Welcome to the May issue of Striders’ RUNdown. This month we have a focus on track and field! This is a fantastic summer sport that the club is involved in, mostly through participation in the NEMAA meets. In this issue I explain what NEMAA is and how to get involved, the training provided by the club, what happens at a meet, and try to give a taste through speaking to those in the club that have taken part. This month’s interview is with one of our current track and field captains, Stephanie Barlow, and she tells us how she got into track and field. The first NEMAA track and field meet took place on Monday 16th May, however there are five more this season, so do sign up if this whets your appetite.
We celebrate your achievements in the Strider Shout-out. You have taken part in a wide range of events, which illustrates the diversity of runners in our club. Striders have competed in road, trail and fell races this month, and even a triathlon. There have been many members who have beaten PBs and James McNaney and Nina Bojadzic even got onto the club records with theirs! Penny Browell completed her Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge this month raising much needed funds for the Children of Ukraine.
Our club handicap race and run took place. I hope you had a good evening and are looking forward to the next club event, which is the Durham Three Peaks on Wednesday 5th June. This should be a fun one!
Hope you enjoy this read.
Ladies’ Captain and Main Editor of Striders’ RUNdown.
Sub-editor and Website Publisher: Malcolm Sygrove
Enjoy reading our monthly roundup of Strider achievements here.
Derwentwater Dawdle, Ascent Events Ltd.
Tim Skelton took on this beautiful 24 mile, hilly (4.500ft total elevation) trail run around Derwent Water in the Lake District. Congratulations Tim, this is a tough route! Weather conditions were varied.
Wainstones Marathon, Hardmoors 26.2 series
Well done to Alex Brown who raced in this testing marathon in the North York Moors. Don’t be fooled by the name ‘26.2 series’, as Hardmoors miles are different to statute miles! In statute miles this race was 28 miles, with just a few hills (5,354 ft total elevation!). The weather on the day was warm and sunny, as can be seen in the photo.
Gateshead Half Marathon
Amazing running from a big turn out of Striders at this event. The route takes in some fabulous local highlights including the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Sage Gateshead and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts and ends at Gateshead International Stadium where you finish by running round the track. This road half marathon is a little hilly, so not a PB course. Despite that, race times from you guys were impressive. Well done to Lindsay McEwan (1:24), Allan Renwick (1:26 and 2nd in age category), Ptolemy Hand (1:28), Nina Bojadzic (1:35 and 7th female), Kyle Sunley (1:40), Simon Gardner (1:42), Marc Watson (1:50, a 3 minute PB) and Steve Ellis (2:07 and 8th in his age category).
SILVA Great Lakeland 3 Day Event
Karen Wilson and Susan Scott took part in this exciting trail and fell running event. It involved three days of running in the Lake District and camping overnight. Each morning they were informed where the next camp would be, and they had a choice of three routes to get there! The choices included a shorter ‘café’ route, a ‘long’ route and an ‘expert’ route. It was up to them to navigate themselves along the chosen route. This allowed them to pick and choose distance, elevation and most importantly number of cafés they would like. So they could decide based on weather conditions and how they and the others they ran with were feeling. Karen and Susan report having a fantastic time and getting to visit places in the Lake District she had not been before. Congratulations to both!
Gibside National Trust 10k and Family 1 Mile
A hilly trail run in a local beauty spot; the wonderful Georgian landscaped gardens of Gibside. Congratulations to Mick Davis, Megan Hogan, Louise Barrow and Joanne Richardson who competed in this.
Sunderland City Runs
There were three fantastic road races in Sunderland during the weekend of 7th and 8th May. The Sunderland 5k, 10k and Half Marathon. A huge number of Striders took part, turning Sunderland purple! In the 5k event there was awesome running from Nina Bojadzic getting a PB of 19.26 and coming 9th lady! Also fantastic running and lots of PBs from Anita Wright (26:16), David Cowell (19:01), Mick Davis (20:22), Anna McCleod (22:16), Ptoli Hand (18:07) and Karen Byng (22:13).
In the 10k race flying Striders included Matt Archer (38:03), Alan Beaumont (52:38), Sarah Cook (45:50), Jo Patterson (58:48), Simon Graham (49:47), Aaron White (50:58) and Liz Walsh (50:09).
The half marathon saw outstanding performances from James McNaney (1:16), Graeme Watt (1:18), Bryan Potts (1:19), Lindsay McEwan (1:23), Kyle Sunley (1:37), Corrine Whaling (1:37), Paul Swinburne (1:39), Andrew Davies (1:44), Emma McCabe (1:46), Peter Hart (1:59) and Cal Ibbitson (2:04).
