RUNdown – January 2022


This month Mike Hughes is on the front cover in respect and remembrance. A passionate runner, long-time member of our club, husband of Heather and father of Sally, also a club member. He is sadly missed and our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Welcome to this month’s edition of Striders’ RUNdown. I hope you all had a nice Christmas break with some running, it seems a while ago now. January has bumbled along with white skies leaking cold pattering rain. Striders have kept running through, and hot showers and tea may have been gladfully taken by many.

This month Elaine Bisson completed The Montane Spine Race! This incredible achievement has to be mentioned first. Congratulations Elaine you are truly amazing! This is a no frills, hardcore adventure and endurance race. I, along with many others, watched her tracker on the map and the video of the amazing moment she finished. Here own account of this epic achievement is at Montane Spine Race 2022.

There have been a few other winter races to quicken our paces, not least the Brass Monkey Half Marathon road race and Thornley Hall Farm NEHL cross-country fixture, and I write about these in the Striders’ Shout-out. This month we hear from Anna Basu in our Strider Chat feature. Anna’s passion for running shines through as she recalls her experiences. If anyone is looking for some winter reading to cosy up with, you might try ‘Redemption’ by John McAvoy. I give you a taster in this month’s book review.

Finally, I have had many reports of painted Strider stones being found on the footpaths and running routes of Durham. Some have even been found on Striders’ doorsteps! Does anyone know anything about this? Very mysterious!

Happy Running,

From Tamsin

Ladies’ Captain and Main Editor of Striders’ RUNdown.

Strider Shout-out!

The Montane Spine Race 2022, Starting Sunday 9th January

The Spine Race is a winter traverse of Britain’s oldest national trail, the Pennine Way. The Pennine Way starts at Edale in Derbyshire and continues north over the boggy Pennines to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It is 268 miles. Walkers usually take 2-3 weeks, and usually do it in the summer. The Pennine Way is extremely exposed and bleak in parts. A winter attempt is a big undertaking as you are likely to encounter strong winds, cold temperatures, rain, snow and difficult conditions underfoot. Navigation in areas which are so featureless in the dark is a challenge. For reasons of safety and sensibility anyone wanting to attempt the Spine Race must apply, and entrants accepted are only those who have had sufficient winter hill running and navigating experience. Proper kit is mandatory, and the kit list is extensive. Although there are check points the race is otherwise unsupported. For this reason, competitors must carry necessary survival equipment which includes sleeping bag, sleeping mat, survival bag, stove, full first aid, sufficient water and food and a lot of high-quality winter clothing and waterproofs. Having talked to Stuart Scott, this adds up to quite a weight to carry. Stuart was training with a 10kg bag, so that his 8kg spine bag would feel lighter. Which brings us onto the training. Months of training is involved, running in challenging terrain and weather, and lots of strength and conditioning work. As the distance is so far there is also sleep deprivation to deal with. This race is a huge undertaking with significant physical and mental challenge. The mental challenge may be the hardest aspect.

Damian Hall states:

‘Think about how you’ll train mentally for the Spine. Above all else, it’s your mind that’ll get you to Kirk Yetholm’.

We all send our heartiest congratulations to Elaine on firstly completing the thing, and then on coming second female! What an achievement! We also send our condolences to Stuart in getting ill just before the race. However, I am in no doubt there are very big things to come for him in the future.

Thornley Hall Farm Cross-country, Saturday 8th January

The penultimate fixture of the cross-country NEHL 21/22. This it was a fun social day out with running and cake. Also, both women’s and men’s teams did really well. The women’s team are now in fourth position in the first division and the men’s team are in sixth place in division one. Brilliant running everyone, well done! I include my account of this race later in this issue.

Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York, Sunday 16th January

This extremely popular half marathon was attended by a coach-load of Elvet Striders. It is a very friendly, well organised event with a high turnout of club runners. The weather on the day was good for running: cool but not freezing cold. The course is along mostly closed minor roads, and heads out into the flat countryside to the southwest of York, including through the village of Appleton Roebuck, and back. It was lovely to see people in the village supporting at the end of their driveways. Although many people were running for times, the field did spread out giving room to run. Also, they had incorporated an extra-large start-zone for covid reasons so there was less crowding at the start. Everyone ran really well and many Striders got PBs!

