The Schneider Electric Marathon De Paris 2019, Sunday, April 14, 2019

Mike Barlow

I suppose it’s about time I wrote a race report, I’ve been a member now for 2yrs and so far, managed to dodge that obligation, well I can dodge no more…

In my mind the Marathon is the pinnacle of running achievement, it is what I have aspired to since being a child and witnessing my Grandad knock out several as an Elswick Harrier. But as life unfolded, and my only running achievement since school was a 2:01 GNR in 2004, it appeared that particular ‘dream’ would elude me.

Fast forward 14ish years…I had (once) mentioned to Stef that I would like to do a marathon, well she’s not one to forget things like that! A chance conversation with another Strider, lead Stef to making a speculative application to the 2019 Paris Marathon (on my behalf and without my knowledge!), assuming it would be a ballot like London, she gave it a go, and to her and more importantly my surprise it was accepted…

When I got over the shock and realisation started kicking in, I needed a plan, so I summoned the wisdom of the search-engine, and after much sifting, I settled on a 16-week sub-3:30 Runners World training plan, I decided to bin the first 3-weeks as I was already up to the mileage required from week-4. So, after 11-weeks of hard mileage, the 2-weeks of tapering began, and as predicted the onset of ‘maranoia’ took hold, I felt nowhere near ready, but as I chatted to those with far more experience than me, I put my faith in their wisdom and cracked on with the reduced miles, enjoying the protein and carb loading days (note to self: red wine is not carb-loading!)…

We arrived in Paris on the Friday, loads of time to get settled, get sorted and relax, fast forward the boring bits…

So now I’m in the 3hr15 pen, freezing cold and nervous as, the atmosphere was tense, I was playing over my race-plan, discussed with and amended by Allan at the awards night…8mm for 5 miles, then 7:30 for as long as I could hold on for…The Lord Mayor of Paris said something in French and I assume, started the race…

After the elites and wheelchairs had gone, the 3hr lot shot off, we then made our way down, this is it…I’m off, this feels ok, a glance at the watch, slow down…I settled around 7:50 (I’m sure Allan wouldn’t mind) felt good, people were tearing off passed me, don’t get lured into a race within the first mile, Got a cheer at 1-km from Stef, gave a wave and a smile, then concentrated on following the green-line…Mile-1 flashed up on my watch 7:41mm (oops), it’s near enough…As it turns out, that was my slowest mile of the race. So as the miles unfold, I check my pace, feel comfortable, I’m taking water at every station and food where available, I have gels, salt chews and gummy things given out at the expo, I feel in good shape…but as I approach mile-10, my right foot starts bothering me, right on the ball under my big-toe – Heat lead to pain, a feeling familiar to us all – blisters!! Typical, I had read a quote that became my mantra, ‘The first half you run with your head, the second half with your heart’. I thanked my head and summoned my heart, it was at this point I also told my Grandad I needed him…

I passed the half-marathon point in 1:33, great, I’m going well, feeling good (apart from the foot which I’m ignoring!) and now I can count down the miles…You would think that given I am running in one of the worlds most beautiful cities, I would be reeling off landmark after landmark, but apart from the river and the Schneider Electricity HQ (race sponsor), I can’t remember any of them, I didn’t even appreciate the majesty of the Arc de Triumph at the start line!

Anyway, as I get through the 20-mile mark, two Parkruns left, I’m feeling ok, still got a couple of gels left for ‘the wall’…The last 6.2 miles, was pretty brutal, do not pay any attention to Strava, the elevation in those final two Parkruns was greater than anything I’ve ever done before, a cruel trick by the organisers!

I complete one of the two Parkruns, I’m still moving, still ok(ish), one Parkrun left, omg I think I’m actually going to do it…I can hear the cheers from the crowds at the finish line, 2k left…1k…350m I get a massive cheer from Stef and a couple of complete strangers with her…I see the line, just keep going…nearly there…I’m on the green-carpet, and throw myself over the line…I did it…I look at my watch, 3:12:40, I hug the man next to me, that moment of a shared achievement, monumental, I hear my name, and look to see Stef beaming, emotion envelopes me, I’m walking in a haze, I just want to get out and see my wife, I collect my T-shirt, medal, other bits thrust into my hand, then I notice the escape route, I head out and scan the crowds for Stef, she flies toward me…I did it, hun, I actually did it!

So, will I do another marathon? Probably

Would I do anything differently? Definitely, I would not consult the internet for the answers to my questions and definitely not for my training plan.

Would I recommend the Paris Marathon? Yes, the crowds were great, not masses of people, but decent pockets of support (it was Paris-Roubaix grand depart also), rock bands, steel drum bands, jazz bands, shouts of Allez allez allez, great volunteers, well organised, easy to get to start and so I’m told, some beautiful architecture en-route.

To all of you that have advised, encouraged, helped and inspired me over the past 2-years (some of you may know who you are, others will not) I owe you a massive thank-you.

(Visited 88 times, 1 visits today)

ASICS Manchester Marathon, Sunday, April 7, 2019

Jan Panke

Flat course with ups and downs,
My journey to Manchester

Until 7.4.2019 I was one of the 99.5% of people who have never run a marathon. That has now changed.

How did I get there?

