Elaine Bisson …
The Inaugural Willow Miner Trail Race …
5.3m, 438 feet elevation gain.
I had somehow fallen into running this race. Michael couldn’t run, he suggested I have his number, a few texts and emails later and it seemed I was in the running.
I had a few reservations. It was THE strider race of the year…the pressure would be on. It wasn’t in my plan, there were events on the horizon that I wanted to concentrate on. My last few races had been reasonable but had left me disappointed. My race head was at an all time low. I was recovering from an injury and didn’t want to aggravate it again. Oh, the list, how it goes on!
Anyway, I arrived at registration slightly later than planned…it didn’t matter, I had resolved to use it as a good training run, nothing more. If I started after the gun, all the better. Hopeful faces greeted me and I dismissed their optimism with, I’m not racing, I cant be bothered!
At the start I met a very bouncy excitable Rachelle, she attempted to lift my glum mood…and failed.
We all assembled on the lush grass before the start line, after a race briefing and a minute silence to remember Alan Purvis, we were off across the race track which was laid out in front of us. I was running at an easy pace, I watched gleefully as the fast group fought to gain good ground and disappeared into the woods. Now I could relax, I was just going to enjoy this. However, it wasn’t long before I got stuck behind a woman who decided to walk and then block my path through the woods, feeling frustrated, I picked up pace and started picking off people. This was fun, the pressure had all gone…disappeared into the distance. As I speeded up, I started to target runners to catch up, it became a bit of a game. I’m not entirely sure when the game became a race, probably when I caught sight of those that I’d thought had long gone. Susan’s encouragement of “at the moment, your 4th” really got me, it’s what I needed. The little shove to move up the ranks.
As one of Geoff’s guinea pigs during his Fell Coaching Training, I knew every hill possible on this course, and had suffered on EVERY hill, whether that be running hard up or down. This race then felt familiar and even the big hill up to the willow miner…was now doable. By then Penny was in my sights, then 2nd lady. I clung on to her, waiting for my move. I thought it would come on one of the hills in the woods, unfortunately it was much later. We ended up hurtling onto the grass track to the finish neck and neck. Every time I tried to increase speed, she would match it. Many thoughts whizzed through my mind, the overriding was how much I wanted to reach that finish line before her. With time running out and the line fast approaching, I gave one more push and finally pulled in front, one stride ahead and there it was, the white line. It was exhilarating and totally unexpected. Second lady, first strider lady for the third year.
So about the race…Its a beautiful route, showcasing 5.3miles of our amazing training ground. It is tough, with many undulations, fast downhill sections and long drags back up. It is extremely well marked (even tree routes are highlighted green), marshalled and supported by our wonderful club. For £11 you can ‘enjoy’ this brute, quench your thirst on water and coffee sachets at the end. Then drink some more, fill your belly and share trauma stories with fellow club mates at The Court Inn. What better way to celebrate Elvet Striders?
… Kay Cairns …
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!
|Bib||First Name||Last Name||Cat||Club||Time||Pos||catpos||prize|
|76||Mike||Jefferies||MSEN||Richmond & Zetland Harriers||32.38||2||2||2msen|
|48||Liam||Emmett||MSEN||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||33.21||3||3||3msen|
|56||Jonathan||Gilroy||MSEN||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||34.38||4||4|
|149||Mark||Warner||MSEN||Elvet Striders||36.17||6||5||fasterstrider not in cat|
|47||Kevin||Emmett||MVET50||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||36.35||7||1||1mvet50|
|66||Peter||Harrison||MVET40||Durham City Harriers & AC||37.14||11||4||3mvet40|
|12||Martin||Blenkinsopp||MVET40||Sunderland Harriers & AC||37.27||12||5|
|131||Alex||Sneddon||FSEN||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||37.28||13||1||1fsen|
|152||Paul||Weir||MVET40||Durham City Harriers & AC||37.55||16||7|
|91||Brian||Martin||MVET60||Quakers Running Club||38.16||17||1||1mvet60|
|70||Lee||Hetherington||MVET40||South Shields Harriers & AC||40.27||26||12|
|71||Geoff||Hewitson||MVET50||Crook & District AC||40.56||31||4|
|112||Darren||Parks||MVET40||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||41.25||33||15|
|135||John||Sutcliffe||MSEN||North Shields Polytechnic Club||41.26||34||12|
|141||Michael||Thornton||MVET50||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||41.27||35||5|
|21||Nick||Butchart||MVET40||Washington Running Club||41.56||38||16|
|31||Chris||Clarke||MSEN||Washington Running Club||42.42||41||13|
|97||Allan||Mcmanus||MSEN||Sunderland Harriers & AC||42.54||44||14|
|36||Vikki||Cotton||FSEN||Sunderland Harriers & AC||43.05||46||3||3fsen|
|148||Louise||Warner||FSEN||Elvet Striders||43.07||47||4||fasterstrider not in cat|
|133||Chris||Sumsion||MVET50||Tyne Bridge Harriers||43.54||51||10|
|86||Malcolm||Leece||MVET40||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||44.01||53||20|
|55||Simon||Gent||MSEN||North Shields Polytechnic Club||44.14||55||18|
|44||Catherine||Eaton||FSEN||Tyne Bridge Harriers||44.22||56||5|
|90||Barry||Marlee||MVET40||Sunderland Harriers & AC||44.31||57||21|
|79||E||Johnston||FSEN||Tyne Bridge Harriers||45.14||60||7|
|50||Anthony||Erskine||MVET40||Sunderland Harriers & AC||45.2||61||22|
|85||Paul Lee||Lee||MVET50||Sedgefield Harriers||45.39||63||13|
|101||Peter||Milburn||MVET50||Aycliffe Running Club||46.29||64||14|
|87||Suzanne||Lewis-Dale||FSEN||North Shields Polytechnic Club||46.39||67||8|
|27||Kevin||Carrahar||MVET50||Sunderland Harriers & AC||47.06||70||16|
|127||Judith||Shotton||FVET50||Sunderland Harriers & AC||47.14||71||1||1fvet50|
|82||Brett||Lambert||MVET40||Aycliffe Running Club||47.24||72||25|
|147||Gillian||Wallace||FVET40||South Shields Harriers & AC||47.4||74||4|
|35||Katherine||Conway||FSEN||Washington Running Club||48.38||77||9|
|110||Natasha||Newson||FSEN||North Shields Polytechnic Club||48.4||78||10|
|43||Andrew||Eaton||MSEN||Tyne Bridge Harriers||49.21||86||23|
|73||Brian||Hurst||MVET40||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||49.26||87||27|
|32||Nicole||Clarke||FSEN||Washington Running Club||50.01||94||15|
|102||Susan||Milburn||FVET50||Aycliffe Running Club||50.11||96||5|
|113||Deb||Pennick||FSEN||Richmond & Zetland Harriers||51.07||105||18|
|3||Lloyd||Ashby||MVET40||Crook & District AC||52.55||111||31|
|93||Sandra||Martin||FVET50||Quakers Running Club||55.05||118||9|
|156||Sarah||Wilson||FVET50||Quakers Running Club||55.53||119||10|
|49||Tracey||Emmett||FVET40||Jarrow & Hebburn AC||56.42||122||12|
|116||Judith||Porter||FVET60||Aycliffe Running Club||57.19||125||1||1fvet60|
|98||Debbie||McRory||FVET50||Sunderland Harriers & AC||59.55||126||11|
|39||Zoe||Dewdney Parsons||FSEN||Elvet Striders||59.56||127||22|