Hello and welcome to the December issue of Striders’ RUNdown. I hope you all had a peaceful Christmas and were able to get some running in. Taking a look back over this month we have had some fantastic December races and running achievements as summarised in the Strider Shout-Out. Just a reminder that anyone is welcome to write a race report or report on anything running they do, we would love to hear about it from you, so really don’t be shy. Use this page to submit your report, or just email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month Georgie Hebdon talked to me about his running, and you can read this interview in the Strider Chat. George is an excellent runner who has run for most of his life. He does well at all distances, and in all disciplines of running. He especially enjoys cross country and relished being one of our cross country captains last year.
Finally, I have invented a quiz (ho ho ho). I hope it will help beat any post-holiday blues. If not, I hope you can get on a run soon to banish them.
All the best with your running in 2023.
Tamsin Imber (writer and main editor of Striders’ RUNdown)
Malcolm Sygrove (website publisher and sub-editor of Striders’ RUNdown)
62nd Blyth Sands Race
This is a 5 mile age handicap race along the beach at Blyth. A strong group of striders turned up to face the elements. The elements included a biting cold wind, flying sea foam, some rain, soggy sand and groynes to hurdle. It was a fresh race. The mince pies and tea at the end were well earned. Lots of prizes were up for grabs and Striders got third team prize. Graeme Watt and myself also got prizes for being first in our age categories. A fun way to begin winter.
Hardmoors Roseberry Topping Marathon (30 miles) and Half-marathon (15 miles)
Alex Brown enjoyed this snowy marathon! He has now completed all seven marathons in the Hardmoors 26.2 series (note that most of them are more than 26.2 miles). Congratulations Alex! John Bisson and James Garland also ran this race. They both had a strong run James finishing in 18th place, and John finishing in 22nd place.
Croft Race Circuit 5km, organised by Darlington Harriers and Athletics Club
Well done Bryan Potts who knocked out another speedy run at this race! Coming 14th place in a flying time of 16:53.
Stuart and Susan’s Backyard Ultra
This adventurous couple hosted another backyard ultra from their garage this December. Starting at 7am, ending at 7pm, run as many laps as you like, each one starting on the hour. Some people ran many laps and others turned up for a social one or two. This is always a lovely social occasion, a great way of doing a long run if you need some miles and a nice one for the winter where you can leave food and hot drinks in the garage to consume as and when you need. Striders that took part this year included Geoff Davis, Nina Mason, The Scotts, Buddy the dog, Louise Collins, Graeme Watt, Camilla, Michael Dale amongst others.
The Montane Cheviot Goat Ultra 2022
This is a challenging 55 mile ultra in the Cheviot fells and bogs. Participants must be competent runners and navigators as the weather can be extreme at this time of year and as for part of the time they will be running in the dark given the short days. Tricia Everett and Georgie Hebdon took part. They both trained for many months beforehand. As you will see in the Strider Chat Georgie ended up training for several years as the race was cancelled in 2020 due to covid and then in 2021 due to storm Arwen. Stuart and Elaine ran it unsupported/outside the race in 2021 and met treacherous conditions (see Stuart’s guidance on winter safety in Striders RUNdown December 2021). Anyhow, this year it went ahead. Tricia did absolutely amazingly coming 7th lady, and she was high up in the field for the whole way round more or less in Nicky Spinks’ tail wind. Georgie had a really strong run despite battling injuries in the lead up to the race. Congratulations both! Tricia’s own account of the race can be read here.
Penny and Tom’s Wainwright Challenge
Penny Browell and Tom Reeves took on a personal challenge of completing all 214 Wainwrights in 2022. They did it across different weekends and whenever they could escape to the Lake District. They did it! Here is a photo of them on their final summit, a fell called Binsey. Well done Penny and Tom, awesome challenge.
Run Durham Dalton Park Winter 10k
This fast road race starts and finishes at the Dalton Park retail outlet in Murton. It was organised by Run Nation. David Holcroft whizzed round coming 9th place and Andrew Davis sped round coming 26th place, well done guys!
