Gibside Fruit Bowl, Sunday, November 5, 2017

7 miles


Pos.Bibno.Finish time Chip time Participant Category
161346.442.58Kurt Heron
(Ashington Hurst)
MS
3360850.5350.49Gemma Floyd
(Unattached)
FV35
1032746.446.39Michael MasonMV40
2055348.5948.57Mark WarnerMS
321750.4550.43Matthew ArcherMS
963157.4757.36Michael BarlowMV40
10447358.558.41Tim SkeltonMS
11055259.0859Louise WarnerFV35
11756259.3759.32Conrad WhiteMV60
126860.0459.53Robert AllfreeMV40
14214861.1461.08Sarah DaviesFV50
1494661.3161.02Natalie BellFS
18732864.0663.57Rachelle MasonFV35
18914764.163.54Andrew DaviesMV40
20650364.5964.43Malcolm SygroveMV50
21033065.2865.15Tim MatthewsMV50
2323266.4566.33Stephanie BarlowFV40
2476567.467.31Jean BradleyFV60
26545968.4368.06Jenny SearchFV40
26623368.4768.15Lesley HamillFV45
2702686968.43Jane IvesFV45
29358270.5970.49Anita WrightFV55
32544372.1771.43Jill RudkinFV40
34447574.1174.02Alan SmithMV70
35515974.4174.27Jayne DickensFV45
of 527

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Harrier League, Aykley Heads, Durham, Saturday, November 18, 2017

women
posbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
1657Laura Weightman (Morpeth Harriers & AC)FsenF28:3025:10
6456Sally HughesFsenS29:4829:48
9412Emma ThompsonFV35M31:1829:38
20446Louise WarnerFV35S32:4232:42
26462Susan DavisFV55S33:1233:12
30429Juliet PercivalFV45S33:2633:26
32410Elaine BissonFV35F33:2930:09
51458Sarah DaviesFV50S33:5633:56
56452Rachelle MasonFV35S34:0334:03
71451Rachael BullockFsenS34:1934:19
811249Zanna ClayFsenS34:2534:25
1021168Natalie BellFsenS35:0635:06
103395Anna BasuFV40S35:1035:10
129414Fiona ShentonFV55S35:5135:51
151449Nina MasonFV40S36:2336:23
152461Stef BarlowFV40S36:2436:24
156399Camilla Lauren-MaattaFV50S36:2836:28
169423Jenny SearchFV40S36:5836:58
220459Sarah FawcettFV55S39:0539:05
261466Victoria JacksonFV35S40:4340:43
268397Ashley Price-SabateFV40S41:0341:03
273420Jan YoungFV65S41:1241:12
276392Aileen ScottFV45S41:2041:20
322468Zoe Dewdney-ParsonsFV35S45:5645:56
332401Carol HolgateFV45S47:1747:17
men
posbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
11764Sebatian Anthony (West SuffolkAC)MU20S36:2036:20
33518Mark WarnerMV35S41:1241:12
40546Stuart ScottMV35S41:3341:33
125523Michael LittlewoodMV40M43:4241:12
133508James LeeMV40S43:5143:51
170524Michael MasonMV40F44:3139:31
194503Geoff DavisMV60S44:5544:55
217532Phil RayMV35M45:2442:54
241510Jerry LloydMV50S45:4545:45
259506Jack LeeMsenM46:0543:35
277507James GarlandMV40M46:2743:57
342536Robert AllfreeMV40S48:4848:48
343517Mark PayneMV35S48:4848:48
345490Daniel MitchelMV40S48:5348:53
346483Andrew RaynerMsenS48:5448:54
363540Simon JeffersonMV40S49:3849:38
390522Michael HughesMV50S50:3350:33
423547Tim MatthewsMV50S52:0752:07
427533Philip ConnorMsenS52:1652:16
4381621John MetsonMV60S52:5252:52
440514Malcolm SygroveMV50S52:5552:55
459493David BrowbankMV35S54:2054:20
469481Andrew DaviesMV40S54:4854:48
472501Emil MaataMsenS54:5854:58
5131620David TothMV45S58:2658:26
524478Alan ScottMV50S59:2559:25
530542Stephen EllisMV60S61:0561:05
533479Alan SmithMV70S61:5761:57

Harrier League: Aykley Heads, Saturday, November 18, 2017

This Saturday is a major fixture in the Harrier League. The third fixture of the season will be held at Aykley Heads. The weather is forecast to be cold, bright and dry. It promises to be a good day.

Whether you’re racing, marshalling, watching or supporting, the following information should be useful.

Course map (thanks to Jules Percival)

Aykley Heads course map courtesy of Jules Percival

OpenStreetMap view (from marshalls walkthrough on 11th Nov)
Total distance: 2.2 mi
Max elevation: 312 ft
Min elevation: 210 ft
Total climbing: 230 ft
Total descent: -223 ft
Average speed: 22.35 min/mi
Total Time: 01:09:57
Download

To see this map with the marshall points marked have a look at this attackpoint map or this Google pdf map.

Note:The section between marshall points 4 and 5 is part of the race route only, and is not normally open to the public.

