July would be the month I would take part in 5 races – clearly I was very keen at the start of the year, and signed up for most things that I missed last year due to getting into running just that bit too late forthe popular races.
4th of July saw me take part in my first Bridges of the Tyne – I was really looking forward to this race – it was only 5 miles, mostly flat, I had been running quite well I thought – this could be my race. But apparently, attempting to race on a school dinner and a packet of hula hoops isn’t advisable. I struggled from the first mile, both physically and mentally. I finished the race feeling disappointed in myself and completely disillusioned with running.
This is when being part of a close-knit club comes in very useful. I had some great advice and caring words from my fellow clubmates (namely, Mark, Vics, Matt , Tim & Catherine).
You put too much pressure on yourself
Pick one of your races that you want to do well in, and focus on that. Use other races as training runs
You need to make running fun again, and not about PBs and beating yourself
Mix it up – try not to focus on times for a bit
I took this all on board when I decided I would still take part in the Red Kite Trail run on 9th July. This was 8 miles of trail – basically four miles downhill and then four back up. I was never going to be very good at this race, but before Tuesday, a silly part of me would beat myself up massively, regardless of the result. Taking all this advice on board, I decided I would run my own race – not worry about competing with anybody, not caring if I was last Strider home. Taking it back to how it used to be, and trying to enjoy running instead of turning it into something negative.
I arrived at the Community Centre in Dipton (practically next door to my daughter’s nursery school) and immediately found some Strider friends, who all seemed to be in the same frame of mind. We had the usual photo opportunities, then out to the front for the start.
Running on Tarmac in Trail shoes is a bizarre feeling on your feet, but before I knew it we were off road. Down some glorious grassy hills into the middle of the countryside. The sun was shining, I had a pretty awesome playlist on my phone and things felt good. Up until mile 3, I had to stop like a million times to climb over stiles (possibly exaggerated), this would normally have frustrated me as it would ruin my splits – but today, i was thankful for the stop, trying to take it all in. Chatting with fellow runners and thanking marshalls. There were a few ropey ankle situations, which reminded me of cross country, and I saw an injured Mr Bisson hobbling back to the start (it doesn’t matter how many times he reminds me of his name, I always want to call him Mr Bisson – i guess that’s what happens when you are married to a club celeb like First Lady Bisson). Throw in a refreshing stream crossing (i can confirm going straight through is more advisable than trying to cross the rocks – is that right Anna??) and before I knew it, I was at the halfway point.
I had seen the elevation profile prior to the race, so I knew what I had ahead of me. I stopped at the water station (something I would never normally do), drank some water and inspected the massive blister forming on my big toe. This running thing is so glam. Off i went again, expecting the next 4 miles to literally be a sheer vertical climb. Happily it wasn’t quite as bad as that – some running through fields, into the woods and straight into a massive muddy bog. At some points in this run, there was nobody behind me, and nobody in front of me – it was almost like somebody had just marked out a nice Sunday route for me. I tried to catch up with a runner in front, as I felt more comfortable with somebody in front, so that I could follow them and not end up lost!
So the elevation profile was true to its word – the hills made cross country hills seem like nothing. I was comforted to see everyone walking the hills – this had been my plan. I got talking to some lovely ladies from Morpeth Harriers, and we encouraged each other to run the flats and downhills, then catch each other on the next uphill. Up to the top of the last hill, and i saw the place i get my nails done, so i knew where i was. I blasted the last little bit to the finish line, mouthing “Jesus Christ” to Catherine and Anna who were waiting at the finish line for me. Hugs from the Morpeth ladies reminded me what a great sporting community I am part of.
Considering I am from the area, these were trails I never knew existed. The sights and smells and a renewed view of what running means to me made this a great run. Thank you so much to my ever suffering team mates for helping to get me here. I’m not saying that I can treat every race like this, but, for now you have helped me more than you realise.
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
‘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!