North Eastern Counties Athletic Association (NECAA) 116th Annual Cross-country Championships
This took place at Temple Park in South Shields this year. It was a biting cold day. We are talking -4 degrees! There was a thick frost on the pavements and the ground was frozen making a lot of the course a little slippy. The course is fairly flat with a few small hillocks. It was mainly the frozen puddles and surfaces making it a bit tricky. A small group of Striders attended including new member Fatima who ran really well for her first ever cross-country race. Other Striders there were Nina Mason, Oei-Chi, Fiona Shenton, myself, Jan Young (brilliant to see her running again!), Michael Mason, Graeme Watt, Michael Littlewood, Lindsay McEwan, Steven Lonsdale, Nick Latham and Ian Butler. The race had all the usual camaraderie seen at the Harrier League and was a fun occasion. Unlike the Harrier League there was a mass start for each race. Although the title of the event is a bit daunting it really is open to all abilities and I would encourage others to give this race and other non-Harrier League races a try. The men’s and women’s teams both came 13th place.
12th Tour de Helvellyn by NAV4 Adventure
This is a race in the Lake District organised by the fabulous NAV4 Adventure team. The usual race is a 38 mile loop from Askham, however given the bad weather it was shortened to 26 miles this year. Therefore the route was a there and back trail race from Askham, missing out the more fell section of the route, as this was covered with thick ice following the week of very cold weather we had.
Four Striders took part, including Elaine Bisson, Aaron Gourley, Geoff Davis and myself. Susan Davis came for support and also ran part of the Ullswater way during the race. Given the cold weather there was still a lot of ice on the route we actually rac, and conditions definitely called for winter weather gear! Most people wore nanospikes or chains on their shoes, or shoes with inbuilt nanospikes. Elaine did amazing and came 2nd lady! Huge congratulations Elaine.
Chopwell Woods Winter Trails 8 Mile Race
A delightful woody run through the trees in Chopwell woods was enjoyed by John Bean and Alexandra Butler. Well done to John for coming 8th in his age category and to Alexandra for coming 10th in her age category.
Ronnie Walker Saltwell 10k Road Race
This is a lapped course around Saltwell park and nearby closed roads in Gateshead. It is organised by the Saltwell Harriers. Six flying Striders took part. Mark Kearney and James McNaney did the whole thing at sub-6 minute miles! Michael Littlewood, Andrew Davis and Lynne Waugh also stormed round. Fiona Shenton did amazing, running 52.49 and coming 3rd in her age category.
Guisborough Woods Fell Race
This was a muddy and very hilly three lap route (5.5 miles in total) around Guisborough Woods. A hardy group of Striders went including Nick Latham, Penny, Nina Mason, Jan Young and Sarah Cook. Well done Strider ladies for being the winning ladies team! Well done Penny, Nina and Jan for winning age category prizes.
Northern Navigators Boxing Day Charity Score Orienteering
A fun orienteering run was had in the University estates land. The aim was to visit as many controls as possible in one hour! Several Striders and Strider families took part including The Scotts, The McEwans, The Maattas, Heather Raistrick, Tim Matthews and Jan Young (sorry if I have missed anyone).
We have seen some spectacular parkrun achievements this month, with Mike Elliot running his 500th parkrun, Alan Smith his 400th, and Ian Butler his 50th parkrun.
Strider Chat: Interview with Georgie Hebdon
Georgie tells us about his running as follows. Thanks so much Georgie, and really well done with your running.
When did you start running and why?
Running has always been part of my life, I’ve always been a runner in some form or another; I grew up in Lanchester so I was always close to the lines where my mam would run and I would join her on the bike. When I was 5 or 6 I did the Lanchester Boys Brigade fun runs in 1994, 1995 and 1996 and got medals for them, I quite liked that. I always ran throughout primary school, I did quite well at cross country events that were run locally.
I competed at the Durham schools county cross country at Meadowfield Sports Centre which went up round the fields behind the sports centre; in year 5 I came third in the competition. I was always a keen runner and enjoyed the racing aspect of it but then I got more interested in football and did this throughout secondary school.
I took part in county cross country competitions every now and then though, which used to start at the rugby club and follow a similar route to the current parkrun route, but I never took it too seriously. When we did cross country in PE at school, it would start at the school (Framwellgate School Durham), and then go to and round The Carrs, well we used to set off but then just go to the shops, then come back! The teachers didn’t run with us so they never knew. Fram back then didn’t have fences around it; there was one time my friend stole his dad’s cigars, we went up and sat on the wall outside the library in Newton Hall and smoked the cigars in our PE uniforms.
