A one-way ticket, Newcastle to Durham, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

James Lee

James Lee has left the building and is about to head south from Freeman to Durham

I am lucky. The chemo I am on is purely oral. I go to the Freeman, get weighed, answer some questions, collect the pills and come home. Then I take the pills the following five nights. Simples.

Last year I found that the buses were better than the train. Recently I started wondering if I could run home. I printed out a map – 16.2 miles on road. Yesterday I left the house in my running gear.

At the Freeman my resting heart beat set off the alarms again. I was thankful, yet again, that I’m not sitting there for hours on intravenous (yet). I stowed the pills in my back pack and went down to the back door. Set my Garmin, my laces, my music. Go.

The first two miles disappeared reading the map (is that how fell runners ignore the pain?). There was the Ouse Burn to follow, a bit of park, then busy roads down to Quayside. Too many streets to cross but I was keeping good time. Under the Tyne Bridge and over the Swing Bridge, enjoying the view, then up. Two pages of A4 to get to Gateshead, one page for all those miles home.

The World outside your Window. The Angel from the bus.

The up wasn’t steep enough to require running right (see link) but there were some long gradual climbs with the occasional view down in to the valley. I passed the Angel again, ran through Birtley and Chester-le-Street.

I kept the pace up because I knew I was pushing my half-marathon PB. I knocked minutes off what I ran earlier this year – and what I ran in my 20s. Then my calves seized up. I slowed down – the next record was the distance on my Garmin so time didn’t matter. I made it home. I was glad I had stuck to off-road this year.

Lessons learned:

  • The A167 is good for speed but very boring for distance. I won’t run back from Newcastle again.
  • Don’t think that, because you’ve done 16 miles off-road, 16.2 miles on road will be OK. My theory is that, because of the better grip, I was pushing more with my feet – hence the calves problem. Whether that’s right or not, the difference hurts. It requires more cushioned trainers, too.
  • Taking the bus out is a good way to get a distance target – it’s hard to stop. I think it could be great to run all those miles without turning around. I just need to find the right route.

For those of you wondering how I’m still running:

Last summer the odds on the chemo working were 40%. It hasn’t just worked, it blew the grade III bit apart. My consultant has seen that 3-4 times in her career. The grade II bit has stopped growing but the chemo is still just buying me time. I passed the short life expectancy back in January.

Most people last about 9 rounds of chemo before the side effects get too much. I feel rough for a few days but can now do the club runs on the Wednesday after pills. This will be round 16 for me. My consultant has seen someone last 24, not that that’s a challenge… The average life expectancy ends next month and I’m not dead yet.

I’m beyond the statistics but the estimate is now some time next year. I’ve been warned that the end of chemo can be quite sudden. I’d love to finish this cross-country season. I wasn’t kidding with the “I am lucky”.

Sometimes I wonder what’s killing me. Is it the brain tumour, the chemo, or the reminder every 28 days? But it’s the living that matters. Thanks to all for keeping me running.

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Great North Run, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunday, September 8, 2019

13.1m

Kirsty Nelson

Ok so how do I start my first race report? What do I put into it? Who will read it? My god the questions that went around my head at mile 18 at my first marathon in York, me writing my race report is what got me through the next 8 miles, but this isn’t that report. I never wrote it, don’t know why. Fast-forward 7 months my 2nd marathon running Windermere with my strider girls, a completely different experience, but still no report, I don’t know why. Fast-forward 4 months my first ultra-marathon, do I write about this new-found enjoyment of Hell?  …no because I still have nightmares. Fast-forward a week it’s the GNR, it’s my 5th time I know the route. Most of us do. We’ve either ran, supported, or volunteered at it. So why this one, why do I feel the need to write about this one, even write about my 5th GNR in fact. Because this wasn’t my run this was David’s.

I met David in June when I became his guide runner, David is visually impaired blind in his left eye, visually impaired in his right only seeing shapes (but not branches he hits a lot of branches, he’s quite tall and I forget to say duck!) Anyway I digress, David and I have been running together since July, not much time to train, he doesn’t like speed work, and he doesn’t like hill reps. So basically, we just went out together he would decide a route I would follow. I would tell him when there was change of surface, heights, obstructions, roads, dogs, pedestrians (they are often the worst, quite funny though either literally jumping out of your way with an embarrassed look or totally not caring that you are running tethered to a 6ft blind guy and it’s you veering off course. Sometimes I would be chatting that much that when I needed to let him know of a change, my brain would not kick in, in time and I’d often say a completely wrong word for what was coming. Any way he somehow trusted me to be his guide runner for the GNR.