It was a warm, shorts-are-needed, sunny day in Grasmere! What good luck! The Borrowdale volcanic fells, flanked with many shades of green and their characteristic grey lumpy rocky tops looked magnificent and inviting. It was a lively tourist filled, bustling Summer morning in the village of Grasmere. Excited runners in active wear buzzed about in the Grasmere sports field, registering and portaloo-ing. With ten minutes to go, the ardent sound of bag pipes cut through the air as we were herded to the start-line on the bridge…and with a 3, 2, 1 through a megaphone..we were off…!
Well, ha ha…kind of! I, spending too much time chatting, had not noticed the large number of participants in comparison to the capacity of the narrow wall-lined road, and therefore found myself stuck at the back of a large crowd.. behind a large number of Nordic walkers and family fun runners! (There were several events all starting at the same time). So I found myself walking for the first quarter of a mile! This was taking ‘Don’t set off too fast’ to the extreme! Although I was disappointed as I felt I’d kinda lost the race before I had started, it was a pleasure to hear and see the excitement and joking of many of the kids participating in the fun run.
Once people spread out a little I started weaving through them. It was a bit precarious dodging the random angles of the sticks of the Nordic Walkers!, but it added a steeple chase element! I didn’t get the Nordic Walking race though. Surely there would be the temptation to break into a cheeky little run now and then…?!..? Maybe the poles trip you up if you do this.
I had got to a point where people were more spread out so was able to get up to pace. Wonderful! Despite my start, I was determined to try my hardest as I love the thrill of it, and to enjoy the run! As I continued to weave past people I saw beautiful pink rhododendron flowers and yellow poppies on the stone wall and smelt the occasional scent of honey suckle as we continued along the road that goes round the lake side. ..Ah ha! And what was that ahead? A purple vest with green and white stripes! It was Jill! Woohoo! After a cheery hello, I continued uphill now, and soon onto stony trail.
The route was so scenic! We ran along Loughrigg Terrace with stunning views of Grasmere and it’s forested island. Then downhill through scattered mature deciduous trees where we had to leap over roots and puddles. We reached Pelter Bridge and it was a shady minor road up to Brow Head Farm. Then back onto trail, round Ivy Crag to Loughrigg Tarn. I was now running with four guys, with one girl a bit ahead of us. It was lovely to zoom along with space. I was surprised to find that since the London marathon I am better at running downhill than uphill (it used to be the other way round!) With every uphill I fell behind the four guys, and with every downhill that followed I whizzed past them! After Loughrigg Tarn there was a long downhill section and I decided to use this new found ability to my advantage. I ran past the four guys again, then caught up with the girl ahead and put in a surge to pass her!
We were soon back into woods and uphill, before a fantastic downhill zigzag from Loughrigg terrace down to the foot of Grasmere! It was then a pretty shore-line gravel path back along the lakeside to the village. As we (me and the four guys-they had caught me up on some uphill so we all ended up together) ran through the village the friendly marshals signposted us back to the Sports Ground to the finish! And the finish lead to a tent of water and National Trust cakes 🙂 I collected my jumper that I had hidden behind a gate up the road, then bumped into Jill again! She had enjoyed it too. It was a lovely race and I would definitely do it next year. Shout-out to Alan Smith, who I didn’t bump into on the day, but later heard he won the V70 prize in the 10k race!
That evening I had a small trip to Grasmere for ice bath plus to try my first wild swim avec newly learned front crawl! I approached the foot of Grasmere where the stony beach is from the path above. There, enjoying the evening, I saw a lady throwing a ball for her dog into the water, two mallards, and a pair of Italians in underpants with a ghetto blaster. There was also a swan in the far distance. The overall effect was reassuring. Luckily the ghetto blaster seemed to give up the ghost. It was a clear evening with sun low in the sky and a light breeze making lake reflections blurred. There were small ripples from the wind. I was planning to stay in my depth, and just swim up and down parallel to the shore. It was lovely and cool and I was soon in! After summoning up my courage I looked under the water through my goggles! Oooo! Wow! Amazing! The sun shone through the water and you could see all the rocks and stones below! I started swimming and it was being in a different world! I saw lots of little black fish, one had a proper triangle-shaped fin on its back! But it wasn’t a shark. They flitted away from me as fast as I had seen them. A bit further along I couldn’t see, as it became sandy and the water was yellow and turbid. I wasn’t so keen on this so it became my turn around point. I found I could navigate as I passed the same rocks, large stick and bolder just going up and down level with the shore. It was a lovely way to end the day!
