Monthly Archives: October 2017

Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, Saturday, October 28, 2017

38 Miles

Matt Claydon

So after my reasonably successful bash at a full-distance triathlon, I decided to try and delay the inevitable slide towards couch-potato-ism by finding another foolish endeavour to undertake. I’ve never attempted to run past marathon distance, and I have never finished a marathon thinking ‘ that was good, but I wish It went on for ages more with some big hills in it’, but everyone seems to be pushing the boundaries these days, so I thought I’d give it a crack. Hello Jedburgh Ultra.

Another early start, 4.30am alarm, long drive up the A68 in the dark. Arrive still yawning at the car-park next to the abbey. It’s not yet 7 am, still pitch black and happy people in hi-viz direct me in. Collect race number from a happy person, have chip attached to wrist by another happy person. Have a wristband put on my wrist by happy person that says ‘Rule #1: don’t be a dick’. Happy people and not being a dick become themes of the day.

A quick kip in the car, coffee, race briefing (don’t be a dick), a jolly warm up to YMCA and we’re off.

This race is awesome. Solid tracks and trails up from Jedburgh to Melrose, through woodland, fields, along river banks, up over the Eildon Hills (three peaks), through a children’s playground where you are made to tackle the rickety bridge, climbing frame and slide (or you’re disqualified), and back. Beautiful scenery throughout. I planned to take some photos from the hilltops but 50mile-an-hour winds nearly blew me off so I didn’t want to hang around up there, this ropey effort from distance is all I’ve got:

It’s inevitable that regardless of the distance I’m running, by the time I’ve reached the last quarter of the race, all my optimistic plans of finishing times and pace have gone out of the window and I just want to get it over with before my legs fall off; it’ll happen at parkrun next week. The thing about this kind of distance is I still had 10 miles to go when I reached this conclusion, and the scenery doesn’t help much in this regard. That said, if you reckon you have it in you (I barely did) I sincerely recommend this well organised (drop bags at check-points with redistribution of ket from the discarded bags), well signed (no need for map and compass), lovely friendly (got a hug from a giant squirrel) race. The tech T-shirt is emblazoned with Peace, Love, Run, Beer. I just wish I could have stayed on for the post-race pub party.

Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, Saturday, October 28, 2017

results

Ladies group photo. photo by Carla Clark

women
posbibnamecatpacktime
11214Amelia Pettitt (Newcastle University)FsenM22:51
58413Fiona JonesFV40M28:36
86462Susan DavisFV55S29:38
91458Sarah DaviesFV50S29:50
961168Natalie BellFsenS30:02
116414Fiona ShentonFV55S30:41
121436Katy WaltonFV35S30:53
125442Lesley HamillFV40S30:58
141461Stef BarlowFV40S31:29
158434Kathryn RogersFsenS32:06
159449Nina MasonFV40S32:07
166422Jean BradleyFV60S32:19
188430Karen ByngFV45S32:50
206459Sarah FawcettFV55S33:22
224427Joanne PorterFV45S33:51
240426Joanne PattersonFV35S34:30
290419Jan EllisFV55S36:41
315453Rebecca DoddFsenS38:32
328437Kerry BarnettFV45S40:09

a few of the Men's team after the race. Photo by Kerry Barnett.

men
posbibnamecatpacktime
1865Carl Avery (Morpeth Harriers & AC)MsenM29:21
69485Chris CallanMV35M35:30
85546Stuart ScottMV35S36:26
105520Matthew ArcherMV35M37:21
267487Conrad WhiteMV60S42:28
268498David LumsdonMV50S42:30
271525Mike BarlowMV40S42:39
295534Richard HockinMV65S43:14
322505Graeme WaltonMV45S44:17
328511Jonathan HamillMV40S44:29
329481Andrew DaviesMV40S44:38
345533Philip ConnorMsenS45:14
354513Lindsay RodgersMV45S45:45
382486Chris ShearsmithMV40S47:33
403499Dougie NisbetMV50S49:22
424542Stephen EllisMV60S52:32
426484Andrew ThurstonMV60S53:01

Dark Skies Run, Galloway Forest, Saturday, October 21, 2017

29 miles

Dougie Nisbet

You've got until 23:59 ...I looked at the ticket machine and realised that, strictly speaking, I might be overstaying my allotted time. But if anyone was going to be checking the tickets after midnight for parking outlaws then good luck to them.

The weather forecast wasn’t great. It wasn’t too bad at the moment and having a nice warm cafe to sit inside and drink coffee while waiting for things to get underway was a big boost. Time ticked on and I kept looking to sThis looks like Race HQee whether any other Striders had checked in. I was feeling a bit nervy as I hadn’t undertaken any sort of structured training for this race and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on. A cold that had suddenly said Hello two days earlier was another complication. But on the whole I didn’t feel too bad. But it’s not how you feel sitting in a warm cafe drinking coffee that’s important, it’s how you feel when you’re out on your own, in the dark, miles from anywhere.

The course was advertised as well marked but I’d studied it hard anyway so that I knew the checkpoints and my drop-out options. I don’t have any hangups about abandoning a race. And the more expensive the race, the fewer the hangups. I reckoned if I was going to drop out, it’d be in the first few miles. I’d know by then whether it was a bad idea,  and I’d simply turn round and head back to the cafe.

The Strider ArrivalDespite having a lot of experience running a lot of weird races in all weathers I always go through a strange panicky ritual about what I’m wearing for any particular race. I look around at the other runners and often interrogate people on what they’re wearing and why. There was more purple in the cafe now and I realised I was the only one who seemed to be seriously considering wearing overtrousers from the Start. A warm wet night looked on the cards so no point in making it a boil-in-the-bag event.