Some 4 1/2 years ago I started C25K with expert coaching from “Laura” who spoke to me from my iPad. I remember how scared I was having to run for 8 full minutes uninterrupted on the treadmill. At the same time, I banned gummy bears from my glove compartment and managed to lose about 3 stone in weight. I did Parkruns, built up to the GNR and other half-marathons and started to train for Kielder Marathon in 2017. Training went well and I got up to 30k on the railway paths. 3 days later, I ran Durham City 10k and halfway through I got an almighty pain in my plantar fascia. Hobbling the last 5k to the finishing line was a big mistake as I could not run (or even walk) for a good while. That injury stopped me running for 4 months during which I lost stamina, endurance and speed …the only thing I didn’t lose during that time was weight.

After the injury, I decided that something had to change. A friend told me about Nick Constantine, a Chi running coach in Whitley Bay. I had a single coaching session with Anna. My running was filmed, analysed and criticised. To my horror, I noticed that I ran like a cartoon character (legs half a meter ahead of the rest of the body and my shoulders hiding tight behind my shoulder blades). It looked absolutely hideous. So, back to basics. Learn to run again from scratch. Inspired by McDougall’s “Born To Run” (a must read for every runner) and Ken Bob’s “Barefoot Running”, I decided to give barefoot a go. For 6 weeks my skin hit grass (that is the most soothing experience when you have plantar fasciitis), tarmac and gravel. …and no, I did not encounter any dog-do or glass splinters. Very slowly I changed my running style and gained some strength back. But I still lacked confidence, always worrying about overdoing it and getting plantar fasciitis again.

In October 2018, I got my usual “Sorry” magazine and the too small running top from Virgin London Marathon (I’ve got a collection of those now) and decided to enter Manchester Marathon instead. After looking around and checking with others, I decided to download and print the ASICS training plan. A super plan which helps you to train 4 times a week with speed sessions, Parkruns, long runs, fartleks, recovery runs and strength training to get you around a marathon in under 4 hours. The plan is still completely unfollowed on my bedside table. I didn’t dare to do speed sessions, being frightened to get my dreaded plantar fasciitis again.

In February Anna and I joined the “Weekend Longer Runs”-messenger group and for the following weeks, I did a long run every Sunday covering 26, 27, 30, 27, 32, 34, 25 and 18km with a shorter run midweek. During the long runs David Browbank gave me all the advice he collected in his running career (“…a fixed point in the distance does not run away from you”, “don’t start too fast”, “tiredness is only in your mind” and “distract your mind with the 7-times table when you get tired” …). Anna also got me through some very useful strength training following Jeff Horowitz’s “Quick Strength for Runners” book.

On Saturday we drove down to Manchester and met up with a lot of Elvet Striders for a “carb-loading-meal”, arranged by Corrine, in an Italian restaurant. (I think carb-loading is totally overrated; I practised carb-loading for 12 years and at the end, I still struggled to run for a bus!). The next morning was not too hot and not too cold, slightly overcast, perfect running conditions. Luckily I bumped into my running-pal David who started in the same pen as me. We ran together for most of the marathon, relaxed at a decent manageable pace just above 9 min/mile. 10km passed in under 57 min, half marathon mark in under 2 hrs, 30k in 2:49. After 30k I needed to use some of David’s mental tricks to keep me going, concentrating on fixed points ahead of us and running towards them, being happy to have done another short segment. After 35km I had to let
David run off and slow down myself. The flat road ahead felt like running up Redhills Lane and I needed to walk here and there. Even reciting the 7-times table didn’t work and I gave up when I got to “47”. 2 miles before the end I heard a familiar voice shouting for me. Mike Elliott gave me a big shout and run for a bit next to me. Every energy boost was needed to keep me going /running. Then I had Alex Brown overtake me (David and I overtook him much earlier) looking fresh as a daisy and whizzing past me with no signs of tiredness. I didn’t even try to keep up with him. The last 2 miles were crowded with great supporters and somehow I managed to get over the finishing line faster than anticipated after 4:11 hours. That’s nearly as fast as Stephen Jackson (at least per kg of weight that is).

…after all that effort, I still don’t know why Tamsin Imber thinks a marathon is “like a strawberry cheesecake”. But hey, I might do another one and get behind her secret.

(Visited 142 times, 2 visits today)

Coledale Horseshoe, Briathwaite Village, Lake District, Saturday, April 6, 2019

AM 8.5miles, 3002ft

Nina Mason

Coach checking on my performance and offering gentle, maternal encouragement heading up to Barrow

A traditional Lakeland ‘horseshoe’ round Coledale from Braithwaite Lodge, taking in Grisedale Pike, Crag Hill, and Barrow. As the race map describes it: ‘a superb race with a monster climb at the start, a bit of scrambling in the middle, and a lovely grassy descent to finish’.

This was my first race in the Lakes. Despite other fell races I’ve done, I was very nervous. Mum and I had recce’d the route in fairly wintry conditions a couple of months ago, so I knew what to expect in terms of terrain.

Saturday’s forecast looked good, and when I arrived at Braithwaite (early, to see Mum and Tony at the campsite where they were staying) the day promised to be glorious – sun, clear blue skies, no wind.

The conditions were indeed, I felt, perfect for running. I collected my number (the race was pre-registration only) from the tent in the start/finish field, eyeing up groups of distinctly lean, fit-looking, ‘proper’ fell-runners, while my ‘imposter syndrome’ busily started kicking in. Pre-race nerves were settled a little by bumping into Jack, and then a solitary warm-up.

Then we were off – 300+ runners – through the village to the bottom of the hill and the path leading to Grisedale Pike (cp1). This is, indeed, a decent climb, alleviated briefly by a couple of short flatter sections, and a rocky section nearer the top.

