Tag Archives: Jonathan Hamill

Northumberland Coastal Run, Beadnell to Alnmouth, Sunday, July 23, 2017

Grand Prix Race.Endurance Champion Race.  ~14 miles

Jonathan Hamill and Tamsin Imber

Jonathan …

2nd time lucky?  Last year, I settled for a rather splendid long sleeved top in lieu of my entry, and heard the tales of a splendid and scenic coastal run in the sun.  This year, the race sold out in a matter of six hours but fortunately I secured an entry again, and had my sun tan lotion at the ready.

Saturday evening saw me consider various weather forecasts, and contemplate my shoe and clothing choice.  Having packed my hydration vest, at the eleventh hour, I abandoned it and decided for the minimalistic approach of club vest (fear not, I had shorts too) and trail shoes given the inclement weather anticipated.

A Sunday morning reveille at 0600hrs (what else would any sane person do on their wedding anniversary?) saw me tiptoe around the house, and jog up to meet the Strider bus.  As I had stayed up quite late, reading old race reports of the Coastal Run and contemplating what lay ahead, I quite fancied a snooze on the bus but this notion rapidly faded, as the bus filled full of other chatty but half asleep Striders.

Team Purple
Photo courtesy of Catherine Smith

We made good progress, and parked up in Beadnell, donning waterproofs to saunter down the road to the Boat House for registration.  I always find it a challenge with my OCD to attach a bib number perfectly straight – to do this in the rain, with a fresh breeze on the upturned hull of a small boat compounded the challenge.  Event clips and bib attached, I processed along the beach toward the start area at Beadnell Bay.  There were portaloos aplenty, and a fairly short queue leaving time to join fellow Striders to shelter and stay warm(ish), stowing bags on the baggage bus at the last moment, for the obligatory team photo on the beach.

Lined up on the start, and raring to go, I listened intently to the official at the front – I relayed his information to other runners because I thought it was wise to heed the advice, which I summarised that runners should stay between the first set of marshalls to avoid perishing on the slippy rocks.  Then we were off, across golden sands, the warmth of the sun on our backs, the breeze in our hair, amidst children building sandcastles, and enjoying ice-cream [error, that was a figment of my imagination]. Then we were off, across a sandy base of rivulets fed by the Long Nanny River, which set the scene of what would be a challenging race.  I had struck out at a pace just sub 5 min/km, which softened as I met the first constriction point of soft sand and rocks up to High Newton by the Sea.  I was amazed at this point to see a runner relieve himself against the dunes in full view of other competitors – how could he have missed the vast provision of portaloos, and council facilities adjacent to the start?

‘Enjoying the downhill’ Photo courtesy of Camilla Lauren-Maatta

Having climbed this initial hill, I enjoyed the short fast downhill section to Low Newton and the sands at Embleton Bay.  We then negotiated the inland side of Dunstanburgh Castle, on mud, grass and rock paths, with a few slips and falls.  I halted to check one poor soul who had taken an impressive tumble, landing hard but he was fine to continue.  I passed a few runners, at this point lamenting their choice of road shoes, and wondered if Matt Archer had his racing flats on.

Next up was Craster Village, at which point we were looking a little more bedraggled, our muddy battle paint splattered up our legs, and higher!  Support was evident here, and water was provided.  The encouraging sight and sound of Michael Mason galvanised my resolve as I climbed up past the harbour past The Heughs, where there was a cheeky kink taking us along the headland to Cullernose Point.

Then a treat of a section of road past Howick, and on to Sugar Sands where the majority of runners took the bridge across Howick Burn but some hardier souls opted for the water crossing.  A short but punishing climb ensued, up a rocky path, which I decided to run passing a couple who were walking, clearly conserving their energy to pass me on the flat on the top!

Into Boulmer for the final water stop, which I needed, where supporters braved the conditions to cheer us on.  Leaving Boulmer, just prior to dropping down to Foxton Beach, a cheery chap stood beside a sign which advised ‘about 2 miles to go’.  He shouted encouragingly, that it we were nearly upon the beach and only 10 minutes to go.  I looked at my watch briefly, trying to calculate what this meant but gave up as ‘nearly 2 miles’ was too imprecise a measure for me, a detailed metric man.

Photo courtesy of Phil Owen

This beach seemed never-ending, and I remember thinking about the meaning of this approximate 2-mile sign.  I tried in places to pick up my pace, mainly because I thought if I did the race would be over quicker but there were slippy rocks, and dilapidated fences (really!) to cross.  On one particular fence, my ability to hurdle non-existent, my right hamstring cramped as I ungraciously ‘hopped’ over it.  I recovered to catch the magnificent sight of a blue inflatable finish arch.

The arch got closer, and I tried to pick up pace, hastened by Jon Ayres who was doing a sterling job as a bare-chested Mr Motivator having already finished.  Attempting to follow Jon’s advice of lengthening my stride, I managed to briefly return to that sub 5 min/km pace again, prior to what felt like sinking to my knees in the softer sand near the finishing arch.  Through the finish, I immediately felt that sense of accomplishment which makes it all seem worthwhile; and a quick check of my watch confirmed a pleasing sub 2-hour time (subsequently 1:55:31 chip time).