I’ve always wanted to race at night and as we went outside for the race briefing I began to feel more upbeat. It was still light, and still dry, so the head torches wouldn’t be needed for another hour or two. I wondered where to keep my head torch until then, and eventually decided that I might  as well keep it on my head. This curiously enough was not the favoured option. Most runners kept their headtorches hidden away but I reasoned I had to carry the thing anyway, so I might as well carry it somewhere handy.

The great thing about Ultras is that the starts are usually quite civilised. There’s no elbowing to get to the front as there’s no point going off as if you were doing a 5k. We’d be out for hours. Looking around at the briefing I reckoned there were only about 30 of us so it promised to be quite a small, cosy, and probably quite lonely field. A few of us were disconcerted to hear that there would a strict cut-off around the 6 mile mark. The other side of a remote bog that, given the recent rain, was likely to be on the very boggy side of boggy. I’m not keen on strict cut-offs, especially in the early stages of a race. It can take me a few hours to feel like I’m warmed up and an early cut-off can be a bit of stress that I can do without.

The sun dips down below Cairnsmore of FleetWe left the warm of the Kirroughtree Visitor Centre and for the first few miles surfaces were good. Then up and onto the moor and east under the shadow of the wonderfully named Door of Cairnsmore. The sun was dipping and the sky was dry, treating us to an eerily tranquil scene as we trudged, walked and  occasionally jogged into the fading light. I was with Kerry & Co. settled in front of the sweeper and we were checking the time nervously in case we were cutting it too fine. The warning about the strict cut-off had spooked us a little and we would all feel a bit happier when that first checkpoint was ticked.

The path, such as it was, dipped down and I jogged on a bit to join up with Catherine and Gareth before presently we came to a raging burn that probably only a day or two earlier was a pathetic trickle. Still, it was a raging burn today, and as it was today we were wishing to be on the other side of it, its ragingness was a bit of a pain. We all took our chances on various wobbly crossing points that all turned out to be deeper and faster than they pretended to be.

Down from the moor and into the forest and good paths. First checkpoint ticked off, and for the first time since the race started we were on decent runnable tracks. I switched on my head-torch and started running.

What I like about Ultras, and of getting more experienced at running Ultras, is that you get better and better and knowing your pace. You need to settle into a pace that you feel like you could run all day (or night), then you can switch off and step inside your head and listen to some music or recite poetry or write race reports or something. Monteleone by Mark Knopfler usually jumps uninvited into my head during long runs, and stays there for hours. Generally that works out ok as it’s a good tune with a nice gentle running cadence that suits me, but I’m dreading the day that I stop liking it and it won’t go away.

Another thing I’ve learned about ultras is the importance of walking. It’s a discipline I’d practised for Comrades and it has now become second nature. Walk the hills, and run the flats and downs. It’s tempting to run the ascents especially if you feel the gas is in the tank to do so, but it’s far more important to conserve that energy for later on when it’ll be far more useful.

One man and his headtorchThe second checkpoint came along pretty quickly and we turned north. The section towards  Clatteringshaws Loch had lots of long steady climbs on good forest tracks and I settled into a  comfortable, hard walking pace. I’d been on my own for an hour or two now and occasionally I would look around for other lights. At one point I became aware of a headtorch or two that seemed to close on me quite rapidly before fading again, and eventually I reasoned that it must have been mountain bikes as the lights seemed quite low and the  speeds erratic. Then they disappeared altogether even though we hadn’t passed any junctions. Perhaps I was just going mad.

This was the first time I’d used my headtorch in anger in a race at night. It’s a Petzl Nao and generally I’ve found it to be the canine’s nadgers. I was unsure how long the battery would last though. About 6 hours according to the manual, but I brought a spare battery pack just in case. And a spare headtorch, to use so I could see what I was doing when I had to change the battery pack. The Nao is a reactive headtorch that senses and auto-adjusts depending on where it’s pointing, what it’s seeing, and how much light it feels like giving  you. So I could look far up the road and it would easily pick out the high-viz course markers that were now so familiar to me.

the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and my Petzl Nao was burning very very brightlyStill, the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and my Petzl Nao was burning very very brightly. After just two hours of use and as I approached the Clatteringshaws checkpoint, it started doing the flashy flashy thing to tell me it had had enough. This was a little alarming I thought, as I changed the battery pack. Not even close to what the manual suggested I should expect. And I definitely had it on the auto reactive setting rather on full afterburner. Assuming I got the same amount of light from the spare battery pack then I should expect to be plunged into darkness with some distance to go to the finish.

I decided to worry about that if it happened. Perhaps the spare battery would be better than the main battery. Or perhaps I would be a lot faster from now on. As I left the Clatteringshaws CP the marshalls warned me that after a few hundred yards the course turned right away from the main A712. Sure enough, this is exactly what happened, but you had to keep an eye out for the flags otherwise it’d be quite easy to settle on the main road and miss out on all the wonderful wetness of the higher Old Edinburgh Road.

I was pretty settled now having found my pace and was really enjoying the run. The fact that it wasn’t cold made a big difference. Even the frequent rainy squalls were quite surreal as I zipped up my hood, and looked ahead along the bright cone of light from my Petzl. There was some pretty varied terrain for the next few miles; flooded rocky paths, mud, bracken, paths and tracks, and all the time you had to concentrate, peering ahead picking out the high-viz flags like the welcome cats-eyes on a quiet country road.

We’d been warned that one of the checkpoints would involve wading across a fast-moving burn hanging onto a tree trunk for support while reaching out for the beckoning hand of a marshall leaning out to grab runners. So I couldn’t say I wasn’t warned when I found myself up to my knees in a torrent of water, hanging onto a nice bit of Sitka Spruce (deceased), and reaching out hopefully for the guiding hand of a marshall as I eased past this sting in the Grey Mare’s Tail.

