RUNdown – August 2022


Welcome to the August issue of the Striders’ RUNdown. This has been a very hot month indeed, meaning some races took place in very hot conditions. We have had a great month of Striders runs, racing and social events including David’s night at the Refuse Café in Chester-le-Street, the big Striders’ party at the rugby club and the Striders’ summer picnic. Thanks to all who were involved in organising these events, they were brilliant.

As usual we have a round up of your achievements this month, of which there have been many, including Shaun Roberts experience at the British Transplant Games, a big turn out of Striders at the Darlington 10k road race and Quayside 5k race, and a few of you got completely drenched in the Lakeland 50 and 100 races.

I was delighted to interview George Nicholson for the Strider Chat feature. I was amazed to see him arrive at my house bearing an Olympic torch, and buzzing to have him take my photo holding it! You can read all about his running past and present in this issue.

As August ends we look ahead to Autumn races including the Great North Run, the London Marathon and the next cross country season. Looking forward to supporting you in tarmac, track, mud and hills.

Happy Running,

Tamsin Imber, Ladies’ Captain and writer of Striders’ RUNdown
Malcolm Sygrove, Editor of Striders’ RUNdown and Web Officer

Strider Shout-out

Lakeland 50 and 100

The Lakeland 100 is a circular route taking in a vast expanse of the Lakes, with a total of 6300m of ascent. It starts and finishes at Coniston and is mostly on rocky paths. It starts at 6pm, so you begin by running into the night! There are 14 checkpoints, mostly in village halls to refuel. The website sees this as a continuous run (although it says a short sleep break in the village halls is okay) but there is a 40 hour cut off. This race is hard, as is indicated by the 40-50% drop out rate.

The Lakeland 50 is half of the 100 route, starting at the Dalemain Estate near Ullswater. It has 3100m of ascent in total. It starts at 11:30am and is again seen as a continuous run with a 24 hour cut off.

This year the weather was unfavourable, with continuous heavy rain from start to finish. This made a challenging event even harder as runners get completely soaked which is energy sapping. Also it can lead to foot problems, as Stuart experienced, causing him to have no option but to slow down significantly for the last 20 miles.

Massive congratulations to Stuart Scott (37:35) and Aaron Gourley (35:09) who both successfully completed the 100 mile race. Congratulations also to Jane Dowsett who ran with ex-Strider Kath Dodd and completed the 50 mile event in 21:07. Congratulations to Penny who completed the 50 mile event in 11:48. Congratulations to Eric Green for completing what he did in these testing conditions. You are all amazing!

The SG Petch Darlington 10k

A fast, flat local city road race! There is a big club turnout every year so there is a big competitive field. Elvet Striders did really well and five of you got PBs for this distance. These were David Holcroft (41:50) Ian Butler (44:48), Rory Whaling (37:12, who also came 3rd in his age category), Bryan Potts (35:19, who also came 21st place) and Sam Jackson (33:52, who came 9th and makes his way into 3rd place in the club records). Nina Bojadzic also had a brilliant race coming 17th female and 7th in her category (43:35). Karen Byng did really well coming 4th in her age category. Conrad White ran really well coming 3rd in his age category (with a 77% age grading). Heather Raistrick came 6th in her age category (73% age grading). Kim Bennett came 8th in her age category. Congratulations also to Emma Morris, Geraint Morris, Allan Renwick, Dave Nicholson, Phil Swinburn, Steve Ellis, Kirsty Nelson and Jan Elllis.

Osmotherley Show Fell Race

This is a short fell race (6.4 miles and 1050 feet) attached to Osmotherley Agricultural Show, and is therefore a great day out if you like that kind of thing! The route is on private land so it’s a good opportunity to explore a new area. Striders did really well, with Geoff Davis coming first in his age category, Susan Davis coming 3rd in her category, Emma McCabe coming 4th in her category and Graeme Watt coming 6thth overall. Barrie Kirtley ran really well as did Malcolm Sygrove, and Fiona Brannan gave excellent on the day support.

Souter Lighthouse Trail 10k

This is a beautiful local urban trail race using coastal paths and rough trails. The 10k route starts and ends at Souter lighthouse and goes through Whitburn nature reserves and past Marsden Bay. It is organised by Run Eat Sleep {} in South Shields. Three Striders attended. Georgie Hebdon came second place and Mark Kearney came 4th place. Lynne Waugh also put in a strong run. Well done guys!

Hardmoors Farndale 26.2

Alex Brown continued his participation in the Hardmoors 26.2 series with this tough trail marathon. This took place in the southern North York Moors, starting at Hutton-le-Hole. Well done Alex.

Morpeth Harriers and Athletic Club 10k Road Race

A small yet strong group of you took part in this fast road race. Congratulations to Georgie Hebdon who came 7th! Also, Stephen Soulsby came 5th in his age category, Graeme Watt came 10th and Ian Butler came 11th in his age category. Fantastic running.