I grabbed some water, and headed over to provide some encouragement to my fellow Striders.  Jon congratulated me, and I quipped that that last beach was like a club committee meeting in length!  Then via the baggage bus, to the Strider bus, which now resembled something of an impromptu changing room.  I was grateful at this point for Lesley’s advice to take a change of footwear, and in equal measure for her encouragement to attend this race.  Prize giving was in the nearby Alnmouth Links Golf Club, which provided an opportunity to dry out, and celebrate the team achievement.  It was great to see Stephen Jackson pick up a prize for 5th place, a valiant effort indeed after his Durham City Run win of only a few night’s previous, and to see other age category winners; Tamsin Imber for 1st FVET40, Christine Farnsworth for 2nd FVET65 and Margaret Thompson for 3rd FVET65.

The organisation of this race by Alnwick Harriers is first rate.  Marshals and locals alike are friendly, and supportive.  The coastline and scenic aspect is fantastic, and where else can you run ~14 miles through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on a mixture of sand, road and trail?  In summary, I’d encourage anyone to have a go at this race – I’d certainly like to do it again, but hopefully next time on a drier, more summery day!

You can relive the Northumberland Coastal Run here

Full results available here

… Tamsin

This HAS to be one of the best races in the north-east! The fact that it sells out in a few hours supports this.

Beautiful rock-pooled, sandy beaches , Dunstanburgh castle, the pretty village of Craster and convivial cliff top coastal footpath make this one magnificent run! And when raining and grey this coast looks beautiful in a wild, wind-bashed way. I make no apologies for the amount of gush in this report!

Today, early morning in Beadnell, the sky was thick with cloud and it was raining. I was cowering in the warm baggage bus along with others, discussing if a rain coat would be a good idea. One lady posed the question, had you ever needed a raincoat during a race in the summer? The problem was that my answer to this question was yes. However, today the temperature was 19 degrees. Also I am usually freezing cold before all races whatever the time of day or year, and it seems to bare no relation at all to my temperature when running. That the hidey holes of trees in my local nature reserve are often housing old jumpers of mine to collect after a run is attest to this. So, I decided to wear, a swimming costume, my Striders vest top and a thick cove of factor 50+. (The latter to protect me from any direct sunlight that in a freak event may appear. I was on antibiotics following tick bite in Dalby forest, the type of which the nurse stressed to me makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight so I must stay in the shade she said with emphasis).

Detaching myself from the bus, and shivering in the cold wind which greeted me I jogged up over the small dunes green with thick tussocky maram grass and down onto the beach. At the top of the beach were little fishing boats pulled up high above the tide line resting on their sides on the sand. The sea looked grey and ominous, reflecting the sky.
A large crowd of runners was rapidly gathering at the Beadnell end of the beach in the distance. With still twenty minutes to go I decided to get the legs moving and jogged in the opposite direction for a bit. Matt Archer and two others ran towards me doing the same. Then it was time to go to the start. I met Rachelle in the crowd. I felt anxious though as I did not know which way we were heading, there was just a sea of heads around me. So I whizzed out of the crowd and approached it head-on. The crowd was fronted by a line of elites! Like, no joke, they totally looked like them Ha ha! Thin, muscley men, shoulder to shoulder, silent and focused looking….and Gareth was one of them…phew! He looked a bit surprised to see me, perhaps as I was about to get run over in two minutes? He helpfully advised me we were all headed between the two bright orange marshals half way down the beach. I quickly made my way past the elites for about 3 metres deep into the crowd until I got to some ladies and stood with them.

One minute later with a loud parrrrrrp on the horn, we were off! Careering across Beadnell Bay! People were running all round me. There were large pools of water, where the sand was hard but rippled and uneven underfoot. Big splash as your foot suddenly went down into a pool, and up the other side. I kept getting side splash from other runners, and it started to rain again now, so also getting wet from above. More splash from below as a river crossed the sand. Despite this I was now totally baking hot! My swimming costume seemed really heat insulating. It was annoying, so I took my striders vest off and wrapped it round my arm, Ah, that. Running in a swimming costume! Well, we were on a beach.
After a short cliff top stretch we onto Newton Haven beach, and then the grand beach of Embleton Bay. The mystical stone ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle rose out of the misty haze on the distant headland that cups the bay. I headed towards the sea, to run on the wet firmer sand. Half way across I could see there was a choice of path, either stick to the coastal path or clamber over rocks up to the path. I opted for the latter. It would not save me much distance but it would avoid the runner congestion on the coastal path. I changed my track to head straight for the rocks. As I did so, who should speed past me but Jon Ayres! Lovely to see him! He asked me when my next triathlon was (a reference to the swimming costume?). I said it was today if I got tired of running.. We kept pace together and reached the rocks which were very slippery and seaweed covered. We bounded up as fast as we could, and met the path, which was unexpectedly muddy and slippery. This continued on the narrow path round the castle, slip-slide running. Trying not to elbow other runners. Once past this bit, the path widened and was back on low cliff tops. One of the Kenyans I’d seen at the start was sat on the side as he had injured his foot and was clearly in pain. There were two marshals helping him so I carried on. Jon had gone on ahead at this point.

