Welcome to the April issue of the Striders’ RUNdown. There have been lots of races this month that you have taken part in including the Manchester and Boston city marathons, speedy 5k road races, trail races and one very long trail race from which our cover photo comes. The cover photo shows Elaine Bisson approaching the Nine Standards Rigg on the SILVA Northern Traverse Race. Congratulations to all of you on your running achievements, which are documented in more detail in the Strider Shout Out. Apologies for any I have missed. As always, do contact me to let me know about your races, adventures or anything running you would like to share.
This month I interviewed Sophie Dennis for the Strider Chat feature. It was really interesting to hear about her running journey. What began as a bet of £50 with her sister for her to run the Great North Run has turned into a love of running which she continues to enjoy. She combines relishing the social element of running with seeing new places and working towards her running goals. She has achieved much both in parkrun and in the city marathon.
With the weather improving I include a recommended local trail route. This route would be suitable for anyone new to trail running, and there are many in the club who know this area of trails well to ask for advice or company.
Finally, I note some upcoming club events. Michael and I look forward to getting club events back in the diary.
Ladies’ Captain and Main Editor of Striders’ RUNdown.
Strider Shout Out!
Therme Manchester Marathon 2022
This is a flat, fast city marathon. It starts at the Old Trafford cricket ground and takes in the finest roads through areas including the city centre, Sale, Stretford, Timperley and Altrincham. The route map details an A-Z of named ‘activity points’ to support you on your way. This year this included the Salvation Army Band, Cheshire Pop Choir, the Conundrum samba band, Sense British Sign Language Choir and the Therme Motivation Station. There is also significant public support around the entire course.
Seven Elvet Striders trained really hard for months for this event, and arrived at Old Trafford cricket ground early on Sunday 3rd April. All ran really well. Kim Bennett completed the distance in 4:08 and came 123rd out of the 411 in her age category. That is an excellent time and position! Graeme Walton paced his run really well with underlying even pacing but with a faster mile every 5 miles, then increasing speed in the last 3 miles. This is an interesting strategy I have not heard of. However, in talking to him it turns out that his marathon was actually a training run and that the increase in speed every fifth mile was part of that! This also explains why his time was 4:04, which is slower than his usual marathon times. That’s a pretty amazing training run, especially as it came after a full week of performing on stage. Mathew Hopper and Andrew Davies both had very fast runs, with a finishing times of 3:51 and 3:55 respectively. James McNaney was done and finished whilst 14,011 people were still running. This is because he finished in 2:38, coming 173rd overall! Anna Basu and Stephen both really deserved an amazing runs given their months of hard training, but injuries got in the way. We wish them both speedy recoveries and better luck next time.
London Landmarks Half Marathon
This is a fun road race through the City of London and Westminster taking in many famous sites. These include St Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin, The Cheese Grater, The Bank of England and Big Ben amongst others. Congratulations to Theresa Rugman-Jones and Alan Scott. They both smashed it, Theresa in 1:57 and Alan in 2:02!
SILVA Northern Traverse
This is a very long way! It is a trail ultra race that mostly follows Alfred Wainwright’s coast to coast route. It starts at St Bees in Cumbria and finishes at Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire. It is all self-navigation. The total distance is 186 miles/300km with 21,325ft/6500m of total elevation! Walkers tend to walk this route in 1-2 weeks. Elaine Bisson ran it in 56 hours and 21 minutes, which is only 2.3 days! Plus she came second female! Just incredible endurance! Our front cover photo of this issue shows Elaine approaching Nine Standards Rigg which is a series of nine stone cairns near the summit of Hartley Fell in the North Pennines. Congratulations Elaine, rest and recover well.
NAV4 Lakes Mountain 40
This is a mountainous fell race in the Lake District involving self-navigation, uncertain weather, 40 miles, lots of elevation (including the fells Helvellyn and High Street) and a crack of dawn get-up for a 6am start. The website states ‘entry only available to competent mountain runners.’ Tricia Everett is one such runner, and took part. She did really well, finishing 3rd female, and enjoyed it too. Well done Tricia!
Trimdon Grange 5k Muddy Roads Trail Race
Sophie Dennis took part in this fun evening race. She ran a great race. Pie and Peas were had by all at the end.
