All posts by Anita Wright

Bridges of The Tyne 5 mile Road Race, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Jonathan Hamill

Photo courtesy of AJ Running Photos

Bridges of The Tyne, or BOTT as we fondly refer to it, is a go-to race for many Striders, where the standard of competition is high. Most importantly, Tyne Bridge Harriers put on a consistently excellent event, and are renowned for the enthusiastic, cheerful marshals (thanks all concerned!).

I had an extended day in the office because I thought it was easier than trekking home and back. The closure of the Scotswood Road due to a burst water main provided an additional challenge but thankfully traffic subsided to near normal levels and the drive to the Tyne Bar (Race HQ) was relatively straightforward.

In stark contrast to the perfect racing conditions of the previous year (damp and cool), the weather this time was comparatively tropical. I collected my number, and decided to rest outside the Tyne Bar, resisting the urge to have a cool beer! I’m not good in the heat, so had decided to just have a steady run out – mentioning my plan to running buddies Dave and John who had already run 5km to pick up their numbers! That plan changed a bit on the warm-up run over to the start as I realised the temperature had dropped and the river breeze was welcome!

Last year I’d had a decent run, with a gun time of 38:30 and I thought maybe chipping a few seconds off that would be ok in the heat. Then in the pen, Fiona reminded me that I’d had a decent run at the Hartlepool Marina 5 miler. The fuse was lit and all restraint and notions of a steady run went out the window.

I struck out a little too sharp but managed to settle myself. Anna was off like a rocket and Fiona and Katy were in front of me gaining ground. I saw Dave Coxon ahead of me too and decided to put all ideas of chasing him out of my head! I saw our fast lads approaching, and knew I was close to the turnaround slope. I managed to utter a few yells of support which mentally told me I wasn’t overcooking the goose at that point.

I dropped a few seconds on the slope to the turnaround, and the marshall was yelling “nil-nil” which I think referred to the progress of a soccer tournament, rather than my running progress. On the drop back down to the river, I didn’t relent, mindful that I could recover those lost seconds. On the return, the marshals continued to provide ample encouragement and it was good to see Rob calmly standing his ground hastening folk on. I remember giving Rachel Toth a big yell, and then I go to work, picking folk in front of me one-by-one and it wasn’t too long before I was on the Quayside again. My mind flashed back to the torture of last year’s finish when I got buzzed by Robin on the line and I had a sneaky look behind to check for any advancing purple vests. Then the finish straight – the best bit! I heard some of our fast lads already finished shouting and I increased my pace to cross the line.

Gun time 37:22 and a course PB – I’d indeed managed to shave a few seconds off, job done! I stayed to cheer the others in and then given my lack of interest in watching the soccer, I beat a retreat home. A great race with some gutsy Strider performances all round!

      
Pos.Bibno.Finish timeChip timeParticipantCategory
121526:33:0026:30:00Stephen Jackson(M) Senior
226529:24:0029:22:00Michael Littlewood(M) 40-44
348229:29:0029:27:00Mark Warner(M) 35-39
41131:18:0031:16:00Matthew Archer(M) 35-39
52534:49:0034:42:00Anna Basu(F) 40-44
623336:26:0036:20:00Fiona Jones(F) 40-44
717237:22:0037:16:00Jonathan Hamill(M) 40-44
847837:38:0037:32:00Katy Walton(F) 35-39
910437:54:0037:40:00Sarah Davies(F) 50-54
1039938:14:0038:05:00Chris Shearsmith(M) 40-44
1118338:49:0038:35:00Peter Hart(M) 40-44
1238439:39:0039:16:00Michael Ross(M) 45-49
135839:52:0039:34:00Karen Byng(F) 45-49
1414239:57:0039:45:00Mark Foster(M) 35-39
152340:38:0040:16:00Louise Barrow(F) 35-39
1626442:27:0042:12:00Robin Linton(M) Senior
1741943:03:0042:39:00Lee Stephenson(M) 45-49
1834643:40:0043:25:00Joanne Patterson(F) 35-39
1938943:54:0043:30:00Lisa Sample(F) 35-39
2026645:54:0045:40:00Wendy Littlewood(F) 40-44
2150147:17:0046:52:00Kimberley Wilson(F) Senior
2219552:56:0052:29:00Carol Holgate(F) 45-49
2347252:57:0052:31:00Sue Walker(F) 60-64
2445759:25:0058:50:00Rachel Toth(F) 40-44
2526301:00:4001:00:04Helen Linton(F) 55-59

Skiddaw Fell Race, Keswick, Sunday, July 1, 2018

15.4km/961.6m (9.6miles/2700ft)

Aaron Gourley

It was hot when I arrived at Keswick football club on Sunday morning – the type of heat you expect when you step off the plane upon arriving at your summer holiday destination. Stepping out of the air-conditioned car made it feel even more intense.

I’d arrived with the family in tow so they set off for a wander around Keswick while I made my way over to register for the race. The usual fell club vests were on display, hanging loosely from the skinny bodies of those whose playground the high fells of Cumbria belong.

I paid my £7 and went back to the car to get changed. I’d last run this race in 2015, in cooler conditions and had had a blast. For the unknowing, this is a fast out and back race up to the summit of Skiddaw, starting and finishing on the field between the football and cricket club of Keswick’s Fitz Park.

The race was due to start at 12:30 pm with around 100 runners gathered awaiting entry to the start pen following a very thorough kit check. It may have been hot with no chance of conditions changing but the organisers were fastidious in ensuring everyone was carrying the required kit set out in FRA rules.

Once everyone was checked in the start area and following a quick brief from the race organiser, we were off.

The pack spread quickly as the route snaked its way out of the park and up the lane towards the bridge crossing the A66. From here the gradient begins to steepen up through the woods. It was also nicely shaded here.
The path winds its way up out of the tree line to a car park at the foot of Skiddaw. From here the route hits the wide path that leads directly to the summit. A few little ups and downs the bang – straight on to the slope. The path steepens sharply as it zigzags its way up and mine, and everyone else’s pace drops dramatically.

It’s now hands on knees for the long slog to the top. There is no air; it’s hard to catch a breath. Sweat begins to pour off my head, into my eyes and off the end of my nose. I look up; I’ve not gone very far. Ahead of me, there are just headless bodies, everyone is doubled over marching their way up the hill with hands on their knees.

My breathing is swallowing, my legs are trembling and I’m having negative thoughts. I’m pretty sure I can’t make it to the top. The last time I was here was with Stuart Scott in November training for his BGR. It was cold, windy and covered in snow that time. What I’d have given for those conditions right now.

I pass two walkers (turns out it was Steph Piper) who shout encouragement and it gives me a temporary boost. Onward I march until eventually the gradient levels out enough to stand upright, catch a breath and break out into some kind of run once again.

Just as I’m approaching the gate at the foot of Skiddaw Little Man, the lead runner comes hurtling past on his way back down. He’s got a huge lead on the second place runner who also beats me to the gate.

Eventually, more runners come past on their way back down as I make my way to the final short sharp climb towards the summit plateau. It’s still hot but there’s a mild breeze blowing behind me, which helps a little as I make my way over the rocky path to the summit and turnaround point.

I’m greeted by two marshals, directed around the summit cairn and then it’s back the way I came off the mountain. The views are stunning and it’s hard not to gaze, but full concentration is needed to get back off quickly and safely – those rocks ready top trip you over at any time.

Slap, slap, slap go my feet as I try to make my way down the steep slopes quickly and efficiently. There’s a skill to downhill fell running, one that I think I’m fairly good at, but it takes a lot of concentration and nerves of steel to trust yourself and your foot placements. If only I could get up these hills quicker I’d have a fighting chance of being competitive.

The heat and my breathless assault to the top have left me exhausted so coming down is not done with my usual vigour. My thighs are burning and I’m struggling for breath. I pass some of the more cautious downhillers whilst those with more energy fly past me.

Eventually, I reach the bottom of the slope and have the run back through the car park and into the woods. This should be a relatively straightforward run back but I just haven’t got any energy left and the heat has taken its toll so my pace is slow as I make my way back to Fitz Park.

Finally, the finish field is in site and I cross the line and slump to the floor under the shade of the trees.

I check my watch for the first time during the whole race – 1hr59mins – 19 minutes slower than my previous effort. I knew this was going to be slow, given the heat, but I was disappointed at just how much slower it was. And so my struggles continue as I try and find some kind of form but I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I can take in a race with some real effort.