Durham Trail 10 Mile Race, Trail Outlaws
A lovely ten mile run around our local trails. Five of you enjoyed this race which included a run up Whinney Hill, and around Croxdale and Shincliffe paths. Well done to John Bean (1:31), Kyle Sunley (1:32), Oei-chi Basden (1:35), Anthony Paul (1:49) and Peter Bell (2:07).
Hart 5k, ‘Hartlepool Run it’
Dave Forster entered this local 5k race. He said it was friendly with a challenging route, especially running up through the Dene at the end. He enjoyed the buffet afterwards. Well done Dave for coming 4th place!
Pier to Pier Race, Sunderland Strollers
This race took place on a sunny Sunday this May. This is a popular local race, taking in the stunning views of the sea, rocky shores, lighthouses and sandy beaches with the backdrop of arcades, lime kilns, catering outlets, houses and a windmill that make up our characterful urban coastline. Whoop whoop! Didn’t we do well! Graeme Watt finished in 8th position overall! We had the winning ladies team comprising Emma Thompson, Corrine Whaling and Emma McCabe! Brilliant running ladies! And very strong running from everyone else, all 56 of you, including our president Jonathan Hamill. Congratulations to you all, here are just a few of the fabulous photos that capture this event.
Clive Cookson 10k, North Shields Poly Athletics Club
This is a flat and fast two lap 10k race near Whitley Bay on road or gravel paths. Five Striders turned up and all of you did fantastic! Michael Littlewood got a course PB and came second in his age group. Allan Renwick got a course PB and came 5th in his age group. Corrine got a course PB and came 5th in her very busy age group. Karen Byng got a course PB and came second in her age group, and Bryan Potts got a 10k PB of 35:51!
Steelworks Relays, Consett. Blackhill Bounders
This is a relay race, where teams of three compete in a lapped course. Each competitor runs one 2.1 mile lap. It takes place at the former steelworks site in Consett, and the terrain is hilly and running is on footpaths. Michael Littlewood organised teams for this, and there was a fantastic turnout. Despite melting climatic conditions, (my trusty Spanish tutor known as google translate informs me the correct phrase is ‘el clima era muy caluroso y soleado’) you Striders did amazing! Team Liam, Emma T and James Mc came 1st place! Team Graeme Watt, Nina B and Michael came 4th place. However, everyone ran well. A top night.
Run Northumberland Alnwick Castle 10k and 5k
Congratulations to Mick Davis who ran the 10k race and came 16th in a speedy time of 44.49! Whoosh!
Cleveland Sprint Triathlon
Huge congratulations to Anna McCleod who competed in the Cleveland Sprint Triathlon and came 2nd lady! This triathlon started from Stokesley. It involved a 440m swim, 11 mile cycle and 3 mile run.
Club Handicap Race and Run around Houghall
What a lovely club evening this was, with 77 people running and 10 people helping out. Thanks for coming and we hope you enjoyed it. Here are some of the photos that were taken. Thanks to everyone who helped organise it and who helped out on the night including young photographer Master Warner and Oscar Littlewood and Millie for recording results and Alison’s dad for photography. Thanks also to volunteers Nick Latham, Mike Elliot, Jan Young, Lynne Waugh and to everyone else who helped on the night, it could not have gone ahead without you.
There was a great turn-out for a first purple parkrun. It was really fun. This will be repeated at other local parkruns. Look out for dates on our Facebook group and TeamApp.
Wishing you Good luck!
There are quite a few races happening during the last weekend of May, and this issue will have been sent to the web officer Malcolm, before then. So best of luck to everyone competing in the following races:
The Edinburgh Marathon (I know quite a few Striders have entered this), The Helvellyn and Dodds Fell race (a race in our Striders’ Grand Prix series), The Grasmere Gallop (stunning), The Hardmoors 110 (a long way), the Druridge Bay 10k (beautiful sandy beach), Raby Castle 10k (a popular one), and the Whitsun Woodland Trust and Gavin Duffy Memorial Race (another lovely local gander).
Penny’s Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge
First of all, you may not have heard of the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge, so I would like to describe it. It is a linear, 48 mile route over 30 mountain summits (which amounts to 17,000 feet total elevation) in the Lake District, in one! Yes that’s right, in one! For the metric measurers of you this is 77km and 5182m total elevation. The route begins at Pooley Bridge and ends in Wasdale. It was first run by the famous and elite fell runner Joss Naylor. He first ran this in 1990, at the age of 54. Despite being unlucky with the weather (heavy rain and strong winds), he completed it in 11 hrs and 30 minutes, which is extremely fast. Following this, Chris Brasher (also an elite athlete and founder of Brasher boots) offered engraved tops to the first 20 runners to run this route, providing they raised £100 or more for a charity of their choice. By 1997, 17 tops had been claimed so Chris Brasher extended his sponsorship. In 2001, 33 tops had been awarded, and Joss secured on-going sponsorship’s for the tops from Mike Ayres, managing director of his company Precision Pest Management Solutions Ltd.