8th September 2019

The day starts early, I pick David up at 6.45 to be on the bus at County hall for 7, sorry Mark but that walk to the Lookout pub was too much to bear for David after 13.1 miles. We find ourselves on the start line at 9.45, our time for leaving was 10.16(Very precise), we are at the very start I can’t believe it. Usually I’m way back in the masses I can’t even see the start line. We chatted to other Blind, VI runners and their guide runners, a couple of guys in wheelchairs, (not allowed with the elite racers not the right chairs.). well I had to ask! I asked for advice from other guides and their runners, and asked David what he wanted from the day… his reply Just to Finish… fair enough I said. Seconds later the gun went off, I honestly jumped out my skin, it was so loud. The elite woman were off, then the wheelchairs, or the other way round I can’t remember I was too excited and I was trying to stay calm for David.

Then it was our turn, there was about 20 runners and their partners around us, I knew from our training runs it was going to be a steady pace, but that was fine this wasn’t my run. The gun goes again, and we’re off. Strange feeling being at the front, the road is all you can see not masses of bobbing heads and back signs that make you cry, no fancy dress to laugh at. We soon lost sight (no pun) of the other runners and the road was literally ours, “oh my god David Mo Farah is warming up in front of us! Hey MO, see you in 40 mins” … no reply… I suppose he was in the zone. We carry on for another 100 metres and a few other elites were warming up, one clapped as we trotted past, “have a good day” he said. The first mile was bizarre no one around us except some supporters clapping and cheering David, it was like a scene from 28 Days Later at some points, we could have literally done anything, no cars, no people, a deathly silence apart from me wittering on about how weird it was, and how I needed to wee!

So we are approaching the underpass that leads to the bridge I explain to David about the people on the bridges etc., there’s not much surface changes to let him know about no kerbs to watch and at this point certainly no runners. As we start coming up to the Tyne Bridge I say to David “are you ready?” “ready for what?”, “this I say”. The roar of the crowd was so overwhelming, so loud, clapping, shouting whooping, David’s name being shouted over and over, I couldn’t help smiling from ear to ear, I looked at David and he was smiling back, the crowd was amazing all cheering for us lonely goats on the bridge, never will that moment be erased from our memories. Incredible, no words, we feel like how an elite runner must feel, but obviously not in the same head zone, they go so fast they must only hear one syllable and one clap.

Well we only had a quick wave and shout from Heather and Ian before we found out, a marshal was telling us to stay right, the front runners were on their way. I looked over my shoulder and said David its time, up went the arms and we tried to do a MO sign as he went past. It kinda worked, well no sooner were they past us then the first purple vest went past belonging to Steve Jackson, my god that guy moves quick! He was so quick I couldn’t even get his name out to cheer him on, then another purple vest then another one with a yellow hat! Well I knew that was Michael. Then a cool breeze came from behind as more and more runners came whipping past, quite a few shouting well done to David, he was so laid back just lifted his hand like the queen.

Mile 2 and the road belonged to the masses now, my real job was about to start. From mile 2 to 6 was pretty much the same a steady pace that David felt comfortable with and no stopping, I told him he can stop when he’s dead…Not the best thing to say perhaps but he laughed, the support continued throughout, runners clapping David on the back with “Well done David, park runs are working for you David, keep going, riverside parkrun well done, go on Big Lad”, if I had a £ for every well done we would have been buying a pint for the whole of striders. I’ve never felt so much appreciation, admiration and support for 1 person ever. I kept telling him, that’s for you, how does that make you feel? Brilliant he replied. I felt brilliant for him, we danced as we passed bands. We soaked up the atmosphere and we enjoyed ourselves, we mooched along as others panted by, me on so many other occasions! We walked through the middle of water stations to avoid the caps and bottles, in the end instead of saying bottle and trying to avoid them, I would just say kick! He managed 20 kicks and 5 misses! Not bad for a Vi runner…

We get to mile 8 and David is starting to feel the emotions of the day, we slow to a walking pace as we come across a band playing heavy metal, after a minute of head banging which ended up with David’s bottle being launched into the air and landing several feet away. Forgetting that I’m tethered to David, I went to retrieve it with him being dragged along… oops rookie error. We carried on, along the way we saw other striders who shouted encouragement. Happily mooching along from mile 8 to mile 12, my day was easy apart from bottles and timing mats, it was more describing people around us, the costumes, the people who lined the streets, than many obstructions, and luckily no branches. I soaked up the atmosphere the support and didn’t look at my watch once. I didn’t need to know my pace we weren’t out to win.