I had entered this race last February in the spirit of trying more off-road race for a change. Two weeks All-Inclusive in Mexico 3 weeks before the race, I concede, was not the best preparation! However that was not to be my only problem! The Saturday before I pulled some muscle/tendon behind my knee practicing Long Jumps! OUCH!!A visit to Mr Sleemans House of torture assured me that no lasting damage had been done but some work would be needed. Or should I say KNEADED as I was given a thorough pummeling. It worked as by Saturday I was virtually pain free. And ready.
Jan and myself assembled chez Sygrove for our early morning embarkation to Reeth . We arrived in good time for the collection of numbers and a quick cuppa. The weather was bitty. A bit cloudy, a bit sunny, a bit windy etc. perfect for running.
Jan collected our outer garments and we assembled at the start for the briefing. After wishing each other best of’s we set off. Barely 100 meters into the race mine came to a sudden ignominious stop! WHAM!!!! I ran into a way- marker sign (see photos).Knocked clean off my feet, dazed and bloodied I tried to work out what had happened. Wearing my cap and my gaze fixed firmly downwards to avoid tangling with legs didn’t help. I was escorted back to the start to be quickly assessed by the race marshal. She accepted my assurances that I was ok and allowed me to continue. She suggested I might consider only completing the 10k course if I so wished. WHAT! 10k?? In the true spirit of Yorkshire I had paid to run 20 and that’s what I intended to do! So finally I set off again with the back marker.
The route follows the river for a while before turning left and heading upwards. The ascent is about 5 miles on mainly stony/ grassy trails with a bit of tarmac. By the top legs are screaming to be set free as mostly we had jogged then walked to the top. As the terrain leveled it became possible to get going! It was now more noticeably windy but welcome too as I was now quite warm. The views of this beautiful part of England spilled out in every direction. The geometric patterns of dry-stone walls tessellating across the hillsides only broken up by the odd stone built barn or house, sturdy and defiant in this austere land. The sheer scale of it all opened out all around and I had to be careful not to become to immersed as large rocks and boulders stuck out of the grassy paths tripping the unwary.
A water stop at about 11k was very welcome with the added bonus of jelly sweets! Immediately after the path turned sharply left another 1.5k climb loomed and I thought I had finished the ups today!
The final descent was long and tiredness crept in. grassy paths were order of the day for a while with a bit of road thrown in. Just before I reached that turn I was distracted again and tripped once more. Over I went, A over T, landed on my left shoulder and knee. Ouch again. Bruised and muddied I picked myself up once more concerned that someone may have seen me! I felt such a idiot!
The end was in sight now as I zig-zagged down the road then across a couple of fields and finally over the bridge. Here I was meat by Malc and Kath and Jan who spurred me on up the final rise to the finish! They had al been very concerned for me but were equally relieved to see me finish! At this point Kathryn revealed her injury sustained near the race start too as she was constantly looking back to see if I was coming and tripped and badly cut her knee on a rock…..then ran 20k! Also she inflicted terminal damage to a pair of those spectacular tights she is so beloved of. Sorry Kath!
Finally we assembled for refreshments at a café and to compare notes and mishaps. I was delighted to have finished this race as it had not looked likely a week before or indeed after 2 minutes of the race itself! Still we live on to fight another day and meet the challenges head on…literally in my case. Thanks to Malc and Kath for a great day out and equally good company…always a bonus to share these experiences I find, and thoroughly commend them to anyone wanting to have a go.
