I hope the New Year has started well for you. Striders have been super active in a variety of Striders training and social runs. Thanks to all run leaders and volunteers for the amazing choice of running options this month. Thank you to everyone who gave up their time to help host the Durham parkrun, and to those who took part in the Foodbank run. Should anyone wish to donate further to the Foodbank, or do their own Foodbank run, a list of drop off points can be found at County Durham Foodbank – Donate Food.
We were very sorry to hear this month that Strider Nick Humphrey was seriously injured in a road collision while cycling. He is in our thoughts and we send our best wishes to him on his journey to recovery.
Well done to all of you who have kept running through the cold weather. You have also participated in some fantastic races, as detailed below in the Shout-Out. We continue to encourage anyone who is injured or unable to run at present to make contact with other Striders in a similar position for support and company with any non-running training if they feel it would help. Please feel free to contact me or any Club Officers who would be more than happy to help put people in touch.
This month I was delighted to talk to Anna McLeod about her running. Anna is a newer member of the club and it is interesting and inspiring to hear about her sports background, achievements and goals. You can read this interview in the Strider Chat.
Thank you to everyone who entered the January Blues-banishing Club Quiz. Our winner is revealed! The correct answers and some of your brilliant answers are also revealed.
That’s all for now. All the best in running,
Captain Cook’s Fell Race
This race is a popular one with Striders. A great way to start the New Year. It is part of the Esk Valley Fell Club Race Series, if you fancy more of the same.
A hearty group of Striders attended to run up to the monument and back. They were Graeme Watt (who came 15th!), Michael Littlewood, Lindsay McEwan, Penny Browell (first F50), Jack Lee, Nina Mason (5th F45), Emma McCabe (3rd F40), Tom Reeves, Sarah Cook, Ian Butler, David Oxlade, Camilla (5th F55), Shaun Roberts, Malcolm Sygrove, Heather Raistrick (3rd F60), Tim Mathews and Roz Layton (1st F70). Congratulations everyone, well done to all prize winners, and especially to Roz for coming first in her age category. As far as teams go, male teams came 2nd and 18th, and female teams came 4th and 10th.
North Lakes Half-marathon
Aaron Gourley took part in this early year road race. This takes place in the Lorton valley, from Cockermouth to Brackenthwaite and back. He got a fantastic time of 1:41:56.
We have had some amazing parkrun achievements this month, not least the club hosting the parkrun on 14th January. Sophie Dennis ran her 300th parkrun and Nick Humphrey ran his 100th parkrun. Alex Collier goes from strength to strength, with another parkrun PB of 18:45!
This is another local fell race run by the Esk Valley Fell Club. It was 5.5 miles of boggy and icy hills in and around Commondale, North York Moors. Nina Mason, Tom Hamilton, Lucy Whelan and former Strider Danny Lim ran and Jan Young supported. All ran brilliantly, and Nina came first FV45.
Sherman Cup and Davison Shield Cross Country Fixture at Temple Park
Another fast and furious cross country race. Well done to both men’s and ladies’ teams, coming 6th and 7th respectively. The ladies’ team comprised Nina Bojadzic, Emma McCabe and Anna Basu. The men’s team were Graeme Watt, David Milligan and Skipper Michael Littlewood.
Hardmoors 15 and 30
This race took place the same day as the Sherman Cup and Davison Shield. Alex Brown and I went along for the 30 mile race (actually 33 mile) and Jane Dowsett ran the 15 mile (probably a bit further) race. My main memories are pootling in my Fiat Panda along the windy, exposed A171 across the North York Moors in the dark at 6am in the morning trying to strain my eyes to see where the cat’s eyes were going. During the race, being battered by a strong head-on wind accompanied with blasts of rain, whilst I slipped along a muddy coastal path. Also, being pleased to meet other friendly running humans at points between rain squalls. Then, being extremely thankful to see Jane, veggie chilli and hot tea at the end! Despite a tough race it really is a pretty coast-line, worth a visit.
Kielder Off-road Duathlon
Also the same weekend, but the day after the Sherman Cup and Davison Shield was the Kielder off-road duathlon organised by High Terrain Events. This comprised a 7.5km trail run, followed by a 23km bike ride, followed by a 5.8km trail run along the trails within Kielder Forest, Northumberland. Graeme Watt took part and completed in 2:17, coming 10th place and 2nd in his age category. Suberb result! There are some excellent photographs at High Terrain Events.
Schools County Cross Country Championship
We are extremely proud of Lewis Littlewood who took part in this schools cross country qualifying race, and who qualified to run for County Durham!