Race Parking is at Durham County Hall car park only. It’s free and only 400m from the start – please do not park anywhere else, please do not try to park closer to the course as you will be charged, or worse, and we could lose this venue! There will be plenty of parking for everybody at County Hall but please car share.

THERE IS RESTRICTED USE OF ONE SECTION OF THE CAR PARK THIS YEAR – ONLY THOSE INTENDING TO LEAVE BY 2.30PM MAY USE THIS SECTION SO PLEASE OBEY THE CAR PARK MARSHALS!

There is no parking in the DLI car park this year.

Officials Parking: This will be on the tennis courts adjacent to the new Police HQ. Go north from the County Hall roundabout on the B.6532, turn right at the next roundabout, straight over at the next roundabout & then follow the signs.

Tent drop off We have a tent drop off point adjacent to the course. Go north from the County Hall roundabout on the B.6532, turn right at the next roundabout, straight over at the next roundabout & then follow the signs. Only use this if your tent is very heavy! There is absolutely no parking for competitors here and it is not a drop off point for latecomers. Tents must be left with the tent drop off marshals and competitors return to County Hall to park.

Registration is adjacent to the course in the tented area (look out for Vicki’s big blue tent) – unless the weather is very bad and then it will be in County Hall reception area (Micky Baker to confirm).

Toilets are located in County Hall foyer and there will be portable toilets close to the race start area.

Do not enter County Hall in muddy shoes – they won’t let us come back next year if you do!

The course is walking distance from County Hall car park (follow the signs) & is on the former Durham Constabulary playing fields.

Directions to County Hall (postcode: DH1 5TP)

County Hall is a major landmark in Durham and many of you will already know where it is and how to get there. There are frequent trains to Durham from Newcastle and Darlington. The station is around half a mile from the venue. Please use public transport where possible!

If you must come by car then directions are as follows (please note that due to the Lumiere festival of light taking place in the city there may be traffic restrictions in place including eastbound lane closures on Millburngate Bridge.


Travelling south (e.g. from Newcastle):

Use the A.1m and turn off at Junction 62 (signposted for Durham & Sunderland). At the top of the slip road turn right at the roundabout joining the A.690 into Durham. At the next roundabout (where the dual carriageway ends) stay on the A.690 & follow signs to City Centre & Consett (straight over). At the next roundabout stay on the A.690 & follow signs for Crook, Consett & County Hall (straight over – but get in the outside lane). At the next traffic lights turn right signposted for Consett, Chester-Le- St & County Hall. Turn right at the next roundabout into County Hall – you’ve arrived!

Travelling north (e.g. from Darlington):
Use the A.1m and turn off at Junction 62 (signposted for Durham & Sunderland). At the top of the slip road turn left at the roundabout joining the A.690 into Durham. At the next roundabout (where the dual carriageway ends) stay on the A.690 & follow signs to City Centre & Consett (straight over). At the next roundabout stay on the A.690 & follow signs for Crook, Consett & County Hall (straight over – but get in the outside lane). At the next traffic lights turn right signposted for Consett, Chester-Le- St & County Hall. Turn right at the next roundabout into County Hall – you’ve arrived!

Travelling west (e.g. from Sunderland):
Use the A.690 from Sunderland or from the A.19 for Durham. At the junction of the A.690 and A.1m go straight over staying on the A.690 into Durham. At the next roundabout (where the dual carriageway ends) stay on the A.690 & follow signs to City Centre & Consett (straight over). At the next roundabout stay on the A.690 & follow signs for Crook, Consett & County Hall (straight over – but get in the outside lane). At the next traffic lights turn right signposted for Consett, Chester-Le- St & County Hall. Turn right at the next roundabout into County Hall – you’ve arrived!

Travelling East (e.g. from Crook):
Use the A.690 from Crook to Durham. At the Neville’s Cross traffic lights turn left onto the A.167. At the first roundabout turn right (4th exit) following signs for City Centre. At the next roundabout go straight over. At the next roundabout go straight over into County Hall – you’ve arrived!

Dublin Marathon, Sunday, October 29, 2017

Marathon

Stephen Lumsdon

Back in late April this year I had never run a competitive 10k, so on a whim (or act of drunken foolishness), I decided to test myself to become a marathon runner within a shortish space of time and signed up for the Dublin Marathon. Within the space of 2 hrs, on that day, I’d signed up, booked a hotel and flights, so I couldn’t change my mind and back out.
Come June, I began to follow the 80/20 marathon training plan and, to be fair, everything went very well, until the Tuesday before the marathon when I woke up with a chest infection and heavy cold. After 48 hrs of intense remedy treatment (hot drinks, paracetamol and running to sweat it out), I felt better, but I was running the marathon no matter how I felt.

I arrived in Dublin on the Friday evening, minus some of my Iso gels, due to forgetting about the 50ml-liquids-on-flight regulations and the very efficient airport security staff at Newcastle!

I checked in to my hotel, about 15 mins walk from the start line. Saturday morning I ran a little leg loosener around St Stephen’s Park (had to be done).

The remainder of Saturday I went to the marathon expo in my Striders hoodie and collected my number and signed the memory wall. After that, I browsed some museums and galleries to take my mind off the next day and my family and friends began to arrive in Dublin.