We were fast approaching Craster. I was well surprised! Half way already? This half seemed so much easier than Dalby Forest half, but then this one is flat and easier underfoot, and there is no flat in Dalby. Craster is a pretty little village and running through it I could smell the smoke of the Craster fish smokery. A small crowd of local residents cheered us on.
After Craster there was a long stretch of muddy slippery coastal foot top. I kept my pace, comfortable but a bit hard. I was enjoying this! We ran down onto the next beach to be immediately greeted by a bridge over a stream. A girl overtook me at this point but I was determined to follow her as there probably was only 4 miles left now I estimated, from my study of the OS map beforehand. Also, at this point I sensed an up-shift in vibe in the runners around me from ‘maintaining pace’ to ‘getting serious’. I upped my pace to match hers and kept a secret 10 metres behind her. I followed her steadily along the path.
Off Boulmer beach, onto another hedge-lined minor road parallel with the sea. This one was looong, but I knew it lead to the final headland then onto the final beach. It was not far now, the guys around me were now more upping it, as was the girl I was following. At the headland, marshals cheered us on and said 2 miles to go! Yes! Down a flight of steep steps and we were onto the last beach! Great! Nice to be back on sand, another beautiful bay, this beach had a few areas of slippery grey rocks and rock pools of uneven depth to negotiate! Rounding the corner and there were the groynes to hurdle over ha ha! Made difficult by the fact we were all trying to go hard now, and that the level of the beach on one side of the groyne was different from the level on the other side! ..and once round the corner the blue inflatable finish arch could be seen..so near… but ….so ….far! A teasing sight! On and on and on….and it did not get an nearer! This was really hard now! I gritted my teeth and ran past the girl I had been keeping up with, but could not stop another girl flying past me! The arch was still far away! Finally, we were up with the first supporters! Katy and Graeme with their new baby were there and Lesley cheering us on! A few more yards and booff!, deep deep deep soft sand! Not the greatest when trying to vaguely approximate a sprint! I think swimming through it may have been faster. The deceptive blue arch was proving to be a battle to reach! A staggering inelegant plod and at last, I was under the arch!

Bring it on next year!

Results
Bibno.Participant Finish time CategorySpeedPace
630Stephen Jackson01:17:41MSEN10.81 mph5:32 min/mile
936Gareth Pritchard01:20:19MSEN10.46 mph5:44 min/mile
121Matthew Archer01:31:36MSEN9.17 mph6:32 min/mile
949Phil Ray01:31:54MSEN9.14 mph6:33 min/mile
595Andrew Hopkins01:33:33MV408.98 mph6:40 min/mile
618Tamsin Imber01:42:29FV408.20 mph7:19 min/mile
185Elaine Bisson01:45:23FV357.97 mph7:31 min/mile
1110Malcolm Sygrove01:51:57MV507.50 mph7:59 min/mile
526Jonathan Hamill01:55:31MV407.27 mph8:15 min/mile
872Dougie Nisbet02:03:08MV506.82 mph8:47 min/mile
661Fiona Jones02:03:21FV406.81 mph8:48 min/mile
898Helen Parker02:03:55FV406.78 mph8:51 min/mile
204Jean Bradley02:04:00FV606.77 mph8:51 min/mile
777Rachelle Mason02:04:55FV356.72 mph8:55 min/mile
462Sue Gardham02:05:35FV406.69 mph8:58 min/mile
1024Chris Shearsmith02:06:35MV406.64 mph9:02 min/mile
1109Kathryn Sygrove02:06:47FV506.63 mph9:03 min/mile
605Melanie Hudson02:07:18FV356.60 mph9:05 min/mile
984Dave Robson02:07:19MV656.60 mph9:05 min/mile
744Emil Maatta02:07:32MSEN6.59 mph9:06 min/mile
247Karen Byng02:07:54FV456.57 mph9:08 min/mile
1016Anna Seeley02:08:14FSEN6.55 mph9:09 min/mile
223David Browbank02:08:39MSEN6.53 mph9:11 min/mile
1047Catherine Smith02:12:17FV406.35 mph9:26 min/mile
429Sarah Fawcett02:14:00FV556.27 mph9:34 min/mile
283Jonathan Clark02:18:44MV406.05 mph9:54 min/mile
576Alison Heslop02:21:36FV455.93 mph10:06 min/mile
394Katherine Dodd02:24:12FV455.83 mph10:18 min/mile
1127Helen Thomas02:24:32FV405.81 mph10:19 min/mile
825Karen Metters02:24:32FV405.81 mph10:19 min/mile
1255Jill Young02:25:59FSEN5.75 mph10:25 min/mile
407Jane Dowsett02:26:00FV455.75 mph10:25 min/mile
933Katherine Preston02:26:00FV455.75 mph10:25 min/mile
929Alison Pragnell02:26:11FV355.75 mph10:26 min/mile
1044Alan Smith02:26:14MV705.74 mph10:26 min/mile
341Beth Cullen02:26:24FV355.74 mph10:27 min/mile
902Joanne Patterson02:34:07FSEN5.45 mph11:00 min/mile
1011Aileen Campbell Scott02:34:12FV455.45 mph11:00 min/mile
1232Karen Wilson02:37:11FV455.34 mph11:13 min/mile
427Christine Farnsworth02:40:12FV655.24 mph11:26 min/mile
144Kerry Barnett02:43:07FV455.15 mph11:39 min/mile
434Kirsten Fenwick02:46:43FSEN5.04 mph11:54 min/mile
1067Diane Soulsby02:46:45FV505.04 mph11:54 min/mile
473Rebecca Gilmore02:47:47FSEN5.01 mph11:59 min/mile
1136Margaret Thompson02:59:17FV654.69 mph12:48 min/mile
468Laura Gibson03:11:14FV404.39 mph13:39 min/mile

