All posts by Anita Wright

Georgengarten parkrun #3 Hannover, Germany, Saturday, December 16, 2017

5k

Jonathan Hamill

Impressive levitation skills from the Chairman.
Photos courtesy of Georgengarten parkrun

I was staying about an hour South of Hannover during a business trip and with the weekend spare, I decided to fit in some running. I had heard that parkrun had recently made a start in Germany, and when I realised I was within striking distance of one of the recently established events, I set my alarm!

I jumped on the metronome train and headed North to Hannover. A quick tram ride took me directly to the Georgengarten area, where the temperature was the wrong side of zero. A bunch of hardy runners were assembled beside a gazebo, and I got chatting to the Run Director Bettina as I gradually removed layer after layer of Strider kit. This was event number three, and I listened with some trepidation during the course briefing, “27 turns” and “if you don’t see a marshal, just keep going straight ahead’.

I met a visiting Australian couple (Alex and Naomi Wallace) who were working their way around Germany and the UK with some parkrun tourism in mind. We surveyed the long straight ahead, and I thought the 27 turns mentioned would make the 2nd half a twisty affair.

Front row - centre stage. Doing us proud. And off, a shade quicker than sensible, I soon realised the long tree-lined straight (the famous Mansions Allee) was just over a mile. We turned right to initially follow a fairly straight path but the twists and turns followed. I had a local runner (Frank from Hannover Runners) who had inched ahead of me on the first mile but I held my nerve and caught him in the twists and turns and he stayed on my heel until the end.

To my right, I started to see the gazebo and start/finish area and knew I was close. I remembered the instruction about turning around the last marshal and then I had a short distance to the finish during which I hastened as much as I could, and got a few more yards away from Frank. I crossed the line and was pretty pleased, (not least considering my Glühwein intake the previous evening) with a position of 7th finisher in a time of 23:28.

We strolled across to the nearby bakery to have a coffee and I then left to catch my return tram and train, bidding farewell to the friendly core team and wishing them well for the future. Maybe I’ll manage a return visit one day!

Billingham Junior parkrun, Sunday, December 24, 2017

2K

Lewis Littlewood

This run was cancelled last week because of the ice, so we decided to try again on Christmas Eve.

The weather was warmer but very windy, perhaps I should have worn my skins after all.

I was with Patrick and Oscar and we were all very excited to be trying a new run.

The location is really convenient with handy parking and toilets at the Billingham forum across the road from the park.

The course is 2 and a half laps of the park and very flat. Potential for a fast race.

This was their second event so there weren’t  many people taking part. I’m sure it will build up.

The first lap I was in second place behind a boy from a local running club; I had eyed him up before and thought he might be competition. I stayed right behind him and then managed to overtake him by the end of the first lap.

I knew that my Daddy would be saying ‘Make it stick’ so I had to keep up the pace.

The second lap was really hard. I was starting to think I might win but the pace was very quick. I looked at my watch on a mile in, 6:47 – I started to think about racing for a PB!

With a half a lap to go, I had a lead of about 15 yards. I tried to go for a sprint finish but I just did not have the energy. I knew I was going to be first finisher.

The RD seemed quite surprised by the time. Course record. I had done a quicker time at another run in London but it had measured short and my Daddy had run with me. This I’m taking as my new pb.

I missed cheering Oscar and Patrick over the finish line because I was so exhausted and was lying on the floor. I think we all ran really well considering it was so windy.

Straight to MacDonalds for breakfast to celebrate!!

I really enjoyed the run and would recommend other people going.

Tour De Helvellyn, Askham, Lake District, Saturday, December 16, 2017

38 miles

Elaine Bisson

This was my big one; I’d been building up to it for months. The Tour of Edinburgh (55km) had been a practise run. Nothing really could prepare me for this day. It was just unbelievable. I’ve been going to the Lakes since I was tiny; it was our only summer holiday destination. We would stay in Glenridding, so I knew a lot of the route. I had also recced it in two parts, Askham to Patterdale once with Geoff and the rest by myself. However, reports of good navigators getting lost on Askham Moor concerned me.

I’d packed my bag and checked it twice (mandatory kit and lots more layers just in case), charged my head torch, marked my map, set my compass for the all-important Askham fell crossing…even borrowed a watch from Stuart who had added the GPS route just in case it went horribly wrong.

I woke at 4 am, ate my breakfast, prepared a few snacks and then sat in my car while it defrosted, wondering when on earth this behaviour became normal. I arrived at Geoff and Susan’s at 5:15. Susan had offered to drive.

We arrived just past 7 to find the hall teaming with runners filling up on breakfast (a lot had camped out on the community centre floor). We registered and were given a race tag that would be scanned at all 8 checkpoints. We had to arrive at Side Farm, Patterdale from 9:30; we weren’t allowed to pass through any earlier. From my last and only recce I’d worked out I should be able to arrive in 1hr50, so wanted to leave at 7:45. Hopefully, the sun would be coming out and if I was lucky, dusk wouldn’t have fallen on my return. This seemed to be Geoff’s plan as well. After a thorough kit check, we scanned our tags and the race was on.

We opened the door to see the sun just kissing the sky, visibility was good, Susan was waiting to cheer us on and we were off up the icy road onto the track, through the gate and onto Askham Moor. It was an amazing morning, you could see over Ullswater, the mist just rising in places, the far-off fells white. There was no wind and weather conditions, apart from the temperature, seemed reasonable.

I kept to a comfortable pace. A sheet of ice covered most of the paths and I had to go pretty slowly to work my way across anyway. On the safer gravel bridleway, I could pick up my speed. I was disappointed as most of this section is on good runnable trails or road so I had wanted to make sure I got these easier miles under my belt, however, the ice slowed progress.

CP1, Martindale Church. There were a lot more runners than I expected. With the staggered start, I’d thought it would be quiet but the trails were relatively busy. On up to Boredale Hause and I passed quite a few as I tucked into my first flapjack of the day.

Running down the hill to Side Farm I grew really frustrated as I slowed on the uneven surface and a few men flew past. With a concerted effort I caught the lady in front only to realise it was Ros, the organiser of the DT series, we exchanged a few greetings and I finally reached CP2, Side Farm, perfectly timed…1hr46!

My card was scanned and the Marshall told me this is where I should look happy as he pointed/directed me towards all the food and drinks set up inside the warm tea room. I was slightly confused, the day had only just begun and I had a considerable amount of miles to cover yet.

I continued on over the cattle grid and into Patterdale, I knew these little valleys so well, I felt happy coming back. I made a sneaky detour up through the Glenridding car park as most runners took the longer route (by a few 100m…every metre counts) up the main road; it gave me such pleasure to arrive on the road ahead of them.