We had two other striders who did very well Dave and Chris (who very unluckily missed out on a podium place by dint of a misunderstanding I believe. ) I am sure there is a lot more to come from you two and feel sure great thing lie ahead. Fantastic running.
Full results available here.
Photo courtesy of Hippie Nixon Photography, and others courtesy of LK Photography.
Billed as a challenging trail race, which shows off some of Washington’s hidden trails, it is part of a series of races organised by Trail Outlaws. I had some unfinished business from my first attempt in 2016. What struck me then, and is still true today is the friendly, and efficient organisation – from marshalled car parking at Biddick Academy, efficient registration, to a superbly marked and marshalled course, with refreshments both en route, and post-race, it certainly ticks the boxes.
At registration, runners were issued with buffs – and I picked up the t-shirt which I’d pre-ordered. I decided not to don the buff on account that the weather was rather pleasant.
Starting in the James Steel Park, the route follows a trail along the River Wear before looping back to Cox Green. What follows are some other ‘lesser known secret trails’ and then eventually back over the bridge to the final delight – the last hill to the finish.
I set off at a decent pace, secure in the knowledge that the hills would calibrate my enthusiasm – they did! Undeterred, I decided my strategy was simply to run as hard as I could, keeping back something mentally, if not physically for the dreaded last hill. There were a few bottlenecks, and I decided to vault (ok, well half vault) a fence beside a style which I think gained me a whole 4 seconds. I was really pleased to see Kerry at her marshalling point as I emerged across a field, uphill, and incapable of discussion.
Galvanised from the sight of a fellow purple warrior, I pressed on along the flat, and it was all going well, until Dead Dog Woods (around 7km in), when I landed awkwardly on my right foot (ice treatment to follow!). As I ran along the River to the footbridge at Cox Green, all I could think about was the dreaded last hill. Finally, it had its chance, and it well and truly knocked the wind out of my sails – fortunately, the worst bit is at the bottom, and it flattens out towards the finish, which allowed me to look more as if I was running at that point.
I set out thinking that an improvement on my time in 2016 was on the cards, and I was delighted to secure a ~8 plus minute course PB.
Taking place on St George’s Day, we were briefed by Sir Tim Bateson, who later handed out prizes in his fitting attire for the day. I’m not sure if the green dragon won a prize but our Louise Warner placed 2nd lady!
Through the finish, I collected my medal (dog tag), and some goodies, including wrist bands, and a sticker before having some water with a dash of cordial!
A fantastic local race, which I’d recommend to anyone but be quick – it was a sell out! We had a good contingent of Striders present, and some fantastic achievements, including Katharine Goda – her first race, not an easy one but a stonking time!
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 😃
I hugged Sarah last year’s rival (this year on timing duty) she looked me straight in the eyes and said “Go on, you’re going to win this.” I wasn’t so sure, I think I could match last year’s time…
It was a beautiful spring morning, I’d kept myself to myself, calmed down, enjoyed a good 2 mile warm up along the river. I was ready as I’d ever be. I’d started to train differently. My miles had risen dramatically but most of those were fun off road long distances. I’d actually recced this a fair few times, it was pretty and challenging. I’d been to the track to monitor progress and my speed was back but who knows. My husband had told me to enjoy it, that there was always someone who would turn up and be faster than me…that had irked me no end. How bloody rude and what if today was the day I turned up??
I’d been reading lots too, inspirational books for the love of running…seriously just loving running (but usually the author was extremely talented!) I’d filled my head with mantras and quotes to use when it started to hurt. I determined to push hard all the way, no let up, to run like I’d never run before, as if it were my last.
I looked around, lots of eager runners, I marked out two women, standing alone in their own thoughts, like me, sh** I thought, and there they are, They’ve turned up.