Firstly, I want to congratulate Nina Bojadzic who got a well deserved PB of 01:30:45. Her determination, talent and committed training is showing. She is going from strength to strength. Heather Raistrick did really really well, coming 16th in her age category which is impressive given the field. Massive congratulations to Alan Smith on yet another very strong performance coming 9th in his age category. Kim Bennett did fantastic coming 23rd in her age category, as did Theresa Rugman-Jones coming 24th in her age category, Sue Gardham coming 33rd in her age category, Catherine Scott coming 29th in her age category, and Ian Butler did fantastic coming 30th in his age category.

Anna Basu and Corrine Whaling also got amazing times of 1.28. Really big congratulations to them, their training is showing, and deserved PBs for both ladies. Another excellent time came from Marc Watson, who was aiming for 2 hours but got 1:52 and said he felt comfortable and really enjoyed it! There was also incredible blistering running from Graeme Watt (1:13), James McNaney (1:14), Michael Littlewood (1:17), Georgie Hebdon (1:18), Lindsay McEwan (1:20), Allan Renwick (1:22), Rory Whaling (1:23), Ben Hoare (1:23), Stephen Soulsby (1.:23) and Alex Collier (1:29). Well done, your consistent training is showing. Kyle Sunley zoomed round in 1:33. Lotti Collier also ran really well, getting a substantial sub-two time despite it being only her second half marathon. She seems a natural runner and is improving. There was also really good running from Wendy Littlewood, Anna McLeod, Jo Robertson, Emma McCabe, Matthew Archer (completed as a social run), Michael Dale, Craig Thornton and Andrew Davies. Karen Byng and myself came 11th in our respective age categories. Tim Mathews also got a sub-two time despite normally doing really long iron-man events where he did once tell me the running is done slower (not sure I believe him now). I expect he could have carried on and done another 12 laps or something.

Birtley Cross-country Relays, Sunday 16th January

Some Striders attended the Birtley cross country relays. Thank-you to Jan Young for organising this. This was a team event. Teams consisted of three people. It was a lapped course around fields. Strong running was seen from Jan Young, Penny Browell and Alexandra Butler. Well done guys!

Red January Challenge

Lisa Lumsden decided to do the RED (run every day) in January challenge. This is harder than it might sound as 31 days is a long time with no recovery days. It’s not quite the end of January as I write this, however knowing her determination she will complete this unless injury or illness get in the way. Well done Lisa!

And Coming Soon…

Nothern Cross Country Championships, Saturday 29th January

Elvet Striders will be taking strong men’s and women’s teams to this annual event, at Pontefract Park. Best of luck to all involved.

Druridge Bay Half Marathon, Sunday 30th January

Andrew Davis will be the solo Strider enjoying this scenic coastal half marathon organised by Wild Deer Events. Good luck Andrew!

My apologies if I have missed anyone or any events. Do contact me about your races in February to ensure its inclusion in the Striders’ RUNdown.

Book Review: ‘Redemption. From Iron bars to Ironman’ by John McAvoy

Here is an extract from the book to give you a flavour. John McAvoy describes his finish of the London-Brighton ultramarathon.

‘…We almost sprinted the last 3km-number 76 had won! I congratulated her as we breasted the line on Brighton beach, squeezing her hand before we parted. For me it had been perfect. I established heartfelt communication with another human being. My wrist monitor told me I completed the course in just over 12 hours… The change from running to walking, on the pavement, brought home the full physical reality of what I had done. My body seized up, back like an ironing board, buttocks like boulders…

…Mum opened the door, horrified at my dishevelled state. She threw her arm around my shoulders and led me into the lounge, where I flopped on the sofa. …sleep overcame me.

The next day, they took me back to prison.’

This book tells the true story of John McAvoy. John McAvoy was brought up in a world of organised crime and ended up himself an armed robber. He became one of Britain’s most wanted men. After two episodes in prison and the death of a close friend he fought to change his path. He discovered a natural talent for endurance sport whilst in the gym in Belmarsh high security wing and broke three world rowing records whilst in jail. Since he has been released he has become one of the UK’s leading Ironman triathletes. For me, this book was a fascinating and frightening insight into the world of organised crime and the reality of life in prison. It also demonstrates the power of sport for salvation and illustrates the lottery of our birth and impact of this on our destiny. A brilliant read.