As I started the climb up to Sticks Pass the scenery became increasingly whiter as the ground was covered in more snow. The valley bottom was shrouded in mist and a light rain hung in the air. I stopped to put on my jacket knowing it would get colder as we climbed. I looked up and considered taking a more direct line to the top, but unsure I followed the majority along the zigzag path.

CP3, Trolls Bridge. I’d looked forward to the pass, it’s got a lovely undulating path, which isn’t too strewn with rocks and isn’t so steep that you can’t run most of it. However, today it was covered with a thick layer of snow, in places going up past my knees. I tripped and fell into it quite a few times. It was amusing to try to ‘run’ past people who were out for the day on their skis.

This is obviously a big race day; quite a lot of the well-known fell runners were there. I was bewildered to see a woman pass me then stop to the side of the footprints to pull down her leggings and knickers and happily wee in front of all.

Despite packing all but my kitchen sink I’d forgotten my sunglasses, which would have come in handy. The glare off all the snow was so blinding. I was pleased by the proximity of the other runners and that snow wasn’t still falling, although the mist clung to the valley making visibility quite poor. It would be really easy to go off track and get lost in this unforgiving white landscape.

Finally, I reached the top. Next came the descent down to Thirlspot and CP4. Not as quick as I’d hoped, as the snow was really thick, as I struggled on the steep slippy descent. Katie (2nd fastest female BGR) and Nicky Spinks flew past.
The views down this valley were just beautiful. Snow dusted the lower slopes, the tops were white, the low sun had a reddish glow and a mist danced along Thirlmere. I like the path here that winds along the stone walls, across little becks, the high fells flanking either side.
At Swirls carpark I was feeling tired and cold so stopped briefly at CP5 to fill my mug with hot sweet tea and sipped it as I made my way up onto the forest tracks, pleased to make use of my early Christmas present, a foldable mug!

This is my least favourite stretch, on my recce. I’d found it monotonous and was surprised by the roads that still twisted up the valley. The snow and views were beautiful today though, so I was happily distracted. I was busy following the trainer footprints trying to work out how many people may have passed this way before me. There didn’t seem to be too many, and here and there were the distinct prints of reindeer!

Down to CP6 and then on up Raise Beck. I somehow managed to sink knee-deep in mud…about the only muddy square metre on the whole route, then hauled myself out to immediately skid on ice and land on my bum making my leggings v cold and wet and soaking my gloves. Thank goodness I had also packed my buffalo mitts! This knocked my confidence, as I now had to find a safe route over the beck without falling in. The rocks were either covered in ice or just very slippy. As I floundered about and skidded, nearly landing in the beck, some men who had followed my lead skipped past on the same route and headed on up the hill. I cursed them under my breath for their speed and sure-footedness. It wasn’t long before my spirits were lifted, seeing Santa sitting on a rock wishing us a Merry Christmas, just as Jules had said (I promise I wasn’t hallucinating).

Much to my surprise, Susan was here too, hoping to spot us on route. She laughed when I told her how tough it had been and said Nicky wasn’t too far in front. I found it difficult getting the right line around the tarn, the snow was really thick. I tried to follow the trainer prints but it was slow going. Where it lay thinner I could run but most was a hard slog through thick, thick snow. The stunning views made up for it.

On down the Grisedale valley and I was relieved to see the green slopes now not so far away. I chose completely the wrong route; coming down slowly on the path…I know time and places were lost. But again I found myself in familiar territory. I’d spent one summer trying to get fit with my brother, run-walking between these valleys. I’d gone on my tiny dinghy down the little beck and had been chased by feisty cows through a field. I’d been one of very few who had come here when foot and mouth disease had wiped out tourism and remember dipping my trainers at all the gates. I love this place, so while I was beginning to feel very tired my memories kept me going. The road did feel very hard going despite being predominantly downhill until CP7, back at Side Farm. A supporter gave me a massive cheer and told me to keep going, ‘just keep putting one foot in front of the next’…so that’s exactly what I did and I kept repeating it to myself all the way back.
So now to retrace my steps. I felt quite daunted; I’d already been on my feet far longer than I ever had in a race. I wasn’t looking forward to the trudge up to Boredale Hause. I was flagging. I stopped again, filled my bottles with juice and took another cup of sugary tea up the path.

I’d only been to the top of the Hause once with Geoff. I’d thought there was only one path to follow, unfortunately, it branches and I missed the quicker route, ending up circling around and back on myself. Panic rose as I didn’t remember the path; I was so relieved to find the ruined wall that marked the right route.

Annoyed at myself and tiredness drifting in, I pushed on as hard as I could. I started having to make deals with myself, to run to certain markers and then walk, to set regular snack intervals.

It’s still about 10 miles back; a long way after already completing 28miles. I was keen to reach the moor before sunset though, so this kept me pushing forward.

Martindale CP8 done and only one left to go. I started to keep in time with two men who’d been running together. When they ran I ran, when they walked I did the same. It felt comfortable and it distracted me from my negative thoughts. I kept up with them until the cockpit stone circle. I was determined to keep on Geoff’s shortcut after that.

The paths here scatter crazily across the moor. I knew I could go wrong. However, it wasn’t dark, the fog hadn’t fallen and I could see the trees that marked my way home (this was one of my major fears, getting lost in poor visibility on the moor, so the relief was quite something)!

The men in front took a different line but I fixed on bearings and made my way across the moor until I hit the path I knew well from running up as a kid. I realised I’d picked up quite a few places trusting in his directions.

It was pretty much downhill from now and my legs really ached but the thought of finally being able to stop and sit. I speeded up as much as I could, between the ice, only to have to stop to wait for a tractor to cross the road. Then I saw the sign for the finish and stopped for a second, before turning the handle and opening the door to the community centre, final CP, the journey’s end.

I could barely smile and was close to tears; sheer exhaustion had taken over, what a day. It’s strange how you can keep moving forward but once you stop that’s it, and that was certainly it for me.

I must have looked a state. When changed and cleaned up, I arrived at the small canteen and the lady insisted that I sit down and she would bring me all the soup and tea I fancied. I pulled out my phone to tell John ‘your wife is still alive’! He’d had reservations about my adventure. There was no signal though, so I sat and watched as all the weary runners entered.

It’s quite a sight, seeing all the relief and pride flood through the doors. Most wobbled, not quite in the present; a few grinned from ear to ear. The overriding feelings were of pride, exhaustion and gratitude to arrive safely home after what was quite an epic adventure.

I watched the minutes pass waiting for sight of Susan or Geoff; I was relieved to see Geoff arrive safely back. He’d managed a 15-minute PB in conditions that were tougher than some of his previous 6 races; he was also first in v60 group, by a huge margin of 1 hour 15 minutes.

