This is a fantastic run which I think would be perfect for a Grand Prix event and has been in previous years – as recently as 2008/9 in fact. I first ran this in 2011 although confusingly this was the 2010 event, delayed by weather conditions from its usual pre-Christmas slot. In my race report from then I mentioned seeing a load of runners get off a coach in fancy dress, mainly in babygrows (as they were known then, you may now know them as ‘onesies’). It turned out they were Blackhill Bounders, and it turns out that this is a big traditional race for them. I’ve worked closely with a lot of Bounders especially since starting Blackhill parkrun and they’re a fantastic, friendly bunch as you’ll know if you’ve run at their parkrun or at Snod’s Edge or the Gibside Bowl which they also put on. So, when I heard they were putting on a coach again this year I asked if they could squeeze me in.
Joining the coach at Sniperley Park and Ride I was immediately made very welcome – within a few minutes of sitting down I was offered a shot of something sweet and alcoholic, another Bounders tradition. Well it would have been very rude to turn down their hospitality wouldn’t it?
As the coach drove down to Loftus, just over an hour or so, we seemed to pass through every type of weather and I became increasingly nervous. About 7 of the just short of 8 mile course is on roads/paths, but the rest is on muddy field – I only had road shoes with me and I was beginning to regret it.
At the registration at Loftus Leisure centre (note to self – bring swimming kit next time) I bumped into loads of other friendly faces including Graeme and Katy Walton (in fancy dress as a showgirl), Jon Ayres, John Hutch, Sarah Fawcett and Jackie McKenna, with her son Andrew. A brass band was playing Christmas Hymns and loads of other clubs were there – some in ‘normal’ running vests, many in fancy dress. Compromising, I plumped for Turkey headwear although some wag on the route suggested I looked more like Chelsea goalie, Petr Čech.
My run was pretty forgettable, started off well enough, but obviously too fast as I ended up having to walk for a good section at the top of the course, the second stretch of muddy hill was the final straw as for the second time this weekend I saw our lady secretary disappear into the distance. This is getting to be a regular occurrence now – I’m going to have to up my training in the New Year. I can’t even use the excuse of Saturday’s Saltwell 10k being in my legs – Katy was there running that too. Having said that, this race isn’t really about the run, more the atmosphere and encouraged by others who passed me once I hit the top I resolved not to walk again and ran all the way back downhill.
Once back at the centre there was a nice long sleeved T-shirt as a prize (this was the 30th running of the event). Mince pies and mulled wine were also on offer although I didn’t partake of either. I have to give a quick mention to the winners prizes too. The top 3 men and ladies each won what looked to be a whole supermarket trolley’s worth of shopping, a full Christmas dinner kit and there were loads of turkeys for other category victories. Many fancy dress runners got a bottle of wine too.
On the way back on the coach the Bounders bus stopped for a great carvery at The Water Wheel Inn at Liverton right on the edge of the North York moors. The staff there coped admirably with the sudden influx of a coach load of hungry (and thirsty!) runners and the Bounders also put on a quiz which was also fantastic. All in all a grand day out, many thanks to Blackhill Bounders for letting me tag along and making me feel so welcome.
I last ran this race around 12-13 years ago when I was more of an occasional runner albeit quite a bit younger. My memory of it from back in the day was that it was tough, muddy and long!
With Katy by side (as per usual, I think she races more often than Alister), we headed down to Loftus on a breezy Sunday morning. Race HQ was the local leisure centre and it was there where we bumped into some fellow Striders. Fancy dress was optional so there where many a costume to admire, none more so than Katy who was sporting a show girl costume that included top hat and tails with fish net stockings!!!
Eleven o’clock arrived and off we went running away from a rousing brass band and straight to the opening climb. This climb continued on and off for around 2 miles through housing estates and onto some winding country lanes. Just as the climbing eased off the next challenge presented itself by way of a ploughed field! There were a couple of options here, either along the rutted track or a softer but flatter option on the aforementioned field. I went for both options for the fun of it although I would say that neither were particularly easy. After a nice little downhill section we left the field behind, took a sharp left and were faced with a long tough slog up the road. At the top of this we were once again directed onto some terrain that would be more suitable in the Harrier League. A steady plod up here followed by a tough uphill tarmac section to the summit of the course had me breathing heavily with the wind howling.
The final 3 miles of the route retraced a lot of the opening section so needless to say it was mainly downhill. I managed to pick up the pace and at one staged my watch had me going at sub 6 minute miles (obviously a steep downhill section). I came home in a little over 55 mins which is a 4 minute improvement on my younger days, a testament to how running with a club improves your running. It wasn’t long until Liza Minnelli (Katy) followed me in grabbing herself a bottle of wine for her fancy dress efforts. Well done to all Striders concerned on a tough course in tough conditions.
|1||Russ Best||New Marske Harriers||M||42:32|
|18||Kirsty Legg||Middlesbrough AC||F||49:03|