After I left school I kind of toyed with the idea of running. I signed up to do the Great North Run in 2006, but I just didn’t do it. I don’t know why I didn’t do it even though I “trained” for it. I used to run from Lanchester to Durham and then go for a swim, then get the bus back but I never really took it seriously. At that age I was more interested in going out.
I went to University in Leeds and there was an inter-departmental football league and I played for my department which was Mechanical Engineering where I played centre-half, I played for a couple of years so was relatively fit, I enjoyed the camaraderie of the team and the competition. Then one morning I just decided to go for a run, I remember vividly the morning I just got up and I had a pair of trainers there so I went for a run. I don’t remember what socks I had on but I remember getting really bad blisters off this one run. So that was it, I was like right I need to get some proper socks and proper running trainers; I dropped the football as I started running again. It started from there and I kept it up and then did the 2013 Great North Run, I finished in 1:29. That was just off running on my own, no specific training, just going out running, I knew I had to do some longer runs, but that was the extent of my running knowledge. In my fourth year, when I did my masters there was a couple of guys who I joined with sometimes. They used to go to the gym then go for a run, but I was already quicker than them so I used to leave them anyway after the gym.
In 2014 I moved to London and kept the running up because it was a really good opportunity to see the city. I was living in Camberwell which is just touth of the Oval cricket ground. So I used to run to the river there, do the bridges, Hyde Park and things like that. It was a good chance to see the city instead of getting the tube everywhere. At the time I was working at Heathrow airport at British Airways Engineering, their site is east of the Airport so there were a couple of times I took my running kit and ran back from work to home. I think it was about 14 miles in total depending on the route, as I was just guessing the way I was going. The guy I was living with was a friend I had been at uni with and he was fairly into sport, mainly cricket and sometimes ran. We decided to do a marathon for no apparent reason, we were looking into UK marathons but weren’t many that tickled our interest. As I was working for British Airways I got cheap flights, also marathons abroad were cheaper so we decided to sign up for the Barcelona marathon. Barcelona is a spring marathon, I think March or April so I then set up my training plan. I knew I needed a long run on a Sunday, near where I lived there was a nice hill route, so I also did that once a week. So that’s when I started to think about actual specific training.
That training went fine, I was running 3-4 times a week; on the day, I ran the marathon in 3:09, that was my first marathon. It was horrible. There were hills, people say it is flat, but it was not! I remember at the end there was just this long drag and I got cramp on this drag and had to stop. The crowds were shouting encouragement at me, so I hobbled on. When I got to the top of this drag I heard Will’s parents shouting out my name and the boost I got from that helped me to get to the finish. Will and I celebrated with a bottle of warm champagne and then hit all the tapas bars with our medals on. Both of us were absolutely knackered and had all this dry crusty salt on our faces. We must have looked a right state.
I got a place in the London Marathon which was four weeks later, I managed to get a place as my Auntie worked for Virgin Money at the time. I actually did it in near enough the same time, only 30-40 seconds difference. I was a bit relaxed with my training in that four weeks!
After a couple of years Will and I decided to do another marathon and we decided on another one abroad, we picked the Milan marathon. The small print said we needed medical insurance or some sort of health check. We found this was going to be quite expensive, we’d have to go private and pay for a medical clearance note. We then found out that if we joined England Athletics we would be covered, and if we joined a club we would be signed up to EA. So Will joined the Dulwich club down in London, but I had moved back up to the Northeast, I’d emailed Elvet Striders, Durham City Harriers and Birtley Athletics Club, and the only person that responded was Karen Byng who was membership secretary at the time. Karen was a big help and so I joined Striders. Initially I only joined as I needed to be a member of EA so I didn’t join in club activities as I wanted to focus on the Milan marathon. The training for Milan was hard as it was the year of the ‘beast from the east’ and I remember training along the lines in all the snow. I suffer from migraines now and then and I came down with one the day before the marathon. I was sick the day before whilst waiting for my flight from Heathrow. But I still set off with Will to Milan and I felt a bit better on the day so decided to do it. I ended up doing it in exactly the same time as the Barcelona and London ones, 3:09. So that’s three marathons with the same time! Will improved his time a little bit if I remember correctly. There weren’t many spectators apart from at the start and finish and the actual route was a bit boring. It does a few convoluted loops around the city centre, then goes really far out. I remember running along through an outer suburb and seeing the sign Milano with the two red lines crossing it, and I thought god we are just going into the depths here! Some of the roads weren’t even closed to traffic. It was tough and I found it a slog at the end. However to counter that, they played the national anthem at the start which made a great atmosphere, and there were big crowds at the start and end to push you along.