I awoke Sunday very early, had breakfast and went through my stretching routine and continued to read my marathon plan (I wrote down a plan and a number of quotes to help me get around). Off I went to the start line for 8.30am. My wave started at 9.30 and despite a cloudy and chilly start, by 9 am the sun came out and it warmed up very quickly.

I decided at that point I would run the first miles with the 4h 50m pacers (the marathon has pacers up to 5h). I went through the start line at 9.31 am and the temperature was 16 degrees C, so much for an autumnal marathon and cool temperatures.

Miles 1 -3 out of the city centre start towards Phoenix Park and I was running with the 4h 50m pacers, miles 4-7 the field had settled and began to spread out, still with the pacers I went through 10K in 1h 7 mins and felt comfortable.Miles 8-13 I caught up with the 4h 40m pacers as we went around the park and then on to the streets on the outskirts of Dublin. 13.1 mile at 2h 17m, and still with 4.40 pacers.

Miles 14-18 felt ok early in this stage and got ahead of pacers by about 1 min per mile, pace-wise, but with the weather, temperature and amount of fluids and food required, I began to feel it at about 16 miles. I decided to slow it down and began to consume the free jelly sweets, Jaffa cakes (other orange based chocolate sponge cakes are widely available) and cheese, kindly being offered by the people of Dublin (although I refused the sausage rolls!), as well as taking on as much liquid as I could stomach and using the remainder of my Iso gels. Also at this point, my watch died on me, despite being fully charged. Not the first time that’s happened – new watch required Santa!

Miles 19-23 the route back towards the city and up ‘Heartbreak Hill’. Still with the 4.40 group and feeling the soreness in the top of my right calf at this point. I refused to let it make me stop and I wasn’t going to give in, despite now being past the 20-mile mark (my longest previous distance).

Mile 23.1 Pacers announced ‘Park Run to go’ and anyone fancying a go, to give it a go from now. So as with Vale of York in September, I decided to ‘give it a go’ and left the pacer group and headed for Dublin city centre.

The run-in is quite flat and becomes very straight at 2 miles to go from Ballsbridge to City Centre. I continue with my push to the line, the crowds get bigger and noise increases from this point and by now I forget my calf pain and just push on. 1 mile to go, I up my pace a bit more and tell myself 9 more minutes. The crowds are large and the noise from them and music is louder, so it’s better to soak it up and continue my stride length. 800 metres to go, keeping it steady and no sign of finish line. Around the corner (well crossroads), 400 metres to go I decided to crank it to flat out and I am passing people towards the line and finish across the line and complete my first ever marathon on 4h 36 mins 35 secs, I reckon the last 5k is around 28 mins. Average mins per mile 10.32.

The feeling when I crossed the line and upon finding my family and friends is quite euphoric. After collecting my bags, off back to my hotel for a bath, shower and then back into Dublin for food, Guinness, Champagne and craic.

Overall Dublin is a great marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s very well organised and the volunteers and people of Dublin are very friendly. A special note for the pacers. They were not just good at pacing, but also at talking you through the course, when to take on fluids, gels etc and how to approach each difficult part of the course mentally as well as physically.

In summary, I came to Dublin with a plan on how to execute it effectively; I would like to think I followed it very well. I was very pleased with the outcome of the weekend and becoming a marathon runner.
Monday – I was in the hotel with my Striders hoodie on and a lady came over to talk to me about how she used to work in Durham and regularly would see Striders out running and at Durham Park Run. So I think we will continue to seek world domination for people of purple.

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NEMC Mo Charity Marathon, Newcastle upon Tyne Town Moor, Sunday, November 5, 2017

Marathon

Kerry Barnett

Continuing my quest to complete 50 marathons/ultras before I’m 50, I signed up for the North East Marathon Club charity marathon; all entry fees are donated to the Movember Foundation.

Run on the same day as the more commercialised Mo 5k and 10k’s at Newcastle’s Town Moor, our event started at 8 am so we were finished before the larger races in the afternoon.

A very early start, picking up another runner from Durham,  myself and Rob set off at 6:30 am on Sunday morning, to be sure we were there in plenty of time. We were indeed. Traffic is very different at 7 am on a Sunday morning…. Arriving at Claremont car park at around 7:15 am, we sat in the car for a while as the boathouse wasn’t opening up til 7:30 am. It was very cold; not windscreen scraping cold, but still around 3 degrees C.

Arriving at Claremont car park at around 7:15 am, we sat in the car for a while as the boathouse wasn’t opening up til 7:30 am. It was very cold; not windscreen scraping cold, but still around 3 degrees C.

Bundled up in around 5 layers, we made our way over to the boathouse to collect our numbers and moustaches (mandatory kit to start the marathon). Visiting the loo and stripping down to running gear, we lined up (all 39 of us), all hoping to complete varying amount of 5k laps around the Town Moor (with an additional 2k at the beginning to make 26.2 miles if you completed 8 laps).

Yes, 8 laps of the exposed, windy, cold, Town Moor. I’ve run on the Town Moor before, but never more than 10k at a time, so I’m thinking its pretty flat, but make no mistake, when you’re doing the same undulations time and again they become more troublesome. Also, because of the Living North Christmas Fair, we had 2 road crossings each lap, as well as the 3 gates which we had to open and close ourselves. It wasn’t an easy course!