Things got slightly less exciting from this point on, although I think it may have been somewhere around here that Anna decided to go off-piste. Deciding that 29.1 was a really untidy number and something in the 30s would sound a lot better she added a few miles on. A bit like running round Palace Green a few times with an eye on the garmin, but with more trees and fewer cathedrals. I don’t know if Vicky Brown had a similar blip in the 14.

I’d passed another couple of runners at the checkpoint but apart from them I hadn’t seen many runners on my travels. After the bumpy and quirky section along the Old Edinburgh Road from Clatteringshaws the route settled down onto good surfaces and more long, steady climbs on a gentle south-westerley sweep.

On I contentedly ran, passing Murray’s Monument somewhere on my left, although Murray and myself were both blissfully unaware of this. It must have been off to the left somewhere, asleep for the night in its invisibility cloak. The forest road continued to provide a good runnable surface until two bright lights appeared ahead. I assumed this was a checkpoint, at which point I’d swing a hard left then there’d be a couple of hairpins before heading home. I assumed that it was headlights, from a car. But when you’ve been out for several ours in the rain and dark, you start to assume that it’s Close Encounters, or perhaps an FBI SWAT team, you know, out here, in the remote Scottish hills.

It wasn’t a check point, it was a ‘radio guy’. Doing radio stuff. Wondering how many people were still after me. I was sorry to break it to him, but I was, surprisingly for me, pretty much mid-field, so he had a bit of wait yet. I jinxed left, then right, then down to the final checkpoint on the main road. I asked how much further it was and he joked that it was another 6 miles. I was running Garmin free so was none the wiser and just shrugged. That sounded fine. 3, 6, 9 whatever. I was fine. I was enjoying the dark. I felt pleasantly lost in time, and space, and meaning.

I hung around this checkpoint for a bit chatting to the marshalls as they were having a bit of a time of it all. I was now on the half-marathon route too and it seemed runners had been appearing from a bewildering number of directions, some of them correct. I was
surprised to hear this as I couldn’t fault the route-marking and said so. I had a few more jelly beans, adjusted my head-torch, and when they were distracted by some radio chatter I took my leave.

West along the road for a few yards then a hard left for the final few miles to the Finish. My head torch decided that was enough for the day and started flashing in alarm. I tried to switch to a sort of ‘economy’ mode, but it still flashed. It really wasn’t happy. So I fished out my emergency spare head torch, the one I’d only packed so I could see what I was doing when I was changing the battery on my main one, and switched it on. The Petzl Tikka XP2 is a pretty decent head torch, but after several hours of the Nao, it was looking a bit feeble. I had to concentrate to pick out the course-marking flags and even though they were there if you looked, I began to see how it’d be possible to go for a wander if you weren’t concentrating on looking out for the flags.

The last mile or two seemed very long indeed, and in the last mile, feeling slightly disoriented, I stopped to check my position to find that the finish was, indeed, just round the next corner. I jogged to the line and applause, with no idea of how long I’d been out. I soon discovered it was a fair bit longer than I’d expected or thought it to be and I was way overdue for my booked meal. Luckily for me and many other runners, Sofia from the Cafe at Kirroughtree kept things open way beyond closing time and I soon found myself sitting down having a hot meal and coffee in the warm indoors watch the cold outdoors through the glass.

I couldn’t see Anna which puzzled me as she’d gone of like a rocket at the start, but I soon recognized Gareth and Catherine crossing the finish line. They were soon tucking into some supper and I began to feel uneasy about the lateness of the hour. Roberta would’ve been expecting me back at the hotel by now, and cellphone coverage at race HQ was pretty hit or miss. Luckily the cafe allowed me (very brief) access to their landline (it being the emergency contact number) to make a quick call and I felt bad when Roberta gave an alarmed Hello! as she answered the phone. Seeing a strange phone number appearing on you cellphone in the middle of the night is quite likely to make you think Something Bad has Happened.

Gareth and Catherine turn off their headtorches to watch C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser GateI hung around for a while more, gradually settling down to earth after nearly 7 hours out in a slightly surreal world. We had got our dark skies as it happened. For a brief time the sky had cleared and Gareth and Catherine had turned off their headtorches to watch C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. I had wanted to wait for Kerry and Co. to finish, and I would only discover later that Anna had gone off course and would be finishing with Kerry too. But I was cold now, and while Gareth and Catherine jumped in the shower, I jumped in the car for the short drive back to the hotel.

You can never carry too many headtorches.This was my first night-time race and I loved it. A small field meant that for hours on end I didn’t see another soul. The isolation was quite spooky at times but on the whole it was quite relaxing. Relaxing until the head-torch starts flashing to tell me the battery is giving up. I need to give some thought to batteries. You wouldn’t have wanted to be out in the dark skies without a light.

Rat Race Ultra tour of Edinburgh, Sunday, October 22, 2017

55km

Elaine Bisson


This caught my attention as soon as I’d seen an advert on Facebook, a really different race with the additional challenge of a new distance. The event video and description had me hooked from the word go….

“Sets off with a Braveheart charge down the Royal Mile. Weaves through streets, alleyways, onto hills, up crags, past monuments, museums, seats of Royalty, Government and up and down 3000 feet of ascent and descent.”

I love Edinburgh, so a chance to have a guided race around this beautiful city seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Registration was on the Saturday 08:30-10:30 at Murrayfield stadium, the finish line. I’d booked into a hotel minutes from the start beside St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile (so that I didn’t wake all my family up at some ungodly hour to first have my pre-race porridge, then leave v early to get to the start in time!) It’s unusual to get a night away from my kids. Unfortunately, I was far too excited/nervous to fully appreciate the peace. The event organisation was well recommended and the spectator guide was so detailed that even my family were excited to plan their day around supporting me.

