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, so watch this space for a fantastic bedtime read.
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.
Richmond & Zetland Harriers
Sunderland Harriers & AC (Elvet Striders 2nd Claim)
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!
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.
Senior Men (20-34)
Gateshead Harriers & AC
Wallsend Harriers & AC
Senior Men (20-34)
Senior Ladies (20-34)
Thanks to Jan Panke for the many other Strider photos.
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.
Elvet Striders are delighted to once again host the Willow Miner Trail Race, on Wednesday, 21st July 2021, at 7pm.
This year’s race is kindly sponsored by Start Fitness.
We are proud to be holding the race in aid of Mind (reg. charity 219830) and The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation (reg. charity 1057213), supporting mental health and cancer research.
The course covers 5.7 miles of beautiful trail through woodland and nature reserve, those returning to the race can witness how the woodland trust has grown and matured since the inception of the event. After a winding start through Houghall woods, the course drops into the undulating section of the Durham Woodland Trust, climbing up to views over the River Wear and Croxdale Woods before descending to wildflower meadows and around to the Willow Lady. A single-track section along the bank of the River Wear leads to a climb up towards the Willow Miner, before traversing back to Houghall Woods and the finish. The route will be fully marked and marshalled.
Entries for the race cost £9, or £7 for attached club runners. Please visit our SiEntries page to enter.
Please note that to enter as a UKA attached athlete you must enter your own UKA number, available to look up on England Athletics’ site.
Parking will be at the Graham Sports Centre (Maiden Castle), DH1 3SE as in previous years. Note that New Elvet Bridge in Durham is currently closed, which may affect your route to the event.
Toilets will be available inside the sports centre. It is likely that face coverings will still be required in order to enter the sports centre buildings. Depending on government and local restrictions on race day, showers may also be available and this will be made clear in the lead up to the event.
Registration, start and finish have moved from the football field to the farm at Houghall College. This will be signposted and marshalled from the car park. Registration will open at 6pm. The specific start arrangements will be confirmed closer to the race date in accordance with current government guidance but we hope to be able to provide a mass start.
There is no required kit list, however the course covers some steep, muddy and uneven sections so trail or fell shoes are highly recommended both for grip and reducing the chance of ankle injuries. In the event of inclement weather a waterproof top may also be required. There will be space to leave luggage not needed for the race by the start.
Sadly, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty around restrictions, there has been no social event or post race food arranged at present while we work to deliver the best race we can, though water will still be provided at the finish. We hope to return to the after-race celebration next year!
Mark Kearney achieves a brilliant win in ultra-marathon on the North York Moors.
The Hardmoors 110 is a gruelling 110 mile race beginning in Filey in Yorkshire, following the cliff tops and moors of the Cleveland Way, and finishing in Helmsley. It includes nearly 15,000 feet of ascent. This years event began on Saturday 29th May, in sunny and warm conditions.
Mark completed his victory in 22 hours, 28 minutes and 30 seconds, more than an hour ahead of his nearest rival, reaching the finish line at nearly half past six on Sunday morning, after a day and a night on the hills. He received great running support on the way by Striders Michael Littlewood, Stephen Jackson, Georgie Hebdon, Stuart Scott and Elaine Bisson.
Jill Young and Simon Graham were, to quote Mark, “the best support crew I could ever ask for” making sure he was fed and watered and in top condition throughout the whole race.
Congratulations to Mark on a wonderful achievement.
Last time we said it would be a while, and so it has been.
Reading over last year’s report truly brings home what a different world we are living in now. Anyone remember parkrun? Or that we did in fact have a cross country season? Even in these… ‘times’ (insert appropriate adjective), we are so very proud of our club and its heart, our club members. We have continued running, just in different ways and with adjusted objectives. Running Strong.
As always, it is so difficult to pull out individual highlights for fear of omitting other worthy feats however we feel a couple of people need mentioning who have completed particularly outstanding or perhaps just plainly ridiculous adventures. Beginning the year, Elaine Bisson pushed further than ever before to win the Montane Spine 100 mile Challenger (what next??). Segway to Stuart Scott: a Backyard Ultra on his treadmill – 108 miles in 26 hours in April followed by The Accumulator in May with Aaron Gourley (the number of miles ran each day to correspond with the date of the month, a total of 500 miles for the month) and in June a 24 hour run in aid of RT Projects. Across the world (virtually, of course), Wendy and Ashley were amongst others in the club who ran the length of Tennessee… and back again to complete 1270 miles over the early summer. Maybe they fancied the holiday experience? No words to describe the endurance and strength of character each one of these challenges will have taken. Alex Brown’s achievements are also worthy of note. Hitting his distance pb with the Hardmoors 55 (and looking exceedingly chirpy with it) was not enough, he then completed the Virtual Wooler Marathon (28.5 miles) just a few weeks later. Perhaps the PE department will stake a claim to poach him from the History department soon! Continuing in the long-distance range, it was amazing to see Mark Kearney representing Striders proudly by winning the Punk Panther Ultra in lockdown conditions. He has certainly not let up on his impressive mileage and looks set to crack 4000+ miles this year. Only a very select group of Striders will achieve that in 2020.
Finally, no Captain’s report in recent years would be complete without mentioning ‘the legend that is’: Stephen Jackson. In running terms, Stephen has once again shown his talent by achieving the club’s 10k record with a time of 31:30 beating his own previously held record. Not content with this, he also beat the club record for HM with a time of 68:50 again beating his own previously held record. We are all aware that Stephen recently moved to run first claim for Sunderland Harriers. Elvet Striders will forever have your back Stephen and we wish you all the best as one of the most brilliant and gracious runners in the North East. Dave Shipman however, is delighted to retain the club’s mile record time!