Hamsterley Forest Winter Trail Half-marathon and 10k
The Hamsterley Forest half marathon is a hilly and muddy race along the trails in Hamsterley Forest. New member Fatima Raja-Stewart took part and said it was good cross country practice! She ran really well, coming 7th female and first in her age category.
Brass Monkey Half-marathon
It was a dry day with light winds, and temperatures above freezing. Couldn’t ask for better really in January. A bus load and some cars of Striders attended this fabulous social half marathon. It was a tough race, enjoyed by all. Everyone ran really well and you should all be proud! Roz Layton and Geoff Davis came first in their respective age groups, which is an incredible achievement given the field. They have both qualified for England Masters vests. Congratulations both.
The Montane Spine Race
Huge admiration for Elaine Bisson for having the guts and determination to enter a race most of us would pale at the thought of. You are simply amazing. We wish you all the best and better luck for your next race.
Fell ‘em Doon Festive 5k
Mike Davis ran in this flat and fast 5k race around Ashington Community Woods near Ashington in Northumberland. This race is organised by Ashington Hirst Running Club. He went super fast and may have enjoyed the charity cake stall afterwards.
Druridge Bay Trail 10k
Alexandra Butler enjoyed the fresh sea air on this trail 10k along the beach and country park at Druridge Bay. Well done! Organised by Wild Deer Events.
Man versus Bus
James McNaney took part in an ad hoc 10 mile race along the A167 with the number 21 bus. James ran strong, and it was neck and neck, but the bus pipped him at the post in the end.
North of England Cross Country Championships, Witton Park, Blackburn.
These races took place at Witton Park in Blackburn. A hardy group of Striders attended including Geoff Davis, Michael Littlewood, Susan Davis, Nina Mason, Jan Young and Lewis Littlewood. The photos show it was a bit of a mud bath! All ran really well. Well done Striders!
Strider Chat: Interview with Anna McLeod
I caught up with Anna on the evening of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon. She is such an inspiration in so many ways as you will see, and so modest!
How did you start running and triathlon?
I started running not too long ago, it must have been 2013, after my first child was born. Before I had him, I had briefly started training for the Rome Marathon to tick off a bucket list item, but then I had him so that got placed on hold for a bit. When he was about 6 months old, I started training for a half marathon instead. And I never looked back, really. But it’s not like I wasn’t doing any sports before that, either. I wasn’t a runner, but I certainly was active. I grew up in the mountains in Switzerland, in a tiny village in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino, where I learnt to ski when I was two years old. During my childhood we did a lot of hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter, and I was a snowboard instructor in Switzerland for many years.
I never did the Rome Marathon, mainly due to life (I had a toddler, a PhD thesis to write, and eventually a second child on the way), and I got stuck at the half marathon distance. I feel it’s a good distance for me. The marathon feels like I would only do it to finish it, rather than being super pleased with my time. But I will get there eventually. My first half marathon, the one I did after my first son was born, was the Tegernseelauf. At the time we were living in Munich, in Germany, where I was doing my PhD in astrophysics. My dad lives about an hour south of Munich in the Bavarian Alps, so on the weekends we would go and visit him. There is a beautiful lake near where he lives, the Tegernsee, and the Tegernseelauf half marathon goes around it. The distance around the lake is almost exactly 13.1 miles. They have this nice motto which sounds better in German but is translated as ‘on the right you have the lake, and on the left you have the mountain.’ ‘Rechts der Berg und links der See.’ As you run clockwise round the lake you always have the lake on the right and a mountain on the left. It starts out on a road then it goes onto a trail, then it ends on the road again. It’s quite hilly. But I was really chuffed as my goal was to finish under 2 hours and I did 1:59:44. So I was very happy with that.
After that I ran on and off. We then moved to Christchurch in New Zealand after I finished my PhD and there, I did my second half marathon, the Christchurch road half marathon. It was awful weather. It was cold, rainy, and it was very windy. It was June, which is winter there. I was absolutely miserable, really wet, and cold. You know when you have water in your shoes, and you feel it sloshing every step. I finished that one in 1:59:40, so not a massive improvement at all. I continued running in New Zealand, where a friend that I worked with had started doing triathlon. I thought, ooh, that looks hard, but it also looks very tempting! But I did not actually start triathlon until I came here, to Durham. In between New Zealand and here we had a stint of two and a half years in America. I didn’t start doing triathlon there either as I didn’t have the time. I was travelling back and forth between Texas and California on a weekly basis, I was constantly on the road. But I still ran. There I did my third half marathon as a race, the Santa Rosa half marathon in the beautiful California wine country. Every finisher got a bottle of wine which was obviously a very good perk. But surprisingly the entry fee was not that high, and the wine was quite nice! At Santo Rosa half I really got hooked on that distance because I got a good PB. I ran 1:50:25, which I had not expected. I remember calling home and saying, “I’m so happy, it went so much better than I had anticipated!”. That was 2019, a great year of PBs. A few weeks after Santa Rosa I ran a low key 10k race near San Francisco where I came 8th overall, 2nd lady, and first in my age group. In October I ran a 5k race in Texas and placed 2nd lady and first in my age group with 22:54. And finally, in November, I ran another 5k in Texas, again finishing first in my age group and second lady. That’s when I got really, really hooked, but I then had a year and a half of illness and injury, and of course Covid hit.
