Monthly Archives: March 2012

Allendale Challenge, Saturday, March 31, 2012

26 miles

“The Finest Peat Bogs in the North Pennines”

Shaun Roberts…

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

… and this was in a dry year!

I’d had a go at this one years ago, and have been wanting to do it again for some time. My first attempt was well before I’d got any fell races at all under my belt, so I’d done it ‘road-runner’ style, taking whatever opportunity there was to do sections on road, thus avoiding the worst of the bog. So after weeks of rain-free weather, it seemed a good opportunity to do this race properly.

Well, it started well enough … there was actually some drizzle at the start. Nice n cool, with a bit of a breeze. About a hundred runners set off, and as I was in my road shoes, starting on a bit of tarmac, I thought I’d make hay while the sun failed to shine, and had quite a brisk start. I slowed down to something sensible as we hit the moors before the first checkpoint, and found the going quite manageable for the first hour. Then onto the rutted dry track up onto Mohope Moor that had me walking for most of it. As we got out onto the Moor, I’d had it in mind to keep to a fenceline all the way up the hill, but all the field ahead veered off on a faint sheeptrack, so I followed them and sure enough it petered out after a while, and more walking and leaping over tussocks ensued. Saw Geoff inexorably approaching behind me now, and after the trig point at Hard Rigg, heading into the bogs, he went past me, as I took a breather and a handful of jelly babies. After the recent drought, you’d scarcely believe just how deep the bogginess was up there. Every ten to twenty yards, or so it seemed, the feet would sink six inches to a foot into peaty gloop. I was happy wearing road shoes, with several very hard sections to come, but I’d been a tad concerned about how they’d cope up here. I needn’t have worried … I really don’t think that whatever was strapped to the bottom of your feet would have made the slightest difference as you heaved them out of the mud.

Your cut out n keep guide.

Finally, out of the bogs and onto the peat hags! No mention of this race ever fails to include these mountains of peat that have to be negotiated before getting to Killhope Law. This year, in the main, they were actually dry-ish, with only a few bits where, I heard later, some runners and walkers took a duff line and went in up to their waists, in some cases coming out without the footwear that accompanied the owner in. So I had little runs between hillocks, in a sort of ‘scuttling’ style that took me quickly down a hag and up onto the next one … where typically I’d have to come up short due to another sort of obstacle. The Walker. Yes, this event is a mixed one, where about 700 walkers set off at the crack of dawn, and we runners get to overtake the bloody lot of them during the day. The only problem being, of course, that on boggy paths, peaty trails, heathery tracks, this ‘overtaking’ is quite an energy-sapping business, needing a fair bit of knee-lifting and persistence as you go off-line to get past.

Good to get to Killhope Law, and get running again, first on some lovely soft grass, then on less-lovely hard stony track. To be honest, at this point I’d given up on getting a decent time for this race, as I seemed to have spent the best part of an hour and a half mainly walking. Yet legging it down the hill went well, and heading along the riverside on grass was great. On to the other ‘feature’ of this race, the Long Drag! I remember this hard bridleway going on forever last time, and being very hard underfoot … and so it was again. By this time, we’d overtaken nearly all the walkers, and the field had thinned out considerably. I was competing (vaguely) against two or three knackered runners who were doggedly but continuously running up the slope … whilst I walked a while, then managed a bit of a run, overtaking a couple, before they again overtook me. I think my strategy worked better, to be honest, because when the drag finally levelled out, I managed to get a bit of speed up and legged it to the last checkpoint at Ladle Well, then managed to get even more speed up over the last stretch of moor, familiar to Hexham Shehobble runners, and now had it in mind that a bit of a sprint through the village might get me under 4h30. So I finally burst into the hall, asking the helpful timing-women if I’d managed 4h29m … and she asked if I was ok with 4h28m?? Well-pleased, thank-you!

Saw Geoff part-way through a cup of tea in the corner, and he’d had a fast run, not hopelessly too far ahead of me. I staggered about waffling to all and sundry before getting changed and getting down to the pub for my Pie in a Sea of Peas … very welcome. There was also a difficult choice between three of my favourite beers, namely Taylors’ Landlord, Wylam Gold and Rivet Catcher … went for the latter, which went down very well indeed in what was now a warm sunny afternoon. Finally managed to catch up with Susan, who’d also had a fast run.