Terry O’Gara Memorial 5k, Newcastle
This 5k is a flat and fast road course around Cobalt Business Park in Newcastle. There was a fierce Striders turn-out, and you all did amazingly well. Michael Dale smashed out a 20:25 time. (Interestingly we have the same half marathon time but he beats me hands down and more over shorter distances). Lindsay McEwan came in at 18:16 and 8th in his age category, Bryan Potts at 16:54, Michael Littlewood in 16:50 and first in his age category, Graeme Watt came 16:30 and 2nd in his age category and Liam Huntington flew round in 15:58 and came 9th overall! Stephen Jackson ran it in 15:14 and came 2nd. These times are especially impressive given some were marathon training at the time and had done other races recently.
Big Flat Runway Races, York.
This is a series of races that took place at the runway at Elvington, York on Sunday 10th April. The former RAF Elvington airfield is now a museum which is used for sports including motor sports and running races. All profits made from these races were donated to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and the DEC Afghanistan Crisis Appeal. Phil Ray attended and ran the 10k race in a very fast time of 36:26.
Durham Dalton Park Easter 5K and 10k, Murton
Alan Beaumont was the sole Strider that took part in the 10k race. It was his first race in two years. Well done Alan.
126th Boston Marathon, USA
Paul Foster, Michael Littlewood, Michael Mason and Corrine Whaling trained consistently hard first to qualify for and then to run the Boston marathon. They all ran very fast times, whether PBs or not. Paul ran a good-for-age time of 03:36, while Michael Littlewood finished in 2:44, Michael Mason in 2:45 and Corrine in 3:15. Well done all of you! We hope you celebrate in style.
Stephen Jackson also deserves a mention. He ran this in a time of 2:28! The Boston marathon website details an elite field which make up the John Hancock Professional Athlete Team. John Hancock are the sponsors for the event. The slowest men in this team, based on their marathon qualifying times, were Joost De Raeymaeker from Belgium and Thomas Chapman from the USA. Both had qualifying times of 2:26. Given that Stephen ran 2:26 in the UK Chester marathon, I am classifying him as a Boston elite! He may be pleased to know that he beat Thomas Chapman who unluckily had a bad run or maybe chose a more relaxed run (bad or relaxed for him!) and finished in 2:43. Michael Littlewood and Michael Mason would have been close behind him and I wonder if they ran with him at any point? It does not look like Joost De Raeymaeker ran. I can only imagine what it must be like to run at the top end of a huge road marathon event. Exciting, strategic and gruelling?
Clumber Park Duathlon, Nottinghamshire
Liam Huntington took part in the sprint distance duathlon at Clumber Park. Clumber Park is a National Trust property with extensive forested grounds with minor roads and maintained trails so lends itself well to this type of event. The sprint distance involved a 5k run followed by a 20k bike ride followed by a 2.5k run. Liam did amazingly coming first and qualified for the European Sprint Distance Duathlon Championships! Tremendous result!
Washington Trail 10k
John Bean, Dan Mitchell and Liz Walsh raced at the Washington Trail 10k organised by Trail Outlaws. This is an urban trail race that follows woodland trails and footpaths along the banks of the River Wear, and close to the James Steel Park, Washington Wetlands Centre and Washington industrial estates. There are hills in places. You all ran really well. John Bean came 14th in his age category and Liz Walsh came 10th in her age category.
Sedgefield Harriers Neptune RelaysCongratulations to you all, you all ran really well. It was lovey to see so many Striders out together at an event. Well done to Team Liam Huntington, Graeme Watt, Bryan Potts and James McNaney who came 4th, and well done to team Emma Thompson, Emma McCabe, Sally Hughes and Nina Bojadzic who came 2nd!
There have been some fantastic parkrun achievements this month. Those I am aware of include Lewis Littlewood running his first sub-20 minute parkrun. He is improving fast. Well done Lewis. Louise Collins ran her 100th parkrun! An awesome achievement. She ran her 100th at Sedgefield parkrun and celebrated afterwards with friends and cake.
parkrun PBs were also ran by Emma McCabe, Sarah Cook, Ptoli Hand, Bryan Potts, Heather Raistrick, Theresa Rugman-Jones and Ian Butler. Fantastic running by Lisa Lumsden who ran a sub-30 minute parkrun and from the photos it looks like she smiled all the way round! James McNaney did it again and came first at the Riverside parkrun on Saturday 23rd April!