Trail Outlaws – Washington Trail 10k, Washington, Tyne & Wear, Sunday, April 23, 2017

10k

Jonathan Hamill

Trail Outlaws – Washington Trail 10k

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!

 

Bib Runners Club Race Time Category Position Gender Pos Age Cat Pos
14 Michael Barker Sunderland
Harriers & AC
00:39:14 M 1 1 M 1 M
393 Mark Warner Elvet Striders 00:43:24 M 6 6 M 6 M
45 David Brown Elvet Striders 00:46:51 M 16 16 M 13 M
392 Louise Warner Elvet Striders 00:49:54 F 29 2 F 2 F
155 Katharine Goda Elvet Striders 00:52:59 F 67 10 F 6 F
169 Jonathan Hamill Elvet Striders 00:55:04 MV40 81 68 M 21 MV40
145 Sue Gardham Elvet Striders 01:00:08 FV40 124 22 F 4 FV40
19 Louise Barrow Elvet Striders 01:01:36 F 148 30 F 21 F
120 Jane Dowsett Elvet Striders 01:14:34 FV40 297 132 F 48 FV40
69 Carla Clarke Elvet Striders 01:14:54 F 302 136 F 67 F
360 Diane Soulsby Elvet Striders 01:16:12 FV50 315 148 F 21 FV50
376 Carole Thompson-Young Elvet Striders 01:27:55 FV50 363 184 F 30 FV50
25 Kathleen Bellamy Elvet Striders 01:32:15 FV40 364 185 F 70 FV40
87 Samantha Crampton Elvet Striders 01:39:01 F 366 187 F 83 F

Airport run – LHR T5, London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, Tuesday, March 14, 2017

~5.7km

Jonathan Hamill

For some time, I have been interested in what some may see as a slightly unusual run; inside London Heathrow airport Terminal 5.  My motivation comes from spending way too much time in airports, and Ben Edelman, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, and author of guidance for running in and around airports.

 

On the morning of 14th March, I had my chance.  I arrived in Heathrow’s Terminal 5A, from Newcastle.  My next flight (to Madrid) was also due to leave from Terminal 5, so having already cleared security at Newcastle, I headed to BA’s North Galleries lounge.  Perhaps fortunately for this adventure, I still have lounge access – there are changing facilities, you can leave your bag and, instead of a pre-flight G&T.…go for a run!

 

I struggled to get a GPS signal initially but the Strava app on my iPhone seemed to cope with a combination of GPS, cellular, and Wifi positioning. I headed down the escalator to follow the signs for the transit to the B and C gates. There I took the lift down to level -4, leaving most passengers to alight at -2 which is the train platform.

The main feature of this run is an underground pedestrian tunnel linking Heathrow’s Terminal 5A to the satellite buildings which house the B and C gates.  The tunnel is some 670m in length between T5A and T5C, according to Bombardier who supplied the automated people mover system (trains which run above the pedestrian tunnel).

 

The tunnel has apparently been recently renovated to add a softer floor, and purple lighting – welcoming to a travelling Strider!  There are various moving walkways along the way, but also space aplenty to run.  There are a couple of narrower sections, which makes life slightly interesting to share the tunnel with a passing passenger cart, and there is a slight incline between the B and C gate section.
There aren’t many users of the tunnel – mainly air crew, the odd passenger, and it is fairly cool. At the final approach to the C gates, a traffic light controlled door allows safe passage of pedestrians and carts.

 

I headed along the tunnel, to pass the B gates, then on to the C gates, where I got in the lift and up to the satellite building. I ran around the satellite building, which was nearly empty. A member of BA gate staff stopped me to ask what flight I was on, and she was tickled when I explained, “Madrid, but I’m just out for a run first”!

 

I ran the loop from T5A to T5C, including the loop of T5C satellite building twice, before doing a 1km loop of T5A, returning to the North lounge to shower and collect my things.  An interesting experience of some 5.7km which left me refreshed for my onward flight!  If you have time in Heathrow, try it!

New Year’s Day – Resolution Run, Town Moor, Newcastle, Sunday, January 1, 2017

8.6km

Jonathan Hamill

Photo courtesy and © of @MSPhotosNE

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.