2018 Results

2018 Mizuno Endure 24 Leeds, Saturday, June 30, 2018

125 miles in 23 hours 21 min

Gareth Pritchard

For someone who has always trained for fast and flat, PB times and the love of tarmac, this report is truly something I never thought I’d write. The blame/credit for this lies squarely at the feet of my amazing other half, Catherine Smith, and 2 super tough female Striders, Kerry and Anna.

I had heard about crazy ultra running and been totally amazed for years about what people achieved, but none of it ever really seemed real or understandable. When someone said they just ran a 40, 60; 100-mile ultra it just did not compute to a roadrunner. I had no comparators. I know what 5k hard felt like and I had experienced the massive wall at 20 miles on a marathon. I had no idea what ultras would involve.

What’s a good time for 50 miles? 100 miles? Everyone always told me you can’t do both. You run long, your speed will suffer. Say goodbye to racing the distances I love. Those were the thoughts running through my head when someone mentioned ultrarunning. My perspective now has certainly changed.

In June 2017 Leeds held their first Endure24 race and our very own Anna Seeley and Kerry Barnett both took part. Catherine and I decided to help them set up, giving us our first glimpse of the ultra world. Soon after we both signed up for the 2018 Endure24 Leeds event.

So what is Endure24?
You have 24 hours to cover the greatest distance you can, run, walk, crawl or just endure till you can’t give any more. The race starts at midday Saturday and ends 24 hours later. It’s a tough mixed terrain 5 Mile lap, chip timed and supported. You can stop/start whenever you like until the cut-off and eat, sleep, change clothes, and shower. Your battle is against yourself, the ticking clock and your desire to achieve the impossible.

My build-up to this was unconventional, to say the least; I am not an experienced distance runner in any way shape or form. My main goals were London marathon and Windermere marathon, so it was well into May until I even seriously considered Endure24 a goal/target to train for.

I’d run two 50k events as a test, earlier in the year, to see how I’d react. The first, 50k was way too fast and I’d suffered. The second was just over 4 hours and I absolutely loved it. I even managed a cool down 5k lap with Catherine after. Those 34 miles remained my distance PB right up to the day of Endure24.

I’d always wondered if I could run 100 miles in a week; my normal weekly distance is about 30. This is very low for a marathon runner. I have always focused on quality rather than pure miles in my training. This works well with my lifestyle commitments and I strongly believe it’s why I’ve been injury free for a couple of years now, But Endure24 required more.

To up my mileage, I decided to run to Blaydon start line, and finish the race with Catherine for my first ever 100 Mile week. It worked out perfectly. 20-miles from my doorstep to Newcastle, then a fun Blaydon race experience. 100 Mile week done and followed up with a 90+ week. I felt good. 2 weeks to go and time to relax, race hard and of course taper.

In the weeks before Endure24, I ran a low 17 min 5k at the first Cotsford fields parkrun and set the course record, placed 2nd at a very hilly Gibside marathon in 3:25 and I also placed 2nd at Keswick half marathon, a tough race on a boiling hot day, but what I was most pleased about was 3rd place at Lambton 10k with a 2 min course PB of 35:48. I’d proved to myself I could still run fast while training for an ultra, but the ultimate test was about to come, Endure24 was now one week away.

I’d picked up some tips and advice by accident and chance. Chris Callan gave me a Torq apple crumble running gel as payment for a post-Blaydon drink. Catherine decided to order a box of them after I raved so highly about it after a training run. This turned into a total godsend.

Another happy accident was winning New Balance vouchers at Keswick half marathon; I bought their 1080 shoes with them. These proved to be perfect for Endure24, with wide toes, comfortable, light and lots of padding. Perfect for churning out the miles and protecting my feet. The 3rd important part was discovering Mountain Fuel, energy system. This was after talking to an impressive collection of ultra runners at the Northeast Marathon Club’s Gibside marathon and 24-hour event.

So my training started late, a distance PB of 55k, one 100 Mile week and, surprisingly, I felt extremely confident. I felt in great shape. Maybe not sub-16 for 5k, but definitely in good form. I could train long and still felt fresh, fuelling was good and I knew I had an amazing support team around me for the event.

The Friday came, car loaded and off we set for Leeds with camping gear, all our food and most of our running gear.

The camping area is the same place as Leeds festival; Endure24 is described as the Glastonbury of running for a good reason. We pitched our 3 tents together near the start area and settled in. The race HQ is something special, a massive catering area, beer tents, pizza cooking, ice cream van, mobile coffee van, music DJ, massive banners, and flags flying. A total festival feeling and everyone in such high spirits. I must admit I felt a bit out of my depth, with semi-professional ultra runners strutting about, all the gear, total pros but everyone was great and we soon saw people we knew. It’s a small world the running one, and I love that fact when the nerves kick in.

Our goals? Catherine 50, Kerry and Anna to beat last years distance, and for me 50+ with a perfect day achievement of 100 miles. We also wanted to fundraise for Great North Air Ambulance, a great charity, close to our hearts. Anyone who has seen me race will know I’m a competitive sod, I love to race hard and a target or goal really does motivate me. Everyone who achieves 100 miles gets a special t-shirt, so that was my goal. Me being me, I also looked up the course record, 120 miles… just ridiculous.

It was forecast to be hot, and it was when we started on Saturday but we were prepared. Factor 50, hat on and all our kit ready. The solo runners have an area to store our food/gear just after the start/finish line. We had packed iceboxes, change of clothes and what we thought we needed. The midday start was great. You had a good sleep and breakfast and some runners even arrived in the morning, choosing not to camp. Pairs and teams of up to 8 were also running as well as us solo runners. This confused and annoyed me in equal measures but again turned out fine.

We decided not to walk the route on the Friday. The first lap was supposed to be run/walk easy and learn the route. So, of course, I decided to run the whole thing and stupidly quick. Well into my 3rd lap I remembered it was a 24-hour race and I really needed to slow down.

So what does the 5 Mile lap look like?

You start on a long grassy straight, not flat. Short gravel downhill, twist sections on gravel, uneven woody climb, and awesome dance party station with energy drink. Hula dance cheer station, more up and downs, uneven ground. Long sweeping covered wood section, amazing checkpoint just before 5K with singing support team and the best-behaved children and best marshals ever. The important toilet and gels were in supply at this station too. Then it opens out to more climbs and grass fields, before a long climb at 7k. At the top, you’re welcomed with the sight of the start/finish area in the distance and a cheeky climb to the end. May not sound it, but it’s absolutely perfect for clocking the miles, I ran the good bits and walked the hills. Every section I soon had my markers as to when I’d start running or walking, and it just made it so much easier.

The dreaded relay teams also helped. They whizzed past constantly, so you always had people around you. I was very rarely on my own through the whole event. I had my music and phone all ready to go but never used them once. Another big bonus was catching up with people on the laps; I would stop and take a break with Catherine, Anna and Kerry on the way. This helped to keep me sensible and a check on my mental well-being.

After a few laps, I started to realise I was in the lead. The DJ would shout my name out as I crossed the line and I’d try not to look too embarrassed. People must have been thinking who is this idiot going around so fast, just a matter of time before he blows up, clearly has no idea what he’s doing. This was my thinking at the time, but I kept to the run/walk and concentrated on the 50 Mile, 10 lap goal; soon that was ticked off, then 75!

With night drawing in, the head torches came out. I loved this change; the pure focus on the path ahead, the sheer beauty of the sunset and the night sky with a giant moon, a total privilege to see. During the night temperatures dropped significantly and I went through some seriously rough times for sure. As Catherine achieved her 50 miles target around 3 am, I caught them up. My memory is hazy but I definitely must have looked in a bad way. I hadn’t eaten anything solid for hours and couldn’t keep solid food down. Mountain fuel and apple crumble gels were all that was keeping me going. A few angry eyes from Catherine & instructions from Nurse Barnett and I stormed off to the catering area for some chips and a hot chocolate, a total lifesaver.

I went back out refreshed and still unbeaten, somehow I kept going and the 100 miles neared at 5 am with the sun on the way. A very special feeling crossing the line knowing I’d just run 100 miles, the DJ was still tucked up asleep and it passed in silence but inside I was dancing. Catherine was there to capture the moment, I was fully winter running clothed and looked beat up, it had been a hard night but I’d done it! I’d hit the target, scored the sought after tee shirt and could tell everyone who had sponsored us I’d achieved my ultimate goal!