This was as good as this race gets … definitely a challenge, but doable if you leave your racing brain at home, Swaledale-style …

…and Aaron Gourley

As a lover of fell racing I couldn’t resist the thought of taking on the Allendale Challenge, all 26 miles of it!

My first attempt at this race and at this distance I was quite aware of the enormity of the task ahead, but I was feeling good, fairly fit after abstaining from the booze for nearly a year (not completely dry though!) and had done (some) training.

The week leading up to the race had been remarkably good and I’d heard the peat bogs would still be wet but nowhere near their usual man-eating selves. It was looking all too good. Saturday morning and the weather had taken a turn for the worse but the weather forecast for the area said it would be fine. Unsure whether to trust the forecast, I packed everything I have for the worst of the weather and set off.

Arriving in Allendale it seemed all too quiet for a place that was hosting such big event. Registering at the village hall I met up with my fell running partner in crime, Jen to debate over what kit we would need.

10am soon arrived and we were off. My race strategy was not to race, I’d consciously broken down the race into quarters so to allow me to consider this as series of smaller runs. The first two quarters passed without trouble. Making it up to the halfway point in good time I was feel ok but the uphills across the first of the peat bogs had already taken its toll on my energy levels.

Stopping for a cup tea and a few sweets, I was ready to tackle the next section. Now I’d heard all about the peat hags but never expected them to resemble WW1 trenches. This really took its toll on my already aching legs. Normally my races are a maximum of 13/14 miles so I was really beginning to struggle with the constant up and downs in these peat hags. Making it out of these and onto the stoney track was a relief but I was starting to feel cramp so I slowed right down.

Making it to the next check point was a relief and the veg soup on offer was an unexpected bonus. I probably spent too much time here but it was a nice breather ready for the next section, a lovely run alone the riverside up to spartylea checkpoint. From here it was a long slog uphill on the aptly named The Drag. It went on for ever and I was really feeling the burn now so I walked nearly all of this until it levelled out. Picking up the pace down to the last check point I passed a number of walkers who must have noticed my grim features and gave me encouraging words like ‘well done’ followed by ‘not far now’. Thanks for that.

From the last check point it was a few more miles across fairly decent track until eventually you drop back onto the road down to Allendale which is the first section you run up on the Hexhamshire Hobble. Remembering how steep this is I knew there wasn’t far to go but my legs were aching now so it hurt getting back into town.

Turning the corner to be greeted by friends gave me the boost needed for the final stride back to the village hall in 5hrs39mins. Absolutely shattered I had just enough energy to get my pie and peas. Unfortunately I didn’t have the energy to finish them!

In all a fantastic run in a beautiful part of the country, but bloody hard. Will I be back next year? More than likely yes.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Mark Thompson Saltwell M 1 3:48
14 Beverley Redfern Carnethy F 1 4:11
17 Geoff Davis NFR M 4:22
22 Shaun Roberts M 4:28
52 Susan Davis NFR F 5:03
85 Aaron Gourley M 5:40

97 finishers.

Born to Run Ultra, Llanelli, Sunday, March 31, 2013


Phil Owen

So I have a sore knee , I hate tarmac, hate flat and I’m trying to travel less so how did I end up entered into a 37 mile Tarmac race in south wales ! Well it was the closest thing I could find that fell on my brothers 50th Birthday that was not too far away from his home and it also had the added factor of quite a few mates running it and I know the RD.

So when my brother pulled out you would think I would ditch this but what the hell, it was a good bit of fun training and we fancied a weekend away with the promise of a bit of a party after.

We met up the night before with a fair group of runners & Matt the RD. One couple, old friends of mine had travelled from NE Scotland for this! Great Pre race get together with far too many beers and a late night. I’ll never learn!

Phil and Friends We met up at a country park the following morning and Matt the RD soon had the small field on its way. A group of about six or seven runners stayed together for a fair while and chatted and caught up a bit. I do like races for people you meet and I must mention Stuart, who as we ran along seemed to know everyone (and his dog). It turns out Stuart is one of those slimmer of the year folk. You know the ones you usually see holding an enormous pair of trousers ten times bigger than themselves. All smiles and laughter, what an inspiration and likable fellow he is and a great bloke to have around on a long run but I mention him because while we chatted he mentioned a couple of races he had done recently. A half in 1:31 and a ten miler in 1:06! Fantastic times I can only dream off. I asked what he thought he could have done had he started running in his twenties. Just a whimsical smile was the answer.