When we came to Durham it was June 2020 and Covid, so lots of things weren’t on at the time. But I tried to do my diligent research in terms of which running club I wanted to join, because we had finally landed permanent jobs and I knew that it was time to settle and find a club. I found the web pages of Elvet Striders and Durham City Harriers, but without being able to talk to anybody I just couldn’t make up my mind. I ran without a club until 2021, which is when I joined the Durham Tri Club. And then, at some point later I was doing the Striders Wednesday tracks sessions, which are open for the Tri Club too. I then got naturally I guess pulled in (she laughs), I remember distinctly Allan Renwick running next to me “you should do cross country with us” (she laughs).
I have been with the Tri Club for just under two years now, and through them I was able to improve my swimming. I did my first triathlon in May 2022, the Cleveland Sprint Triathlon, which was the perfect event to just get into racing triathlon. The swim was a 400m (16 pool lengths of a 25m pool) pool swim which was great as I am not such a strong swimmer (yet). For me, at the time, swimming 400m in one go was quite challenging. In fact, when I joined the Tri Club, I could swim breast stroke perfectly fine but could only swim two lengths front crawl because I had no technique and was therefore very inefficient. The 400m swim was followed by an 11 mile bike ride followed by a 5k run. I got second in my age group, which was really, really cool. The prize was a £35 voucher for a store I have yet to visit… You know, the bike was so much fun, it was beautiful rolling country lanes. But it wasn’t marshalled very well, in the sense that at times I was completely on my own which made me wonder if I had taken a wrong turn and I was going the wrong way! But then after a while the lone marshal would appear. I reckon it was because I was quite fast, I did a good bike leg (if I may say so myself!). At the beginning of the bike leg, I overtook a bunch of people, then for a long time there was no-one. I guess it’s also because faster swimmers would have left before me.
Later last year, in September, I did an Olympic distance triathlon. This was the Locarno Triathlon, in my home town in Switzerland, and I really loved it. The swim was nearly a mile and it was in open water in a lake. I was really scared of the swim. As I said, swimming is by far my worst discipline. It’s a long way in open water with so many people around you. But I somehow got through it and managed to get to my bike. I really enjoyed the 40km bike leg. It was slightly uphill going up into one of the valleys between the mountains, the Valle Maggia, but not too steep going up, then coming back it was downhill. It went well, but I was not entirely satisfied because I ended up fading on the run. It was hot by the time the run came, 25-30 degrees. I had not fuelled properly on the bike ride at all, I just forgot to drink, I was so focused on sticking with a group of riders. But it was a great lesson, I have learnt from that mistake. The run was a 10k, and the first 5k went really well but then I just hit a wall and finished very slowly. But I still got 4th in my age category.
A few weeks after I got back from Switzerland, I did a sprint duathlon down at this race course called Darley Moor, about three hours south of here. It was a team GB qualifier. And I qualified for team GB! In March this year I am going to go to Caorle, just north of Venice, to the European Duathlon Championships. I am really looking forward to that one. I just got my team GB tri-suit the other day, and it’s so nice. I had to try it for size and then send it back to have my name printed on it. I am doing the sprint distance, which is a 5k run, 25km bike then another 2.5km run. I am so excited, and the funny thing is that I am going to be representing team GB. Of all the nationalities, the only one I don’t have! (she laughs) I am a permanent resident of Great Britain but I can only ask for citizenship in two years from now. But I am representing GB with pride!
