Langdale Horseshoe 2021, Dungeon Ghyll, Saturday, October 9, 2021

12.5 miles, 4600ft, AL

Nina Mason

Cloud on hills before the race

As one of the ‘classic’ Lakes fell races I have wanted to run this for a few years, Langdale is also one of my favourite places (Mum used to take me up to Stickle Tarn as a kid) and I was really excited about the opportunity to run this year.

The Ambleside AC website pulls no punches about the run, and you need to be competent on the fells to take part.

The race did not disappoint – in fact I loved every minute. I felt pretty good all the way round, possibly helped by the fact I had to concentrate so hard. Also, I’m not very quick on wet rock even if I had wanted to push harder, and I knew I needed something in my legs for XC the next day (the race of the weekend, of course!).

I was really nervous beforehand, I am fairly confident navigating in poor conditions, but I know it slows me down, and I can start to struggle if I get cold too. I marked up my map with distances and bearings to help speed things up.

Checkpoint marshals out in the clag

The clag was pretty thick, especially after Esk Hause, and a light rain for much of it soaked us through. I was warm enough because I was moving, but I felt for the checkpoint marshals – it was not a great day to be race support on the tops.

The race starts and finishes at the Old Dungeon Ghyll near the head of the valley. It was really well organised, car parking in the big field and marquees for registration. Entry was into the 300s, it is always fairly popular, though 268 actually ran.

My thoughts on the route:

  • Martcrag Moor is indeed boggy. Deviate by millimetres from the firm ground the runner in front stood on and whup … up to knees in clarts and the risk of losing a shoe.
  • Contouring beneath Esk Pike, described as  ‘dreadful, but right’ on the race map – it was pretty dreadful if you want to move fast. My running was minimal, but I had worried about crags and drops, and they didn’t materialise (though I could only see about 10 yards!). There were lots of wet and greasy rocks, but on the day my main worry was keeping the trod, and the runner in front, in sight.
  • Crinkle Crags – I wish I had recce’d this. There is a racing line, but I ended up clambering up and down most of the ‘crinkles’ – I can definitely save time on this section if I run this again! I managed to avoid the ‘bad step’ by going around, a wise tactical decision given my aversion to heights and wet rock.
  • The descent from Blisco – I was with a small group, and we all agreed ‘it’s the Three Shires trod’. The joy of dropping out the clouds and seeing the valley (and final CP and finish) before us was, as always, stunning and inspiring.

I had my map and compass out pretty much the whole way, but especially after Esk Hause. A couple of other runners around me did the same, and there were also some that were clearly confident of route choice without the map. There were also some ‘followers’ (I think basically leaving the nav up to me and some others). I am usually terribly competitive, but I was glad to confer a couple of times with those with their compasses out, and very grateful I had the company of two others on the climb up Bow Fell (we followed the cairns up, I think others found the runners trod… I wasn’t confident of finding and following it). Let’s just say, it never crossed my mind to try and ‘lose’ anyone in the mist!

Nina the dog (yep, she’s also Nina), pie for all runners, and one happy runner!

I pushed harder on the final descent, feeling strong, passing a few, my competitive edge fired up again with the view! And sure of my footing now we were (finally) on muddy, less stony, ground. My reward was my daughter Leigh waiting in the field, cheering me in.

I absolutely loved this race and returned home with a real buzz. The route is fantastic, a real mix of climbs, descents, rocks and bogs. Some of the best fells to run around, and (in better weather) stunning views. I would really like to go back and do this one again. If you don’t fancy the run, this would make a great summer walk too.

Results

PositionNameClubTimeCategoryGender Pos.
1Matthew AtkinsonKeswick AC2:15:16MSEN1
55Tessa StrainHunters Bog Trotters2:54:57WSEN1
169Nina MasonElvet Striders3:37:03W4015

256 finishers, 12 retirements.

Full results can be found at SPORTident
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Manchester Marathon 2021, Sunday, October 10, 2021

Nina Bojadzic

Last Sunday morning in Manchester witnessed my marathon debut – the race which was my A goal for this year, a run that I have prepared for the last 11 months (since my marathon time trial last November when I set the basic time of 3.52.35 on 26.2mi distance). I’m proud to say there was hardly anything I could have done better on Sunday. My goal was to stay in control throughout the race and save something in the tank for a next build up. I might have been somewhat conservative with my pace, but out of all the good advice I got out there – one stood out: “Remember, marathon owes you nothing!” (you may guess who said this☺️) and I stuck with it. Honestly, how much more than 22’35” PB do you need in your first marathon!? (According to Garmin it was 25’13”… but we know that official race distances are more accurately measured.) 

I ran for exactly 3 hours and 30 minutes in a way I run 30’ on track every Wednesday in a year. If you have ever run with me, you know what I’m talking about😁. And this is all I ever wanted from my races – to do my best on a day, split it evenly, feel the pace come to you – you don’t push for it!, stay tall (especially when you’re as short as myself😂), make it look like the easiest thing in the world, finish strong with a smile and hunger for more❤️. 

 

It was such a heartwarming thing to feel all the support and encouragement I’ve got ahead of the race and the joy of success I shared with so many of you afterwards💜. 

Above all I have to thank the person who’s not on this club and who, I’m pretty sure by now, has regretted buying me a first GPS watch few years ago, my husband Tin. I have to tell you hon – your fears are true, this is just a start😘. 

Of the pictures, the first one, despite being most sincere, is my favourite, as it truly sums up my effort on the day. 

Results

Overall Pos.NameClubTimeCategoryCategory Pos.Gender Pos.
1*Matthew CrehanSt. Helens Sutton A.C.02:18:26MSEN11
23*Anna BracegirdleSalford Harriers02:40:17FSEN11
262James McNaneyElvet Striders02:53:59MSEN177256
1375Iain GibsonElvet Striders03:18:05MSEN7851306
2277Nina BojadzicElvet Striders03:30:00FSEN111186
3033Paul SwinburneElvet Striders03:39:42MV453702752
3592Kyle SunleyElvet Striders03:45:41MSEN17943195
3748David OxladeElvet Striders03:47:18MSEN18663314
5108John BissonElvet Striders03:59:05MV407574355
12689Rachel CoyElvet Striders05:43:28FSEN17413565

* Position in Elite Race

Full results can be found at Sporthive

Event Homepage

(Visited 38 times, 3 visits today)

Manchester Half-marathon 2021, Sunday, October 10, 2021

Marc Watson

The weather was warm and still. No wind or rain and good conditions. I went into the run thinking: “Somewhere around 2 hours. All of the talk is about fast and flat”.

As I started at 8:15am, it was very early. I didn’t get chance for pre-race porridge (as I hardly slept the night before anyway!!).

I got to the tram stop for 7am. I had a bit of a chat with Bryan Potts at the tram stop and we boarded the tram to the Old Trafford stop, and walked up past the cricket ground towards the athletes village.

I dropped the bags where needed – quick visit to the portaloos for a “nervous pre-race wee” (which happens on EVERY race I do!) and a walk down to the start line. Lots of people, little social distancing.

Start time. Off went the “gun” (cannon?) I gave my Sarah Watson a kiss, said “Love you” and moved with the crowd slowly towards the start line. Spread out a bit when passing the start line and away we go. First mile I looked down at my watch as it buzzed – 8:49 it said… I said to myself “That’s too fast”. By mile 4, I found myself chatting to a few – mainly about those nasty little hills. Only a hundred yards or so each, but they were still there! And by mile 4, there had been 4 of them!! (letter of complaint to the Manchester Half team who literally said “Fast and Flat”)??

My watch was ticking over at around the 9 minute mile mark. The pace I had planned on to break my 2 hour “race” barrier (as I ran a number of sub 2 hour halves last year but none in race conditions).

There was a young gentleman I was talking to who kept going past me and then me going past him. Chatted for almost all of mile 4 and his plan was to keep up with me as his targets were similar to mine.

Miles 5-7 were lovely and flat. At the start of mile 5, I overheard someone say “The next 3 are completely flat” so I pushed a little. Ran 3 good miles and was feeling in good condition – so much so that I decided to keep going. Miles 8-11 were my fastest 4 of the run, all well below the 9 minute mile mark and putting me in a great place for a sub 2 hour half.