Basic Life Support (CPR) Sessions
Finally, a big thank you from the club to Fiona Kinghorn-Jones and to Phil Swinburn and Tim Butler who gave their time to organise and run CPR sessions. This is really appreciated. There is another session running on Wednesday 4th May at 7pm at Maiden Castle and spaces are available, book on Team App if you would like to attend.
The 31st Allendale Challenge
In the last issue of Striders’ RUNdown I interviewed Geoff Davis. He mentioned this was one of his favourite races and he would be running it again this year. I think he mentioned the bogs. I think I mentioned the bogs. Here is my account of what happened.
Knowing navigation for this race might be tricky I opted to do a recce of the Allendale route, a 26 mile route in the North Pennines, earlier this year. Jules Percival has done the race before and kindly came with me. I picked Jules up on a March morning in Durham and we drove up to Allendale Town. It was a dark cloudy day and we arrived in an overcast gloom. We were feeling cheerful though and set off in good spirits. The route follows a minor road out of the town and into nowhere. After an uphill mile or so we left the road and were soon running on the moors. The higher up we got, the less we saw, until we could see very little at all as the fog was all around us. We trogged through a featureless mire of squelchy grass mounds, having to pick our feet up and over each grassy mound. It was slightly energy sapping. We were using map and compass, and GPS. Sometimes the compass was the leader, and sometimes the GPS was the leader and luckily they mostly agreed. We plugged on through what seemed like endless spongy wet stuff surrounded by whiteness for a long time. We did not meet other humans. After that we got into a flooded bog zone where there was a lot of going round, backwards and in circles to find non-sinking stuff to stand on. We were running but it probably looked like a stagger as the ground had a habit of unexpectedly sucking our feet in. It was quite fun. Some of the route follows a fence and we found a bit of firmer ground to reliably remain on to stop. I ate a cheese salad sandwich and Jules had some mini pork pies from her pork pie stash. We remained cheerful but slightly surprised and a bit concerned at the time we had taken to get to where we were, knowing we still had the most navigationally difficult and hardest ground conditions to come. This was to go up and over Killhope Law, through the peat hags. The website describes these as ‘the finest peat hags in Northern England.’ I can’t disagree. I wonder if Ptoli has been to them, as today they would definitely be defined as a wetland habitat. I hoped we wouldn’t meet any inhabitants. After tregging through uphill bog we reached the peat hags. They are big mounds of peat with heather and grass on their tops and slidy sides. It was really eerie and I am glad I was not there on my own as I would have wet my pants.
The dense mist gave these peat hags, and their surrounding ponds with strange weedy plants a spookiness, and there was a stillness as there was no wind. Amazingly whilst clambering around and over them we came across three small bridges made of sandbags. Geoff advises to take a compass bearing before you get to the peat hags. This is a good idea though we found it hard to do as we were often going back and forth round the water features. We were very happy to finally get to the watery summit of Killhope Law! After that the navigation and running were relievingly easy. It was downhill off the moor, onto a track into East Allendale, then the last six miles are on track or footpath. The last three miles were especially fun as we were running in darkness with our head torches on. The last half mile is a very steep down along a minor road into Allendale Town. The run had taken 8.5 hours and our legs ached going down this steep bank after all the ‘up-and-overing’. We were pleased to see the sight of the Stridermobile in the village square, containing dry clothes and a flask of tea. However, the adventure did not end there! The fog was still thick, thick, thick. We set off but 10-20mph was the maximum along the country roads I could drive as I couldn’t see the road and the fog lights made it worse as they just bounced back at me off the fog. I decided to go the shortest route I could to the big roads, the nearest being the A69, which paid off as the fog was much lighter there. I then drove east all the way to the A1 and back south to Durham. It was about 9.30pm when we got home.
The weather on the day of the Allendale Challenge race could not have been more different. Preceding race day we had had a week of dry sunny weather, then a cold snap with snow. On race day there was snow on the tops, bright sunshine and bright blue skies. Visibility was excellent! I saw stuff! Geoff and Susan Davis, Graeme Watt, Penny Browell and myself arrived and met in Allendale Town to take part. Following the recce I was a bit nervous of being lost on my own and I arrived armed with a big bag of map, compass, Jules’ GPS, two head torches with fresh batteries, more than enough clothes for probably a week and a cupboard of food, amongst other kit. However, I didn’t use much of it. I could see! Plus there were people everywhere! It is also a walking challenge and the walkers had been set off two hours earlier. So after some initial miles there were hoards of walkers in groups lining the way. Complete civilisation! Mountain Rescue were also in presence along the course, (and all funds raised by the event are donated to the Mountain rescue service which is great).