 

Time Pos No Name Age Gender
31:26 1 53 Kurt Heron 30 M
50:14 77 113 Mark Preston 52 M
50:15 78 108 Fiona Jones 39 F
54:14 110 147 Jonathan Hamill 41 M
60:41 158 23 James Potter 35 M
60:46 159 24 Hellen Potter 38 F
62:03 162 128 Katherine Preston 48 F
62:04 163 129 Kate Macpherson 44 F

 

Amsterdam Half Marathon, Sunday, October 16, 2016

13.1 miles

Jonathan Hamill

amsterdam2aAmsterdam plays host to a number of running events over one weekend, including a Half Marathon, and Marathon.  I selected the Half Marathon, and lured by the lack of hills, attended with the purpose of securing a PB, aiming for a time of
1:55.

This is an event for those who appreciate slick organisation. At the Sporthallen Zuid, number and t-shirt (for those who pre-ordered one) collection
was effortless. The expo was in full swing on the Saturday afternoon, with the usual vendors poised to equip competitors with every conceivable bit of running garb, and equipment.

Having been before, I knew of a small, highly popular pasta place (Hasta la
Pasta) in the Centrum, which was my dining venue.  Fortunately, for the
restaurateur a stream of hungry runners from various countries had the same
idea.  Carbed-up, I turned in for the night.

Contrary to other races where public transport systems struggle with the volume
of competitors, and spectators, I navigated the Metro with ease, to the
Sporthallen Zuid again, where a simple to use, and efficient bag drop was in
operation.  I walked to the start on Stadioweg (adjacent to the Olympisch
Stadion), where enclosures were marshalled by friendly local volunteers, who
seemed startled when I enquired about the best time to enter the pen.  Their
advice was to enjoy the sun, and come back 5 minutes before the wave was due to
start!  Local shops were open to provide last minute refreshments, and there
were toilets aplenty.  Adjacent to the start is the final half kilometer, and
with the marathon underway, I got to see some of the elite runners charge for
the line.

I entered the yellow pen, with a little more time to spare than that advised,
and having warmed up (yep – getting in a little earlier meant you could run up
and down the enclosure!), I chatted to some French runners from Ville
D’Allonnes, who were tickled at us sharing the same club colours (their
preference for a diagonal white & green stripe being the only difference).

At the appointed time, we moved forward towards the starting arch and sensor.
I struck out at around 8½ minute miles, and paid attention to avoid tripping on
tram lines (I learned this lesson the hard way during a previous visit!). I
lost count of the large number of mobile discos along the route – there were
plenty!  Similar to the Great North Run, there were also steel, and brass bands
aplenty (but no Elvis!), and the residential areas were well populated with
supporters, adding to the atmosphere.  Water and refreshment stations were in
abundance (at 5, 9, 11, 13, 16, and 19km) – Isostar featuring heavily as
sponsor, with their energy boosting drinks and gels, and sponges too – I must
have run over a few thousand!

The course is a mix of residential and industrial neighbourhoods.  The
Utrechtse Bridge takes you over the Amstel river (at which point the route is
shared with the full Marathon), and passes the famous Rijksmuseum, before
entering the large expanse of the Vondelpark (Amsterdam’s largest public park).
With my race plan intact, I exited the top gate of the Vondelpark, adjacent to
the All4running store (the enthusiastic team there had looked after me during
my last visit, on Global Running Day).  I knew I had a fairly straight stretch
and concentrated on holding my pace, hoping to leave something for the last km,
and the finish in the Olympic Stadium.

Aided by the crowd factor, I picked up my pace, ran into the Stadium, and round
the track to cross the finish line – a quick Garmin check confirming I’d
secured my PB!

Walking out of the Stadium, I collected my refreshments, stopped at a couple of
the free photo points, and then onto the medal engraving tent – my medal being
engraved with my name and time, in under 5 minutes!  A brief stop at the bag
drop, then to rehydrate (when in Holland it really has to be Heineken!) and I
was off for a brief but slow jog to the metro.  I called via the hotel to
collect my main bag, and headed straight to the airport, the lure of a hot
shower and dinner calling.
amsterdam1a
First male strider home (you have to take these opportunities when you can), I
finished with a time of 1:53:15, ahead of my 1:55 target.

Top tips

  • Buy an Amsterdam Travel Ticket at the airport – valid for trams, buses, metros, ferries and trains.
  • Get the 197 bus from the Airport to the Expo (Amstelveenseweg stop)
  • Stay at the Holiday Inn Arena Towers, adjacent to the Heineken Music Hall
  • Metro 50 connects from the Bijlmer ArenA (200m from the hotel) to Amstelveenseweg, and also to Centrum.
  • An Intercity train connects from Bijlmer ArenA to Schipol airport.

 

Portrush parkrun, Northern Ireland, Saturday, June 18, 2016

Jonathan Hamill

My legs feeling a little heavier from my mid-week efforts at Lisburn Half Marathon, I headed North, to Portrush (Portmagic as it is known to locals). Having grown up nearby, running on my old doorstep was a good way to conclude my trip.

portrush1aA school friend had recently opened a luxury B&B, and I was keen to try it out. Blackrock House is the 1st 5* graded B&B in Portrush, and recent runner up in the Tourism Northern Ireland Awards ‘Most Promising New Tourism Business’ 2016.

