Durham Coast Half Marathon, Seaham, Sunday, June 15, 2014

Danny Lim, Sarah Fawcett

“The cakes are a mile away!”, read the final mile marker. I cheered quietly to myself, bereft of energy to say anything aloud. My legs were thrashed for lack of a technical term and I was struggling to maintain my current pace. Much of the last 12 miles had been undulating with several steep descents into wooded denes, followed by equally steep climbs. We were treated to birds eye views of secluded coves, wooded valleys, beaches and the shimmering sea. Remnants of Durham’s coal-mining past was still visible if you looked carefully; spoil heaps, slipways, railway bridges and the odd lump of coal on the beach.

There were sections where I was tempted to cut across to save on the distance but the route was very well-marked and I had to remind myself that this wasn’t a fell race. I liked the low-key and friendly nature of this race. For me, the part was the friendliness of the event from runners and supporters alike. At the finish, every runner was cheered on as if finishing the 100 metres in the Olympic Finals. What a homecoming and what a selection of cakes laid out for us! It was the creamiest, tastiest Victoria Sponge I have tasted.

I do think that this race has the potential to become a big event in the years to come. It was a well-organised, fun day out. And given that it is local and easy to enter, perhaps we should consider it for the Grand Prix next year?

A steamy strider scene.

… Sarah Fawcett

Having heard how scenic, friendly and well organised this was last year, I was a late entrant for this off road race and one of only 6 Striders running on the day, Richard Hall having to pull out due to injury.

The descriptions I had heard were all true.  The route takes you along some relatively little known beautiful countryside, and indeed the National Trust, the main organisers, cite this as one of the reasons for the run, to show more people the beauty of the area.

Being a small event, 200 ish on the day, it had the warmth and scale of a club event.  We picked our numbers up on arrival, we’re offered maps although assured of regular way marking, and joined a small queue for the portaloos.  What a shame that 2/3 of the entry money collected had to pay for these.  Come on Durham County Council, next year please can the organisers have your facilities at Spectrum Business Park, for free?

There was a 10 minute delay to the start because some villains had thought it a jolly jape to undo some of the 2 days hard work of the volunteers, and remove some of the way marking.  A suitable punishment for the wrongdoers would be to make them run this course, but more of that anon.

The weather was perfect; cool and still, and as the sea fret lifted we could see all the way to Redcar.  The lady next to me thought that was where we were going.  Fortunately distance can be deceptive and Crimdon was a lot closer.

The first dene, and therefore the first set of steps down and up, came within the first 2 miles and was a taste of what was to come.  I blithely admired the exposed magnesium limestone ( I read the leaflet afterwards) on the way down and then walked up the staircase the other side.  I was prepared to walk all of the 300 steps up, and so this wasn’t a surprise to me. The second set of upness seemed to have lost its cable car/furnicular railway. I can’t believe that those canny Victorians wouldn’t have thought this an essential addition to this nearly sheer rockface. Instead those lovely National Trust people had put in safe and sturdy steps. What was not very sporting was the very jolly official photographer who was perched near the top capturing people’s agony whilst keeping up the friendly banter.

We saw Hawthorn Dene, Horden Dene, Crimdon Dene and goodness knows where else. All equally scenic, all well signposted, all carved like deep gashes in the seaside border of County Durham. I was told that there were 4 or 5 sets of steps. I counted six, including an evilly placed last set not much more than a mile from the finish. Between the denes we went along the cliff top paths and through pretty wooded areas. The last mile marker stated “cake in one mile”. Fabulous; that is my sort of race. As the caravan park came into view I knew I was close to the finish line and apart needing to avoid kids on scooters and adults wandering aimlessly along the promenade I managed a spurt to the finish line and to the waiting Striders, and more importantly, delicious homemade cake.

Six stride out at Seaham.

My team mates did brilliantly; Danny Lim flew in at 1.50. The fastest Strider and well up the field John Hutchinson beat the 2hr threat at 1hr 59 mins. The most cake consuming Strider Jackie McKenna got an incredible 2hr 01min and was 6th female overall Paul Beal achieved 2.04 and was thrilled to not be doing Blaydon on the same day like last year Ian Spencer looked relaxed and happy with a great 2.14 And I brought up the Strider pack with 2.15 and was equally happy with the run and with the cake. Bizarrely and incredibly I was awarded a bottle of wine for being first Old Bird in. I probably should offer it back because the results show I was actually second in my age category but it is too late!

I thoroughly recommend this little gem to anyone who wants a locally based challenge, in a beautiful area, in a friendly, well organised event. Thank you to all concerned

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Mike Jefferies Billingham Marsh Harriers MS 1 1:20’18
20 Sarah Burrell FS 1 1:39’12
55 Danny Lim MS 27 1:50’03
84 John Hutchinson MV55 1 1:59’53
87 Jackie McKenna FS 5 2:01’08
95 Paul Beal MV50 11 2:04’59
123 Ian Spencer MV50 14 2:14’09
126 Sarah Fawcett FV50 2 2:15’37

183 finishers

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