The route was a sort of Y shape with the first out and back taking us alongside an estuary and back again. I soon realised my sore knee really wasn’t playing ball and really not risking any further injuries (especially with my first race that mattes only 10 weeks away). I told Anna (who was swanning around on her bike as she is still injured) I would head back on the return leg therefore running only 20 miles instead of the full 37. However as the group laughed and chatted away I missed the turn of back to the start and was soon heading up the next out and back. Oh well

Caitlin's picture The race was billed as flat but Stuart mentioned there was a slight 5 degree incline as is often the case on old railway lines. He also mentioned it was 9 miles long…. Now my maths isn’t great and it was soon apparent by the view over the bay and the town below we had risen a fair bit. I enjoyed the ‘climb’ as it were but on the turn around my knee really started to hurt and although now going downhill I lost a fair bit of pace. I must mention all the mile markers had little ditties on them to keep us amused. My favourite was mile 29 with just the words ‘Beer’ written above. Great fun.

Anyway back to the estuary and just a few miles and we I was soon at the 37 Mile (and a bit) finish and collecting a cold beer, T shirt , a cake and best of all a hand painted picture from Matt’s daughter Caitlin.

So a race I should have hated but I thoroughly enjoyed. (even with a sore knee) .Thanks so much to Matt Rogerson the Rd and all his family and friends who marshalled and provided the water. Matt put this together solely for the enjoyment of the runners with any extra cash to go to his favourite charity. Superb .

Coniston 14, Saturday, March 31, 2012

14 miles

This was my first very undulating road race, four days after my last 20-miler for my (Milton Keynes) marathon. I was still feeling weary after that, and very nervous: why had I chosen a race which was not my sorta thing just now? I fancied a scenic route – the race circumvents Lake Coniston – but the undulating roads on the way there made me question my decision.

Still I soon found some fellow Striders and was at the start line before I knew it. I decided to run with Juliet Percival to start with, and as she wondered if she was slowing me down, my chest and legs ached on the ups and downs, and I assured her otherwise. It was sunny, pretty warm and the scenery beautiful, but I still felt weary. We chatted on until about 6 miles, and my gut started to churn. Sweets didn’t do much to revive me, despite Juliet making me laugh with her “fangs” and at 7 miles she ploughed on whilst I stopped to cool off and top up on liquid and mint cake. I soon plodded on but still felt churny, yet it was noticeably cooler and flatter on this side of the Lake, the views were stunning, and that all seemed to help.I gradually got more into my stride, and psyched myself up to head for the 10 mile mark.

As my speed increased, I remembered the hill at 11 miles (I had not run this race before but Richard Asquith had forewarned me of the only “proper” hill) and got ready to attack it. It kept climbing for about a mile, but the daft cars trying to squeeze past us at a tough part of the race was a tad more irritating. At the top, 2 youngish cyclists yelled at everyone that there were only 2 miles downhill to go, and my heart soared. The sudden drop down was a bit of a surprise and plunged everyone into the valley and homeward-bound.

Kathryn crosses the line. At about 13 miles, my legs wanted to give up. Dougie was creeping up on me (someone shouted his name, that’s how I knew) and I thought, oh no, here we go, pipped at the post again. But Dougie offered a truce: to run to the finish together and I was more than happy to oblige. We crossed the line hands raised together in just under 2 hours, and I was delighted. It hadn’t been my best race; maybe I shouldn’t have even been racing this weekend, but Dougie’s gesture meant a huge amount to me, when he could easily have notched up a gear. It reminded me that there is so much more to running than just “taking out” the next runner because you can; but that camaraderie is sometimes means more than out-and-out competitiveness. In that respect, Dougie won hands down.

… and Dougie Nisbet

In the Court Inn, a few weeks earlier, Kathryn asked me (with an affected air of nonchalance),
“so, er, you doing Coniston then Dougie?”
All very civil but I detected a definite furrowing of eyebrows. Dougie, my lad, I thought, you’re a marked man. Still unforgiven for the Brass Monkey I reckon.

