK (76% voted for Brexit); and, the first place I’ve come across that would give control of its local council to a single-issue political party entirely focused on building a bypass around the town!

Armed with this useless knowledge and a real affinity for the town, we rocked up on race day to a packed throng of runners in the attractive market place. The organisers arrange the marathon and a half-marathon on the same day, departing from slightly different start points but largely running the same routes.

It was a lovely, friendly atmosphere, relaxed and well organised with loads of loos near the start.

I had been determined not to leave anything to chance after Manchester. There, the traffic was so horrendous we arrived late, had a long haul from our car park to Old Trafford for the baggage drop and didn’t arrive at the start until well after the official gun went, feeling flustered.

That wasn’t going to happen this time.

Or that was my intention. We were late again (I blame the family this time), had a mad panic collecting my number and (apologies, but this bit’s relevant) unsuccessfully attempted pre-race ablutions.

I hit the start-line and attempted to calm down by chatting to a few fellow competitors. Great idea! Except I forgot to start my Garmin and, as the sound of the gun ricocheted off the walls of the narrow old buildings lining the start, I stood like a lemon hoping to get a green light and the reassuring buzz that the GPS had locked on.

No such luck. Despite waiting until all other runners had passed through the start line, I gave up and ran the first third of a mile swearing at myself and my watch while waiting for it to get a signal so I could start the damn thing. This was all going pear-shaped again and the sense of déjà vu was palable.

Then the final straw. Ahead of me, like an enormous beacon of yellow and blue misery, I spotted the Minion! Having suffered days of jibes following #penguingate, my worst nightmare had re-surfaced. Surely I couldn’t be beaten by the only novelty costume runner in the entire field?!

I knew that running a second marathon 15 days after Manchester meant I had to compromise on the time I hoped to run originally. I just wanted to run a full 26.2 and slay a few demons. So I set out at a very steady pace, clocking 45 seconds/mile slower than last time.

I gradually hauled level with the Minion and felt a tiny flicker of delight at hearing he was already breathing heavily with 24 miles still to go, as unchristian as that sounds. My running shoes were going in the bin if I was beaten by someone wearing an enormous polystyrene egg on this day! That view was compounded when I discovered that he wasn’t even running in a Minion costume for charity but instead because a mate had bet him he couldn’t. Why would you??

As the sun came out and the in-costume temperature soared, my yellow and blue clad Nemesis faded at 8 miles and I could concentrate on running my own race.

Boston Marathon (UK) is pancake flat. You actually run below sea level and the total elevation change for the course is 256 feet – a whopping 111 feet flatter than Manchester!

The route takes you swiftly out of the town and into the Lincolnshire countryside. This is some of the finest agricultural land on earth and you can easily lose yourself churning out the miles in near silence as you pound the roads alongside thousands of acres of freshly tilled fields. It’s a complete contrast to the noise, bustle and claustrophobia of big city marathons. This is brilliant for the first 18 to 20 miles. You can run at your own pace and don’t have to weave and jostle for position.

But, it does mean you have to knuckle down yourself in the latter stages as you cannot lean on the crowds to get you through that final 10k.

My race was progressing well and all was comfortable until an emergency pitstop was required at the marshal point at mile 12. This dented the splits temporarily but I was back on track and feeling good until mile 19 when my legs started telling me that Manchester was catching up on me.

Undeterred, I dialled back the pace a little and as things started to really get tough around mile 23 I popped a caffeinated High 5 gel and focused on the finish line and my family who were waiting to cheer me in.

I was having a good little informal battle with a couple of runners who were jockeying for the finish in the final stretch and that kept me going to the end.

I expect that Boston will get a name for itself in the marathon fraternity both among the PB hunters and those who just want to run a flat marathon without the hullabaloo of the city marathons. The winner (ironically running for Notfast RC) flew home in 2hrs 29 before then going on to complete the London Marathon in 2:31:56.

It’s well marshalled, has a lovely feel to it and offers something different from the other, bigger road marathons on at the same time. Oh, and you’re less likely to finish behind a penguin or a Minion. Or a flying carrot (Michael Littlewood).

POSTSCRIPT: Confession time – I was beaten by a guy in a tiger mask who juggled the entire course. Grrrrr!

Hardmoors White Horse marathon, North York Moors, Sunday, April 9, 2017

Dave Robson

Twelve years ago I never thought I would run a marathon, I thought at 53 I would be too old to start running one. However, I soon realised there were members of Elvet Striders who were older than me who were running them successfully. So I entered my first one and ran it just before my 56th birthday in 2007.