After a short race briefing we were counted down and off. Straight across a field, through a rather deep muddy and stinky puddle then up the other side. I pushed hard until my legs started to burn, a bit further and then I could walk hooray! There is a long first climb up to Fremington Edge. I kept my head down and worked hard, whenever feeling came back in my legs I’d run a bit until they started to burn, then walk, then run. Eventually we reached the top gate, runners from previous years were marshalling, I knew them, they gave me (and everyone else) a huge cheer and shake of bells “well done first lady, looking strong”, wow, I wonder how long that will last.
I knew it had taken me a while to break into a good pace last year but I determined to reach that pace faster, whether my legs liked it or not. I started to overtake quite a lot of men. I felt strong. Then I heard the welcome friendly Yorkshire voice “hey up, I’m back!” My running buddy who is well known to be an extremely good pacer and motivator, Jon Ayres, was back.
Through lots of practise I’d got far better at descending, switching off my brain, as soon as we hit grass I was gone and Jon was trailing behind. A few sub 6s thrown in, it was exhilarating, this was fun. Then we hit the bridge and everything started to sway, a few seconds of panic that I was going to collapse then I realised the bridge was actually swaying not my head, phew…time to push on.
Jon looked around, “are you ok, you’re running like you’re possessed” Thats the point I thought, run like it’s your last! And so we kept pushing on and on, if my legs were screaming I’d walk, have a sip, a gel, as soon as they weren’t I’d run again. The welcome checking of Jon ‘are you alright’ every now and again and confirmation, yes actually I am, let’s move this up a gear.
Up to Calver, it’s a cheeky one with a false summit, even when I told myself it’s not the top, I still was tricked. Then Jon started looking anxious, kept checking over his shoulder, kept saying come on let’s go for this. Only coming off Calver did I realise why, a girl was coming and her friends were timing me to tell her the distance between us. The clap of thunder overhead marked the start of the storm, 1.5miles to go, a good downhill…no f***ing way is this going to happen. We flew off Calver, one of the marshals shouted “f***ing brilliant, you’ve got this”, 1.5miles left and the adrenaline had kicked in, flight or fight? I was going to do both. We caught quite a few on the descent then I knew there was a short reprieve when we could walk, then it was sprinting ALL the way. As we cornered a bend a flash came…I thought a camera lens, nope lightning then immediately afterwards thunder…best run faster then! It was awesome. Never have I run like fury, I looked at the last few fields, about half mile now, we picked up our pace more to storm through the last field, they’re not allowed to catch me now!
I saw the clock and was shocked at the time, I saw Sarah’s face beaming, I’d bloody well done it, First lady from the start, first lady at the end, 5minutes quicker than last year and I still had an itching for more. One massive hug from Jon who had sneakily got me by a second. I’m not sure either of us has ever raced like that. I raced like it was my last and it was amazing! If only I could bottle up that feeling…I’ll just have to do it again!
We cheered in a few friends, picked up our Tshirts, complimentary tea and cake then I had to head home before presentations to pick up my boy. Jon, who had joked ALL the way round that he was First Lady kindly picked up my prize.
Not much I can say about these. I’ve made some amazing friends from previous years, the same smiling faces turn up time and again. It’s brilliantly organised. They’re in Yorkshire, but somehow found a way into my heart, I absolutely love them. Tough but well worth it.
Billed as a two-lap trail/paths race run on Newcastle Town Moor in aid of St Oswald’s Hospice and Water Aid, this seemed a fine way to shake off any remaining festive excesses…
The route was described as about 8.6km and around 95m height gain, on grass and hard pack surface – useful information which I read as I walked to the start, my resolve waning as I realised my schoolboy error – a critical failure in terms of shoe choice. Yup, I had donned a pair of well used road shoes, which would have coped well with the hard park surfaces, and maybe, just maybe a bit of light grass.
I made my way to the boathouse adjacent to lake at the Exhibtion Park, realising also as the biting wind blew that I’d left my gloves at home.