I then got hit with that tired feeling. I started to feel fatigue in my legs and had to ease off for 12 and 13. I knew I had this due to my current pace and average keeping me well so I backed (what I thought was) right off – expecting 10 minute miles (which would’ve left me 2 minutes to do the last 0.1 miles).

Turns out that 12 and 13 were 9:11 and 9:02 respectively. Leaving me with loads of time to break 2 hours.

Onto the finishing straight. I often get asked “are you racing anybody” and my answer is always the same – I am only racing myself – until I get to the finishing straight when I am racing everyone else on it! Proud to say that my sprint finishes are pretty good. Not a single person overtook me on the straight – and I overtook at least 10 others. Thanks to my biggest supporter Sarah for cheering me in to the finish (and the fab flying feet photo she took).

Comfortably below the 2 hour mark with 1:56:52 – including another long run finished with negative splits.

Medal around my neck, obligatory selfie posed for (filter applied to make me look ruggedly handsome – oh – I don’t need a filter for that…). Striders vest on show of course and post run stretches done (thanks Michael Littlewood, Stephen Jackson, Fiona Brannan, Fiona Kinghorn Jones and all other coaches for getting me to do this – would never have thought about it or its benefits in the past).

All in all it was a fantastic route and course. It was basically flat – there are a few very small hills – similar incline to the one up to Framwellgate Moor from Pity Me but a lot shorter, but nothing nasty.

I preferred the Great North Run atmosphere, but for pace, this was fantastic.

I have completely regained my running mojo which I had lost for quite some time and am glad I still have my lovely Strider friends to call on for help and support (for which I thank each and every one of you). Recovery 4 miles last night and legs feeling great today. Nice long walk with the dog tonight and be ready for another adventure in the near future.

Results

Overall Pos.NameClubTimeCategoryCategory Pos.Gender Pos.
1*Ciaran LewisCardiff AAC01:06:10MSEN11
7*Mollie WilliamsStockport Harriers01:15:46FSEN11
70Bryan PottsElvet Striders01:19:01MSEN4670
1988Marc WatsonElvet Striders01:56:53MV451581568

* Position in Elite Race

Full results can be found at Sporthive

Event Homepage

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A Day of Achievements

Last Sunday, 26th September, saw Striders putting in excellent performances at a number of races, both here and abroad.

Nina Mason claimed a win in The Lancashireman Off-road Marathon, which took place at Burnley. This race actually exceeds the classic marathon distance and includes 1350m (4430 feet) of ascent. Nina finished in just over 6 hours, 38 minutes ahead of her nearest rival.

Photos from Trawden Athletic Club

A Strider favourite, the Trail Outlaws RAFBF Spadeadam Half Marathon, took place on the same day. Graeme Watt continued his excellent form, taking second place on a hilly course in 1:29:11.

Photo from Hippie Nixon Photography and Trail Outlaws #trailoutlaws #yourefollowingatrailoutlaw

Allan Renwick ran a fantastic race at one of Europe’s biggest events, The Berlin Marathon. Recently shaven, Allan beat the magical three hour mark, claiming a finish time of 2:57:35. According to the Power Of 10 website, this is the fastest marathon by a Northeast athlete of his age category this year, and the 29th best from the whole of the UK. Some running.

Many congratulations to all three of you!

I’m sure another similar announcement will appear soon, as this weekend sees another set of marathons with Strider participation: Kielder, Loch Ness, and the biggest of them all, London. Good luck to all involved.

(Visited 28 times, 1 visits today)

George Fisher Hot Chocolate Run, Keswick, Monday, September 20, 2021

29.5 miles / 7,947 feet

Tamsin Imber

Summit of Catbells

I need to thank Nina Mason. She did the George Fisher Tea Round a couple of weeks ago, and this inspired me to have a go. I had not heard of it before. The George Fisher Tea Round is a circular route that takes in all the tops you can see from the George Fisher cafe in Keswick. It is 30 miles and 12,000 feet of ascent in total. Jan Young mentioned there was another round called the George Fisher Espresso Round which was a shorter version encompassing the nearer peaks you can see from the cafe window. The Espresso Round is 12 miles and 3, 000ft total ascent. I was taken with the idea of the longer route. Also the longer route meant an opportunity for a mid-run dip in Buttermere and I hadn’t been to Buttermere for a long time and felt I would love to go there again. I got a highlighter pen and marked the route on my OS map.

I needed to plan. It was unfortunate being September, as the daylight hours are a lot shorter now meaning less running time is available in the day. I did not want to run in the dark on my own. I looked up sunrise and sunset in Keswick which said sunrise at 7am and sunset at 7:15pm. Therefore, I wanted to start running at 7am, setting off from Durham at 5am latest.

Earlier this year my husband and I decided we wouldn’t be going on holiday this year due to everything with Covid. I had annual leave to use and it had to be booked in advance so I decided to book random days off throughout the year. During the school summer holidays we had some nice family days out, but also I have been using these days as ‘escape days’ where I get up at 5am-ish, drive wherever the sun is shining and go running for a day with stops to swim in waterfalls, tarns and lakes. I have had some wonderful days out in Yorkshire, the Cheviots and the Lake District. Waterfall pools drenched in sparkling sunlight are my favourite places and I would live in one if I could 😊.

The thing with booking time off in advance is that it does not guarantee good weather, although with the summer we have had I have been quite lucky. For the George Fisher Tea Round attempt I wanted good weather. I am not a fan of being in mist on my own, as I find it navigationally hard and you can’t see anything. The weather forecast was potentially looking good for when I had leave booked on Monday 20th September. I nervously checked the forecast several times a day in the run up to the 20th! By the 18th it was still saying sunshine and light winds, so I booked wrap-around school childcare for the kids and then I was all set. It was on.

Pink: full route, Yellow: revised route after Buttermere

On the day I was really excited, and was awake and up at 4:20am. I had everything packed and downstairs so there would be less plastic bag rustling noise – I did not want to wake anyone up. The only unavoidable noise was the kettle boiling to make up the flask of tea but it didn’t take too long. Out of the front door I was greeted by Orion shining brightly above in the darkness and a giant yellow moon low in the sky. The night air was cold. I dumped my stuff in the car and set off. The first part of the journey down the A1 went well. There was a surprising amount of traffic that morning. Then crossing the Pennines on the A66 there was thick fog. I was behind a lorry. We had both slowed to 40mph as visibility was really bad. The lorry’s rear lights were tiny red dots and billows of mist swirled in my headlights. My frantic use of the windscreen wipers did not make any difference. We continued like this, until once over the Pennines there was more light coming through the fog as dawn broke. I stopped at Rheged services for a break and breakfast, and there was still thick fog there and I wondered if the weather forecast had changed. However, as I approached Keswick, things changed dramatically. That wonderful view you get of Blencathra and Skiddaw as you enter the Lake District appeared with these mountains rising majestically out of a white wispy ground lying mist. It was stunning. I couldn’t wait to get up Catbells, the first peak, as I expected the valley mist would look beautiful from above.

After parking and kit sorting, I started out through the quiet streets of Keswick and was soon running along pretty paths through sheep fields to Portinscale. The sunlight was highlighted by deep shadows. I was setting out a bit later than planned as the fog had slowed me up on the drive over, but not too much later. The air was peaceful and full of possibility. After Portinscale there is a short section through a pretty shady woodland along the shores of Derwent Water, taking me to the foot of Catbells. I enjoyed this and started up Catbells. However, then I realised I had left the map in the car! Oops! I ran back to the car, got the map and started out again. But as I started out I had a phone call from the builder who is about to start some work on our bathroom and it needed quite a long conversation. Following this there was another phone call from someone else. Following that, it was now 9am and I was just starting out! I thought then that the Tea Round might not happen. But that was OK, it was a beautiful day and I was in the Lake District! I decided to see how it went. Previous studying the map had shown shortcut routes and if all failed there was always the bus back from Buttermere. I would have a good day out whatever.