I see the sea, but we’ve still got a long way to go, David is tired. The crowds are still shouting his name. We hit the 400 metre mark and I ask “are you ready?”, David nodded and that was it, we started up again, nearly there I promise, he felt the change from tarmac to grass, and he started to slow, no 10 more meters …crossing the line was the most emotional thing ever. He cried I, cried, the Marshall cried, we all hugged…..I smugly smiled that he didn’t fall over at any time! We went to collect our medal I was looking for a strider, I found Wendy and I was so happy to be with David to see him receive the well-deserved medal. Unfortunately, David took a bad turn when we finished and needed a medic, after a sit down, some Lucozade we were off we had 15 minutes to get to coach. At this point I wasn’t taking no for an answer we were ducking and diving the crowds, David remained quiet.

Safely on the coach I ask David if he fancies doing it again ,” possibly /probably,” he tells me he wants to run the Kielder marathon, I reply “are you joking it’s really hilly”, “yeah but the scenery is beautiful” he replies with a wicked grin on his face, he then offers to drive the bus home. He’s feeling better.
I get home at 6pm exhausted but elated, it was David’s 3rd GNR and my 5th and it has to be without a doubt my proudest must fulfilling GNR to date.

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Running right, Out West, Friday, September 13, 2019

James Lee

I thought I’d run hills today, so headed out West. I felt pretty good and the sun was shining. Somehow it became the run I got right.

Crossing town is pretty flat tarmac and grass, so roughly 7 minute miles. After half a mile I stopped to sort my socks out and tighten my laces. Then I just went for it, even though I wanted to run 10 miles or so. Some time ago Lisa Evette’s post showed a heart rate average well above anything I ever get – was I pushing it hard enough? Then there was a side effect of the Pilates – suddenly I could breathe faster than every two steps without getting a stitch. The core of my body really does connect to everything, it seems. It just took a few decades to find out.

Ring road and out to Bearpark Hall Farm. Crops harvested, gate open and what looks like a Grand Designs project all going well. Down to the River Browney then up – and up – to the top of Bearpark. Climbing has always been my weak point. Mile 12 of the Skipton trail half marathon proved that for 16 minutes. That was so wrong I finally asked Elaine about the steep climbs. She suggested I should try shortening my stride with a higher frequency. I tried that on her killing field session on Wednesday but I was still slower than some. At the end I thought I had too much left – and the average heart rate agreed. So this time I went for a frequency that felt bonkers – and kept the mile below 8 minutes.

Back down the same path to the Browney. Descent is not a rest – I think I read that somewhere – so when it wasn’t crazy steep I pushed it. Off-road, everything but the ground disappeared – those next few steps were all that could be processed. Avoiding branches relied on instinct. Speed was what mattered, not my quads.

Along the path by the Browney it was ‘just keep going’. The music helped – my son’s Now That’s What I Call Pop kept the mood right. Then there was the climb to Witton Gilbert and beyond. Keeping the stride when it wasn’t too steep; that frequency again when it was. Pushing it on those brief dips; keeping my feet down on the little steps; enjoying the view as it flattened at the top, looking back over the valley to Bearpark. Round the trig point (can’t turn down before that!) and back to the A691.

Then the footpath back to town. Fields, stiles without a stop, then faster tarmac. Picking up the pace quarter of a mile out; a final sprint across the grass. 10.8 miles, average 7:15 minutes. 3 miles under 7 minutes, only one over 8. Could I do this in a race? Only one way to find out…

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Derek Price Memorial Grisedale Horseshoe, Glenridding, Lake District, Saturday, September 7, 2019

AM/16km/9.9m

Nina Mason

Image courtesy of Joseph Twigg

A fabulous, warm, sunny day greeted the runners of this year’s Grisedale Horseshoe.  This year it was one of the English Championship counters, with some of the best fell runners in the country taking part. Start and finish in Glenridding, at the parish hall, where my timing dibber was expertly attached to my wrist at registration; after a thorough kit check and receipt of a free buff at the playing school fields in Patterdale.