As the sun came up I changed into shorts and t-shirt, put sun cream on and started to feel human again, I wanted to keep going. Catherine was awesome, supplier of hot food and various treats she pulled from the cool boxes. Rob, Kerry’s partner also helped with a surprise chocolate ice cream and the coldest best cola drink ever when I really needed it.

On my 110 Mile lap, I started to realise I could really win this thing and go for the course record of 125 miles. I was still running ok, everything hurt but I was getting used to that. I worked out that if I ran a decent 115 and 120 lap I would still have 1h30 easy for a victory lap with Catherine. So that was it, head down and ticked off 2 sub hour laps with 120 miles done. Refreshed and ready with Catherine, we started – lap 25 for me and lap 11 for her.

It’s hard to put into words just how special a moment this was. The pain of every hill. The stopping and starting. Everything hurting, but never once did I think of giving up. We thanked everyone on that last lap and the cheers at the end were amazing. Kerry captured the moment perfectly. 125 miles in 23 hours 21 mins, course record and I was not quite broken, even though it was a distance PB of 90 miles!

Catherine achieved a distance PB of 55 miles with more in the bank for sure, Kerry achieved a fabulous 60 miles, distance PB and Anna achieved an amazing 90 miles, distance PB.

A truly special event, exceeding all expectations. Will we all return? Some of us definitely will, it’s back to the short and fast for me, but you never know. I’m happy to report Ultra and speed can survive together.

Alwinton Three Tops Fell Race, Saturday, June 16, 2018

15 miles, 2400ft

Aaron Gourley

“You know the bag with your running shoes it,” asked my wife over the phone as I pulled up at the lights near the Duke of Wellington on my way to pick up Paul Evans.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Are they supposed to be outside the front door?” she said knowing all too well what the answer was going to be!

I’d forgotten to pick up my shoes so I had to make a decision on whether I had enough time to drive back and get them? I was already running late but thought I’d better go back. I picked up Paul and off we sped back to Wingate to get the shoes before hurtling up the A19 and onto the A1 hoping we’d make it to Alwinton, just north of Rothbury, in time to change and register for the race.

It was cut fine but we made it with at least 14 minutes to spare, a quick change and dash to the pub to register and we were ready.

Geoff and Jack were already there looking relaxed having had a more sedate journey north.

The conditions were about perfect for running a fell race with good visibility and a light wind to keep the temperature down as around 51 runners gathered for this annual fundraiser for the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team.

After a short brief and a “3,2,1 – off you go”, from the race director and race was on. I was feeling a little leggy still from my Hardmoors 110 exploits and still suffering from tight muscles around my left knee so the plan was to just take it easy and enjoy the route.

The first mile or so is a steady climb but I immediately fell behind most of the pack as I watched Paul, Jack and Geoff shoot off into the distance.
The trail, whilst not particularly steep, was a drag and I found myself really struggling before it eventually levelled off ahead of a long descent and double back on the roadside ready the first really significant climb of the day.

As I approached I looked up and knew this is going to be a tough day. And so it proved, my knee hurt but even worse, I just didn’t seem to have any energy at all. The next few miles were torturous as the hills rolled up and down.

The tussocks made for uneven running and with my knee hurting, I found that I was struggling on the downhill where I would normally have had fun and been able to claw back some of my lost time. It was fair to say I wasn’t really enjoying this race for the majority of it. But I stuck in; I knew this was my first real race of this type for a long time so it was a case of sucking it up and getting on with it.

The checkpoints along the way were marshalled by Mountain Rescue staff who were very cheery, which made for light relief and before long, the route dropped onto the forest track where the gradient shallowed and the path levelled enough to actually find some sort of rhythm when running. I was starting to feel much better now, as I was able to maintain a relatively even pace.

Up ahead I could see a few runners that had gone past me as I struggled on the hills, and as the trail continued I began to slowly draw them in. One by one I began to make a bit of progress, and eventually, I’d clawed back at least four lost places as we hit the final checkpoint before the long descent back to the finish.

After what seemed an eternity, I finally dropped back onto the road we’d run up at the start of the race, before turning the corner to see the finish up ahead.

Paul was stood waiting at the finish, having had a blistering run coming in first Strider and 8th overall and Geoff had a beaten Jack who’d admitted to having had a pretty miserable time out on the course himself.

Stuart’s Scott’s Biggest Adventure (so far…). The Bob Graham Round, Lake District, Saturday, May 5, 2018

66 miles & 27,000ft of ascent

Stuart Scott

It has taken me a while to put this report together as I’ve really been struggling to write a report that does justice to the enormity of the challenge that is The Bob Graham Round. I really wish I was a better writer to get across fully what this challenge has meant to me, but here’s my best shot at it…

I’ll start with the generic boring bit:

The Bob Graham Round is a fell running challenge that involves completing a route of approximately 66 miles and 27,000ft of ascent over 42 of the highest peaks in The Lake District. The round was first done in 1932 by Bob Graham, a hotel owner in Keswick, who at the age of 42 wanted to complete a circuit of 42 lake-land fells, within 24 hours. The round is known as the testing ground for the supremely fit and being a lover of extreme challenges, from the second I heard about it I knew I had to complete it.

After a little research into what exactly the round involved, I knew I had to become a member of a running club if I wanted to have any chance of completing the round. This is when I decided to join Elvet Striders.

I always remember my first night at the club. I was really nervous about coming down, I’d always previously run by myself, I’d never had any sort of structure or planning to my training and I was worried everything would be too serious for me, up until this point all my running had been the way you are not meant to do it, but somehow I’d always managed to get that to work for me.

The first night I listened to all the run options and was immediately drawn to this guy known to as ‘The Mudman’. I could not have been made to feel more welcome at the Club and after a short conversation, he asked me why I had joined up. I asked him if he’d ever heard of a challenge in The Lake District called the Bob Graham Round, he said he had!

I’ll always remember Geoff asking me what I’d done previously and how much fell running I’d done. When I said none, I just wanted to do The Bob Graham Round (BGR), I’m sure he thought I was insane! I felt a bit daft at this point. Saying you want to do one of the biggest fell running challenges there is, then admitting you’ve never actually taken part in a fell race, is not the usual approach.

Not at any point during this initial conversation did Geoff ever mention he had done the BGR. He was obviously a very experienced runner and I was instantly worried I’d just introduced myself as a total ‘gob-shite’, so I had no option now but to complete the round to prove I wasn’t.

I soon became a regular at Striders, every Wednesday night, and was really enjoying challenging myself, building up the miles and becoming a better runner. In January 2017, I was involved with road support on Andy Berry’s winter Bob Graham Round and although my part was only small, I drove all the way back to Durham buzzing about what I had just witnessed and dreamed about the day I might be able to complete the challenge myself.

The night of Andy’s round I’d also got talking to one of his support runners a guy named Paul Johnston. He asked me if I’d ever fancy it one day and when I said yes, he said please remember me and get in touch when you have a date. I did save his details and Paul did indeed end up supporting me.

Throughout my whole BGR experience, I have come across so many random fell runners that have been more than happy to put themselves out to help me train and achieve my goals. It really is humbling and also leads to the BGR being so much more than your average long-distance challenge.

Not long after witnessing Andy’s round I got back in touch with Geoff and was given the details of a few others at the Club who might also be interested in training for a BGR. I’d made a couple of solo trips to the Lakes but I’d found these extremely hard. The terrain is brutal, the weather is harsh and if your navigation isn’t the best, it can make things very dangerous. Unfortunately, people have died whilst recceing the BGR. You really do need to have the utmost respect for those hills.

The other problem I had with my early solo recces is I needed someone to reassure me that what I was doing was correct. I found the course so hard at times. I was convinced that what I was doing wasn’t right; my map must be wrong, surely it couldn’t be this hard, surely nobody could ever complete five legs of this course when I was struggling with one. These questions and doubts were all going through my head and this is why I needed to be with someone else.

One of the first people I met through the BGR was Scott Watson; he was training for his own BGR attempt and played a massive part in my early Lakeland adventures.

