Ann Johnson Absent Friends Trail Run, Cowpen Bewley Country Park, Sunday, February 17, 2013

Approx 4.5m

Alister Robson

I saw this race promoted a lot online recently and quite fancied it, but thought as I probably did last year and the year before that I’d be better doing a longer slower run with a marathon in only a couple of months to do. In the end a bit of a knee tweak I’ve been carrying for a couple of weeks persuaded me to dial down the miles a bit and brought this back into my possibilities list. The race was started 5 years ago in memory of a former Billingham Marsh House Harriers member, Ann Johnson, who sadly died of leukaemia. Ann’s husband, Barry and children set up the race in her memory.

It was a beautiful morning and there were loads of people milling about in the sun, quite a few of whom I recognised and chatted to including several who’d started running regularly through parkrun and were now club members. I couldn’t see any other Striders, although it would have been right up their street for many.

The race starts at the top of a hill so from there there’s only one way to go – downhill and fast, from there it circles round and through the country park before taking in the edges of fields and just before the end another bigger hill. In a lot of parts it was soggy and muddy underfoot, giving it more of a cross country feel than say a fell race, but it was all runnable and well signposted by cheery marshals. The final part is just over the brow of the first hill, a nice fast finish in front of cheering crowds and those runners who have already finished.

I made it nearer 4 and a half miles rather than the advertised approx 5, but that was neither here nor there. There was nice bright yellow technical t-shirt, a bottle of water and a Mars bar for all finishers, Ann’s daughter, Emma wrote elsewhere, “Mum’s only excuse for a Mars bar was after a race! Never has chocolate tasted so good.” A great fun race and great value at a tenner, and would have been even cheaper if I’d got myself organised and entered in advance. Strongly recommended.

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