I had no goals other than to get round as quickly as I could. I think due to the number of runners the ladies were started 10 minutes before the men. We set off along the footpath through Gillside campsite, where I had camped the night before. Knowing what was ahead, I didn’t look at the van sat there in the sunshine.

It was a bit of a slog up the tourist path to the wall, and to Hole-in-the-wall (where the men started to catch me). From there it was focus on running as hard as I could towards Red Tarn, and then a hands-on-knees, heart-pounding, breathless ascent straight up the grass to cp1, Catstycam.

My legs felt ludicrously wobbly as I clambered over the rocks of Swirral Edge to cp2. A change of gear to run as hard as possible across Helvellyn, and over the undulating but generally-downhill terrain past Dollywaggon Pike, to the first serious descent to Grisedale Tarn.

The men setting off after worked well for me – when I could hear them coming to pass me I worked hard to stay in front; when the faster guys did (inevitably) pass me I worked hard to stay with them as long as I could. The steep ups and downs created a more level (see what I did there?) playing field for the men and women, with individual strengths showing.

From the tarn it felt like a long jog/walk up St Sunday Crag and cp4 – my legs starting to feel the climbs. I took a moment to look up (when I could take my eyes off the ground in front) – the views were amazing in every direction, a fantastic day to be up the hills.

But then no time to look, as the descent down Blind Cove to the barn (cp5) near Grisedale Beck was crazily steep. Sliding down the gully (sometimes on my bum) and then running down steep grass. I fell here, I thought quite stylishly. I did a shoulder-butt-360 roll and ended up on my feet, slightly dazed but actually feeling that I had bounced off the soft ground. Thank goodness I had missed the boulders strewn about. I got a few ‘are you oks?’ from other runners, obviously replying with a very confident (but not really felt) ‘yes, I’m great thanks!’.

Barn, cp5. Through the beck, delightfully fresh and cool and only shin height. Forcing myself to run along the valley footpath, knowing what is coming and not daring to look up to the left.

Other Striders have written reports about this race, and I think all sum up, in different ways, how this last climb feels. I keep a running diary, with races (and distances and climbs) written in the back. Part of my prep, as well as recceing, is looking at the feet of climb per mile. Of course terrain and weather etc. make every race different, but I like the climb/distance comparison – for me it usually holds true for pace and how much a race hurts.

This race has the most feet/mile of all the races I’ve attempted so far. This last climb looks small on the map. A few hundred metres. The contours look fairly close, but how hard could it be? After the 8 miles or so just completed in the race, it was…..well, polite words don’t sum it up.

So, left turn. Straight up the bank to cp6, up at the wall. My legs were screaming ‘stop, stop moving’. Breathing was ok and I managed to get a couple of jelly babies down. I took to all-fours – glancing up now and then to make sure I was still going in the right general direction, staring at the grass in front, unable to think, as it would have just been ‘stop’, as I hauled myself up with handfuls of grass, trying to take the burden off my legs. It felt very slow. Torturous. I was feeling every hill and mile that I have never trained, and now regret. I think the only thing that was ok was that everyone around was struggling too – not that I wanted them to be in pain, but if they had all looked ok and waltzed up I would have laid down and cried.

And then….the top. A dead rotten sheep. Marshalls telling me to dib, and to climb the wall. Pointing me in the general direction I needed to go as I saw a vest disappear over the edge of the hill. I obviously looked out of it. Wobbly over the wall stile. And then like a switch has been flicked, glorious downhill – some wonderfully boggy, kind on the feet and with really good grip. My legs suddenly feeling ok again. Focussed, running hard. Back on the tourist path we had ascended a couple of hours before, run past the campsite (no looking at the van now!) and back to the hall.

This one was tough (that final climb was unforgettable, and everyone talked about it as we were eating cake at the hall). A great turn out and we were very lucky with fantastic weather. Well organised and great support from the marshals. I loved all of it, even the painful bits. I got my food right (two gels and some jellies). I didn’t carry water knowing I could drink from streams all the way round (which I did, copiously, without any ill effects).