View of Skiddaw from Catbells

Getting to the summit of Catbells the view of Derwent water was glorious with postcard reflections of the surrounding mountains. I passed some cheerful walkers after the summit and followed the route down into the Newlands Valley. This starts as a crumbly stone path, a bit like the top of a well baked apple crumble. Down in the Newlands valley it was a lot warmer, so I had a quick change out of leggings into shorts and sun cream. I followed the lane past cow fields to the footpath which goes up Robinson via High Snab Bank. This is a fabulous way up Robinson, with good views of the glacial U shaped valley all the way up and I had it all to myself. Approaching the summit I had a citrus fruit craving so ate some clementines. At the summit I could see ‘over the hill’ the views of southern lakeland valleys, lakes and the sea. There were a few walkers at the top.

Approaching Summit of Robinson

It’s then a quick bit along a path to the descent into Buttermere. The descent that the route takes is interesting to say the least! It is a steep, steep, steep path of rugged heather, grass and mud clods bordering the gully of the Hassnesshow Beck. The views are rather arial. I like to refer to it as ‘The Chute’. There is a good fence that some ingenious engineer has managed to bolt into the rock at this angle which is a great handrail. I looked forward to comparing notes with Nina about The Chute. Buttermere looked wonderful from above and further down I could make out a few swimmers and cows wading near the shore. The final bit goes through leafy trees and follows the now pooling and spillings of the beck to the road.

Nina said to me that the Tea Round does not go the way you might intuitively choose. She is right! So far my impressions were that it gets you up really high, then swiftly takes you back right down to sea level as fast as it can before another huge up.

Summit of High Stile

The next huge up was High Stile. (I can confirm that it lives up to the ‘High’ bit.) To get to the ascent path there was a little bit around the lakeside to Peggy’s Bridge. It was really pretty in Buttermere. It was such a nice day! Lots of walkers were down in the valley and there was a display of mountain rescue vehicles and helicopters in a field. A sign said they were having a training day. The ascent up High Stile traverses the hill initially, then goes steeply up across closely spaced contours. I got into my stride and enjoyed the challenge. I had not seen anyone since at the lakeside and it stayed this way for now. A few boggy bits but higher up more rocky. It was hot and sticky and I applied more sun cream to my legs as the sun seemed to be burning the tops of my knees whenever I took a step. I powered on up. The path was small and not clear on the ground at times as it was quite rocky. I could see some higher crags above. From these crags two ladies appeared. One of them was waving at me. I carried on up quickly to meet her and she asked if I knew where the path was? It turned out I was on the same path as them, but they had found higher up the path had just petered out at the base of a very rocky section that looked more like rock-climbing. I studied my map and she studied the map on her phone and we agreed we needed to be more south of this line to find the right of way that was marked on the map (the small path we had been following was not on the map). Experience told me the ‘right of way’ would not be a path. This happens a lot in the North York Moors away from the popular paths. Rights of way are just that. The three of us found a good route up which was less craggy and we were soon on the summit, and what a view! I bid farewell to those ladies and galloped across the tops to the summit of Red Pike. I enjoyed the descent of Red Pike back into Buttermere. There are red screes below the summit, but it was dry and there are ways to avoid the worst of it. Then you go past Bleaberry Tarn, down a stepped path and descend further through Burtness Wood to the shore.

Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere from Red Pike

I ran down to a small stone beach at the lakeside. I was baking hot so I got changed into my swimming costume and jumped into the lake! The cold water was delicious. The lake surface was so still and my ripples circled away from me. I could see every reflection of the fells and trees. Studying the scenery around I saw the tiny sub-vertical line of the gully with ’The Chute’ in the fellside from earlier! My legs felt soothed. I love dipping mid-run. I find it gives me energy. It’s so relaxing for the mind too. I now always carry my swimming costume and a small towel in my rucksack. I clambered out over the slippy stones back to the beach to get changed. If dipping it’s important to get dry quickly and put on as many clothes as possible then to get running to get warmed up so you can mitigate the ‘after drop’ in body temperature. I put on my leggings, short and long-sleeved top, fleecy jumper, waterproof jacket and woolly hat and started running.

Nina had given me the heads-up that there was a tearoom in Buttermere village. There is, and very pleasant it is too. I had a tasty hot chocolate and bought some water to top up my water bladder. Then I checked the time and did some calculations. It was clear that owing to the events of the morning I might have run out of time to do the full route. It would be a bit touch and go with daylight hours and I like to calculate leaving a good margin of time as well for the unknown. I felt a bit disappointed as the next bit looked great up to peaks of the Coledale Horseshoe, which would have been the final high bit. But better to be safe. I calculated that I did have plenty of time with margin to run back to Keswick if I followed the paths along the valley of the Mill Beck then the valley of the Rigg Beck which would take me back to the Newlands valley and from there a few miles of minor road to Portinscale. I packed up my stuff and headed off.

Buttermere

This was by far the wildest part of the route. The nameless valleys were bleak. There was no path in the Mill Beck valley. Again, the big thick dashed green right of way on the map was only that. I did several miles of bracken wading, heather bashing and thistle pushing over uneven boggy terrain. The thistles were often above waist height and scratched my legs. It felt desolate. A few sheep were clearly surprised to see a human. I kept my morale high by noting my progress by tributary crossings, but progress was slow. However, after reaching the low col between the valleys, a brilliant perfect path appeared. I felt relief and was so happy that I ran fast all the way along the valley of the Rigg Beck, a much more inviting place. I was joyful to reach the Newlands valley and I ran at speed along the minor roads back to Portinscale then along footpaths to Keswick. Running into Keswick, civilisation appeared with the noise of pubs, traffic and people. Once in the town centre I made a beeline for the fish and chip shop. I was really hungry, and salty chips taste so good after a long run! As I waited, I could smell them coming from the fryer and they didn’t disappoint. Hot, steaming chips wrapped in paper with salt, vinegar and ketchup. It was perfect with a bottle of sparkling water for my thirst.

After a quick call to my husband to let him know I was on my way back, I changed into the dry clothes I had packed in the car and then I set off on the drive home. I felt really happy with my adventure. It had been challenging in many ways. It had not started well, what with delays due to unforeseen driving conditions, me initially leaving the map in the car and unexpected phone calls. Then there had been a bit of tricky navigation and ongoing planning decisions to make, and the bleak valley took some mental fibre. Having beaten those challenges felt good. 

In total I had run 29.5 miles (including the pre-run ‘warm up’) and ascended 7,947 feet. I had not completed the George Fisher Tea Round or the George Fisher Espresso Round. In fact I had invented a whole new round. I have decided to call this The George Fisher Hot Chocolate Round, named after the scrumptious hot chocolate I had in Buttermere. I would absolutely like to try the George Fisher Tea Round again, probably in the summer when there are longer day-light hours, and this Hot Chocolate round has been an excellent recce.

External Links

More information about the Tea Round, including how to qualify for a finisher’s badge and T-shirt, can be found at George Fisher’s website.

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Montane Dragon’s Back Race 2021, Wales, Monday, September 6, 2021

236 miles, 17,000 m ascent

Elaine Bisson

The Dragon’s Back Race
Rad Cefn Y Ddraig
‘The World’s Toughest Mountain Race’
6th – 11th September 2021
236 miles, 57,000ft, 6 days

As for so many others, this last year has been exceptionally challenging. To say things have not gone to plan would be an understatement. The one thing that keeps me on the brighter side is my running. Even a 20 minute bolt up and back along the busy main road sets me right. What I really love and have grown to need is a weekly escape to my favourite place. To the hills, especially the beautiful Lakeland fells. I tend to go alone, to choose the paths few people will visit. It does me the world of good and through lockdown it was the thing I missed and needed the most. If I have trouble sleeping I choose a route in the Lakes and try to visualise everything on it. It doesn’t take me long to fall asleep. They’re my grounding, the places I visit to escape the madness, whether that’s in my head or in my being, it’s where I go to feel truly alive and to be at peace.

So when the opportunity to race again opened up I knew I had to enter something good, something challenging, something huge! Something to make up for all that I’d missed. And so I entered the Dragon’s Back Race. Between entering and racing I was supposed to race the Winter Spine. It was all consuming, with a good few delays in the start dates until finally they hung up their hats and cancelled the 2021 event. So for me all my eggs now hung in the dragon basket.