This was first time doing the Coniston 14, rather than the Coniston 17andabit, and I was looking forward to the shorter distance. It’s a big field but with chip timing I happily started at the back of the field as I knew it would take me about half the race to get warmed up anyway. Too many coffees meant it wasn’t too long before I was refreshing my arboricultural id skills, and then, feeling oh so much better, I began to wind up the pace.

I caught Jean at the usual place, where I usually catch her in this race. Every year. Then the effortless bounding gait of Yusuf appeared a few minutes later. The shorter course was suiting me well and around mile 8 I spotted Kathyrn’s long red socks on the horizon. On the horizon they pretty well stayed for the next few miles and I couldn’t find the speed to close the gap. Then in the last mile, it wasn’t so much me that sped up, it was Kathryn that slowed down.

Running into Coniston the gap closed down to a few yards and I knew that if I edged past now I would get counter-attacked and pipped on the line. So I did the noble, decent, sportsmanlike, gentlemanly thing. I kept quiet, hid myself behind other runners, gathered my energy, and prepared to sprint by in a surprise attack at the finish. But I’d forgotten how good Strider support is in this race.

“Come On, Kathryn! … Come on Dougie!”. Well that was my cover blown. Rumbled! Kathryn looked over her shoulder and saw me lurking in the shadows. With a startled yelp she suddenly lifted her pace but it was too late, I’d already narrowed my eyes. With just a few hundred yards to go I managed to pull alongside and consider my next move. I thought it’s a lovely day, the sun is shining, and this is awfully hard work. An unexpected idea suddenly popped into my head:

“Tell you what, I won’t sprint if you won’t sprint. Deal?”. Kathyrn’s response went on for some time and seemed to involve a detailed physiological breakdown of the preceding 13.5 miles, but I think the answer was “yes”. So we did that Tour de France thing and called a truce. Hostilities were suspended as we wound up the pace so by the time we crossed the finish line hand in hand we were pretty much flat out but with an agreed dead heat, and great fun it was too.

Marc and Juliet led the Striders home, followed by Kathryn then me (pity we didn’t have a photo finish!), with Yusuf, Jean, Jim and Alan completing the team. Another great race in this neatly-sized race where the town is buzzy and exciting, lots of vocal Strider support, but still plenty of space in the bars and cafes to wander in and get a beer and coffee afterwards.

Highbury Fields parkrun, Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jacquie Robson

Apparently, in our household, a Saturday just isn’t a Saturday without a parkrun. So despite beginning a ‘relaxing’ weekend away in London, we both got up at some ungodly hour to track down the nearest event. Highbury Fields is a pleasant little park, but its quaintness meant that the parkrun route was five and a bit laps of the perimeter. I was a bit concerned at the thought of running round and round in circles, but it was a pleasant morning and I managed not to get dizzy. This was a small parkrun by current northeast standards but it seemed to be very typical for a London parkrun, where Mayor Boris is supporting events to attempt to establish one in every borough. The organisers were pleased with a record attendance on the day of 51. Both Alister and I ran a decent time, with Alister conserving himself for his moment of fame later on in the day at the Olympic Park 5 mile run – who spotted him on the telly?? He was overjoyed to find a McDonalds next to the designated parkrun cafe, so he even managed to sneak in a McDonalds breakfast while chatting to the very friendly and welcoming organisers (Paul and David) and enjoying the post-run coffee.

National Lottery Olympic Park Run, Saturday, March 31, 2012

Alister Robson

I guess I have Emma to thank for this. It was her email to the Striders mailing list at the end of October, prompted by a conversation with Anna and Phil, that alerted me to its existence and somehow I managed to get lucky and get in. Jacquie and I had stayed with our friend Ian in London for last year’s London marathon, so it seemed natural to offer him the second spectator ticket and he very kindly agreed to put us up again.

Alister at the Olympic Park.

We snuck a parkrun in on the morning at the very low key but quietly brilliant Highbury Fields parkrun then set off the short journey across East London to Stratford and the new Olympic Stadium. We knew it was going to be busy as we were told to arrive at least two hours before the 2pm start for my ‘Red’ wave. Once inside the Olympic Park (which you get to via a huge shopping centre) we were met by airport level security. It took quite a while to clear, but I guess better to practise all that before the Olympics, which is really what this event was about.