Strider Chat with Anna Basu

I really enjoyed hearing about Anna Basu’s running journey. Here are her answers to my questions.

When did you start running and why?

I was attending a leadership course about 8 years ago as part of my research training. I discovered that every single person attending the course was doing some form of sport, apart from me. I realised that if these people of all ages, shapes and sizes could do it, I could do it too and I probably should. So I did! I chose running because my husband Jan was already into running, so it made sense.

Where is your favourite place to run?

I actually love some of the routes around Houghall and Maiden Castle and Low Burnhall. Running by a river is always lovely. The Durham coast is one of the most scenic places to run – my sister who lives in London came up and ran it with me once, and was in awe. Also, anywhere with sculptures or anything else I can photograph!!!

Describe your best race experience so far.

This has got to be London marathon 2021. Everything just lined up perfectly – the training, the weather, the plan, the atmosphere, the support, the company. Corrine and I basically ran it together and had a whale of a time. You can choose not to believe it but we were laughing and chatting quite a bit of the way and we still blasted out pbs – I knocked 27 minutes off my previous marathon time to finish in 3h 12. It was so perfect I don’t quite want to do London again just yet – though hopefully I’ll be back again one day.

What is your hardest or worst experience during a race?

I’ve had a few interestingly bad races over the years. Probably my first GNR was my most spectacularly bad one – I ran it with my husband who was clearly in better shape than me, as we had agreed a pace and then he set off at a somewhat more impressive pace. I did my best to keep up but ended up blacking out three times. I was revived on one occasion by a first aider who (genuinely) helpfully poured bottles of discarded water over me and who was very alarmed when I started drinking from one of them (‘you can’t do that, you don’t know where it’s been!!!’). Things then got more surreal when the first aider realised that Jan was his GP… anyway I was suitably revived and able to complete the course, personally accompanied by a GP (Jan) who had graciously given up all chances of personal glory in order to get his wife over the finish line… I could go on but maybe that’s enough about racing that didn’t go to plan…

What is your favourite running food or fuel?

Anyone who knows me knows that jelly babies are my most longstanding lifeline. Kendal mint cake gels are a close second – thanks to Corrine for the introduction to those.

How do you celebrate after a big race?

I eat a nice meal with family or running friends, analyse every moment of the race until everyone around has lost the will to live, then go home and fall asleep on the sofa.

What three pieces of advice would you give to someone trying for a PB in a marathon?

  • Based on relatively limited experience but reasonable success I would say:
  • Increase your mileage, but to something you can cope with, without breaking
  • Include long intervals at marathon race pace or faster into your training
  • Do regular strength and conditioning and consider incorporating some weights, under supervision. I never thought I would manage to lift weights and by the standards of many people, I still can’t!! But what I am doing now is progress for me…

What are your future running goals?

My main goal is to be able to enjoy running for years and years to come. But I haven’t quite given up on race goals, though age grading will be an increasingly important factor as the 50 year mark looms. This year a marathon major (I still wonder if I can knock a few more minutes off my marathon time!!!), maybe next year an ultra… let’s see…

Thanks so much Anna. We wish you all the best with your running.

Thornley Cross-country Fixture, 2022

Here is my account of the event. I hope you will enjoy reliving the mud or reading about mud if you were not there.

Georgie turned the car into the green field at Thornley Hall Farm. We were early so the cars had yet to churn up the mud and the long grass gave his car an audible underbrush. ‘We’ were Georgie, Emma, Corrine and myself. Getting out of the car we were greeted by a fresh wind. Corrine had bought her fluffy hot water bottle with her and it was no hardship to carry it for her as she had her hands full helping Georgie carry the tent. I stuffed it down the front of my coat. We trudged to the muddy tent zone and were lucky to claim the last bit of flat land which was between two other tents. Problem was, there were three very large cow pats on this bit of ground. The cows were clearly full of vitality and well fed. Whilst Georgie examined the tent pump, I got a stick hoping to be able to flick each cow pat in one frozen lump to the side. Problem was that the cow pats were only semi-frozen, so the cow pat broke up into little lumps emitting a powerful smell. I abandoned that idea and instead, once the tent was erect, we managed to position it to narrowly avoid the cow pats. It then started to rain so we put our bags inside, and Emma and I went for a gentle recce of the course to examine ground conditions and warm up at the same time.