2020 has been a year like no other. So many cancelled events, no team buses, club runs or parkruns. Camaraderie is such an important part of the club and this has not ceased due to lockdown (not the first, or the second). Seems like every week we have heard of our members completing virtual challenges either solo or with running buddies – we will still pretty much run any distance for a bit of bling (I hear Corrine has a lovely framed pictue of the A167 on her wall now)! Well done to all of those who have further and faster (or slower, or shorter!) in these circumstances, you are all built of stern stuff.
It is an old saying but still true. This club cannot function without its volunteers and we would like to say a huge thank you to our run leaders who have proved their flexibility this year by continuing to find imaginative ways to keep us going throughout, leading small groups and quality training sessions. Hear this: you are appreciated, and so much (it’s a gang that is always open to new members by the way!). Who could have thought a car park would become our main training ground, and special thanks to Michael (from Fiona, and the rest of us) for devising and running the sessions that soon became known as the ever popular ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Next year, look forward to the franchising and expansion to multiple locations, new coaches, new car parks, new dreams… (thank you Tamsin!)
Prior to this meeting Jonathan Hamill announced his intention to step down as Chairman of Elvet Striders, a position he has held since 2017. Jonathan has done an outstanding job leading this club for several years, from one turbulent situation to another. Being Chairman is a time consuming, difficult, and unpaid position, made only tougher through juggling full time work and the added pressures having a young family brings. We appreciate the not inconsequential effort and sacrifices you have made in devoting your time to the running of the club: they have not gone unnoticed. Thank you, Jonathan.
A personal note from Michael here, at the end of last year Elvet Striders lost an irreplaceable member, coach and friend. Allan Seheult first gave me any confidence in my running ability, I would run through walls for him. He epitomised Striders for me. The friendship, the generosity, the encyclopaedic running knowledge. So many of us benefitted from his kinship and support. We will never forget him. As 2021 beckons and the hopes of a vaccine develop, I am sure we are all wishing for the day that we can return to some form of group running and perhaps even cross country and elbows out (fingers crossed!!) When this happens, lets not get too excited and let’s remember Allan’s three points of sage advice: … Don’t go off too fast, don’t go off too fast and don’t go off too fast!
It’ll be the last time Louise Collins ever messages me on a Thursday afternoon asking whether I was going for a long run on Saturday….. “For sure” said I, “fancy a marathon attempt?”
So the plan was made, neither of us having properly trained for it but after a run of races being cancelled, me wimping out of Langdale Half due to the weather and a fairly solid summer of training for not very much, it felt like the virtual Saturn Run was an opportunity for us both for a first marathon.
We started early, Louise in her customary tiki shorts and t-shirt regardless of the weather and me wrapped up for Jack Frost (with my snowstorm tiki’s on to boot). We had agreed a 10-minute mile plan which I was super keen for us to stick too. It was going to be a tough day as it was, for me, and Louise is a considerably stronger runner than I am, so pacing was going to be key to my success.
We had a brilliant time. Starting from Durham we followed the lines all the way to Bishop which although a bit dull did allow us to tick off a lot of relatively easy miles. We particularly enjoyed telling someone we were running to Durham – when we were quite clearly going in the wrong direction! Arriving at Kynren was a bit of a shock for us having not really known where we were for some time and a few stops for photos (including many poppies) followed.
I had planned three different possible routes and the one we chose was the flattest. I don’t know Bishop at all but the maps on my watch had us, and as long as we followed the map line we were good. I think Louise was questioning this as we embarked on quite a long climb up Durham Road which, for those who don’t know Bishop, is definitely not flat. Louise was a trooper and ran the whole way – pausing to wait for me to catch up each time! I think the hill took quite a bit out of me and I must admit around mile 15 I was quite head down. My right leg was hurting and it was feeling like hard work with a long way to go. Louise still appeared to be super fresh and it was probably the only time I was a bit worried this wasn’t going to be.
Thankfully we arrived into Spennymoor and to Louise’s parents waving flags and cheering us on. I think I was the one who needed and benefited from it more than Louise to be honest! It was an enormous pick me up and I actually felt my legs get lighter as we set off again. Onwards down Tudhoe Front Street and more support just as we hit 20 miles from Terry and my very excited children. My leg still bothering me but we were keeping pace really well and I was delighted to be able to confidently tell them we were going to make it.
Heading over to High Shincliffe via Sunderland Bridge we spent much of the last six miles telling each other we were nearly there, trying to calculate whether we would need the loop of High Shincliffe planned or whether the detour to Louise’s parents would be enough and continually looking at our watches. Neither of us wanted to have to do that extra loop and the sense of relief when we worked out we didn’t need it was significant. Maths like that at 23 miles in is pretty impressive too I think! Our pace was still really good but it felt like a very long parkrun home and we’ll both admit to hanging-on as we headed down the A177 – by this point comparing which parts of us were hurting the most. I would have burst into tears on the hill outside Maiden Castle if it wasn’t for the fact we were only 0.5m from the finish line but even then I had to walk it. Absolutely nothing left. The finish line did arrive though and the lamppost after the parking meter on Quarryheads Lane will never be looked at the same again by either of us.
Just a short walk back home including one of the steepest hills in Durham (sorry Louise!) but by then it was all done and we had finished bang on pace. Emma Piasecki nearly causing a crash on the A690 to pull over and give us a well-done cheer was the cherry on top of the cake.
It feels somewhat strange having a first marathon being a virtual one. We definitely stopped which you wouldn’t do in a race, but it does leave me keen to experience a proper one and see what’s possible with more dedicated training – we can only hope for races like that at the moment though. Having said that though, the team-work was so much fun and there is a heck of a lot to be said for shared experiences like that in this lockdown world. Thank you Louise.