The first climb to a Grisedale Pike, viewed from Barrow on full camera zoom. Spot the Strider vest (made easier as I’m passing a big arrow painted on the grass)

Once I got into my rhythm I felt strong, passing lots of runners (where I was in the field, all of us walking, of course, at this point). It was incredibly hot work – no breeze, and the sun felt very warm. Every time the ascent became less steep I made myself run. I was surprised to pass Jack near the top (he admitted afterwards he had set off a bit too fast) and then we were up at the cairn at Grisedale summit.

A spread of runners all the way across the top, as well as heading along the path in the foreground

From cp1 there is a glorious section of mainly downhill to the Hause, before the cold, wet, slippery Eel Crag – on all fours up here, scrabbling up the rocks Gollum-like, passing some of the bigger guys as I think my (lack of) size advantage told. The views I am told were wonderful…I was too busy looking where I was placing hands and feet.

There was a bit of snow on the tops, a mix of melting slush and some shallow patches. I was so thirsty up here I scooped a handful of snow to suck (yes, yes, only the white snow).

Once up the rocks, it is a very gradual incline to cp2 at the trig point on Crag Hill. I had a slight moment of panic as I tried to run and my legs disobeyed – they were feeling the last steep climb and though they didn’t ache I could barely lift my knees. I managed a fairly undignified shuffle to the trig (though to be fair, the runners around me appeared to be feeling the same).

Then as soon as the gradient changed I was away again, legs obeying, more wonderful downhill, clambering over rocks, another small pull up to Sail (the contour path is out of bounds due to erosion), then springy turf down to Sail Pass, really letting go down here.

Jack looking strong on the last section up to Barrow

From there, gradual descending and a bit of pace, pretty much all the way except for the last short climb up to Barrow (cp3). Mum and Tony were there, surprised at me being about 15 minutes ahead of my expected schedule and cheering me on. From there I pushed on, eye-watering hard (for me!) catching at least half a dozen runners on the final downhill, determined no one was going to pass me (no one did) and into the field to finish. Those at the ‘sharp end’ were already on their third mug of tea when I arrived back, looking as though they were ready to go round again (which no doubt they could). Good to see Jack at the end and compare notes.

This is a great little race – I realise we were very lucky with the weather on the day, but as a first venture into Lakeland running the route is relatively straight-forward (as the pre-race briefing advised us ‘if you feel the need to turn right you are going the wrong way’), it was well-organised, and there was a tent full of tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes afterwards. Not to mention the views. Which I didn’t fully appreciate until sat basking in the sun afterwards.

I really enjoyed my race; a great day out, very pleased with how I felt, and looking forward to my next venture to the Lakes.


(Visited 54 times, 1 visits today)

Cannonball Ultra, Canalathon, Sowerby Bridge, Sunday, March 24, 2019

50 k

Gareth Pritchard

I was gutted I couldn’t do the 100k this year, so dropped down to the 50k as I’ve got a marathon soon… Now that’s something a short distance road runner like myself never imagined I’d say. If you’re wondering exactly how this happened? Hopefully, this small report will shed some light, but the short version.

#poweredbyplants and Heart rate running. This event is awesome, give it a go.

After doing well at the 24 hour Leeds Endure24 event last year, I decided to continue to experiment with ultras (anything longer than marathon distance) in 2019. The concern for me was always loosing my top end speed, and that’s the challenge. Trying to do both, ultra and 5k Pb training.

The main goals remain at 5/10k but I’ve now gotten used to running longer and still training through with less recovery time required. The main changes I’ve made are diet and using heart rate to train clever. My mileage and general training remain the same.

I’ve always considered 7 mm an easy recovery pace, HR training zones changed this. I’ll still run 7mm, but definitely not a recovery run. I couldn’t recommend HR training more highly, it will change ur running for the better without a doubt.

So onto the Canalathon 50k race itself, organised by Cannonball Ultras and completely new to me. Anna Seeley did the 100k last year and sung its praises. So after chatting it over, I entered the 50, Anna did the 75, Catherine Smith and Kerry Barnett ran the 50k.

It’s run entirely along the canal banks between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge. No navigation required and a fantastic first/tester ultra for anyone stepping into this awesome world.

Ultra runners are a very different and fantastically friendly bunch of runners. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming from the start. Kit checks were done and lots of exciting chat about the long day ahead.

The 100k and 75k start at Sowerby, the 50k starts at Manchester the half way turn around point. It’s organised so the 50k runners see the others running the other way. This is a great idea, it helps with navigating, as it’s still possible to briefly take a wrong turn. And also gives a strong sense of being part of the same fun event.

The organising team are mostly vegan, so at the checkpoints, all the food is vegan-friendly 👍🌱 other options available post race too. This definitely made things easier for me. I’ve recently embraced the vegan diet fully, more flexiterian tbh. So won’t worry if I accidentally eat something non-vegan. But the difference I’ve seen in the last 4 months now I’m 95% vegan is massively rewarding. I’m lighter, stronger, recover quicker and feeling healthy. Plus I’m loving the variety of foods, such a transition makes.

The bus ride to the start was nerve-racking tbh, I spent most of that trip in the toilet 😱 but I was relaxed at the start and felt good. I still feel out of my depth on these races, they all looked like pros as they limbered up at the start. I resigned myself to sticking to my plan, a good long training run and hopefully finish feeling good.