We ran across lumpy semi-soft and semi-hard muddy ground and up the bank alongside the trees. As we got to the top of the first hill, I sighted the herd of cows standing in a corner of an adjacent field next to a huge pile of steaming manure. They smiled, looking very pleased with themselves. I ignored them. We carried on and found a fence across the course set up as a jump for us! Great! Down the steep hill through the trees we saw a very large puddle below (lake according to Emma), but unfortunately the course did not go through it. At the bottom of the hill there were areas of deep mud. It was hard to decide whether to wear spikes or trail shoes as the ground was frozen in places and soft and muddy in others. I think there was no best decision that day. I decided to stay in trail shoes only as I feel more confident in them. Noting the time we headed back to the tent to get our warm kit off ready for the start.

It was a lively crowd at the start. Maybe this was due to the milder conditions compared to Aykley Heads? Although the wind was chilly, once you got moving about you got warm. I didn’t feel I would need the hat and gloves I had brought so I left them on a fence post to collect afterwards. Soon the slow pack were lining up ready to go. They sprung off the start-line and Nina M and I cheered them on their way, then leapt under the tape to get a good place on the start line. We were the only two medium pack runners that day. The two minutes waiting to set off felt a lot shorter. Nina and I wished each other good luck, the whistle blew and we were off.

The first bit was terrible underfoot! Really rutted ground which was hard in places and soft in others, plus runners everywhere making for limited choice of where to put your feet. The first hill up towards the tent area did not give relief ground-condition-wise and I staggered up. At the top I found a group of woman right in front of me so I headed for a gap at the side and then made use of the downhill to get past them. I now had more space and it was a bit firmer up the next hill which helped. Then it was the squishy-splodge along the top to jump the fence. Looking at the photos afterwards there were people who did spectacular jumping! I admit that I and the runners nearby clambered over. Maybe they need a tunnel or something that has ‘short person advantage’ as well. It was fun having obstacles though.

Then followed the swift fly down the bank through the trees, onto the muddy plodge round the grassy fields. I slid about on some blocks of ice in the big puddle at one of the field entrances but somehow managed to stay upright. Around the fields I realised I was overdressed. The air temperature was deceptively warm compared to the cold wind, which was now inviting. My long-sleeved top was underneath the Strider’s vest so it was a jigsaw to take it off from underneath, whilst running and trying for it not to pull my glasses off. After various states of having one bare arm, the other arm bare, then have it hanging round my neck I got it off and threw it to the side to collect afterwards.

Soon we were running along the top of the turnip field and I kept to the edge where there was a bit of turnip-grip. The main ‘path’ was ideal for spikes I thought as it was firmer mud with a looser top-slide, especially on the downhill, but of course I was not wearing these. Then it was back though the energy-sapping trenchy ground onto lap two.

On lap two, after the jump, my lungs did not seem to want to go harder but my legs did. Bizarre, its usually the other way round and it felt odd. I got a bit anxious about this and being anxious when running always gives me a stitch. I tried to distract myself with other thoughts and focussed on trying to catch up Rachelle and Emma who I could now see in the distance and after a bit the stitch went. Back up the skiddy double bank and onto the parsnip field I told myself to keep the push on. The cheers of spectators at the finish helped spur me on to put in the last effort I had in the tank. This time I was determined not to be pipped by anyone two metres from the finish as had happened at Lambton so I checked about for any sudden bursts by other runners, but none came.

It was a relief to stop. Then came that sudden ‘head buzz’ feeling due to stopping suddenly as I caught my breath. As I re-normalised, I felt a sense of achievement as on reflection, that was hard! It was good to celebrate everyone’s efforts with group hugs with the other Strider woman as we all finished.

Aside note: Further adjectives that can be used to describe Thornley mud: squishy, quaggy, slippy, firm, formless, malleable, sloppy, streaming, creamy, doughy, gluey, cold, wet, icy, cumbrous, continuous, substantial, brown, frozen, lumpy.

Stridermobile Mark 2

With the first Stridermobile at the scrapyard after 12½ years and 144,000 miles of existence, I would like to introduce Stridermobile mark 2. It had its first race presence at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon. I hope it gives me many years of service.


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