I alighted the Belfast train at Dhu Varren, just before the main Portrush station and walked round the corner to Blackrock House. Nicola’s house has fantastic views (photo above), overlooking the West Bay beach, promenade and having stunning views towards the Giant’s Causeway. It is also situated on the main Causeway Coastal Route, offering many running options, including a coastal run of around 6 miles to nearby Portstewart. It is a runner friendly B&B, and I’d highly recommend it to those of you who are contemplating running events in the local area.

portrush2

 

portrush3a I headed out on the Friday morning for a gentle run. Leaving Blackrock House, I dropped down onto the West Bay promenade, past the famous Barry’s amusements, the Lifeboat Station and Harbour, rounding the headland at Lansdowne, towards the East Strand (home to Portrush parkrun), and eventually back through the town.

On the Saturday morning, my runner friendly breakfast comprised granola with local yoghurt (Nicola also offers the post parkrun option of something more substantial). Portrush parkrun has a slightly more civilised start of 0930hrs and although it is a short jog from Blackrock House, I gladly accepted Nicola’s offer of a lift as she was taking some photographs of the event.

Portrush parkrun is the world’s first beach parkrun and it is run entirely on the sand. The course starts adjacent to the watersports centre at the East Strand and rounds the coastline towards the White Rocks and back. It is flat but challenging with a variable surface, according to the tide.

portrush4a

portrush6 Mervyn Thompson (pictured left), officiating as Run Director provided the briefing. This included the offer of tomato plants, from Fiona, one of the regulars who had got a wee bit carried away in the garden! A nice touch saw the milestone runners called up to the front and applauded by the crowd. A BBC camera crew was filming for the documentary, “Love in a day” which focuses on people doing things they love and on this occasion, the love of parkrun! Faye McLernon, a former schoolmate was filmed, (look out for the purple t-shirt).

Contrary to the weather forecast, it had been dry for the past few days and it was a sunny day, although the wind was pretty fierce, as I found out! High tide had been at 0630hrs and there was some reasonably firm sand along the route.

I set off from the beach start line and struck a decent pace, which would have delivered a finish of around 25 minutes. All was good, until the turning point – a flag with loose sand, which took the wind out of my sails. The return was into the wind, which was formidable and my pace took a hammering – no negative splits! I did wonder if the catch-up with an old friend in the Harbour Bar the previous evening had hampered my chances a little too!

202 runners attended Portrush parkrun’s 202nd event! The fastest finisher came in at 19:13. I was slower than usual but given the wind and miles under my belt during the week, I was happy to come in 10th in my age category at 27:07.

portrush5After some quick goodbyes, I had to shoot off to catch the train back to Belfast, and a comparatively complex two-flight hop via Heathrow home. There are no direct flights to Newcastle on a Saturday, which work with parkrun timings (I suspect most people would make a weekend of it anyway).

For those interested in sampling the North coast hospitality, the following may also be of interest and I’d happily help folk with their travel plans as required:

  • North Coast 5k/10k at Portrush – 7th July 2016
  • ANI Prostrate Cancer 5 mile road race – 26th August 2016
  • Causeway Coast Marathon – 24th September 2016
  • Mussenden 10k Challenge Easter Saturday – 15th April 2017

Lisburn Half Marathon, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Jonathan Hamill

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council host what is considered one of Northern Ireland’s largest sporting participation events (~6,000 runners), offering a mid-week Half Marathon, 10k, and 3K Fun Run.

Lisburn Half Marathon 2016

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express at Queen’s Quarter, Belfast, adjacent to Botanic train station, which is also a popular choice for Belfast running events. A half hour train journey to Lisburn places you within walking distance of the event.

Lagan Valley LeisurePlex provided ample changing and locker facilities. I completed my final preparations, carb-loading at a nearby café with a runner friendly banana crepe. Basking in the intense sun, I started to wonder if the inclusion of the famous Belfast Crown Bar in my hydration plan the evening before had been a wise choice.

I caught up with old friend Andy McClean and Team McClean, who run with seven-year-old Ethan, using a Hoyt running chair. Ethan has the terminal and life limiting illness Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Team McClean enable Ethan to enjoy as many running events as he can, and you can read more of his story here.

Before long it was time to proceed to the holding area adjacent to the start, where local radio station Cool FM, and the Mayor of Lisburn provided their encouragement.

I had opted for the Half Marathon option, lured by the ‘Flat & Fast’ route. I think ‘Flat’ would fall foul of the trade descriptions act! The route begins in the city and then leaves to do a loop around rural Lisburn. There are a number of inclines, but nothing mountainous. What goes up must go down too!

The event is well marshaled, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland close the roads. Five official water stations are distributed from the 1k marker onwards, mostly operated by local Scout groups. The event uses chip timing, with a sensor also at the halfway point. In addition, local community spirit prevails and a number of unofficial water and jelly baby stations feature along the route, with local residents providing encouragement aplenty, “Go on, you can do it, so you can!” The 10K race set off and a few minutes later, we formed up to allow the wheelchair race to start ahead of us. And we were off!

