Daily Archives: 19th March 2020

A round up from Captain Fiona

Fiona Brannan

Hello all,

It’s been a while, and it may be a while more… You will all have heard to death by now, there’s a bit going on at the moment. As has been communicated already, we will not be organising club activities for the foreseeable future. As a country we have not yet been prevented leaving our houses, but all non-essential travel has been advised against and the situation is serious. Get your fresh air and exercise while we still can, but please remember that we have been sent home for a reason.I’m not sure many, if any of us know where the coming weeks will take us or when normality will resume, but for now it is head down, do what we are told and stay safe. We do have a wonderful connection in the way of technology that can help hugely in times such as this so if you haven’t already, and wish to stay connected with club members please utilise the Facebook page and Strava group. Anybody with an internet connection and a device on which to use it can do this. Virtual connections may become the new normal so please make full use of them, and stay positive while you do so. Team app and the emails associated with it will remain the means of official club correspondence.

In terms of outdoor activities, why not try something new and away from the city streets? Many people run the railway paths but they do extend past Lanchester and Crook! If anyone has any extra time for a drive, head into Weardale and try the Waskerley Way stretch. There are plenty of flat sections (and some good hills too if you look for them). I’ve never encountered people out that way, only pheasants! A fell race recce is often a good few hours spent, there are many in the surrounding area and a tentative question will have any fell runner in the vicinity springing up in seconds (then you have to get rid of them again…). The Weardale way that we know so well in Durham is actually 78 miles long, why not try another stretch of it?

But to further the serious note, that we may be forced into our houses as they have experienced in Italy, Spain and parts of France – consider how we may train in our houses and gardens. It isn’t what we might like, but it may be necessary – and it’s likely that 97% (references not available) of us would benefit from some extra stretching, strength & conditioning or yoga. Get inventive! No weights? No problem! Enlist your children/ pets/ partners/ canned food that everyone seems to be hoarding… And keep us updated! Those with instagram – have a look for ‘#sportividacasa‘ to see how the Italians have been coping!

As always, the one thing that can ALWAYS be done… WRITE YOUR RACE REPORTS! We will all be needing things to read in the coming weeks! Perfect means of ‘social distancing’ – something that we all need to be doing to keep each other safe.

In the final Harrier League of the season runners were treated to a course inside the private Lambton Estate and from all accounts, it was a good one (although there did appear a lengthy thread about horsefly bites soon after. Must be a sign it’s warming up). In the ladies race, it was a sprint finish for Emma Thompson from the fast pack and Nina Mason running from the medium, coming home first and second counters, shortly followed by Susan Davis (also first V60 home) and Wendy Littlewood, having only just decided to run and in her trainers no less! Though this completed the team, Jan Young was also first V65, proving that cross country is not something you grow out of!

In the mens race, Alex Mirley ran strongly from the medium pack to finish 3rd overall and 6th fastest of the day, closely followed by Stephen Jackson in 8th place from the fast pack, posting the 5th fastest of time the day. They were joined by Georgie Hebdon, Stuart Scott, who gained promotion to the medium pack, Michael Littlewood (escaping the fast pack once again!) and Chris Callan to finish an overall 2nd place on the day, and 2nd place in the league, a personal best for the Strider men. Taking home the trophy next year?

As this was the end of the season, one of unprecedented cancellations and postponements, the individual standings are also known and we have some podium finishes; congratulations to Stephen Jackson and Graeme Watt on 3rd place finishes in the senior and veteran male categories respectively. Here’s hoping for a full set of fixtures next year!

On the roads, Corrine Whaling and Anna Basu further showed the value of great training partners to finish 16th and 17th overall, and 3rd and 4th females, Anna taking the 1st V40 prize also. London (October) 2020, watch out!

At the Run Northumberland Big 20 Miler, Stephen clearly wasn’t too tired after the cross country, as he retained his title from the previous year to once again come home in first place.

Now, for the best words (I’m not biased) – to the fells!