The first 2k was a dream, pretty much, because it didn’t actually go onto the Moor. My moustache didn’t even last this short lap due to the need to blow my nose, so off it came and into my pocket. I did, however, see a few moustaches around the route at later laps.

The real work started. The first half marathon I kept to a strict 3-minutes running, 1-minute walking, strategy, which worked well. This took me pretty much exactly 2:30 and that was the first 4 laps over with. I was pretty pleased and still feeling good. My fuelling strategy, with a shot block every lap, was keeping things under control and coke at the start/finish/lap area was lovely too.

Now the hard work really starts. It’s still cold, the wind is picking up on the exposed Town Moor and traffic is picking up at the Christmas Fair car park. Luckily, our coaching coordinator, Anna Seeley, laps me at this point. With her own troubles to think of, she completes lap 5 with me. It’s nice to have company. It’s a desolate place the Town Moor. A small marathon like this has no support on the route, except for Rob popping up here and there to cheer me on. We run/walk and chat lap 5 away and now I’m onto the last 3 laps, which are really tough. My right hamstring keeps ‘pinging’, the wind is getting stronger and I’m envious of the people who can keep running into that wind which slows me to a brisk walk. I’m doing 2:1 on the Moor, then 3:1 back on the road around the Moor back to the lap point. Coming up to lap 6 and Rachel, who is tracking the laps, says ‘2 to go’. I know this isn’t right because I’m only at 17 miles, so I correct the chart and keep going.

Lap 6, Rob joins me to keep my spirits up. He’s in his jeans and waterproof jacket, which probably looked pretty incongruous to see us going around the lap. He’s good company and soon another 5k is ticked off. Now there’s 10k to go. Really, really tough work. Walking a lot of the time on the Moor and putting runs in when I feel I can, then back to the 3:1 on the road part again. Rob has stayed at the lap point, getting his shorts on ready to join me on my last lap. I’m going to need all the encouragement I can get now. My hamstrings are tight, my hip flexors are tight, my glutes are tight, my lower back is suffering from pushing against the wind.

So last lap with my number 1 supporter, Rob, is down to lamp posts. Run 1, walk 1 over the Moor into the wind, once that part is over, it’s run 2 lamp posts, walk 1. Where there are no lamp posts, it’s 50 steps running then 20 walking. At least this way I know I’m running more than I’m walking and consistently moving forwards, There are loads of people arriving for the Mo runs now, and apparently, lots of them turned up to our little outpost thinking it was where they needed to be.

Coming up to the boating lake now for one last time. It’s nearly over. I’ve gone past the 5 hour cut off. I’ve missed a PB, but it’s done and the lovely NEMC folks have kept the finish open for me. I’ve finished my 23rd marathon, collect my moustachioed medal and finally sit down for a cup of sweet tea.

The NEMC raised £1000 for the Movember Foundation which is fantastic.

That was hard, and I’ll be running another Town Moor Marathon in 2 weeks – same people, different route. Hopefully less wind next time!

Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, Saturday, October 28, 2017

38 Miles

Matt Claydon

So after my reasonably successful bash at a full-distance triathlon, I decided to try and delay the inevitable slide towards couch-potato-ism by finding another foolish endeavour to undertake. I’ve never attempted to run past marathon distance, and I have never finished a marathon thinking ‘ that was good, but I wish It went on for ages more with some big hills in it’, but everyone seems to be pushing the boundaries these days, so I thought I’d give it a crack. Hello Jedburgh Ultra.

Another early start, 4.30am alarm, long drive up the A68 in the dark. Arrive still yawning at the car-park next to the abbey. It’s not yet 7 am, still pitch black and happy people in hi-viz direct me in. Collect race number from a happy person, have chip attached to wrist by another happy person. Have a wristband put on my wrist by happy person that says ‘Rule #1: don’t be a dick’. Happy people and not being a dick become themes of the day.

A quick kip in the car, coffee, race briefing (don’t be a dick), a jolly warm up to YMCA and we’re off.

This race is awesome. Solid tracks and trails up from Jedburgh to Melrose, through woodland, fields, along river banks, up over the Eildon Hills (three peaks), through a children’s playground where you are made to tackle the rickety bridge, climbing frame and slide (or you’re disqualified), and back. Beautiful scenery throughout. I planned to take some photos from the hilltops but 50mile-an-hour winds nearly blew me off so I didn’t want to hang around up there, this ropey effort from distance is all I’ve got:

It’s inevitable that regardless of the distance I’m running, by the time I’ve reached the last quarter of the race, all my optimistic plans of finishing times and pace have gone out of the window and I just want to get it over with before my legs fall off; it’ll happen at parkrun next week. The thing about this kind of distance is I still had 10 miles to go when I reached this conclusion, and the scenery doesn’t help much in this regard. That said, if you reckon you have it in you (I barely did) I sincerely recommend this well organised (drop bags at check-points with redistribution of ket from the discarded bags), well signed (no need for map and compass), lovely friendly (got a hug from a giant squirrel) race. The tech T-shirt is emblazoned with Peace, Love, Run, Beer. I just wish I could have stayed on for the post-race pub party.

Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, Saturday, October 28, 2017

results

Ladies group photo. photo by Carla Clark

women
posbibnamecatpacktime
11214Amelia Pettitt (Newcastle University)FsenM22:51
58413Fiona JonesFV40M28:36
86462Susan DavisFV55S29:38
91458Sarah DaviesFV50S29:50
961168Natalie BellFsenS30:02
116414Fiona ShentonFV55S30:41
121436Katy WaltonFV35S30:53
125442Lesley HamillFV40S30:58
141461Stef BarlowFV40S31:29
158434Kathryn RogersFsenS32:06
159449Nina MasonFV40S32:07
166422Jean BradleyFV60S32:19
188430Karen ByngFV45S32:50
206459Sarah FawcettFV55S33:22
224427Joanne PorterFV45S33:51
240426Joanne PattersonFV35S34:30
290419Jan EllisFV55S36:41
315453Rebecca DoddFsenS38:32
328437Kerry BarnettFV45S40:09

a few of the Men's team after the race. Photo by Kerry Barnett.

men
posbibnamecatpacktime
1865Carl Avery (Morpeth Harriers & AC)MsenM29:21
69485Chris CallanMV35M35:30
85546Stuart ScottMV35S36:26
105520Matthew ArcherMV35M37:21
267487Conrad WhiteMV60S42:28
268498David LumsdonMV50S42:30
271525Mike BarlowMV40S42:39
295534Richard HockinMV65S43:14
322505Graeme WaltonMV45S44:17
328511Jonathan HamillMV40S44:29
329481Andrew DaviesMV40S44:38
345533Philip ConnorMsenS45:14
354513Lindsay RodgersMV45S45:45
382486Chris ShearsmithMV40S47:33
403499Dougie NisbetMV50S49:22
424542Stephen EllisMV60S52:32
426484Andrew ThurstonMV60S53:01

Dark Skies Run, Galloway Forest, Saturday, October 21, 2017

29 miles

Dougie Nisbet

You've got until 23:59 ...I looked at the ticket machine and realised that, strictly speaking, I might be overstaying my allotted time. But if anyone was going to be checking the tickets after midnight for parking outlaws then good luck to them.

The weather forecast wasn’t great. It wasn’t too bad at the moment and having a nice warm cafe to sit inside and drink coffee while waiting for things to get underway was a big boost. Time ticked on and I kept looking to sThis looks like Race HQee whether any other Striders had checked in. I was feeling a bit nervy as I hadn’t undertaken any sort of structured training for this race and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on. A cold that had suddenly said Hello two days earlier was another complication. But on the whole I didn’t feel too bad. But it’s not how you feel sitting in a warm cafe drinking coffee that’s important, it’s how you feel when you’re out on your own, in the dark, miles from anywhere.

The course was advertised as well marked but I’d studied it hard anyway so that I knew the checkpoints and my drop-out options. I don’t have any hangups about abandoning a race. And the more expensive the race, the fewer the hangups. I reckoned if I was going to drop out, it’d be in the first few miles. I’d know by then whether it was a bad idea,  and I’d simply turn round and head back to the cafe.

The Strider ArrivalDespite having a lot of experience running a lot of weird races in all weathers I always go through a strange panicky ritual about what I’m wearing for any particular race. I look around at the other runners and often interrogate people on what they’re wearing and why. There was more purple in the cafe now and I realised I was the only one who seemed to be seriously considering wearing overtrousers from the Start. A warm wet night looked on the cards so no point in making it a boil-in-the-bag event.

I’ve always wanted to race at night and as we went outside for the race briefing I began to feel more upbeat. It was still light, and still dry, so the head torches wouldn’t be needed for another hour or two. I wondered where to keep my head torch until then, and eventually decided that I might  as well keep it on my head. This curiously enough was not the favoured option. Most runners kept their headtorches hidden away but I reasoned I had to carry the thing anyway, so I might as well carry it somewhere handy.

The great thing about Ultras is that the starts are usually quite civilised. There’s no elbowing to get to the front as there’s no point going off as if you were doing a 5k. We’d be out for hours. Looking around at the briefing I reckoned there were only about 30 of us so it promised to be quite a small, cosy, and probably quite lonely field. A few of us were disconcerted to hear that there would a strict cut-off around the 6 mile mark. The other side of a remote bog that, given the recent rain, was likely to be on the very boggy side of boggy. I’m not keen on strict cut-offs, especially in the early stages of a race. It can take me a few hours to feel like I’m warmed up and an early cut-off can be a bit of stress that I can do without.

The sun dips down below Cairnsmore of FleetWe left the warm of the Kirroughtree Visitor Centre and for the first few miles surfaces were good. Then up and onto the moor and east under the shadow of the wonderfully named Door of Cairnsmore. The sun was dipping and the sky was dry, treating us to an eerily tranquil scene as we trudged, walked and  occasionally jogged into the fading light. I was with Kerry & Co. settled in front of the sweeper and we were checking the time nervously in case we were cutting it too fine. The warning about the strict cut-off had spooked us a little and we would all feel a bit happier when that first checkpoint was ticked.