By December 2015 I had completed 126 marathons/ultras and I decided I needed a target. I am not one who sets myself many targets (and I don’t like anybody else setting me targets, but maybe I shouldn’t get started on that issue here ….).

After a bit if thought I came up with trying to get to 150 marathons/ultras within ten years of my first marathon, Windermere, in May 2007. So I was aiming to get the next twenty four marathons/ultras in eighteen months. That should be achievable provided I didn’t get injured. I have been lucky, I have had no injuries, so today was the day of my 150th marathon/ultra with a month to spare on my target.

I was very happy that I had managed to arrange my 150th to be the Hardmoors White Horse marathon as it is a fantastic route and I love Hardmoors events. It is a tough route with lots of climbs, but the scenery is beautiful. I had completed my 100th marathon at the Hardmoors Wainstones, so I may have started a pattern here.

I wan’t expecting a good time for this event, my previous times has been 6hr 55min (2015) and 6hr 43min (2016). Also the week before the event we had been on holiday and we had clocked up 53 miles (which is about half my usual monthly miles) in one week. Not much of a taper.

The start was at the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre (the nearest we would get to the White Horse).

and I chatted with a few friends before the start at 9.00. The start is not far away
and I was ready to go
The route starts along the Cleveland Way heading north but before long we turn off and plunge down the escarpment to Gormire Lake which is usually pretty muddy. However, this last week has been very dry and today was also dry and very warm, so it was very easy to avoid the muddy sections.
The climb out of Gormire was a bit muddy in places, but nothing like it has been in the previous two years. Once back on the Cleveland Way, the views started to appear, although it was a bit hazy.

Then after about 4m we reached Sneck Yate Bank and one of Jon’s motivational signs
Then on past High Paradise Farm and onto the moors. I had started at the back and I was gradually overtaking people and this went on until the end, it is funny how some races go well and others like Kielder Dark Skies two weeks ago which I didn’t feel went well (although I did a faster time there).
Then soon we were turning east and down into North Moor Wood and past the lovely Arden Hall
and a climb in road to the lovely village of Hawnby and the steep climb up to Hawnby Hill. Recently, at some Hardmoors events there has been a party checkpoint and at the top of Hawnby Hill. I should have take a photo of the bunting and the many inflatables, but I just one halfway up the climb which was telling us what was to come…
The views from Hawnby Hill are amazing.
If you have never been to Hawnby and climbed the hill, I would highly recommend it !
Down Hawnby Hill to the next checkpoint where they had honeydew melon slices, heaven !
Another climb and a run alongside Easterside Hill, which is a section I love and then another climb up Bilsdale West Moor before decsending to the checkpoint where Gillian and Eric were volunteering. Then its back to the southern Hornby, before the horrible road climb out on Murton Bank. I really don’t enjoy this climb, it seem to go on and on.

Finally I reached the checkpoint at the top and it was lovely to see Sara volunteering there ! Jon had mentioned that there was to be diversion as he hadn’t got permission for us to run through Deep Gill Wood so we had a smoother run and avoided this from previous years
which was a bit of relief. Generally the route was much more runnable this year being so dry. Via some lovely woods
and on to Rievalux Abbey
If there had been an ice cream van in the car park we passed with no queue, I would have stopped, but there wasn’t.
On past this lovely garden
and plodding now to the final checkpoint, where Lorna and Adrian welcomed me. I managed to run a bit more after this then I normally do, but I stopped at these stepping stones
to soak my buff and squeeze the water down my neck and rinse my face.
Before we climbed out of this section, we came across this lovely building
I can’t remember whether it was there last year. We climbed out of the valley and wind has developed into more than a light breeze and it was kicking up lots of dust and I had to put my sunglasses back on – I have never had a problem with dust before at a Hardmoors event !
I didn’t stop at an extra checkpoint at Cold Kirby as there was less than 2 miles to go and I could see I was going to get a course pb. And I did  I came in with something around 6hrs 16min, a 27min course pb.
So overall, it was a lovely event and I will be back next year. There are to be no targets for a while, just carrying on doing events that I enjoy 😃

NEMC Leas Marathon, South Shields, Sunday, February 26, 2017

26.2 miles

Kerry Barnett

Along with 5 other striders I toed the start line at the North East Marathon Club’s Leas Marathon at South Shields, It was a bright day and full of promise for my 14th Marathon as part of my bid to complete 50 marathons before I’m 50.