Six Striders plus Jan went down for the Bilsdale fell race, a GP fixture and the only ‘AL’(reasonably long and equally hilly) in the North York Moors. Somewhat out of the comfort zone of many in attendance (and on cross country legs from Saturday), to their credit, everybody made it round, and nobody missed any checkpoints! Not to be said for all attendees of the race… Special mention to Nina, for taking a full 17 minutes off her time of last year, despite the mud this time round being 6 inches deeper – how’s that for a PB. Overall we had a 1st, a 4th (and category win), I think the men might have been third team as well, and we all met Nicky Spinks. My claim to fame; she watched me fall waist deep, face first into a bog, I’m sure it was elegantly done though. Thank you also to Jan for marshalling, and I believe the Parson family were out shouting encouragement from somewhere beneath the Wainstones, though it might have been lost in the wind!

Not sure who Nicky Spinks is?


Stay safe, keep running (away from populated areas) while we still can, and most importantly… write your race reports!


‘working from home’
‘hills reps up the stairs’
‘sit ups in the living room’
‘squats with the dog’

(insert as appropriate!)

Fiona and Michael 

Bilsdale Fell Race, North York Moors, Sunday, March 15, 2020

Georgie Hebdon

Striders ready to go.

Ouch, that was a toughy…

After sacking off Manchester Marathon due to a slight Achilles issue in January, I was looking to revise my springtime race calendar once the ankle allowed me to run again. My first port of call is as always, the club GP fixture list, it offers such a diverse range of events I couldn’t recommend it more to any of our new members looking to do something slightly different, chances are there’s always going to be at least one other strider there. Saying that I’m fairly new to the off road stuff, other than the harrier league, I’d ran in a couple of races over the Christmas period and managed to place 8th at Captain Cook’s on New Year’s Day so I was keen to give road racing a break and have a bash at more fell races.

Bilsdale was next on the agenda, £10 entry, 15 miles and just shy of 4000ft of climb. Lovely.

I have absolutely zero knowledge of the North York Moors so when Fiona B suggested a quick trip down for a recce a few weeks before the race I jumped at it, the only problem with this was that it was the day Thornley got cancelled because of Storm Ciara. The wind was absolutely crazy, on the descents you could lean forward and the gusts would hold you up like a scene from a Michael Jackson video, at least it can’t be any worse than this on race day I thought! However, in the time between our recce and race day, the Lambton Estate HL fixture was rescheduled for the Saturday before Bilsdale. This put me in a bit of a predicament knowing how demanding Bilsdale was going to be and given that the men’s team were joint second in Division 1 and with a big turn out there was potential to top the league. I was never in any doubt that I would participle in Lambton but just how hard I would go, maybe I could take it easy for two laps and push on the final? These thoughts rattled round up until about five minute before the gun when I saw Nina just after finishing the ladies race, she was also doing Bilsdale and I think her exact words were, “it’s a different kind of race tomorrow, it’ll be fine”. Needless to say I went hard from the off…

Arriving at Chopgate village hall early on the Sunday morning for registration, everyone was a bit precautious with the handshakes and congregating in close proximity to each other due to the current climate, but everyone seemed to be grateful that this, unlike so many other events was still going ahead. Having had my kit check complete, picked up my number I had a meander round the car park eyeing up the competition; I’d already done my usual cross-check of last years’ results and this years’ participants, followed by a browse on power of 10 and Strava profiles… In the build-up I was quietly confident that if things went well, I could place quite high in the field. What I’ve learnt in my short tenure in fell racing is that things don’t always go the way you plan.