Penny did this challenge partly as a goal for her 50th birthday, but also to raise money for the appeal ‘Children of Ukraine’ organised by the charity Save the Children (see Penny’s Just Giving Page on www.justgiving.com or www.savethechildren.org if you wish to donate).
It is a fitting challenge to do for one’s 50th year. This is because the challenge is only offered to runners over the age of 50, with set times to achieve based on their age group and gender. The challenge is intended to be a supported run for individuals for safety reasons. You must touch all the summits on the way, which is why many of Penny’s photos show her at summits touching the cairn with a running pole or hand. (Although this type of photo might make it look like a gentle social run in the hills, I can confirm, it was not! These were very short snap-shots in time, and as soon as the photo was taken, Penny was off again at speed!)
The time allowances s for competitors to meet are:
Therefore to complete the challenge Penny’s aim was 14 hours. (Geoff on the other hand, who will be attempting this challenge on his 65th birthday this year has 24 hours, although is likely to do it in less). Penny has been training solid for 6 months plus for this. Her training has involved many long days in the Lake District, lots of them being route recces, and also back-to-back long days. In all weathers. Of course, you can’t bank on good weather on race day, although there was a well planned back up race day if the weather looked to be totally horrendous.
As well as the actual training, this challenge involves a lot of logistics planning. The route is broken down into four legs. Penny had a different navigation and support runners on each leg. The logistics planning involved how to get support runners to the starts and ends of each leg at the right times!
The route in legs and supporters:
Start: on Pooley Bridge GR NY470244
Leg 1: 16 miles and 3,000ft total elevation.
Pooley Bridge to Barton Fell to Arthur’s Pike, Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill, Red Crag, Raven Howe, High Raise, Kidsty Pike, Rampsgill Head, High Street, Thornthwaite Beacon, Stoney Cove Pike, Pike How and Kirkstone Pass.
Nav support: Nick Latham.
Support runners: Stuart Scott, myself and Nina Mason.
Leg 2: 8 miles and 3,000ft total elevation
Red Screes, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Seat Sandal and Dunmail Raise.
Nav support: John Tollitt
Support runners: Stuart Scott and Dawn Hosking (from Durham Fell Runners).
Leg 3: 11 miles and 4,900ft total elevation
Steel Fell, High Raise, Rossett Pike, Bowfell, Esk Pike, Great End, and Sty Head.
Nav support: James Garland.
Support runners: Alex Banks (non-Strider, Penny’s friend). Elaine Bisson.
Leg 4: 13 miles and 5,000ft total elevation
Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar, Scoat Fell, Steeple, Haycock, Seatallan, Middle Fell.
Nav support: Geoff Davis.
Support runners: Alex and Mark Davinson.
Finish: on Greendale Bridge GR NY143056
Saturday 14th May was the day, and Penny did it! She completed the challenge ahead of her target time, finishing in 13 hours and 16 minutes. This is a rapid pace to sustain for such a long way over difficult terrain, up and down huge fells. Amazing lady! Joss Naylor likes to meet people at the end if he can, and he met her at the end to congratulate her. She also raised over £1,000 for the Children of Ukraine. Congratulations Penny!
Account of Penny’s JNLC from a Leg 1 supporter (me)
Pooley Bridge at 5:15am is a still hamlet hidden between a wooded iron age fort and the fronds of the ends of Ullswater. Early morning haze drifts over the water, blurring mountain reflections. The bird song and your footsteps are as loud as the village is quiet. The other Pooley Bridge is at 1pm, when it is a claustrophobic, noisy, grockle-bursting chaos, sweating with tourists, tea-shoppers, campers and traffic. If you know me, you will know which Pooley Bridge I prefer.
Penny’s schedule involved meeting at Pooley Bridge at 5:30am, to be ready for a 6am start. I arrived early, and had some more breakfast whilst waiting for Tom, Penny, Nick, Stuart and Nina. For family reasons I had not stayed overnight, so I got up at 3am and drove over. I had been the only car on the roads and had seen the light change from darkness, to fog over the Pennines, to early grey morning light as I drove across the Vale of Eden. Now, the light was still grey, the sky was white and there was some occasional mist over the fells. As I drank some tea from my flask I heard someone approach stealthily. It was Nina, trying to stay quiet so as not to wake the village. She had slept overnight in her van and was parked just over the way. After some hushed excited greetings, Nina went back to eat some porridge and soon after the others arrived.