We shared our stories over our tea and soup until refilled and rehydrated, Susan took us back home.

Can’t quite express my deep satisfaction having raced this event. Even last year I wouldn’t have dreamed of attempting anything like it. My hardest, most memorable race yet, can’t wait to do it again!

[Photographs courtesy of John Bamber, Piers and Hillary Barber and Jim Tinnion]

Simonside Cairns, Sunday, December 10, 2017

11 miles/540 m

Scott Watson

Beautiful day for a fell race – but icy cold! So cold that I immediately regretted leaving my gloves in the bumbag as we ran up the tracks towards the fells. My fingers were absolutely numb though everything else felt perfectly OK.

As far as I can remember, this was my first fell race since my Bob Graham in July although I’ve trained on them (the fells) a couple of times. I felt really good after having two unplanned days off and just swimming yesterday (still quite a hard session though).

I started right at the back (also unplanned) as it’s a really restricted start in an alleyway and I turned up on the line later than I would have liked (last I think). However, the race very quickly reaches a road so there’s loads of opportunity to overtake without burning too many matches. If you’ve no chance of winning then starting at the back is often quite a good strategy because it makes you feel like a bit of a god, striding imperiously past mere mortals – until you hit the point where you belong.

Before then I passed Geoff Davis quietly going about his business in his own unmistakable style then further up onto the fell I passed Mark Davinson from Derwentside, so I felt that I was going quite well. In fact, I was running quite strongly up the initial slopes passing many who were already walking – and feeling much more relaxed than I’d expected.

When we hit the fells it was apparent what the theme of the race was going to be: ice! It was everywhere, often in wide sheets, very slippery and HARD! All of the water channels that typically run along and across upland paths had frozen solid in the minus temperatures and wind chill and to step on a smooth piece was always going to end in tears. I hit the deck a couple of times but with no damage other than to my pride.

My particular problem, as soon as I got onto the fells, turned out to be a basic error: I hadn’t put the all-important extra twist in my laces and both immediately came undone when the heather began tugging at them. By this time I was running competitively with a couple of guys from NFR and others and because my shoes still felt fairly secure (Inov-8 X-talon 200s – I love them) I decided to see how far I could get. If it had been boggy I’d have had to stop or I’d literally have lost them. Remarkably, whilst they certainly didn’t feel secure, neither did they feel like we were going to part company and so on I went.

By the time we got round to the back of the course and the climb over the cairns with its stunning views (which I never saw) three of us had broken away though it turns out that there was somebody behind me that was closer than I thought. I was going much better than I’d anticipated and whilst the other guys looked like they were basically faster than me I was right behind them on the climbs, still comfortably running where they were walking, although I had to continue likewise as it involved too much effort to get past in the heather. However, when we reached the tops they very gradually pulled away and that was that.

Much of the long descent to the finish is now on very good, constructed paths obviously put there to prevent further erosion to, what I remember as being, almost muddy tunnels when I last did this race. Now my quads really began to protest. It was simply lack of specific condition but it was more uncomfortable than I would have thought possible. To make matters worse I could hear this guy closing on me so it was going to be fast to the finish and bugger the quads – I’d have to find some other way of walking afterwards.

I pulled away a bit on the last major undulation where I passed a lone walker at the top of the descent of the final fell who for some reason felt the need to tell me that both shoelaces were undone. Blimey, I hadn’t realised! I was actually a bit more uncharitable than that (in my mind) but I’m sure she thought she was helping. Then, almost immediately afterwards, charging down the descent, I hit the deck again when my legs just shot from under me on unseen ice. I was back up almost immediately, shaken and stirred after uncomfortably wrenching a couple of bits and pieces. It was all the guy behind me needed to squeeze by but as we weren’t too far from the finish he must have realised he was going to have to put a shift in.

Personally, unless I was absolutely sure of the situation, I’d have waited until the last descent and raced to the narrow bridge over the river because there’s not much opportunity to pass after that and so you can shorten the race by a hundred metres or so. As so often happens though, once he’d come past it was relatively easy to sit in but I couldn’t help passing him on the last short climb. So I just thought, “get it all out and see what happens”. Nothing – was the answer. That’s the way it stayed until the bridge when the game was effectively over. I was perfectly ready to accept being pipped but was pleased to have only lost the two places after the race had begun in earnest.

Despite the vast amounts of nervous concentration required it was a really good event made all the more enjoyable by the conditions. Not sure where I came but I think I did OK and made third V50, beating the first V45 in the process (I was 13th out of 87 competitors & 3rd V50 in 1:38:51)! Came away smelling of Roses (the Cadbury’s variety).

PositionNameCategoryTime
1Matthew Seddon
Pudsey/Bramley
M Sen1.24.00
23Emma Holt
Morpeth
F Sen1.42.56
13Scott WatsonM 501.38.51
31Geoff DaviesM 601.45.38

The Angus Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble, Allendale, Sunday, December 3, 2017

10.6miles, 1000 ft elevation

Elaine Bisson

Most definitely a muddy one

This is just about my perfect race. Although you can pre-enter via post or online, EOD are available for one pound more at £8. It had been on my ever-growing list for quite some time. A FB post suggesting the ground would be firm and ideal for racing convinced me to enter on the day. A few texts to Michael and we were all set.

The race starts at a very sociable 11 am, we didn’t leave Durham until after 9, meaning a Sunday lie in was enjoyed!

Race HQ and parking are at the Allendale Primary School. After a few toilet stops (there was no queue), I had a little warm up with Michael while he took me to the start of the first hill, and pointing upwards warned me what I could see was not the top…not in the slightest.

I had mixed feelings, this was a last minute decision, a Sunday run to top-up my mileage to finish off (for me) a fairly heavy training week. My legs already felt pretty tired. Michael was as giddy as a schoolboy though. This evidently was one of his favourite races and he couldn’t contain his excitement, which was slowly rubbing off! However it’s a race, and I always get nervous before races, no matter what I tell myself beforehand.

We missed the race briefing and joined the runners as they made their way from the school hall, 200m to the start line in a muddy field. I was pretty sure the promise of firm ground was no longer right as the temperature soared and the thaw had well and truly set in.

The gun fired and we were off, splodging over a muddy field until we hit road and then up, for quite some time and quite a few miles. We then turned off onto an equally muddy and puddly trail; it got muddier and muddier until we were attempting to cross the bogs. I’m not fond of bogs, having torn my hamstring and had months off running because of them, so I really grew frustrated with myself for my lack of confidence. The low sun gleaming off all the sloppy mud and puddles made it really difficult to see.