It was a very fun race. I enjoyed jumping round the bogs, which had dried up and shrunk significantly since the recce day, and there were actual paths and trods to run on which Jules and I may have been very close to but parallel to. It was a really lovely boost to see Heather and Ian cheering me on at a road crossing, and to be cheered on by Malcolm and Ashley who were walking the route. The peat hags actually looked pretty covered in snow and I ran that part with another lady, plus there were still some walkers there to overtake. The highest point of Killhope Law could be seen ahead and was easy to aim for. The views of the surrounding hills and valleys were beautiful. The long drag at the end of the race was hard going and this is where the race began for me. I had passed 4th and 3rd lady over the moors but did not know how far they were behind me, so the pressure was on and I needed to keep the pace up. Seeing the last miles in the light was interesting to see where I had been in the dark. My legs were spent by the end and the last half mile steeply downhill was extra hard. I was happy to finish 2nd lady and pleased for Penny who came first. Penny deserved that after she missed out on first place last time due to falling and sustaining a head injury. I met Penny at the finish in the village hall. As there were no refreshments or chairs provided due to COVID, we found a café and had hot chocolate plus pots of tea. The café we went to is called The Forge and is in the village square. It is also an art gallery and some of Jules’ sister’s work is in the gallery. The others had also had good races. Graeme Watt flew round ahead of Penny and I, running amazingly fast and came 4th male. Geoff and Susan also did tremendously and both came first in their age categories. I am really glad I experienced this event. I would describe the recce as an adventure and the race as a race. I am now less afraid of bogs.
Strider Chat: An interview with Sophie Dennis
This month I spoke to Sophie Dennis to find out about her running journey.
When did you start running and why?
I started running in 2013. I was feeling quite low at the time and my sister said to me, why don’t you do a challenge to keep your mind occupied? And then a couple of days later she came back with why don’t you do the Great North Run? I was a couch potato at the time, I’d never done any running, so I said no. Then a couple of days later she put a bet down. She said I’ll give you £50 if you do it. My mum was furious. Then we went skiing on holiday with another family and I told my sister I’d take the bet up. She was like, great, I’ll get you under my wing and get you training. We started going to Esh Winning and we did a six mile loop, we started walking it and gradually we put some running into it.
Then I was talking to one of my mum’s friends about parkrun which I had heard of. She looked further into it and got back to me and said, right, Saturday morning, ten to nine, be there. I turned up. There’s a guy at parkrun called Brian Cowell who has just done his 500 parkruns and he saw me running and thought, she’ll never be back to parkrun, and I proved him wrong. Then soon after that I joined the Striders. Then soon after did the Great North Run. My sister was meant to do it with me, but she got injured. My brother-in-law did it but he was miles faster than me, so said, meet you at the finish. So, that was my first half marathon, and I have never looked back. I also raised £1500 for charity, and got the £50 off my sister!
What is your favourite place to run?
I think my favourite place was Loch Ness. I did the Loch Ness Marathon in 2019. And I think that was to do with the scenery, and I had gone up with Alan, Aileen and Debra from the club and we’d made it a good weekend.
So I think it was a combination of the run, the weekend and the scenery. We had drinks on the Friday night, in fact I ended up sleeping at the bottom of the stairs the whole night, then we did the Inverness parkrun on the Saturday, had some evening drinks, then did the Loch Ness Marathon on the Sunday, and then celebrated with some more drinks.
Describe your best race experience so far.
I really enjoyed the Amsterdam Marathon. You started and finished at the Olympic stadium and that was amazing. There were people sitting in the Olympic Stadium cheering you on. Coming down the home straight, that’s got to be up there as one of my best race experiences. The actual race route meant we saw the canal and windmills and the race had a good international feel. I did it with a friend. We knew there was a half marathon on the same day, but we didn’t realise that Jonathan Hamill was also doing it and that he had stayed in the same hotel! We only found out when we got back to club, we must have just missed each other at breakfast!
What is your worst or hardest experience so far during a race or run?