Run For All York 10k

This is a road race in the city of York. The route passes past historic landmarks such as the city walls, York Minster and Clifford’s Tower. Mick Davis took part and came 23rd in his age category. Well done!

Quayside 5k

The Quayside 5k was well attended by many clubs including ours, making for a very competitive race. The route speeds along the quayside of the River Tyne to Newcastle Business Park, under the Tyne Bridge, then back across the Millennium Bridge to end at Baltic Square. We had superb performances. Special shout out to new member Anna Linfoot who came 13th female in a time of 18:53, and who gets into the club 5k records! Very fast times from James McNaney (16:36), Sam Jackson (16:18), Graeme Watt (16:53). I would need an electric bike to achieve that.

Very strong times also from Bryan Potts, Georgie Hebdon, Ptoli Hand, Nina Bojadzic (a minute faster than last year), Lindsay McEwan, Matthew Archer, Allan Renwick, Ben Hoare, Simon Gardner and Steven Lonsdale. In the B Wave race we had great times from Mick Davis (10th in age category), Anna Basu (despite injury ran very fast), Andrew Davis (9th in age category), Karen Byng (5th in age category), Kin Bennett (8th in age category), Theresa Rugman-Jones, Heather Raistrick (3rd in age category), Phil Swinburn, Michael Ross and Kirsty Nelson.

Jersey Spartans Battle of Flowers 8k Road Race

Michael, Wendy and Lewis Littlewood enjoyed this race whilst on holiday. Conditions for running were difficult as the temperature was 30 degrees. Despite the heat they did well, Lewis coming 6th in a time of 32:45. Michael ran a good time of 29:28 in the heat and Wendy also had a very strong run (time inaccurate as she stopped to help a member of the public in need).

Run Northumberland Stamfordham 10k

Mark Kearney competed in this fast road race. It was a rural route through Dalton and Dissington with a downhill finish. He ran it in 36:35 and came in third place!

Trail Outlaws Branches and Bays 10k

Another pretty Durham coastal trail route through Hawthorn Dene and Blast Beach. Steep coastal hills are involved. Elvet Striders Sophie Dennis, Lisa Lumsden, Alexandra Butler and John Bean ran this race. They all ran well and John came 13th in his age category and Alexandra came 16th in hers. Thanks to race volunteers including Striders Heather Raistrick, Theresa Rugman-Jones, and Ian Butler.

36th Lowther Lakeland Fell and Trail Race

Nina Mason, Nik Corton, Geoff and Susan Davis and Malcolm Sygrove took part in this beautiful fell and trail race from Lowther castle near Penrith. It was 13 miles and 1400ft total ascent. The route allowed exploration of the Lowther Valley, Heughscar Hill, Cockpit, Heltondale, Knipe Scar and Whale. Some explored the River Lowther in detail given the heatwave. Congratulations to Geoff who won a prize for coming first in his category in a time of 2:03. Congratulations to Susan who came 3rd in her category. Nina Mason did great coming 12th female and Nik also did well, despite struggling with an injury. Malcolm enjoyed the race but succumbed to the heat halfway (but will be back).

Rainton Meadows 5k

This was a fun local 5k race around the paths and ponds in Rainton Meadows. Alex and Lotti Collier took part and did brilliantly, Alex coming first place and Lotti came second female!

Lambton Castle Trail Events 10 Mile Trail Race

Four hardy Striders ran this hilly 10 mile race around the private Lambton Castle estate. Well done to John Bean (1:26), Theresa Rugman-Jones (1:37), Claire Austin (1:57) and Paul Wilkinson (1:57).

Tynedale 10m Jelly Tea Round Race

This is a popular and fast road race organised by the Tynedale Harriers. It starts at Ovingham in Tynedale in Northumberland. As the name suggests, there is jelly at the end! Stephen Soulsby and Phil Ray ran it and did really well given the field. Phil came 15th in a time of 1:01 (second in age category) and Stephen came 36th in a time of 1:07 (first in age category).

Watergate 5k Race

A local fast 5k race organised by Low Fell Running club. It is two laps around Watergate park in Gateshead. Andrew Davis took part and ran a speedy 21:46. Congratulations.

Bellingham Show Fell Race

Emma McCabe, Graeme Watt, Anna Linfoot, Michael, Wendy and Lewis and I attended this ‘fun run’ which was part of the Bellingham Agricultural Show. Emma also entered the chocolate cake and ginger cake competitions. We enjoyed watching the sheep competitions and dog racing. The cake display in the baking marquee was beautiful and I could have lived there for six months. There were also some bespoke displays including a chainsaw line-up. The race was hilarious and involved clambering and wading through a heather forest which was mostly on steep slopes. There were no trods. None of us stayed upright. What’s not to like? Anna zoomed past me mid-race and came first lady. I came third lady. Emma came third in her age group. Wendy, Graeme, Michael and Lewis did brilliantly. A cracking Strider day out.

Grand Tour of Skiddaw Race

Elaine Bisson took on this ultra race, which was a fell-rich, 44 mile round in the Northern Lake District. Congratulations to Elaine for coming sixth place and second lady!