I woke early to eat my porridge, the hallowed 2 hrs before the race and arrived at the start at 06:50. The streets were dark, the sun barely touching the sky.
The race starts at 07:30. I was all too pleased to bump into Alex Collins while we were putting our bags on the baggage bus, it seems you can’t do any race without bumping into fellow Striders! By 07:20 we were called to line up before the start….I made a quick dash for the cash point. I’d somehow forgotten the mandatory kit requirement to carry £10 cash.

The place was amazing, barely just gone sunrise. The sky had an orange glow lighting up all those wonderful old buildings and cobbled streets. There was a palpable buzz of excitement. The promise of some excellent adventures ahead.

The start was a bit of a manic race down the Royal Mile. Advice from Jules had me holding back. She’d told me to be sensible, don’t go out too fast and I could look forward to catching them later! All too soon we were heading up past the Scottish Parliament buildings and up the hills and crags of Holyrood Park. The views were amazing but also quite daunting as you could see all across the city to the Pentland Hills…our big climb of the run. Their heads were covered in cloud and loomed ominously over the city.

55km round a city, can it be pretty?

This has got to be one of my absolute favourite runs. The varied terrain, the views, the relative solitude of racing in a large city. After that mad dash down the mile, the people spread out. I was running alongside a group of about 5 men from then until the last check-point…at which point I left them behind as I’d caught sight of a girl!

We passed through 800m long tunnels covered in graffiti, with the sound of our footsteps reverberating off the walls. We climbed up through forest paths, across fields akin to cross-country mud! Past Craigmillar Castle, weaving through and up Blackford Hill past the Royal Observatory. Along canal paths, river paths, by farms, up past the dry ski slope, up, up, up to the three Pentland peaks, with warnings to be mindful of the Highland cows, down past a loch, through a forest and back into the city, around 200m of a sports track….but again it wasn’t long before we left the urban terrain behind and hit the tiny trails that criss-cross throughout the city. Past the zoo, on up Corstorphine hill then down to Newhaven Harbour and onto the waterfronts of Leith. Again back along ‘waterway of Leith’ pathways (there were a lot of these) and up to finish in Murrayfield Stadium. It was quite magnificent. The views, the terrain was so varied it was just exceptional.

I knew it would get hard, I’d never run over a marathon but the absolute pleasure of running through Edinburgh but seeing it in such a different light…we passed through the grounds of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, ah I just felt lucky to be alive. My legs ached from 27 miles but my spirits were lifted when my little support crew popped up every 10k.  I had no idea of my position through the race. Marshals were encouraging but at no point told me where I was in the field. The start was a mad dash and I hadn’t registered who I was running with. I just concentrated on keeping a comfortable pace that perhaps I could maintain for the distance. My surprise when John turned up at the final checkpoint and said (with surprise in his voice), “You’re doing well…no I really mean you’re doing amazingly well…we think you’re 3rd lady and well up the field. Keep it up and we’ll see you at the stadium.” That was exactly what I needed to keep going for those last 6miles. From being sensible, it was now a race to maintain and keep the fourth lady at bay.

When I finally crossed the last road (there were 20+ quite busy road crossings) and turned down to see the stadium, I let out the biggest cry of joy and startled the nearby runner. The finish was great, trackside in the stadium with our names called over the tannoy and the few supporters (maybe 30)…but who cares when my fab four were there cheering me in.
It’s a long way, it’s quite a battle. Aerobically I felt strong…that was the plan, the terrain and climb does take its toll though and my legs were telling my head to stop. Good job my head is too stubborn to listen!

I loved it, over the moon to finish 13th overall and 3rd lady. It’s pricey but incredibly well signposted and the marshals are all brilliant. I’d highly recommend it…even just to explore a different side of Edinburgh. And my husband told me afterwards, “It’s a real shame you’re not slower as that supporter guide was really lovely and we could have enjoyed a great day out in Edinburgh if we hadn’t have been trying to catch you”!

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Park Run, Saturday, October 21, 2017

5K

Sarah Davies

As a parkrun fanatic, I am always delighted when a new Parkrun starts up in the North East. Not only is it great to see the movement growing, but it also creates exciting new possibilities for Parkrun tourism. However, although I like to imagine myself heading off into the wilds of Northumberland or North Yorkshire to tackle a new course, rarely does this actually happen: it’s enough of a challenge to get our family to Maiden Castle by 9, let alone anywhere further afield. But this Saturday was different. Knowing that I had to drop my daughter off for a rowing race in Ashington at the unearthly hour of 7.45 am, I immediately checked the parkrun website and was happy to discover that a new run had started in nearby Newbiggin-by-the-Sea just a week before!
Daughter and her friends dropped off, I headed straight there. The course is, appropriately, by-the-sea. The start is on the beach, but almost immediately you join the long promenade which curves around the attractive Newbiggin bay. There are some interesting sculptures and stunning sea views along the way. At the end of the promenade, you climb a steep grassy hill (I had a flashback to cross-country!), run around a small park, then descend and return along the promenade. The second lap follows roughly the same route. The finish is at the historic Café Bertorelli, famous for its ice cream. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stop and sample it!
This is a scenic, varied, and reasonably challenging parkrun, especially if you happen to be running into the wind (I was surprised to be first female finisher – admittedly, the field was not huge!) I would highly recommend it to all Striders and their families. I’ll be back, and not only so I can try the ice-cream!