A schoolboy error, and a glance at my watch confirmed I was a tad eager setting an 8 minute/mile pace over the first kilometer. I steadied myself by the end of the third kilometer and concentrated on my plan. I was pleased (despite the abundance of water stations) that I’d taken my own water (two small bottles on a belt). The heat took its toll on some but I soldiered on, using a gel after I passed the half way mark.

Who needs safety pins? I felt tired at 17k and mentally pictured running Durham parkrun to get myself to the end. There were a couple of naughty bits in the last 5k, including an incline with a twist in the final few hundred metres to round into the finish funnel. Hearing the crowd cheer, I knew I could achieve my aim of breaking 2 hours and I picked the pace up, giving it some welly across the line!

Lisburn Half Marathon 2016A slick effort through the line saw me collect medal, water and a couple of Cliff bars. After the race, I compared notes with some members of Springwell Running Club (who operate near my home town) and met the RD of Portrush Parkrun, Mervyn Thompson, before heading off to catch the train.

I finished in 591st position from a field of 1141 runners and achieved a PB of 1:58:14, with three other PBs (15k, 10 miles and 20k).

Results

Pos Name Cat Time
179 Stephen Duncan M40 01:12:22
591 Jonathan Hamill M40 01:58:14

1141 finishers

 

Pier to Pier, South Shields to Sunderland, Sunday, May 22, 2016

6.9 miles

Jonathan Hamill

Grand Prix Race. Sprint Champion Race.

Purple to Pier? Perhaps we need to request a new name for this race; 71 strong, we were a formidable purple army on the beach at South Shields!

Tim Skelton's photo of a literal sea of purple.

I was a lucky late entrant to Pier to Pier and a first timer. Reveille at 0630hrs provided time for some pre-race sustenance, and then on the road to drop our three children off and shatter the Sunday morning tranquillity for the in-laws.

Trained in the model of 5 P’s, I had studied well the many options that would see me navigate the road network, to arrive around 0845hrs at Roker seafront. The excellent execution of Pier to Pier started here, with a marshall stationed on the roundabout, directing cars into the car-park adjacent to Sunderland Yacht Club. Parking was free! A short walk saw me queue for only a few moments with some other eager participants, and having pre-paid for the bus shuttle to the start, a minibus whisked us away, to arrive at the car park adjacent to the South Pier at South Shields.

After a bit of chat with some other early Striders, and some last minute lace adjustment, the remainder of the Purple posse arrived by coach, including my Minister for Home Affairs, who must have enjoyed some respite from the kids (and me!). Having had some debate about the athletic fit of men’s vests (I shall avoid disclosing more!), and after pointing a few folk in the direction of the loo queues, we proceeded onto the beach.

We assembled on the beach for a team photo. This ended up being a series of photos as more and more Striders appeared over the hill, and perhaps the final shot may not have captured the full might of the Purple army? Tactics for a fast start fell to Mike Parker, who advised that the premier racing line would start from the furthest point at/in the water! A race briefing ensued and having confirmed Bill Ford had a satellite fix, we were off!

Across the beach, through the water, through more water towards the Sand Dancer pub, I decided to abort the beach invasion option to re-join the main throng. With feet feeling a kilo heavier from the sand and water, we climbed onto the top, following part of the Sand Dancer route, climbing gradually towards Souter Lighthouse and enjoying the sea views. The path was part gravel, part grass and fairly flat with a couple of interesting choices, resulting in a temporarily split pack at a couple of points (I’m not sure if there was any merit to any particular diversion but my ploy was to follow the fittest looking runner in front of me!). Souter Lighthouse was just past the 5km point and water was served on the grass just past the wall enclosure. Shouts of encouragement emanated from the play area in front of the lighthouse and by the inclusion of, Striders, and Purple I deduced they were familiar supporters but did not delay to acquaint myself further!

Continuing on, we rounded the headland at Whitburn around which point I remember seeing a pier, and looking at my watch which confirmed around 8km. I subsequently realised this was not the pier I was headed for and mentally dealt with the reality that I had a bit more distance to run. Not long after this point, I remember seeing the welcome sight of Allan Seheult on the coastal path in his Striders t-shirt, encouraging us onward.

The finish flags in sight, we passed benches and people eating ice cream, dropping down onto the beach, to traverse the clumps of seaweed which cleared to pretty clear and firm sand for a bit of an increase in heart rate and a sprint finish. I remember hearing Alister Robson shout, keep the arms going and my head told me to also ensure my legs kept going too.

Across the line, I joined those already finished and our supporters to cheer others on. Having managed to snap a decent action shot of Lesley and her flying feet, I then went to claim my race bag. The handcrafted glass finisher ornament was a really nice touch and the contents of the race bag of high quality but in my rush to see the last few Striders home, I missed the free crisps on offer.