I love running, I also love numbers and planning. I spent a good while reviewing previous training patterns and settling on a new training plan that would take me through to September. It consisted of a few training blocks, building up to a few months of pretty hard and long endurance days on the fells, the DBR specificity blocks. I racked up the biggest training weeks I’d ever done, perfectly mimicking the dragons back mile:elevation gain ratio. This meant long days going up and down Lakeland fells to get maximum elevation so I didn’t have to go crackers on the diminutive hills of Durham or on my incline treadmill. 

As usual I know it’s coming, I happily train, ticking off the challenges. I collect my gear and start to make an ever increasing pile. I make lists and notes and try to think of all eventualities and try to overcome the problems I may encounter before I do. I like to be organised, I thrive on it. 

I did all this to keep my mind busy. Honestly, life has thrown some of the most horrendous curve balls at me. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but perhaps it made me stronger and even more desperate to succeed. However, because of all that had happened, I never believed I would get to the start line, never mind the finish.

 

As September reared its head I became increasingly anxious, particularly of Crib Goch. I’d hoped to go down with Fiona to recce that and a few other sections I’d read were trickier. However life got in the way and we couldn’t. At the last minute I booked into a RAW guided tour. I spent the Saturday on the Carneddau and the Sunday on the Snowdon horseshoe for their guided recce. A major confidence boost as this was the hardest, rockiest terrain and the section that I’d been terrified of.

I also managed to convince my family of a last minute trip to Wales. With mammoth amounts of running kit packed and maps the length of Wales, I’d intended to recce the tricky sections. In reality the kit was barely touched. The house was within a few miles of the Carneddau and instead of spending days driving…most of the route is quite inaccessible with little for my teenage kids to do, I resolved to get the hills in my legs whilst still having a family holiday. It would mean that all of the terrain after day 1 would be a surprise. Not ideal, but life never is.

A few weeks before I raced at the Lakeland 100, I was 15th overall, 2nd female and bagged a PB of 5 hours. I knew I could easily get a PB but planned to keep the pace comfortable as it wasn’t my ‘A race’ and I didn’t want anything scuppering the DBR. I was over the moon with the result and this gave me a massive boost and confidence in the training I’d been doing. Afterwards I’d got one tiny blister and apart from that recovery was a dream. Tapering was welcome for a change after the heavy weeks, it gave me plenty of time to sort and resort and resort my bags….

Allowed camp bag:15kg, 59l
Daily drop bag: 2.5kg, 10l

Anyone who knows me, knows I pack, even for days on the fells, probably twice as much as everyone else, so to have these limits on my weekly supply was awful. It was almost the hardest part of the challenge for me. I weighed everything meticulously, thought I’d managed it then realised I hadn’t taken into account the actual drop bag weight. Anyway you get the gist!

Eventually everything was sorted into neat mesh bags, camp kit separated into sleeping, clothing, eating, washing, first aid. Daily kit bags packed…new clothes, fuel for each day separated into use from the start and to go in the drop bag, all of this allowing me very minimal effort whilst out and knackered.

So the day finally came. I was quite sad, I’ve never left my family for more than a couple of days and even then have had regular phone calls with them. Most of the camps wouldn’t have reception and so there would be no chance to speak.

After a long drive I arrived at Conwy. Imposter syndrome reared its head. There were lots of burly, loud men talking about previous big challenges. I felt completely out of my depth. I had to lug my bags to registration (17.5kg of camp kit plus my daily running bag kit), I’m quite small and not very strong so this made me feel even worse as men dawdled past barely struggling to lift their bags.

In the queue for registration I chatted to Steve Birkinshaw who had navigated on my BG and said a quick hello to Jen and Marcus Scotney (I’d met them both on John Kelly’s FKT attempts).

I’d arranged to share my tent compartment with my friend Juhana. We’d met through Scott, a great guy I’d run a few of the L100 recces with. They’d then come up to help on Mark’s BG and I’d navigated on Juhana’s a few months ago. He stopped to chat but at that point I was in such a panic I wasn’t really thinking straight. After dropping off my bags (and having to remove 200g of recovery fuel…they were strict!) I decided to hide and try to calm myself down. Much to my surprise Anna Troup came across. If you’ve ever crossed paths with her, even when she’s knackered, you’ll know she is one of the happiest, most positive people. She really settled my nerves. The briefing went on until quite late and I didn’t arrive at my hotel until 8. I had my last shower for a few days, gobbled up some pot pasta meals and tried my best to sleep. Sleep was fretful, I tried my Lakeland routes but kept jumping to Wales and panicking that I didn’t know any of them! Each hour I’d jump up thinking I’d missed my alarm.

 

Day 1

Conwy Castle to Nant Gwynant
30.5 m, 12,467ft
And so it begins…

It was a beautiful morning with clear skies. The forecast was for good visibility, no rain, little wind and HOT. I didn’t mind so much as this meant the rocks on Tryfan and Crib Goch would be dry…the two bits I was most eager to put behind me!

I went through the castle gates, had one last toilet visit to a normal toilet! (portaloos or outside pees would be the order for the next week) then lined up near to the start line. A familiar voice welcomed me and I turned to see Juhana. He exudes a calmness which is just what I needed. Kim Collison chatted too (another fell legend and Juhana’s coach who I’d met on Juhana’s BG).

My nerves increased until finally we were off along the city walls and then I immediately felt more relaxed. Too late to turn back! We weren’t timed until outside these to avoid a mad rush and accidents on the steps. Chris Brookman, who I’d run half of the Spine Challenger with and had finished joint 3rd, caught me up. We chatted excitedly about the week ahead. Juhana had said he was taking the first two days easy, I wondered if I’d manage his easy but it wasn’t long…despite him stopping for photos, for him to disappear ahead.

I’d recced the whole of day 1 except the Glyders. I had a really good run into Ogwen car park.

Fiona was there cheering me in (she was volunteering at the event) The incredible heat going up the long slog to Tryfan slowed my progress. It is however a great route up, involving clambering and scrambling up rocks which is a nice contrast to the morning’s running. We formed a little group on the way down, the previous time I’d gone it was misty and I’d ended up hitting some sheer drops and had to go back over my steps to find the better way. Initially there are huge boulders to jump between. Then you hit a path to contour round and eventually hit the scree towards the Glyders.

I know from previous experience not to bolt down hills and trash my quads so my descents were particularly slow (I had another 5 days of huge climbs) my uphills are always pretty fast, I really enjoy them and a few of the men cursed me as again I passed on the scree ascent to Glyder Fawr.

 

There was no checkpoint here and I fell in with Darren who I was to spend a good few miles with over the coming week. He knew the way and we expertly arrived at Glyder Fach. I left him on the grassy descent to catch another runner who was suffering badly with cramp. I tried unsuccessfully to find my salt tablets and he was keen to run with me, well to be chivvied along, being local he vowed he knew the best line. I did slow to help him but I was eager not to overcook the first day and to enjoy the experience. This was all unknown territory and I had no clue how my body would react after one day of running let alone 6.

At Pen y Pass I stopped to buy a Coke which was absolute heaven and I sipped this until I reached the ascent to Crib Goch. It’s not my favourite place but on reflection I think I really enjoyed it. It’s a huge scramble all the way to the top. At the top I lay down to catch my breath and calm my nerves, again the traverse isn’t my favourite but actually I managed reasonably well until I reached the final pinnacle. On my guided recce we’d descended a gully and scampered round some rock. There were no steep drops and I’d been relieved to avoid the pinnacle. However the mountain rescue man wouldn’t let me do that as he thought it was more dangerous, so with a lot of encouragement I found myself scrambling up the pinnacle.

Finally I reached the col before Carnedd Ugain, hurrah I’d done it! Here, there is even more scrambling which I really enjoyed. I reached Snowdon (with no queue!) hot and happy knowing I was on the home straight of day 1.

Onto Y Lliwedd where I’d thought there was a checkpoint. A group of teenagers were huddled on the summit and I was convinced they were hiding the checkpoint. I proceeded to move their bags then to check my map only to realise they weren’t having me on at all! 