The sharp end, given the field, was sharp, and very impressive. Those that were out longer had a great day for it. I was very happy with my mid-pack position and time.

Sitting in the sunshine in the afternoon now, showered and happy, glass of cider, by the van (cracking campsite btw). Looking at the hills we had conquered.  Feeling tired and very happy.

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World Transplant Games – Track Events, Gateshead Stadium, Thursday, August 22, 2019

Shaun Roberts

Gateshead International Stadium was the venue for the athletics at the Games … I had entered the 400m, the 800m and the 1500m, being the longest available distances. I’m not at all sure I have much in the way of fast-twitch muscle … but whatever there is I’ve tried to train up a bit over the last couple of months. Nonetheless, I approached this lot with more than a little trepidation … also: “It’s all about the taking part!”

1500 metres

Lovely race, with more action than I had expected. Andrew Lewis, another GB runner, and firm favourite for this one after doing very well at the BTG, lead off very firmly, followed by a good Irish runner. I tried to keep up with him on the first two laps, and he came back to me in the third, so I had hopes of a Silver medal. Not to be, though, as he had more left in the tank on the last lap, and went past me again. Good race, though, and I was delighted to get a Bronze, my first track medal at these games. Quite pleased with the time, too … 5m 54s.

400 metres

My 400-metre time really isn’t much to write home about, but at least this was a good race. The outright favourite was out in front from the start, followed pretty briskly by a South African, who seemed to be going well. Heading into the back straight, though, he seemed to be slowing down a tad, so instead of my cruising home for a Bronze medal, perhaps contemplating a wave to the Gateshead crowd, I dug in and tried to reel him in. On the line I was sure I was still half a yard down, but did a big dip anyway … and was amazed to see the results come through: I’d got the Silver by 0.08 of a second. Well-chuffed!

800 metres

Brilliant first lap! Was in the lead at that stage – pity they didn’t stop the race then … Slowed down somewhat over the next lap, and the two who’d been in front of me in the 1500m went past … tried to hold on, but one more overtook in the final straight (nice bloke, good to see him get a track medal, tbh), so no medal in this one. Probably good for my mental health, not getting a medal in each race! Pleased with the time, mind (2m 57s) … a recent PB, and nearly 30 seconds faster than three months ago when I was trying to qualify …

Overall, this has been a fantastic week! Good to come away with some medals (two Silvers and a Bronze), good also to be fit enough to give this a good go, and above all, good to simply be here. The atmosphere amongst the athletes and supporters has been amazing … everyone’s got a story to tell, and a lot of them are very, very moving. Great to have been a part of it.

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World Transplant Games – Bike Road Race, Hetton Lyons, Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Shaun Roberts

Baptism of fire in the road race on an undulating course at Hetton Lyons. This was a combined 17-lap race for all the 60+, 70+, 80+ men – first over the line sets the end of the race.

Pushed very hard at the start, but got dropped by a breakaway of six. Managed to keep my foot on the pedal for the full hour, though, and only the leading two got a lap on me. So ended up 7th of 24, which I was pretty pleased with, as there were some proper cyclists here.

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World Transplant Games – 5K, Town Moor, Newcastle, Sunday, August 18, 2019

Shaun Roberts

After the recent British Transplant Games, the very local World Transplant Games, within a couple of miles of where I spent quite a long time in hospital, couldn’t come soon enough. Good to start the week with the 5K, which I thought was my best chance of doing well, having picked up the Gold in Newport. The course was changed close to the last-minute, from, I think, the normal parkrun course, to a shorter version, two laps, due to a circus pitching on the route! Obviously, pretty flat … but there was a fair wind blowing …

photo by Mandy Dawson

I set off fast, perhaps a tad too fast – perhaps a bit too much adrenaline coursing through the veins. Was ahead of the firm favourite to win the MV60s after the first lap … but then flagged a bit. The last section into blustery wind was a bit challenging … and yet, my band of supporters (you know who you are!) told me I was still second, so I was more than delighted to come away with a Silver medal.