This year in July I am doing a full distance Ironman. I will run my first marathon as part of that. Currently I am really focusing my training on that. I started training with my coach from the tri club, Amanda, in May and June last year. She’s amazing. Amanda sees her athletes and their lives in a very holistic way and meticulously considers everything. Having a coach has helped me immensely, and it’s perfect as I don’t have to think about my training schedule any more, like when should I rest or when should I start building volume or when should I do this and that because she does all the thinking for me. It’s really convenient. Ironman training is quite a lot, and it is a challenge to fit it in around everything else, but it is only for a short period and for now my family supports me. Originally, I was not going to try an Ironman so soon, but there are a group of now 13 members of the Tri Club doing this particular race, and I thought I’m never going to have the opportunity again of training for and achieving such a goal with all these people I have become good friends with, some of which are Striders too. It will be so much fun. It’s Ironman UK which is in Bolton, so not very exotic but also not too expensive since we don’t have to fly. It’s an open water lake swim of almost 2.5 miles. I am not sure it’s the cleanest lake around but we will see! Bolton has the reputation of being a bit of a gamble with weather conditions in July, it will probably be a wetsuit swim. I am very, very apprehensive about the swim. Currently I am doing lots of long swims at the pool on Saturday afternoons, plus 2-3 other swims during the week, just to try and improve my technique. As the weather improves, I will practise at Ellerton Lake which is a 45-minute drive from here. The bike ride is 180km on a range of hilly roads. On YouTube there is a video that someone has made whilst doing this event which has been helpful, but you know it’s about 7 hours long so, it’s not the most interesting seven hours. After that is a marathon… just because! (she laughs) The marathon is a 4 loop course, which is good on the one hand as you know what comes, but not so good on the other hand as you know what comes! The cut off is 17 hours. So fingers crossed I don’t get a puncture or have to pull out because of some technical thing. That’s another thing you have to practise for in triathlon, you have to be self-sufficient on the bike ride in terms of bike maintenance, which I still need to learn… There are food and water check points and of course you can leave things in the transition zones. It is really exciting. This will be for sure the biggest thing I have ever done.
Which do you like best out of running, cycling and swimming, or maybe you don’t have a preference?
I love running because I have been doing it for a while now, and I feel that it’s the discipline I am coming from. But I also have come to love biking. I did not think I would like biking so much. Where I grew up, being close to Italy, there are lots of macho male riders who go out in large groups in their super tight lycra and occupy the entire road. Their attitude to other road users put me off. And then also biking seemed quite dangerous. In 2021 in the summer, two months after I joined the Tri club, I got my first road bike. That was a new experience. And I love it. It gives you a sense of freedom that I had not thought it would give you. I now do 2-3 bike rides per week, with the highlight being Tri Club Sunday Gregg’s to Gregg’s (yes, we do that too!) social rides. These are usually something between 50 and 80km, with an option of an early-bird ride as a starter. There is always a coffee stop half-way. Sometimes we go east for a hilly ride or we go to the beach at Roker and get something a little flatter depending on who is on the ride, like if there is a newer or less confident member. That was me at first, I remember it was quite intimidating especially going downhill, they go so fast. I was really surprised because on my snowboard I am really fast downhill, I love the speed, yet on the bike I was just really scared at the beginning. At the end of a ride my hands would be cramping from how tight I had gripped the brakes (she laughs). Swimming is something I am improving on.
I really, really love skiing. Skiing is by far my greatest passion. What I like by far is ski touring. This is where you hike up with skins on your skis (or snowshoes if you are a snowboarder), and then ski or snowboard down in deep powder where no one has skied down, it’s the best, and it’s very adventurous. There are people that do it in the Lake District when there is enough snow, I definitely need to check it out.
What is your favourite running food/fuel?
I recently discovered this gel brand called Hilltop which I really like. It’s just honey with sea salt. So it doesn’t taste of anything artificial. Like today (at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon) I had a High5 orange flavoured gel and I did not like it. These little honey gels are great and I really like them. They come in three flavours, there is honey, honey and blueberries and honey and strawberry. I also recently discovered Active Root, their ginger gel is fab. I also really like flapjacks (they’re the best thing in the UK!) on my long bike rides.
What is your favourite place to run?
That is a very hard question. I really like running where I feel at home. Having moved a lot in my life I feel at home in many different places. So certainly in Switzerland where I spent the majority of my growing up. I love running there, it’s just very refreshing every time I go back. It’s like “I’m home, yes, this is great”. And equally when I’m at my dad’s in Germany because we also spent six years there when I was a small child. Canada is another place I feel at home as I have lots of family there and I used to spend all my summers in Canada. Whenever there are mountains around it is great, although for some reason I mainly did road running in the valleys. I like going up mountains more with my skis or go on a nice hike rather than running up them I think! I have run in many places. I’ve run in 5 out of the 7 continents, but this will soon be 6 because I am going to Japan in April. Having said all of this, I of course very much feel at home here as well, and I love running on the paths close to where I live. And being a member of Elvet Striders makes it even better, I cannot
picture a more welcoming, supportive, and inclusive club.