As I descended towards the last peak of the day I passed a group huddled by some rocks. Soon after a mountain rescue helicopter started hovering over and someone was airlifted off the mountain. In my eagerness to get to the end I hadn’t realised anyone was injured in the group, and I certainly didn’t know it was Steve. He’d suffered a heart arrhythmia. Thankfully he’s home safe. It’s always a chilling sight to see and reminds you to take each step with care.

On to Gallt y Wenallt, the last summit of the day, a lovely grassy traverse then a steep drop to finally catch sight of the day 1 camp, then an unnerving steep descent through head high bracken to reach the finish.

I loved day 1, I’d overcome a few personal challenges. Visibility was glorious, I was 2nd female and ready for food! On arrival we were taken with our drop bags to the tent, no 51! I was relieved to see Juhana hadn’t changed his mind and was still happy to share. Unfortunately Kim had to pull out with an injury. We were all gutted, it would have been wonderful to see him race and to share tent stories with a legend like him. 

I set out my camp things then went to bathe in the cold river. On arrival I unfortunately disturbed a naked man! I would learn to give clear warning of my arrival in future.

Food for me was chips and soup with cake and ice cream. All of the meals were beautiful but with cauliflower and beans…ordinarily I’d wolf them down but didn’t want to risk the consequences of copious amounts of beans! So one of my targets for the day was to arrive before the chips and soup were taken off the menu! I drank lots of tea then went to sort my kit for the next day. Time seemed to fly by.

By 9 I was tucked up ready for sleep. With 8 people sharing a tent not much sleep was had. The others would arrive at close to 10, and it would be very late before all was quiet…apart from the intermittent banging of portaloo doors. They’d then rise just before 4:30 to be first in the breakfast queue and to start their days at the earliest opportunity, 6am.

On our timing sheets we’d been advised of when to leave according to the time of that day’s run. I decided I could give myself until 7, a lot earlier than the sheet suggested (8). 

367 started day 1
249 finished
31/249
2nd female
10:49:12

Day 2

Nant Gwynant to Dolgellau
36.5 m, 11,155ft
A day of surviving the 30 degree heat

I left the camp just after 7, hoping to avoid some of the day’s expected heat. It was a lovely start through little lanes and tracks then on up to Cnicht. Much fun was had bum sledging down the side of Cnicht on a lovely mossy slope. A bit of a weave through boggy jocks’ heads to climb onto the Moelwyns. These are lovely mountains but as I passed a group who were devastated that by their calculations they wouldn’t hit the checkpoint before cut-off, I pressed ahead in a mad rush. Could I possibly have messed up on the second day??? I didn’t much enjoy the day until I’d finally reached the support point well within the final cut off for the day’s running. Then there was a climb up onto the Rhinogs which I’d been looking forward to, however the heat was incredible and every step was a huge effort. 

On the way up the Roman Steps I remember slipping and having that awful second where I thought I’d smash my head then thinking, ‘Oh good, if I’m unconscious that’s a fairly good excuse not to run any further!’

I’d spent the day soaking my head and body in streams, bog water, anything really to bring my core temperature down. I really started to suffer up the Rhinogs. Thankfully I started running with Darren again and we both encouraged each other on to the end of a very tiring day.

The scenery was spectacular, amongst the best of the days but marred by the sun bearing down on us and draining all of our energy. By the time we reached the last peak of the day, Diffwys, the sun was setting and it started to cool, only then could I pick up my pace back to camp. 

On the road I caught up with Juhana. I was quite confused as I hadn’t been aware of him passing me. Later he was to tell me about our conversation on Diffwys…I was clearly so knackered and demoralised I wasn’t really with it

Arriving back at camp I curled up in a ball on the tent floor absolutely beaten, ‘having a moment?’ Is how Juhana described it!

The saving grace for this day, which I would rank as the hardest fell day I’ve ever had was the hot shower in the campsite. ‘Hot shower, hot showers!!!’ I repeated excitedly on the way! These sorted me out, along with soupy, cheesy chips and sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. 

The man who sorted the tea and coffee asked me daily from now on, ‘still competitive?’ I thought he’d meant still top 3 until I realised just how many people were being timed out. This became his daily chatter, that and laughing about my soupy, cheesy chips concoction. 

There was just time to sort myself out for the next day in the darkness. Whilst washing my bowl and filling my bottles I watched as one man just made the cut off for the day (22:00 at camp), the next was 20 seconds over and was timed out. It was very emotional. We’d all suffered that day and to have seconds between finishing was heartbreaking.

Returning to my bed I fell fast asleep, this would be my last good sleep until I got home.

26/125
2nd female
12:27:18

Day 3

Dolgellau to Ceredigion
43.5 m, 11,155ft
My best day!

Realising my timing mistake of the previous day, I resolved to leave camp at 6:30 each day. I’d get up at 5, sneak out of our compartment as Juhana would stay in for another half hour. I’d arrive back to change and tape my feet before I’d wait for just enough daylight to not need my head torch. Then I’d hand in my overnight bag, have my drop bag weighed and daily kit check and off I’d go. Map checked, checkpoints remembered.

 

This was without a doubt my favourite of all of the days, visibility was good and there was a cool breeze (getting quite strong on Cadair Idris) but welcome nonetheless. Cadair Idris was an absolute highlight, it’s a beautiful mountain.

 

From there we traversed fells to enter a forest with some lovely shade. Machynlleth Co-op beckoned. Lovely Nick offered to stop to buy me something so that I wouldn’t lose time on the First Lady! Ice lollies, coke and lemonade were purchased with extra for the next day!

I loved the mixture of terrain, it was absolutely stunning. I also had lots of good company along the route, again I saw a lot of Chris.

By day 3 it seemed I’d set off and catch people at certain points along the trail. There was a man, Keith #298, who I’d always catch 3 miles from the end. It was a good game!

Unfortunately for me I think I was Juhana’s target, I’d always try to run as fast as I could but he’d catch me earlier and earlier as the week progressed. 

From now on our nights would become increasingly disturbed by snore monsters…sleep became a fabled thing and lying in bed to rest was just as important!

17/120
2nd female
11:48:14

Day 4

Through the Elan Valley
43miles, 7,546 ft
A day of soggy bog feet with the lure of a pub at the finish

There was much chatter in the camp the previous night of thunderstorms threatening to reduce the course. Luckily this didn’t happen.

It was a lovely start through forest, initially with boggy baby’s’ heads, then a wonderful steep muddy descent to reach wide forest tracks.

Climbing up to Drygarn Fawr with its two beautifully huge cairns, I got really excited when I spotted the biggest rainbow I’d ever seen. Suffice to say I really enjoyed this boggy running that reminded me of my home turf along the Pennine Way.

 

My favourite memory of the whole race was nearing the end of day 4. I dropped into a valley by myself, horses were grazing, there was a huge eagle that kept swooping above my head. The clouds broke and sunbeams shone down onto where the camp was. It was absolutely glorious and a wonderful sight at the end of the day.

Even better was my much earlier finish of 5pm and a pub within spitting distance. We all raided it and sat as if in heaven with pints of Coke and pulled pork sandwiches. It was quite an amusing sight, a bunch of smelly runners sitting in the pub with a bunch of nearly naked runners washing in the river by the pub garden. Juhana thought it would be a good calendar photo, I’m not sure who for!

22/145
2nd female
10:29:17

People could choose to leave or to stay on and do/attempt a full day or a short course even though they were no longer competitive in the event. This did become slightly confusing and at times soul destroying as fresh faces caught and passed us on the trails. I think a big DNF sticker would have been nice to see for us still battling full days!

Day 5

Into the Brecon Beacons National Park
43.5 m, 10,499ft
SAS survival 

This was a new day 5 for the now extended 6 day Dragon’s Back race. Initially I was excited to be running through the Brecon Beacons. However, this was the day I really felt like I was in an SAS survival camp. 

A beautiful mizzly start heading up through forest. I got quite stressed in the forest worried I’d miss a turning. I was so relieved to find the first checkpoint hidden in the mist. I spent the morning running with Nick which was fun. 

Passing through Llandovery there was a long queue at the patisserie for those doing the short course. I did wonder to myself whether I was missing a treat continuing in the madness! Heading up some tracks, I foolishly took someone’s advice against my own better judgement and ended up off track, not for long and never to happen again!