Whoop! Can enjoy the rest of the games now …

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Lakeland 100, Friday, July 26, 2019

105 miles/24000 ft climb

Elaine Bisson

My Lakeland 100 journey started at 4am on a Saturday morning in November 2017 as I travelled to the Lakes with Jules to accompany her on her first recce from Coniston to Buttermere. I was quite taken with the excitement and camaraderie surrounding the event. The route, 105miles of Lakeland trails, what’s not to like?! So when a big empty hole appeared after my BG there seemed nothing better to fill it with.

At 9am one September morning I was ready to enter when low and behold the system crashed and my chances faded. Cajoled by friends and my husband who knew I’d had my heart set on it, I got a charity place a week later.

Continue reading Lakeland 100
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Durham City Run Festival, Thursday, July 25, 2019

Joanne Patterson

Courtesy of Events of the North

This is one of my favourite races of the year. I am so very proud to be from this beautiful city and to be able to part of the atmosphere this night always brings, is pretty amazing.

I first entered the Durham City Run 5k in 2016, before I joined Striders. I had recently become a part of the running community via Durham parkrun, and when this race was advertised, I knew I wanted to do it.  I actually joined Striders in the time between entering and the actual race and so was lucky enough to be wearing purple on the day. It was the first time the event had happened, and so of course there were teething problems. A mass start of all the 5 and 10k runners and lots of narrow riverside paths made for a frustrating race for everyone.  The organisers asked for feedback following the race and it appeared they had listened to it for the 2017 event. This time, the start was staggered (I think – it’s hard to recall last night let alone 2 years ago) and the route was changed. They changed the route again in 2018 but this time it worked a lot better – staggered start times, different starting place for the 5ks and the 10ks and a different route which resolved some of the crowding (well it did at my position anyway, I can’t speak for the fast 10k runners).  I think the only thing missing, would be a separate finish funnel for the 5 and the 10. Other than that, I think they had finally got it right. There is support on every corner and the atmosphere is just something else.

I entered the 2019 race purely because I had ran every one since the beginning, and I am a sucker for any race where you get a medal AND a t-shirt.  I haven’t been running well recently due to some medical problems that are still being investigated and treated – some days it feels as if my body has given up on me – I knew there was absolutely no chance of a course PB and part of me was dreading it.  I always choose to run the 5k because I love being on Palace Green when the 10k Striders are finishing – this is what it’s about for me. The 2017 & 2018 races saw me finish just in time to grab a drink, my medal and a spot at the top of the hill to see Stephen Jackson take the win. 

So, for the first time since 2016 the route was the same, we all knew where we were going, which hills we needed to tackle, separate starts – all good.  Well it was, until a burst water main caused absolute chaos. We learned only a day or two before the race that the route would have to change because the road closures needed, couldn’t be kept in place because of the required diversion of traffic.  We were given maps of the new routes which looked a bit bizarre and I don’t think anybody could quite envisage what the new race would look like. Add to that we would all be starting at the same time, in the same place, covering the same initial 5k together.  Oh and it was the hottest day of the year.
Based on the weather alone, I had no intention of doing anything other than getting to the finish line and getting that medal, which is lucky because it was carnage.  When the race started, there were still people trying to get into the starting area. Immediate bottlenecks which caused literal standstills – this went on probably for the first 2k. The route was bizarre, but it was nowhere near as bad as the poor 10k runners had it (I did not envy you that horrific climb from the riverside up to Palace Green!). The worst part of this race (in my opinion) is the climb up Providence Row (and knowing you get about 10 seconds recovery before you climb up to Palace Green). I could feel my brain telling me to walk it, but I knew I would be so disappointed if I did, because I had managed to run up it last year!  Then I heard a familiar voice telling everyone “it’s not a hill – just don’t look up, it’s flat.  But don’t look at your feet or you will fall over”.  It was Ben Smith (of the 401 marathon challenge).  I’ve met Ben a few times at various events, but I’d never had the honour of running with him.  He could see I was struggling – he put his hand out and said “come on, give me your hand, we can get up this together”.  And we did.  He gave me a quick hug at the top, and then off he went to continue the 10k.  I knew I was almost at the finish. Just that lovely climb up to Palace Green left. Seeing Wendy Littlewood waiting at the corner where it gets particularly hard, I’m sure she said “Come on Joanne, you aren’t really dying, it just feels like it”.  Shouts up that hill from some former Striders and the lovely Anji Andrews (Gateshead Harriers and Events of the North) who told me I was looking sexy (which of course I was) got me to the finish line. 3 minutes slower than 2018, and my slowest 5k race ever but I didn’t care.  It was so hot and I had been sensible – now I got to do the best bit – watch for all my amazing club mates running to that beautiful finish line.


