I turned 50 in March 2019. For many this half century milestone is a trigger to slow down and take it a bit easier. For me 2019 would be different. I wanted to drop a few pounds and improve my fitness, so I signed up for the Great North Run. I would run my first GNR for Cystic Fibrosis. A training plan was drafted based on 2-3 short runs and a longer weekend run of about 8 miles. Training went well but it took about 3 months for my body to adapt to serious training.
I did my first Durham parkrun in April in a time of 00:36:08. Then a friend and member of Elvet Striders suggested I came down to a track session at Maiden Castle which I did, and boy did I enjoy it. This was when I met Michael Littlewood and Allan Rennick. Both guys were so welcoming and encouraged me to stick at it for age was not a barrier but a challenge to be overcome. My first event for the Striders was the 3 Peaks trail race. The team spirit and forthcoming encouragement from fellow striders was overwhelming. I was hooked and signed up to the Durham 10K which I completed in 01:06:38. I remember that night was so hot, and the atmosphere was electric. Meeting Paula Radcliffe was special. Then it was onto the Darlington 10K which I completed in 00:54:24 minutes. Then came the Gateshead 5K which I ran in 00:25:18.
A two week holiday in Kefalonia was followed by the GNR. My family and I took the Striders bus that morning to Newcastle and everybody was buzzing. It was tough. I had set a target time of 2:15:00 and eventually struggled over the line in 02:16:47 which I was happy with considering it was my first attempt. I did the Tynedale Jelly Tea 10 mile in 01:36 and then it was onto the Coxhoe 10K which I finished in a time of 00:53:36. I was feeling good and was getting quicker. I ran the Hamsterly Forest 10K in 00:56:20 and then got my parkrun PB of 00:54:07 in October a whole 12 minutes faster than I had achieved in April. The Autumn saw me compete in the NEHL Wrekenton 6K XC race 00:54:56, the Brampton to Carlisle 10 mile 01:26:05, then the 12K NECC Championships in Alnwick where I got a time of 01:16:04. This was my hardest race in 2019 and took its toll on me. My final race of the season was the Saltwell 10K where I achieved another PB of 00:52:50 compared to my Durham 10K time of 01:06:38.
My targets for 2020: Sub 22 minute 5K Sub 50 minute 10k Sub 2 hour Half Marathon
I have met some wonderfully supportive people during my time as a Strider. I would especially like to thank Alison for making such a great club run leader, Wendy for her positive encouragement on race day, Allan for making me feel so welcome every time I turn out and to Stephen and Michael for being great team captains and for setting an example of how to train and race to success.
So, there I was on Sunday morning, sitting in reception at MC convinced that no-one would turn up. I mean there had been the North Eastern XC Championships the day before, the Tri-club Christmas do the night before and it is the ‘season to be jolly’ … and sometimes ill!
But then the doors opened and in walked an image of long haired hippiedom, (if that’s a word) with beads, scarves and shades, looking like he’d just emerged from the Woodstock festival and uttering ‘peace and love, man’. An unrecognisable version of David Shipman.
Moments later Adam Ant arrived in full highwayman ‘Stand and Deliver’ mode brandishing a pistol – very menacingly I have to say. Anita Clementson had landed!
And then came Mandy! Clutched in the arms of a massive green alien she waddled in. Walking seemed difficult so how she was going to cope with running 2 laps of Houghall Woods escaped me.
Somehow then I knew it was going to be alright!
Then there followed an array of runners in astonishing and funny costumes. John Bisson, who had wanted to race it arrived in a massive inflated Santa costume while Elaine (Dancing Queen) Bisson looked luscious as Agnetha (the blonde?) from Abba.
We had many others – several 70s Flower power hippies, Wonder Woman, Santa’s elves, a busy bee, John McEnroe, Olivia Newton John in complete leather ‘You’re the one that I want’ mode, Hermione from Harry Potter and Fiona (Brittany Spears) Brannan.
No time for a group shot this year since everyone set off to the start outside Houghall College. The weather was good – cold but sunny – and so David Shipman & Mike Bennett (the 2 one lappers) led the run off with scratch runner Joanne Richardson. Some of the paths were slippery along to the corner up to Houghall Lane but everyone knew and ran on the grass where possible. Most people were just out for a relaxing run around the woods but there were some good times.
Anyway, everyone got around – some pulled out after one lap – and Priyan didn’t get lost this year! It was a very happy and fun event and then most of us set off for the pub. The Court Inn gave us a small alcove off the main dining room so we could present the prizes without disturbing other diners too much.
It was a very good and enjoyable day! Be there next year!
Erin Keeler- Clark
Priyan Mistri (friend of FB)
Prize winners & a few thank yous
The prizes for running:
1st finishers – jointly Louise & Jude Warner – 46.19
Fastest Male – Michael Littlewood – 31.34
Fastest Female – Anna Basu – 35.57
Fastest Junior – Lewis Littlewood – 38.38
All the other prizes went for fancy dress as follows and in no particular order:
Shipman, Anita Clementson, Mandy Dawson, Keith Wesson, Sean Laidler,
Elaine Bisson, John Bisson, Lizzie Wallace, Zanna Clay, Phil Todd, Jan
Young, Fiona Brannan, Priyan Mistri & Mark Warner.