 

I loved the climbs across the Fans. They are very like the Northern Lakes fell terrain, good steep long grassy climbs, grassy descents.

I felt great and enjoyed lots of good company along the way. I stopped for a delicious bacon roll and coke at the burger van near the Storey Arms, then it all seemed to unravel. 

On my way up Pen Y Fan my shin started hurting. This then had a domino effect and I started catastrophizing and wondering if I’d ever make it to Cardiff Castle. There was an evil little traverse across to the final Cairn. The man in front dropped to his knees in dismay when he realised we almost went back on ourselves.

I loved the final descent though, there was a beautiful little trail alongside that night’s shower facilities!

However, I was broken by the end of the day. It was long with significant climbs over some of the most awkward terrain. I needed a cuddle, I realised just how much I need hugs! Coming into camp I couldn’t hold back my tears and thankfully was scooped up by Fiona! 

21/107
2nd female
12:26:13

Day 6

To Cardiff Castle
39m, 4,265ft
The end is in sight, everything hurts. 

There was an excitement in camp, a feeling that we could get to the finish if only we were sensible. I went from breakfast to the medics’ tent to get my shin taped up. I’d been fretting that this now minor injury may impede my progress enough to stop me reaching the finish. The medic was lovely and reassured me that although it was likely to be painful I could make it. 

I’d not looked forward to this day’s running, I like to see lots of contours and on the map there was a severe lack of contours and a considerable amount of grey blocky areas (towns). In reality the route is quite beautiful although obviously lower level. All the volunteers claim it’s downhill, I’d beg to differ! 

I was really emotional by today. When the end is in sight the pressure is on and you’re aware of every niggle or twinge that might stop you in your tracks and force you to return to try all over again. It turns out one of the men I had been sharing a lot of the trails with had matching shin tape, although the medic had told him it was possible stress fracture. He increasingly adopted a funny gait through the morning and was loaded up to the eye balls with pain killers. He battled through and finished. Of those few remaining, we weren’t going to let anything get in the way of us reaching Cardiff, we’d been through so much to come away empty handed and then have to return.

At Merthyr Tydfil we joined the parkrun which was quite amusing, seeing people belt round 5k when we’d been running the length of Wales with Cardiff now in our sights but still 24 miles away. It was here too that I spotted the first road sign to Cardiff with 24 miles written on it; the whoops could probably be heard from the castle walls! 

Unfortunately my joy and excitement faded as the day progressed and the pain in my shin increased. At Nelson I stopped for a Mars Bar drink to perk me up.

At one of the summit trigs I burst into tears when Cardiff came into sight for the first time. I don’t think I’ve ever been such an emotional bombshell as I was this week. 

All of the checkpoint staff were super efficient, eager to boot us all to the finish! 

Darren passed me, and promised some lovely parks ahead. 

Katie and Zoe caught me up in the last park, I was struggling with the pain, but with company the finish line felt easier.

It was quite a moment when eventually we saw the castle and entered the finishing tunnel, banners flapping in my face. It was incredible, I remember saying I can’t believe I did it, I really did it. The noise was unbelievable, so many people. I had one focus and that was the ‘finish’ dibber. Only then could I stop. The feeling of dibbing for the final time was amazing. I was slightly overwhelmed with the wall of photographers at the finish, eager to escape and process what I’d managed to do.

30/138
2nd female
8:53:14

Shane Ohley, race director, saw me sneak past and came to congratulate me on second place. He then started to walk me round to the camp and bar! Thankfully Juhana had come to watch me come in and gave me the biggest hug, a surge of relief through my body. It had been one hell of an experience, one hell of a journey to reach the Castle.

We sat in the sunshine and drank the best shandy and tucked into chips. Quietly letting the realisation of what we’d done sink in. Having freshened up finally in a lovely warm shower we spent the evening watching the daily videos, trying to spot ourselves in photos. Trying desperately to process what we’d achieved, where we’d been, everything was such a blur. We tucked into our final camp meal from our bowls and raided the bar. Then we were presented with our baby dragons, 90 of the 367 that started. It was a brilliant end to a remarkable journey. 

Elaine Bisson #394
21st / 90 full course finishers. Baby dragon winners!
2nd female out of only 7 female finishers (37 started)
66:53:28

The End

I was sad to leave the following morning. To sit on the bus cradling my dragon as we drove past the many hills and valleys we’d traversed that week. Arriving back at Conwy felt like the start was a lifetime ago.

 

My highlights amongst the incredible landscape were the people I shared much of my journey with, it was lovely to see Chris again and meet so many others. I’m so glad that Fiona was there. I never realised how much I need hugs until that week! 

Juhana’s being there made my experience a million times better. I loved and looked forward to his company…not so when he flew past on the hills but certainly at the end of each day. I’m ever grateful that he put up with me in the confines of the tent. 

Anna Troup and her daughter also appeared on route 2-3 times each day. They were there to support her husband but their encouragement was second to none, it was a welcome sight indeed. Thanks Anna!

The Dragon Mail we opened during dinner was absolutely wonderful. A few tears were shed, particularly on those hard days. 

There’s nothing I like more than being outside in the wilderness. Pushing myself. Getting back to basics. To remove all the worries of life and focus only on moving from one camp to another. 

Simplicity. 

It’s odd when you come home. You’ve been on this adventure and you’ve somehow changed, you’ve grown to appreciate the world in a different way. A warm shower might be the best invention ever but I can happily do without the rest of life’s pressures, and I now find I miss the cold streams! The bed you longed for is now under the thin sheets separating you from the stars. With the sound of the wind rustling the layers, an owl hooting, a babbling brook…not so much the snores of a tired dragon tamer but heyho! The days that you hope for are to battle the elements, the childhood spirit of splashing in puddles, charging down hills, skidding on your bum down what you hope is a grassy slope with no hidden rocks. Nature is the best playground, however old you may be! 

Arriving back in camp to share stories, the highs, the lows. To watch the sunset, to gaze up at the stars and wonder what tomorrow will bring. To wake knackered and look around at the emptying breakfast tables to beaten drawn faces, proud that you’re one of the few still there fighting. The tired, blackened eyes wondering if they’ll make another day but still determined to try. I’ve loved it, every single bit. 

It has been the most wonderful and challenging adventure. I’ve shared the trails with so many extraordinary characters, their positivity and strength inspirational. Friendships forged out on the fells are among my strongest. I have made memories that I will treasure forever. I really hope that I can find an experience that will rival this but I fear it will be hard to beat.

Results

Pos.NameCat.Cat. Pos.OverallDaily Results
1stSimon RobertsM1st45:42:111: 07:25:14 (1st)
2: 08:52:11 (1st)
3: 08:41:43 (1st)
4: 07:17:00 (2nd)
5: 07:52:30 (1st)
6: 05:33:33 (1st)
7thKatie MillsF1st61:12:541: 09:58:06 (15th)
2: 11:19:20 (10th)
3: 11:13:30 (10th)
4: 09:14:36 (7th)
5: 11:25:43 (10th)
6: 08:01:39 (11th)
9thAlastair HubbardMV1st61:35:471: 09:17:40 (6th)
2: 11:17:53 (8th)
3: 10:56:27 (8th)
4: 09:51:33 (13th)
5: 12:05:57 (16th)
6: 08:06:17 (12th)
21stElaine BissonF2nd66:53:281: 10:49:12 (31st)
2: 12:27:18 (26th)
3: 11:48:14 (17th)
4: 10:29:17 (22nd)
5: 12:26:13 (21st)
6: 08:53:14 (30th)
69thPatrizia StrandmanFV1st81:53:101: 12:07:24 (76th=)
2: 14:08:49 (74th)
3: 14:27:17 (79th)
4: 13:24:40 (109th)
5: 15:38:29 (98th)
6: 12:06:31 (117th)

A total of 90 competitors finished the race, out of 367 starters.

Full results can be found here: https://www.dragonsbackrace.com/2021-results

Historical Race Stats

2012

Starters 82, 32 finishers

Finishing Rate 39%

2015

Starters 142, 65 finishers

Finishing Rate 45%

2017

Starters 223, 127 finishers

Finishing Rate 56%

2019

Starters 406, 251 finishers

Finishing Rate 62%

2021

Starters 367, 90 finishers

Finishing Rate 24%
The heat on days one and two meant only 125 were still racing by the start of day 3

Daily Timings!