The start is at the bottom of the first climb, quarter of a mile or so on tarmac before turning off onto a trail and up to the first steepish section. I started off in the lead pack of 4, an easy pace compared to what I’m use to but I knew what lay ahead warranted the slower pace, the pack began to spread out by a few yards and I made an error by following the guy in front instead of looking up at the tracks. By going round instead of straight up a climb I lost a bit of time and two guys from Durham Uni passed me by taking the shorter route, I carried on at the easy pace regardless knowing that from CP1 there was a long stretch of downhill that I could open up my legs and try to regain some of that distance. The looped one way system at CP1 allowed a quick thumbs up to both Michael and Barrie before putting my head down and picking the pace up down towards the road crossing, thankfully the wind wasn’t too bad on this section and I started to slowly reel in the two lads in front. They were just starting the climb up the steps from the road as I was crossing it, this is where the efforts from the XC the day before began to make itself known; from the road to CP2 is a continuous climb up and my legs started to feel it big time. I looked at my watch, 5 miles, wow I was in for a long day if I’m hurting already. I plodded on, not really making time on the lads in front and no one had passed me so at least I was breaking even, passing CP2 and heading round towards The Wainstones where I made another bad call on the route.

Tough Going.

During my recce we went straight through the stones and down but pre-race Barrie mentioned there was an easier trail that went round to the left, I did neither and found myself doing a few zigzags/parkour leaps until I found a way out and back onto the route, passing Zoe and the kids spectating. After another climb up to CP3 and the subsequent descent where again, I made another error following the guy in front by bearing left after a gate we started to climb again and when we approached a junction I knew we were in the wrong. I followed the trail on the right to get a better view and down below as expected, I could see a few runners heading towards the scout hut at CP4; I had two options here, either head back to the gate and get on the right route inevitably losing more time or as the crow flies straight down through the bushes, I decided on the latter more fun option. The climb out from CP4 towards the stone seat absolutely killed me, my legs were absolutely screaming by this point and I could have quite happily face planted and slide all the way back down. I opted not pursue with this strategy though and carried on slowly climbing, from the stone seat was pretty uneventful for me heading back down and electing for “the shoot” route towards the stream checkpoint (CP6), from here the route was flagged up to a small road section to keep us pesky runners off someone’s land. This time round the tarmac section seemed so much longer and steeper than what I remembered from our recce.

There was further uncertainty among a few of us on the route to CP7 but no major issues or loss of further time, Jan was marshalling at this checkpoint and she called out I was in 11th, people ahead must have missed this checkpoint as I thought I was further down the pack. Slowly getting to the top of the climb a walker and his grandson stopped to ask me what the race was, welcoming a very quick break for my worn legs I stopped and pretty much had shout over the howling wind for him to hear me. From here it was anyone’s guess at the best route down to CP8, I carried on down the firmer track until I thought it was the best time to veer left through the heather and down to the gate; I’d overshot it by about 200m and ended up on a small track with runners heading towards me, that’s never a good sign but it didn’t look like I had lost too much time by the time I had U-turned at the checkpoint. From here on I was pretty confident of the route and there were no major hiccups in route selection, the biggest challenge now was just getting to the end, I had absolutely no power left in my legs; I’d already had a gel and even tucked into my emergency food supply.

Heading out of Scugdale (CP9) I had a brief chat with another runner who gladly pointed out this was the last climb, once at the top and heading towards CP10 I employed a run/walk strategy with the first signs of cramp in my right quad showing, I didn’t want to push too hard to have to walk the whole way back to Chopgate. The twinges in my quad became slightly more bearable so I gingerly dropped the walk element of the run/walk strategy and plodded on to Cock Howe Cairn, the final check point, I felt a slight wave of relief overcome me as I knew it was all downhill from here. My legs were too far gone by this point to even try and pick up the pace, I had to use all my energy to concentrate where I was putting my feet regardless of hearing the panting of someone behind me, I couldn’t even muster the effort to try and put in a spurt to hold him off and he went flying passed towards the finish. With about 200m to go, from behind, I heard “COME ON GEORGIE!!”, it was Fiona coming in fast and we eventually finished with about 10 seconds between us. She finished first lady, a brilliant performance. I scuttled straight round to my car and chugged a bottle of water and got some warm clothes on before heading into the village hall to have a delightful cheese pasty and piece of red velvet cake to regain some calorific goodness.

Regardless of the pain I was feeling for pretty much 66% of the race, this was a great event in a great location and as long as it doesn’t land on the same weekend as a HL fixture next year I will definitely be back – it has only contributed to my ever growing love for fell racing.