INOV-8 High Cup Nick Fell Race

A beautiful fell race starting and finishing in the stone village of Dufton. The route enjoyed the Eden Valley and High cup Nick. In total, 15km and 450m of elevation. Well done to Lucy Whelan and Tom Hamilton.

Long Yellow Socks Side Door Ultra by Nik Corton

It’s brilliant and inspiring when people create their own challenges. Nik devised a running challenge from his ‘side-door’, which was a 2.6 mile lap of the Aykley Heads meadows. People were welcome to come and run as many or as few laps as they liked, with the luxury of leaving kit and provisions at the start. Thanks for putting this on Nik. Gemma Wandless ran 8 laps of the 2.6 mile course, completing 21 miles. Well done to all who ran.

NEMMA Track and Field Final Fixture of the 2022 Season

NEMAA held their final fixture of the season this month. This included the standard range of track and field events and additionally team relay events. The relays were 4x100m and 4x400m. Mike Barlow has written a great round-up of this fixture, which I include here:

“Well what a fantastic evening at this year’s NEMAA Track & Field finale at Monkton Stadium, one of those evenings that makes you proud to be a Strider. So many notable performances (I’m bound to forget something) and club records being broken and re-broken including Triple Jump club records by Emma McCabe (smashing her previous record) with 7.89 metres and James McNaney with 11.14 metres, absolutely incredible, we had to check them for wings afterwards!

“Nina Bojadzic getting an 800m second fastest time of 2:47.08 and Emma McCabe a whisker behind in 2:47.09 with the 3rd fastest, tremendous stuff, took a while for their trainers to cool down after those blistering performances!

“Alison Smith hoyed/launched a cannonball an absolutely amazing 5.74 metres to get herself on the club record podium with a 3rd furthest, brilliant throwing left one heck of a crater!

“James McNaney, not content with smashing field records, weighed in with a spectacular 200m, beating his own club record with a time of 24.9 and then back to the field for yet another club record of 1.50 in the High Jump! David Milligan fancied a piece of the club record action jumping to a second best (equalling Mark Foster’s jump) of 1.35, superb stuff!

“Club records aside, we saw so many excellent performances and I got my favourite race(s) of the season watching MudMan tearing it up in his Walsh fell-shoes, lining up next to athletes in their fancy-pants track spikes and questionable legality trainers! And leaving them all in his Walshy-wake!

“The highlight of the evening was the relays and yet again they did not disappoint, both 4x400m and 4x100m were absolutely exhilarating, it’s incredible how much passion is generated from both athletes and supporters and as brilliant as the relays were, the moment of the night/season was the entire stadium cheering Sophie Dennis home who ran the final leg for a Heaton Harriers team missing a member, the camaraderie from all teams was a beautiful moment.”

Well done everyone!


Congratulations to Stephen Lumsdon for running his 150th parkrun in the windy wilds of the Falkland Islands. Other parkrun achievements this month I am aware of (but I am sure there are more) are Bryan Potts coming first at Riverside parkrun this month and Sam Jackson coming first at our Durham parkrun.

British Transplant Games, Leeds, July 2022

Shaun Roberts tells us about his experience at the BTG this year.

“Three years and a pandemic after the last British Transplant Games, it was time to meet up again with an amazing bunch of people for a long weekend of sport. All the competitors had recovered from a transplant of some sort, and were taking part in a wide range of events… tennis, golf, bowls, all sorts… and indeed running. Nothing very long distance, to be as inclusive as possible, so the longest event was a 5K, plus a selection of track distances up to the 1500m.

“Started off with some social basketball, which was a great craic – though knackering after 90 minutes. Then two bike events on the Brownlees’ triathlon training loop in North Leeds: the time trial didn’t go well (I didn’t take a pointy hat or a TT bike!), but the race went better, and I came 8th of 22 in the over-50s event. Never pedalled so fast in my life…

“Then the 5K, on a two-lap meandering route near the Royal Armouries. Fast and flat, but the second lap was a challenge, working through all the walkers and fun-runners who were also signed up. Managed to get through, though, finishing in 21:36, and was pretty sure no over-60s were in front… and they weren’t! So Gold Medal for the age group. Result!

“The last day was a full day of track and field events in the JCCS Stadium. In the 1500m, all the over-50s ran together, and I’d planned to follow a faster 50-year-old round to a decent time, but when we set off no one was in front of me, and the whole field seemed strangely distant all the way round! My wife said I had half a lap lead at the finish, which was bizarre, as the last BTG track events had all been very close. Finished in 6:01.7. So another Gold Medal!

“The sports were great… well-organised, friendly, and well-supported. But these games were all about meeting up with people and exchanging stories, some extraordinarily moving. A pleasure to take part in.”

Well done Shaun for taking part and in doing so well! If you would like to read more about Shaun’s experiences at the British Transplant Games in previous years you can do so with this report on the Elvet Striders website

Strider Chat with George Nicholson

I really enjoyed interviewing long-time member George Nicholson. His spirit for life really shines through.