After that I decided to join in with the club. I could see what was going on with the club and all that was available whilst I was training for Milan and it looked really good. Since I joined in with the club I have gained a lot more knowledge about running from other members and have taken my running more seriously. I enjoyed trying all distances and types of running. I started doing the cross country, I have always loved the countryside around Lanchester so enjoyed running off tarmac. I did quite well and got promoted quickly to the medium pack and then to the fast pack within one season (2018/2019 season). I liked the competition, competing with others compared to the road running where it is you against the watch and you have to keep looking at your watch to see if you are on the money; I like the variation in cross country courses too. I’ve done a few fell races on the North York Moors, I came 4th in the Guisborough Woods race with Jan Young and then enjoyed the Captain Cooks race a few years ago. I haven’t done a marathon since Milan though as I think the training for a marathon is a big commitment and I like running more for enjoyment now. As much as I like the Sunday chatty runs along the lines with Michael, Stephen, Mark and Graeme I don’t want to commit to that type of training and partly due to the risk of injury! I’ve enjoyed supporting Mark Kearney on some of his Hardmoors races, I supported him on his Hardmoors 50 and Hardmoors 110 win, the North York Moors are a nice place to run.
In 2020, a friend was signing up for an ultra, the Cheviot Goat, so I decided to sign up too. But I ended up training and preparing for this for two years due to Covid and Storm Arwen cancelling it two years in a row. In 2021 it was cancelled the day before due to the damage from the storm. Both years I was in good shape and had recced it loads; I was always looking at the map, studying the route, I had gone and got all the gear. Frustratingly, this year I have been up and down with injuries and I haven’t been able to do much running or racing. I have been keeping fit by going on the turbo trainer each day and walking the dog up and down hills at Low Burnhall. I was texting Mark Kearney in the week leading up to race day, as he was also signed up, and I said, “I’m just going to do it”. I thought surely I can walk it in 24 hours, which is the cut-off. But I ended up running as soon as the gun went, as you do, you get swept up don’t you? It was alright though, my injury held up fine. It was just the rest of my body, all the muscles that hadn’t run for so long were not enjoying it. I hadn’t really run since the Great North Run, so that’s three months without running. From 13-14 miles my body started screaming and then my hips, then my calves and quads started to twinge with cramp. I had to manage it. My stomach has always been quite resilient though and I was eating quite a lot: cold pizza, jam sandwiches, custard doughnuts, pitta and hummus. I was happily eating it as I was going along, and at checkpoints, hot soup and bread. Funnily enough from about mile 20 I didn’t get those muscle twinges again, so I must have been lacking a bit of salt or something. Then the last 10 miles were really hard, I had strained my groin so had to walk it in. But up until mile 40 I had been running all the runnable bits; I’m really pleased I finished it after waiting over two years.
Where is your favourite place to run?
The A167 from my house to the Cock O’ The North is 4 miles, and back is 8 miles. I do it all the time so this must be my favourite place to run. I must have done it thousands of times now, it’s just a route I know and I enjoy. I also like Low Burnhall and all the wildlife you can see down there early on a morning. I go down there with my dog, and early in the morning there’s loads of deer running around. I like the peace and quiet of the North York Moors and Cheviots, I enjoyed my recces for the Goat in the Cheviots. I like to run without headphones and be within my own thoughts and clear my head. You solve all your problems when you are running.
What is your proudest running moment or achievement?
I have never won a race but I know that winning races isn’t the be all and end all, but when you have some sort of success it makes you feel proud you put the work in. I would say two races stand out. The first is the Goat as I had worked hard to finish it after all my injury struggles, and also last year’s (2021) Great North Run. I think what made it so much better was the modified out and back route. It was really nice as my wife and kids were supporting and the new route lent itself to this so I saw them at the start near the Tyne Bridge, then as I came back. So they were part of the day, also I ran well and I got a PB of 1:16. In the build up to GNR I achieved a 10k PB, and the training went really well. So that was the race that I feel I got the most out of my training.