It was a pretty chilly day which was a real shame especially given how beautiful it was on the Friday so I didn’t want to jettison my jacket too early, the pen system was pretty familiar to anyone that’s done the Great North Run except that the pens were waves and were set off at 9 minute intervals.

The course itself was a little disappointing at the start, lots of the park is still being built and there were builders and building work everywhere but I soon got into a decent pace. A lot of the runners must have been more inexperienced than my usual races as it was a bit of a hustle and there were a few near slips and trips. There was also a lot of areas where my Garmin reception dipped out and as a result I think the course was quite a bit longer than the advertised 5 miles. Once the Garmin was upset I had no option but to settle into a rhythm but I can’t say I enjoyed that feeling of being out of control. There was a nasty little climb at about 3 miles which knocked a few off their stride but living in Durham and having recently completed Prudhoe XC I treated it with the disrespect it deserved and pushed up and made up a few places.

There were regular water stops every few miles, some of which seemed a little unnecessary, but fair play to the organisers, a lot of the runners (even in my ‘fast’ wave) seemed to be first timers for this sort of event and if the weather had stayed as it was for most of the week they would definitely have been needed!

Almost too soon, we came back to the Stadium and dipped down and under onto the service road. This was a real change and you knew you didn’t have far to go, and soon it was up and into the Stadium proper and onto the track. Here I did a double take as the stadium seemed quite small looking down from the seating, but seemed huge when you ran into it from ground level. After a few disorienting moments I spotted Jacquie and Ian up in the red wave spectator area at the start of the 100m track and I waved and tried what I hoped would be a sprint finish. This was an absolutely fantastic experience and one which I’ll never do again! A real one off.

In the end I managed a time of 36.04, finishing 689th of 5708 finishers and my second decent run of the weekend.

For a properly written report by someone who is good with words for a living you should check out Michelle Nicol’s infinitely better report below.

Blakey Blitz Fell Race, Lion Inn, North York Moors, Sunday, March 25, 2012

AM / 11m / 2630'

Shaun Roberts

It was very hilly and it got very hot.

Shaun heading up an early hill ...... and Phil shows how it should be done.

Photos courtesy and © Clive Thornton

Oh … and it was a lovely race, too! It certainly worked up a thirst …


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Cameron Taylor Esk Valley FC MJ 1 1:19:06
55 Shaun Roberts MV55 4 1:52:51
97 Phil Owen MV45 13 2:13:32

122 finishers.

Lakeside Way Marathon, Kielder, Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dave Robson

My sixth time round Kielder and my third time at this low key and free marathon for members of the North East Marathon Club (membership is just £8 !). Thirty runners including five Striders – Will, John Hutchinson, Angela, Sue and me. I was also my first handicap marathon, which I was looking forward to. We had to predict our time in 15 minute intervals and we would be set off with the aim of all of us finishing at 3pm.

So far so good ... Melanie and I drove up on the morning to get to my scheduled start at 10. The mist was very thick in places and it didn’t look like we were going to be able to see very much when running. However, the mist lifted about two miles from the dam and it was clear that this would be a hot day.

Melanie was going to cycle round the Lakeside Way in the opposite direction to the runners and take some pictures, so we unloaded the bike and got ourselves ready. There were four other runners starting at 10 and some of them I knew were a lot quicker than me. Three of them shot off and the fourth one, Tim, and I stuck together and chatted for fourteen miles. It certainly made those miles easier, but I probably ran them slightly faster than I should have done

After 30 minutes I started to walk the hills and there are lots of them at Kielder. After 14m I met Melanie coming the other way, she had stopped to take photos in many places and so was a bit behind her schedule. Tim ran on while I chatted to Melanie for a bit.