The support team for leg one comprised Nick on navigation and Stuart, Nina and myself as mules, support and pacers. This arrangement gives the competitor an optimal chance in their challenge. Nick had done many recces of leg one. Although we had all run this route before, it is the details that matter when competing against the clock, such as which side of a wall to go, which trod to take where there is a similar choice, the easiest route to come off a fell. Nick had done this detailed reconnaissance. He had also produced some beautiful, carry-size, OS maps for us all with the route on, complete with compass bearings from key locations. Nina, myself and Stuart were there as mules, pacers and support. Before we started, Tom dished out parcels of food and drinks to Stuart, Nina and myself to carry for Penny. I viewed myself as a ‘meals on wheels’ service and looked forward to serving light refreshments, helping carry excess clothing if needed and Penny’s poles when she was not using them. The ends of the legs conveniently end at road crossings, and Tom’s role was to be ‘road support’ at each crossing with hot food, drink and changes of clothing and footwear as Penny needed. He would also be collecting and dropping people off as planned on the way to get the different leg support teams to the start of each leg.
We went to the bridge to have a start photo taken by Tom. Then after a few “Good lucks!”, Tom set Penny off with a countdown, and we were promptly on our way at 6am. We would next see Tom at the Kirkstone Pass.
Although Penny was aiming for a completion time of 14 hours she had said she was hoping for a faster leg 1 than the other legs because she rightly pointed out that leg one is the least technical (the least rocky, craggy and scree slope-y), and some of the descents later on might need more time, such as coming off Great Gable and Kirk Fell crags. Penny is a fast runner and having been on a few of her training runs, I knew it was going to be swift! I guessed correctly. It was fast from the off and cobwebs were more ‘blasted off’ than ‘blown away’ as Penny flew up the hill. The plan was for Penny to take on fuel or fluid every 20 minutes. This was of course to avoid ‘crash and burn’ and to help prevent nausea and tummy troubles, which can then prevent the taking on of much needed energy later on. The support was ‘meals on very fast wheels’ as we took turns sprinting ahead to open bottles of mountain fuel or food to give to Penny. Nick’s navigational knowledge was excellent despite mist on the tops. Penny’s pace did not change and the 17 miles to the Kirkstone pass went very quickly! Penny was soon sitting eating hot porridge made by Tom at the first road crossing. She had arrived ahead of schedule. Another team of Joss Naylor Lakeland Challengers had set off half an hour before Penny from Pooley Bridge, aiming for 15 hours. Well, she caught them up at the Kirkstone Pass! Here, Dawn and John were also waiting and ready to support on leg 2.
Penny did not stay long and after a swift stop was soon powering on up Red Screes at the start of leg 2! The path up Red Screes is steep and rocky. I watched them until they disappeared into the mist. It was exciting to be part of Penny’s journey and I wished I could fly along in a silent helicopter supporting all the way, though she probably wouldn’t like that! Penny was wearing a tracker and we had a group chat where people added photos and updates throughout the day. The next best thing was to follow this for the rest of the day, which I did! I really enjoyed being part of Penny’s day and look forward to supporting others in the future.
Penny has also written her own personal account of her achievement, which you can all read on this website here.
NEMAA Track and Field
What is NEMAA and how do I get involved?
Elvet Striders have a history of training for track and field events and competing in the North East Masters Athletics Association (NEMAA) matches. Any club member can take part, provided you are 35 years or older and live or were born in County Durham, Tyne and Wear, Northumberland or Cleveland. It doesn’t matter if you have never done track and field events, or not done it since school, it is all about having fun and giving it a go!
Our club provides introduction and training in track and field events on Monday evenings usually starting in May each year. These are organised by our track and field club captains, currently Mike and Stef Barlow. The NEMAA track and field season takes place over the summer. All the matches take place at Monkton Stadium in Jarrow on Monday evenings.
The first track and field match this year was on 16th May. There are five more meets this year.
The dates for these are:
Match 2 June 6th
Match 3 July 4th
Match 4 July 18th
Match 5 August 1st
Match 6 August 22nd
How do I take part?
To take part you must join NEMAA, which can be done on the, their website.
After joining NEMAA, you then sign up for each meet on their website, which costs £5. Alternatively, you can buy a season pass, which gives you six meetings for the price of five. For each meet, you must choose which events you want to do in advance and book them online. There is no longer any entry on the night. Make sure the times of the events you want to do don’t clash! A timetable for each meet is available on the NEMAA website in advance.