I’d like to thank Dougie, Simon and Stuart for helping to promote the event.
thanks to Paul Foster for setting out the course and marshalling at the
dodgy tree, to George Nicholson for marshalling at the bottom of
Houghall Lane and to Nick Latham for marshalling in the woods and taking
some great photos
As always Santa
and his elves were brilliant at the start and judged the fancy dress
and Carole Seheult recorded the finishing times.
And a huge thankyou to everyone who turned up and ran (waddled, strolled?) in such amazing costumes.
Its just after 6:30 on Saturday evening. It’s dark outside, you can hear the wind howling. I’m sitting in a cosy cafe in Ingram next to John Kelly (amongst others!) A beautiful glass 2nd female trophy is on the table in front of me. I’m sipping on hot, sweet, tea and chatting about Nicky Spinks, Jasmyn Paris, TDS, BGR, Grand Round attempts and Spine training. I’m covered in mud, its smeared all over my clothes, across my face, remnants still linger in my eyes occasionally making everything blurry. My hair is windswept and matted with mud and rain. I have an indent on my forehead from where my headtorch has been pressing for the last few hours. I no doubt stink. I’m tired but extremely happy. It’s a deep sense of satisfaction, one that I’ve craved for months now. This is it, this is what I love and this is why I keep returning.
Its Friday night, I’m standing in my bedroom, clothes strewn across the floor. I’m wondering what bag to take and what clothes to wear. I’m not off out for a wild night on the town, I’m preparing for a day on the wildest of Northumberland fells. I seem to have grown horns and quite quickly I get the sense that my family are avoiding me. Occasionally my kids peep in but they rapidly retreat and leave me to it. I go to bed early, hoping to sleep but instead I keeo checking I haven’t missed my alarm. It finally goes off at 2:55. I tiptoe round the house and start my journey at 3:30. Its quiet on the roads until I turn of the A1 towards Ingram. I catch up with a long line of about 10 4x4s, the mountain rescue team on their way to race headquarters before they’re deployed across the fells in the hope they will keep us safe. At the race briefing I stand next to Nicky Spinks. We are to run the route in reverse, the forecast is for extreme weather conditions, winds now of 40mph, gusts of 60mph, increasing all day to reach 80mph. We are to get the higher more isolated terrain over with first.
The wind gets stronger as we climb, the voices of Carol Morgan and Nicky Spinks have long since disappeared. I can just about make out the white trig point of Hedgehope hill. There is a string of lights stretching far across the fells. The sun is rising from its sleep, reluctant to awaken amidst the imminent storm, its colours splash across the sky. The bogs glisten and sparkle as though they are things of wonder. A man, submerged up to his thighs calls for help as another two go to his aid, hauling him from the bog. Our fight against the elements has begun.
The wind strengthens as we climb toward the Cheviot, the fog descends yet despite the ferocious wind, the mountain rescue in red jackets still welcome us and wish us well. It’s hard work running forwards on the slabs to the summit, the wind is blowing us sideways. Reaching the trig I tap it with my hand, I wonder if that’s what everyone does, or do they loop round it or is standing within a metre of it enough?
Then its back the way we came, passing people precariously, neither wanting to leave the safety of the slabs to step into bog. Nicky isn’t far behind, she is the only one not to smile, not to wish me well. I wonder how many metres I can keep up this charade of being first female?
The border ridge is magnificent in its wild windswept beauty. Dropping down beneath the fog the views stretch up to Scotland and over England. Rolling hills for miles around, uninhabited countryside. Isolated. Unforgiving. The ground beneath our feet also wants to reclaim its ownership, to deny the presence of humans. Complacently, I attempt to step on a slab that has sunk deep beneath the bog. The sensation of plunging out of control, sinking into the bog is worse than the drop on Tower of Terror. My breath is taken away as mud splats in my face, eyes, all over my clothes. I have to grab the nearest slab to pull and crawl out. I can’t see properly for miles, bog swimming around my eyes. I have nothing clean to wipe it off and I seem only to make it worse.
17miles, I showed Nicky the way for 17m until that bog unnerved me and slowed my progress. Then she’s past. Max gestures for me to jump on board the ’Nicky train’. I just about keep them in sight until I stop at Blindburn and the Marshalls help me to wash the bog from my eyes and clean up a bit! 5miles of road, I’m loving it,I can actually see again and the smell of tea is keeping me going. I hated this section last year but after my battle with the bog I’m pleased to land on safe hard ground. Its not long when I reach the little stone building. A Marshall giddy as can be says ‘you’re second lady, not far behind Nicky Spinks, you’re doing amazingly, miles in front of everyone’. Now that’s why it’s quieter, I’m doing better than last year, far better. I turn another bend and my eyes lock on Nicky’s, I sense the dread as she spots me. I have to say, that look was the best part of the day. I may not have had a chance of beating her, but I made her wonder whether I could!