We assembled at the promenade nearby for essential rehydration and calorie replenishment activities, marvelling at the light lunch ordered by Kelly Collier (I’m not sure if they provide step-ladders for those burgers but I did notice that Ally Dixon opted for an alternate menu choice). The proximity of our car allowed us to escape without much delay to recover our children, whilst the others waited for the bus return.

I thoroughly enjoyed the scenic aspect of this race and the weather conditions were kind being warm and fairly still. The organisation of the race by Sunderland Strollers was faultless and should provide a template for others to follow. We should all be proud of the camaraderie of our club, which was a great boost throughout the day, and an evident source of encouragement to the many first timers and more experienced participants alike.

I ran 11.1km and my chip time was 1:01:50 – lets see if next year I manage to break 1 hour! I’d recommend Pier to Pier to anyone and road shoes are fine!

Photo by Nigel Heppell

Results

pos bib name gender age group time
1 862 Andy Burn (Jarrow & Hebburn AC) m men 37:15
14 1111 Alyson Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) w Women 41:29
9 93 Gareth Pritchard m Men 40:30
22 293 Michael Littlewood m Seniors M40 43:05
38 767 Simon Gardner m Seniors M40 45:25
80 371 Matthew Archer m Men 47:39
89 208 Paul Swinburne m Seniors M40 48:30
107 269 Tim Skelton m Men 49:48
153 556 Stuart Barker m Men 51:15
164 83 Andrew Rayner m Men 51:35
198 324 John Hutchinson m Seniors M60 52:42
210 188 Louise Warner w Women 53:02
212 768 Shaun Roberts m Seniors M50 53:09
296 755 Sarah Davies w Seniors W40 55:37
322 702 Louise Morton w Women 56:40
342 50 Lucy Cowton w Women 57:20
343 134 Lesley Charman w Seniors W40 57:24
388 444 Peter McGowan m Seniors M50 58:19
397 91 Craig Walker m Seniors M50 58:32
434 26 Andrew Davies m Seniors M40 59:23
436 78 Tim Matthews m Seniors M50 59:25
449 783 Douglas Nisbet m Seniors M50 59:44
453 297 Chris Shearsmith m Men 59:49
457 64 Alex Collins m Men 59:53
464 553 Stephen Ellis m Seniors M60 1:00:13
486 3 David Spence m Seniors M60 1:00:46
534 917 Jonathan Hamill m Seniors M40 1:01:50
555 142 Laura Jennings w Women 1:02:22
557 245 Mike Parker m Seniors M40 1:02:29
559 1047 Mark Herkes m Men 1:02:32
578 243 Katie Davison w Women 1:03:16
591 31 Karen Metters w Seniors W40 1:03:37
611 82 Robin Linton m Men 1:04:09
651 1124 Claire Hunt w Seniors W50 1:05:21
692 405 James Potter m Men 1:06:28
694 59 David Browbank m Men 1:06:30
727 96 Lesley Hamill w Seniors W40 1:07:28
756 361 Catherine Smith w Seniors W40 1:08:22
769 116 Angela Robson w Seniors W40 1:08:48
783 1093 Stan White m Seniors M50 1:09:17
794 248 Gareth Cardus m Seniors M40 1:09:28
796 223 George Nicholson m Seniors M60 1:09:29
809 100 Kelly Collier w Women 1:09:58
837 128 David Beacham m Seniors M50 1:10:53
838 127 Laura Beacham w Women 1:10:53
852 939 Jane Dowsett w Seniors W40 1:11:34
853 97 Carla Clarke w Women 1:11:36
859 1114 Karen Chalkley w Seniors W50 1:11:53
860 554 Janet Ellis w Seniors W50 1:11:58
865 1002 Debra Thompson w Seniors W50 1:12:11
872 125 Christine Farnsworth w Seniors W60 1:12:22
881 592 Andrew Thurston m Seniors M50 1:12:47
903 260 Aileen Scott w Seniors W40 1:13:23
909 473 Alison Heslop w Seniors W40 1:13:36
919 22 Jill Young w Women 1:13:49
920 133 Nicola Rogers w Women 1:13:49
921 779 Lucy Herkes w Women 1:13:49
923 1049 Victoria Downes w Women 1:13:57
924 30 Helen Thomas w Seniors W40 1:13:57
930 7 Andy James m Seniors M60 1:14:10
958 439 Louise Simpson w Seniors W40 1:15:29
990 427 Sharon Campbell w Women 1:16:52
1012 567 David Arnott m Seniors M60 1:19:21
1027 780 Alison Simms w Seniors W40 1:20:00
1065 778 Rebecca Gilmore w Women 1:23:07
1066 1033 Diane Soulsby w Seniors W50 1:23:10
1067 790 Laura Jackson w Women 1:23:11
1094 784 Pauline Elliott w Seniors W50 1:27:56
1095 11 Katie-Louise Finney w Women 1:28:07
1096 77 Caitlin Mooney w Women 1:28:07
1107 776 Karen Middlemiss w Seniors W40 1:30:37
1121 234 Neil Jennings m Seniors M50 1:35:27
1127 235 Elaine Jennings w Seniors W50 1:41:34
1128 103 Laura Gibson w Women 1:41:34

1128 finishers.