What happens at a match?
At your first meeting of the season you will be given your numbers at registration (one number each for front and back). You must keep these numbers for the whole season, in the same way as the cross country Harrier League.
The events start at 6:00pm so we recommend being there well before then if you need to collect your numbers from registration, and of course to warm up.
You are responsible for getting to the correct start area for your events in good time. However, there is a public address system which will be making announcements to help. If in doubt of where to go, other Striders will be around to help.
The track races are done in heats, with competitors placed in heats according to estimated time. This is to make room on the track. Bear this in mind, especially if you are well ahead of everyone else in your heat! Don’t ease off the gas, because you don’t know how fast the people in the other heats will be running! For the track races your number (not your name) will be called out. This register is just to make sure the correct people are there. For sprint distances (up to 400m) you MUST stay in your lane for the entire race. It’s your choice if you want to do a sprint start or a standing start. The start instructions are “Take your marks”, “Set”, then go on the gun (starting pistol).
For the 800m race there is either a start line where you can break out of your lane as soon as the race has started, or there may be a lane start where you are allowed to break out of your lane after 120m, this point will be marked by a green line across the track. The start instructions for this race are “Take your marks” followed by the gun. There is no “Set” command.
All track races above 800m begin with a start line, so you are not starting in a specific lane.
After you cross the finish line, for all track races, turn round so the time keepers can see your number, however don’t worry as they are likely to remind you if you forget.
Field Events: Jumps and Throws
The timings of these will overlap with track events, but hopefully you have planned it so the specific events you are entered for do not overlap! The announcements will help to alert you to when an event is about to start.
At the start of a field event, there will be an event official, and you must register with them (name, club, number and age category). Then when everyone is registered the event begins. Each person is allowed three jumps or throws to start with. Everyone who meets the standard for that event is allowed three further attempts to beat their distance (if they want to try to beat it). There are different standards for each age category and gender (male/female).
After you have enjoyed your events, soak up the sun, atmosphere and camaraderie with your club mates and eat the cake!
The Lowdown from Striders who have taken part in NEMAA Track and Field
Mark Foster says “I can’t quite put my finger on it but I was fairly sceptical about joining up for NEMAAs when I was initially introduced to the idea a few years ago. Fortunately I try to follow the philosophy of trying something at least once, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ they say, using this theory I decided to give it a go. Thankfully I’ve never looked back and continue to return year on year, barring the Covid years. There is so much to enjoy, the competition, the banter, the camaraderie amongst the Striders contingent and last but not least the cake, just like cross country. I’m now the one trying to influence others to join the fun. I don’t have one particular favourite event as I love the variety of options available for both track and field events. I’ve attempted pretty much all of them, fairly recently making my high jump debut [Editor’s note: club record]. If I had to pick one event then it would have to be the relays, 100m and 400m, that take place at the final fixture of the season. I probably enjoy these most due to the team play element related to this event. In 2019 I was dogged with a number of injuries that restricted me from competing in my then favourite sprinting events. As a result this allowed me to try out other events, specifically the throwing events. The 2019 season ended with a surprise outcome as I picked up the prize of 2019 V40 Throws Champion. NEMAA has also given me the opportunity to join the list of a few on the Striders’ records leaderboard, although James and Graeme put paid to that already this season. I’ll still be hanging on to some though (he laughs). It’s not too late to join this season, we are one fixture down with five more to go. Results from fixture one prove we have a good chance of picking up many more points and achieving top spot. Come on… do it.”
I asked Debra Thompson about the NEMAAs the night after the first meet this season. She said she was “still on a NEMAA high” and said “I think if more people actually experienced NEMAAs they would be hooked, I know I am.”
Jan Ellis says that her favourite aspect of NEMAAs is seeing people from our club coming to give it a go. “Watching their thrills as they achieve their goals, as well as succeeding in events they thought they could no longer do. It’s also about understanding how NEMAA scoring works. It’s about age groups, the same as it works at parkrun or in the club’s Grand Prix. You can come last in your heat but first in your age grade. This puts points on the board. Seeing people return for the following meet is the best feeling. I don’t really have a favourite event, they are all good fun. However, my best event was probably my 400m when Coach Allan was there watching, where I achieved a 1:36 minute time. He was a little impressed, mind you, so was I! The club atmosphere, cookies and cake make it a great evening.”