I quickly sort my bag. I’m impressed with my own organisation skills , my drop bag is efficient and I spend minutes refuelling. I carry a soup and bread up the hill , not willing to lose any time. Max assures me he’ll catch me up, which he does, very quickly. From here on in the weather worsens and worsens. We form a group of three, Max, Al and I. Perhaps I could have gone faster but I’m not convinced I remember the way and I know there is a huge area of bog not far off. I HATE bogs. What idforgotten was just how much bog. Its never ending, the wind is now shooting rain at us horizontally, the fog has descended again. The ground is treacherous, threatening to swallow us up if we take a wrong step. It seems to go on forever and when I stupidly think we’re nearing the track,I spot a runner in front missing what I thought was the trail and heading straight up over more bog infested land. It’s a place you wouldn’t venture out of choice, there is nothing beautiful about it. Miles of Bogland, like its been a war zone…the front line of a war zone with craters and human traps everywhere.
I cheer myself up with a now frozen Snickers. It’s a pleasant surprise how tasty and easy to swallow a frozen Snickers is!
Reaching the track I virtually jump for joy, then Max does a funny dance and shouts at Al to hurry up. We see him shrink to half his height as he plummits into bog, metres from safety. A three again we’re heartened by the solid ground. 10miles left, seems like loose change. Its relatively more ‘pleasant’ down in the valley, I can actually feel my fingers again and hear.
Darkness falls, I like it. It obscures what is coming and somehow because of the need to concentrate, the miles pass quicker. We’re enjoying ourselves too much that we miss a turn, I quickly notice our mistake and its not too long to backtrack. Only now am I bothered about maintaining my position. I push on, unwilling to allow another female to skip past. At some point I no longer hear their voices or see their torches. I can’t see well or move fast enough, everything is cloaked in a veil of fog. I’m desperate to reach the finish, counting down the miles on my watch, they seem to take forever. Then through a gate I recognise, another, then lights ahead…not of a headtorch but of a building. I pick up speed, I’m so excited, I have a grin from ear to ear. I round the bend up the path and that’s it. Its done.
I’m back into safety, into warmth and comfort and company. My adventure is over, and yet now, I wish it wasn’t….
One hundred and seventy seven runners helped this race celebrate its 60th birthday. The event organised by Blyth Running Club, is an age handicap, oldest off first, which makes for lots of getting caught. We climbed three groynes twice, ducked under a drainage pipe twice, avoided dogs, but couldn’t avoid wet feet in calf deep water channels.
Fiona, Nina & I returned to this race after absences of too long, Conrad is a regular, Tim chose it over the Hobble and Katy made a last minute decision to run, after Dalton Park cancelled.
All agreed it needs to return to Striders’ sprint GP. It was included in the 1990s & so popular, we booked buses.
Female Striders all placed SECOND in their respective age cats.
Inexpensive £6/8, possible entry on day, never cancelled, first three mixed teams & first back in each five year age cat awarded Start Fitness vouchers, all offered SECONDS of tea, mince pies and sherry. Recipe for success.
Results 13th Conrad White 37.15 23rd Nina Mason 39.53 24th Fiona Shenton 43.57 36th Katy Walton 39.29 73rd Jan Young 49.55 140th Tim Matthews 47.32
Being a self confessed parkrun addict there was no fear that a weekend away would not include a parkrun. After a friend visited Whinlatter Forest and relayed its breath taking views to us, it was top of the list for Saturday morning.
We awoke to a beautiful glittering frost, and as any parkrunner knows this means a quick check of the Facebook page to ensure the event is on! Dressed and barcodes at the ready we headed into the forest…
Met by many lovely fellow parkrunners all eager / apprehensive about what awaits, we gathered for the race briefing. A massive shout out to today’s RD Sonia doing her 100th volunteer stint today! After covering all the safety aspects, welcoming all the visitors and a round of applause to the amazing volunteers we were off!
So earlier I mentioned breath taking views! What my friend failed to mention was these are not the only things that take your breath away on this run! Hills (they are our friend), they are famous here at Whinlatter Forest! Officially the UK’s hilliest parkrun but also the most beautiful!
Today was definitely a parkrun first for me and Whinlatter, for that matter, by the presence of a dinosaur! NEVER did I imagine that parkrun would turn into a scene from Jurassic Park! The chirps of all the fellow runners pushing on and looking between the trees to not be beaten or chased down by a dinosaur!! Thankfully we managed to escape the clutches of the T -Rex and thunder down the hill to the finish.
Met by the lovely RD and her team of amazing finish line helpers we had the obligatory selfie in the frame and picture with the parkrun sign (if you don’t do this as a tourist you didn’t attend)!
Refuelling in the on-site cafe we met some other lovely visitors from Druridge Bay, Scunthorpe and Derbyshire.
Thank you making us so welcome, we would welcome you all to our lovely (FLAT) course any time!