When did you start running and why?

Right, well I suppose why because I had to, but I enjoyed it obviously. Six or seven years old I guess was when I really started running. I know that’s like primary school age and everybody runs, but it was sports days at school. And I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a distance runner, I am rubbish at long distance, so sprints and short distances were always ‘my thing’. We used to do 100 yards, 220 yard races, 80 yd hurdles and so on, and when you say why did I love running, it was because I kept winning these races! I don’t mean that to sound conceited but I used to win them ‘easy peasy’. In those days I actually got paid as well for winning! Yes, the school paid us. My mum was the one who stopped it as she realised that was breaking professionalism rules. I am talking about the early 1960s. I used to earn about £7.50 each year, average wage then was not much over £10 a week. It used to be, I think, 12/6d (62.5p) for a win and 10/- (50p) for 2nd place so I used to do all the races, as well as long jump, high jump, throwing the cricket ball, just to get more money! But it was the winning that really spurred me on. I guess I noticed from playing games like ‘tig’ in the school playground that I was one of the quicker runners, so the natural progression was to continue racing at school.

We did cross-country but it wasn’t serious cross country at primary age. When I was at senior school (Durham School) cross country was far more competitive. I was team Captain but was mostly 4th counter. We did have a good team though. There was one lad who was a few years younger than me in our team, his name was Charlie Spedding, it turned out that he did have a bit of a future ahead of him! I don’t know if you have read his autobiography* but if you read his descriptions of his early days (p. 27) at school he describes those early cross country races at places like Barnard Castle. I was in all of those races. It was unknown that a junior (Charlie Spedding) would come into the senior team, but he was good and we had to pick him because of his talent. He was three years younger than me and he was beating me at cross country! It was a sort of pride thing you know when you’re a 16 or 17 year old being beaten by a 14 year old umm…(he laughs). I am still in regular contact with his elder brother Michael Spedding who currently lives in Paris. We meet up at parkrun whenever he visits Durham. Our school run route was setting off from the school playing fields, past the New Inn, up South Road, past Howlands to what is now the High School, cut left through the woods, and back down Hollingside Lane and back to the playing fields opposite the ‘white gates’ (crossing roads with no marshalls, but there wasn’t as much traffic then), roughly a 3 mile distance. Every time Charlie would overtake me on the long pull up Hollingside Lane by the Botanic gardens. I could always keep him in sight to the finish but never able to beat him. The 100 yards, 220 yards & high hurdles were my favourites. So yes, as a school child and teenager I loved running.

Although I ran, rugby became my main sport. Rugby for me was really an extension of running to be honest. I played on the wing or the centre, which involved lots of short sprints, which I was good at. I played at quite a high level, at 18/19 years playing Club Rugby and continued for over 15 years. I played in the Durham City RFC, and the Hull East Riding of Yorkshire when I was working in Hull for 3 years. Club Rugby then was different to this era. At Durham we had players like Mike Weston (England & a British Lion at fly-half & centre, "Sam" Hodgson (England & British Lions hooker) and John Ranson, (England winger).

That was rugby in those days. So with these players we used to win most of the games we played. I used to pop up on the wing, somebody would give me the ball with 40 or 50 yards to run and I just had to win the race to the try line. I got the glory for the try when everyone else had done the work! (he laughs) To me it was a running game. Most weeks we would be playing against an international player such as the like of Bill Beaumont  or Ian McGeechan, and in my later years Will Carling, Rob Andrew, Rory Underwood. Club rugby was different then, you would turn up and there would be a lad who had been dragged out of the third team the day before and he was playing alongside an international player. (I have to say I was a very unselfish player because if there was a very big guy running head-on to tackle me I always passed the ball quickly and let my team mate take the tackle!) Rugby was played in the winter months and I ran a lot in the summer months to keep my fitness up, and also for enjoyment. I loved running in the hills & countryside, such as the Lake District and I would keep myself really fit. I was one of the few rugby players who believed in running to keep fit. A lot of them did strength work but they didn’t like the running.

I preferred rugby at that time though as I got more pleasure and enjoyment out of it. My best time for 100 yards was 10.2 secs. The world record then was only 9.3 secs, but I soon realised in athletics, yes you could get a good time but there would be many hundred sprinters who were half a yard quicker than you, so I didn’t get the same buzz that I felt I could out of rugby. In rugby I could play against an international most weeks and have a good game. Whereas if you are doing a 100yard race and you’re 5th out of 8 people, you were ‘nowhere’. I joined Sunderland Athletics Club for a very short period, and Gateshead Harriers for a summer season in 1972, but it was different to running clubs as I know them now. My experience was that they tended to focus on the top elites such as Brendan Foster and other top runners.