It was such a pleasure to finally feel firm stone trails beneath my feet again and my legs, after their requisite 3-mile warm-up, were finally not aching anymore. I picked up speed and started to catch a few men who had skipped past me as I floundered in the bogs. I started to enjoy myself after that. It was a beautiful day. We turned so the sun was no longer in our eyes and you could see for miles over gorgeous Northumberland moorland. The frustration didn’t end though. Quite soon we were again navigating around boggy puddles along little tracks that you could barely place one foot comfortably, never mind try to run and swiftly get your next foot in front of your other. The thaw had well and truly set in, it was superbly damp and it did seem we were running in small streams. We splashed and soaked our legs for miles upon miles.
Over the worst of it and again we found ourselves flying downhill on road. I’d totally miscalculated, Michael had told me to be ready for the fast long descent. So when quite exhausted and tired I got on the road I thought that was it. I really picked up speed, only to realise the valley curves weren’t quite how I’d remembered Allendale and then with a sunken heart I spotted runners climbing out of the valley bottom up another steep, but shorter ascent. Anyway, I was longing for the promised descent and I realised this must be my last climb.

I gained quite a few places on the hill then we ran on a flattish stony trail until we reached a gate and I was told I was second lady.

I’d entered not really hoping for much. Looking around at the start I’d spotted a few runners that I’d convinced myself would be miles ahead of me, but once I realised my position I threw myself into maintaining it. I set off down this final long descent catching quite a few runners. I felt really strong by this point, I’ve grown to like descending, no, I really love it.

The finish line was in the field where we started. Welcomed in by Michael who had again managed an astonishing 5th place.
I was over the moon to find empty, warm, clean showers to rid my legs of mud and warm up. Tea and cakes were complimentary to runners. I have to say I’ve never seen such a huge selection of cakes, nor have I taken so long in choosing one! We gathered again in the sports hall and welcomed in Tim and Fiona. It was funny to see the faces filling the room. Some bodies covered in blood from knee down (its quite treacherous and you have to keep switched on running over all the rocky paths), others had fallen waist deep in bog and had needed runners to pull them out. I was so pleased to return relatively unscathed and to be 2nd lady.

The prize giving was in the hall, we stayed to collect mine, unfortunately, we had to dash as the second race of the day was on. The most important one, the one where we prove that we weren’t away for too long on a family day…. I just about made that one with minutes to spare!

It’s tough, there are two big climbs, the first being the longest. The terrain and exposure will yield different surprises each year. You can’t beat the organisation, price and wonderful community spirit that an event like this holds. Loved it!

Montane Cheviot Goat Winter Ultra, Ingram Valley, Cheviot Hills, Saturday, December 2, 2017

55 miles

Stuart Scott

I’ve never written a race report before, however, due to the massive amount of support and well wishes over the last few days I thought that needed to change, so here is my report on The Montane Cheviot Goat.

As soon as I heard about this race I was intrigued, I logged straight onto the website, read all the information and instantly thought, there is no chance I’m not doing that especially in December and that was the end of it.

Fortunately, the organisers kept putting out info on it and then I heard my mate Andy Berry had signed up. He’s the guy who first got me into ultra running. He’s an absolute machine, but every time he’s completed a race, I’ve wanted to do it, convincing myself if he can do it so can I. Andy Berry is also the reason I’m attempting the Bob Graham Round on May 5th. Andy won the Cheviot Goat so I really should have found someone a little easier to compete with!

As I have been building up my fitness for the BGR, I’ve been putting in a lot of training, including heading down in the middle of the night, on a few occasions, to meet random fell runners and BGR enthusiasts I’ve met through online forums etc. I’ve also trained quite a bit with Scott Watson after being massively inspired by his successful BGR attempt earlier in the year. It’s just as well I have been training so hard as I would never have completed that course without it. I’ve completed a 50km ultra and two 69 mile runs previously but they were nothing compared to the mental and physical challenge of the Cheviot Goat. Anyone thinking about it for the future really needs to appreciate this and read other people’s reviews of the course that can be found on The Cheviot Goat Facebook page.

As the event was approaching, the weather forecast just seemed to be getting worse and worse with fog, gale-force winds and temperatures of -5°c with a wind chill of -20°c being reported. To add to my concerns, I’d read on a couple of Internet forums that many thought the event was way harder than people were expecting and a lot of people were going to feel way out of their depth and really struggle. This was not what I needed to hear before my first winter ultra!

The day before the event I was trying to eat as much as possible with plenty of porridge, brown rice, chicken, pasta and sweet potato with a load of water to wash it down.

My plan was to head up to a hotel just near the start at about 6 pm to ensure a good nights sleep but I didn’t end up setting off till after 8 pm and then had to go and register and collect my race number. It wasn’t as busy as I had expected, as many failed to register due to the weather! I ended up getting to the hotel at about 11 pm but the mattress was far too soft and the heating was far too hot, so I only ended up with about 4 hours sleep, again not ideal.

I had to be at the start for 4.30am for kit check and safety brief with the race starting at 5.30am. I felt really fit and strong until I saw the others lined up who made me feel out of shape. We set off bang on time with everyone wrapped up tight with head torches blazing. I felt great at the start but my confidence ebbed a little at the first water station when I didn’t stop and found myself not knowing where to go. The course is totally unmarked and I took the lazy mans option of just following those in front, this strategy worked fine when there were people I could see in front! After rummaging through my various pockets for a minute, I dug out my map and compass and from this point on my map stayed firmly in my hand.

The first few miles were on low lying ground with very little snow, but as soon as we started to climb this changed. Before long we had a good foot of snow to deal with. I was feeling great at this point and knew I was quite near the front of the field, as I could only count about 8-9 sets of footprints in the snow. Brilliant for my navigation, as my new technique was just to follow the footprints. The other benefit of being in the position I was, was the fact the front runners were acting as a snow plough. If I managed to position myself exactly in their footsteps, the going was nowhere near as hard.

The snow had drifted quite a bit in places but I was still able to get a bit of speed up on the downhill sections. Quite often you didn’t know what you were stepping onto but at least when you did fall it was just into soft snow. My waterproof socks were a godsend at this point, as they have a wetsuit type effect. When the water gets in your feet heat up the water so they never really get too cold. I never noticed my feet being cold all day despite the conditions.

After the first section of deep snow it thinned out and the sunrise was absolutely amazing. Myself and the woman I was running with, at this point, talked about how stunningly beautiful it was and what a fantastic feeling it was to be running there. I ended up leaving my running buddy not long after this conversation and shot off down the mountain feeling absolutely king of the world. The feeling I had at this point has only ever been achieved, for me, whilst running in the fells.

A little further along the route, I could see two guys operating a drone on top of the hill I was heading to. I never know what to do when I’m being filmed, so couldn’t decide to look serious, cool and focused or just shout woo-hoo and put my arms out as it hovered above. I think I went for an option somewhere in the middle and am really looking to see that bit of footage when I was on such a natural high.