So, lack of adequate preparation aside, I paid my £10, pinned my bib on, and chatted to Helen and James Potter in anticipation of what lay ahead.
I think the following elevation v pace chart explains the lack of traction as I encountered the dreaded Cow Hill – my only saving grace being that on the second lap, I’d begun to learn a more advanced traverse technique.
I struck out at an 8 min/mile pace, the wind taken out of my sails as I hit the first patch of mud adjacent to Kenton Road, and at which point Fiona (more suitably shod) pressed on. Slightly further on came Cow Hill, and those cows had certainly made some work of that hill, preparing it for their runner friends. On the top the bracing wind did not deter the marshalls and photographer who spurred the participants on both the uphill, and downhill antics.
I remember feeling happy to see some hard stuff as I approached the end of lap 1, and not to be beaten, I attacked the final lap, with a little bit more tactical footwork to counter the mud. I was delighted to find sufficient traction to attempt a sprint finish, my heated seats calling me. A highly recommended way to introduce running to 2017!
A total field of 179 runners participated. Here’s an excerpt from the results.
I’d battled with myself as to whether to enter this race for a while then late on Friday afternoon, race organiser Garry Scott posted a video on the Trail Outlaws Facebook page from a very snowy Cheviot summit. By the time the video had finished my mind was made up, I was in and luckily just in time as entries would close very shortly after.
So forward to Sunday and I left the warmth of my bed and headed up to Wooler for the Wooler Trail Marathon organised by Tim Bateson and Garry Scott of Trail Outlaws. I first met Tim a few years ago on a recce of the Hardmoors 55 and kept in touch ever since as he’s grown Trail Outlaws. I ran their first ever race the Pieces of 8 half marathon, but since then the races have grown to include several ultras and marathons across the north east and Northumberland. Tim’s a great guy and his passion for running and in particular, the Chevy Chase fell race held each summer in Wooler, being the inspiration for this particular race.
Registration was in Wooler YHA and was quick and efficient although I did get there rather early just to be sure. As more runners arrived I spotted Dougie Nisbet who was also running the marathon and had a quick chat before making my way out into the cold for the race safety briefing before we were led over to the start line just over the hill for the race start.
Taking in much of the first part of the Chevy Chase, the Wooler Trail Marathon snakes its way through the valley to the base of the Cheviot before a long climb to the summit. Race day was cold but could have been a lot worse, and thankfully the low temperatures meant that the ground was pretty much frozen solid which made for good running.
Onwards and upwards towards the summit the field of 140+ runners was well stretched now. I’d started from mid-pack and took it easy, running at a pace that felt very comfortable across the undulating trails knowing that if I set off too fast, I’d suffer badly at the end.
As I trudged up the long frozen path to the summit of the Cheviot I passed a few other competitors but was conscious to maintain my pace so that I never felt like I was working too hard as gradient rose above the low cloud line and the perma-frost turned to snow and ice on the ground. Near the summit a hardy marshal was stood to make sure runners were ok and guide us up over the ladder stile and on to the slab path heading to the summit. The summit of Cheviot is big and flat and the low cloud and snow covered floor blurred together to hide any visual cues that helped you identity you were approaching the top. Then after a few minutes of running the large summit cairn came into view. I touched and then was off, following the treacherous slab path of the Pennine Way off the summit and down towards the check point being manned by Phil Owen.
I gained quite a few places on the long downhill as others cautiously made their way down the frozen trail paths. I found it much quicker, and safer, to find a line in the overgrowth, let loose and put faith in my Walshes and balance. It worked and I made good progress and the race now followed the trails of the Pennine Way before heading across the border into Scotland.
A sharp turn brought us off the Pennine Way and back across the border into England onto the St Cuthbert’s Way long distance path. Back on lower ground below the cloud line the scenery was jaw dropping as I took time to savour where I was running.