4:20

‘Wake’ as tent mates make an early start.

5:00

Get up, sneak out, have breakfast, chat to some other bleary eyed racers as I proclaim I need more coffee.

5:30

Sneak back in the tent. Pack up sleeping kit, get changed, half an hour taping feet, wait until enough sunlight to not need a headtorch.

6:25

Lug bags, hand in camp bag, get drop bag weighed, get kit check.

6:30

Be on my way.

18:00 – 19:00

Sometime around this time, arrive back at camp. Dib finish, wait expectantly to make sure no checkpoints were missed. Escorted to the tent, explained what amazing facilities await me. Where the freezing hot tub is tonight. Lie on the tent floor and sometimes cry!

19:15

Wash in the river, change into warm camp clothes, set out bed.

19:30

Get food, get more food, get lots of drinks. Watch the screen and the moving dots. Eat some more. Read dragon mail.

20:00

Sort kit and bag for morning, brush teeth.

21:00

Get into bed. Try my best to block out the sound of snoring until it all happens again!

Photos Credits

Thanks to the following for the photographs appearing in this report.

My Bib Number

No Limits Photography

Fiona Brannan

(Visited 442 times, 3 visits today)

Elaine Bisson Stars in Montane Dragon’s Back Race

Elaine tackles the Crib Goch ridge

Elaine Bisson achieves second place in “The World’s Toughest Mountain Race”

The Montane Dragon’s Back Race is definitely not a race to take lightly. This six-day stage race takes competitors across the rugged spine of Wales from the north coast at Conwy to the capital, Cardiff. The total distance is 236 miles, with 17,400m (57,000 ft) of ascent. In short six brutal ultra-marathons on consecutive days.

The race took place between the 6th and 11th of September, 2021. Conditions varied between warm sunshine and persistent rain with virtually no visibility. Elaine completed the course in a total time of 66:53:28, 2nd of 7 female finishers out of 37 starters.

Elaine had many of us on tenterhooks, “dot-watching” on the tracker site as she completed each day’s challenge, and eagerly awaiting the daily video report. It was truly awe-inspiring.

Elaine sums up the experience: “It has been the most wonderful and challenging adventure. I’ve shared the trails with so many extraordinary characters, their positivity and strength inspirational. Friendships forged out on the fells are among my strongest. I have made memories that I will treasure forever.”

Many congratulations, Elaine, on an outstanding result.

Editor’s note: You don’t have to take my word for this. Elaine is also a great run report writer. Her personal account of the race can be read here.

 
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Great North Run 2021, Sunday, September 12, 2021

The 40th running of the Great North Run took place on 12th September 2021, after a year’s absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was run on a revised course, for one year only, as an out and back route, crossing the Tyne Bridge twice and passing through the city centre before finishing next to the Town Moor.

As usual, many Striders took part in the race. Their results can be found at the bottom of this report. Here are some Striders’ recollections of the race.

Sarah Fawcett writes…

I think this was my tenth GNR and I smiled the whole way round, despite the entire route being uphill!

It was wonderful that the event happened after all of the uncertainty of recent months and I thought that the organisation was excellent.  Everything seemed to work really smoothly.

I, like many, will be happy to go back to South Shields next year but the advantages of yesterday’s route was that I spent most of the time looking across the carriageway to spot Striders running in the opposite direction. Also the doubling back route meant that the bands and charity cheering squads were condensed into half the normal geography and therefore were an ever present atmosphere booster.

The pizza and lager at the end were very enjoyable too. 

 

This from George Nicholson…

For me now there is little point in entering races anymore as age, health and injuries have slowed me up so much that even the proverbial tortoise would get to the finish line before me. The one exception of course is the Great North Run. Having done it 39 times before, not to enter is unthinkable. Just getting to the finish is my only priority, and I try not to worry about my ‘run/walk time’ . Pride obviously comes into it a bit, and I did hope to get a sub 3hour. This at least I did mange by 1 second!

 

The last 200m was nerve racking as I could see the clock ticking down. It was a bit distressing to be overtaken by 2 daffodils at that point, and very embarrassing as the moment was captured on BBC1 and broadcast round 127 Countries. Thank you Malcolm for also making it known on social media.

My only other concern was, would I remember to turn back around at White Mare Pool or would I turn left as usual and head off along the A194 to South Shields?

Good to see several Striders’ vests along the way, and brief shout-outs to Alan Smith and Jonathan Hamill. It was also great to exchange a few words with several ex-Striders.

Apart from the run itself, the other exciting thing for me with the GNR weekend is the annual gathering with other Ever Presents at the Sage in Gateshead on the Saturday afternoon. We always meet up for photos, compare ailments and reasons why we run slower. Naturally there is also cake to eat. For the first time Brendan Foster came along to join us and he was in quite a jovial mood.

Only sad bit for my weekend was that ‘Ever Present’ Barrie Evans was not able to make the start line, thus I am now ‘last man standing’ for Striders. Lastly I would like to thank everybody who sent me some lovely messages and words of support.

… and Marc Watson

I spoke to Allan Seheult about racing and tactics and best ways to run on a number of occasions. One of the best bits of advice he left with me was negative splits. Well Allan, my GNR today is dedicated to you. Ran a disciplined first half which allowed me to push on second half and absolutely smash my GNR PB. (Along with smashing my first half of the run with my second. 3 sub 9 minute miles in the second half too.) As soon as I looked at this chart I thought of Allan and what he gave to me as a runner. Miss his coaching dearly and so glad he left this with me.

 

Results

NameClubPosFinish TimeCategory Pos
Marc ScottRichmond & Zetland Harriers101:01:221
Hellen ObiriKenya101:07:421
Stephen JacksonSunderland Harriers & AC (Elvet Striders 2nd Claim)2601:08:475
Graeme WattElvet Striders8201:15:529
Georgie HebdonElvet Striders9201:16:3662
Michael LittlewoodElvet Striders13201:18:235
Allan RenwickElvet Striders25901:22:385
Emma ThompsonElvet Striders36701:24:504
David CowellElvet Striders48101:26:4474
Bryan PottsElvet Striders49301:27:00115
Mark GriffithsElvet Striders50001:27:0651
Matthew ArcherElvet Striders67301:29:06102
Anna BasuElvet Striders84101:30:438
Corrine WhalingElvet Striders106601:32:4312
Kyle SunleyElvet Striders117801:33:36417
Paul SwinburneElvet Striders189601:38:03223
Karen ByngElvet Striders225601:39:3714
John HugillElvet Striders258501:41:12467
Louise MortonElvet Striders293301:42:3256
Nina BojadzicElvet Striders301901:42:5258
Andrew DaviesElvet Striders387901:45:40462
Simon GrahamElvet Striders486001:48:35710
Kelly GuyElvet Striders574501:50:39148
Mark FosterElvet Striders589601:51:04819
Anna GrubertElvet Striders644201:52:25187
Callum AskewElvet Striders684401:53:221860
Paul WestElvet Striders685801:53:25937
Joanne RobertsonElvet Striders687001:53:26198
Theresa Rugman-JonesElvet Striders768001:55:12128
Lisa SampleElvet Striders820801:56:24281
Jo Ann LongElvet Striders880301:57:40621
Calista IbbitsonElvet Striders946101:58:58698
Heather RaistrickElvet Striders987901:59:48118
Chris EdwardsElvet Striders989501:59:501258
Deborah JonesElvet Striders1096102:02:22233
Kirsty NelsonElvet Striders1118202:02:54351
Alan ScottElvet Striders1168002:04:09559
Jane DowsettElvet Striders1190702:04:41278
Mark HerkesElvet Striders1290602:07:092927
Steph GreenwellElvet Striders1297802:07:241135
Marc WatsonElvet Striders1332602:08:111286
Sarah FawcettElvet Striders1357902:08:47214
Jonathan HamillElvet Striders1385602:09:271135
Laura CampbellElvet Striders1500802:12:13710
Mark KearneyElvet Striders1511402:12:291721
Kirsten FenwickElvet Striders1579102:14:01784
Bob GrattonElvet Striders1585402:14:10336
Aileen ScottElvet Striders1705402:17:02574
Rachel CoyElvet Striders1740202:17:59900
Jane IvesElvet Striders1755002:18:19607
Lisa LumsdonElvet Striders1764002:18:322934
Angela WilliamsElvet Striders1868502:21:20682
Angela DixonElvet Striders1890702:21:54934
James NicholsonElvet Striders1900002:22:1550
Sophie DennisElvet Striders1944902:23:321050
Adam BentElvet Striders2038202:26:12216
Andrew ThurstonElvet Striders2061902:26:52448
Allan NicholsElvet Striders2219202:31:431487
Alan SmithElvet Striders2398902:38:3020
Kayleigh HindElvet Striders2464402:41:123006
Rachel TothElvet Striders2646602:50:391619
Margaret ThompsonElvet Striders2660802:51:2623
Alison SmithElvet Striders2695002:53:251658
Angela CowellElvet Striders2736602:56:142009
George NicholsonElvet Striders2788002:59:59115