The next bit was a bit of a blur until we were nearing the halfway point and all I could think about was the rice pudding and can of coke I had in my drop bag. There was quite a climb just before the food station and one guy caught me up and then shot straight off up the hill leaving me standing. Soon after the guy passed me, I turned to see the woman I had been running with at sunrise also catching me up and it’s lucky she did, as I’d dropped my buff while searching for Haribos in my bag and she kindly retrieved it for me. We got talking again. She asked my name then introduced herself as Carol before we started talking about how well our mutual friend Andy Berry was running at the min. We talked about some other races and she mentioned ‘The Spine Challenger’, a 108-mile winter ultra, to which I said there was no chance I would ever enter. I asked her about it and she said she was running ‘The Spine’ race after doing it last year. That thing is 268 miles! I asked if she did well in it, to which she replied she got a good time. I later Googled the race and found out my running buddy was Carol Morgan who smashed the woman’s record in The Spine race last year by 43 hours!!!!

When I got to the halfway point I was greeted with a hot cup of chunky vegetable soup and a bread bun, but all I could think of was my Coke and rice pudding. I ripped open my drop bag and nightmare the coke and rice pudding were missing. I must have put it in the wrong bag! After the soup and a nice bit of cake, I headed out with a Snickers in my hand determined to eat it, as I knew I needed it, especially after having missed out on the rice pudding. I think I carried the Snickers for about 3 miles before I finally got ¾ of it down but it was hard work and I just couldn’t finish it.

The next section was starting to get tough, as tiredness started to kick in and I never saw a single person for miles. At this point, I was so focused on moving forward and watching the ground I got a big surprise when I looked up and saw the most amazing view of the sun setting behind it. The happiness of seeing the beautiful sunset was short lived as I suddenly started to worry about running in the dark once more. I can remember thinking at this point I have about 22 miles left, so that’s only two ten milers and a bit of a parkrun or a great north run and 3 park runs and that’s not too bad.

There was a water station at about 40 miles and it was great to see. Whenever you reached a station or a marshal, they came to great you and gave you a round of applause. It was great seeing them after such a long section without seeing another soul. I can remember joking with them about the takeaway and beer I would be enjoying in a few hours whilst they were still out there.

I really started to slow down after the 40-mile station and the great north run plus one parkrun I had left started to seem like a lot greater a challenge than I had initially hoped. I soon started the climb up to Cheviot and it seemed to go on forever. I think one mile took about 33 min’s and yet again I found myself in deep snow. This was probably my lowest point of the race mentally and physically, as I was just so tired and making very slow progress as darkness fell. I can remember thinking, if it starts snowing or raining heavy, am I even going take make it. It was at this point I considered ringing my wife, but I knew how worried she would get, so I didn’t. If I didn’t have a tracker with an emergency button on it I would have been extremely worried at this point, as I hadn’t seen another runner in hours. They don’t call this race the most lonely for nothing!

I really wouldn’t recommend ever being in that sort of situation without a GPS tracker, a phone and all the proper kit, If a storm had come in at that point and I’d lost my bearings I don’t know if I would have even made it back!

The snow made the very last of the light last longer and I waited until I couldn’t see more than about a meter before digging out my head torch, buff, thicker hat and waterproof trousers. The wind was also getting up at this point but I instantly felt better as I warmed up in my full kit.

As I plodded on up The Cheviot I started to contemplate missing out a section of the course, just to give me that extra chance of making it to the finish. There was a checkpoint about 1km from the summit and the course brought us up around the trig point then down the same route. It just seemed so harsh making us go that bit further to come down the same path. I remember asking the marshal exactly how far it was to the summit, even though I had a map in my hand. I honestly think if he’d said two miles I would have just missed it out. He reassured me it was definitely only about 1km so I continued on.

I can remember thinking at this point I wasn’t even bothered if I missed out part of the course, as all I could hear was the organisers saying you all know your limits so don’t exceed them and I felt right out of my depth at this point. I think the only thing that kept me going was the fact that I didn’t want to hand my race t-shirt back. We had been given them at registration but I’d already decided I’d hand it back if I didn’t complete and I really didn’t want to do that after everything I’d been through. Never before have I been bothered about a race t-shirt but this was no ordinary race.

After reaching the trig point I got a massive boost from somewhere and felt great again. On my way back down to the marshal I passed 4 or 5 runners (the first I’d seen in hours) and made a real point of assuring them how great they were doing and it wasn’t much further to the top. Suddenly the possibility of finishing was back on!

After passing the marshal for the second time there was quite a long downhill section however, the problem was that the snow was that deep you had to, sort-of, skip down the hill and you had no idea what was under the snow. Every now and again you shot down to your waist in the snow, due to a hole you had no idea was there. I spent a good while shaking out my jacket trying to get rid of the snow that had made its way up my back as I’d fallen

As I passed the 45-mile mark, the thought of another 10 in these conditions was an absolute nightmare; three park runs all of a sudden seemed almost impossible! I knew I needed more energy but just couldn’t bring myself to eat any more sweet stuff and the thought of a gel made me feel sick. I will definitely be packing a lot of savoury snacks on my BG attempt. Luckily I still had a load of high-energy mountain fuel in my water bladder so I just drank as much as I could and powered on.

As I neared the bottom of the downhill from Cheviot, I could do nothing but walk and it’s not a good feeling knowing you really should be taking full advantage of the downhill but just couldn’t. I can remember looking back at this point and seeing two head torches slowly catching-up on me. I was so jealous I couldn’t make the most of the downhill like they were. When that first runner passed me, he was the only one to have overtaken me in twenty miles, but it’s a good job he passed me when he did, as not long after he passed, his foot shot down through the snow and became completely stuck under a rock. Luckily for him, I was right behind him and was able to give instant assistance digging him out. We quickly dug away at the snow and he started to shout. His leg was going into cramp. Once all the snow was removed, we started digging out the soil and found that his foot was wedged between two rocks, thankfully one wasn’t too big and we were able to dig it out and free his foot.

The above incident really brought home the extremities of the conditions we were running in. What if the other runner gaining on us had already passed me and my foot had got stuck and nobody was there to help me? I could easily have been stuck there freezing for 30 min’s plus before another runner caught up. If I’d been unable to move, I would have got very cold, very quickly. I did have the GPS tracker with an emergency button, however, due to the remoteness of the location, I couldn’t see the Mountain Rescue being able to get there anytime soon and that is a frightening thought!