 

Great Birmingham Run, Sunday, October 15, 2017

Half Marathon

Andrew Dunlop

This was the run in which everything went wrong. 

I’d had a great running spring, completing the Coniston 14 in March (beautiful), getting a new PB at the Sunderland half in May, and breaking my Durham park run PB twice in two months on the way. Now was my time to step up to try my first marathon. I’d never felt fitter. So, at the end of May, I put my name in for the Birmingham International Marathon, on the basis that it looked flatish. 

Training began well, building up distances, covering 25+ miles for five weeks running. Then after doing too much in a short space of time (Willow Miner followed by a 14.5-mile training run 36 hours later) injury struck. A trip to the physio revealed it wasn’t serious, but I needed some time off running, with strengthening exercises for my knee. That time amounted to be about six weeks. Fitness gone! Bad luck number 1. 

Towards the end of August, my injury was slowly improving and I was out running short distances on the flat again when I received an email from the marathon team. The essence of it (although in a different language) was this: ‘26.2 miles is a long way. Are you sure you haven’t made a big mistake?’ The email offered the chance to switch down to the Great Birmingham Run half marathon on the same day. This was good as getting fit for the marathon was not going to happen in the time I had whereas a half might have been achievable. So that was that.

Fast forward to the week of the race. I’d built up my distances although training was nowhere near what I would have liked. I’d completed a 18km training run two weeks earlier, maintaining a reasonable pace of just over 10 minutes per mile. It seemed likely that I would get around, even if my PB was not under threat. However, a bad cold struck. A sore throat, no voice, nasty cough, the works. I hadn’t had a cold like this for ages. Bad luck number 2. Still, the hotel was booked and we’d arranged to see friends on Saturday, so we travelled. The morning of the run, I’d not slept well from coughing. Should I run? A bit of googling indicated that, as symptoms were above the neck, it would be safe to run. I wasn’t sure I wanted to but went ahead. 

Error number 1. I’d run six previous half marathons; they’d all been in the morning. I knew what to eat beforehand: carb load on the night before, decent (not massive) breakfast on the morning of. This half marathon was going off just after lunchtime (as the marathon was going off in the morning). I had a reasonable breakfast but didn’t have any lunch. Rookie mistake. 

On the start line, I realised that the only reason I was there was that I’d paid for it. I didn’t feel like running and wasn’t confident about how my cold would hold up. (I’d forgotten about my knee, which actually didn’t trouble me all the way around). Still, there I was in the start pen and I wasn’t going to pull out now. Off we went. 

First 5k went well. I set off at a steady pace, 10:30 minutes per miles, not rushing, and felt okay. We wound our way around the warehouses and Pentecostal churches of Birmingham, through some residential streets, through Cannon Hill Park, and around Edgbaston Cricket ground. I passed Dumbledore and noticed that the marathon running Ghostbusters had ditched their car in the park. Then we turned onto the A411 Pershore Road, which I will refer to as the longest street in the world. The crowd of runners stretched off in a straight line in the distance with no turns or end in sight. At about 7k, I ran out of energy and noticeably slowed 11 minutes per mile. Should’ve had lunch. I start cheering on the slower marathon runners coming in the other direction to take my mind off things. I spot a hill coming up for the returning runners (at about 9 miles) and give myself permission to walk up it when I get there. Hard work, but this section had good support, with musicians and homeowners out making noise, with some handing out sweets. 

Eventually, we get to the turning point, just over halfway, turning up into Bourneville. No chocolate on offer. The gradual incline topped out and I enjoyed a stretch of downhill, still feeling exhausted (12 mins per mile). Back onto Pershore Road running in the other direction. This road is not any shorter coming in the Saturday direction. At least we were heading home. Brief respite walking up the hill at 9 miles followed by more jogging (12.30 mins per mile). At 18km I give up and walk for a bit. It feels good. I tell myself I’ll run the last 2km, so I start running again at 19k. I must look knackered, as suddenly most of the crowd are calling me by name and shouting encouraging things “Not far to go, you’re doing REALLY WELL!” I appreciated their support even if they were lying! I don’t manage to run the last 2k; it is stop-start from there. 

Back past the Bullring and my family should be around somewhere. I have to be running when my kids see me, but it hurts (not the injury, thank goodness, but everything else). Two hundred metres from the end, I see them. They give me a boost, and I’m delighted to cross the line. Thank goodness that is over. It’s my slowest half by a long way (2:37), but at least it’s done. And thanks to Wagamama for offering all runners a free post-run meal! 

On the plus side: First (only) Strider Home!

 

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Lakes in a Day, Saturday, October 7, 2017

50 mile ultra run from Caldbeck to Cartmel

Penny Browell

Four years ago exactly I ran my first marathon at Kielder. It didn’t end well – yes I got the sub 4 I wanted but due to poor clothing and fueling I ended up needing medical attention as soon as I crossed the finishing line. When I finally came round I swore to myself never to attempt such a stupid distance again…

So this weekend I find myself embarking on Lakes in a Day, a 50 mile race from the North to South of the Lake District wondering how I got here. I’m not an ultra runner. Indeed I still haven’t learnt how to pace a marathon properly. But I do love the Lake District and as soon as I saw this race advertised I knew I had to give it a shot.

The week of the race arrived and the forecast was terrible. Rain, gales, more rain, no visibility… the optimist in me was sure the met office would change their mind. They did – by Friday they were saying bits of rain, maybe some wind on the peaks but not as bad as it could have been. Saturday morning at 430am my alarm woke me and I was happy not to hear rain outside the window of my quirky airbnb in Cartmel. Maybe we were going to be ok….