(Visited 184 times, 1 visits today)

Gateshead Harriers Quayside 5k 2021, Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Anna Basu

I know I post too much running stuff but last night’s Quayside 5k was really meaningful for me, having put me through some admittedly self-inflicted agonising. The race has two halves, with a 20 minute cutoff for the A race. After two sub-20 minute 5ks pre Lockdown One (aka a very long time ago), and spurred on by admiration for Emma Thompson’s 2019 A race performance (it’s true Emma!), I had signed up for the A race. Since then I hadn’t done many 5ks at all, and certainly nothing sub-20, and I am currently training (hard) for a marathon. So, though theoretically capable of a sub 20 5k, just, it wasn’t really in the bag and when race day came round I was aware I could actually come last… Thanks to an interesting Striders mile race heat about two years ago, I do have prior experience coming last with a smile, but still it takes a bit of mental preparation and good friends to weather it!

Proof that Anna doesn’t always smile when running.

Anyway what I am reflecting on here is the good friends. I really want to thank Corrine for her very effective pre race moral support provided by text from Scotland! And my long suffering husband for putting up with a slightly jumpy wife for a day or two and coming to support me. And the infamous GTG* crowd in a similar vein, for acknowledging the issue! In the end, the race and training (here huge thanks go to North East Project (Run)) carried me through and I got that sub 20 (19:48, not a PB, but fastest 5k since January 2020). I desperately wanted to achieve this again post Covid, and now I have, even though it required ending the race curled up on the concrete waiting for normal breathing to resume… and I didn’t come last, as it happens, but even if I had it would have been with a race I was proud of.

The other thing about friends is how wonderful it was to meet up with fellow Striders and warm up together pre race, chat, laugh and then stay to watch and cheer on the B race and cheer far too loudly, (though obviously not as loudly as Allan R, champion Striders cheerer!) Lots of Striders absolutely smashed their times last night – a good deal of training has been going on and there were a lot of very happy people with times I could only dream of. This is a gratitude post for the power of running, endeavour and friendship. Oh, and possibly also Mars bars, though that may be someone else’s story…

*GTG:  Greggs to Greggs!!! Allan Renwick’s contribution to Sunday long runs. Start at Greggs Fram, run a lot (in various little packs that keep converging), finish at Greggs, go to Greggs and buy coffee and sarnies and eat them on the grass.

Race Route

Results

Race A

PosNameNet TimeCategoryCat PosGen PosClub
1Calum Johnson00:14:10Senior Men (20-34)11Gateshead Harriers & AC
34Danielle Hodgkinson00:16:20V35 Ladies11Wallsend Harriers & AC
45Georgie Hebdon00:16:32Senior Men (20-34)2144Elvet Striders
61Michael Mason00:17:03V45 Men460Elvet Striders
65Graeme Watt00:17:11V40 Men1264Elvet Striders
91Bryan Potts00:17:58V35 Men2389Elvet Striders
113Riad Ketani00:18:22V35 Men30107Elvet Striders
122Allan Renwick00:18:33V50 Men7114Elvet Striders
129Lindsay McEwan00:18:46V45 Men11120Elvet Striders
136Matthew Archer00:18:59V40 Men18125Elvet Striders
167Anna Basu00:19:48V45 Ladies422Elvet Striders

186 finishers.

Race B

PosNameNet TimeCategoryCat PosGen PosClub
1Andrew Freeman00:18:02V40 Men11unaffiliated
10Julie Pescod00:19:43V35 Ladies11Sunderland Strollers
55Mick Davis00:20:56V50 Men945Elvet Striders
79Nina Bojadzic00:21:39V40 Ladies419Elvet Striders
105Karen Byng00:22:13V50 Ladies328Elvet Striders
136Mark Foster00:23:13V40 Men1596Elvet Striders
161Andrew Davies00:24:01V45 Men17108Elvet Striders
177Heather Raistrick00:24:39V55 Ladies563Elvet Striders
207Stephanie Greenwell00:25:21Senior Ladies (20-34)2779Elvet Striders
226Phil Swinburn00:26:02V40 Men23139Elvet Striders
236Kirsty Nelson00:26:28V45 Ladies1193Elvet Striders

385 finishers.

Race Photos

Thanks to Jan Panke for the many other Strider photos.

External Links

Full Results can be found on Race Timing Solutions.

Race Organiser’s website: Gateshead Harriers

(Visited 157 times, 2 visits today)

Pete Bland Kentmere Horseshoe fell race 2021, Sunday, August 1, 2021

AM / 12.3m / 3300ft

Nina Mason

A few months ago I entered a handful of fell races, determined to get ‘hill fit’ again. I have read a bit about the Kentmere Horseshoe, it has got history, and it looked a great route from a valley I have not previously explored.

Mum came with me on the day, and she did a decent walk, pretty much the route of the race, though dropping back down the valley just before Kentmere Pike. The weather was forecast cooler, but we got sunshine and heat again. I shouldn’t complain, but I do, I find these conditions tough to run in.

This year the race was part of the fell running championships. Plus, it was Pete Bland’s memorial race, following his death in November, so a huge entry of 600. He had organised the race for many years, and there was a very moving speech before the start. (He was a lot more than RO, and the Fellrunner magazine had done a great tribute supplement about him earlier this year).

The race started in two waves, women first then the men 15 minutes later. It starts, inevitably, with a long climb. Up Buck Crag, round Yoke, and to the first checkpoint on Ill Bell. Then a fast trod up to High Street (CP2). From there to Kentmere Pike (CP3) it undulates a bit, but lots of good running, and then a good couple of miles downhill to the finish.

Except for the first climb, much of this race is very runnable – lots of grassy trods, and some flattish or undulating sections once up on the tops. This made the race pretty fast, with the winning time 1hr22! Because of the split start, the first men caught me 50mins into my run, flying past, then a steady flow kept passing me until Kentmere Pike, when paces started to even out.

As for my run – urgh. I never felt like I got into my running. A late banana? Like the Grinch, were my shoes too tight? Was I weary after a long run out last weekend? Whatever it was, my head didn’t feel in the right place, and my competitive edge never really appeared. I lost places in the women’s race where I would usually battle harder, and even on the downhill I didn’t feel physically comfortable. What a waste, as downhill is the best bit for me! My mum made all the effort to climb to the halfway point to be rewarded with ‘I feel like sh*t’, and when asked about the views I hung my head in shame – all I had seen was my feet. I feel sure I could have picked up a few places if I had felt more on form, not like me at all.

But I cheered up enough to enjoy some  post-race chat with friends from other clubs, and the sun shining on the finish and the event field. The route is fabulous, the race organisation was great (as expected), and the fell-running spirit much in evidence – competitive, but always supportive. Kentmere is a beautiful village and valley, and I am determined to go back both for my own outings and to tackle the race again.

Results

PosNameClubCategoryTime
1stJacob AdkinKeswick ACMSEN01:22:20
7thHannah HorsburghKeswick ACWSEN01:29:30
309thNina MasonElvet StridersW4502:15:13

478 Finishers, 3 DNFs

External Links

Full Results can be found on SportIdent.

Race Organiser’s website: www.kentmerehorseshoe.org.uk

(Visited 105 times, 1 visits today)