The path, such as it was, dipped down and I jogged on a bit to join up with Catherine and Gareth before presently we came to a raging burn that probably only a day or two earlier was a pathetic trickle. Still, it was a raging burn today, and as it was today we were wishing to be on the other side of it, its ragingness was a bit of a pain. We all took our chances on various wobbly crossing points that all turned out to be deeper and faster than they pretended to be.

Down from the moor and into the forest and good paths. First checkpoint ticked off, and for the first time since the race started we were on decent runnable tracks. I switched on my head-torch and started running.

What I like about Ultras, and of getting more experienced at running Ultras, is that you get better and better and knowing your pace. You need to settle into a pace that you feel like you could run all day (or night), then you can switch off and step inside your head and listen to some music or recite poetry or write race reports or something. Monteleone by Mark Knopfler usually jumps uninvited into my head during long runs, and stays there for hours. Generally that works out ok as it’s a good tune with a nice gentle running cadence that suits me, but I’m dreading the day that I stop liking it and it won’t go away.

Another thing I’ve learned about ultras is the importance of walking. It’s a discipline I’d practised for Comrades and it has now become second nature. Walk the hills, and run the flats and downs. It’s tempting to run the ascents especially if you feel the gas is in the tank to do so, but it’s far more important to conserve that energy for later on when it’ll be far more useful.

One man and his headtorchThe second checkpoint came along pretty quickly and we turned north. The section towards  Clatteringshaws Loch had lots of long steady climbs on good forest tracks and I settled into a  comfortable, hard walking pace. I’d been on my own for an hour or two now and occasionally I would look around for other lights. At one point I became aware of a headtorch or two that seemed to close on me quite rapidly before fading again, and eventually I reasoned that it must have been mountain bikes as the lights seemed quite low and the  speeds erratic. Then they disappeared altogether even though we hadn’t passed any junctions. Perhaps I was just going mad.

This was the first time I’d used my headtorch in anger in a race at night. It’s a Petzl Nao and generally I’ve found it to be the canine’s nadgers. I was unsure how long the battery would last though. About 6 hours according to the manual, but I brought a spare battery pack just in case. And a spare headtorch, to use so I could see what I was doing when I had to change the battery pack. The Nao is a reactive headtorch that senses and auto-adjusts depending on where it’s pointing, what it’s seeing, and how much light it feels like giving  you. So I could look far up the road and it would easily pick out the high-viz course markers that were now so familiar to me.

the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and my Petzl Nao was burning very very brightlyStill, the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and my Petzl Nao was burning very very brightly. After just two hours of use and as I approached the Clatteringshaws checkpoint, it started doing the flashy flashy thing to tell me it had had enough. This was a little alarming I thought, as I changed the battery pack. Not even close to what the manual suggested I should expect. And I definitely had it on the auto reactive setting rather on full afterburner. Assuming I got the same amount of light from the spare battery pack then I should expect to be plunged into darkness with some distance to go to the finish.

I decided to worry about that if it happened. Perhaps the spare battery would be better than the main battery. Or perhaps I would be a lot faster from now on. As I left the Clatteringshaws CP the marshalls warned me that after a few hundred yards the course turned right away from the main A712. Sure enough, this is exactly what happened, but you had to keep an eye out for the flags otherwise it’d be quite easy to settle on the main road and miss out on all the wonderful wetness of the higher Old Edinburgh Road.

I was pretty settled now having found my pace and was really enjoying the run. The fact that it wasn’t cold made a big difference. Even the frequent rainy squalls were quite surreal as I zipped up my hood, and looked ahead along the bright cone of light from my Petzl. There was some pretty varied terrain for the next few miles; flooded rocky paths, mud, bracken, paths and tracks, and all the time you had to concentrate, peering ahead picking out the high-viz flags like the welcome cats-eyes on a quiet country road.

We’d been warned that one of the checkpoints would involve wading across a fast-moving burn hanging onto a tree trunk for support while reaching out for the beckoning hand of a marshall leaning out to grab runners. So I couldn’t say I wasn’t warned when I found myself up to my knees in a torrent of water, hanging onto a nice bit of Sitka Spruce (deceased), and reaching out hopefully for the guiding hand of a marshall as I eased past this sting in the Grey Mare’s Tail.

Things got slightly less exciting from this point on, although I think it may have been somewhere around here that Anna decided to go off-piste. Deciding that 29.1 was a really untidy number and something in the 30s would sound a lot better she added a few miles on. A bit like running round Palace Green a few times with an eye on the garmin, but with more trees and fewer cathedrals. I don’t know if Vicky Brown had a similar blip in the 14.

I’d passed another couple of runners at the checkpoint but apart from them I hadn’t seen many runners on my travels. After the bumpy and quirky section along the Old Edinburgh Road from Clatteringshaws the route settled down onto good surfaces and more long, steady climbs on a gentle south-westerley sweep.