The race started at 8 from Oddfellows Pub in Caldbeck. Everything about this race is impeccably organised – the pub staff were amazing providing teas, coffees and bacon sandwiches and we all chatted excitedly before James Thurlow, the fabulous race organizer sent us on our way. As we set off to the first climb we discussed how lucky we were with the weather in comparison with the forecasts earlier in the week… we would live to regret these comments!

It is very much a race of two halves. The first half tough fell racing – a lot of it open fell and on difficult terrain, the second half less mountainous and more on tracks or moorland. This was its fourth year and on every previous occasion it has been dry and clear – within a mile or two of leaving Caldbeck it became obvious this year wouldn’t be the same. The waterproofs were coming out as we entered the cloud and began the climb up High Pike. Visibility was getting worse, winds were increasing and the rain was coming at us horizontally. This was to be the theme throughout all of the fell section. No views, no grip on either slippy rocks or slippy grass/mud and for me no feeling in my fingers so no access to drink, food or maps! In spite of this I loved it. The route takes you up Blencathra at which point there is a decision between Halls Fell Ridge (hard in any conditions) and Blease Fell (easier but 2 miles longer). Coming up Mungrisdale Common was so bad with winds apparently up to 50 mph, I decided I should probably put my kids first and try to avoid death but when I saw others taking Halls Fell I couldn’t resist. This was the only place on the route with event support. They advised us to take it easy – I’m not sure anyone could go anything other than easy on this. It was terrifying but brilliant. From race reports     I’ve read I now know quite a few people got stuck and needed help. And quite a few were more sensible and took Blease Fell… Somehow I got through it and by 11am was back down in Threlkeld at the first of three truly amazing feed stations. The crew were incredible – couldn’t do enough to help us and the food was definitely chosen by fell runners. Anything you could possibly want was there. As I was only 3 hours in I stuck to tea, coke, fruit and a few crisps.

The next section was without doubt going to be the hardest and longest as it took us from Threlkeld to Ambleside via amazing peaks such as Helvellyn and Fairfield. I’ve run most of this section at least a couple of times so I knew how hard it was even on a good day but also felt fairly confident of knowing the route. Unfortunately the mountains don’t look the same in cloud and rain so I did have a few mishaps route-wise firstly after Helvellyn where a few of us started heading off down to Thirlmere but fortunately realized our mistake fairly quickly. The descent to Grisedale tarn was tough – the rock path was way too slippy to contemplate so most of us took the grass option which although better in some ways did mean more concentrating to avoid accidents on hidden rocks or losing a foot into bog. On the positive side it was a bit clearer and calmer down at the tarn but I knew the worst bit was coming. I don’t like climbing Fairfield. It’s a long drag and after 23 miles and nearly 7 hours it was never going to be fun. The battering rain didn’t help and I was really getting quite cold and hungry but with numb fingers and no wish to stop there was no way I was going to get anything out of my bag to eat. So up I plodded…. And plodded…

When I eventually reached the top I was so happy I broke into a little run and immediately fell flat on my face. I was slightly winded and lost my companions and headed off following someone without really thinking about where I should be going. Climbing down some tough rocks I fell again, slid down on my bum and ended up sitting at the bottom of a rock quite nicely sheltered. I decided it was time to give my body a break, grabbed a bag of crisps out of the side of my bag and quite happily chomped on them waiting for the next runner to come by so I could pair up with them. Sadly the next runner didn’t come.. and didn’t come.. and it became obvious I wasn’t actually on the race route. No worries, I had a GPS tracker safely tucked away in my bag so I could use that to get me back on course. Out of the plastic bag, click it on and it happily told me I was still in Caldbeck. No matter what I did or said to it, it just didn’t believe that I had left the start… [You can get a tracker replay on the Opentracking website. ^DN]

I was just starting to get a tad worried when a runner appeared. Possibly not a bright runner (he’d gone wrong too) but someone to tag onto. He was convinced we were on the right route but I managed to persuade him we probably needed to head up and left to meet up with the other racers. Eventually we were back on track. The run down into Ambleside (over several peaks on the way) was very boggy and much slower than when I’d recce’d it but seeing the town gradually get closer spurred us all on.

So feed station two and I was about 9.5 hours in. The longest I’d ever been out running and the furthest I’d ever run in the Lakes (and not far off my distance PB of 50k prior to today).Before the start I’d told myself I could stop here but there was no way that was happening. The sun was finally creeping through and I’d been fed pasta and flat coke and was ready to face the world. This was the also the point where we were allowed to change shoes so my sodden x-talons came off and were replaced with nice dry trail shoes. I felt ready to set off on the second half…

So off we went on the next leg. This section is mainly along the coast of Windermere but with a few climbs including Claife Heights and Rawlinson Nab. Leaving Ambleside the horrors of the first half seemed like a bad dream. The sun was breaking through and the views were lovely as we followed the road down to the lakeside. So this half was actually definitely going to be fine… Once we were off-road it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be quite as simple as I’d hoped. Knee deep mud and puddles the size of a swimming pool faced us to ensure there was no rhythm to be gained. But it was fun – the views along the lakeside were stunning and although there were climbs there was nothing too difficult and the route was now easy to follow with arrows provided for the entire second half. As we went through the village of Sowry I realized the sun was about to disappear and there was still a way to go before the last feed station. I stopped to get my headtorch out only to discover the batteries had died. Thankfully Alex, a much more organized and experienced runner, was with me and kindly lent me his spare torch. Being a spare it was pretty weak so visbility was going to be poor for the next section. I stuck with Alex and his much more powerful torch to Finsthwaite. As the sun went down an enormous moon emerged and in spite of the mud, roots and other hazards I really enjoyed this section.