I almost caught Tim when he was running with Angela and Sue, but then he and Angela disappeared into the distance and Angela put in her now customary storming finish to a long run. It was getting very warm and I was starting to struggle. I got to 19m and then I was really struggling, lots of walking breaks. Plodded on overtaking the odd runner or so and being overtaken by others as the handicap started to unwind. A couple of calf spasms were a bit worrying. I perked up a bit in the final mile and made it home in 4hr 54min. Before the start I said I would be happy with sub 5 and I was, but it should not have been that hard. It is all down to my lack of training, but hopefully this will make Hull in two weeks a bit easier. Still standing at the end. John estimated it would take him 4hr 15min and he came in with 4hr 14min, so excellent pacing in the heat. Sue came in shortly afterwards in a great time on this course. Will was in the last group to start and was starting to slow down, so he pulled out at 17m to preserve his legs for a higher profile race coming up soon. It is a beautiful but hilly route, almost all on very good, purpose built trail. Road shoes are fine on this surface. A meal in the pub and chats with other runners before we made our way home


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Steven Prentice NEMC M 1 3.18.00
4 Susanne Hunter Blyth Running Club F 1 3.37.52
13 John Hutchinson M 4.14.08
21 Dave Robson M 4.54.41
25 Angela Proctor F 5.14.12
27 Susan Jennings F 5.34.20

29 finishers.

Thirsk 10, Sunday, March 25, 2012

Peter Bell

Ten miles was not a distance I had ever raced at so this was going to be something a little different for me. So when Sue Jennings kindly offered me her place, in true Yorkshire style, I jumped at the chance of a freebie. My partner in crime, Kathryn Sygrove was going to accompany and we blagged a last minute lift with Louise Miller and Victoria Tindale.

It was clear from the drive down the day was going to be a scorcher and it was not long before we were catching a few rays. At quarter to 11 we were ushered to the start by officials straight from the Adolf Stalin School of marshalling who continually informed us of our lateness. Well these ladies do continually go to the toilet!

Then it was line up time on a little lane at the back of the race course. I had in my mind 1 hour 15 would mean 7 and a half min miles. Could I do it? Then we were off and I was trying hard to keep solidly at the right pace. The first 3 miles were pancake flat and Kathryn was right there on my shoulder. I had to keep checking on her as she wasn’t talking so I thought she may have been taken ill!

At three miles the first rise and I lost her as my pace continued Sub 8 minute miles. As we passed park run distance I suddenly felt myself slowing. Could I only do 3.1 miles fast? I just had to keep going and head down made it to the Busby Stoop pub. At this point all I could think of was the lovely homemade caramel slices they sell at the garage across the road. Concentration was waning and I hit the ‘brick wall’ with my time slipping to over 8 min miles. This was becoming a grind now and the sun was belting down.

I knew that we were on our way back to Thirsk but there had to be some sort of detour as it was only a couple of miles back to the town centre. It was not long before my curiosity of the exact route was satisfied by a pointless 2 mile dogleg out and back down some country lane. Cannot say many people enjoyed that, but then do we run for enjoyment or just some sort of twisted sadomasochistic adrenalin buzz. Back on the main road it was time to start picking the pace up and I concentrated hard in picking off as many people as possible. There was no way I was going to let anyone past without a fight and this tactic paid dividends as my pace increased. With a mile to go the racecourse was in sight and I was doing some serious adding up in my head to work out what I was due to arrive in at. I was praying the finish line was just inside the gate and thank god it was. I passed the finish line in 1 hour 14.57. The pace had been punishing but not crippling and I was quietly satisfied.

I sneaked around to the finish line the cheer everyone in and Kathryn arrived a few minutes later at 1 hour 18 with Louise and Victoria arriving around 1:32. Everyone was very happy with their times.

Another classic T-shirt meets the light of day. A good day was had by all. Now thoughts were turning to making the most of the rest of the day. Beer and BBQ, good plan!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Yared Hagos Wallsend Harriers M 1 0:49:40
36 Claire Simpson Jarrow and Hebburn F35 1 1:01:08
235 Peter Bell M 1:14:57
300 Kathryn Sygrove F45 1:18:42
414 John Greathead M 1:27:53
436 Barrie John Evans M65 1:29:45
459 Victoria Tindale F 1:32:33
460 Louise Miller F 1:32:37
516 Christine Farnsworth F 1:44:34

533 finishers.