After many thanks from the freed runner, it was time to start the next climb, get these final few miles out the way and get the hell out of there. I could see a tread cut out of the snow on the line the runners before me had used, however, I just didn’t have the energy to use it. There was a fence running right the way up to the summit on my right, so I just chose to cling onto that to use it as a handrail most of the way up. The problem with using the fence to pull myself up was nobody else had used that line, so I was cutting through deep snow most of the way up, but I felt it was worth it.

Reaching the top of Hedgehope was an amazing feeling as I was now in the final section of the map. I now knew I would make it and I could keep my t-shirt. I had pretty much given up all hope of running any of the course from here but amazingly my body kept finding that little bit extra and little runs broke out here and there.

With about 3 miles or, as I was thinking, only one park run left, I was walking very slowly and bumped into two guys who worked for an adventure film company. They were making a film about one runner’s story and build up to this race and they offered to walk with me. This was fantastic and I will always be grateful to them. These guys were the first people I had really got to talk in hours. I have no idea what I was babbling on about to them but just having others with me at this point was a massive help.

By this point, a few runners were catching and passing me so I just followed any lights I could see. The downfall of this lazy man’s option became apparent, once again, when it transpired a couple of guys in front had gone the wrong way and I had just blindly followed them. Luckily we didn’t go too far off track and again I was reminded of the importance of good navigation.

With about one and a half miles to go, I started getting excited that the challenge was nearly over. The film guys took a call and I couldn’t be bothered to wait as they stopped to talk, so I just left them, without so much as thanks or goodbye. I feel really bad about this now but was just so focused on finishing at the time.

With about one and a half miles to go my recently changed spare head torch battery died and I was left trying to run in the dark. There were a few runners a little way in front but I soon lost them as I just couldn’t keep-up trying to run without a light but I knew I was on the home straight now.

I came off the fells and onto a road within striking distance of the finish but had no idea of my bearings and couldn’t see my map as it was too dark. My phone was in the bottom of my bag but I couldn’t be bothered to dig it out to get to the light, so I just started running on the road with no idea as to the direction I should be travelling. On reaching a junction I didn’t know where to go. A car passed which I tried to flag down but they mustn’t have had anything to do with the race and drove around me and left me standing waving like crazy.

I was in a massive dilemma now. Do I just continue on in a random direction, as I know the end is a few hundred meters away, or go back to try and find another runner. I wasn’t thinking straight and just wanted to run in any random direction but then started thinking, what if I accidentally take a shortcut and get disqualified. I couldn’t risk having to give my t-shirt back now! Of course, the sensible option was just to stop and get my phone with a built-in torch out, but my brain just wasn’t working properly, so I went for the option of shouting a long list of swear words as I ran back up the road to where I had left the fells. Thank god two runners were just coming onto the road as I got back. I ranted at them for a minute about what had happened to me whilst following them back up the road I now knew well and over the finish line!

A small group came out to applaud us as we finished and there were many congratulations from fellow runners and race organisers. I collapsed into a chair and swore blind to buy a drink for any person I ever see in any bar wearing a Montane Cheviot Goat T-Shirt!

The pain in my feet was unreal as I pulled my trainers off and I could hardly walk over to my bags to retrieve my clean warm dry clothes. I pulled my fresh clothes on and called my wife, so happy to proclaim, I had finished and was still in one piece. As I sat there waiting for some feeling to return to my feet, I started sorting through my bags and instantly found my rice pudding and Coke in the top compartment of my drop-bag. It had been there all along…..gutted!

This race is by far the hardest ultra I have ever run, it pushed me to the max both physically and mentally and although I swore never again at the end, I cannot wait to beat my time next year!

Thank you to everyone in the Striders who has helped me improve my running, as I would never have completed this run without your help!

Anyone interested in seeing the relive video of my run can find it here:

Relive ‘The Cheviot Goat’

Windy Nook Inaugural parkrun, Saturday, December 2, 2017

5km

Andrew Davies

First Striders at Windy NookI’ve been trying to be ‘Great North Done’. That’s what everyone calls it when you’ve run all the parkruns in the North East. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? It’s not like I’ve just made it up!

It’s all the parkruns from Druridge Bay down to Darlington. There are 23 now, I think. I might count Catterick and Northallerton as bonuses.

After finally getting to Gibside last week (which is great by the way), I only had Druridge Bay for the set. I’d even got to the sneaky new one at Newbiggin not long after it started. That’s another good one, as our captains will testify to after today, I’m sure. Coincidently I bumped into Paul and Dylan Swinburne there, as I did today at Windy Nook. Yep, another new North East parkrun. We’re spoiled for them up here.

I rolled over in bed to see how many more hours I had to luxuriate when I noticed it was 07:58 and my 07:30 alarm had failed! Luckily I’d got my uniform ready the night before, as if I was a school kid, and was dressed in minutes and out the door before 08:20. This gave me plenty of time to do the 25-minute trip to Gateshead.

The postcode (NE108XU) sends you to Whitehills Community Centre where’s there’s space to park. From there you need to walk 500 yards through a housing estate to Windy Nook Nature Park. The organisers emphasised how we shouldn’t park in the housing estate to avoid annoying the residents. There was free tea and coffee in the Centre after. I expect it won’t always be free.

There was a lot of snow and ice left around the North East and Facebook was peppered with parkruns being cancelled. Luckily not Windy Nook. Coincidentally, my Daughter was supposed to be playing footy at Hill Top School half a mile away but that was cancelled too. The course is not far from Wrekenton XC so that should tell you what to expect. The snow had turned to slush which flowed down the paths and turned the off-road bits into slippy bogs. I’d packed my fell shoes but made the mistake of wearing my brand new Brooks instead. They’d be fine for this course normally but not today.

I was expecting lots of tourists from the cancelled runs. There were 215 runners, in the end. I suspect this parkrun will attract around 150-200 most weeks, but what do I know?
The organisers did a great job welcoming everyone, explaining the route and bad conditions and to expect some hiccups.

The course is complicated. At least it was today. There was a hiccup and we went the wrong way on the first lap (I’ll have to go again to be sure). It’s a three-lap course; you start and finish at the same point. Before the first lap, you set off around a small path loop in the wrong direction then you start the laps. Halfway around, there are 14 steps. But there are two sets of steps in the park and we went up the wrong ones first-time, I’m sure. The real lap has a long wood chip incline with the real steps and a muddy bank. It’s great to do it three times. It’s not as bad as the inclines and hill at Flatts Lane but the mud made it almost impossible to run up today (in Brooks).

Windy Nook is not a PB course. I was saving myself for Sunderland Strollers Half on Sunday and I took nearly 28-mins. I’ll be going back to get under 25 minutes soon. But I don’t think I’ll get very far under.

It’s a fine addition to the ‘Great North Done’ set and all the Striders should get there soon before any more parkruns appear (I’m looking at you Kerry in a Peterlee type direction).