Start times were staggered to take into consideration how long you expected to take to complete the marathon, however this wasn’t the only option. Members of the NEMC who participated could run any amount of the 6ish mile laps up to marathon distance. Sue Jennings, Diane Harold, Joanne Porter and I all started on the 830am slot, which actually set off around 845am.

Employing a 2 min run and 1 min walk strategy Sue and I started off together. Sue having completed some awesome running achievements over the last year or so was happy to see how far she got, I wanted to complete at all costs. Being on trails across the Leas where I spent my childhood was lovely, it was sunny and just a bit breezy. The first lap went by quite quickly, we passed Anna Seeley and Catherine Smith as the started at 930ish.

It was a bit weird passing the car every 3 and bit miles of the figure of 8 lap, but meant I could carry minimal supplies as I would have ample opportunity to stop and grab fluids and nutrition as I went by.

Sue did really well but decided at mile 9 to complete the current lap (2 laps total) and then stop rather than risk injury. So then I was on my own, Singing along to myself in my head (as I do), doing calculations (if I run this speed I’ll finish in this time etc as I do) and saying hi to other runners, dogs, walkers time and distance kept passing on. As everyone has started at different times and were at different parts of the course it was lovely to see Anna, Catherine, Diane and Jo at different times really lifts your spirits to see a fellow strider and exchange a few words of encouragement. Anna and Catherine over achieved by completing 3 laps and Jo Porter did also (with a dicky tummy and all)

By 4 hours I was starting my last lap but now it was getting tough, the wind had picked up and some sections were really difficult because of this. My OH has gone off to do his own long run and I was wondering when he would be back, then just over the horizon I saw a familiar figure striding towards me, he couldn’t have arrived at a better time! It was the boost I needed to continue battling the wind and get this marathon completed.

As I crossed the middle section again, Diane Harold was coming in to complete her first ever marathon in 5:01:48, massive kudos to her in those weather conditions.

The last 3 miles were a huge struggle, there was a strong headwind whichever way I was facing but as I passed Souter Lighthouse for the last time I knew there was only about a mile to go. I could see the NEMC flag and my Strider buddies braving the freezing cold to welcome me over the mat for the last time!

The Leas Marathon is for NEMC members only, it is a low key, low cost event. Everyone was very friendly and encouraging, the fast lads/lasses zooming past the slower ones and the walkers all got the same encouragement and medal. A fantastic day out!

Spijkenisse marathon, Rotterdam, Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tamsin Imber

The Spijkenisse marathon is a small annual event which is a one loop course starting and ending at the athletics track in the town of Spijkenisse. This is a small town to the south of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. We stayed in Amsterdam for a long weekend and combined me doing this race with a festive, family mini-break:)

The run was all on cycle paths around a beautiful, bleak, mostly forested, wetland region! (So completely traffic free! Even though the area was cycle-path-tastic there were not loads of non-support cycles on any part of the route, so you were not having to look out for bikes.). It was very flat!  Often the cycle path was on a raised embankment between channels of water. The channels of water ranged from narrow to large lake sized areas, colonised by birds and other wildlife. There was little civilisation!

The route was measured and chip timed. There were water stations every 5km and warm black tea and bananas at the later water stations, which I avoided myself but the Dutch seemed very keen on it! All marshals were very friendly and encouraging!


Like a Hardmoors on tarmac! It was low key and very friendly. About 200 entrants in the marathon.


Mainly Dutch but a few from abroad. I arrived by train and metro from Amsterdam and wondered where everyone was!..but I soon  saw they were all arriving by bike..of course!

My aim

To try and run even pacing at 8 minute miles to finish in 3.30… by myself! So my the ‘Graeme Walton replacement system’ comprised of -all on my right arm-my sports watch, watch and a table written on the back of my hand indicating the times and times elapsed I should be at key distances!

The Race

A friendly start, cheered on by all the half marathoners who were starting 15 minutes after us!  It started with one lap of the track, and then we were off onto the cycle path into the unknown! Some runners had their friends cycling next to them to support them the whole way:)

The weather was 5 degrees and dry, which was good running conditions it seemed, although in the areas without trees there was quite a strong wind.

I started by positioning myself just ahead of the 3.30 pacer group as I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the km markers.  This worked well. I could hear the pacer group chatting away in Dutch in animated voices behind me, so I joined them for a few miles to chat (luckily they were happy to talk in English).  I then returned to just ahead of them so I could see the markers again. The first 6 miles felt like we were out for a Sunday morning jog!  Should I be running faster? The watch said no.  I followed the cycle path through the watery marsh-lands!