Rachelle Mason has taken part in quite a few NEMAA meets. She says “the best thing about the NEMAA is the lovely atmosphere both within the Striders group that go to compete and the other athletes that are there. It’s such a friendly and encouraging atmosphere. My favourite event is the 800m and the javelin. I used to do both of these at school. In the 800m you are running a fast pace for two laps, and the lactic acid usually kicks in about 600m! But there’s nothing like running up the home straight with the purple army cheering you on!”
James McNaney tried NEMAAs for the first time at the first meet this season. He says “it’s an adrenaline-fuelled fun adult sports day, certainly worth experiencing if you can. It was very cool watching the different ages across all the different events whilst you waited for your next event. Hammer, javelin, shot put, high jump and 80-year-olds sprinting the 100m in 17 seconds was particularly inspiring! I would strongly recommend participating in one of the sprint events to understand the anxiety of waiting for the gun to go off, that was perhaps the most exciting part.” About the long jump he says “Haven’t done it since school which is exactly the reason I wanted to have a go at it, to relive my youth I suppose. Jumping into a sandpit. What’s more fun than that!” He says “I highly recommend people to choose the maximum of three events to participate in during each meet. Also, not to worry about the so-called ‘pros’ rocking up with starting blocks; they aren’t imperative but I would say a pair of spikes is. Apparently the team relays for the 100m and 400m on the last meet of the season are very entertaining to either watch or be a part of, can’t wait for them!”
Eleven Striders took part in the first meet this season, on Monday 16th May. You all did amazing. Not only that but club records were challenged and created. James McNaney set club records for the 100m and 400m. Graeme Watt beat his previous 3000m time, improving on his third best club record time and also got himself third place for the 400m club record. The ladies created some fast club records for the 3000m. We may also have records to be created for the field events?
What else does NEMAA do?
In addition, NEMAA has a Track and Field Championship which is held on a Saturday in June. They also organise a Pentathlon and 10k Track Championships which are held on a Saturday in late September.
NEMAA also organises masters championships for road, multi-terrain and cross country events. These may be NEMAA races or incorporated within existing races. For example, in the past the Terry O’Gara 5k and Heaton Memorial 10k have been the designated races for the NEMAA 5k and 10k Road Race Championships respectively. Individual NEMAA medals are awarded to the first three finishers in each 5-year age category. There is also an Endurance Grand Prix which runs throughout the year. Points are awarded to the first 6 NEMAA members in each age category in all the Championship races plus the 3k (women), 5k (men) and 10k (all) on the track. You can check your progress on the NEMAA website.
How can I improve my track and field scores?
In addition to attending the Monday track and field training sessions some tips would be as follows. If you are thinking of the track events, improving cardio-vascular fitness is advantageous. This can be done by running, cycling, aerobics classes or anything that gets you really out of breath. Strength training, especially of the core muscles, is helpful for all events. Upper body strength is important for shot put and javelin. However these events require more than just power. Technique is key. Good technique combined with strong legs and a stable core allow you to transfer your body weight and generate good acceleration for a great throw. Practice of all events is really important.
Where can I do track and field if I am less than 35 years old?
The track and field events organised by NECCA are for you. NECCA are the North Eastern Counties Athletics Association. This association is the official body charged with managing county competitions in the various athletics disciplines. The Association also selects teams to represent the county at Inter-County events in track and field, cross country, fell and road running. Their website lists all upcoming competitions with details of how to enter. Please contact our track and field captains Stef and Mike Barlow for support.
Strider Chat: An interview with Stephanie Barlow
It was fantastic to talk to Stef Barlow about her running and to hear about her involvement with track and field.
When did you start running and why?
I started running as a child. At primary school I always enjoyed running around the playground, in P.E, in sports days and other school events. I was quite an active child always doing cartwheels. I just loved to be active and winning at sports day, I was quite a determined child.
At secondary school I enjoyed athletics and cross country. We ran our school cross country from Sherburn and represented the school in country cross country down on the muddy and snowy fields near Maiden Castle. I loved getting muddy, it was the tomboy in me. I was picked for the cross country team and then ran in the district cross country team on a couple of occasions and travelled further afield. I also was keen on the shorter sprinting distances, 200m and 400m were my distance as I was never fast enough in the 100m, but could maintain the pace longer. My main hobby was dancing; I went to dance school 3 nights a week and all day Saturday. At 12 I went along to Chester-le-Street Harriers for a couple of sessions with a friend, but it was on a dancing night, so didn’t stick at it. I never got stronger at running as I did not focus beyond school training on it but always loved it. This continued until I was about 14 and then boys and friends became more important and everything stopped. I would not run in the cross country team and completely gave up dancing.