Then in 1981 the Great North Run came along. I thought, I fancy that. I had been inspired by watching the London Marathon and thought it would be really good for my rugby training. The first Great North Run was going to be on 28th June. I really wanted to do it but the 28th June was also the date of my 12th wedding anniversary! I did still apply however and got a place. My wife, Anne, had encouraged me to do it, she has always been supportive, and as we got nearer the day and I don’t think she had twigged about the exact date, and she said one day, “Oh are you doing that north run?”. “Yeah yeah”, I said, “It’s in about 5 weeks”. Then she said, “Do you fancy doing something on our wedding anniversary?”. I said, “Erm… yes, how about a nice little run out to the beach?”. She goes, “That sounds nice!”. I thought, “Oh well that’s good!”. (he laughs). Then I told her – luckily we are still married.

In the first Great North Run I was very naïve. I ran hard for the first 8 or 9 miles and I was doing about 7min mile pace at that stage and wanted to just hang on to the end. I got to 10 miles in just under 70 minutes, but then the wheels came off. Oh dear, I just deteriorated from that point. I felt desperate. I finished in about 1hr 40mins as my pace had just dropped right off. So next year I thought right, I am going to train properly for the distance, and I did. Since then I have ran the Great North Run every year. However I never ever got under the 1:30 barrier, and that has always bugged me. I am not sure I had the ability to do it. For years I used to stick around 1:35 – 1:37. When I got into my 50s I trained hard for the 1999 Great North Run, I wanted to get sub 1:40 but it was 1:41:06, and I realised then, the 1:40 had become the ‘new barrier’, then over the years the barrier slipped back to 1:45, 1:50. 2hrs… In 2013 when I was 65 yrs old I did 2:02:33 and from then on the decline has been more dramatic. Three hours is my current barrier. Last year I finished in 2 hrs 59mins 59secs. I was however out-sprinted to the finish line by two daffodils. A moment which was shown live on National TV and broadcast to 27 countries around the World (unfortunately) and the clip was also reproduced soon afterwards on Facebook (thank you Malcolm Sygrove for that!). [My pleasure (Editor’s note).]

Still, I have now taken part in every Great North Run, an ‘Ever Present’ as we are called. Many of the other ‘Ever Presents’ are walking the 13.1 miles now. We also meet up on the day before the run for cake and chat. There are about 70 of us so we have our own little club. We have our own logo and our own t-shirts. It’s great fun and very sociable. Our official slogan is ‘Every One Since 81’. This year will be the 41st Great North Run. (It would have been 42 if it had not been for Covid). What is good, is that we get free places and go to the Zone A starting grid at the very front. People say it must be nice starting with the celebs and elite runners, but I say, “No no no, they are lucky to start with us!” (he laughs).

Tell me about your fundraising work for the charity Acorns.

I have fundraised for the last 15 years for the Acorns Children’s Hospice. The reason I support Acorns is that my little granddaughter, Emily, was looked after by them before she died in 2006. She died from a rare degenerative disease, metachromatic leukodystrophy, aged just five. Acorns is the hospice she was in. I felt committed to try and raise money for them and Striders over the years have been wonderful supporters.

I have often dressed up at the Great North Run as part of raising money for charity. I’ve been Bananaman, a clown, twice as a teddy bear – that was hard as the eye holes bounced up and down as I ran making me feel quite freaked out like I was having a psychedelic trip! I sometimes took a collection bucket, and because I get a front zone start I can be one of the first ‘bucket-carrying fancy dressers’ to pass the crowds by Tyne Bridge and so on. Everyone is very generous. A couple of times Jan Young has met me at the 10k mark to collect my full and heavy bucket and hand me an empty one for the remaining 11k. It is also great fun ‘putting the fun into fundraising’ and is a good maxim I keep in mind. I was lucky enough in 2013 to be invited to join Mel C (Sporty Spice) as a member of Team North at that year’s Great North Run for the launch of JUST GIVING TEXT SERVICE. Between us all we raised over £20,000 for charity. There was an article the Northern Echo put out at the time about it and had a picture of Mel C and me. The headline was ‘Sporty Spice meets Old Spice!’

What you tend to find is that it’s now hard to say “sponsor me as I am doing the Great North Run”. You need to do something more alongside it to help raise the money. So I used to do the ‘parkrunathons’, where we ran multiple parkruns in a day. It was Paul Smith (Lord Smythe) who first gave me that idea, he did 11 x 5k routes in a day! I latched onto this concept of parkrunathon and the first one I did on my own was down in Birmingham as that where Acorns is based. I had this idea, I would do a parkrunathon down in the West Midlands, centred around the three Acorn hospices. I didn’t know anybody down there, just put my intentions on Facebook with my schedule. I turned up at each venue and 20 or more people turned up out of nowhere to do it with me. I made a lot of friends that day. We also raised a lot of money… 8 x 5k seemed a realistic goal for the majority of people so that’s why I chose 8, plus a short run to make it up to a proper 26.2 miles marathon distance. The local parkrun volunteers turned out as well to marshal and replicate the start and finish for me. The following year we hired a coach and we got 50-60 people involved. We raised £6,000 one year, but on average I raised about £2000 to £2500 from each parkrunathon and I organised a parkrunathon for 7 years.