For anyone who was doing this for the first time please don’t think it is always like this.  It’s not. It is normally wonderfully organised and I can’t even imagine the stress encountered when the organisers were informed on Tuesday evening that they would have to completely re-route or cancel the run. People would have complained if it was cancelled, and lots of people complained about changes. Nothing can take away the atmosphere, community and support shown by runners and spectators for this event, and the organisers did the best they could under the circumstances. 

In addition to the 5k, the festival had many other offerings this year, including themed runs, a “Run Like A Legend” mile and a Family event.  I entered the mile race when my body was still on side – thinking I could get close to my 7:24 track mile. It was only £5 to enter and you got another medal and a fab Nike t-shirt. It started at the Boathouse pub, ran down and across Baths bridge, along to the bandstand then back.  It was really well organised, with bookable timeslots with about 10 people per slot.  Sadly, for me, a PB didn’t happen but I will probably give it another try next year – I just need to get better at getting on and off Baths bridge!

Click here for 5K results

Click here for Run like a Legend results

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British Transplant Games, Sunday, July 28, 2019

Shaun Roberts

When I was first diagnosed with leukaemia, early last year, little did I realise the long road ahead would end up at ‘Transplant Sport’ ! I’d never heard of it until I saw a piece on Look North about the upcoming World Transplant Games, which involves transplant recipients from all over the world, all competing together, but in separate age categories … and it’s all happening within a couple of miles of where I spent months in hospital.

So … I managed to get myself selected for TeamGB, running and cycling, and was ‘encouraged’ to also do the British Games. Off to Newport …

Cycling ‘Road Race’, Maindy Centre, Cardiff

The ‘road race’, had been planned to be up and down lanes of a car park, but when this was announced, with just a week to go, everyone was aghast. People thought all the bends dangerous, but I just thought it was naff. Anyway, helpfully it was quickly rearranged to be on Geraint Thomas’s childhood velodrome, with a lovely smooth tarmac surface, with gentle banking.

The format was 15 minutes plus five laps, in a race combining 50+, 60+, 70+ men. Think I can confidently say I cycled faster than I ever have before (ignoring Weardale downhills): my Garmin was saying 20-22mph most of the way.

Result: third in the 60s to win a Bronze medal! Whoop!

Purple and Green, and Bronze and Gold.

5K Run, Newport Riverside

The longest race distance at these games is the 5K, so was my best chance of a good run. The route was a pre-existing out and back parkrun course along a flat riverside path, nice surface. The only thing the organisers’ messed up was layering a 3K fun run on the top of it, such that the leaders encountered a mass of families with kids halfway back into town! Doh!

Anyway, set off at quick pace, and kept it together for about 2.5 miles, shouting ahead on the way back (politely, of course) for a bit of space. Well-pleased with the time (21’22), even if it was a bit flattering ( 3-mile course, I reckon).

Gobsmacked to find it was good enough to win the M60s … Gold medal! Whoop!

Track 800m

The first track race, next day, was a mere 15 hours after the start of the 5K, so legs were a bit heavy. Got properly warmed up after having various pulled muscles doing track training recently, then set off after the firm favourite for the race, and kept with him for … half a lap! Hung in there in front of the rest though, and was happy with the time: 3’04. Second place, and a Silver!

Once again: Whoop!! One more event …

Track 1500m

After a long wait (legs seize up, massage, snooze in van, wake up, warm up again) … my last event, late afternoon, was 1500m, against the same firm favourite as earlier, but with all the MV50s in the race as well. Race tactics? Push hard all way round and see what happens!

Seemed to work … finished fourth in overall race, second MV60, getting round in 6’09 … so another Silver! Whoop!

Well-chuffed with these games … some wonderful people, great stories, very moving at times, a fantastic supportive atmosphere … and to come back with a Gold, two Silvers, and a Bronze in the cycling was way more than I expected, and all a bit of a bonus. I’d like to put my feet up now, but there’s the small matter of the World Transplant Games in Newcastle next month

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