The first few miles and the leading pack sprang off. I followed a bit behind and settled into a comfortable heart rate zone of 150. This was lower than I’d planned but the pace was still good, so I got into the rhythm and enjoyed the beautiful canal ways leading out of Manchester.

It’s was a beautiful sunny day, and I soon started reeling in the leading pack. I passed the first checkpoint at 10 miles in the lead and feeling really good. It’s a low long climb for
the first 18 miles and you really feel it. The locks get ever closer and I took a few wrong turns too. But my pace remained sub 7 mm and I knew it was going to be a good day.

I loved seeing Anna coming the other way and also Kerry’s partner, Rob who was achieving amazing things by completing the 100k while I just did the 50. The idea of turning around and doing the race again just amazes me, big respect rob.

I knew the course record was low 6:40 mm, for 31 miles 😱 just amazing to think what people can do. I managed 3:35:54 an average of 6:56mm. I won the race and really enjoyed the experience too. Not sure what I’d have done if someone ran at that pace, but the last 4 miles were still extremely painful as 31 miles is a long long way for a 5k runner.

Catherine and Kerry ran together and smiled the whole way around. They loved the friendly checkpoints and marshals. They got a hot tea at one and Catherine introduced Geep into my vocabulary. Grazing geese aka, Geep were spotted on the course 😀

Anna achieved her 75th marathon/ultra distance on the day and also placed 2nd female too. A fantastic ongoing running machine.

6 days post this race I’m writing this, having run a course parkrun PB and feeling awesome. Vegan and HR training are here to stay.

(Visited 73 times, 1 visits today)

Time to move on …, Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Anita Wright

Having given this a great deal of thought in recent weeks, I’ve now decided that the time has come for me to resign my position as Website Officer.

As many of you know, at the end of 2017 I was forced to give up running, on the instructions of my spine consultant. This was an incredibly hard decision to take. I’d been a runner for 35 years, but having done some serious damage over that time, I knew that if I was to continue to do more of the ‘big-ticket’ items on my bucket list, preservation was critical.

I’ve found that decision both physically and mentally challenging. I’ve sought out new things to do, but nothing comes close to the enjoyment I got from running. I have found it very hard to come down to MC.  I’ve also found it difficult to sustain friendships when I can’t participate or talk about in the activity that brought me together with the people at the Club.

I’ve tried to stay engaged with the Club and have enjoyed doing the Website Officer role and supporting track, but it’s now time for me to move on. 

I’ll keep things ticking over until the end of April, or earlier if there is someone who is interested in taking over this brilliant role (and plan to renew my membership for the next year), but I will no longer be part of the Committee.

I’m happy to provide a handover and support to my successor at any time and hope that one of you will be interested in the role. It’s a wonderful way to meet people, learn about their challenges and achievements and engage with other clubs.

This is not a ‘political’ decision nor I am trying to make a point or be difficult in any way. Jonathan and the Committee have always had, and will continue to have my full support. 

Wishing you all the best and lots of success.

A special thanks to all the Committee, Officers and coaches for all the incredibly hard work they do, and for the time and enthusiasm they voluntarily put in to making this such a wonderful Club. 

I’ve loved being your Website Officer.

(Visited 324 times, 1 visits today)

Kielder Dark Skies Run, Kielder, Northumberland, Saturday, March 23, 2019

26.5 miles

Simon Graham

Having completed the Hardmoors 50 the previous Saturday, and just about regained movement and feeling in my legs by the Wednesday on Saturday the 23rd of March I found myself on the start line of the Trail Outlaws Dark Skies 26.5 @ Kielder.

In contrast to last weeks storm Hannah, the weather at Kielder looked good, and there were mutterings of the Northern Lights making an appearance around 9 pm. It was looking promising to be a great night for some star gazing, plus a little 26.5-mile run.

In 2017 I had completed this event as my first ever Marathon. Having entered 2016’s event and broken my foot three weeks before. Back then (for the 2016 event) a storm had hit and I was actually pleased to be injured. The 2017 event provided clear skies and fantastic star gazing opportunities but sadly I didn’t make the most of them. This was my first marathon and I wanted to push hard to prove I could do it.

2019’s event was to be a different experience altogether. No pressure, just go out and enjoy it; taking in the ‘dark skies’.

The route itself runs in a clockwise direction around the perimeter of the Kielder Reservoir, which is, strangely enough, 26 miles (it’s like they planned the reservoir around a marathon route!). Starting out at the Hawkshead Scout Centre a quick loop around the grounds allows the field to thin out from the mass start and the fast lads (and lasses) can fight their way to the front. We were doing no such thing and started out at a comfortable pace, although this was somewhat faster than I had planned in my head. I say ‘We’ because I was joined on the start line by my better half Jill, Dave Toth, Crook AC’s Bill Ford and Sunderland Harrier Tony Erskine. Fellow Striders Eric Green and Club Chair Jonathan Hamill were with us on the start line, but within seconds of the off, they had disappeared.

Starting with a mile’s loop around the Hawkshead Scout site where you then run back through the start ‘funnel’ and head downhill towards the road before taking a right which takes you onto the lakeside path (Technically its a reservoir path but lakeside is easier to spell!). The first 6.5 ish miles to the first checkpoint follows the lakeside path up and down, up and down. I should point out that on this course you are either going up or going down, there are almost no fully flat sections.