The first run I had out with Scott really was a shock to the system. I’d never met Scott before but we had agreed to meet up in Threlkeld Cricket Club and the plan was to run up Clough Head, along the Dodds to Helvellyn, see how we were doing, then take it from there.

Scott set off quite slowly and I can remember feeling that I thought he’d be going faster than this and I felt great. Then the first climb started and it was brutal. I immediately started coming out with all sorts of excuses as to why I was finding it so hard. I was telling him about all the training I’d been doing the last few days. I think Scott’s reply was something along the lines of “Whatever run you are doing there will always be someone there who has trained harder and done more so just stop talking about it and crack on”. No truer words have ever been spoken!

For the vast majority of that run-out with Scott, I was struggling. Scott was always a good bit ahead and it was really hard for me to keep him in sight. I couldn’t get my head around how fit he was and how the 20 odd miles we had done that afternoon, was one of the easier sections of the course. I wondered if I could even do it but Scott reassured me for my first 20 odd mile Lakes trip, I’d done well and he thought I did have it in me and this sounded good.

As time went by I started to feel myself getting fitter and fitter. I was running lots and I’d say was now completely addicted to exercise. I craved running and found it difficult to sit still. This isn’t a good combination when you don’t have any sort of training plan. Everything was great until about 20th March 2017. I’d felt ankle pain whilst out on a 20-mile run but instead of resting up I decided to take some painkillers and run another 14 miles the following day. This resulted in me limping back to a bus stop then hopping home before having to take 3 months out from running due to a stress fracture. I was gutted, Training had to stop. We had a holiday planned in the Lakes very soon after my injury and I had to stay-in whilst my wife went on regular runs without me.

My return to running was on 10th June. My wife Susan had a place in the Durham Coastal half marathon and we decided to run it together. Maybe coming back from injury to run a half isn’t the best idea but luckily I got away with it and I was back in the game.

Scott Watson’s BGR was on 8th July and I really wanted to still be part of it. I was sure I’d be ok but it was decided I would meet him halfway round leg 3 and it’s a good job I did as I was knackered by the end of it.

Being part of a BGR attempt really is something special and the buzz surrounding the whole day really has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Needless to say, I drove back that day even more excited about the possibility of completing it myself. All the excitement of Scott successfully completing his round had inspired a few others to have a shot and with myself, Elaine Bisson and Dave Gibson all fancying our chances at it in 2018, dates needed to be organised.

The BGR is such a massive team effort and because there are only a few Striders really into fell running I had to make sure the date I set for my round wouldn’t have any impact on the other two. Bearing this in mind I went for Saturday 5th May. It really was getting real now.

Over the course of the next few months, I made regular trips to the Lakes trying to fit them in the best I could around my work and family life. If I wasn’t self-employed and didn’t have a really supportive family and workmates, there is absolutely no way an attempt at a BGR would have been possible.

All the trips over these next few months are unfortunately a bit of a blur but I did try and get down as often as I could with Scott, I can also remember sharing a couple of my earlier adventures with Geoff. Both Geoff and Scott were both absolutely fantastic in helping, supporting and encouraging me during those early days and with them both being phenomenal athletes, they really did inspire me to improve. I certainly needed to improve too as a good few of these trips with Scott resulted in me stopping several times on the way home to be sick. I used to be happy if I could make it past Rheged services without spewing!

As time passed my fitness improved and I was smashing personal bests over every distance I raced. My body shape was also changing too. I’d started training for the BGR with a 36” waist wearing only large shirts and I was now wearing 33” jeans and a slim fit medium shirt. I felt great.

As 2018 approached I started to get nervous as to how prepared I was. Time was moving fast and I only had 5 months left. I spoke with Geoff and he agreed to write up a full BGR training plan for me. I was very grateful. I was adamant I was going to follow this to the letter but as I’d never run to a training plan, I knew it would be hard. For the first time ever, I found myself training late at night, in the cold and dark and at times when I was really tired but it needed to be done if I wanted any chance of success.

I set up a BGR Facebook group for training sessions and was constantly on the official Bob Graham 24 hour club Facebook page trying to recruit training partners and support runners. It wouldn’t be unusual for me to head down to the Lakes in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning to meet random fell runners I had only just briefly chatted with the day before.

Some nights my wife would go to bed and I would pop out for a 10,15 or 20-mile run. I even managed a marathon personal best one night running from Durham to Newcastle’s Quayside without having any intention to do so when I initially set off. I was completely obsessed, but this is how the BGR affects you. It got a hold of me like no other running event has even come near, this thing is in a league of its own.

As Elaine Bisson’s BGR was within 3 weeks of mine our paths inevitably crossed, and I’m so pleased they did. We were both completely obsessed with the BGR in a way that is not really possible to explain or understand unless you have done it yourself. It was fantastic having someone to talk everything through with, who knew exactly what it was like. We were both thinking about the challenge every day and night. We were either training or planning to train. We were worried about weekly mileage and elevation gain, food and nutrition, kit, weather conditions, injury, support runners etc. etc. The list just went on and our poor partners could only take so much Bob Graham talk.

Elaine and I ended up in a weekly elevation gain battle where we would both try and hit at least 10,000ft and I just couldn’t not do it. There was many a Sunday night when I was out doing hill repeats on Redhills Lane at 10 pm just to hit 10,000 ft. I even remember Elaine signing up to Strava as they gave slightly higher elevation gain figures than Garmin for the same run, I’m pretty sure she never managed to beat me though ha-ha!

My last few Lakeland recces were with Elaine, but I’d also run with Geoff, Fiona Brannan, Penny Browell, Jack Lee, James Garland, Aaron Gourley, Mark Davinson, Andy Berry, Daryl Tacon, Des Thorp, Chris Smith, John Parkin as well as some others briefly. Jack might be able to help me with the names of the two guys who lead us off the top of Blencathra in the thick fog one cold January afternoon when we became completely disorientated. That wasn’t a good day on the hills but definitely a good learning experience.

As my attempt day approached I was really starting to worry about having the right support in place. To make a successful attempt at the BGR you need to have a big team in place and this takes a lot of organisation. Once your team is sorted you then have the constant worry about someone getting injured or dropping out. After all your months of training, planning and preparation, it can soon go up in smoke if you get really bad weather on the day and you don’t have anyone to carry your equipment or with the necessary skills to lead you across the top of mountains in bad visibility.

About a week before my attempt I got word one of the guys, I was hoping to navigate for me, was indeed injured and another running the same section was also worried he may have to pull out. I’ve got to say I was more than a little stressed, however, after a little shuffling about regarding who was on which section, everything was soon sorted and a full team was back in place.

I’d had very little sleep on the lead up to my round as I was far too excited. I’d never before put so much into something and honestly, I think I put more into completing my BGR than I did into my degree course. I can remember saying to someone that I never remembered being as excited the night before Christmas as a small child, as I did now.

The 4th of May was spent travelling down to Keswick as well as eating and drinking as much as possible. I had one last walk around Keswick with Susan then went to bed at about 8 pm; after all, I was setting off on the biggest physical and mental challenge of my life at 3 am.

By 10 pm I was still wide awake and getting more and more frustrated by the second. The challenge was hard enough anyway but how on earth was I going to do it with no sleep?

I woke up a little before 2 am and started eating immediately. I felt as high as a kite. I was so focused and couldn’t wait to get going. Mark Davinson and Fiona Brannan were due to meet me at the house then we were all walking down to Moot Hall to meet Paul Johnston there. As we approached the marketplace there were a few drunk people sitting about and shouting. I can remember wondering that they could go home, sleep it off, then turn out again the following night and be just as drunk again, all in the time I would be gone for one run!

Just before 3 am, I climbed the steps of Moot Hall, took a deep breath, then set off on what would soon become, after 37 years, physically and mentally the toughest 24 hours of my life. My wife Susan followed the 4 of us through Fitz Park then gave me one last kiss of luck as we set off with head-torch light towards the summit of Skiddaw. You see I was doing it the ‘proper’ clockwise way round, unlike Elaine, Geoff, Mike, Tom and Scott ha-ha

On the way up Skiddaw I felt fantastic, I was moving well and all was good. After 30 mins of running, Mark shouted out “What did I want to eat?”. I was still full from my massive breakfast, so took an energy gel instead. The horrible sticky thing ended up going all over the place, but at least I’d taken something.