Despite stopping running and dancing for many years, I always had a pair of trainers and it was something I did now and then. Then the children came along. I had them quite young. I think when my youngest was about 3 years old, I decided to start running again. I was in my late 20’s, I was unfit, I had put on weight due to having two children, a sedentary job and so I was busy and looking after them but not looking after myself. Mike and I were due to get married and I decided to do the Great North Run to get fitter and lose weight. After that I kept it up and did the Great North Run a couple of years in a row. I wanted to get under 2 hours, but I was always just slightly over. One day I was chatting to a colleague who suggested going along to Elvet Striders and said I should speak to a GP Practice Manager called Jane, so I did. I joined the Striders in June 2005 and was running the Great North Run again that September. By just going to the sessions every Wednesday evening in those few months, I managed to run 1.54 in the GNR. I was chuffed to bits taking over 6 minutes off. Then Wednesday nights became my night, the one night to myself, as a busy working mum with kids who had lots of hobbies. It was a small club back then so everyone knew each other, there were no planned sessions and you turned up at Maiden Castle on Wednesday at 7pm and decided what to do there and then. I found a love of racing and signed up to many local events. I first got dragged to Dent in 2006, I’d get to join the ladies in the Lakes, tried Swaledale, lots of 10ks and half marathons. So that’s how I came back into running after doing it as a child. I never won much as a child or adult, I just loved the environment and being outdoors and it’s even better when there are other purple vests there, you feel part of a team.
Where is your favourite place to run?
It’s off road and in the hills (when I am fit enough). I did a lot of road when I first started running but my body gets injured running on roads, so I prefer the hills and trails really, Scotland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, anywhere with beautiful countryside. Just being out in nature makes me happy.
What is one of your best race or running experiences?
It’s hard to say as I have enjoyed so many races, but I think maybe the first off-road race I ever did. This was a trail race with a few ladies from the club, Nina Mason being the only one who is still a Strider, in about 2009 (I don’t keep any race records, the Striders site is where I can check times, dates etc). It was one of the Lakeland Trail races, probably 16 or 18k. I had done the Keswick road half marathon a few times, and had always loved it because of the scenery, but it was amazing to just be on footpaths and on the fells. I loved the experience. There was so much running in the bogs and down the hills and I remember just smiling and laughing
I do like being part of a team, which is why I also loved the relay events that Striders used to organise, and going along to other relays, as well as cross country and track and field. The camaraderie of track and field is exactly the same as at cross country, except unlike cross country you can see everyone all the time as it’s all around the track. You can see everyone throwing and jumping, and like cross country there is cake which is an added benefit; we have some great bakers in the club as well as runners.
Another really memorable race for me has to be the National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill in London. I have done that twice. I did it this year in 2022 and four years ago. It is just brilliant, coming down that hill and seeing the city-scape. You are running with amazing people. It is a privilege to run with really, really good runners and to see all the clubs there from around the country. London is fantastic, but so are all the other cross country national courses. The more mud the better for me.
What is your worst running or race experience?
London marathon in 2013 (laughs). I hated it. It was my 3rd road and last road marathon. I love London as a city though, I am a city person as well as loving the countryside, so it wasn’t that it was a city event. That year I was having a bad time with my back and probably wasn’t doing the core work I needed. I was also busy at work and was driving long distances which didn’t help. I ran Dentdale the month earlier that year and my back didn’t fare well in that, I had to walk a couple of times to loosen it off. The marathon started well. I was running with a friend and fellow Strider, Lindsay Tarn, enjoying it. Randomly we bumped into Alan Smith early on and ran a good few miles with him. My family and friends were out supporting at mile 12 and everything was great, then my back went at 16 miles. I was in pain and very stiff, but I just had to put my mind to it to get round. It was the year of the Boston Marathon bombing on the Monday of that week. I felt I needed to run for those who could not. I was also raising money for St. Cuthbert’s Hospice and a close friend’s mum was in her final weeks of life there so I had all the reasons to continue. I told Lindsay to run ahead, I didn’t want to hold her up and I just tried to keep going. Every mile felt like 10. I had to sit at the side of the road on numerous occasions and give myself a talking to. I was like a tin soldier as my back had impacted my glutes too so was stiff all the way down my posterior chain. When I saw my family at mile 22 I was in tears. I kept thinking do I drop out? But I kept going. I made it, I got round, a lot slower than planned (goal was 4 hours) but not too bad in 4:38. After that though I fell out of love with running for a good while. Psychologically it really damaged me. I had to try other sports and training after that. It was also the race that made me think “no more road running”. To be fair, since then I have gone back and done a few road 10ks and halfs, but off-road is better for me and my body. I am also getting slower with age so it also removes the stress of chasing PBs.
