Stamfordham 10K, Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Andrew Davies

I’ve been keeping my eye out for mid-week 10ks as an alternative to the normal Sunday morning ones. Having said that, I’ve entered a lot of Sunday morning 10ks!

Stamfordham 10k is a Run Nation race and is expensive, as a consequence (£16.50). It’s chip timed, with a nice medal but no t-shirt. I’m not sure where the money goes. They’re always well organised and friendly though.

Stamfordham is a small Northumberland village off the A69 on the way to Hexham. Very convenient for me. I had plenty of time to get there from Gosforth for the civilised 7:30 pm start.

The postcode took me to the middle of nowhere before I’d realise I’d entered the road name ‘B6309’, not a postcode. Anyway, a quick Google of Stamfordham Village Hall showed I was 4 miles away with plenty of time.

The weather was perfect. It’d been warm recently but tonight there was just enough cloud cover to keep the heat away. This was lucky, I was wearing my long sleeve Striders top, with the sleeves rolled up. This was my fourth race in ten days and the vest hadn’t made it through the washing cycle this time. Bit of a blessing as I think it’s shrinking and looks more like a training bra.

The roads weren’t closed for the race but I saw a max of five cars out there. Two of them were the organiser and photographer. There was loads of space to park in the village. Just over 100 runners gathered around the village hall, picking up their numbers and chatting. Nice building with loads of toilets. This is when I heard about the last kilometre. Apparently, it was quite a drop; a really speedy way to finish. And I could believe it because I could see the slope coming into the village to the finish outside the hall. I was then concerned about the climb we’d need to do. But I shouldn’t have worried too much.

At 7:20 pm, after a good warm-up, we all headed to the start, about 500 yards towards the other side of the village. There was a quick briefing from Angelos Epithemiou from Shooting Stars. Then we were off.

We headed out of the village on the country road and turned left. The course is one large rectangle of country roads. It’s a beautiful part of the world but you don’t get to see too much of it. The roads are long, straight and lined with large hedges and trees.

It’s officially undulating but none of the individual rises are anything to worry about. However, it does slowly rise on average all the way from the start to beyond 9k. Getting steadily worse after 6k. So my strategy was to make the most of the downs by picking up speed and carry it through the ups and generally dig in. I heard someone say they hadn’t run for a while and were taking it easy and aiming for 45 minutes. I’ve been running loads recently, was going eyeballs out and aiming for 45 minutes so I thought I’d keep her in sight.

I had a good first half and left her and her friend behind. In fact, behind them, there was a big gap opening up to the rest. I think we were a lead group of about thirty. 5k time was good but it was net downhill. I dug in and tried to keep as much speed as possible before the harder rises later. The girl and bloke went past me but I left him well behind over the last few kilometres. The field had spread out and it was getting difficult to reel anyone in. However, I passed a couple of guys I had in my sights while one or two were too fast and I think someone powered past me.

But where was this famous drop to the finish? Some say it’s a mile long, others a kilometre. Pffft my watch said 9.4k before the gradient changed. But it changed a lot. Not the steepest hill I’d ever run down but not far off. Had to hold back. Didn’t want to face plant on tarmac. But it was an exciting, high-speed finish. First and last Strider home.

I finished 28th. Happy with 45:41. Not a PB but this isn’t a PB course. I’d had a small ‘mare on Sunday at Newton Aycliffe, 47:00, which has worse rises. But was happy with 44:00 the previous Wednesday at Newburn River run which is 9.7k, exactly 6 miles.

I might be doing too many races too close together to get a PB but that won’t stop me trying at Kirkley 10k next Wednesday.

Stamfordham is a good 10k if you can afford it and can get there.

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