As we reached the top of Skiddaw, I had to ask how we were doing compared to my schedule. I’d actually forgotten to bring a copy myself and had no idea of any of my timings apart from that I should be in Threlkeld one leg down at 6.30am.

We dropped off Skiddaw and headed across the boggy Hare Cragg. My feet were soaked but that’s no issue when you know you have to cross a river a couple of miles down the line. I had a few little bits to eat as Mark shouted reminders, then was soon at the top of Great Calva. Two peaks down and only 40 to go.

The descent down to the River Calva is steep but great fun. We crossed the river and the sun was just starting to rise as we made our way to the summit of Blencathra. The head-torches came off and I was really feeling alive, clear skies, no wind, beautiful sunrise surrounded by mountains and my 3 running companions. The only people within miles, what a perfect start to the day. Paul retrieved his phone from his bag and made a short video of my ranting about how wonderful running in the Lakes was, why anyone would ever want to run on a track, and everybody should run the hills.

The photo at the start was taken shortly after this moment on the summit of Blencathra.

From the summit of Blencathra, we set off down the steep rocky scramble via Halls Fell. The rock was a little wet and slippery in places. As Paul had done it many times before he set off at a good pace with me in close pursuit. Mark and Fiona, not being as pushed for time as me, took a safer more steady approach.

Paul and I arrived at Threlkeld at 6.37am and were first met by Geoff who directed me to my seat by the support vehicle and the others eagerly awaiting leg 2: runners Penny Browell, Aaron Gourley and Mike Hughes. I felt great, I was 7 minutes behind schedule but that was nothing.

I took a seat in the waiting chair and requested my cool bag, the response I got was, “Cool bag, what cool bag?”

I was gutted, I’d been really fancying a few cold sausages and a hand full of mini pork pies and they weren’t there, but not to worry, I did have rice pudding and a couple of other things I can’t quite remember. I changed my wet socks and shoes then we set off on leg two.

The weather was perfect and it was great to be surrounded by another group of people who had made such an effort to come and help me on my big day. It really is a humbling experience to have so many people give up their day and drive such a long way simply to assist you in achieving a goal you’ve been working towards for a long time.

The climb from Threlkeld up to Clough Head is hard work and although we’d spread out a little by the top of the climb, it was no time before we were all running together again as a group of 5. Geoff was out front in charge of navigation, whilst Mike, Aaron and Penny, carried my supplies. Penny also did a fantastic job of snapping away and got a load of great photos.

We were ticking off the peaks nicely along the Helvellyn range and it was fantastic having someone with Geoff’s experience leading the way. We slightly overshot the summit of Dollywagon Pike, however, this was no problem as Geoff’s knowledge of the hills is so good he quickly realised what had happened and rerouted in no time.

All was still going well half way round leg 2 and I felt great, although I was aware I wasn’t really eating as much as I should be. As we passed Sticks Pass, Aaron took the order for the food I would like at Dunmail and he set off down to the next checkpoint to make sure everything was waiting on my arrival.

The summit of Fairfield is an out and back up the same track, so for this section, Geoff took a small break and I headed up with Mike and Penny.

The fog, or in fell running terms, ‘the clag’, really started to come in on the way up to Fairfield. The temperature fell with visibility decreasing at the same time. At this point, I realised I had forgotten to pack my jacket, hat and gloves, after taking them all off at the end of leg one, but luckily for me, Mike had a spare fleece and pair of gloves I was able to borrow, to stay warm.

Penny and I reached the summit of Fairfield slightly ahead of Mike but after tagging, we turned and were immediately disorientated as to the direction we had come in, due to ‘the clag’. We were just reaching for a compass when we heard Mike shouting and this got us back on track to head back down again and meet back up with Geoff.

As we met up with Geoff, Mike then peeled off and made his way directly down to Dunmail as myself, Geoff and Penny headed up Seat Sandel, via a route I’d not used before. After the summit had been tagged, I really enjoyed the downhill run into Dunmail. I could see a load of vehicles waiting and knew my wife, my parents, kids, parents in law and leg 3-support team were all there waiting for me. It was the most amazing feeling ever, being greeted in by such a big group of friends and family exactly on schedule, two sections down of the biggest challenge of my life.

I took my position on a chair as twenty odd people all looked over, all wanting to help and do something for me. Susan set about changing my socks and shoes as my parents tried to find all the food I was requesting. I think the first thing I asked for was a crème caramel, however, like the cool bag at leg one, unfortunately, these had been forgotten.

I had an absolute ton of food in the car, just about every food I’d ever craved on a run was there but to be honest I think the choice was too big and I just kept going from one thing to the other. By the end, I’m sure I ate sausages, rice pudding, tinned fruit and mini pork pies.

It was all very hectic at Dunmail and I remember Andy Berry, my leg 3-navigation man, saying I was starting to faff. Someone sprayed sun cream on me and we were off again. Leg 3 here we come. I can remember thinking at this point, surely completing the round from here couldn’t be that hard. I was right on schedule, nearly 8 hours in and two legs down and I had a full 16 hours left, how wrong could I be?

Leg 3 started well with my team of Andy Berry, Elaine Bisson, Jack Lee and Daryl Tacon. We seemed to be moving really well, we were having a laugh and I felt fantastic. Unfortunately, things were about to take a turn for the worst!

I hadn’t eaten for a while. I knew I had to eat, but I just couldn’t face anything we had. I was really annoyed with myself. I had every food you could imagine in the support vehicle. The one thing I can always eat is rice pudding but unfortunately, I hadn’t given any rice pudding to any of my support runners. As luck would have it Daryl happened to have one small pot in his bag. I guzzled this down and instantly felt better, however, the effects of this didn’t last too long.

From this point on I rapidly started to decline and could feel myself getting slower and slower, I knew my schedule was out the window but there was nothing I could do, I knew I had to eat but I just couldn’t.

My support team was absolutely fantastic and were constantly trying to get me to eat and offering me all of their own food supplies. Andy pulled out 3 fun-size soft drinks cans over the space of a couple of hours and each one felt like the best thing ever, but the effects were only short lived. Elaine seemed to have an endless supply of food and she was relentless in trying to get me to eat but I was really struggling. I started lying about eating, just to get her off my back. I was spitting stuff out when she wasn’t watching or storing it in my checks hamster style.

Daryl presented me with pepperoni. I knew it would do me the world of good but just sucking the juice out of it was the best I could manage. Disgusting, I know, but tasted so good at the time.

I started ranting about rice pudding and why hadn’t I brought any? I talked about the price of it, the different brands, the fact there should be a drinkable version, we should start making a drinkable version just to sell to endurance runners, surely we’d make a fortune, it could be called Rise pudding because of the energy it provided. I was obsessed and was even asking random walkers on their way up if they had any on them. Unsurprisingly nobody did. Everyone was laughing away whilst Andy managed to video me proclaiming Rice pudding was the best invention ever.

Andy ended up taking my bag meaning I had to hound Jack every-time I wanted a drink but he was fantastic and nothing was a bother. At least I was still drinking.

The last funny moment I remember was trying to take my compression shorts off and getting them stuck around my ankles I was really struggling to get them off and keep my balance whilst Andy recorded me with everyone else laughing away.

From this point on the rest of leg 3 was a blur. One of my walking poles snapped whilst ascending Scafell. I can remember asking why my fingers were starting to feel all tingly. I was aware some of the others were starting to get concerned about me but I was convinced if I could just make it to Wasdale and get some rice pudding all would be good.

I was so relieved to get to Wasdale and can now completely understand why so many rounds come to an end here. I was knackered and any fell runner will tell you there is no easy way out of Wasdale!

I slumped into my chair and was trying to get as much food into me as possible. Anything that could be easily swallowed like rice pudding was what I was after. Anything hard was out of the question. Whilst eating I was assisted in changing my shoes and can remember apologizing to James Garland, Phil Ray and Dave Gibson because of how delayed I was, it was now 5.15pm and my scheduled arrival time was 4.17pm

I was determined I was not going to make any more mistakes regarding food and drink, so I selected everything I was craving from the huge supply in the support vehicle and everyone’s bags was filled, including my own. We were just about to set off when it was decided it would be crazy for me to attempt to carry my own bag. I agreed and dumped the bag. The only problem was we forgot to take anything back out of it!