Other years we did netball competitions. Didn’t have a clue how to play (he laughs). No idea. We had a Strider team including Jacquie Robson as ‘expert ‘coach, and many Striders joined in the fun. The guys hadn’t a clue how to play either, but several of our Strider Ladies had played previously. Sam Brown also got involved. She was the Sunderland parkrun Run Director and a qualified netball coach. She provided wonderful support for me and helped me get a netball competition going. She also ran the 2012 GNR with me. I had played basketball before but I couldn’t get over this idea of not running with the ball. We got a BBC team, and Sunderland parkrunners team to enter. There were also some league teams from ‘Back2Netball’. We lost several games but managed to beat the BBC Ladies team, all of whom had played before. They could never beat us, much to the annoyance of Hannah Bayman & Katie Gornall, and they couldn’t understand why. But it was mainly because I had drafted in a couple of ‘ringers’ who were good netballers and said they were Striders! (he laughs) They were netball mixed team players who were looking for an extra game, so we got them to wear a Striders top for our games. We had these netball competitions for three years, and with 200+ people turning up on the day and we raised a lot of money. So for about 8-9 years I organised different charity fund raising events in conjunction with my Great North Run.

Where is your favourite place to run?

It depends on my mood. I love running on my own in Scotland in the hills and in the Lake District. Haweswater is my favourite lake to run around. I used to run up the Rigg and onto High Street and come back down via Kidsty Pike, or if it was poor visibility, misty weather I just ran the 12 mile circular route round Haweswater. I just enjoy running with no pressure. If we were on holiday in Wales or Scotland and I saw a hill, I would want to run to the top of it. I did try a few fell races but they are for folk in a different ‘league’ to me.

What are some memorable race experiences?

My mum lived on the Isle of Coll, which is one of the Inner Hebrides in Scotland. They had a cross country race every year. The island is fairly featureless, no big hills, and only has a population of 120 people. The annual island race was only 3.5 miles from one end of the island to the other, but it was over really rough and boggy terrain. I turned up to run it in 1972. At the time I was a Gateshead Harrier and they all wondered who I was. It was a good distance for me. We were driven to the other side of the island and you had to run back to the ‘town’ centre where the finish was. The route was hard to work out as there were no paths. But I had figured out then that the family who had won it for the past two generations were local farmers. There was a big lad with ginger hair who was from this family and was the favourite to win it that year. My mum pointed him out and said he had won it for the past four years. So I thought he must know the way, and decided to just stick with him. I thought he won’t be a good runner… he was smoking, he was tall, ‘beefy’ and obviously very strong, I thought I’ll keep with him okay. But oh no, he set off like a hare and I found it hard to keep up, I saw him jump every now and then and could not understand why. But then I found out why as I went crashing down into a ditch. I kept close to him though, and we eventually got to 200m or so from the finish line which was a lovely downhill tarmac finish, and yeah, easy peasy at that point, and I caught him before the finishing line. £10 more prize money!! He took it well, and I was knackered.

So the next year, I turned up again. They were like laughing, “oh he’s here again”. Most of them didn’t look fast but that ginger lad was also there again. Another fit looking guy lad turned up who was on holiday. He was a pro-am footballer from Stirling Football Club and he fancied his chances. He said he was good at this distance (modestly!). He said, “What’s this about the course not really being much of a course?” I said, “Well, follow the lad with the ginger hair that’s the only advice I would give you”. He said, “Oh, I can outpace him”. I said again, “Follow the lad with the ginger hair, don’t go off in the lead”. There seemed also to be this vague change of route. The ‘starter’ said to keep to the left of the pond near to the finish, or at least I thought he said that, but it was fairly rough dialogue and I wasn’t sure. I didn’t remember going round a pond the previous year so I was a bit confused. Also, instead of starting in a group we were assembled in a long line. So we all set off and I was soon running behind the ginger lad and the footballer who fancied his chances. I kept saying to him, “I’m telling you, don’t go ahead of him, don’t go ahead of him.” We got well into the race and I realised we had gone a different way to the previous year, and I could see the aforementioned pond. The ginger lad slowed, dramatically slowed, so the footballer went past him and started to run to the left of the pond as he thought he had been told. Ginger lad went to the right of the pond though, so I followed him. We went up a small hill, and I’m looking down to my left and see the footballer up to his waist in bog! (he laughs) Ginger lad took us a higher level way on dry ground and we got to the tarmac again near the finish. He was ‘history at that point’ and it was another easy peasy sprint to the finish line for me. Puffing and panting, the footballer came in third place. He said, “But they said left at the pond.” I replied to him “But I said, follow the lad with the ginger hair!”