The first three miles we’d been running at a quicker pace than I would have liked, and at some point, I knew I’d need to slow. It wasn’t a fast pace by any means, but the weekend before’s efforts had taken its toll. Heading up one of the (many) inclines I remember saying to Dave that I thought we were going a little fast, Dave agreed, but we didn’t seem to slow. Both Dave and Tony had also completed the Hardmoors 50 a week earlier. Gradually as we approached CP1 we did slow down and arrived at the Checkpoint in good spirits ready for some of the famous ‘Trail Outlaws Red Kola’. At least that was what I thought. After getting my cup of ‘Kola’ a very green looking Bill declared that he’d had enough and was off home. He did not look in a good way. We tried the usual “Come on”, “You’ll be fine” things, but his mind was made up. We later found off that Bill did continue for another couple of miles before turning around and returning to the Checkpoint. Something I was very great full for later on.

On we pressed out of CP1 and up the hill. Five had become four, and we had slowed things down. Anything bigger than a slight incline was now being walked.

Just after 7 pm at around 9.5 miles the light was fading and with dusk well and truly upon us, I made the decision to get my head torch out of my packs front pocket and onto my head. I turned it on to try it. It came on. Seconds later it went off again never to come back to life. I still haven’t looked at why the head torch failed on me.

I’d changed the batteries in my head torch just the day before, having used it extensively the week before. I couldn’t believe it, no head torch. Just what I needed. Part of the mandatory kit for the race was a head torch and spare batteries. Fortunately, I had a spare head torch, this was just at the very bottom of my race pack, having put it there on purpose since I hadn’t planned on needing it. As it was not yet fully dark we headed on to CP2 with the intention of using my spare head torch from there onward. None of the others were yet using their head torches, so I was ok for now.

At CP2 my priority was to get to the spare head torch and get it on my head, I did this, repacked my bag, refuelled with more ‘Red Kola’ and pretzels and we were off on our way. I tested my head torch to make sure it worked and thankfully it did. What I hadn’t done with this torch though was changed the batteries. I’d used it in the past but not for long periods, so hoped it would be ok. With this in mind, I opted to allow the light from others torches guide me round to save the batteries in mine for when I really needed it. This worked great for me apart from in the darkened forest parts when I really needed the extra light.

Between CP2 and CP3 there are a lot of quite steep climbs followed by descents, so by now the pace was definitely slowing and I could feel the high mileage in my legs. Power walking uphill was fine, running the descents was destroying my right knee with each step. I could feel my body changing the way I was landing to minimise the impact. I started to drop back from the other three in our group at times downhill, catching them up as they slowed to a walk on the up.

Fellow Strider Sarah Fawcett had joined our little group by now, and I can’t recall if we’d caught her or her us, but she was not having a good race. We all stayed together to CP3, at 16 miles and the Dam. Sarah set off ahead of us. Over the Dam is the only fully flat section of this race and makes a nice change from constant climbs and descents, but for me, by now the damage was done. I was tired and could feel myself slowly falling behind the others, but then pushing on a bit to keep with them. On towards the 17-18 mile CP we went. We had again caught up with Sarah, who seemed to be really struggling. She would admit this though. I wasn’t going to admit that I was tired and starting to need to slow the pace even further.

The five of us (Myself, Tony, Jill, Sarah and Dave) reached CP4 almost as a unit, though Dave and Tony were ahead of us. Jill was sitting comfortably in the middle of the pack and I was at the rear with Sarah. I recall saying to her that I wasn’t going to get any faster than this, so she should just try and stick with us to the end.

Leaving CP4 as a group Dave and Tony were pressing on ahead and I knew that we needed to just let them go, for a few miles the distance was only metres, but as the miles increased they got further and further away. Sarah was still with us though and although struggling we stayed together with Jill and I overtaking Sarah, then her passing us.

The wall…

Somewhere between mile 20 and 21, Jill hit a wall. Not the mental ‘I can’t go on’ kind of wall, but her body had clearly depleted all of its energy stores and she was feeling sick. Despite refuelling, at each checkpoint, your body depletes energy faster than you can put it in during a marathon and Jill’s was definitely depleted. Jill was stumbling, almost falling into a ditch. Fuel was needed and fast. Fortunately, Jill had picked up a banana at the previous checkpoint and ate this and some cashew nuts she was carrying. We walked whilst she tried to get fuel into her body. Jill wasn’t giving in though and despite us walking she was power walking. Please just slow down for a bit I was thinking, as much for her as for my own tired body (I can’t walk as fast as Jill either).

We walked and ‘ultra’ shuffled for a couple of miles, still with Sarah nearby. Dave and Tony had by now long since left us, and were happily running their own race. I’d said all along that I wasn’t leaving Jill and despite her still struggling we pressed on. Not finishing was never an option.

By the time we had reached the woods that bring you into Leaplish and the 24 mile CP Jill was again feeling strong and we were run (shuffle) walking. By this point we had lost Sarah further behind us, she was by now really struggling. In order for us to finish, we had to do what was best for us and kept moving. Not at a fast pace, just moving forward.

At the Leaplish CP, we had a quick water refill and were off 1.7 miles to go. By now Jill had replenished her energy supplies and was again feeling strong. I, on the other hand, was tired and starting to really struggle. I didn’t let on though. From what I can recall we ran large sections of the last 1.7 miles to the finish, Jill was leading me along. At the final hill to the Scout site, Jill was about 10 meters ahead of me shouting “Come on”. I’ll not say what I was thinking at the time.