On I contentedly ran, passing Murray’s Monument somewhere on my left, although Murray and myself were both blissfully unaware of this. It must have been off to the left somewhere, asleep for the night in its invisibility cloak. The forest road continued to provide a good runnable surface until two bright lights appeared ahead. I assumed this was a checkpoint, at which point I’d swing a hard left then there’d be a couple of hairpins before heading home. I assumed that it was headlights, from a car. But when you’ve been out for several ours in the rain and dark, you start to assume that it’s Close Encounters, or perhaps an FBI SWAT team, you know, out here, in the remote Scottish hills.

It wasn’t a check point, it was a ‘radio guy’. Doing radio stuff. Wondering how many people were still after me. I was sorry to break it to him, but I was, surprisingly for me, pretty much mid-field, so he had a bit of wait yet. I jinxed left, then right, then down to the final checkpoint on the main road. I asked how much further it was and he joked that it was another 6 miles. I was running Garmin free so was none the wiser and just shrugged. That sounded fine. 3, 6, 9 whatever. I was fine. I was enjoying the dark. I felt pleasantly lost in time, and space, and meaning.

I hung around this checkpoint for a bit chatting to the marshalls as they were having a bit of a time of it all. I was now on the half-marathon route too and it seemed runners had been appearing from a bewildering number of directions, some of them correct. I was
surprised to hear this as I couldn’t fault the route-marking and said so. I had a few more jelly beans, adjusted my head-torch, and when they were distracted by some radio chatter I took my leave.

West along the road for a few yards then a hard left for the final few miles to the Finish. My head torch decided that was enough for the day and started flashing in alarm. I tried to switch to a sort of ‘economy’ mode, but it still flashed. It really wasn’t happy. So I fished out my emergency spare head torch, the one I’d only packed so I could see what I was doing when I was changing the battery on my main one, and switched it on. The Petzl Tikka XP2 is a pretty decent head torch, but after several hours of the Nao, it was looking a bit feeble. I had to concentrate to pick out the course-marking flags and even though they were there if you looked, I began to see how it’d be possible to go for a wander if you weren’t concentrating on looking out for the flags.

The last mile or two seemed very long indeed, and in the last mile, feeling slightly disoriented, I stopped to check my position to find that the finish was, indeed, just round the next corner. I jogged to the line and applause, with no idea of how long I’d been out. I soon discovered it was a fair bit longer than I’d expected or thought it to be and I was way overdue for my booked meal. Luckily for me and many other runners, Sofia from the Cafe at Kirroughtree kept things open way beyond closing time and I soon found myself sitting down having a hot meal and coffee in the warm indoors watch the cold outdoors through the glass.

I couldn’t see Anna which puzzled me as she’d gone of like a rocket at the start, but I soon recognized Gareth and Catherine crossing the finish line. They were soon tucking into some supper and I began to feel uneasy about the lateness of the hour. Roberta would’ve been expecting me back at the hotel by now, and cellphone coverage at race HQ was pretty hit or miss. Luckily the cafe allowed me (very brief) access to their landline (it being the emergency contact number) to make a quick call and I felt bad when Roberta gave an alarmed Hello! as she answered the phone. Seeing a strange phone number appearing on you cellphone in the middle of the night is quite likely to make you think Something Bad has Happened.

Gareth and Catherine turn off their headtorches to watch C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser GateI hung around for a while more, gradually settling down to earth after nearly 7 hours out in a slightly surreal world. We had got our dark skies as it happened. For a brief time the sky had cleared and Gareth and Catherine had turned off their headtorches to watch C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. I had wanted to wait for Kerry and Co. to finish, and I would only discover later that Anna had gone off course and would be finishing with Kerry too. But I was cold now, and while Gareth and Catherine jumped in the shower, I jumped in the car for the short drive back to the hotel.

You can never carry too many headtorches.This was my first night-time race and I loved it. A small field meant that for hours on end I didn’t see another soul. The isolation was quite spooky at times but on the whole it was quite relaxing. Relaxing until the head-torch starts flashing to tell me the battery is giving up. I need to give some thought to batteries. You wouldn’t have wanted to be out in the dark skies without a light.

Rat Race Ultra tour of Edinburgh, Sunday, October 22, 2017

55km

Elaine Bisson


This caught my attention as soon as I’d seen an advert on Facebook, a really different race with the additional challenge of a new distance. The event video and description had me hooked from the word go….

“Sets off with a Braveheart charge down the Royal Mile. Weaves through streets, alleyways, onto hills, up crags, past monuments, museums, seats of Royalty, Government and up and down 3000 feet of ascent and descent.”

I love Edinburgh, so a chance to have a guided race around this beautiful city seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Registration was on the Saturday 08:30-10:30 at Murrayfield stadium, the finish line. I’d booked into a hotel minutes from the start beside St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile (so that I didn’t wake all my family up at some ungodly hour to first have my pre-race porridge, then leave v early to get to the start in time!) It’s unusual to get a night away from my kids. Unfortunately, I was far too excited/nervous to fully appreciate the peace. The event organisation was well recommended and the spectator guide was so detailed that even my family were excited to plan their day around supporting me.