I once did the Half Yomp race from Kirkby Stephen. I had no maps, compass, nothing to guide me other than a vague idea what the course was. It was a lovely hot day and I set off on my own – it wasn’t a group start, you just time-clipped your race number.. I had no idea of pace. I followed some people ahead, and I felt I knew in my mind which way I was going. There was no route map and the course was not marked. I knew I had to go left at some point and at the top of the first hill, cross a road, and carry on up to the Nine Standards (standing stones) and go back down to Kirby Stephen.. I met one marshal who pointed me in the right direction. I saw some walkers ahead who had set off in an earlier ‘walkers wave’. I ran about another mile and suddenly the mist came down… and I thought “Oh, shine! Oh dear! I am on a bleak moorland, with no-one around me, in the mist!” But you do have an inkling of the land around you, so I continued in the direction I reckoned I should be going in. After a while I could see ‘people’ and I thought “Thank goodness, I’ll catch up and ask them”. But when I got nearer they looked big, and I mean really big… well, it was the standing stones themselves, wasn’t it! I hadn’t actually been to the Nine Standard stones before but there was quite a few of them so I thought that it’s gotta be them. There was no-one else there, but there was a checkpoint. I looked at the paths leading down, I knew I had to go downhill from there back to Kirkby Stephen and I found a good path that went, I hoped, in the right direction, I ran down it, then within about 300-400m the mist cleared and I was back in bright sunshine. I had a lovely long run downhill and of course I could see Kirkby Stephen itself by then. I ran fast all the way down, and was pleased to finish in 4th place when all the times were collated!

What are your best race experiences?

Of course the Great North Run has always been special to me. Even though I say I hate the distance I do love the occasion. I suppose this run rates as number one for me. I feel great pride each time I finish a Great North Run, as it is ‘another one done’. I know I will be chuffed to bits to finish it again this year.

Another good race experience was the Morpeth to Newcastle Road Race (at the time it was the oldest road running event in the UK and traditionally held on New Year’s Day). So I ran it on the 1st Jan 2000, the start of the new millennium. I finished in 1hr 46mins for 14.1 miles. I have enjoyed lots and lots of other races over the years with Elvet Striders, such as the Brass Monkey, Brampton to Carlisle, Coastal Run, Pier2Pier etc. etc. I have really enjoyed the social side and had some wonderful times with lovely people. You get into little battles in your own ‘bubble’ in a race, it doesn’t matter what the lads and lasses at the front are doing, 5 minute miles paces or whatever, you are in your ‘bubble’ and you have fun racing within you ‘group’.

What has been your worst race experience?

My worst race experience is the London Marathon in 2011. I got to mile 22 and I thought, ”I don’t feel well, I feel sick, dizzy”. I was in fancy dress at the time dressed as Buzz Lightyear. It had been a cold winter and I had trained hard through the winter. I had done some really long runs. However marathon day itself was boiling hot and I was not used to it. I drank plenty. But at mile 15 I was dehydrated but I struggled to drink anything! At mile 22 I got terrible cramp. I went into the St. John ambulance tent, told them I was starting to get horrendous cramp, I sat in the chair and just keeled over. I fainted I guess. Next thing I knew I was on a stretcher, being loaded in an ambulance and taken to hospital. They had taken my race number off me to see my details and medical information. (I am digressing a bit, but that’s why when people talk about number swapping I am really against that. It really is important that the number on your chest is YOU if you collapse). They said they had picked up an irregular heartbeat and wouldn’t let me run on. I asked to walk the rest but they wouldn’t allow me. I was taken to the hospital and the ‘check in ‘ nurse said, “Right, do we call you George or Buzz?” (he laughs) The hospital was full that day, including good runners. I was in a bed next to a three hour marathoner. He said he had never known heat like it. He said he had run the Manchester in 3.15 two months earlier, but today had crashed out at Tower Bridge.

Since then my heart condition deteriorated and I had numerous check ups and tests . In 2013 I had to be fitted with a heart pace maker that has really impacted on my running and I cannot run hard or far anymore. Nowadays whilst doing a parkrun I will have to stop and walk 10 or 15 times during the 5k run as I feel completely breathless. However, I do feel blessed I can run at all, albeit slowly.

What are your proudest running moments?

Probably my proudest race time was 10.2 seconds for 100m when I was 18 years old. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I do now.

Also, I got a second place in the 120 yards hurdles in the Northumberland and Durham championships when I was 19 years old. The only lad that beat me was from Northumberland, so technically I was the top hurdler in County Durham that year. When I look now at my age grade then, it was a 90%+. I feel quite proud of that.

Apart from that my other proudest moments are seeing my grand-kids do well. My grandson Oscar first did a parkrun with me when he was 6 years old. He is now 21 years old and running sub-20 minutes and is now pushing on towards sub-19. My grandson Jasper is also a good runner, he is a good sprinter, and both of them have joined Aberdeen AC.

Elvet Striders nominated me to be an Olympic Torch Bearer because of the Great North Runs and for the fundraising I had done for charity. I carried the torch for 300m in Stocksfield (you couldn’t choose where you ran) and I got huge support from Striders. A wonderful experience. There were about 40 Striders there, some did a run first and then came and lined the route. It was a huge honour.

What is your running like now?

