Daily Archives: 7th July 2012

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 7, 2012

12M, or indeed 15M, or as much as 18M

Sue Jennings, Nigel Heppell, and Aaron Gourley

Sue Jennings …

Angela and I set off from Durham and headed up to Wooler for the Chevy Chase – we were a bit worried about the weather and course as we knew from others who have completed it in the past that it is tough – boggy and hilly and with the weather having been so bad over the last week, I think we were expecting to be up to our knees in mud and water!

When we arrived, we were disappointed to find that the route had been changed because of the weather (which was even worse at Wooler) and that the new course would only be 12 miles – hardly worth the 70 mile drive up to Wooler! We met up with Nigel and after managing to get all our kit sorted and a map, all of the runners set off at 10.30am. Angela and I were pretty much at the back from the start but managed to keep up with several other runners until the first check point (3.5 miles). At this point, I wanted to get a drink and this meant that we had a gap between us and the other runners and with the awful fog, we very soon lost sight of everyone – you could see 50 feet at the most!

A picture tells a thousand words ... here's a cracker from Nigel. We navigated for a mile or so with our map then came to a cross roads which wasn’t on our map – we were lost and we didn’t know what to do – continue on and potentially get more lost or go back to the first check point. We made the sensible decision not to carry on but to ring Andy to see if he could speak to the organisers and get some advice of what we should do – whilst waiting for them to call we headed back to the first check point. The organisers phoned us though and told us to stay put whilst they worked out where we were. We had been sensible with kit and had full weatherproofs, lots of food and whistles. Angela was told to blow her whistle 6 times every minute so the mountain rescue could find us. We did start to get cold after 30/45 minutes and did some extra training to keep us warm – squats, lunges and star jumps – the rescuers probably heard our laughing rather than the whistle!!!!!

They were great guys and were pleased that we were uninjured and that they had had a chance to get out on a “real” rescue and told us not to be daft with our apologies for getting lost. They said that it was lucky that a lot of other people didn’t get lost in the fog.

We were taken back to the finish where we had tea, sandwiches and cakes – all very nice – and waited for the awards ceremony at 3pm. Nigel was just coming in as we got back. The organisers apologised as the distance they had given as 12 miles was actually a lot further and most of the walkers/runners had done somewhere between 15 and 18 miles and most had got lost at some point. This made us feel a little better as most of the participants were very experienced on this terrain.

Needless to say we are now looking for a course to “hone” up our map and compass reading skills and we hope that something like this never happens again. Chevy Chase again next year? More than likely lol.

… Nigel Heppell …

Yes, due to weather conditions (the MC said if anyone fell in the burn they’d be rescued at Seahouses; and visibility on the tops was such as he couldn’t see his own feet) we were told that an alternative race route was now in force and the distance truncated to a lowly 12 miles from the expected 20.

Nigel after a bit of a cleanup. It was wet and the clag was down and it stayed that way until the end when the general consensus was that the actual distance travelled was a minimum of 15miles with, as testament to the poor visibility and the potential for getting lost, some admitting to 18miles!

A further indication of conditions was the special prize awarded to a group of marshals who took drinking water out to the Langlee Crags checkpoint on the previous evening and who had to self-rescue after getting lost, only to lose the location of the water supply on the actual race day. Not that we needed it; I drank only 100ml over the whole race but probably absorbed 10 times that much through my skin.

Memorable parts include several sections of true compass navigation, a glorious high-speed descent over 2km off Cheviot Knee, ever-cheerful marshals, and unlimited tea and buns at the finish.

… and Aaron Gourley:

I thought I’d add my Chevy Chase experience to the others as it seems everyone who took part had a very different experience.

Leading up to this race I’d been a little apprehensive as to whether I was fit enough. I’d not trained as much as I perhaps should have and after my blow-out in the Swaledale marathon in June, I was beginning to doubt my fell running ability over the longer distances. Add to that the atrocious weather leading up to this race, made me a bag of nerves on my journey up to Wooler. You can imagine my disappointment when the women at registration told me the course had been changed due to the weather and would miss out both Cheviot and Hedgehope summits reducing the course to “12” miles instead. I was now feeling a little more confident that I’d be able to complete this shortened course in a decent time should I not get lost in the fog or swept away in the burn.