Up the hill, around the corner and into the hall to finish. We had done it. 5 hours 47 minutes. Nowhere near PB times, but the end goal had been achieved.

At the finish, we were greeted by Tony, Dave and Rachel Toth who were conveniently standing next to the Jelly Babies. I ate a lot of Jelly Babies! Bill Ford joined us looking rather refreshed. He’d been changed, had a massage, watched the first finishers come in, but most importantly of all he’d been to collect Jill’s car from the overflow car park and brought it to the finish meaning we could make a quick getaway. We said our goodbye’s, saw Jonathan Hamill eating cake and were off for pizza and drinks.

I found out the following morning that Sarah had made it to the finish after stopping for some rest at Leaplish. Sorry we didn’t hang around!

As a footnote, the Northern Lights didn’t show up and we saw very few stars since it was cloudy.

Name TimePositionGenderGender PosCatCat Pos
(Visited 164 times, 1 visits today)

Bilsdale Fell Race, Chop Gate, North York’s Moors, Sunday, March 17, 2019

AL / 23km / 1300m

Nigel Heppell

Striders variable dress code

First running of this FRA category AL race; a 23km/1300m (14.3 miles/4265ft) route taking in the climbs of the northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors: hosted by Esk Valley Fell Club.

Apparently, this is the only AL (long, and lots of climbs) fell race to be held on the North Yorks Moors (NYM).

Now the NYM are generally regarded as not being particularly high, so how did Esk Valley FC fit in the necessary climb? Simple answer is climb to a peak, drop off the escarpment to the bottom; and repeat; 7 times in all – bit like a fiddler’s elbow, up and down, up and down, up and down…

120 runners turned up for this event on a bright but breezy spring day. Strict kit requirements to usual FRA standards rightly enforced by the organisers, but everything ranging from vest and shorts to full body cover seen out on the hills, especially once at altitude on the moors and exposed to the full force of the wind.

Heading towards CP2

A handful of Striders, Nina, Danny, Robin and Nigel (Jan and Fiona marshalling) attended along with a few faces from familiar running clubs, 3 NFR and a bucket-load of DFR (it’s on their championship race list); a lot of very young and fit types from Durham University AC; and representatives from Scarborough, York, Swaledale, Thirsk, Pudsey, NYM, Middlesborough, Wharfdale, Pickering, Loftus, Leeds, Vegan, Billingham, Darlington, Beverley, Keswick, Totley, Derwent, Driffield, Harrogate, Marske, Wootton, and a certain Mr Fishwick from Chorley.

The start is a sober affair, everyone conscious of the distance lying ahead and wanting to take it easy, on a steady uphill climb, the longest of the day, to summit Round Hill (highest point of NYM), but tempered by the knowledge that there is a 90min cut-off at the top of Cold Moor (3rd climb and living up to its name today) some 6miles away.

As this is a proper fell race there is no defined route and we are free to decide our own way between checkpoints. Some of the CP locations are obvious; summits of Round Hill/Cold Moor/Falconers Seat/ Cock Howe cairn; others are easily visible from above, Toft Hill Scout Hut/Busby stream crossing/Carlton Bank; but CP 8 tucked away out of sight down in Raisdale offers scope for individual route choice off the established tracks.

I elected to go cross-country at this point, taking DFR Denise through the heather with me, and leaving an NFR man to follow the main track. We hopped and jumped through the heather, scrambled down a gully, picked up a nice runnable surface alongside a boundary wall, plodged through a few boggy bits, and arrived at CP 8 from behind; about 10 paces after NFR guy coming in from opposite direction!


I had more success with route choice earlier on, dropping down towards Clay Bank road crossing where I deviated off the Cleveland Way onto a smooth remnant of quarry track, happily overtaking at least 15 others slowly picking their way down the uneven steps and slabs. And again, taking the direct route down a steep overgrown gully onto Busby Moor put me in front of probably the same set of people who had steadily re-overtaken me since Clay Bank but who ran a zig-zag along the obvious track.

Scout Hall CP4, Roseberry Topping, and Denise Tunstall, DFR
Climb to Falconer’s Seat (Pork Pie Hill?)

My route choice into Scugdale was no good at all; from memory I thought a right fork in the trail would line me up nicely with the Hall (out of sight over the ridgeline) which it did – but I hadn’t factored in the fenced-off quarry/crags that it led to, so a bit of back-tracking had to be done and this is where Denise (who had chosen left fork) got away from me!

The climb out of Scugdale is the last one on the route but it goes on forever. Steep and only walkable at first, you think you are out on to the ridgeline at last but there is still a steady climb of over 100m or so to the last checkpoint at Cock Howe Cairn 2km further on. Run-walk, run-walk; trying to catch those ahead but we are all doing the same; DFR Denise is in sight but I can’t close the gap. Pretty much exhausted and with leaden legs, we are greeted at CP10 by Fiona cheerily hopping about and running up and down the cairn to keep warm; I’m envious of her energy!

At last the downhill run to the finish begins; normally a time to let go, take advantage of gravity and stride out. Not today, the legs just won’t have it; it’s too steep and so it’s a fight all the way. Some small consolation as I manage to pass a couple of equally weary runners on the way down and elect to take the twisty gully track because it feels easier. Slightly surprised as I emerge onto the lane to see I’ve been caught up by another runner taking the direct route down the field so final effort goes into 100m dash through the mud to hold them off, spurred on by Jan’s audible encouragement!
3hrs 40min and near enough 16 miles. Official results coming later.