I still love parkrun. I love the Cotsford Fields parkrun at Horden as it is quite low key with a small turnout.

I really enjoy the NEMAAs. I won a little cup at the NEMAAs 3 years ago, for getting most ‘Strider points’ that year. For instance, I got 18 points from triple jump, high jump and long jump. I only just got the triple jump as I couldn’t remember the hop, step and jump sequence… I just couldn’t get it right! So red flag twice, but managed it third go and got 6 points because I was the only over 70-year-old doing it (he laughs). I managed 1 metre at the high jump, after three goes… got another 6 points, the long jump was easier. You just have to try to get into the sandpit without hitting the board. Some of the guys my age didn’t make it into the sand pit. So that’s how I amassed my points! Not through any great athletic prowess, more through strategic picking of events! Not a great athletic feat I have to admit but a lot of fun.

What I like about the NEMAAs now is that not many over-70s turn up. There is one ‘young’ lad, Ian Richardson, who will always beat me but I can often get second place in my age category, but also just get beaten by a lovely 82-year-old lady, Kathleen Stewart, who is actually the top sprinter for her age in the country! When you go onto the Power of 10 she has been, and still is, ranked number 1 in the UK at several events. She runs for North Shields.

What advice would you have for other runners?

Run how you feel you want to run. Run to keep enjoying it and this will keep you motivated. I was told at rugby I was uncoachable, because I do what I want to do when I feel like it. I could never have stuck to someone else’s plan. I suppose that was never going to make me an Olympic athlete, but I have been able to enjoy and keep running for many years.

You really don’t have to worry about losing. There is always another race. Just don’t give up.

Learn to pace yourself. So whatever the distance, listen to your body and stick to your ‘pace plan’.

I have done 415 parkruns and I’ll be there next week. My mantra is “You don’t stop running when you get old, you get old when you stop running”.

I’ve learnt now to just keep to low level stuff, like parkrun, the competitive races are not for me anymore, sadly… well that is until next Monday night when I’m doing the 100m in the NEMAA track league!

Further reading

*Chapter 3, Spedding, C. 2009. ‘From Last to First. A long distance runner’s journey from failure to success.’ Aurum Press Ltd.

George’s positivity and strength in times of adversity following the death of his granddaughter and his own illness won him a ‘Spirit of South Tyneside award’ in 2005. He won a BUPA Great North Run Award for his strength over adversity when he was unwell. Despite numerous operations and complications (he was in hospital 15 times) he never missed a Great North Run. Shaun Roberts included this piece for the Elvet Striders website in 2011.

George was also interviewed by Sarah Kelly on ITV in 2010.

Shaun also wrote a piece about the Olympic Torch Relay Social Run in 2012 for the club website, and you can also read George’s own report of his parkrunathon in 2013

Up and Coming Races

Good luck to George and all Striders running in the Great North Run on Sunday 11th September.

Good luck to everyone who is in training for city marathons on the 2nd October (London, Chester and Kielder marathons!) and in the York marathon on 16th October.

The cross country season begins soon! The dates for this season are:

24/09/22 – Wrekenton.
09/10/22 – Druridge Bay.
29/10/22 – Lambton Estate.
26/11/22 – Aykley Heads.
07/01/23 – Temple Park (Sherman Cup & Davison Shield).
11/02/23 – Thornley Hall Farm.
10/12/22 – North Eastern Cross Country Championships.
04/03/23 – Alnwick Castle.

The Striders’ RUNdown celebrates its 1st Birthday

The September issue of Striders RUNdown will be the 12th issue, thus RUNdown will soon be one year old. This I feel is a good time to take stock and reflect.

The idea of writing a club newsletter came to me this time last year, just before I became Ladies’ Captain. My aim was to create a newsletter that celebrates the achievements of the members of our club, of all members, of all abilities, of old and of new members. My hope was also to be a source of communication within the club. I decided on a format which I have pretty much stuck to which was an introduction, followed by the Shout-Out, an interview and then a third feature of which I have included various items and focuses. I have never wished it to be so long as to be unruly. Up until now, because I have not asked for contributions I have not had any contributions, other than a feature on Winter safety offered by Stuart Scott, and Shaun’s experience at the British Transport Games within this issue. Both were valuable additions so thank you. I have however approached people for the interviews. Thanks so much to the 12 of you that agreed to this so far, it has been genuinely really interesting to know about your running. You are all amazing.

I have sometimes commented that people are welcome to contact me to let me know of their achievements for inclusion in the Shout-out but I have discovered you are a very modest bunch, as no-one has!

Malcolm Sygrove has been a fantastic editor and web publisher of the RUNdown. He reads through my work meticulously and has a good attention to detail. I would like to thank him for all his hard work. [The hard work is mostly Tamsin’s – Ed.]

Moving forwards, it would be a joy for me to continue to write the RUNdown. However, I would like to welcome constructive suggestions for improvements as I want this to be your newsletter. I also now actively welcome contributions. Thanks so much for reading Striders’ RUNdown.

(Visited 371 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.