Border Harriers 66th Brampton to Carlisle 10 mile Road Race, Sunday, November 19, 2017

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. Endurance Champion Race - click flag for more information.

Jonathan Hamill

Running the Strider funnelAlthough some may not see the appeal of a wintry run along main and minor roads which are not closed, I relish the prospect of this, the oldest 10-mile road race in Britain. Slick organisation, a net downhill course (albeit with a few negative decline challenges!), friendly atmosphere and the lure of a carvery afterwards – what’s not to like? As B2C is a firm favourite on the club GP calendar, this also ensures a good purple contingent.

Last year I had a good run, which left a time of 1:20:33 to beat. My plan this time was to nudge just under 5 min/km pace, which would break 80 minutes. Above all, I told myself to avoid the error of my ways last year – setting off like a scalded cat, which caught up with me later in the race.

There had been some planning ahead of this day in the spectator department too – my Son Patrick was really looking forward to spending the day with Lewis, and watching the racing. The Strider bus weaved along the countryside to reach Brampton and upon arrival at the William Howard School, there were earnest discussions about the prevailing conditions, and whether long or short sleeves were the order of the day. I settled for my club vest but with the comfort of my gloves, beanie and as I’d had a niggle in my left calf, my fetching compression socks.

Compulsory posing (Mr Hart)After the team photo, we moved towards the start on Longtown Road. Having been before, I knew to expect a ‘surprise start’ – the road closed at the last minute, and a starting pistol fired rapidly to despatch some 500 runners on their way.

The first stretch downhill with a sharp right turn to join the Carlisle road has a habit of encouraging a bit of an overly keen pace. This year was no different, and as I ran along for the first 4 km or so at ~4:30 min/km with Graeme Walton, we remarked on how we had diverted a little from the plan. I knew the climb up to the Newby back road would settle me down, and it did.

As I ran along these minor roads, thanking the volunteers on my way, I reflected on the remarkably dry conditions compared to the wading experience of the 2015 race. Natalie was in front of me and provided me with a purple vest to keep within my sights – try as I might, however, I could not catch her.

Through Low Crosby, we re-joined the A689 towards Carlisle. I knew there were a couple of undulations to come, and I told myself to keep calm – last year I’d developed a horrendous stitch in the last 2 miles which had been hard to recover from.

Bobble hat brigadeI could see the houses on the outskirts of the City, and pressed on. To my left and ahead, I started to see the River Eden, and finally the Eden Bridge. I passed Andy and Mike who spurred me on, just before the final descent to the Bridge. On the Bridge, I was determined not to let the chap in front beat me, and to my left, I saw a welcome sight of two bobble hats – Patrick, and Lewis. As I got closer I realised this was a Strider funnel, and I gave it everything I had left to get ahead of the white shirt in front. I rounded into the finish funnel and smiled from ear to ear – job done! A hugely enjoyable race, with a PB of 1:15:37 and well done to all Striders who ran!

Probably the best post-race carvery in the worldNo medals for this race – I think I got a pair of socks in 2015, a lovely coaster last year which is on my desk, and this year’s prize was a race mug. Thanks to the organisers who also let Patrick and Lewis have a mug each for their cheering efforts.

 
Position NumberNameCategory Position Time
1527Robert Danson
(Wesham Road Runners & Ac)
M150:06
28344Sophie Cowper
(Rotherham Harriers And AC)
F156:24
22406Stephen Jackson54:45
64420Michael LittlewoodV4091:00:27
73301Matthew Archer1:01:11
103459Phil Ray1:03:50
21223Michael BarlowV40341:11:44
230507Graeme WaltonV45281:13:09
253309Natalie BellL371:14:54
267382Jonathan HamillV40361:15:37
300386Peter HartV40401:17:44
312315Jean BradleyL6011:18:58
364366Mark Foster1:21:40
366480Chris ShearsmithV40441:22:02
427318Alex BrownV45491:25:39
432475Lisa SampleL35241:26:20
506492Debra ThompsonL50161:33:01
558512Karen WilsonL45331:46:16
562353Sophie DennisL1931:47:25
573494Margaret ThompsonL6551:59:45

Aykley Heads Cross Country – A view from marshal point 18, Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tamsin Imber

Sarah, Emil and I stood at our marshal point the top of the hill, just before the entrance into the woods. We were as ready as we could be! Two layers of everything, high vis, Sarah’s flask of tea, and food. All would be needed for this four-hour stint. Alas, I had not been able to locate my camping chairs from under my neighbour’s pile of stuff in the shed, but never mind, it was probably too cold to sit down between races anyway!

The kids’ races had been lovely to marshal and to cheer them on. I saw Oscar and a few kids from junior parkrun. The organisation of the emergency system was tested out as a girl in the Under 15’s race threw herself to the ground halfway up the hill and lay on her back! The response from a nearby spectator to summon a medic was immediate. Luckily all was well. As soon as she saw the medic rushing towards her she leapt-up, springing to life, and continued running up the hill! It had just been a power nap!

It was nearly quarter past one. Sarah had gone off to the start area. From our viewpoint, Emil and I could see the start area and tents in the distance. We saw a HUGE crowd of runners gathering near the start of the senior woman’s race! We waited in suspense. Bang! And they were off! It was like watching a handful of stones that have been thrown into the air, in that some were moving off faster than others. Interestingly, after a very short distance, the runners at the front of the pack seemed to spread out a lot quicker than everyone else. Was this because they had more space? Was this because they had planned a fast start? …?

The pack ran around the top of the field and then disappeared from our sight over the brow of the far hill. I was surprised at how long it seemed before the medium pack were started, and then again at how long it was until the fast pack were started. Normally it feels like thirty seconds when you are waiting to start yourself but from the position of a relaxed marshal, it was all a bit different! Once the fast pack had disappeared from sight, it all went a bit quiet from that direction, and Emil and I waited in suspense! When would we see the head of the first runner coming into view?! I suspected that this hill from a runner’s perspective would be long and gruelling! Sarah and Emil were both running today so were going to have to become additionally ‘at one’ with this hill by the end of the day!

When the first runners came into view it was brilliant!! Very exciting! Especially as Laura Weightman ran past and I’ve only ever watched her run on the TV before! There were two runners in front of her. I wondered if Laura Weightman was just biding her time. I wondered if she feels pressure to win every Cross Country race and if so, how does she cope with that?

Much better than that though was seeing Sally charging up the hill in fourth place!! Totally Awesome (please leave the capital A)! And then more and more Striders! In fact, as a whole, every single Strider was way up in the field! Fantastic running from everyone! Everyone was putting in their all! Brilliant, brilliant efforts all round! We heard the cheers from the finish area as people started and continued to finish. Well done all of you!