Huge thanks to Esk Valley FC led by Mike Quinn for organising this and making it look so easy even though we know how much work goes on behind the scenes and how many contribute marshalling/tea making/cake baking without the chance to run. And with a nod in the direction of Dave Parry, once the main prizes have been distributed it’s a case of ‘well we’ve got some bottles left, so if you can think of a reason come forward and claim one’ – of course we’re all too polite to do that, so Danny wins one for entering the race before it is officially open (Nina too, but she already has her age category winnings) and evidently someone has travelled all the way from Texas to claim their bottle of beer!

NameTimeCat Pos
Neil Crampton
Pudsey & Bramley
Katie Lliffe
Durham University A
Danny Lim03:02:07MO/21/28
Nina Mason03:08:41FV45/1/50
Robin Parsons03:18:47MV40/9/40
Nigel Heppell03:40:21MV60/5/44
(Visited 180 times, 1 visits today)

Hardmoors 55(50), Guisborough,North Yorkshire, Saturday, March 16, 2019

55 miles

Simon Graham

Having run a few marathons in previous years, 2018 became the year of the Ultra. My other (better) half, Jill, decided that we should run Paris Marathon as a training run for the Dukeries 30 miler, which in turn was a warm-up for the St Cuthberts Way 45 miles.

Upon completing St Cuthberts I found myself looking for another challenge. Did I want to ‘just be’ a marathon runner in future? I decided that since I prefer the challenge of off-road to pounding the miles on tarmac racing, after a time, and having felt I had more to give after Cuthberts, that I’d go for it. The Hardmoors 55.

This year the 55 became the 50 to commemorate 50 years of the Cleveland Way (along which the race is run). The route was shortened (to 54 miles) and an extra trip over the summit of Roseberry Topping added for ‘fun’. To make things even more appealing the route this year ran from north to south meaning the big climbs would be in the first 30 miles. The second half is by no means flat.

I spoke with my friend, fellow Strider and Hardmoors 1000 club member Dave Toth about doing this with me and sticking together throughout, as I had no intention of plodding around the moors alone. Dave agreed, and I knew he would keep me right pace-wise. I have a history of going out far too fast and blowing up!

Roll forward months of training and miles and the day arrived.

At 6 am in Durham I opened the front door of the house to discover heavy snow falling from the skies. ‘Great’, I thought, just what we needed!

We arrived at Guisborough Sea Cadets at just after 7 am. It was a wet and miserable 4 degrees. Storm Hannah had decided she was going to make an appearance bringing with her 50 mph winds and driving rain. This was at a low level, what on earth was in store for us when we hit the tops of the moors I thought. We started the race in full waterproofs and were to need them all day.

A few minutes delay to the start meant that waterproofs were already coming in useful as we assembled outside of the Sea Cadets in Guisborough. At 8:20 (ish) we were off.

With Dave knowing how to pace these things, I was very careful of not getting swept away in the rush, jogging out of the Sea Cadets and up the hill towards the stile where we would go off-road. Over the stile and through the woods was a good place to start just gently running towards the first big climb of the race, the Tees Link, up to High Cliff Nab, where we would join the Cleveland Way. This was the first real challenge. The Tees Link was a bog fest and staying upright was the challenge. At least the woods provided some shelter from the rain.

And then the wind hit…

At High Cliff Nab, already wet and covered in mud we were greeted by Hannah and her 50mph winds. Undeterred we pressed on towards Roseberry Topping with rain coming at us sideways driven by the fierce winds. Climbing up Roseberry was tough, descending for the first time even tougher. The front runners were already flying down Roseberry for the second time as we went up for the first, the wind not seeming to affect them. These guys are machines I thought.

So, up to the summit of Roseberry Topping, down the other side to the marshals who then told us to simply turn back around and ascend Roseberry again before rejoining the Cleveland Way and heading off to Captain Cooks Monument.

At the summit of Roseberry, we were greeted by a familiar face. My better half Jill (who was acting as support crew for the day) had climbed up from the car park at the bottom to provide some much-needed cheer! I’m not sure who was crazier, me for entering this race, or her for going up there to see me for 20 seconds!

The section from towards Captain Cooks Monument and from there into the checkpoint at Kildale is mainly downhill (apart from the climb to the monument itself) which allowed some actual running to be done but by now after a tough start, I could feel my legs hating the constant force that running downhill puts on them.

Kildale to Clay Bank, from what I can remember of it, is mainly just a huge climb up to the top of the moors followed by a long slog across the exposed moorland. We attempted to run parts of this but the wind and horizontal rain were simply making it all seem rather pointless with little progress being made. It was here, somewhere near Bloworth Crossing, we were passed by someone wearing snow goggles. There had been lots of discussion on Facebook about snow goggles in the days before the race, but I hadn’t actually expected to see someone wearing them! Onwards we plodded, power walking and running, or at least attempting to, towards Clay Bank.

At Clay Bank Checkpoint there was Jill again with coffee and a much-needed food resupply.

Onwards we pressed over the ‘Three sisters’ (even though there’s four of them). Climb up, run a little over the top, descend and repeat three times before coming into Lord Stones Country Park.