The climb out of Wasdale is long, steep and hard, I was in trouble and everyone knew it. Elaine would later refer to this climb as the death march and I would have to agree, I’d been convinced as soon as I’d eaten I would feel better but unfortunately, this just wasn’t the case. We all slowly plodded on making our way out of the valley at a very slow pace in deadly silence and it was such a relief to make it to the summit.

On arrival I requested my can of shandy, however, unfortunately, it was not there. No problem I’ll have the protein shake instead, however, nobody had it. When I asked for the apple and nobody had that either, it immediately dawned on me that we hadn’t emptied my abandoned bag, which also meant I didn’t have a head-torch!

Trying not to be too disheartened, I had a few spoonfuls of rice pudding and downed some coke. It felt great at the time, however, two minutes later I was sick and Yewbarrow was promptly renamed Spewbarrow. I could not miss the deep look of concern on everyone’s faces but James, Phil, Dave and Elaine were absolutely fantastic and just brushed it aside as they convinced me everything was still fine when I knew deep down not one of them must have really been thinking that.

We continued to plod on. I was now going very slowly. I was trying to sit down at every possible opportunity. Just a couple of minutes here and there felt like the best thing ever. I honestly think if I hadn’t been on my actual attempt and wasn’t being constantly supported and encouraged by the most fantastic support crew I could have wished for, I would have just curled up into a ball and gone to sleep.

As we approached Red Pike my one remaining walking pole snapped, the light was beginning to fade and everyone was constantly trying to get me to eat and drink. Luckily as we still had rice pudding this was possible. A Soreen loaf was broken down into the smallest possible pieces and mixed with the rice pudding. Every time we stopped, I would try and drink a little more. By now I was fully aware that if I didn’t get more food inside me it was game over. I was starting to panic.

Darkness came and luckily for me James offered me his head-torch. We formed a line and tried our best to stay really close together as four head-torches to guide 5 people over one of the hardest sections of the BGR in the pitch dark is definitely not advisable.

I remember very little of the journey between Pillar and Honister pass apart from it was bloody hard. We could hardly see. There was lots of stumbling and tripping going on and I had just about given up all hope of actually completing my round. It was a devastating feeling. Months of training, planning and preparation was on the line. Nearly 30 people had given up their day to come and help me achieve my goal and I was going to have completely wasted everyone’s time if I didn’t complete. You only have 24 hours to complete the Bob Graham Round. Even if I did make it, if I was one minute late, everything I had been through would have been for nothing.

My descent into Honister was very emotional, I kept saying I no longer thought it was possible, I think at the time I just wanted one person to agree with me so I could just call it a day and go to sleep, however, nobody did. The support and encouragement I constantly received from Elaine, James, Dave and Phil was second to none. There is no way I could have completed leg 4 without them and for that, I will always be grateful.

As we neared the checkpoint Elaine ran ahead to ensure all the food and drink was ready for my arrival. If this thing was still at all possible, I needed to be in and out of that checkpoint as quickly as I could. I flopped into an awaiting deckchair at Honister and the look on everyone’s faces told a thousand words. I knew I was in a bad way. Everyone was being really supportive and convincing me I could still do it, however, the look on just about everyone’s faces didn’t match what they were saying. If Mr William Hill had been in Honister that night, he would have probably been offering 100/1 on me finishing.

I could hardly lift my head up or keep my eyes open, there was so much hustle, bustle and words of encouragement coming at me from all angles but all I could manage was to open my mouth as my fantastic wife Susan spoon fed me rice pudding, fruit cocktail and yoghurt. I downed a bottle of protein shake and tried to focus on Geoff. I have so much respect for Geoff and everything he has seen and achieved on the fells, that I needed his opinion; I asked him what he thought I should do? After a long pause, he said to head for Dalehead and see how I got on. I was very aware of how hesitant he had been with his response but he hadn’t said to call it off, so it was still game on.

It was now about midnight and I had 3 hours to get back to Moot Hall. The pressure was really on. My good wife Susan and her friend Tricia would be joining me for the final push as well as Elaine, Dave and James all of whom wanted to stay on and see me finish. I raised a few smiles whilst insisting James needed to bring half a can of fruit cocktail with him but he didn’t really complain and we all set off.

I was running with Susan and she just kept telling me how proud she was and how she knew I could do this. Susan knows how determined I am and I could see in her eyes she really meant what she was saying. This had an astounding effect on me. I started to sing at the top of my voice and was urging others to join in. I think most people thought I’d lost it, but Susan joined in with me and I started feeling stronger with every step I took. The climb up Dalehead is the last major climb and I knew if I could make it up there I should be ok.

I made it up in what seemed like no time and felt fantastic; I could not have been further away from the person that had arrived in Honister an hour earlier. I started chatting away with everyone and my confidence was growing with every step as we made our way across to Robinson, the final peak of the round. We went slightly off track on our way off Robinson and I think I whacked Elaine over the head about 3 times with her own walking poles, as we scrambled down a rocky section on our way to the road and the home straight.

From the start of the road section, it’s about 5 miles to Moot Hall and I had about 50 minutes to get there, it was going to be tight. I was now confident I could do it but wanted the reassurance of someone running with me. I asked around to see who was ready for a sprint finish but nobody really seemed up for it. We were all tired at this point. James asked me how fast I intended to go and when I said 7-minute miles he just looked at me and said seriously “how fast?” I repeated myself “7 minute miles”; I don’t think I got a reply the second time.

When we did hit the road I was like a man possessed and immediately picked up the pace. Susan and Tricia being the freshest runners ran with me but were struggling to keep up. Tricia took Susan’s bag, I grabbed my tracker, dumped my t-shirt and then ran off semi-naked with Susan into the night. It must have been some sight for anyone passing at 2.20am

After a few more minutes it became clear Susan wouldn’t be able to keep up with me so after a short discussion I decided to leave her and go it alone. The race was on and the clock was still ticking. I had to make it. I started to stress about going the wrong way. I’d only recced the full road section once before and imagine the frustration and embarrassment of missing the 24-hour cut off because I’d got lost on a road! Over the next 10-15 minutes, I must have looked at my watch 30 times.

With about 1 mile to go the sense of euphoria was really starting to build. Surely I couldn’t possibly go wrong now? I was going to make it, I was actually going to become a member of the Bob Graham Club, The high I was feeling was immense.

With only a few hundred metres before I hit the streets of Keswick, I could see someone standing. It was Tricia’s husband Chris. He didn’t recognise me at first as he was looking out for a group of runners not one single, semi-naked man running as if his life depended on it. I’m sure he asked me if I’d seen Stuart I replied, “I am Stuart, I am going to make it!” Chris was so happy for me and started chasing after me. The next faces I saw were that of Penny and Jack I was so happy as they ran up to me to see me in.

As soon as I saw Moot Hall I knocked it up another gear and sprinted at what seemed the fastest I’d ever run. The others struggled to keep up as I ran to the top of the hall’s steps and touched the door!

After 23 hours and 47 minutes and with the best support crew I could ever have wished for I’d done it. 60 seconds later I collapsed in a heap on the floor quite possibly the happiest man alive. My parents, Geoff, Fiona, Penny, Phil, Jack and Chris all came over to congratulate me and I felt I was King of the World. Never before have I felt such a high like it.

The cold soon started to kick in and no matter how many layers I put on I couldn’t get warm. My teeth were chattering like crazy and my whole body was shivering but I needed to see the rest of my team in. After what seemed like ages Susan turned up. She had done exactly what I had been fearing earlier and had got lost on the road section, taking a little detour around the bypass, but not to worry here she was now celebrating with me and trying her best to keep me warm.

Tricia came in next shortly followed by Elaine, James and Dave, I was so happy to see them all in and struggled to keep myself composed as I greeted and thanked them for assisting me in obtaining my goal.

I will never forget the sense of achievement I felt that night. Until the day I die I will be grateful to each and every person who played a part in me becoming a member of The Bob Graham Club.

For anyone thinking of taking on this challenge be prepared for it to take over your life. After your first few recces, you will start to crave the mountains; you will fall in love with the Lake District. You will become obsessed with training plans, weekly mileage and assent figures. You will meet dozens of inspiring people, many of whom will become your friends. These people will suggest silly things like running in the mountains in the middle of the night and you’ll struggle to say no. You’ll end up training in the freezing cold, the wind, the rain, the dark and the snow but you will develop the deepest respect for Mother Nature. You will become obsessed with diet, kit, maps, GPS and weather reports. You will most likely try and convince your wife/husband/partner to move to the Lakes. You will bore them silly with your constant talk of the round. You will question your sanity and will often wonder why you are putting yourself, your family and your friends through it but The Bob Graham round will change you forever and I can’t imagine it won’t bring a smile to my face every time I think about it for the rest of my life.