At the final feed station we were met with soup, rice pudding and more coke and tea. Looking back on the day I suspect I was high on caffeine for a lot of it! We watched a big screen which showed the trackers and we were impressed to see that several runners had already finished. But even more impressed to see that some were still going on Fairfield. It was now 930pm and they were doing that impossible open fell section in pitch dark. Many of them went on to finish in the early hours of Sunday. Massive respect to them.

After 15 minutes or so and with my headtorch now fixed it became apparent the last 8 miles were not going to run themselves so I left the warmth of the hall and set off, commenting to my fellow runners that this was likely to be quite a long 8 miles. It certainly was. The route for this section was across boggy fields and up and down woodland paths. Although it was hard I was actually enjoying myself – it was a lovely night and I now knew I was going to succeed.

The race finishes with a couple of miles of road. By the time this finally appeared I had passed a few people since Finsthwaite and running up and down the road to Cartmel I somehow found a bit of pace and managed to overtake a few more. Looking back I have no idea what was going on. I was finishing this race fresher and less tired than most marathons or half marathons!

Cartmel Priory School finally appeared and I crossed the line in 15 hours and 7 minutes. 53 miles done, over 4000 metres of climbing, 9th lady and a day I would never forget. I grabbed the race director and gushed about what a great race it was. He thought I was mad – the conditions had been awful how had I enjoyed it?! I don’t know but all I can say was that as I sat eating a baked potato with cheese and beans and talked to other fellow ultra runners I felt absolutely on top of the world. After a year with more than its fair share of lows this race meant so much to me for so many reasons. I will definitely be back. But next year I’m ordering better weather…

There are many videos and much better report on Facebook group runitinaday.

Kielder Run Bike Run, Thursday, September 7, 2017

Marathon (11km run, 25km bike, 6km run)

Dougie Nisbet

Earlier in the year a work colleague asked me if I was doing the Kielder duathlon. I knew nothing about it but the more I read the more I liked. A marathon distance duathlon with split transitions and an entirely off-road bike section. I signed up, told Sara that I’d beat her even on my old mountain bike, and forgot all about it.

Fast forward several months and I no longer work at BALTIC so it was a bit a re-union when we met up again and I discovered my manager Dave Coxon had signed up too. Although we had no plan to rendezvous at the event we found ourselves parking our bikes in the transition area at Kielder Village before finding the coach to take us the few miles to the Start at Leaplish. We found 3 seats and were jostled on our short journey like excited kids on a school trip.

I knew the Run Bike Run event started at the same place and time as the 10K. What I didn’t know was how the organisers planned to do that. In the end it transpired that the RBR competitors had to shove their way through the 10K competitors to get to the start line. I saw several Strider vests on my travels but I was wearing a cycling top that I hoped would be versatile enough to get me through the run and bike stages. I guessed it might be too hot for running, too cool for the bike.

The logistics had puzzled me. I’ve done very few duathlons, and none that had split transitions. We were allocated something called a bike box, and this would be waiting with our bike at T1. In here we had to put anything we thought we would need for the bike section. For many of us this was cycling shoes but many chose to ride in their running shoes. It turned out not to be nearly as complicated as I’d made it and the bike box would be magically transported to T2 at Bull Crag for the beginning of the second run leg.

A slightly delayed start due to waiting for late competitors to be bussed from Kielder village and away we went, doubling back on ourselves for the 11km run to T1. I had to remind myself that this was quite a long event and that I needed to pace the 11k carefully. Into transition and straight to the bike. I realised the grass was soaking so I executed an undignified ballet while I tried to change shoes – hopping on one foot so that I wouldn’t get my feet wet and grateful for my decision to use elastic laces in both sets of shoes. It wasn’t a lightning fast transition but it wasn’t too shabby either, and soon I was wheeling my bike out for the 25km ride to Bull Crag.

I was looking forward to the bike section. I’d ridden a couple of hilly sportives already this year and although not particularly fit or fast I was expecting to be comfortable and do well on this bit. I was in for a surprise. An 85 mile hilly sportive on a road bike is an entirely different beast to a 25km bike ride on a mountain bike. I’d forgotten how up and downy the Kielder lakeside path is.

After attacking the first hill and storming down the other side I was soon reviewing the situation. I realised that this was going to be hard. It was impossible to get into any rhythm and I was spending a surprising amount of time in my smallest granny gears before hurtling down the descent trying to catch my breath. The dam gave some respite but it was hard to pick up too much speed on the thick mountain bike tyres. As we turned away from the dam to head for Bull Crag I discovered, to my surprise, that I was quite looking forward to the end of the bike section and to running again.

Transition 2 at Bull Crag was quite elegant. A long horseshoe where we entered at one end and were ejected at the other. Of course, none of the competitors had seen Transition 2 before so we didn’t know where our bike box would be. But this wasn’t a problem as the marshalls had read our numbers as we approached and were directing us as we tumbled into transition. I always have to remind myself that the clock is still ticking in transition – it’s still real time although it feels like it isn’t. So I was back in my running shoes as quickly
as possible then jogging round the horseshoe before out of transition for the last 6km or so.

They were a long 6km, twisty and hilly, and my legs felt like they’d done a marathon even if 25km of it had been sitting down. I settled down to a steady jog and had no illusions of trying to hit the finish at speed. There was good crowd support in these last few kms and a buzzy finish that I remember from having done the Kielder Marathon. Across the line and No I didn’t want a banana, I just wanted to sit down.

Dave had been in for about 15 minutes and Sara arrived not long after me. The results showed Sara had belted round the bike section a fair bit faster than me and if it hadn’t been for her slower transitions and runs our overall finishing positions could easily have been reversed.