At Lord Stones, or what I thought was about the halfway point (turned out to be only 22.5 miles), we met Jill and our friends David and Debbie who has driven down to provide some support. I think the support was as much for Jill, spending the day sat driving from place to place and waiting, as it was for us. A quick change of clothes into a fresh dry kit, a food resupply and again we were off, this time up the ‘fourth’ of the ‘Three Sisters’ Carlton Bank and towards the indoor checkpoint at 31 miles in Osmotherley where I knew there was freshly cooked pizza waiting. Well, there was for me anyway. Vegan Dave could have whatever he wanted, I just looked forward to warm pizza!

Leaving Osmotherley we walked to let the food settle in our stomachs, and since it was uphill to Square Corner it would have been silly to run. The rain seemed to have eased by this point and the wind had died down making the conditions much nicer, or at least it would have had it not simply soaked the ground through so much that what would have been solid, was now just pure mud. We did some ‘Ultra Shuffling’ on the downhill bits we found, but mostly it was power walking uphill to see Jill, David and Debbie again at Square Corner. From Square Corner is another big climb up Black Hambleton hill, fortunately, this is a long and steady climb which was actually somewhat of a relief to me following the previous big steep climbs.

Back on the tops of the moors it was head torch time, and although this section was pretty boring with no scenery (it was dark) it did allow quite a bit of running (shuffling) to be done towards High Paradise Farm and the descent into the disco (yes, they had a disco going on with lights and everything!) checkpoint at Sneck Yate. Straight through this checkpoint and onto Sutton Bank Visitor Centre where once again we met with our amazing support crew, took a few minutes to refuel and pressed on to White Horse.

The Hardmoors Run Director Jon doesn’t like to make things easy, and so rather than simply being allowed to head towards the finish at Helmsley from to top of Sutton Bank, he put in an out and back section to the car park at the bottom of the White Horse. Yes, you go from the top to the bottom and back again climbing loads of stairs along the way. It’s like Roseberry all over again. Once you’re back at the top of the White Horse stairs though you know you’re on the home straight with about 9 miles to go.

From the White Horse to Helmsley is almost all downhill, with no significant climbs left to do. Unfortunately, its also on a lot of grass and tracks which had been turned into what can simply be described as a mudfest by the preceding runners. Thanks for that fast lads (and lasses), as if I wasn’t slow enough I now have to slip and slide my way to the finish!

So, it’s muddy, it’s slippy, it’s dark, I have tired legs and Dave is a power walking machine up any hills. I said its mostly downhill, but not all. I chased him up pretty much every climb on the course.

We pressed on knowing that the end was in sight and that we should just make the cut off of 16 hours. Before we started, and in good condition, I had thoughts of being able to do this in around 14 hours. How wrong was I. The end was in sight though and leaving the mud and hills behind we descended into Helmsley where Jill, David and Debbie had walked to the top of the track at the end of the Cleveland way to meet us and see us to the finish.

Solid ground and tarmac was a delightful sight, but this was a Hardmoors event and it wouldn’t be complete without one last hill to the finish at Helmsley Sports Club. It’s really just a gentle incline that normally I wouldn’t think twice about running up, but this was mile 54 and there was no running up any inclines going on!

We had done it. Finishing in a time of 15 Hours 48 minutes. Dave for his 6th (I think) time, me for my first (and last!) time. Jill, being the amazing support that she was had even got our beers for the finish (She’s a keeper) and boy did they taste good.

What have I learnt, and what’s next?

Well, I have learnt that whilst I have the time to go for long runs on a Sunday morning, what I don’t have the time for is all of the other miles. The back to back long runs, the cross-training that is required for an event of this nature. Running 18 miles on Sunday is all well and good, but doing it again on a Monday after a full day at work, now that’s hard!

What’s next? I have the remainder of the Hardmoors 26.2 Half Marathon series to look forward to. The longest ‘Half’ Marathon is around 17 miles which are comfortable and doable on my planned training schedule of a couple of 10k’s, a parkrun and 10 miles/ hm’s on Sundays. During the long-run training, I’d forgotten just how much fun and enjoyable a 10k (or about an hours run) can actually be and I look forward to enjoying my runs again, not being permanently tired, and being able to get out of bed without aching again.

Oh, and I have also promised to return the favour for Dave Toth and accompany him on the St Cuthberts Way 45 miles. Guess those pain-free mornings are just going to have to wait.

(Visited 299 times, 1 visits today)

Captain’s Roundup, Monday, March 11, 2019

Fiona Brannan

Striders on tour this weekend with success across the country!

At the ever popular Dentdale runs, 28 Striders turned out in force to represent the club with some fantastic performances through the field. The men’s team of Michael Littlewood, Matt Archer and Allan Renwick retained the Striders first place title for another year, while Katy Walton won her age category in the 14 mile race. In the 7 mile race, success in the form of one Mark Kearney (sounds familiar, has he won something before…?), storming home to win two minutes ahead of second place. Another win for Jan Young in her age category as well!

Further down south, Stephen Jackson continues his running success with another personal best at the London half marathon; coming home in 71 minutes and 60th overall, despite the high winds! Well done to Striders Karen, Lesley and Rachel who also travelled down; conditions could have been more pleasant but top running all round.

Tonight at 7, as many of you will know – entries for the Blaydon race open, therefore we are postponing the meeting time until 7:30

So, at 7:30 from the Houghall bus stop we have:

Alison will take the 11 min mile group, about 4 miles

Michael will lead a Jon Ayres special, suitable for those who run at 8-10 min miles but nobody left behind. Will include ‘hills, speed and fun’ I am told! Turn up to find out more…


(Visited 6 times, 1 visits today)