This race is of particular significance for me. My parents started the race as a memorial to my brother, Mark, who was killed in a road accident in 1981. It is the reason why I run.
In 1982, as a thank-you to the villagers of Thropton for all their support and for turning-out en-masse for his funeral, my parents thought it would be a fitting memorial to organise a fell race as part of the village show. The show committee agreed to his request provided that my parents took on the entire organisation – all the marshalling, timekeeping, route marking etc. Every friend, acquaintance and relative was co-opted.
My Dad wrote recently that he remembers all of the names of the runners who participated in that first race in 1982. The names kept cropping up again and again over the years. Runners really loved and supported the race over the many years that the family were involved with it – many of those runners were Striders.
A few years after the race started up, I was co-opted into ‘computerising’ the entries and results. Being the only person with access to a ‘portable’ PC in the mid ‘80s (a Toshiba that weighed approximately the same as a small lorry) and knowledge of spread-sheets, I got ‘stuck’ in a caravan adding entries and times for the entire day.
Having done that for several years, I decided that there was nothing in the world that could be worse, or more stressful, than dealing with up to 300 fell runners banging on the caravan door pestering for results. It was time to take up running.
When Thropton Show moved to its present site in 1992, despite an extra mile and a road crossing being added, there was a bonus – the addition of the river crossing (out and back), which immediately became a feature.
In 2008, after 25 years of managing the race, my parents handed over the organisation to Morpeth Harriers and, more recently, the very capable hands of Phil Green from Heaton Harriers.
Fast forward to 2017 – The Return….
I arrived on the show-field early on Saturday and paid my £2 entry fee for the race.
The weather was atrocious, I was nervous and was just about to ‘turn tail’ and head for home, when the Strider posse, in the shape of Catherine, Anna, Geoff and Susan ‘rode over the horizon’ to save the day. I’ve never been so happy to see purple in my life.
Phil Green delivered the safety briefing and announced that the river crossing was ‘off- limits’ as the river was 4 to 5 feet deep. The announcement was greeted with much disappointment by all but one runner (me).
As the race started, the clouds parted, the rain cleared and we were blessed with the most tremendous views.
The first mile was steady and relatively flat with me driving Catherine on at an unsustainable Park Run pace (nerves got the better of me). Any time benefit gained from my Usain Bolt start was quickly lost as we started to climb. Accompanying the climb was an increase in the angle of incline, the number of obstacles and the mud.
The pièce de résistance of the 3 miles of steep uphill running, came in the form of a scramble up the crags to the summit. The path is much improved from the days when our family initiated the race, but nonetheless is topped off with a final pull up with both hand and knees.
On reaching the summit, it was wonderful to be greeted by my Dad who’d set off earlier to cheer us on.
The short stretch of path across the summit was particularly breath-taking; to the right are views all the way to the Northumberland coast, to the left, expansive views of the Cheviots (and the show-field 3 ½ miles away).
The scramble back down the crags was a bit hair-raising, followed by a short stretch of track and then on to the forest break (mostly mud and dense heather). More downhill and crags followed before hitting a stretch of forest road.
At this point the marking-up of the course left a bit to be desired and it became clear that many runners had inadvertently struck out their own routes back – fundamentally, however, so long as you keep going down, you can’t go wrong.
It did, nevertheless, work to the advantage of Catherine and me as we made up a couple of places.
There was a brief ‘discussion’ with 2 hikers on the way down, who accused us of cheating, as we’d not followed the crowd of runners who’d gone in the wrong direction. They were clearly oblivious to just how perilously close they were to being punched in the mouth and being told where to ‘stick’ their advice. Out of all the runners on the route on Saturday, I’m pretty sure that given we’d initiated the race 31 years ago, I know the route!!
I’m very biased, of course, but this is a fabulous race (especially on a clear day), with a huge amount of variation and stunning views. I highly recommend it for next year.