Doh! The start of the race was a charge up the road for about three quarters of a mile before turning off onto the tracks to the first checkpoint. Straight away I was given a taste of things to come as the ground squelched beneath my feet and visibility began to reduce as we headed up the valley. The first checkpoint was found with no problems, a quick drink and off onto the second at Cheviot Knee. By now the field was thinning out as the fog got thinker and the ground softer. Hanging on to a guy who claimed he’d run the Chevy every year since 1994, I remained confident that he might lead me in the right direction. And so he did. Checking in at Cheviot Knee (approx 5.5miles), I had a quick drink then headed off for what I believe to have been the best downhill section of fell running I’ve ever done. This is not part of the normal race which would have headed up to the summit, but the conditions made this the most fun/terrifying 11 minutes of running I’ve done as I went for it on the long down hill to the next checkpoint at Hawsen Bridge. By now I was catching up with the walkers who were all in good spirits as they cheered on the runners.

A quick stop at Hawsen Bridge to catch my breath and tighten my shoes back up it was off to Housey Junction before a bit of an uphill slog to Langlee Crags where a dead sheep welcomed you to the checkpoint. Keeping close to my navigator, I was hoping he really did know his way now as a myriad of paths split off in all directions from here to the next checkpoint at Brands Corner. With the very dense fog and the field well spaced out now I’d have definitely got lost at this point had I been by myself. At Brands Corner I was back at the foot of the valley where it was a little bit clearer, but no less grim. My navigator was beginning to slow now so it was with regret that I went past him, but a quick look at my watch said that the distance I’d covered was around 11miles. At this point I thought not far now, then it dawned on me that I still had Hell’s Path checkpoint to get to then it was around 3 miles from there to the finish.. “If this is a 12 miler I’ve gone wrong somewhere,” I thought to myself. Arriving at Hell’s Path, my watch read 12.6 miles and the marshals confirmed that it was around 3 miles back to the start. Feeling a little dejected, it was off up onto Hell’s Path which had a series of helpful little placards to take your mind of the slog. My favourites being, ‘Onwards and Upwards’, ‘He who limps on is still walking’ and ‘WOW’.

Once at the top of Hell’s Path it was a gentle downhill to the farm where I almost missed a turn, only the silhouette of a runner from the corner of my eye stopped me from making a navigational error so close to the end of the race. Back on the right track it was a welcome relief to see tarmac and civilisation once more. Crossing the finish line with 15.48miles on my watch it wasn’t quite the 12 miles I’d expected but was a brilliant race which I’ll definitely be back next year for. I must also congratulate the organisers for getting the race on in such dire conditions and to all the marshals who get top marks for their dedication and support (and the endless supply of jelly sweets).

Lower Hutt parkrun, New Zealand, Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dave Walker

parkrun – Kiwi style

As soon as Adam told me that parkrun was starting in New Zealand I knew that I had to get my running shoes on. It was disappointing that it was not closer to my New Zealand ‘home’ in Christchurch (Hagley Park would be a great location for a parkrun) but Lower Hutt, the location of the first Kiwi parkrun, is on the North Island!

A plan was hatched to combine my first parkrun for over seven months with my first visit to the capital and a bit of an adventure trip back. The idea was thef late flight up to Wellington, spend some time in the city, do the parkrun at Lower Hutt, a city in its own right about 5 miles north of the capital, then get the ferry back to the south island, followed by the coastal train back to Christchurch. The trip did not get off to a great start with my Chch to Wellington flight, a 45 minute journey, being delayed by 3 hours due to our plane being ‘trapped’ in Auckland by fog!

Things improved from that point on. The most obvious difference between UK parkruns and the Kiwi version is the start time; over here it is 08:00! I understand from the organisers that this is due to the fact that so many kids over here have sporting activities starting at nine which parents want to watch that they thought numbers would be down if they didn’t start early enough for runners to get round and off to watch their children play hockey/rugby/football/netball. Apparently some of the Australian parkruns start at 07:00 to avoid the heat!