Part-way into the route we heard whistles from behind and a motor-bike then a peddle bike went past and then the front runners of the half marathon! That was an impressive sight! The first 5 guys were running as if their shorts were on fire behind them!

Further on, the marathon and half-marathon route separated. There I came across a marshal standing on a small step ladder outside an isolated ivy clad cottage in the middle of no-where. He waved a red flag to the right (marathon route) and a white flat above his head (half marathon straight on). (Red for danger and white for surrender?).

The cycle path continued through beautiful wild lands, a few sheep farms and woods. A guy from Portugal joined me for a bit then dropped back.

From 30km onwards it gradually felt harder and harder! And at 38km onwards I found it really really hard! The last 2 km I could not help dropping pace slightly and the 3.30 pacer group overtook me! I finished in 3.31.


I enjoyed the race and was pleased with how it went. My sports watched showed after I managed to pace myself OK, so this gave me confidence! The 3.30 pacer guy came up to me after and said I took too long drinking water at the water stations, loosing me distance.  Good advice for next time 🙂

After the race I went to the communal showers in the sports centre. They were cold! Is this a Dutch thing as the other girls were not batting an eyelid and were a bit amused by my shrieking surprise?!

On the journey back I felt very nauseous, and was nearly sick on the metro and on the beautiful granite flooring of Rotterdam train station!. This was hunger as I only ate 1 jelly baby during the race. A big bowl of chips soon sorted it! Memo for next time: eat chips straight after race!

Lanzarote Marathon, Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dougie Nisbet

We’d booked a week at Club Lasanta at low season, when you can get a lot of sun for your money. And on impulse, I typed Lanzarote Marathon into Google. Two words that I knew must go together, but hadn’t expected them to be an item while we were there. But there it was, a proper hot marathon while we were there on the other side of the island. These things are sent to taunt us, and it couldn’t not be done.

So instead of being at Aykley Heads on the 10th December we found ourselves driving South towards Costa Teguise, to check it was OK for Gareth and Catherine who would be visiting there in a few days time. I’d been nervous about parking but my fears proved to be groundless. Although this was a typical combo weekend, with 10K, Half and Full, we were all starting at different times and from different places. So for the early starting marathon runners, things were nice and quiet.

It wasn’t so long after Palma and I’d rested and trained and thought and thought, and on the whole I was feeling fine. The number of marathon runners was a lot less than I expected and there was no need for seeding pens, self-regulated or otherwise. I wandered around the starting area content in my own little world thinking I was a Stranger in a Strange land, until out of the corner of my eye I spotted George Routledge! Last time I saw him was when I heard him shouting me on in Palma. We had to stop meeting like this.

The gun went and about 40 seconds later I crossed the Start Line. That was the
busy bit over with. Then we headed along the coastal paths on the straight out
and back Marathon route. I was feeling pretty comfortable but had the discipline not to push things and settled in with the 4:15 pacer somewhere on the horizon. That suited me. I let him go and he drifted in and out of view from time to time. No worries. Past the airport where bemused passengers looked down on us from the windows of the taxiing planes, then the turnaround where the half-marathoners would be starting soon.

The psychological half-way point done, I considered my strategy on the home run. I was feeling fine and the 4:15 pacer was within easy reach should I wish to step on the gas. Closer and closer I edged until at 18 miles I was sitting comfortably in a little 4:15 bus. 7 miles to go, and it was time to leave the pacer behind.

After …
Before …

It was, as Seven of Nine might have put it, to be my undoing. Looking at my HR graph I can pretty much see the exact point in which over-confidence kicked in (at 18.65 miles), the pace went up, as did the HR, and then, a mile or two later, the radiator boiled over. I knew I’d blown it. I walked a bit, put on the hazards, pulled over and took an enormous interest in some roadside palm trees which were, quite literally, very supportive. I suppose it was in these last few miles that the pacer must have passed again, along with perhaps fellow Strider Stuart Barker (doing the half) who I never saw but I see finished well within 2 hours.

I didn’t recover from my ill-judged effort and walk/jogged to the finish clutching an empty bottle of water like a comfort blankie all the way to the line. I was 12 minutes faster than Palma but didn’t feel particularly clever about it. I reckon I would’ve been faster if I’d just stuck with the pacer and not made a dash for glory. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t push your luck.