Emil then left to get ready for the men’s race. I had a silent ‘disco for one’ to warm up. Sarah returned in due course, and after some recovery hot tea, she was ready to marshal again. The men’s race started perfectly on time. There is a lot of them compared to the woman’s race! In fact, from a stationary point, it is like watching one of those very long goods trains go past! On lap one they were fresh and determined. On lap two it was clear on their faces that they were feeling the pain, but still giving it their all. On lap three they had renewed strength, perhaps from the fact it was the final lap! Maximum respect. I would like to try three laps to see if I can also get through the punishment of lap two! I really enjoyed cheering everyone on. Everyone ran brilliantly! As with the woman’s race, the front of the field was as spread out. Is this because it is a pursuit race and people have yet to be moved up? It was interesting to watch. And Sally’s friend was super impressive, …he was lapping people on his third lap!

As the race came to an end my hands were stinging from clapping and I was craving central heating. But it was brilliant to support and be part of it, and to see everyone try their best! Massive well-done Striders! You should be proud!

Tour of Pendle Fell Race 4830′, AL, Barley Village, SW Pennines, Saturday, November 18, 2017

16.8 miles

Paul Evans

‘I’ve not yet done the full course, so back next year it is.’

Photo Courtesy of Phil Donlan

So said I, two years ago, after the Tour was shortened due to inclement weather (for a fell race, this takes a lot), shortly before developing an unhealthy relationship with work for the next year, with far too many hours spent behind a desk and training tailing off somewhat, along with any motivation to run. The extra stone or so, as a result of this inactivity and a love of bacon, was not exactly helpful either.

Instead, let us forward two years, to now, minus 36 hours, when I stood back on the line (actually, tucked somewhere halfway down the field, safely away from the pointy end), ready for the hammer to drop on this compact, punchy East Lancs race: conditions excellent (cold, clear, blustery but no rain), field sizeable (c400) and Strider numbers one (plus an ex-Strider now running for Kirkstall Harriers). I’d had my porridge at a suitably ghastly hour, had found actual toilet paper in the toilets and was full of tea, so all was basically good. Better yet, earlier XC fixtures at Wrekenton and Druridge had even seen the return of something that felt like competitiveness, which boded well.

The race begins with a fairly flat mile on the reservoir track, primarily to permit the field to spread before turning due north up the slopes of Buttock, onto Pendle Hill. This passed quickly, with a degree of mild frustration when trying to pass slower runners, until I reminded myself there was a long way to go and a lot of it would be spent walking; this indeed occurred shortly, with the first climb being a run/walk affair until the contour lines began to space out and permit a steady pace to be achieved up to the trig at CP1, the high point of Pendle Hill (in case you’re wondering, the entire race is essentially an up-down affair of one hill, the hill only being 558m in height). The top was wet but runnable, and the leg down to CP2 was a delight, what with being able to see this year, all of it downhill and none of it steep – 2 miles of pleasure, with only the wet ground at all hazardous (reader, we had bottom/ground interface for the first time when ambition trumped ability in an over-taking attempt), then another easy half mile to CP3, hand-railing another reservoir.

Photo Courtesy of Phil DonlanThe fun was now over, and we needed to climb sharply through slippery mud and bracken, then back onto the
moorland; this was slow, but profitable in terms of places, and I crested ahead of those who’d come past me on the way down. I then saw them again as they flew past me on the infamous ‘Geronimo’ descent, which started slowly, got faster as I gained confidence and finished sliding on my posterior, stopping just short of the stream of Ogden Clough (CP4); this was 2 climbs and descents of a total 6 accomplished, and it was starting to hurt, though the field was beginning to spread and I was gaining one or two more places on each climb or flat section than I was losing. I’d also acquired some blood on my right hand and face (another runner pointed this out), though was unclear how.

Through the stream and sharp left, we ran single-file along a narrow, rocky path towards the headwaters, then crossed it again and made a shorter climb that was actually runnable for the second half (another place gained) before dropping gradually, at proper running pace again, to CP5, legs loosening and enjoying the chance to stretch out. Up again to CP6, another left off the top, with yet more descending like a crab/ball/a.n.other thing incapable of running in a straight line on feet, and it was onto the final two climbs, those missed off the bad-weather course of two years ago. Going back onto the top to CP 8 started well, though the horror of concave slopes is that they get harder the closer you get to the top, so the first hundred or so yards were fine, unless you raised your eyes and looked up at the grassy wall in front – the one peppered with dots of colour, all moving slowly upwards. I would say that everyone was suffering by this point, but realistically the winners were nearly home by now, so that would be untrue; the rest of us were firmly in ‘hands-on-thighs’ mode, though I managed to steal a place or two by getting hands-on and essentially crawling upwards, hitting CP 8, embellished with a massive union flag blowing in the wind along with the waterproofs of the well-wrapped marshals.

Photo Courtesy of Phil DonlanI now knew we had half a mile of running on the flat top of Pendle, another descent, a final climb and then home for tea and cake. It played out essentially that way, with me holding my place on the top, dropping a couple on the downhill section (a few little crags on this one, just to keep you on your toes), then working as hard as possible, again with hands-on-grass, on the last uphill, knowing this was the last chance to push for places – in the event, I gained half a dozen or so, and hit CP10 (at the trig passed on the first leg) opening my legs desperate to hold whatever slim advantage had been gained in the last 15 miles. The leg to CP11 was the reverse of the initial leg, but a little to the west – grassy and downhill all the way to Ogden Clough, easy running and probably fun were it not for the competition. It hit me here that I wanted this place, wherever in the field I was, and that the competitive urge largely absent for a long while was back – I would probably not resort to knee-capping other runners to hold my position (this isn’t XC, after all!), but I’d not dismiss the idea out of hand…idle thoughts aside, I had breath in my right ear and the vests of Bowland, Todmorden, Rossendale and some club in red ahead of me, all of them possibly catchable. Some, on the reservoir road that makes up the final mile, were caught, others were not, and some who’d not been in sight initially were chased fruitlessly as I got closer – there was even an approximation of a sprint finish, entirely in vain as I was never going to make up 30 yards on someone who was themselves only 20 yards from the line.

That, then, was that – the line crossed, a ‘well done’ from the time-keeper and handshakes with those in front and behind me for a race hard-fought, whilst drinking from the jerry-cans of water set out for runners. 17 miles done and a category AL race in the bag, for the grand cost of £9. As things stand, writing this on Sunday evening whilst wearing the race T-shirt that the organisers throw in), I don’t actually know my finishing time (3hrs-ish?), nor my position (top half?), but am satisfied they couldn’t have been a lot better on the day in what is always going to be a hard race, no matter the conditions: six times up and six times down a hill that’s not that high sound so much easier than it actually is.