Thank you once again to every single person that was part of this epic journey, without you this goal would never have been achieved!

The only problem I have now is planning what’s next and I can tell you now it’s not going to be anything small!

Stamfordham 10K, Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Andrew Davies

I’ve been keeping my eye out for mid-week 10ks as an alternative to the normal Sunday morning ones. Having said that, I’ve entered a lot of Sunday morning 10ks!

Stamfordham 10k is a Run Nation race and is expensive, as a consequence (£16.50). It’s chip timed, with a nice medal but no t-shirt. I’m not sure where the money goes. They’re always well organised and friendly though.

Stamfordham is a small Northumberland village off the A69 on the way to Hexham. Very convenient for me. I had plenty of time to get there from Gosforth for the civilised 7:30 pm start.

The postcode took me to the middle of nowhere before I’d realise I’d entered the road name ‘B6309’, not a postcode. Anyway, a quick Google of Stamfordham Village Hall showed I was 4 miles away with plenty of time.

The weather was perfect. It’d been warm recently but tonight there was just enough cloud cover to keep the heat away. This was lucky, I was wearing my long sleeve Striders top, with the sleeves rolled up. This was my fourth race in ten days and the vest hadn’t made it through the washing cycle this time. Bit of a blessing as I think it’s shrinking and looks more like a training bra.

The roads weren’t closed for the race but I saw a max of five cars out there. Two of them were the organiser and photographer. There was loads of space to park in the village. Just over 100 runners gathered around the village hall, picking up their numbers and chatting. Nice building with loads of toilets. This is when I heard about the last kilometre. Apparently, it was quite a drop; a really speedy way to finish. And I could believe it because I could see the slope coming into the village to the finish outside the hall. I was then concerned about the climb we’d need to do. But I shouldn’t have worried too much.

At 7:20 pm, after a good warm-up, we all headed to the start, about 500 yards towards the other side of the village. There was a quick briefing from Angelos Epithemiou from Shooting Stars. Then we were off.

We headed out of the village on the country road and turned left. The course is one large rectangle of country roads. It’s a beautiful part of the world but you don’t get to see too much of it. The roads are long, straight and lined with large hedges and trees.

It’s officially undulating but none of the individual rises are anything to worry about. However, it does slowly rise on average all the way from the start to beyond 9k. Getting steadily worse after 6k. So my strategy was to make the most of the downs by picking up speed and carry it through the ups and generally dig in. I heard someone say they hadn’t run for a while and were taking it easy and aiming for 45 minutes. I’ve been running loads recently, was going eyeballs out and aiming for 45 minutes so I thought I’d keep her in sight.

I had a good first half and left her and her friend behind. In fact, behind them, there was a big gap opening up to the rest. I think we were a lead group of about thirty. 5k time was good but it was net downhill. I dug in and tried to keep as much speed as possible before the harder rises later. The girl and bloke went past me but I left him well behind over the last few kilometres. The field had spread out and it was getting difficult to reel anyone in. However, I passed a couple of guys I had in my sights while one or two were too fast and I think someone powered past me.

But where was this famous drop to the finish? Some say it’s a mile long, others a kilometre. Pffft my watch said 9.4k before the gradient changed. But it changed a lot. Not the steepest hill I’d ever run down but not far off. Had to hold back. Didn’t want to face plant on tarmac. But it was an exciting, high-speed finish. First and last Strider home.

I finished 28th. Happy with 45:41. Not a PB but this isn’t a PB course. I’d had a small ‘mare on Sunday at Newton Aycliffe, 47:00, which has worse rises. But was happy with 44:00 the previous Wednesday at Newburn River run which is 9.7k, exactly 6 miles.

I might be doing too many races too close together to get a PB but that won’t stop me trying at Kirkley 10k next Wednesday.

Stamfordham is a good 10k if you can afford it and can get there.

Swaledale Marathon, Saturday, June 9, 2018

Nina Mason

How it all started: flashback to 1995 – me and Mum coming into Reeth

17 and counting…

I ran (and walked) my first Swaledale in 1995. I was new to running and Mum (Jan) suggested we give it a go. It was hell. We did it together, and all I remember was her going on about the beautiful views, and me swearing at her a lot. A year later I was back – fitter, 3 months pregnant with Leigh, and up for it. I was hooked.

There are many great races/runs out there, and many reasons why we each have a preference. Swaledale is my firm favourite. I’ve been back most years (though a long break between 2011 and 2017) and completed it in a range of times. With a decent pottery collection now in use around the house, this year was number 17.

For anyone thinking about doing this, I would recommend it (though you may have realised by now that I am somewhat biased!) You need to be quick getting a number (they sell out fast in January), but for £21 you get a well-organised run/walk, water at all the manned checkpoints and cake and sandwiches at a couple, a hot meal at the end, a badge and pottery souvenir, lots of great views, and the chance to share the experience with other like-minded runners and walkers. You don’t usually need to use your map if the weather is good and you’ve recced the route (though be prepared to do so if needed).

This year – I wished Mum and a few other Striders luck at the start then didn’t see her again after the initial climb up to Fremington Edge. The weather was great – not too much sun, a bit of a breeze, and fairly dry underfoot. I was aiming for under 5 hours but a little worried about post-Yomp legs (only 6 days before).

One of the Swaledale ‘greats’ (Strider RotY in ‘93 and ‘99 – and stepdad – Tony Young) once wisely said ‘the race starts at Gunnerside’. It’s true. I often fade here – that climb out is tough with 16 or so miles in your legs – but when I got there, well within the planned time, I focussed on forcing myself to run at least the flats and downs (ok, jog). This year I managed to keep my pace going and passed quite a few people between there and the end. Pushing hard down the stony track into Reeth (my favourite bit of my favourite race) I finished well under target time.

Really hard work but thoroughly enjoyed the day. Good performances from the other Striders that turned out too.

The best bit for me, 22 years after her first ‘visit’, was seeing Leigh at the end and a big hug; and then (with Tony) cheering Nanny/Mum/Jan in.

I jokingly challenged Leigh to do this next year, but I think she declined. I’d be very happy to walk/jog at her pace, perhaps waxing lyrical about the glorious views…. after all, it never did me any harm.

PosTime NameClass
103.15.00Julian Simpson
R'mond & Ze
M
1003.28.00Amy Sarkies
Rugby/N'hampt
F40
803.27.00Michael MasonM
7604.24.00Matthew ArcherM
10304.37.00Nina MasonF40
21205.46.00Andrew ThompsonM
21305.46.00Jan YoungF60
42008.22.00Margaret ThompsonF60
42108.22.00Anita ClementsonF40

 

Blaydon Race, Saturday, June 9, 2018

5.6 miles

Kimberley Anne

When I woke Saturday morning the first thing I did was to look out of the window, a sigh of relief to see it was overcast and I felt hopeful the weather wouldn’t change!

As always the great British weather is never what you think and before it was 3 pm the sun was beaming down in a very busy Newcastle city centre!

After a few delays, we were finally off at about 3.20pm, 20 minutes later than planned. I had a strategy all planned in my head, realising if I do a steady mile at first then speed up after each mile I should easily beat my time from last year! First mile down and strategy out the window; I recorded a mile almost one minute faster than planned but the pace felt good. I thought to myself I don’t feel like I’m pushing too hard so let’s keep the pace.

Two miles down and the weather was just getting hotter; no water for at least another 2 and a 1/4 mile. My mouth was so dry and it’s all I could think of. A lot of runners had found some shade on Scotswood Road and I followed them for as long as the shade lasted. It definitely helped!

Pace still felt really good and at last the water station was in site. The marshals couldn’t get the water out quick enough, but I managed to get a cup, sip a little then use the rest to cool me down and off again I went.

Pace still feeling good but by this time the sound of sirens are going off; one ambulance passed and then another two. As I approach the end I can see that two runners were receiving medical attention. I grabbed my friend who was running as I started to panic. I thought what if I overheat, I’ve no water and I’m so close to the end. I was also worrying, hoping that these runners were okay; it was unbelievably warm with no breeze!