What tips or advice would you have for other runners?
If you travel, try to go for a run wherever you go. Strava is a good place to look up routes and find out where it is safe to run. I travel a lot for work, and it is a great way of sightseeing. For example, just before Christmas I was in Vienna and I did a really nice half marathon training run there. It was snowing pretty heavily, it was dark as it was very early in the morning. I was the only one running along this thin island on the Danube. It was great, also because I knew I was relatively safe. I also try and look up races if there are any, everywhere I go. For example, once I went observing through one of these big telescopes on Mauna Kea on Big Island, Hawaii, and I casually ran and won a 5k race (she laughs!) I was first lady overall. The race was near the beach in the evening. It was called Kona Glow Run and so runners wore fancy neon lights. That was great fun.
What are your future goals after the Ironman?
I know I have more in me. Like today my goal was to cruise Brass Monkey, not give it all I have, but finish at 1:45 which would have been a huge PB for me. I finished in 1:44:10 which I am really happy about. However, I hit a little wall about 5 miles in, so I had a gel, but then I hit another wall about 15km in and I really struggled and I know I could have done better, as I felt a lot fresher at Brampton to Carlisle. But with recent travelling and tiredness resulting from that I did not feel in top form. But, I got an almost 6 minute PB so I am not gonna complain too much. Also, I really like Brass Monkey. Last year I ran the entire thing with Lotti, and if Lotti had not been there I don’t think I would have been able to run the entire thing, as I had just come back from illness and was very undertrained. I think she was equally happy to run with me. We hadn’t really interacted before that, so didn’t really know each other, but we got to the end and we were so happy we did it together, it was such a great Striders experience. This positive memory made me want to do it this year.
I want to keep on doing triathlons, but maybe focus on the shorter distances as I think I can improve my times on these. Also, I think I can improve my running! Another big project for this year is to become a mountain guide. If I could go back to my younger self, with the knowledge of me that I have now, I would not become an astrophysicist. I would become a mountain guide, such that my time ‘in the office’ would be always outside on a mountain. I can’t do the proper Alpine Guide Training because I am too old, but I have a big plan of becoming a certified mountain guide here in the UK.
Thanks so much Anna for sharing with us. I know I speak for all Striders when I say we wish you all the best with your training and with your ironman this summer.
Results of the Blues-busting Quiz!
The winner is (drum roll) MARK FOSTER! Congratulations Mark, you have won this awesome and bespoke Elvet Striders mug.
Here are the correct Quiz answers:
- In which year was the club founded?
- Who was the first female cross country captain?
- How many Annas are there in the club?
We have seven Annas in the club! They are Anna Basu, Anna Grubert, Anna Linfoot, Anna Mason, Anna McLeod, Anna Seeley and Anna Ting.
- Name three differences between the track at Maiden Castle and the track at Chester le Street.
All true answers were accepted for this. I especially liked one of Malcolm’s answers, ‘I know where to park when going to Maiden Castle, but get lost when trying to park at Chester le Street.’
- Name three songs with the word ‘run’ or ‘running’ in.
All songs with these words in were accepted as correct answers.
- “Knock Knock”, “Who’s there?” Complete.
All funny or plausible answers were accepted. Runner Bean was a common answer.
- What is your favourite running food?
All answers that listed edible products were accepted.
- What assistive device did Stuart use to win the Durham Three Peaks club run a few years ago?
- Who holds the record for the fastest half marathon (male)?
- How many Stephens in the club?
There are three Stephens in the club (Stephen Jackson, Stephen Lumsdon and Stephen Soulsby). There are also two Stevens and one Steve.
- ‘There was a young Strider called Fred’ Complete (rhyming essential).
We had some crackin’ entries, such as:
There was a young Strider called Fred
Who, at cross country, was filled with dread,
But he ceased to quake,
With the promise of cake,
And through the mud-bath he sped. (Malcolm Sygrove)
There was a young Strider called Fred
Who entered cross country filled with dread
But covered in dirt
He put on a spurt
And won his race by a close head. (Mark Foster)
- How many mince pies did I eat? (Christmas 2022).
Your answers ranged from 4 to 27 (27!) The correct answer is 1.5 because I forgot to buy some. I ate lots of Christmas cake instead.
- How many cm (other than lots) would I run if I ran one lap of the track? (inside lane)
The answer is 40,000cm.
- What is green and purple and has eight legs?
An Elvet Spider. Although other answers were accepted if they fitted, such as ‘Our counters in a women’s NEHL race’, and ‘A Striders relay team’.