Run Northumberland Wallington Half Marathon, Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jacquie Robson …

Alister ran and enjoyed this race last year and convinced me I’d enjoy the scenery. After a run out at Sedgefield parkrun and then a rather wimpy attempt at the Prudhoe Harrier League cross country the day before, though, my legs were tired and I was not in the right frame of mind, whinging more than normal on the way there! It was foggy and cool and, despite setting off in good time, it took a bit longer than expected to arrive. We had about 35 minutes to spare before the race, but the lack of any Portaloos meant that the obligatory toilet stop before the start involved a 25 minute queue. On rushing back to the car to get numbers and race kit sorted out, we had only 5 minutes to get to the start almost half a mile away. Not the best preparation! We gambled that the sun looked like it might break through and left the long sleeves behind and, after a quick hello to Liz Lamb in the car park, headed up the hill at speed to make the start of the race. This turned out to be a blessing for me as I didn’t have time to think about the race, but it meant that Alister forgot his gel belt, which was to prove a disaster!

We saw Maggie Thompson and Ian Spencer as we waited to begin and had time for a quick chat. The delayed start (presumably due to the toilet queue and very detailed pre-race briefing!) saw us set off down a hill for the first mile or so, and meant it was a very fast beginning to the race. Alister disappeared off into the distance and I soon lost sight of him because he wasn’t wearing a fluorescent hat. Must be summer! I glanced at the Garmin and saw a 7:30 first mile. Alister had warned me that it was a tough race and not to go off too fast as it was hard-going later on. I’d targeted a steady gentle 9 minute first mile downhill and then 10 minute miles for as far as I could after that. Ooops. Ah, well, it was downhill!! I consciously cut the pace back, making sure I felt comfortable as I tackled the first big uphill stretch. This race was definitely not flat, but not as steep and hilly as Dentdale so I’m glad I ran there first a few weeks ago. I glanced at the Garmin as the second mile marker passed. 7:56 average mile pace. Ooops, too fast! I cut back the pace again and made comfortable progress to the 5k mark. My target time for 5k was somewhere just under 30 minutes. I was a bit concerned to see it go by after just 26 minutes, but, feeling strong and enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery, I decided to ignore the Garmin as I felt good and just check again at 10k.

I refilled my water bottle at the first water station (which then appeared every 5k, thank goodness) and plodded onwards. I could still see Ian Spencer in the distance so I cut the pace back again to make sure I could survive all 13.1 miles and the kilometres ticked by. A quick check at 10k saw me go through in 56 minutes. Faster than anything I did last season over 10k. Ooops, too fast! But I still felt good. I chose to continue to ignore the Garmin until 10 miles (the magic ‘only a parkrun to go’ moment) and chugged along at what felt like a comfortable pace. No llamas to see on this run, but plenty of sheep, daffodils, sunshine and a few swans to appreciate. 7 miles, 8 miles and 9 miles ticked by and, although the legs were starting to feel a bit heavier after the previous day’s racing, I was still feeling quite fresh. I was hoping to hit 10 miles at about 1:40 as I knew this could see me on for a PB (which stood at 2:14 since the very windy Brass Monkey race in January). At 10 miles I allowed myself a glance at the watch, while enjoying the usual ‘only a parkrun to go’ elation, and had a little skip in celebration to see the Garmin showing 1:31. This was great! My nose was beginning to burn in the blazing sunshine now but I didn’t care – I knew a plod on to the finish would get me a PB so the last 3.1 miles were a joy. Well, not exactly as there were three whopping great hills between 10 and 12 miles which, to be honest, weren’t much fun, but I was past caring by that point.

I grabbed another water bottle from the last water station (knocking several others over – sorry, volunteers on the water station – I was a bit over-excited!) and strode out down the mile-long downhill towards the finish. I crossed the line in a miraculous 2:02. Yippee!! Looking at the race profile I have no idea where that time sprung from – I guess some days it’s just a joy to be out running! Alister wasn’t feeling the love, however, having forgotten his gels and struggling with a wonky knee and a bit of dehydration in the searing heat. With the London Marathon coming up, he sensibly took it easy during the second half, recognising he wasn’t feeling on top form, and crossed the line in a steady 1:57. This is well below his best time, but it all counts as good training for the marathon. Liz had a storming race, coming through in 1:52, and Ian, Maggie and new Strider Rob Clarke all beat the hills and the weather to make it round in one piece!