What has been your most challenging race or running experience?
I wouldn’t say it is a race, it has been 2022 in general, it has just been a year of injuries. I had come off the Great North Run 2021 in really good shape, I was then focussed on the Goat and continued that training for the next few months, building up hill strength and endurance, then the Goat was cancelled. So I thought, it’s okay as my place could be deferred to next year and I had a place in the Brass Monkey 2022. So I shifted focus to that, I wanted to go for a PB at Brass Monkey so I trained hard but that’s where the shin injury issues started. I had to pull up during Brass Monkey, from then I was out of running until April. I got a decent block of training in over the early Summer, then another injury cropped up, I had two weeks out, then decided to run the Great North Run and probably shouldn’t have. Hitting tarmac for 13 miles was not a good idea. The Monday after I was in so much pain I could barely put any weight on my left leg due to a glute issue. Since September I have been seeing a physio for shock wave therapy in my glutes which gives you a deep tissue massage. Injury has taught me to include strength training into my routine and going on the turbo trainer everyday to keep up my fitness. So 2022 has been up and down. I haven’t been able to participate in cross country which has been frustrating. I really wanted to do Aykley Heads this year as there is always the threat of development on that land and I wonder if it will be the last one, I hope not as I want to run it next year.
How have you found being cross country captain?
It was a good experience. We were just coming out of Covid when I became captain so the club was just getting back to running again. Obviously I enjoy cross country, so it’s leading from the front I guess, showing enthusiasm. It’s good to be part of that environment, the camaraderie of cross country, there were a lot of people to support you, such as Geoff and Susan. It’s good being part of that family and nice to see new members come to try cross country and find they love it. That’s what it’s about really, it doesn’t matter about your pace or experience, as no matter where you are in the field there’s always a race on.
What are your future running goals?
I’m happy to try anything, but for my next goal I’m quite keen to focus on the track. I’m still too young for NEMAAs, but there is the Northeast Grand Prix, which is open age. I have done a few fixtures of this in the past but I’d like to have a go and try the full fixture list one season, if I can get free of the injury and get fit enough. I’ve bought some new track spikes so I need to make the most of them!
What advice would you have for other runners?
I would say for anyone who is new to running just try everything, don’t pigeonhole yourself to a certain discipline such as fell or road running or on a certain distance. We’re not professionals so we don’t need to be fixed on set distance or type of running. I’ve found it’s possible to run anything from a mile up to an ultra at my level. So I would suggest to try everything and use everything as a learning experience, come into it open minded. A running club is a good opportunity for this, you have XC, NEMAAs and the Grand Prix. I found the Grand Prix especially useful for trying races and events when I first joined. And enjoy it! If you don’t enjoy it then change it up, learn from your injuries too, understand why certain parts may get injured frequently and how to manage it.
January Blues-banishing Club Quiz
This quiz may be unlike others you have done before but don’t be afraid. Once complete, please submit your answers to me at email@example.com to be in with a chance of winning a small mystery prize. The deadline is 31st January 2023.
- In which year was the club founded? (answers within 2 years either side accepted).
- Who was the first female cross country captain?
- How many Annas are there in the club?
- Name three differences between the track at Maiden Castle and the track at Chester le Street? (To be fair to people who don’t run track, answers such as geographic location, age and distance from London will be accepted).
- Name three songs with the words ‘run’ or ‘running’ in them.
- “Knock Knock. Who’s there? Runner. Runner who?” Please write the next line.
- What is your favourite running food?
- What assistive equipment did Stuart use to win the Durham Three Peaks club run a few years ago?
- Who holds the club record for the fastest half marathon (male)?
- How many Stephens are there in the club?
- ”There was a young Strider called Fred, Who……”Please complete (rhyming essential).
- How many mince pies did I eat? (December 2022)
- How many cms (other than lots) would I run if I ran one lap of the track? (Inside lane).
- I asked Anna Basu to read through this for quality control and she suggested an improvement by the addition of the following question: What is green and purple and has eight legs?