Not for the first time I found myself checking myself out (so to speak) in Tesco Express Corner Shop in North Road. Despite the unexpectedly refreshing pint or two of “Ageless” beer from the Red Lion, I’d arrived back in Durham with a perishing thirst. It’s very handy that Gillingham’s chuck us out just a few hundred yards from an off licence on a Sunday afternoon after a tough race. I’m not one for arguing with serendipity. Judging by the purplish hue in the queue it seems I’m not alone in this philosophy.
It seemed no time at all since I was sat in the tent at the start wondering where my next safety pin was coming from. A kind voice in the corner asked me if I was expecting a good run. It seemed familiar, and I looked up to see my old friend Iain chatting to me as if it was only yesterday (rather than 20+ years) since we’d last seen each other. We used to be friends and rivals in the Dunedin Cycling Club in Edinburgh, where Iain was always the better athlete. Glancing through the results and noticing his 1:39 time, I see nothing’s changed. Ah well, as an ex-member of Dunedin CC and COERC, I’m never one to deny myself a bit of reflected glory!
And so to the traditional primal start on the beach. A massed bunch of hunter-gatherers fidgeting around the start waiting for the signal to go hunting. And away we go. Nowadays I’m pretty good at not charging away like a Kathryn when the gun goes off but there’s something incredibly exciting about running along a beach and I’m sure I got a bit over-excited and headed straight for the sea, carefully resisting the temptation to shout Freeedom!” as I sploshed through the pathetic excuse for a burn that the marshalls had warned us about. I’m glad I’m not the only one who runs inefficiently close to the waves to cut the corner; not because it saves time, but just because it’s far more fun than going the long way round.
A few miles in and I could still see John Hutchinson ahead so that could only mean one thing. I’d started too fast too soon for too long. I glanced at my Garmin and noticed I was way into the anaerobic (My Garmin can’t lie). I calmed down a bit and presently Kathryn caught me up. She asked if she might run with me to Craster. This was rather sweet and I wasn’t sure if she was indulging in a bit of tactical maneuvering or asking me out to the cinema. After Craster Kathryn asked if I minded if she ran off ahead, so that she could stop and have a bit of a rest. Ever the bewildered gentleman I nodded in polite and mystefied agreement. Some time later, sure enough, I passed Kathryn as she paused and supped on a yucky gel, and I ran on by. She’s up to something, I thought.
My parkrun the previous day had crushingly confirmed to me that I wasn’t nearly as fit and fast as I’d tried to convince myself I might be. So I was periodically trying to decide whether I was ‘racing’, ‘training’, or just having a bit of a run. After Craster we see a relatively new phenomenon thanks due to the introduction of the bus. Supporters got tipped out around half way and so you pass Strider Walkers who cheer you on in the last few miles as you approach the finish. This is really nice.
About 3 miles from the finish I passed a Crook Vest that looked familiar. I glanced over to see the Lord of the Streak in a bit of a bad way. On Saturday Paul is running all 11 North East parkruns in aid of Acorns, but today was not a good day. As a very 20-something-plus parkrunner I’m not used to overtaking a regular sub-20 parkrunner, but it was clear that Paul was struggling and my Pacer gene kicked in and we ran together through a tough headwind to the line, where Prince Archie appeared and suddenly I was on my own again.
Once over the line news trickled in from a Tyne Bridges runner of a Strider lady who was having a tough time a mile or two from the finish. A posse was formed and we walked down the beach looking for our woman down. Was it Denise? No. Was it Claire? No. With everyone denying being the damsel in distress we all sauntered to the Red Lion in search of the Barbecue which many of us had fond memories of from yesteryear. The BBQ wasn’t there, but the Adder Lager was still available, along with a bountiful selection of booze and nosh.
On the coach trip home having exceeded my recommended daily alcohol consumption with one pint of Ageless I contentedly chatted with Colin Sue and Angela about nasal hair, dried skin, alcohol consumption, sex, sheds, and a little bit about the race. Kathryn has also challenged me to a sub-2 hour show-down one year from now. Place your bets!
…and Kathryn Sygrove
I had a bad experience of this race in 2011 – illness en route temporarily stopped play, and I lumbered home in a reasonable time, having paid little attention to the surrounds, simply to droop in the coach at the end. Shame really, for such a beautiful and rugged run, not to appreciate the landscape, and the various terrains on offer – so much so that I really could not remember much of the route from last time!
Still, we started on Beadnell beach, a bit soggy and cloudier than expected, and the race started in a flash. 2 miles over very wet sand, with one rivulet pulling you down to your knees, we ploughed on with drenched shoes and socks! Actually, I was going easy at first after a manky virus, wondering if I should be attempting this distance and terrain so soon afterwards. Off up the beach and onto coastal paths, a bit of road through a village, and back onto the sand towards Dunstanburgh Castle. It seemed to get warmer, there was definitely some wind, and I was feeling well invigorated at this stage.
I even raced across the boulders coming off the beach, like a mountain goat, and onto the narrow stony coastal paths round the castle. You see, I had someone in view by now – Dougie – and that was too much to resist. I caught him up and we ran till 8 miles together, beyond the Castle, up over fields, into Craster, and back out across field tracks including some rather steep ones at that. Time passed well and the sun was really warm by then, but my energy was already starting to fade.
I had a wee pitstop for Gatorade and snack bar, and then felt like lead. Dougie was ahead, but I felt too worn out to catch him. I put my head down and did whatever pace my legs could manage but it felt really hard. I think we went over some more field tracks, and – oh yeah – that pig of a hill about 9 miles!! which I had completely forgotten about. It was very warm by now, and I was already willing the race to be over. But the water stations at Boulmer refreshed me and I ran off with a new lease of life up the road to the final stage – about 2 miles of sandy beach to the finish.
Wham! into the fierce headwind, sand blowing up at you, and I’d had enough. I strode forcibly forward, with marching arms, which seemed to do more than a pitifully ineffective attempt at a jog at that point. “It’s like being in slo-mo” another runner joked at me. How true! After a while, I started to jog again, end in sight, though it came v-e-r-y slowly due to the sand pulling your feet down, and the wind pushing you back. There seemed to be too many flags at the end, and one was placed rather cruelly, so as to appear to be the finish, but it wasn’t!! There was still a wee way to go! A few congratulatory cries from other Striders helped push my weary legs over the finish line, less than 2 minutes behind Dougie. All finishers got yellow jerseys, a la Bradley Wiggins, which made me smile. At the Red Lion Pub, I thanked Dougie for his companionship and threw down the sub-2 hour gauntlet for next year, which he grinningly accepted. Watch this space!
|1||Ian Harding||Morpeth Harriers||M||1||1:16:54|
|27||Jane Hodgson||Morpeth Harriers||F||1||1:28:17|
|308||Marco Van Den Bremer||M40||121||1:54:56|
|751||Nicola Van Den Bremer||F40||94||2:31:05|