I woke early to eat my porridge, the hallowed 2 hrs before the race and arrived at the start at 06:50. The streets were dark, the sun barely touching the sky.
The race starts at 07:30. I was all too pleased to bump into Alex Collins while we were putting our bags on the baggage bus, it seems you can’t do any race without bumping into fellow Striders! By 07:20 we were called to line up before the start….I made a quick dash for the cash point. I’d somehow forgotten the mandatory kit requirement to carry £10 cash.

The place was amazing, barely just gone sunrise. The sky had an orange glow lighting up all those wonderful old buildings and cobbled streets. There was a palpable buzz of excitement. The promise of some excellent adventures ahead.

The start was a bit of a manic race down the Royal Mile. Advice from Jules had me holding back. She’d told me to be sensible, don’t go out too fast and I could look forward to catching them later! All too soon we were heading up past the Scottish Parliament buildings and up the hills and crags of Holyrood Park. The views were amazing but also quite daunting as you could see all across the city to the Pentland Hills…our big climb of the run. Their heads were covered in cloud and loomed ominously over the city.

55km round a city, can it be pretty?

This has got to be one of my absolute favourite runs. The varied terrain, the views, the relative solitude of racing in a large city. After that mad dash down the mile, the people spread out. I was running alongside a group of about 5 men from then until the last check-point…at which point I left them behind as I’d caught sight of a girl!

We passed through 800m long tunnels covered in graffiti, with the sound of our footsteps reverberating off the walls. We climbed up through forest paths, across fields akin to cross-country mud! Past Craigmillar Castle, weaving through and up Blackford Hill past the Royal Observatory. Along canal paths, river paths, by farms, up past the dry ski slope, up, up, up to the three Pentland peaks, with warnings to be mindful of the Highland cows, down past a loch, through a forest and back into the city, around 200m of a sports track….but again it wasn’t long before we left the urban terrain behind and hit the tiny trails that criss-cross throughout the city. Past the zoo, on up Corstorphine hill then down to Newhaven Harbour and onto the waterfronts of Leith. Again back along ‘waterway of Leith’ pathways (there were a lot of these) and up to finish in Murrayfield Stadium. It was quite magnificent. The views, the terrain was so varied it was just exceptional.

I knew it would get hard, I’d never run over a marathon but the absolute pleasure of running through Edinburgh but seeing it in such a different light…we passed through the grounds of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, ah I just felt lucky to be alive. My legs ached from 27 miles but my spirits were lifted when my little support crew popped up every 10k.  I had no idea of my position through the race. Marshals were encouraging but at no point told me where I was in the field. The start was a mad dash and I hadn’t registered who I was running with. I just concentrated on keeping a comfortable pace that perhaps I could maintain for the distance. My surprise when John turned up at the final checkpoint and said (with surprise in his voice), “You’re doing well…no I really mean you’re doing amazingly well…we think you’re 3rd lady and well up the field. Keep it up and we’ll see you at the stadium.” That was exactly what I needed to keep going for those last 6miles. From being sensible, it was now a race to maintain and keep the fourth lady at bay.

When I finally crossed the last road (there were 20+ quite busy road crossings) and turned down to see the stadium, I let out the biggest cry of joy and startled the nearby runner. The finish was great, trackside in the stadium with our names called over the tannoy and the few supporters (maybe 30)…but who cares when my fab four were there cheering me in.
It’s a long way, it’s quite a battle. Aerobically I felt strong…that was the plan, the terrain and climb does take its toll though and my legs were telling my head to stop. Good job my head is too stubborn to listen!

I loved it, over the moon to finish 13th overall and 3rd lady. It’s pricey but incredibly well signposted and the marshals are all brilliant. I’d highly recommend it…even just to explore a different side of Edinburgh. And my husband told me afterwards, “It’s a real shame you’re not slower as that supporter guide was really lovely and we could have enjoyed a great day out in Edinburgh if we hadn’t have been trying to catch you”!

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Park Run, Saturday, October 21, 2017

5K

Sarah Davies

As a parkrun fanatic, I am always delighted when a new Parkrun starts up in the North East. Not only is it great to see the movement growing, but it also creates exciting new possibilities for Parkrun tourism. However, although I like to imagine myself heading off into the wilds of Northumberland or North Yorkshire to tackle a new course, rarely does this actually happen: it’s enough of a challenge to get our family to Maiden Castle by 9, let alone anywhere further afield. But this Saturday was different. Knowing that I had to drop my daughter off for a rowing race in Ashington at the unearthly hour of 7.45 am, I immediately checked the parkrun website and was happy to discover that a new run had started in nearby Newbiggin-by-the-Sea just a week before!
Daughter and her friends dropped off, I headed straight there. The course is, appropriately, by-the-sea. The start is on the beach, but almost immediately you join the long promenade which curves around the attractive Newbiggin bay. There are some interesting sculptures and stunning sea views along the way. At the end of the promenade, you climb a steep grassy hill (I had a flashback to cross-country!), run around a small park, then descend and return along the promenade. The second lap follows roughly the same route. The finish is at the historic Café Bertorelli, famous for its ice cream. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stop and sample it!
This is a scenic, varied, and reasonably challenging parkrun, especially if you happen to be running into the wind (I was surprised to be first female finisher – admittedly, the field was not huge!) I would highly recommend it to all Striders and their families. I’ll be back, and not only so I can try the ice-cream!