After a day seeing the sights of NZ’s capital city, I was up bright and early, into my little hire car and off to Lower Hutt. The directions from their website were excellent and I was in the riverside car park a good 30 minutes before the start. The route of the Lower Hutt parkrun reminds me much of Chester le Street riverside (interested to note that it now has its own pr and well done to all the Strider who graced its opening event last week). As 08:00 approached runners started to appear and I emerged from my car, proudly wearing my Striders vest. There were a few ‘G’days’ and ‘mornings’ greetings exchanged with the ‘locals’, but not the approaches which I think a ‘strange’ club vest would stimulate at Durham pr. As some of you may know I have been injured for some while – due to a foolish first attempt at water skiing (I tore my left hamstring and have never had bruising like it!), so I am carrying 10kgs too many and have not run (giving it its most generous definition!) more than 6k this year. So I knew I was going to be slow and that it was going to be hard work.

We were promptly called to the pre-run briefing – not as polished as Alister’s – but it was a deputy race director as the usual guy was over in Europe to run the Stockholm marathon, but it covered all the familiar info. I was in for an ‘out and back’ route along the Hutt River, under the road bridge and through Strand Park. The course was mainly on tarmac pathways but with the turn round loop and the ‘finish straight’ on grass.

Start/finish of parkrunPromptly at eight o’clock, 55 runners lined up on the narrow path for the start. I was comfortably ‘tucked’ at the back of the field for the ‘off’. It was over six months since I had run ‘competitively’ with other runners and so as we set off, I was ‘drawn’ into the pace and forgot all about running my own ‘race’. At the 1k mark (interestingly the route was well distance marked, which I thought was ‘frowned upon’ by UK pr), as we hit a bit of a hill (well ok a short incline) I realised that I had covered the first km over a minute faster than I had been managing on my most recent ‘plods’ around Hagley Park back in Chch. As you will have realised that came back to ‘haunt’ me as the run progressed. I settled into my current pace and enjoyed the run. Taking into account the stunning scenery New Zealand has to offer, Lower Hutt is a bit of a disappointment in that regard, but the air was clean and fresh and the ‘mid-winter’ conditions were better than may of the UK summer runs this year. But there was no castle nor cathedral looking down on me as I ran along the riverside path.

The sections on the grass were cruel on my tired legs. It had been wet and these parts of the course were ‘soggy’ to say the least. The last 300m section of squelching slowed me down (even further) but I broke the 30min barrier which was my pre-race target. This time put me in the bottom half of the field, but overall I was happy enough. The winning time was 18:11, I can hear Adam saying “I would have won it!”

I had a chat with the officials and volunteers afterwards and talked about the spreading of the pr ‘family’, apparently the Auckland pr is due to start very soon, another for my list to do, hopefully I will turn in a time closer to my usual as I inch my way back to fitness!

Osmotherley Phoenix, North Yorks Moors, Saturday, July 7, 2012

26 miles

Melanie Hudson

Having never done a marathon and at the most only ever ran 17 miles I was very nervous about today. I had kept it pretty quiet that I was doing this run as I wasn’t sure I would manage the full distance.

We arrived and parked up. The car parking is at least a mile away from the start/finish. It is not too bad before the start, but it is a bit harder at the end …

Melanie on Round Hill. We arrived in the village to a lovely atmosphere, it is held in conjunction with the Osmotherly Summer Games and they block off the main street so that all sorts of stalls can be put up.

The route follows the Cleveland Way for the first half. There was a lot of mist about and there were times you couldn’t see very far ahead. The rocks were slippery and I managed to fall on the descent from Scarth Wood Moor, but thankfully there was no damage. We got to Scugdale and the first manned checkpoint which had wine gums and jaffa cakes.