As the route snaked its way back towards Wooler there were still plenty of twists, turns, climbs and surprises on offer, the trail through a dense wood at around 18 miles being rather inspiring. I was still running well and feeling really good but know these races too well to get carried away – there’s always a sting in the tail on something like this. Because of my very late entry, I’d not noticed that this race was actually 28 miles so on approaching the final climb of the day I had in my mind there were only a few more miles left to go. I made the decision to push on a little as I could see a couple of runners ahead of me that seemed to be slowing so thought I’d try catching them. I made good ground and could feel my heart and lungs really starting to work hard as I picked up the pace and eventually with Wooler in sight, I realised I might have further to go than I thought. The runners I was tracking were soon out of sight as I hit the road for the final mile back to the YHA feeling tired but strong and with a massive smile on my face at the quality of the course I’d just completed.
The finish was inside the hostel, I was given my time – 5hrs40mins finishing in 32nd place. The t-shirt and medal were well earned and the kitchen was stocked with loads of hot soup and bread to help warm up.
This was a fantastic first race with lots of potential to become a real winter classic. I take my hat off to Tim and Scott for devising such a good route.
Set in the tranquil North Yorkshire moors, a mile or two off the main Whitby road this trot was advertised as a 10k (or thereabouts) event organised by the now burgeoning brand that is Hardmoors.
We arrived in plenty of time to get our numbers and ponder the relative merits of various clothing/ footwear combos. Malcolm had chosen his normal minimalist approach as can be seen on the photos! Hardmoors..phaa. I shall bear my chest and stride them tha hills! the rest of us choosing warmer garb. Each to their own . After registration the throng began to move out of the village and up a wooded path to the starting place where the finishing tent was also placed. After the now mandatory health and safety briefing we were off! The “trot” quickly turned into a pell-mell ,helter skelter pelt down a wet and slippery bumpy grassy slope. At the bottom the path became more narrow and muddy and eventually , after crossing a heavily saw dusted wooden bridge and some likewise saw dusted wooden platforms we began the 800 meter or so climb. Now we were back to trotting. The path was very narrow and hidden gullies and pot holes were waiting to catch the unwary. Progress was slow but steady to the top where a sharp left turn took us out onto the now flat moor. The paths were grassy and full of puddles which were circumnavigated by most and gave us the chance to now turn this trot into a run. The river crossing caused a bottleneck as runners found various ways to get across. Scampering down the little ravine most hopped over on the rocks. Some just plodged through….very hardmoors! After this brief hazard we resumed our grassy zig zag puddle avoiding run. At last a sharp downhill stretch loomed into view which was very rocky and very slippery. Not for the feint hearted as a wanton approach here could prove to be painful. At the bottom a sharp left-hand turn and the path began to climb again. It dragged on for a few hundred metres then crested to reveal a long grassy slalom back to the start line. And so the second lap began. We were now joined by the 5k Rabbit runners who had just set off and the trot continued much like the first lap. The moorlands here were reflecting the changeable nature of the weather. As we looked west across the bleak hills they were at once all monochrome greys and next greens and purple as the sun broke through. Wherever you looked the cloud bursts could be seen in the distance and we knew our turn would come! Mercifully short and light downpours.
At the finish a gathering purple phalanx continued to cheer all comers to the finish tent, admirably marshalled by our own Anna Seeley. A special cheer was saved for finishing striders. Once through the tent the chat turned to the rather lovely medal we’d earned. It looked like it was made of brass inviting one particular comment, proving once again the very sage Yorkshire life view, that were there’s muck there’s brass!
Malcolm was first strider home followed by Vicky. He was still resplendent in vest and shorts and showing true Yorkshire grit. On the way back to the cars I could swear I heard him turn to Katherine and say” eee lass it were greet o’nt top of them hills today tha nos, and me barr tat an all”….well maybe not The general consensus was a good day all round and to cap it off on the way home the rain really started . Sometimes our timing is just right..