What is your biggest running achievement?
Being part of a team means a lot to me. One year I was awarded the Quaich for cross country. I am not the fastest or strongest but just to be recognised was a big shock. That was an extremely proud moment for me, to be chosen by people I had known for a long time, that I hold in high regard, that they saw me as being part of that, and had noticed how hard I had worked that season, it really meant a lot to me.
I also really enjoy helping others in their achievements, especially my family. I enjoyed supporting Mike (my husband) in the Paris Marathon in 2019. He ran it in 3:12! I used the metro and some running to be able to get to different points around the course to support him throughout the race. I ended up running 10k myself in the end to get to all the points! I am really proud of him and how he did and amazed at his time. I love running with my children too. When my son achieved 1:25 at GNR in his first half marathon, I was amazed. I have a family of talented runners.
How do you celebrate after a big run or race?
I love just reconvening with the people I know who have also run the race, just chatting and meeting up afterwards. Especially if it’s been as a group of Striders, like after the Yomp race. I do like ginger beer straight after a run and always must do some stretching, and if a pint is on offer and salt and vinegar crisps, then it’s a good day.
Tell me about your involvement with track and field
Mike originally joined the club because he loves track and field, so that first session I also went along. My kids were both at uni by then so I had my nights free. I really enjoyed it, going back to what I had enjoyed as a kid. Sprinting on the track and I enjoyed the throwing and jumping. When I joined Lesley and Katy were the Track and Field Captains. I did two seasons and it was great fun. Mike became the Men’s Track and Field Captain. Late 2020 I became Women’s Track and Field Captain as Lesley became busy with studying for a masters degree, so I agreed to take it on. I have been a Track and Field Captain for two seasons. It’s so rewarding seeing new people give it a try and enjoy it as much as I do. I like the fact that you can see everyone all the time and cheer them on and we as a club are tactical, so score lots of points. Geoff D running 3000m in his mudclaws is always a highlight of the season.
What is a NEMAA track and field event like?
The NEMAAs track and field events are old people’s sports day with cake, that’s what it is. It’s something that everyone can try. Sometimes people find something else they are really good at. For example, Rachelle Mason is really strong at the javelin, I think from all her netball. I would encourage anybody to give it a go. There is a wide range of ages from 35, up to people in their 80s. The whole thing is fun, but there are some amazing talents there too.
We started training sessions on Monday evenings this month to help people practise and to learn techniques. You don’t have to be an expert, it is for everyone, anyone who is an EA member with Striders can have a go. If the last time you had done long jump was at school, or if you have never done it, that’s fine as we will show you how.
At the events the marshals are strict for safety reasons. But it is a really nice atmosphere. People from other clubs support each other. There are many people there who are just club runners giving it a try, as opposed to being of elite standard, but as I mentioned there are some elite members too. They have age group categories and this makes it fair. In the past our older club members have scored really well and we came placed as a women’s team in the overall season.
You have to be organised in that you have to sign up and pay in advance, but after that you can turn up to as few or as many as you want. The first NEMAA meet was 16th May, but there are still 5 more to come this season.
What are your running plans for the future?
My plans for myself this year have gone as I have a hamstring injury. So my goal for this year is to help and support my daughter train for the Cheshire Half Marathon, her first half on the same day as the GNR, 11th September. She has recently joined a running club and is getting more into running now. When she was young and dragged along to races and cross country, she always said she would never run but it’s amazing how her mindset has changed. She got herself up to 11 or 12 miles during lock-down, got injured and is continuing to train to build up the miles. I have also signed up to this race but to support her and unlike my son should be able to keep up with her. This will help me get fitter for the cross country season too and maybe some winter challenges.
I am 50 next year so I need to make a decision on what my challenge will be. I did the London marathon for my 40th and I’ve taken part in a few triathlons, so now I’ve got to decide if I want it to be a running challenge or a triathlon, or something different. I have done standard length triathlons and I was thinking about doing a half ironman but I’m not sure if my body is up to it anymore, but I will definitely choose one main event for next year to mark the occasion.
Thanks so much Stef for sharing your running experiences with us. It’s clear you really enjoy running as part of a team whether that be a Strider cross country team, a ‘team’ of Striders that have entered an event together or your own family ‘team’. You are an amazing runner and amazing supporter as well. You are clearly not afraid to try new things! You have tried many types of running and triathlons too. Good luck to your daughter for her Cheshire Half Marathon and all the best for your 50th with whatever you choose. We will be cheering you on.