We then started the long drag up to the top of Carlton Bank but we missed out on all the views as the mist was down and we could only see about 50 yards. Then the tricky descent to Lordstones cafe which we took slowly because the rocks were slippery. There was another checkpoint at the bottom with slabs of malt loaf, flapjack and chocolate covered rice crispies. We couldn’t resist. At this point you could decide if you wanted to turn off for the shorter 17m route or continue on the 26 or 33. We continued on the 26 mile route as planned. It felt a bit nervous as I knew up until that point I had the option of a shorter run, I was now committed to the 26 miles.

After the cafe you could choose to go over Cringle Moor, the next hill (not sure of its name) and Wainstones or you could contour round all three. We chose to contour round but that route is always muddy, today it was just a quagmire. We rescued a whole group of runners who had contoured round Cringle Moor and were about to head off up the next two hills without realising. Down to Clay Bank and more food :).

Then another big climb up Carr Ridge and to Round Hill (the highest point on the North Yorkshire moors) followed by a lovely descent to Chop Gate and yet more food. The hill out of Chop Gate is a monster, especially having run 16m at this point. Then it was paths through the heather which were hard to run on they were so muddy. Dave was feeling a bit tired at this point (as he had done a marathon only a week ago), but it was only temporary and he felt much better a couple of miles later once we had got to the Wheat Beck checkpoint (and you guessed it, more food)

The next bit was to Oakdale Head. We went up to another moor which again was very boggy. We were at about mile 22 now and I lost my enthusiasm and got a bit emotional. I just felt that if it wasn’t an unrunnable hill, or slippery rocks it was bogs. At this pint I was tired and just wanted to get to the end and was getting frustrated that we were having to walk these sections. Thankfully Dave was very calm and patient with me. We were soon on runnable surface and could see Osmotherley in the distance, I felt like we were getting somewhere and closer to the finish and despite having very tired legs and pain in my knee I felt much happier. It was now mainly downhill to the finish.

It is only four months since I finished my radiotherapy so I felt very very happy to have completed a difficult marathon. I was a bit emotional as I never imagined I would have ever managed 26 miles, especially so soon after being ill. I couldn’t have got around without Dave’s patience, encouragement, company and great navigation skills.

Stewart Park parkrun, Marton, Middlesbrough, Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alister Robson

If it’s Saturday it must be a new parkrun launch right? This one had been on the cards for ages, Middlesbrough Albert parkrun (the first in the North East) was starting to become almost too successful, regularly attracting over 300 runners and a plan was formed to start this in the newly refurbished Stewart Park in Marton. Middlesbrough Council have been right behind parkrun from the early days and they moved mountains to get this one up and running. Sharon Caddell, one of the Run Directors at Albert Park is the Event Director and she and her team of fantastic volunteers put on a great first event for the 106 runners who made it, a now usual mix of newbies and parkrun tourists.

The race was started with a few words from Ray Mallon, so-called ‘Robocop’ when he ran Middlesbrough CID and since 2002 elected Mayor of Middlesbrough. He was hugely encouraging of parkrun – even going so far as to joke that he’d have to get the council to build a new park to hold a third parkrun in!

Loads of atmosphere ... The course though wet, hardly surprising given the recent rain, was fine, although there was one large puddle which couldn’t be avoided and which you had to go through twice, Stewart parkrun being just over two laps. It’s not flat either which was a bit of a surprise to me, as I’d walked the route with Sharon previously and not noticed the incline. It starts just outside the refurbished Captain Cook birthplace museum and from there you drop down on nice wide paths to the ‘map of the world’, straight over that, a quick detour on grass to skirt the outside of the car park, a tight turn back upon yourself then back onto the path that leads around the lake and (up and) into the lovely tree lined park. Well, what you can see of it, given the mist.

All around the course yellow arrows guide you and after some twisting and turning in the trees you pop back out at the ‘map of the world’. After the second time you turn right and come into the old stable block courtyard and finish in front of the lovely cafe.

I had a decent run, finishing 13th and only got beaten by two ladies which counts as a success for me.

Next week it’s the launch of Riverside parkrun at Chester-le-Street – let’s hope they have slightly better weather, but everything else goes just as smoothly!