Liz Lamb adds…

Running the Wallington Half Marathon was quite special for me, revisiting old haunts from the past when I lived nearby at Kirkwhelpington and worked at Wallington managing the restaurant. Although this was a road race, the scenery was stunning, especially on a very warm spring day and with the roads generally free of traffic. The race itself started a short distance from Wallington Hall on a nice downhill stretch before the first of many leg-sapping inclines. Being a southern softy I really liked the heat but other runners found it hard. Luckily, the frequent water stations on the course allowed many runners used it to cool themselves down. I really enjoyed it, especially the brilliant weather and It’s definitely a race I would do again (thanks David for the number).

Cleveland Survival, Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dougie Nisbet

With my marathon training derailed and going nowhere fast it seemed a good time to consult the big book. I opened up my well thumbed 3Plus2 and read:

The “specificity” principle asserts that the best way to develop fitness for running is to train the energy systems and muscles as closely as possible to the way they are used while running and racing

I don’t know why I bothered. I already knew what it was going to say, and I already knew that I was going to ignore it. For years I’ve been vaguely aware of a mysterious event called the Cleveland Survival and this year had finally plucked up the courage to enter. The distance is around 25 miles so I suppose that’s close enough to marathon distance. But as for specificity, there’s not much in common with the fells of the North York Moors and the streets of Sunderland.

The Cleveland Survival is a walking and running event organised my Cleveland Mountain Rescue and takes place every spring somewhere in the North York Moors. I say ‘somewhere’, because every year the ‘somewhere’ is a little bit different. A week before the event a small brown envelope dropped through my letter box and in large friendly letters on the inside cover it simply said:

Cold Kirby Village Hall
So now I knew where the start was, and I had a start time. Still no idea about the route though. They only tell you that once you’ve started. I thought about this as I watched the walkers who were being started in timed intervals before the runners. I watched their tactics. It varied. Most walkers and many runners crossed the start line, received the route details, then settled down on the grassy verge and unfolded their maps. None of them actually unscrewed their thermos flasks but I’m sure they were thinking about it. The course details contained about a dozen grid references corresponding to the checkpoints that must be visited, in order, around the course. The favoured approach seemed to be to identify the location of all the checkpoints then circle them on the map with a big bingo pen. This all looked a bit organised so I asked an old-timer what he thought about pre-marking the checkpoints. “That’s what the hills are for”, he replied (the uphill ones I assumed). “Mark the first two or three checkpoints, then do the rest on the way round while you’re climbing hills. Just don’t lose the list of grid-references”. That sounded far more fun, so when I started I shoved the laminated checkpoints down my pants and made a show of pretending to look at the map, but as lots of people had already done the heavy lifting for locating the first control I decided to just follow them.

Dougie It was a fantastic sunny day and I steadily ran, jogged and walked round the first few checkpoints. I was pacing myself carefully as although I’ve run marathons before, none of them had been quite as hilly, or over this sort of terrain. Navigation was reasonably straightforward and as the rules state you must stick to public rights of way route choices are fairly limited. This isn’t such a bad thing and for the most part I chose long and straightforward whereas I noticed that the Lekis and Rucksacks often favoured the more scenic shortcuts. Being a seasoned fell-runner I stuck to the tarmac. I was carrying 500ml of isotonic and it was disappearing fast. Drinks would be available at certain checkpoints, but it wasn’t clear how often and how many. This could be interesting.

As the race unfolded I began to pass a lot of walkers who it was clear were beginning to group together into informal flocks, presumably for protection against predators. I used the hills to mark the next couple of checkpoints, fumbling for glasses, pen and compass, and hoping that I’d got the circle in roughly the right place. With the last few miles unfolding I managed to keep running where many were now walking and it felt good to be passing people all the way to the finish. The hydration worked out ok although there was one checkpoint where I turned up dry and was very relieved indeed to find inexhaustible supplies of orange juice on tap.

The competitive element is there, but, like Swaledale, it’s pretty low key. I love the way the times are down to the nearest minute and the quiet contemplative mood in the village hall afterwards. I love the mix of walkers and runners, and with the walkers heading of first, the way you spend most of the race bumping into people. This is a lovely event, and by its nature must be different every year. It’s going to be a regular fixture for me.