Once I passed, I then started having the dreaded conversation in my head. I could feel a twinge in my knee, but couldn’t decide if I was just imagining it.

I could see Morrison’s, so I knew the end was in site, this often happens with me as soon as I’m close to finishing, it’s like a little trigger starts and I just want to stop. I pushed on hard. I knew the end was near, all I could think of was a drink of water so I powered on and wound the speed up!

I was focussed to get to this finish line as quickly as I could and that’s what I did!

I crossed the line feeling amazing, but my body didn’t know what to do. The heat and everything got to me but I did it and also got a course PB!

I finished in 51:13, I couldn’t be happier!

 

Durham 3 Peaks – Strider Club night, Maiden Castle, Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Stuart Scott

The most fun I’ve ever had over 3 miles!

As soon as I heard about this event I was excited. I’d put so much into the last big challenge. I’d been at a bit of a loose end ever since. This race was my new focus and I wanted to win it.

I’d spent a lot of time over the last year looking at maps and running on hills and wanted to use this to my full advantage. I’d had a look at who was interested in running and knew I wasn’t the fastest but I also knew the massive advantage I could gain by recceing the route well.

I went into full-on stealth mode by switching my Strava account onto private so nobody could see what I was up to; daft I know, as nobody other than me was probably taking it this far, but I was enjoying it. I went out on about 3 recces of the route before I found a line that looked great. It was direct and would save me a big climb, the only problem was, I needed a step ladder.

I was originally planning on using a rope ladder so thought I’d treat my kids to a rope ladder addition to their climbing frame, which I could, then borrow. I could then tie it in place and pull down myself with a bit of string on the night. After testing this method out, it became apparent it wasn’t ideal and I was worried if I committed to this route and couldn’t get up on the rope ladder I’d lose a good few minutes rerouting. I decided I needed a proper ladder and luckily I had an old 12ft set at the side of my garage.

I went down to Whinney Hill roundabout the night before the race and stashed the ladder in a bush before taking a few photos I could then pass on to my partner in crime Elaine Bisson; I also gave her a full brief of what I needed. That was part one of my cunning plan sorted

Part two involved a swim across the river and after a quick up and down the river banks, it became apparent there weren’t many good exit points so I went for a crossing point just by Durham Rowing Club. I didn’t bother having a practice swim and thought I’d leave that one for the night.

Come race night I couldn’t help but chuckle away to myself on the way down to Maiden Castle and I was very relieved to see the ladders were still in place and Elaine was down at the club ready to go, we were both smiling away about it like naughty school kids.

The race set off and I ran as fast as I could across the field and up to the first checkpoint my plan was to get down first, I was sure nobody else would take the route down I had chosen but I didn’t want anyone to follow me and also make use of my secret weapon – the ladders. Elaine had been instructed to move the ladders straight out the way as soon as I was up but if someone was right on my tail that could have been tricky.

I’m pleased to say I made it down first and Elaine had done an excellent job in positioning the ladders, I shot straight-up them then turned to see Elaine running away with them to stash back in the bush. I had a really big smile on my face now and was again chuckling away to myself.

I hit the second checkpoint then headed straight for the Rowing Club. As I ran through the car park, about half a dozen people turned to see where on earth I was heading. I smiled and said don’t worry I’m in a race and then jumped straight into the river. All the rowers on two boats nearby stopped immediately and turned round to see what on earth this madman was doing in the river, I reassured them I wasn’t trying to end my life and made my way to the other side very pleased to see no other runners in sight.

I made a quick ascent to tag the last checkpoint then made my way back down to the river still with no sign of anyone on my tail. As I hit the riverbank I could see Elaine heading towards Maiden Castle, she had been hoping to catch my river crossing but didn’t make it in time. I soon caught Elaine up and was pleased she could confirm nobody else had been passed. It was a short run into Maiden Castle from here and was great to finish the race first, the plan had been a success!

A couple of people were laughing at the end about the fact I was soaked through and had obviously been for a swim. It was great fun to be able to reply ‘the swim was only part of it wait until you hear about the 12ft ladder.’…

This really was one of the most fun and enjoyable races I’ve ever done and the response I’ve had from so many about it has been fantastic, I really can’t wait to see what everyone pulls out the bag next time.

Massive thank you again to everyone involved in organising it and bring on the next one.

Results

PositionNameTime
1Stuart Scott25:12
2Phil Ray26:47
3James Garland27:12
4Conrad White27:34
5Michael Littlewood28:19
6Tim Skelton28:50
7Juan Corbacho29:43
8Ian Butler30:52
9Steve Winship30:52
10Terry Robertson30:52
11Mark Payne32:16
12Jonathan Hamill35:47
13David Browbank35.47
14Robert Allfree35:49
15Dave Toth35:50
16Camilla Maatta36:44
17Steve Ellis36:43
18Chantel Gimby37:30
19Esme Heppell37:50
20Nigel Heppell37:50
21Malcolm Sygrove38:00
22Marita Grimwood39:23
23Damion Cook42:54
24Tim Matthews43:53
25Peter Bell44:14
26Jane Dowsett45:18
27Wendy Littlewood45:18
28Alan Smith45:34
29Carolyn Galulu48:15
30Jill Rudkin48:19
31Nicola Dorricott48:34
32Paul O Hara48:45
33Lynne Waugh48:47
34Becks Lippe48:50
35Roz Layton48:52
36Louise Hughes48:55
37Toni Malkin48:55
38Catherine Smith48.56
39Gareth Pritchard49:00
40James Potter49:02
41Peter Hart49:03
42Sarah Fawcett49.50
43Lesley Hamill50:00
44Karen Byng50:00
45Tom Milburn51.49
46Allison Smith52:43
47Alan Scott52:46
48Matthew David53.41
50Sue Walker54:20
51Phil Todd54:28
52Kath Priest54:28
53Wendy Hughes54:38
54Louise Billcliffe54:42
55Lizzie Wallace54:46
56Danielle Glassey54:46
57Danielle Whitworth54:49
58Keith Wesson54:49
59Jon Turner54:50
60Kirsty Nelson54:55
61Sharon Pattison54:56
62Kerry Barnett58:30
63Alison Clarke58:33
64Carol Holgate58:36
65Sandie Greener58:36
66Helen Linton58:54
67Jean Bradley64:40
68Laura Jennings64:41
69Stef Barlow64:45
70Neil Garthwaite64:57
71Simon Dobson64:57
72Becca Gilmore2 peaks
73Kirsten Fenwick2 peaks
74Alison Heslop2 peaks
75Vics JacksonRetired
First 5 to the top of Houghall Steps (STEPS)

1: Stuart Scott
2: Tim Skelton
3: James Garland
4: Michael Littlewood
5: Mark Payne

First 5 to the top of Whinney Hill (STILE)

1: Chantelle Gimby
2: Nigel Heppell
3: Malcolm Sygrove
4: Esme Heppell
5: James Garland

First 5 to Pelaw Woods Pop Bottle Bridge (BRIDGE)

1: Phil Ray
2: Conrad White
3: Tom Milburn
4: Alison smith
5: Laura Jennings

Bolt’s Law Basher Fell Race, Tuesday, June 5, 2018

7.8 miles

Nigel Heppell

This is a weekday evening social run organised by local club Derwentside AC in memory of John Donneky.

The weather was brilliantly clear and warm for the run; views for absolute miles from the tops.

It was a bit of a pull to begin with, straight up the Boltslaw incline, 600ft climb in just over 1 mile, but this meant the pack naturally split into 3 pace groups with one leader each, 8-10 runners per group.

I thought I’d not been up Bolt’s Law before but part way round I recognised a tree, the only tree for miles, that I had seen one winter on a social run from Colin Blackburn’s house. It stuck in my mind because it was fully decorated with Christmas baubles, etc –

Rumour has it that Colin revisited the tree and left some anonymous mince pies for the undressing on 12th Night.

Evidently, we ran 7.8miles and came back to Rookhope Village Hall where there was a good spread of savouries and cakes, tea coffee, etc.

A brief mention of John Donneky and acknowledgement from his widow; evidently he used to enjoy taking road runners up onto the fells for ‘strengthening’ sessions; and an invitation to do it all again next year.