This was a good race and I enjoyed it. I thought as we hit a brief squall on the bike section that if the weather had been unkind the bike section could easily be a serious trial. The split transitions, lakeside route and marathon distance bring an elegance to the course that I liked a lot. I definitely underestimated how hard the bike section would be, but it was great fun hurtling down the fast descents and negotiating the twists and turns.

CTS North York Moors ultra marathon, Saturday, September 30, 2017

33.6 miles / 4227 feet

Emma Backhouse

So a summer of training, two weeks of tapering and a week of self-doubt had come to this… my first entry into the mad world of ultrarunning at the endurance life CTS North York Moors ultra marathon. Surrounded by professional-looking lithe runners, I nervously made my way across a freezing (literally, a balmy 10 degrees in Durham had fallen to 3 in Ravenscar) field to collect my number, receive my timing tag and be given my t-shirt. Should I just leg it and tell everyone there was no medal and the t-shirt was the prize? Three loo trips later and suddenly briefing was upon us and it became apparent that numerous runners had come from London to do this thing…. I was feeling more and more out of my depth, and I was beginning to doubt not only my ability to finish but even my ability to run at all. The high place finish at the recent Clennell marathon must have been a fluke. Complex instructions (do not follow the 10k signs! Do not follow the half signs!) were issued and for the first time I saw doubt on my fellow runners’ faces. We had numerous loops to navigate, not least a final one, past the finish with the last 7 miles following the 10k route. Thankfully we were offered one final loo trip before a super quick countdown and then we were off!

As expected, being a snail, I was overtaken by nearly everyone, immediately. Race plan screaming in my head “stay calm, stay slow, you are a metronome” I tried not to let it upset me, but on a single track, covered in mud, hearing people tut and puff behind you and with few places to stop and let them pass it did become demoralising. However, within a few miles, we were spread out, alone, left to our own devices, facing the distance in our own ways. At 11 miles, the marathon leaders (who set off around an hour behind us) started to overtake us. They were fast, but friendly, glad to hear of their position. By this point I was beginning to believe that as long as I could hear the miles tick by the challenge would be completed.

I came through the finish for the first time at around 14 miles, heading towards boggle hole and Robin Hood’s Bay. It was here that we met the half marathoners on a different route. The terrain became more challenging with steeper hills and seeming more like the trail marathon I had done in the summer. I slowed to a walk…. knowing walking was necessary if the distance was to be done.

Miles ticked on, passing and passed by marathoners and halfers, although there were few ultras to be seen. A long moorland hill ended in a big muddy puddle miscalculation and one trainer would be significantly heavier for the remainder of the run. The “one mile to go sign” came into view and I could sense the anticipation from those around me. As we approached the finish, I was directed away from the funnel, heartbreakingly and had to stop. At this point, a distance pb was starting to result in nutritional issues. Needing something, I looked around for my support crew (chowing down on ice cream in the local cafe I later found out!) hoping they could get me the coke that was in the car. The cp only had water and with too much being drunk and no food being taken on, my stomach had started to complain. Loudly. Another ultrarunner was also waiting, desperately and eventually we both gave up, smiled at the poor marshal directing us away from the finish and headed on the lonesome 10k route. 2 miles in, the wheels, axle, doors and roof fell off and I limped into CP 5 an unknown distance later. Smiley faces and “less than a parkrun to go!!!” They sent me off and with a walk/run strategy along the railway line I came into the finish for the third and final time as fourth lady.

7 hours and twenty odd minutes. 35 miles by my garmin. Still getting over it but signing up for the Northumberland one at the end of February.

Harrier League, Sunday, October 8, 2017

results

women

posbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
1644Emma HoltFsenF27:5524:35
50462Susan DavisFV55S31:2631:26
63452Rachelle MasonFV35S31:5131:51
85458Sarah DaviesFV50S32:1932:19
94451Rachael BullockFsenS32:4032:40
119436Katy WaltonFV35S33:3433:34
142422Jean BradleyFV60S34:0434:04
150461Stef BarlowFV40S34:2634:26
151449Nina MasonFV40S34:2834:28
178459Sarah FawcettFV55S35:2235:22
184396Anna SeeleyFV35S35:3635:36
209394Anita WrightFV55S36:3136:31
214402Catherine SmithFV40S36:4336:43
226466Victoria JacksonFV35S37:2037:20
234427Joanne PorterFV45S37:3537:35
253420Jan YoungFV65S38:0738:07
288393Anita ClementsonFV45S40:1340:13
3271192George Nicholsonn/cS43:1643:16
men


posbibnamecatpackrace timeactual time
11200Luke Adams (South Shields Harriers)MsenS34:3034:30
23543Stephen JacksonMsenF39:0534:05
41506Jack LeeMsenS40:0040:00
62509Jason Hardingn/cM40:3837:38
82519Matt ClaydonMV40S41:0141:01
114529Paul EvansMV35S41:3441:34
132521Michael AndersonMsenS41:5141:51
144524Michael MasonMV40F42:0337:03
226503Geoff DavisMV60S43:3343:33
229532Phil RayMV35M43:3540:35
230538Scott WatsonMV55M43:3640:36
270496David GibsonMV50S44:3344:33
330548Timothy SkeltonMV35S45:5745:57
368525Mike BarlowMV40S46:5346:53
369534Richard HockinMV65S46:5446:54
379536Robert AllfreeMV40S47:1247:12
404514Malcolm SygroveMV50S48:1048:10
4241621John MetsonMV60S48:5148:51
427547Tim MatthewsMV50S48:5748:57
428481Andrew DaviesMV40S48:5948:59
451513Lindsay RodgersMV45S49:5449:54
481526Mike BennettMV60S51:4151:41
489501Emil MaataMsenS52:0252:02
5211620David TothMV45S55:2555:25