I think, if I remember rightly, this was in 2016, I did the Hardmoors Princess Challenge, which is a 33 mile trail run in the North York Moors. I got more than half way, but I got to Whitby and I was just coming up the steps and I could feel my knee niggling, and it got worse and worse and worse. I should have been timed out, but the organisers were nice, and I should have gone up some more hills, but the organiser said no, you’re going back along the cinder path, which was a much flatter route which we had come up at the start, he said that’s the easiest route for you and your knee. And I walked the last 10 miles to the finish. It was excruciating. I was pleased they let me finish though. When I got to the end though most of the other runners had left, and I was the last one home. My knee took a while to heal after that.
What is your favourite running food or fuel?
Everyone is gobsmacked with me, I turn up for a run and I won’t have had any breakfast. If I am doing a marathon, nine times out of ten I won’t have had any breakfast. Once, half way round the London marathon, my parents were spectating and gave me some Haribos, but normally I don’t have anything. I do eat lots the day before though, pasta etc, and lots the day after.
How do you celebrate after a big race?
After a race I like to go for a nice pint, and a nice burger and chips. I like my John Smiths, but I do like Ales, so Wainwright or Blacksheep. I like local beers too.
What advice would you have for runners?
If you get a niggle, definitely go and see someone straight away, because I’ve left it before hoping it would go away and it didn’t, so no I really recommend seeing someone straight away.
What are your future running goals?
Well I can do 27 minutes for 5k, but never at parkrun, so my goal for this year is to get 27 minutes at parkrun.
Also, I have done 6 marathons, and my goal in the next five years is to do another four, to make it to ten. They don’t have to be in England. I am thinking of Rome. I would quite like to do Paris. I don’t think you need a qualifying time for New York, so I would like to do that one. I have been to New York before and I would be excited to run round there. Also maybe the Berlin marathon. Debra Thompson also wants to do the Berlin marathon so I think we might be that one together. However, Rome is my next goal, I haven’t been to Rome before and I would like to see the sights of Rome.
Thanks Sophie, it was a pleasure to talk with you and very interesting to hear about your running. It is clear you really enjoy running, the social side of running, and embrace a variety of challenges that running gives. The club wishes you all the best with your parkrun goal and with your goal to run ten city marathons.
Local Trail Route: Exploring Hett
This route will be known by many of you. It is really lovely. It is all along tracks or footpaths which are well walked. I recommend using OS map Explorer 305 Bishop Auckland. Here is a rough drawn map of the route marked in red. Parking is along a minor road near Sunderland Bridge (indicated on map below). The route is 6 miles. There are many variations such as going to the oxbow lakes, starting at Shincliffe and going up to High Butterby, looping up to the Willow Miner Woodland Trust or along the river to Tudhoe (variations and extensions are not marked on map below). If you do my route I strongly recommend a detour into Hett to see the village pond with the three geese. It is very pretty. My first visit to Hett was in 2004, and it was unexpected. I was driving on a dark evening in heavy rain along the A167 towards Sunderland Bridge and Durham and saw through the rainy car window a road sign which I thought said “Hell”. So out of curiosity I followed it! It took me to the tiny, hidden and preserved-in-the-past village of Hett.
Note the section of path on the map labelled ‘Michael Dale’s racetrack’. I did a short run with Stuart Scott and Michael Dale a few months ago starting from the Woodlands Trust which went this way. When we got to the top of the steps at High Butterby Farm, Michael shouted, ‘See you later!’ and flew off downhill at a cracking pace! Stuart and I had a job to keep up with him! I was laughing which made it hard to run down the slippery steps, but we caught him up as he stopped at the bottom. He announced it was a Strava segment and he was trying to get the crown!
Upcoming Club Events
We have a lot of club events coming up over the later spring and summer.
For members, we are currently organising the club handicap run which is to be on the evening of Wednesday 11th May. This is a two lap route around Houghall Woods which can be run or raced depending on how you feel. It is a handicap event as people will be set off in groups depending on their parkrun time, with the fastest starting last. It is 50% trail and 50% road, so it has something for everyone. Club events for members over the summer include The Downhill Mile, The Durham Three Peaks Adventure and Allan’s Graded Mile night on the track. These are all great social occasions. Further details will be circulated are on the club Facebook group and Team App.
Our summer race, the Willow Miner Trail Race, will be happening in July. Information about this public event will be posted on the club Facebook page and this website, including details of how to enter. We look forward to welcoming Striders and runners from other clubs at the race.